Saturday, March 19, 2011

Current Projects: Filmmaker Ben Zidel

Ben Zidel is a young Boston-based filmmaker who's putting together plans to shoot his first feature early this summer. I talked to him about it at a recent Boston Media Makers get together.

What's the story of the movie?
The story is called The Road Home. It's about what happens to two different people surrounding a tragedy. A girl gets killed in a hit-and-run accident and we deal with the aftermath for the driver, and we also deal with the aftermath for the boyfriend who lost his girlfriend. It's sort of how their lives intertwine and eventually come to a dramatic climax in the end.

Who wrote the script?
It's based on a short script and film that I wrote and directed, and my buddy Ray Lisi wrote the feature adaption of the short.

And you're planning to finance it yourself?
Yeah, we plan to do some self fund-raising through our production company, which we are starting now, producing commercials on a budget for local businesses. We are in talks with MyTV to do a television distribution deal with them, and do a theatrical promotion with the independent film series. So we'll be looking for local businesses to produce commercials for, and use that to underwrite the film.

When do you plan to start production?
We'd like to shoot at the end of May, but we might get pushed back based on money. Hopefully it'll be June at the latest.

What are you going to shoot it with?
We're going to shoot it on the Canon 5D.

Do you already have the cast?
No we haven't secured the cast yet. We'll hopefully be casting in April. Chris Polermo is going to be our casting director. He's a SAG actor, he runs Mass Movie Mavens, which is a pod cast which talks about film in the New England area, so he's got a very good network and he's going to hopefully bring in some good talent.

How long will the shoot run?
We're looking at about four weeks. It's a feature script so it's 127 pages right now.

Who's going to be editing it?
Right now we have our good buddy Heather Warren, she's one of our friends from Full Sail University, and she's currently in Florida, but it looks like she'll be our editor.

What are your plans for distribution?
We'd like to premiere it sometime in the fall on MyTV. We don't have a set date yet, but they're really looking for independent films and locally produced content to put on their channel. It's broadcast cable, which is pretty cool, they reach about 2 and a half million homes in the New England Area, and Chris Murphy, who's the head of television and film development there, he's pioneering this cool movement to put the money in the film makers pocket versus the festival's pocket, so there's some very interesting things there.

Are you going to do any film festivals?
It's possible. The great thing is we'll have sole ownership of the film, even if we show it. So if we want to go the festival route, that's certainly a possibility. We're also going to look into digital distribution, and any kind of cheap downloads that you can do, and exploring overseas, because the DVD market over there is great. That's the best chance to make money over there I think.

Is this your first feature project?
This will be our first feature, yeah. We did a short feature at school, while we were in class on our own time, and we did a couple of shorts in-between, and I'll be producing and directing some music videos coming up, but the idea is just to get our name out there and show what we can do. We'll be starting this production company here in the next couple of months and try to get as much content out there as possible. We've got another short film playing at the Auburn Film Festival in Maine in April, so we're just trying to get as much out there as possible.

You can find Ben on Facebook or at On Vimeo: Benjamin C. Zidel

[UPDATE: Corrected Ray Lisi's last name]

Quick Links

Friday, March 18, 2011

Edward Burns talks Indie Filmmaking

Edward Burns, the Writer/Director/Actor who makes "those small talky New York movies about the Irish guys from Long Island," conducted an informal Q & A about his latest indie project via Twitter yesterday.

Burns first came to fame with the film The Brothers McMullen, which was shot on a shoe-string budget of $28,000, and though he's produced films on much larger budgets since then, he is now focused on very low-budget indie films; "I went hat in hand to the money guys for years. Just couldn't do it anymore. Decided to write smaller stories and never looked back."

The latest movie,  Newlyweds, just finished shooting, and is now in post-production. It was shot with a budget of $9,000 and a tiny crew; three guys rotated responsibilities. The plot of Newlyweds he describes as "they think they have a nice easy marriage. Then reality hits."

What follows is most of the tweets from last night (he also posted some photos from the production.) I've reordered the posts and made some slight editing changes to make it more digestable. But follow him on Twitter and you may learn other things about film making - and the film - like how the title Triangles of NY lost out to Newlyweds. He's also been soliciting poster ideas for the film's showing at the Tribeca Film Festival.

"Anybody can make a movie now. There are no more excuses."

Newlyweds started as workshop. Some scripted pages. We shot improvised scenes, rewrote, then reshot. then cut some sequences...Story then showed itself. Wrote more scenes, shot more scenes. Wrote the rest of the script over three months with actor input. Hard but fun

When we started shooting back in November, we didn't have a script and were thinking it might be a web series.

Our first day of shooting was a camera test a few days before Thanksgiving. Half that days footage made the cut. 4 months and 12 shooting days later we finally wrapped.
Ultra low budget filmmaking. Behind the scenes of Newlyweds. Indie film lives! This is the whole crew:
Newlyweds shooting budget: 5k for actors, 2k insurance, 2k food and drink. 9k in the can. We only shot 12 days. That's how to make an independent film.

Got all locations for free, wore our own clothes, no hair and make up, no lights, no sound mixer, owned our Canon 5D.
Another behind scenes picture:
Actors are all friends I've worked with before with the exception of Caitlan Fitzgerald - who is now a friend - and are all SAG. [You've] got to work with friends when you have very little money to pay them.

For audio we used these flash card recorders by M-Audio? I think that was the name. Set the levels and used lavs. Wish the digital revolution extended to location sound recording. Somebody know something I don't?

Lighting was mostly available light and practicals. On a few scenes we used a china ball
Here's another Newlyweds behind the scenes shot. Take notice of what you don't need.
No boom (most days), no AD, no script supervisor. Three guys, rotated responsibilities. And a great DP.

We own the camera, sound equipment, and use Final Cut on my Mac.

Sound is important but don't let it slow you down. The Italian Neo-realists didn't and they made some pretty great films.

