Saturday, March 08, 2014

The News

Safety goes far beyond location permissions. A live film set is a dangerous environment. There are numerous dangers, from equipment in motion to cable littered floors to suspended light fixtures. Any producer, at any level, needs to take the proper precautions and measures to ensure a safe set for all cast and crew. Careful preparation and planning do more than ease the workload, it allows the crew to enjoy what they do.

Indie-darling filmmakers: Vimeo has $10M with your names on it | C|Net
The company is carving out a $10 million fund to directly invest in films that either premiere at one of the top 20 US film festivals or garner $10,000 in crowdfunded support on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, in exchange for giving Vimeo a window of time as the only place you can go to see the videos through its Vimeo On Demand pay-for-play platform.

New York Times Movie Reviews, $11,000 a Pop | IndieWire
But if those standards are still applied, they're elusive at best; among critics who write for New York-based publications, a Quad release has become shorthand for a subpar movie that's inevitably passed off to a third- or fourth-string freelancer -- a response that, while reductive and undoubtedly unfair to certain films, is nonetheless backed up by ample experience. 

Long term testing Apple's new Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro 10.1 | FCP.Co
The last storage configuration we tested was various directly attached Thunderbolt drives. They all performed without missing a beat and in our eyes this is the way forward. Maybe shared storage via different Thunderbolt topologies isn't here yet, but desktop sans will be killer products for the video industry.

Lighting the LEGO Movie | Computer Graphics World
We used only legal LEGO colors, and emulated the plastic material with the correct diffusion and colors,” Welsh says. “LEGO plastic scatters light through it, so you need to do a lot of ray-traced calculations to get subsurface scattering. And, every surface in the LEGO world is highly or somewhat reflective, so you need reflections and refractions.'''

Happy Birthday Stanley Kubrick! Watch Full 2 Hour 20 Minute Doc 'Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures' | IndieWire
here's the excellent documentary "Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures." Running 2 hours and 20 minutes and directed by Kubrick's longtime collaborator Jan Harlan, it's almost everything you need to know about the filmmaker and it boasts an incredible array of participants including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicholson, Sydney Pollack, Malcolm McDowell and more.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Commercial Drones are legal and Other News

Interesting development in drones - judge rules that commercial drones aren't illegal. Now what will the FAA do?
Judge rules commercial drones are legal, undoing six-year ban | The Verge
Today Judge Patrick Geraghty dismissed a $10,000 fine levied by the FAA against Raphael Pirker, a Swiss drone operator who used a camera drone to film on the University of Virginia campus. "At the time of respondent's model aircraft operation... there was no enforceable FAA rule or FAR Regulation application to model aircraft or for classifying model aircraft as an UAS," the judge writes.

Other News

‘This Is the End,’ ‘Now You See Me’ VFX Firm Closes Doors, 100 People Laid Off | The Wrap
Modus FX, a Canadian visual effects vendor that counts “Now You See Me” and “This is the End” among its credits, is shutting down after six years.
...The company was undone after a number of projects it was slated to work on were delayed.

Deluxe to close Hollywood film lab | Los Angeles Times
"The capture and exhibition of motion pictures has transitioned from film to digital in recent years," Stein said in the letter obtained by The Times. "Our processing volumes have declined sharply and as a result, the laboratory has incurred significant financial losses. This has forced us to make this very difficult decision."

Louisiana Louisiana Is The Shocking New Movie-Making Capital Of The World | Business Insider
Eighteen of the 108 films released last year that were produced by the major studios and the five biggest independents were shot in the Bayou State, according to the 2013 Feature Film Production Study from FilmL.A., the region's non-profit permitting agency.

Turning Your GoPro Hero 3 into a Cinematic Movie Making Machine | Shane Hurlbut
My philosophy is to shoot with whatever tool will help tell the story and if that tool is an extreme sports camera that is usually seen flying through the air attached to snowboarders, motocross riders, extreme helo skiers, divers, sky jumpers, etc., then I am in, no matter what the pitfalls. Period!!!

