Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Xmas 2012...

Well, there goes another year...  2012 was full-on in many ways. Good and bad in equal measures but always a learning experience as usual.

We finished 'The Addicted' and premiered it and now it's got multiple distribution offers on the table. It was a hell of a lot of work in post production... i spent hours and hours on the edit, the grading and the audio mix. I know Jon spent ages on the music too... but i'm happy that the final result is exactly as we'd hoped for when we started back in 2011... so a massive thanks to everyone involved...especially Lawrie Alderman, without whom it wouldn't have happened.

Over the next month we hope to have the distribution sewn up and then we'll be moving into pre-production on the next feature which we hope to shoot in March. We've been working on this next feature for a few months in the planning stage and we're sure it's another big step up for us.

In 2013, we hope that Recoil Films will develop even further. We're really pushing our Music Video packages and the aerial filming department is looking amazing. We've just added a new Quad-Copter to the list. It can hover, almost motionless at a set altitude and fixed on a GPS co-ordinate. It can fly very far away from the control point and get some amazingly smooth footage. We'll be shooting a new aerial showreel early in the year.

Thanks again for all the support on this blog in 2012. The stats have been going through the roof this year, which certainly helps make me feel less like i'm talking to myself...  A huge thanks to Atomos for their support this year too... and finally a big 'thanks' to Sony Europe. I finally got my replacement charger for the one that died during the shoot last year.

Lastly, the Canon 5d Mk2 is finally retired... Canon have just put it on the discontinued list. The camera that started the DSLR video revolution. I loved the full-sized sensor look for while... but for me, the biggest revolution was the 550D. It brought 1080p interchangeable lens shooting to the masses...  but without the 5D Mk2, it wouldn't have happened. to drink, mince pies to avoid and turkey to cook. See you in 2013.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

FCPX - After Editing 2 big projects

If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that i've dipped in and out of FCPX since it's release...with varying results.

Back in 2011, i started editing 'The Addicted' with it, but 5 hours into the start of the edit, FCPX crashed and lost all my work. I didn't look at it again for a few months.  I've always kept it on my editing machine and now and again i have used it for specific little jobs little titles or sometimes just for transcoding footage.. but with the 10.0.6 update (now 10.0.7) and with Magic Bullet Looks now running on it, i decided to give it another proper go.

A few things have changed since i last tried it... the import window is better and there isn't a separate one for camera import now (not that i use it)... and a lot of the menus have moved about. Another change i like a lot is the share menu... it's much better and works really well. I'm also a big fan of the time saving features...mainly:

  • Multi-Cam syncs to audio and really works amazingly well.
  • Re-Time with Optical Flow... in some case, better results than Twixtor.
  • The new copy and pasting of either Effects and/or other attributes from clip to clip.
  • Massive increase in render speed... it's soooo fast now. You have to try it to believe it.
After only 2 projects i can now zip around FCPX and edit far quicker than i could after 5 years on the old Final Cut Pro. There's some new shortcuts to learn and new ways of working, but it really doesn't take long at all.

The new dual viewer is really useful... i have it turned off most of the time, but for checking colour matching it's vital. I absolutely love the background rendering. I have it set to only kick in after 5 seconds of no activity. So i can edit away without stopping until i fancy a rest or until i need to think about what comes next and FCPX automatically uses that 'downtime' to render what i've done... and it renders fast. The only things that slow the render up are some 3rd party plug-ins. Magic Bullet Looks is better than ever, but it won't playback in realtime on FCPX until it's rendered... and it still takes a little while...the same goes for NEAT Noise Reduction. But...most if not all of the included 'Looks' and effects work in realtime before the render has taken place. Awesome.

Things i'd like to see. (unless there is a way to do them already...please let me know)

  • Drag settings from colour board to multiple clips.
  • Drag any effects settings from the 'inspector' to any clip.
  • Let me have 2 viewers split over 2 screens, rather than 2 on one screen.
  • Let me save favourites for FX settings
I don't have the problems some people have reported about file management. I have moved projects from one drive to another with no problem.. as long as you stick to the file structure and keep things in the right folders on the root of your drives, it's no problem. The 'Duplicate Project' feature works fine too.

Things that really help with using FCPX as opposed to FCP7:

  • RAM - You need lots. It's 64bit, so it can see and use as much as you can throw at it. I put an extra 8Gb of RAM in last week and the difference in speed was amazing. No more spinning ball.
  • No more scratch disk. It all lives in the 2 folders - Events and Projects. Use FW800 drives at the minimum for speed. Upgrade to Thunderbolt when it's feasible... then it will really fly.
  • Learn to use Keywords when importing. It'll make sense of the events window and you'll find your footage much quicker when you're working on big projects.
So there it is... it's not the crock we all thought it was a year ago... it's matured and continues to do so. It's still got a few issues, but i'm going to stick with it and learn it inside out...  i've still got FCP7 if i need it.

Oh, and it did crash once in the middle of a pretty big edit... but it re-booted fine exactly where i left off... so i can deal with that.

In other news...

I did an all day shoot last week on a 5D Mk2. It's been a while, but it was interesting to go back to doing a proper shoot on a DSLR. I had some gorgeous lenses...all Canon 'L' range zooms... apart from a Zeiss compact prime 50mm. It all worked great... but i really missed the stuff i've got used to on my FS100 and Ninja2 combination...namely:

  • Focus Peaking
  • Zebras
  • Proper playback - with scrubbing
  • Manual Iris on manual lenses
  • 1080p Slow Mo...
Having said all that, the 5D Mk2 performed as it should and it was nice to be so compact for the day.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Premiere of 'The Addicted'

On the 25th November, we held the premiere of our latest feature, 'The Addicted'. After 16 months, it's finally finished.

I've already been through the greif we endured to get the DCP made in a previous post, but the day of the premiere wasn't exactly without drama either.