No disrespect to soundmen and women, but on these shooting schedules (12 days) you can't be precious. When I have a budget, I have respect
Shooting on the streets:
Anybody can make a movie now. There are no more excuses. True, you do need a few grand. But you used to need a few million.

Budgets for past movies: The Groomsmen 3 Million, Purple Violets 4 Million, She's the One 3 Million, Sidewalks of NY 1 Million, No Looking Back 5 Million, Brothers McMullen 25K. Looking For Kitty 250K, Nice Guy Johnny 25k, Newlyweds 9k

Now [comes] the tricky part. Keeping the post production cost down.

Twitter: Edward Burns

News From Here & There

Shooting tips
Dylan Reeve, the Edit Geek, provides some shooting tips for cameramen that will help editors (as well as cameramen who also edit!) While these seem like common sense, the 6 tips are key to making your editing life easier (and some of these might be unexpected, like number four.)
4. The Preset is Your Friend
This one is a little contraversial, and I’ve actually had a stand up argument with a shooter about this – but I’ll lay it out here anyway. Stop manually white balancing and use your camera’s presets. There, I said it.
DylanReeve: Shooting Tips From The Edit Suite

4:2:2 Color
In this 10 minute video from the February UKFCUG meeting, Matt Davis and Rick Young talk about 4:2:2 vs 4:2:0 color encoding.
MacVideo: Technology Talk: how big a deal is 4:2:2? Featuring, Matt Davis & Rick Young

Sony PMW-F3
Travis MacRitchie provides an unboxing video for the Sony PMW-F3K (the kit that includes three lenses.) At the end of the clip there's some comparison video with the PMW-F3 and the Canon 5D Mark II.
VimeoSony F3 (PMW-F3) Unboxing & First Impressions
And North American Camera offers a night test shot with the Sony PMW-F3 camera at -3dB with Slow Shutter ON at 4 FPS. Zeiss 25mm Super Speed 2.8-4 split.
Vimeo: Sony PMW-F3 Night Test Shoot

Amateur Actors
Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian's Film Blog asks if non-actors should be used in feature work, and looks at two current movies that do just that; Joanna Hogg's Archipelago and Ken Loach's Route Irish.
Using non-professional actors in a fictional movie is a high-risk business. There is a danger that they will, paradoxically, not look "real", or that they will look real and that their authenticity will somehow expose the fiction and createdness of the rest of the film.
TheGuardian: Should non-actors work in feature films?

Another RED Epic HDRx Example
Mike Seymour shows a single shot that demonstrates the wide dynamic range possible with the new HDRx mode in the RED Epic:
[this] is a single take shot from a car mount on a Duclos 11-16mm lens at 5K of a car moving from an extremely dark tunnel to a full daylight blue sky shot. The dynamic range required to achieve this shot as one pass in camera is thanks to the new proprietary HDRx from RED Digital Cinema company.
Over at the ProLost blog, Stu Maschwitz explains how HDRx is accomplished.
FXGuide: HDRx: The Impossible Shot
ProLost: Red Epic HDRx in Action

File-based workflows
Chris Fournelle, postproduction director for PBS Frontline, describes the workflow they developed for file-based acquisition:
The important takeaway is to organize your workflow so that it’s as universally comprehensible as possible. How would you want a project delivered to you? What information would you want if you’d never seen a frame of the production?
QGPT: Resources
QGPT: Scared straight: To lay out a prudent workflow for file-based video, it helps to work up some paranoia [PDF]

Wide-angles for the Panasonic GH2
EOSHD looks at wide-angle lenses for the Panasonic GH2, the Lumix 14mm F2.5 pancake, the Computar 12.5mm F1.3 and the Pentax 6mm F1.2.
The Lumix 14mm F2.5 is of course the most expensive option, but this has the least distortion, the best image, better colour and contrast, best resolution and of course covers the full frame.
EOSHD: Group test - fast wides for filmmaking on the GH2 (including Computar 12.5mm F1.3)

Sony vs Canon
Sony Alpha Rumors notes that DxOmark lets you compare the Sony Alpha 580 and Sony SLT Alpha 55 to the Canon T3i and Canon 7D, and the two Sony's score much higher than the Canon's, particularly in Dynamic Range.
Amazon: Canon 7D[$1,699]| Canon Rebel T3i [$799] | Sony a (alpha) DSLR-A580
[$799] | Sony Alpha SLTA55V [$749]

Other Bits & Pieces:
  • iLounge reports that the Wi-Fi iPad 2 microphone produces much cleaner audio than the 3G model: iPad 2 Wi-Fi, 3G models show microphone differences
  • FinalCutters assembles together a list of Final Cut Transitions
  • AppleInsider notes that some owners of the new MacBook Pros are having problems with iTunes Home Sharing
  • The Terence and Philip Show podcast discusses Thunderbolt
  • Rob Ashe at Creative COW talks to Rob Ashe, about the design of "Conan" on TNT, from news of its new home on TBS, through title design and workflow engineering. Plus a trip through a single day, from prep, to post, to air. Designing Conan
  • Douglas Trumbull. FXGuide has an interview with Douglas at the Adelaide Film Festival, where he talks about some of his classic films, immersive film-making, simulator rides, high frame rates and the state of the industry. fxguidetv #104: Douglas Trumbull
  • Canon Australia caused some excitement when they posted that they would be making an "exciting announcement" - and then it turned out to be the 50,000th World of EOS member!
  • Canon Rumors also reports that there might be a "significant" announcement from Canon at NAB. As they say, it's unlikely to be a DSLR, but maybe a large sensor video camera?

