Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wow - Over a month since I have posted

Has not been a lot to report here lately. Most items of interest are covered elsewhere and Nancy and I have been busy posting 5 shows.

However - In case you have not heard of the short film Reverie that was shot on the new Canon EOS 5D MkII still camera, you HAVE to see this. It's just amazing stuff and the author, Vincent Laforet has been VERY generous with this. He has posted original raw clips right from the camera that you can download at his site and play with.

All he asks is that you comment on his blog regarding the need for 24p on the EOS 5D camera so that he can get the message across to Canon.

Check out the blog HERE, the film HERE and download footage HERE.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

New David Mullen thread for Stay Cool

David Mullen A.S.C. is doing another journal over at Red User on his latest film "Stay Cool". His descriptions and wealth of filmmaking knowledge make these journals a MUST read for any indie filmmaker.

Check it out HERE.

Sunday I should have part one of my review of the Focus Enhancements FS-5 online with lots of pics as well.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Poor video quality + digital stills = good results

I ran across this on the net this weekend. The practice of shooting video and photographing the same material. Using standard DV and enhancing it using higher resolution / dynamic range still photographs. The results are quite interesting. Of course, this presumes that the stills that you take will be better than the quality of the video. Nevertheless, the results here can be pretty nice. This can also be easily applied to wire removal and object removal.

Check it out HERE.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Going Postal

As in post production. Nancy and I are in the midst of doing post for 3 operas and Nancy is finishing up post on a photo session that she did prior to this last batch of operas.

We have about 30 DVDs to produce for each opera as well as artwork for the labels and DVD cases, so we have a lot of work in front of us. On the second opera the Tascam HD-P2 dropped about 2 seconds of audio in the middle of the second half of the opera. We were recording backup audio using a shotgun mic that was place further back in the theater so we had to use that to fill that gap.

After that incident I did extensive testing of the HD-P2 and was never able to re-produce this problem again. Very strange but shows it pays to have a backup on events like this where there is no take two, as it were.

The audio quality is just stellar with the Tascam and the Oktava mics. We recorded 192k 24bit and the sound is just top notch. I am REALLY happy with it. Using 8GB CF cards, I get about 1 hour and 45 minutes per card. This worked out fine as the operas are 2 hours with a 30 minute intermission between the hours so I could swap cards.

On the last opera, Nancy used the new Focus FS-5 DTE unit and recorded to tape for backup. The FS-5 worked flawlessly. She controlled it through her LANC controls and had no issues. Capture time was about 30 minutes instead of 2 hours.

So Nancy was REALLY happy with that result. She did not need the tapes at all but the backup is nice.

Next week - Or the week after I think, Nancy will be doing more training from Tiffen on using her Steadicam flyer. Once I get a little camcorder, I will shoot some video of her flying the Z1 and do a PIP thing so you can see her operating and the resultant footage.

We are still getting used to the FS-5 and getting a handle on it. Once we have a better feel for the unit I will post a review.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Little bees of the busy variety

Been real busy around here. Last weekend we went and filmed an opera for the Casa Italiana opera company in LA. It was a 2 hour show with a 30 minute intermission. Nance had done one of these last year but it was a 3.5 hour opera and she had to do 2 shows in one day (7 hours total!). She had to stand on a chair to operate the camera and it was a really bad experience for her.

Adding to that, we had 1 day's notice for the gig and the sound gear failed so all we had was the on-camera sound. All in all, it was a terrible experience. The sound gear belonged to the guy that was supposed to do the gig but his gear was all crap.

So this time, Nance put together a little platform for herself to be able to sit and operate the camera. She used a swivel bar stool on the platform and it really worked well. We used a pair of Oktava condenser mics with the hypercardioid cartridge in them, positioned them on stands by the corners of the stage and then I operated the Tascam HD-P2 field recorder.

The results this time were excellent. Sunday, we will be doing it all again at a center out in the valley and then the following Sunday we will be in Santa Monica at a theater doing it yet again. We generally spend most of Saturday before the gig prepping and testing gear so it makes for a full weekend.

LAFCPUG bonus!

We went to the LAFCPUG meeting last month and as always we participated in the raffle. We won a copy of Shane Ross's excellent DVD "Getting Organized in FCP" that we already had a copy of so we gave that away to another attendee. We also won a portable 100GB USB drive. Nance also entered us in a drawing that was being done by Focus Enhancements where they were giving away one of their FS-5 recording systems. Well, they called Nance up today to let her know that she won the drawing.

So I will be posting an in-depth review of it as we plan to use it for the Santa Monica opera shoot (yes, we will have a backup system in place a'la tape). Check out the website and watch the demo on this. It is AMAZING!

Gas Prices.

I commute about 60 miles a day in a Camry that gets about 26MPG. Since gas prices have been going insane (they are FINALLY starting to ease up a bit now), I started considering alternatives to driving the Camry. There is a MetroLink commuter but it only runs in the morning...

Hybrid cars are expensive and the milage they get is not *that* great. Years ago, I was a hard core biker. I gave it up when traffic in the valley was just getting far too congested. We live out in the sticks now and my commute is across a couple of farm roads. Pretty mellow. So I went out tonight and bought a Suzuki DL650 that should net me about 55MPG if I drive it right. And it was a hell of a lot cheaper than a hybrid car. And, lets face it, bikes are fun :)

So, other than all of that, we have been bored.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

PVC and lighting rigs

Back when Nance was at the UCLA film school, she built a PVC diffuser panel using muslin cloth and a 4' x 7' self standing PVC frame. We have used this a lot and it's really nice and easy to deal with being very light and simple to assemble.

There is a GREAT PDF that describes how to make this and a TON of other very cool rigs for filmmaking using PVC.

Check it out HERE.

iPhone film apps

With the release of 2.0 of the iPhone software and the opening of the iPhone app store, we now have access to a slew of new applications for the iPhone.

Self Reliant Film has a nice list of the apps that are film related. Check it out HERE.

And now, Nance and I are off to film an opera :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mann's HEAT vs. LA TAKEDOWN

Over at Lee Goldberg's blog "A writer's life", he points out that the film HEAT is a remake of a failed TV Pilot that Mann did years ago called LA Takedown. The comparison of the two films is fascinating. Take a look for yourself and be sure to read the comments. Check it out HERE.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Interview with Garrett Brown - Steadicam Inventor

Interview with Garrett Brown,Inventor of the Steadicam

This is a classic interview with Garrett, originally published by the magazine FILMCREW, Issue #16 1997

In 1972 the dolly got its first real competition with the invention of the Steadicam. From that point on a whole new world of shots that were never before possible suddenly were. Some of the most memorable--the Philadelphia Art Museum steps scene in Rocky, the Big Wheel shots in The Shining--were done by the inventor himself, Garrett Brown. FilmCrew recently interviewed Garrett in between shoot days while he was working on Warren Beatty's film Bulworth photographed by Vittorio Storaro.

FilmCrew: How did you get into the industry?

Garrett Brown: I was a folk singer in the '60's, one half of "Brown & Dana". I was 20 years old and it was a great young man's job. Al Dana and I drove thousands of miles a year to play colleges that couldn't afford groups like Peter, Paul and Mary! I thought showbiz was going to be it for me for life. But after 3 years and an automobile accident, I ended up with no career and no job. I had left college and I had no diploma and no idea what to do.

It was 1964. A friend of mine had gotten into advertising and pointed out that it was the current bolthole for all ne'er-do-wells. Generally, souls with some creativity but with no particular qualifications could get into advertising in the '60s. I ended up as a copywriter. Eventually I became the agency producer and, as I looked at my suppliers who were operating fun, entrepreneurial film companies, said, "This is for me". Meanwhile, I read my way through the 30-foot shelf of film books in the Philadelphia Library, so I knew the language and could speak the speak but I had never actually produced anything.

Finally I left the agency, bought a bunch of used gear and started a little motion picture production company. I made commercials with a Bolex, an Eclair ACL and bought a Rommel-era Arriflex still covered in camouflage paint. I also had a very heavy dolly which came with all this used gear, a Fearless Panaram 800lb dolly. It offended some deep part of me inherited from my inventing ancestors that I couldn't move a camera stably without putting this contraption under it.

Even my little Bolex couldn't be carried along smoothly without 800lbs of cast iron under it. We broke our hearts lugging this dolly around in pickup trucks and laying it on my rusty rails but I loved the moving camera. I think I'm a moving camera junky--I love this two-dimensional medium when it has the illusion of three dimensionality. Commercials with technical challenges interested me the most. In the early '70's a client, Connecticut Gas, wanted a commercial showing numerous artisans in an old two-story building, each in their own room. The client wanted shots entering each room.

I came up with a camera rig that allowed my cameraman to walk in and out of the rooms. The spot was unique and successful and I felt I had an idea to pursue! There had to be a way to intercept the unwanted motions that a human being constantly makes and prevent them from getting to the camera. I began to build a series of gadgets aimed at this goal. I went down a couple of unproductive roads and though I could actually make stable shots, they were not conceivable commercial devices.

(Some of them were 70' long and you couldn't smoke near them!) Eventually, I had a reel of otherwise impossible shots. I brought the footage to Ed DiGuilio at Cinema Products [CP] who made a deal immediately. Within a day we had the bones of a contract and CP launched on building the Steadicam. The Steadicam prototype worked and I had the only one in the world. Almost immediately I started working on films. Bound for Glory, Rocky and Marathon Man were all shot in 1975, and we never looked back.

FC: You mentioned that you have ancestors who were inventors. Who?

