Saturday, May 14, 2011

MIT Media In Transition 7 Conference

It's the MIT Media in Transition 7 Conference this weekend, and it's been an interesting experience. I've been to two sessions so far, and while they've been provocative, perhaps the most intriguing thing about them is that they keep turning out to be about things other than what I thought they would be about!

Digital Film Production
  • Aymar Jean Christian, Promise and Problems: Independent Production in Periods of Change
    This talk was about producing and distributing content as web series through YouTube and other services.
  • Daniel Faltesek, Film, Video, Metadata: Time-Axis Manipulation After the Linear Medium
    A discussion of the history of NLE's and how they have impacted the production of television and movies.
  • Kim Knowles, Analog Obsolescence and the ‘Death of Cinema’ Debate: The Case of Experimental Film
    A plea for keeping analog (film) as a production medium. I must admit that I wasn't sympathetic to the argument because it seemed to just be an analog vs digital argument; and why would people want to edit film or video rather than use an NLE? But then she showed a short clip, which was made by hand coloring and manipulating film, and while I could see recreating the same effect in After Effects, I could understand how it would be a very different way of working.
Segment of: Loretta (2003) by Jeanne Liotta

TV Readings, TV Transitions
  • June Deery, Texts and Texting: TV and the Internet
    Talked about Reality TV - specifically the Real Housewives series - and the interaction between fans and the show "stars" through blogs and other online mediums. Also discussed how the "stars" react - or respond - to the reaction they receive from the viewing audience.
  • Alberto Frigo, Understanding Television as a Social Experience
    Discussed how teens use online medium's like Facebook to discuss their favorite shows.
  • Michael Z. Newman, The Television Image and the Image of the Television
    Talked about the adoption of LCD and HD TV, how it has been driven by manufacturers deals with sporting franchises, as well as how TV sets have been portrayed in publications and the media.
MIT: Media in Transition

[Update: Added link to Jeanne Liotta]

News From Here & There

Genus Rig with Sony NEX-FS100 Demo
Den Lennie from F-Stop Academy does a short video promo for Genus gear with the Sony NEX-FS100 camera. The gear covered includes the GMP-HP Hotplate, the S-SFOC Superior Follow Focus, the G-FG flexible lens gear and the GWMC Matte Box.
Vimeo: Den from F-Stop Academy demonstrates Genus Kit on Sony FS100

Editing 3D with EDIUS
Grass Valley has published a "White Paper" (really just a short article) abiout the production and editing of Australia's (and possibly the World's) first 3D Wedding Video using the Panasonic AG-3DA1 and EDIUS software:
The biggest change to their usual way of shooting was definitely the minimum distance required to obtain an acceptable image. Anything closer than two meters did not work as it would cause the 3D viewers’ eyes to converge unnaturally and become cross-eyed.
Shot lifespan was the other big challenge the team needed to tackle. To appreciate the 3D image fully, the viewer needs a little more screen time per shot. Because of the image’s depth, each shot appears to have more to look at—it is almost like having multiple shots at the same time—and you need to let the audience take the time to explore each one.
GrassValley: Joffe 3D Wedding [PDF]

Royalty Free Music is offering a collection of free royalty-free music to celebrate its one year anniversary.

"Our production music library continues to grow, both in terms of the number of contributing professional musicians and the number of high-quality, royalty-free production music tracks. The quality and depth of our musicians and production music is outstanding," says Mike Bielenberg, Co-Founder of MusicRevolution LLC.

The music tracks are provided in MP3 format (192 kbps) and are free for use in film, broadcast, web, on hold, physical media, video productions or other commercial applications in accordance with MusicRevolution's Standard License Agreement

In return for this free stock music license, MusicRevolution requests that users credit them somewhere on their website or elsewhere.
MusicRevolution: Free Production Music

Though there's practically no Thunderbolt peripherals available yet, Sammy Aindow has put together an article summing up the advantages of Thunderbolt.
2. It's a clutter killer
Because Thunderbolt can transfer video, audio and 10 watts of power, you only need one cable to link out to any given device. You can then daisy chain that device to up to five others without losing speed - again only using a single cable - so you can get access to all your favourite I/O, storage and display devices without turning your desktop into a rats' nest of cables.
JigsawBroadcast: Ten Things We Love About Thunderbolt