Upcoming Meetings - New York

CineAlta Production Group meeting NYC April 5th
This pre-NAB meeting promises that Sony's CTO and Vice President of Technology, Hugo Gaggioni will take attendees through the lineup of technology Sony will showcase at this year's NAB.
The embargo on information Sony has on some writers and publications comes off March 23rd, so expect to hear more about the new NXCAM cameras and more.
Sony Production Community: Sony CineAlta Blog

Adobe After Effects New York - March Meeting
March 31st
Steve Forde, Senior Product Manager, After Effects will be giving a technology preview of some of the cool stuff Adobe is working on. He’ll also open things up to a Q & A where you can ask him questions you’ve only hoped someone could answer (like “How do I create a new Solid?”).
AENY: March Meeting

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Report: Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Workshop

This past Tuesday, David Catt of FilmSystems gave a free two hour workshop on DaVinci Resolve organized in collaboration with BOSFCPUG and Blackmagic Design. The event happened downtown at Emerson College.

David has been working with Resolve for more than 20 years and was even product manager for Resolve before moving to FilmSystems two years prior to the sale to Blackmagic.

"But wait!" I can hear you say. "You can barely find your way around the Three-way Color Corrector in Final Cut Pro, and you're going to a workshop on a high-end color correcting tool?!"

Well, true, I still haven't even figured out Apple's Color, but there's something very cool about watching someone who knows what they are doing apply color correction to a scene. To watch David take a somewhat plain scene, and then adjust contrast and brightness, soften the highlight clipping, brighten up the clouds with a traveling matte, then add green to folliage and yellow to rocks using color and luminance mattes to produce a stunning final shot, that's pretty cool.

And it gives me an idea of what I should be trying for...

So here's my notes from the workshop.

  • Hardware: David was running a MacPro with 12 cores, and an expansion interface that adds four more slots. He has three graphics cards just to start with; one for the UI display, one to accelerate the software, and one to output HD video. An expensive setup, but the system was quite happy munching on 2K footage.

  • Graphics Cards: For best value he recommend GTX 285 cards as faster and cheaper, but they draws a lot of power and is no longer available. Failing that, he recommends the Quadro 4000card.

  • Monitors: As your primary screen for color work he recommends Flanders Scientific monitors. For the other two screens he was using has said that just about any monitor would do; though you have to make sure the monitor you're using for the UI is at least 1920 x 1200 (not 1080) or you won't be able to see all the buttons at the bottom of the interface!

  • VTR: Resolve can play your video out live to a VTR (if you still have one of those...)

  • Color Lookup Table: Resolve supports LUTs (Color Lookup Tables) Useful for S-Log produced by the Sony PMW-F3 and Log C produced by the Arri Alexa.

  • RED footage: there's a special set-up section for handling RED footage

  • Workflows and EDLs: Resolve will import EDLs, but not XML. Also, it does not support sound in the EDL, though you can load in a sound file separately. Also, when transferring between systems, you have to make sure your EDL is set up correctly, or it can get confused. Most troubling for some; it only handles one video track at the moment. David is really hoping they will change that.
    While editing, he demonstrated importing the media, and then importing the EDL separately. It seemed that you had to do it as a two step process, which could cause a bit of confusion. On the other hand, it does let you use a function called Color Trace to find the color grading you applied to a clip in another EDL, and then import that info into your current EDL.

  • Scene Detection: If you have a single clip made up of multiple clips that you want to grade separately, you can use a feature called Scene Detection to search and find the edit points automatically. It seemed to do a pretty good job in the demo.

  • Organizing clips: While grading, you can change the order of the clips from source time code to record time code, which will order together clips made at the same period of time. You can then group them and apply the same grading changes to all the clips at once.

  • Four channels of color correction: David referred to Resolve supporting "four channels" for grading. I'm not sure I'd describe it that way - I think it causes confusion - but when editing Black, Gama and Gain (above), in addition to the adjustments for red, green, and blue, you have a fourth master adjustment that alters the other three simultaneously.

  • Soft clipping: to prevent clipping of highlights, there's a Soft Clipping feature.

  • Tracker: Resolve has an awesome tracker. David demoed it with a matte attached to tracking applied to faces and clouds; the latter was perhaps the most impressive looking part of the demo. He explained - and demoed - that if something you want to track goes off screen during the shot, you should track another object that stays in shot but is moving at the same speed relative to the object you really want to track.

  • Control Panel: Blackmagic sells the software alone, or you can buy one of their control surfaces (for a good chunk of change.) A big advantage of the control panel; you can quickly jump from scene to scene and adjust things without having to reach for the mouse.

  • Nodes: Resolve provides a feature called "nodes" to apply multiple levels of effects (above). Welcome to logic theory. If you know what you're doing, nodes appear to give you a great deal of control not only in setting up layers of effects, but for making major changes later - without starting from scratch - when the client changes their minds. But when you're learning the system, I bet that figuring out whether nodes should be in series or parallel will take a bit of time..

  • Rendering: David's system cranked through things pretty fast, and he said that you really didn't have to render overnight anymore. But if you do have to render, Resolve does have a Render Queue

  • Dealing with burnt-out footage: In response to a question from an audience member, David demonstrated filling in a burnt out region of a pear. He added a layer, "qualified" just that region with a luminance key, then added a bit of softness, darkened down the region and took it towards yellow to match the color of the pair. "You don't have the texture," he noted, "but you have the color. The eye will notice if you're looking for it, but otherwise it should be okay."

  • Linked Systems: One other neat power feature; you can link two systems together remotely, and then control one from the other, so the colorist could be in one location, and the director in another. You just have to make sure that all the content files are available on both systems.

BOSFCPUG (Boston Final Cut Pro User Group)
Blackmagic Design
B & H: Blackmagic Design Davinci Resolve - Software [$945.25]

Japan woes causing price increases already?

Tom Guilmette reports via Twitter that the price of Sony XDCAM discs has gone up:
The cost of a single layer sony 23.3 GB xdcam disk went up from $19 to $34 overnight.
As at 11:20 EDT, B & H lists the PFD23 23.3 Gigabyte XDCAM Laser-Disk  at $33.50.

I don't buy XDCAM media, so have no idea what the usual price is...

