Thursday, April 24, 2014

IFFBOSTON 2014 - this weekend

This weekend is Independent Film Festival Boston 2014. In addition to a whole bunch of screenings, there are four panels:

Who says only Hollywood blockbusters get made here? Filming in Massachusetts is a great deal at any budget. Find out all you need to know about appying for the tax incentive, working with unions, and the differences between shooting docs vs. narratives.

Moderator: Garret Savage, President of the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship

Moderator: Erin Trahan, Editor of The Independent and co-editor of The Independent's Guide to Film Distribution

Moderator: Chico Colvard, UMass Boston Film Series curator

And this is the current list of films with filmmakers (or documentary subjects) in attendance:

Narrative Features:

Documentary Features:

Memory cards for the Sony FDR-AX100

I thought I was clear about what cards worked with the Sony FDR-AX100 in my previous posts, but an email from a reader suggests I wasn't as clear as I thought:

Two days before a three week shoot my producer says he got the FDR-AX100 from B&H as a backup camera. He didn't get any cards, but I looked on B&H and had three cards that were listed as accessories, so I thought I was good. Of course, after meeting the producer, the cards wouldn't record 4K or even HD as XQD.

I noticed on your blog you had a similar problem, but I have yet to see a confirmation that the Sony 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 card, in fact, does work. Your most recent post about the subject even further puts doubt in my mind. I would greatly appreciate it if you could confirm that card actually works.
So just to be clear, I tried one SD card that the camera wouldn't work with, but it accepted this card: Sony 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Card. So far it seems to work fine; though I can't say I've stress tested it yet.

Other News

A quick camera shootout with the Canon C100, 5D Mark III, 7D, and Panasonic GH3 and GH4 (in 1080 and 4K). It's interesting because there's some big differences in exposure.
GH4 Camera Shootout | Hillbilly Grip Truck
That said... I found the 4k footage downsampled in post to 1080 to be surprisingly gradeable.  I pulled it back at least 2 stops and it looked good color wise... although it was grainy to start with.Now... That brings up the other point.  The GH4, even if it was underexposed, looked very grainy before being gained up.  Stranger still is that the 1080 footage has a "color noise" in its grain where the 4k doesn't, despite the 1080 having a higher bitrate.

A follow-up on the noise in the GH4 footage:
Camera Test Noise | Hillbilly Grip Truck
In our camera shootout, I hazed the room, both cause I like the look of it and because I wanted to see how the codec handled fine details.  I could kinda see the 100mbit 4k footage suffering, but the 1080 footage with the higher bitrate I imagined would be pristine.... But it really wasn't.

This is from last month, but an interesting effort from Digital Bolex. Tip of the hat to Evan Luzi of The Black and Blue blog for pointing this out. Also, you can read an interview with Evan here.
The Digital Bolex Grant for Women Cinematographers | Digital Bolex
The statistics are startling. Fewer than 2% of working cinematographers are women. No female cinematographer has been nominated for an Academy Award. There are 11 active women in the ASC–out of 330+ active members. The first studio film to have a female cinematographer was released in 1980.

Filming with the Glidetrack Carbon Crane | HD Warrior
Remember crane shots are time consuming and like any extra special shot should be used sparingly for full effect. The Glidetrack Carbon Crane is lightweight and easy to set up, you still need a tripod to support it but without the aid of a quad copter which you would not be allowed to use in a built up area its the only way of achieving this type of shot.

Larry Jordan sits down with Alexis Van Hurkman, a writer, director, and colorist, to talk about innovations in editing and color grading. Alexis discusses Blackmagic’s new DaVinci Resolve 11 release, and how it integrates editing with color grading.

Practical FCPX Tutorials | AudioMicro
I’ve come across many talented editors who have shared practical tips when it comes to using Final Cut Pro X, as well as Motion. Ever since its release, people have spent more time defending its editing capabilities, versus showing why it’s faster to utilize its workflow. I’m going to highlight some FCPX editors who have willingly shared practical tips and workflows when using Final Cut Pro X.

