Friday, November 21, 2014

Atomos Shogun....shipping in a week!

The long awaited Atomos Shogun is shipping in one week...  i can't wait to play with the Shogun and see how it fares, teamed up with the GH4 and A7S.  4K recording with Atomos workflow and that awesome screen! I predict Atomos are going to be selling out of these very soon...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Canon C100 Mk2

I'm not going to go into detail... there's more than enough on news sites out there, but Canon's new version of the C100 has to be the best bet if you don't need 4K, but you have a collection of EOS lenses.  Nice ergonomics, 50/60 fps slow mo, and a much better screen and viewfinder. The C100 always struck me as the best bargain of the EOS range, especially when you team it up with an Atomos Ninja Blade.. it'll give you the same results as the C300.  The Mk2 version has added internal recording of MP4 files at 35MBps too, so it's usable for some stuff as it stands. The extended iso range is interesting -  i wonder how it's low light performance will be affected?
  • 8.3MP Super 35mm CMOS sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Face Detection AF
  • Dual Format AVCHD/MP4 recording up to 1080/60p
  • Built in Wi-Fi and remote control options - ipad control possibly?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Failing on the way to winning...

I'm the first to admit that i'm learning as i go along. I have no training in film whatsoever. I made my first ever music promo about 10 years ago and then didn't pick up a camera again until 2007 when i decided very randomly to make a feature. With no experience and quite a lot of arrogance, i made a micro-budget feature. Bizarrely it got distribution after being available for free on YouTube for a year. It really was utterly awful... bad camerawork, bad lighting, woeful dialogue and and some truly laughable plot holes and acting...(mostly by me)  But... i learnt a lot.

At this stage, i started shooting more music promos and shorts. I realised i needed much more experience behind the camera and also operating the camera! Slowly, i started getting to grips with it.

Then, slightly foolishly, i made another feature. I thought i'd learnt enough to give it another go. But, i was too relaxed in my approach. The camerawork was better, but still not up to par. The editing was better, but still not right...the same goes for the script and the dodgy plot. But, again - i learnt so much.

Now, i could (and some say, should) have released this under a pseudonym, but i'm not scared to show my self-taught efforts... even if the reviews are sometimes painful to read.  I have no excuses for the sub-par end products. No one cares that i didn't spend much money or have an experienced crew, and why should they? I just need to be better.

The funny bit of all this to me is that i'm i'm a very experienced professional sound engineer who travels the world doing world class live mixes for some huge music artists... without blowing my own arse-trumpet - i'm really good at it...  i've been mixing professionally for nearly 25 years.  I see people trying to teach themselves my job and it's funny sometimes... some people just aren't cut out for it.  Am i one of those people, but in the film directing arena? Shiiiiit.... i hope not.

Since then, i've shot upwards of 14 music promos, several corporate promos and another feature...

Why another feature? Because it's the only way to learn. To learn screen writing, to learn direction, to learn good casting, to learn better camera work and editing....  all the music promos in the world don't teach you how to helm a feature. It's brutal. It's unforgiving and it's the only way i can progress.  I've seen features by some very experienced TV promo directors and they suck... it's not easy, no matter how much experience you have.

Is this one better? Yes. It's a quantum leap ahead of anything else i have done. Why? Because i honed it down to the necessary. I kept it simple, i kept it small and i cast people that genuinely 'pop' on camera....people who made me realise how much of directing is casting. It's fantastic to see my screenplay come to life and not want to hide behind my fingers while i'm watching it back.

What's next? Well... i've been busy on the post for 7 CASES most of this year. I'm proud of it and i think it's given me the confidence to ramp things up for my next feature.  Will the next one be perfect? Let's hope so! But in all honesty, it might take a while longer before BAFTA come knocking... i might never completely suss this game out... but i'm going to keep trying and if i can improve each time, you never know.  Like i've always said... just keep going. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Camera choices in 2014 - That eternal question - Which camera to buy?