But a number of Sony factories are closed due to damage, and the remaining ones are facing shortages of electricity, etc.; Bloomberg: Sony, Toyota Shut Factories After Power Shortages Follow Earthquake Damage

I encourage everyone that can, to donate something to the Red Cross
or charity of their choice to help those in Japan.
G I V E    T O   T H E   R E D   C R O S S

News From Here & There

Sony PMW-F3 lenses only fit on the PMW-F3?
Sony sells a three lens kit in addition to the PMW-F3 body, but you can only buy the lenses with the camera. Sony says that the lenses are PL lenses (see: PMWF3K)
Sony offers two affordable models of the PMW-F3: one is without a lens, the PMW-F3L; the other includes three PL lenses (35/50/85-mm, T2.0), the PMW-F3K.
BUT, several people have reported that these aren't "standard" lenses and they don't work with other cameras. Philip Johnston at HD Warrior is the latest to report this:
This is where I take issue with Sony they have dedicated their prime lenses to fit on this camera only, so you can’t use them on any other camera, this may be for technical reasons but as we know Sony don’t make lenses, a third party has made these lenses but to Sony’s specifications.
Note too that Philip currently has both the AG-AF100 (AG-AF101) and the PMW-F3 in his possession (the former is his own, the latter is on loan) and he promises a comparison, though at the moment he's been only hinting about his results:
my good pal and fellow DP, John commented “it’s very filmic” “the pictures are unreal”
HDWarrior: Head to Head…The Big Test AF101 v F3

Sony Creative Software Event at NAB
April 11, 6:30pm to 9:00 pm
Sony Creative Software, developers of award-winning applications for video, audio, DVD and Blu-ray production, and AMD, a leading global provider of innovative microprocessor and graphics solutions, invite you to attend their 11th annual open house to hear exciting announcements about their professional line of mulitimedia production applications.
Register: Sony Creative Software NAB Users Event 2011

iMovie for iPad Review
Jeff Carlson at MacWorld takes an in-depth look at the iMovie for iPad app. He notes that the iMovie app works with only a limited variety of material - primarily iOS video - though it will work with some other cameras:
Footage is assumed to come from the iPad’s cameras, an iPhone 4, or a fourth-generation iPod touch (H.264 up to 720p, MPEG-4). AVCHD? Go to the desktop. Based on the video-capture devices at hand, I was able to import and edit footage from a Flip Mino HD, but not a Canon Powershot G12.
He's generally positive - despite a few issues - though he also remains hopeful for more features.
MacWorld: iMovie

Meanwhile, Michael Koerbel and Anna Elizabeth James have already used it to edit an episode of their web series Goldilocks:
“It still has a long ways to go in contrast to Final Cut or Avid, but if you’re on the go and need to shoot, edit, and upload something immediately from an iOS device, it’s perfect,” James told Mobilized
They are generally happy, though like Jeff Carlson, note the limitation in audio editing:
On the desktop version of iMovie you can separate audio and video, you can’t do that on the iPad version 
Mobilized.AllThingsDigitalPair of iPhone Filmmakers Try Their Hand at Editing on an iPad 2

Zediva streaming DVDs
David Pogue looks at Zedevia, a video rental service that streams a DVD disc (actually playing in a DVD player) to your computer/set-box over the internet. They're charging $2 for one movie or $1 if you "buy" a 10-pack.
At its California data center, Zediva has set up hundreds of DVD players. They’re automated, jukebox-style. You’re not just renting a movie; you’re actually taking control of the player that contains the movie you want. The DVD is simply sending you the audio and video signals, as if it were connected to your home with a really, really long cable.
Seems interesting, but what do the movie studios think? That's unclear, but it's likely they are happy...
The other question; can it scale?
NewYorkTimesA Clever End Run Around the Movie-Streaming Gremlins

RED Epic HDRx Footage
One of the new RED features is HDRx, a video mode to increase dynamic range that is demonstrated in this video posted by Mike Seymour:
Vimeo: Rough HDRx test shot

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

News From Here & There

WebM plug-in for IE 9 released
Google has released a plug-in for IE 9 that plays their new WebM video format.
CNET: Google releases WebM video plug-in for IE9
Google: WebM Video for Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 (Preview)

And Google has also bought Green Parrot Pictures, a company that specializes in software that enhances and improves the quality of video, including motion prediction algorithms for stabilizing video. Engadget thinks it will improve the quality of hand-held video on YouTube. Maybe they could run "Battle: Los Angeles" through it...

AJA Raffle
AJA is running a raffle that could win you a Ki Pro Mini, Kona 3G or other converter. You can get the entry form at the website, BUT you have to drop the form off at NAB to enter! (Can someone out there drop my name in please?!) WIN @ NAB with AJA

Shaky-Cam is so Blair Witch
The shakycam has received negative attention from many quarters over the years; even Matt Damon said that people had suggested buying Paul Greengrass a Steadicam after the last Bourne movie. But now Matt Seitz at Salon wants to really stick a fork in it after seeing "Battle: Los Angeles" (which rates 33% on Rotten Tomatoes):
"Battle: Los Angeles" takes one of the more controversial cinematography fads of recent years -- the "shaky camera and shallow focus equals 'reality'" fad -- to noxious new levels of excess. The movie is the work of professionals who decided to make their film look bad on purpose. Why? Because, according to their logic, it's more "real."
He goes on to give movie makers some advice:
Get yourself a tripod. Make a shot list. Think about where you're putting the camera and why you're putting it there, and try to redirect the audience's attention by moving the camera or refocusing rather than cutting every three to five seconds. Stop covering action as if it were a bank robbery that suddenly broke out without warning. Start directing again.
Salon: Time to declare war on the shaky camera

Movie News
Seems that Hulu isn't the only one looking to create original content, with Netflix reportedly signing a 100 million deal for the Kevin Spacey series House of Cards.
TVGuide: Netflix and Kevin Spacey on Deck with House of Cards

Meanwhile, Robert Redford is bringing the Sundance Film Festival to London (but will he bring the sun?): HollywoodReporter: Sundance London Film Fest to Kick Off in 2012

How to build a cheap Mac
Want a fast Mac for little money? No Film School updates how to build a Hackintosh: NoFilmSchool: How to Build a Hackintosh That’s Faster than a Mac Pro for Half the Price – Updated

Setting yourself up for disappointment at NAB...

