Friday, November 01, 2013

The News

New Creative Cloud pro video features now available | Adobe
The updates to Adobe's Creative Cloud are coming out. The Prelude Live Logger iPad app sounds interesting:
The 150+ new features in Adobe Premiere® Pro CC, After Effects® CC, SpeedGrade® CC, Prelude™ CC, Adobe Media Encoder CC, and Adobe Story CC Plus that were announced at IBC last month are available effective immediately via Adobe Creative Cloud. Today we are also delivering a new iPad app, Prelude Live Logger, which adds another tool to your arsenal for faster, more efficient production workflows.

announcing the After Effects CC (12.1) update, one of several October 2013 updates for Adobe professional video applications | Adobe
Among many other changes and fixes, this updates enables After Effects CC to run on Mac OS X v10.9 (Mavericks). This full update makes it unnecessary to install the previous After Effects CC (12.0.1) patch. Unlike the After Effects CC (12.0.1) patch, the After Effects CC (12.1) update can be used to update the trial version of After Effects CC (12.0).
Paul Antico passes along the following tips for Mac users:
If you installed After Effects 12.0.2 (?) to fix the Mavericks crash bug, you have to go and change the permissions on the 12.1 preference folder in your library to add yourself as read/write rights or it will crash.
Also, to get the GPU rendering to work on an iMac with a 680MX processor, you have to reboot the machine otherwise you will get a message saying there is not enough VRAM.

First Look: DJI Phantom 2 Vision | ProVideoCoalition
I have the original Phantom ($479), and it is cool. This looks even cooler, though at a sizeable increase in price ($1,199). I think I'll probably just hang on to what I have.
For the shear fun of flying, I must say the Phantom 2 Vision is a major upgrade in the experience - especially for novices and hobbyists. The camera's optics are clear and provide good quality HD video and hi-res photos to give you a POV shot like you've never experienced before. However, if you're looking to shoot professional-quality video productions, you will need a much more sophisticated piece of gear - complete with at least a 2 or 3-axis gimbal and a professional camera. 

Finding the Right Story to Tell: The Making of AfterDeath (Part 1) | Michael Murie | Filmmaker Magazine
The first two parts of a really interesting interview with a first-time feature film maker.
The psychological thriller/horror movie AfterDeath is the first feature film of directors Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt. Shot on a tight budget and a tight schedule, the development and shooting of AfterDeath offers a lesson to anyone looking to make their first feature. 
Script Development, Casting and Locations: The Making of AfterDeath (Part 2)

Editing 4K on the new 15″ MacBook Pro | blog.alex4d
Although it has been possible to create 4K timelines for many years, smooth editing of 4K footage requires instant playback of more than one stream of video footage at once. For example if you had clip A transitioning to clip B while clip C is overlaid as a picture in picture, your editing software would have to play back clips A, B and C at the same time – changing the transparency of clips A and B while scaling clip C.

Canon 5D Mark III Firmware 1.2.3 Released | HD Cam Team
4. Fixes a phenomenon in which the histogram of a LiveView image is incorrectly displayed when an HDMI cable is connected.
5. Enables the brightness of the camera’s LCD monitor to be adjusted even when an HDMI cable is connected.

Have we missed the new killer feature in Mavericks for video editors? |
It now takes only a few clicks to link two Thunderbolt Macs together with a Thunderbolt cable and it should be possible to share media from a third device such as a Pegasus Promise Thunderbolt RAID. With the caveat of 'We haven't actually tried it ourself', this will make a huge difference to the smaller edit shop

Glidecam Ships iGlide Stabilizer for Lightweight Cameras | StudioDaily
Only $129 for the Glidecam iGlide, though it's only for cameras under 14 oz. A review on Amazon complained about the adjustment of the head, which they considered rather imprecise...but then Videomaker has a positive review.
Glidecam started shipping its new iGlide, a $149 handheld camera stabilizer designed for the tiny likes of GoPro cameras, the Canon Vixia, and—with a $49 iGlide Adapter, the iPhone. If you're looking to get the most out of an inexpensive camera, that's a pretty cheap way to help your footage look not quite as cheap.

