Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cannes 2014

Cannes is nearly upon us... the yearly gathering of producers, directors, financiers and any else who's part of the movie industry. It's a fortnight of meetings, networking, parties and premieres... and quite a lot of bullshit too. It's always good to remember - just because you're there doing genuine business - it doesn't mean everyone else is. Cannes is the place to go to find people to work with on future projects or maybe to find distribution or sales for your current project, but it's also full of people trying to blag something for nothing. Some go purely for the parties... fine...no harm in that... but others will tell you what you want to hear in order to appear to be people worth talking to. My advice is simple: Real people leave a trail of evidence of their work... use the internet on your phone to check people out before you waste valuable networking time talking to a wannabe. I've had first time filmmakers in Cannes with no track record ask me if i could help them find £100m for the their first feature. A) What? £100m???  B)No.

Even if you don't have a reason to go to Cannes this year, it's worth checking it out as there's nothing that brings home how the industry works better than a trip to Cannes.  Walking around the Marche' Du Film is a revelation - it was for me when i first went back in 2010. The sheer amount of films looking for distribution... it's staggering... and all the posters. It really makes you realise that artwork is vital... and your classy artwork you've designed for your indiefilm is probably unoriginal and totally wrong to sell your film.  It's also amazing to talk to buyers and sales agents face to face. Their take on the industry is very different to that of a filmmaker. It's time well spent if you can find out what they are looking for... you'll be very surprised.

The Grand Hotel

It's very humbling walking around Cannes with your latest film in your bag ready to pitch, when you are surrounded by hundreds of other filmmakers doing exactly the same thing..  you begin to realise that you need to stand out... you need an angle and it's all about who you know..  None of it helps if you don't have a killer movie, but you need connections.

I've been lucky to make some great connections in Cannes, many of whom i'll be meeting again this year - people who really help push things forward.... but i'm always looking for new connections and that starts now, weeks before we even leave. I suggest you do the same.

Tips for where to go? Ok...  obviously, the Marche Du Film and the Pavilions during the day. Talk to people... don't be scared to approach people and ask what they are in Cannes for - strike up conversation.  In the evenings, Le Petit Majestic is a riot... a little street bar behind the main Croisette... this place is the best street bar during festival time. Expect to find lots of interesting people here... often the real people behind the bigger companies come here. The lawn of The Grand is the place to be for networking with the movers and shakers - they'll be players too - but this is a great place to meet up with other producers and filmmakers - not to mention some big industry names sometimes.

Don't forget the boat parties...

Other than that, there's the parties.... the parties are often where the main action is. But how to get an invite? That's what connections are for. Ask around in the Pavilions during the day...  look online... there's always a way.

My final tip is this: It's very easy to enjoy Cannes... it's warm, it's beautiful, it's fun... but don't forget why you are there. Make every day count. Meet people. Sell your film. Pitch your project. Do what you came to do.

See you there.


Friday, April 11, 2014

NAB....the aftermath...

Anyone who's been keeping an eye on new camera releases at NAB can't have failed to notice these two beasts... the Blackmagic URSA and the AJA CION. Both made quite a splash. To be fair, the Blackmagic has probably made the biggest impact, for several reasons...

  • It's price... it's only $6k.
  • The huge 10 inch flip-out screen... it's a bit mental how big that is.
  • Two other big screens for settings and menus.
  • User interchangeable sensor/lens mount.
  • Did i mention the price?
As you know, these are both 4k cameras. The CION look like a sensible and solid piece of kit, but next to the Blackmagic, it looks a little a) Basic and b) Expensive. A crazy thing to say about a sub $10k 4K cinema camera.... but that's where we're at these days.

So how do these new cameras affect my future workflow? Well, i haven't announced it yet, but now is a good a time as any...  in the autumn, probably October/November this year i will be shooting my next feature.  It was possible that this might have happened earlier, but 'Seven Cases' has taken a bit longer than we thought and we're keen not to rush it.  Anyway... the next feature will be shot in 4K. I probably won't edit in 4K though. I'm planning on shooting 4K for a 2K edit. This gives me enormous potential for stabilisation, re-framing and generally producing a more polished result. None of the distributors i work with are asking for anything more than a 2K master.