GB: My father has a number of patents, and one of them is for something you use everyday. He invented the material that binds all paperback books and that replaced the animal glue they used to use. It's called Hotmelt but he did it for DuPont and although they sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the stuff a year, he only got the watch and the retirement dinner. That kind of put me off of doing the inventing job inside a big company. I've done all of my things outside and then licensed them.

FC
: How old were you when he invented Hotmelt?

GB
: I was two years old. And my son was two years old when the Steadicam was invented. I guess Browns fall into the inventing business at that age.

FC
: Was your dad inventing gadgets the whole time you were growing up?

GB
: No. He was a chemist at DuPont and then became a manager of their industrial finishes for cars. Other ancestors were railroad men. I think there are a few genes knocking around in there that help me with mechanics. I'm not trained as an engineer, I just have a reasonable ability to visualize things. Inventing is a job that is misperceived by people.

It's mostly about indentifying the gaps in your life that might be filled by something. People take for granted and gloss over the gaps, the missing things. My clue that something is worth working on is if I really really want one myself. I'm not into inventing things that one thinks can be sold to other people. It's somewhat unreliable and you can break your heart and lose your money.

But if you really want one and you figure it out, the worst case is that you at least own one. The rest of it is just dogged hard work, trying every damn thing you can think of and a willingness to spend your own money. I get a lot of calls from people who wish they could invent or have an idea for something and they frequently falter when they realize it's going to cost something--their own dough. Then I ask them, "Do you believe that much in it?" People who might invest in the stock market or in a franchise seem strangely reluctant to invest in their own ideas.

FC
: What you have created has had a major impact on the industry and movie making. What does that feel like?

GB
: We never thought that the Steadicam would have the kind of legs that it has. I was afraid it might be knocked out of the ring by some mysterious black box that stabilized by pushing a button. But, twenty-three years later it's bigger than ever and still growing. It has taken its place as a production tool. Cinema Products and I have continued to refine the technology and operator skills keep improving. What the Steadicam does for a movie is now rather fundamental and irreplaceable...like the tripod? It's like a violin. With a good violin operator you get music!

FC
: Out of the thousand or so Steadicam operators in the world, how many of them are masters?

GB
: There are probably 150 "living masters" in the world. Someone who could air drop into New Guinea and shoot anything. They speak dozens of languages and are immune to heat and cold, and they can levitate!

FC
: Do you think there will ever be "black boxes"?

GB
: Eventually there may be programs that aim your camera, make a judgement based on light and shade and diagonals and golden means and spit out perfect pictures. But they'll be a big pain in the ass with a manual a foot thick and I don't want to run one, thank you very much. That's not for me.

FC
: So I remember these great Molson radio spots in the 80's. Rumor has it that you were one of the voices?

GB
: It was an offshoot of my agency days. I worked with a woman named Ann Winn. We were copywriters at adjacent desks. The agency thought we were amusing because we were always making jokes so they asked us to knock off Nichols and May and do a funny radio spot in 1969. We did it. We ad-libbed them and it was a hit. We worked for a lot of clients including Kodak. When the Steadicam came along and Ann went off to raise race horses, I stopped. In '79 Molson dusted off a demo we had done and tested it.

It pinned the needles on all their focus groups so they asked if we would do some more. We said, "No, we don't do that now." They kept calling and finally as the ante got high enough, we looked at each other an said, "Hell yes we'll do it!" We did Molson for thirteen years and also American Express. We stopped when I started working on the Olympic cameras. Now someone has lured us back.

FC
: Can you tell us who?

GB
: It's a new product and it's secret. It'll be on the radio. SO LISTEN!

FC
: Another rumor has it that you built a super-lightweight camera weighing less than 8 pounds. Is that true?

GB
: I have a camera that may be the lightest in the world. We built it for an early Skycam Prototype. It's a Filmo that weighs 4 1/2 lbs. John Russell of North Hollywood built it for me. An amazing job. He hogged it out so much that it has the general thickness of aluminum foil.

FC
: Let's talk about the Master Series. Besides a great look, what's new about the latest Steadicam?

GB
: Cinema Products' introduction of the Master Series represents the culmination of our efforts to support the new Steadicam techniques. For example, with what we have learned about dynamic balance, we have made significant advances to help with whip panning. Steadicam gets up to speeds of 150 rpm in the middle of a whip pan, therefore it needs to be dynamically balanced around the line of the post.

This new rig is designed to remain in balance as you add accessories and change its configuration. It also has radio-controlled trimming for the camera's attitude--even during a shot. Motorized trim is analogous to the trim wheels on a plane. Picture flying along in a private plane without trim wheels. For hours you would need to maintain steady pressure on the stick to stay on course.

The trim wheels allow you to set it so that it's a virtually hands-off operation. The idea of having to land the plane in order to trim is inconceivable but that's where we were with the Steadicam. You couldn't lay hands on it during the shot. And it's an instrument that needs fine tuning. It's a dynamic process in the sense that you do it all the time, during every take. Before, for all those long shots we had to pick one trim and we were stuck with it.

We picked the trim attitude for the most difficult part of the shot or the part that went on the longest, and everywhere else we were fighting against it and the framing, in a microscopic sense, moved around a little bit. My son Jonathan Brown is a camera operator and he and I worked side-by-side on Bulworth with two Master Series rigs. We have put more than 800 rolls of film through our Steadicam cameras.

Most of the shots we have done are with 75mm or 100mm lenses. In order to do that happily you must be able to burp the trim of the stage so the tiniest influence of tilt up or down is exactly what's needed. The actor rises a little in his chair, and a trim change stays with him. Also I wanted a bigger monitor and the Master Series has the biggest, sharpest monitor available, which is a 6" diagonal 16x9 aspect ratio.

The rig now has the ability to alter its rotational inertia so you can slide the components inboard to do a whip pan or you can pull them apart and get twice the inertia of the old 3A for a shot like a title sequence that needs to be very stable.

It also has a new vest and a complete no-tools design so everything you need to do can be done by flipping hand clamps and levers and moving things instantly that used to require going to the stand, getting a wrench, locking it, unlocking it. Just the snap clamp that locks the gimble in place is so fast that you adjust it more often because it's easy. I've observed that the Master Series is twice as fast to work with as the old Steadicam.

FC
: Where did you get the idea for the arm? Was it watching someone carry a cup of coffee?

GB
: That kind of thinking was responsible for the general idea of isolating the camera. The arm itself was inspired by looking at those old articulating lamps and imagining new ways for two arm sections to work together. The Master Series has a fantastic arm. The old one had a rough "ride" and a strong float point and if you boomed up you would have to hold it and invest a lot of British thermal units to get it to stay at that height. This one can be put anywhere from top to bottom and, with a couple ounces of force, will stay there.

FC
: How long have you been running the Steadicam Workshops and what percentage of the working Steadicam operators have been through the course?

GB
: The first one was in Rockport in 1980. Almost all good operators have been through "the system". I figured out the other day that I have taught nearly a thousand souls worldwide, while others, including the late Ted Churchill , have taught as many more.

FC
: In addition to having created the Steadicam, teaching and working on your other inventions you also operate, you still shoot to this day. Is that right?

GB
: Yes, I do. It's a lot of fun. Over the past few years, I had cut back on operating to work on the video camera technology for sporting events. I worked the '92 Olympics with Mobycam, a camera that follows the swimmers underwater, for NBC. And then this past year in Atlanta, we brought 18 new systems to the Olympics. (I over-extended myself, somewhat!) We had Dive Cam, which drops with the divers. (It is up for a Sports Emmy this year.)

We also did a thing called GoCam that chases the runners and was used to follow fencing, wrestling, gymnastics and soccer. We also did six or so sports and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with four new-generation, ultra-light SkyCams that "fly" over large-scale events. In order to recover from the Olympics spiritually, I went back to operating Steadicam when Storaro asked me to work on Bulworth.

FC
: I would consider that recovery might consist of a visit to the Cayman Islands.

GB
: I agree but, physically, Steadicam is a lot less difficult than people imagine. It's a great deal more work to lug 1000' mag cases back and forth to the truck than the average Steadicam shot. True, every now and then you get a brutally difficult running shot, which I don't encourage, frankly, because there are a lot of other ways to transport a camera. I love to ride on a western dolly and concentrate a little more on the operating.

Steadicam was perceived as a running camera for the first few years but basically it's just an all-around camera support and a very capable aiming tool. I enjoy imitating a dolly very closely, but with the mobility and the chance to look straight ahead that Steadicam makes possible on rough ground and in tight location sets. This is the most fun because you're tucking into corners and the camera is on one side of you and then the other side and the viewer has no idea where the operator is.

As Ted Churchill once put it, "You're an arty pack mule." You're doing the athletic job of schlepping it around--which approaches an almost balletic grace among people who do it well--and you're making those artisitc choices with the lens, moving in three axes and three dimensions. It's a great job.

FC
: Who would you say has influenced you the most in the business?

GB
: Haskell Wexler and Vittorio Storaro. I also really enjoyed working with Stanley Kubrick. The Shining was a fine experience and I'd do it again in a flash.

FC
: When you're operating, is it a Zen thing, much like what in sports is called being in the zone?

GB
: Yes. I just did a shot that I think will illustrate the point. Warren Beatty had dreamed it up the night before and when we got on set it boiled up in a quick meeting in his trailer. Storaro is a joy to work for for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he loves to light.

He is one of the few cameramen that I've known who is perfectly content if the director says to him, "Well, I want to shoot from the other side." Instead of evil looks and grumbling, Vittorio says, "Great. No problem. Watch this." And he'll enthusiastically relight the reverse angle. It's fun to watch him. He does it very rapidly with his system of dimmers and "Jumbos", which are big multiglobe lights made in Italy.