4 Highlights from Tribeca Film Festival Cinematographers Masterclass | IndieWire
2. You don't have to go to film school to become a cinematographer."I didn't go to film school. Cinematography was just learning how to make movies. I started out in documentary and it was much easier not having a film background to make a documentary." - Zachary Heinzerling

Five Lessons From a Work-In-Progress Screening | Filmmaker Magazine
The most relevant advice is somewhere in the boiled down essence of all the feedback. If you notice patterns and consistency in what people write, you should look into it. For instance, I wanted the film to have a gradual pace, a slow unfolding narrative. Yet, I never imaged it having a “glacial pace,” as one person called it.

PVC Experts & Answers Webinars: NAB 2014 Wrap-up | Online Event
Event Date: April 30, 2014 11am PT
Join ProVideo Coalition writers Scott Simmons and Matthew Jeppsen as they talk through what they saw and what they didn't see at NAB this year. Highlights from the event will be showcased and we'll be discussing what those highlights mean to individuals and to the industry as a whole. We'll also talk through what was different about the show this year and what really stood out for them. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Upcoming Events and Other News

APRIL 24th BOSCPUG: Director Graham Elliott and Screening of “New York in Motion”
We are pleased to feature a special conversation with director Graham Elliott as he screens “New York in Motion,” his celebrated 60 minute documentary and dazzling portrait of the motion graphics industry in New York and breathtaking visual journey behind the scenes and screens of the industry that shapes how we see the world today.

April 26th CAMERA DYNAMICS Workshop & Seminar | Massachusetts Production Coalition
The panel will explore how camera movement can enhance a shot; furthering our understanding of character and plot development; building dramatic tension; transitioning between dissimilar emotions or geographies, and enabling our immersion into the scene before us. Technical and logistical aspects of camera motion will be discussed in addition to the artistic and aesthetic.
They also have another workshop in early May
May 10 | P.A. Workshop | Massachusetts Production Coalition

A free weekend of online cinematography lessons (it's free to watch over the weekend and you can buy the recordings for replay afterwards.)
May 6 & 7 | Big League Cinesummit - Online Cinematography Event
With each class, our renowned panel of accomplished cinematographers & film makers will personally SHOW YOU how to quickly transform your filmmaking – revealing hundreds of insights that took them years to gather. And the best thing – It’s FREE for 48 hours!

Premiere Pro World Conference | July 11 - 13 | San Jose
Learn Premiere Pro inside out from the engineers who built it and the minds who have mastered it. You’ll take training sessions led by industry experts and Premiere Pro gurus like Richard Harrington, Eran Stern, and others.

Other News

Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 | Red Giant
Hi folks – today we are releasing Magic Bullet Looks 2.5  – it features new tools and interface improvements, not to mention some serious speed boosts. Best of all, this is a FREE UPGRADE for Magic Bullet Looks 2.0 users.

Panasonic GH4 to ship in Europe from 5th May | EOSHD
First shipments leave the factory last week of April destined for Germany. Shipments to dealers start after the May 1st holidays so from the 5th the camera will be almost ready to ship to customers.

Thinking About Crew Prep | Pro Video Coalition
One of the biggest mistakes I see first-time filmmakers commit is to think solely in terms of production time when it comes to crewing up.  The crew shows up on the first day, leaves on the last day, and anything that happens in between, before, or after is just donated or doesn’t count.

Aereo at the Supreme Court: a guide to the biggest TV case in 30 years (and where to learn more) | GigaOM
On Tuesday at 11am ET, Aereo will face off at the Supreme Court against big broadcasters and the Justice Department over whether Aereo, which lets consumers watch and record over-the-air TV for $8/month, should be shut down for copyright infringement.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't buy a wireless microphone, and Other News

One of the best audio purchases I ever made was a wireless lapel mic. If you're a one-man documentary crew, wireless mics are about the easiest way to get "pretty good" audio, in most situations. Sure, they aren't perfect, but I'd tried shotgun mics and hand mics before that, and they had their own problems.

