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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at email@example.com
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
This thread on dvxuser.com has more details -
I was just saying I'd want a direct to disk compressed recording solution for the P2 based cameras. Well, almost - this is the AJ-PCS060 device for downloading a P2 card onto a 60GB portable (presumably battery powered) hard disk gadget. Shoot to P2 card, remove card from camera, download via this little box to a hard disk, clear card, reload card, shoot more (or keep shooting on your other cards and have a PA downloading to disk in the background).
Also an LCD monitor for HD usage, and also some P2 optional stuff on this page (see link at top, I'm too lazy to retype).
Site Claims new Panasonic P2 based camcorder will record 1080p24
I doubt it, but should be interesting to see what happens...
UPDATE: Noah Kadner confirms that it will in fact do 1080p24, for sure. Since it's recording to P2, no tape velocity issues to be dealt with. Will there be a direct to disk recording module? That'd be the killer thing for this camera, the P2 cards will be PRICEY!
Mike's Conjecture: I'm calling this conjecture since I don't know for sure. ASSUMING the camera's CCD is 1280x720 (sounds about right, they are claiming 1 megapixel, 1280x720 is 921,600 pixels, but 1440x720 would be 1.03MP, but that's not in line with other stuff they've done), then DVCPRO HD 1080 res is actually a pretty good solution. The 1080i29.97 format is really 1280x1080 internally, so that would mean you'd get ALL of the horizontal resolution 1:1, and vertically the image would be stretched UP (rather than down) from 720 to 1080. Far, FAR better to stretch up than down, you keep (if slightly distort) all the original info. This is WAY good news! Especially since the DVCPRO HD codec is 4:2:2 rather than HDV's 4:2:0 1440x1080 (from a 960x1080 chip in Sony's 1080 interlaced, not progressive cameras), that is preferable....as a FORMAT, not necessarily as a camera. The other issue will be how to output this 1080p24 stuff - that isn't part of the DVCPROHD tape format as presently supported. New decks, or modifications to existing decks (unlikely), would be required to record DVCPROHD at 24fps 1080p.
BUT...the rumor has been that the PAL framerate for DVCPROHD will be supported in FCP 5 (this is confirmed from Apple), but rumored that it will be 1440x1080 internally for 25p, an improvement from the 1280x1080 of 30i DVCPRO HD. So in THEORY maybe there's some trick to be gained from recording 24p/25p higher res something or other, not sure how that could all be resolved. Again, we'll have to wait and see, but this is all good news.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Call to action from producer Dwight Adair.
He's throwing down the gauntlet at Big Media - discussing the ability, NOW, to distribute DVD quality video over the internet to a variety of playback devices.
OK, this is a fun stunt. I heard about this from the Blackmagic folks a few months ago, but was asked to be quiet about it at the time. Now it's out, apparently.
Stunt value mostly. And no, you CANNOT shoot on a Varicam and record to an iPod. Among the various reasons, there is no FireWire connection on a Varicam, and it has been clearly stated that there will NOT be one.
Need to keep two drives online as one volume? This would work. SHOULD (no promises) be sufficient for uncompressed SD and compressed SD & HD with reasonably fast drives.
Article on Mark Cuban and his digital content empire in the making. Content (sports team), creation (2929 Films and HDNet films), distribution (Landmark Theater chain with digital projectors), etc.
Cine Speedcam is a real choice for high speed digital cinematography, however - it shoots up to 1000 fps at roughly 1500x1000 pixels, higher speeds at lower resolution.
Here's Band Pro's page on it (they rent it), and here's a CML Q&A on it
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
....so it sounds like Tiger for NAB is pretty close to a sure thing, if this is true. Supposedly to be officially announced on Friday....Apriil 1st. Why announce on April Fool's Day? Dunno.
Thanks Zane Rutledge for the heads up on the link.
Monday, March 28, 2005
Sunday: Slightly updated: I clarified a bit about recommended workflow in bold below
So today I've been sitting over at Matchframe in Austin, TX working with colorist Nick Smith on the short film Heads or Tails that my friend Paul (aka RoboGeek) produced and directed. We've been chipping away at it for months off and on, and today we're doing color correction.
This is a great example of successful low cost post workflows - we shot on Varicam (expensive but good quality), and pulled the footage in over FireWire in the native DVCPRO HD codec. The 24fps 720p footage is only about 5 1/2 MB/sec, very low data rate for what's essentially twice the resolution of standard definition video. Most of the editing was done on one of my G5 machines, a dual 2.0 GHz G5 with a Blackmagic DeckLink HD Pro card, monitoring via an HDLink to an Apple 23" LCD. But when Paul wanted to see what we had, I was able to copy all the footage over to a FireWire drive (55 GB worth for two to three hours of footage) and he could review it on his 15" Powerbook. He could have edited on that if he wished, and just brought over the revised Final Cut Pro HD file, which is only a few megs in size. Further updated: I'm so used to this, I didn't even have to think about it - we were able to edit in the native 24p, without having to make DV downconverts OR having to edit on a 30i timeline, saving costs and having greater editorial accuracy.
So today we're doing color correction at Matchframe - I was concerned about what the workflow was going to be, since we had recently done color correction on Termination (another short he directed) for submission at the SXSW Film Festival on their DaVinci color correction system. There had been issues with that one when dealing with the 24p nature of the footage (shot on DVX100A in 24p mode). More on that later. (Termination won Best Texas Short at SXSW, btw. Congrats to Paul, Jen,Herb, Jett, etc.!)
So let's look at this in terms of Method A and Method B:
Update: NOT that this is recommended filmmaking process! This is "the usual" answer for doing higher end color correction - take it to a facility and do tape to tape with a colorist, regardless of what format you shot on. This is the usually prescribed methodology - shot on 24p DV, but edited at 30i since it was never intended to go to a 24p medium, was offlined on Final Cut Pro HD, output to DV, and then brought over to Matchframe to be worked on their DaVinci color correction system. Pros: Awesome toolset to use, fast and very very clean. Cons: Expensive hardware to work on, and you're married to that edit - if you want to make an editorial change, you have to come back and color correct again. All fades/cuts/transitions are pre-rendered before color correction, so you're stuck with those decisions.
We acquired in the efficient, camera quality DVCPRO HD codec. We edited in that codec, and when it came time to color correct, the color correction was done by a colorist within Final Cut Pro HD using it's native tools. Pros: we can STILL make editorial changes if we want to. The color correction is just settings applied to clips with the built-in FCP tools, so with the media and FCP file, we can go to ANY FCP HD editing station (that meets minimal specs) to do further work. If we want to make further changes, we can, on our own equipment and timeline. It's still fluid and flexible, NOT locked down like Method A was. Cons: The toolset isn't as rich or powerful as the DaVinci stuff. We could have used Color Finesse, but we didn't have that plugin, and it takes longer (takes forever to render). We could have ideally used Final Touch HD if somebody had that (I still haven't traded in my eval chit yet), and still maintained editorial control after all the files had been rendered (assuming we had a RAID fast enough for the uncompressed color corrected files, which I do but neither Paul, nor our editor Herb Bennet, has).
"Save color correction for last" Paul says. Termination had a variety of delays, and in the end had to be post-scored to get final audio work done due to scheduling limitations.
I advocate stuff more along the Method B lines - if Heads or Tails were a movie we were trying to have test screenings of, I'd never want to have to pay for color correction more than once, and I'd insist on having the ability to change editorially after color correction.
Flexibility is key (at least to me). If you're producing a commercial or something that isn't so quality driven or where ongoing flexibility isn't so mission critical, that might not be such a big deal. But for long form projects, the ability to always have control and the ability to change your mind even when you THINK you're done, is very important to me.
I asked Nick Smith, the colorist, what their other HD color correction capabilities are in the Austin office. If not on Final Cut Pro, the only other choice is to use their Fire HD setup, and rate card on that is about $650/hr. This room (with Nick driving it) is about half that or less working with Final Cut Pro HD.
Again, low cost tools, when you can get high quality results, is desirable.
Another cool thing about this Method B workflow - once I get the FCP file home, I can Recompress To the 10 bit lossless codec and re-render the color correction for the cleanest possible DM (digital master). From there, I can digitally scale up that new Digital Master using a variety of software tools (After Effects is my odds on favorite at the moment, I don't know if Compression Master or Cleaner can properly handle 10 bits/channel footage). Within After Effects, there are also some third party plugins to try to get even better results. Time consuming, but again, we have the time on this project, and quality is desirable.
If this were a project destined for film, I'd probably do that for best results, or this would be a good master to go out to a high end tape format like HDCAM SR, which could handle the full resolution without subsampling, as well as the 10 bits/channel (instead of just 8 bits/channel) for smoother results from color correction.
I'd pretty much blown off optical storage as too slow, too small, and too expensive per GB to mess with. But this keeps it interesting. Depending, of course, on the cost of the drive itself. LTO3 tape is presently the best relatively high speed bang for the buck I've found for handling tens of terabytes of data.
This might be an interesting backup format for the tons of digital data that HD is producing, if you're looking for a low cost solution. The problem is the speed - 20 MB/sec is probably the read, not write speed. In the past, a lot of optical media devices have been able to read much faster than they can write, so it's conceivable that write performance is even lower. At 20 MB/sec write speed, that's means an hour of DVCPRO HD would take about 15 minutes to back up. Not bad. But uncompressed formats fare far worse:
-10 bit uncompressed 720p24 would take about 3 hours to back up one hour of footage
-10 bit uncompressed 1080p24 would take a bit over 6 hours to back up one hour. Not very efficient for a lot of footage.
-10 bit 1080i30 would take about 8 hours to back up one hour of footage. So if you started at 5pm, a two hour master would be done (barely) when you got into work the next day. IF you had an autoloader that could shuffle in new disks, AND presuming a verification pass wasn't required. Ugh.
Thanks to Christopher Barry for pointing this tech out to me.
One of the responders talks about a lack of high quality color correction tools, and suggests bumping up to D-5 or other high end tape format and doing a tape to tape color correction. If you have the money for that and your edit is locked, great.
If not, other options:
-Use the Media Manager and it's Recompress To function to convert the pre-color corrected media to the 10 bit uncompressed codec of your choice, and THEN use a tool like Color Finesse. For optimal results, use Automatic Duck to get the timeline into After Effects and render out your final from there, but not everything that can be done in FCP will carry over to AE, so be careful.
-OR do the Recompress To thing and use Final Touch HD if you have money/access to that system. I'm not sure if the Recompress To is strictly necessary since FTHD will be rendering out it's own files..Hmm...don't know.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
I feel it's a bit like suing Ford because drugs get carried in pickups. Or perhaps, more like suing U Haul because those vehicles are used to transport illegal stuff.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Right off the bat, since HDV is a 4:2:0 codec, the way the chroma (color) information is recorded (or at least reproduced with these tools), there are grey lines in the footage, making a key very difficult to obtain.
Take a look at the samples on the page, and how the yellow background (after trying to key) looks.
This may be endemic to the format. Or perhaps there are some better tools to work with it? This reminds me of the fire footage I fooled with before - on footage that changes a lot from one field to the next, the format doesn't record the action in the color portion of the image very well. That's the "0" in the 4:2:0.
OK readers, here's your chance to chime in.
I suggested that he use LumiereHD or HDVxDV to pull in the footage directly to a lossless codec without going through the lossy AIC codec, and try different keyers to see if any of them did any better.
I haven't had to do any keying in over a year (trying to leave that kind of work behind), but I used to like the Screen Correction Layer feature of Ultimatte, because it would let you try to get a more consistent green prior to the keying function. But that's just tweaking - the problems here are far bigger than that (rearranging deck chairs on Titanic).
In the end, it's a heavily compressed format. It was designed to produce a pleasing to look at image, throwing away detail it thinks you won't notice (that's how it compresses in part) in order to get a smaller file size on tape. But the stuff you can't see with your naked eye is what makes for a good color key.
Frederic had original thought to shoot this and downsample the resulting key to standard definition, thinking he'd get a smoother result, but he keeps getting a halo'd edge around the keyed stuff. I think this is an artifact of the scaling algorithm After Effects uses, so I suggested he render out his keyed footage with alpha and then try Cleaner to scale the footage down, which uses a sine scaling algorithm rather than a bicubic algorithm. Haven't seen/heard of his results yet.
So send in your comments and suggestions, and you can download the 13 frame sample AIC movie, but you'll need iMovieHD or Final Cut Express HD installed in order to have the AIC codec installed to see what's going on.
On your mark, get set, play!
This is definitely going to be a common problem that a lot of folks are going to face, so this isn't a one time only problem...
In any case, an interesting solution, and interesting how he chose to shoot based on the various limiting factors, such as battery life in a plane, weight, shipping weight of the media, etc.
Here's also a FAQ on the HDCAM SR format and the SRW-5000 studio deck for that format.
The Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group Meeting is going to have their annual meeting on Wednesday, April 20th at 6:30 to 9:30 pm (doors open at 5pm) at Stardust Hotel Conference Center in Las Vegas during NAB. The schedule of stuff to be discussed is unannounced, so it's quite likely that Final Cut Pro 5 will be discussed in detail. If you have strong interest in Final Cut, this is THE place to get good info, detailed answers, and in general learn the latest bestest scoop. If you're going to NAB, this is MANDATORY.
See the lafcpug website for more details. The schedule will be secret until after the press event on the 17th.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
-definitely records 24p
-it can record uncompressed PCM audio, but the feature may not be included for technical reasons including a 6 frame delay (more info in article)
-it records to tape at an honest 24p, not a stuttery repeated 24p over 30i or 60p or whatever. This is GOOD.
-that also implies more efficient use of the codec
-timecode has a track on the tape format, so I'm hoping/guessing it's "for real" SMPTE timecode
-a new 17" broadcast LCD monitor, the BT-LH1700W, to come out at NAB, with SDI, RGB, component, composite, and s-video, displays 1080/24fps, 1080i, 720p, and 480i (not clear that 720p24 is displayed directly, but assumably so), 1280x768 native res, available Q3 2005
-workflows with HDVxDV are also discussed in the article
-there's a paragraph or two on the 0.7 wide converter for the FX1 and Z1U Sony HDV cameras.
DVDs making more money than theatrical release - an interesting tidbit. Somewhere I also read that one reason why the gap between theatrical and DVD releases is closing so fast is that studios, now realizing the income to be had from DVD sales & rentals, are wanting to take advantage of the carry-over marketing campaign benefits (and cost amortization) from the theatrical release to the DVD release. (Found via Cinima Minima.
-Things China is doing to bring in more moviegoers. Cinema Minima points out the contrast between these actions, and Hollywood's attitude that "there's nothing to be done" to bring in more theater goers. I can't point a stronger finger at The Way To Do this than to direct anyone's attention to the marvelous work Tim & crew have done with the Alamo Drafthouse chain that started right here in Austin. They just recently opened their fourth location...in Austin.
-Boxx 8200 workstation certified for BlackMagic DeckLink HD Pro
FW Depot has this FireWire hot swap 4 bay enclosure. This could be good for a 4 drive RAID 0 or two mirrored RAID 1 pairs for standard definition or compressed high definition video work. It's FireWire 800 and USB 2.0. It's $500.
-LCD TVs: Quality up, prices down this is an interview with someone from Westinghouse, so beware bias
-Law & Order: Trial By Jury being shot on 16mm and posted with an all data workflow. They claim to be saving $15,000/episode compared to other workflows. Interesting reading for those thinking about working with film and DI process. At first skim, a whiff of "puff piece" detected, but the how's and what's should still be interesting
That's what I think is relevant of late for the indie crowd. Some other stuff got announced recently, but I thought it way too niche for this readership.
I've been reading my new copy of Cinefex magazine (as in the hold-in-my-hands, actual printed copy). If you have any interest in visual effects, even from a producer's standpoint, this magazine is a MUST READ. It comes out quarterly and is hard to find in stores, so subscription is heartily recommended. This quarter's edition has a long, LONG series of Q&A with a bunch of industry leaders talking about the business side of doing visual effects, and it's depressing. Basically, it's a for love not money industry, and shops are recycling (aka new ones starting and existing ones folding) all the time. It's not anything anybody's going to get rich doing. Another reason I got out of that industry - too much demand for No Sleep Till Brooklyn multi-allnighter assaults come deadline, too little pay, too much scope creep (job gets incrementally bigger and bigger, budget and deadline stay the same), and just too much hassle for me. It's fun, but I don't love that side of image creation that much. But definitely worth reading, especially this issue if you have need of visual effects in your film.
The article gets a few things wrong - AAC is not an Apple proprietary or originated format, and Windows Media 9 is NOT the only video codec chosen for HD-DVDs. BOTH Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will support MPEG-2, WM9, and H.264 AVC video codecs.
That would be ugly.
There's also this article at Macworld saying much the same thing, using the word "detante" about the possible arrangement. This second article has better technical background info on the competing formats if you're not all up to speed on it.
Well, I almost went on a road trip to Death Valley and the Grand Canyon this week, then I realized it was both my Mom's birthday and Easter this week, so bailing for another state wasn't going to fly. My ex-girlfriend, now just friend Rhonda Schneider wanted me to go. Rhonda is great - in our relationship, I was very much Marlin to her Dory. I felt she couldn't be solid enough to hang on, and I definitely was gripping the world too tight to let go. We definitely didn't find our Nemo, but we're great as friends now.
-phone rings at 5:30am, I'm thinking it's Rhonda calling to wake me up, I think dark deadly thoughts at the phone. It falls into silence.
-phone rings at 7:30, it IS Rhonda this time. She's sooooo cheerful and chirpy in the mornings. I am...much less so. I say I'll get up soon. I go back to sleep.
She calls back at 8:30am, and I say I'll get in the shower. She calls back at 9 something and I pick up the phone, say "Stop pestering me!" and hang up.
While I'm in the shower, she leaves a message saying she was trying to give me directions out to her country place. Woops.
I call back and am apologetic now that I'm awake.
So I start driving out there (towards Llano). I've driven west on 290 a million times, so it's a familiar drive. Unfortuantely, I'm supposed to be driving on highway 71, not 290, and I don't realize this until Dripping Springs.
shit Shit SHIT.
So I buy a map and figure out the quickest way and call Rhonda and leave a message to tell her I've fubared my navigational skills for the day.
I finally get to LLano and call her and she drives her ranch truck down to the end of the road to meet me, since I clearly can't be trusted with any instructions more complicated than "exit your driveway."
On the drive down the dirt road to Happy Hilltop (she has no street address out in the boonies, so when she went to get a new driver's license, they asked her where she lives she said Happy Hilltop [there is, of course, no such road]. So that's what it says on her driver's license. Really.)
So on the drive down to Happy Hiltop off of the highway, she slows down, rolls down her window, and starts calling for her pet/friend: "Donkey!" [Honks horn repeatedly].."Donkey!". Unfortunately today he's a no-show. I've seen pictures of him before, and even a little video that Rhonda included in her submission video trying to get on a reality show called "Texas Ranch House." A friend sent her a weblink to the submission page, and she thought it was one of those shows where they come fix up your house (this when she still described her place as "not so much a house, more like a structure out in the country." Anyway, on her submission video (that I showed her how to drive iMovie to edit - see? This is post related! ...so on her submission video, there's footage of Donkey trotting eagerly over to her car at the gate, sticking his head in the window (he likes candy, she loves candy, so they have something in common). Donkey sticks his head in the window, she gives him a peppermint, she gets out and he lets him pet on her while he chews his peppermint. Rhonda's friend shooting the video is next - as Rhonda pulls her car through the gate, Donkey trots back to Kim's car and sticks his head in her car window, looking for Tweats. Alas, none to be found.
So anyway, that's Donkey. He's her friend. He gets credit as Don Key on her submission video.
We finally get out to her house (it's moved up the scale from "structure" to "place where I can sleep if I have to, and it's now just after noon. I change into cycling clothes and we ride mountain bikes towards town. It's a gorgeous day, about 70 degrees, a few clouds lazily drifting past. It's about 7 miles to town, we have a nice tailwind and it only takes about half an hour. We're in the outback of the Texas Hill Country, so there's lots of green, the wildflowers are starting to come out, and we slow down to say "MooooOOOOOOooooo!" at the cows.
Because that's what one does in such circumstances.
It's around this time that it dawns on me that Rhonda is Dory from Finding Nemo. It takes a little longer for me to realize I am sooooooo Marlin (fearful of new things, etc.). We pass a very young bull that starts to trot after us. She thinks it's cute and that he wants to follow us, I think he's being territorial and am wary of turning around to go check him out. How exactly metaphorical is that?
