Friday, September 20, 2013

Bits & Pieces

Dueling Reviews
I was intrigued when the news of Sony's sensor/lens add-on for your smart phone, the DSC-QX10/B Smartphone Attachable 4.45-44.5mm Lens-Style Camera ($248), first appeared. But, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided it would be something I'd carry around for a while, and then just leave at home. Then I got interested again; maybe it would be useful if it wasn't that expensive, and the pictures were better than I get with my iPhone camera.
But now the reviews are coming in, and I'm not too sure what to think, as you can see from these two reviews that seem to come to different conclusions.
Note that this is the review of the lower-end model. There is the DSC-QX100 Lens-style Camera as well, but at $499, I'm not sure I'd be tempted to get that. I think I'll just continue to drag along the Sony NEX-5RK when I need - much - better pictures.

Sony Cyber-shot QX10 review: a WiFi 'lens camera' that mounts directly on your smartphone | Engadget
...after spending a full week with the QX10, including shoots in Berlin and Alaska, it's hard not to revel in Sony's accomplishment. Built-in LCD or not, the Cyber-shot QX10 is truly a fantastic camera. It complements just about any smartphone, and at $250, it's within reach of many consumers.

Fed up with your smartphone camera? No problem—just snap on a new one |
...image quality is better than your smartphone's, yes, but not by much. The biggest gain is in terms of optical zoom, but the camera's awkward handling makes actually utilizing that 10x telephoto a challenge. And while the QX10's pairing behavior and user interface are better (or at least less convoluted) than any other WiFi implementation we've seen, shooting with the app still felt arbitrarily limiting—almost like a chore.

Other News

WriterDuet App Lets You Collaborate on Screenplays Online in Real Time for Free | NoFilmSchool
Enter WriterDuet, a new, free online collaborative app that allows multiple writers to collaborate on a screenplay online in real time. Collaborators can write and edit any scene simultaneously and see the additions and changes of their partners as they happen on the screen.

I've had very mixed results with audio repair software, but Izotope has received a lot of praise for their software. The have a sale going until September 27th too.
RX3 from iZotope is a piece of software that claims it can remedy many of the common audio issues like noise, pops and crackles and even clipping. Using sophisticated techniques it can do things that were unimaginable a few years ago. Newsshooter contributor Clinton Harn took time to speak to iZotope’s Matt Hines about RX3:

Supermeet 2013 - Larry-Jordan - Is Final Cut Pro X ready for professional editing | YouTube
Larry Jordan talks about if Final Cut Pro X is ready for professional editing and also demo's Change List X from Intelligent Assistance.

The First Short Film Shot on the RED Dragon? | Filmmaker Magazine
This morning, Norwegian filmmaker Gunleik Groven wrote me with a link to Sweet…, which he described as “Probably the world’s first short shot on [RED] Dragon.” In it, he creates four distinct worlds, each with a different look, and the results are very striking.

Video from the Sony FDR-AX1 4k Camcorder | YouTube
You'll want to go to YouTube to see the 4K Original file...

The Business

Why Getting on Upworthy is the New Goal for Kickstarter Campaigns | IndieWire
Until a video the team had uploaded to Vimeo was embedded in a post for the site Upworthy on August 22.  Here's a look at the project's progression using analytics made available through the site Kicktraq:Upworthy is a site started by former MoveOn executive director (and the author behind "The Filter Bubble") Eli Pariser and former managing editor of The Onion Peter Koechley.  They're a company that posts inspiring or shocking videos with a strong social message and ethic.

The Unspoken “Yes”: The IFP Filmmaker Conference Financing Panel | Filmmaker Magazine
One subject all the panelists agreed on was the need for producers to educate themselves on the business of film — or, at the least, to find producing partners with that knowledge. “Film school tells us how to make a movie but not to get one funded,” said Shine. “Know how your investors will get paid back.” 