I'd just flown back from Copenhagen and hadn't seen the final DCP QC test... i'd left that to Jenny. Both Jenny and the guys at SDC were happy that the final file was perfect. I got to the cinema in Letchworth an hour and a half before the screening time to check it and set up a few things..  This was made slightly harder by the crew from Simon Pegg's 'The World's End' being all over Letchworth town centre rigging lights and props for the following day's shoot. They'd even turned the outside of the cinema into a pub called 'The Mermaid'... not ideal when you've got people coming miles looking for a cinema called 'The Broadway'.

'The Mermaid' complete with swinging pub sign...

Anyway, i got to the cinema and went into the big screen one room...the film was already being tested... i stood and stared in terror. The audio was over a second out of sync with the picture. I went to get the manager, Jason. He didn't understand why that would happen.. the screen had been showing SkyFall all day and had been fine. We put some trailers on...they were spot on...perfect sync. Then we put 'The Addicted' back on.... out of sync again.  At this stage i was worried. I phoned SDC's helpline. They'd never had an issue with a client's audio being out of sync. They said it was the exact same file that was Quality Controlled yesterday...not a copy. It had to be ok. They suggested the cinema's Dolby Surround System had to be at fault.

I spoke to Jason (the manager) and he said any audio adjustments had to be done over the internet by the people who installed the system. He gave them a call.... straight to answerphone.

I spoke to Jason and explained my day job as a sound engineer. I assured him that if he let me have a play with the Dolby controller set-up i would definitely not break it. He said ok.

I found the page where you program in the delay for the audio. It was calculated in Perfs (perforations) and was set at 48. I dialed it up to 72 and tried was better. Then i pushed it up to 85...not so good...  there was a lot of running backwards and forwards from the projection room to the cinema as i dialled the perfect amount of delay in. Then i noticed something within the menu of the Dolby system... there were presets for 7.1, 5.1 and stereo.... it had been set on 5.1. 'The Addicted' is in stereo. I put the stereo preset on and tried again... it was the closest it's looked.... 99% there.

I told Jason and we tried putting on some of the 'Virgin Media Shorts' that he had been screening as these were also in Stereo. There delay was also there when it was set to 5.1.... Phew... that meant our file was ok and it was the dolby preset screwing things up. I put it back into stereo and things were back in sync. I explained this to Jason and he was happy to let us proceed. Bless him, he even helped us set up our stuff while i was fiddling with the Dolby stuff.

Guests start arriving...

Jon Atkinson (Producer, Composer) Sean J Vincent (Director) Jenny Gayner (Producer, Casting) Lawrie Alderman (Executive Producer)

Kim Wilde and her brother Ricky arrive for the premiere...

Annnyway.... after much stress and sweat, at 8.15pm people started arriving and at 9pm.. we started the film.

Watching it with an audience is pretty cool.... i was proud of our work and very happy with both the colour grade and the audio mix. It looked and sounded great. People covered their eyes in the scary bits and lots of people jumped at the right times too. The cheer during the end credits makes the endless sleepless nights not seem so bad.

It was great that so many people came and we're really grateful to those that came such a long way.

Finally, i'd like to say a huge thank you to Jason and the team at The Broadway Cinema for making such a big effort to help the evening go to plan and also to Lawrie, our Exec for supporting this project right through all the ups and downs.  Distribution is the next hurdle, but with plenty of offers already on the table, we should have some news soon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

GoPro Hero3 Night Driving Test ' DRIVE'

This is a little short i've shot using just the GoPro Hero3 Silver Edition. I wanted to test how it performed in the dark for some night driving scenes in an upcoming project. I worked out pretty quick that complete darkness or anywhere without some street lighting is a no go... but anywhere with some ambient light, such as a car park looks great.  I shot this over 2 evenings using 2 of the included sticky mounts and a couple which i made myself. I used 1080p at 25fps and a combination of wide and medium lens settings. It was all captured using the ProTune mode.

I edited this quickly in FCPX 10.0.6... it's definitely getting better. I might even do my next feature with it....maybe...


Atomos Storyboard - Vote for 'Alone'... please!

I totally forgot to post this... but my short film 'Alone' which was a test of the new Atomos Ninja2 is included in the November issue of Atomos Storyboard. (Yes...i know it's December now...i forgot)
   If you go here>   You can..(if you feel that way inclined) vote for it in the vimeo competition for the month's best video.  You might win an Atomos 'Connect'... and if i get enough votes.... so might I.  Get voting...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Digital Cinema Projection - DCP and the shit it entails...

Last week was a real 'back to skool' week for me. I had an appointment early last week to test our feature on the cinema screen where we had booked to show it on the 25th Nov. I rocked up with my Firewire800 drive, same as i did for the test screening in Soho back in the summer.

Turns out, proper cinemas can't use a hard drive with a Pro Res on it. They can't even 'see' mac formatted drives. They need a Linux or NTFS drive with a DCP on it.

A DCP (Digital Cinema Package) is folder with two MXF for the picture and one for the audio 2 XML files... telling the projection system where and what the MXF files are and 2 text files. To make this DCP file is mentally hard work.

First of all you have to export your movie as a 16Bit TIFF sequence. Not a .MOV in TIFF format, but millions of individual TIFFS, one for each frame of your movie. To export an 8minute test section took my Quad-Core i7 Mac over 3 hours.

Next, you have to use OpenDCP ( to convert these TIFFS to JPEG2000 files. This took another 3 hours.

Now you need to export all your audio as mono 48kHz, 24Bit files and they have to be EXACTLY the same length as the video file to the frame or it won't work. So if it's stereo, you need 2 mono files, and if it's 5.1, you need 6 mono files.

Now you use OpenDCP to convert the audio files to an MXF file.

Finally, you use OpenDCP to create the DCP file from the 2 MXF files.

The whole process took 7 hours plus.... Oh and you can't test the resulting file in realtime.. nope... you just have to hope it's ok.