We arrive at the Castell General Store. Castell is a thriving Texas metropolis, population 13. Yes, thirteen. If Randy moves, it's 12.
I've been out the the General Store once before, last year, and there were some folks cooking barbecue that day, so we'd had some great pork loin sandwiches. Unfortunately, we were too late today for that. So we got some Moon Pies and a cinnamon bun (the kind you only find in rural stores off the highway, all prepackaged in plastic with a shelf life like plutonium). MMMMMMmmmmm, good.
We shoot the breeze with Randy, the proprietor for a bit. Rhonda knows him well, she's up here all the time. She jokes about what the townfolk must think of her, bringing all these men by. There's me (ex boyfriend, you know the rest), her current French boyfriend Arnaud whom she met New Year's Eve during a disastrous date with Drew (asshole - Drew not Arnaud, she's in LoooooOOOOOoooove with Arnaud, I approve), Ken (an inline skater from San Jose she met at the Paris airport), Jeremy (23 year old triathlete and virgin by choice (!!), a good Catholic boy).
We chat with Randy a bit - he used to work bidness in Houston, but got sick of it and moved out to Castell. He runs the 100 year old general store most of the time when he doesn't go fishin' in the Llano River which is about 100 yards out back. It's still open when he's not there, you just leave your money on the counter. Plus, there's Cock-A-Roo to keep an eye on things. He's a rooster. No shit. He wandered in while Randy & Rhonda were sitting at the table catching up amidst all of Randy's newspapers. He's very worldly - he had newspapers from Austin, Houston, Mason, and Llano. Cock-A-Roo pecked a bit at Rhonda's feet when she darted playfully at him. Perhaps not a good game to play in Birkenstocks, but a fun game nonetheless.
The Castell General Store is a meeting place - every day around 4 or 5 some locals drop by after work to have a beer and catch up with their neighbors and friends, and any strangers in town that are happening by. Rhonda showed up one day and was hanging out, talking to everybody, "getting caught up on the gossip" after she had biked up to the store and kayaked home - everybody knew about it. It was also the day she helped Don & Shirley herd cattle with her mountain bike amid all the cactus and prickly scrub - definitely challenging terrain. (All her stories apparently quickly become legend around the Castell General Store.) When she arrived that day, there were four or more horses tied off in front of the store on the hitching post. She was chattin' with these folks, and some of them belonged to the horses. A guy drove up in a truck with a bunch of feed in back, and he's wearing his cowboy hat, and snap up western shirt, his Wranglers with chaps over'em (not the assless urban kind), with his boots and spurs. She finds out later he collects spurs, and his name is Cameron Nelms, aka The Cowboy. They chat, and discover they live about a mile and a half apart on the river, and that he's her closest neighbor, her country next door neighbor. A couple days later Kim is filming the video for the TV show, he comes riding up the river, "all cowboyed up" and drops by to visit. He's all proper and such - everything is all "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" and the harshest word he's ever exhibited in his vocabulary is "Dagnabbit!" He hobbles his horse in the front yard (with hobbles he braided himself - he's full-on Real Cowboy). When Rhonda asked him what he does, he says he's a cowboy - he's a roper. And yes, you can make a living doing this, if you're really good.
(Rhonda's kinda smitten with him, in an "Aww, shucks ma'am" kind of way.)
(Rhonda then corrects me, saying she's not smitten, she's enamored. "Because what's his name - Arnaud - is my boyfriend." I cut her some slack because we just split a bottle of Liberty Hill Cabernet at Hilltop Cafe - more on that later).
Randy shows me his videotape of him on the news, with Cock-A-Roo's infamous dislike of fish. He has a Billy Bass singing rubber fish, when he starts it up on the floor, Cock-A-Roo jumps on it and starts pecking it. (Later, we saw Cock-A-Roo performing some rated R activity on the Billy Bass, truly a fitting fate for the wretched rubber thing.)
As we were sitting inside just talking and watching Cock-A-Roo, the chicken (still getting over that), a woman comes in to get some stuff. Randy says she just rode in 7 miles to get an ice cream sandwich and three pounds of bacon. I'm assuming she rode in on her bike, but we go outside, and I get a big surprise....
...she rode in on her horse and buggy. Or more accurately, her horses and buggy. She has a buggy with two dogs in it that's made of modern materials, metal pipe and modern wheels with rubber tires. But the real shocker was the horses...or more accurately, THE HORSES. They are Belgians, which are essentially just like Clydesdales without the metal rocker band hair around their ankles. These horses are HUGE, their eyeline is above mine (I'm 6-3, 6-4 on a good day in boots on a date). Their heads seem like they are three and a half feet long or more. But they are gentle and sweet - they let us, total strangers, walk up and pet their faces and stroke their noses. I felt like I was subject to some CAD program's scale function, since these horses were just enormous, off the scale of what I'm used to seeing. Rhonda still had peppermints in her pockets that she had intended for Donkey that she hadn't been able to find. She fished out one and held her hand flat to feed one of the Belgians, but the horse's lips are so big it seemed like feeding a whale a Certs. The male horse took it, toyed with it in it's mouth for a bit, than casually, no big deal, just dropped it on the road.
Belgians don't like peppermints, apparently.
(Donkeys and cows do, for the record. Don't tell Rhonda's neighbors. She's spoiling their cows.)
She tried with the female horse, and it too sampled then politely, quietly, without making a fuss, dropped it on the road. I love that. Adults can't just push food they don't like out of their mouths, the last time I saw that stunt was my nephew when he was a weejun trying squash for the first time. No muss, no fuss, no change in facial expression, he was chewing and then he was pushing it out of his mouth to fall in his lap. Tweren't nothin' but a thang.
The owner was a sweet older woman named Anne McCullough who appeared to be about 60 ("unless she worked on a ranch all her life, then she's about 35." according to Rhonda). She was nice as could be, although after petting one dog, the other snarled at Rhonda. Silly dog! Rhonda is the sweetest woman in the world, and loves all critters. That was about when the phone rang for Randy, and shortly thereafter it was time to go.
We rent kayaks from Randy (this was the plan), and he's about to drive us and the kayaks down to the river when he gets a phone call. Mary ??, a local woman with Parkinson's Disease, apparently is having an issue. He tells us he''ll drop us off on the way. As we're pulling out, a pickup pulls into the store. He loops back with us sitting in the bed of the pickup with the kayaks, and yells to the old timer in the other truck "Mary's locked up, I gotta go help her. You're in charge. Take all the money." And with that, we're off.
We drop in Castell Slab and it's still just a gorgeous day. Perfect temperature, no clouds, abundant grass and greenery on the sides. The river is a little higher than usual, so our sit on top kayaks are perfect - we rarely scrape bottom with our few inches of draft (vessel below the waterline). We saw cattle and horses on the shore, we saw several blue herons, a sand piper looking bird, and turtles either sunning or poking their heads above the waterline. Oh, and vultures circling above, hoping we got REALLY stuck on a sandbar. I flipped them off to show my resolve when I got stuck. I Shall Survive (insert theme song).
Castell is fairly unique in that instead of the usual limestone (highly water porous), there's literally tons and tons of granite everywhere, these huge 100 ton boulders flopped lazily in the river, smoothed by patient aeons of water flow and time.
We got a little bit of rapids action, which was fun to zoom through. The kayaks were easy and a blast to deal with - I haven't been in a canoe in years, and I don't think I've ever kayaked, but it was easily mastered. Well, maybe not mastered, but easily "dealt with" enough to get buy. I accused Rhonda of giving me the kayak that likes rocks, but perhaps my 60 pounds and less than deft skills played a part in that.
We cruise down the river, paddling or not, flowing with the current, getting stuck on the occasional rock (me almost always). To remove yourself from a rock, practice your pelvic thrusts repeatedly to dislodge yourself from the rock three inches at a time.
Rhonda grew up out here, on some family land that has since been sold. She bought some of it back from her uncles so that she could renovate "the structure" to live there or use it as a second house. She has a strong connection to this family land, and it's been a major goal of hers to reclaim and renovate it. She has family history and personal history out here. As we float down the river, she points out various features by name, and things that happened there. Honig Rock was where she used to buiild forts, sit out and sun, and jump into the river when she was a kid.
She points out a particular spot on the river where she lost her virginity to her first boyfriend, Tommy. I asked if it was a special night or something "Nope, it was the middle of the day, we'd been riding out on our three wheelers. What can I say, I'm a daytime girl? We were trying to wait till my 16th birthday, but we were madly in love and horny as hell."
Further down the river, we come to her property and we beach the kayaks and hike up to her house. We make sammiches with bread she liberates from her mom's house (100 feet away). We sit out back in a couple of chairs and watch the river flow by for 20 minutes, then walk back down to the river. Rhonda's laid out a couple of giant smiley faces in rocks on the sandbar, and used her feet to scuffle out a 30 foot diameter smily face with spiraling eyes a few weeks ago. It's still quite recognizable.
We paddle down a further stretch, and arrive at Schneider Slab, which is where we stashed the ranch pickup earlier. Schneider Slab is named from her family, her family built it, they were one of the very first families to settle in these parts. Her great-great-great grandfather was one of the first two settlers in the county - that and the Castells. "That's why I never dated local. Miles (another ex, a four year relation) was from out of town, and he's still my distant cousin...he's also Randy's (from the store) cousin."
We pull the kayaks and get'em into the truck, and drive back to Castell's store. We lug our kayaks back to where they are stashed - in a horse trailer - and get them put up. We go in and chat with Randy, we forgot to pack money after getting back in the kayaks, so he says no problem, and we put a couple of ice cream snacks on the tab while we're at it.
Nothing tastes as good as a good cold ice cream sandwich after working out for a few hours. Mmmmmm.......yum.
We run logistics to fetch bikes, return truck, get back to the ranch (as I call it). I wash up quickly and head out, because I'm supposed to have dinner with my family for my mom's birthday. We were supposed to have it yesterday, but dinner was called on account of a six year old running into a door with his head.
I get changed up into my "Mom caliber duds" and start driving home. As soon as I got into cell phone range, I got a call from my Dad, who told me that dinner was called off once again, this time because "Mason's eyes are funny" after his head trauma from the night before. I don't worry too much, his mom, my sister, used to be team lead on a spinal injury rehab unit, so she's double dosed with Mom Paranoia. She'll be on top of the situation, I can trust there's nothing practical I could do. If he's in the hospital, I'll see him tomorow if there's really a problem, which I doubt.
So I call Rhonda to let her know, and I head back to her place. We decided to go to Fredericksburg, nearly 40 miles away, but on the way are passing Hilltop Cafe and decide to eat there.
Hilltop Cafe is great - it was started by Johnny Nicholas and his wife. Johnny used to be a member of Asleep at the Wheel, a famous (well, locally) Texas band. He and his Cajun wife started this restaurant out in the middle of nowhere in an old gas station slash bar on a remote highway. He's greek and she's cajun, so that's the food, and it's AMAZING, especially in context - 15 or more miles from the nearest town of any size whatsoever. We had blue crab cakes and split a bottle of Liberty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (my favorite affordable red), she had shrimp mytillini, I had a steak.
After dessert, Johnny came out and played a song on the piano. Awesome.
Side note: Rhonda's Uncle Fritz and Grandpa Reuben used to stop at the Hilltop for a beer and gas back in the day.
Ahhh. A great day.
I'm going to crash at her house and then go back to Austin tomorrow.
It's good to have a day off in the real world, and leave all this pixel shit behind.
-not mike today, just mikey
More pictures of Happy Hilltop here and here.
To see what it looks like when Rhonda wakes me up to see the sunrise REALLLLLLLLLLY early, see here.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Unfortunately, you can only use the code for "internal development". So basically your dream of a QuickTime codec is going nowhere unless someone gets a real "license" from Avid. Also, this static C library is unoptimized, so forget about realtime transcode or playback--Altivec and SSE2 optimizations are strictly forbidden in the download license.
I think the reasons Avid put this out was 1) it makes them look an open source friendly company, 2) it could be used by post houses that wanted to read DNxHD media frame by frame into a compositing system 3) companies could evaluate it for licensing in devices. Ikegami has a camera in development that will record DnxHD 220.
While it is a great codec, it will not never be a widely used codec outside of Avid systems.
...so it looks like a QT codec for general public use isn't going to happen. Too bad. I think I wrote about it this way in the past but forgot.
Avid has made the source code available for download for the Avid DNxHD codec. This is Avid's compressed HD codec, available in both 8 and 10 bit versions. It's very efficient, I've seen some footage and it looked pretty good. I'd love to see somebody make a Mac QuickTime codec from this, it shouldn't be too hard to do...hint hint, coder geeks!
And unlike other compressed HD codecs available for Macs, such as DVCPRO HD or HDV, it's full raster. DVCPRO HD is either 960x720 (instead of full raster 1280x720) or 1280x1080 (instead of full raster 1920x1080), and is always 8 bits/pixel, allowing only 256 shades per channel. 10 bit codecs allow for 1024 shades per channel, much more subtlety...
There are several options available: a 145 megabit 8 bit codec, a 220 megabit 8 bit codec (only 4:1 compression), and a 10 bit 220 megabit codec (6:1 compression).
Then it would be up to Apple to support it as a codec for RT effects to make it truly useful..not a very likely scenario.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Combine this with iStabilize for cheapie smooth shots.
Damn. Actually, I wanna try this now....
"We see this acquisition as the next logical step in our long-term strategy. Just as our acquisition of M-Audio in 2004 brought us into the consumer audio business, by acquiring Pinnacle's consumer video business, Avid will be able to tap into the next generation of video editors while they are still learning their craft."
And this fro Avid's press release:
Following the closing, the parties expect that Pinnacle’s award-winning professional products – such as the MediaStream broadcast playout server and the Deko on-air graphics system – will enhance Avid’s end-to-end broadcast production pipeline, which has helped Avid become a global leader in that industry. In addition, Pinnacle’s consumer video business – which to date has shipped more than 10 million units -will form the basis for a new consumer video division at Avid, providing the company with an immediate avenue into that segment.
...so it's not just the consumer/prosumer lineup that Avid is interested in.
Mike's Comments: This should be interesting. I think it's smart on Avid's part to have some consumer level stuff - their lowest entry point software would still be pretty daunting to a rank amateur. But how will it integrate? Just because Avid owns it doesn't mean the current software will be a logical stepping stone into the other Avid products. Avid will have to add features and export tools to hand off editing sequences from Liquid to Avid's existing editing packages. I guess this means that Avid will eventually add support for any codecs proprietary to Liquid at the moment, so that's good news. But what's to happen to the higher end products in the Pinnacle lineup, the ones that overlap with Avid's products? Are they to be discontinued or allowed to languish? And how long will it take to get integrated versions of the product lines from Avid and Pinnacle, such that they can communicate, or at least hand off from Pinnacle to Avid products? It usually seems to take a year or more from acquisition to delivered products.
At first this seems like a good idea, but there will be portions of the Pinnacle product lineup that just get lopped off over time, I'd bet. And again, what EXACTLY will make the Pinnacle software a good first step into the Avid world? One of the things that I DON'T like about Avid's software is the user interface (but I haven't sat down on one in over a year, so I don't know what changes have been made) - while it's familiar and comfortable to thousands of video professionals, it feels cumbersome, unintuitive, and dated to me. Will they be putting an "Avid face" on Pinnacle's software? I don't know, but if so I don't necessarily consider that progress.
But other products, like MediaStream and Deko, will have obvious benefits for the pro product line.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
I didn't even mention the following in my commentary earlier:
-an actor eats a live, wriggling squid, such that it wraps its dying tentacles around his hand and face
-an actor cuts out his own tongue. In close up. (OK, close up on his eyes, but to see the scissor handles closing....)
-teeth are removed with a claw hammer (by twisting, not hammering - which is worse?)
Anyway, read the review.
Dust to Glory is a documentary about the running of the Baja 1000, an offroad race down in Baja Mexico that is open too all comers in a variety of classes from $2 million dollar custom designed and built trucks to unmodified pre-1982 Volkswagon Beetles. It is the harshest road race I've ever even heard of. Engines fall off, multi-million dollar vehicles with three feet of suspension travel break their frames, it's just unGodly. Oh, and it's all run on an open course. On the road sections, they still have to deal with ONCOMING TRAFFIC. There was a great little snippet of a support van driver driving out of the race area along 15 miles of skinny little road with the unlimited class vehicles going the other way....at 140 MILES AN HOUR ON THE SAME ROAD. Whoah indeed, Keanu. A guy named Mouse decided to ride the whole thing with himself as the only rider...on a motorcycle. It's such a test of endurance and will and courage and riding that incredibly thin line between your limits and Too Far. It's a big love story about the race, the people, the environment in which it's run. It's insane, it's beautiful, it's thrilling, it's crazy. Kids scurry across the course, photographers are half into the race course snapping away, the crowd flinches back as a vehicle gets off its line and veers towards them. Somebody's Winnebago gets sideswiped and nobody even looks back. The film is a big guy fantasy of speed, challenge, and thrills. While the dangers are acknowledged and discussed, the film is in love with the endeavor and that is the focus. Definitely thrilling and worth watching.
After that I saw Old Boy, and WOW, I had no idea. It's an Asian film with subtitles, the story of a man who is snatched off the street and held captive for 15 years without explanation, and then suddenly released. It's original, it's intriguing, it's very well shot, and just when you think you've seen or learned the worst of it, it gets much much worse. Almost too painful to watch at the end, it's violent, it's emotional, it's the most full-on plotted revenge tale I've ever seen. Definitely memorable and haunting. Somebody said there's an American remake on the way, I can't imagine them possibly having the grit and intensity of this one, and especially I can't see them holding true to the plot line's most painful, most effective details that make the film what it is. As a side note, it has one of the most believable "one man fights off a bunch of bad guys" fight scenes I've ever seen. Note to self - always carry a claw hammer when in doubt. But MAN, I had no idea the ride I was in for - this was definitely the most powerful film I saw at SXSW, blowing Hooligans out of the water for emotional intensity.
By the way, the SXSW Award Winners are up on the main page of SXSW Film site.
-a recap and analysis of SXSW
-get back to analyzing all the footage from that 5 camera test shootout, which will also entail of the following:
-analysis and review of de-interlacing software (Magic Bullet, DVFilmMaker, Film Effects 2.0)
-analysis and review of scaling algorithms (Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Compression Master, Cleaner, Algolith plugings, etc.)
-hands on reports on working with Automatic Duck's Pro Import AE, since that'll be how I get the FCP timelines into AE for filtering and analysis
Then on to other things:
-finish that Kona 2 review
-write up a Kona2 vs DeckLink HD Pro comparison, hopefully with some recommedations about which is more suited for certain tasks
-re-organize the website to be NOT just one huge page, but have sections on cameras, post, consulting, FAQ, downloadable PDFs for purchase, etc.
-get back on some product/business ideas I've been working on (OK, that one's not for public consumption, but it'll take up a lot of my time)
-prep for NAB
-true 24p capabilities
-ProHD format - basically a modified HDV
-uses three 1/3" CCDs, newly developed
-1280x720 resolution, about 1 megapixel, "with micro lenses" - I think this means the surface of the CCD is treated to bubble up to focus light directly on the sensors on the chip. That's conjecture, though.
-1280x720 resolution natively - no funky 960x720 scaling or somesuch, honestly 1280x720 pixels.
-provides realtime playback in all major DTV formats - I take this to mean realtime downconversion, whether to SDI, analog, or DV not stated. Probably DV at the least
-user selectable motion settings
-can shoot in SD mode as well (as a DV camera, unknown if it supports 24p in this mode as well)
-includes a standard detachable 16x Servo Fujinon lens - so other lenses are possible. Cool!
-13x (3.5mm) wide angle lens optional
-wide angle converter for standard lens optional
-optional adaptor for standard 1/2" lenses as well
-"focus assist" in viewfinder - sounds like what Sony does with the HDV, that zooms in on a portion of the image to get critial focus
-can be connected to optional hard disk recording module. I'm positive the hard disk module is only recording the MPEG-2, nothing better, so don't get too excited.
-two XLR audio inputs, records "CD quality audio" - perhaps audio isn't compressed in ProHD? That'd be nice...