Tools on Determining Your Worth | Thaddeus Setla | Zacuto
CorporateThis type of work is usually the one that pays the bills, but it doesn’t always start this way. In the beginning, you tend to do work for a fraction of what you know your worth. With a few years experience that same company isn’t really fond of you raising your rates, but you tend to keep them on as clients because you are loyal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Flying a camera - with Duct Tape!

I was visiting friends, and I had the Sony ActionCam, the HDR-AS15 with me (currently $178 but now replaced by the HDR-AS30V, which is $298), and it was suggested that we try and fly it. The only problem was that the kite we had available was a dual line parafoil stunt kite, which is a fun kite to fly, but not really the kind of thing you want to fly for cinematic shots - it does best moving back and forth in the sky, especially when there's not a whole lot of wind.

And secondly, we didn't have any sort of rig to attach the camera to the kite's rig.

So we duct tapped it to the surface of the kite! I made a simple cardboard "stand" to help keep it vertical, and I also put some bubble wrap over the top of it to provide some added protection. And tapped it all down.

And then we went and flew it. On the first attempt there wasn't enough wind and the kite spent most of the time hitting the ground. Also, we had the camera pointing forward; which meant it was mostly catching sky! For the second attempt, I turned it around. In retrospect, it should have been much further to the back of the kite so that less of the kite was in the shot. Then again, it's whipping back and forth so much, it would probably make you sea sick!

Anyway, it was fun, and the camera survived the trip quite happily - fortunately, we were always landing in grass!

Thanks to Peter for loaning, and flying the kite.

Duct tape. Don't leave home without it.

Ohh...YouTube detected that the video might be shaky!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The News

Oh, this explains the Merlin 2 price drop...
I was wondering the other day why Steadicam had dropped the price on the Merlin 2 to $399, and here's a video from News at IBC on the answer: the Steadicam Solo which was previewed at NAB, and should be shipping in November for.....$499.

Watch this interview Dan Chung of News Shooter has with Robin Thwaites of Tiffen/Steadicam.

This is interesting because:

1) You can see Dan is itching to ask some questions like "why is this is a lot cheaper than your usual gear?" and "are you worried about brushless gimbals?" (both questions he actually gets to.)

2) Some discussion of brushless gimbals vs Steadicam. Ignoring price (I don't think any brushless gimbal system other than home-built ones are close to $499) the issues that are highlighted are:
  • Problems with up and down motion while walking (a problem that can also apply to Steadicam's if you don't have the vest and arm)
  • Problems with accurate start and stop framing.
  • Having a unit between you and the subject
  • Battery power
Don't get me wrong, I'm still intrigued by the brushless gimbal systems.

3) They also briefly mention the Steadicam Curve for the GoPro Hero.

But just to be fair, here's a MōVI BTS

Review: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera | David English | StudioDaily
According to the folks at Blackmagic Design, the RAW file option will be available through a firmware update. Apart from the small size and 13-stop dynamic range, the RAW capability is the most exciting aspect of this camera.

LED lighting specialist F&V has jumped into the camera support world with their first product being a cage for the Black Magic Design Cinema Camera. The lightweight but durable aluminum cage can be used with an attratice wooden handle and has a variety of mounting points surrounding the camera.

Everyone likes a bit of slow-mo at 240fps | Vimeo
Earth Air Fire Water was shot with the Sony F55 and AXS-R5 recorder using beta firmware to record raw at 240 fps in 2K.The film was shot by Cinematographer Steve Lawes and Directed by Martin Scanlan. Colour grading by Dado Valentic of Mytherapy and music by Micah Berek of Hearfilm. The film will be premiered at IBC 2013.

Could the Amira be the ultimate indie digital cinema camera? | Freya Black | Red Shark
Finally, a price guess for the ARRI AMIRA:
Regardless of what is coming down the line however, it looks like the Amira is going to fly off the shelves. There are a lot of rumours flying around right now, ranging from “The Camera will be in the Sony F55 price range” to “the camera will be as little as $25,000“ Whatever it turns out to be, it would appear that the camera is going to be significantly cheaper to buy than even the lower cost Alexa HD camera

Panasonic on their 4K Varicam, “Is the demand for 4K there yet?” | Cinema 5D
We had a chance to talk to Panasonic Europe representative Aisling Magill about their 4K future. As we have already reported (click here), they have announced that they are working on a 4K Super35 Varicam which will be released in about one year. 

