Monday, July 18, 2011

Magic Lantern...and Apple ask for help.

Last week i mentioned on Twitter that i'd installed Magic Lantern on my Canon 550D. Well, it managed to survive a couple of days before i got rid of it again.

There's some nice features and it works pretty well, but to be honest it just got on my nerves while i was shooting and i didn't really use it got the chop. I liked the audio meters... but i don't record audio on the camera... so no need for them for me. I liked the 2.35:1 crop marks... but the graphics come and go as they please and this put me off...i'd rather frame for 16x9 anyway, that way i can animate the 2.35:1 crop later and use the bit of the frame i like best.  I couldn't get on with the zebras for under and over exposure. They just seemed to be lagging behind quite a lot which i found very off-putting.  But, the biggest issue for me was using ML with an external monitor. I use a monitor most of the time, but Magic Lantern has some real issues with this and just played up all the time.  I also missed the ease of switching ISO settings... using the ML menu to get to those sought after 'native' ISOs is fine, but it takes too long for my liking.  On the upside, the installation of Magic Lantern was fairly straight forward and i'd recommend having a look if those features are something you're looking for. It just wasn't for me.

Apple are asking for your comments on FCPX. Feel like giving them some pointers on what it needs to get back in your good books? Comment here:

Been up to my ears the last week in camera research for 'The Addicted' shoot. We need something that's going to excel in low light...and be able to give us both the shallow depth of field we want as well as dealing with some 'run and gun' type shooting. Tricky. The front runner at the moment appears to be the Sony FS100.... with an Atomos Ninja or Sound Devices PIX 220 to capture the Pro Res footage in as high a bit rate as possible.

I think the AF101 is out of the running... it's low light performance doesn't seem up to the job and i've not found any evidence that using an external recorder makes much difference... it appears to be an issue with the micro 4/3 sensor.  Obviously the 5D Mk2 could work in some situations, but it's not going to work for the run and gun type stuff and the H.264 footage won't take much grading before it falls apart. I'll still use my 550D for some of the shots... it's small size will mean it'll earn it's place on the set, but not for the main shoot.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Addicted - New Feature Project

As you may or may not know, i've been looking for investors for my feature project called 'Their Law'. We shot a trailer and a short, went to Cannes, visited production companies, spoke to investors and generally spent the last few months pushing our project, trying to get it off the ground. In the last few weeks we've had some success with several offers of funding and investment, but it's taking longer than we anticipated and we can't hold the shooting dates any longer. So, we're putting it back until 2012. We're still talking to the interested investors and we're still working on finding the perfect locations, so work hasn't stopped, it's just given us more time to get it right.

But... what to do in 2011? I don't like the idea of not having a new film to work on... i write prolifically and i'm keen to get a new film out to the festivals next year. So... i've got another script which we're going to shoot in September. Yes, that's only 2 months away... but it's an easier production which we're going to shoot in chronological order, mostly in one location with a small cast. We've got the funding lined up (almost) and we've even got most of the cast. There's more auditions next week in London for the remaining parts.

Another crime thriller maybe? A caper/comedy like 'Shoot The DJ'? Nope... it's a horror.

Quick artwork mock-up....

As a rule, i've never wanted to make a horror film. I like watching them sometimes, but it's not a genre i've really wanted to work in. A lot of indie film directors start out with horrors and i rarely rate them. However, i think if it's done right, a good horror can be great. For me, Alien (1979) is the best horror film of all time. Yes, it's Sci-Fi, but it's also the best horror. There's so much rarely see the Alien and you know it's all going to end badly for most of the cast...but you never see it coming.

I've come up with a story which is both unique and terrifying. There's always an 'evil' force at work in horror films...usually a ghost/poltergeist/monster or a psychotic man/woman. This story brings a unique twist to the evil side of things...

We've found a fantastic incredibly creepy building where most of it will be shot and we've managed to blag the services of a very talented lighting and special FX man who is going to make it look amazing....not to mention a very experienced composer to give us a full orchestral score.

So, 'The Addicted' will be shooting in September with post production beginning immediately afterwards and 'Their Law' will be shot later in 2012.

We never pushed the Indiegogo campaign for 'Their Law' and we really appreciate the donations we've had... we'll keep it going until the end of the slated date and then keep it all safe until production starts next year. We are definitely not going to be forgetting about 'Their Law'.... but right now, 'The Addicted' is the focus.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

FCPX - A week later...

 Well, it's been an interesting week... a trip to the USA with Howard Jones for a couple of gigs in Salt Lake City and California... and more playing with Apple's FCPX.