-customizable settings can be saved to an SD memory card and loaded onto another camera
-a third party HD-SDI output will be available to go straight out with an UNCOMPRESSED signal. Very nice! This could mean that an indie could practice with the camera as is, but when you want to shoot something serious bring in a deck or digital recording device for the "real" shoot for better quality. A GREAT option!
-auto or manual iris control
-smooth servo zoom
-can FireWire dub to a D-VHS deck.
-optional shotgun mike
-optional Anton-Bauer battery pack
-optional tripod mounting plate
-optional hard drive recording module
Mike's Comments: The system records to MPEG-2 - at heart this is just HDV. They may do some cadence tricks to record 24 frames per second to a 60 frame per second tape source, much in the same way the XL2, DVX100a, or Varicam record multiple duplicates of frames for 24p onto a 30/60 frame per second media, so that you can extract just the original 24p frames in post. If this is the case, and I'm betting it is, that means your 24p comes from a 19 megabit 60p datastream, so each frame is about 40 kilobytes. Eek! That's SMALL for 1280x720! How compressed is that? For comparison, DV, with about 1/3 as many pixels, uses about 4 times as much data per frame (120 kilobytes), albeit with a much less efficient compression algorithm. So that's about 12 times as much information per given chunk of video screen size. I hope that compression algorithm is verrrrrrrry efficient.
I think this will be a very interesting camera to check out, and a very interesting option for indie filmmakers. We'll have to actually see it, and see how well it shoots, and how well it posts & color corrects, before making any final recommendations, but it's an interesting thing.
My one beef is that I think ProHD is a terrible name - to me that implies that it's better than existing HD formats. ProHDV would have been a MUCH better name to position the format in the market - HDV was a good name because it implied the association of high def DV - which is a fair analogy. ProHD implies professional level HD (and isn't HDCAM or DVCPRO HD professional enough as is? Hello?), and it thoroughly is NOT.
More info gleaned from the web:
This is from the web from unverified sources, so take all below with a grain of salt. The above is based on a press release, so was assumed to be "from the factory" valid. So here's some might be true, might not info (found from here):
-about 5 pounds
-can record 720p24, 720p30, 720p60 (I think), 480i, 480p, 1080i uprez playback
-component out, composite out, FireWire I/O
-shipping June 1st, 2005
-under $10K with lens
..and then the rest of the thread is all just your usual forum flaming and web wanking, no useful info on the camera
Landmark Theaters buys 4K projectors sight unseen! They have agreed to buy about 60 of the as yet unreleased 4K projectors (4096x3072 pixels).
Mike's Comments:This seems dubious. Mark Cuban is behind this, he's a huge digital advocate, and for that I applaud him, but this move seems inappropriate. For starters, at present only the very very highest end special effects films are even CONSIDERING finishing their digital intermediate process at 4K (SpiderMan 2 had a 4K DI, but a lot of the effects were simply uprezzed 2K files). "OK," you might say, "they'll be ready for the future." ...but that's not right, why not wait until the demand is there? Why not wait until the product is ready for it? Why not wait until there's 4K product and demand, and THEN plunk down for whatever is the latest and greatest. These Sony projectors are around $100,000 if I recall correctly, and this is EXACTLY the kind of bleeding edge technology that drops RAPIDLY in price over time. My bet is that this is a nice deal to announce for Sony and Landmark, but the terms of the deal are 6 this summer and 58 over time. I bet they either never finish this contract or alter the terms before completion (such as drop the price or quantity of delivered units, or buy alternative units). It just seems nuts to commit to this at this point in time.
Screenwriting template in Word - eventually, you'll probably want to use real screenwriting software (aka Final Draft), but in the meantime this will get you started (via Cinima Minima).
Apple article on importing Motion projects into Final Cut Pro HD - it is straightforward, but here ya go (found via Philadelphia's FCP user group site)
Exporting clips from FCP HD to get into Motion - this is a link to the Philadelphia Final Cut Pro user group site's link to the Apple article.
FireWire out doesn't work after installing Motion if you have an older version of FCP installed. Again via PhilaFCPUG.
Issues with graphic sizes (in pixels, not megabytes) when moving stuff from FCP to Motion - details on if you've scaled a graphic in FCP and move it to Motion. Again via PhilaFCPUG.
Article on compression for shiny disks - Ben Wagonner, compresion guru, has a lot to say about compression options available for non-web usage. (found via Cinema Minima)
Apple's Blu-Ray stance - commentary on Apple's decision to join the Blu-Ray group...and all that that implies...
...plus there are a whole bunch of other links on the Philadelphia Final Cut Pro User Group Site. Just put it on your list of daily things to check, as well as Cinema Minima. Most of what they post is relevant and/or interesting.
An essay called "Back to the Future" about all the different times that video has attempted to supplant film. This puts HD in an interesting context.
Apple doc with all supported file types for import and export via QuickTime. This is handy stuff to know - is TIFF supported? What about 16 bit TIFF? What about layered Photoshop files? With layers or no? All answered.
QiPO is a simple little one trick pony application - it takes QuickTime movies in, and generates previews, either via icons or picture preview stills. Handy and useful to make storyboard stills of what you've got in your footage.
Making movies the new fashioned way - some folks wanted to make a movie about werewolves, so they asked fans what they wanted in a werewolf movie. 2 million hits in 3 months on the message boards. An interesting approach within the genre realm. (found on Cinima Minima)
Popwire ships Windows Media 9 Export Component for QuickTime. It can be used with any application that exports QuickTime, including but not limited to Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Cleaner, After Effects, etc.
Imax pushes into 3D for films. Mike's Comments: They mention Polar Express as something that has been converted from 35mm theatrical to 3D Imax. Considering that all of the material was computer generated, and most of it 3D rendered, I wonder if they went back to source files and re-rendered the multi-camera (one for each eye) passes, or if they had some quick/cheap method of matte extraction to generate depth layers for each eye? Certainly, 3D computer graphics rendered movies would be much easier to make 3D after the fact than a shot on 35mm feature.
African films go digital - because it's the only way they can afford to produce local cinema right now.
DIY Cinema - article about Tarnation, movie picked up for distribution made for $200...plus about $400,000 in music rights.
Caonpus Workflow to debut at NAB - they'll have various network, encoding, editing new goodies at the show
Boxx workstations Certified for BlackMagic cards - Boxx is now offering Premiere Pro based solutions using the BlackMagic line of cards. Somewhere I heard that it supports realtime 10 bit effects - that's good news.
Movie costs down, profits up - Average cost of making and promoting a full-on Hollywood movie dropped below $100 million dollars. Movie receipts $9.54 billion.
One for the good guys - a bill is being proposed to legitimize fair use again in a post Digital Millenium Copyright Act era.
Wanna download TV shows & stuff but getting lost in the jargon? Read this.
...and finally, dessert - a cute little video critiquing our over reliance on drugs to fix our problems.
Whew! That'll keep you busy for a while...
Mike's Comments: carefully reading the press release, it looks like it's an honest native HDV editing solution. Unlike most other solutions (for Premiere, Vegas, Avid, Apple) that transcode the long GOP MPEG-2 to some other codec for editing, Liquid v6.1 lets you edit in the native MPEG-2. So there are no transcoding losses, which occur when the HDV is converted to another codec for editing that isn't a lossless codec.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
I came in late for the Texas Shorts program and missed some of the earlier ones. http://2005.sxsw.com/film/festival/screenings/film/2445.html">Love Math was cute and fast paced, but didn't seem to come to any serious conclusions. It's an everybody has dated everyone else 2 degrees of separation story. I am of course partial to Termination, since I helped on it a bit with the post production on it. It's about a guy having a bad day, but seeing the bigger picture. Inky pinky parlay vou. It also won Best Texas Short, which was gratifying to see my friends' work (Paul, Dianne, Jenn, Bob, Annika, etc.) do well. Once and Future Asshole was a good if slightly overlong short about the making of an asshole, and how we all play a part. Probably more going on there than I was picking up, but it was good. Red Walker's Secret was a fun little short, but nothing earth shattering.
Also, a word on my comments and reviews on movies - how a movie hits you is a highly contextural, subjective experience. I was tired and cranky when I saw The Roost, so I blasted it (it's not good, but man, "it stank" is pretty harsh). My headspace and the portion of the film that I saw concerning "Waterborne" doesn't seem to line up with everyone else's - those who saw the whole thing weren't as impressed as I was with the last 1/3 or so, best summed up by "It was good until it fell into cliches..again and again."
The Puffy Chair is getting lots of good word of mouth, but I got up and left 20-30 minutes in, because one of the conversations between two lovers in a relationship on the decline struck a little too close to home to me - I think that says more about the good writing in the film rather than my opinion of it - I didn't want to see the rest so I left.
I barely said anything about Hooligans last night, which swept the audience and jury awards. It was entertaining but no great shakes. Learning about the Firms of British football was interesting, but not world changing. As a full on, star vehicle movie I'm being more critical than I am of the DV based indies. The most memorable thing about Hooligans to me was the line about "It's not about knowing your mates have your back, it's about knowing that you've got theirs." Probably pulled from some researcher's notes. Elijah Wood seems definitely intent on purging himself of the Frodo perception, and this is probably a good career move. The film has whiffs of Fight Club in it, in the self confidence through fighting motif. Fight Club meets Fanatic, or something.
I just saw Ellen Spiro's Troop 150, a doc about a girl scout troup for daughters of women prison inmates. Very real and direct, since it talks about teh direct impact of the generational influences between mothers and daughters, and tries to back the pattern of crime and prison that the mothers have gotten into. Julia, the real life social worker and head of Girl Scout Troop 1500, was very impressive to see in the film and in person at the Q&A. It's so nice to see people driven by passion (there's lots of that here in the filmmakers present), but also driven to do something socially relevant to Hands On change the world, rather than, at best, sway opinion indirectly through film to try to advocate for change. Just get in there and do it yourself. Way to go, Julia, and everyone else involved in the program. It matters, keep it up.
I'm getting ready to see The Devil & Daniel Johnston, a doc about the songwriter. A friend's husband was involved and it sounds interesting so I wnated to check it out.
After that, Dust To Glory, which I've been anxious to see because a.) it looks cool, b.) they shout on all kinds of media - everything from DV to HD to 16mm (for the slomo), then edited on Premiere Pro using the compressed Cineform stuff on a Boxx system. They captured only once to the wavelet based Cineform codec, and actually went out to film from that. This will be projected in HD, but I'm curious to see how the compression holds up on the big screen, if the 16mm or HD exhibits any artifacts.
After that, I may stick around (it's out at the theater on the north end of town) to see Old Boy. If not, I be DONE with movies for the week. I've probably seen about 15 or 20, thats enough for a week.
It's 4:30pm and I'm sitting in the new Alamo Drafthouse South, on South Lamar in Austin, TX. It's about a 5 minute drive from my house, so I'm expecting to see a LOT of movies here.
I just saw Kissing on the Mouth (sorry, no link, offline right now), a nice little human drama about four twentysomethings out of college trying to find their way. It's also very sexually explicit, but not in an exploitative kind of way. The most interesting thing to me about the film is the fact that the four actors are also the directors, camera operators, etc. The four of them made the film pretty much by themselves (and it didn't suck).
Before that I caught the last few shorts of the Animated Shorts program. It was OK. The most interesting one I saw was The Meaning of Life, which implies some good points about complaining doesn't matter, we're all going to die anyway at some point, and it's probably the same everywhere else. I got a nice little lesson for my own life right now - repeating the same thing over and over through your life is a waste of time. Move on, don't dwell on things in the past. The film was also interesting in that it was shot 4:3 aspect ratio on film and they made a point of stating that no computers were used in the production of it, and it looks it. Some lovely organic effects work done, with a soft penumbric glow that you really can't get in video.
While I'm waiting for the next movie to start, here's some news bits I've been meaning to post about earlier in the week:
Want to make an indie werewolf movie that appeals to the fans? ask them. A small company opened up a website to solicit input from fans about what they'd want in a werewolf movie, and got 2 million hits in 3 months on the bulletin board. Woops, lights going down, more later...
now it's 9pm, and I'm going to go see Hooligans at 10pm, then on to my friend's party for Open Labs, a badass 88 key musical keyboard with an embedded computer in it - where else can you perform music, edit music, surf the tech support website, and play Halo on your musical keyboard? Pro Tools & Quake on your synth - pretty rad. Anyway, I'm changing into Disco Mode for the party later. No more "dude" mode, as Angela Lee from Film Austin described me (in a nice way).
I saw both Kissing on the Mouth and Four Eyed Monsters, both films about relationships in the twenties. I've read elsewhere comparing those two movies, in addition to The Puffy Chair, as being a new kind of voice and a new kind of filmmaking. I'll have more to say later, but I was really impressed with both of these films, and especially that they were made by a small group of actor/director/editors, and were able to make these things and NOT have them be self indulgent suckiness. There's also a lot to be said about reflexive media - one story is about a real couple's relationship that they decided to turn into a movie, and in the other, two actors become lovers in real life, although they portray lovers in the film. Their first kiss ever was the first kiss in the movie onscreen.
Somebody could certainly write a dissertation on that.
I think this bodes tremendously well for the next generation of filmmakers coming along now - they feel very free to work with the media in a way that works for them, and aren't as constrained by the concepts of filmmaking that have come before. Four Eyed Monsters was made by folks who didn't go to film school, but it's still interesting and engaging (they were both artists, so that certainly helps).
I gave out cards to both sets of filmmakers, I'm hoping to follow up with them this weekend.
Then I went and saw Hooligans, with Elijah Wood. It was good but not fantastic.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Today I slept far too late to to see Reel Shorts 1, but I caught Reel Shorts 2.
Desastre is a cute little film with a very nice twist. Light and fun. A boy is Born French, speaking French, even though he was born in America. He only eats cheese and smokes as a child, and seduces the maid at age 9. A whole lot of fun from the American stereotypical perception. The audience howled at this one.
Long Story Short is exactly what a short should be - fun, interesting, and a proving ground. Well shot, well acted, professionally done. One African American woman's adventure in trying to get the hair she needs for the big date. Fun and informative for us white folk that don't understand the intricacies of black hair. It's getting made into a feature, and I look forward to it, so long as they can avoid the dreaded SNLSSS - the Saturday Night Skit Stretch Syndrome, where a fun simple idea farrrrrrrr overstays it's comedic welcome.
The Death of Salvador Dali - this was by Delaney, the guy who interviewed me the other day for Studio SX (a webcast, I'll post a link once they tell me what it is). As he described his short I wasn't sure about it, but seeing it I really enjoyed it. Salvador Dali goes to Sigmund Freud to become insane to create great art once again. The actor, first name Salvador, really is the heart and sould of this piece - he's totally charming. Well shot with nice lighting and art direction and some great locations, I really enjoyed this.
The Kings of Christmas - ten minutes on guys that take Christmas decorations in th Bronx waaaaaaaay too seriously.
Heavy Mental - kind of fun but so brief and simple it's barely there. A guy has a dream about psychic abilities. It should have been shorter - this kind of small punchline needs to be quick and to the point.
After that, I saw Highway Courtesans, a documentary about the culture of roadside prostitutes in India. There is an entire culture of villages that survive by having their daughters be prostitutes to support the entire family, including the men. Made over a 9 year period, a very interesting piece, with a lot to say about the weight of culture and tradition influencing lives. I'm hoping to follow up with the filmmaker, a very interesting woman with an interesting next project.
After that, I went over to the Paramount Theater, the beautiful old classic theater (as in plays, not movies) that is the keystone of the SXSW film experience - this is where all the big premieres are held. I saw Occupation: Dreamland, a documentary about a group of soldiers stationed in Falluja in Iraq after the cessation of "major combat operations". If this sounds a lot like Gunner Palace, it is similar, but an entirely different project. The filmmakers went on patrol and interviewed the soldiers about the experience. Many of them didn't agree with the politics that brought them there, grew to dislike the Iraqi people, but they are still there doing their jobs day by day. Hellllooooo Vietnam 2.0. (Or 3.0 depending on how you're counting.)
Then I got a call from the producer of Waterborne, she needed to get quick VHS dubs made from their Digibeta master to send out some review copies. A few calls later I found her a quick cheap good local place. We were trying to see if a call had been made to get us on the list at Elyseum for the M.I.A. music show, EVERYTHING is a zoo downtown this week with the SXSW Music Festival in full-on swing now, so we bailed after it wasn't looking hopeful. I hung out with the Waterborne crew again for about an hour, and then they were off to go see Murderball, which is GREAT but I'd already seen it a few days ago, so I put them in a cab and they were on their way.
Then I cabbed it home, snagged my trusty PowerBook, and now I'm sitting at the Magnolia Cafe, THE late night eatery in South Austin. It's also 5 blocks from my house, so I know a lot of the staff by name and they take good care of me. List? What wait list?
The local's advantage.
PS - The Muppet Sing Along is coming up at the end of SXSW. This is so corny, it wraps around the dial to be fun and cool. It's like mainlining chlidhood - we haven't heard this stuff since we were about 9 (if you're of my generation), so how can this NOT be fun? And if it isn't, you just need to drink more beer, and pronto. Now I just need to find me a date for this...any smart/fun/brilliant/athletic/movie geek women going to be in Austin this Sunday for this? Someday I'll find it....the rainbow connection....
Today was the day of half movies - I was late and missed the start of the Troop 1500, the doc on Girl Scouts that are kids of moms in prison that was made by Ellen Spiro. So I went to go see You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, the Rocky Erikson doc, but it was so depressing I left. Roky and his guys invented psychedelic rock in Austin in the way back when, but he got busted by the local cops for some weed, got arrested, declared insane and sent to a mental institution, got electroshock therapy, went to California and got into heroin, and just got mentally fubared all to hell.
Too depressing, I got up and left.
Then I went to see The Puffy Chair, which won an award, but it's about a relationship gone bad, and I just got shelled in that category the other week and decided I didn't need to pick at the stitches, so fuck-that-outta-there. It's supposed to be a really good film and the part I saw was pretty cool.
Then I went to go see CL.one (pronounced Clone), this year's struggling longtime effort film. I make a point of seeing these films to see what the Lone Gunmen of indie cinema can accomplish with a wish, a prayer, a VX1000 and Premiere. Some 30ish guy spent 10 years putting it together. But it looks like something he dreamed up as a teenager. A well intended mess. Ugh. Bail.
On my way out I saw the group from Waterborne walking along and hooked up with them - Ben, Anisa, Taylor, Mageina, Peter, and Smitri. They were kind enough to invite me along to dinner, so we had sushi and sake and sake and beer and sake at Kenichi, then bounced over to Cuba Libre for awhile, then on to the midnight show at the Alamo Drafthouse.
If you've never been to the Alamo Drafthouse, it's the coolest movie venue ever. It's been described as an indoor tent, with every other row of seats missing and a waist high tabletop in it's place. You can see over it, but that's where your beer and food go. They have a full menu and waitstaff that silently take care of everything. It's awesome. We got two buckets of beer and watched The Roost, which doesn't deserve a link, because it stank. We watched the whole thing, but it was only half of a movie.
Said goodnight to the gang, I'll see'em again I'm sure.
And now it's 2:10 am and I need to take a shower to wash the smoke out of me from the bars. Ugh.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Am I a journalist or not? If I am, at what point did I become one? When I started publishing reports from SXSW and NAB last year? When I hit some magic number of traffic? I don't know.
John Dvorak's column today discusses Apple's lawsuit against three websites that published information that Apple claimed was a trade secret - the existence of the upcoming $150 FireWire audio breakout box code named Asteroid. So far, the California courts are stating that the websites are NOT real news sources, the publishers are not real journalists, and they'll have to reveal their sources...unlike print publications, which are protected by a shield law in California that specifically protects journalists from having to reveal their sources.
I agree with some parts of Dvorak's column:
Apparently bloggers are not protected despite the fact that blogs, and indeed any online content, are publications no different (except for the means of transmission) than newsletters or even newspapers.
When I first read:
Trade show promoters, for example, have had to deal with bloggers wanting to attend shows on a press pass when their readership is in the mere double digits.
I was miffed that he was dissing blogs as all having small readerships. A closer reading shows that he was talking about bloggers being denied press passes when the readership is AS LOW AS the double digits.
I've been debating whether I should apply for a press pass for NAB - is it too late? Would I qualify if I had applied in time? What are the requisites that differentiate "real" online journalists from wimpy little bloggers, according to NAB's rules? I don't know the exact size of my readership, but with pageviews topping 7000 a day this week, I'm guessing it's in the thousands, unless there are just a few fiends out there madly reloading the page all day.