RISD Museum Open Video Call
The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design’s Contemporary Art Department invites artists to submit short works of single-channel video. Selected works will be shown in an outdoor Gallery Night screening event in July. Finalists’ videos will also be exhibited at the RISD Museum during the fall of 2011

“Video-based art is an accessible and powerful medium and we want to show more of it at the RISD Museum,” says Sabrina Locks, Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art and organizer of the event. “The open call video program is a lively way to invite local participation and dialogue around the creative ideas and visions of those working in various forms of new media.”All are welcome to submit works of 15 minutes or less regardless of age, location, artistic experience, or education.

Submissions must be received by Friday, June 10, 2011. RISD MUSEUM SEEKS SUBMISSIONS FOR OPEN CALL: VIDEO ART

Panasonic G3 Review
Tech Radar reviews the new camera, though it has only a perfunctory coverage of the video capabilities:
No CSC or DSLR is complete without video recording capability these days and the G3 can shoot full HD (1920x1080 pixel) as AVCHD or Motion JPEG files, output at 30fps or 25fps. Full time AF and AF tracking is available during filming, something which isn't available in Panasonic's flagship GH2.
TechRadar: Panasonic G3 review

No One is Using the iPad 2 to take pictures?
I'm not sure it's literally true; I saw someone taking pictures with an iPad 2 just the other day, but according to Flickr upload stats, if they are using the iPad 2 to take pictures, they aren't sharing them online.
PetaPixel: Flickr Stats Confirm It: No One Uses the iPad 2 as a Camera

Zacuto Reviews
Zacuto has collected together links to user reviews of their gear.
Zacuto: Product Reviews

Friday, May 13, 2011

Some Quick Links

Movie Draft SE is a Mac Scriptwriting program available at the Mac App Store. It's currently $29.99, though they say the introductory price is ending soon. You can download a non-saving demo from their website

Learned from a 48 Hour Film Competition; Robin Schmidt writes about his experience on the Sci Fi London 48 hour film challenge:
While we’re on the subject of mistakes, we were really understaffed for the first day of the challenge and should really have brought more people in to help. We were actually overstaffed on the sunday and yet still missed a proper focus puller and soundman. Nonetheless, we did still manage to get the film in on time.

This is troubling: OWC, a seller of upgrade parts for Macs, reports that there's a problem upgrading the internal hard drives of the latest iMac's:
From our testing, we’ve found that removing this drive from the system, or even from that bay itself, causes the machine’s hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test (AHT). 
In short, replace the hard drive and the fans will constantly spin.
OWC: Apple Further Restricts Upgrade Options on New iMacs

Visual Effects. An article at Red Giant's blog explains how some of the visual effects on "My Sucky Teen Romance," were done.
We discovered (after the fact) that the aviator glasses our evil vampire was wearing were reflecting the sound guys arm in some of the shots. We had to figure out a way to remove them while not making them completely black. Using the keyer in Colorista II’s secondary correction, I was able to take the sound guys arm color and bring it back to a color that more closely matched the nearby areas in the reflection. Then, I manually tracked the lens area of his glasses and used them as a track matte on a solid that brought the overall levels on his glasses down. Then the shot was handed over to our colorist.
RedGiant: Visual Effects for a Sucky Teen Film


Blogger is back?

Well, it appears Blogger is back, having been down for the past 24 hours after a maintenance release went wrong, and they had to revert everything.

It appears that the posts from Thursday are gone....maybe they will come back, maybe they won't. As I recall a synopsis of them would be:
  1. The usual collection of odds and ends in News
  2. My review of the Virtual NAB trade show (which wasn't complementary!)
Oh well. If Blogger manages to recover them, then great, otherwise I think I will leave them be...

Normal service will resume tomorrow (I hope!)

For those interested, here's Blogger's official report: Blogger is back

[UPDATE: Added link to Blogger article]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Canon HF G10 In Stock

After posting a few days back about all the cameras that weren't available, I guess it's only fair to note that the Canon HF G10 is currently available at B & H for $1,4999: Canon VIXIA HF G10 Flash Memory Camcorder

Or if you need XLR inputs, you could wait for the "pro" version, the XA10, which is Back-ordered....