A Feast for the Eye and the Ear - The Best Cinematographer's DVD Commentaries: Part II | MovieMail
But Heat of the Night wins the day, really for the contagious delight Wexler and Jewison share in revisiting a film about a Philly cop (Sidney Poitier) investigating murder in a bigoted Southern town. Plainspoken and impassioned (“That was a bitch to light!”), Wexler discusses his famed hand-held work, borrowing DIY techniques from the French New Wave and making a film during, and emanating from the white heat of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Sony’s RX10, possibly the best hybrid for the serious documentarist: a few things to considermike kobal
Interesting discussion of the $1,298 RX10:
When I mentioned that I really believe this camera could be very interesting for all of us (even achieve GH2 cult status), because there is no line skipping and Sony finally managed to employ a processor powerful enough to allow for full 5k readout (sadly we will only be able to record it in full HD) we all knew that this should result in much cleaner looking footage than what we are used to from our DSLR’s. It also has a built in ND filter, clean HDMI (4:2:2) out, Zebra and peaking options…… I had their attention.

Exclusive: Artwork And Test Footage From Pixar's 'The Blue Umbrella' | The Playlist
The footage, which you can watch below, is a hoot: it features director Saschka Unseld underneath a blue umbrella very much like the one in the film, and shows him sliding around the Pixar campus. You can see that they are testing what the umbrellas look like, how they bunch together and interact. It's also kind of surprising to see how small the crew is for a short that is perceived as a technical breakthrough (and Oscar front-runner for Animated Short). 

Full frame kaleidoscopic video with the Sony RX1 | EOSHD
The Sony RX1 has amazing stills but awful video! I began thinking how could I use this otherwise great little camera for video? The answer is to rough up the image beyond comprehension, with trick filters. Here’s how I did it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Goodbye cable, Hello 4K?

It was ironic that on my way to last night’s SMPTE meeting at Channel 5 Boston, I dropped off my cable TV box at a Verizon store. I am now officially cordless - no more cable TV for me! The only way I can see Channel 5's programming is on their website!

The meeting was a presentation from Sony talking about 4K; specifically 4K TVs and projection. The message was; 4K is here, and NHK in Japan is working on 8K.

They had a 65” 4K TV ($5K for 4K), the $650 “hockey-puck” 4K home video server (which only works with Sony content and a Sony 4K TV) and a 4K Projector (and it was not one of the big “Cinema” projectors, but one of their “home or business” units.)

Up close the picture on both was very impressive. I’m still not convinced that you need 4K in the home unless you have a really large display, and/or sit very close to the display. It would make no sense to replace my 42” HD screen with a 42” 4K one. And, of course, given the lack of 4K material, buying a 4K display is more about what you'll be able to watch in a year or two. But assuming the material is out there, and you want an 80” screen? (and you're willing to fill your room up...)

Of course, where are you going to get the content? Several people made jokes about whether Comcast supported 4K, and Sony’s only video content player works only with Sony’s movies. And Sony isn’t sure if 4K Bluray will be released or not; we were told it was a business decision, not a technology one.

Actually, what was most interesting was the projected sales of 4K sets, which showed where the projected largest market for 4K is: China. Evidently the Chinese skipped HD and are now jumping into 4K.

And the cable box? Well, I hardly watch broadcast TV these days, and when you add up the monthly rental price for the box ($12 per month) plus the HD package, it didn't seem worth it when the only shows I watched this past month were two episodes of Saturday Night Live.

So I decided to get rid of it and see how things go.

And Verizon charged me $10 to “return” the cable box. Ouch!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coming Up

Tomorrow night, Halloween, they are going to do a  recreation of the War of the World's broadcast at the Regent Theater in Arlington MA.
Christopher Lydon, Joyce Kulhawik, William Martin, ChaChi Loprette, Laura Raposa, Allison Cahill and the rest of the cast are gearing up for a great night of entertainment as the live recreation of Orson Welles' WAR OF THE WORLDS lands at the Regent Theatre in Arlington at 7:30 this Thursday.
Find out more at: The Orson Welles Complex