Does what I do qualify as journalism, or just "reporting" on a personal level? I'm not asking anybody in particular, I think it's just an interesting question. If I were to have a press pass for NAB or other events, it would let me get into certain events I wouldn't otherwise. However, if I enter, say, the Apple booth with a press pass on, the Apple demo folks aren't allowed to speak to me, they are required to steer me off to a PR person usually who doesn't understand my 3rd or 4th question, or to a higher level product manager, who honestly doesn't have the time to talk to a small time "reporter" like me (compare my reaership to that of MacWorld, or DV Magazine, for instance).
I think it's very interesting that one man bands like myself (or Adam Wilt, or Rob-Art & Bet-tay at Bare Feats) can operate freely in the marketplace without editorial oversight or (in some cases) complete freedom from any pressure from advertisers. (My ads are Google generated, I have no control over who advertises there, I'm betting the advertisers don't necessarily know their ads are showing on my site).
Someone in traditional media (MSM as other bloggers phrase it, MainStream Media) said that she didn't read any blogs, she felt that was indulgent. Another article I read recently said that bloggers were unsubstantiated journalism, that they were opinionated and didn't check their facts. As with most generalizations, this is incorrect. There are certainly bloggers out there that espouse opinion as fact. (I might even be one of them - would we know the difference?). I try, very hard, to be very accurate, factual, and especially objective and as unbiased as I can muster. I'm sure I don't always succeed.
I'm picking up bits of opinion here and there from MSM that is dissing on blogging as a whole, laying waste to the whole thing to claim that some (perhaps most, and even if true, so what?) blogs are unsubstantiated opinion, and without the proper editorial checks that MSM has, they are not to be trusted. My gut reaction is to swing the other way - that MSM, with their megacorporation owners, defend their own turf and underreport important stories to protect their interests, or even worse, their own interests indirectly by protecting the interests of their advertisers (or future advertisers).
Blogs DEFINITELY need to have a voice out there, and let the market decide their validity or not. I love the self-checking aspect of so many political blogs - they get hammered if they get their facts wrong.
Blogs are the best tool for The Little Guy to get a voice out there in a long time. That NEEDS to stay present in our society to keep our culture healthy.
Long Live Blogs.
This is just some fun rumination.
Now time for MOVIES!
Then MacOSXRumors is reporting mention of the 970MP in Apple's Monster utility in the CHUD tools.
This doesn't mean that such a product is shipping anytime soon, nor that any new PowerMacs to be announced either at NAB or WWDC will be such. I'd rather new Macs be announced at WWDC in early June, and if Apple follows true to form they won't be available to "real" people until September or so. For example, my dual 2.0 GHz G5 ordered on Day Zero in June 2003 wasn't in my hands until September 29th, my other "ordered the day announced" Macs have had similar delays over the last 4 years. My SuperDrive equiped G4 arrived in April after a January order placement, etc. etc. Apple has long announced that very cool new machines will be available "now" or "next month"...and it usually takes 2-3 months.
If I had to guess, I'd think a WWDC announcement and fall shipment for dual core/quad processor Macs, or push that back to next January. If something does ship at NAB, I'd think it'd be 2.8 GHz dual G5's based on the current water cooled design.
Or this could all be wrong - maybe 2.8ish GHz G5's announced at WWDC, shipping in October, then MWSF announcement of 3.0 GHz, ships in April (next NAB)...nobody but Apple knows. And maybe they don't know when it'll all be ready. This could merely be the groundwork for future developments.
I'm STILL waiting for my XT800 from ATI, ordered over a month ago. An email two weeks ago has yet to be responded to (this is an ATI gripe, not an Apple gripe).
These rumor sites report highly specific details of supposedly upcoming products or events that often fail to come true, so who knows how this'll turn out. I've lately been suspecting that perhaps they publish wild conjecture just to drive up their traffic numbers. It works on me, I'm a sucker for a good rumor...but I try not to base any purchasing decisions on what they say.
The report is quite specific -
Sources and new information continue to corroborate our March 11 story regarding Tiger's release in April. Apple Sales Training is holding special sessions today, as well as Friday, in Cupertino instructing reps and resellers on the best techniques to sell Tiger to customers. Both Mac OS X Product Line Manager Chris Bourdon and Mac OS X Serve Line Manager Eric Zelenka are presenting at the sessions.
Multiple sources also report witnessing at least one Tiger "wrap party" at One Infinite Loop earlier this month, and several members of the Tiger development team are presently on vacation, sources say, generally a sure-fire sign that their portion of development has been completed.
They then follow up with further unconfirmed rumors about new apps to be released at NAB 2005. According to the article, new versions of Final Cut Pro HD, DVD Studio Pro, LiveType, possibly a new rev of Motion, and Shake are expected to be announced if not shipped at NAB. The article mentions that one product, code named Predator, has been pushed back to August. I don't have any specific inside information, but if Apple were wanting to author Blu-Ray disks (Apple recently joined the board of the Blu-Ray Group), it would make sense that a version of DVD Studio Pro to author to that format would be delayed, since as far as I know the spec hasn't even been finalized yet. Or perhaps Predator is a new version of Motion, and the work isn't complete yet. Motion didn't ship until what, September last year or so (don't recall exactly)? So to rev it in 6-7 months would be very, very fast. Shake is likely to be updated, I read somewhere that it has been EOL (End of Life'd), a move usually taken immediately before new versions are released. Although they did just release a 30 day demo of the current version of Shake - why release a demo of the about to be obsolete version? Unless they want to limit experience to the older version for fear of piracy (hacking the demo)? Dunno. Wait to see. Perhaps a new Shake isn't on the way quite yet, maybe it's been delayed as well. I could see Predator as a code name for a new version of Shake, less so for a new DVD Studio Pro. Just doesn't quite fit, ya know? One again, this is just speculation based on a hypothesis based on rumor, aka I'm blowin' smoke from the nether regions.
Read this! I gotta scoot to a movie, but quickly:
-24p or 60p
-3 x 1/3" CCDs
-records on miniDV
-direct to disk option (as MPEG-2 still, not uncompressed raw)
-2 XLR inputs
-"records CD quality digital audio" - does that mean uncompressed audio then?
-and my favorite part:
"In addition to providing superior quality HD recording in the 24p format, the GY-HD100U can output an uncompressed 720/P60 HD signal. This is ideal for live broadcasting, remote news and POV applications. A third party HDSDI converter can provide the full resolution uncompressed signal to an array of systems with no signal delay. "
Update: Found more info by Googling for the model #,
creativecow.net forum discussion based on found info
Will cost less than $10,000.
Mike's Comments This should be verrrrrrrrry interesting. I'm curious to see what the data rate is for 24p stuff - whether they are taking advantage of the additional tape bandwidth available (I doubt it) or recording duplicate frames/data to tape the way that the Varicam or DVX100a or XL2 do. The HD-SDI optional output is interesting, it'll be third party (Miranda perhaps?) and allow for kicking out (hopefully) an image that has NOT been processed down to MPEG-2, therefore you could record that to DVCPRO HD or HDCAM or whatever. Wait and see.
At under $10K (new info from another Google result), this is an interesting, indie viable camera from what I can tell so far.
The film is a "What If?" about the immediate aftermath of a perceived terrorist attach involving contamination of the LA water system. LA relies on external sources for it's water, this would actually be a serious threat. The interesting part of the film is that outside of the literal content of the film, it's so nice to see a cultural group be able to get a message out - after 9/11, there has been a lot of fear and suspicion of non-western/non-european cultures, and here is a movie that shows an accurate, non-stereotypical portrayal of Indian and Middle Eastern people. As the director said, it was nice to have a non-taxi driving Indian character in a film. In the part of the movie that I saw, characters from all kinds of backgrounds were portrayed with compassion and sympathy, and with honesty and integrity, and just HUMANITY at a level you pretty much never see in Hollywood films dealing with crisis situations.
Their ability to put out a positive message about their people and culture, in a culture that isn't always accepting or interested in hearing that message, was really inspiring. They were able to accomplish this only because the tools were accessible and affordable to them. I go on and on about pixel this and software that, but in the end , THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I care about this stuff - making tools accessible, granting voice to those who otherwise wouldn't have access and ability, and getting the results out there.
They were offered a camera package and free film, and DECLINED it, because they would never have been able to afford to shoot the ratios they did (10 or 12 takes sometimes, improvving a lot), and they wouldn't have been able to afford to telecine/post it all even if they had been able to afford all of the film stock. They said in the end they were glad they decided to acquire the whole thing digitally (16:9 24p DVX100a). The feature was also projected digitally - so they didn't even have to have a film print. THAT is new power. To shoot on DV and project digitally (after they uprezzed to HD), post production costs were cut substantially. Production costs were kept ultra low and tight - they said they could only afford permits for about a third of the shoot, and then they shot guerilla style after that. They shot for many days in a row in a convenience store, and the owner wouldn't even take money from them (I suspect he'd read the script, and his heart led him to that decision).
I spoke briefly with director Ben Rekhi and producer Smriti Mundhra after the screening and Q&A yesterday, to let them know how cool I thought it was that they were able to put together this film on such a shoestring budget - they put it together for a song, and were able to do it with all these new digital tools. I'm hoping to follow up with them and document and publish some of their workflow process on the blog. Ben, the director, has one Sikh (sp?) parent and one American parent if I recall correctly, and this dual culture upbringing shows in the integrity he brings to his portrayal of the Sikh community.
In the end, I don't know if this film will get picked up. The look is very digital and rough, and I don't know if a distributor will be willing to pick it up for fear of audience rejection of the format. I could see this film being remade with more budget for a distribution deal, though, but if that happens I don't know if it would be done with as much heart, integrity, and humanity.
Besides the fact that I really enjoyed the film, the KIND of film that is was, and the "media response" message that it gives, is very inspirational to me. THAT''S why I spend hours a day for a year on this blog.
SXSW has been a huge battery recharge for me.
A brief aside about last night - around 1:15am at the Austin Chronicle sponsored party, I saw someone I recognized. "You're Louis, right?" "Yes" he says. "Louis Black, right?" "Yes." (Louis Black is The Man behind the SXSW organization, and The Austin Chronicle is his baby, too.) A big fat mental "Durrrrrrrrr." on my part, what can I say, it was late, I was tired. Anyway, the funny gist of it is, I made a stumbling, lackluster introduction of myself and said we should get together and talk. "I'm totally into that." he said, sounding anything but. He then said some thing to the effect of "Good God, I can't even sound convincing anymore." I started to pull out a business card, and he just cut to the point in a frank but not mean way - "You know, if you give me anything right now I'll just lose it. Why don't you just email me in two weeks and we'll talk then." Point of the story being, it was so late, we'd both been up late for so many nights in a row, probably both drinking more than usual (not drunk at the moment, just tired/burnt from the week), that we were both well past the point of being able to show any enthusiasm (on his part), or any coherence (on my part, I'm not even going to embarass myself further by quoting my actual words). I'm anticipating we'll probably have an active, productive, engaging discussion if he has time to meet with me in a couple of weeks, I just think it's funny that we were both so clearly past the point where we could network/schmooze effectively. I don't at all think that he was trying to brush me off, I didn't think he was being rude, we were both just burnt and worn out and it was LATE. It's tough to be ON that many nights in a row. I can't imagine how Matt (more on him in a minute) does it.
Missed the HDV panel at 11 entirely. Went to lunch with Frank Reynolds, an editor whom I've known since we did an editing panel at SXSW after he edited In The Bedroom. We chatted about cross platform Avid workflows, and it brought up some interesting challenges. If you want to cut on Avid Express Pro, but move from the onsite edit station in Florida which is a PC to the "back in the edit suite" Mac based Avid station, how do you do it? We discussed the possibility of FireWire or external SATA drives, but there are a lot of unanswered questions to verify that it all works. In the end, an all Mac or all PC solution was decided to be much, much safer if it weren't possible to do a lot of testing beforehand.
After that I walked the tradeshow a bit and chatted with some local vendors, and with the folks at T-3, an ad agency I worked for 10 years ago (hi Gay!). Took some pictures I'll post later of a bunch of cool add-ons for the HVR-Z1U, including focus knob, shoulder pad, hand grips, matte box, LCD light hood, etc. Frank Reynolds had to go catch his plane, we said goodbye, I may not see him for six months or a year. Bummer.
Then I had a 15 minute interview filmed with Studio SX, a SXSW thing where they pair filmmakers with panelists and we talked about stuff for a while. Delaney Bishop, who's short The Death of Salvador Dali is screening at SXSW, talked to me about HD and post stuff for awhile. It was a bit confusing, I thought I was to be interviewed, then it was a conversation, I wasn't clear if I was to be the focus of the thing or not. I think I was supposed to be, but since they brought in a filmmaker who didn't know what we were supposed to be doing either, I didn't know if it was to be a balanced conversation between the two of us. I sorta steered the thing but it went a little funky. I'll post a link when I get it (if I don't think I embarassed myself too much!).
After dithering about what to do, I went and caught the last 1/3 or so of Waterborne, a really nice little narrative feature that later won the runner-up prize in it's category. A nice little film - it touches on a lot of issues about What If the LA water system were contaminated. And while you could potentially make a really really bad SciFi channel movie out of the idea, they centered on how it would affect people, and it's a powerful piece of work about the fragile nature of human relationships in a time of fear and need. They said during the Q&A that they had permits for about 1/3 of the film and just did guerilla shooting for the rest of it. Cops showed up at least once to shoo them off when they didn't have proper permits. Clearly a shoestring budget and a labor of love for these folks. They had an interesting workflow - shot on DV, blown up to HD. I'm planning on following up with the director and producer to talk about their workflow. I met them as well as some of the cast, they were all charming and nice.
After that, party time. I went to the AFI sponsored party and met a lot of interesting folks - lots of producers and directors. I met a young woman that I made very happy by talking to her about how easy blogs were to set up, and how it allowed passionate but technically unsophisticated people to connect with thousands of others on a daily basis. This made her very happy, she's been a non-computer person most of her life as an artist and is starting to see how blogs could be a perfect communication vehicle for some plans of hers. It felt really nice, good, and powerful to be helpful and inspirational to someone. I hope to be able to do that more often in the future.
I met Erin from AFI and chatted briefly, later at the closing party we talked for 20 or more minutes about filmmaking, career passion vs. financial practicality and needs, the practicalities of moving to LA (I'm thinking about it, or spending a lot more time out there), FCC and the broadcast flag, all kinds of stuff. Another really inspiring conversation with someone who cares about what they do. Perhaps that's the theme for the night.
I went from there to the awards ceremony, which was run the way all should be - low key, happy/energetic, and passionate. And quick - they just whipped on through it. As Matt Dentler (who is The Man at South By) put it "We're laid back in Austin...we're here to give out awards and then go get drunk....just don't buy beers for the high school competition winners, OK?" I love Matt, he's great. He absolutely pours his soul into this whole conference and film festival, and it shows, and it's great. Rock the Fuck On, Matt.
Delightfully, my friends' short Termination won for Best Texas Short, and Paul Alvarado (director) and Jenn White (DoP) were there to get the award. Fun fun fun. I worked on this a tiny bit, I think I got a post production supervisor credit on it. So good to see your friends get an award.
Speaking of getting an award, the winner for BOTH jury and audience awards in a narrative feature was Hooligans, starring Elijah Wood (go Frodo!). The director, Lexi Alexander, came RUNNING down the stairs, bounced up to the podium, and said that she knew people were usually humble, that but she'd made her film and really suffered when showing it to the Hollywood folks, who were harsh and said "It's too this, or it's too much that." and were clearly pressuring her to change it. The film won the audience award by the widest margin ever over the runner-up, and Lexi went on about how much she appreciated the Austin audiences, and how good it made her feel to have folks come up to her on the street and say how much they liked it. It clearly was a vindication to her that she was on the right track, because Lexi at the podium held up her middle finger and said so, with a resounding "Fuck you, Hollywood!" The audience was into it - it's not that the Austin crowd wants Hollywood to curl up and die, but merely to see that there can be Another Way, it doesn't have to always be The Hollywood Way. Or at least that's my read on it.
From there I went to the closing party and met too many fun cool people to count, but Mandy, the darling princess with the hair and the eyes and the smile, was certainly memorable. I had my great long conversation with Erin, talked to Delaney some more, met several Austin producers who want to learn more about HD, saw Joseph again whom I'd met in the caboose he was living in outside Santa Fe, NM whilst trying to put together his ninja action flick (that's a whole other story), talked to several folks about their projects at SXSW and how I wanted to interview them for blog write-ups, congratulated Jenn White & Paul on their award, met a woman organizing a mobile training thing where she'll travel the country doing intensive 5 week courses of doc making (sounds cool, I think I'll help her out). Had several people walk up and introduce themselves and say they enjoyed the panel, plus a couple that had since looked at this site and liked it. That was very gratifying.
Then I was tired and came home and started writing this.
So SXSW the Conference is over, but there are still three more days of movies left, my last chance to catch a lot of stuff I haven't seen yet. So I'm Movie Boy for the rest of the week.
Today was really good - I got some really nice interaction and feedback with some really cool, interesting, smart people, and by God, that's some of the best stuff in life as far as I'm concerned.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Mike's Comments: This addresses many of my issues with their prior card, the Tempo X 4+4, which had 4 internal and 4 external connectors. Now you can connect 8 drives externally without as much cabling internal/external nonsense. The eSATA connectors should connect more securely, SATA cables don't exactly lock in super tight. It would appear this card has the same guts as the Tempo X 4+4 card, so any software issues/drive issues are likely to be the same. I'll be reviewing this card shortly, after SXSW.
My panel on HD stuff went pretty well, but didn't have the conceptual zing as the one yesterday. Ah well, they can't all be great. Unlike past years, a surprisingly large chunk of the audience was up to date on HD, HDV, DI (Digital Intermediates), and stuff like that.
The other panellists were great - Christian Zak from Technicolor, Jen White a local DP. My problem with the panel is that it's hard to keep it on a holistic, "here's the deal" level without falling into the super technical geeky aspects of all this stuff, which I love but aren't appropriate for a one hour panel at a general film conference. The moderator's challenge. (And I was moderator). Christian had some great things to say about don't pre-judge what you "should" shoot with, take a look at what you want to shoot and fit a format to that. With HD, post is MUCH more important to integrate into conversations early on as opposed to film. Film you could shoot your film and worry about post workflow afterwards, that is SOOOOOOO not the case with HD, which is often chosen for presumed costs savings in post. Make sure you consult your post workflow folks before embarking on a given workflow.
One thing I did that I liked was that I took stills from all the videocameras from the shoot the other week, and scaled them all up in Photoshop to 1920x1080. Then I zoomed in on one detail and showed the audience each camera, starting with the DVX100A and working up to the F900. Even with all the shortcuts and imperfections of this as a critical evaluation, it gave a great seat of the pants demo of what these cameras can capture.
I went to a couple of parties, saw Lyle Lovett, talked to Louis Black (the real founder of SXSW), saw John Pierson's doc Reel Paradise (about his year he spent running free movies at the most remote theater in the world he could find, in Fiji) and chatted with him briefly about it.
Saw my favorite film so far - Murderball.
Strangely, the most compelling films I've seen so far have been docs, it's the narrative features that I've found to be flat and uninspiring.
Murderball was the original name given to what is now quadraplegic rugby - they play by using wheelchairs that look Mad Max inspired, and they can hit as hard as they want to. The film Murderball tells several stories - that of the US team and their rivalry with the Canadian team; the Canadian team's coach (Joe Soares) is a former top U.S. player driven to succeed at all costs; the particulars of one player, Mark Kuzan (sp? I'm tired) who was paralyzed after being flung from a truck driven by his best friend; and the painful new life a recent quadriplegic suffers in rehab.
The U.S. team is amazing - one might guess they'd all be jocks or motocross types injured in sports or extreme sports, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Many that made the US team had lost limbs due to childhood injuries, some were in car accidents, etc.
The story is incredibly moving - the obstacles these guys have overcome, the intensity with which they pursue their sport, the driven nature of Joe Soares, the ex-US player turned Canadian coach, it's all great.
The doc includes some game play, but the filmmakers really focus on the lives of the people involved in the game, their families, their girlfriends, their coaches.
A truly inspiring story, my favorite film so far this festival.
OK, 1:30am, time to crash.
