Saturday, December 3, 2016

2017... Changes are coming...

It's been a while since i've posted any updates on my various projects, so i thought i'd just do a quick catch-up post.

I've had an interesting year touring in the USA, Australia and Holland and making a few music videos while working on several screenplays. Taking a year to write always looks like you've dropped off the planet, but i've actually written a feature, got halfway through another and done a re-write on a screenplay i wrote some time ago.

2017 is all about change for me. Things have been moving pretty nicely for the last few years, with the occasional hiccup but now it's time to change things up - a lot.

Firstly, i'm cutting down on my sound engineering work. Touring is loads of fun and i've been doing it for 20 years...but it's quite damaging to home life and i need to scale it back a bit. Secondly, i'm stopping my magazine work with Digital FilmMaker Magazine. I've loved doing it, but it takes up quite a bit of time and i need to concentrate on other things now. Thirdly... we're shooting a new feature. Early in 2017.... it's a completely new project. Really looking forward to this one. More details soon.

Lastly - I'm starting a new company. It's a departure for me, but a really exciting one. I can't wait to tell you all more.

For now.... enjoy Xmas and i'll be back with more details soon.


Friday, October 28, 2016

New Apple Macbook Pro

Ok, i'm going to just say it.... I'm confused by the new Macbook Pro. This isn't a review... i haven't seen one in the flesh.

The touchbar - I'm just not convinced. The DJ using it in the demo yesterday was awkward... who wants to see that? Still, it impressed the front row of the Apple delegates.  Yes, it looks like it might work to speed up workflow in some apps, but most people are going to end up using it to add emojis or scroll through movies. It just seems like a novelty thing to me. A bigger, stand-alone version that works with any Mac running Sierra? Much better idea.... but still a bit un-necessary.

The lack of a mag-safe port - What? The mag-safe power connector has saved my Mac from hitting the floor countless times and it's genuinely one of Apple's better ideas...  but now, we have to choose which USB-C port we want to lose, and then use that to charge from.

The lack of traditional USB ports - Yes, i's what Apple does - push the boundaries and help the rest of us leave old tech behind.... but, USB is far from dead. We'll all need loads of adapters to connect anything until USB-C really takes off.

The Headphone socket - Didn't Apple say this was a 'dinosaur' at the iPhone 7 launch? Isn't it old technology? Make your minds up...  I like that it's there...but it's weird.

The lack of glowing Apple on the lid - Ok, a minor thing....but i liked it. Seems like a step back to me.

Well, at least it's not too expensive.... oh no, wait, yes it is.... For a fully spec'ed up 15 inch model, it's over £4000. Yes.... pounds, not dollars.

Funniest bit of the launch? Jonny Ive's 'film'. Didn't it just repeat everything they had already showed us? His voice-overs are starting to sound a bit comedy now.... reminded me of a 'Fast Show' sketch.

What's the new Apple TV App called again?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Stunning Drone control...

My good friend and drone pilot Neil Jones isn't always putting the cinematography first... sometimes (quite a lot) he flies his drones for the pure fun of it. This video just shows how incredibly manoeuvrable drones are these days but also how talented Neil is at piloting them. Enjoy...

Monday, September 19, 2016

SmallRig Atomos Shogun/Ninja Assassin Cage Video Review

The SmallRig Shogun/Ninja Assassin Cage is very useful if you'd like to add more mounting points and some protection to your Atomos device.

  • Nato Military style mounting rail on the bottom edge
  • 2 x 15mm rod clamps on the top corners
  • A unique HDD securing latch
  • Wide recesses for the cables/plugs
  • Light-weight
  • Optional handles for use as a Director's monitor

$134.10 Exc. VAT

Check-out the video review for full details...  

Friday, June 17, 2016

DFM Mag's Ask The FilmMaker Video #2

As seen on

Send questions to the mag via Facebook or email...or even via this blog if you like.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sony A7S vs Lumix GH4

You might think this 'head to head' is out of date... but with the prices you can pick these cameras up for now - i don't think so.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ask The FilmMaker

As many of you know, i write the 'Ask The FilmMaker' column for Digital FilmMaker magazine. Well, now the DFM website has launched, I'm doing the column as a video too... so checkout the website and send me your filmmaking related questions...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Online 'Agencies' like Genero and Radar... good or bad for the industry?

