Saturday, May 28, 2011

News From Here & There

Sony PMW-F3 Firmware Update Due Shortly
It may be almost impossible to buy a PMW-F3 right now, but the v1.10 free firmware update is expected very shortly according to @CineAltaNews

Canon 1Ds Mark IV in August?
Canonrumors thinks there will be a major announcement in August, and that it will be the 1Ds Mark III replacement, though the 5D Mark III would follow soon after.

While those waiting anxiously for an upgraded 5D Mark II may be disappointed by this news, the arrival of the 1Ds Mark IV should answer one question; what the video capabilities of the 5D Mark III will be. It's unlikely that the two cameras will be very different, so if the 1Ds Mark IV doesn't have RAW video,  Thunderbolt, or full HDMI out, then don't expect the 5D Mark III to, either. 1Ds Mark IV & 3 Lenses in August?

Working With Actors
Filmmaker Robin Schmidt interviews actor Henry Maynard about acting and how Directors can help actors. Robin also offers some insights of his own:
Talk to us! Talk about what you want from the scene and our performances individually, the feeling you want to engender – we need context. Discuss the character, age, work, hobbies. These are called ‘Given Circumstances’ [Stanislavsky] and if the actor has trained they’ll know about them. Some will be implicit in the text and some you can invent, if you do them together it will help you both to understand how you see the character. You can do a bit of guiding there and then; for example you may find your actor sees the character as an accountant and you see him as a hot air balloonist if you hadn’t talked about it and gone straight to filming you may have been frustrated by the interpretation.
WideOpenCamera: Develop Your Craft 1: Working With Actors

The Sparkle In Your Eye
Robert Nulph explains what Eye Lights are, and how to use them:
An eye light is a light that creates a small sparkle of light reflected from the eye's surface, giving sparkle to the subject's eyes. Without the eye light, the eyes would seem lifeless and unemotional. We would feel detached from the characters, because we couldn't see their expressions very well.
Videomaker: The Eye Light

The 12 Rules of Animation
Digital Arts explains the key aspects of animation and uses examples of character animation to explain them and how they can be applied:
  1. Squash and Stretch
  2. Exaggeration
  3. Staging
  4. Anticipation
  5. Motivation
  6. Secondary Action
  7. Overlap
  8. Follow-through
  9. Balance
  10. TIming
  11. Rhythm
  12. Camera Movement
Any questions?
DigitalArts: The 12 Rules of Animation

The Problem in the VFX Industry
Eric Roth, executive director of the Visual Effects Society has written an open letter that outlines the problems facing people that work in this part of the industry:
As globalization intensifies, the process of creating visual effects is becoming more and more commoditized. Many wonder if the current business model for our industry is sustainable over the long term. Indeed, multiplying blogs are questioning why artists are forced to work crazy overtime hours for weeks or months on end without health benefits and VFX facilities are forced to take on shows at a loss just to keep their pipelines going and their doors open (they hope).
Deadline.comVisual Effects Society Exec Director Eric Roth Slams Movie Industry For Terrible Treatment

Secrets of Independent Film
Elliot Grove explains the secrets of independent film:
4. Be original. But don't be too original.
As much as film executives say they want something original, they really don't. What they mean by 'original' is simply 'old wine in a new bottle.' They want a familiar genre or story or tried and true formula told in a completely original way. For example a rock and roll musical (familiar) about a man with a botched sex change operation (very original) called Hedwig and the Angry Inch. That works. 10 Dirty Secrets of Independent Film

Shortening Your Documentary
Sheila Bernard offers tips on how to shorten a project that gets out of size:
Consider a range of structural possibilities. With any film, but especially shorter ones, three-act structure isn’t your only option. Watch and map short films that you enjoy watching, to see both the content and the craft
MasteringfilmKeeping your documentary short… short

Kiefer Sutherland's web series "The Confession" judged a success
The Confession is a web series staring Sutherland that was produced by Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG) and screened on Hulu:
The good news for fans of The Confession — and for fans of web video in general — is that the project is already profitable. DBG CEO Chris Young told us in a phone interview that Hulu viewership exceeded its expectations. According to him, the average episode had a 95 percent completion rate, meaning viewers were watching all the way up to the credits — and the biggest complaint from the series was that episodes were too short, at six to eight minutes each.
Gigaom: Kiefer Sutherland Proves Online Video Can Be Profitable

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today's Sony NEX-FS100 Post

(only because I'm feeling a bit excessive...)
  • Shipping/Not Shipping?
    The reports that the NEX-FS100 was shipping seem to have been a bit premature. Paul Antico thought he was going to get his either today or Monday, but now he's been told it will be another week.
  • The NEX-FS100 vs. the Canon 5D Mark II
    Paul has also written up a pros and cons of the NEX-FS100 vs the Canon 5D Mark II. If you have a DSLR and are thinking of the NEX-FS100, give it a read. NeedCreative: Good-bye HDSLR for me! Sort of. A look at the Sony NEX-FS100.
  • Low light performance
    Andy Shipsides at AbelCine did an ISO test for the PMW-F3, and now he's repeated it for the FS100, finding even more amazing results. The F3 he rated as 6400 ISO at +18 db, while the FS100 rates "only" 4000 ISO at +18db. BUT it can go to +30db (16000 ISO) while +21 db = 6400 ISO. "The low light capabilities of the camera are amazing."
    Dynamic range: 10 steps
  • Low Light tests
    Mark Forman has posted a video on Vimeo showing the +12db and +18db performance: Vimeo: Sony NEX FS100U Prototype +12db and +18db test Forman Leitner

B & H: NEX-FS100U Camcroder only $4,999
B & H: NEX-FS100U (with 18-200mm lens) $5,599
B & H: Panasonic AG-AF100 Professional Memory Card Camcorder $4,795

Cine Gear Expo LA, last day for free registration

If you're in LA and planning to go to the Cine Gear Expo on June 3 or 4, today is the last day to register for free (it's $20 at the door.)

