Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Redrock M2 Cine-lens adapter report Part 1 - Background

As previously stated, Nance and I recently purchased the Redrock M2 lens adapter for our Sony Z1 HDV camcorder. I thought I would break up our report on this in to two parts. This first part is focused on a bit of optical explanation. If you understand the reasons for purchasing the Redrock M2, you can probably skip this posting and move on to the product review post.

The idea here being to answer the question:

What is the Redrock M2 and why would you want one?

The simple answer is:

To allow for the use of other lenses on the Z1 and to allow fine control over depth of field.

However, I thought some of my readers here might not have a reasonable understanding of some of the principals involved with depth of field as well as an understanding of how a lens treats an image. I am not going to delve into optical theory in depth here. Rather I will present some of these principals in a cause and effect explanation. If you want more detail on these topics, I encourage you to search the web.

Depth of field.

What exactly is depth of field? Simply stated, it is the region in an image that is in focus. That's it. Nothing more. The depth of the field in focus in an image. So, why do we care about this? In cinema, it is typically used to force the audience to pay attention to something specific in the frame. As a general rule, we have two methods for doing this: color/brightness and depth of field.

Consider the following image that I used in my previous posting:



In this image, Eeyore is in focus, and Tweety, behind Eeyore, is not in focus. Now in the following image, the reverse is true:






Using this effect, we can draw the viewer's eye to a particular item in the frame. This is used to great effect in shots involving people in a conversation. The focus can be shifted from one character to another at will depending on whom the director wants the audience to pay attention to. As you can imagine, there are a wide variety of applications of this effect in the telling of a cinematic story.

Controlling Depth of Field.


We have 2 variables that we can adjust when using depth of field. They are:

  • What is in focus.
  • What is the depth of the area in focus.

To control the first variable, we merely adjust the focus control on the lens. This process shifts elements within the lens to draw the point of focus from the minimum focus of the lens (this is determined by the type of lens in use) all the way out to infinity.

The second variable is controlled by the speed of the lens, the setting of it's aperture and the siize of the film plane. Let's look at this in some detail.

The speed of a lens is expressed using what is known as an F number (Cinema lenses are rated with a T instead of an F - I will explain the difference below). It expresses the amount of light that a given lens will allow through the glass elements of the lens. A lens with a FAST speed rating allows more light through and a SLOW rating allows less. This is important in situations where the amount of light you have to work with is a consideration.

A fast rating is 1.0. There are almost no lenses rated at 1.0. A more typical rating will be 1.4 for a VERY fast lens. Medium speeds are typically 3.0 - 4.5. A slow lens might be rated at 8.0.

Another side effect of this lens speed rating is that it impacts the minimum depth of field. The faster a lens is, the narrower your depth of field can be.

So, how can we control the DEPTH of the area in focus in a shot? We do this with the aperture.

The Aperture.

The aperture, also called the iris, is a mechanical device inside of a lens that controls the amount of light that a lens will allow to pass through it. It consists of a set of overlapping slats of spring steel that create a variable sized hole. Consider the following diagram:


The smaller the hole is, the less light is passed through and the WIDER the depth of field is. Another way to think about this phenomenon is by using your own eyes. Many times, when we are straining to see something we will squint our eyes. This has the effect of sharpening the image that we see. It's the same affect that the aperture has.

Each setting of the aperature has an F number associated with it as you can see. And that directly relates back to the lens speed. When the aperture is all the way open, the F number for the iris setting is the same as the F number for the lens itself.

F number versus T number.

Typically, still camera lenses are rated with this F number (or F-stop) that we have been talking about. But cinema lenses, such as those that might be found on a Panavision or Arri film camera, are rated in T stops. T stops are considered more accurate. As I understand it, F stops are determined by using a formula that is applied against the lens's design formula and T-stops are determined by measuring the actual amount of light transmitted at the back of the lens.

The Film Plane.

This is our final stop on our journey to depth of field nirvana. The size of the film plane in a camera (the place where the lens focuses it's image for exposure or recording) will impact the amount of depth of field that the lens will allow us control over. The larger that this film plane is, the narrower the minimum depth of field will be. When we have a narrow minimum depth of field, we have more flexability in determining what will be in focus for our shot!

In a 35mm film plane, the amount of the depth of field can be a fraction of an inch (with a fast lens). That's great if you have a 35mm film plane. Not so great if you have an HDV video camera whose sensor is 1/3 inch in size. When that is the case, your minimum depth of field with is several feet.

That film look.

A number of things differentiate how something shot on film looks vs. High Definition video. The principal ones are:

  • 24 frames a second in film vs. 30 in video
  • The lattitude of film vs. video
  • Control over a wide range of depth of field

There are others, but these are 3 of the main ones. The first one can be overcome with cameras that provide 24 frame progressive image recording as well as some tricks done in post processing. Lattitude has yet to be overcome. Depth of field can be overcome with devices such as the Redrock M2.

The Redrock M2 simulates a 35mm film plane and allows your video camera to photograph the simulated film plane and as a result gain the advantages of 35mm film lenses and their associated control over depth of field. It also allows you to use other lenses on a camera that has a fixed, non-interchangable lens.

It does this by placing a film lens in front of a translucent material that mimics a 35mm film plane. The video camera then focuses on this translucent material and sees the image captured by the 35mm lens. Once this system is in place, all exposure and focus operations are controlled by the 35mm lens. The lens on the video camera remains at a fixed focus and zoom position.

An inverted image.

When a lens captures an image and projects it onto the film plane in the camera, it inverts the image. The physics regarding optics that govern this effect are far beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that this phenomenon occurs in ALL optical systems where a device (be it a glass lens or a pinhole) project an image onto a plane.

Consider this diagram:


The image on the left is the subject being photographed. Once that image passes through the lens in the middle, the image is inverted and recorded onto the film or video sensor as you can see by the image on the right.

Now you might be asking "Why don't I see that inversion when I look through the viewfinder of my digital SLR?" And the answer to this is that the optics in the SLR invert the image again before it is displayed in the viewfinder (and, for that matter, on the LCD display).

Now, most devices such as the Redrock M2 do not provide those extra optics to invert the image. As a result, the image must be inverted in post. Additionally, when you use your video camera with a device such as the Redrock M2, your view on the LCD and viewfinder is inverted.

Redrock does supply a free Mac software application that lets you feed the firewire output of your camera into a Mac and it will display the live video image and let you invert it on the Mac. Very handy and very nice. Redrock is also about ready to ship an optical inverter that will go between the Video camera and the Redrock M2 that will invert the image on the fly.

*WHEW*

OK, that was a lot of background. I hope I was able to clarify some of the typical questions that I get regarding these types of products. If you have more questions, feel free to post a comment and I will do my best to answer. And if I screwed anything up in this post, feel free to post a correction in the comments as well!

Check out part 2 of the review HERE.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hitchcock on editing and a Redrock M2 tease

Been pretty busy here with Nance setting up the Redrock M2 on the Z1. We have some OTS tests to run tonight with a friend. Tomorrow I will assemble some of the test footage and I will blog about the setup experience, our experience with Redrock's customer service and our experience with the unit attached to the Z1 using a variety of Nikon lenses.

Here is a nice little video of Hitchcock talking about film editing:






And here is a still from one of our test shots using the M2. This is using a Nikon 55mm 2.8 micro lens. The subject is about 2.5" tall and the field of focus is about 1/2". Thanks to Brian Valente for his CC on this:


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas everyone and a little HDV tidbit for you all.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all of my readers here. Thanks to everyone who has commented and e-mailed me about the blog here. It's always nice to know you are having a positive impact with your efforts.

May the new year bring you lots of prosperity and opportunity. I wish all of you the very best this new year!

In other news...

FCP will now allow you to transcode HDV to ProRes 4:2:2! This is a great update for FCP. I shoot all HDV footage and this takes an additional step out of my workflow. I hope it does for you too!

Read about it HERE.

Thanks to Shane over at Little Frog in HD for pointing this out!

In other, other news...

Redrock Micro, the makers of the M2 Cine Adapter are having a holiday sale. You can save over $600 on their HD Indie pack that includes the Cine adapter as well as their follow focus pack. You can check out the pricing HERE. It's good until 01/05/08 so if you were on the fence with this, now is the time to jump in and do it.

Speaking of doing it, Nance and I ordered this and I will post pics of the unboxing, installation of it on the Z1 and some test footage this weekend using our Nikon still lenses. So stay tuned!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The digital storm: An editorial

In the late 70s, I went to work for a company called Micropolis. At that time, Micropolis made floppy disk drives for Tandy, Commodore and some other smaller companies as well as selling to the general public.