Monday, March 14, 2005
BUT, I wanted to cover some stuff for the folks attending the panel, so here's some subject material for homework:
24p DV cameras: if you're still shooting DV, the Canon XL2 and Panasonic DVX100A are worth looking at. The Sony PD170 as well. Use the search bar at the top of this page to search within HD For Indies for mention of these products.
HDV: HDV is a new format that's been out for about a year. Think of it as DV with a lot more pixels. Instead of 720x480 pixels going to tape, there are 1440x1080 pixels going to tape in a 16:9 aspect ration. There are two HDV cameras worth considering right now, and the JVC products aren't among them. The Sony HDR-FX1 is around $3500 street price, and it's more professionally featured big brother is the HVR-Z1U. The Z1U is my strong recommendation; it can record real SMPTE timecode, it has XLR inputs for microphones (but still records audio in a digitally compressed format), and it can shoot 50i as well as 60i among other features. Shooting 50i lets you more easily convert to 24p than shooting 60i. But watch for new cameras to be announced if not shipped at NAB, the big tradeshow in April (I'll be there and reporting live from the show). I've written extensively about HDV, the FX1 and the Z1U over the last year, use the search bar at the top of this page to find articles on the HDR-FX1, the HVR-Z1, and HDV in general. HDV is still awkward to edit with, there are about 4 solutions to edit HDV on the Mac, and none of them are as solid and graceful as I'd like at all. That will hopefully change at NAB with Final Cut Pro 5.
Midline camera: instead of Digibeta, it's worth considering using the Panasonic SDX900. It's a $26,000 professional DVCPRO50 camera. DVCPRO50 is like DV, but twice the bandwidth, and it's a 4:2:2 codec, which means it records twice as much color information as DV does. The camera can shoot 24p with advanced pulldown, so it dovetails nicely with Final Cut Pro HD if you want to do a 24p workflow (Avid probably handles this correctly as well, but I don't have specific verification of that in my hands).
Pretty high end cameras: The Panasonic Varicam costs about $65,000 and records 960x720 pixels to tape. The Sony F900 costs over $100,000 and records 1440x1080 pixels to tape. Before you think the HDV is about the same, the number of pixels are not the only quality factor in a camera. Looking at footage shot on HDV vs footage shot on HDCAM (the F900's tape format), there is no mistaking one for the other.
Really high end cameras: if you have to ask, you can't afford'em. The Dalsa Origin takes very lovely pictures but isn't easy to work with. The very very new Panavision Genesis is very nice, but looks like it'll be hard to book and very expensive for at least a couple of years. Only big shows will be able to afford to shoot with it. The ARRI D-20 camera isn't out yet but sounds very very interesting, watch for my coverage at NAB for updates on that. The Thomson Viper is shipping and a very nice camera with some unusual production requirements but is worth looking into for those looking for very good digitally acquired imagery. Steve Shaw at Digital Praxis just did a very interesting project with one and documented his process thoroughly online. Again, use the search bar to find out more about any of these.
Digital Intermediates: This is a phrase that's going to be much abused in the next few years, so ask careful questions to make sure your definition matches that of the person you're speaking with. The purists answer is that a real digital intermediate is done by scanning your film to at 10 bits/channel uncompressed log files (Cineon, DPX or the like) to disk at a resolution of at least 2048x1536 (a "2K DI") and manipulating the colors, repositioning etc. on a high end workstation. I heard a phrase I like today from the producer of "Reeker" - he called their process "DI Lite" - they transferred their footage to the D-5 tape format (the best available at the time) and worked with that. I'm proposing a workflow involving telecine to 10 bit 4:4:4 (full RGB, not just the limited YUV video color space) uncompressed files on disk for a hybrid between the two. You'd have 1920x1080 pixels of resolution, with is about 2/3 as much as the high end DI workflow, but at a MUCH lower cost. Much more can be said about this, I've written about it on the blog before. Email me for specific questions if interested.
Editing workstations, hardware, and software: I'm a big fan of Final Cut Pro HD for independent filmmakers. I like the AJA Kona2 and BlackMagic DeckLink HD Pro cards for HD-SDI acquisition. I've been writing for a year now on the benefits of native SATA arrays for high speed, low cost storage solutions. See my December 31st, 2004 recommendations for editing gear setups (see the Archives link at the right side of this page), it hasn't changed a whole lot since then. It'll definitely change based on information gathered at NAB in April 2005.
That should be enough to get you started.
There are about 600 articles I've posted in about the last year, that should be enough reading material to keep you going. If you're new to digital filmmaking, I'd encourage you to go back and read the first dozen or so postings on this website, they were all about WHY it's worth shooting HD instead of film.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
We covered what we blog, why we blog (different answers for all), what the future may hold for blogging (podcasting? Video blogging?), the amateur vs professional nature of blogging, blogger vs 'real' press, dealing with traditional press, and the lessons we as bloggers have learned about the very careful delineation between what is a private communication and what is publicly discussable (some of the panelists, myself included, admitted to painful mistakes along these lines).
Karina and David mine more traditional journalism roles, I straddle the fence between personal info gatherer and journalist, and Wiley said he does it as a personal thing that he'd do whether there were a bloglike distribution point or not.
David from GreenCine.com talked about how it used to be that the New York Times would be first to market with a review of a film, and that would tend to set the tone for the way other press would slant their review. David said he knows for a fact that the print reviewers are checking online to see what bloggers are saying - in effect, bloggers are now the first voice on the market.
I commented on something interesting that happened last night along those lines - I posted my comments for yesterday around 3am, including just a few lines about Unleashed, the new Jet Li/Morgan Freeman/Bob Hoskins movie. But 9:30am when I was back up and checking mail and blog stats, I had over 1000 pageviews. Think about that - over 1000 pageviews from 3am super late Saturday night to 9am Sunday morning. And it must have been entirely driven by folks searching for news about the Unleased screening, since Unleashed doesn't open until May 13th (another reason to go to SXSW - good film scoops). I checked again at 3pm, and I only had about 2000 someodd pageviews - apparently there was an online rush to see reviews of Unleashed, or somebody bigger than me linked to me. An interesting phenomenon. As of now (8:45pm Sunday night), there are about 3500 pageviews. So it was a brief spike and then it abated. I'm on track for my "normal" amount of Sunday traffic it looks like. Perhaps a bunch of people who were still awake in another time zone checked it out? Dunno.
Karina said she really liked the punk rock aesthetic that all of this represented - do it yourself, and just circumvent/ignore/short circuit the traditional mainstream media. She also had some really good comments about the value and validity of subjective opinion being offered on the web. I made some watery comments about the benefits of a subjective viewpoint and being able to connect to your demographic, whereas mainstream media needs to be more generic and supposedly objective. But Karina captured the heart of it better, I wish I could recall exactly what it was she said. Karina, feel free to send something in that I'll post..
The most interesting part to me is the role of this new form of reporting in this new media - the internet has been around for awhile, and blogging has opened the door to allow "amateurs" to post and comment easily on things going on in the world. But it allows professionals in various fields to contribute easily on areas of their expertise. Some film festivals don't give credentials to ANY online publications (one in California was mentioned), whereas in Berlin bloggers are welcomed and invited. In tradtional journalism, there's more of a vetting process going on, such that if you're a reporter with a publication there's an assumption about your level of professionalism, etc. But with blogging, pretty much anybody can blog, so it's more difficult and complex to decide what's for real, what's true, what's professional, what's valid, and what's none of the above.
SXSW wasn't going to give Karina journalistic credentials to attend SXSW, they said maybe in some rare instances if she submitted written samples of a portfolio, etc. Pisshaw. Matt Dentller got her on the panel and that got her in, and she was great on the panel as the voice of someone seriously pursuing writing online as a career. I think it's ironic that SXSW of all venues, with it's strong DIY aesthetic, makes it tough for online press. I would think the ability to come back with circulation figures would be a good answer. If an online publication has more readers/day than some small newspaper, shouldn't they get press credentials? I'd like to see that advocated as a metric of validity.
The most perfect moment of the panel occurred when we were talking with about work we liked, and David from GreenCine Daily said he really liked the work that Brian Flemming was doing, and I agreed that I liked his blog too. I couldn't recall the URL off the top of my head, so right there on the laptop hooked up to the projector that the audience could see, I Googled Brian Flemming and clicked to his site. And the first link on the page...Happy Birthday to HD For Indies. How perfectly referential to the nature of the blogging - that you link to and credit the sites that you like, that there is a dialog between sites, and an interconnected web of communication.
I couldn't have staged a better refernce to the nature of film blogging. And the fact that it serendipitously happened was all too perfect.
p-YES I am a very very bad blogger for not linking to everyone and everything, sorry, in a hurry. Maybe I'll fix it later. it's a blog, not real, right?
6 possible ways to edit HDV on your Mac:
1.) iMovie HD- easy but extremely little control over your content. You can forward migrate to Final Cut Express HD now, but not any further at the moment. There are problems capturing footage with iMovie5 and trying to get it into Final Cut Pro HD v4.5. Final Cut Express HD currently has the same problems. iMovie is a purely consumer application, very very limited editing capabilities.
2.) Lumiere HD - drops every 1000th frame, not deck accurate for repeatability, has back to tape options for FCP HD, convoluted non-standard workflow. But it works, and is a good option for shorts. High quality options available to link back to source demuxed MPEG-2 (you can render out a master file from a non-transcoded/degraded source, other options don't allow this).
3.) HDVxDV - frame accurate for repeatability, nicer scaling options than Lumiere HD according to my quickie analysis, but does it let you go back to HDV tape? Don't think so. It also appears to be a one way street - footage in then you're on your own. I could be wrong on this, I've barely checked it out, so that ain't gospel. I'll sit down with it seriously in the next week or two. Does it have the dropped frame issue LumiereHD has? I don't know, but I'm thinking it might. Then use MPEG Streamclip.
4.) Final Cut Express HD - easy ingest, no dropped frames, good not great codec, no view preview of HD (does BMD/AJA work with Express? Seriously don't think so), nowhere upwards to go (yet, until FCP 5)
5.) Just say bag it and dupe/dub your HDV tapes to HDCAM, there are known, proven, reliable, repeatable workflows available for that. But if you do that, your footage goes from digital to analog to digital again. Bummer. There is no equipment I'm aware of that will allow for a pure digital workflow to get the footage from HDV to HDCAM. You'd need to use an adaptor such as the AJA HD10A to take the analog HD component output from the HDV camera (or HDV deck) and convert that analog signal to a digital HD signal on an HD-SDI connector. Few post houses have this collection of gear at the moment.
6.) Final Cut Pro HD version 5 - not shipping yet. Probably will ship in April at NAB, or be announced and demonstrated there and might not ship until summer. I just don't know, they aren't tellin'.
There are some other choices available, such as DVHScap, but I don't consider them production viable at all. If you know of something you think is production viable, let me know and I'll add it to the list.
SEE COMMENTS: Martijn Schroevers, my best field agent on matters of HDV workflow, wrote in with some good comentary. Click on the comments link below to see'em. They're at the bottom after the article.
Realise you're super-busy at SXSW - but, I'm not sure you saw the confirmation that CoreImage is indeed 32bit floating point the whole way.
I blog about it here:
What's interesting is that if your GPU can't handle the 32bitness, it passes it down to the SIMD unit (aka Altivec). There's also a number of other nifty things it can do - including using OpenGL shader language (faster time to write CI code). XCode 2 also comes with a 'quartz composer' which uses CI and code to allow you to write your own image processing apps. I know some peeps are talking about using it to create nifty 3D representation of render farm data...
Anyways, the direct apple link is:
Take care mate, look forward to hearing some reports from you
and then he followed up with:
Its also worth noting that that Quartz Composer is node-based... very interesting.
Apparently (from my sources), its based on an app called Pixelshox which was one of (few) good VJing tools around for the Mac. This means its NOT a compositor, more of a DVE tool. But Pixelshox was very cool - you could set variables to receive inputs from the mouse, or the microphone, or another video track. Not sure what that means for the indie community... yet.
Mike's Comments: So WTF does all that mean? That means that Final Cut Pro 5 (or a later version) and other OS X applications will be able to do some serious pixel manipulations in realtime using the graphics card to help do some of the processing. This means that things like 32 bit color corrections, blurs, scaling, repositioning, cropping, and other usually non-realtime and require rendering will suddenly be possible to do in realtime IF you have a fast machine with a fast graphics card. Suddently the graphics card will REALLY matter in your workflow as an editor or motion graphics artist; this has usually NOT been the case.
You've probably heard that Final Cut Pro HD (aka v4.5) can do realtime color correction,so you might be thinking What's The Big Deal? Well, it's this - FCP 4.5 can do realtime color correction...only on certain codecs...only with 8 bit/channel footage....only with 4:2:2 video. So if you have 10 bit 4:2:2 footage, or 10 bit 4:4:4 footage, there's no realtime effects at present. And if you're trying to do serious, film destined color work, you want 10 bit 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 if you can feasibly do so. The ability to do these things in realtime is a major advantage.
Allan Daviau, director of photography (E.T., Empire of the Sun, etc.) speaking at NAB last year was talking about the digital intermediate process and how some things just HAVE to be realtime to have any creative flow: color correction, positioning, and editing were his top three that I can recall.
If all this tech works the way I think it's going to, you'll be able to do all three in realtime.
I'm getting really, REALLY curious to see what happens with Final Cut Pro 5. I'll be at NAB and probably zipping for the Apple booth first thing.
Reeker - David Payne - did what he called a "DI Lite" on his film Reeker (he's the guy that had the horrible experience with BlackMagic Design, he's very very very not happy with them, to the point there was mention of the word "lawsuit").
Glenn Kiser - VP Skywalker sound
Anne Hubbell - Kodak in NYC, works with indies, before was indie producer
Christian Zak - exec producer for DI for Technicolor in NYC, accomodate a workflow that fits budget & asthetics. Strategize a solution
Gary Walker - computer imagery for 23 years, 10 years in Hollywood at Digital Domain and Sony Pictures, saw that the future of the tech was for indies, indies can afford the tech & expertise that has been exclusive to Hollywood
experience with new tech - David Payne on Reeker - goal was to utilize new technology cuz it sounded nice for investors, not all new tech is going to help you reach your goals, thought they were going to be shooting HD, shot 35mm. Wanted new tech in post. Wanted high quality, off the shelf stuff. 1 1/2 years ago 23K edit system - worked with D-5. Rented the D-5 for capture and online stuff. $1200/day deck rental at the time. 1/3 of the price for a "real" house. Negative transferred to D-5. DI Lite = HD DI workflow.
Anne Hubbell - 7 new film stocks in the last 2 years. She worked in indie films for 10 years, a TV producer. New Vision 2 stocks - amazing grain, opened the door for Super 16 shooting, coupled with DI. She says shooting on 16 w/DI as a price effective comparator to HD. I'D ARGUE WITH THAT, OR AT LEAST WANT TO SEE #'S. Some folks are hitting unexpected costs with HD, some like the known workflow of film vs. HD. Tools for how you need to tell your story. Previs system called Kodak Look Management System (WRITTEN ABOUT THIS BEFORE). Helps DP & director know what things will look like in the future, so you'll have a recipe for what you want later. Easy to share files, not everyone has to be in the same place, etc.
Shooting on film doesn't keep you from getting involved with DI & VFX and going back to film Gary Walker points out.
Film stock captures more info than video does. (She says this'll save you some money).
Christian Zak - high end tech is being driven by studios. Exciting that the tech is available to indies, is getting into indie film price range. Last fall Technicolor NY, Scorsese doing Aviator, Ballad of Jack and Rose working in the same facility. Ballad is showing at SXSW, shot 7218 16mm, telecine to D-5, color corrected to D-5 and output to 35mm.
Kiser on sound - sound has been a laggard in adopting new technology. Biggest issue is the embrace of DAW and mixing boards, digital flow has been integrated, but the methodology has not been changed for films. There's this firewall between editorial and mixing. At the mixing stage, handcuff yourself by losing flexibility by moving into a different format on a console. Consoles don't talk to mixing stations in any meaningful ways. They still do a lot of high end event type pictures, but in the last 5 years, the middle range ($30-$70m) film which used to be the bread and butter, they'd spend $1/2m to $1m on audio. Studios are not doing those, either going bigger for tentpole movies, or smaller for indie niche releases. They've had to re-invent their process to go after the lower end budget stuff because they don't fit for that. They are owned by a filmmaker (George), George has been frustrated by limitations, he invests in making stuff work for him and other filmmakers hopefully. On Ep2, wants to stay in the workstation until the very end of the process. final mix started last week, built new 6.1 pre-mix rooms (currently Pro Tools), the concept is that those are editorial rooms, pre-mixing in editoral. Editor can create/design in a 6.1 area, do EQ etc. in that phase, then move to mixing theater. Taken out mixing console, put 3 ICONS together (mixing it in Pro Tools). This technique came from indies due to budgetary reasons, first time it's been done at this scale. George is happy because he gets ultimate flexibility. They are getting pushed from both sides, high and low.
THIS IS GREAT - FROM THE BOTTOM UP
Avid - Bodner - not telling people which way to go is a challenge. Problem these days is IndiGen wanted to make films shot on DV. Every one wanted to do DVX100a as well. The ability to handle all these formats, handle them natively, and make sure teh R&D doesn't dissapear next year, not lead anyone in a wrong direction, let folks be able to use it all, and not waste their time on dead end tech. how to pick and choose and get good partners, and figure out how much time they should spend on it. VERY INTERESTING.
Jason Tomaric did CL.one. Did scifi for $25K with 3000 extras, shot in NASA stuff, 650 digital effects, he used new tech to put it all together. For someone with no money, what is attainable is the excitement of making the movie. Started it at age 19. Worked with a Quadra at the time. The project rode the digital wave. Premiere 1.0 was what he did. Started on VX1000. Seeing the result, it's pretty good. Good technology doesn't a good filmmaker make. Understand light, and sound, and mixing, and lenses, quality vs quantity. Bob Ross the painter new his tools so well he never stopped to think about tools, he was fluent with them. It should be a through line to your art. Don't let the tools get in the way of the art that you're creating.
Gary - telling people "you can tell your story now. There were limitations in the past, but now you have access to it."
Anne Hubbell - need discipline and need to know what your final product should be. Don't assume that just because you have limited resources that you won't be able to achieve what you want. Understand the tech involved and ask questions. TEchnology didn't come first.
Come talk to us and see what you're really after, not "we need a 4K DI", work it through the process rather than assume you need something in particular. Rely on Technicolor or others steer you. Ask the experts first - take the guesswork out of it. Be informed FIRST.
Shoot for the sky from the beginning - try to do something good.
If you save $30K by shooting miniDV, it's not as if you're going to get paid just $30K less. This is not the case.
CL.one guy saying - the DV projects are anomalies, about one a year. (he teaches in LA). The miniDV is great for first time filmmaker, once you have process down, THEN step up to make the one you want to sell. Don't expect to make money off your first college thesis level project. Take baby steps. If you're going to get Skywalker Sound to help you out, (or other post facility), you have to bring something GOOD to them that they will get a benefit out of. If there aren't good coattails to ride on, there's no reason for them to help you. Look to the next step.
Kiser says - they have a number of charity projects that go through the facility every year - good for the soul to contribute to those starting and to the community. That makes up for doing a picture like Catwoman. (OOH, THERE'S MY PULLQUOTE). When a project comes in and folks ask for help - they ask if it's intersting or an interesting filmmaker. They are a big facility, they have a lot of folks they work with, lots of talented people, lots of up and coming folks need something creative to work on, they volunteer on no budget stuff to put their reel together. A mutually exploitative relationship.
Folks want to play and learn, so they volunteer to work on stuff. And especially with the internet, the ability to move files around and get stuff done.
Kodak works with folks because they want folks to work on film. They work with indies and indie discounts, not for profit organizations get discounts. SO LOOK FOR DEALS, DON'T PAY LIST ON FILM STOCK. Don't be afraid to ask.
CL.one guy - You're either going to get a film done with passion, or with money. One or the other. Just ask - worst case they can say no.
Know what the costs WOULD be. Kodak rep saying she was shocked at how tight budgets are. Be educated about what you're asking for. BUT if you're not raising the kind of money you need to, think about why that is, and make changes if you need to, and do everything you can to get the money you need, because the other way, it is hard. All this tech is meaningless if you don't have an interesting compelling story to tell.
Tech is a double edged sword. If using to enhance a story, can be cool. Some things just don't work. Peoople showing films on cell phones at Sundance - it didn't work. The indie community pushes harders. But high end tech, film scanners are being driven by studios, but so much of the other tech is driven by the indies.