Cine Gear Expo offers artists and technicians the opportunity to discover the latest technology and techniques, get hands-on training, gain knowledge and skills from industry leaders, obtain the newest equipment, hear breaking industry news and network with peers and industry leaders all within a professional and comfortable studio environment.

Friday, June 3, 2011 - Hours: 4:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Saturday, June 4, 2011 - Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Location: The Studios at Paramount
Hollywood, CA 90038

Cine Gear Expo: Attendee Registration

News From Here & There

Shooting Diary
Danny Stack at Scriptwriting in the UK documents a day's shooting:
6.30am-8am Andy and Chris set up and fuss over the shots like the ARTISTES that they are. Dan and Chris get into character. Emma wires them up for sound. I walk around with an important blue folder to make it look like I know what I'm doing. Liquid Lunch: The Shoot!

I love the "I walk around with an important blue folder to make it look like I know what I'm doing" line so much, it reminds me of these tips on How to Be a Motion Picture Director, from Marshall Neilan who was an actor and director active between 1912-1937
Q. How should a director direct?
A. That depends upon the importance of the visitors on the lot who happen to be watching him. How to Be a Motion Picture Director

More on the Sony NEX-FS100
Paul Antico, who expects to get his new NEX-FS100 today or Monday, writes about why he decided to get one and compares the pros and cons to the Canon 5D Mark II:
I think the pros vastly outweigh the cons here. The major issues I have with the 5D is the lack of proper sound (requiring double-system sound and syncing which slows things down), so-so performance in extremely low light (the noise is very digital looking and not pleasing), and the lack of detail in the image and aliasing caused by line skipping. The Canon HDSLRs really are missing lots of picture information, but more importantly (as the 5D2 still looks very good), aliases a lot. 
NeedCreative: Good-bye HDSLR for me! Sort of. A look at the Sony NEX-FS100

Shooting with the Canon 5D Mark II
Stephen Alvarez talks about a recent project for NPR which he shot with DSLRs:
I’ve chosen to work in film with DSLRs for the simple reason that I came to this type of reporting as a still photographer. Moving from stills to video is complicated enough so I didn’t want to learn to see again with a new piece of equipment. I’ve spent nearly 20 years learning what my 24mm f 1.4 and 50mm f 1.2 look like. The DSLRs keep that acquired knowledge relevant. There is something reassuring about having a familiar visual tool when you are stepping off into a new medium.
DSLRNewsShooter: ‘Nashville: Up From Prostitution’ – an assignment for NPR filmed on 5DMkII

OS X 10.7 Lion in June
The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that Lion is being used for internal testing at Apple, and may be ready to ship at the World Wide Developer's Conference in June.

So does it arrive before Final Cut Pro X, and does this mean you'll have to upgrade to Lion to install Final Cut Pro X? Apple did say it would run on Snow Leopard at the SuperMeet...
TUAW: Rumor: Lion near to going live

Sony says wrong about Digital Projectors
Engadget prints a response from Sony Digital Cinema about problems with digital projectors and misuse of 3D lenses when projecting 2D movies. The article states that:
Notable items on the list are that the Sony system does not alternate between two images rapidly, changing the lens takes less than 20 minutes, the RealD 3D filters only reduce light output by 20% (not 85%)
I'm not sure that this statement:
It takes less than 20 minutes for a trained technician to change the lens.
Sony has a system in development to make the change even simpler.
makes me more or less convinced that theaters are doing it.
Engadget: Sony stands behind its digital projectors, claims the only thing ruining movies is Russell Brand

Adobe SendNow
I'm actually not familiar with Adobe's SendNow service, but evidently you can send 100 MB files using Adobe SendNow’s free plan (and 2 GB files with SendNow Basic and Plus subscriptions). SendNow's Rising Star

Follow-focus for the Panasonic GH2
iDC Photo has released their follow-focus for the Panasonic GH2. Their follow-focus mechanism's have a very different design to more traditional units; I think they are more towards a shooter who is doing his own focusing, rather than if you have a second person pulling focus.
iDC Photo: iDC Follow-Focus for the Panasonic GH2

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Final Cut Pro X @ the May BOSFCPUG & BOSDLSR Mixer

The latest BOSFCPUG & BOSDLSR Mixer took place at Rule Boston Camera yesterday (Wednesday evening) and was a sold out event featuring a talk from Philip Hodgetts on Final Cut Pro X, and Yan Shvalb on Adobe CS5.5

Intense Guessing
Right at the beginning, Philip acknowledged that he knows nothing official about what's coming in Final Cut Pro X, other than what we all saw at the SuperMeet at NAB. He's been guessing and reporting on hints and whispers about Final Cut Pro X for more than a year now, and he's just a little bit obsessive about it "I like a mystery" he said. He even got a 720p copy of a video of the SuperMeet presentation, and went through it with a fine-toothed comb, catching bits that just flashed by for the rest of us.