It's that time again when i'm starting to look at the current camera market and decide what to shoot my next feature on.  As a lot of you know, i work pretty much independently with finance from private investors so it's good for everyone involved if i keep the costs low.  Budget isn't my only consideration though... I shoot a wide range of projects from shorts to features and music promos and sometimes i'm working alone, so i don't want anything that i could only use with a crew... it's important i can operate on my own if i need to.  Then there's the whole issue of owning a camera rather than just renting per project. I do too many little projects that only make financial sense if i don't have to factor in hire costs and the logistics involved with that. I already have a good selection of glass and grip equipment, so not owning a camera doesn't make much sense at this stage.

The next consideration is resolution and dynamic range. 4K shooting for an HD edit makes a lot of sense for me at the moment, and the dynamic range of some of the new cameras is probably more important than that.

So, with the array of new choices, my shortlist has come down to this:

The Lumix GH4 coupled with the Atomos Shogun. - Small, neat and very capable - and cheap.

The Sony A7S coupled with the Atomos Shogun. Again, small, neat, capable and stunning low light performance - slightly hampered by some severe rolling shutter issues.

The BMD URSA. The footage looks stunning, but the weight and size of it puts me off. Great price though. Concerns over the fixed pattern noise seen on the Production Camera too...

The Sony FS7 - This looks amazing, but i'd still partner it with the Shogun to get the convenient workflow and 4K Pro Res capability. Amazing for the money, but still £8K.

The Sony FS700 - Still a beast of a camera with great slow-mo and coupled with the Shogun, a really capable 4K option.

Ultimately, i'll be swayed quite a lot by whichever one feels best. It's mad to decide on a camera on specs alone... there's no substitute for actually playing with one, holding it and using it and seeing how it actually works for you in the real world.

What cameras have i owned up until now? The list isn't huge, but it goes something like this:

Sony DSR200  -This was good at the time.
Sony VX1000  - Very similar to the DSR200...small size made it useful for in-car shooting.
JVC GY-DV500 - A huge beast of a camera. I had the Fujinon asymmetrical zoom lens which was great.
Panasonic AG-DVX100 - A major step up from the previous cams... proper 24p and cine-look profiles.
Canon 550D - my first DSLR and first step in to HD. A great camera. I still use it.
Contour Roam 3 - Great form factor, but not a great performer. Didn't last long.
Go Pro Hero 3 - The defacto action cam. I still use it a lot and will buy the Hero 4 asap.
Sony NEX-FS100 - My current camera. Stunning low-light performance and a great workhorse.

Along the way i also used The Canon XL1S, The Sony Z1 and the EX1,  the 5D Mk2, the Lumix GH2 and more recently, the RED Epic and Canon C300...but i never owned these cameras.

At the end of the day, a camera is just a tool.... i'll get the one that does the best job for the least money and try not to get too carried away with specs.  As i've said before, no one ever asks what a good film was shot on - it really doesn't matter.

Right now we're spoilt. There's a huge array of really excellent cameras and recorders and there's really no excuse to not get out there and shoot something.

One thing i do know though, whichever camera i end up getting next, i'll be sticking with the Atomos way of working. I love my Ninja and Samurai Blades... they make shooting so much more convenient. So, an Atomos Shogun is the future for me...and i think it will be the same for a lot of people moving up to 4K shooting.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

SONY FS7 Lands...

Sony have drop-kicked the competition out of the game again....this time with the launch of the FS7 - a 4K beast at a ridiculously low price point of around $8000.

Anyone looking at the URSA, the AJA CION, the Canon C300 or C500 now has a dilemma... this camera pretty much wipes the floor with all of them in one way or another. Nice job Sony.

