Saturday, July 24, 2010

News from Here & There

Vimeo offers unlimited HD embedding
Viemo this week offered some new features: New Default Preferences, Unlimited HD Embedding for Vimeo Plus Members and Access to Creative Commons (CC) Licensing. Default Preferences, Unlimited HD Come to Vimeo

Vimeo & YouTube video for iPad's and iPhone
Want to embed video in your blog that iPad/iPhone users can view? People have been posting code that let's you do that. Here's info about Vimeo:
EOS HD: iPad and iPhone Compatible Vimeo Embeds
And here's info about YouTube:
CNET: YouTube testing hybrid HTML5/Flash embeds

Sony has created a special web section on their site called VideON for promoting programs shot using Sony professional gear.
The Sony VideON Online Network is a website dedicated to educating and entertaining the professional production community about Sony products through the dynamic use of video.

The VideoON website will feature product tutorials, behind-the-scenes, trailers, and customer testimonials. This site will also do more than just promote Sony products. It will highlight the successful results that our customers are obtaining with our HD video technology, allowing you to showcase your work, see the creative work of others, and become part of the Sony Pro Video community.

If you've created and acquired content using Sony professional HD products and would like your video to be considered for posting on the VideON website, please follow the process outlined below.
Sony: VideON

Zacuto iPhone Cinema Kit
Some people are determined to use the iPhone for video, and if you've got nothing else, it's not a bad choice. But I'm not sure it makes sense to be buying gear that costs more than the iPhone itself specifically to use the iPhone for video making. Spend the money on a proper camera?
Vimeo: Zacuto's Z-Grip iPhone Cinema Kit

MacUpdate Promo - Boris Continuum Chroma Key for $99.00 - 67% off Today Only

Boris Continuum Chroma Key Unit 7.0.3 for $99.00 - 67% off

The Boris Continuum Chroma Key Unit automates the creation of precise keys with a minimal amount of adjustment. Leveraging the processing capabilities of today's graphics hardware, the Chroma Key Unit strips away the complexity of chroma keying by automating the background filtering or matting, edge softening and refinement, and light wrapping and reflections to produce seamless composites each and every time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

30% off Red Giant Software at AV3 Software

AV3 Software is having a 30% off sale on Red Giant Software, but the sale ends on Sunday 25th July. This includes the new Colorista II.

AV3 Software: Red Giant Software 30% off

Rodney Charters at the SuperMeet

At last month's Boston SuperMeet, Rodney Charters, ASC, DP on the series "24," was one of the stars of the show. He spoke in a seminar earlier that day, as well as at the SuperMeet itself.

Little did I know that Rodney is also a former Kiwi, who as a student in London got his first job at the BBC. He had a chance at a job to relieve crews during the summer, but the only job they had available was in audio. He thought, ‘what the hell,’ and ended up at Ealing Studios as a dubbing recordist.

Rodney Charters with a picture of his father taken during World War II

The following quotes are from the seminar he gave prior to the SuperMeet. He covered all kinds of things, from focus pulling with still camera lenses vs film lenses, to the recent House finale. He gave tips on ISO settings, and Picture and Sharpness settings (dial Sharpness down to 0 to avoid moirĂ©,) and even said that the studio accused him of costing an additional $500,000 for staying with film for the final season of “24.” He also showed a few clips from “24.” This was revelatory for me as I had no idea the amount of stuff they do with plates and green screen. They don’t shoot in New York at all; they shoot lots of plates and then green screen almost everything.

The session was sponsored by Canon, and centered around the Canon 5D and DSLR film making. Here’s some of the more interesting things he had to say:

These crazy little cameras…
In my history with this business, this is probably the most significant, crazy thing that’s happened. You have major clients telling commercial houses that they have to shoot on this camera and they are going crazy. Panavision might go out of business.
One of the things that’s significant about this camera is that it’s absolutely silent. No fans, no nothing. And when you’re working this close to an actor, that’s a really significant thing.
[they aren’t right for everything] But if you’re trying to hide in a pub and shoot two actors secretly and you don’t want to pay locations fees and all that kind of thing, this is the baby. This is the one.

