Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Apple fix FCPX... and PressPausePlay

Apple today released the 10.0.3 update of Final Cut Pro X... and a world of film makers breathed a sigh of relief. Pretty much everything that has plagued the re-booted Video Editing Package since it's re-launch has been addressed.

I really liked FCPX when it first came out... i used it on a few projects, but when i started editing my latest feature on it, i ran into some serious problems. I couldn't use my favourite plug-ins, namely Magic Bullet Looks and Neat Noise Reduction. I couldn't monitor externally on a proper calibrated set-up...and i couldn't do multi-cam editing. The issue that tipped me over the edge and back to FCP7 was that i could't manually save my work or back it up successfully...and it crashed and lost everything... not good.

But, Apple heard the outcry from users across the globe and today they released an update that deals with nearly all the problems.

Key things to note about the update:

  • Fantastic MultiCam support. Up to 64 camera angles. Access and sync via timecode, keywords, in/out points or audio.
  • Any codec, any frame rate, any raster within multicam.
  • Support for layered PSD files.
  • Hardware & external monitor support via PCI-E and Thunderbolt devices.
  • A $10 conversion app from Intelligent Assistance that gives you FCP7 to FCPX called 7toX.
  • Media ReLink. Phew... now we can re-link media again. It means we can make back-ups!
  • Advanced Chroma-Keying features.
  • Keyframes behave as we're used to in 7... auto-adding of keyframes when you change parameters.
It's everything we asked for...  I'm going to have to give it another go and see if it's what i'll be using on my next project.

Oh, one more thing... Red Giant have got Magic Bullet Looks working in FCPX! Not only that, but it's a free update to registered users...and at the moment it's 50% off if you want to buy it. Just use this code at checkout: LOOKSFCPX50

This doc has been doing the rounds online and it's probably one of the best made films on the subject of music, film and art in the 21st Century. It's scary and inspiring at the same time. Have a look if you make a living from the arts or intend to...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

'The Addicted' Production Diary Episode 1

As promised, here is the first instalment of our production diary videos. I'm going to try and upload a new one every week right up until the film is finished.

This one is an introduction to the project and doesn't have a specific theme... but some of the others will do.. like FX work, camera choices, lens choices, post production workflows etc.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

'The Addicted' artwork....from Empire Poster Comp

The poster competition on Empire's website is still running for a while yet... and i had to post some more of the designs. I'm sure you'll agree there's some stunning design talent out there. Every couple of days i see a new one that i like best...  it's going to be really tricky to choose only one.

Friday, January 27, 2012

HyperDeck Shuttle 2...and news update.

BlackMagic Design have announced version 2 of their popular HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorder. It's pretty much the same as version 1, but it adds the option to record not only to uncompressed files, but also to Avid's DNxHD compressed codec. Much like Pro Res, DNxHD boasts much smaller files sizes than uncompressed, but with almost no noticeable difference to the eye.... and considering the cost of SSD drives, that makes the HyperDeck Shuttle a much more attractive proposition. The Shuttle is still a bargain at just $345.

BlackMagic Design have also addressed the problem of mounting the Shuttle on your camera rig. No more will you have to gaffer or cable tie it to your rails... the mounting plate makes life far easier. For $99, it's probably worth it just to know your Shuttle (and more importantly, your footage) is safely mounted.

GoPro have just announced the new Wi-Fi Backpack & Wi-Fi Remote Combo Kit  for their GoPro Hero2 mini camera. It basically gives the Hero2 Wi-Fi which means it can then be remotely controlled via various smart devices such is iPhones or iPads. Also, it allows you to stream video over Wi-Fi so that you can capture both on the SD card in the camera and on your laptop/smart device or the web at the same time all by using a free GoPro App.  For aerial based work, this could be invaluable... it also gives the Hero2 a serious advantage in the 'crash cam' stakes. If the footage is not in the device... you don't have to worry about damage. (apart from the hit on your bank balance) It's waterproof too.

I should point out that the original GoPro Hero HD does not support streaming over Wi-Fi... only the remote control options will work... for the full streaming experience you will need the Hero2. The remote can control up to 50 GoPro cameras at the same time.

The Combo kit is due out in March.

