Archive for January, 2012

So the other day I noticed a new product on the market called 5DLeaks…it’s a $20 3GB download of “light-leak” footage that you can overlay on your video tracks while editing. The result, when you use a composite mode like “Screen,” is an organic, low-contrast softening of the image, and gentle play of flares and light across your video. It’s a little softer and gentler than the standard Artbeats Film Clutter look, but has the same effect. Used sparingly, it can be an incredibly effective way to add a filmic quality to your edit. And for $20, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

If you don’t have $20, or want to do a little testing first, there are other options. Some time ago, I mentioned a free light leaks download from filmmaker Jesse Rosten. That free download is still available, and are the very same light leaks he used in his beautiful short “Growing is Forever.” Here’s another example of similar style light leaks in use, on a slightly more NSFW clip (it’s pretty tame, but you’ve been warned).

If you are the do-it-yourself type, you can make your own light leaks very simply. The process with an interchangeable lens camera (like a DSLR) goes like this:

1. Set up the camera in a dark room. You want this to be a clean, dust-free environment.
2. Set the ISO or gain down to the lowest possible setting. This minimizes noise in the blacks.
3. Remove the camera body cap, exposing the image sensor.
4. Turn the camera into video mode and hit Record.
5. Aim a flashlight at the camera, playing the light across the image sensor.

That’s it! Very simple to make, and the process is fun.

If the light is too bright, get a smaller light or back it away from the camera. If the light is too dim, use a brighter light source, or increase the gain/ISO. You can play with different colored lights, modify the white balance to either match the light source or oppose it, or play with objects between the light and the sensor. If you do this on your average camera or DSLR, you’ll see some color and gradient banding in the footage, due to the fact it originates in an 8-bit codec. So for best results, use a camera that offers a better codec, or capture the footage to an external recorder. But for most applications, you probably won’t notice the banding issue once you mix in the light leaks with your edit footage. And if you are an FCP editor making your own lightleaks on a DSLR, check out my article on what ProRes quality is good enough to use.

To use the footage in your editing software, simply overlay the light leak clip on a higher level track than your video, and set a Composite Mode. In Final Cut Pro 7, I recommend right-click > Composite Mode > Screen for best results. Presto. Enjoy!

Over at DSLR News Shooter, Dan Chung has posted a new short he and a few other folks shot using the Canon C300 camera, as well as a 15-minute discussion following that shoot on the pros and cons of the camera system. These are always the most informative pieces for me, hearing what a fellow professional thinks about the camera system after using it in a legitimate docu shooting environment.

You can watch that discussion below. Head on over to DSLR News Shooter to check out the graded and un-graded C300 footage.

Lightfield Cameras – The New RAW

Over at PVC, I’ve posted my thoughts on the new Lytro camera and how it could affect the digital cinema industry. Check it out.

Koo has a good post up about a few key differences between the Sony PMW-F3 and the Canon C300. He makes a good case that the F3 is a more flexible, future-proof camera system than the C300, at essentially the same price point and feature set. Check it out.

Over at HDVideoPro, they’ve got the scoop on a new 4K Camcorder from JVC, the GY-HMQ10.

UPDATE: Dan Carr also managed to find an prototype interchangeable-lens version of this 4K camera, fitted with a Nikon F mount. Dan says a JVC employee indicated that pricing might be around $10,000 USD. You can watch his video interview with JVC’s Craig Yanagi here. The prototype discussion starts at around 3:10. I’m sure we’ll see more news on this prototype at NAB.

But back to the camera we know about, the HMQ10. Reportedly due to ship in March of this year for $4,995 US, this compact camcorder delivers a 3840×2160 image at 24p, 50p, and 60p from a 1/2″ imager. Technically that output resolution is called Quad HD, and it matches what RED’s “4KHD” mode offers (3840×2160).

“The Falconbrid LSI takes the raw data and deBayers your shots in real time. The GY-HMQ10 also is able to output 4K images to a monitor or projection system in real time as well. Using a variable bit rate H.264 codec at up to 144-Mbps, the GY-HMQ10 can record up to two hours of 4K video to SDHC or SDXC memory cards.