Nikon D4S video quality not suitable for pro use | EOSHD
The supposably ‘full HD’ mode is nothing of the sort, it’s misleadingly labeled and marketed as high definition / 1080p. Detail is still mushy. Moire and aliasing still abundant. Plastic skin tones, poor colour, jagged edges to bright reds, greens and blues. There’s all sorts of weird stuff going on in the image for your $6000. For this you can wait a month and buy three GH4 bodies!

Woody Allen's Cinematographer Has 6 Life-Saving Tips for Low-Budget DPs | IndieWire
Lighting can highlight character. And headaches, if you’re not careful.“Of course, your work has to first correspond to who the character is and what the story is about,” he said. “The most important thing to bring out when you shoot a movie is to figure out how you’re going to light the location in order to bring it into this area of the character.

What Happened to the Photography Industry in 2013? | Canon Rumors
The first being the use of smartphones over compact cameras, we’re beating a dead horse with that one. The second reason being the economic stability of the planet, we’re still not totally out of the woods in a lot of places around the globe. The third, and the most interesting is North America’s aversion to the mirrorless market.

Eric Kress Lighting Workshop – part 2 | ASC
In Part 1 of the workshop video, Eric introduced the workshop and then demonstrated 3 lighting variations around a window on the sound stage set:
1. one exterior soft source
2. adding an exterior poly bounce as a background light
3. adding an interior fill
Here in Part 2, Eric adds 3 variations:
4. an exterior hard light “sun” source
5. an interior backlight
6. substituting an interior top light for the side fill

I’m a member of what could be called “Generation 5D” in the news shooter world. I’m in my late twenties and only started my career in video a few years ago. I taught myself to shoot video on DSLRs and developed my current addiction to the craft – helped in part by the low barriers to entry afforded by such cameras. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Blackmagic 4K & Quick Links

4K is here! Blackmagic Production Camera Review | EOSHD
I’m not sure how long me and Miss Blackmagic are going to last to be honest. She has some very bad habits… She drinks ALL the juice in the fridge. I have run out. Her sister, the Pocket Camera went through about 6 Nikon juice cells in a day once. This one is much worse. Then there’s her weight. I have to be very delicate what I say here, but she’s a little on the heavy side especially when she is carrying around that big juice carton all day in her handbag.

Want another opinion on the Blackmagic 4K camera? Here's our second, independent, review | Red Shark News
Before we start, we're going to have to come to an agreement. That agreement recognises the fact that the Blackmagic Production Camera is a very serviceable little device, and the fact that it's very cost effective. So, should I happen to write something even slightly less than positive about this camera, I want you to assume that the mitigating words “...but it's very cheap” are inserted thereafter.

An initial review of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K + Downloadable native footage | Philip Bloom
Not truly 4k, which is 4096×2160. This is “Ultra HD” 3840 x 2160. Nothing wrong with that. Same as calling HD 2K. It isn’t. But UHD isn’t a sexy name really, is it?
Global shutter. I am not showing it off in the footage I am showing here, but I have looked at it, and the lack of skew & jello is wonderful! Nice to see, in an affordable camera.
The image detail certainly is impressive from what I have shot so far. I haven’t checked to see if there is any moire at all. 

More Camera News

DxOmark: Red Epic is the first camera to (slightly) outperform the 36MP Sony sensor | Sony Alpha Rumors
From all cameras tested to date by DxOmark the Red Epic is the first to outperform the Sony 36 MP FF sensor. Well you have to pay $17,500.00 for the Epic “brain” only (no accessories included) to slightly beat the Sony A7r performance. Obviously, the Red main feature is the 5k video recording. But I am pretty sure Sony will release a 4K FF soon too
RED DRAGON is the Best Camera Sensor Ever Tested by DxOMark | No Film School
It’s interesting that dynamic range looks to be around 15 stops, which is pretty much what I thought their dynamic range chart looked like when it was posted last year (no HDRx was used for their testing).