On the 5D
What’s nice about it is it does great skin tone. The latitude is not that great, but if you light for it you can achieve magic results.
…it has really high speed compared with film. I maxed out at 1000 on my stock. I had 500 ASA film, I could push it one stop and in the lab we went and extract another half a stop or so out of it in post, but to go any further was just to ask for golf balls.
Canon doesn’t quite know what to do with this camera. They want to sell 30,000 cameras a week and we represent maybe, well in the case of the RED they’ve saturated the market and sold 8,000 cameras. That’s it. This is not the business Canon wants to be in, but at the same time they can’t ignore this kind of publicity.

On the House finale
To the rest of the industry in Hollywood and around the world, this was just a huge blow. Because although we knew the camera made beautiful images, we never thought anyone would be so bold as to go for it in such a big way.
They had a 50mm 1.0 they found in a museum somewhere. The focus pullers hated it. Hugh Laurie did get a little testy because they missed [focus] a few times.
One of the things that’s strange about the Canon combination of; this codec that’s not so great, the large chip size, compressing it down and throwing away a third of the lines, all seems to result in something which is not that unpleasant. Nobody really complains about this. Eighty million people watched that episode around the world and nobody wrote in and said “Gee, I saw banding and stuff…”
In House, every time they pointed a flash light in the smoke, they got banding around the light. It couldn’t handle the amount of changes that were going on. Those kind of things exist, but nobody notices it in the heat of the drama. They added smoke because they thought the Germans, who have a lot of quality control issues with American product, might notice it and refuse to buy it. That stuff happens, trust me, I’ve had those calls.

On Accessories
Who has a Z-Finder? This is the first thing you should buy. […] This transforms this thing into an actual beast you can look at, especially in bright sunny days […] When you put it up to your head and switch to video mode and you suddenly just disappear into that world. That’s one of the beautiful things about being an operator, this kind of strange quality that you get.

Have you ever seen anybody get shot? Video or news film of some poor schmuck aiming at a solider who’s aiming at him and he just keeps on filming because you go into another space…
HDMI is probably, arguably one of the worst pieces of plugging that’s ever been made! You use it once and maybe it will be okay…The first thing that fails is the cable, the second thing is the body gets broken. In addition to that, they’re limited to 30 feet.

On Audio
The second thing you should purchase is a good sound recorder like the Tascam DR100
[A question about drift] over five minutes, nothing. Yes under different temperature conditions, these are not crystal locked. But I have to tell you, in editing, out editors would sit and listen, and they’d get the best audio track, and then they’d force picture to match it. […] They want the best of everything, and it doesn’t necessarily happen that the dynamics visually in the frame were as good as the actual audio part of the dialog, so they’ll just take it from another take to make it work. So all this worrying about sync is kind of moot when you hear that stuff going on.

On Lenses
The [Canon] glass is great, there’s no problem with the glass, but they’re not really designed to do what we’re asking them to do.
I like zooms. Optically there’s nothing really different about them now. Yes the primes resolve a little bit better, but you’re not going to notice the difference in the heat of the moment.

On the 12 minute limit
…how many times have we slaved through a scene, and gone to five or six takes, and been spectacularly happy with the sixth take, it’s beautiful, and we go in the edit room and there’s take one. And the director will say “Didn’t you look at take six? Did you see the notes?”

“Well, I didn’t have time. Did you really want six?”

“Yes I want six!”

That shit happens, and the more you shoot, the worse it gets.

On Picture Styles
You can design your own color profile, but be very aware. Because immediately people got this SuperFlat they started to say “well, skin tones started to change.” Not all the time, but if I changed my ISO, it wasn’t consistent. And suddenly I’ve got blemishing.