News From Here & There

Redrock Micro EVF
EVF's are all the rage at the moment, with Zacuto finally shipping samples of theirs. Redrock also showed an EVF back about the time Zacuto first showed their prototype, but Redrock's seems to have run into problems, and wasn't really even talked about at NAB.

Now Redrock Micro, on their Facebook page, has announced:
Last year Redrock was the first to announce an electronic viewfinder designed for HDSLR cameras. Since then a number of other EVFs have been announced, but at a much higher price points - $750 and even higher. We believe that's too expensive.
What's needed is an EVF that maintains our vision of a compact, lightweight, full-featured accessory, but at about half the price of current offerings: our target is $375 or less. With that as our goal, we continue to refine our design and feature set of the microEVF.
We do not currently have a release timeframe for the microEVF. If you would like to keep up with progress, please subscribe to our newsletter (on our home page), follow us on twitter @redrockmicro, or like our facebook page
Facebook: Redrock Micro

NAB Show Virtual Show - May 12th
Not sure what this is - it could be terrible - but the NABShow Virtual View takes place today from 10am to 6pm. Last time I took part in a "virtual" online trade show, it was pretty weird; you had to "wonder around" on the site to find pictures and videos, though there was a couple of online chats with company reps that were interesting, so you never know:

Join the NAB Show as it launches the first official online extension of the April Convention in Virtual View. See product demonstrations you may have missed or continue the conversation from the April show — from the convenience of your home or office.

Event Features:
  • Video showcases from participating companies, as well as the ability to download collateral materials such as white papers, brochures, product/services information, and case studies.
  • Live video chats with industry experts on key discoveries from the NAB Show.
NABShow: Virtual View

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 GPU review
It's ironic; three days ago I write about how I'm not into GPU's and then Scott Simmons posts a review of the Quadro 4000 for the Mac.

It's an interesting review, particularly as he writes about some problems with Mac OS X not supporting the latest version of OpenGL:
OSX currently supports 3.1 but the spec is at 4.1 and you can see on the NVIDIA product page that they require booting into Windows via Bootcamp to use 4.1. Then you’re not running a Mac. There is also the OpenCL spec which according to the Apple website is described as “a new technology in Mac OS X Snow Leopard called OpenCL [that] takes the power of graphics processors and makes it available for general-purpose computing.” Great. But if you do a little searching around the Internet it appears that Apple’s OpenCL might not be entirely recognized by the Quadro 4000.
But if you get through all that okay, he checks it out with Premiere Pro CS5.5, DaVinci Resolve for Mac and a few other applications, and notes some significant performance improvements.

Using Soreson Squeeze he took a 4:36 music video and encoded it using the iPhone preset, with and without the GPU:

GPU accelerated codec - 6:14
No CUDA GPU acceleration - 17:16
By far the biggest performance advantages come from applications that are specifically written to take advantage of NVIDIA’s CUDA technology. It seems that the hope is that the next version of the Mac OS (10.7 Lion) will allow for better GPU acceleration no matter which graphics card you use.
Pretty impressive. Of course, it'll cost you over $700.
ProVideoCoalition: NVIDIA’s Quadro 4000 for Mac, more affordable speed for the right application
Amazon: PNY Quadro 4000 2 GB GDDR5 PCIe x16 1 DVI-DL + DP + ST Graphics Card for Mac VCQ4000MAC-PB $753.99

Casting Call for Extras for Adam Sandler Movie
Sande Alessi Casting are casting extras (kids and adults) for a new Adam Sandler film “I Hate You, Dad” shooting in Boston & surrounding areas in June. They will be holding an Open Casting Call in Boston & Cape Code.
Saturday, May 21st, 2011 from 12:00pm to 6:00pm
Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 from 2:00pm to 8:00pm
Carson Place, 180 Mt. Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02125

Saturday, May 28th, 2011 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
Sunday, May 29th, 2011 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
Barnstable High School, 744 West Main Street, Hyannis Port, MA 02601
Sande Alassi Casting: Open Call Boston