The impact of tech is more on the film creators' side rather than the audience's side.
Story and content and people in the story supercedes ALL THE TECH any day.
The technology over-ran the last couple Matrix movies.
Audiences don't care about film vs hidef - have a good engaging story.
The passion is the payoff.
More and more people are able to access the stories, or to see them.
25,000 theatrical screens in US, over a million 5.1 home theater systems in home and skyrocketing.
A lot more savviness on the part of the consumer. San Francisco isn't known for great theatrical audio, Kiser has better stuff at home.
Studios are paying more attention to 5.1 remixes for home setups. This didn't exist 3 or 4 years ago. Skywalker REMIXES for home distribution.
Choice of format will effect your distribution.
Ask a lot of questions, ask the ones that seem stupid. There's a clean and simple way to transfer files from Avid to Pro Tools....BUT not everybody does it right. Lots of simple errors that can be made that make the work useless, such that it gets hosed.
You don't have to have the greatest tools to do the best work.
Producers don't need to be technologically savvy, but they need someone who is they work with.
There experts are saying that they'll do one or two phone calls before some kind of commitment is made, so use that currency up carefully.
intead of the usal link.
Went to see most of Max & Grace with Frank, then went to a networking party and had a long talk wtih an editor there about workflows with HDV. I recently went through this with a client, for working long form there aren't perfect answers right now for FCP. For one client, working with Final Cut Express HD was going to be a good fit for a long list of reasons why, for this guy downconverting to PAL DV (they're going to shoot 50i) was a good solution, and if FCP5 wasn't out by the time they were ready to online, they'd just dub to HDCAM and work it from there.
Saw Tim McCanlies (Dancer, Texas; Iron Giant, Second Hand Lions) and briefly said hello, saw Paul Alvarado whom I'd helped with his short Termination that is screening at SXSW (as well as post supervised his HD short Heads or Tails), talked to the Panavision rep about the Genesis camera, which he said is going to be probably limited to deep pocket big shows for the next couple of years due to price and availability issues. Interesting.
Went and saw the Enron doc, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" and watched most of it. I left early, because a.) it was painful to watch because I should have gone to Vegas and blown my money, it would have been more fun than watching my Enron shares sink to zero value, and b.) I wanted to go to the Director's Guild of America party to network some more. Saw Sandra Adair there, and talked to her about doing an interview with her and the assistant editor about their workflow cutting both Bad News Bears as well as A Scanner Darkly. Interesting stuff, they had to deal with up to 11 simultaneous cameras on some shots. Talked to a producer about high speed high def cameras, hopefully I'll get some consulting out of that.
Oh, and while I waited for Enron to start, I was chatting with Lucas from 501 Post, and the guy sitting behind us turns out to the director of Reeker, which I'll see at midnight in the next few days. They worked with the BlackMagic cards, and Final Cut Pro, and an X-Serve RAID, and had problems getting Apple to support them properly on it. Turns out that while the hardware supported up to 8 channels of audio, getting the FCP software to support it was a different issue. As usual, there's a difference between what they say the hardware can do, and what it is implied it can do, and what it can actually do.
This makes me think that it would be useful to do more interviews with editors, post supervisors, etc. to find out the real world limitations of working with these different toolsets. You have to be very, very careful and very, very specific. Things like: Both Blackmagic and AJA claim to support 8 or 10 bit capture, 4:4:4 capable hardware, realtime effects. So one might think you could do 10 bit 4:4:4 capture and get realtime effects in Final Cut Pro HD. NOT so. AJA can't do ANY 4:4:4 yet, and neither card will do even 4:2:2 10 bit realtime effects. Only 8 bit 4:2:2 gets realtime effects. You largely have to figure this out for yourself, because they don't tell you these things, it's kinda expected for you to figure it out or know the software well enough to know what it can and can't do.
Swung by the frogdesign party, and man was it fantastic. Saw Mark, Policarpo, Jake, Stephen, Joel, Nealon, lots of folks I know from frog and my days there. Met Nichole, fabulously, achingly cute music marketing rep from Santa Monica, reminding me that a lovey fresh face full of life, sweetness, and happy optmism is a wonderful thing indeed. More reasons to think about moving to southern Cali right there. The awesome band Grupo Fantasmo was playing, they had fantastic dancers done up in bird feathers and all manner of lyric wonderful madness, a bit like Cirque du Soleil meets Mexican circus. A wonderful surreal thing, I started to leave and then came back (mostly to chat up Nichole some more).
Ran into Neil, Lyrae, Jessie again from last night, we saw "Jesus is Magical" which I thought was only so-so and teetered perilously on the edge between edgy humor and over the line. Even if you take it for granted that she's sounding horrible as part of her character portrayal, I was thinking that if I were sitting there with my African American friend Sloan, he'd be getting pissed. Or should be.
Came back for the midnight showing of Unleashed, which was good. Solid performances, Jet Li gets a chance to actually act rather than just kick ferocious ass (which he does well in the film). Clear Luc Besson lineage in this one from The Professional. Essentially "What if the killer was REALLY ferocious but internally an undeveloped child, and what if the girl weren't so young that the relationship had a creepiness to it? Plus more fighting."
Tomorrow's my first panel, setting the alarm now.
I'm enjoying movies, but I really, really should be networking more. Tomorrow.
I need to spend a couple of hours looking at the footage from the shoot tomorrow to speak more knowledgably Monday on my panel. May be hard to find the time. Every day there are things I have to skip that I really wish I could see. If I were smart I'd network more and catch the repeats of the films later in the week.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
I saw three films tonight and skipped most of the parties.
First up was My Big Fat Independent Movie, a spoof of indies the same way Scary Movie was a spoof of it's genre. I give it a B-, and part of that is because it was shot (and projected) digitally. As in I'm raising it's score for the HD factor. I'd bet 95+% of the audience didn't notice or care. In many scenes I didn't see where film would have made a big difference. Colors were very vivid and popping, it was cool to see. The visible detail was actually better than most film projection - I could very very easily read a nametag on a character in a shot framed from thighs to over the actors' heads. A few overexposed scenes (hot spots on actor's faces), but understandable. This was the film that was discussed at last year's HD For Indies panel at SXSW, with one of the main leads a very dark skinned African Amerian guy (I met him tonight, BIG guy, taller than I am, and I'm 6-3) being shot in the desert next to a white guy. Lighting challenge for video, anyone? They said they used LOTS of bounce cards and flagging. As for the movie itself, some smart fun pokes at indie movie conventions, but a lot of their laughs felt like they were moving down the Indie Movie Punchlist. But the guy riffing on Walken was GREAT.
I tried to get into the new Wilson brothers movie, Wendall something or other, but even with a badge I couldn't get in, there were so many VIP seats reserved. Dammit. There's a caste hierarchy at play at SXSW: VIPs get first shot at seats, then badgeholders, then wristbands, then ticket buyers. The SXSW volunteer came walking down the several hundred person long line of badgeholders (this was the only showing of the film at SXSW) and said that's it, go home. So VIPs - up yours. (Of course, wristband wearers would say that to me as a badgeholder if I got in, and would be ticket buyers...you get the idea.)
Next up: Seoul Train, a 54 minute documentary film about how bad North Korea is to live in, and what happens to those who try to escape to China. You know it's bad when the path to freedom is to sneak into CHINA. Escaping North Korea is literally a capital crime - they can kill you for it. And what does China do? Forced repatriation - they send them back. The United Nations HCR is chartered to try to help refugees, they are doing a crappy job about it. Contact your local Congressman to get the US to put some teeth in the UN HCR to get more attention paid to the issue. Even the New York Times has backed down on reporting the issue, for fear of losing their Beijing bureau. Dammit.
Next up, something lighter: The Aristocrats, another documentary, but this one is all about the telling of, and the nature of, a filthy dirty joke known as The Aristocrats. It got bought at Sundance and will hit major cities in July or so, I recommend it, but DON'T bring your kids. It's a bunch of interviews with comedians who all tell their own version of the joke, and talk about the joke. Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman sat right behind me, Sarah had a hilariously unique spin on the joke in the film (that's it so far for Celebrity Watch).
If this doesn't sound like much, this movie reminded me of not the structure, but the essence of my favorite doc of all time - Erroll Morris' doc Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control - because it isn't so much about what the movie is literally about, it's about what it means to people, and what it connects to, and what it implies about how they think when they talk about it. Much more than what it appears as on the surface.
But don't take Mom.
I could/should link to these, but it's 2:30am. Too bad.
Tomorrow: Panels start, so I gotta get some sleep and be ready. I got a run in today, but I betcha I won't again for a week or more.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Sunday, March 13th, 11:30 to 12:30
Future of Film Blogs. Their description:
Over the past few years there has been an increase in the usage of online weblogs as source of information. Once associated only with Internet pros, now "blogs" have moved into the mainstream realm, presenting what is accepted as the valid opinions of various industry figures. Are they part of a new age of media coverage for the film business?
My description: we're going to talk about movie blogs, what they're good for, how it's changing the landscape, why we do them (if that's of any interest to the audience), and see what the audience wants to talk about. It's a nice small panel, 4 of us, so plenty of opinions will be shared.
Monday, March 14, 11:30 to 12:30
Future of Digital Filmmaking. Their description:
HD has changed everything, from pre-production to post-production. Will film ever be the same again? And is that a bad thing? Experts in the worlds of HD and film, debate the future of digital filmmaking.
My description: this could be an all day thing, but we've only got an hour, so I think the first thing we're going to do is poll the audience to see what they're interested in. 16:9 24p DV? HDV? HD? Digital Intermediates? It's all on the table, we'll just see where the audience interest lies and focus on that.
Tuesday, 1:30 pm: Studio SX - this is some kind of interview thing I think in the trade show area. That is literally as much as I can recall about it right now. I'll be there, with clothes on, that's as much as I know.
It looks like the next offering in the HDV format camera line is going to be the three-chip JVC GY-HD100, a light-weight, low-height professional shoulder-mount camcorder with interchangeable lenses. Its three Progressive Scan CCD's are one-third inch in size, each containing 1.1 megapixels. Using a variant of the HDV format which JVC is calling ProHD, the GY-HD100 will record 720p24, 720p30, 480i and 480p with 1080i playback (and its 24p modes are said to be native, not emulated).
There's more info on the page, so check it out.
Mike's Comments: this should be an interesting camera, especially with interchangable lenses, 720p24 native acquisition, and XLR audio inputs, this sounds like a potentially viable indie shooter camera to consider in the same price range as a HVR-Z1U, XL2 or DVX100a. We'll see.
Right. So I set it up and let it roll. And walked away.
It's a total of 22 minutes of footage. It took it almost exactly 2 1/2 hours to recompress on my Dual 2.0 GHz G5 connected to an 8 drive SATA RAID 0 (Maxtor Maxline III 300GB drives all connected to one Sonnet Tempo X 4+4 card). So the time to recompress ratio is 22 minutes to 150 minutes, or about 6.5:1. So for every hour of footage, it'll take 6 1/2 hours to process to DVCPRO HD when working with 1080p24 footage. On a dual 2.0 GHz G5. Attached to a fast RAID (not that the RAID is essential for that speed, dunno).
Functionally, the new project with new bin and new footage opens up, and when you double click on a clip, it opens up as a 4:3 aspect in the Viewer. Clicking on the Anamorphic button isn't right, it displays it too wide, unclicking it suddenly snaps it to correct. I made a new timeline, selecting the BlackMagic HDTV 1080p23.976 DVCPRO HD preset, and dragged all the footage to it to see how long all the footage strung together was. After I did that, if I clicked on any of the clips I hadn't done the Anamorphic toggle on, they show up correctly. A little strange, a little buggy. Looks like worst case scenario, either throw everything on a junk timeline (that has the right preset), or select all clips and toggle Anamorphic on then off. No biggie. Tweeze it a little in bulk and you're ready to go.
The advantage of this is that I now have a bin with all my metadata intact - all my reel, shot, take, descriptions, and other logging info are just as they were before, and my shots are exact frame for frame matches, and all my timecode is intact. No worries about needing the deck, or batch recapturing, or the heartache of timecode breaks, none of that. Just set it up and walk away (for hours or overnight) to let it chug. On a busy shoot, capturing a couple of hours a day, this could be a problem since it could run more than all night.
I had been wondering whether it worked with the native DVCPRO HD frame size of 1280x1080, or if it used 1920x1080 and just used the codec. It's 1280x1080 using their preset. I might (or somebody else go ahead and doodle away) what kind of results would be obtained by using 1920x1080 and the 1080i60 codec - obviously there would be more compression artifacts since the codec would need to compress many more pixels (1920 wide rather than 1920 wide), so the quality per frame would be lower, but you'd have a "real" 1920x1080 frame to work with. Have to try this, I haven't yet, so no promises about whether it works, plays back, RT FX, nuthin'.
I recall a rumor somewhere that the DVCPRO HD 1080i50 codec would either give lower compression by using more data per frame (fewer frames/sec, more bandwidth available on tape) or use a slightly higher resolution at roughly the same compression ratio - 1440x1080 instead of 1280x1080. Does that math work? 50/60 is .8333, 1280/1440 is is .8888. Hmm, close but not quite - 1440x1080 would be possible, but require a little more compression per frame. Of course, this is probably already well documented somewhere, I just don't know where and googling "1080i50 DVCPRO HD frame size" results in....top two links are to HD For Indies, and third a reference to it. Hmm. Google thinks I'm the expert. That ain't good. I'm too lazy to keep looking. But we'll find out in a month, anyway.
What you CAN'T do is change timebase. I highlighted all my F900 Live clips, and some of them were 1080i60, some of them were 1080p24. If you have mixed framerates, you'd need to do them in batches according to frame rates.
But anyway, final takeaway is this: Media Manager can be successfully used to recompress large numbers of clips to a different codec, even from large, high definition sources. It just takes time. In this case, nearly 7 times as long as the footage is.
PS - and for all of my whinging about trying to capture stuff shot at 60 fps to play back at 24fps, whether using altered capture settings or re-rendering in After Effects, someone was kind enough (sorry, can't find the email to credit you) to write in and point out that you can simply use Cinema Tools (included with Final Cut Pro HD) to reconform a shot from 60 to 24fps for slomo playback. Duh. Helps if I RTFM. This doesn't help with variable framerate shots (ramping) or with off rate shots (shot at 20fps for 24fps playback, for instance), but it does solve a common problem.
Kodak announces new DI friendly film and workflow - this one's a little more complicated than it at first appears. This is Kodak's attempt to have a more Digital Intermediate friendly format for lower budget productions; and they are offering some post workflow stuff to emulate other film stocks. If I'm interpreting this right, the idea is to shoot on this "blank template" of a film stock and be able to digitally synthesize the look of other film stocks in post. There's a lot of discussion about this on CML-HDTV list, with optimists and pessimists both contributing to the dialog. I definitely need to look into this more. Some are saying it'll be great, some are saying it's pointless and not going to work. We'll see, but this bears further investigation.
Apple Disco's Shake 3.5? - AppleInsider (rumor site, less than 100% accurate on predictions) is reporting that Shake 3.5 has been or is about to be EOL'd (End Of Life), as in discontinued, which would imply a new version is coming up soon. If Shake 4 is ready by NAB, might that imply Final Cut Pro 5 is as well? Rumors indicate there might be a new bundle with Shake/FCP/DVD Studio Pro/Motion/Logic/etc., a one stop shop for post. Rumors I've personally been told (not just read on some site) indicated that what Apple did with Motion was just a warmup for what they planned to do with Shake. If Shake is EOL'd, that implies a new version SOON, which means that Apple has this tech worked out, which is further supporting evidence that FCP 5 might have some significant power undre the hood...maybe. This is all speculation based on hypothesis based on rumor, so don't get mad if I'm wrong on this. Duly warned.
New Models for Sustainable Cinema - interesting upcoming seminar, looks very cool and on topic for indie filmmakers
You may or may not have heard about the new film Gunner Palace, but you may not know it was all edited on Mac in Final Cut Pro. Shot on XL1 and XL2 in Baghdad, edited either on site or back in Berlin apartment, beyond the pro-Apple spin this is a really inspiring story about good indie filmmaking and the way you can make a lot from a little. Of course, an amazing story to tell is always the key....
Lion's Gate to distribute movies on Sony PSP format - Lion's Gate has decided to release a dozen movies to start with on the Sony PSP format so they'll be watchable on the handhelds. Interesting. A good fit, the demographics of the two groups (gamers & LG film watchers) are similar - PSP boys are probably going to want to watch Saw, but will they want to watch it on their PSP? What'll it take to make downloadable DRM'd shorts etc. that can be put on media and watched on PSP? These UMD disks are 60mm across and only hold 1.8GB, so what can burn to that? Sony probably intentionally picked a difficult to author to format, so download/burn/play is probably specifically difficult if not verbotten.
Real Cost of Doc Making - I linked to a prior article about this, but this one really brings the point home - while Tarnation was shot and posted for about $200 in hard costs, the costs of acquiring music rights pushes it up over $400,000. If you're shooting verite, turn off the radio, turn off the TV, and watch out for what's in the background! It can literally kill your movie. No kidding. If you didn't see it before, watch this and read this
Other companies (LaCie and G-Tech) have their versions I saw at MWSF, here's another of the little box that plays back DiVX, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, JPEGs, MP3's, etc., this one from FWDepot. Interesting and cool. Somebody should send me one to review, hint hint....
New tracking software called SynthEyes 3-D Camera Tracker available for Mac. Used on Aviator, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, National Treasure, Racing Stripes, Blade: Trinity, Son of Mask, and Phantom of the Opera.
OK, fun stuff...
Lawsuit in 3...2...1... - overseas shuffle knockoff. TOTAL knockoff. The Apple legal SWAT team must be locking and loading their BFG's right now...
One last for fun - Top Ten Scripts for iTunes - because ya gotta have some crankin' tunes to work through the night when you're in NSTBM (No Sleep Till Brooklyn Mode). And if ya ain't been in NSTBM, they ya ain't never been 'CORE. I never started drinking coffee the same way I never started jabbing heroin into my veins for the same reason - I think I'd like it waaaaaaaay too much. But there's a reason I call Dr. Pepper my own personal Go Juice - it's how you git shit dun when on deadline.
-mikey OUT. Peace and whatnot. Shiznit.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
I shall hoist me a beer (Shiner Bock, naturally) tonight in celebration.
Officially, thanks to Craig Negoescu for getting me started on the "build the Mikey brand" train of thought, thanks to Charlie Wood for suggesting a blog as the way to go about it and helping me get it rolling (Patrick Curry too), thanks to Robert Cope for continuing to host this site out of the kindness of his heart, thanks to reader/contributors like Christopher Barry and Martijn Schroevers (and all the others!) for being some of my best sources of info for links (sorry I don't credit you guys more often), thanks to Brian Flemming and Brian Clark for picking up on and linking to /promoting the site early on, and thanks to the thousands of readers out there who have been reading, and especially to those who write in and contribute.
This blog, and the process of writing it, and talking to/emailing folks, has brought me a long way in a year - I am starting to meet people and get as far as "I'm Mike Curtis, I run a website called..." and they already know who I am. Which rocks. I've met a lot of interesting people, made some great contacts, learned a lot and had a ton of interesting conversations, and for that I'm very grateful. Thanks to all who've been a part of that.
Last year at this time, ironically, one of my very first posts was about HD vs HDV. That would still be a valid and interesting headline for an article to write today, but the game has changed since then with the addition of Sony's 1080i HDV, Final Cut Express HD, the upcoming Final Cut Pro 5 (and other interesting sub $10K cameras at NAB, like the new Panasonic).
So what's next?
The SXSW Film Festival & Conference officially kicks off tomorrow with the opening party. I'l be on the Film Blogs panel Sunday, and the Future of Digital Filmmaking panel Monday. Tuesday I'm doing some round table something or other, I'll look that up and post something better about it.
As an aside, maybe I should have some pseudo-official HD For Indies happy hour/get together. If you're coming to SXSW, drop me a line if interested. Or at least we could all hook up at a time and place at another party.
The annual NAB Conference & Tradeshow is coming up next month, and I'll definitely be there. I'm debating whether to do some podcasting - tradeshows take up so much time, and last year I'd work the floor all day, then spend the entire evening listening to my audio notes and transcribing & condensing the good stuff until late into the night. It was exhausting and not the best way to do it. Interested in NAB podcasts? Let me know. Photos, perhaps via Flickr, might be another thing to include better this year, and especially in a more timely manner.