I can’t tell you how irrationally insane this becomes when you’re dealing with an actress who’s costing you 20 million dollars for a picture, and she has final approval on you getting to shoot with her again, and she sees something where her lips are shifting color because of whatever you did to the camera. That becomes really, really critical. So leaving this stuff alone is smart. If you like what you see with the Profiles they are giving you - other than the sharpness, the contrast and the saturation - stay with it.

On the impact for film making
One of the things that I find really satisfying [about these cameras] is that you can actually be photographing, and people don’t know you’re photographing. Who saw Up In The Air, the weding scene? It was all shot 5D. And you actually see the guys in the room photographing, and you think they are shooting stills; as they’re all dressed in tuxes, and there’s two or three of these guys. But that’s actually the footage they were shooting.
This has taken it to a whole new level where for ten grand you can be up and running. If you’ve got a good idea – and don’t neglect the idea. I’ve been judging some of these competitions. One of the sad things is that much of what you see is extraordinarily beautiful, well filmed, but the story sucks, and the acting is even worse.
Keifer went on and on about not liking little cameras because he never felt he could rise to the level of performance. He wanted a big Panasivion matte box and then he knew that he had to nail it at that level. But at the same time I think there are other people who might give you more because they don’t have the sense that it’s part of a motion picture that they’re shooting.
[The ASC] had a big BBQ and Roger Deakins was there, and I was with Vincent Laforet and I introduced him. I said “Roger this is Vincent, he shot Reverie, the first movie that was ever shot with the 5D, and then it went global and now we’re all using these cameras. Have you used them?” and he said, “I’ll tell you, on my last movie I set up a shot with a 5D, and called the actors in, and we were all ready to shoot, and then I thought about it and I thought ‘No I can’t do this,’ because I think that this is my last film that I’ll ever shoot on film.”

See also:
NotesOnVideo: Ten Things I Learned at the Philip Bloom DSLR workshop

3D Consumer camera coming from Panasonic

PCWorld is reporting that Panasonic will unveil a consumer level 3D video camera next week.

PCWorld: Panasonic to Unveil Consumer 3D Camcorder Next Week

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Colorista II

Red Giant Software has released Colorista II, a standalone color grading tool. If you find tools like Apple's Color too challenging, you might like Colorista II.

Colorista II's primary feature is a 3-Way color corrector that looks sort of like the 3-Way Color Corrector in Final Cut Pro, but with many added features.

This release adds three separate color correction stages; primary, secondary and master. Each one is virtually a copy of the original Colorista; Primary has the 3-Way and two HSL controls, Seocndary has the 3-Way and a power mask control and a Keyer, and Master has the 3-Way, HSL and Curves.

They have also added features to the color adjust wheels, as well as numerical controls for adjusting RGB values. The White Balance tool is now an Auto Balance tool; you can sample something that’s white or gray and it not only changes the hilite color to balance out the shot, but also makes an adjustment to the black level as well.

A good overview of the program can be found in the first online tutorial they have posted: Tutorial

George Schnyder is a beta-tester for Red Giant, and has written a piece about Colorista II: Colorgradingterrorist - Part 03 of 03 - color grading, rebel style

Red Giant Software: Colorista II

Nothing is forever

Those of us making the transition from tape based recording (DV and HDV) to flash based recording (Compact Flash and SD) are having to come to terms with dealing with lots of LARGE files on lots of hard disks. With tape it was easy to "archive" the tapes in a box and not worry too much about the work files on our hard drives. But due to the cost of flash media, most of us can't afford to use flash cards like tape; i.e. keep the recording media as a back up.

We have to transfer and backup these files on to other media. Unfortunately, depsite the plunging cost of TB hard drives, there are no cheap and easy answers. Even Philip Bloom at last week's workshop admitted he has this problem. He said that he likes to keep THREE copies of files on different hard drives! When asked about long term backup he said that he was looking at LTO systems, but hadn't done anything about it yet. For those who don't know, LTO are tape-based backup systems that can cost anywhere from one to several thousand dollars.

And ironically we'd be going from flash memory, back to tape!

So it's easy to get nostalgic about tape. But those of you with stacks of DV and HDV tapes better not get too complacent.