At this time, Microcomputers were brand new. Apple, Commodore and Tandy were the main producers of computers for the home and they were generally considered a hobbyist product. I remember making a bet with someone at that time that all storage would be solid state in 5 years. No more electro-mechanical devices. No more moving parts that were all prone to breaking.

I lost that bet.

Today, the principal device for mass data storage is the hard disk. An electro-mechanical device. But moving to a solid state device is inevitable. Look at P2 devices from Panasonic as a good example.

The point is that technology has a huge impact on all aspects of our lives. For better or worse, it drives forward and changes the way that we perceive our capabilities and limitations. This article will focus primarily on how technology impacts the film business. I will use the term film here to encompass both traditional film as well as digital technologies.

The path to digital

For a very long time, technology had a minimal impact on the motion picture industry. The initial use of film in the silent days remained largely unchanged in the mainstream until the advent of a practical sound system in 1929 as demonstrated in the film “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson. The film was not entirely sync sound but had sections of the film with sync dialog in it.

There were those at the time that felt that sound was just a gimmick. That it would never succeed in the mainstream. Charlie Chaplin was one of these critics. But “The Jazz Singer” was a huge hit and forced all of the majors to re-assess the importance of sound in film. If audiences were going to flock to films with sound, their existing silent endeavors would lose audience share to the new “talkies”.

The immediate impact of “The Jazz Singer” forced all of the studios to act and act quickly. They hired sound consultants and engineers. They retrofitted stages on the lots to become “Sound stages”. They placed the camera inside of a sound proof booth. They hired dialog coaches to work with the stars. And many actors who had previously enjoyed a great deal of success in the movies now found themselves unwanted since their voices did not live up to the expectations of the studios.

The impact of sound in film cannot be understated. Short of the introduction of film itself, sound created the biggest frenzy of change that the film industry has ever seen. None of the subsequent technological changes in the film industry have caused the studios to adopt a significant technology change. Not color, not widescreen, not digital.

The subsequent technologies that I mentioned, were all adopted slowly. Color was implemented sporadically as was widescreen. Digital technologies have also been very slow to make inroads to the film industry.

In the late 80s, I got involved in a development project called “Polyphonic FX”. This system was intended to utilize computers, optical storage and digital time code in order to automate much of the manual process associated with adding sound effects to films.
The effects editor would be able to call up samples of sound effects from a library that was stored on a rack of optical disks, audition the sound to determine it’s worthiness for a given shot and then assign the sound to that part of the film through it’s SMPTE timecode.

Using this system, a single sound editor could do a complete feature film in the same time that it would take 7 editors to carry out the task. The system was shown at NAB and was subsequently purchased lock, stock and copyright, by a large sound house in Hollywood. We were happy, as we got out investment back and a tidy profit. The buyer, dismantled the system and threw it away.

They did this because it represented a threat to the sound editors. The perception was that it would put editors out of work. Today, we have products that effectively do the same thing. The sound editors use digital technologies to great effect. But it took a number of years before these types of products made inroads into the business.

Sometimes, the technology appears and is not practical because of the immaturity of the product. Non-linear computer based editing is a good example here. Early systems used a very low resolution image to edit with and were slow and cumbersome to use. However, these technologies have matured and evolved to the point that they are generally accepted.
Digital filmmaking also falls into this category. And by digital filmmaking I mean the production of movies without the traditional use of film. As we all know, digital technologies increase in capability while going down in price as a general rule. For the major motion picture industry, this is a very bad thing.

Back when I was working on Polyphonic FX, I was exposed to a lot of the post production process as we were partnering with a local sound post facility. This was my first exposure to filmmaking at the professional level and I got it into my head that this might be an interesting activity to be involved in.

So I outlined a little script and sent it off to a friend of mine that was working as a story consultant on episodic TV. She made some notes and advised me as to the correct format for the script and I proceeded to finish the script.

Next up, acquire the equipment needed to make a short film. This would consist of sound equipment, lighting, a camera and it’s associated support gear and various grip items. I wanted to buy the gear so that I could learn to use it as well as have it available for subsequent projects.
After pricing it all out and looking at the costs associated with film stock, processing, post production I concluded that there was a good reason that this was not a common hobby for the general public to engage in: Cost.

The cost for doing this was exorbitant. There was NO way I was going to be able to afford to do this. Even renting gear, it was out of the question. So I put the project on the back burner and forgot about it. So what happened here?

The studios win.

The cost of playing in this game is very very high. And this is very much to the studio’s advantage. After all, if every yahoo out there could make films, the studio’s raison d’etre would no longer exist. Can’t have that, now can we?

There was a time when the studios were run as a dictatorship with a single person at the helm - Harry Cohn at Columbia, Lew Wasserman at Universal, Jack Warner at Warner Bros. and so on. Today they are all owned and operated by multi-national corporations. I think that if they were still run by a single individual, their ability to survive in the coming storm might be possible.

The digital storm

As we have all witnessed in recent years (the last 5 especially), the tools required to make a film have gone the way of digital and are very cheap. At the low end, we have 300 dollar digital video cameras, low cost PCs with firewire built in and Moviemaker (or iMovie) included with these machines, gratis.

In the middle ground, we have cameras like the Panasonic HVX200, Sony Z1 etc. We have the Adobe production suite and Apple’s Final Cut studio. And there is a plethora of low cost equipment options available now to support the burgeoning independent filmmaker’s market.
At the high end we have cameras like the Viper and the Genesis. And now, we also have the RED 1. The RED 1 being poised to make a significant shift in the cost of making films for theatrical distribution. Other tools such as Apple’s Color and 3D compositing applications such as Lightwave and Maya remain very cost effective solutions that are available to the hobbyist or aspiring filmmaker.

Message to the studios: The cost of entry to your exclusive world has smashed!

There have been films made now on standard definition that have achieved the elusive status of “theatrically distributed”. The film November with Courtney Cox was shot on a Panasonic DVX 100 SD camera. There are other films that have been shot on the low cost HDV format that have seen distribution as well. But, alas, this is the exception.

Check out the web site http://www.withoutabox.com to get an idea of the explosion of film festivals that have cropped up in the last 5 years. The number is mind boggling. You can thank digital technology for this. Amateur filmmakers all vying for distribution of their films by gaining exposure through any of the hundreds of film festivals that are active in the US and throughout the world.

The Studios: We still own this business.

So if the cost of production has diminished significantly over the past few years, why are the studios still in power? Why has the democratization of film production not brought the studios to their knees?

Well, in some ways it has caused them to react. And react slowly. Take for example Universal’s Focus Features or Fox’s Searchlight divisions. These are just a few of the areas that the major’s have created to provide distribution for the explosion of independent features, over 1000 of which get produced annually. And that number will just continue to climb.

So, if we reduce the cost of creating blockbuster entertainment to the point that it no longer requires the financial wherewithal of a major studio to produce it, what then are the studios bringing to the table in order to remain viable in the future?

Financing
Production resources (stages, backlots, post, studio facilities etc).
Expertise in production
Distribution

So lets look at these in order:

Financing. I think, in the future, if a producer or director goes to a bank with a project in hand that appears to be an excellent bet in terms of making money at the box office, banks and venture capitalists will finance these projects. Regardless of any studio affiliation.
Production resources. More and more studio facilities are cropping up for use by indy filmmakers. Additionally, the studios themselves rent these facilities out to filmmakers regardless of their affiliation with the studio. This *might* end up being the bread and butter of the studios in the future.

Expertise in production. More and more, skilled artisans and technicians are finding viable work in the independent market. A recent film that I was involved with that had a $50K budget, used all union skill. The production had nothing to do with any studio. Hollywood is a small town. If you are good at what you do, you get work. It’s that simple.

And, finally, distribution. This is the biggie. Today, if you want your film to have a wide release in the US and Europe, the only players in that game are the majors. But... Again, technology to the rescue...

Digital distribution reduces the cost of getting the film out into the theaters by a significant margin. Gone are the days when prints have to be struck for each theater. Gone are the days of broken film and splicing in the projection booth. The cost savings and the positive impact overall is significant.

Here is where the studios have to maintain a stranglehold. In order for them to do this they must remain competitive. It won’t take much for some start-up to undermine them with a superior approach with lower costs that get passed along to the exhibitors. There is significant risk here for the majors.