Apart from 4K and 2K RAW the camera can also record 1080p, 720p ,480p in 16×9 and also 2.39:1 format. Impressively the camera can continuously record slow motion at 100fps in 1080P HD mode (96fps in 2K Cineform RAW). This can be recorded from the full sensor and not just in a crop mode. Talking of crop modes there is also a crop mode to use B4 ENG lenses on the new MINI when you attach them with a special B4 mount.
The KineMAX 6K is a Super35 CMOS camera which can record a maximum resolution of a whopping 5760×3240 pixels at up to 30fps. Put another way that is nine times the resolution of HD or 2K. This is combined with a claimed dynamic range of 14 f-stops and 12-bit colour depth.

A Short History of Camera Color | DV Info
Canon’s color seems to be based on color science it developed for its DSLR lineup, which isn’t terribly surprising. When asked about color a Canon rep once told me, “It’s all about flesh tone. All other colors are secondary.”

Between Gigs, Gabriel Beristain, ASC, BSC Develops Welsh Mining Project | ASC
You know, in digital, it’s very difficult because you are not in full control of everything. So for me, it was very important to have very good communication with the DIT and with the lab, so that the dailies reflected that strong, harder look, that very atmospheric daylight.”

Travis Rice is Making a New Snowboard Film | Red Bull
Shooting a snowboard movie in 4K:
"While we're proud of the reaction from all the fans around the world as well as the success the franchise has had thus far, we don't want to rest on our laurels," says Scott Bradfield, Head of Production for Red Bull Media House. "4K is certainly the future of cinema and we want to be ahead of the curve and provide a state-of-the-art experience for our viewers unlike anything seen to date.

Using a boom mic may sound like a simple job, but the truth is, it’s a lot harder than it looks. It takes focus, stamina and a little technical know how to get it right. We show you the right way to use a boom mic, including set up, operating techniques, positioning, choosing the right mic for the job and achieving audio perspective.

Sale Film Fest
Opens tonight and runs until the 13th.
Finding its spirit in Salem’s rich history as America’s first great international city, the non-profit, all-volunteer Salem Film Fest presents a diverse, beautiful, and bracing selection of the world's best documentary films.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Drone On

Things seem to be heating up in the drone world. And I'm not just talking about Amazon deliveries or Facebook.
Just back in December the FAA announced that it was - finally - going to get a move on about drone regulation, and picked six test sites to evaluate drones. So we're all on track for new rules by 2015, or 2017:
FAA names 6 sites for testing drones | USA Today
The Federal Aviation Administration named six teams across the nation that will host the development and testing of drones to fly safely in the same skies as commercial airliners.
The announcement represents a major milestone toward the goal of sharing the skies by the end of 2015, in what is projected to become an industry worth billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, everyone's buying drones, so some people think the FAA is in danger of losing the war:
FAA risks losing drone war | Politico
The result, observers and drone users warn, could be a Wild, Wild West in the nation’s skies. As small drone operators grow used to flying them without the FAA’s permission, they could become less inclined to obey any rules the agency puts in place. And with the cost of the technology continuing to drop, the drones could eventually become far too ubiquitous for the agency to police.

Meanwhile, the FAA strikes back with seven myths about drones:
Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft | FAA
Fact—The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up. This misperception may originate with the idea that manned aircraft generally must stay at least 500 feet above the ground

Which got some press:
Listen Up Drone Operators: FAA Has 7 Myths To Bust | Forbes
Commercial operation of drones is not a gray area of FAA regulations.  All aircraft – manned or unmanned – must have some type of FAA approval.  (Model aircraft flown as a hobby or for recreational purposes are excepted but must be operated in accordance with model aircraft guidelines and away from populated areas.)