So Vittorio roared off to light while I started walking through it in order to memorize the terrain. My style is oriented towards rehearsing and trying to learn the ground like a dancer. The shot unfortunately required me to walk backwards which I seldom do. I prefer the "Don Juan" position (walking forward, looking to the rear), but I had some obstacles to pass that I couldn't manage without backing up.

The shot had three or four moments that had to be seen very precisely as we flew by, and required very specific choreography. The process is immediately Zen-like. Early rehearsals involve aiming the lens purely by instinct because most of your attention is on navigation. "Where's that curb? Where's the tree? Will I crash into Oliver Platt?" It is amazing to look at these playbacks because some instinctual part of your brain must have been aiming the damn thing even though I barely had a chance to look at the screen!

I like doing multiple takes because, like a dancer, you find yourself continually improving--beginning to really make a movie out of a long difficult shot, until you can master the smallest nuance. In this case, since Warren had sprained his foot the day before, we were under tremendous pressure to get it on the first take as he wouldn't necessarily be able to get through the course more than once.

My incentive was tripled, and I nailed the first one in a rush of adrenaline. Warren then mysterioulsy found the energy and inclination to do eleven more and, I'll tell you something, by take three I was in the "zone" that you're referring to--almost a dream state. The legs are doing what they do, and you're thinking about the framing and odd little things you can improve with three inches to the left here and a slight pan at this point or a deceleration there to allow someone to catch up a little bit.

It is pure joy as long as you don't absolutely wear yourself out. I think it's still the best job in the business! I intend to keep operating until I'm ancient, and maybe then I'll just hardmount the arm to my walker!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kubrick revistied and some links

Channel 4 in the UK is running a series of Kubrick's films and to promote it, they re-created the sets from the shining and found look-alikes for the cast and crew.

You can see the promo shot HERE.

You can also see a lot of behind the scenes for the actual film on YouTube HERE.

One of the things that struck me in the promo that Channel 4 did was the beautiful Steadicam shot that constitutes the entire ad for the series. VERY nicely done. And speaking of Steadicam, there is a great site that tracks great steadicam shots and includes comments on the shots by the operators. Here you can see Garrett Brown's (the inventor of the Steadicam) very first Steadicam shot in the film "Bound for Glory" and many many other great shots.

That is over at Steadishots HERE.

And now, for a couple of links...

The GREAT open source media pre-production tool Celtx is finally out of beta and they have released version 1.0. This is a GREAT resource and if you have never looked at it, you owe it to yourself to download this and check it out. Check out their site HERE.

FREE FCP and Motion tutorials on Youtube. Over 40 for each app. Check them out HERE.

Overclock your MacPro - ZDNet has a freeware application that will allow you to overclock your MacPro. I played with this a little and my results were mixed at best so proceed with caution here. You can check it out HERE.

And, finally, a study of camera motion in film. Check it out HERE.

Have a great weekend everyone and if you live in the U.S., have a great and safe 4th of July!

Mike and Nance

Monday, June 23, 2008

David Mullen A.S.C.

Real quick post to point out that DP David Mullen is documenting his work on his current film over at REDUser. Check it out HERE. He is fielding questions on his process as well. Don't miss this!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Keep it simple

In 1977 I wrote my first computer program. In the 31 intervening years, I have worked for a number of large organizations (GE, Bell Labs, Countrywide, Universal Studios et. al.). During the course of this career, I have come to embrace the idea of simplicity. Now, that might seem to be at odds with the fact that I typically work on very complex systems.

Typically, these systems are only complex when viewed as a whole. However, when broken down into the many components that make up these systems, there is simplicity to the individual components. Consider systems like Windows XP or Vista or Mac OS X. Viewed as a whole these systems appear terribly complex.

However, it’s important to understand that no single individual understands how this complex whole functions in its entirety. There are teams of developers that specialize in specific components of these systems. There is a team that works on the GUI. Another that works on the file system. Another that works on networking. And so on.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by these systems if we try to gain an understanding of them as a whole. But, broken down into functional components, they become much easier to understand because, taken at this level, they are much simpler. Early in my career I was intimidated by systems of this nature until I understood how to break them down and attack only the relevant components.

Now, so far, I have just been blathering on about computers. What the hell does this have to do with film making or post production? Patience, grasshoppah. All will be revealed.

When the solution is simple, God is answering – Albert Einstein

It has been my observation that typically, the simplest solution is the best solution. For many years as a software engineer, I would receive requests from the business side of the company that I was working for to request some new software feature.

Invariably, these requests would be convoluted, complex explanations of how the business felt that a particular feature should be implemented. Before I understood the magic of simplicity, I would go back to the business to have them clarify what they were asking for. More often than not, these sessions did not result in any clarification.

And then, one day, I had an epiphany. The next request that came to me that obfuscated what the business actually wanted, I very quickly resolved by asking the business one question:

State your goal.

Simple. Direct and to the point. What is the end result that you wish to achieve? This new approach worked wonders for me and it serves me well to this day. And, the beauty of this simple approach is applicable in almost every aspect of life and the tasks that we all seek to perform.

Simplicity breeds excellence.

I am a big fan of Sting. I think he is a great composer. If you look at a lot of the hits that he has written, they exude simplicity of composition – Every breath you take, Shape of my heart and many others. Simple and beautiful. It takes real talent to pull that off.

The Log Line

And now we come to the part where I relate this to film making and story telling. Last night, Nancy and I attended the LAFCPUG meeting in Hollywood. We have been to many of them but we tend to be selective. Last night was the 8th anniversary of the LAFCPUG and had, as a speaker, feature editor Norman Hollyn.

Norman was there to give a talk on the craft of editing. Unlike most of the meetings, this talk was specific to storytelling. Typically, LAFCPUG focuses on how to use the tools. Not how to tell the story. Norman brought up a couple of things that reminded me of my “State your goal” approach to problem definition.

The first was the log line. A log line is a way to describe a story, regardless of its length, in one or two sentences. Doing this, forces you to boil the story down to its most essential elements. For example, a log line for Raiders of the lost Ark might be:

An archaeologist finds the ark of the covenant. The Nazis steal it from him. He pursues the Ark, recovers it and turns it over to the US government.

Simple. Taking your story and converting it to a log line can allow you to objectively tell the story with only the most essential information necessary to convey the story. We have all sat through films where there were scenes that were boring, slow and did not move the story forward.

The log line can assist us in eliminating this type of issue by allowing us to ask simple questions about every scene in our story such as “how does this scene serve the essence of the story?”. “Does this scene move the story forward?”.

Norman related a number of anecdotes pertaining to his experience as an editor and dealing with a director or producer when he is struggling to understand a scene and is trying to make the scene work. He asks the director “What is the impact on the film as a whole if this scene was removed?”

Simple. Direct. This forces the director to look at the essence of the contribution of the scene to the film as a whole. How does this scene contribute to the story? If you cannot tell me that, then the scene needs to go away. It’s superfluous. Or the director may realize that the scene needs to be moved – before or after the current place in time in the telling of the story.

The point being, when you break down a complex system to its simplest element– Be it a computer, or a story, you will find that the issues that you thought were insurmountable, now become manageable and clear.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Smooth Operator

Gear Heads

Pronunciation:
\ˈgir-ˌhed\

n: a person who pursues mechanical or technological interests (as in automobiles or computers)

But this has nothing to do with the gear heads that I am talking about here today. Gear heads are a mounting system for cameras that provide very precise control over the panning and tilting of the camera.

Fluid Dynamics

Today, most of your low budget indie filmmakers use what is called a fluid head to mount their camera. This type of head uses a thick fluid to dampen the movement of the camera. These types of heads are very effective and reasonably priced.

Some of the lower cost fluid heads make it very difficult to have nice smooth starts and stops. You always end up with some jerky movement at the start or the end of the pan or tilt. Some of this can be overcome by doing simple tricks like putting a rubber band between the head and the tripod to add pressure to the movement in question.

And this brings us to Gear Heads. Gear heads have been around for a LONG time and are a mainstay in studio productions. They provide VERY precise, repeatable control over the panning and tilting of the camera. Here are two examples of gear heads.

A Mitchell:



And an Arri:



These heads use a precision gear transmission and most examples provide the ability to select the gear ratio so that you can have very fine or very coarse control with the head. They take some practice to get used to, but once you gain some proficiency with them, they are an amazing tool to have at your disposal.

Years ago I was on the set of Knott’s Landing with an operator friend of mine (King Nicholoson S.O.C. now retired). The talent was tossing a football around and the director told King that he wanted that football in frame when they threw it no matter what.

Well, one of the throws went wild and the football landed at the base of the dolly that the camera was on. But, King never let that ball get out of frame as he furiously spun the gear head's controls and followed that ball until the camera was pointed at the base of the dolly. I twas an impressive sight to see.

If you have ever used a gear head, you know what I am talking about. Problem is, most Indie filmmakers have never seen what they can do or had the opportunity to use one. Most of the ones I have talked with, don’t even know what one is.

Budget Head

In the world of budget filmmaking we have some amazing tools at our disposal. Redrock Micro makes low cost cine lens adapters, rail systems, follow focus and matte boxes. Varizoom makes low cost Steadicam rigs, jibs and remote heads.

And a host of other manufacturers provide gear for the budget filmmaker. Even Tiffen, makers of the $55,000 Steadicam professional rig, makes lower cost rigs for the indie filmmaker such as the Merlin.