Add to this the impending ability to effectively provide downloadable content to the home. And, no, I do not mean on your computer. I am talking about content sent to a box that is part of the home theater in high definition. Consider that many of the theaters today that have implemented digital projectors are using 2K resolution devices. Trust me when I tell you that you cannot tell the difference between a 2K projected image and an HD image at 1920x1080.
So now with low cost HDTV sets and low cost surround sound systems, you have a theatrical experience in your home. No cell phones. No one kicking the back of your chair or chattering during the film. The ability to pause the TV anytime you like or run it back to hear some muffled dialog again.

But you don’t get the shared experience of a film in a theater. You also do not get a 100’ screen. Is the draw to these attributes strong enough to maintain the existing theater experience? Only time will tell. I suspect it will survive but in a much reduced form factor. God knows, the internet has created an almost shut-in society in some regards with the ability to order anything online and have it delivered.

What I, as a consumer, wants: I would like to have digital delivery of HD content directly to my living room. I want the model to be a subscription model. A flat fee for a specific number of monthly downloads. Much the same way that we have with services like Netflix. I do not want to have to ever buy and store media like DVDs. I just want to be able to watch what I want, when I want.

I hope we can arrive at this at some point. The Chinese curse says “May you live in interesting times.”. I consider the present to be very interesting times. I don’t think it’s a curse.

OT: iPhone Ringtones

I am not a huge fan of ring tones in general, but on the iPhone I wanted to have a ringtone for when Nance calls me. Originally I setup a ringtone using one of the simple file re-name hacks but then Apple disable that and I was unwilling to do any of the other more radical hacks to get it working.

Last night I went to a Christmas party that a friend of mine was having. He works for Apple so I thought I would give him some grief over the ringtone issue. He said "No problem. Just do the Garageband Update that went out Friday. Drag and drop your original AIF file into a new project, click the cycle button to set the area that you want to use as a ringtone and select Share-> Send Ringtone to iTunes.

So now, I have my audio clip of Meg Ryan's orgasm in "When Harry met Sally" restored as the ringtone for when Nance calls my iPhone.

Thanks, Apple :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pending editorial, Lynda.com and some legal stuff.

I have an editorial in the works that I plan to get posted up here this weekend. It covers technology and it's impact on the film industry.

Nance has been on a gig doing some legal videos in support of some law suit. She rented an hand held rig from EVS to do the footage and it seems to have worked out well. She has all of the footage captured now (about 2 hours worth) and will be cutting it down to a 10 minute video. There will be stills intercut with it and she will layer some sappy tear jerker music over it. Should be nice when it's done.

I start a new 9-5 gig out in Ventura at Lynda.com. If you are not aware of them, Lynda.com is one of the premiere sources for training materials on all things media. Check them out HERE.

We have also finally bitten the bullet and ordered a Redrock M2 Cine-lens adapter with follow focus. Redrock has an image inverter that they will be shipping in Feb. and we will pick one of those up as well.

Nance also picked up some new lighting gear at Filmtools out in Burbank. When the M2 gets here, we will post pics of the unboxing, assembly and some subsequent footage shot on the Z1 with it using Nikon lenses (I have a TON of high end Nikon still lenses that I have collected over the years).

So stay tuned for some interesting updates here!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Film in Focus

Focus Films is the "independent" arm of GE's Universal Studios. They have recently put up a new web site that I think is a real winner. A little bit of hype and a lot of great content for film lovers. Interviews with filmmakers, retrospectives - All kinds of great stuff.

Check it out HERE.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Report from DV Expo

Had a pleasant day at the DV Expo yesterday. Nancy and I arrived around noon and parking was a breeze. The usual suspects were all in attendance: Panasonic (largest booth), Sony, JVC. Avid was there with a VERY small booth. I guess their new direction of spending resources on products and customer needs is evidenced by this.

None of the vendors announced anything at the show which is not surprising. Most save that for the bigger shows like NAB. Nance checked out some cranes and monitor mounts over at the Calumet booth as well as a nice little platform dolly system by Cambo that they have that is very slick - VERY fast to set up. Segmented/hinged track for fast layout stright, curved or a combination of both. And not too expensive at about $9000 for the track and dolly. They also offer a lower cost 3-point dolly as an option.

Next up was a look at the Lowel lighting systems. Softboxes that are using the flourescent "bulb" type fixtures. These softboxes are very nice. They do not use a speed ring but instead use a custom mount that is MUCH easier to deal with and have zero light leakage from the rear unlike the typical speed ring mount. These rigs were running about $800 with a stand and case with a tungsten fixture. The floursecent fixture is optional ($150) and will accomodate up to three 65 watt bulbs for a total effective output of about 600 watts. And, of course, the flourescent rigs are VERY cool and very low power.

Following this, we went to the Redrock booth to check out the Redrock M1 35mm lens adapter. nance and I had been tracking the development of this product since before they were shipping it. At the show, Redrock was displaying a new addition to their adapter. A prism image inverter that goes between the M1 and your camera.

They had an HVX200 setup with the redrock and this new adapter. They also had their follow focus unit installed. I have to say, we were both VERy impressed with this rig. One of the complaints that we have had in the past with these types of products was the image inversion issue. Not all of these types of products have this problem, but the M1 did.

The image inverter will sell for between $300 and $400 and is supposed to ship in February. Redrock also has some very attractive pricing for their indi bundles that is good through Jan 15th (i e. Rails/M1/HD lens adapter / Follow focus with full set of whips for $1800). If you have been thinking about getting one of these, now is a good time to take advantage of this great pricing.

We ran in to Larry Jordan (FCP instructor, author and editor par excellance) and had a nice chat with him. Larry has been co-hosting the Digital Production Buzz podcast recently and has made a GREAT addition to the show so be sure to check him out on iTunes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DV Expo and how crappy movies get made

Nance and I are headed to the DV Expo today. I'll post pix and coverage of the event tomorrow on the blog here, so stay tuned.

On another topic, there is a blog post by a writer over at Trigger Street. It's a good read. I will be posting an editorial followup to this article tomorrow as well.

Check out the posting HERE.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scorsese's take on Hitchcock

Stunning - The opening shot of the short is nothing short of amazing. Check it out HERE.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Writer's Strike

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know this has been covered all over the place but the thing is this: This is a VERY important issue and too much coverage is not possible.

So, what is the deal, you say? Some greedy writers whining about not getting enough pay? How about greedy Korporate Amerika trying to squeeze as much profit out of the writers as possible. By, say, oh...charging advertisers for online content and sharing none of that revenue with the writers of that content. Example: Viacom suing YouTube for $1B for content infringement yet continuing to tell the writers that there is no revenue to be made off of internet content.

Watch this video for a more in-depth look at the issues:



And for a lighter approach from the Daily Show writers:



PLEASE - Support the writer's strike.

Thanks!

Mike

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Red One software - Incoming reviews

Over at Mike Curtis's HDForIndies blog, he has links to the newly releaced REDAlert, REDCine and FCP 6 plug in for RED. He also links to some RED footage so that you can play with the software. Check them out HERE.

Normally I don't link to stuff on Mike's blog because I assume you all read his blog (if you are not, you should be) and do not need me to be spamming his site over here. I post this here today because I think it's important.

I think it's important that Red makes these resources available to non-owners of the Red camera. If you are considering renting a Red, you MUST understand what the workflow with the camera will be. By providing these resources to the public at large, anyone that might be considering the rental of a Red One can get the software and some footage and take all the time they need to gain an understanding of the workflow.

I have downloaded both the Mac and Windows software as well as the FCP plugin and the demo footage. Next week I will do a writeup in detail on both the Mac and Win versions of the software as well as how the FCP plugin works.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Avid to blow off NAB 2008

Avid press release HERE.

Wow. I would never have predicted that Avid would do this. Yes, they have been under pressure by competing products from Apple, Sony and Adobe amongst others. But their products are still the mainstay of both broadcast TV, Cable and major studio projects.

They speak of customer focus and re-alignment to customer needs. I hope that this is indeed true as there has been a growing perception of Avid's arrogance in the post world. Avid makes the premiere editing systems in use today. Yes, they have been impacted by products like FCP and appear to be very slow to react to them.

Their absence from NAB does not sound like a good thing. But I suspect that Avid spends a lot of money on this and other trade shows. Maybe they plan to redirect thos funds towards re-inventing the company towards a more customer focused business model.