Ernst Vikne says that he likes intelligent writing, but not clever writing, and defines clever writing as when the writer tries to draw attention to the writing:
Where a scene tends to fail, is when a writer replaces one of those elements with cleverness... so, instead of simplicity we get cleverness, or instead of observation we get quirkiness (which is just cleverness with an ironic shrug and a grin), and instead of a theme we get clever, witty dialogue. 
LoneGunManifesto: Sunday Blog: Clever Screenwriting isn't that Clever

YouTube alternatives
Zachary Sniderman looks at alternatives to YouTube:, Vimeo, Flickr, Veoh, Viddler, DailyMotion and yfrog. The article provides a nice summary of what each service offers, key features and why you might want to use them.
Mashable: 7 YouTube Alternatives & Why They Make Sense

iPad in a Slate
Pomfort has created a prototype of a movie slate that holds an iPad. An interesting idea, though it's not officially a product yet.
HandHeldHollywood: Pomfort tells the iPad Slate to Get Real!

The Great Camera Shootout 2011
Zacuto has posted a teaser trailer for the Great Camera Shoot Out 2011, a comparison of several different digital video cameras, which is coming in June.
See: NotesOnVideo: The Great Camera Shoot Out 2011

Note that, Steve Weiss of Zacuto says of the tests:
We didn't pick the cameras and had nothing to do with the testing.  That was Bob Primes test.  We just made a documentary about the test, screened the test theatrically in many cities and at NAB and will present the test, how the test was done and the viewers comments on the test in the Great Camera Shootout 2010.
Zacuto: ShootOut

Ed Burns
Filmmaking is always about compromise:

News from Here & There

Tempted By New Gear?
Sam Morgan Moore reminds us that it's not always about the gear, and that DSLRs are fine for most things;
If I shot lots of buildings I could argue that my cameras were not up to it – but I’m not so I cant.
I therefore don’t need a new camera
DSLR 4 Real: Spend Spend Spend

On the other hand, Sam Morgan Moore reminds us that there are lots of limitations to DSLRs:
When I’m shooting for me a DSLR is great – I use it to its strengths
But when I’m shooting for a client often the hairs on my neck start to tingle
Moiré short record times and the killer HDMI wobble sweat me out
His solution? The Sony NEX-FS100 and PMW-F3 look interesting...
DSLR 4 RealPony for a Sony?

Notes on the Sony NEX-FS100
Phil Baxter at Creative Video Co got to play with the Sony NEX-FS100 prototype, and offers some impressions, including these notes on the kit lens:
I tried out the auto focus on this lens, however the result was useless with the lens perpetually hunting for the focus point. I guess this is a known issue with the prototype which will be fixed before launch...  Let's hope so, as it's sometimes useful to use the AF function. The other was that the back-focus (flange-back) was clearly not correctly set as the lens was able to focus beyond infinity. I did not notice an adjustment for this on either the lens or the camera so again let's hope this is fixed on the production model. NEX-FS100 Game Changer

And if the Sony PMW-F3 is more to your liking, check out this pretty video of the camera: VimeoSony PMW F3

Chris from ProMotion does a video preview of the PMW-F3 in this video. YouTubeSony PMW F3 Review

SmallHD DP6 Monitor Review
Craig Anderi reviews the SmallHD DP6, a 5.6" field monitor with HDMI input that sells for $899. He tried it out after growing displeased with how a Marshall monitor worked with his 5D Mark II:
...the image on the Marshall was in effect, no larger than the image on the back of the camera. The 1 to 1 pixel mapping just jumped the image in and cut off much of the view area. Not very useful.
The SmallHD doesn't have that problem, he finds the picture is exceptionally clear and there is a custom setting for the 5D to get the full screen real estate during record. He goes on to say:
This a very future proof monitor and it is exceptionally well made. Compared to the Marshal, it was like going from driving an old Hyundai Excel to a new BMW. It just feels good in your hands and it is built to work as you need it to. Its an amazing piece of kit that I will definitely add to my package (in multiples).
Planet5DA review of the SmallHD DP6