It's pretty safe to say that the only people that know more about Final Cut Pro X are the actual beta testers and Apple employees, and few of them are talking.

The most important things about Final Cut Pro X according to Philip: it's rewritten from the ground up, it's 64 -bit, it abandons QuickTime, and makes wide use of Meta Data. It will also use Grand Central Dispatch (so all the processor's cores will be used) OpenCL and ColorSync (hopefully solving color issues that currently exist.)

Philip had only one recommendation about hardware; get as much RAM as you can, though he also mentioned that it won't run on early Core Duo Macs. It will run on Core Duo 2.

Dan Bérubé addresses the crowd

Bye Bye QuickTime
Final Cut Pro X doesn't use QuickTime; it's built on AV Foundation, which is the same toolkit as iMovie for iPhone is built on; though not regular iMovie, which he says is still built on QuickTime. This is also, according to Philip, one of the reasons why Final Cut Pro X is NOT iMovie on steroids. Final Cut Pro X also makes use of the graphics development environment Quartz Composer.

Even though QuickTime is gone, you'll still be able to use .mov files; though as he said, you shouldn't be using .mov files for distribution anyway.

Third Party Software
Any existing third party plug-ins that are 32-bit will have to be changed and recompiled to work in Final Cut Pro X. This is evidently a comparatively easy change for developers. He thinks FX Plug Filters will survive, but FX Script will probably not.

Meta Data and Projects
Philip's "thing" is Meta Data, and he's pleased to see that Final Cut Pro X uses Meta Data. Uses it so much, that it actually replaces some features in the current version of Final Cut; like Bins. It also seems to do away with the idea of Projects, and saves everything in a database. Keywords replace Bins. Tools for adding keywords easily have been added, and content analysis will scan content during ingest, identifying shots with two people, one person etc.

Is this a good thing?
Philip is very upbeat about most of Final Cut Pro X, but one thing he's concerned about is the lack of hard audio tracks. What happens when (if) you export a project to a sound editor? How do you link to SoundTrack Pro? Does SoundTrack Pro still exist?

Several things were shown briefly or only hinted at, so he couldn't really tell what the impact of those features might be. The Magnetic Timeline looks like it would be great at the beginning of creating a project, but might cause problems as things get locked into place and you're making small changes.

Gone in 30 days
He's pretty sure Log and Capture is gone; if you are still editing with tape, you'll need to use another tool to get the video in. Gone is the dedicated viewer; he doesn't see that as a bad thing, and I can see where he's coming from; do we really need to look at one window, then switch to another? The only time I can see that is when doing color correction...

The Unknown
While Apple talked about Resolution Independence, they didn't talk about Frame Rate Independence; he hopes that it supports this. If Projects are gone, how do you move Sequences (or "projects") from one machine to another?

Philip's not sure about the status of the other applications. He thinks there's a good case for Motion and SoundTrack Pro to continue, and he suspects they'll be included in the $299 price. He also thinks that Compressor will continue. He thinks the Media Manager is gone.

He's not nearly as sure about Color, because he thinks most of the features the average user wants from Color are now in Final Cut Pro X, and anyone who wants more is probably already using something else like Resolve.

DVD Studio Pro is gone, and no, there won't be a Blu-ray Stuido Pro.

Educated Guesses and Rumors
There will be more sophisticated animated titles in Final Cut; you won't need to use Motion for animated titles. He's pretty sure that Gesture Support will be included, and you'll want to get a trackpad, though he does believe what Randy Ubillos said at SuperMeet that you can do everything from the keyboard.

He's also pretty sure that there will be a SoundTack Pro.

In conclusion
Philip is excited and optimistic about Final Cut Pro X, even though it actually replaces some of the tools his company sells. For the pros that say it's just iMovie Pro he says no; it has a different architecture, and adds many, many features that iMovie lacks. For those who see it as a change in paradigm, I think he'd say that a) who said the old way is the right way?, and b) there may be only 100,000 people working in broadcast film and television in the world, but Final Cut Pro currently has over 2 million installs.

Rick Macomber takes a picture at the meetup

Adobe CS5.5
Unlike the SuperMeet in Vegas, Adobe did get to follow Final Cut Pro X, in the form of a short talk and demo by Yan Shvalb. Yan gave a talk at a previous meeting, and he always shows well crafted video that includes a lot of timelapses and special effects; many of which are so subtle you don't notice until he points them out.

Yan primarily demoed the features and operation of the Warp Stabilizer and the Camera Lens filter, two new tools in After Effects CS5.5.

Saying that he's tried nearly every stabilization tool that's available, Yan said that the new Warp Stabilizer is the best, and he demoed using it to remove motion, as well as Rolling Shutter from footage. He also demoed the Camera Lens filter, that makes it possible to add blur to video that looks more like it was created by a lens, rather than equally applied to an image by a blur filter.