Here's the blurb from Sony's site:

  • Ergonomic grip design and adjustable arm and Viewfinder system

    The PXW-FS7 grip, designed for easy handling and operability, is the result of exhaustive consultation with videographers and cinematographers, as well as the production of various prototypes. The shape supports long periods of camera use and flexibly accommodates subtle differences among various users' gripping styles. The angle of the grip can be easily adjusted with the press of a button. In addition to a zoom button and Rec Start/Stop, the grip also has several programmable buttons that can be customized for easy access to any other functions such as the expanded focus function. The length of the arm section of the PXW-FS7 can be adjusted just by turning a knob. Another knob at the joint makes it easy to adjust the angle of the camera. So a user can choose a comfortable style that suits his or her physique and shooting position.
  • Easy settings during one-man operation

    The Peaking and Zebra function buttons and contrast knob are positioned on the side of the PXW-FS7 viewfinder for easy adjustment of focus, contrast and exposure. Also, by turning a single knob, the position of the finder can be set, allowing for degrees of freedom. The viewfinder system is designed that even people with a dominant left eye can use it comfortably.
  • Dust-proof, drip-proof design for use even in harsh environments

    The body of the PXW-FS7 is constructed to withstand tough conditions, with buttons, dials and other parts specially sealed to prevent dust and water spray from entering. Also, the air passageways from the cooling fan are separated from the interior of the camera.
  • Built-in Multi-Interface (MI) Shoe

    The PXW-FS7 is equipped with a Multi-Interface (MI) Shoe that supports connection to wireless microphone packages such as the UWP-D11 or UWP-D12 (sold separately). When connected to the shoe, the HVL-LBPC light (optional) can be turned on or off from the camera, and power and audio connections are provided to the UWP-D11 or UWP-D12 without cables.
  • Equipped with high-sensitivity 4K Super 35mm Exmor CMOS sensor

    The PXW-FS7 is equipped with a Super 35mm CMOS image sensor with approximately 11.6 million total pixels (4352 x 2662) and 8.9 million effective pixels. The high image readout speed of the image sensor allows the PXW-FS7 to support 4K motion-picture shooting and Super Slow Motion. The sensor also realizes a high sensitivity of ISO2000 and a wide dynamic range of 14 stops. Thanks to its full-pixel readout capability without pixel binning and sophisticated camera processing, jaggies and moire. are minimized.
  • Internal recording in 4K* resolution up to 60fps

    The PXW-FS7 supports internal recording at 4K resolution as well as a wide range of frame rates (59.94P, 50P, 29.97P, 25P and 23.98P). When viewed on a 4K monitor, footage shot in 4K is reproduced so clearly down to the finest details that it gives a viewer the illusion of actually being within the scene. When viewed on a Full HD monitor, 4K footage boasts even higher resolution than footage shot in Full HD.

    * QFHD 3840 x 2160 resolution from launch. 4096 x 2160 resolution with firmware update, early 2015.
  • Super Slow Motion continuous recording is possible

    The PXW-FS7 offers continuous recording at Full HD image quality and a frame rate of up to 180 fps. This makes it possible to attain up to 7.5x Super Slow Motion when played back at 23.98 fps. Furthermore, support for unlimited shooting at Super Slow Motion means no more mistimed shots leading to extra takes. It also lets you pick out footage at exactly the point that you want.
  • α Mount System for a wide selection of lenses and E-mount that is suitable for movie shooting

    The PXW-FS7 incorporates the α Mount System, with an E-mount lens mount. This is especially useful for motion-picture shooting because the system supports power driven silent auto focus, iris control, power zoom and more, as well as SteadyShot image stabilization and other functions. Moreover, the E-mount system's short flange-back distance (the distance from the lens-mounting surface to the image sensor) enables use of A-mount lenses via LA-EA4 lens adaptor, as well as various other lenses via third-party adaptors. The E-mount system thereby makes it possible to take advantage of a wealth of lens resources suitable for creative, versatile video expression.
  • Supports various formats, including XAVC Intra and Long GOP