There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Lens | Roger Cicala | PetaPixel
I get asked a couple of questions every time I publish a graph showing Imatest results for multiple copies of lenses like the one below. Most people understand that some copy-to-copy variation is inevitable in the manufacturing process. Most are surprised, though, at how large the sample variation seems to be. Heck, I was surprised at how large the sample variation was when I started doing this kind of testing.

Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers | Brain Pickings
Echoing E. B. White, who famously scoffed that “a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper,” and like Chuck Close, who declared that “inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work,”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The News

Black Betty Wednesday 9/18 Learning Lab @ Rule Boston Camera
Don't miss this Wed's 9/18 Learning Lab from 10am to 11am with Adam Van Voorhis and Mike Szegedi on the story behind Black Betty and how they built this DIY custom camera housing that combines a Silicon Imaging SI-2K Mini Camera Head and an Apple Mac Mini resulting in a cohesive, portable camera system! See more details on our website and RSVP to This event is free.

Documenting the Life of George Plimpton: Interview with Luke Poling and Tom Bean Part I | Michael Murie | Filmmaker Magazine
George Plimpton led an eclectic life as a journalist, writer, editor, sportsman and actor, though he was perhaps most widely known for his exploits as a participatory journalist. When filmmakers Luke Poling and Tom Bean set out to make their first documentary, Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself, they were faced with enough material to make several documentaries. 

The Winner: The Lavalier Pros: Lav microphones record good quality sound, are inconspicuous, can be clipped to an actor or hidden on a set, suppress unwanted ambient noise and can be cabled or wireless.

Red explains the differences in shutter design
With film, the shutter is simply a spinning disc between the rear of a lens and the film strip. It has an opening that lets in light once per revolution for each exposure. When the light is obstructed, the film advances to the next frame and the process repeats. For these reasons it’s also often referred to as a mechanical or a rotary shutter.

Working with Less Part 2: All about the Camera | David Kong | Philip Bloom
This video goes very in-depth with the DSLR – I cover everything you need to know about formats, codecs, and dynamic range in order to get the most cinematic images. I’ll be explaining how I creatively worked around the limitations of this low-end DSLR with a pretty bad codec and pretty bad dynamic range. Most of my techniques in this video are about preserving as much of the image as possible, to allow for the most flexibility when color grading.

Digital BolexGuest Post: Michael Plescia
Images don’t at first appear to come out of the sensor looking as beautiful as DSLR’s. The D16 Bolex is not an easy bake oven. At first glance, this can feel discouraging. But the data needs good grading–both to neutralize the image of any disproportionate color shifts and then to make it sing.

Sony has announced two new B4 to FZ mount adapters that allow you to mount a broadcast lens on a F3,F5 and F55. The 2/3 image is expanded to cover the S35 sensor size but this does result in a 2.6 stop light loss. Full control of zoom servo is retained. The more expensive LA-FZB2 model also has a ND filter wheel and colour control – designed more with outside broadcast in mind.

The Business

1. Focus on the film.What is the most important part of the submission package? Do press materials make a major difference to programmers? Yutani and Ogdie can’t emphasize enough that a director’s focus should be on the final film and not on supplementary materials. Most of the paperwork gets separated from the actual film or discarded during processing. Don’t waste time with excessive packaging

7 Things NOT To Do on Kickstarter: A Cautionary Tale | IndieWire
5. Don't compare yourself to Steven Soderbergh."Steven Soderbergh's recent hit film MAGIC MIKE was budgeted at $7 million and has made well over $100 million, so the financial and creative rewards can be great," Stuart writes on the project's page. But, of course, Stuart isn't Steven Soderbergh and the comparison doesn't reflect well on her.