I hope so. Avid provides competition for all of the other players in this market. I hope they continue to do that. This way, we will all win.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

HD Expo and the Red One

HD expo is a very small trade show that has been held anually since 2001. Today was the first day of the 2 day show and I decided to attend it since I had missed it last year. One of the things I wanted to check out was the Red One camera since it has been out in the wild now for a few months. To that end, the expo hosted a Red One presentation by some of the folks from Red. This included a screening of Crossing the Line.

Now, for those of you who may have been hiding under a rock for the last 2 years, the Red One is a 4K digital cinema camera that is being created by Jim Jannard of Oakley Sunglasses fame. The big deal here is that the camera body sells for $17,500.00.

Now I have not covered much about the Red on my blog here because there are 800 gazillion other bloggers out there that evangelize the product constantly. However, I have made a point of following this revolutionary product's progress.

Part of that progress includes the creation of a short film by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame using 2 prototype Red One cameras a few weeks prior to this year's NAB show. This is the Crossing the Line film.

Needless to say, Red has caused quite a stir in both the indie film and studio folm worlds and for good reason. For the last two years I have been hearing all of the hype about this camera and the other products that Red has on the slate (Lenses, 4K projectors, Other cameras etc.). And the line to get into the Red booth at NAB this year to see Crossing the Line was a 2 hour wait on average.

So, getting to see this short film today, I was a bit jaded in expectations due to all of the overhype that this has received. Kind of like when a film gets overhyped and I do not bother to see it as a result. And then when I do, it's a big let down because of all of the hype.

Well, let me tell you, this little film exceeded all of my expectations. I was truly stunned by the sharpness and the lattitude that was exhibited. It looked like film. Truly. It blew away what I saw on the Panafest demos of the Genesis. I am completely sold. This camera is a true game-changer.

All the hype? Doesn't do the camera justice. It far exceeds any hype. They also demoed the Red Post software that they have in development. They ran it on a Macbook Pro. Fed it 4K raw footage that played back in real time. And they were correcting the footage WHILE IT RAN in real time without rendering. Amazing.

And the rest of the HD Expo? I don't remember. I know that there was no earth shattering new gear to be seen. Just the same stuff that has been around for the last few months... I guess my mind was on what I saw in the Red presentation...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Kubrick: A rare glimpse

When the Shining was released, it was not well received by either the public or the critics. Many critics derided the now famous "here's Johnny" scene as over the top. Additionally, the film did not do well in the box office.

Today, the film is considered classic horror. I am always amused by how opinions change regarding films over time. For me, The Shining has always been a great horror film. I saw it in the theater during it's initial release and I loved the film. And I am NOT a horror fan. I think that for me, when the threat is a real person as opposed to some kind of imaginary monster, the impact of the villain is much greater.

During the filming of The Shining, Kubrick's daughter Vivian made a behind the scenes documentary for the BBC. This Doc is different than most in that you get to see a lot of Stanley directing and choosing shots. It is far from your typical fluffy publicity piece that you will see on HBO. It provides a rare glimpse into Kubrick's working style.

Here it is broken up into 4 parts. Enjoy.

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

AJA's Nick Rashby on the ioHD

Interview with AJA's Nick Rashby over at Broadcast Newsroom. Check out the interview HERE.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leopard: Some bad, some sorta good...

Just a quick note here...

I thought that the networking between Wintel and the Mac had improved in Leopard. But, alas, it was just happenstance that it was working during my intial testing. But, as it turns out, it's still intermittently failing. Many times I turn the Powerbook on (the Wintel box is always running) and the Mac sees nothing on the network.

Sometimes if I go and wake the MacPro up, the Powerbook will automagically see the rest of the network. Other times it will just see the MacPro. And to add to that, my IM network always comes online. I use a Bonjour client called Miranda on the Wintel box so that I can have a local private IM setup between the Macs and Wintel. That system ALWAYS works, no matter what.

Very strange...

On the Powerbook I use the wireless Mighty Mouse and the old wireless keyboard (the white one, not the new chiclet one). About every 5th time I would fire up the Powerbook, it would decide that it could not see either the keyboard or the mouse - Never both, just one or the other.

In Tiger, I had to go through a bunch of steps to reconnect the errant device back to the Powerbook. In Leopard, they have simplified this process down to a single element in a drop down on the Bluetooth panel in System Preferences:

Above is the new Leopard panel and the dropdown where you can simply select connect or disconnect as appropriate.

So, network issues still persist. Bluetooth is still questionable. But at least I don't have to go through 20 steps to reconnect the Bluetooth devices. Kind of reminds me of an old joke:

"So, Bob, how is the new job?"
"Well, the people are jerks, the environment is like a dungeon but at least the pay sucks!"

I'll post later in the week about the MacPro update to Leopard. I'll have plenty of time to do it this week as I am now officially out of work!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Leopard Spot

I spent Sunday working on a 30 second promo spot that was due this Friday so I decided to do it on the Leopard box and see how things went. Figuring I had enough time to switch to the Tiger machine if it all went to hell in a hand basket.

I had about 2 hours of raw footage from which to cull the clips for the spot. This spot also required the creation of some motion graphics at the head and tail of the spot and it all had to be cut to some heavy metal head banger music. The apps that I used were:

FCP 6.0.1
Soundtrack Pro 2
Motion 3
Lightwave 9.2
Adobe After Effects CS3

I decided to give AE a shot even though Adobe says that it has issues under Leopard.
The first thing I did was to create a cutdown project where I culled footage from the clips that were supplied. Once I had gone through all of the footage and ripped out the shots I wanted to use, it was on to the motion graphics.

I used Lightwave to create a 3D version of the logo graphics that had been supplied to me as TIFF files. I do this even when the result will be 2D because I can then scale the logo to any size and have no image degradation.

Once the logo was complete and I had output the TIFF sequence from Lightwave, I brought the sequence into After Effects. Once there, I created an animated background that integrated various sizes of the logo. On top of that I animated the text for the intro to the promo shot and used a number of AE expressions to add a little random life to the text's movement.

Then I brought in the music and sound FX for the intro graphics and tweaked the graphics to match the sound track. The audio was supplied at a specific length that the intro had to match. Once this was complete, I output the result to a TIFF file sequence as uncompressed SD 29.97 interlaced.

I created the outtro graphics using basically the same workflow and matching it to the outtro graphics that I created using Motion 3. Again, output to 29.97 interlaced TIFF sequence.

I then created a new project in FCP, set up my usual bin organization and setup 3 sequences. One for the intro, one for the main video clips and one for the outtro. Once that was done I loaded the TIFF sequences and placed them into their appropriate sequences that I created.

I then loaded the head banger soundtrack into the audio bin along with the intro / outtro audio sections. I then created my master sequence and loaded the intro and outtro audio and video as well as the main head banger music into the main sequence. The sequence then sits at exactly 30 seconds and I am ready to start dropping in footage from the cutdowns into this master sequence after I set my timing markers.

I listen to the music and hit the M for marker to set my beat points in the music. I go back and listen to it again and ensure that I am happy with the marker locations and tweak the ones that I am not happy with.

Finally, I start dropping in the clips from the cutdowns into this master sequence and aligning them with the markers. Once this process was complete and I was happy with the timing and overall flow of the spot (many tweaks here to get it just right), I slap bars and tone on the front and tail ends and run the sequence once more to make sure were are within broadcast limits.

A few more tweaks, the scopes look good and I loaded the whole shebang into SoundTrack and tweaked the final audio with tone as my reference after some minor EQing and some adjustments to the transitions between the intro/outro and the main spot's audio.

Back in FCP, I re-check the audio and video - watching the thing start to finish about 10 times to make sure I am happy with the result and finally burn to tape and I am done.

Now, where did Leopard fail me in all of this? Nowhere. NOTHING went wrong. All of the apps described above worked just as they always have. Including AE CS3 that Adobe says is not compatible. I suspect I just managed to not hit whatever aspect of AE has issues under Leopard. And bear in mind that this install is OVER Tiger. Not a clean install as is recommended by many in the Mac community.

When I update our MacPro Tiger machine this week, it will again be OVER Tiger that I install Leopard. Why, you might ask? I just have FAR too many apps existing on that machine to be able to back it all up, do the install and then re-install all of those apps. Just not gonna happen.

The bottom line? I am happy. I am looking forward to getting Leopard onto the MacPro. It's optimized 64 bit architecture should allow us to enjoys some nice performance enhancements while doing the work that we have done under Tiger.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Leopard: The cat in the Mac

CAVEAT: This is NOT a review of Leopard. This post is intended to provide my results of testing Leopard by installing it over Tiger and testing that all of the applications listed in my previous post function properly. A large part of this testing focus is on Apple's Final Cut Studio application suite.