A few months ago i thought i'd join Genero and Radar to see if there was any interesting jobs worth pitching for to cover the down time between other jobs. They are both similar in that they list jobs which you then pitch on. Radar only deals with music videos and associated jobs like EPKs and behind the scenes stuff for videos and recording sessions, whereas Genero does everything from music videos and TV commercials to sponsorship bumpers and corporate jobs. Radar gives you the brief and the budget and you are invited to pitch. Genero does the same for most of the jobs, but some are run more like a competition, where you are invited to make the piece of finished work and submit it for the client to pick the winner....and then only the winner gets paid. All well and good.

Or is it?

First of all, let me be clear about my experiences, so that none of this is viewed as sour grapes. I pitched on about 20 music videos on Radar and only got 1 of them...although i actually got the job outside of Radar as i knew the artist already... so the Radar involvement didn't do anything other than alert me to the fact that someone i knew was looking for a director. The other 19 jobs went to other directors. Why? Who knows... i've no idea how many people pitched... but i guess it was quite a few as this is an international service.

On Genero, i pitched on about 6 jobs and did one of the 'competitions'. Things got complicated with Genero when i was selected as the filmmaker for a commercial for a well known insurance company. 24 hours later, (after several useful and positive emails and phone calls with the actual client) i was sent a message saying i was no longer required for the job. What? Yep... fired before i'd even got as far as the first production meeting. Why? Well, this particular job involved being able to deliver some specific performers and i had told the clients (and Genero) in the conversations on the website prior to being hired that this was not only not possible, but also the general plan for the commercial would cost more than they were offering to do safely and legally. When i got the job (for an increased budget), i figured that they liked that i was doing things properly and not skimping on the law and health and safety. Anyway, it turns out they hadn't read the messages and when they found out that my pitch was a slight variation to get around the problem (rather than putting performers and crew in harm's way), i got dropped.... hardly my fault that they didn't read their email.

Annnywayyyy.....  whatever. Genero apologised a lot to me for the rubbish treatment and we all moved on.

So...why did both Radar and Genero get on my nerves? Mainly... drifting deadlines and lack of communication. On every single Genero job, there is a deadline for the pitch and there is also a date when the finished film/video is due for delivery. Now, if i pitch on job, but by the time the delivery deadline is less than a week away and i still haven't heard anything -  i think that stinks. How are directors supposed to manage their diaries if people don't let us know what is going on? Genero (when asked) said that the delivery date was always just a guide and they would always talk to the filmmaker about this when they were in contention. Great... but they do all this before telling the hundreds of other pitchers that they aren't in contention anymore... So people just wait... not knowing if they should pitch on other jobs or if, in fact, they are about to be asked to complete a previous job that is now running weeks over it's own deadline. It happened on every single job on Genero that i pitched on. All of them...all the time.

Radar is very similar. You pitch and you wait.... sometimes you get feedback from the band/client...but it's nearly always a generic 'We liked another idea more'. I even got this when i had pitched to make a video that the band had already come up with the story/brief... they just wanted people to shoot it.. weird.

In Radar's defence - They contacted me when i closed my account to ask why and i told them. They then said they were going  to implement new rules which would let the filmmakers know within 7 days of a job closing whether they had the job or not. Much better. Well done Radar.

I suppose if you are a student filmmaker or you haven't got anything else going on, then waiting to find out about jobs might be ok, but for anyone with a bunch of work spread throughout the year trying to plug the gaps with these services... it's just not worth the hassle....or the money.  Radar's subscription is one thing.... but the hours you need to spend on pitches for both Genero and Radar costs time, and time is money. It makes not getting any communication even more frustrating. No agency would ever treat you like that if they wanted you to work with them again.

But, all the timing issues and lack of communication aside, there is a bigger issue here. The fees offered are set by the clients and not the websites..that much is clear.  However, some of them (not all) are really taking the piss. Now, of course, it's up to you to avoid those ones if you don't like it, but the effect on the industry is that clients WILL find someone, somewhere who will make them a music video for £200 or a web commercial for £1000...  good for them... but it's knock-on effect is far reaching. I've had bands who are signed and earning thousands per gig offer less than a grand for a music video.  This is the video that will help sell their new single and promote their gigs that earn them their living.... and yet i'm not going to clear enough to pay an assistant and cover my own costs... and i've got no long term residual payments coming from it... but they have... that's where this goes wrong. Even a simple music video takes more time than bands and clients realise. Let's take a look...

A video i shot recently for bottom dollar took this amount of time:

Day before the shoot. Prep two camera rigs - clean lenses, format drives, pack flightcases and get all equipment ready to pack into the vehicle in the morning. Approx 5 hours.

Also - Prep playback system and prepare audio files for slowmotion work as well as adding count-in markers. 2 hours.