The most interesting thing Yan said "I haven't shot interlaced for the past four years."

Show Your Shorts
The evening finished off with three shorts movies produced by audience members and a raffle (discussed in a previous post.)

Paul Antico showed the trailer for his "The Visualmakers" project, a documentary that is a stirring tribute to independent filmmakers. If the final project is half as good as the trailer, it'll be awesome! The Visualmakers - Preview/Trailer is here

Rick Macomber showed One Day on Earth 10-10-10, which was Rick's contribution to 10-10-10 One Day on Earth, a project that invited people to document the planet on one day. Rick went out and shot an interview and footage in two hours, then edited it together to create a really impressive - and heartbreaking - piece of story-telling. One Day on Earth 10-10-10

A third piece, a funny music video, was also shown, but unfortunately I missed the details about who made it, or even who was in it.

Philip Hodgetts
Total Training: Yan Shvalb
Boston Final Cut Pro Users Group: BOSFCPUG

Sony NEX-FS100, flavor of the month?

The NEX-FS100 is supposed to be shipping now - or early next week - and it certainly seems to be generating renewed interest and excitement.

Philip Johnston at HD Warrior, who has been a fan of the Panasonic AG-AF100, is getting an FS100, and may even sell his AF100. He's also just sold his Canon 5D Mark II. HDWarrior: Now filming 1080 50p as from June 2011 

Omar Sattaur took a look at both the FS100 and the AF100, and he's not too sure which is better; the lack of built-in ND filter, and a single memory card he thinks are the FS100's two biggest problems: Sony FS100 VS Panasonic AF101

Steve Landon-Smyth while acknowledging that the FS100 is not good for ENG work, thinks it is a good choice for those that can't afford the PMW-F3 or a RED. He tweeted:
Unlike HDSLR the FS100 outputs full res image out HDMI. Up 2 RGB 444 8bit. Still not HD-SDI 10bit but much less $$$
FS100 will output SMPTE timecode out HDMI. Aja is working on reading that data in order to convert frame rate 2 what was shot

Last night while speaking 2 the biggest 5DmkII fan and supporter about HDSLR accessories, his comment 2 me "buy the FS100".

I've seen screen grab analysis between FS100, 4/3 sensor, and full frame sensor (HDSLR). FS100 wins. No contest.

Paul Antico at NeedCreative has an FS100 on order, and compares it to the AF100:
AF100 can look good in certain situations (see #TheVisualmakers hotel footy) but FS100, F3 beat it overall

UPDATE 5/27 -
Paul Antico has now written a long post about the FS100, listing the pros and cons compared to the Canon 5D Mark II.
NeedCreative: Good-bye HDSLR for me! Sort of. A look at the Sony NEX-FS100

B & H: NEX-FS100U Camcroder only $4,999
B & H: NEX-FS100U (with 18-200mm lens) $5,599
B & H: Panasonic AG-AF100 Professional Memory Card Camcorder $4,795

The luckiest man in the world

There's nearly always a raffle at the BOSFCPUG meetings, and last night there were two; the usual raffle of interesting things - software and books - and then a second raffle for a copy of Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium (aren't you sorry you weren't there?)

For the first raffle, everyone got a numbered ticket, but for the big prize, you had to fill out a card from Adobe, and the winner was to be drawn from that stack of cards.

So the first raffle proceeded through the prizes, with Loren Miller pulling tickets from a bag, and Dan Bérubé announcing and giving out the prizes. When they got to the big prize Dan announced they were drawing for it, and Loren immediately pulled out another number and called out "167!"

"No! no!" said Dan. "We're picking the winner from the filled out cards!"

Oops! No prize for 167.

But then they pull the card and read out the name, and SURPRISE! it's the same guy that had the ticket numbered 167! Talk about the luckiest man alive, what are the chances of that??!!

I wonder if he bought any lottery tickets afterwards. I would have.
[With 100 people present there was a 1/100 chance he'd get picked the first time, and 1/100 the second time. So it was a 1/10,000 chance - Ed]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

News From Here & There

Pushing The CineStyle Picture Style
During a recent shoot Tony Reale pushed the new Picture Style from Technicolor to the limits:
Instead of white balancing to 5600K or higher, I set my white balance at 3200K which resulted in a very blue image. Usually this would be unusable if not very difficult to color correct in post. But as you can see, I was able to get some really great results using CineStyle.
NextWaveDV: Pushing the limits of the CineStyle Canon 5D MkII color preset

"I'm Melting!!"
Yes, I'm biased against 3D; I think it's an interesting occasional experience - like going on an amusement ride - but not something I want to do every day. BUT, I do try to point to the positive stories as well as the negative ones. This isn't one of them.