    The PXW-FS7 supports two formats, XAVC and MPEG-2 HD 422, which can be selected to suit the application. Two XAVC compression systems (Intra and Long GOP) are provided through an H.264AVC codec. Intra supports recording with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling for 4K and Full HD, as well as a high bit rate of up to 600 Mbps. In Long GOP, image quality and recording time are balanced to allow Full HD recording in 1080/50P with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling at only 50 Mbps, making this format suitable for longer duration shooting. Support is also provided for the MPEG2 HD 422 recording format, which is mainly used at broadcast stations. Supported formats and bit rates are indicated below.
  • Support for S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3, SGamut3/S-Log3 and other log curves*

    The PXW-FS7 supports such log gamma curves as S-Gamut3. Cine/S-Log3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3. Due to the fact that 18% grey is set at a bright level, S-Log3 is noted for delivering a wider dynamic range than the 1300% achieved by S-log2 incorporated in cameras such as the NEX-FS700, a difference equal to 1.5 stops. The log gamma itself is close to Cineon log, so colour correction is easier to perform and it is possible to achieve cinematic expression with the look of film. In addition, compared to the colour gamut of S-Gamut3. Cine, which is geared toward reproducing the wide colour gamut of DCI-P2 colour space used in digital cinema, the colour gamut of S-Gamut3 is geared toward the reproduction of almost all actual colours, and is thereby suitable for archival purposes.

    * Support for SLog2, requires firmware update, early 2015.
  • Extension Unit XDCA-FS7 for shooting support

    Extension Unit XDCA-FS7 can be connected directly to the PXW-FS7K to enable the use of functions that support the operator's shooting style or workflow, including Apple ProRes 422* recording to an XQD card in the camera.

    * Firmware update, early 2015.
  • Built-in ND filter unit

    ND filters for adjusting the amount of light are provided in a built-in ND filter unit. This allows shooting to be done with a shallow depth of field without having to stop down the iris, even under bright conditions. The settings are Clear, 1/4 (2eV), 1/16 (4eV) and 1/64 (6eV).
  • Two XQD media slots support simultaneous and relay recording

    The PXW-FS7 has two XQD card slots that enable simultaneous and relay recording. During relay recording, when one medium becomes full, recording continues automatically to the other media. During simultaneous recording, not only can the same footage be recorded on both channels at the same time, but also one channel can be used for random shooting while the other is being used for continuous recording as backup.
  • RAW output for external 4K/2K RAW recording*

    The FXW-FS7’s FS RAW Interface that can be connected to an HXR-IFR5 interface unit and RAW AXS-R5 recorder to enable external 4K/2K RAW recording. The interface also allows the use of compatible third-party external recorders. Full HD footage shot with the unit is time code-synchronized to allow offline editing of the content.

    * Requires XDCA-FS7 Extension Unit.
  • Support for multi-camera shooting*

    Precise timecode synchronization provided by Genlock and Timecode In/Out functions in the XDCA-FS7 Extension Unit enable multi-camera operations.

    * Requires XDCA-FS7 Extension Unit.
  • Catalyst Browse software from Sony

    Free clip management tool for both PC & Mac that supports all Sony professional formats.
    Review footage on location, add metadata and review colour corrections.
    Seamless upgrade to advanced Catalyst Prepare media preparation tool.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Sorry i haven't added much new content lately, but as anyone who knows me will be aware. this time of year is crazily busy for me. I'm touring a lot and i also have to fit some downtime and holidays in too.... but, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, so here's a run down of what's happening...

Firstly, we're planning a re-shoot for one of the key scenes in '7 CASES'. Why? Well, we've had some great feedback on the film and already had some distribution offers, but after letting it 'sit' for a while so that we could get to know it better, we have decided that one scene in particular needs to be better and there's no reason why we can't re-shoot. So, in September, we are shooting for another day or two to make it as good as it can be.

Secondly, we're deep in preparations for the next feature 'HINDSIGHT'. We have hired a Production Designer and we're using Leoni Kibbey again for the casting. We're also in talks with CG artists and DPs. I'm re-writing a big chunk of the script at the moment as we made a big creative decision about the main character that meant we had to go back and fix a quite a few scenes... it'll all be worth it in the end.