Apple doesn't love you
Patrick Inhofer at The Tao of Color explains that when Apple's not saying things about Final Cut Pro, they really are saying things, and he sums it up this way:
Adding all this up, this is what I think Canon is telling us: You’ll get what you get, on a timeline of our choosing, dictated by still photography considerations – and not all features will be given equal priority.

Digital movie making is not a priority.
Oh wait! Sorry, wrong company. He really said this about Apple:
Adding all this up, this is what I think Apple is telling us: You’ll get what you get, on a timeline of our choosing, dictated by non-Pro App considerations – and not all apps in the Studio will be given equal priority.

Final Cut Studio is not a priority.
(I'm always getting those companies confused!)

And you know, yeah, he's right. He's also right that there's a lot of NLE choices out there that didn't exist 5 years ago, so really, why worry? [Of course, when you've got time and money invested in software, plug-ins, hardware and training, then switching isn't a simple process. -Ed]

But I'm still hoping for an awesome Final Cut Pro update before the end of the year. And a Canon 5D Mark III too. And I won't be disappointed surprised that neither will be at NAB.
TaoOfColor: ProApps Users: Apple is Speaking. Are you Listening?

Large Sensor News

The Horror In Japan
Dan Chung at DSLRNewsShooter links to two pieces shot in the aftermath of the devastating Tsunami.

The first piece, by Matt Allard for Al Jazeera, was shot using the Sony PMW-F3 and a Tamron 18-270mm cheap lens to provide "maximum flexibility."

The second piece, by Dan (while on assignment for The Guardian), was shot with a DSLR.
DSLRNewsShooter: DSLRnewsshooter’s Matt Allard and Dan Chung file reports from the Japan Tsunami zone

Kitting out your camera
At the Zacuto site, director Timur Civan talks about kitting out your camera, focusing on the PMW-F3:
Sometimes starting a camera package over from scratch is more complicated than it seems.  You need to look at all the work flow issues, power systems, monitoring, connectors, cables, converters and approximate what you need as far as camera support. However, until you actually put the camera together and see where all the parts go, you won’t know what you really need.
Zacuto: Stepping Into the Big Leagues ~Timur Civan

Panasonic AG-AF100 News Reporting
Mickey Grant reports on using the Panasonic AG-AF100 to cover the uprising in Libya. Much of the article covers preparing and making the trip, which perhaps is even more interesting than his comments about the camera, though those are also insightful:
The worst problem I discovered was the ergonomics of the AF100’s volume controls. They are small and the access to control them is very flat. I may need to grow the fingernail on my left hand index finger long in order to be able to quickly control the little volume wheels. There is an electronic sound limiter but it’s not nearly as functional as the auto setting I had on my Z1, which worked like a champ in volatile situations such as the demonstration. People next to me were even firing AK47s into the air, which is something that will really peak your meters. The AG-AF100 Revolution

Panasonic AG-AF100 Review
Nino Del Padre reviews the AG-AF100 at Studio Monthly. After going through the history and desirability of shallow-depth of field and HDSLRs, he talks about the features of the camera and then concludes:
The AG-AF100 has a lot of potential, and I’d definitely choose it if the alternative was an HDSLR. Its layout and controls are familiar and it’s designed to do what it does, so it’s much faster and easier to program, judge focus and expose than an HDSLR. It also doesn’t create moiré or rolling shutter artifacts the way an HDSLR will.
StudioMonthly: REVIEW: Panasonic AG-AF100 Camcorder

That AG-AF100 Sensor Flare Thing
Last week I mentioned that there had been a bit of a tiff on the DVXUser list about a supposed problem with sensor flare and the AG-AF100.

Barry Green has posted a fairly exhaustive set of tests showing that the problem exists on most other cameras.
Well, what do you know. There it is. The exact same lens flare. The same "sensor flare" is happening on a 16mm film camera. (No video to show it, because the viewfinder opening on the camera is about 1/4" in diameter and I couldn't figure out how to film the ground glass through that opening). But I assure you it's there and looks very similar to the AF100/GH2.

Clearly, this is a DESIGN FLAW of all movie cameras, right? Perhaps my 1970's-era movie camera is a prototype and needs to be sent back to the drawing board?
DVXUser: "Sensor Flares" - what's the truth?
NotesOnVideo: News From Here & There [Mar 8]

Arri Alexa and RED 1 MX
Gunleik Groven compares these two high-end cameras in a very extensive write-up and concludes:
That both are good cameras, really.

The Alexa has about 1.8 stop more in the top and “a bit” more in the bottom, judging from my images, but dependent on ISO settings on the Alexa (for the bottom).
The Alexa has an advantage for uncontrolled light/nature doco situations because of the extra headroom in the top and baked Rec709.

The RED has an advantage for cinematic release, keying and VFX work because of its resolution.

The Alexa has a much more reassuring representation of available DR on-set than the R1MX

The R1MX has much more flexibility in post for many applications.
Note that Stu Maschwitz, after tweeting about this test, then added: " the MX examples were shot at ISO 320. Invalidates the whole test?" Arri Alexa and RED1 MX

RED Epic-M Test Video
Digital FX has posted some test video shot on the Epic.

Epic Weekend from Digital FX on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Helmet cam - looks like a headache in the making...

To shoot a video for the Nike iD Royale design challenge Zack Mctee built a helmet cam to hold a Canon 5D Mark II using a football helmet and some Redrock pieces. He says "it was heavy but pulled through like a champ."