We're still not done.... you can't put this on a drive that easily. You need to download an app called Paragon ( or something similar to allow you to format a drive in NTFS format on your mac. You can then copy the DCP folder onto the root.... do not put it inside another folder and do not put anything else on the drive.

The first time i tried this, i got the conversion all wrong and had to start again...after 3 attempts i decided to try a smaller section of footage...only 2mins instead to cut down on the conversion time. Eventually, it worked!

We tested it on a massive screen in a 450 seat cinema... and it looked great. The picture was very sharp and it was very smooth.

But.... the picture was lighter overall... something not right with the gamma space....and the audio was quiet..

I worked out that even on my pretty powerful mac, it would take 48hours to create the DCP for the full 90min feature. A) I haven't got 48hours spare... and B)If it doesn't work, there's nothing i can do about it.

So... i handed the project over to Soho Digital Cinema in London who did a professional job and turned it around in less than a day. It's not cheap, but it's not worth risking fucking this up... 450 people is a lot of people to disappoint if it fails at the premiere.

My advice? If you're screening a short film, 10mins or less... and you need a DCP, then why not give the DIY route a go, but if you need a feature encoding, don't even think about it. You don't want months of editing and colour grading ruined at the final stage... get a professional on the case.

Contact Soho Digital Cinema here:

I must also mention 'The Carousel' who also do DCP creation... based in Lancaster Gate, London, they were pretty amazingly helpful and we really appreciated it.

Check them out here:

The Premiere of 'The Addicted' went fantastically.... but not without drama... full blog on it soon.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

GoPro Hero3 with the Atomos Ninja2

I've been trying to find out if the HDMI output on the Hero3 was able to live-feed to a Ninja or something similar for capture as a ProRes HQ file instead of the mp4 that the GoPro captures internally...

Well, today i tried it... briefly. Just a little test to see if it worked...and... it does!

There are some caveats though:

  • It doesn't work in ProTune mode as the HDMI out is disabled.
  • It's still limited by being 8bit and having the tiny sensor.
  • You can't have the GoPro in it's waterproof housing as the HDMI cable needs to be in.

Other than that, it works a treat. I need to do some more detailed testing and analysis of the footage.. it marginally looks better than the same shot using the ProTune option on the GoPro.

Both were captured at 1920x1080 running in 25p mode....medium lens width. I had a quick play with both the files in FCPX and obviously, the ProRes file was ready to rock immediately and seemed to respond well to colour grading... the ProTune mp4 from the GoPro itself need some time to transcode to ProRes, but once it was done, the footage was also quite plyable in post...  If i had to choose, i'd say the file from the Ninja was slightly cleaner with less noise.

Of course, using the Ninja takes away a lot of the portability and attractiveness of the GoPro, but in some instances, it's a really nice option to have.

I would have posted the footage, but by the time it's been through Vimeo or YouTube compression there's no discernable difference.

As you can see, the mp4 is 35mbps and the ProRes HQ is 172mbps, but both are HD 1-1-1 (REC709)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Go Pro Hero3

For the last week or so i've been testing the new Go Pro Hero3. I got the Silver Edition, which is the model in the middle of the range between the the Black and White Editions. I really didn't need the 4k at 15fps or the WiFi Remote, so decided to test the Silver Edition.

Right off the bat i can tell you that the usual Go Pro build quality is still there.... it's solid and very nicely put together. The actual camera is tiny...about the size of a matchbox. Only the waterproof housing makes it a bit bigger.

I could go into the menus and workings of it.... but it'm sure there's plenty of that on the net. What i will say is that this camera is very easy to use and the footage is excellent. The new Protune option gives you 45Mbps plus...

Another interesting addition is a micro HDMI output. This means i can maybe hook the Go Pro up to my Atomos Ninja and capture Pro Res HQ H.264 compression...just footage straight off the sensor. I can't wait to try this very soon. And because the Ninja is also pretty small and light, it will still be possible to get this little rig into some very small spaces. (I've no idea if this is possible yet... it might be a 480p output or something like the old crippled Canon HDMI outputs... fingers crossed it's full 1080p)

Here's what you need to know:

ProTune is still H.264 8bit, but also 24p and 25p at 45+Mbps!!

  • ProTune is also a log file... so grading Go Pro footage is suddenly do-able.
  • There's no crushing of the blacks anymore, no highlight roll-off and the noise reduction is reduced meaning that although the raw picture may look a bit scary, you can do your own grading and noise reduction with much more professional tools.
  • There's auto and also manual white balance. Again, much more use in post.

I did some test shots both during the day and also at night...both mounted on a moving car. The daylight shots look incredible straight off the card... the night shots not so much. I was quite disappointed with the night footage at first. It was noisy beyond belief. But... i dropped it into FCPX and had a play with it. First i dropped the exposure level of the blacks...a lot. And then i pulled the mids down a bit too... suddenly it looked a lot, lot better. Then i added some noise reduction using the NEAT video plug in. It was like night and day (pardon the pun). 

The footage now looked fantastic and completely usable. I'd still be wary of shooting without any light, but it's real contender if you need some night driving shots and you don't want to risk your main camera on car mount.

I've got the Go Pro App on both my Google Nexus 7 and iPad...and i'll be testing them soon to see how the WiFi control and monitoring works. Tomorrow i'm testing the Go Pro 3 on a Radio Controlled Helicopter again... i'll let you know how it looks and possibly post some footage.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Action Cams

Two days ago i got the new Contour Roam2 to test. It's a great form factor and performs ok in broad daylight, but it was severely let down but the low light performance and also some nasty rolling shutter jelly-ness. I liked the included mounts, and the rotating lens and laser guide are great ideas.

But, if a camera that is advertised as being water proof down to 1m (for canoe, wake boarding and wet motorbike rides etc) leaks on the first use...i'm not getting one. We tested it in a pool and although the footage was great, the camera started leaking...little bubbles gave it away. Because the battery is not removable, i just had to watch as it freaked out and died.