Tape is Not Forever
If you think that DV and HDV are the perfect archive medium, I have a word of warning for you: Hi8.

The first camcorder I owned was a Sony Hi8 camera. I have a box full of tapes from that camera...but no functioning camera. This stuff was shot before I had access to a computer that could do a good job of capturing the video to a digital file (and/or I could afford a large enough hard drive to consider keeping the material "online.") In short, I have these tapes from 20 years ago, and no way to recover the material as my last Hi8 camera stopped working seven years ago!

Try finding a Hi8 deck or camera now. They are getting few and far between. I thought about buying a new Hi8 camcorder on Amazon a couple of years ago to use as a playback deck - when they were still carrying them - but never got around to it. Now, all you can find are used cameras.

Even more scary is these words of warning from a website I came across yesterday:
Are your precious memories lost forever?
Hil8 tapes have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years - after this the video will degrade & could be lost forever! All recordings made before 1997 are at risk - get in touch today and we can help you save your memories.
Worried yet?

But a few days ago I decided to do something about it; I ordered a Sony GVD-200 Digital 8mm Video Walkman. It says it will connect to a computer through a Firewire link, and plays Hi8 tapes. The plan is to copy all the tapes across to hard drives/DVDs (yeah, I still don't have a solid archiving plan other than multiple copies on different drives.) I'll report on how it works out next week.

Why Should You Care?
You may be siting there thinking; "I don't have any Hi8 tapes, why should I care?" But what about VHS tapes? Forget about VHS; twenty years from now, will you be able to find a DV/HDV deck? Because if the answer is "probably not" then maybe you need to think about getting any important material you'd figure you'd transfer "some day" off those DV and HDV tapes NOW!

Amazon:Sony Digital 8mm Video Walkman
B & H: Sony GVD-200 Digital-8 Walkman

Open Video Conference

The Open Video Conference is billed as a two-day summit to explore the future of video on the web, and will be held October 1-2 in New York. One of the speakers will be Damian Kulash, lead singer and guitarist of the rock band OK Go.

New Canon 7D Firmware 1.2.2

Firmware Version 1.2.2 incorporates the following fixes.

  1. Fixes a phenomenon in which the set aperture moves when shooting movies in manual exposure mode using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses).
  2. Fixes the AF point-selection behavior of the C.Fn III-7 (Manual AF pt. selec. pattern) custom function when set to [1].
  3. Fixes the AF point display for the viewfinder electronic level when shooting in the vertical position.
  4. Corrects misspellings in the Spanish and Thai menus for applicable products.

The Version 1.2.2 firmware is for cameras with firmware up to Version 1.2.1. If the camera's firmware is already Version 1.2.2, it is not necessary to update the firmware. Note that cameras with the Version 1.2.2 firmware (and also Versions 1.2.0, 1.2.1) cannot be downgraded to a previous firmware version (such as Version 1.1.0).

Canon: EOS 7D Firmware Update Version 1.2.2

They give us those nice bright colors...

This past Monday, the last roll of Kodachrome film manufactured by Kodak was processed at Dwayne's Photo Service in Kansas, the last photo lab processing Kodachrome film.

And if you have any undeveloped Kodachrome lying around, you have until December 10th when Dwayne's Photo will cease processing the film.

The Wichita Eagle: Last Kodachrome roll processed in Parsons

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's dangerous out there....

First there's reports of a laser damaging the sensor in a Canon 5D, and now Philip Bloom Tweets that his 7D that got caught in a rain storm in Florida is going to cost $1,000 to repair.

Canon does say that the 7D is "weather resistant" not "water proof."

DigitalColor Meter

At last weeks BOSFCPUG meeting, Patrick Inhofer gave a great talk on color grading. I came away with some new things to try, as well as some great tips. One unexpected tip was a Macintosh utility that I had never encountered before (even though it's included free!); the Macintosh DigitalColor Meter.