But NO ONE makes a gear head for the indie filmmaker on a budget. I think this is a huge gap. If you buy a used Mitchell gear head that is 25 years old, it will cost you $5000+. An Arri gear head will run you $10,000-$15,000. FAR outside the typical budget of the indie filmmaker.

Last year, at the DV Expo I was at the Redrock Micro booth and I asked them if they would consider making a gear head. They said that I was now the second person that had ever asked them for this.

I explained that I figured that the reason for this was that their customer base had no clue what one was or what the benefits of using it are. If someone could make one for about $1000 for the indie market and promote it properly, I KNOW it would sell. Well, I know that it would sell to at least one customer: Me.

So here is my call out to you low cost indie filmmaking gear manufacturers: Make a low cost gear head!

Please.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On editing

David Bordwell has a post up over at his great blog on some of his favorite edits in films.

Read about it HERE.

It got me thinking about some of my favorites. The scene in Lawrence of Arabia where the match is lit and the head of the match dissolves to the blistering sun of the desert. The opening sequence of Apocalypse Now where the shot uses a split dissolve between Willard on the bed, the jungle and the choppers and then the ceiling fan. Wonderful stuff.

What are some of yours?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hot Sunday

Sunday morning. 9 AM. It's 88 degrees on my patio. I think we are in for a long, hot summer.

Been working on a commercial for victims of utility vehicle crashes. Since the commercial has to depict the vehicle in a roll over accident and since I cannot use any specific branded vehicle for this, I am having to do it as a 3D animation sequence. This has been a good challenge. Every time I take on any project that involves using Lightwave, I always learn a LOT about the tool.

PANAVISION

In other news, Panavision has a great set of videos up that attempt to de-mystify digital camera specifications. It's a 7 part series and it's well worth watching. You can check it out HERE.

OPENCUT

OpenCut is a new contest for editing. But this one (unlike the Tori Amos one) actually looks to be a pretty decent deal. The top prize is an AJA IoHD unit, credit in the finished film and credit in IMDB for editing the film. There is a $25 entry fee and you will need to ship an HD to them that they will load up with 185GB of RED ONE footage, the script, storyboards etc.

Check it out HERE.

If nothing else, check out the FCP / RED Workflow video that they have up there. One of the things I noticed in that video was the use of an on-camera LED Light array.

Nance's last shooting gig was a run-n-gun doc that she had rented a mount for the Z1 as well as a light. The mount was mostly fine for her but the battery pack for the light was just debilitating. VERY heavy and the quality of the light was crappy.

So she recently bought one of these LED arrays for doing run-n-gun and WOW what a difference. The light is MUCH nicer, much more controllable, and the unit weighs NOTHING. Check these out if you get a chance. They are very nice!

FREE CRANE

That's right, free. Well, free if you have a tripod... You are going to look at this video and think "Why the heck didn't I think of that?". Check it out HERE.

TIME REMAPPING

And, finally, check out this video on Kiteboarding. I personally have little interest in this sport. However, the guy that did this video does some REALLY slick stuff with time-remapping / Bullet time. Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

All Mac, some of the time



I use Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X. They all have their issues. They all have their positive aspects and negative aspects. None of them are perfect. However, Vista managed to bring me to the apogee of despair this week. More on that in a minute.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the iMac. Ten years ago today, Apple announced the iMac computer. It did not get a warm reception. The decision to fore go a floppy drive in 1998 was considered crazy. But, alas, ole Steve was right. Not to say he was right on every decision (the single-button mouse comes to mind here among other things).

So, Happy birthday, iMac. You are significant in that you mark the beginning of Apple's return to profitability. Apple today is enjoying great success. Which made me think about Apple...

For a long time, Apple has enjoyed a certain cache. A certain exclusivity appealing to a niche market that consists largely of creative professionals and people who prefer an exclusive product that does not appeal to the hum-drum mainstream. Something with a...uhh, certain je ne sais quoi...

I own Macs because of client demand for projects done in FCP and for some other tools that are Mac only. But, the latter "exclusive" group are now able to see Apple becoming more mainstream. Less exclusive. For many of them, they are evangelists of the product. Extolling the merits of the machine in order to convert the Windows user to the Mac.

As this erosion of exclusivity continues, I suspect that the evangelists of the product are not going to like the results of the Mac becoming more mainstream. We live in interesting times. Apple faces many challenges going forward. It will be interesting to see how well they can meet these new challenges. I suspect they will do OK. After all, back in the early 80s, Apple was the number one producer of personal computers...

VISTA: The Apogee of despair

This past Sunday, I had gone into the office to write some code for a web site as part of a project to switch that web site from one e-mail vendor to another. My deadline to get this ready for testing was Monday and today was the deadline to do the first production run with it.

After finishing my changes and letting the testing folks know it was ready, I came in Monday and got an e-mail telling me about some minor fixes that needed to be made. Some cosmetic and a couple of coding bugs. No problem. About 1 hour of work.

Now, in the office, I use a Vista machine for software development because the main web system is a Microsoft based system. I generally use Dreamweaver CS3 and TextPad for coding and design work. My process is that I make the changes on my local machine, then copy them across the network to a testing server and then test the changes there.

So I make the changes and copy them over to the test server. I start to test it and now it's worse than when I started. The code is behaving VERY strangely. it makes NO sense what it is doing. I spend hours in a panic now because nothing is making sense and I am under the gun.

Finally, I figure out what is happening. When I would copy a file from my local machine running Vista out to the testing server, only certain files would get copied. Vista was telling me that it was copying everything correctly but in reality, it was not. Once I figured out what was going on, rebooted the workstation, everything was fine.

Suffice it to say, I am NOT a Vista fan. There was a time when I would have said Vista was OK. Not as bad as the media has made it out to be. Today I would advise anyone against it. I have NEVER had an operating system perform in such an egregiously poor manner.

Whatcha been doin?

Well, we have been busy working on some commercials for local business. I had the opportunity recently to composite a 3D model into a still photograph. That was a fun challenge getting it to match:



The Audi is comped into the image. I have a music video in the works here that will include animating a pin art toy for part of the video. Should be a great challenge. I'll post that animation once it's done.

OK, back to work for this slacker!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Saying what you think

Flippant news had this up - what a GREAT video. this is NOT safe for work due to profanity used in it.

Enjoy :)


Persistance of vision

Logan and Noah Miller had a vision for their film. They wanted Ed Harris to play the homeless alcoholic father in the film. The trouble is, they are novice filmmmakers with no money. This is where persistance paid off.

Check it out HERE.

I love stories like this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cinema is lies told at 24fps

Over at Variety is an interview with James Cameron. You can check it out HERE. I have always had kind of mixed feelings about Cameron. Having never met him, all I have to go by is his body of work, behind the scenes footage of him at work and interviews.

He has always seemed like an egotistical self important elitist to me. Ahh but there is always the adage that one must separate the artist from the art. And I DO try to do that.

I really thought that the Abyss (the abuse, according to the crew on that shoot) was a very entertaining but flawed film. For me, his best work was:


Terminator 2. I watched part of the filming of this as I lived a few blocks from one of the locations (the scene where the semi-truck crashes into the flood control channel). The film is not perfect by any means (the desert scene slows the pacing needlessly, Edward Furlong could not act in the film to save his life).

But I still love the film.

So why am I linking to this article about Cameron? Because I think he says some things here that I seriously agree with. And while the majority of the article is about 3D (and having only 1 good eye, 3D is meaningless to me), he does point out a few things that I do agree with.

One of those things is that Godard had it backwards. I always thought that cinema was a contrivance meant to fool us into thinking it was reality. Otherwise, if it WAS truth, we would not need to exercise a willing suspension of disbelief. Because Godard was held in high esteem in many of the art circles, his statement of "Cinema is truth told at 24fps" tended to be unassailable.

24p - Please die.

The other thing that Cameron mentions is that 24 FPS needs to go away. That this is a framerate that has seen it's day and now needs to be replaced. Douglas Trumbull did research into determining the best framerate for the human eye and settled on 60FPS:

A 16 fps rate was the first speed established as the minimum required to sustain the illusion of continuous presence of a motionless image presented through a sequence of stills. The 24 fps rate was adopted later to improve the fidelity of optical sound tracks. The perception of an uninterrupted flow of motion, free from stroboscopic effects, requires a still higher frame rate. Through experiments conducted at Future General Corporation, the joint Trumbull/Paramount Pictures research division, Douglas Trumbull determined that the effective maximum frame rate should be 60.

Today, in the indie film world, 24fps tends to be upheld as the holy grail of film look. This combined with narrow depth of field, cinematic lighting and cinema style camera handling are all being pursued to make video look like film.

Now, if you are going to be distributing on film, 24p makes sense to me. But if the final delivery medium is video, then I think it is not necessary. The visual cadence of 24 fps provides a level of psychological deception since this cadence is what we have become accustomed to watching films for the last 70 years or so.

Guess what? HD and it's higher end bretheren are here to stay. Film is going to go the way of the dinosaurs. It's time to acclimate to what video is. It's time to embrace the superior look of 60 FPS. It's time to let go of the past.

I have posted about this in the past and been vilified for it. Stephan Sargent posted about it a few weeks ago HERE and was vilified for it. Mark my words, those of you in the 24p camp will come around eventually. I long for the day when 24p is used only to provide a retro look.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Tangent control surface

Well, around this time last year I was whining about the cost of control surfaces. At that time, only JL Cooper offered one on the cheap for $5000 (since lowered in price to about $3100). I felt that with the availability of Final Touch as part of the Final Cut Studio suite (under the name Color), that this was a golden opportunity for some resourceful hardware manufacturer to provide a control surface for the masses.