No more Roam2....

I'm now testing the Go Pro Hero3.... results to follow in a few days.

Friday, November 2, 2012

New Sonys..RED price drop... GoPro Hero3...

It's been another interesting week for the film making community with Sony announcing 2 new cameras, the F5 and the F55. Both of these cameras are serious film making tools and both of them are aimed squarely at existing markets...  namely the F5 is going to compete with the Canon C300 and the F55 is going up against Arri's Alexa, the RED Epic and Canon's C500.

What have Sony got right? Well, with the experience they got with the F3 and FS100/700 they know what we don't want... we don't want crap viewfinders, odd ergonomics and not-quite-there codecs and bit rates. The new F5 and F55 are physically perfect for shooting with... shoulder mounted, but modular and small. You can build the camera YOU need for YOUR shoot. They've looked at the Alexa and realised that it's main drawback is it's physical size... camera ops need a good strong back to lug the Alexa around...but the F5/55 are nice and small. Also, the 4k sensor... both cameras can capture RAW 4k using the optional AXS-R5 external recorder.

I think we're going to see a lot of indie productions shot on the F5...i know i want one. The F55 is perfect for TV drama, bigger budget indie films and anything where you'd usually only have to decide between a RED and an Alexa. I think the biggest loser in this fight at the moment is Canon. The 'C' range looks over-priced, under-specced and not built well enough in comparison.

But, hey, let's remember here, it's all about what you shoot. People are going to make stunning cinema on Canon 'C' cameras...and hopefully, the new Sonys will be used extensively in the same market and the end viewer won't have a clue what cameras productions were shot on. It really doesn't matter.

How does this affect me as a film maker? Well, i love my FS100...i'm very happy with the images i get from it. The Atomos Ninja makes the FS100 a serious system for indie films. I'd like to move up to the FS700...but right now, i'm not sure that's necessary. I don't want to pepper my next feature with slow-mo as everyone's at it at the moment. The other issue is price of ownership. The FS100 and FS700...and the C100 for that matter are cheap enough that ownership makes sense. Hire charges for these cameras get too high too quick when you can buy them and recoup your outlay with just a couple of projects.  The F5 and C300 are in the next league where ownership is more of a risk... it really could be cheaper to hire them in for a feature shoot. The F55 is definitely not one to own privately unless you're seriously well off.... and even then, it might not be the best plan when a better camera is sure to arrive in the next couple of years.


Half price RED anyone?

Clearly influenced by the Sony 'F-Bomb'.... RED have dropped their prices massively...  interesting.

    • 5K EPIC-X Brain                                  $19,000
    • 5K EPIC-X Monochrome Brain              $20,000
    • 5K EPIC-M Brain                                 $24,000
    • 5K/4K Scarlet Brain                               $7,950

This all makes for a very exciting time for indie film making. We can buy new, off the shelf cameras that are easily good enough to make cinema features... and every month that passes by we have the opportunity to buy almost new second hand cameras as the rental houses move up to newer models.... there really is no excuse to not shoot on something that gives you a very professional image.

Sony PMW-F5:

  • 60 fps out of the box (XAVC HD).
  • 120 fps with a planned upgrade (XAVC 2K/HD). Unique to this process, there is no line skipping or sensor windowing. So there’s no crop factor, no loss in angle of view.
  • 120 fps 2K RAW, with the optional AXS-R5 outboard recorder and a planned upgrade, achieves high frame rates while retaining exceptional, 16-bit image quality. This not only exceeds 12-bit RAW with 16 times as many Red, Green and Blue gradations. By design, it exceeds the capabilities of human vision!

Sony PMW-F55:

  • 60 fps out of the box (XAVC HD at launch; XAVC 4K, QFHD and 2K with a planned upgrade)
  • 180 fps with a planned upgrade (XAVC 2K/HD). Unique to this process, there is no line skipping or sensor windowing. So there’s no crop factor, no loss in angle of view.
  • 240 fps 2K RAW, with the optional AXS-R5 outboard recorder and a planned upgrade, achieves the highest frame rates most productions will need, while retaining exceptional, 16-bit image quality. This not only exceeds 12-bit RAW with 16 times as many Red, Green and Blue gradations. By design, it exceeds the capabilities of human vision!

Finally, there's the amazing new GoPro Hero3. The 'Black Edition' is a truly stunning camera for all those situations where a highly mobile and tiny camera is needed. At just $400, it's a camera you really can justify having in your kit.

At the moment i'm working on the final audio mix for 'The Addicted' (my latest feature) and that should be coming out early next year. Around the same time as 'The Addicted' is released, we're planning on shooting our next feature.... it's a really exciting project and not a subject matter usually covered in indie film... we're working on it at the moment and we'll release details near the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Atomos Ninja Overview-Review Video

After spending some time working with both the Ninja 1 and Ninja 2, i decided to put this little video together as i get a lot of questions about working with the cool little Atomos devices.  I hope this video answers most of the questions.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Atomos Ninja 2

Anyone who reads my blog will know i'm a big fan of the original Atomos Ninja. I used it with my Sony FS100 to shoot the feature film 'The Addicted'. I love the simple workflow and the extra quality i get from using the Pro Res files as opposed to the camera's internal AVCHD codec.

I got the latest version of the Ninja, known simply as the Ninja 2 a few weeks ago and i've been testing it since. Last week, i wrote and shot a short film just to test the unit in real world conditions.

To make it interesting, i got my Casting Director, Jenny Gayner, who has never operated a camera before to shoot the short. I gave her a quick lesson in operating the camera and then i showed her the focus and exposure assist modes on the Ninja 2. Then i let her get on with it. I think it shows just how good they are that she then shot the whole film in focus and perfectly exposed.... she even held the camera still...most of the time.