Several recent movie releases suggest that attendance at 3D screenings of movies are declining (when Avatar was released, the 3D screenings generated much more money than the 2D screenings; of course, the 3D screenings are inflated by the increased ticket prices.) But that seems to be changing, the latest example is the latest release in the Pirates franchise:
According to Len Klady’s Sunday reporting, 66% of Pirates 4 screens were 3D screens and Disney told him that just 48% of the box office gross came from those screens.
MovieCityNews: Pirates & 3D

The Three Reasons Screenplays Fail
The Lone Gun Manifesto lists and explains the three reasons that screenplays fail [there's just three?! - Ed]
In my opinion they fall into three categories:
Poor research,
Poor preparation,
Inability to tell a story cinematically.
LoneGunManifesto: Sunday Blog: Why Screenplays Fail

Redrock Micro micro 3D rig
The micro3D support rig is a side-by-side (SxS) support rig for two-camera stereoscopic production. It is designed for smaller format cameras (the Canon XF305 shown in this promo video) and price-conscious stereographers. Like all Redrock equipment, the micro3D carries a lifetime warranty.
It's onsale now for $895 without the shroud, and $995 with.
B & H: Redrock Micro 2-083-0010 Micro3D S x S Rig (No Shroud)
B & H: Redrock Micro MICRO3D SXS RIG - w/SHROUD

Redrock Micro micro3D 3D support rig from Redrock Micro on Vimeo.

Sony NEX-FS100 Shipping

It appears that the Sony NEX-FS100 is now shipping, according to a tweet this morning from Need Creative's Paul Antico;
Excited to hear Sony #fs100 has shipped and I should have it Fri or Tues from @rulebostoncam. Impeccable service
B & H: NEX-FS100U Super 35mm Sensor Camcorder (Body Only)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Featuring Philip Hodgetts on FCP X and Yan Shvalb for Adobe on "What's New in CS5.5 Production Premium"

TIME: 6:30PM - 9:00PM (Doors open at 6PM)
VENUE: Rule Broadcast Systems, Inc., 395 Western Ave, Boston, MA

COST: $6.00 Admission (Includes Refreshments and ticket to Big Dig Raffle).
**$10 Admission at DOOR if not registered prior to Event.

The Gear Thing

I often tell a story about how years ago at Siggraph I first saw one of John Lasseter's early Pixar pieces, and what impressed me about it was not the quality and realism of the 3D animation, but the story it told. There were other 3D shorts shown at that event that were more complex - even more realistic - but none were as compelling as Knick Knack.

With that in mind, I find it ironic to see some recent threads of discussion about gear vs. story. Much of this discussion seems to be against the gear centric orientation that many sites - including this one - have. As one of those sites, I guess I'm being defensive, but let me say this:

Story is the most important thing.

BUT 90% of the time, when you're working on other people's stuff, story is not the most important thing; it's keeping the client happy.

It's about working efficiently, and getting the job done to their expectations.

It's also about making them comfortable; and part of that is just selling yourself. All of those factors can complicate the "story vs gear" question, because while you might be able to make an incredibly compelling piece using a black and white 8mm film camera, you might still find it very difficult to get a job shooting a wedding or promotional piece with that camera. One person in a hundred might be able to do it; but the rest of us probably won't.

Clients are terribly nervous about things they don't understand. Three years ago, if you showed up with a $1,000 handicam your clients would be very worried. Today, it's probably possible to show up with a $1,000 Canon T3i and clients will not question it; as long as they think you have a Canon 5D Mark II.

We are too, perhaps, truly living in a new time for filmmaking. Today DSLRs that cost less than $1,000 can produce video rivaling that produced by much more expensive gear. That wasn't true ten years ago.

Doing work for other's is a complicated business. You'd like to think its about making the best piece of work you can, but most clients will do everything possible to resist anything new and unusual. If they want something new and amazing, it's often because they want something new and amazing just like this other thing they just saw on YouTube.

I know there's a bunch of Gear vs. Story debating going around, but IMO gear allows me to "get the shot" that helps the story.

Hurlblog: The Story is What Matters
Camera|DSLR: Gear VS Story | Great Words of Great Film-Makers

Knick Knack, Pixar

Sony NEX-FS100 Available Soon

There have been multiple reports that the Sony NEX-FS100 would be available around June, but now Cinema5D is providing an unsourced report that it "might be out in a couple of days."

Even if true, if the availability of this camera follows other models, they will trickle out over the next few months, and are unlikely to remain "in stock" at any dealer for some time.

B & H: NEX-FS100U Camcroder only $4,999
B & H: NEX-FS100U (with 18-200mm lens) $5,599
Cinema5D: Sony FS100 available in the next days

News From Here & There

Sony PMW-F3 Scene Files
Andy Shipsides at AbelCine has put together a collection of custom Scene Files for the PMW-F3.
With the wide range of adjustments available in the F3′s picture profile control, I was able to make several looks that you might find useful. Some are aimed at maximizing the range of the camera, while others are aimed at creating a specific look.
CineTechnica: F3 Scene Files from AbelCine

CineStyle Picture Style
According to Technicolor, their CineStyle Picture Style for Canon DSLRs has already been downloaded over 30,000 times.
Technicolor: CineStyle

Interview with Benjamin Eckstein
Boston based DP, Producer and Editor Benjamin Eckstein is interviewed by Israel Hyman of Izzy Video:
I like to think of most of my work though as documentary-focused, with an advertising spin. Which is to say that I like to work on stories of people and companies, etc. but I like to think of interesting visual ways to tell those stories and I find I get a lot of inspiration from advertising in different ways to do that.
IzzyVideo: Meet the Shooter: Benjamin Eckstein
Benjamin Eckstein

London SuperMeet
Coming June 23rd at The Great Hall, Kensington Conference & Event Centre. Early bird tickets are on sale now.