Enter Tangent.

Announced at NAB this week is their new, affordable, control surface. Priced around $1000 this looks like a REALLY sweet tool for using Color in FCS on the Mac.

You can read ALL about it HERE.

Very cool.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Good weekend

Well I updated FCP on our test machine to 6.0.3 and ran it through the wringer and no issues were found.

Nance had her client over on Sunday to review her final onlined version of the doc project and the client loved it. She finalized the menus for the DVD and it goes out today.

I secured an actress for the Zombie debt commercial and I think we are good to go for the opening shots in about a week. Nance has to get a new 1K key light for it but she should be able to nail that down this week.

Seeing some very nice announcements out of NAB today. I won't re-hash all of it since it is plastered all over the net today. Red's Scarlet looks nice but the fixed lens is a deal killer for me. The new Sony EX3 (what happened to EX2?) looks VERY nice. If you can put a PL mount on that and slap some real cine glass on it, that will be huge.

I have to say, that I am not a fan of the psuedo shoulder mount (a'la Canon's XL series). Either do it right or leave it be IMHO. My only other concern with the camera is the potential for rolling shutter artifacts.

Friday, April 11, 2008

FCP 6.0.3 released

Here are the specifics: FCP 6.0.3.

I'll update one of the machines this weekend and see what they broke - Stay tuned for a report on this here.

Supposedly fixes that weird error that I was getting opening projects telling me they were incompatable...

Celtx writing videos

Celtx is an open source screenwriting application. They have some nice videos up on writing and story development.

Check it out HERE.

The reality of Digital Effects Work



Gotta love it - SO true! I loved the inclusion of the Guru Meditation error from the old Amiga system.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Interview with Walter Murch

Prior to the LAFCPUG Supermeet at last year's NAB show, an interview with Walter Murch was conducted and filmed. Part one is up on the net HERE. The Edison film that he talks about can be seen HERE.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Larry Jordan's Newsletter

I just wanted to point out Larry's newsletter to folks that have not seen it. It's free and it's a wonderful resource for editors and indie content producers alike.

You can check out the current issue HERE.

I always learn new things from this great resource. I have no relationship with Larry or his business. I just wanted to point out this great free resource to the readers here. I will also be posting Larry's Tips on the site here for the FCP folks out there.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Continuity and other things

Over at the Rebel site I started a thread about continuity that was triggered by this NYT article HERE.

Someone pointed out an excellent illustration of this effect with this video here:



Excellent.

Other things:

FINALLY we are done with the current project and we will be delivering it this weekend YAY! The following weekend we will be setting up the opening shot for the Zombie commercial. This will involve dressing the set, setting up the dolly shot and lighting and rehearsing the shot. The following weekend we will shoot it with the actress.

I'll post on here some shots as we do this.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

IMDB for movie guns

Gage over at Rebel Cafe pointed out this site. It's a wiki that documents the types of weapons used in films. Very nice resource. Check it out HERE.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Soundtrack Pro 2.0 video tutorial now online

Part one of the tutorial is now online. I used SnapZ to record this and it worked very well. Please feel free to critique the tutorial as it's my very first one. If I get enough interest in these I will continue to do them from time to time. Part 2 of the tutorial should be up next weekend. This tutorial is a 10MB Quicktime h.264 file and it runs just over 5 minutes. You will need Quicktime 7.0 or later to view the file.

You can download the tutorial HERE.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stu's Challenge

One of the blogs that I frequent is ProLost, Stu Maschwitz's blog. Stu is one of the founders of The Orphanage, an FX house up in the bay area.

Stu had an interesting challenge recently. Save our Skin. You can read about it HERE.

One of the things that I love about Nance is that she is so easily distracted. I can point out a challenge like this to her and she will dive right in. So I did just that. Nance decided to just use the 3 way color corrector in FCP to meet the requirements of what Stu laid forth on his blog. Stu's instructions are to push the picture to blue and maintain the skin tones. His image that he used for this is here:



And here is Nance's results. Her comments and CC settings follow.


Nance: I used the Color Corrector 3-way in FCP, masking the skin tones and inverting the selection. The hardest part was including the shadow under her eye with the skin tones. It came out blue in the first one. I cranked up the softness a little more to include that shadow:


It's an interesting challenge. Give it a shot if you get bored :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Recording on the Mac

Well, I searched the boards over at ShinyWhiteBox.com for the error I was getting and I found a number of folks bringing this issue up. Neil, the admin over there, responded to the threads and never really offered a solution.

So I e-mailed Neil about the issue. He said he had never heard of it. He suggested that I purchase and use their Stomp audio application to seperate out the system audio from the MOV file.

I responded that I did not want to add additional steps to my process and that I felt that purchasing another application from them was not a reasonable solution. I also pointed out the numerous threads on his website that he has responded to that detail this issue.

That was a couple of days ago and I have not heard a word back. So, it's on to SnapZ Pro I go. At this point, I have to say that if you have a need to record your session on the Mac and you want to be able to capture not just the video and your narration, but the system audio as well, do NOT buy iShowU.

I did a concept test of the Zombie Debt commercial to show to the client. I was on the phone with them when they played it last night and I could hear them laughing like crazy. They love it and we are moving forward with this concept.

This weekend I will record and post the Soundtrack Pro audio cleanup tutorial and get it posted up here.

Stay tuned :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Soundtrack Pro 2.0 video tutorial

With my recent frustration with picture posting using Blogger, I had decided to do my next Soundtrack Pro tutorial as a video tutorial. To accomplish this on the mac, there are basically 2 choices: SnapZ Pro and iShowU. iShowU is written by a small company in New Zealand. I looked at both applications and decided to buy iShowU.

Buying iShowU supports the little guy and should meet my needs for the tutorial.

So, today I recorded the tutorial and then attempted to bring the iShowU file into FCP to clean it up before I converted it to FLV for the web. But FCP would not accept the file. After some experimentation with iShowU, I found out that it works fine as long as I do not record audio generated by the Mac. Well, a tutorial on an audio application is DOA without that ability.

It appears to be a bug in iShowU. If I record just audio of myself talking into the mic, FCP digests the file just fine. It is only when I record system audio that FCP generates a General Error and will not allow me to work with the media.

I fired off an e-mail to the author about this issue. He is pretty responsive (having answered my questions before I purchased the product). Hopefully he will have a reasonable solution to this issue. I don't want to have to introduce additional steps into the process just to overcome this audio issue.

I'll post my findings here in the next day or 2. I know this is not directly film making / Post related but hopefuly, some of you readers will gain some benefit from my experience with this.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Free Boris 3D text filter

Boris is giving away a free copy of their 3D text filter for AE and FCP. Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke dead at 90

Report HERE.

Sad day. He was an amazing visionary and scientist. He theorized the possibility of geo-synchronous orbit. The satellites that orbit the earth using his theory do so in an area above the earth's equator called the "Clarke Belt".

His visionary books such as 2001: A space oddessey were stunning reads.

Rest in peace, Mr. Clarke.

OT: iPhone 2.0 beta stuffs

Endgadget got ahold of a beta of the 2.0 firmware. You can read about it HERE.

Now, with the SDK out, I want all of you xCode HaXoRz out there to implement copy/paste!

I'm your beta-testing huckleberry!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Soundtrack Pro Round Trip

NOTE: I originally wrote this with screenshots of every step but stupid blogger's picture management made the pics unsuable. So I am just going to publish it without the pics.

Nance and I have just finished our current project. Nance used both Apple Color and the FCP 3-way corrector tool in the onlining process and I did the music, voiceovers and audio cleanup.

I thought I would blog a little bit about some of the processes that we went through. Nance kept copious notes on Color and I will be using those to post an article about that experience. Today, I will focus on Soundtrack Pro. Specifically, how to do roundtrip editing in conjunction with Final Cut Pro and following that, how to do some simple audio cleanup using Soundtrack Pro (hereinafter referred to as STP).

You must be trippin, dude!

We’ll start with the roundtrip process taking an FCP project, sending it to STP and then sending it back to FCP.

In the FCP file menu is the Send To option.

Note that if the Soundtrack Pro Audio and Multitrack project options are disabled, it is because we need to select either a clip from a sequence or a sequence itself from the project window.

Once I have selected a clip in the timeline, the STP Send To options are no longer disabled in the send to menu. For our purposes, I am going to send a full sequence to STP.

With my sequence selected in my project window AND my project window is the active window, I now have the option to send this sequence to STP as a multitrack project.

Having selected that option, I am prompted for a name for the project that STP will use and I have the opportunity to specify where I want to save it. Save it in an appropriate folder and let FCP create the STP project. Note that FCP suggests a filename that includes the sequence name and (sent) appended to it. I usually just accept this option.

Once this process is complete, STP is launched automatically and our new project is loaded into STP.

Let’s assume that you have now gone in and added tracks and put in music / foley / VO, or whatever. Now it’s time to send it BACK to FCP. From the FILE menu we select EXPORT.

We are presented with the file browser screen to specify a location for our file that is going TO FCP. But, here we have to come up with a name - I generally use the original name (without the (sent) portion) and add (Sent to FCP) and then select an appropriate location for the file to be saved.

Now, we have a number of options that we can choose from in terms of how the audio will be treated when it is sent to FCP. Under the Exported Items, we have a few options:

MASTER MIX generally means that STP will take ALL of your tracks and do a final mixdown into a singe stereo pair and sent that to FCP. All Tracks, on the other hand, will retain all of your original tracks in FCP.

Unless I am COMPLETELY satisfied with the final mix and I know I will not be doing anything more with it, I tend to pick the All Tracks Option. This way I can still tweak a few discreet audio elements inside of FCP.