I designed the set to show off the low light abilities of both the camera and how the Pro Res HQ codec holds up. There were 2 mini par lights with diffusers lighting the table either side of the chair and then a small LED front light lighting the face. This was also diffused and set on a very dim setting.

We dragged the files from the Ninja drive to my iMac and edited it on FCP7. All i did was do a quick grade using Magic Bullet Looks and then add a very tiny amount of foley (all done in one pass) and then i added the fantastic music composed by Jon Atkinson. (it is actually part of the score for 'The Addicted'.

It's just a simple little film with little in the way of movement, but i think it shows that someone with very little experience can operate the Ninja2 and get great results. The Pro Res HQ files are stunning to work with...  i'm not gagging for RAW yet like everyone else seems to be.

So, what do i like about the Ninja 2 so much?

  • Small and light and yet sturdily built
  • Has 2 batteries (Sony NP type)
  • HDMI in and out
  • Lanc
  • 1/4 20' mounting point top and bottom
  • Included USB3/FW800 dock, empty caddies, dual battery charger, all leads and all in a great protective case
  • Excellent reference monitor with peaking, zebras, blue only and false colour
  • Flagging of good/bad takes
  • Keyword tagging of clips (picked up by FCPX)
  • Pro Res in LT, 422 and HQ
It's an amazing piece of kit, but even more so when you consider how much it costs.

Also announced this week is the Atomos Ronin. A desktop portable recorder/player/monitor.

More on this soon...but here's the specs:

  • AtomOS 3.0 touchscreen application for recording, monitoring, playback and edit review
  • Compact half-rack size – portable or rack mount
  • Full HD-SDI Recorder/Player , ProRes or DNxHD (available Q4/2012)
  • AC, DC or battery operation
  • Balanced audio with XLR inputs and outputs
  • Front panel headphone jack
  • Serial control compatible
  • Top handle, tilting feet and 1⁄4 inch mounting points for accessories
  • Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Sony NEX-EA50... whinge alert.

    Sony have recently announced the EA50... it's a large sensor camera which is like a bastard son of the FS100 and the VG10. It's not aimed at indie filmmakers or even ENG people... it's a wedding or event camera. If you shoot weddings or internet TV stuff it's probably perfect for you and a better bet than a DSLR as you can stick it on your shoulder and not worry about anything other than how it looks through the viewfinder. There's decent audio, a power zoom and even a good handle... it's the ideal event camera and it's very cheap for what it is.

    What it isn't, is a production camera for feature films or music promos. If that's what you do, get the FS100 or FS700...or even the F3. The EA50 only has the APS-C sensor from the VG10, so it's not a cheap FS100 with a shoulder mount...don't be daft... at £2.5k??? What's wrong with the VG10 sensor? long as you know it's limitations. It's not as clean or as sensitive at the super 35 sensor in the FS100... and it has moire issues. It's basically a really good DSLR sensor in a pseudo-ENG style body.

    So... i don't get the whining already on the net about it's lack of ND filters or lack of the super 35 sensor or even the lack of dual media slots etc... get over it! It's cheap and it's designed for event work. If you want to get into interchangeable lenses and work on large sensors for filmic work and you think this isn't right for you...rewind a couple of years and re-visit the DSLR revolution. up for a secondhand FS100...they are cheap now.

    Personally, i don't like the daft shoulder mount and i don't like the power zoom lens... but that's cos it's not designed for me. I know plenty of corporate shooters who will love it.

    In other news....

    I just received my new Atomos Ninja 2. Wow... what a great piece of kit. I've already started shooting on it and i love it. It's taken the original idea of the Ninja to new heights. I really appreciate the new flagging system for choosing which bits of takes you like directly on the Ninja, while on set...genius. I also love the new shooting assist modes. False colour, Zebras, Focus Peaking, Blue Only... it all makes the shoot run much smoother and with less worry that i'm shooting crap. I'm already arranging some projects specifically to test the Ninja 2 further as i think it's going to be the mainstay of my rig for quite some time. By the way... the HDMI output on the Ninja 2 means i can carry the unit over to my big screen in the DIT area at any time and see my rushes without moving the camera. That is REALLY useful.  More on this soon....

    Finally, we're almost done with the re-edit on 'The Addicted', my latest feature from Recoil Films. We've made some huge changes and i think the film is much darker and edgier because of it. I much prefer it. Release news soon....


    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Making a music promo for 'Dance a La Plage'

    For the second time, UK indie band from Banbury, 'Dance a La Plage' asked me to direct and shoot a music promo for them. They came up with the treatment and we planned to shoot the whole thing in a day.

    As with most budget music promo shoots, the day was pretty hectic. I'd not seen the location or been through the treatment with the band but i knew it was going to be about coverage, as usual. The treatment involved the story of a boy and girl who meet online and eventually meet...the difference being, the boy is a dog and the girl is a cat...  it's to show the differences between people that you often don't see when you meet online. Finally... they both unmask. There's the band playing in their respective bedrooms as they prepare for their night out... so there's the kooky aspect of the band cramped into the corners of the 2 bedrooms and even a performance in the tiny toilet...just for a laugh.

    The last bit of the day was spent shooting some action in a bar and also out on the street where there's a scene where the girl is being followed and the boy comes to the rescue. As before, the residents of Banbury were pretty cool with us filming out and about and only one pisshead got in the way... but we humoured him and he soon moved on.

    I was in the USA when it needed editing, so i was working in various hotel rooms and on planes all over the US... i finally finished it back at home.

    Like last time, i shot the promo on my Sony FS100 and captured to my Atomos Ninja. I love working with this gear... it makes everything so easy. Shoot...check and edit...all without and transcoding. I have my Mac Laptop on location so i can just put the drives from the Ninja into the dock and check the footage very easily.