Sell! Sell! Sell!
Chris Thilk tells filmmakers that they have to sell their product, they can't just sit back:
By engaging in consistent activities to promote the movie - and themselves - beginning around the time the film begins shooting or even prior to that filmmakers can begin to build up an audience. That means talking to anyone and everyone they can about the movie, about what they hope to accomplish with it, about why they made it and everything else.
Ed Burns, who's been spending the past couple of months promoting his latest indie movie, and who tweeted about this article adds:
"The reality is that people need to see the movie in order to appreciate it." don't be bashful, go push your movie
-Ed Burns
Tribecafilm: Getting Your Marketing Hands Dirty

2D Movie Projection suffering because of 3D?
It seems that the cool Sony Digital Projectors have a dirty little secret; when projecting a 3D movie, a special polarized lens is added, which should be removed when showing 2D movies. If they aren't, the movie brightness drops by 50%, but many theaters are leaving them in place when projecting 2D movies because it takes time to remove the lens, and is a skilled job.
If you’re in a theater playing a digital print (the marquee at the ticket booth should have a “D’’ next to the film’s name), look back at the projection booth.If you see two beams of light, one stacked on top of the other, that’s a Sony with the 3-D lens still in place.
Boston.comA movie lover’s plea: Let there be light

Quick Links
  • Motion Capture at the Oscars: Should the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences consider motion capture as animation or live action? Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," raises the question again. OscarBlog‘Tintin’: Steven Spielberg animates an Oscar debate
  • White Balance: Kurt Lancaster explains why White Balance is important and how to do it with Canon DSLRs when shooting video: Masteringfilm.comWhite balance with Canon DSLRs — not as easy as video
  • Michael Bay and James Cameron talk 3D: some notes from a conversation about 3D the two had at a recent screening. "The two powerhouse directors disagreed about film vs. digital (Bay is still old school anamorphic) and the technical limitations of 3-D (Cameron is far more forgiving)" Animation World Network: Bay and Cameron Talk 3-D 
  • Creating A Viral Video: Steve Stockman offers suggestions on how to create a guaranteed viral video, though the best advice he gives is really the last; shoot what excites you, keep shooting, and hope you get lucky!: How to Create a Viral Video, Guaranteed!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lenses for the Sony PMW-F3

At last weeks Pub Night at Rule Boston Camera, Sony PMW-F3 specialist, Joe Schimizzi, spoke at some length about lens options for the PMW-F3, and the PL lenses Sony is selling with the camera.

The PL Lenses
When Sony announced the PMW-F3, they also announced a “Kit” version that includes three Sony PL lenses. These fixed focal length 35mm, 50mm & 85mm, T 2 lenses are not sold separately.

Joe opened by saying that lots of people ask why Sony won’t sell the lenses separately, when in truth they are; “but you get a free camera with your purchase!” he joked.

Another question they often get asked is; “who is making the lenses?” Acknowledging that the lenses aren’t made in a Sony factory, Joe said that the lenses are completely Sony designed “from soup to nuts, from the very front element to the back element.” He went on to add “Do they manufacture them in the Sony plant? No, […] we use somebody else’s shop. But they wouldn’t want to speak to those lenses being their own children. They’re ours. We literally just use their shop for the ability to manufacture them, which is why they are Sony lenses.”

An objective of the design of these lenses was to create good quality lenses that weren’t too expensive. Sony focused on geometry; making sure that, edge to edge, the lenses have a minimum amount of barrel distortion and focus fall-off.

Joe observed that lens design is as much an art as it is a science, and “all the science, all the paperwork all the math, all the equations, they don’t do anything for you. It gives you an idea of where you’re going to land but until you physically manufacturer and coat that lens, you don’t know [what you;’ll get.]”. He went on to say that this is the reason that lenses remain expensive, and haven’t seen the “smaller, faster, cheaper” trend that has been pushing camera design.

Comparing the Sony PL lenses to others, Joe said “it’s absolutely comparable to a Compact Prime. If you’ve got two brand new lenses that are coming off the line that are 100% on spec I say that they’re kissing cousins.”

Chromatic Aberration Correction
When building lenses, chromatic aberration can be very expensive to deal with, requiring the use of sub-micron coatings. One way Sony has found to save money in the lens design is to reduce chromatic aberration inside the camera.

When reducing chromatic aberration, the camera analyzes the high-lights and performs a sort of edge detection, which is similar to focus peaking. This technology originally appeared in the Sony PDW-F800 and worked with some Fujinon and Canon lenses.

The PMW-F3 “talks” to the Sony lenses, as well as Cooke 5/i series lenses and ARRI LDS lenses. With the Sony lenses, this enables the camera to reduce chromatic aberration by 50%. Sony has not yet been able to gauge the performance of the chromatic aberration reduction with Cooke lenses.

Lens Mount
The PMW-F3 has a native “F3 mount”, which will be used for future zoom lenses, and comes with a PL adapter that plugs into that F3 mount. Joe demonstrated removing the lens and the PL adapter, and pointed out that because you have an energized optical block it’s going to suck dust that attracts particles, so you need to be aware of this and think about cleaning it regularly (he recommended a blower brush.)