While the cinematographers and photographers seem to get most of the FAA attention, other industries are just as interested:
The Future of Drone Use in the Insurance Industry | Claims Journal
“We hang this whole thing on privacy, but to me, I think the privacy issues have long been decided with commercial aircraft. Small private aircraft or helicopters, it’s pretty well documented that if you’re doing something in your backyard that is still within public view of a passing‑by aircraft, you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that’s been upheld through Supreme Court rulings for a number of years,” Goldsmith said.

The following article is very articulate, arguing that really, the FAA has got it all wrong and can't go around telling us we can't fly drones for commercial purposes, etc., etc. And I can't help thinking it reads a little like those articles about the IRS being illegal. If you want to take on city hall, good luck.
FOIA Response Reveals FAA Routinely Misrepresents the Law Regarding Unmanned Aircraft | DIY Drones
Each of these letters is premised on the notion that the FAA's 2007 Policy Notice creates a mandatory prohibition that is binding on the general public. However, by law a mere "policy notice" by a federal agency cannot create legally binding and enforceable obligations on the general public. Only "regulations," passed through the proper notice and comment procedures dictated by the Administrative Procedures Act, can be considered mandatory.

For a bit of a change of pace, this piece suggests that the Canon VIXIA mini X ($399) would be a good camera on a drone:
Canon’s Vixia Mini X is a Compact Camcorder with Clean HDMI-Output | Photography Bay
Canon considers the camera a “personal camcorder” for a niche audience looking to record hands-free using Canon’s oscillating Pan Table, or as a remote camera for drone use and (almost) action camera scenarios.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

When comes the Sony NEX-VG4(0)?

So Sony has 4K projectors, $30K 4K cameras, 84" 4K Monitors, 30" 4K monitors, $16K 4K cameras, an $8K 4K camera (if you ignore that fact you have to spend a lot more to actually record in 4K), a $5.5K 4K camera, a $4.5K 4K camera, and they will shortly start shipping a $2K consumer camera, the FDR-AX100.

Which got me to thinking; surely they will come out with a 4K version of the NEX-VG30 body pretty soon too? They've already had the VG10, VG20 and VG30 in pretty quick succession, so it must be a popular camera design. Surely, the only question is when - it's not an NAB type camera, but surely before the end of the year? And what will they call it? - the VG40 sort of ties nicely to 4K...though maybe they should drop the '0' at the end?

Except that Sony has killed the NEX brand name for their 'still' camera line, so it's likely that the new model will have a different name altogether...

Sony FDR-AX100

But if an "NEX-VG40" is coming, and you want a 4K camcorder that won't break the bank, should you skip the FDR-AX100 and wait for the NEX-VG40 instead? The NEX-VG models have interchangeable lenses and a large sensor size, but the FDR-AX100 is pretty intriguing for two reasons; it has built-in ND filters, and while it's sensor isn't the size of the NEX-VG models, it's a 1" sensor, which according to one site, actually is 13.2mm x 8.8mm [Why, oh why, do manufacturers like to use obscure sensor measurements? Most people might assume that a 1" sensor would be 25.4mm wide (i.e., an inch wide.) Nope - that's not so - Ed]

Anyway, 13.2mm x 8.8mm is smaller than APS-C (~23.6mm x 15.7mm) and Four Thirds (17.3mm x 5.32mm) but almost double the size of the 1/2.3-inch (6.17 x 4.55 mm) sensor in their large FDR-AX1 camcorder, so it will be interesting to see how it performs.
Sony FDR-AX1

Disk Speed

Reader Paul Antico has been experimenting with his new Mac Pro and different hard drives and reports  some excellent results with Toshiba drives:

So I got a pile of Toshiba 2TB drives for backup (I just put them in a USB 3 dock) recently, and just today tested them for speed. (They are $75 each - 2TB for sale at B&H, Amazon, Microcenter... the price varies within $10 [At the moment they seem to be about $86.00 - Ed]).