If you have a Macintosh, and don't know about this tool - as I didn't - check the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder. When you launch the DigitalColor Meter, it opens a window that displays colors values as you move the cursor around the screen. You can see the results as:
  • RGB as Percentage
  • RGB as Actual Value, 8-bit
  • RGB as Actual Value, 16-bit
  • RGB as Hex Value, 8-bit
  • RGB as Hex Value, 16-bit
  • Y'PbPrITU-R BT.601
  • Y'PbPrITU-R BT.709
  • Y'CbCrITU-R BT.601
  • Y'PbPrITU-R BT.709
  • CIE 1931
  • CIE 1976
  • CIE L*a*b*
  • Tristimulus

Patrick Inhofer:
NotesOnVideo: BOSFCPUG Meeting Report

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on the NEX-VG10

The recent announcement of the Sony NEX-VG10 remains a hot topic in the video community; it even came up briefly at the Philip Bloom workshop this past weekend (Philip has an NEX-5 which he was using quite a bit at the Friday Meetup.)

People are divided on this camera; some think it spells the end of the DSLR moment-in-the-sun, and that we'll all go back to using "real" video cameras...but they'll have larger sensors. Others aren't so sure, and the NEX-VG10 clouds the question even more because of it's limitations, of which it appears to have many:

60i video. A lot of people are moving away from interlaced video and using progressive. And many want 24p (though not all.) So the NEX-VG10 only supporting 1080i video is a bit of a puzzle. However it does appear that the video in the NEX-VG10 is really captured at 30p on the sensor, but encoded as 60i in the video file. If that's the case, then it's at least as useful as the original Canon 5D Mark II, which was 30p up until Canon released a firmware update earlier this year.

Low light performance is a question too. Sony themselves rate the NEX-VG10 at 11 lux, (Shutter speed: 1/30 sec, Iris: F3.5, Gain: Auto) manufacturer satings on their own are somewhat meaningless, but Sony rates the HDR-AX2000 at 1.5 lux, and even the HDR-CX500V will go to 3. Note though that the rating for the NEX-VG10 is based on the f/3.5 lens that comes with the camera. Use the f/2.8 16mm lens (sold separately) and you should do better.

Lack of features. This is a consumer camera, and not only is it lacking things like XLR audio inputs, but it's user controls seems to be a little limited. Angus Farquhar got to play with one for a bit and reports: is a nice bit of kit, but there is no doubt that it is a consumer bit of kit.
It is easy to use but the OS is still the same as the NEX still cameras so not totally suited. [1]

Where does that leave us? The NEX-VG10 looks interesting, but if Sony holds true to form, they will release a consumer version of the camera a little later (probably within a month or two.) There's something else to consider too: at NAB this year Sony showed an "entry-level 35mm" camera [2] which looks nothing like the NEX-VG10 but was supposed to be out prior to NAB 2011. So does Sony have more than one arrow in it's quiver?

[1] Angus takes the Sony NEX-VG10 out for a spin
[2] NoteOnVideo: Without the need for never-ending firmware updates....

The 90 second video

This weekend Philip Bloom posted a 90 second challenge; shoot a 90 second video about any single object over the weekend. He obliquely mentioned the project at the Saturday workshop I attended when he said that he'd left one of his cameras back at the hotel room making a timelapse of a clock in his hotel room.

Then that evening he challenged readers of his blog to shoot a 90 second video that weekend.

With nothing better to do, I decided to make a video of an object. I spent about three hours on shooting it; half of that was going to a fabric store to get the black cloth to shoot the object on. You can learn a lot from little projects:

  • I discovered that I need a macro lens, or at least a lens that focuses closer that any of the lenses I currently have. I couldn't get close enough with any of my lenses.
  • Black polyester fleece makes a good background fabric, and was cheaper than felt (it was on sale at the store!)
  • 10 yards of fabric is barely enough to block off the background behind a guitar
  • The fluid head I have may not be as smooth as I thought
  • If I want to do more things like this, I might have to get a Pocket Dolly, or something like it
  • On three shots there was a very slight flicker, and I'm not sure why. I was only using one light source - a Litepanels Micro LED light.