SmallHD also announced the combination monitor/EVF DP4 at NAB, and Wes from SmallHD compares it with the DP6 in this video: VimeoDP4 vs DP6

Marshall at NAB
If you're interested in Marshall monitors, check out this video from NAB of Clint Milby interviewing Bernie Keach from Marshall about their new 5.6, 7 and 9 inch models that feature a new focus assist that lets you choose the focus assist color and also include HDMI loop through.
HDSLRShooterNAB 2011: New HDMI Loop Through Monitors From Marshall

Quick Links

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

News From Here & There

Image Control
This iPad app from Gamma & Density, is designed to let someone create color correction values on-set, and then send them to the post-production team. Might be worth using for the pro's, though at $400, I won't be getting it! (the app is not yet released)
Hand Held Hollywood: Image Control For IPad Does On-Set Color Correction

Crowd Sourcing
Tim Clague at Projector Films offers some tips for those considering crowd sourcing, and how to appeal to your target investors emotions:
Whatever approach your film takes, I think it is wise to consider the emotional reasons why people would invest. What are the deep reasons why they would help you to make your film? Are you giving them the right things back to meet those emotional needs?
ProjectorFilms: Why people will invest in your film.

Working with DSLR Footage in Premiere Pro
Mark Christiansen walks though the steps involved in working with DSLR footage in Premiere Pro, from Preview and Ingesting, to Edit and Conform/Prep
It’s when I started to work with a variety of clips together that I really began to appreciate the speed and flexibility of the Mercury playback engine, whether or not I was on the CUDA-enabled system.. Just like in After Effects, you can create a sequence whose setting match that of a source clip by dragging the clip icon to a new sequence icon, all in the Project panel. It’s not even a big deal, like potentially destabilizing the whole application, to mix and match formats and frame rates.
ProVideoCoalition: Premiere Pro for DSLR in a few easy steps

The Power of The Visual Medium
A short piece at FilmmakerIQ reminds us that it's possible - and often desirable - to convey emotions, motivations and even intentions through visual short hand rather than long exposition:
And that’s what I mean when I say “Unleash the Power of your Audience” – don’t shove “emotion” at an audience and expect them to care – supply the audience with triggers for emotion and they will bring it to the film. Tap into that well of common shared experiences that we all have and you can truly move your audience.
FimmakerIQ: Unleash the Power of Your Audience

RAW Timelapse
Tom Baurain provides a video tutorial for creating time-lapses from RAW using Adobe Bridge.
One of the reasons I love camera RAW is that you can recover a lot of detail, and there's really a lot of flexibility in post for timelapse.
VimeoRAW Timelapse Workflow Tutorial

More Indie Filmmaking tips from Edward Burns
The Screenwriting from Iowa blog collects together tips from Ed Burns on Indie filmmaking, based on the director's commentary of Nice Guy Johnny:
6) Don’t mourn what you don’t have & ask lots of favors.
fromiowaThe 10 Film Commandments of Edward Burns

Monday, May 09, 2011

YouTube offers more movie rentals

YouTube has announced it has partnered with Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Lionsgate Films, Starz, The Weinstein Company, and Magnolia Pictures, among others, to offer 3,000 new and catalog releases for rent. Most new releases start at $3.99 and library videos start at $2.99 and are viewable via PC or Google TV.

For most movies, viewers will have 30 days to begin watching their rental, and once they start watching the movie they will typically have 24 hours to finish.

Interestingly, you can embed movies on other sites. If a user who has not rented the movie views the embedded video, the embedded player will show the movie's trailer along with an overlay that users can click on to rent the full movie. (Let's see if it works below..)

As to quality, in their press release YouTube says that they support video in up to 4k resolution, however, "it is up to our partners to specify what video quality they provide." They go on to note that most movies will be in standard definition.

YouTube: Movies

[Well, it appears I did something wrong, as I managed to embed the trailer, but there's no "Rent Me" button appearing...]