Keep in mind they are empty, but still: 180 Mb/sec. That’s FAST for a spinning HD! These drives are very highly rated too; they are Hitachi (toshiba bought the plant) [Hitachi are reliable according to this failure rate chart - Ed]and have historically very low failure rates. I have old drives like 7 year old 1 TB drives that get 80MB/sec.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The News

Here's a Better Edit Room | Tribeca
Considering that an edit suite is ideally an environment where creative debate and collaboration is taking place, the default way they’re designed is, in my opinion, insane. The counterproductive setup of a normal edit room, even at the biggest studios and nicest post-production houses is a study in separation and walls.

Canon C500 vs. Film Camera Test | Shane Hurlbut
If we were to compare the C500 and film side by side, immediately you can see more of the different tonalities in the background. The C500 kept a much cooler tone in the shadows and the background, while the yellow forklift comes across as a very punchy energized color. The film on the other hand is more grey in the background and the color of forklift kind of blends in the background and doesn’t stand out.

A piece about director Billy Wilder:
The Wilder touch | Cinephillia and Beyond
Wilder's method is a combination of gags, familiar slaps, games with sweater sleeves - anything that will keep his actors calm, loose and laughing.

After Gravity, is the British film industry rocketing or crashing to Earth? | The Guardian
According to consultancy Oxford Economics, these subsidies mean it is now 38% cheaper to shoot a film in the UK than the US – while the generosity of the UK's regime has prompted gripes from the LA film world.

Gravity co-Editor and Oscar Nominee Mark Sanger Explains His Craft and Style | ProVideoCoalition
SANGER: There was no conventional coverage on anything.  We had multiple takes to choose and mould performances from, but the actors would be presented with the animated cut in the morning and restricted to performing within the confines of what had been edited.  This was due to the need to light the actors and their movements in the same way as the lit animation in the cut.

Kinefinity Set To a Drop a KineMAX 6K Camera | Cinescopophilia
Mindful of the success of the Blackmagic BMCC 4K camera, and the specs on the recently announced Panasonic GH4 4K camera Kinefinity look set to offer more than 4K in their next camera. It appears 6K resolution will be the flavour for the KineMAX camera that will be announced in a two hour online meet up.

Roger Deakins: "Sometimes you get a cinematographer who shoots something, and you walk into their light, and they're doing 50 per cent of my job," Jake Gyllenhaal recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "I walked into Roger Deakins' lighting in two different movies, and I didn't feel I had to give a performance."

New Mac Pro officially qualified for Media Composer 7.0.3 or | Avid
Great news!  Avid is pleased to announce support for the new Apple Mac Pro Workstation for use with Media Composer and Media Composer with the Symphony Option.  These editing applications now support the new Apple Mac Pro Workstation running the Apple Mac OSX 10.9.1 (Mavericks) operating system.

Avid Announces Availability of Investor Update Webcast | Avid
Avid® (OTC:AVID) announced today that it will provide an investor update focused on articulating the Company's corporate strategy and discussing matters disclosed in the Company's Form 8-K filed with the SEC on January 7, 2014 and the Company's targeted completion of the restatement process by mid-2014. The webcast will be available on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. EST, on the Investor Relations page of Avid's website at and can be accessed on

New Wireless Adapters | Sony Professional | Vimeo
Designed to enhance the field operation and workflow, both wireless adapters support Wireless Lan, 3G/4G transmission to meet the needs of most shooting environments. Compatible by design, these adapters connect with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and are an ideal choice for ENG professionals when the speed of news gathering is critical.

We were very excited to speak with Blackmagic Design's Stuart Ashton, who took a few minutes to shepherd us through some of the huge strides they've made recently - 4K Production Camera shipment & discount, product diversity, and more. 

This is from 1993, but there's some pretty amazing camera moves on here (and a drone!)

Moving Camera from Paul Raimondi on Vimeo.