If you want to read reviews of Leopard, Apple Insider has one HERE, Computerworld has an in-depth one HERE and MacWorld has one HERE. You can google for more if you like. EnGadget even installed Leopard on an 8 year old Mac G4 tower and you can read about it HERE.

As a final note, iLife was updated today and I applied that update to the Mac so as to bring it current. Now, with all of that being said, let's get to it!

Nancy and I went to the Apple store at the Simi Vally Town Center mall tonight and arrived at about 5:50 PM. There was a line of about 60 folks waiting and dodging the kids choo-choo train that winds it's way around this outdoor mall. The Apple store was closed. At about 5:59PM they opened up and the line moved very quickly into the store.

I was surprised at the number of folks that had come to the store just to get a T-shirt. About 30 percent of the folks at the store actually were buying Leopard.

To start the tests off, I am going to do some intial timings of the spare Mac that I am installing Leopard onto. This way I can see if Leopard impacts the performance of the machine at all. I suspect that once I get Leopard installed on the main Mac here, we should see some performance change since Leopard is now a full 64 bit OS. I was digging around the house here for a stop watch and Nancy pointed out that the iPhone has one built in.

The test Mac is configured as follows:


  • Macintosh Powerbook G4
  • 1.67 Ghz PPC CPU
  • 1GB of RAM.
  • 80GB internal HD
  • 1TB external RAID array attached via FW800
This configuration will preclude any testing of Color as the Mac does not have a video card with sufficient chutzpah to allow color to run. So if all goes well here, that testing will take place on the Mac Pro.

Adobe has announced the following current versions of their applications that are NOT compatable with Leopard:

Products that will require updates for full Leopard compatibility include Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional and the company’s professional video applications, including Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, After Effects CS3 Professional, Encore CS3 and Soundbooth CS3.

Reported at MacWorld HERE.

Timings Pre-Leopard Install (all applications are current version and patch level):

BOOT -- 48 seconds
FCP 6 -- 47 seconds
Soundtrack Pro 2 -- 18 seconds
Motion -- 41 seconds
Dreamweaver CS3 -- 22 seconds
Photoshop CS3 -- 26 seconds
Pages -- 9 seconds
Keynote -- 20 seconds
Numbers -- 9 seconds

Installing Leopard now - Looks to be about 1 hour for the install.

While it installs, I am surfing the net on the WinTel machine here next to the Mac I see Engadget has a nice article on application issues with Leopard. Check it out HERE.

More updates LIVE from B-scene films as soon as the install ends and I can continue testing.

Stay tuned!

OK, it took about an hour and 15 minutes to install. It wanted to setup Time Machine which I declined. I did some quick tests with FCP, created a new project, brought in about 2 hours of SD clips and edited up a few sequences and that worked fine. Brought in an existing Hot Rod TV project and re-arraanged a few things and that all looks good. Same with Soundtrack Pro and Motion.

Twilight Zone time...

OK, I tried to open a 5.0 project file in FCP 6.0.1 that is located on the external 1TB drive and FCP said that it did not understand the file format. I copied that project file over to the other Mac that is running Tiger and it opened it up and offered to convert it as expected.

I then copied a 5.0 project from the Mac running Tiger over to the Leopard Mac and tried to open it up and it opened up just fine after the conversion dialog box was cleared (as expected).

So - A 5.0 file on the Leopard machine will not open in FCP but it WILL open on the Tiger Mac. 5.0 from the Tiger opens on the Leopard machine. Very very weird. OK, will test more in the morning.

The machine is indexing Searchlight right now and estimates 2 hours to completion so I am going to let it run and continue testing in the morning. If there is anything specific anyone wants me to try, don't be shy, leave a comment and I will test it out for you.

Saturday Update:

There appears to be zero performance impact. All of the times listed above are the same now with Leopard installed. When I install Leopard on the MacPro I suspect there should be some performance changes based on the 64 bit nature of Leopard (Tiger was only partially 64 bit).

This morning I did a number of captures. DVCPROHD from a deck, HDV from the Sony Z1 and some SD 24pa from a DVX100b and everything captured with no issues.

I conclude that FCP 6.01 under Leopard is stable with the single caveat that there *may* be an issue loading projects from previous versions. This issue seems intermittant and I am going to investigate it further.

Soundtrack Pro 2.0 is working fine. I opened STP 1.0 projects with it, recorded audio, re-mixed a music track, saves loads etc. All seems to be working properly. Motion is also working just fine. Loading old projects, creating new, importing media, motion tracking. All working just fine.

I cannot test Apple Color on this machine as it has insufficient video hardware resources so you will have to wait until we get Leopard up on the MacPro for those tests.

Now on to the Adobe Suite and the iWork suite. More test results to come. Stay tuned!

OK, we're back. I tested Dreamweaver CS3 and saw no issues. This included creating a new website with embedded flash elements and editing an existing Dreamweaver project. So I do not see any issues here.

I tested Photoshop CS3 and it also seems to be working just fine. I edited a variety of image formats including Nikon RAW, TIFF, JPG and GIF. I setup batch conversions using actions and everything worked flawlessly.

I also tested Pages, Keynote and Numbers. All 3 of these applications appear to be working just fine. I also decided to test Colorista under FCP and corrected a number of SD, HDV and full HD footage sequences and Colorista appears to be working just fine.

The quirks:

Aside from the very strange legacy file open issue that is noted above in the Twilight Zone section, the only other issues I have seen are these:

Time Machine: I tried to run the Time Machine client before Time Machine had done any backups. This made the menu bar on the Mac disappear. I still had a dock and could launch apps but the menu bar was gone. A reboot produced a hung machine. A second reboot brought the machine back to life. Once I had allowed Time Machine to create a backup, the client software ran just fine. But still, this is crappy error handling and should have been caught in QA at Apple.

Safari: Safari is the only browser that I use on the Mac. I use Firefox on the Wintel machines but I have never bothered with it on the Mac since Safari seemed to meet my needs. Overall, Safari ran fine with a couple of weird exceptions. I went to eBay. I searched on Macintosh Plus. It returned a list of ads and I browsed one of the ads - Or attempted to.

Safari complained that it could not decode the page. So I went back 1 page and got the same error. Back at the main eBay page my search text was still intact so I told it to do the search again and it gave me the error again. So I quit Safari and repeated the whole process and I never saw the error message again.

Conclusion:

With the Twilight zone situation that I detailed above, I am hesetant to provide a blanket reccomendation if you are depending on FCS for your livlihood. FCS appears to run just fine other than what I detailed.

Also, bear in mind that I am not testing with a wide variety of hardware in these intial tests. Your Black Magic or AJA products that you depend on have NOT been tested here.

All of that being said, I feel compelled to reccomend that you hold off on installing Leopard until Apple has made some corrections to it.

On the positive side of things, they have fixed all of the weird networking issues that I used to run into with Tiger and that is a HUGE plus for me. Additionally, the bluetooth appears to be more robust as well (my kbd and mouse would generally have about a 50% chance of not being recognized when I booted the Powerbook - That seems to be fixed).

The finder actually seems a bit zippier than Tigers which surprises me. Time Machine is a VERY slick app. When you DO upgrade to Leopard, I highly reccomend you get an external FW drive and let this great app do it's thing.

After all of these results, I will be discussing with Nancy wheather or not we will upgrade the MacPro to Leopard. If we do decide to do that, I will blog the results of that experience here.

I hope this experience was helpful to some of you out there that depend on FCS and the Mac for your day-to-day business.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leopard: Just say no

Well, tomorrow is the big day. Apple will release OS X 10.5 Leopard. This is a pretty huge update for OS X. 300 new features (see a complete list HERE) and a lot of security updates under the hood as well. I REALLY hope that they have fixed the oddball networking issues that I run into between Windows XP and OS X (Windows can see the Mac but the Mac cannot see Windows etc.).

I know that they are going to separate network requests into their own process so that when you try to access a network resource that is down or unreachable, you won't get the spinning Technicolor pizza of death and have to re-start the finder.

So, why "Just say no."? Well, if you are using your Mac for your day to day work and depending on it for your livelihood, I would HIGHLY recommend that you wait to see what kind of issues crop up with this new update.