Video SEO Part 2 of 3 – Self Hosting and Sitemaps | Ron Dawson | Dare Dreamer Magazine
Below are the search engine results for the JJ Abrams TED video. The video is located on both TED (via the propriety TED video player) and of course on YouTube. When you do a Google search for the video, they both come up. As you’ll see, one result links to the TED site, and one to YouTube.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The News

News From IBC

Taredek and News has been producing a live broadcast and reports from the show floor. You can catch up with most things through the Live Feed through September 18, and also at News Shooter.

Here's some high-lights:

Interesting discussion about the new 4k cameras and where they fit into the mix. Also, talk of the new NEX-FS700 models, and a suggestion that they will be slightly cheaper than the current model.
Two of the more interesting new cameras at IBC this year are the Sony FDR-AX1 and PXW-Z100, which both shoot 4K. On this episode of the Teradek/ live show Sony’s Bill Drummond tells us about the camera’s advantages, and also its limitations when compared to the company’s other handheld cameras like the PMW-200.

I know this camera is going to be expensive - it's an ARRI afterall - but I haven't yet found any mention of price!
The big news from the show was the Arri Amira camera, which the company has aimed squarely at documentary shooting. We were joined by Arris’ Stephan Schenk and top DP Rodney Charters of ’24′ fame to talk about the camera in more detail.

Choosing the Canon C100 over DSLRs | Livestream
Long time DSLR advocate Jonah Kessel admits to Dan Chung that the Canon C100 is a better video camera (and he bought one.) I totally agree with the points about built-in ND filter and better sound with the C100, if I had to quibble, at $5,499, the C100 is just a little more than the $3499 5D Mark III, not "about the same price," as stated.

Other News

Blackmagic fix black holes and white orbs with new firmware and sensor calibration | EOSHD
After a very limited initial release, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is slated for an end of September ship date  in greater quantity. The good news is that the extra time has given Blackmagic some leeway to tweak the camera.In the space of just 2 weeks Blackmagic have fixed the white orbs / hard clipping on the Pocket Cinema Camera as well as the black hole / sunspot which have been affecting both the original BMCC and Pocket for some time.

New York City | "Color Commentary" on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera | H. Paul Moon | Vimeo
Within the week of posting, my NYC test run of the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera went north of 3k playbacks, seeming sensible now to complement with a split-screen comparison of the untouched footage straight from the camera, alongside that finished product after color correction/grading. I have no delusions of being a studio auteur, who could justify a braggart director's commentary, but after thinking about the option to write a long, wordy blog post, I figured it's easier and better all-around just to talk over my footage.

Seeing Is Believing: How Indie Authors Can Promote Books with Video | Publishers Weekly
The fact is, according to a recent study by ROI Research, “users interact with content that incorporates heavy use of images or video at twice the rate of other forms of content, and 44 percent of respondents are more likely to engage with a brand if they post a picture.” That’s a pretty impressive conversion rate, don’t you think?

10 tips for directors seeking to get the most out of their actors | Adrienne Weiss | FilmmakerMagazine
One of the most common mistakes directors make is failing to be prepared to work with their actors. After all, you know the script inside out, maybe even wrote it over a period of several years. So, isn’t it safe to assume that you know enough about the story and characters to direct the actors? The answer is: most probably not. 

What are the greatest film scores of all time? | Anne Billson, Robbie Collin, David Gritten, Tim Robey | The Telegraph
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, Erich Wolfgang Korngold)
A nostalgic choice: the first score I recall being aware of as perfect accompaniment to a film. Czech-born Korngold, already an eminent conductor and composer in Vienna and Berlin before fleeing to Hollywood to avoid Nazism. 

GoPro Hero3 Price Dropping
The price of the Hero 3 Black edition seems to be falling; it's been reported online at some places for less than $300, though most places are listing it at $329. I wonder if this means a new model is around the corner?

'Merlin 2 Steadicam - $400 off through Sep 30 | B & H
Could this be in response to all the brushless gimbals, or a new model? Either way, get the Steadicam Merlin for half price ($399) through Sept 30.