The GY-HMQ10 can also capture full 1920 by 1080 if you choose and what’s great is you have the ability to crop an HD image from a 4K frame, which is similar to what you can do on a RED EPIC. This “trimming” feature can be done through the camera’s touch panel LCD monitor or in post.”

Quick side note for the camera history buffs, that MSRP in the UK will equal “4K for £4K.” More info over at JVC, and JVC’s feature summary follows:

MAIN FEATURES:
1/2.3″ Back-illuminated CMOS Sensor (8.3 million active pixels)
Ultra high resolution F2.8 10X Zoom Lens
(F2.8 to 4,5 — f=6.7-67 mm) (35 mm conversion: 42.5 to 425 mm)
Built-in optical image stabilizer
4K Recording: 3,840 x 2,160
MPEG-4 AVC/H.264(.MP4) 4 Stream Separate Recording 60fps/50fps/24fps Progressive at 144Mbps
4K recording for up to 2 hours (32GB SDHC, x4)
JVC file utility included for combining separate streams into single editable file
Also functions as fully featured full-HD camcorder
AVCHD progressive (.mts) 60i/60p or 50p/50i
Interval (time lapse) recording in both 4K and HD modes
JVC’s patented “FOCUS ASSIST” function
Full HD (1920×1080) trimming function
3 assignable user buttons
2 audio channels
4K mode: AAC, 2ch, 48kHz,16bit
HD mode: AC3, 2ch, 48kHz, 16bit
Manual audio level controls with audio meter
XLR inputs with 48V phantom power
Large 3.5-inch 920,000 pixel LCD display with touch panel
0.24″ Lcos 260,000 pixel viewfinder
Records to inexpensive SDHC/SDXC memory cards
4 used in the 4K mode
1 used in the HD mode
Wired remote control capability

The Black & Blue digs into 7 G&E Techniques Useful to Camera Assistants. From C-stand and sand-bag tips, to how to run cabling cleanly, it’s all good stuff.

Filmmakermag has a nice roundup of short interviews with working DP’s, their thoughts on the Canon C300 camera after an event at Rule Boston Camera. Here’s an excerpt:

“…what I’m most impressed about tonight, having already seen footage before, is that this camera has a really nice feel in my hands. The controls are really obviously laid out; I’ve got my confidence indicators right on the screen for ASA, color temperature, and wave form. Everything is very beautifully laid out, there’s only a couple of buttons the operator really needs to deal with that set everything you need to know. It’s very obvious how to use it at a glance and it feels really comfortable.”

Most of the DP’s mention the C300′s size, low-light sensitivity, and also laud the ability to use Canon EF lenses natively.

The latest issue of Red Giant TV, Episode #68, has a nice, detailed tutorial on how to create a 2.5D comic book title sequence. Seth Worley shows you how, using After Effects and a few Red Giant tools. Watch below…

You can find more tutorials and cool recipes over at Red Giant TV.

Olive, Schmolive

Let me spin a hypothetical situation here: imagine you have a $430,000 USD budget, a 22-day shoot schedule, and a scheduled three months of editing time. What would YOU shoot it on? The filmmakers behind the feature “Olive” chose to shoot it on a Nokia N8 smartphone. Yeah. You read that right.

Why would they ever choose to shoot it on a 720p smartphone, given that they have plenty of budget for even the most rudimentary of camera systems? What faraway planet are these deranged people from? If money is the issue, I could rattle off a list of cameras well under $1000 that would have provided far better image quality and control using a 35mm adapter. Give me $2,000-$5,000 and I could find you even better options, several that wouldn’t require a cumbersome 35mm lens adapter system to achieve a filmic DOF. Surely you could move faster and more efficiently with ANY camera system that offered you even the most basic of manual controls and features. And more time on-set allows you to dig deeper into the nuances of each actor’s performance, bettering your story.