And see some of the other movies at Philip's blog: Shoot a short 90 second film on one object

...More things I learned at the Philip Bloom workshop

...never go to a video/film making workshop in the middle of editing a project. You end up going home and deciding that half the stuff needs to be redone, and the other half isn't worth saving...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ten Things I Learned at the Philip Bloom DSLR workshop

Philip Bloom came to Boston and did two one-day seminars this past weekend. Here, in no particular order, are ten things I learned:

1. Avoid the Zoom H4n. It does not close the audio files if the battery goes flat during a recording; you lose your recording! Get the Tascam DR100; it also has level controls for both channels

2. Lenses: he still uses Canon lenses a lot, despite the fact that they are more difficult to focus due to their short throw (i.e. only a quarter turn goes through the whole focus range) and no end stops. He also prefers the Zeiss ZF (Nikon mount) lenses over the Zeiss ZE (Canon mount) because they have an aperture ring, BUT focus is opposite direction to Canon. You can also get the Zeiss lenses modified to remove the click stop sound.

3. Magic Bullet Looks isn’t cheap, but if you don’t want to spend time learning Apple Color it lets you do some cool color and filter manipulation to your footage through a simple interface
NOTE: AV3 Software is having a 30% off sale this week on Magic Bullet Looks.

4. Always have enough cards and batteries for one days recording. Phil likes to use multiple cards, rather than large cards just in case something happens (BUT, he admitted he will record all the sound for a day on one card.) He also prefers Compact Flash over SD cards; thinks they are more sturdy, less likely to be damaged. Don’t buy generic camera batteries if they don’t communicate with the camera

5. He prefers using the Zacuto Z-finder to using a monitor. (He also recommends the Z-Finder Pro 2.5 over the 3. And good luck finding one in stock anywhere.)

6. Camera setup: Cleanest ISO’s on Canon: 160, 320, 640, 1250, 2500. Set Picture Styles: Sharpness all the way off. Set Contrast all the way off, set Saturation down two notches

7. Best advice he was ever given: do camera moves like it’s your eye. i.e. no zooms!

8. Don’t buy a Fader ND through eBay. A variable ND filter allows you to open up your aperture in low light, but some of them on eBay are rejects. Also, on wider than a 30mm lens, they vignette (damn! and I’d been planning to get one for my 16-35mm zoom too.)

9. Phil prefers to use available light, or two point lighting

10. The Manfrotto 701HDV is a terrible fluid head

The workshop was organized by the BOSFCPUG (Boston Final Cut Pro Users Group) and group organizer Dan Berube is planning on bring Philip back again in the fall (or Autumn.) Check here for details: BOSFCPUG Philip Bloom DSLR Workshops

News from Here & There

Green Screen
Digital Media World has an interesting article about the green screen work done for the movie Kick Ass.
This site has collected an interesting variety of tips and videos, including:

Zeiss CP2 Lenses
The new Zeiss CP2 lenses have been getting a lot of attention; but they are expensive and difficult to find. I was interested to hear Philip Bloom's opinion of them at the workshop he gave in Boston over the weekend. He said that the optics are the same as in the ZE lenses, just with a different housing with fully calibrated lens scales. That's interesting because the ZE lenses are 1/4 or 1/3 the price of the CP2 lenses.
Here's a review:
The Association: Zeiss CP2 lenses reviewed

The House Finale
The use of DSLRs on the House finale may be remembered as a turning point in the movie/tv industry. The Canon Digital Learning Center has posted video of a seminar with Greg Yaitanes, Executive Producer and Emmy winning Director, and Gale Tattersall, Director of Photography given at Cine Gear Expo 2010 in the Paramount Theater.
Canon: EOS 5D Mark II Shoots House M.D. Season Finale

Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) is described as one of the finest Soviet directors of the post-War period. All of his films are now available online for free.
OpenCulture: Tarkovsky Films Now Free Online