You can also use the Selected tracks option so that you can selectively include and exclude what tracks are going to be sent to FCP.

Now, following this you can select audio bitrate and format options. Set these to whatever is appropriate to your project (24 bits makes a larger file and few devices out there can play 24 bit - A CD is 16 bit for example).

And Finally, the last option allows us to tell STP that we want all of this audio deliciousness to end up in FCP. So set the After Export option to Send Files to FCP Sequence.

Once you hit the Export button, STP will begin the process of exporting.

Now, if FCP is already running and it gets a signal from STP telling FCP that there is a new file for it to process. FCP then prompts us for what to do with this new file.

We are offered the option of creating a whole NEW project in FCP for this file or we can just add it to the current project as a new Sequence.

Most of the time you will just be adding this as a new sequence and not creating a new project. Once we click OK, FCP imports our new STP sequence into our existing project.

Once that process is complete we will have a new sequence with the name that we gave it in the export process inside of STP and we can then continue on with our project. This naming convention allows you to quickly see what sequences have been sent to FCP from STP

Final Notes

Once in a while, when I send a sequence to FCP, FCP gets into a weird state where the dialog box that asks if the files should be a new project or a new sequence becomes hidden. In that instance, I will bring up another application over the top of FCP and then click on the FCP icon in the dock and that seems to straighten it out.

A lot of folks like to work in STP a clip at a time instead of as an entire sequence. The process described here is basically the same. Play around with this. Make a test project and play with sequences and clips back and forth until you are comfortable with the workflow.

I will publish Part 2 of this article this week. That will focus on cleaning up audio in STP including accurately replacing noise with room tone and not affecting sync. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Zombies and HD For Indies comes to LA

Mike Curtis over at the HD For Indies blog is moving from Austin to LA. I have been reading Mike's blog and chatting with him in e-mails for a few years and it's always been one of my favorite blogs. Mike is moving out here to persue his career. Welcome home, Mike!

On the current project front, Nance has finished up the VO script so I will be recording that tonight as well as fixing a few last minute sound issues in the current project. While she has been slaving away on this, I have been working on some music with my friend KC Phillips.

KC is a talented professional musician and he has been graciously helping me record a composition of mine using Apple Logic. KC has been a longtime user of Steinburg's CuBase. I am new to using Logic so KC and I have been learning it together and I have to say I am TOTALLY blown away by this product. What a WONDERFUL tool it is. It is cool enough that KC has decided to dump CuBase, get a Mac and switch to Logic.

Zombies....

There is a thing in the credit world called Zombie debt. This is debt that is no longer valid but that creditors still persue. The victims of Zombie Debt harrassment have legal recourse and can collect damages as a result of this.

So, B-Scene has been retained to do a Zombie Debt commercial for a local legal firm. It will be done in a cheesy 50s Sci-Fi look. Very tounge in cheek. As soon as we are done with the current project, I hope to start getting this rolling. I will be taking the proposal this weekend and writing up a script for it.

We will blog about the process and get a copy of the final product up onto YouTube once we are done for all to see and enjoy.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

BUSY weekend

Well, the current project is ALMOST done. Nancy was up until 8 AM this morning grinding this thing out in Apple Color. Today I will be finishing up the sound for the project. I spoke to the client yesterday and they are excited to get it done and love what they have seen so far.

Due to NDA, I can't really blog about what the project is but I will be glad to get it out of here. Nancy shot it before Christmas and we have been posting it since then...

Once it is done, we will start on a commercial. This will be a LOT of fun and a real hoot to do. It will be a bit of an homage to 50s b-movie sci-fi. I'll blog about that as we do it.

Shane Ross over at Little Frog pointed out a REALLY nice utility that will completely uninstall FCS. Back when I went from FCS 1 to FCS 2, I ran into all kinds of ugly licensing issues and I could have really used this item.

Anyway, check it out HERE.

And, yes, the MB Frames review is in process - but running late still as we are trying to get this current project finalized and out the door.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Life is what happens to you

when you're busy making other plans - John Lennon.

Well this weekend I was supposed to get the review of Magic Bullet's Frames done and posted this weekend but instead I spent the weekend doing VO work for a documentary. So the Frames review is postponed until next weekend.

In other news, with the demise of HD-DVD, one of my fears with HD disk delivery mediums has been that whoever won would now have ZERO competition. They would have this market all to themselves. Guess what? This is exactly what is happening. Consider this quote from the DP Buzz with Larry Jordan:

"In a recent conversation with Bruce Nazarian, president of the DVD Association, during The BuZZ podcast, we were discussing the sudden shift toward Blu-Ray HD DVDs. While Blu-Ray may be good for Hollywood, it won't be good for small independent producers.

This is due to all the hidden fees tacked on to replicating a Blu-Ray DVD.For example, producers of industrial and non-broadcast content are required to pay a $2,500 licensing fee to author and distribute Blu-Ray.Then, each producer is required to pay a $3,000 one-time AACS license fee, plus a per-title fee for EACH replicated Blu-Ray disc. Currently, Sony DADC is quoting that fee at $1,585 per title (per complete Blu-ray disc project).

Then there's the per disc replication cost, which varies by quantity, and finally, there's a $0.04 per disc fee for AACS and $0.01 per disc if you want SONY DADC to administer the payments to AACS on your behalf.

As Bruce indicates, we may be standardizing on Blu-Ray, but the prices won't be cheap."

My fears, realized. *sigh*.

Well, on a positive note, Brad Bird got an Oscar as did Daniel Day Lewis. On the DD Lewis front, I thought this was a great choice. I have not yet seen "There will be Blood" but I had heard about it and heard that DDL was starring in it. So I watched the trailer and got about half way through before it dawned on me what role DDL was playing. It was absolutely jaw dropping.

And finally, two of my favorite filmmakers, The Cohen Brothers, walked away with 3 oscars - Best Screenplay adaptation, Best director and Best picture. Nice.

Friday, February 22, 2008

OS X keyboard shortcuts

So today I was trying to remember how to take a screenshot in OS X so that I can include it in a presentation that I am doing (Applications/Utilities/Grab is the app you need for this...). A quick search on the net turned up a VERY nice site for keyboard reference on the Mac.

Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

HD-DVD - An editorial

Many years ago (more than I care to think about) I was an avid collector of Laserdiscs. Attracted to the format because of letterboxing and director commentaries, the format was a film geek's dream. During this period I went into a video store to peruse their selection of discs and met Steve, the manager.

Steve and I have been friends since that day many years ago. Steve was the only person I had run into who had a passion for films and collecting Laserdiscs that exceeded my own (at the end of my disc collecting days, I had about 1000 movies - I think Steve had 2000 when he stopped).

As the HD format began to take hold, Steve bought a D-VHS deck. I laughed and asked him why. To answer that, I can say that he is the only person that I know who has the ability to record HD. When HD-DVD and Blu-Ray came along and the players were about $1000, I demurred figuring that the format wars would be short lived and the player prices would drop.

Well, the war is over. The player prices dropped long before the war ended. I bought the HD-DVD add on for the xBox 360 for $200. $200 was my "oh what the hell" price point for this stuff. Since that time, I have purchased about 8 HD-DVDs. I have no real regrets there. I still have the films that I wanted in that format and I will be able to enjoy them until my drive fails.

Ahh, but Steve - His passion still reigns supreme. After the fall of HD-DVD, he made a posting over on the AVS Forums. I thought that the post brought up some great issues and also conveyed a point of view that was rational and pragmatic. I'll let you read it for yourself here:



Thanks to HD DVD, I own 90% of the titles I'd want from ANY 'exclusive' studio already. With BD, the rest are rounded out. Sure, we don't have Alien, Star Wars, Jurassic, etc., but I have had those on at least two formats already. I'll buy 'em when they come out, but not excited like I was for HD DVD.

Even if, when, the HD DVD studios begin releasing the content on BD, it could take years to 'catch up' on what already exists. I don't know about you, but I am certainly glad to have had the opportunity for the last few years to have these movies in HD. Movies like "The Thing," were a must for my collection, and I'd probably have bought a player if it was out on SHMSHQX DVD Aquamarine-ray.

Case in point. I don't know about you, but I like the movie "Fight Club." I had the DVD with all those special features, etc., but thanks to D-VHS DTheater, I could watch the MOVIE in HD! I've watched that tape quite a few times over the last FIVE YEARS! Five years is a long time.

So when the first HD format on optical disc was released, I jumped in with a who cares attitude. I committed to buying the G1 HD DVD player, along with the Blu-ray G1 player. And every movie that comes out on both formats for the first year. I did, and I don't regret any of it. There have been many superb releases out of nowhere, and even I was surprised at the catalog selection the studios chose to release as their early HD movies.

When I went to a DTheater love-in at Widescreen Review back in 2000, there was lots of talk on AVS about "HD Discs in a year." I said three, we were both wrong. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but HD DVD was a little quicker at the bat.

Like a good "Scooby Doo" episode, it could be said that Blu-ray might say "We would have gotten away with this if it weren't for you meddling kids..." Toshiba beat them to the punch bad. So bad, 'they' (not Sony), are now getting sued for their G1 player (which I own). It really does suck they didn't have a 'complete' spec out of the gate. I still bought one, and so did a few others. $999. Now = doorstop.

Sony only pushed BD out when they did because of HD DVD. Period. We all know it wasn't ready, and any happy BD person likely had a PS3 (still the fastest, most reliable player). Loading times were similar between the two previously, and both had firmware updates in order to play new titles.