So which 4K cameras will i use? I will admit that the feature set of the Blackmagic is very tempting... if they've done a good job with the build quality and the firmware and it doesn't suffer any of the weirdness of the 4K Production camera, then it might be a good bet... but, there's still something that bothers me. The lovely people over at Atomos have announced the Shogun 4K recorder. This looks stunning and i'm already a big fan of their products and workflow - i trust them. But, teaming a Shogun with a Blackmagic will be a big old rig... probably to big. (The camera weighs 16lbs) What i really need is a nice, compact 4K sensor to use with a Shogun. There's the GH4 of course...which i really like the look of, but i'm not sure it's an 'A' camera for a feature...  i'll have to wait until i can test one.

It's funny... i remember trying to choose between the FS100, the 5Dmk2 and AF101 a few years ago... i chose the FS100 and it's still going strong. With that way technology is advancing now, i'd doubt my next camera will work with me for as long...

Monday, April 7, 2014

ATOMOS Announce 4K Shogun AND Ninja Star (a 3.5oz Ninja)

Atomos are wiping the floor with the competition today as they announce two new products...

First, the Shogun - A 4K Recorder with a 7" 1920 X 1200 screen, HD-SDi & HDMI

Second, the Ninja Star - An HD ProRes Recorder that is tiny and weighs just 3.5oz

Take a look:

It looks like we can load LUTS into the Shogun.... that's going to be really useful. "With a calibrated monitor the most important aspect of ensuring you capture the exact look, feel and color emotion is with the ability to apply standard or custom 3D LUT’s. The Shogun provides complete customisation and flexibility to ensure you always get what you want when it matters - at the time you shoot."

This has to be a killer product..  especially when you pair it with either the new Sony A7S or the Lumix GH4... but it's also a massive improvement over any 4K solution i've ever seen. I can see the Shogun taking it's place alongside any of the new crop of 4K cameras out there. It gives us what we want - ProResHQ at 4K and Cinema DNG.... the best of both worlds with no daft licenses to buy or hire like with the Odyssey 7Q.. not to mention the cheaper media, the better screen... the list goes on.

Nice one Atomos. Makes me very happy i'm already in the Atomos workflow...  the next feature will definitely be using the Shogun.

No one has addressed the growing market for drones as far as ProRes recorders go. Atomos have taken their Ninja and shrunk it to make it the perfect product for Drones and other action-cam type situations. You can mount these things on your head alongside a GoPro now... that's exiting.

As this is already doing the rounds...come back later for more...

NAB News from Vegas... 9am Las Vegas time...5pm UK time...

I may not be at NAB this year... but i've got some exclusive and very exciting news to break as soon as doors open at NAB...

There's some new stuff which is rumoured and hoped for... but nothing is confirmed - yet.

Be back here at 5pm on Monday (UK time) or 9am Las Vegas time...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

GenusTech Test Shoot

So yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in Hertfordshire, so i headed to a local park to do some test shooting with the new toys that GenusTech sent over.

Just so you know, i'll only endorse something that i actually use and think represents good value and high quality for filmmakers like myself. If it's crap, i'll say so.

Firstly, there's the PV MatteBox. This is so well made.... a huge improvement over my previous model. It has the option to clamp onto your lens using a variety of lens adapters or you can mount it on your rail system using an adjustable riser. It comes with 2 filter trays, one rotating and one fixed. There's also a french flag which attaches to the front lip. If you've never physically used a properly built MatteBox before, you'll be surprised how much more sturdy they are than the cheaper varieties often found on eBay. This thing does not wobble or creak or move in any way once it's locked into position. But, if you need to move it to change lenses, it's easy to do. A very high quality product.

