Saturday, August 28, 2010

The State of 3D

If you've passed by here before, you'll know that I'm less than a fan of 3D. Still, it's important to keep up with the state of play.

Bad 3D films threaten the success of 3D?
Sure, Avatar was a big hit, but since then there's been a mixed bag of 3D movies (but then, isn't there always a mixed bag if movies?) In an article at CNET: 3D at home still a tough sell Erica Ogg suggests there's concern that bad 3D movies could depress the enthusiasm for 3D. But in a competing point of view, In Praise of the 3D B-Movie Brian Barrett at Gizmodo claims movies like Piranha 3D help 3D, not hurt it.

Clash of the Titans:
A few more 3-D spectacles like "Clash of the Titans" and audiences will be clamoring for 2-D.
[...]The result is 2.5-D, a murkily virtual virtuality. You get an ambiguous sense of depth at a steep price that includes, but isn't confined to, the box-office surcharge that the studios have begun to impose on such attractions in a sudden frenzy of delusion and greed.
Joe Morgenstern - Wall Street Journal

this is one muddled attempt at franchise-making: confusing, drab, sluggish. (Ugly, too, if you're forced to see it in 3-D.)
Robert Wilonsky - Village Voice

Piranha 3D
The industry that's trying to convince people to buy TVs and Blu-ray players capable of re-creating the 3D theater experience at home are already fighting the perception that 3D is a short-lived trend, a rehash of past failed technology, and worse, a gimmick.
Erica Ogg, CNET
3D doesn't make movies feel more real. It accentuates movies where the artifice is out in the open. 3D itself is pulp. Which is why it will also be better served by Final Destination: Death Trip 3D (2009) than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).
Brian Barrett - Gizmodo


Tools that support stereo 3D pre to post production for Pros
During Createsphere's 3D webcast Jerome Thelia mentioned a great resourse list for tools that support Stereo 3D work from pre to post production. The list is published on the LinkedIn Group Stereoscopic 3-D Professionals Worldwide, but is reproduced on this page: 3D Tools

3D Workshop
Createsphere is running a 3D Production Workshop featuring Panasonic 3D Technology Sept. 19-20, New York, NY. It's $795. There are classes also in Chicago, Burbank and Washington D.C.

Why bad 3D, not 3D glasses, is what gives you a headache
In a post at PC Pro Log, David Bayon provides information from a seminar by Buzz Hays, chief instructor for the Sony 3D Technology Center in Culver City, California, explaining why bad 3D - rather than bad glasses - may be the reason you get headaches watching 3D movies
“It’s not the technology’s fault, it’s really the content that can cause these problems,” explains Buzz Hays. “The more care taken when making the content, the better off everyone’s going to be. My mantra is that it’s easy to make 3D but it’s hard to make it good – and by ‘good’ I mean taking care to make sure that this isn’t going to cause eyestrain.”
Read more: Why bad 3D, not 3D glasses, is what gives you a headache

James Cameron Pitches 3D
Over at Gawker TV there's an interview with James Cameron, where he explains the 3D camera rig created for Avatar (James Cameron Explains the 3D Camera Rig Created for Avatar and the Future of 3D Tech) Meanwhile, has an interview with Cameron: Still king of the world

Wall Street Jourmal: Crash of 'The Titans' M. Night Shyamalan's Last Airbender
CNET: 3D at home still a tough sell
Gizmodo: In Praise of the 3D B-Movie

Looking for a Boston-based Assistant Editor

Boston documentary filmmaker Nathaniel Hansen is looking for a Boston based assistant editor to work on his upcoming project The Elders. Could be a good opportunity for a film student. Contact him through his website: The Elders

Friday, August 27, 2010

Setting up iTunes to convert audio

Earlier in the week I mentioned using iTunes to convert an MP3 track to another format (see: What's that clicking? Mismatched audio sample rates.) It's not the best/most convenient tool to use for it, but if you've nothing else handy, it can get the job done. Here's how:

First you need to set it up to save in the format you want (using AIFF - which is uncompressed - is probably a good choice.)

1. Launch iTunes and choose Preferences... from the iTunes menu.

2.  Click on the General tab (it should actually open in it by default!), and click the Import Settings... button

3. In the Import Settings dialog, choose the encoder you want to use from the Import Using menu. In this case, I'm using the AIFF Encoder.

4.  Choose Custom... from the Setting menu. (if Custom is already chosen, then choose Automatic, and then choose Custom again to open the Custom dialog.)

5. Choose the Sample Rate, Sample Size and Channels; whether Stereo or Mono. I needed to match the settings from the camera video, which is 48 kHz, 16 bit.