'The Addicted' News
Today was another full day of editing. It was also another day spent wrangling with FX. There was a scene where an 'entity' has to appear... be menacing for a bit..then disappear. (not too tricky) Then there was a scene where someone has to be completely enveloped in light...almost like an explosion, but more paranormal. We shot the scene using some very bright lighting effects on set...which gave me a very good start, but i needed more. It fell to some slight 'mis-use' of some Magic Bullet looks tools to get the effect i wanted. All i need to add now is the final element which i've been working on in After Effects this evening. Hopefully all the elements will fit together tomorrow and i can move on to the next scene.

When i'm just cutting regular scenes...people talking/walking/moving about etc... i can get lots done in a pretty short space of time. Even with multiple camera angles, i should be able to get 5 minutes of screen time cut in a day. It may not sound like much, but it's quite quick. But, as soon as there's FX shots...things slow down. It took all day today to do a scene which was no more than 10 seconds long.

Here's a sneak peak at some screen grabs taken from the teaser trailer we've just finished... hopefully we'll release it soon...

Right... it's late and i need to watch some mindless TV for a while to unwind.

More soon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Testing iPad Blogger App "Blogsy"...& The Addicted update.

 I've had this ipad2 for months now and I'm still finding what it's good for....sometimes I use it a lot, but sometimes I forget I've got it and it sits in my rucksack for a week.

Keeping this blog up to date is tricky sometimes....finding a spare half an hour here or there to get a new post up can be hard. I've tried using my phone, and it's possible but not ideal, it's just too small.

The iPad seems perfect and it's a lot less intrusive to use an iPad in Starbucks/Costa/The pub (delete as appropriate) than the MacBook Pro which usually annoys people and with its upright screen....can be a bit public.

Anyway.... So far, this post has been pretty easy to put together using Blogsy.  There's some good formatting tools, access to my Picasa albums, my YouTube account, and full use of all the iPad's tools like the photo album and camera.

In other news... I'm now 1 hour into The Addicted edit. Today I was working on 2 of the scenes set 25 years ago. They both came together pretty quickly apart from an FX shot that I had to do in Photoshop...that took an hour for a shot that lasts just under a second. Tomorrow I'm working on another scene with a big FX shot in it...although I'm tempted to keep it simple. Less is often more when you're trying to create tension.

Hopefully, assuming I catch up on the mountain of paperwork I've got on this week (as well as the edit) I'll be posting the first of a series of regular video blogs on the post production of The Addicted. The first one will bring everyone up to date on where we are and then there will be regular updates leading right up to the end of the post process.

Right...time to post this and see if it works.



Monday, January 23, 2012

Empire Mag running poster comp

Just wanted to let you all know that those nice people over at Empire magazine are running a competition through their online forums for someone to design the official poster for 'The Addicted'.


We saw some of their previous poster competition entries and were blown away by the quality of the work submitted.

All the details are explained over on the Empire site, but basically, we're looking for an image to use for the poster, the DVD cover and all the promo material. We're making this whole thing on a very small budget, so help like this is vital..and hopefully we'll help a top designer expand their portfolio into a new area.

There's so many great designs on there already and we've not even begun to think about any decisions... but here's a taster of just 3 i saw on there today..

Fantastic work... can't wait to see more.

The winner will be announced on the Empire Forum... and then maybe here after that... but not for a while yet... so get designing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Making the Video Part 2... The edit

Last time i talked about the shoot of a music promo i was working on... this time it's the edit.

Once i got the two SATA drives from the Atomos Ninja backed-up on to another FireWire800 drive, i could begin trawling through all the footage. I like to watch everything i shot and then label and move the shots i want into another folder, ready to import into Final Cut Pro. I label them so that i know what is what when i am assembling the edit. It's no good calling them take 1, take 2 etc... i need to know what it is, so i call them things like 'Vocal Mime to Cam 1' or 'Audience Reactions 3' etc. It keeps things simple.

Once i've chosen all the footage, i then import the audio file of the song into Final Cut Pro. In this case, it needed some mastering work first. There was very little 'bottom end' or bass, and it also need converting into an AIFF file to make FCP run quicker. I made the adjustments in PEAK and then exported it.