From the same stable comes the Bravo Follow-Focus. When Mark from GenusTech said he might have a solution for me going through follow-focus units (they break on me...), i was keen to try it out. I often take quite a bit of weigh on the follow-focus as i focus as i am shooting hand-held, so one hand is always on the focus. This has broken my previous models. The Bravo is built like a tank. It's made from metal, not plastic and secure in place with a thumbwheel for the 'in and out' and a turn-type grip for the back and forth on the rails. There's no play at all and the control feels very solid. There are 2 'stops' you can set to achieve a perfect rack-focus effect and these are very easily moved and set in new positions or just kept out of the way if required. I've only used it for one day, but i can see this being part of my rig from now on. It's a step ahead of other models i have used.

The Mini-Jib (I reviewed in this month's Digital Film Maker magazine) is a very useful and innovation bit of gear. My previous jib weighed 12 times what the mini-jib weighs!!! That would be less surprising if this little jib couldn't lift the same weight... but it can. It comes in a cool little bag which you can easily carry on your shoulder and it rigs right on top of your usual tripod without removing the head...   Once it's rigged, it performs just like any other jib. It extends using telescopic arms and counterbalances using regular dumb-bell weights. I really like this jib. For those spur of the moment jib shots where you really don't want to spend half and hour rigging a full sized jib, this is perfect. It's also great for guerilla shoots as it's so quick and easy to rig up and down.

Lastly, there's the MoCo motion controller. This genius little device allows you to get beautiful, slow sweeping lift shots from the mini-jib without worrying about your clumsy self ruining the shot... let the MoCo do the work. I also used it on my slider/dolly and it brings a whole new lease of life to tracking shots. We shot all day on one set of AA batteries and they are still going strong. Excellent product.

We shot using a Sony FS100 with a GenusTech Cheeseplate and an Atomos Ninja Blade on recording duties. The gear shots were done with a GoPro Hero3 and a Canon 550D.

Massive thanks to Mark and Sandy at GenusTech.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Reviews coming soon...

Just a heads up that some great quality gear from GenusTech has turned up and i'm working on some reviews and a video to show it off.

I'll cover the GenusTech PV MatteBox, the new Bravo Follow-Focus, The MoCo motion controller and the Mini-Jib designed in conjunction with DSLR-Devices. It's all very well built stuff and i'm looking forward to shooting a project with it all next week.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Horror Cult Films - Seven Cases

Those horror & cult film fanatics over at errr... Horror Cult Films, have run a piece on Seven Cases.  Always a good place to find out about interesting new films coming your way... check them out:


Monday, March 3, 2014


I'm proud to present the preview trailer for 'Seven Cases'... my latest feature produced by Jon Atkinson and myself and featuring a very talented cast including:

  • Steven Berkoff
  • Dave Vincent Phillips
  • Paul Cooper
  • Samantha Fox
  • Saffron
  • Hal Fowler
  • Emily Heighway
  • Dan Peters
  • Julian Rochfort

The picture is in post production and will be completed in time for early summer previews, starting with Cannes in May.

4K - What's it all about?

Do you need to be shooting 4K? Is it even a good idea to consider it? Why is 4K suddenly being touted as the 'must have' spec on a shoot? Let's cut through some of the shit...

To begin with, 4K is not 'what we see at the cinema'.. that's a fallacy.  Most digital projectors in cinemas are 2K or sometimes just HD. It's very rare to see a 4K projector in a regular cinema. Do people go to the manager and demand their money back because they watched the latest blockbuster in 2K or HD? No... of course not.

Nearly all of the Oscar nominated pictures this year were shot at resolutions way below 4K. Most we shot on Arri Alexas or other similar cameras capturing between HD (1080p) and 2.8K. Did anyone think this year's crop of films look sub-par? Not enough resolution for you? Of course not.