Why I'm wary of GPU's

One of the things about getting older is you start to notice patterns; it seems like some ideas just keep coming around:

  • I might have missed the 3D movies of the 50's, but I did see the horror that was Jaws 3D in the 80's.
  • The new Push Pop Press interactive book is impressive with HD video, faster effects and it's touch screen interactivity, but it really doesn't add any new ideas that didn't exist in interactive books that were produced in the mid 90's.
  • And flying cars, well they keep coming around too...

So sometimes it's hard to get excited about an idea that looks like something you've seen before...

When Adobe CS5 came out, I was intrigued by the Mercury Playback Engine and it's support of GPU acceleration.

But the one thing that made me hesitate about diving into GPU's is good old Moore's Law. That and the fact that I remember back in the late 80's there was a period where there was a variety of add-on acceleration cards for Macs. We were told that the add-on cards would provide a way to improve computer performance independent of the processor. Except that within a year or two, CPUs increased performance, and the add-on cards mostly disappeared.

Sure, if you need the fastest system, and have the money, investing in GPU card's right now makes sense, but for those on a budget, will Moore's Law do in your GPU card before you know it? That's what I wondered.

Because of this, I was more than a little intrigued to see this article at ars technica which suggests that history may repeat itself:
The simple fact is that, with performance from integrated GPUs rising at a rapid pace, the discrete GPU market is about to start shrinking right out from under NVIDIA. Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge platform will feature an on-die GPU that begins to threaten the mid-range of the discrete market the way that Sandy Bridge threatens the bottom end; and the on-die GPU with AMD's Llano is rumored to be some three times the performance of Intel's Sandy Bridge.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it
- George Santayana

arstechnicaLatest GPU market numbers spell bad news for NVIDIA

News From Here & There

Depth of Field
Israel Hyman at IzzyVideo explains why he thinks control of depth-of-field is a major part of "the film look";
It directs the viewer’s attention. When we strategically place things out of focus, the viewer doesn’t pay attention to them. Viewers focus on the part of the image that’s in focus.
And explains how to accomplish it with different cameras.
IzzyVideo: Depth of Field in Your Video: Why and How to Use It via The Tao Colorist

Panasonic GH2 Zoom Mode
Luminous Landscape explains how the Digital Zoom EX Tele Conv mode crops the cameras 4608 x 3456 sensor to 1920X1080, which means:
This has significant implications, almost all of them positive. Firstly, no line skipping, binning, or digital interpolation are needed. It's as if the sensor was only 2MP rather than 18MP. As a consequence the image recorded has a crop factor of 2.6X over the full Micro Four Thirds format. The best way to think of this is being akin to the crop factor of APS-C over full frame 35mm; which in that case is either 1.5X or 1.6X.
They test it out and find it performs very well.
LuminousLandscape: Panasonic GH2 Extra-Tele Video Mode Revealed

Teaching Film
Emmy-winning director and cinematographer Jason Tomaric offers some tips on teaching the art of film:
2. Show your students - don’t tell them -  The “show, don’t tell” philosophy not only applies to filmmaking, but also lecturing.  Don’t just provide examples from movies that illustrate your point, but show scenes that do it incorrectly. Screen examples of good and bad composition; footage both properly and improperly white balanced; a scene that cuts on motion and a scene that does not, a scene well-acted and a scene over-acted.
SchoolVideoNewsTeaching Film: Visually

Luke Armstrong offers some tips on packing your camera and lenses for travel:
Put all your camera gear in a bag specifically designed to carry expensive electronic gear. They should be packed in such a way that there is little space for your items shift around. T-shirts are perfect space fillers and offer added protection and padding.
Matador: How To Pack Your Camera And Lenses For Travel

DVD Sales Keep On Falling
DVD sales fell 20% in the first quarter of 2011, suggesting that video streaming from Netflix and others may be having an impact on the business.
You Think?!
MashableThe Netflix Effect? DVD Sales Fall 20%

Who Wrote It?
A quote in a forthcoming biography of Robert Redford that he and Alan J. Pakula rewrote much of All The President's Men prompted Richard Stayton in the latest issue of Written By to do some extensive sleuthing. After all it was always assumed that William Goldsman wrote the screenplay, and won an Oscar for it.

