Archive for June, 2011

NoFilmSchool has a great post up with tutorial on ways you can remove those pesky DSLR hot pixels (or “stuck pixels”) from your precious footage in post-production, using Final Cut Pro. It’s worth noting that the method would work with Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer, or any other NLE that allows you to stack tracks and composite clips. Check it out.

Philip Bloom got a chance to beat up on Eric Kessler the other night, and of course they turned it into a camera test. Philip shot 300 fps Red Epic footage of Eric getting splashed with water, from all angles, over many many takes. I have to say, I knew that Eric was a long-suffering and kind man, but this stunt takes the cake. This is what gear nerds do in their spare time, and I wish I’d have been there for this little get together. Looks like fun! Watch below, and check Bloom’s blog for the full writeup.

Over at Petapixel I read about a new camera called AMP that uses a single lens, two beamsplitters, three internal sensors, and some clever algorithms to capture a very wide contrast range image in realtime. The three sensors are apparently capturing exposures with a four-stop difference between them, with the final result being a 17.5 stop contrast range in the prototype. The company is aiming for a 20-stop dynamic range capability in the production camera.

This tech is realtime capture, and differs from all the HDR videp techniques we’ve seen to date, which involve somehow capturing multiple exposures and blending them later in post. Of course, for some applications, control in post is preferable. I’m sure that Red Epic shooters would generally fall in that camp. What’s unclear about AMP is if you can also manipulate the data/exposure blending in post. They seem to indicate that in the FAQ, but they also say it’s a realtime solution. So it seems that you can do both.

Other info on the AMP camera: it will use Nikon F-mount lenses, stores “raw” data onto SSDs, and will offer an HDMI output. They claim to never compress the data, so I guess that means Uncompressed (good luck shooting anything longform on this camera). They have a target release date of “end of summer 2011″ for the Gen II camera, which will not be available for purchase and may not be available for rental. So it sounds like this is more of a tech demo than anything else, and they are either working towards releasing another camera later, or perhaps hoping some other big hitter will purchase their tech. We’ll see how this develops. In the meantime, you can see some of their HDR examples (many of which are “bad HDR”) in the video below:

I was fully intrigued by all this, until I saw their marketing slogan: “There’s no f/stopping us!” They even trademarked it. Yikes. Cool tech, but I’m going to have to call a groaner foul on that one guys. You can also peep that Petapixel link above for another video that discusses the tech they are using in the camera.

Steve Martin just blew the doors off everyone else with an early first-look tutorial of FCPX that goes in-depth on the features that professional editors care about. A must-read. Check it out over at Ken Stone’s FCP tutorial site.

Digital Rebellion (purveyors of fine FCP helper utilities) have also written an excellent FAQ that addresses key FCPx user questions, as well as a blog post on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of FCPX. Great info.

Short video that shows the internals of a Canon IS lens. Watch below.

FCPx Options for Editors

FCPx comes out soon, and here’s a short roundup of recent news and speculation on the new NLE release…

* FreshDV’s coverage of the FCPx announcement at NAB ’11 (for anyone who hasn’t seen the FCPx announcement yet)
* Scott Simmon’s Burning Questions about Final Cut X (a MUST read for editors)
* Larry Jordan’s April “It will not be ready for professional use” statement (which was later recanted)
* Videoguys Options for Final Cut Editors

Years ago I became fascinated with the subtle underscore and nuance you could add to a scene simply by your shot composition. I know most of this is pretty straightforward, but I wanted to take some time to lay out a few basics of visual language as it applies to shot composition and lens choice. The goal here is to understand the theory behind making certain decisions so that we can then know when and how to break those conventions to say something completely different. Perhaps you’ll pick up something if you are new at this, and for the old salts out there maybe it will be more of a reminder. For myself I like to go back and refresh information over, and over again. Heck that’s part of the benefit of writing, you have to dust the old brain off.

There is an entire litany of shots, each sometimes named differently in other regions of the country. Generally speaking, we move from full or long shots, in tighter to extreme closeups. The nomenclature is not the important thing here. Some conventions do exist, such as a medium closeup generally is framed around the sternum of the subject to the top of the head. However, the most important thing is that the crew is all on the same page as to what shot names are being used for a given production. That way when a director calls for a medium and it’s passed down the line from DP to Camera Op, everyone winds up with the same frame. Shot selection is all about establishing relationships either between the characters on screen, or a character and the audience. Lets try to wrap our mind around what shot selection tells our audience. The goal here is not to build a rigid set of rules or guidelines for filmmaking. Quite the opposite, if we know and understand our decisions and choices in shot selection and framing we can intentionally break those rules for a specific reason. However in order to do that effectively we must know why we are doing it and what we are saying. First let us examine shot size.