    As we were keeping things simple, there wasn't any budget or time for setting up complicated lighting, so we stuck to simple set-ups. I decided to go for some long, stark shadows and then put everything into a sepia kind of black and white in the edit. I'm glad i did as it gives it a really nice feel. Dan from OffBeat Music was on hand to 1st AD for me again... and i had him moving the lights mid-take to get some nice lens flares going...  bless him.

    The edit was pretty tricky as we'd shot a lot of MSN conversations as part of the story and they looked really boring.... so i screened them over the top of the action and they worked much better. Matching the action to the performance aspects was hard and i eventually decided to ignore the background action in the performance shots and just go with the best takes regardless...i think this gives the timeline of the story a backwards and forwards aspect that makes it more interesting anyway. I edited most of it on FCP7...  but i did the finishing up in FCPX... i might even do the next promo i do in FCPX now. I've got so many plug-ins ready to use and i've slowly got my head around the slightly odd way of working... and i think it's finally stopped crashing... woohoo!

    So, as is often the case with music promos, the first edit didn't float the boat of the band. They didn't feel the sepia vibe and they also wanted less of them and more of the story in the video. So i did a re-edit and re-graded the footage giving it back it's colour but in a 70's kind of style. It was slightly tricky as we decided to over-expose some of the close-ups and i didn't feel that they matched the wide shots as nicely as before, but the overall look went down well with the band and management.  

    Also, FCPX has started crashing on me again...and then losing all the work. Very very annoying. Not sure what's causing it. I have just installed the FCPX version of NEAT Noise maybe it's that.

    Here's the final clip:

    Temporary Edit Suite at home due to summer holidays and no air-con in the studio... open window works fine.

    Lenses Used:

    Pentacon 28mm
    Pentacon 50mm
    Vivanco Wide Angle
    Sony FS100 kit lens


    Shoot - 8 hours all in

    Edit - 4 days spread over several weeks

    Huge thanks to Dan Peters at OffBeat Music and all of 'Dance a La Plage', not to mention Mark and Nat from 'Also Known As' in Banbury.

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    USA 2012

    Sorry it's been so quiet over the last month. I've been (and still am) in America touring with Howard Jones. We've been all over the country from New Jersey to San Francisco and from Dallas to Chicago...a month of great shows with a top team. We're flying home next week and then i can get on with the final tweaks to 'The Addicted'.

    While i've been here, i've also been working on a new Promo for 'Dance a La Plage'. It's been quite a difficult edit, but it's nearly done and i'm really pleased with it.

    In other news... I've got a new Atomos Ninja 2 on it's way to me and i hope to use it on a number of projects over the summer. I love my Ninja 1, so i'm really looking forward to using the new version. I'll do a full write up on it soon.

    Right... i've got a show to do here in San Juan Capistrano near LA.... so i'll be back soon.


    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    The Addicted Update...

    On the 12th June we screened 'The Addicted' at the Soho Screening rooms for the distributors and some selected bloggers. It went really well with most people staying right to the end credits.

    We've already had some great feedback and some interesting offers... so it's time to refine the edit, get the audio mix perfected and decide who we work with on this project from this point onwards.

    A huge thanks to all who came and also to all the cast and crew that helped get this project done in time.

    More details soon...


    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    A Mad Month...

    Sorry i haven't been posting much over the last month... it's been very hectic here since Cannes.

    I've been working on finishing the post production on 'The Addicted' which has involved lots of late nights and some working right through the night in order to have it finished for our big industry screening on the 12th June in London.

    On top of that, i've also shot another music promo for 'Dance A La Plage' and an Ad for Ronseal featuring the beautiful Kim Wilde.  To say i'm rushed off my feet would be an understatement.

    In 2 weeks time i'm off to the USA for almost a month too... so there's this constant feeling of 'work faster!!' going on...

    But, if i had more time i would definitely blog about the new Atomos V3 software... it looks great... also the experience of using the Ninja on another music promo shoot - the new software made things much easier. I'd also write about doing post production audio within Apple Logic and how it's causing me lots of problems that might see me make the move to Pro Tools if i can't find a solution.

    Anyway, i've got to go... more actors in the studio today recording more ADR for the film...

    Any film industry type people who would like to come to the screening in Soho next tuesday... let me know.


    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Cannes...Orange interview.

    We're back from Cannes. It was the usual mix of business and mayhem and some very expensive drinks, but i'll do a proper write-up on it soon. For now, here's the interview Lewis from Orange did with me while i was there.

     A quick observation...  The American Pavilion was kicking every night.. we met so many people there from award winning director of 'Precious' Lee Daniels to the fantastic head of SAGindie, Darrien Michele Gipson. They always welcomed us and let us promote our film there. The UK Film Pavilion on the other hand was closed most nights and wouldn't let us even leave some flyers there. Come on UK your country's talent (not just those in the selection) and show that the Brits can put on a good party too.

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    'The Addicted' Production Diary and news...

    Here's the latest production diary from 'The Addicted'. It'll be the last one for a few weeks as we're off at the weekend to the Cannes Film Festival.

    We've got lots of meetings lined up with various distributors and we're taking some finished sections of the film with us. It's been a mad few weeks and this week is going to be even busier... finishing the important sections of the film we need to take with us, getting the printing of the marketing materials sorted and finalising various meeting plans.

    Cannes is always different to what you expect. Most of the useful contacts come through chance meetings in bars or at the pavilions.  There's four of us going this year and we've got a really great place to stay in central Cannes, so we're hoping it's all going to go to plan and one of the people we're meeting will be interested enough to pick up the film for distribution. We're pretty confident. This is the darkest, most hard hitting horror i've ever seen. Also, i've never seen a film this good that cost such a small amount to produce in comparison to most indie films. I think this is the start of a new era for independent film...and we're right at the sharp end.

    So, if you're heading for Cannes and you'd like to see some exclusive clips from our film, get in touch now and we'll see you there for a drink.

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    News..... Cannes... The Addicted.