Then there's the total mis-understanding of resolution in the first place. A 4K image from a sensor that doesn't have a similarly high spec'ed dynamic range and and bit depth isn't going to look any better, if actually better at all, than a top notch HD image. Why is the Arri Alexa so popular? It has an excellent dynamic range, a high bit rate and probably the best de-bayer in any digital cinema camera - and that adds up to an image the beats most 4K images. Adding pixels increases noise, increases the chances of getting moire and doesn't create a more filmic image in it's own right. Resolution is only one part of the solution.

Let's say you decide that 4K is future proof. Is it really? What 4K viewing options are there right now? There's no 4K broadcasts. No domestic 4K media and just about nobody has a 4K TV or 4K computer monitor... So who's going to benefit? You? No... you'll have to find room for approx 15GB per minute of RAW 4K footage. Yes... that's 15GB for each minute. Remember, you need it to exist in 3 places before it can be considered 'safe'.  That's 45GB per minute. 1 Hour of footage? That's just under a TerraByte.  I don't know what your shooting ratio is, but i could easily shoot 10 hours for a 90minute feature.  You might be thinking that it's ok because Hard Drives are cheap. True... but you need to have expensive media to capture onto first and then that needs 'laying off' to 3 other drives. Even with ThunderBolt... that's a lot of work. You will definitely need a camera assistant or DiT to help.

What about your edit system? Can your ageing iMac or Macbook Pro cope with 4K editing? Probably not very well. You'll need a new Mac Pro or you could make proxies of all your footage and edit from them before doing a conform at the end. So that means making proxies of all your footage... another long step to consider.

I'm sure you get my gist by now...  4K is not the saviour of digital video. It's a huge pain in the arse unless you have a lot of money to play with and you don't mind it impacting on the whole production process from shooting, file management and backing up to render times output and eventually, screening. The world is not set up for 4K yet. I've said it before and i'll say it again. Well shot HD looks stunning on a huge cinema screen. Spend your money on better lighting, better lenses and better talent.... it will be much more apparent.

I think the most interesting camera on the horizon, has to be the VariCam35 from Panasonic. After sitting back and watching the scramble for 4K, i think they might just do something great. Especially after seeing the GH4 from their consumer/stills dept.

Lastly.. i am not completely anti 4K. Clearly, the images from a 4K camera have some advantages, but i'm not seeing enough to make me want to move up to that amount of hassle yet. When someone brings out an external recorder that can capture 4K Pro Res HQ (i really don't need RAW...and you probably don't either) and a camera comes along that has matching dynamic range, low light capability and a sensible price tag.. i'll certainly think about it. But, right here, right now... the rush for 4K means there's some unbelievable deals on high-end HD cinema cameras....and their images are going to trounce budget 4K any day of the week.

Friday, February 28, 2014

BVE 2014...

The first BVE i went to back in 2010 was all about the DSLR revolution. The cameras on the stands were the RED One, the 5D Mk2 , the Panasonic HMC151 and the Sony NEX range..  how things have changed. This year, it was all about the BlackMagic Cameras, The Alexa, The Amira and still a few RED Epics around. The 'camcorder' side of things is far smaller and more emphasis is given to proper cinema cameras and even the DSLR is still hanging on...  The Large sensor revolution really did have an impact in the last few years.

Noticeable exhibits included:

  • The Atomos Ninja Blade - It won the best new product at BVE award - well deserved.
  • The Arri Amira - Lots of interest in this high end TV/Indie/doc cam.
  • The BMCC Production Camera. The 'almost' 4K camera.
  • The BMCC Pocket Camera. It's tiny. It shoots ProRes. It eats batteries. Lots of nice rigs for it.
  • The GenusTech Mini-Jib and Motion Control System - Awesome light jib and motion controller.
  • The Panasonic GH4 - Full 10bit 422 from the HDMI output. The DSLR is back..now in 4K.