I'm going to be working the floor, taking in everything interesting I can find, seing all the new toys, and interviewing folks about the best stuff. If work for a company introducing a new product at NAB and want to schedule some interview time, email me with a teaser about it and we'll see if we can set up some time to talk, or at least I'll know where your booth is. If you have a press event, let me know. Confidentiality is assured, I'm looking to build relationships not burn them.
What's Next For The Site
The need for a redesign is getting pretty clear. I think I talked about this last summer but nothing came of it, the need is getting pretty obvious now. Something more akin to headlines and first paragraph on the front page, with links to the rest of the articles makes sense. An FAQ, for God's sake, so new folks will understand all my 720p60, RT CC&FX, and other acronym laced argot. A section with basic recommendations for typical setups to edit with various formats. A section on consulting. A library of "Go To" and "How To" articles I've written in the past. A regularly updated "Get X if you want to do Y" section.
This site and the research that feeds it now takes up essentially a full time job when I don't have projects to work on. The little strip of ads on the side is nice, but in no way supports me financially beyond the occassional stick of RAM or iPod shuffle level of gear.
I've been kicking around ideas for what to do to try to generate some income to justify the insane amount of time I spend on this site. Consulting is obviously one way, if you need help on a project drop me a line. Paul has sugggested an Amazon Affiliate link page, I'm thinking that's not a bad idea at all.
What do you folks think about the possibility of white papers/detailed workflows for sale on the site? I go fairly in depth as is, but for REALLY detailed, step by step, screenshot by screenshot, would that be something you'd be interested in purchasing? Or a nitty gritty analysis of which equipment is appropriate for which kinds of projects and workflows and budgets? My first stab at the breakdown between free content and paid content would along the lines of this: the free stuff keeps you up to date on what's going on, the paid stuff is for when you're ready to make a purchase/work with the gear and need to make crucial decisions & distinctions. I'm getting some pushback from the really starving indies that are telling me they can't afford any consulting time, so perhaps this way this might solve all our needs if these things are fairly cheap, in the $20-$200 range, for simple ("What exact SATA card and drives should I get for the following 5 different kinds of user needs?") to "Exactly what's involved for HDCAM post workflow, at the 'DAMN. That covers it.' level")
I'm also thinking about offering that kind of super analytical results with screen grabs etc. from the 5 camera shoot. Is that something you'd be willing to pay for? Feel free to use the comments link at the end of the page, or email me if you don't want it publicly visible.
I realize the free flow of information is what is drawing folks to the site, but it is simply something that I can't maintain indefinitely without something changing. I gave myself permission to dedicate myself to research for awhile, but I foresee that window of time is fading - this needs to go somewhere more interesting than me and a laptop and a lot of ego gratifying email and pageviews. There are too many interesting things to do, just keeping up on the other news to link to is taking more and more time, and I keep falling behind.
I don't want to flip a switch and go to a paid content model for everything interesting, I realize that would be the death of the site. But some things are going to need to change in the next few months to keep this sustainable, so that I'll still want to do it at the level I have been, and you folks will still want to read it. Feel free to share your thoughts via comments or email.
And with that, thanks, and I'll keep on a goin'.
SpectSoft's newest system offers hardware accelerated upconverting and downconverting as well as I/O for standard definition, high definition and dual-link on a single board. The RaveHD Xenon system features integrated RS-422 hardware that allows for both slave and master control along with unlimited scalability and dual 10/100/1000 gigabit ethernet.
Priced at $25,000, the RaveHD Xenon System features 6TB of local storage in a SATA array configuration(upgradeable to 9.6) and offers one of the highest quality video solutions on the market today, addressing many concerns seen by other systems. "This system is a great solution for not only the traditional DDR but as a deck replacement altogether", states Ramona Howard, President of SpectSoft. "The feature set we have built into RaveHD is unlike any other software package on the market today and it just keeps getting better with the development help we see from our customers."
RaveHD supports uncompressed SD-SMPTE 259M, HD-SMPTE 292M and Dual Link HD(4:4:4)-SMPTE 372M for both capture and playback in a single system and includes features like frame oriented, standard file system storage and centralized database asset tracking. Other features include RP188 (embedded timecode), Varicam flagging support, realtime color correction, and a programmable cadence engine(2:3, 3:2:3, 2:3:3:2, etc). RaveHD is natively frame-based but does offer some built-in tools for those working with Quicktime and will soon support AVI as well.
Information for SpectSoft products can be found on the web at www.spectsoft.com
Mike's Analysis: I haven't spoken to anyone who's used one yet, but it sounds pretty darn good on paper. I'd like to know more about their QuickTime support and how easy/feasible/quick/smooth it is to get footage into FCP. It covers most of the major bases, and the Varicam support appears to be pretty thorough. 4:4:4 support is a big plus. $25K is a lot less than $100K for an HDCAM SR deck. I think these types of devices are strongly worth considering for an indie production. For those that gripe about media costs, you can always bump it off to LTO2 or LTO3 tape. Those units can be purchased for what it might cost to rent an HDCAM SR deck for a week or more.
So just keep checking back, I'm trying to get fresh content up daily if not more often...
So here's a bunch of news I've been meaning to report on:
Capturing footage from a tape that has had a different format previously recorded on it will not work in Final Cut Express HD - don't mix & match on a tape - if you've shot DV or 720p30 or 1080i60 on a tape, don't record anything else to that tape, FCE HD won't like it. (found via PhilaFCPUG)
Is Cinema Studies the New MBA? from NYTimes. Not exactly on topic, but interesting...about media and power and communication structures, if my skimming read is accurate
Should you buy or rent your editing equipment? this is a perennial question for post folks. My spin is IF you're looking to be a long term producer, THEN rent until it can provably pay for itself until PAID for, DON'T just rent until you can cover the monthly payments. Equipment depreciates quickly. Buy only the pieces you have high confidence will have a long value life. Factor in support. If it's for a onetime project, consider renting or buy & resell, or something.
DR RAID - The DR Group has their own SATA RAID out, claims it'll do RAID 5. I'm guessing this is using the RocketRAID 1820A card, but I don't know. I want to learn more about it. (found via PhilaFCPUG)
HDR-FX1 hack - this guy hacked his FX1 to get a better lens on it (a nice Nikon). Very interesting, if not something everyone can do. more pix of it
and yet more
Want a CD with all the latest info on Avid products?
Article on broadcast flag issue in court - not exactly a production issue, but something to pay attention to. Did the FCC overstep it's boundaries when it mandated how consumer equipment has to be made?
Big Fat Argument over Z1U quality - I don't like this as a fair comparison of HDCAM vs. Z1U, I debated whether to link to this as misguided/inaccurate. My takeaway was that this is a good example of how folks are miscomparing a lot of stuff. Be thorough, be apples to apples, and for god's sake, don't compare a post produced, broadcasted, DVR'd, JPEG'd copy of something to give a definitive answer about the camera quality. Sheesh! This really irritated me to read.
SXSW on your iPod - want the full SXSW music schedule on your iPod? Want 750 FREE songs from SXSW music artists? Read this, git yerself BitTorrent. Here's a Wired article on it, too
From this page on the Apple website talking about Tiger Development tools for Core Image:
Not Just for Still Images
Core Video, joining Core Image in Mac OS X Tiger, delivers a modern foundation for video services, providing a bridge between QuickTime and the Quartz Core framework for hardware-accelerated video processing. In the same way that you can insert filters into the rendering pipeline for images, you can insert filters into the video display pipeline. Like Core Image, a Core Video pipeline reduces CPU load and increases performance for other operations. And Core Video allows developers to apply all the benefits of Core Image to video—blazingly fast performance of filters and effects, per-pixel accuracy and hardware scalability.
This is what I'm hoping FCP 5 and Motion 2 really hook into. Wait and see.
Hasselblad and Leica adopt Adobe's DNG spec - this falls under future think - search for DNG using the search bar at the top of this page, last year I wrote a bit about Adobe's DNG spec, a universal format for camera RAW format. I was basically saying it would be interesting to see this type of data format be carried over into the digital cinematography range. Nothing new has happened, it just reminds me of it. The Kinetta camera by Jeff Kreines is going to be recording all the raw data from his sensor, not in DNG but in some other format.
Ten Tips for Final Cut Pro HD found via CinemaMinima.com - registration required, but damn, these are GOOD! Take 2 minutes to register, it's worth it.
Timecode Window Burns
LiveType and Motion Projects
HD, G5, Cheap Drives
PowerBook Video Out
More Output Options
Get into Motion
Copy and Paste Changes
Print to Video
Expose and FCP HD
...OK, that's it for now. More to follow when I get time....
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
I've ALWAYS had sporadic trouble getting them to mount on certain cards - periodic trouble with the Sonnet Tempo X 4+4 cards (for some folks they work fine, for some they have occasional trouble like me, for a very few they can't get them to work). Since I installed the 1.0.1 firmware, they're working MUCH better. I've had one instance of failure to mount after a reboot. If I cold start, so far it works.
I gave a big Thumbs Down to the RocketRAID card based on my experiences trying to get it to work with the Maxtor drives...in a Burly Box. I could never get the RAID 5 function to behave properly with them.
I flat out couldn't get the SyncRAID XL card to work with them, to the bafflement of Netcell (the manufacturer). it wasn't until I tried the SyncRAID card in a G4/867 with some different drives (the Seagate 160 GB drives that are stock in G5's) that I could get it to work, and I've been using it off and on for a secure data backup. All of the "unique" footage from last week's shoot - the stuff recorded live to disk, so there is no tape backup - is sitting on a 600 GB SyncRAID XL volume right now for safekeeping in case I have trouble with a RAID 0. So far so good there.
The Firmtek cards have been the exception - in the beta testing I did with their cards, I don't recall having problems mounting (I might have, I'd have to check my notes, but I don't recall trouble).
I've been using some Seagate 7200.8 400GB drives for a few weeks with a variety of cards - Firmtek and Sonnet - and they have been FLAWLESS. They always mount, and never dropped a frame during all my live captures and tens of hours of testing (the Maxtors, when configured reasonably haven't dropped frames either). But they have been mounted in Seritek 1EN2 enclosures, so that is another variable to contend with.
So, for the moment, I have a TENDENCY, but not an absolute for sure thing, to recommend the Seagate drives over the Maxtors until I get some further information from testing.
I've had to reboot at least a half a dozen times tonight trying to just get the Mac to even SEE the existence of 8 drives to even attempt to set them up as a RAID 0, not a very encouraging thing for the future (this before the 1.0.1 firmware update on the Sonnet, and I had two Sonnet cards installed at the same time).
How sure do I feel about this? I'm thinking about buying 9 400 GB Seagates with my own money in the very near future, and possibly just eBay off those Maxtor drives. I'll either use the finalized Firmtek cards, and maybe it'll behave, or just get rid of'em. Depends on when Firmtek ships their 1VE4 cards, and how much I might get for the drives.
They're great for internal SATA drives - if you have a DV or SD or DVCPRO HD project, throw them in the secondary slot in the G5 - but on PCI-X cards, they've been giving me trouble to the point that I can't rely on them always showing up with a variety of different cards.
Others may be having better experiences, that this is mine.
Again, this is just me and my particular equipment, but that's what's going on at my studio. It's possible that the Burly Box might be a mitigating factor (or not), due to the little "pigtail" connector from case to drive, but all external solutions have SOMETHING like this going on, so I don't want to single it out. Just that my gear isn't working as smoothly as I'd like.
I had to return the Seagate drives before I got a chance to test RocketRAID again unfortunately, so that goes under "I don't have proof/evidence/data" at this point.
I may come across something that makes me say "Oh, never mind." but this is my thinking of the moment.
All this goes to say, it's not plug 'n play simple. Each card may have it's own peculiarities, and I know for a fact that some of them DEFINITELY do (SSC drives & Firmtek, for instance). So don't just buy any card, any case, and any drives and expect it to all work correctly. Either experiment on your own, or find an instance of someone else using the EXACT same gear for your EXACT same purposes. Assume nothing will work bullet proof until proven otherwise.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
I've also got some choice, select four letter words to use about certain SATA RAID configurations and combinations, but I'm letting myself cool off and test a few more things before I publicly discuss. Tonight I was trying to copy some data between a 4 drive RAID and an 8 drive RAID. It took much, much longer to get it all working than it did to copy over 800 GB of captured uncompressed HD footage. (Yeah, 800 GB qualifies as "some.")
I'm working on a Kona2 review, but I'm having a hard time keeping it from being a Kona2 vs. Blackmagic Decklink HD Pro comparison. I think I need to write a freestanding review of the Kona2, then do the Battle of The Beasts to give all the pros and cons of the two cards relative to each other, at least from this pre-NAB perspective. Both AJA and BlackMagic have recently revved their drivers, adding new features and fixing bugs, but I'm guessing we're getting close to the "pre-NAB quiet period" where they will just sit on new developments to splash them at NAB for maximum effect. So it's as good a time as any to pit them head to head.
The two companies have very different strategies, too - BlackMagic got their card out to market first (July/August I think), but with some holes in the feature set. But they rev their drivers often - once a month or more on average - whereas AJA didn't release their product to market until Oct/Nov 2004, but with a more robust feature set at launch than BMD did. BMD has some features AJA has promised but not yet delivered, AJA has some features I was surprised to discover BMD didn't have.
For every person that emails me and gets irked when I don't just say "which is better," it really does get down to a "What exactly do you plan to do with it?" type of deal to be able to recommend one over the other. Otherwise "Hey dude - they're both pretty cool - pick one." is my answer to "which is better."
All of this, of course, is speculation based on rumors and whatnot.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Well, no it doesn't. I capture footage, but the math is wrong. I'll have to revisit that. Multiplying by 2.5 doesn't capture "enough", I need to revisit my math. But it does work - I get beautiful slomo, but don't know how long to let it run to capture, which is kind crazy, since you end up running the tape far, far past the point that you want as a last frame before you hit stop. Not sure what's really going on in there, gotta slow down.
I'm terrible about actually reading manuals, websites, forums, etc., I'm sure others have addressed this elsewhere. I could pretend that is a "valid user scenario" since that's what most folks actually do, but one could also say I'm just lazy and just think I'm smart and can figure it out on my own. Road to Hell paved with good intentions and credit cards, etc.
MovieCal sucks for data entry, you have to highlight & delete text before you can enter anything else. So I used Hollywood Calculator (found it the same way) to add timecodes together.
You could always just capture at 60fps, take it into After Effects, and re-interpret the footage as 24fps. This just tells After Effects to pretend it's a 24fps file instead of 60fps. Then drop it into a composition and render it out.
Timecode is giving me serious trouble. This 24p stuff is very picky - if there's a timecode break, then it throws of the cadence, which aborts the capture. If there isn't enough pre-roll, it's all a huge, huge pain.
Experiencing some really wierd behavior - trying to enter 02:00:05:00, it gets interpreted as 02:00:14:something. Makes me want to fucking slap it across the room.
Overall, I've had a LOT of difficulty with either timecode breaks or cadence breaks on the DV tapes. The HD tapes didn't give me nearly this much trouble.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
-The HDCAM footage I debated whether to capture as 8 bit (as it really is on tape) or as 10 bit (as I'll be using it). I decided that since the goal is to get everything up to 10 bit 1080p24 anyway, I might as well capture this footage as 10 bit, since I'll want to slap it on a timeline with the "from disk" stuff, and I don't want to have to wait to render. So captured 10 bit, even though there are only 8 bits of relevant data in the footage coming from tape. So the last 2 bits are zeroes I guess? Not that it matters, just musing.
-the DVCPRO HD I decided to try a couple of different ways - as I posited on the blog the other day, in THEORY capturing natively over FireWire, capturing via HD-SDI, and capturing via HD-SDI to DVCPRO HD codec should all match. But I doubt they will. At the moment, all I have available is the HD-SDI only deck (not the newer AJ-HD1200A deck with FireWire). So I can capture uncompressed via HD-SDI, or capture to DVCPRO HD codec (Mac transcodes it on the fly during capture) from the HD-SDI.
For comparison purposes, I'm going to capture uncompressed 8 bit using the BlackMagic codec. The data on the tape is only 8 bits of resolution, so there's no QUALITY benefit to capturing 10 bit. Unlike the HDCAM footage which is already at 1920x1080 resolution on capture, I'm going to have to sample this up to 1920x1080 from 1280x720 (and really, from 960x720 from tape). So I might as well capture the "honest" 8 bits, since I'll never be dropping this on a timeline to try and play it (at this size) in 10 bits. So 8 bit capture.
So I sat and logged all the footage from the Varicam:
-open the log & capture window
-set up the reel (Varicam tape, so as not to be confused with Varicam Live)
-enter a description, but turn OFF the checkmark so it isn't part of the filename
-enter the Scene (from the #'s I came up with on set, that we put on the slate)
-I started entering stuff as "VCTScene5A" or "DVXScene5A" so I could easily distinguish one camera from another, both in the bins AND in the filenames as they were captured
-enter the take
-enter log notes (WS/MS/CU etc.)
-type in the In and Out points
-click Log Clip
-enter info for the next shot
After entering all this information, then I clicked Batch, and it should then capture all the clips unattended.
But it never does this perfectly for me, because I always mistype some timecode. I either forget to enter "01" at the beginning of the timecode, or when looking at #'s somebody wrote down that didn't include the frame #'s, I often forget those, so then FCP assumes hours are minutes and sticks "00" at the front, or other mistakes that I made. So then after it complains about going past the end of the tape, I opened up the bin and scanned carefully - I'd screwed up about 5 shots of the 25 or so. It's easy to mess up unless you're well disciplined, and eventually I started adding ":00" frame #'s in the hand written notes so I wouldn't forget and not type in enough numbers. Also, once you've logged it all and you're proofing it in the bin (don't forget you can drag column headers around to rearrange to make'em easier to read), if you change the timecode In Point, it will push the Time Code Out point further out to maintain the shot length. Grr. Then you have to adjust your Time Code Out back to what it was before. So correcting stuff is a fussy business. Get it right the first time, LOOK at your timecode in and out #'s before you click Log Clip. But once I got it all set up, it rolled smoothly.
THEN... the beauty of two machines. After it was finally running smoothly, while it was capturing I rolled over and started working on the DVX footage.
SETTING UP FOR DVX100A
While this is a DV camera, it ain't yo momma's DV camera - not only does it let you shoot an anamorphic 16:9, it'll shoot 24p. Not with a telecine style that has some frames living on individual fields instead of entire frames, this one lets you do advanced pulldown, where ALL frames live on their OWN frames, never are two frames of source material sharing one frame on tape (mixed fields in a frame). It does this with a 2:3:3:2 pulldown pattern of FRAMES, not fields. If that didn't make any sense, don't worry about it - just know that you get to always work with actual FRAMES of material and it's all good. When it's captured, it's converted to 24p, so you have 24 clean source frames a second to edit with. This is good.
BUT there isn't a preset for this - you have to duplicate and alter the DV advanced pulldown preset to amend the 16:9 anamorphic - click the checkbox in the new setting - to get it all set up right. And do the same for the Sequence Settings, duplicate DV NTSC Advanced Pulldown, add "Anamorphic" somewhere in the name, and check the little box. NOW you're ready to roll. The preview should be correct (16:9) not overly tall/boxy 4:3 aspect.
For future reference - it makes life MUCH easier and simpler for the person doing capture if the person on set logs BOTH timecode in and timecode out. True, you can derive TC in from the last TC out, but it's a pain to flip back and forth. And log ALL the numbers involved, including leading hours and frame count, it can get confusing. Even if you don't have time to write it all down on set, take time to go through your paper notes and fill it all in. I've linked on the blog recently to a page with a ton of forms etc. that are useful for making movies, probably there is a form there that has this kind of shot log set up. Time on set IS crucial, valuable, and irreplaceable. But time after the shoot can be spent cleaning up the shot log notes. Do it.
OK, as I write this, both machines are batch capturing from their respective decks (I'm using a DSR-11 to capture the DV). So in case you were wondering, it DEFINITELY pays off to just log everything and THEN batch capture, rather than capture single clips as you go. Test a couple of shots first to make sure it's working OK, then just log it all. Then proof your bins, make sure TC in and out match, there are no wacky long shots, nothing starts before the tape does, etc. Then highlight everything you want to capture, right click/control click to get a popup on one of the clips, and select Batch Capture. Make sure your presets are all OK and go. This is SOP for old hats at this, but I point this out for new folks.