6. If your audio is on an audio CD, just insert the CD and import the audio in the normal way.

7. If your audio file is on your computer (say an MP3 file) drag it in to iTunes. iTunes won't convert the file, but go find it in the music library, and right-click or Control key-click the audio track. From the pop-up menu, choose Create AIFF Version.

7. Now go to your iTunes music library in the Finder. You'll find both the original file, and the converted file:

H.264 Royalty free forever

MPEG LA, the organization that administers the patent pool that applies to H.264 announced earlier this week that royalty-free use for free internet video will now continue forever (previously they had announced an extension to 2016.)

Who does this impact?
Really, it only impacts sites/people that host videos.

What about the fact that my camera uses H.264? and my software?
Well, the camera maker and the software maker had to pay already. But you can happily use your camera and editing software. And if you put the resulting video on a web page (and don't charge people to view it) then you're free and clear.

What if I charge?
Then you have to get licenses and pay fees, but that hasn't changed; you had to do that last week too.

For more information:
CNET: Web video gets H.264 royalty reprieve
Gizmodo: H.264 Will Be Royalty Free For Internet Video Forever, Mozilla Still Doesn't Care

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pre-order Canon 60D at Amazon too..

You can pre-order the Canon EOS 60D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)@ Amazon for $1,099.00

Funnily enough, while checking that, I was reminded of the fact that there used to be a Canon EOS D60 6MP Digital Camera. Don't get them confused!! Wikipedia: Canon D60

Canon EOS timeline ten years from 3.1MP to 18MP:

D30 [3.1MP] 2000 > D60 [6.3MP] 2002 > 10D [6.3MP] 2003 > 20D [8.2MP] 2004 > 30D [8.2MP] 2006 > 40D [10.1MP] 2007 > 50D [15.1MP] 2008  >> 60D [18MP] 2010

Canon 8-15mm fisheye zoom

In addition to the 60D, Canon also announced some lenses, the most interesting - for video producers - is probably the 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS, and the 8-15 f/4L Fisheye Zoom. And since I tend to like wide-angle lenses, the 8-15 is really interesting:

Canon's new 8-15mm fisheye zoom.
That' some weird looking reflection in the glass!

When paired with Canon’s full-frame DSLR bodies, such as the EOS 5D Mark II or the EOS -1Ds Mark III, professional photographers can choose to capture circular or full-frame fisheye images, allowing them to view a scene in a completely new and unique way. This new level of choice provides enhanced creative flexibility when shooting scenes such as the night sky, where the full 180ยบ horizontal and vertical fields of view (FOV) allow every detail to be captured with incredible clarity in one single image.

When used with EOS bodies featuring APS-C or APS-H sensors, the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM produces a more traditional, full frame fisheye view. A zoom-lock mechanism on the lens body allows the range to be limited to the focal length that ensures the best possible full-frame view without unsightly vignetting around the edge. ‘C’ and ‘H’ markings can be found next to the zoom operation ring, indicating the wide-angle zoom position where vignette-free shooting is possible with either sensor, allowing photographers to achieve optimum results with any EOS body.

I'd be tempted to buy one, except that I already have an inexpensive Vivitar 7mm fisheye lens ($360) which, while it's not a Canon L job, works well for occasional pieces (and let's face it, you don't use a fisheye lens all the time anyway!)

I'm under the impression that the Vivitar lens is actually produced by another company and sold by a couple of vendors - I've seen it described as both a 7mm and an 8mm lens. Here's a short sample that will give you an idea of what the Canon lens will probably look like at 8mm on a Canon APS-C sensor camera:

B & H: Vivitar 7mm f/3.5 Series 1 Fisheye Manual Focus Lens

[UPDATED 8/28-
Canon: Zooming Fisheye This page contains a video that shows the zoom effect on a Canon 5D Mark II (i.e. full frame camera; the effect will be different on an APS-C camera.)
B & H: Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Fisheye Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens (Notify when in stock) ]

Canon 60D announced

Finally, finally! Canon announced the 60D. There have been rumors about it for months, and it was expected that at some point they'd replace the 50D, so in many respects the announcement of the 60D was as unexpected as the announcement of the iPhone 4.

Still, it's an interesting development for a couple of reasons; the addition of an articulating screen, and the "downgrading" of the XXD series. Previous models (the 10D, 20D...50D) had magnesium bodies, but the 60D switches to polycarbonate like the Rebel T2i. This is unsurprising; the release of the 7D above the XXD line perhaps forced Canon to reposition the 60D. The 60D also seems to be pitched more to consumers than pro-sumers (see the video below.)

Another interesting feature; manual audio control (the 5D Mk II got this with a firmware upgrade, but the 7D, T2i and 1d Mk IV don't offer this feature.)

The switch to SD cards is interesting too, though wouldn't stop me from buying the camera (since I have cameras that use both Compact Flash and SD cards already.)