Generally, as we move closer to a character we establish a sense of relationship with them, and as a result we are connected more intimately with them as a character and what they are saying. We can also lend credibility or disbelief to certain characters as well, based on the shot size we use to frame them. Medium shots tend to lend to less connection with characters than closeups. So shot selection can become a tool first and foremost to tell our audience how we want them to connect emotionally with the characters we represent on screen. Lets look at the two frames below and evaluate strictly from the framing what we feel about the subject.

MEDIUM WIDE

MEDIUM CLOSEUP

By utilizing simple shot size we immediately feel a stronger connection with the same character in the second frame as opposed to the first frame. Interesting isn’t it? The next thing to consider is objective vs subjective framing. In addition to shot size the closer we come to eye line with a character, the more we are connected with them and become a “subjective” part of their world, a participant in what they are saying. We can move closer to or away from eye line on two different axis. We can move away either horizontally or vertically. Either direction achieves the same effect. The further away we move the camera from the eye line the more we move from an involved first person in the story, two a second person point of view and ultimately to an objective outside point of view or observer.

FIGURE 1

FIGURE 2


In the simplest form you can think of this as the character either engaging you as an audience member in Figure 1, or engaging another character in the scene Figure 2. Obviously this is a more nuanced dance in most scenes. However, where you place the camera on eye line between characters has the ability to project volumes of information about their on screen relationships, and the level of disclosure between both the characters and the audience.

The next element we should examine is lens selection when making these choices. I’m sure you are all aware of the basics. Wide angle lenses expand and open space, while zoom, and telephoto lenses compress space, and spatial relationships. Generally, a convention in filmmaking is that most people tend to utilize longer lenses for mediums and closeups. Why? That is the real question we want to understand here, if we can understand the reasoning we can steer clear of making default decisions and instead make informed, story-driven ones. The reasoning most people tend to use longer lenses on closeups is that, as we stated before there is a spatial compression that happens. As a result, facial lines are compressed which can be more flattering for a subject, also the BG to FG distance becomes compressed. As that space is compressed we perceive much less information about the BG, the result is a much less competing image. For the audience, most of the world surrounding the character is lost and we are left to focus more closely on just the characters themselves and what they are saying. However, what if context of the world around the character enhances the feeling of the character or underscores what they are saying? What if the relationship between two characters on screen is vitally important to that beat in the story? If that is the case then maybe a wide angle lens would speak a clearer language under that particular set of criteria. The following two shots offer a simple look at how lens selection subtly affects our perception of reality.

FIGURE 3

FIGURE 4


Compare the two figures above. What have we subtly established about their relationship to each other SIMPLY by changing our focal length? In Figure 3, we are looking at around a 20mm lens. The foreground figure seems slightly imposing in the frame, compared to the man in the gray suite. Their size differential is magnified, and the shared space between the two characters expanded creating a sense of disconnect and distance. The situation can be made to feel imposing, or perhaps threatening, the dialogue, art direction, and everything else can further define the tone of the scene. There is also more visual information translated to the viewer about the world the characters are in. That may be important, or unimportant, it’s a decision that should be made based on the scene, the characters, and the story. Figure 4 clearly creates a closer relationship between the two characters. Their eye line is on a more even plane, and the tighter 85mm lens has compressed the space between them. They both now stand close to equals in the frame. The shared personal space between them brings a sense of connection to the frame. Additionally, the spatial compression is removing visual information about the world around them. There is much less context within the frame. Therefore, our eye can be brought to focus more specifically on the main character, leaving the world outside behind. This may be fine in most cases. However, what if the script calls for a scene between two men where one man feels trapped by his work situation and wants to find a new job but can’t bring himself to leave? Maybe one approach may be to overwhelm a very intimate moment between friends with an overwhelming sense of the outside world being ever present, constantly seeking to invade the conversation. As always there are a million different ways to solve a problem. Simply having a grasp of the fundamentals allows us to arrive at workable solutions quicker. Next lets examine spatial relationships.

As we stated earlier we can use lens selection to compress or expand the space between characters in a scene. We can also use the positioning of characters through blocking or shot composition, to add additional information about the scene. Take for example, the rule of thirds. Basically stated the rule of thirds says that objects are most balanced and aesthetically appealing when framed along one of the thirds of the frame. For a full run down on thirds you can read this article here. Now this is where things start to get fun. If we understand why thirds is a rule and what it does to our shot composition we can then know when it’s okay to break that convention. What if the scene represents the antithesis of balance and harmony? In that situation composing a shot away from thirds may make more sense. Aesthetically it may not be the most appealing but, is creating a single aesthetically appealing image the goal here? Or is it about telling an effective story? To tell the story more effectively means we need to use all the tools at our disposal to communicate with our audience. Knowing this convention informs us of why it works. Therefore, we know we can break it to create an unbalanced frame. While that frame may be “less appealing ” it may in fact add depth and information to the story. Arming ourselves with this information will help inform our decision. Let’s look at some unconventional framing techniques and examine how our perception of the character is altered.