I'm guessing a lot of folks are, or are going to be, renting decks for this kind of work. So you want to be SURE you got all your shots in correctly. First off, take a look at your shot log and scan down the bin in FCP to make sure that you got everything. I have a little system that I use - I make a checkmark next to the shot when I log it, make a second mark on it to make it an "X" when it's been captured, and after I proof it (more on that in a minute) I draw a circle around the X to indicate it's done and known good.
To proof your shots:
- double click the shot in the bin, and look at the timecode to make sure it matches what you wanted from your shot log/shot list. Check the in and out points. I have found that I'll goof up in some way and have multiple shots in one take. While this isn't lethal, I STRONGLY advise recapturing just the piece you need. While in theory you could proceed without, this means, especially when dealing with large uncompressed clips, that you're married to lugging around that big file, bigger than you need, throughout your post process. In editing it isn't so bad, but this becomes a problem if you're going to hand that clip off to effects or other people in your workgroup.
-this is why I never, EVER "just grab it all" from a loose shoot (no logs) and edit from that unless it's a total junk/who cares edit (or the old "quickie for a buddy). If it's a serious project (something I'm going to be spending a lot of time on), or going to be uncompressed files ever, or I'm going to be handing off clips to others to work with, I'll capture to OfflineRT (if SD video) in one big chunk, then dice it into individual clips, then I have a process I go through to allow me to batch recapture from those clips so everything is tidy. YES, I am anal as hell. There's a reason for it. 15 years of digital media production for a living.
-next press play (or "l" or the spacebar on your Mac keyboard) to start the clip playing. Watch to make sure that the shot indicated on the slate (you did slate all your shots, right?) matches the NAME you gave the shot. If I get it wrong, I relog and recapture the shot rather than just renaming it in the bin. Why? Because then your media file has a misleading name. In theory you could rename the media file, correct the stuff in bin, blah blah blah, but to relog & recapture is typically faster and DEFINITELY gets it right.
-TIP: repeatedly pressing the "l" key makes the clip play faster and faster. "k" stops, "j" rewinds (it can go faster backwards too). To slow from high speed and play at normal speed, just tap "k" and "l".
-in any case, scroll through the media file to make sure nothing wierd happened. If you're really thorough, you play the whole thing and watch it to make sure there weren't any dropouts or anything odd. Today I'm trusting my gear - I trust the HDCAM & DVCPRO HD decks are operating reliably, and if there's a problem with the DV stuff, it's easy enough for me to borrow something again and recapture.
- by scrolling through the file, you will catch if you accidentally got two shots in one media clip/media file. You'll see the scene jump and the slate (See? Slate yer shots!) reappear, which it shouldn't. For those cases, go back and recapture just what you need.
-other than looking at the timecode out #'s on your shot log and checking against the last frame's timecode on the clip, you have NO way of visually identifying if you got the whole clip just by looking at it. Especially in dialog or not very active shots, you might have accidentally not captured everything you wanted, or perhaps the shot log is incorrect. Double check the #'s, it's the only way to be sure.
-as I'm logging, I'm rounding my #'s off to whole seconds, just to be paranoid about the whole 24p thing. I'm rounding down for in points and up for out points to be sure I get everything and there's no wierdness involved. The only time that bites you is perhaps at the beginning and end of the tape.
OK, so my DVCPRO HD deck is done.
OK, so the DVCPRO HD deck is done. Now I proof it...and the second shot is too short, the MacBeth Color Chart. I didn't have solid timecode #'s for that and I clearly goofed somewhere along the way. See? Gotta proof it. The shot was only 10 seconds long. Now, it's a lockoff, so it doesn't REALLY matter, but if that had been a dialog scene obviously it would have.
I had lots of trouble with what I logged. On the DV deck from the DVX footage, I had wierdness/far too long shots even when clicking the In and Out points in the Log & Capture window.
That's it for now, I'll post more later...
Next up - trying to capture 60fps footage as 24fps so that I can get it as slomo. This definitely works via FireWire with the AJ-HD1200A, but over HD-SDI that's another issue.
Friday, March 04, 2005
This afternoon I picked up a DVCPRO HD deck, the older non-FireWire version. It'll be interesting to see if the BlackMagic drivers do what they say they will, and recognize the flagged frames so that I get the correct 24 frames per second out of the 60 recorded to tape. I'm curious to mess around with how it looks captured uncompressed over HD-SDI vs. captured & transcoded on the fly to DVCPRO HD. In THEORY they should match, but I'm 99% certain they won't. In theory, the footage has been recorded on the DVCPRO HD tape in the DVCPRO HD codec. It gets decompressed to an uncompressed HD-SDI signal, which gets captured by the HD-SDI tap on the BlackMagic DeckLink HD Pro card. Final Cut Pro HD using the G5 processor can compress (note I don't say convert) that signal back to the DVCPRO HD codec. IF the hardware in the deck uses the same math as the QuickTime DVCPRO HD codec, AND IF the codec will recompress perfectly from a decompressed signal, THEN the DVCPRO HD and HD-SDI would be an exact match. I'm betting not, I'll find out.
My friend Herb Bennett dropped off a DV deck for me to capture the footage from the XL2 and DVX100A. Thanks Herb! See, you made the blog!
So by the end of the weekend I should have all the footage from all the cameras into my editing system/s.
Then I just need to organize the bins very carefully to keep all my footage straight.
Then I can start doing some basic eyeball comparisons.
Then I can start messing with the scaling and de-interlacing software.
Then I can start making some real apples to apples comparisons.
I've noticed that while the set was lit for the F900, the HDV camera was struggling to differentiate shadow detail. I'm betting the other cameras will look a bit dark, since the F900 has pretty good light sensitivity (at that price point it better).
Perhaps in a perfect world I would have lit each shot for each camera. But there's no way we had time to do that. Perhaps, in retrospect, we should have lit in a fashion that was easier for other cameras to handle. We didn't.
So this is more of a "F900 vs. Everybody Else" test than a true side by side comparison of everything.
Except for the outdoor shots - they all had PLENTY of light there, it was a gorgeous cloudless day.
More as the weekend progresses....I'm off to the new Alamo Drafthouse opening tonight, gonna see Be Cool. I was listening to John Travolta on NPR talking about Pulp Fiction while I was driving around town today, that was Cool.
Movies R Fun.
I Wanna Make Sum.
-I used both LumiereHD to capture the raw .m2t files, as well as iMovieHD to capture to the AIC codec
-iMovieHD is definitely tons easier - have a graphical feedback on screen (although it lags the camera) and you can just double tap the Import button at scene breaks
-normally you could rely on time of day codes to help break the footage into scenes, but the HVR-Z1U was set up for record run, so timecode is perfectly sequential, as it should be on a pro format tape. But this meant no auto-scene detection I think, so I had to manually capture scenes
-working with LumiereHD was a bit more cumbersome. Unless I were to use the Auto Increment function for naming clips, I had to capture a clip, stop the deck, type in new clip's name, rewind the tape a little bit, start playing, recapture.
-iMovieHD just starts naming clips Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3, etc. So my media files are named that too and give me no clue as to what scene/take they are, I have to look at the footage and look at the slate in the shot
-iMovieHD was reporting 3/4 speed capture...this on a dual 2.5 GHz G5. Maybe because I was double tapping the Import button between scenes in order to force a new clip?
-the scaling in iMovieHD during full screen playback on a 1920x1200 resolution CRT was very nice, at casual glance it was nicer than how similar footage looked in After Effects scaled with High Quality turned on. This is preliminary, I'll need to play with all this more...
That's it for now.
It seems possible that Maxtor Maxline III drives and DiamondMax 10 drives are causing more problems than other drives, such as those from Hitachi or Seagate. So if you have a choice, consider the 7K250 or 7K400 drives from Hitachi, or the 7200.8 line from Seagate. Again, I'm not saying those drives are bad/flawed/wrong, but I'm hearing more reports of trouble with those than others. Then again, the Seagates are brand new (but I've been working with some of them, OK so far) so there may not be as many units in the field to report problems, and the Maxtor drives (especially the DiamondMax 10's) are very very popular since they are fast and inexpensive. This might be like the Audi 5000 crucifiction - the Audi 5000's were the least expensive European import car, and although their rate of accidents per cars sold was in line with other vehicles with unintentional acceleration (like the Nissan 300ZX which I think had higher rates of accidents), so the appearance was that they were more prone to unintentional acceleration, even though the rate was the same as other vehicles.
So just because they are popular, that may generate more reports of trouble with those than with other drives that don't have as many units in the field.
Also, based on some limited, non-scientific testing, it seems like SoftRAID formatted arrays capture a little more reliably than Apple Disk Utility formatted arrays. The Apple Disk Utility has at times reported higher throughput numbers, but in practice, so far, in my limited testing, I'm getting fewer dropped frames with SoftRAID formatted units than with Apple Disk Utility units. Again, this could be wrong, this could be due to other testing methodologies I'm using, or to certain persnickety aspects of SATA RAID 0 setups on Macs, but that's my gut sense so far. Maybe it has to do with the fact that SoftRAID lets you select larger block sizes during RAID setup, whereas Apple Disk Utility gives no control over this.
To be clear, all of the above is conjecture. Here's why I'm writing this - What's your experience with your SATA RAID setups, and what software are you using to set up your RAIDs? Let me know, I'm trying to get to the bottom of all this.
Email me your experiences at mike[at]hdforindies[dot]com.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
He had recently purchased an HDR-FX1, and had read my posts about AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec) and iMovieHD to Final Cut Pro HD workflows.
I was saying it looks like FCP 5 won't get here until this summer, June at the earliest if the rumors are true that it will depend on QuickTime 7, which is part of, and relies heavily on, the forthcoming OS X 10.4, which I think/surmise will be delivered by June 6th at the Apple WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference).
I was saying that my iMovieHD/Final Cut Express HD workflow to get AIC into Final Cut Pro didn't quite work - it works for footage IMPORTED from disk in whatever codec into iMovieHD and transcoded to AIC, but NOT for footage CAPTURED FROM HDV TAPE into iMovieHD in a more "normal" workflow. I had used LumiereHD to transcode a native .m2t stream to a lossless codec to import into iMovieHD to get an AIC version of it. Cumbersome, but it did work within my limited needs and abilities at the time (I didn't have a camera to capture footage from, just downloaded .m2t from internet).
So he wanted to know what did work, what could he use to get his HDV footage into FCP.
I suggested he see my link to Marcus Van Bavel's page on DVFilm to see if that helped, it discusses some of the problems with iMovieHD imported footage. By the way, I undersold that link - it also clearly explains why you don't want to use CineFrame 24p mode if you want to make a 24p master (you'd lose half the vertical resolution). Or better yet, here's the Mac specific page with all the right info.
I suggested he try Lumiere HD, which will definitely work. You can transcode directly to any codec you choose - be it DVCPRO HD, PhotoJPEG, or uncompressed.
That got me thinking - presently, Apple's non-professional video applications are iMovieHD and Final Cut Express HD. Both transcode on the fly (if your computer is fast enough) to AIC. If your computer isn't fast enough, it buffers the MPEG-2 stream coming in from the camera over FireWire and chugs away at converting it to AIC.
So what happens when the "REAL" professional app gets here, Final Cut Pro HD?
Are they going to ONLY transcode to AIC?
A feature I'd like to see would be the option to transcode DIRECTLY to the codec of your choice, without having to go through the AIC as an intermediate, lossy step.
HDV footage is really high res MPEG-2, which means it's a VERY heavily compressed codec. Transcoding is the process of recompressing footage to yet another codec. So iMovieHD and FCE HD both transcode from HDV (really MPEG-2) to AIC.
I'd like to see an option in FCP 5 to not just go to AIC, but to other codecs as well, such as DVCPRO HD (if that made sense, AIC may be a better fit anyway) or certainly an uncompressed codec of my choice (I might want to use the BlackMagic codec instead of Apple's Uncompressed codec).
That way, there's no middle step that is lossy (further degrades the image).
It wouldn't be hard to do in software -they already have a codebase for non-realtime conversion from MPEG-2 to another codec (AIC), that's how they handle it on machines not fast enough for realtime conversion. So snag that codebase and slap a dialog in there to write it out to another codec, and perhaps scale it as necessary (some codecs have fixed sizes that aren't 1280x720 or 1920x1080).
This may well already be a feature planned for FCP 5, I have no idea and no insider information, just thought of this now.
But that way, you could work on your MPEG-2 footage and keep it as high quality as possible.
I'll need to go check to see if it's possible to capture DV to uncompressed codec - I haven't had need to ever try this, I would just select the Media Manager and use the Recompress To function to flip DV to lossless codec for better quality color correction and compositng.
My general understanding (and it's far from perfect or fully informed) is that FCP typically "wants" you to acquire in a native codec and stay there unless you're willing to do Media Manager tricks. So what I'm suggesting is a bit of a shift, and really only the quality Nazis like me might be the only ones who care.
But it would be nice to have the option of direct transcoding of MPEG-2 to uncompressed, rather than having to step it through AIC along the way, which is a lossy process. That would be a more professional level choice to my mind. I'm not at ALL suggesting replacing AIC conversion with that, I'd want it as another choice in the capture presets.
If they don't offer it, we can always use LumiereHD to get lossless conversion of HDV, but there are some issues and hassles involved.
- How can I post my HDCAM/DVCPRO HD project that's already in the can? (this is an easy and common one)
- What are the pros & cons of HD vs film for my project? (I can answer certain aspects of that, but not all - I'm not a DP/shooter)
- What HD format should I shoot on? What camera should I shoot with? (I can answer some aspects of that, not all of that, again I'm not a DP/shooter.)
- How can I post it, either online or offline? (This is where I'm best.)
- What system should I get to meet those needs? (This too.)
- What workflow do I need for my specific project's needs? (I've spent a large amount of time working on this particular issue, and have a lot to say about it. This can take a while to discuss in detail if you want a roadmap.)
Most folks can get the basic answers they need within an hour. Obviously, if they have several of the above questions and need more than just machine specifications, that takes longer, but I can do that too.
I do not at this time directly sell systems; I did that during the desktop publishing revolution and found there's just not enough margin in it to satisfy my needs, that post-sales questions drag all the profit (and more) out of it. But I can definitely give you independent advice, free from the potential undue influence of sales commission or "but that's the one we carry, so that's what we'll tell you is best."
If I get into an area where I'm out of my depth, I'll be very straightforward about letting you know. If your main question is something I can't address and I can't help you, obviously I won't bill you for that aspect of our Q&A.
If you want to end up with a specific list of parts to get and where to get them if you want to do it yourself at minimal cost, I can help you with that. If you want to get a VAR's help (Value Added Reseller), I have a few I've developed a working relationship and trust with that I can send you to, based on various needs/wants of yourself and your project. A good VAR will set up and support your system, but will charge more upfront. I recommend a VAR (or my own consulting & support services) if you aren't already very technically proficient. A VAR will get it up and working, but it's not their job (unless you get that as part of the bid) to train you on how to get specific things done. "Make it work" is their primary task, "How should I do this particular thing?" is frequently outside of their project scope (unless you pay extra).
I've also been doing more and more industry consulting, to the point that's my primary source of income over the last couple of years. If you have a product in this space, I do beta testing, pre-release reviews/analysis, technology roadmap consulting (in the areas where I feel qualified), workflow/process/content optimization, and other activities typically covered by an NDA. I've had a long and non-typical work history that sometimes gives me unique insight or knowledge based on a combination of fields. I've worked in high tech, imaging/pre-press, multimedia, digital video, HD, visual effects, motion graphics, startups, web tech, industrial & user interface design, and marketing, just to name a few. I spent many years doing high tech business to business marketing communications for high tech companies, so I'm an odd duck in that I can talk comfortably to the engineers as well as the design and marketing folks in their native tongues.
OK, end of gratuitous plug.
But that's a fair slice of what I can do for you or your company.
And again, feel free to write in with questions, just please don't be upset if I don't choose to answer it all for free. I do respond to all non-spam mail, though.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
After carefully typing in descriptions, names, etc. in iPhoto, it DOESN'T carry those text descriptions over to the web page. What a pain. So you get abbreviated descriptions, sorry. So a brief description of what you're seeing: the choice of props looks odd at first until you know why:
- an ugly shiny red leather chair chosen for it's saturated color and reflective surface
- an ugly brown matte chair for shadow detail
- the white backdrop has the black curtain pulled halfway into frame, so we could see how much highlight/shadow detail was held by the various cameras
- a bunch of colored plates & Fiestaware, chosen for still life purposes - color, detail, saturation, highlights, etc.
- a bunch of ugly blankets chosen for their annoying patterns, to see how DV vs HD held detail, and to see how well codecs handled the patterns/textures
- a couple of nice attractive actors who improvised hilariously, so we could see human interaction, motion, and skin tone
As I said the other day, we shot in studio with regular and low lighting, hand held and on sticks, stills and motion, panning and locked off, indoors and out, 24p and 60i and 60p and 50i, everything I could think of that would be realistic for a relatively low budget indie production wanting to use these cameras to "make a movie." Not a commercial, a movie, with the possibility of going out to film.
Pictures include how we set up the stage area, what we shot, what we shot with, and some shots of my ugly, ugly Test Mule for my HD uncompressed rig (it's going to be much, much tidier than that in production trim, don't worry).
The interesting part was that besides shooting HDCAM, DVCPRO HD, HDV, and two DV cameras, the F900 (HDCAM) and Varicam (DVCPRO HD) were also recorded uncompressed to disk.
The advantage of this is as follows:
HDCAM on F900 records 1440x1080 pixels, at 8 bits/channel, compressed down to 22.5 MB/sec (I think that number is right). The uncompressed rig records 1920x1080 pixels, at 10 bits/channel, with NO compression whatsoever, at about 130 MB/sec, to hotswap disks you can load/attach to your G5.
DVCPRO HD on Varicam records 960x720 pixels, at 8 bits/channel, compressed to about 5.4 MB/sec (for 24p). I recorded 1280x720 pixels, at 10 bits/channel, uncompressed at about 55 MB/sec to disk.
You get to log your shots as you shoot'em, so everything is very very organized. Even your media clips are logically named this way, and feeds straight into an FCP HD bin.
When we shot low light shots, or went back to our regular lighting setup, the prior footage was instantaneously findable BY NAME and available and viewable on a 23" monitor, so we were able to verify exposure levels and framing. Very very handy, didn't have to load in other tapes or roll back or any of that nonsense. And it was one click flippable between live and pre-recorded to check framing (or actually, we could have done side by side, but not full screen).
Most of yesterday and today were a day off, I've had Hard Things going on in my personal life, needed a break. Tomorrow I get back into all this.
I'm working on organizing all the footage, getting it all carefully logged, labelled, organized from what was recorded straight to disk, and next is to digitize all the footage from tape (oy, lots - we had about 25-30 shots per camera, 5 cameras). After that, I'll be messing with various uprez tools and 50i to 24p tools to get everything up to 1080p 10 bit uncompressed resolution.
Some of the software and processes I'll be messing with: DVFilmaker for de-interlacing, Film Effects 2.0 for the same, Magic Bullet 2.0 for the same, Cleaner's ability to de-interlace and scale and codec flip (I've seen some issues with gama shifts in YUV, have to nail down exactly what's going on), Compression Master (I just read a review that said it has trouble with HD footage, have to check that out), After Effects for de-interlace and scaling, and possibly the Algolith plug-ins if I can get them to donate a set as well (hint hint! Everyone else has....), but I haven't contacted them yet.
This will be a great test of reality performance rather than just lab/demo performance for all these products.
This will be a very good test of real world SATA array performance as well. I've done tons of testing and short work on SATA arrays, and started seeing some odd behavior that could potentially be a serious problem when working on long form or lots of data, beyond just the "inner tracks are slower" issues I've been writing about in the past.
I had hoped to get all this footage processed and compared and hold some kind of a screening during the SXSW Film Conference, but alas, that is not to be. This all came together too late to schedule it in, and I'd have to kill myself to prep all the footage in time anyway. I'm thinking of trying to find a venue to do at least one if not a series of seminars on the various things learnable from this: differences between cameras & formats, how the various de-interlacing and uprez software solutions work, how does tape compare to uncompressed to disk, etc. etc. etc.
All in time.
So take a look at the pictures, that's all that's ready now.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Short but interesting.