Check this summary and read the online version of the article for an intriguing play-by-play. It's a good read, though knowing the failings of memory (see: The Beatles Anthology) and the chance that the author miss-interpreted what he was told, makes me wonder whether it may be an innocent error than an actual attempt to steal credit.

But independent of that, if you're going to read anything, read Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade." That's a great book about the movie business.
Amazon: Robert Redford: The Biography
Amazon: Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

Grading ARRI Alexa Footage

Finishing Artist and VFX Supervisor Dermot Shane dropped me an email about this short interview piece that he recently graded.  The piece itself is an interview with Scott Duncan talking about his passion for visual imagery and working with the Arri Alexa, but it was also shot with the Alexa, and Dermot reports that he really likes grading footage from the Alexa. 

Dermot offers some impressions on working with Alexa footage below.

Scott Duncan & Arri Alexa / in the moment from Michael Haldane on Vimeo.

Why I Like Working With ARRI Alexa Footage
- First the workflow is simple and clean, assembly took maybe one minute all up and I had a full resolution timeline that matched the off-line perfectly, so a good start to a session for sure.

- Second it was a joy to have the clean blacks, the lack of noise makes secondaries very easy to use, I can isolate color with precision, and without artifacts

- Third the skin tones feel "real" straight out of the box, just apply a LUT to correct to 709, and you are most of the way to a great image. If that's the image you want, it's there instantly.

- Last the latitude is impressive.

Breakdown Of The Three Groups Of Shots:

All the interview shots are untouched basically, log to lin LUT applied, and secondaries on the yellow & orange camera cases to reduce saturation, a soft roll off on the highlights in the sky behind him. I know the detail is a bit lost on the vimeo clip, but it's all there on my monitor.

The skintones are untouched, and there is no reason to touch them. I could've brought down the blue highlights, but that made the world outside the window seem pretty cold, and we decided to let it be "real." That was a good choice, but if we had decided to re-build the shots with neutral highlights I could have done it easily.

The shots in the studio are @ 1600 ISO. The clean blacks are really good; I didn't use nose reduction anywhere, on any clips. We went for a bit of a stylised feel for this stuff, beyond warm, and verging into monochromatic yellow, with blue highlights. This was mainly done in post [though] from the camera masters we could have created a million different looks.

The bike ridding shots were the most challenging; sun, rain, clouds, blue sky; you name it, I had it on the timeline. Here is where the super clean master was pushed, there is a ton of secondaries on sky's roads, trees, jacket, skin. The ability to precicly isolate the depth and width of a color is key, and that falls apart if there is significant noise; the edges tear, then you have to loosen up the isolation to compensate

I didn't really have many limitations with this camera, and that was good as a lot of these shots were retouched significantly!

How Does It Compares To Other Cameras?
It's really in a class of two; the ARRI Alexa and RedMX (+ color2) is the other. Both are great; there's more latitude with Alexa, more image with the RED. Going to HD? Alexa would be a good choice, shooting VFX plates for Cinemascope? I'd choose RED.

I have not had to yet, but I'm not worried about matching these two cameras...
- Dermot Shane

SEPIA Films: Dermot Shane
See also NotesOnVideo: Visual Effects for "A Shine of Rainbows"

Sunday, May 08, 2011

News From Here & There

GoPro Interview
Film and Digital Times interviews Brad Schmidt, head of the Media Department at GoPro and Rick Loughery, Director of Communications at GoPro about the history of the company. Interestingly, they came to digital comparatively recently:
RICK LOUGHERY: Nick started with a 35 millimeter film still camera that was worn on your wrist. And that grew into digital. It was through his own building and selling cameras. But the first cameras you wore on your wrist to take pictures of your buddy surfing.
BRAD SCHMIDT: It was almost like a Kodak disposable one, and we’d load up 35mm slide film into it. And the pictures came out great. And then the next generation was one that only recorded for ten seconds, and it looks kind of like old super 8. And that was only four, five years ago?
FDTimes: GoPro
Amazon: GoPro HD Helmet HERO Camera