Lastly, i'm in preparations for another big US tour this summer. I'm doing FOH mixing for both Howard Jones and Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins for the Retro Futura Tour all over the USA.... we'll be visiting New York, Chicago, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Tempe, Boston, Philadelphia, Lincoln, Toronto (Canada, obviously), Cleveland and plenty more...  would be great to see you all there.

One more thing.... i just found out that i'm going back to Japan in November, so i thought i post this that i shot last time i was there. Hopefully, i'll take a GH4 and an A7S next time...

Big In Japan from Sean J Vincent on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Atomos Shogun and Ninja Star

Jeromy from Atomos has done a really good little video with the chaps over at Cinema5D to explain what the Shogun and Ninja Star are all about... I thought i'd post it here too:

NAB 2014 - Atomos Shogun gets the 4K out of Sony's A7s from cinema5D on Vimeo.

Can't wait to get my hands on the Star for aerial shoots and the Shogun for shooting my future projects with a combination of the GH4 and A7S....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Addicted - US Release on 24th June

This is the US DVD cover artwork.
On the 24th June, Revolver are releasing the DVD and VOD versions of 'The Addicted' in the United States. It'll be really interesting to see how it does over there, especially being available in Walmart, which as many of you know, is a pretty huge retailer.

There is a new official FaceBook page for the film here:

I shot this back at the end of 2011 and it was the first time i'd used the Sony FS100 with the Atomos Ninja.  Amy Wilson was the Camera Op and Ian Holmes was the Gaffer and special FX guy. I spent a big chunk of 2012 working on the post production (as did Jon Atkinson) and this was the last feature i edited on FCP7.

I learnt a hell of a lot while making 'The Addicted', not just about film making, but also about writing and the whole process of sales and distribution. Being my second feature, i'd already had my fingers burnt on my previous project with some really bad writing and performances that no amount of amazing post production could fix. (all my fault)  With 'The Addicted', i felt i'd moved on significantly and addressed a lot of the issues i'd suffered from previously, but it was still very much a learning process.  However, sitting and watching the final edit was actually pretty cool and we're proud of what we achieved on a small budget and with a very small crew. The audience was watching through their fingers and jumping at all the right moments, so i guess we almost nailed it...

If you're in the USA, pick up a copy from Walmart as of the 24th June... or look out for it on iTunes and NetFlix.

UK and European release details to follow soon....

Monday, June 2, 2014

Moving on...

Cannes was fantastic...  you can read more about it in next month's Digital FilmMaker Magazine as i've done a piece on what happens in Cannes.  Since we got back i've been tinkering with the plans for the next feature, 'Hindsight'. Hopefully in the near future i'll have some news about the casting and the shoot.

On the 24th June 'The Addicted', the horror film i shot in 2011 is released by Revolver in the USA and Canada. It will be available on DVD in Walmart, on iTunes, Netflix and on TV all over the states soon too. Keep an eye out for it if you're in the US.

We've had some really interesting offers for 7 CASES and we're currently in talks with several people about where it will end up. We're not rushing into anything after lessons learnt in the past.

Tech-wise... i'm really looking forward to working with the Lumix GH4. But... i'm going to wait until the release of the Atomos Shogun. Until i can capture the full 10bit 4K in Pro Res, i'd rather wait.   Hopefully the GH4/Shogun combination will be fantastic and i'm hoping to put together a great little MoVi rig with them for the next film.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cannes time...

As of this weekend, we're in Cannes at the film festival. If you would like to meet in Cannes, email me...

We're there to find international partners for both distribution and finance. We have 7 CASES finished and ready to screen and HINDSIGHT is in the planning stages - aiming for an autumn shoot.

Anyone wanting the lowdown on where to go and who to talk to in Cannes - join The Film Portal. Roy runs an awesome organisation and it's great to meet so many people this way.

See you on the Croisette!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cannes 2014

Cannes is nearly upon us... the yearly gathering of producers, directors, financiers and anyone 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... 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 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 too 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

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 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'.