Friday, October 18, 2013

Quick Links

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a First-Time Director | Vulture
You're standing in the way of your own movie.Something I didn’t know going in is that first-time directors are considered by financiers to be "deadly attachments," meaning that even if financiers are interested in your script and your vision, you are still considered to be a strike against their desire to invest in the film. 

Dan Chung likes the look of the Sony RX10's video capabilities too:
...the RX10 has a number of features not seen together before now in a small camera. It has a built-in 3 f-stop ND filter, clean HDMI feed for outputting to a monitor or external recorder (via micro-HDMI socket), zebras (settable from 70% to 100%) and peaking for focus and exposure assist, a mic input and optional XLR audio jackpack, a headphone jack and an OLED electronic viewfinder.

Review of the iPhone 5S 120fps super slow motion | Philip Bloom
The results aren’t bad. Considering it’s a phone especially. They are pretty respectable. I wouldn’t call the image detailed, or sharp. It’s a bit soft really. It aliases and moires all over the place and the dynamic range is atrocious. Worst of all though it looks REALLY video-y…BUT with care in the grade you can work with it and remove that video look.

YouTube is Vaudeville 2.0 | Tranmedia Coalition
Today, YouTube content similarly suffers in comparison to TV. YouTube is perfect for cat hijinks and car wrecks and emerging personalities, but so far it has not produced great storytelling. We have yet to see I Love Lucy or The Sopranos for YouTube. This doesn’t mean that YouTube talent is incapable of telling great stories (in fact, the greatest stars of the 20th century started in Vaudeville), but the context and format of YouTube video make retaining audience attention sufficiently very difficult.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC October 2013 Release | Adobe Blogs
This is from September, but a new release of Premiere Pro is coming any day now, and this is what you can expect:
Responding to rapid changes in the industry with the move to Ultra High Definition 4K formats and beyond, Premiere Pro’s outstanding native media support has been given a major boost this release. New native file format support for Cinema DNG, Sony RAW, Phantom Cine, improved MJPG from Canon 1DC, Sony XAVC Long GOP, Panasonic AVC Ultra (Long GOP), 64 bit ProRes decoding (Mac OS X 10.8 or higher only), and support for exporting XAVC up to 4K and AVCi200 is included, and Cinema DNG can be debayered on a supported GPU for even better performance.

Collaborating with Vincent Laforet | The Music Bed
VL: The most important thing has always been the story. People ask what I’m working on, and I’m always working on making the best stories possible. Whether I’m a journalist with The New York Times, telling other people’s stories with a still camera, or working on new things like commercials or shorts or a feature film, it always comes down to finding interesting stories and telling them in the best possible way.

Nikon announced a new DSLR, the D5300, that's $796.95. Not sure that it offers anything particularly interesting in the video department, but I should at least mention it...especially as you can get it in red:
The newest Nikon DSLR, the Nikon D5300, boasts many of the features you would expect from Nikon, plus something completely new. The new D5300 features built in Wi-Fi making it convenient for the user to transfer files. There have been Wi-Fi enabled accessories for Nikon DSLR cameras in the past, including dongles and Wi-Fi cards.
And FYI, you can get the Canon 6D for $1,575 (after checkout) at B & H with $145 of accessories - for a limited time. And yes, I didn't mention the 6D in yesterday's discussion of full-frame DSLRs because the video on the 6D isn't as good as the 5D Mark III, so meh...

Extract a Pretty Outline from a Fountain Screenplay | Slugline
Fountain is a script writing tool:
Matthew McCowan, creator of the Shotlists from Fountain tool, is at it again. Responding within hours to my request, he whipped up Outline From Fountain, a utility for creating Markdown-formatted outline documents from a Fountain file containing Sections and Synopses.

My Crowdfunding Crash Course: 14 Tips from The Royal Road | Filmmaker Magazine
1) Make sure your description is compelling, as concise as possible and conveys urgency. Before posting I ran mine past a couple of folks for feedback and got really good input. Definitely take the time to do this and make your description the best it can be.

I am Paul Greengrass, director of Captain Phillips, The Bourne Ultimatum, and various other films. AMA. | Reddit
Well the Bourne movies were a blast from first moment to last. They were hard work, I have many happy memories of those movies, but I suppose the standouts would be the big chases, in particular the big chase around Waterloo Station in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Making Masterpiece | WGBH Event
Join Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton and Porter Square Books, for a conversation and book-signing on the national publication date of her memoir “Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS.”
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at the WGBH Studios, One Guest Street, Brighton, MA
7pm: Conversation with Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton moderated by Jared Bowen, host of WGBH’s Open Studio
8pm: Book signing and dessert reception

Thursday, October 17, 2013

More Sony camera news and other things

Sony RX10 Review -- First Impressions | Imaging Resource
I'll admit that I didn't really look that closely at the new Sony still camera announcements yesterday, but now reading more of the press these cameras look to have some interesting video functionality.