HD DVD was exciting, something cool & new, like when DVD first came out. I was a LaserDisc guy, and DVD was not nearly as cool when it came out. The whole first batch of Warner DVDs was recalled due to quality issues (my store was in the test market). When they got it together, it opened a whole new angle. Anamorphic DVDs on widescreen TVs, and (sometimes) better sound than LD. Way better than VHS, which didn't take much.

As they refined encoding & mastering, studios like Disney & Fox began to unload their classics, and the format took hold. VHS stuck around for a long, long time. People are stupid, you know that. You have no idea how many times I've explained widescreen/letterbox & resolution to people. Not any more. If you can't figure it out, then bummer for you!

I said at the beginning of this whole thing, if you don't have a player, you don't "care" about HD. Most people didn't, and a few saw something at their friend's house, etc. By HD DVD coming onto the scene, it forced BD to up their standards (Fifth Element anyone?), and rethink the entire strategy.

So much they were essentially forced into buying friends, which really is just business. One thing I did notice is, BD marketing often slammed HD DVD, whereas never the other way around. I actually heard a voice over in a demo in BB while walking by that said "HD DVD is more compressed, so the audio is compressed, and it doesn't sound as good as Blu-ray!" True or not, crappy.

Does anyone remember the first HD DVDs from Warner?

"Welcome to HD DVD, you put the disc in and the movies starts!" Freakin' Finally! I hated Disney for their 12 previews on VHS, the first unskippable previews on DVD, etc. Now what did oh lovely BD bring us? Stupid 12 previews in front of the movie! I counted 11 skips I had to do to get to the movie (that I purchased). Too bad, so sad.

Fox makes some great movies. Fox makes some crap, no extras catalog titles for $39.99. You know what they can do with those. I paid $59.99 for Fantastic Voyage and Planet of the Apes on LaserDisc. In 1990. Oh I'll probably still buy em on Blu-ray. BUT I WON'T BE HAPPY ABOUT IT!

I think that is the main difference here. HD DVD was a new, logical choice to follow DVD. Likely the last ditch of optical disc formats before downloads (or what have you) become prevalent. Remember the picture outside of BB and the video of the guy getting his A1? Show me one "Yay I got Blu-ray player" video. :)

We were corned into Blu-ray, because the dominant company wants format royalties. There is no winner here. Has there ever been a winner of any WAR? Ever? Not really. I personally know people who work in BD, and I like to tease them with "Be careful what you wish for! Now you have it all! Yay!" Should be interesting.

Heck, I remember getting angry at the studios releasing New Releases 30 days after video to Pay-Per-View, because it cuts into rentals. That was 10 years ago! How are we renting or buying anything still? Shouldn't we have long ago had instant on-demand HD super-duper everything right at our fingertips?

I own lots of HD discs, and I will continue to enjoy them. After getting an A1, an XA1, and then an A35, it will sit nicely under my BD30, with a PS3 for love. Yes you would need them all now, if you want to enjoy the full benefits of HD optical media.

- A35 for bitstream, and all those awesome HD DVDs that won't be out for a while on BD (even if they start tomorrow)

- BD30 for bitstream, and way faster than the BD-P1000

- PS3 for PCM, games, streaming, etc. Pretty cool box, does a lot.

IMHO, the A35 is 95% perfect (XA2 theoretically better upscaler), but I wish I could say the same RIGHT NOW about any of my BD pieces. PCM issue on BD30, no DTS-MA on PS3, BD-P1000 not even worth a hundred bucks now!

And Fox not releasing ANYTHING all that time? Shame on you. Delaying the rest of the titles in to oblivion? (Red Dawn, From Hell, etc). And shame on Weinstein, you should have given us Grindhouse Day & Date.

Unfortunately, it is common knowledge that certain directors have some control over their content, or we would have many more A-titles on either format. I do know that SS saw CE3K on BD, and up until then had no idea what EITHER format were. So there.

They have all been seriously wasting our time, and I hope now they get their stupid act together and start giving us what we want. Isn't that the point of this whole entertainment industry thing? You give us what we want, we give you money. Is there some basic problem with that? While I have purchased more HD discs than should be allowed by law, I would have more if they existed. Ya can't string this one out forever like DVD! This is 2008!

I don't know about you, but I'll still buy their (good and bad) movies if they keep releasing them, but the love is LONG, long gone baby...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Beautiful camerawork

I am a frequent visitor over at the Rebel Cafe and through that discussion group I met a young filmmaker who goes by the handle GageFX. Gage has been working on an indie feature that he wrote and is directing. He recently posted some footage that he did while messing around with a steadicam and some rollerblades. Check it out HERE.

He calls it the Bladecam.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Game over for HD-DVD - Updated

MS-NBC is reporting that Toshiba is considering abandoning the HD-DVD format.

Article HERE.

With the number of studios dropping the format and Netflix, Wal-Mart et. al. supporting only Blu-Ray, I think it's safe to say... Game Over. Finally.

UPDATE: NHK confirms it HERE.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Anyone who has read this blog for a year or more knows that my personal favorite film is Raiders of the lost Ark. I hated Temple of Doom. I really liked Last Crusade. Well, the trailer for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is up over at Yahoo.

Check it out HERE. Go watch it and then come back for my comments on this.

I had seen a still of Harrison Ford on the set of this film 6 months ago. When I heard that they were doing another film and that Harrison would reprise his role I was VERY skeptical. I felt he was too old to pull it off. After I saw the still I thought OK, maybe he CAN do this.

Now I see the trailer and while it's clear, he has the physical acumen to do the role, there are a couple of issues for me. He looks a LOT older than he did in Crusade. That's fine. But the film appears to take place in the late 40s, early 50s (I could be wrong - just going on what I see in the trailer). I find it implausible that the character would have aged this much in that short of a period of time - Yes, you can rationalize it by saying that with all he has been through on his adventures, it's amazing he looks as good as he does.

But that is a rationalization that just won't fly for me. So, age issues aside, I liked the trailer except for the line he used when he falls into the windshield of the truck. "Damn, I thought that was closer". I just sounded BAD to me. Maybe I am being too harsh, after all, this is just a trailer. But the bar is set pretty high here. I would like to see them just hit the bar. They don't have to leap over it. Will I go and see it in the theaters when it comes out? Damn right I will :)

FCP Tip and the next review.

Been a slow week for news for us to blog - Yes, Aperature 2 is out, yes Apple TV Take 2 was released, yes it looks like HD-DVD is dead after all. But you can read about that stuff on 21 jiggazillion blogs out there. So here is an FCP tip to hold you over until our next article.

(Thanks to Nance for this one)

Matchframe

If you position the playhead over a specific frame in the timeline and you want to know exactly where that frame is located in your media, press f. This will load the clip into the viewer and position you at the same frame that you have the playhead positioned over in the timeline. The menu command to do this is View->Matchframe.

Hope everyone had a great Valentine's day - I am sure Hallmark did :)

The next review

Oh yeah - I mentioned the next review that I'll be doing. That will be coming up next weekend. I'll be reviewing Red Software's Magic Bullet Frames. Since we shoot 1080i HDV, this software has some real potential value for us here at B-Scene.

Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

10.5.2 Intel update

Well, I applied the 105.2 Leopard update to the first of our Intel machines here at B-Scene. I tested out all of the FCS applications just as I did on the PPC machine. Also tested Color and Logic 8. No issues on any of the applications.

I'll still wait to update Nance's machine since she is mid-project at the moment.

Leopard 10.5.2 PPC update results

Updated the G4 laptop last night. Tested out FCP 6.0.2, did some capture, choppin, filters, CC and some rendering. No issues. Exported to a couple of formats with Compressor 3. No issues. Tested Soundtrack Pro 2, Motion 3 - All worked without a hitch.

Gonna update the first of the 2 Intel machines tonight. I'll post my results after I am done testing.

Users ARE reporting issues as you can see over at MacFixIt HERE.

Monday, February 11, 2008

OS X 10.5.2 update now available

Apple has release the 10.5.2 update for Leopard and it looks to be a doozy. Added functionality to stacks and added the ability to kill the transparency in the menu bar (yay) and a ton of other updates. You can check them out HERE.

I'll be updating the Laptop first so that I can check to see that there is no impact to FCS. I will post my findings here in the next day or so. in the mean time, HOLD OFF ON YOUR UPDATE!

The Laptop is my experimenter machine - Let's see if they have broken anything significant.

Netflix to go BluRay ONLY

Got an e-mail from NetFlix today - Seems they are going Blu-Ray ONLY now. They will not purchase any new HD-DVD titles after this month. Older (read: we already purchased them) HD-DVD titles will be available until the end of the year.

Maybe this stupid format war is drawing to a close. Boy I hope so. Here is the e-mail they sent:


We're Going Blu-ray

Dear Michael, You're receiving this email because you have asked to receive high-definition movies in the HD DVD format. As you may have heard, most of the major movie studios have recently decided to release their high-definition movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format.

In order to provide the best selection of high-definition titles for our members, we have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray as well.While we will continue to make our current selection of HD DVD titles available to you for the next several months, we will not be adding additional HD DVD titles or reordering replacements.

Toward the end of February, HD DVDs in your Saved Queue will automatically be changed to standard definition DVDs. Then toward the end of this year, all HD DVDs in your Queue will be changed to standard definition DVDs. Don't worry, we will contact you before this happens.You can click here to change your format preferences.

We're sorry for any inconvenience. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please call us at 1 (888) 638-3549.-The Netflix Team

Roy Scheider dies at 75

NY Times article HERE.

Wow, what a loss. Jaws, The Seven Ups, French Connection, All that Jazz and on and on...