You can see a video of the rig:
Vimeo: RedRock Micro Advanced: Custom Helmet Camera w/Canon 5D

And the video he shot with it here: Zack Mctee – Nike iD (Video)

Apple News

More Final Cut Pro Speculation
No Film School offers more speculation about the future of Final Cut Pro, including the suggestion that Apple will sell through the App Store and offer it in parts (seems kind of likely.)
NotFilmSchool: Will Apple Split Up Final Cut Studio and Sell the Components a la Carte?

Fix for Apple TV coming
AppleInsider reports a software fix is in the works for a problem with the Apple TV:
Last week, AppleInsider first reported on the screen flickering problems caused by the 4.2 update for Apple TV. The problems occur on a variety of TV sets from different manufacturers, affecting major brands including Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, Samsung and Toshiba.
No date set for the fix.
AppleInsider: Fix in the works for Apple TV screen flickering issue

iTunes has just 4% of US digital video market. Netflix 61%
I'm surprised Apple isn't doing better than that.
AppleInsider: Apple iTunes takes just 4% of US digital video market as Netflix dominates

Apple working on Magazine publication tools?
FastCompany reports that Apple may be building templates (or something) to help developers produce digital magazines.
Apple's rumored to be building code hooks and extensive developer guidelines into a future version of Xcode (the software suite that lets coders create apps for the iPhone and iPad) to aid the construction of iPad-friendly digital magazines.
I hope it's true as I really wish there were a better way to publish to the iPad than through the ePub format and iBooks...
FastCompany: Could an Apple Magazine Template in iOS Change the Industry?

News From Here & There

Is the iPad 2 faster at editing than a MacBook?
No. Well, yes according to this piece in AppAdvice, but I think the tests may be somewhat skewed in the iPad's favor (and even if it is faster, it only works with a limited set of media!)
There are a couple of reasons why these ultra powerful machines failed to compete with the iPad 2. The iPad 2 may have a special H.264 video encoding chip that enables it perform really well. The Mac version of iMovie may have a slower encoding engine. We are not sure what the reason is, but once again iOS devices seem to be the clear winner here. The results of this test are below.
AppAdvice: iPad 2 Beats Out MacBook Pros In iMovie Speed Tests!

iPhone app for video stabilization
HandHeldHollywood profiles a new app for the iPhone, Movie Stiller, that will stabilize video (after it's been shot.)
In my brief tests, I found that this easy-to-use app works well at reducing minor shakes, even on pans. If you shot your footage on a pogo-stick, don't bother trying to fix it. The app WON'T save horrible footage, but it will improve decent footage.
HandHeldHollywood: Movie Stiller Stabilizes your iPhone footage

Cineroid EVF review
Cineroid appears to have beaten both Redrock and Zacuto to the punch with an EVF for DSLRs (and other cameras) and Philip Bloom has a review. He generally likes it - partly because it's the only option available at the moment - though he suspects that Zacuto's offering may be better.
It’s a super piece of kit, I have no idea how it compares to the upcoming competition as they are not out yet, I have seen the Zacuto panel and it’s superb and you will use your existing Z-Finder with it. The Zacuto promise to offer lots of features that compete with this and promise some better ones too…but until it’s out we won’t know and for now the Cineroid is simply the best one out there.
PhilipBloom: Cineroid EVF Review…The first EVF out of the block…

Hulu looking to produce own content
Adweek reports Hulu is planning to produce original content and integrate with Facebook:
Last week, Lionsgate debuted the animated comedy Trailer Trash on Hulu. This month Kiefer Sutherland, in conjunction with Digital Broadcasting Group, will premiere the Hulu-exclusive The Confession (he created and stars in the action series)
Adweek: Hulu Video Gets Original

The 10 most innovative companies in film
FastCompany profiles the ten companies it considers the most innovative companies in film. Besides the sort-of obvious - Netflix - there's some interesting choices like: Double Negative, Real D, AMC and Tiffen.
FastCompany: The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Film

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sony NXCAM Super 35mm camera news

Due to ship in May?
Anthony Mozora on DVInfo reports that Creative Video in the UK now lists a ship date for the NXCAM Super 35mm camera of May 2nd. DVInfo: Sony to expand 35mm large format NXCAM lineup

Sensor Resolution and Filter Arrangement
It's been widely reported that the NXCAM Super 35mm camera will use the same sensor as the PMW-F3, but there's still some things we don't know about that sensor.

While Sony announced the resolution of the chip (3.43 Megapixels) they haven’t disclosed how those pixels are used to generate an image, though according to Sony, it has a “very interesting” color filter array.

When I asked a Sony rep at the Camera Company show last weekend when Sony might reveal these details, he clearly didn't know, though he speculated they might be waiting until the NXCAM is released (I think that was a real guess on his part.)

Two amazing little cameras from Canon

This weekend I saw the Canon HF G10 and Canon XA10 at the Camera Company show. When Canon announced these cameras back at CES, I was intrigued because:
  1. though they use a small sensor, the native resolution of the sensor is 1920 x 1080.
  2. they have several pro-features including color peaking for focusing and full manual controls.
and the XA10 also includes a detachable handle that adds XLR audio jacks.

But there's been some other interesting things going on over the past month - notably the Sony NXCAM Super 35mm - and I sort of forgot about these cameras. But that might be a mistake.

Canon Vixia HF G10

These are small cameras; on first inspection they look fatter and beefier than the previous top-of-the-line consumer camcorders from Canon like the VIXIA HF S20, but that's really an illusion, the HF G10 is only fractionally bigger, and 50 grams heavier.

They are also molded in a matte-black plastic with a creased leather-like pattern on the surface, which has a dramatically different appearance when compared to the bright-shiny smooth plastic of the HF S20. I'm not sure if I like it or not.

The other big visual difference, apart from the large detachable plastic lens hood on the front of the camera, is the rotating focus ring just behind the front of the lens.

View finder showing color peaking (red outline)

Canon has given us a large focus ring on the front of these cameras, and that's nice and useful. One of the problems with high-end consumer cameras is that while they may have many features found on pro cameras, these features are often accessible through screen menus or tiny little buttons and wheels. So it's really nice to have this large focus ring to work with.