    It's hectic at Recoil Films at the moment as we're putting the finishing touches to the parts of 'The Addicted' that we're taking to Cannes. We've also booked the screening in Soho for the distributors to come and see it in it's entirety... exciting stuff. I just wish we were closer to finishing...  it's full-on at the moment working on the foley, the music and the final bits of the grade.

    At the end of next week, we're off to Cannes to present the film to the various distributors who have asked to see it, and hopefully to meet some other distributors from around the World. We're really confident that we've got an amazing film here...  letting this one slip is going to be huge error. Unlike previous years where we've taken DVDs as screeners, this year we've made the decision to go with USB sticks. We've got 3 trailers, 3 long scenes from the film and an electronic press kit all on one little credit card sized USB stick... much more Cannes friendly. No excuses for not taking one. We've also got some full sized cinema posters, flyers, promo stuff galore... we're not going unprepared!

    Anyone who would like to see the movie in Cannes and talk to us, we're there from the 21st until the 27th May. You can reach us at for a meeting. Don't be shy either... we're up for meeting anyone involved in any area of the business. We're looking to shoot our next feature at the end of the year, so financiers, producers, whatever.... get in touch.

    While i'm here, our co-producer, casting director and lead actress, Jenny Gayner has been nominated for 'Best West End Understudy'... so please show her some support and go here to vote:

    Thursday, April 26, 2012

    BMD Cinema Camera and the Atomos Ninja 2...

    Sorry i've been so quiet over the last few weeks. I've been on a 2 weeks UK tour with Howard Jones and since i got back i've been working on 'The Addicted' almost non-stop. It's been hard to find time to write.

    So, NAB looks like it was a pretty exciting event this year. Lots of new cameras... Sony's new FS700, Canon's C500 and the totally unexpected BlackMagic Design Cinema Camera. I think it's safe to say that indie filmmakers have never had it so good.

    Atomos Ninja 2

    Hot off the success of the Ninja and Samurai Pro Res recorders, Atomos have released the Ninja 2. Featuring a brighter and higher resolution screen (800x480) with a 170 degree viewing angle and a new HDMI out as well as the existing HDMI input. This means you can link through, or use it purely as playback device. How cool would it be to rock up to a screening with your Ninja, plug it in and watch your movie without the need for laptops, decent playback software etc. It also means you can watch your footage back on-set on a nice big monitor to make sure you got the shot. No more squinting at small screens for important rushes checking. It's also got SmartLog to allow you to tag good takes and make post production quicker.

    There's also the additions the original Ninja got in the recent firmware update...peaking, zebras, scope crop marks, blue only and false colour etc.  The Ninja 2 is the same price as before, $995.00.

    BlackMagic Design Cinema Camera
    I don't think anyone saw this coming. A camera with a 2.5K sensor that shoots 12bit  RAW, Pro Res and DNxHD with 13 stops of dynamic range... with proper HD-SDi out, Thunderbolt, SSD, a big 5 inch touchscreen for entering metadata and free copies of Da Vinci Resolve and UltraScope. It's got a mount that supports EF and ZF lenses and an internal battery. The internal battery has put some people off, but it's also got an external power input, so it's no problem really. Other slight issues are the senor size (it's roughly 16mm rather than the super 35mm of the C300 and FS100/700) there's an approximate 2x crop factor on your lenses and you won't get the super shallow depth of field shots... and it might not perform so well in low light... but, with 13 stops.. and12bit raw, it will turn in some very film-like footage.

    But... the bit that has shocked everyone and has probably had all the major camera manufacturers running back to their drawing boards is the price.... $2995.00.   Yep... under $3k.  I can't wait to try one out.

    Official Specs:

  • High resolution 2.5K sensor allows improved anti aliasing and reframing shots.
  • Super wide 13 stops of dynamic range allows capture of increased details for feature film look.
  • Built in SSD allows high bandwidth recording of RAW video and long duration compressed video.
  • Open file formats compatible with popular NLE software such as CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. No custom file formats.
  • Includes no custom connections. Standard jack mic/line audio in, BNC 3 Gb/s SDI out, headphone, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, LANC remote control and standard DC 12-30V power connection.
  • Capacitive touch screen LCD for camera settings and slate metadata entry.
  • Compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses.
  • Supports 2.5K and 1080HD resolution capture in 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.
  • Thunderbolt connection allows direct camera capture via included Media Express software and supports live waveform monitoring via the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
  • Includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve 9.0 color grading software.

  • News
    We're nearing completion of my latest feature 'The Addicted'. The first trailer is out there... there's 2 more trailers to come in the next few weeks and we're frantically working on the ADR, the music and the Foley. Cannes is just a few weeks away and we can't wait to preview it to the people we're meeting there.

    The next Video Production Blog is taking shape... it's a really good one featuring the rest of the production team this time...  it'll be out soon.

    I've also just done an editing job for EADS Astrium, the space people... and it might make the Channel 4 news tonight... so that's quite cool. Keep an eye out for it.

    Right... i've got a film to finish..


    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Sony FS700... wow.

    So here it is...  Andrew Reid from EOSHD was right... Sony have just announced the FS700, a new model in the Sony Large Sensor range. 

    It takes what the FS100 had and ups it's specs to a 4K sensor which for now will only shoot 1080p, but a 4K RAW 3G-SDI firmware upgrade is promised.  (what are we going to capture that to??)

    The best news for me? 10bit 4:2:2. Result. That's all i've been waiting for. No more 8bit banding.
    EDIT>> Hmmm...turns out it's still 8bit padded to 10bit...  shame. But the SDI output should give us 12bit 4K at some point...which is interesting, although highly likely to be a pretty expensive bit of hardware to capture it.

    As you can see, there's an ND wheel at last... so all those ENG guys can stop whinging. There's also a re-designed handle that looks a bit better than the FS100 one.

    Biggest news for out-of-the-box-niceness.... has to be the slow-mo capabilities. 