Film Scoring & Music Seminar: Saturday, November 2nd
High Output Studios
Coffee & Bagels at 9:30 AM.
Seminars from 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon
Creating the music and scoring for films is an art – but defining the sometimes-mystical quality that will help a music score succeed is difficult to quantify.  Join us for an open discussion with 4 top composers as they give you insight into how to approach scoring for films – from conceptualization to composition to orchestration – and the challenges that happen along the way. Our award-winning panel will show you some of their tricks and techniques for creating a successful film score

Meet the Panel:
• Ed Grenga – Creative Director / Composer, Handsome Brothers Music
• John Kusiak – Composer, Kusiak Music
• Sheldon Mirowitz – Composer, Verite Music
• Tom Phillips – Composer, OBT Music
• Moderated by Bestor Cram – Creative Director, Northern Light Productions

The News

Blackmagic Design Cinema Cameras: Production Workflow Roundup | Premium Beat
For a truly cinematic look it helps to shoot in a cinematic aspect ratio using anamorphic lenses. Redshark News offers some insights into working with the BMDCC cameras and anamorphic lens adaptors in this short post. In the video above DP Ryan Glover shot in Log Pro Res on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera with a Kowa/B&H 2x anamorphic adapter.

EOS 7D Mark II Spec List Surfaces [CR1] | CanonRumors
According to the rumor, the sensor is not yet confirmed, though it does mention it won’t be the same as the EOS 70D. Also a mention of innovative video features, something we’ve talked about previously. There’s not much new here as far as specs go, but at least the camera is being talked about.

Consumer DSLRs “dead in 5 years” | EOSHD
Until now the ‘smartphone problem’ had been pretty much isolated to the low end compact camera market. In my opinion this market is defunct and will vanish entirely within 10 years. Compacts used to sell 10 million units a month globally on average in 2011 and in 2013 this has fallen to around 4 million.

The REAL difference between normal DSLR video and 5D Mark III raw video | EOSHD
Skin tones are also terrible in compressed 8bit when backlit or exposed to the left. Many top cinematographers like to shoot in backlight for continuity and depth. Blade Runner and Tree of Life used backlighting on their cast to great affect. Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Tree of Life) is a big fan of shooting that way, and this is where raw REALLY comes in handy.

Drew Janes and Seth Compton from Defy Gimbal were flying a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera on their G2 3-axis brushless gimbal on the floor of PhotoPlus Expo. We stopped them just long enough to find out their G2, for small cameras, and G5, for DSLR-sized cameras, are now shipping from the Arizona company.

Zacuto’s First Look: The ARRI AMIRA | Zacuto
Steve and Jens take a look at the Amira at IBC, though ARRI has been vague about the specs of the actual production machine, so this may be a close-to-final prototype, or it might be a trail balloon and ARRI may release something very different.
The new ARRI AMIRA documentary style camera made a big splash at IBC earlier this year.  The AMIRA features  ALEXA image quality, single-user ergonomics and perfect shoulder balance, the cost efficient in-camera grading, and the industry standard ARRI rugged quality and reliability. 

So You Want to Make a Horror Film? On Jump Scares and Other Basics of Fright | Filmmaker Magazine
If you’re looking to make a horror film simply because you think it might be an easy road to notoriety, you’d be dead wrong. This is a dish that’s best served cold by filmmakers who are fans — those who have long loved being chilled to the bone — so it should be in your blood. If you’re a filmmaker who’s new to horror, immerse yourself in the classics and study their techniques before you set out to try to create a monster of your own.

How to Fund a Documentary: Eight Takeaways from the Film Independent Forum | IndieWire
1. Hang on to your rights. The panelists focused on the difficulties of scraping together production financing, but they agreed that it worked in their favor not to sign away any of their rights too early. It left things open for them creatively and allowed them to hold out for theatrical distribution.

The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic | Slate
There’s only one problem: The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.

For Everyone In Massachusetts

Starting Friday, Mass. To Collect Sales Tax From Amazon | WBUR
Beginning Friday, the state will apply its 6.25 percent sales tax to purchases made from the online retail giant, following an accord reached late last year between the Patrick administration and Amazon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A lens I want, and two things that annoy me

I need another lens like I need another hole in my head, but a lens that does intrigue me is the new Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens ($598). It's an E-mount lens, and it has at least four intriguing features:
  • constant f/4 maximum aperture
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilization
  • internal zoom operation
  • powered zoom
If you have a still camera, this lens probably won't excite you, but if you have a video camera such as the Sony NEX-VG30, NEX-EA50, NEX-FS100 or NEX-FS700, this lens could be just what you're looking for.