Reading this write-up on the RX10 it appears that it reads out the whole chip and has improved video processing, and it has built-in neutral density filters (at least that's what the articles say.)

Is this going to be a killer video camera in disguise? At over $1,200  with a fixed lens you might be better to save your money for a real video camera, but it's intriguing. Will have to wait for more reviews:
It didn't completely eliminate moiré patterns, but they were greatly reduced relative to just about every other camera we've seen, and there were no false-color artifacts to be seen anywhere. Not only that, but the video itself was very clean and crisp-looking, so the reduction in false color and moiré didn't seem to come at the expense of mushy subject detail.

A look at the new video features of the new Sony A7, A7R and RX10 | EOSHD
It also didn't occur to me until I was reading about the improved video in the A7 and A7R that maybe the  $1,698 A7 could be the Canon 5D Mark III killer? Or is it the $2,298 A7R? Either way, if you're looking for a full-frame video camera under $3,500, previously you were limited to the 5D Mark III. And Canon really hadn't done much to improve the video quality of the Mark III over the Mark II.

But these two Sony cameras can do 60p (if you want that) supposedly have improved video processing AND will output uncompressed 4:2:2! Oh Canon, what are you going to do now? Makes you wonder why anyone would buy the 5D Mark III if all they're buying the camera for is to record video...of course, we don't yet know how the low-light performance compares, and all the other niceties, but on the face of it the A7, if nothing else, makes full-frame video more affordable.
The new image processor is Sony’s most video orientated one yet. The processor takes a 14bit raw feed from the sensor. The HDMI interface has been upgraded to the latest spec and is capable of 4K output. However this resolution is only available in playback mode for displaying stills at 4K. In video mode we have an uncompressed 4:2:2 feed at 1080p.

Hands on 1st Impressions: The Sony A7, A7r and RX10 | Steve Huff
Capture Full 1920 x 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files to external recording devices via an HDMI® connection in 60p and 60i frame-rates. Selectable in-camera AVCHDTM codec frames rates include super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p. MP4 codec is also available for smaller files for easier upload to the web.

Other News

The Mark III doesn't appear to be available yet, but you can buy the Bravo Deluxe model for $429.95 ($200 off list).
More recently, some manufacturers have started to offer follow focus units with custom-made gearboxes at lower prices. Genus is one of those companies and the latest version of their Bravo follow focus has some high end features at a reasonable $499 US price tag.

To Fellow VFX Artists: Be Not Afraid | Michael "Dorkman" Scott
Don’t fall into the “team player” trap of killing yourself for no compensation because you think you’re building up some kind of intangible credit you can call in later. You’re not. To anyone working for free out of a sense of company loyalty, tell me: if the roles were reversed and your company had no work to do, do you think they’d just keep you on the payroll, doing nothing, until something came in?

What novelists can teach you about editing film and video | Kylee Wall | Creative COW
Don't go into great detail describing places or things. – Elmore Leonard
In unscripted stuff particularly, I've seen a tendency for editors to use a whole bunch of b-roll at the beginning to describe a place.

Karl Taylor's Hi-End Product Shoot - Made Easy! | YouTube
Interesting demo on setting up a product shot.

Never mind Retina Displays: Get ready for 4K on the new Mac Pro | iMore
the newly redesigned Mac Pro is going to leapfrog that by offering something that so far, no other Mac can handle - 4K video. And not just 4K video, but 4K video on three screens.

This review at VideoMaker of Redrock's One Man Crew is very positive. The only downside; it's back-ordered until November 20! ($1,495)
Redrock Micro visited the Videomaker Studios to show off the One Man Crew. We got our hands on it, and took it for a spin. See what it is, how it works, and why we love it!

Viewing the Night Sky in Summer | Vimeo

Exploring the limits of resolution and dynamic range when using the F55 in 4K RAW mode, this film was shot on location at the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory. A handmade structure of the highest grade worn by a hundred years of service, the Observatory presents a wide variety of very high detail backdrops, contrasted by a model for skin tone reference. Hard sunlight provides a very high contrast image which also tests the ability of the camera to capture wide dynamic range images, while also showing what happens when that dynamic range is exceeded. A filmic highlight roll off is possible when images are captured in 16-bit precision.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Busy Day

Way too busy yesterday...