One of my favorite actors.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Writer's strike may be over

Slashdot is reporting Michael Eisner quoted as saying it's a done deal.

Check it HERE.

I hope it's done. More than that I hope that the writers have gotten the remuneration from online sales and a new deal for DVDs that they so richly deserve.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Apple joins Avid in blowing off NAB

HERE

Read into this whatever you feel is appropriate.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Quicktime 7.4.1 will release TODAY

This update will correct the issue with After Effects but will NOT correct the issue with Premiere Pro. This update will also correct an intermittent issue with the browser plugin component that caused some streaming video to fail.

It will be live for download this afternoon.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Movie sets

GageFX over at the Rebel Cafe pointed this one out.

A montage of various film a TV sets, behind the scenes HERE.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

FCP tip

There are times when I want to apply a filter to more than one clip. I might adjust some settings and decide that I want that same thing applied to another clip. Easy enough, I right click on the filter in the filter pane and select copy. Then double click on the destination clip and paste the filter and it's settings so that they are applied to the new clip.

Easy enough :)

But if what I want is to apply a crop to another clip, I don't have the option of copy/paste in the settings window like I do with the filter window. Try as I might, no amount of right clicking on the crop effect in the motion tab window will give me a copy option...

Additionally, what if I want to copy a filter effect and apply it to more than one clip? Or the motion pane's settings for that matter? Well, this tip solves both issues.

Once I have the motion pane and filter settings that I want to apply to one or more clips, I right click on the clip in the timeline and select copy from the context menu. Then I select the destination clip(s) - One clip or a bunch - And I right click anywhere in the selected clip(s) in the timeline and select paste attributes.

This will bring up a pop-up menu that will allow you to select what attributes you would like to have pasted into the destination clips (such as crop, motion, filters etc). Select the items you want to have applied, click the OK button on the pop-up and voila!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Apple Mac Pro 8 core system review

Preface: I had purchased iWork about a year ago and I also upgraded it recently when Apple added the Numbers Application to the suite. When I write articles for the blog, I write them in Pages before I post them. For this article, I found Pages to be very unstable.

This is the first time that I have made significant use of the application since we went Leopard here at B-Scene. I had multiple application hangs and crashes and resorted to using Microsoft Word 2008. So for users of the current version of Pages under Leopard, you have been warned ☺

Now, on with the review!

Apple Mac Pro 2.8GHz 8 core system review


At B-Scene Films, we have had a quad core Intel Mac Pro for about 9 months. It is the 2.66 ghz model. It is configured with 6GB of RAM, the standard 250GB drive, 2 750GB SATA drives in a RAID 0 configuration for the storage of captured footage. It's name on our network is BigMac since it was the most powerful Mac in our stable.

Towards the end of last year, we determined the need for another machine. I decided that we would wait until MacWorld to see if an updated Mac Pro would be announced. Low and behold they announced the updates a week prior to the show (god forbid it might infringe on Randy Newman's wonderful singing...).

So we picked up the base model 8 core 2.8 GHz machine. We named it Angus on our network in keeping with the McDonald's theme that we had going with the BigMac (Angus is a new burger at McDonald's).

It comes with a 320GB drive and 2GB RAM standard. I ordered 4GB of RAM for the machine for $199 from Other World Computing and it arrived last Thursday. OWC is a great vendor for Mac products, I highly recommend them.

As a side note, I will refer to the 4 core machine as BigMac4 and the 8 core machine as Angus8. That way you will know which machine is the 4 or 8 core instead of trying to remember what silly names we used on the machines here at B-Scene.

Normally I would have bought the RAM from Crucial but they do not carry the newer 800 MHz RAM. In fact, it was backordered at OWC. Then we added 2 1TB SATA drives from Fry's at $259 each. Now, as I have stated in the past, I am not an Apple Fan boy - No koolaid for me, sorry. But, that being said, I have to give credit where credit is due...

In my office I have a WinTel machine that I built myself. Over the years, I must have built 50 of these things. And in that time, almost NONE of the hardware vendors have made any strides in simplifying this process or cleaning it up.

Adding memory, an expansion card or an HD to the machine is a nightmare. You are fighting with cables like crazy both inside and outside of the machine. On some of these systems, you have to pull out an HD to get to the DIMM slots to add memory. It's just ridiculous and in the years that I have been building these, it has never improved.

But the Mac Pro... This is another story.

Memory Installation

To add the memory, I turn the machine so that it's side panel faces me (I don't even bother to disconnect the cables in the back connecting the network, sound and video). I flip down a latch and take the cover off. There is not a cable in sight. I pull out the 2 memory riser cards, pop my 2 new 2GB modules into the upper riser card, move the Apple installed 1GB module to the upper riser, shove the 2 riser boards back into the Mac.

Done.

Total time to install new memory: Less than 7 minutes. On the Wintel machine it would have been 45 minutes and MUCH less pleasant.

Hard Drive Installation

To install the 2 drives, I push a lever to unlock the drive carriers. I remove the 2 carriers and attach the carriers to the 1TB drives using the 4 screws that come pre-loaded in the Mac’s drive carriers.

The screws are held in place by grommets so that you are not dropping them as you install. Nice touch. Since the carriers are outside of the machine, this process is very simple. No fighting with screws inside of a case where there is no light and no room to maneuver.

I then slide the drive carriers back into the Mac, press them at the end of their travel to ensure that the SATA socket in the Mac has mated with the drive firmly. Replace the Mac's side panel, push the locking lever down and we are all done.

About 15 minutes total time to upgrade the RAM and add 2 drives. Apple has this down. It's done right. It's the way ALL systems should be set up.

I have seen some Wintel cases try to emulate the drive tray system that Apple uses, but invariably it's made out of cheap sheet metal and, providing you don't cut yourself on the edges of it, is still a challenge to deal with due to poorly fitted parts.

If people wonder why you pay a premium for an Apple product, this is a big part of that reason - They are built properly with quality components.

NUMBERS

OK, now on to the numbers. Just how fast is this machine compared with the older Mac Pro that we have? Bear in mind that I am not MacWorld Labs. My approach is much more oriented towards real world results as they apply to Final Cut Studio.

All of these tests are being run under the current version of Leopard and the current versions of all of the FCS applications (FCP 6.0.2, Color 1.0.2, Motion 3.0.2, Compressor 3.0.2).

MULTI CORE USAGE

As to which applications use multiple cores, I ran Activity Monitor throughout these tests to see which applications leveraged the multi-core architecture of these machines.

FCP, Color and Compressor all used multiple cores. FCP makes very good use of the multi-core systems in both rendering and in real-time playback. Color uses them but in a very strange way that I suspect is a bug more than a feature. More on that after the Color tests.

During FCP and Compressor rendering the Activity monitor showing what cores are being used generally looked like this:



(Each horizontal bar is 1 core and the green shows how much of the core is being used.)

The test footage that I used to measure performance is footage from the DVD that comes with the Apple Pro Training series book Soundtrack Pro 2 by Martin Sitter. The footage was shot on a Sony F900 by Brian Terwilliger for his wonderful documentary One Six Right.

The clips are 1920 x 1080 and are in Apple ProRes 422 format (non HQ). These tests will focus on the following:

• Application load time
• Render time

For the render time tests, I will be taking a single clip of the One Six Right footage and applying color correction and brightness contrast adjustments in FCP to affect a day for night correction. In Color, I will undo the day for night correction and add a bleach bypass.

I will output final version from FCP using compressor. I will output the following formats:

• Uncompressed 10 bit full HD
• Compressed for iPhone / iPod
• Recompress H.264 full HD
• Output for standard NTSC DVD

Let's get started!

LOAD TIMES

The following are the load times for the applications:

BigMac4:

FCP - 30.5 seconds
Soundtrack - 10.6
Color - 5.7
Motion - 14.3

Angus8:

FCP - 18 seconds
Soundtrack Pro - 7.5
Color - 6.2
Motion - 9.1

Well, load times have improved for all except Color. Not sure why that is. Color loads VERY fast on both systems regardless.

RENDER TIMES

Project details:

One clip of full HD, 44.1 KHz stereo audio, 3 way CC added (white and black levels set), project duration 00:00:09:12.

Render Full Time Line:

Angus8: 22.2 seconds.
BigMac4: 30.0 seconds

Compressor output:

Angus8:

Full HD, h.264: 34.2 seconds
Full HD, 10 bit uncompressed: 43.8
iPhone preset 640x480 34.8
DVD Best Quality 90 minutes: 32.2

BigMac4:

Full HD, h.264: 49.7 seconds
Full HD, 10 bit uncompressed: 48.0
iPhone preset 640x480 36.6
DVD Best Quality 90 minutes: 40.0

COLOR RENDER TIMES

The sequence was sent to Color where the CC that was done in FCP was UN-done in the primaries room and a bleach bypass effect was added. The following number is the render time for each machine:

Angus8: 32.2 seconds

BigMac4: 33.9 seconds

Watching the Activity meter while Color is rendering presented a very different picture from the other applications. Processor usage appears to be flawed in that it uses all 8 or 4 cores sequentially instead of in parallel. Very odd…

Conclusion

Well, the performance areas that most impact our workflow here have seen a decent bump in speed. I suspect that the reason that Color’s render times are very close between the two machines is because of the bizarre way that Color uses one core at a time and sequences through the available cores instead of using them in parallel. One other nice benifit is that while projects that had an orange render bar on the Angus8 would play back in real time, that same project loaded on the BigMac4 would have a red render bar. So there is a nice bump in interactivity.

No buyer’s remorse here!