Day of the shoot. Pack vehicle. Drive to location. Unpack, set-up production base. Rig lighting and cameras for first set up etc etc... 8 hours on set.

Evening of the shoot. Drive home, unpack, de-rig and then ingest all the footage and check. 4 hours.

Day after the shoot. Checking footage, arranging and labelling files. Start to edit. 8 hours.

2nd Edit day. Editing, multi-cam tweaking, colour grading, audio mix. Upload first rough edit. 6 hours.

3rd Edit day. Tweaks to edit. Colour re-work. Upload 2nd version. 4 hours.

4th Edit day. Tweaks to edit. More colour and FX tweaks. Upload 3rd Version. 4 hours.

Final day. Add bars and tones and generate masters for broadcast, web and mobile & upload. 3 hours.

As you can see... that's a lot of work for a simple job. As far as the band are concerned, i turned up, did some filming and 3 days later i sent them the video.  In actual fact, i spent about 6 days (where i didn't have time to do any other jobs) totally working for them.  It's the same with commercial jobs.

It's hard to say any of this without sound like i'm moaning...(i am a bit), but it's up to us, the filmmakers, to make sure we walk away before we accept a fee that isn't enough to make it worthwhile. Every time we take a stupidly low fee, we're making things worse for the future.

As for Genero and Radar? I'm out... for now... Radar seem to be making the right noises to improve things and maybe Genero will get there eventually.

Friday, April 8, 2016

X-LUTS - FREE 3D LUTS for your Atomos Shogun or NLE

I've been shooting with the Atomos Shogun for a long time now and i've developed a small, but useful set of LUTS (Look-Up Tables) that give me the confidence that i'm getting my exposure and lighting right on-set.

I found a lot of the professional LUTS i had been using were too subtle sometimes and not really what i wanted. I needed something quite heavy-handed that would be easy to judge exposure and lighting when i was on location or on set. Getting the right amount light on faces is tricky at the best of times, but when i'm shooting on two slightly different cameras and moving the Shogun from one camera rig to the next, i really wanted some LUTS that would work for both VLog on the GH4 and SLog2 on the A7S.

Now, i hear can hear the questions already.... can a LUT really work for both? Well, yes and no. It won't be as perfect for when it comes to post production, but by adjusting very basic settings using your LUT loader, they work really well. On the Shogun, they work with both with no problems at all.

So what LUTS do i use?

There's VLOG-SLOG2 FILM001 and FILM 002, which are my main film-look LUTS. They have a blue tint to the shadows and a nice warm orange lift in the mids and highs.

Then there's VLOG-SLOG2 KODAK001 which is reminiscent of a Kodak stock with a less obvious cool/warm slant between the shadows and highs with a more obviously contrasty image. Slightly pink in the highs... makes a change from the teal/orange look.

VLOG-SLOG2 WARM FUJI is based on a Fuji style film stock with a warm, slightly golden tint to skin tones.

VLOG-SLOG2 MAGICHR is a 'Magic Hour' look.  A warm, orange/yellow cast with a slightly cooler and contrasty shadow area. Ideal for when you've lost that 'magic hour' light and you're still shooting.

VLOG-SLOG2 DAY4N is my 'Day-For-Night' LUT. It's completely over the top with a very blue tint and big dip in saturation, but if you nail it using this combined with a White Balance of around 3200K, it'll be just right when you come to treat it in post.

I've found all these LUTS work well in post as starting point for the grade, you just often need to back them off a bit.

Anyway, i thought i'd give them away... if i find them useful, i'm sure others will.

Here's the download link:

I use MotionVFX's mLUT for loading LUTS into FCPX. Definitely worth looking at.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Atomos Shogun Flame and Ninja Flame HDR Recorder/Monitors

I love the Atomos way of working, as many of you know. I've been using the Ninja, Ninja 2, Ninja Blade and Shogun for a long time now and i never shoot without them. This new development is something special though. Atomos have spotted a real issue with shooting HDR log images and completely addressed it with a product that builds on the Shogun, whilst also addressing some of the issues like build quality and the single battery. Atomos have always made excellent monitors in my opinion, but this one looks like the best there is. I can't wait to try it.