Cinematographer Zach Zamboni on Creativity and Shooting with Just Two Primes
My interview with Zach Zamboni, a cinematographer on Anthony Bourdain’s series Parts Unknown has been published over at Filmmaker Magazine. Zach spoke at Rule Boston last month and it was a very interesting talk about creativity and filming (there's a link to a video of the talk there too.)

Phantom Anti-Jello Device

This arrived in the mail. I haven't been able to do anything other than take it out of the package. There's no instructions; but I think i can put it together!

Cooke Lenses
Went to an interesting presentation by Les Zellan, chairman of Cooke Optics and Jon Fauer, ASC (Publisher and Editor of Film and Digital Times) at Talamas last night.

Les gave a fascinating talk about how Cooke lenses are made, what the Cooke "look" is, and also some details on new technology they recently announced. I was fascinated by his descriptions of the Cooke look, and how that's achieved, as well as how the mechanism of the S4 lenses was designed, and why.

Jon gave two talks, one was an update on the latest technology from IBC, and the other was titled "Discover the History of Art and Lighting in 30 Minutes," in which he used the history of painting as a guide to lighting.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Ran into someone at the event (who will remain nameless unless he wants me to put in his name) who received a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera this past weekend. He had to go to two camera retailers to find a lens for the camera. Then he got home and discovered...the camera didn't work. So back it goes!

Sony Announcements
By the time this posts, Sony should have announced some new still cameras and E-mount lenses. It seems unlikely they'll announce a video camera (unless it's a consumer camera like a replacement for the NEX-VG30, though that camera is too new I think to be replaced.)

UPDATED: Sony has announced the first full-frame mirrorless, E-mount cameras; the 24.3MP $1,698 A7 and the 36.3 MP $2,298 A7R. All existing E-mount cameras have had APS-C sized sensors.

They've also announced the CyberShot RX10, a point-and-shoot with a 1" sensor ($1,298).

Also, new E-mount lenses; Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM II Lens, $2,998, Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens, $998, Sony FE 35mm F2.8 ZA Lens $798 and Sony 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS Lens, $1,198.

B & H Canon Deals
B & H says it's offering "after cart checkout discounts on Canon 5D Mark 3, 7D & T5I." What's an "after-cart" discount? I'm not sure. I tried adding the 5D Mark III to the cart but the $300 discount didn't appear. Maybe you have to actually get into the purchase part of the transaction (which seems a bit of a leap of faith, no?)

Anyway, the 5D Mark III is $3,099, the 7D is $1,299 and the T5i is $799.

Note: there's supposed to be a 7D Mark II coming, though maybe not until next year.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mavericks on the 22nd and Adobe Creative Cloud update expected today UPDATE: Delayed

Reader Paul Antico reports:
It looks like we will get Mavericks on the 22nd. (The Apple event has yet to be announced by Apple, but it has been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, the, And the usual reliable sources.)

I think we will see MacPros available for preorder, with sale anywhere from the 22nd to November (more likely). I think we will definitely see the long overdue Retina Macbook Pros with Haswell. (Mavericks definitely increases battery life on the current model however). And of course the new iPads.

All of that said, Adobe is on track for a big CC update today; as early as a week and a half ago in their forums they still maintain that is the date by telling people there are various bug fixes in it to be addressed "in our next release on Oct 15th".

UPDATE 12:00pm: Adobe Customer Care has tweeted:
astralape Hi,we originally intended to release CC updates today Oct 15th however we need more time for additional testing. Thanks ^Nicolas

The Panasonic AG-AC8 and other news

A price has been finalized for the Panasonic AG-AC8, a budget shoulder-mount camcorder. It looks like it will retail for $1,200 in the US. It replaces the AG-AC7, and Panasonic's latest press release says it will ship in October.

Make no mistake, it's a stripped down camera, but it does include dual recording slots with either simultaneous or relay recording.

I have the much earlier AG-HMC70P. For some situations, it's great to have a shoulderable camera, and for the price, the AG-HMC70P was great. Especially because it had two XLR audio inputs (which I wish the AG-AC7/8 had.) The thing I'd complain about with the AG-HMC70P is that you really had very little image control; it is really a full auto camera. I haven't used the AG-AC7, so I don't know what these models are like.