The PL mount has two data connects; one at 12 o’clock for the Cooke interface, and one at 3 o’clock for ARRI LDS. The Sony lenses use the Cooke interface. The lenses talk to the camera, allowing it to tell you the iris and focus information, something that it won’t be able to do with other lenses.

Also, the HD-SDI signal has the lens meta data embedded in it, and this is also written to the XDCAM SxS card as part of the XML data. Most users don’t need to know that information, but it can be useful for high-end VFX work

Joe Schimizzi

PL Lens Issues With Other Cameras
There have been several reports on the web of the Sony PL lenses not working with cameras other than the PMW-F3. Sony is aware of this problem, though they say that it seems to occur on a lens-by-lens / camera-by-camera basis; a lens may fit on one ARRI Alexa or RED, but not on another.

The official line is that the lenses perform exactly to specification; they work on the PMW-F3, and on any other Sony PL camera, “if you take those and put them on another camera, I never said that wasn’t going to happen, it’s also why we don’t sell them separately for their own sake.”

But, Joe denied that Sony intended to make the lenses proprietary, rather it is a problem that “once you get to the level of microns worth of tolerance, it’s very hard to have perfect marriages with everything.” It may also be because ARRI and RED won’t share with Sony – a competitor – their lens mount specifications, making the PL standard sound like one of those standards that’s not really a standard.

He did add that Sony has been looking at the issue, though Sony is not known for quick turn-around on such things, and the recent disruptions in Japan have further delayed any response.

What About The Zoom Control?
Someone asked why the camera has a zoom control on it, and Joe explained that another goal of the camera was that it be part of the EX family – essentially the EX3 with a large sensor. For that reason, they always intended to produce a video lens similar to the one offered with the EX3.

They are working on that lens, which should be 18mm to 250mm (14:1), include stabilization and servo control, and have a minimum aperture from 3.5 (at 18mm) to 6.3 at 250mm. When asked, he said that creating a fixed minimum aperture would have substantially increased the cost.

They are currently testing prototypes, and expect the lens at the end of the year, or early 2012. With the lens attached, the PMW-F3 will “look like an EX1 that hit the water and swelled to about 3 times the size”

There is another very short zoom lens being developed which should be availablein July. It’s an 11 to 16mm zoom, which is the equivalent of walking 10 to 12 feet, and has a minimum aperture of T 3.5. It may actually be sold as a “variable focal length” lens rather than a zoom lens, and Joe thinks it will be an excellent tool for Steadicam use.

No pricing was given on the 14:1 zoom, but the 11 to 16 is tentatively priced at about $7,000, and both lenses will be sold without a “free” camera.

Adapters And Still Lenses
Joe talked briefly about the option of using still lenses – with the appropriate adapter – on the PMW-F3. He said that they offer a great way to round out your lens collection, but stressed that you should do lens tests and be aware of how you will be using your footage.

Still lenses he said, tend to breath more than video lenses (i.e. the focal length of the lens can appear to change slightly as the focus is changed.) This is often very small and may not be noticed, but if the image is being projected on a large screen, the effect can become more noticeable. “That’s not to say there’s not excellent lenses out there,” he said, but you should be aware of it, and test for important projects.

Joe concluded “your camera just records your image, your lens makes it.”

NotesOnVideo: Pub Night @ Rule Camera with the Sony PMW-F3
Rule Boston Camera

USB 2.0 vs. Firewire 800

I recently bought a couple of Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2 TB drives. These drives come with a USB 2.0 dock - or as they call it, an "Adapter" - which is the base the drive sits on, and provides power and I/O connections.

But you can also buy a Firewire 800 Adapter for $24 which lets you connect the drive through Firewire or USB. Since I have a MacBook Pro (with a Firewire 800 port) I thought it might be worth checking out to see if it improved the performance of the drive.

Switching a drive from one adapter to another is very easy; it simply unplugs from the bottom of the drive. Just make sure you dismount and power down the drive before you switch adapters.

As an experiment, I rendered a Final Cut Pro project on the drive while connected through Firewire 800, and then switched it to USB and repeated the test. I was a little surprised by the results:
Firewire 800 : 7:03
USB 2.0: 7:05
With a seven minute render, only 2 seconds were saved; and that 2 seconds are probably illusory because I was using my iPhone to time the process.

If you want to be able to connect a drive through the Firewire port, then get this adapter, but if you think it's going to improve performance you'll be disappointed.

Oh, one final thing, if you're shopping for these adapters make sure you get the right one; don't confuse the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk Desktop Adapter - Firewire 800/USB 2.0 STAE105, which works with the desktop drives, with the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Upgrade Cable FireWire 800 which works with portable GoFlex drives.

Amazon: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2 TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive $109.99
Amazon: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk Desktop Adapter - Firewire 800/USB 2.0 $23.49

Update 7:00 PM

A couple of readers have suggested that the render test wasn't a very good way to test the drive. While I agree it's not a good way to test the flat-out performance of the drive, I was trying to see if it would impact my day-to-day use of Final Cut Pro, rather than just seeing if one drive was faster than another.