I had been expecting some other new features for video (auto-focus? better live video out? lower compression?) as there had been hints of this camera adding more video features. The articulating screen certainly will help with shooting video at unusual angles (though I just bought a Zacuto Z-Finder and I don't think it would be much use with that!) and manual audio control is welcome, but there seems to be no significant reason why you should buy this over the T2i or 7D. Sure, the articulating screen and manual audio could make you lean towards it, but if you already have the T2i or 7D I don't think you need to feel like you need to upgrade!

B & H is taking pre-orders for $1,099.
Canon USA: EOS 60D
DPReview: Canon EOS 60D Preview
Gizmodo: Canon 60D Impressions: The Perfect Video DSLR Is Just a Little Bit Closer

Canon plans new EOS plug-in for Final Cut Pro

Canon announced the EOS Movie Plug-in-E1 for Final Cut Pro version 1.1 will be available to download for free from mid-September. The update will add support for the Canon EOS 60D, the latest addition to the EOS range. The plug-in will allow users to view metadata and EXIF data for movie files. It will also provide support for multi-core processing, allowing even faster conversations with the latest generation of Macs.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why I like YouTube

Yesterday I went to upload a demo movie (the clicking audio clip) and decided to put it up at Vimeo. But after it finished uploading, I'm presented with a screen saying that the processing of the movie won't start for an hour and 33 seconds - BUT if you're a Vimeo Plus member, you get moved to the front of the line.

Popped over to my YouTube account, uploaded the video there, it took a few more minutes to process (it's a very short movie!) and it was up and done and the Vimeo clip still had at least another 45 minutes to go before it would be ready. I don't have a special YouTube account either.

So is the 1:00:33 a real wait time; or is it enforced to advertise the paid service? I tried a second experiment today, and got exactly the same amount of time as an estimate for the time to process...

I don't begrudge Vimeo putting their paid users first, BUT since I can go and upload it on YouTube, I don't see any real reason to wait for Vimeo.

SNOB Film Festival

The wonderfully named SNOB Film Festival (that's Somewhat North Of Boston) began back in 2002 in Concord NH and ran for several years, then went on hiatus last year. But now it's back, and will be held at the Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. running from 11.19.10 through 11.21.10. They're looking for submissions.

Find out more at their website:
facebook: SNOB Film Festival

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's that clicking? Mismatched audio sample rates

One of the things you're warned about early on in digital audio editing is to be careful about mismatched audio sample rates; it can cause strangeness. Of course, knowing what you're supposed to do, doesn't mean that you always do it...

For example, a recent project in Final Cut Pro, had a nice stirring sound track set against some video that was shot outside in the rain. The rain was noticeably audible in places, which was why I didn't notice - for days - that there was a clicking sound in the music track; I just wrote it off to other sounds in the audio.

But I was finishing up the video and the clicking was starting to annoy me, so I was dropping down the audio level on the ambient track....and the clicking wasn't going away!

That's when I realized that the clicking was in the music track, not the ambient track. And it wasn't part of the original music track either.

I had imported a 44.1 kHz MP3 track into a Project that was set up for 48 kHz sound (as that was the audio format of the audio that the camera captured.) And even though the audio was being exported to a 44.1 kHz MP4 movie, the clicking was in the 44.1 kHz track.

Converting the MP3 track to a 48 kHz AIFF track (using iTunes) solved the problem (see clip below.)

Important lessons learned:
  • Know the sample rates of your audio tracks
  • Convert them all to the same rate prior to omporting them into your movie
  • Repeated listening to your audio track reveals problems you overlook when doing a rush edit!

News from Here & There

Things are hotting up! Sony has announced two mirrorless DSLR's capable of full-time phase-detection autofocus. DPreview explains how:
The SLTs do have mirrors, but they're mirrors that let the majority of the light pass straight through to the sensor, rather than having to swing out of the way to allow exposure. As a result they are fixed in position, always reflecting a portion of the light emerging from the back of the lens onto a phase-detection AF array housed in the top of the camera. (A newly-developed 15-point array in the case of these two cameras).
The A55 and A33 look interesting, but of course I'm also waiting to see how the NEX-VG10 turns out...the idea of buying another brand of DSLR for video, doesn't really appeal to me, but if you're already in the Sony DSLR camp and want to do video, these look iteresting.
DPReview: Sony SLT Alpha A55 In-depth Review,* August 2010

Canon has announced an APS-H sized 120 Megapixel chip (though they aren't putting it in a camera just yet!) Meanwhile, Canonrumors is speculating that Canon may develop some cine-style PL lenses. (PL is the mount used by many 16mm and 35mm film cameras.) It seems odd that they'd bother making lenses for such a comparatively small market. I'd think they'd be more interested in producing cine-style lenses that fit on their own DSLR cameras, and prevent Zeiss from taking away some of the business.