Once that was done, i dropped it onto the timeline and started dragging in the clips. I knew already what the plan was, so i started at the beginning, looking for the opening shots and then the speed dating clips. As usual there was far too much footage, so it was a case what not to use... a nice position to be in. When you shot a promo in one day with no crew only a tripod and a shoulder rig, there's no slick dolly moves or long tracking shots, so you shoot accordingly and that means keep the edit snappy too. Linger on any one shot too long and people will lose interest. A huge mistake you see in lots of amateur band videos is a wide shot of the band performing that just lingers on screen too long. If the camera's not moving, the edit has to.

 The shot of the singer looking right down the lens seemed the best way to start and as there's no lip syncing during the speed dating section, it seemed preferable to using some of the gig section too near the beginning.

Then it was a case of trying to tell the story without hammering it home. The audience aren't stupid and nothing is worse than trying too hard to make a point... people can and will watch it more than once, so give them some credit and let them work it out a bit.

Luckily, i'd shot all the gig sections right the way through, so i could line up the beeps at the beginning of the takes and they would all sync up with no drifting issues. Then all i had to do was switch between takes while dropping in some of the story based takes at regular intervals to keep the flow.

I was really happy with the stuff we shot at the table of the singer singing to Matilda (or Nat as she's really known...) The lighting looks great and it joins to the two main sections of the video together perfectly.

Once i'd got all the clips in the right places and i'd watched it through a few times i began on the colour work. This involved using Magic Bullet Looks to grade it. I shot it all quite bright so i needed to make it darker and more moody. I used a preset i'd created for 'The Addicted' which only needed tweaking on the exposure to get each clip to match. On a few shots i added some anamorphic lens flares just to give it a bit of punch and then i added a widescreen matte which i eventually cropped off altogether at 2.35:1 for that cinematic look.

Un-graded footage shot with Frank Glencairns G-Log profile

The graded footage using one of my presets from Magic Bullet Looks

Al i had to do then was add the titles. Dan had already sent me the OffBeat Music animation and i already had the Recoil Films one, so i just needed to create the credits. I did this in FCPX as there's some nice looking presets which are really easy to tweak. Then i exported them and imported them into FCP7. A quick render (the quad-core i7 iMac really renders fast) and then export. Lastly, i dropped it into Compressor 4 to generate the 1080p web version which i uploaded to Vimeo.

Dan (the 1st AD), shot this little making-of video on the day of the shoot... it shows the fun (and the mayhem) involved in the shooting process. Notice how much everyone is enjoying themselves while i'm permanently staring down the viewfinder... such is life when you've got just one day to shoot. Mustn't complain though, we did fit in time for a pint and a McDonalds. ;-)

Here's the finished promo...

What would i have done differently given more time or money?
Well, a dolly and track would have been great, and a circle of track around the table scene would really push it onto another level, but there's always a wish list and you've got to work with what you've got. I'm really happy with it. I don't think you'd make much difference without spending 10 times what it cost and even then would any punters actually notice? Probably not...

I'm looking forward to working with the band again when they're in the top 10. ;-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TVLogic Announce EVF coming soon...

Just a quick post about a new EVF coming from TVLogic. TVLogic make some really good quality HD Broadcast monitors so i would expect this to be right up there with the Zacuto EVF, if not better.

It's got some great specs such as HD-SDI Loop-Thru, which will please a lot of people and also HDMI in and out... not to mention a resolution of 960x640, amazing for a 3.5" display.....all very professional.

The flip up loupe looks good too.

Feb 2nd is when they are going to tell us more apparently...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Making A Music Promo for 'Dance A La Plage'

On 4th Jan i was hired to direct a music promo for 'Dance A La Plage', a band from Banbury. Unlike a lot of music videos, i hadn't heard the track beforehand and all i had was some YouTube links sent to be by the band to give me an idea of what they wanted.

They had come up with the treatment/concept themselves... all i had to do was simplify it, shoot it and edit it. This blog is going to be in two halves... this first one about the shoot and the second about the edit.

The band wanted the video to be in two halves... a story section which features the band speed dating and a performance section where the band play at a club in front of an excited crowd.

They had already found a location which could be used for both sections.. it's a bar which holds gigs anyway, but also has a really cool vibe and some great quirky furniture, ideal for the speed dating bar.