However, to be fair, it's probably a good idea to see if there's a difference in other situations, so I did another test:
  1. Copying a 3.75GB file from the internal drive to the external drive
  2. Duplicating the same file on the drive using the Finder duplicate command
This did produce some measurable differences:
USB copy 1:45
Firewire copy: 1:10

USB Duplicate: 3:21
Firewire Duplicate: 3:07
So it does make a difference; I'm just trying to figure out if it would make a noticeable difference in my day to day work. Copying to another drive - unless it's also a Firewire drive - won't be improved. Also, Log & Transfer will probably not improve because I'll be importing through USB.

The one area where it might improve things is playing back multiple streams. The only problem is; how do I test and quantify that? If anyone has any suggestions on how to do so, let me know and I'll try some more tests!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Steadicam Smoothee Review

I've had the Steadicam Smoothee for a while now, and while I'd already posted some initially impressions, I've been meaning to finish up a more complete review. I guess I had problems deciding what to say about it; it does what it's supposed to do - it smooths out the video - but I have reservations because; it's large and attracts attention, the iPhone still has other limitations as a camera, and while it improves the iPhone performance quite a bit, it's not as good as a real Steadicam on a vest and arm [but then, did you expect it to be - Ed?!]

At $180, and the fact that it only works with the iPhone also factors into it. I think the problem is that it's not good enough for most pros, but it's probably too expensive for the casual user.

NotesOnVideo: Shooting with the iPhone 4
NotesOnVideo: Steadicam Smoothee Unboxing & Initial Impressions

B & HSteadicam Smoothee for iPhone 4 [$179.95]
Amazon: Steadicam Smoothee for iPhone 3GS [$179.95]
B & HSteadicam Flip Ultra Smoothee Mount  [$24.95] - not yet shipping

News From Here & There

Is Film School A Good Investment?
Jason Brubaker answers the question; "should you go to film school?" by interviewing filmmaker and film school graduate Seth Hymes about his experiences:
High Definition filmmaking equipment costs less than a semester at most film schools. The craft of filmmaking, from lighting, editing, shot composition, writing – all of it is available to learn on websites like yours, as well as other sites all over the net. And these days, most connections happen through the net. And further, many new filmmakers find their agents because they produce a short and get some heat on youtube, rather than meeting them in school.
This echoes what I heard from Philip Bloom at a DSLR workshop last year. Philip essentially said that he probably wouldn't recommend someone going to Film School either; he said they should buy a Canon T2i and start making films.
FilmingStuff: Should You Go To Film School?

Birger Engineering Canon EF mount for Panasonic AG-AF100 Delayed Again?
Originally expected to ship in February, then delayed to May, it appears that the Birger Adapter has been delayed again, according to a Tweet by Art Aldrich of
Does not sound like Birger adapter for Canon EOS to Micro Four Thirds will ship in May. Looking more like June, according to Erik Widding
Twitter: ArtAlrich
See also: NotesOnVideo: Birger Engineering Canon EF mount for Panasonic AG-AF100

Making Money
A few days ago Robin Schmidt wrote a rather scathing article about a video producer who was selling "Producer Credits" for a training DVD he was producing. Robin's had a few second thoughts, and offers some alternative ideas for funding original content: prides itself as the home of original web series online and the numbers are impressive. “Last year we had producers of shows making $500,000 a year on their Web series,” said Mike Hudack, chief executive and co-founder of “In 2011 we expect that number to hit $1 million for some producers.”  You share 50% of ad revenue with the site, a much more generous share than you could possible hope for with YouTube.
ElSkid: Making Money From Original Content

More on Crowd funding
While crowd funding was only a part of the financing, and a lot of the money came from more traditional sources, No Film School presents an interesting look at crowd funding used for the movie Iron Sky‘Iron Sky’ Releases Lesson in Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing

And if you go to the Iron Sky site, they have published details of their financing campaign:
We have secured about 6.0 million euros through traditional film funding channels like the Finnish Film Foundation, Eurimages, Hessen Film Invest, Screen Queensland, pre-sales etc. We are now aiming to cover 900,000€ of the budget with crowd funding: securing money from volunteers via merchandise sales, preorders and an upcoming investment possibility, which gives You a chance to take part in this movie project.
IronSkyCrowdfunding – The New Way to Finance Movies

Canon Back To Normal By June?
CanonRumors reports that Canon says it should have production problems resolved by June.
CanonRumorsCanon’s Supply Chain Back to Normal by end of June?

Mixed Feeling about After Effects Warp Stabilizer
The Warp Stabilizer is a video stabilization tool that's new in CS 5.5 and Andrew Reid at EOSHD took it for a spin and found that though it produces good results, he isn't too happy about how it sucks memory, requires you to learn After Effects (rather than use in Premiere Pro) and is slow.
EOSHDPagan Wedding on the GH2 / How I fell out of love with Warp Stabiliser

Film Look
In a fairly lengthy post Christopher Hughes looks at HDSLRs, shallow depth-of-field and "the film look," and concludes:
The notion that shallow depth of field creates a film look is as ridiculous as people claiming to be a Director of Photography just because they own a Canon 5D.
ChristopherHughesThe “Film Look” is more than an F stop

Working with ARRI Alexa in Post
If you're shooting in Log-C with the Alexa, this article from Oliver Peters explains different tools and techniques for post-production work: DigitalFilmsARRI ALEXA post, part 4