Other News

The ultimate Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera lens – Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 with Speed Booster | EOSHD
I would really love to see how this lens does against a $47,000 + tax cinema lens like the Optimo 15-40mm T2.6 because I honestly think it would come close. Blackmagic must share a similar philosophy, because the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera gives an image that in many ways exceeds the $15,000 Canon C300 especially when paired with the Metabones Speed Booster.

Can your iPhone really be a light meter | Ryan Walters
If I were able to have a protective case on my iPhone and still use the Luxi, I honestly would consider using this as a replacement for my professional meters. However, the one major feature set that my professional meters have over the Luxi is adaptability. Not only can I create and display custom camera profiles for every camera I use, but I can adjust every setting with finite detail. 

When it comes to cameras, there's more options now than ever before. That's great for cinematographers, but it leaves camera assistants struggling to wrap their heads around a staggering number of camera systems. Inevitably, you're going to come across one you haven't even touched before. So, how do you handle it?

Here's the list of movies and shows that got NY tax breaks | Democrat & Chronicle
New York has become a national leader in tax breaks for the film industry, and records obtained by Gannett through a Freedom of Information request showed that some of the tax breaks go to shows and movies tied to New York City. They included “Sex and the City 2,” HBO’s “Bored to Death” based in Brooklyn and “Saturday Night Live”.

Model Cars, Forced Perspective and a $250 P&S | PetaPixel
Some amazing forced perspective work!
Model maker/collector and photographer Michael Paul Smith is a master at recreating incredibly accurate outdoor scenes using his extensive die-cast model car collection and forced perspective.Mixing up miniature cars, detail items and buildings into a scene whose backdrop is the real world, he shoots the gorgeous miniature vistas of the town he has created and named “Elgin Park” — and he does it all with a cheap point-and-shoot.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Quick Links

Gravity: vfx that’s anything but down to earth | Mike Seymour | FXGuide
The Gravity team tested a number of systems (see below), with the final solution to have a small number of sets and then a LED ‘light box’ set used for the complex zero gravity work. Here, the actors, primarily Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, were filmed acting inside the box that had projected from it the correct environment the actor was meant to be in.

Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón reveals studio pressure to change story | The Guardian
But the director said: "With making a film it's like trying to create a tune in the shower while you have a hundred people singing around you. You have to focus yourself in on the tune that you're trying to create. Because you have hundreds of people singing different songs at the same time around you."

Sony F5 / F55 Optical Low-Pass Filters | Adam Wilt | DVInfo
What if you could swap out the camera’s OLPF as needed for different situations? What, indeed…
HD or 2K images shot with the 4K OLPF show plenty of detail past 1080 TVl/ph, which gives ‘em that digital crispness but also risks plenty of aliasing. With the 2K filter the image is far cleaner. Which is preferable, as with the 4K images above, depends on what you’re looking for.

More thoughts about Adobe’s Creative Cloud | Oliver Peters | digital films
I suspect once the ruckus over the subscription model settles down, for better or worse, many other software companies will follow Adobe’s trek down this pioneering trail.

New Mac Pro Release Imminent | PremiumBeat
Now, Apple has announced an invite-only event on October 22, 2013 that will surely shed more light into the future of the new Mac Pro. According to, Apple is expected to make public a Mac Pro release date (which is likely be before December).

Product Review: Contour Design ShuttlePRO v2 | Larry Jordan
If you are looking for a smoother way to move around the timeline, and a fast way to access your most popular keyboard shortcuts, the ShuttlePRO v2 is worth considering. The new Contour Shuttle app makes configuring the system simple, fast and elegant. If space is tight, the Xpress is a solid second choice. It just needs to skid a bit less and decrease the pressure of the detents in the jog wheel.

Why Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain Has Given Up on Movie Theaters | The Wrap
I made a film last year called “Brain Power.” Ted, the conference business, contacted me to do a book based on the film. I took the script and made it an iPad book with music. Then it became a printed book. It’s all so nebulous as to what you’re creating for.  You just need a strong idea.

Nokia Lumia 1020 overview: Has the best got better? | DXOMark
DXOMark is now rating video cameras (well, at least in SmartPhones):
The Nokia Lumia 1020 comes fourth overall, behind the rival Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5S but a closer look at the scores reveals the Lumia, in fact, ranks in second place for stills with a score of 79 points (just two points behind its sibling). What is somewhat disappointing is the camera sits in a lowly 12th place for video, which obviously pulls the Lumia 1020 down in the overall rankings.