Even better, when you turn the ring, the viewfinder jumps to a 2x view to help you focus. It drops back to regular view shortly after you stop spinning the focus ring.

Zooming is still accomplished using a tiny slider at the back (top) of the camera. It's not a nice rocker, and I wish you could switch the focus-ring to operate the zoom if you wanted to, but that is not the case.

On the other hand, the HF G10 has zebras, full manual settings, and it adds color peaking to help with focusing, and waveform displays to show exposure. The size of the body and the lack of audio inputs not withstanding, when it comes to shooting controls it's getting harder to differentiate this from the pro cameras like the Canon XF100.

Canon XA10

Adding XLR Audio
And if XLR inputs and dials for adjusting audio levels are important to you, you might consider the XA10. It's basically the same camera as the HF G10, but it comes with a detachable handle that adds the XLR inputs and controls. That adds another $500 to the price - compared to the HF G10 - putting it just $1,000 south of the price of the XF100.

As appealing as the handle is, once you start adding XLR audio inputs, your little camera will get more unwieldy to work with. I think I'd rather shoot dual sound (record to a Zoom H4n or similar) OR use a Beachtek DXA-2T or similar audio adapter and then feed audio into the mic input. For me, that makes particular sense as I already own an older Beachtek!

Canon XA10 Audio Controls

Low Light
Unfortunately, I didn't get to shoot any footage with these cameras, but they were showing some demo footage, and it looked impressive. Low light performance is supposed to be really good - one of the advantages of having large pixels on the sensor - and the lens is f/1.8 - 2.8 (compared to the f/1.8 - 3.0 for the HF S20.) It will be interesting to see how it compares in testing to the latest high-end Handicam from Sony, the HDR-CX700V.

Canon XA10 XLR Audio Jacks

Having played with the HF G10, I'm even more impressed with it. It's an AVCHD camera, and lacks the 50Mbps MPEG-2 Recording, 4:2:2 Color Sampling of the Canon XF100 (another reason I might not spring for the XA10) but it packs a lot of features in a small form factor, and the image quality won't be that far off from the XF100.

I wish I had one. (Note: they should be shipping shortly.)

CNN Using Steadicam For Studio Segments

With the ongoing tragedy in Japan, I've been watching a little more CNN than usual. I must admit I don't usually watch a lot of CNN, so I was surprised when I saw them using a camera stabilizer - like a Steadicam - to shoot some of the in-studio talent.

Perhaps this allows them to move more quickly in and out compared to a camera on a dolly? [Though obviously not fast enough as this shot shows! -Ed]

If you're shooting mainly static shots of talent - as they seemed to be doing - using a stabilizer does tend to make the video a little "floaty"; which is probably not desirable, though I really only noticed it after I saw the stabilizer!

Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Workshops

Just a reminder that the BOSFCPUG is hosting two free Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Workshops tomorrow, Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 4:00PM and 7:00PM EST. You may register for only ONE—the two are exactly the same.

INSTRUCTOR: FILMSYSTEMS’ David Catt has been working with Resolve for more than 20 years. He was a London-based colorist when he saw a demo of a DaVinci system in 1986 and quickly became one of the first colorists in Europe to work on DaVinci. He has worked for DaVinci as a demo artist and product manager before moving to FILMSYSTEMS.

COST: FREE to the Public with Registrations

Eventbrite: BOSFCPUG FREE Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Workshops + Giveaway!

More on Resolve
Toni Gozum has written a post comparing Da Vinci Resolve, to Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master:
I find the two machines to be extremely different from each other, but neither is better than the other. I believe each has its own particular forte, and depending on what kind of work I’m going to do, that I’d prefer one machine over the other.

What I’ve listed here aren’t the only features of the machines. That’d be too long a list to write about. These are just most of the features I often use for my projects.
ColorMeThis: Resolve vs. Film Master

News From Here & There

Script Supervisor for iPad
Taz Goldstein at Hand Held Hollywood writes about Script Supervisor, an app for the iPad that keeps track of things on set; daily logs, production reports, you can even read screenplays. It will be available shortly, and interestingly, Taz says that it will be free, but the companies websites is very vague about the details.
HandHeldHoolywood: Coming Soon: Script Supervisor for iPad

RED Epic-M
Digital FX has posted a short video showing the new Epic-M up close: Vimeo: Red Epic-M Digital Cinema Camera

Using Final Cut Pro
Some NLE's let you rearrange the workspace in different ways. Walter Biscardi describes the different ways that he arranges the editing windows in Final Cut Pro depending upon what he is doing:
This is my Rough Cut layout. Maximum space for the bins and thumbnails where I want them.  Tiny timeline because for the most part I’m just straight cutting and putting in dissolves with little or no attention to audio.   I use this layout so I can see as much of my raw footage at a time and quick drop shots into the timeline for flow and timing. 
Biscardi Creative Blog: FCP Interface: One Window Layout does not fit all

The Future of Final Cut Pro
Meanwhile, Scott Simmons at The Editblog had a bit of time on his hands and has written a long post speculating wildly on what the future of Final Cut should or shouldn't be:
Out of FCP’s installed base, 90% of those working are very much unlike the other 10%. I think of that 10% as feature film and network television editors. But I know an awful lot of working, professional editors who are power users with this application and who have never cut a single frame of either movies or tv. The question: Is about Apple tailoring all (or even part) of FCPx to that 10%?
ProVideoCoalitionMore random, mindless speculation about the new Final Cut Pro