I bought a Sony unit years ago, but I had to replace it back in 2010 when the FCC cracked down on the use of the 700MHz frequency, so I bought another Sony unit.

The secret problem of wireless mics is that they are operating in available spectrum (currently 600MHz), not spectrum that's been specifically made available for them, and if the FCC decides to change things, we'll find ourselves having to replace everything. As we already did.

And now it appears we are about to again, as the FCC is planning to have an auction next year, and the 600 MHz is going to be up for grabs.

At the moment I have no idea what this will mean for current models of wireless mic (Sony just released a new range of mics, but they still operate in the 600 band.) Sennheiser is "optimistic" that nothing will actually change until 2016, but that doesn't mean that nothing will change. You might want to hold off on spending any money on new units this year.

Here's a couple of articles, and an interview from News Shooter.

TV TechnologyMic Companies Await FCC Auction Rules

Sennheiser: Sennheiser Updates Customers on Pending Spectrum Reallocation While Encourages Microphone Owners to Support of its Petition to FCC
Audio specialist Sennheiser, which continues to file comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in light of the pending spectrum auction scheduled to take place in 2015, has launched a website to keep its customers informed on recent developments concerning the future of wireless microphones and the UHF spectrum.

Other News

Very interesting take on the YAGH interface unit for the GH4. It does seem to have some limitations, and you might be better off buying the upcoming Atomos Shogun.
5 Things I Learned about the Panasonic GH4 at NAB | Filmmaker Magazine
I finally got a chance to actually play with the camera and interface unit and get a rundown from Panasonic’s Matt Frazer. I learned a few new things I didn’t know before — some good and some bad.

Jan C Livingston retires from Panasonic USA | HD Warrior
If there was ever a lady who was more passionate about Panasonic video kit it was Jan, she knew her products inside out and was always a pleasure to interview. Our last outing together was at IBC 2011, Jan was unique in the world of Broadcast Video Sales you point a camera in her face and there is nothing she did not know about her subject.

This just looks at the published specs:
Head to Head: Blackmagic Design URSA vs the AJA CION – Which one’s better? | Wolfcrow
Is it just me or is it extremely curious why neither mentions the ISO range anywhere? In any case, going by technology and the price point, I’ll be extremely surprised if either camera can shoot beyond ISO 1600. In the case of URSA, it looks like it’s using the same sensor as the Blackmagic Production Camera, and that means you can’t go over ISO 400 and expect perfect quality.

The Best Action Camera: Spring 2014 Edition | Gizmodo
But ultimately, if you want the action camera that shoots the best footage, then you want the GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition. It gives you so many ways to get the best-looking footage, and there's a reason this is the camera the most of the pros use. It's not just good marketing. It's a great camera.

PVC at NAB 2014 - GoPro and the GoPro Studio Software | ProVideoCoalition
I spoke with Craig and he was one of the original creators behind Cineform, the original intermediate codec that was around before DNxHD and ProRes. GoPro acquired Cineform a few years ago and they technology is the base of GoPro Studio. Craig shows us around a bit and answers a few questions about Cineform.

This might not look good in the court case:
‘Midnight Rider’ Producer Made Controversial Comments About Local Filming Days Before Sarah Jones Death | Deadline
Savin “went on to talk about CBGB and was bitching about how our former film commissioner Jay Self kept showing up to set, telling her she couldn’t do this, she couldn’t do that and that she was so glad he was no longer film commissioner. [Savin] said, ‘We make movies by our own rules.’

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why the Sony FDR-AX100 tops out at 60Mbit/s and Other News

Andrew Reid of EOSHD takes a look at Sony's FDR-AX100 in this piece: A very brief look at the Sony AX100 4K Handycam and uncompressed 4K HDMI

In it he asks this question:
XAVC-S on the AX100 uses a bitrate of 60Mbit/s for 4K. It is a shame there’s no higher quality mode for those who don’t mind slightly larger file sizes. XAVC is an important new proprietary Sony standard. Why such a tepid implementation? 
And when I saw that I thought "oh! oh! I think I know why" - because I encountered this when I was buying a memory card for the FDR-AX100.