This weekend I will be updating our secondary Mac with 10.5 and I will be testing it with the following applications:

FCP 6
Compressor
DVD Studio Pro
Motion 3
Soundtrack Pro 2
Color
Photoshop CS3
After Effects CS3
Dreamweaver CS3
Pages
Keynote
Numbers

All of these apps are the current versions. If I get time I will test with the current versions of iLife as well.

I will blog the results of this testing on Sunday or Monday. I'll also blog my initial impressions of the update. Once I am convinced that 10.5 is stable and there are no issues with it we will migrate it to the main Mac that we use for post work.

When I tested out Vista, I ran it inside of a VMWare VM session on my main WinXP box. I did that because I did not trust the new update and I did not have a machine that I could just install it on and not have it impact my work. So I ran it in the VM and there it sits still. I still do not trust it. The security in Vista is SO in your face as to make it obtrusive and counter-productive.

I seriously doubt that I will ever use it as my mainstream OS for Wintel.

Stay tuned for my Leopard report here!

Mike

Monday, October 22, 2007

OT: Apple - The right thing

I recently posted about Apple ( HERE ) and complained about the lack of dev tools (read:SDK) for the iPhone. Well, Apple has announced the iPhone SDK to be released in February:

(From the Apple Hot News site)

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.

Steve

P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch.


Since my post pleaded for this, I have to now say Thanks, Steve. I am VERY pleased to see this happen.

In related news, I commute from Moorpark to Burbank every day on the LA Metrolink train system and I tend to pass the time listening to podcasts. Last week I was listening to the Creative Planet Digital Production Buzz podcast ( HERE ) with Philip Hodgets and Michael Horton (the latter is the president of the LAFCPUG).

Michael and Philip started to get into it over the bricking of iPhones. This is an issue that I have not covered here because everybody and his brother has written or blogged about this. However, after listening to this rant between the two hosts of this great podcast, I felt compelled to write about this. Michael felt that Apple doing this was beneath contempt and Philip defended Apple on this.

I fear that I have to agree with Philip here. Apple warned users that the next update had the potential of rendering hacked iPhones useless. Additionally, when you ran the update, aw bug warning screen came up that stated this as well and you had to confirm that you were aware of it before you allowed the update to continue.

I think that Apple acted with reasonable prudence prior to the 1.1.1 iPhone update. And, at the end of the day, if you bought an iPhone and then hacked the hell out of it and are now crying because it's useless, you got what you deserved. To expect Apple to support hacking on the iPhone is just as reasonable as expecting your car dealer to support you when your car fails after trying to add super performance mods to it's engine.

Recently, my Camry that I use basically to just drive to and from the train station had the driver's side window fail. I took it to a local mechanic who quoted me $450 to fix it. I demurred and called up the local Toyota dealer and they quoted me $250. The reason that the dealer was so much cheaper is that they can replace individual components of the mechanism instead of just replacing the whole thing as an independent would have to.

I took it to the dealer and then got a phone call a few hours later informing me that they had to replace the whole mechanism since someone in the past had installed a 3rd party version of the mechanism. I ended up spending the same at the dealer as the independent would have charged. And I am OK with that. While it was not I that put the 3rd party component into the car (I bought it used), I understand that the dealer cannot support things like this that fall outside of their control.

So too must Apple when it comes to the iPhone.

Now, I have stated before that I am not an Apple Fanboi - The previous analysis is just prudent business on the part of Apple. I would support this approach regardless of the vendor. Now, on the negative side of the fence, I REALLY wish that Apple would allow user created ring tones.

On my iPhone I have 1 custom ring tone that I created. It is a section from the film When harry met Sally. It is the audio from the fake orgasm that Sally does in the restaurant and I have it set to trigger when Nancy calls me. It's still on the phone and it still works just fine.

In order to implement it I had to do a file copy and a rename of the file once inside the iTunes library. Not much of a hack and I figured worst case, Apple would disable this little back door (which they did). Now, all of that being said, it is my opinion that Apple should ONLY charge for ring tones for songs that you buy that you did not previously own.

If you already own the music or the sound effect, you should be able to use it as you see fit for personal use. But, what is happening here is that the music companies are forcing Apple to charge their customers for ring tones regardless of whether or not the customer owns the material already or not.

Having recently finished reading Eric Clapton's autobiography, one of the things that he mentions towards the end is his predictions that the music companies that exist today will not be here in ten years. He also indicates his approval of this situation. Looking at what bands like Radiohead are doing (offering their new album as a digital download for ANY size donation - or none at all), the music business is in serious transition mode.

Personally, I would LOVE to see the demise of all of the record companies. They add no value. All they do is leach off of the talent of others and gouge the consumers. Good riddance to them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Report from Panafest 2007




Panafest - This is the first time that Panavision has held this event. Normally they announce new products at Show Biz Expo or the NAB show or similar venues. Panavision stated that they had enough new products ready that they did not want to wait for one of the tradeshows to demonstrate and announce these new products.

Now, admittedly, Panavision products are of little interest to the average low/no budget indie filmmaker. Panavision traditionally appeals to the mainstream studio productions. Panavision provides cameras, lenses and accesories for (mostly) 35mm film productions. That is their bread and butter. And these products are never sold - Only leased to film companies for the duration of their principal photography.

Panavision does have an HD Digital camera called the Genesis, and a number of changes were introduced at the Panafest for this series of products. One of the advantages of Genesis is that the controls and overall handling of the camera are modeled on their film cameras. As such, an operator or AC that is familiar with Panavision's existing film line of products will be at home on the Genesis.

At Panafest, a number of new products were demonstrated such as new prime lenses, new anamorphic lenses, a new 2 perf system and updates to the Genesis line. For this update, we will focus on the Genesis products since the other items are designed for mainstream film. The Genesis is of interest since it more directly competes with products such as the Thomson Viper or the RED.

At Panafest, the screening room was set up to run a number of demos. One of these was a Mazda commercial that was shot both on film and on the Genesis. All footage displayed was presented on a 2K Barco projector. The audience was asked to tell which footage was shot on film and which was shot on the Genesis. Outside of a single tell-tale item, I was unable to tell the difference. And this was true of the audience (comprised mostly of DPs, engineers and camera crew personnel).

Following this was a discussion of the Genesis workflow using their new SSR product (Solid state recorder) that stores 20 minutes of uncompressed HD fotage (the camera also supports a compressed format with 4:2:2 chroma sub-sampling for longer duration shots).
As an aside, the Genesis camera produces a full uncompressed progressive HD image (1920x1080) without chroma sub-sampling (4:4:4 colorspace). The image that is produced by the genesis is in a proprietary format called Panalog 4. Viewing this raw data is reminiscent of the image prodcued by a viper. Desaturated and low contrast. This data contains a full gamma curve and needs to be run through a conversion box that pairs with the Genesis to provide 3D LUTs for look management.

Now, while none of this is new or earth shattering, the new Genesis does provide a way to revert the data back to raw format, removing the changes applied by the LUTs. They have a patent on this little trick and it's a very slick feature. I asked of the solid state recorder could be mounted as a drive to facilitate file copying and they stated that this was not possible. You had to hook it up via HD-SDI and do real-time capture. This is, IMHO a MAJOR flaw in this design.

Following this they ran some test footage from their 2-perf system. Very wide. Very nice looking.

Panavision has a test soundstage at their facility and this was setup with all of their products so that you could go in and see and play with all of the new gear. Outside they had a tent set up with a couple of cranes and a car mount along with open bars and lots of food.



Excuse the crappy pictures - They were taken with my iPhone :).

Opinion time. This is just MY opinion here. Let me preface this with the fact that I have been to the Panavision facilities many times. The people at Panavision are a great group of very talented people who are always willing to go the extra mile to get you what you need. Their products are of the very highest quality. And that is evident in the many thousands of great films that have been created using their gear. They offer free training on all of their gear. If you want to learn how to tear a Panavision XL2 down and re-assemble it they are happy to show you.

That being said, I think that Panavision is in a precarious position. I seriously doubt that they will be able to react quickly enough in the marketplace to continue to hold their dominant position. One of the statements made by the Panavision folks during the show was that Panavision feels that film has a very bright and long future ahead of it. I disagree. Moreover, when I see what they have done with the Genesis, I don't see significant innovation.