CVP had an impressive stand with many cameras to play with... The ProductionGear stand was rammed... lots of interesting stuff from GenusTech and others including the really interesting Samyang DSLR cinema lens kits (review coming soon), the BeSteady Gimbal Stabilizer and the Phantom2 quadcopter.  Atomos had a very busy stand showing off the new Ninja Blade, Samurai Blade and the rest of the range. While other stands went for static set-ups to test cameras, or even a kitchen with people cooking nice food, Atomos won with their girl being body painted... it attracted a lot of attention, and was perfect for test shots.

Very affordable monitoring from BlackMagic Design

I met up with Mark from GenusTech who introduced to me to James Smith of DSLR Devices who has lots of interesting products up his sleeve for the near future. Mark also introduced me to Steve from ProductionGear who was rushed off his feet doing great business on their stand. I also met up with Jeromy from Atomos. He was literally running around demonstrating the Atomos range and doing interviews left, right and centre.. It's good to see his enthusiasm and drive pay off.

The impressive Atomos Stand with the bargain priced Ninja Blade and Samurai Blade

I briefly caught a glimpse of Philip Bloom, who appears to have changed colour and lost 5 stone...haha.. bless him, he's been busy.

Looking forward to hearing news from NAB... sounds like there might be some good stuff coming.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Announced Today - Atomos Ninja Blade!

Yes... it's true. Today, Atomos announces the Ninja Blade - all the great features of the Samurai Blade but with HDMI connectivity instead of HD-SDI. It's what a lot of DSLR and large sensor HD camera users have been waiting for. I've been lucky enough to have had the Ninja Blade for the last few weeks for testing, and i can tell you that it's a fantastic bit of kit with an unbelievably low price tag.

Get down to BVE in London this week to see the Ninja Blade in the flesh.

Check out the video below:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

BVE - Excel, London - This Week!

This week is the BVE exhibition at Excel in London. It's becoming the 'go to' exhibition for seeing the latest broadcast and filming equipment and for getting some killer deals. There's also some fantastic seminars from some of the industry's most respected people.

I'm going to be there on Wednesday 26th to see the chaps at Atomos and GenusTech and generally have a look around and meet up with various people i don't get to see too often.

The opening day of BVE - The 25th Feb - is a big news day. Make sure you come here, to this blog first thing on tuesday morning and you'll see something very cool.... that's a promise. I can't say any more than that at the moment.

Also coming soon is a video review of GenusTech's new Jib. I've been testing it for a few days now and it's fantastic. It's small, light and very very capable.. It's really surprised me how good this jib is considering how compact and transportable it is.

In other news... 'Seven Cases' is finally locked... we're now working full-time on the audio post side of things.  We're so pleased with how it's looking and Jon Atkinson's score is sounding epic... can't wait to show people this film. If you're going to be in Cannes and you want to see it, get in touch.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

'Making Of' Video for 'Seven Cases'

A quick look at how grading and chroma keying can make a huge difference to your shots. These are all shots from my latest feature 'Seven Cases' featuring the great Steven Berkoff.

Everything you see was done within Final Cut Pro X.

Digital Workflow on 'Seven Cases'

When we were preparing to shoot 'Seven Cases' back in early summer last year, we already knew how we were going to work with the footage. Unlike 'Rehab' (The Addicted) , my previous feature, we were going to be editing on FCPX and not FCP7. However just like 'Rehab', we would be shooting on the Sony FS100 and capturing to the Atomos Ninja 2. I love the Atomos way of working. It's quick, reliable and very high quality.

On set, i would shoot using Frank Glencairn's G-Log profile, which gave me a very low contrast Log type picture. It would be captured on the Ninja2 using the Pro Res HQ codec for the highest bitrate possible.  I would always light each scene in a such a way that it would be several stops brighter than i want the final picture to look like. I find the G-Log picture profile when captured with Pro Res HQ can be graded very extensively before any degradation takes place. A lot of the film is set in a car and we decided to shoot all of the interiors against a green screen. We lit these shots using a combination of Red Heads on the green screen itself and Dedos on the actors in the car. These Dedos would be dimmed to get the look just right, although again, a few stops brighter than i wanted for the final look. When i put these elements together with the plates back in the edit, it looked perfect.