    240fps for 8 seconds in Full HD
    120fps for 16 seconds in Full HD
    960fps up to approx 19 seconds in a burst (1920×216 line skipped readout, interpolated in camera to 1920×1080)
    1480fps up to approx 9 seconds in a burst (1920×432 line skipped readout, interpolated in camera to 1920×1080)

    That's reason enough to buy it for me.  And how much is this thing going to be? Well, in the US it's apparently going to be under $10k. So expect $9999.99... which will probably mean £9k over here in the UK.

    EDIT>>>  Looks like £6500 according to Den Lennie... let's hope so. That's a shit-load of camera for not a lot of outlay. Nice job Sony.    #ooopscanon

    From Sony:

    The camcorder delivers Full-HD quality images at 120 and 240 frames per second in an 8 or 16 seconds burst mode respectively. The NEX-FS700’s high sensitivity and low noise shooting capability makes super slow motion shooting more convenient without additional equipment. 480 fps and 960 fps rates at reduced resolution are available for faster frame rate recording.

    The NEX-FS700 camcorder uses a new 4K “Exmor” Super 35 CMOS sensor (total 11.6 million pixels). This high-speed readout chip is optimised for motion picture shooting, giving high sensitivity, low noise and minimal aliasing.

    The NXCAM’s E-Mount flexibility is designed to accept virtually all SLR and DSLR 35mm lenses, with the use of simple, inexpensive adapters without optical degradation. FS series owners can make use of their existing lenses and add more lenses without being forced on a brand or mount. Users can capture high-quality still images with the NEX-FS700. The camcorder also includes face detection and auto focus to help ensure the subject is always kept in focus.

    NEX-FS700 operators can take advantage of the camcorder’s built-in ND filters, with a newly designed wheel that rotates across the sensor like a turret. The wheel includes positions for Clear, 1/4 (2 Stop), 1/16 (4 Stop), and 1/64 (6 Stop).

    The camcorder is 60/50Hz switchable to give people the freedom of working in any geographic region without being restricted to only PAL or NTSC recording. The NEX-FS700’s 3GHD-SDI and HDMI connectors can output Full-HD 50p and 60p, in addition to standard HD 60i, 24p, 25p or 30p frame rates with embedded time code and audio. 3G HD-SDI can output native 23.98, 25, 29.97 progressive signals; users can choose to output PsF over the 3G HD-SDI. Thanks to flexibility of the digital ports virtually any external recorder can be connected.

    Users can save up to 99 camcorder profile settings on a memory card and can copy the same setting to multiple units. Compatible media includes MS and SD memory cards and Sony’s HXR-FMU128 flash memory unit that attaches to the camcorder. The NEX-FS700 features include a robust detachable top handle, secured by a pair of screws (a cold shoe, plus two sets of 1/4 and 3/8 inch holes) that allow heavy accessories to be mounted. The handle is attached with a rosette mount.

    A key element of the handle is an “active grip” that features four buttons for commonly used functions – expanded focus, auto iris, still capture and Recording Start/Stop – so users can easily operate the camcorder while holding it. Function buttons are also enlarged to make operating easy, even while wearing gloves. The camcorder’s enhanced durable design also includes anchor points for compatibility with third party accessories.

    Sony is planning a future firmware upgrade that will enable the NEX-FS700 to output 4K bit-stream data over 3G HD-SDI when used with an optional Sony 4K recorder.

    The NEX-FS700 is planned to be available in June 2012.

    5D Mk3 and the ongoing camera wars.

    A few weeks ago, Canon launched the 5D mk3, the successor to the camera that started the DSLR revolution, the 5D Mk2. Every film making blog probably covered the launch, but to be honest i didn't see the point of getting involved. I haven't tested one and i don't think i will.
    Getting my Canon 550D back in 2010 helped me develop my shooting skills and i still enjoy shooting with it, but since i got the Sony FS100, i rarely use the DSLR for anything serious. I'm not saying the 550D is not up to it, it is, but as we all know, DSLRs are more of a faff to shoot with than a dedicated video camera.

    I think this feeling has finally spread throughout the industry. I wouldn't ever say you can't shoot with a DSLR, but i think they have taken their rightful place as another tool for the film-maker rather than a replacement for a video or film camera. Back when it was the only cost effective way to get that 35mm optics look with the shallow depth of field etc, then we needed to rely on them, but now i only use mine when i need the small form factor or i need to be inconspicuous.

    As for the 5D Mk3...  it's had mixed reviews with regard to it's video capabilities. A lot of people aren't hugely impressed with the lack of sharpness of the picture. Even Phil Bloom advocates sharpening the picture in post to make the most of it.  For the the kind of money the 5D Mk3 costs, i don't want to be messing with the sharpness in post. The addition of an SDHC slot as well as the CF slot is handy, as is the extending of the shooting time to about 30mins, but it's still not the camera some people hoped it would be.

    Canon finally added a headphone socket, and i'm sure people will be glad of it, but it looks like they really worked hard to protect the market which is being very kind to their C300 at the moment.... they could have made the 5D3 awesome for video, but why would they do that?

    I think the forthcoming 'C' series  EOS DSLR which is supposed to be aimed at the video market and is possibly going to be 4k could be a lot more interesting. Like before, as long as it gives the film maker something they can't get without spending a lot more money, the DSLR form factor won't hold it back. I'm guessing the 4k will be compromised by a lack of HD-SDI output as well as a codec that will not get the best from it, not to mention it won't be real 4k... just 4x 1080p... but if they get the price right and we can use it to get true 1080, it will be a really useful tool to have.

    Whatever happens at NAB, you can sure that all these new wonder-cams will have a shorter shelf life than ever before as we keep ploughing through this ridiculous, but fun time of rapid tech expansion.

    Remember this though... a good Director is a story teller, not a technician..  the camera is always less important than the story.