I arrived with my standard kit for this kind of shoot as well as my new DiT station. My current kit includes the Sony FS100 on a rail system with Follow-Focus, MatteBox and the Atomos Ninja Pro Res Recorder. I've also added some custom bits like a speaker system to check takes back with on-set audio and an arm to hold the Ninja in place and allow it to move and rotate... it's basically half a magic arm mounted on rail mount.

My FS100 Rig with Atomos Ninja
The DiT Station is a flightcase that holds my MacBook Pro, the Ninja's Dock, a 500GB Firewire 800 drive for backing up to and all the chargers for the many Sony batteries. It just means i can open it up, plug it in and i'm ready to check footage, back up and do quick test edits without looking for somewhere to set up and scratching around for cables on set.

The DiT Station, my lens bag and some mini par lights.
The first set up of the day was the speed dating scene. We tried a couple of different table arrangements before we settled for the one that looked best on camera. It's always good to remember that this isn't reality... it doesn't matter how odd it looks in real life, it looks good on camera, you never have to let the viewer see how odd it really is... so try moving people closer together than is natural...change the angles of chairs and don't worry too much about how it feels.. just make it look good on camera.

I had to keep the lighting simple, and thanks to the great Super35 sensor and my F1.8 Zeiss 50mm prime lens, that wasn't a problem. I used a par-can shining through a big diffuser for a front light and 2 mini-pars with diffusers for the faces of the two stars of the scene. There were some big windows just out of shot, so i had some daylight too as well as the lights in the venue itself... so white balancing was quite tricky.  I used Frank Glencairn's G-Log A picture profile on the FS100 as i love the scope this gives me for the grade in post... the only issue with it is that it's sometimes tricky to see what you're shooting.. you need to really check that you're not clipping the highs.

The first set-up for the speed dating scene. Dan wrestles with the diffuser on the Par-Can.
We ended up moving the tables into two rows which looked much better and we then began shooting. First of all it was all speed dating stuff... no music. The blokes all changed seats for each different take and we made sure everyone had a drink... the story was that a particular girl is who the singer is after, but she likes another bloke who is there... It ends badly, but there's some humour in there too.

After the speed dating scene, we shot the bit where people come in and sign in... we also got some posters printed advertising both the speed dating night and the gig...  might be useful in the edit.

We also decided to shoot a scene where the singer sings the whole song across the table to 'Matilda' the girl in question... This we did to camera as well as in profile. Just as we were wrapping up this scene we came up with the idea to pan across the table from the singer to the girl and back again, but to swap the singer for the bloke the girl preferred in between pans and then to end up with the singer looking down the table towards the camera. It was a real off-the-cuff idea, but i think it's going to be a very important part of the video.

The first speed dating set up...

The 2nd and final speed dating set up...

Checking the shot on the Ninja. I started with a static shot and then went handheld.

Lastly, we shot the performance aspect. This involved setting up the band on the stage in the venue which i decided to make time-lapse of....(you never know... it might come in handy)... we then waited for 'rent-a-crowd' to turn up. (the band put a shout-out on facebook)

A 28mm prime with a Vivanco Wide Angler adapter on the end... i used this for the time-lapse.

Great lighting and furniture in 'Also Known As' in Banbury... our location

Eventually, the crowd turned up and i had to shoot the performance. As we didn't have enough people to really fill the venue, me and Dan (the 1st AD) re-arranged the crowd to take up only the parts of the venue the camera could see at any one time. This meant lots of takes... one take of each of the band in close up, several takes over the heads of the crowd towards the band...several takes of the crowd from the drummer's position on the stage...several takes on the stage with the band (and it was a tiny stage...so that wasn't easy).

I ended the day's shooting with a shot of the couple walking out of the venue hand in hand...  4 quick takes until i got the one i wanted.

The band setting up on the tiny stage. The small size helped with the intimate and crowded feel for the gig section
Next time i'll talk about the edit...(once i've done it) and also i'll post the finished video itself.

Huge thanks to Mark at 'Also Known As', to Nat for being a great 'Matilda' and to Dan for shouting at the extras and sorting me out with cups of coffee and bacon sarnies... not to mention a very long drive home.