Check out the official launch trailer:

Atomos Shogun & Ninja Flame - HDR & High Brightness Launch Trailer from Atomos Video on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

BVE 2016

Me and Jon went to BVE at ExCel today.  Slightly odd that both CVP and Sony weren't there...and some other companies had scaled down their stands from last year. But Atomos were right in the middle again with a very impressive stand. I had arranged to meet Andrew from SLRMagic there. We fitted the SLRMagic 50mm anamorphic lens to the 5D Mk3 (using a PL to EF mount) and i got to play with this much sought after lens. It's got a really pronounced 'bowing' effect and of course, the trade mark flare streaks.  Obviously, we used an Atomos Shogun to de-squeeze the 1.33:1 image.  It looks great for either face close ups or wide establishing shots, but I felt the 'bowing' looked a little too much on medium close shots, especially if there's any straight vertical things in shot as they look very curved. This wouldn't be a problem if you were using them in the right context with time to compose your shots... but they wouldn't be a good idea if you're working off the cuff and shooting fast like i often am.

Next, we went to have a play with the new Panasonic VariCam LT. I was pretty excited to try this camera out as i've always liked the Panasonic image and the VariCam is a seriously nice camera. The LT version was interesting.. nice smaller form factor, the same control panel which is removable and an EF lens mount as standard. But, then came the shocking bad news. It only captures to AVCIntra internally... no Pro Res or DNxHD for 4K...  and it won't send 4K out to an external recorder at all! Why??!!  That's a seriously nice camera, ruined by a weird codec decision and a hampered output.  But, all is not lost. I heard a pretty solid rumour that 4K will indeed be possible to extract from the output of the LT before long... watch this space - it could save this camera.

We also went to have a look at the AJA Cion again. I've seen it before, but with it's recent price drop, i thought it was worth another look. It's a hell of a lot of camera for the money now. The build quality is very solid and the sensor is the same as in the BMD URSA... so we know it's got potential and the demo footage is certainly looking a lot better now than the early stuff which seemed to let it down last year. I'm not swayed by popular opinion, so i think i'd like to try a shoot with a Cion and see how it performs. MTF make a PL to EF adapter for it, so i can give it test with my current lenses and see what's what. It's a shame there's no LOG profile as such... but that's not the point of this camera. AJA put a lot of work into the colour science of the Cion and it's meant to be used 'as is'... weather than works for you is another thing...

Finally, i found some fantastic light panels from LEDGO... seriously impressive. Nice quality light and a really good price and they are so thin! Just what i was looking for.

Monday, February 22, 2016

BVE tomorrow...

Tomorrow, we're going to be at BVE at Excel in London. I try to go every year if possible, as it's a good chance to check out new gear and chat to other filmmakers.

We'll be looking at SLR Magic's Anamorphot, hopefully Veydra's mini primes and also seeing what there is to offer in the shape of battery powered LED lighting.  I'm also going to be looking at lightweight tripods and camera cases...(new rig needs a new case).

Do say hello if you see me there.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

VariCam LT

This looks interesting. I've always liked Panasonic's offerings and this size, spec and form factor seem pretty good to me.

Looking forward to trying one out.

"The VariCam LT delivers superb image handling in multiple formats ranging from 4K, UHD, 2K and HD, and like the VariCam 35, is fully capable of High Dynamic Range (HDR) field capture. The new 4K camcorder offers Apple ProRes 4444 (up to 30p) and ProRes 422 HQ (up to 60p) support for HD recording, as well as Panasonic’s AVC-ULTRA family of advanced video codecs."

The VariCam LT will be available at the end of March in two packages, suggested list price $18,000 (body only) and suggested list price $24,000 (body + AU-VCVF10G viewfinder).

For some reason people are comparing this to the Sony FS7 price-wise! That's crazy... this is in another league altogether.  The FS7 is great for what it is, but it's not got the features, codecs or build quality of this. Expect to see the VariCam LT on lots of TV drama and features as either a B-Cam to the VariCam for use on Jibs and Gimbals or as the A-Cam for DoPs who like the small form factor and price.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Photography Show 2016

On Saturday 19th March at 1.30pm, i will talking at the Photography show at the NEC in Birmingham. In the 'Video Theatre', i will be talking about transitioning from stills to video.

Hopefully i'll be able to give photographers the information they need to begin to shoot professional looking video.

I'll be covering the basics needed to shoot video that looks like film and discussing the differences in workflow that working with video requires.

This is a good time to mention that very soon i will also be running some filmmaking workshops in conjunction with some companies you probably know...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

2016... what's the plan?

Sorry i've been quiet since Xmas... but i've been working on a music video project for the last few weeks which i will talk more about when it's released.

I've got a few music promo shoots coming up and i'm looking forward to doing more this year.

PARADOX has gone down really well and we've had some fantastic feedback. One broadcaster is reviewing the feature script that the series was based on. We're planning more PARADOX later in the year.

More soon...


Me and Tom Bailey

Testing Fields of View of all my lenses with the A7S on the Shogun

The excellent cast for the music video i shot recently