I have the NEX-EA50 camera, and it comes with the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 PZ OSS Alpha E-mount Lens (as does the other cameras.) It's actually not a bad lens; zooms nicely, focuses pretty quickly, and it's nice and long.

BUT, though it starts at f/3.5, it closes down to f/6.5 as you zoom. It also does something else when you zoom; it almost doubles in physical length. I don't know about you, but having a lens that extends as you zoom can be problematic; it also looks rather silly.

So this lens looks good, and it will be interesting to see how it performs.

News Shooter has some more pics of the lens.

Two Things To Annoy Me

I saw these two articles over the weekend. One is about extending the term for copyright, and whether Disney (and other companies and interests) will work to extend the copyright law again before the current extension runs out. I really hope that Congress doesn't do this; 

15 years ago, Congress kept Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. Will they do it again? | The Washington Post
It was a windfall to the families and corporations that owned these lucrative copyrights. But it meant these iconic works would be off-limits to those who wanted to reuse or reinvent them without permission. And hundreds of thousands of lesser-known works aren’t available at all, because there's no cost-effective way to obtain permission to republish them.

And this piece is the perfect counter-point; somehow we've moved to a world where the things people are creating today are considered value-less:

Slaves of the Internet, Unite! | The New York Times
In fairness, most of the people who ask me to write things for free, with the exception of Arianna Huffington, aren’t the Man; they’re editors of struggling magazines or sites, or school administrators who are probably telling me the truth about their budgets. The economy is still largely in ruins, thanks to the people who “drive the economy” by doing imaginary things on Wall Street, and there just isn’t much money left to spare for people who do actual things anymore.

NOTE: In yesterday's post one of the video clips wasn't included. That has now been fixed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fixing Jello on the Phantom Quadcopter

I've been experimenting with the DJI Phantom Quadcopter ($455.05). One of the problems it can suffer from is a jello effect caused by vibration transferring from the airframe to the camera. This can be difficult to remove, as you'll see in the example below. Here, applying the Premiere Pro's Warp Stabilizer can actually make it look worse.

I've written about the options for reducing this effect; one is to use some kind of anti-shake mount. These range in price and complexity from simple rubber insulators through to expensive brushless mounts.

I tried a simple anti-shake mount, the Anti Vibration Anti-Jello Vibration Isolator Low Profile Carbon Fiber Mount (below) and it does seem to make a difference.

The two clips below show footage taken using the anti-shake mount. The first sequence is the "raw" footage; it still has some shaky moments, but that can mostly be removed using Premiere Pro/s Warp Stabilizer, as can be seen in the second clip. Note: the footage was shot at dusk.

The following footage has the Premiere Pro Warp Stabilizer applied, and has been graded using Red Giant Looks to give it more of a film look.

Prop Balancer

The other suggestion for reducing the shake is to do 'prop-balancing.' The theory is that if the prop isn't balanced, it can cause vibration.

I bought a prop balancer - which cost less than $10 - and gave it a go...and pretty quickly decided against doing anything to the prop a few minutes of experimentation.

The problem with prop balancing, at least with the Phantom's props, is that the mount hole isn't perfectly circular on one side, and it's practically impossible to determine whether you have actually got the center of the prop when you attach it to the prop balancer. And if you don't have it centered, your balancing is going to be pointless.

I tightened the prop between the two conical nuts that are used to hold the prop and then put it in the rig. The prop appeared to be slightly off-balance. BUT, releasing the prop and then reattaching it (trying to get it "centered" both times) I discovered that it was just as likely to register that the other side was heavier.

Perhaps a more expensive prop-balancer would do a more accurate job, though I'm not sure how that would work unless the prop balancer used an attachment point that was the same as the post on the Phantom itself.

Either way, I think the prop is pretty closely balanced, so I'm not going to alter them.