There's a couple of confusing things about buying memory cards for this camera; one is that the camera specs are given in Mbit/s (or Mbps) while the memory cards seem to all be spec'd in MB/s. Here's the manual:

So if you're buying the FDR-AX100 you see that it writes at 60 Mbps, but if you look at Sony's own card, they quote:

The 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Card from Sony features a maximum read speed of 94MB/s and a maximum write speed of 45MB/s with minimum transfer rates of 10MB/s. 
The other thing is that they like to put the biggest number for the card, on the card...and that's usually the read speed, not the right(write) speed. It's that last number you have to worry about; minimum transfer rates of 10MB/s

And Sony's own manual just specifies Class 10 cards, and Class 10 cards must, according to Wikipedia:
Class 10 asserts that the card supports 10 MB/s as a minimum 
Oh, and the important thing: if you put 60Mps through a converter you get:

So to sum up, the 60 Mbps speed is about 3/4 of the write speed of a Class 10 card, and it's probably a good bet that you don't want to get much closer than that to the limit of the card.

Anyway, that's what I assume is going on.

Other News

H. Paul Moon has put together a video on rigging the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Paul wrote to us:
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera isn't the newest kid on the block anymore, but in its niche, it hasn't been eclipsed yet, and after learning a few more things, I've made another rather extensive commentary. Although it's about building up a rig around the BMPC, it has lots of general advice that would be of interest to your overall community.

Rigging the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera: HolyManta, Rapid ND, Contineo Cage, Zacuto Z-Finder, Tascam DR-60D & Rokinon Lenses from H. Paul Moon on Vimeo.

GoPro Hero 4 to be 4K in 2014?
This piece from DGISE suggests that the upcoming Hero 4 will support 4K at 30 fps. I'm not too sure if it's a guess or a fact (honestly, I think that if they don't release a 4K GoPro this year that does 30 fps people will be saying they aren't really trying.)
GoPro Hero 4 is really capable of recording video in 4K resolution at a speed of 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120fps and 720p at 240fps, which became possible with the advent of the new SoC Ambarella A9 chip (dual A9 ARM Core ® CortexTM-A9 processor 1 GHz and FPU acceleration ) for advanced applications, wireless connection, and streaming video in social media.

Video Planning Overview | DP Best Flow
This is actually a couple of years old, but I don't think I've linked to it before. Richard Harrington provides an overview of planning out a video project.
If you do not make informed decisions early on, this may result in an enormous amount of time spent “cleaning-up” or “fixing it in post.” This can compromise the quality and vision of the work or require a redo, often at your own expense. With the proper amount of planning and decision-making, many “could be issues” become non-issues. The goal of planning is to determine what questions to ask and how to proceed with the decision-making

1 of 3 posts dedicated to the art of aerial filming!! Part 1: Flying and shooting with the Phantom 2 and Vision 2+ | Philip Bloom
Many of you know, I have been messing with the Phantom Quadcopters for a couple of months. I haven’t posted any footage until now, as I have been practicing and practicing and practicing etc… It seems easy to start with, take off, move around, zip off here and there…but it’s really not. To get good stuff takes a lot of time, and of course there are many other factors to consider too. Basically the law and safety.

PVC at NAB 2014 - DaVinci Resolve Gets More Edit Friendly | ProVideoCoalition
Sure Blackmagic Design had important new camera surprises but it was the new features of DaVinci Resolve that most caught my eye. Why? Because they have added even more editorial tools to Resolve v11 and are building it into what looks to be a quite capable editor.

Camera Angles for the Crop | Cinearchive
North by Northwest is my favorite movie, so of course I like this; a breakdown of all the shots for the famous crop-dusting scene:
The crop dusting sequence from Hitchcock’s ‘North by Northwest’ is one of the most iconic in all of cinema and the real life location can be seen on Google Maps. The scene was meant to take place in northern Indiana, but was actually shot on Garces Highway (155) near the towns of Wasco and Delano, north of Bakersfield in Kern County, California. —FILMdetail