 

FIGURE 5

 

FIGURE 6

 

FIGURE 7

 

FIGURE 8

 

Here we move from the most conventional framing of Figure 5, to a less conventional one in Figure 8. What does each frame tell you about the character? What does it hide or reveal? The point is that based on a given scenario any of those compositions may be the correct solution. The important thing is to know why a rule exist and what you are saying when you break it. So the next time you setup a shot composition or make a lens choice pause for just a second and ask yourself one thing, “Why did I do that?”

Crews.TV takes a look at the FS100

The Crews.TV folks got a look at the FS100 recently, and they have some thoughts on the camera in comparison to a Canon 5D DSLR. That may seem like an odd comparison to make, but it makes a lot of sense to me…the FS100 will likely be the camcorder that a lot of DSLR shooters will step up to, to alleviate some of the pain and compromises of DSLR video acquisition.

In the blog post, they talk about the weak consumer HDMI connectors (a constant pain for professional use, and something to consider when weighing the purchase of a $4,999 FS100 vs the $13,960 PMW-F3). They also mention that current FS100 brochures indicate delicious RGB 4:4:4 output from HDMI…even though all the specs I’ve read seem to indicate 4:2:2 output only. If the former proves to be true, that is a very intriguing possibility for tethered external recorders on this affordable camera body.

A little over a year ago at NAB 2010, we ran across a very interesting iPad app in development. It was called Gradiest, and it’s a color-correction app on the iPad that allows you to control grading features in your NLE wirelessly. Well it’s finally available, though not for all NLEs.

The app currently works with Cineform First Light, and I’m told that future NLE support is in development. Gradiest is currently available in the Apple App Store for $80.

For an overview of how Gradiest works, watch this user-created video:

Thursday, June 23 will be the second-annual London Supermeet, get your registration in early before the event sells out. Detailed info follows…

2nd annual FCPUG London SuperMeet
Where? – THE GREAT HALL, KENSINGTON CONFERENCE & EVENT CENTRE
When? – Thursday, 23 June, 2011 Doors open 16:30 for SuperMeet Digital
Showcase featuring 15 vendors and PLENTY OF NETWORKING – SuperMeet 19:00 – 23:00
How Much? £15.00 per person plus ticket fee. £10.00 for Students and Teachers with valid ID plus ticket fee. £20.00 per person at the door. Ticket will include 2 raffle tickets.

Agenda highlights
- Secrets of Final Cut Pro – Larry Jordan
Final Cut Guru Larry Jordan joins us to present the inside tips to Final Cut Pro. He’s working on his presentation now and will let us know more in a couple of weeks. Cool stuff about Final Cut 7? A first look at Final Cut X? Exciting plug-ins or hardware? He hasn’t told us.

- World premiere of a new short film produced by Red Giant Software – Simon Walker
Apple Certified Master Trainer Simon Walker will show the world premiere of a new short film produced by Red Giant Software

- “Finishing in the Third Dimension” – Demystifying Smoke on Mac OS X: – Joe Billington
Joe Billington will rock the SuperMeet with a fun and informative presentation using Autodesk Smoke 2012

- Davinci Resolve 8 – Alexis Van Hurkman
Version 8 is here! And Alexis Van Hurkman will discuss how, in the last nine months, DaVinci Resolve has changed his color correction practice.

- GenArts Sapphire Visual Effects – Todd Prives
An exciting world premier announcement. GenArts will also be showcasing a project produced by local wedding videographer Alan McCormick using GenArts plugins for Final Cut Pro

And of course, the World Famous Raffle valued now at over £24,000.00

A newcomer to Cine Gear LA was Tessive, and they were showing off a lens filter called the Time Filter. This tool acts as a global shutter for digital cinema cameras, smoothing motion blur and improving the 180-degree shutter look. Not only that, the Time Filter also alleviates CMOS sensor issues related to the rolling shutter, so jello and skew are effectively solved. It’s a very intriguing piece of technology, and we were very excited to check it out. See for yourself below.

Tessive

At Sound Devices Cine Gear booth, we got a thorough introduction to the new Pix 220 and Pix 240 audio/video field recorders. Watch below.

SoundDevices

Cine Gear 2011 – Zeiss

We dropped by the Zeiss booth at Cine Gear to chat lenses with Rich Schleuning and answer some common questions about the Compact Prime lenses. Watch below.

Zeiss

At Redrock‘s Cine Gear booth, Brian Valente gave us a shipping date update on the microRemote and also showed off their affordable side-by-side 3D camera rig. One of the options for the microRemote that caught my eye was the wired thumb controller. Check it out below.

RedRock Micro

Cine Gear 2011 – Zacuto

Zacuto was showing off a few handy accessory updates at Cine Gear 2011, and we stopped by to get a demo from Jens. Watch below.

Zacuto