No, cost could not possibly have been the deciding factor. Clearly, these people chose a smartphone because they wanted the buzz, they wanted to be able to hype it later. I suppose it’s working…after all, I’m writing about it…but I have to say that it strikes me as incredibly manipulative, technically-stupid, and overall has actually tainted my perception of the film. It really rubs me the wrong way. They got their buzz, so good for them. But I will be avoiding the film as a result. If you feel differently, you can find a screening schedule on the official website.

Behind the scenes show how they mounted the camera on a 35mm lens adapter:

Here’s a promo that shows footage from the film:

Cinema5D has posted a two-part video review of the RED Scarlet camera. It’s very well done, and is really more of an overview or “first look” type review…this would be a good introduction to Scarlet-X (and Epic-X) for those who haven’t been keeping up with the day-to-day changes. But don’t expect a torrent of technical minutiae in this review. For instance, Scarlet can’t output via HD-SDI and HDMI simultaneously…only one output is enabled at the same time. That’s not the kind of info you’re going to find here.

Anyway, in about eight minutes they cover all the basic functionality of the camera, and show you what the menu systems and operation looks like. It’s worth noting that the Epic camera is basically identical in size and shape, and much of the functionality is the same, though Epic includes more features and codec/framerate/resolution options. So this video review serves nicely as an intro to Epic as well. And when it’s time to decide if you want one for yourself, read my article on camera buying decisions. Watch below…

As a side note, there are a number of gotchas right now in the Scarlet (and Epic) firmware regarding features that are currently enabled/disabled. Things like HDMI and HD-SDI outputs not necessarily enabled in all hardware configs, non-functioning features, features that can trigger other bugs, etc. It’s a constantly moving target, and you should track what currently works over at Red’s Support site and also on the Reduser forums (“Cult of Red” tattoo not required, but highly recommended). Example: over at Reduser, I just read a report about an Epic camera essentially bricking right before a critical shot, following the 2.0.5 firmware update (though they had been shooting fine on 2.0.5 for weeks).

“Ketch Rossi: On new year’s evening it literally KILLED one of our EPIC (our Star position one actually) on the most crucial moment of shooting the World’s tallest Building Multi Million Dollar Firework display!!” “…NO way to compensate as my camera was the only one with the entire building in frame.”

Ouch. That is a shooter’s nightmare, and I feel his pain. It seems the issue was related to HDRx mode, as they say the camera works fine with HDRx turned off. The user was later able to get the camera back up and running by using an SSD which included the “Build Force Upgrade folder” to roll the camera back to a previous, more stable firmware. He also outlines other options that would have worked to solve the issue:

1) Use the Redmote to Navigate to HDR-X and Turn IT OFF
2) Use a Pre-Formatted SSD with a Force Upgrade Build Folder in it, and Re-Install the BUild of choice
3) If you don’t have neither of the Above 2, then better have your Laptop and your SSD reader,
with a formatted SSD and put a Force Upgrade Folder with BUild of choice in it and proceed to Re-Install.

It seems that these are the kind of things that RED shooters grow accustomed to dealing with, since the cameras seem to be perpetually in some form of beta state. I’ve shot plenty on RED One, RED MX, and RED Epic, and have experienced occasional small (and sometimes major) bugs in all of the cameras (here’s an article outlining my experiences following a major RED One shoot back in 2009). Remember that it took about 15-20 firmware revs for the Red One camera to finally really stabilize and enable all features. In my opinion, and speaking conservatively, it will likely be a few more months before Epic and Scarlet firmware builds stabilize and all the major features work as they should. So caveat emptor…and test, test, test before you go out and shoot for a client! And between builds, remember that what worked before might not work next time. This is why you schedule a camera prep day. But I digress…here is the Cinema5D video review:

Part 1

Part 2

Screenwriting – Four Numbers to Remember

Over at Go Into The Story, they have a really interesting tip for screenwriters: the 1, 2, 7, 14 formula. It’s an interesting idea, and makes a lot of sense. Check it out.

After a question on Twitter about the pros and cons of buying a Red Scarlet, I jotted down my thoughts on camera buying in general. Why and when, here’s my opinion on the subject, over at PVC.