So.... what's the deal with the new FCP? Well, i still like it...a lot. BUT... there are some serious niggles. The lack of external monitoring is just crazy and needs to be fixed...quick.  The lack of export options is just plain annoying. Using Compressor is all very well, but it's an extra step i don't need.  The background rendering is cool...i really like it, but sometimes, if you go a bit mad with effects, it can really slow up your machine while you're working. It can't be helped, i know.... just don't get mislead into believing there's no rendering going on...because there is.

I miss the old motion controls... the new ones are supposed to be easier, but i still find it tricky to do what used to seem really easy... re-sizing clips...changing the aspect ratio to whatever i want and animating frames seems harder. Maybe it's just getting used to the new way of working... but i really miss the old way. 

My biggest issue is the size of the GUI details. The text in the footage list is huge... it doesn't need to be that big... I can't find a way to shrink it. I'd like to maximize my preview window to suit 2.35:1, but when i do, it puts a red rectangle on it to show that i'm chopping off part of the 16x9 letter boxing... that's just annoying. Oh, and they need to put 'Re-Connect Media' back in there... it's vital. You can fire up a project on a different machine, but it's harder than it needs to be. Also, it appears that you're editing the actual footage destructively... so if you try to edit the same footage in another package, FCP won't recognise the clip afterwards...which caused all kinds of issues... especially with no 're-connect media'.

Things to like: Lots of it... it's fast...really fast! The effects are fantastic. Slow-motion is soooo cool now... there's a twixtor type algorithm going on.. you can go really slow and it looks so much smoother.  Putting together an edit is far quicker than it used to be.... ideas get to the 'let's watch it back' stage far quicker.

So... i'm still liking it, but i really do need to see an update soon that fixes some of the bigger issues. I'm starting a new feature in 8 weeks time and i need external monitoring and some way of getting the cut to a colourist... so unless that's fixed by then...i will have to think hard about what to do.

I really do think it's all fixable without too much work on Apple's part. I don't see the need to chuck my toys out the pram yet...   but i'm reserving the right to do it later if it doesn't get fixed.

Hopefully,  FCPX will get the updates we need and i'll have a head start in using it. I really don't want to have to re-learn Premiere.  Interestingly, i started on Premiere (unless you count a few weeks with Speed-Razor on the PC years ago)... and i really hated the transition to FCP...i found it quite tricky at first. 

On a complete tangent... i stayed in Cupertino in California this week and saw Apple's HQ.... it's really nothing to write home about.  It's huge...4 blocks of the city is just Apple... but it's not a futuristic under-sea place like the Simpsons would have you believe. Bit gutted really.. ;-)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

FCPX - First Impressions...

I've been playing with my new copy of FCPX, and i've got to say, i'm pretty impressed. There are definitely some issues when coming from FCP7, but it's a really intuitive product and it doesn't take long to find your way around it.

I love the new timeline. I turn off the magnetic bit... it's handy for throwing together a quick assembly, but once you get down to some serious work, i prefer to work without it. I keep the windows simple, i turn off all the thumbnails... but, they are handy sometimes when you are looking for a specific part in a clip.

I really like the new way effects are previewed and then edited. It's much faster to find what you want, make the necessary changes and copy the effect to other clips. So much faster than before. The new colour correction tools may be a complete departure from what we're used to...but they are so much easier and quick to get the result you want. Goodbye colour wheels... i've no idea why we had you in the first place.

Some downsides...  i wish i could shrink everything on the's all a bit big. Maybe there is a way i haven't found yet.  I also wish i could use all my old plug-ins...but hey, that's progress. On the upside, there are so many very very usable and high quality effects here, that i don't have to re-buy half of the plug-ins i was using before.

I've been working with H.264 footage from my Canon 550D.... no more Magic Bullet Grinder required... i just drop the footage into FCPX and it transcodes it to Pro Res 422 in the background while i am working!! Hello??!!!  That's awesome.  Rolling shutter issues? FCPX fixes a lot of them... the new stabilization tools are amazing too...very impressed.

The big question... I'm starting a new feature film project in September... will i be editing on FCPX or FCP7? It's got to be FCPX. It's fast.... it's easy and as long as i don't run into any issues between now and then, i can't see any reasons why not. Ok, now i know some of you will be wondering about the lack of XML, EDL etc.. well, i'm prepared to gamble on them being added pretty soon.

No doubt, this is a new environment for FCP editors to get used to... it all feels a bit odd at first. But... you will see your edit speed increasing and you will wonder why you ever put up with the clunky and dated way of doing things in FCP7.  There's no going back.