Finally, IBC runs September 9-14 in Amsterdam, and there will probably be some announcements there. Panasonic is expected to announce the price and availability of their large-chip video camera, the AG-AF100, at the show. Some think that this - and cameras like the NEX-VG10 - will spell the end of the DSLR's days in the sun as video production tools. I'm not so sure, but time will tell. The more competition the better!

Panasonic microsite: AG-AF100

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rule Event: Nuts & Bolts of the AC Position: AUG 25

This Wednesday's event at Rule Camera:

Nute & Bolts of the AC Position
With over 25 years of experience as a Camera Operator and 1st Assistant Cameraman, David E. Elkins, SOC author of "The Camera Assistant's Manual, Fifth Edition" provides a nuts-and-bolts guide to the Assistant Camera position.

August 25th, 10am - 12noon
R.S.V.P. to

News from Here & There

Sony NEX-VG10 Preview
People are already getting their hands on sample NEX-VG10 units [Sony, don't you have my number?] Luminous-landscape is the latest to publish a preview, and it mostly confirms what's already been heard:
  • The 18-200mm lens will be sold separately (for NEX-3 & 5 owners) for about $900
  • The lens is rather slow, though the camera itself does well because of the chip's performance
  • Audio is auto gain, with no meters, though the mic itself is of pretty good quality
  • The Active Stablization gets a lot of praise
But the zoom lens may not live up to everyone's expectations:
The lens is mechanically very smooth, with fly-by-wire focusing and mechanical zooming. The zoom is reasonably smooth, but can't really compare with a motorized zoom, and thus the lens should really be regarded as variable focal length rather than one to be used for zooming while filming. No big loss.
One interesting issue is that what few manual controls there are, aren't available while the LCD is closed (say you close it while shooting with the EVF)
Luminous-landscape:  Sony NEX VG10 HD Camcorder / 14MP Stills Camera Field Report

A Loupe You Can Look Down On
Tying to focus an HD DSLR using the LCD screen can be really difficult; but a loupe can make things a lot easier. There's one problem with that; most current loupe's sit in a straight line behind the LCD screen, making it difficult to use if the camera is low to the ground, or pointing up. But here's a loupe that appears to let you turn the image 90 degrees using a small mirror:

Interestingly, Zacuto hinted that they were working on a loupe that would let you work at different angles a few months back, but there's been no reports since then. Varavon Profinder

New Apple TV coming?
Kevin Rose, found of Digg, revisits the rumors of a new lower-priced, iOS equipped Apple TV. Expected date is sometime in September, and supposedly you'll be able to use the iPad as a remote for it. The idea of using the iOS for it is hardly surprising, though I don't really think I want to play games on my TV; but that's just me.

More importantly; what happens to the old Apple TV? Does it die a slow, neglected death, do they release a software update that makes it impersonate it's much cheaper replacement?
kevinrose blog: Why Apple's iTV Will Change Everything

Marshall Monitors website
Marshall Monitors has created a new website to promote their products. Still no word on when the new 5 inch monitor will be shipping...
Marshall Monitors

Thinking of Entering a Film Festival?
indieWire has an interesting article with tips for submitting to festivals: 20 Tips for Strategizing Festivals & Distribution Today

Canon Expo 2010

In last weeks report on the BOSFCPUG Canon DSLR Meetup I mentioned briefly the Canon Expo 2010 which is being held in New York (Sept 2-3rd). If you go to the site and register, you can see the variety of seminars/lectures they are offering, including the following:

Alex Buono shoots the “other-than-live” parts of Saturday Night Live, including the intro scenes under the credits and the “fake” comic commercials. He’ll show and discuss how these scenes are now shot with Canon HD DSLRs for the low-light capability and the effortless mobility of these sensor cameras, changing the way he can work shooting at night.

Known for his innovative commercial and aerial photography as well as the use of Canon Tilt Shift lenses for a unique aerial perspective, Vincent Laforet will show images and clips, and demonstrate the groundbreaking low-light capability of the Canon 5D Mark II and other Canon cameras shooting in near darkness with spectacular results.

Shane Hurlbut, whose work as a Director of Photography includes television and feature films like Terminator Salvation, will share how he was able to capture amazing images with an easy-to-use, cost-effective Canon HD camera. Mr. Hurlbut will discuss how the compact design of his Canon camera allowed him to capture images easier than if he had used traditional equipment.

Other presentations include: actor, producer, and director Corbin Bernsen, a cinematographer panel, and a discussion of HD lenses and cameras.

BOSFCPUG: Canon Expo 2010 New York