As filmed entertainment moves into the digital realm, Panavision is at risk of being left behind in a world where changes occur at breakneck speed and prices plummet. I predict that at some point, Panavision will be best served as a lens supplier. I wish them the best of luck. The challenges that they face are significant. In the past, the speed of change for film cameras was lethargic at best. Panavision will have to completely re-invent themselves in order to survive in the new world of digital cinema.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Indy 4: Just a taste

In my youth I was probably a fanboi of a number of different things, but as I got older and more jaded, all of those things fell to the wayside. All except one: Indiana Jones. When Raiders was released, I had zero knowledge of it. A friend of mine suggested that we go see it. I had no expectations. But, wow, I was blown away. I have probably seen the film over 30 times in the intervening years. The film remains timeless for me and never gets old. The effects still hold up today just as they did when the film was released.

When Temple of Doom was released I had very high expectations. But I walked out on the film. And I VERY rarely walk out on a film. I just hated this film. Still do. Then, when Last Crusade came out (I guess it was not the last, now was it?), I had jaded expectations. But I loved every minute of it. My only crit was that I wished they had taken more time to let the audience really get to know Jones Sr. I really liked the character and loved Connery's portrayal of him.

When I heard that Indy 4 was being made and that Harrison was going to reprise the role, I figured that this was going to be a really bad thing. And then I saw a picture of Mr. Ford in costume and my spirits were lifted.

For those of you who are interested in a little taste of what is to come, /Film has a nice little writeup that you can read HERE.

An interesting aside is how Spielberg eschews digital technology. I remember when he gave a talk at the UCLA film school about 5 years ago and stated that as long as there was film, he would shoot on film. In fact, on Munich, his editor was relegated to using a Movieola at the director's insistence. Looks like his first taste of an Avid will come as he co-directs Tintin with Peter Jackson following the conclusion of the production of Indy 4.

Spielberg, clearly a curmudgeon, is still a curmudgeon whose work continues to inspire and delight filmgoers everywhere.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The death of cinema

The death of cinema

This post is really a response to the blog post over at Flippant News here.

Peter Greenaway is a self described eccentric filmmaker and is quoted as saying that cinema is dead. It would be easy for me to just dismiss Peter’s comments but I think that Peter is a smart guy. I also think that he is on the wrong track here. He says that Scorsese is old fashioned and is doing nothing new. That he is making the same level of entertainment that D.W. Griffith was making.

Griffith is generally credited with creating the modern grammar of film but he was responsible for popularizing the modern grammar of film and promoting himself as the originator of these techniques. But that is kind of an aside – You can read more about that HERE.

Peter is convinced that the future is in interactive entertainment. About 10 years ago, George Lucas tested an interactive movie here in LA where the audience was given a controller and allowed to provide input on the direction of the story. The experiment was considered a failure.

My take is this: When people sit in a theater and watch a film or a play, for that matter, they are engaging in a shared, passive experience that has been part of the pantheon of human culture for thousands of years. The basic 3 act dramatic structure that is employed in most films can be traced to the ancient Greeks.

To think that this experience is dead, is dead wrong. To assume that everyone wants to participate in the presentation of a story is wrong. In my opinion, these experiences are independent of each other. There is room for both. Many times, I just want to sit back and enjoy someone telling me a story. I am not alone in this.

Moreover, Peter feels that video artists such as Bill Viola are a huge improvement over the traditional story telling film experience. Here again, I think he is wrong. There is room for both. They are vastly different experiences. There is NO reason to presume that one form will supplant the other.

Interactive media / Film, Plays / Video art, Traditional art – I can and do appreciate all of these various forms of expression. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. There is no reason for one to supplant the other. Saying that interactive media and video art should supplant traditional cinema is equivalent to saying that sculpture should supplant painting as an art form.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

FCP Prefs and 31 Best movie monsters

Pretty fun look at movie monsters over the years. Seems like the best ones come out around Halloween - Not a surprise :)

Check it out HERE.

Thor Hazel has a nice FCP prefs reference up on his blog - Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

OT: Apple - Deja Vu?

UPDATED

Many years ago, I owned a Mercedes Benz 450SL Roadster. This was the top of the line Mercedes at that time. I remember reading a review about the car in Road and Track magazine and how they gushed about the car. Except for one item: Fixed steering wheel position. The review pointed out that all of the other cars competing in this class had adjustable steering wheels. R&T asked Mercedes about this and the response was (paraphrased): "We have calculated the optimum position for the steering wheel. It does not need to be adjustable".

Now, today, if we look at the specs for the 2008 Mercedes 600SL, we find this:

4-way (tilt/telescoping) power steering column position-linked to driver's seat memory.

Now, one might wonder why Mercedes has, at some point, lost the ability to calculate the correct position of the steering wheel. The answer, of course, is that they didn't. What they came to understand was that this was a feature that their customers wanted. So, being in the business of serving the needs of their customers, they changed this stance and gave the customer what they wanted.

I don't think that any of us wants to tolerate something that a product has as a feature when that feature (or lack thereof) does not meet our needs. We will go along our merry way looking for the product that does not impose the particular quirk upon us and as such better meets our needs. It's just common sense. And this brings us to Apple.

This morning, I read an editorial by Christopher Breen over at Macworld (you can read it HERE) entitled "Is Apple on the wrong path?". This article really struck a chord with me. I have talked about Apple before here on the blog and I have mentioned many times that I am anything but an Apple fanboi. I prefer to think of myself as technology agnostic. Use the tools that are best suited to the task. Period. But, it was not always that way for me. So let's program the wayback machine for 1982 for a few moments.

Ahhhh, here we are. I am hacking away happily on my Apple ][+. I am a huge fan of Apple. I love the products. I love the openness of the system, the fact that Apple publishes the source code to the monitor and prints out the schematics to the machine. This is hacker heaven. Hacker, in the original parlance meant someone who was a hard core computer geek. Not like today where it implies criminal activities. Around this same time, the Apple Macintosh is gestating somewhere in the bowels of Apple. Jeff Raskin, a brilliant computer scientist, has a vision for a computer that is the equivalent of a toaster. A computing appliance, if you will.

This is really the first time that any company takes the idea of "ease of use" and seriously tries to apply it to a computer. For me, as a hacker, this type of machine is the antithesis of what interests me. I have no desire to be insulated from the inner workings of a computer. To me, the computer is it's own little universe, just waiting for me to explore it. Let's fast forward to 1984 and the introduction of the Mac. I am now programming the IBM PC since the jobs for writing software for it are much more plentiful than the Apple ][. And IBM had also taken a very open approach to the design, much like the Apple. I had been following the Mac's development as much as I was able to through the press. A few days after it started showing up in stores I went to the local Computerland to check it out. I thought it was interesting. I had seen a GUI on the Lisa prior to the Mac and I had read a lot about this new user interface paradigm.

I thought that the idea was really slick but looking at what kinds of things the computer had to now do just to produce a simple UI, I presumed that the machine would be daunting to develop for. One of the things that most fascinated me was the mouse. While that original mouse was not particularly ergonomic, it was still a very interesting way to interact with the computer. About this same time, Microsoft released Word for the IBM PC and along with it, a mouse. I bought this package and I was a HUGE fan of it. I loved the fact that whatever you saw on the screen was what printed - Italics? You saw it on the screen - Boldface? Same deal. This was at a time when word processors were all text based and what you saw on the screen were special codes to delineate ares of text for bold or italic or what have you. But the text itself was still just normal text - You did not get to see it in bold or italic.

This combined with a 2 button mouse was a great combo for me. And, while right-mouse click context menus were still a few years away, the addition of the right button just seemed right. When I looked at the Mac and asked why it had only 1 button, I was told that this was done to keep the machine simple. So as not to confuse the users. How arrogant, I thought. I merrily went on my IBM way. Now, this kind of thinking - Where the producer of a particular product thinks that they know best and they are too arrogant to admit it was a mistake and correct it, is a huge pet peeve of mine.

It was this kind of arrogance that turned me off of Apple for a long time.

In recent years, Apple has been producing decent products. Correcting errors that they made in the past. Why, they even have a mouse now that supports a right click! But, even that seems to have been begrudgingly put into their Mighty Mouse product. Apple is on a roll right now. They are finally making some inroads to the corporate world.

Their stores (that were vilified in the press when they opened) provide a great experience for the customer and have made Apple a very nice profit. The switch to Intel was a HUGE plus for the products. The way that Apple implemented Rosetta and VERY quickly ported existing apps over to Intel as well as providing great tools to 3rd party developers has been an amazing success story.

With the addition of things like Parallels, VMWare Fusion and Boot Camp that all allow users to run Windows on the Mac, the level of acceptance of this platform is at a record high. Add to this the iPod, iTunes and the iPhone all doing record business and you have an amazing success story. But, at the edges of this story is the scent of that arrogance that once turned me off to Apple.