To give the car interiors the realism to sell the shot, we did a few things...

  • Rock the car slightly whilst shooting
  • Move lights (both white and red) across the actor's faces whilst shooting
  • Add 'shake' to the shot in post to mimic a less than perfect camera mounting
  • Add gaussian blur and lots of stablization to the plates for the background
  • The rest is down to the audio.

My shoot-to-post routine is very simple and keeps things organised for the edit.
When i get back from a shoot, i immediately put the Ninja disks into the dock and copy the footage to the HD for the project and also a back-up disk.

I then use an app called 'Re-namer' to rename all the Pro Res files to something that makes sense. Usually this includes the shoot day and the scene. For example:


It's then quite simple to scan through the footage in FCPX using Keywords and find the bits i need. Once they are cut into position i perform a first-pass grade using both mLooks and the included colour board. I might also add any noise reduction or stablization they need. These settings can then be very quickly copied and pasted to other clips in the same scene as a good starting point. This makes the edit very quick and easy to see how the finished result will look.

They were a lot of composite shots in this film. All of Steven Berkoff's scenes were in front of 6 green screened computer monitors and there are also CCTV screens on a couple of the other sets which all needed to have their footage shot and then added to the comp. Luckily, FCPX's built in Keyer is fantastic. Having used Keylight and various other methods, the FCPX one is by far the best that i have used.  As anyone who has done a lot of green screen work will know, lighting on set is the key. The green screen must be lit brightly, without hotspots and without shadows or creases.  This is fine, but when what you are shooting in front of the green screen needs to be lit more cinematically, things get a bit more tricky. Even big budget Hollywood films these days light most of their chroma key shots with a very flat light to make post production easier...  you can add drama with shadows and shading in post. We tried to achieve this on set... with mixed results. I definitely got the look i wanted, but sometimes it compromised the quality of the key i could get in post. It's not impossible to fix this, but it did take quite a while to work around in post... mostly adjusting the keying parameters and sometimes adding masks to sub-standard keys.

Grading is something that makes a huge difference to the look of the movie. I don't see the point in shooting Log and then just putting a LUT on it and getting the look the camera would have got in the first place back on it??? That's just adding hours in post for no reason... if you want a completely natural look, shoot that way...  We were going for something 'hyper-real'. We knew that the antagonist (Steven Berkoff) was going to have a distinct style for his 'traps'. They would all look home-made and they would all feature yellow components. I decided to push yellow in the grade... there's a lot of driving and shots of the roads in London, so there's there's lots of yellow lines, yellow street signs etc... i pushed them all so they were very saturated. Skin tones were kept mostly natural with a slight push towards a more 'tanned' look.. and the backgrounds were kept cool. I hesitate to call it 'teal and orange', but it's a variation on that look.  Certain specific scenes were graded completely differently to the rest of the film. One scene is completely black and white. Why? Because this was a scene that was disconnected from the rest of the movie...both emotionally and physically... it needed it's own feel.  There's also a very high tension scene near the end which i decided to give a completely different look by making it look like it was shot with red lights everywhere... a completely oppressive red look...nothing natural about it.

In a few weeks, i'll talk in more detail about how FCPX helped make this a much more enjoyable post production experience. But, for now... i'll just say this: I only left FCPX to do motion tracking in After Effects and a couple of plate edits in PhotoShop. Everything else was done in FCPX. Edit, grade, composting, speed ramps, slow motion (optical flow matches twixtor) and finishing...

Some plug-ins i would highly recommend after using them in 'Seven Cases':

CrumblePop Finisher - Make skin tones 'sing' against the background. Add sharpening.

mLooks - Awesome grading tools. Use a preset as a starting point and then tweak.

mFlare - Stunning looking lens flares. Has to be manually tracked, but look great.