Thinking of getting an iMac
There's been times I've thought of getting an iMac, but one of the things that turns me off is the thought that in a few years the computer will be way out of date, but you have to throw the screen out. Stephen Shankland reports that "when it get's old" you can turn the iMac into an external monitor:
Apple today published the official word on the subject: You can't use the new Thunderbolt iMacs as an external monitor with a DisplayPort cable. You can, however, do so with a Thunderbolt cable, which means a new MacBook or another new iMac could use it as an external monitor.
CnetWhy an iMac now is in the cards for me

Ed Burns Podcast
This podcast features filmmaker and actor Ed Burns as he discusses his new film, Newlyweds. Referred to as a “companion piece of sorts” to his previous work, Sidewalks of New York, which followed the interwoven lives and loves of six New Yorkers, Newlyweds takes place entirely in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City.
Tribeca Film FestivalMeet the Filmmakers: "Newlyweds"

Shooting in Low Temperatures
Canon has posted a couple of occasional reports from Phil Coates who is shooting in the Artic with the XF100 and XA10 camcorders. Shooting at -40ºC presents some interesting challenges:
Coates has also taken dozens of Canon batteries with him as it’s impossible to recharge them at such low Arctic temperatures. He explained: “I need this equipment to work in temperatures that are twice as cold as your average freezer. Little things – like being very careful I don’t breathe on a camera as I’m moving it around and avoiding exposing the cameras to significant changes in temperature – become very important.”
Canon: Canon performing in the Artic

Panasonic GH2 purposely broken?
It's been previously reported that there are problems with the HDMI signal out of the GH2 camera that makes it difficult/impossible to use digital recorders with the camera, and now Andrew Reid at EOSHD suspects it's intentional:
I believe Panasonic purposefully programmed the firmware to have a random cadence pattern, because HDMI outputs and formats are too well understood for it to be a genuinely accidental flaw.
Of course, the assumption is that this is done so that this consumer camera doesn't compete with other "professional" products. He goes on to say:
Consumer and professional broadcast divisions should operate fully autonomously (and that is the official company line) but clearly this isn't quite the case.
But it's difficult to know whether this is intentional, a technology limitation, or a case of a photography division not really understanding how to handle video. I suspect it's as likely to be either of the last two, as it is a case of an intentional limitation added after the camera was developed.
EOSHDHow a purposeful bug prevents 24p external recording on GH2

Swede Fest: the only film festival in the world dedicated to sweded films. A swede is a summarized recreation of a popular movie, and the term comes from the 2008 film "Be Kind Rewind". Unfortunately, the deadline is May 9th. Event will be held on May 14th at the Full Circle Brewing Co, Fresno CA.

How Not To Save Money
Walter Biscardi was contacted by a Producer who ran into a problem when he hired a college student to edit his film. I'm not sure I should capitalize the word Producer, as it's clear he probably hadn't produced anything prior to this. Or he'd been really lucky, as he not only tried to cut corners and costs, but he didn't plan or manage the project well.

Walter isn't that sympathetic to the producer either, believing that the guy made a mistake in hiring a college student.

But the mistakes weren't limited to that; the Produce hired an unknown quantity to meet an important deadline, yet didn't seem to follow the progress of the project (he didn't see anything until the final edit was sent to him) and he didn't allow any time to handle any problems.
Indie film producers never budget enough money or time for Post Production. So they hire the cheapest person they can find and they have all sorts of issues in the edit that they can’t seem to explain. This cycle runs like a broken record here in Atlanta yet the Producers don’t learn. Post Production generally costs at least 1/3 more than Production. More if you’re shooting on the cheap.
But while Walter says:
Sorry to be so blunt, but you made a very poor choice to choose such an unqualified person to cut a project for such high profile expectations.
I'd go further; he didn't know what he was doing, and he used people who didn't know what they were doing. That's not being cheap, that's bad planning.

It's the old adage; Good, Cheap, Fast - Pick two.

Philip Johnston at HD Warrior comments on this article too, and adds his own experience:
When I budget for any job the same money is divided equally to the filming and editing as they are both equally important, it’s all very well getting the best DP to film with a RED ONE if you cant then afford for a 4K editing facility.
BiscardiCreative: Post Production is NOT an afterthought
HD Warrior: The Producer and Post Production

[UPDATE changed pick three to pick two!]