Steve - You don't always know what is best for the user. When the user base decries one of Apple's blunders, listen to them. Respond to it. When you were interviewed about the iPhone price drop in one of the trades, you basically said "Too bad. Suck it up". You followed this by offering a $100 rebate the following day. The ideal situation for this would have been for you to offer that rebate in that initial interview.

Now, as to all of the belly aching about 3rd party applications and iPhones getting bricked, I don't agree with the people that are whining about it and even suing Apple over it. You knew what the terms were when you bought the iPhone. However, Apple does need to move quickly to allow these 3rd party applications to work in a sanctioned fashion on the iPhone.

It's what your customers want. Time to do the right thing.

UPDATE: It appears that Apple is making a token effort to appease the dev crowd on the iPhone. Gizmodo has coverage HERE. This is not enough, in my opinion. They need to roll out an actual SDK for developers and quit screwing around with crap like this.

We've come a long way, baby

A friend of mine pointed out this YouTube video on special effects on video tape from an early TV station promo. It's nice to see things like this to give a little perspective on how far we have come.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Busy weekend

Well, the past week has been pretty busy for us. Working on pre-production for Thicker than Blood. We have been going through and breaking the script down into shots and storyboarding as we go. Trying to keep setups to a minimum as we choose the shots that best emphasize and convey the story.

In between working on that, I have been playing around with PowerTab. This is an Open source guitar tablature program. If any of you out there play the guitar, this is a great learning tool and there is a great library of tablatures to go along with it. I encourage you all to check it out HERE.

In other news, Letus (makes of a 35mm lens adapter for DV) have announced a new version of their adapter. In the past I have avoided their products because of questionable build quality. However, this new version looks to be a very nice tool. Built-in image flip (these adapters flip the normal image when used), reduced light loss. All in all, this looks very promising. Check out a full review of it HERE.

RED has been in the news lately since they have begun shipping cameras and OffHollywood in NYC has done an extensive set of tests with the camera using real world shooting situations. TekServe has edited together all of the coverage of this event and you can see it HERE.

Mark Schubin, Emmy winning broadcast consultant and overall video UberGeek has a great article on lighting in the current issue of Videographer Magazine. In the article he points out that Lowel has a great interactive lighting education site up. Check it out HERE.

Speaking of Mark, he produces a GREAT bi-weekly podcast called The Schubin Report. He covers all kinds of aspects of the broadcast industry as well as explaining many technical aspects of video in layman's terms. Click on his name up above to check out his podcast site and subscribe today!

David Cronenberg's new film Eastern Promises looks to be another great film from this master director. His previous film, A History of Violence, was, IMO his best work to date. Easter Promises looks to be setting the bar even higher. There is an interview with David online that makes for some great reading. Check it out HERE.

Blender 3D is an open-source 3D modelling and rendering package. I have been a user of Lightwave for many years and I do not expect that to change anytime soon since learning a new 3D package is a career unto itself. However, there is a great comparison online that details out the differences between Blender and the other major packages (Lightwave, Maya, XSI, 3DS Max etc). Check it out HERE.

As a final note today, one of my favorite podcasts, All movie talk, has come to an end. It has been a great 52 episode run for these guys and the logistics of producing a high quality podcast as they have done can be pretty daunting. Steven and Sam, thank you both very much for all of the work that you did on this podcast. You will be truly missed!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Learn After Effects

Video CoPilot is a web site that sells media for use in After Effects. A sales tool that is employed by them is tutorials to teach folks AE. They start from beginner to advanced (including expressions).

Andrew Kramer, the proprietor, has created a new site called Basic Training that provides a comprehensive set of tutorials for AE that take you from the ground up.

Check it out HERE.

This is a great set of tutorials that Andrew has created and it's FREE. Andrew is a great teacher and he will keep you entertained while he teaches you AE. That's a great combination.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Human Flip Book

Very slick stop motion animation done with 150 T-shirts:

HERE

Monday, September 17, 2007

An insider's view of a talent agency

This is SUCH a great post that offers many insights into the world of the A-list talent agencies that I thought I would post it here for you all to enjoy:

An outsider comes inside.

A barrage of production links

Been a week or so since I last blogged. Been pretty busy over the last week. At work, the rats are leaving the ship so I have had to do 3 people's jobs - But all for the same crappy pay! We had a jam this last weekend that went pretty well.

Previously our setup was: Drummer, Bass player thru Fender bass amp, Lead/Rhythm guitar thru Line 6 amp, Rhythm guitar thru a Fender Super Twin (acoustic) and me on lead guitar thru a Marshall.

The lines 6 amp died so the lead/rhythm guitar was used thru the Fender Twin so I had to buy another amp to accommodate the acoustic guitar. Picked up a Fishman Loudbox that was just amazing. The acoustic guitar just sang out clear as a bell; huge improvement.

On the production front, no real news seems to have come out of IBC in Amsterdam. So, with a somewhat slow news week, I'll toss some links at you.

Report from IBC from Shane Ross
10 things you MUST know about FCP
The ideal age to be a director: 30, give or take 4
Prepping TV spots and PBS guidelines
RED updates from the field
Is RED really a 4K camera?
Make professional looking DVDs
iMovie 06 interface overview
21 Mac Shareware apps for filmmakers

OT: iPhone. Nance and I have iPhones. On the whole, I love the thing. What I HATE about it is AT&T. The coverage is random and unreliable. Half the time I show 4 bars of signal and the thing won't access the internet complaining that the Edge network is not available. Absolute crap :(

Saturday, September 08, 2007

OT: Apple again - This just cracks me up

A couple of Apple items here... When Apple announced that they would charge .99 in addition to the cost of a song that you buy on iTunes, my thought was "Yeah right. Ain't nobody gonna buy that!". And sure enough, as soon as iTunes 7.4 was released, a workaround cropped up on the net so that you could make your own ringtones for free. Cool.

This morning I am going over my RSS feeds and see that Apple has released iTunes 7.4.1 and low and behold, the Ringtone hack has been patched. Then, 5 minutes ago I read on Engadget the new workaround for 7.4.1 HERE.

Dear Steve. Just fugedaboudit. As soon as you patch it, it will get a new patch. Time to focus efforts elswhere...

The other Apple item is the Computerworld article on how Apple is the new Microsoft. An interesting read and an interesting perspective as well. But, as they say, opinions are like... Well, you get the picture.

This morning, Dan Frakes of Macworld published a direct rebuttal to the computerworld article entitled Why Apple isn't the new Microsoft. I think both articles are well worth a read. Even moreso are the reader's comments on both. They gave me a nice chuckle with my morning coffee.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

OT: Apple's iPology

The price cuts announced by Jobs yesterday made a LOT of the early adopters of the iPhone angry. And jobs was not apologetic about it at all as you can see in this article over at MacNN HERE.

It would appear that the backlash was significant enough to cause Apple to backpedal on this stance as they are now offering $100 credit to purchasers of the iPhone who feel slighted by Apple's price cuts as seen in this letter on the Apple web site HERE.

All very amusing to me :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Time Code Calculators

Often times I found myself needing a calculator that supports time code as I was editing various projects. If you have found yourself in the same situation, then your solution is here.

MAC TC Calculators

Windows TC Calculators

Mostly free - the rest are well below the "Oh what the hell" price point.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How to pitch your services

As a freelance business, it's always important to be able to pitch your services to potential clients in an effective and professional manner. Over at the great Freelance Switch blog, they have a great top 10 list for pitching your services. You can check it out HERE.

Beyond that, it can be effective to advertise your services over on Craig's List. We were able to get a number of jobs by just doing a simple ad on that site. They have regional versions of the site so that you can target the area that is most relevant to your business.

Check them out HERE.

RED arrives

First off, HUGE kudos to Jim Jannard of RED for delivering this product that will change the game in both indie and big budget productions. There were a LOT of people who were convinced that this was a scam and that the folks that laid down their deposits were fools soon to be separated from their money.

There are a number of writeups on the RED One's arrival in the wilds. First off is FxGuide's coverage that you can read HERE.

Next up is Mike Curtis's coverage and photo gallery that you can see HERE.

And finally, over at RedUser.org, there is a great thread and some sample frame grabs (in 4K!!) that you can check out HERE. You can check out a BUNCH of stuff in the Field Tests forum over at RedUser in addition to that thread. Check it out HERE.

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend and stayed cool!