Neat Noise Reduction - I've said it before and i'll say it again. The best noise reduction there is.

See us at Cannes in May with 'Seven Cases'.

Monday, January 20, 2014

CloudLab - Akihabara (Adam Oland Remix)

The footage from 'Big In Japan' that i shot in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in Japan has been used for the official video for CloudLab's new release. When the label got in touch, i was more than happy to help... it's a cool track and the footage really works with it.

Check out the rest of the videos on the Progressive House Channel:



Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Jinxed Myself... FCPX 10.1 nightmares...

So, in true 'spoke too soon' fashion... the last 3 days with the 10.1 update of FCPX has been a nightmare. At first, everything worked...really fast....then i had to do a few complete re-renders of the whole 97min timeline. That's when the fun started. First of all... it crashed... it just disappeared and completely closed down. But, i did have the 'snapshot' back-ups. It didn't matter... they crashed as soon as i tried to render too.

I used Digital Rebellion's excellent crash analyser to help me diagnose the problem, but each time it crashed, it gave a different answer... sometimes it was a motion effect, other times a graphic's card issue...and sometimes it was a GUI problem. When i disabled all my plug-ins... FCPX worked fine, but without them, i can't continue my project. So, one by one i began to put them back.... here's what i learnt:

Magic Bullet Looks (latest update) = Works fine.

Magic Bullet Mojo = Works fine.

MotionVFX mLooks = Works fine.

MotionVFX mFlare = Slow to load, but works fine.

Neat Noise Reduction = Latest version 3.5 works but you need to delete and replace earlier versions in your timeline - even though they will just update... you need to manually replace them or there are render problems.

CrumblePop Plugs = Works fine.

MyFCPeffects = Works fine.

TKY Effects = All fine.

A4D = All fine.

Pixel Film Studios = Hmmmm.... problems. ProLens causes issues... specifically the Graduated Filter. Nearly always crashes and sometimes flickers... then crashes.  ProLumetric = suspect.  ProSlice = suspect.

Any Custom Titles created in earlier versions of Motion = Very suspect... it doesn't like them.

10.1 is good... i love the new Library features and i really like the speed, the re-timing updates and lots of the other little updates, BUT... it's jumpy.  It needs a 10.1.1 update soon and all the plug-in companies need to do more extensive testing. It's no good if you can't stack effects.

Anyway, if you're going to risk it, Use SupaDuper to make a clone of your System Drive before you do anything... and then completely remove 10.0.9 including the preference files and cache files. Then use the now free Event Manager X to import your projects one at a time... don't just open FCPX!!!  This is really important. Open Event Manager X, select everything you want in a library and then open FCPX.... then close it down and do it again for each project. Once you've combined projects and events into a library, that's it...  so get it right first time.

I'm aware that my problems with 10.1 are mostly 3rd party plug-in related and that most people just running the app on it's own will have few if any problems, but 3rd party effects are vital to me and without them, i can't use 10.1.

I'm going back to 10.0.9 for now until i can find a solution to get 10.1 stable... but i think it will need an update as well as some of the plug-ins.

I guess this just goes to show that doing a major update during a big project is a bad idea. But, i was covered by proper back-ups and clones of my system. Make sure you do the same.

For those wondering if this was caused by a corrupt clip or project file... it's possible, but i ran the corrupt clip finder and copied and pasted the entire timeline into a new project, so i don't think so.

Anyway, it's all working fine again in 10.0.9, so i'll wait to try the update again when it's been out in the open for a bit longer.


EDIT - Typical... the very next day Apple releases the 10.1.1 update that appears to fix most of the issues i was having.  I'm going to give it another go and see what happens... i'll post on my results soon. 

Apple FCPX 10.1.1 Release notes:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Coming soon... my upgrade to FCPX 10.1 and Mavericks without a hitch...

Coming soon.... a look at how i updated to Mavericks and FCPX 10.1 while in the middle of a feature edit. Yes... a 97min timeline with multiple 3rd party plug-ins and more compound clips than you can shake a stick at, all moved flawlessly to 10.1.