Sony PMW-F3; Amazing Lowlight Performance
Philip Johnston at HD Warrior has spent some time with the Sony PMW-F3 shooting in low light, and he's pretty amazed by it:
You could produce a drama in street lighting and tell the Gaffer to take a night off, mark my words this will become the de-facto drama camcorder of 2011 and if the director of our local television drama Taggart reads this, start using a Sony F3 …YOU WONT BE DISAPPOINTED!
Those are pretty strong words coming from someone who recently bought the Panasonic AG-AF100, and said of that camera just a month ago:
This is unreal, during my extra material for my 40min Blu Ray DVD I recorded myself at 18dB, I have never seen a cleaner picture at 18dB in my life it’s jaw dropping.
There are some amazing cameras out there...
HDWarrior: F3 “First Play in low light”
HDWarrior: AF101 excels at 18dB

The Making of Rango
A short behind-the-scenes video from The Daily showing the process of making the animated movie Rango, including how the actors acted out the scenes before there were animated:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 31st BOSFCPUG + BOSDSLR Mixer Featuring Yan Shvalb & Cinevate

The next Boston Final Cut Pro User Group and Boston DSLR Mixer has been announced:

WHEN: Thursday, March 31st
TIME: 6:30pm (doors open at 6pm) - 9PM - THEN networking continues afterwards at Pizzeria Uno nearby!
WHERE: Exposure Place Studios, Studio A, 219 Bear Hill Road, Waltham, MA 02451

  • NYC-Based DSLR Filmmaker YAN SHVALB of on "Manipulating Time" - Time Remapping in FCP and Motion and Timelapse Workflow (plus more!)
  • Shooting with Cinevate Gear!
  • AJA Video Update with our friends Jay Ignaszewski and Peter Price
  • Plus we will screen DSLR Shorts from Members!
It's free if you register prior to the event. $5 at the door.
EventBrite: March 31st BOSFCPUG + BOSDSLR Mixer Featuring Yan Shvalb & Cinevate

First sighting of Sony NXCAM Super 35mm?

Cinescopophilia thinks Den Lennie, founder of the F-Stop Academy, might be shooting with one of Sony's new NXCAM Super 35mm cameras. He's tweeted some pictures (not showing details of the camera) and said:
"There's something in this box that is going to turn the indie film making world upside down."
"Can't show more than this but it's very very exciting"

Twitter: Den Lennie
Cinescopophilia: Den Lennie Teases News Of A Prototype Camera He Is Using: Sony FS-100?

News From Here & There

CES says people want 3D cameras
In a press release, the CEA says:
Nearly one in four (23 percent) digital imaging enthusiasts are likely to purchase a 3D digital camera within the next year, according to a new Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® study.
Enthusiasts are also showing interest in 3D camcorders, with one in ten indicating they are likely to purchase one within the next year. Similar to 3D cameras, enthusiasts say they would use 3D camcorders for natural scenery (51 percent) and historic places (43 percent), but enthusiasts also view 3D camcorders as valuable for use in shooting sporting events (45 percent).
But noting that 3D TV sales aren't doing well, Shane McGlaun at SlashGear is skeptical. SlashGear: CEA says that consumers want 3D cameras

Preparing for a Film Shoot
Filmmaker William Speruzzi lists fifteen things to do to prepare for a film shoot:
4. Let someone else supervise the script – You have enough on your mind, you could use someone else to help worry about continuity.
NoFilmSchool: Fifteen Things to Prepare for when Making a Film

Calculating RED Camera Data Rates
The Black And Blue, a blog for camera assistants, continues to post informative pieces, including this latest one:
So now that you understand the basic premise of how data works within the RED camera we can dive into the formula used to calculate it:

(pixel width x pixel height x framerate x 12)/8/1024/1024 = uncompressed data for one second of footage in megabytes)

In the above formula, the 8/1024/1024 is the conversion of bits per second into megabytes per second and the 12 is the bits per channel. These stay constant.
TheBlackAndBlue: How to Calculate RED Camera Data Rates

The Twin Barriers To Film Democratization
Film finance expert Jeff Steele in a piece for the Huffington Post writes about the "democratization of film". Starting with the arguable proposition that technology - the Internet - has taken the distribution of music away from the traditional empires, he then looks at whether this will mean that Hollywood insiders will continue to hold the keys to the "film industry." While technology has made it possible for almost anyone to make a movie, he argues that two things (other than talents, and a good story) stand in the way:

What are the barriers to a complete democratization of the film industry that will allow every man, woman and man-child to be his or her own mini-studio?

Financing and distribution
HuffingtonPost: Power to the People: The Democratization of Film

Sony PMW-F3 ISO Testing
Andy Shipsides at Abel Cine Tech posts a video and information about testing the Sensitivty/ISO of the Sony PMW-F3. The camera's sensitivity can be set to Gain, or ISO, but he notes that Sony's ISO ratings may be a bit conservative, and if you use their stated number you might end up a little over-exposing your images (if you're using a lightmeter to calculate your exposure.)
CineTechnica: AbelCine Tests the Sony F3 ISO Rating

PMW-F3 Video
The short "Musee Des Beaux Arts" was shot on the New York Metro and in and around Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan using the PMW-F3 with a Nikon 35mm AIS lens on a MTF Nikon to F3 adapter.
Vimeo: Musee Des Beaux Arts - a Sony F3 film

Steven Soderbergh to Retire?
Director Steven Soderburgh says he only has two more films in him:
"When you reach the point where you're like if I have to get into a van to do anther scout I'm just going to shoot myself, it's time to let somebody else who's still excited about getting in the van, get in the van,"
HollywoodReporter: Steven Soderbergh Planning to Retire From Filmmaking

Boston DSLR Street Photography Meetup Invitation

Posted on the Boston DSLR Meetup group by Chris Swearingen:
Anyone want to plan out an hour or two of daylight or night-time street photography?

If you're interested in doing something, please check off you're going so we can see how much interest there is, and decide on a date / location.

It would be nice if we could meet and go from Harvard Square to Central Square and beyond, walking on mass ave is a great spot for street photography. Or even other Boston locations closer to downtown, with easy public transportation.

Time and date are completely up in the air.
BostonDSLRMeetup: Street Photography (near mass ave) Harvard Square to Central Square and beyond