I'll go over how i made the move safely and with the minimum of stress.

It has to said... this was a very worthwhile move. Updating NLEs in the middle of a big project is generally a no no... but this worked and the speed of and ease of use of 10.1 compared to 10.0.9 makes it well worth it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Xmas!

Time for a break for a couple of weeks for Xmas. It's been a crazy December and i'm well and truly cooked.. some sofa time with the Kids, some JD and some Xmas TV is just what i need.

I'd like to say a big thanks to everyone that's been involved in helping me this year including Atomos and Red Giant and all the clients that had faith and let me impose my ideas upon them. I'd also like to thank Rob at Digital FilmMaker Magazine.

Put your feet up...try and enjoy some time off and eat as much as you can.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sean x

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The raw and the cooked... it's raw, not RAW.

I decided to have another trawl around the online camera reviews to see if there's better alternative to my FS100 & Atomos Ninja2 combo for my next project. I forgot how arse-lickingly annoying camera test comments are on Vimeo....wow..  You'd think some people were watching the second coming or something. What makes me really laugh is the kids who comment on things that you really can't see. I was watching a comparison between the BMCC in raw mode and the FS100's AVCHD. Clearly, the AVCHD is going to struggle here, but thanks to the compression in the uploaded file and then Vimeo's own compression, they didn't look too dis-similar. Now i've seen raw footage from the BMCC in the flesh and it is good...very good, but some of the comments were pure madness. For example:

"OMG! I have got to get me a BMCC! The RAW is amazing - blows everything else away!"

Right. For starters, you really can't see hardly any difference in the clip. Also, some of these kids think raw is the answer to all their cinematic dreams. It's really not. It's very useful sometimes, but quite often it's a massive pain in the arse. If you don't know what it is.....i shall explain:

Raw (not RAW...it's not an acronym..it just means raw - as in, not cooked) means that the footage is captured in such a way that your ISO setting doesn't matter... the full dynamic range of the sensor is used on every shot you shoot in raw. Only your shutter angle, focus and framing matter. There's also no need to white balance.. all the information is there to deal with later. From sensor to data without compression.

I'm not a raw hater, it's very cool and i intend to shoot raw as and when the shot requires it, but in general i prefer to shoot log. Shooting log means capturing a 'flat' image, but with a 'burnt in' white balance and ISO setting. I capture Pro Res 422 HQ, so i have a lot of pliability in post to grade and adjust the temperature and look as i choose, but its not as flexible as raw. The reason i prefer it, is that it's a fraction of the grief and data size to deal with.

Raw footage needs interpreting before you can see any pictures. It's a bit like a 'pre-edit' grading session where you turn the raw files into something you can edit with and set your ISO and white balance as well as maybe some first pass grading. That's a lot of work... it takes a lot of disk space and doubles your post duration. I'm more than happy to decide on my ISO and white balance on location if it means i can avoid that.

Now, before you go all 'semi-pro' on me remember this: raw is just a tool.... it doesn't make better films and in many cases it doesn't even look better ( i know of lot of BMCC shooters who prefer the Pro Res look)... all it does is give you more options in post.  There are some arguments that raw footage is sharper and has less moire, but compared to what? DSLR? Of course... FS100 or FS700? Maybe...maybe not.

Either way, i think if a lot of the indie filmmakers out there spent more of their ready cash on decent lights and better production design, their films would improve way more than they would by upgrading from a DSLR to a raw capable camera which will just suck them dry as they plough more money into batteries, hard drives and lenses to work with the awkward sensor sizes. Why not ask Sean Ellis what he thinks? He's a great filmmaker who just won best Director and Best Picture at the London Independent Film Awards for 'Metro Manila' all shot on 5D Mk2. It's now the UK's Oscar entry for best foreign language film...  shooting compressed H.264 hasn't done his film any harm....