Saturday, December 25, 2010

BlindSide - Short Film

BlindSide Promo from Dimi Nakov on Vimeo.

BlindSide - Short Film

Directed by: Dimi Nakov
Produced by: Graeme Cash 
Screenplay by: Chantal Rayner-Burt & Sean O'Connor

Becky's Voice Over and Monologue written by Barbara Watkins

Facebook Page:

YouTube Page:

Principal photography for BlindSide will commence in March 2011

Starring Jordon Buckwell, Sarah James, Sean O'Connor, Tonci Pivac, Jesse Miller

Promo Credits:

Editor - Christos Montes (Orasis Video Productions)
Visual FX - Kathy Kennedy
Music & Sound FX - "Reiko Che"
Camera & Lighting - Stephen Morris, Kevin Luck 
Location Sound - Kimberley Norman 
Make Up Artist - Astrid Schirnack


Following her parent's separation, Becky's life changes for the worse when her mother, Amanda is blindsided by a charming stranger, who is not quite what he seems. One fateful night will forever change their destiny.

More About BlindSide:

BLINDSIDE is a drama / thriller which portrays a separated family caught up in a situation of domestic violence and sexual abuse, that too often happens behind closed doors in New Zealand society.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DSLRs for Digital Cinema: Their Potential, Your Responsibility by Dave Stump

DSLRs for Digital Cinema: Their Potential, Your Responsibility

by Dave Stump
Creative COW Magazine : Divergence Issue : DSLRs for Digital Cinema: Their Potential, Your Responsibility
DSLR Video Feature at Creative COW

CreativeCOW presents DSLRs for Digital Cinema: Their Potential, Your Responsibility -- DSLR Video Feature

Dave StumpDave Stump
David Stump, Director of Visual Effects & Photography
Los Angeles California USA

©2010 All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
Dave Stump ASC explores the innovations and limitations of DSLR cameras and offers his insights into how and when to work with them successfully.

Dave Stump, ASC, has spent over 20 years as a director of photography, a visual effects supervisor and VFX DP. Along the way, he won an Academy Award® for Scientific and Technical Achievement. Add his position as Chair of the Camera Subcommittee of the American Society of Cinematographers Technical Committee to the mix, and you have a unique combination: a rigorous, scientific mind with direct responsibility for evaluating new cameras and technologies for his peers in the ASC, and a guy who is used to doing whatever it takes to get the shot -- the scholarly and the practical.

In his role as Rigorous Scientific Guy, Dave has been part of the Camera Assessment Series (CAS), jointly produced by the ASC, the Producer's Guild of America, and Revelations Entertainment, which is the production company founded by Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary. The goal is simple: to shoot demanding scenes with the industry's highest-end cameras, side-by-side, to illustrate their strengths and weaknesses.

[Ed. note: Robert Primes, ASC, described the CAS in Creative COW Magazine's "Blue Ribbon Awards" issue, and how DSLRs stack up, in an article called DSLRs: A Time Exposure.]

We knew that Dave has heard reports from his peers in the ASC that are using DSLRs and has been taking a closer look at them for his own work. We asked him how well these new cameras hold up for digital cinema, both technically and in practice. This article contains some of the observations he made during a recent conversation.

We brought a Canon 5D Mark II along on some of the Camera Assessment Series setups, but it was never intended to be part of the actual primary testing, because the CAS had strict criteria that excluded it. Among the rules: the participating cameras have to be commercially available, have to have shot commercial motion picture work, and have to have 4:4:4 capability. But we did actually sneak one in alongside a couple of setups, just so that we could see what there is to the craze.

Unofficially, it was an interesting experience to see them included in side-by-side testing of the material. There is obviously some pretty interesting stuff being shot with DSLRs in those commercial motion picture and television work -- but I find that the backend workflow for the screen leaves a lot to be desired. The codecs for handling material from DSLRs are pretty low in color bit depth, and fairly high in compression, and there are not many options to derive higher quality for large screen use of the images.

There are also limitations for using DSLRs on set. For example, there is not much in terms of video tap output for monitoring while shooting.

They are also difficult to keep in focus unless you put cine lenses on them. And when you put a cine lens on, if you don't connect the camera to some kind of fairly rigid platform, focusing with a cine-style focuser actually deflects the camera. You get a snap-jerk to the image -- just by virtue of the camera's light weight, and of the torque of the focus puller's arm -- focusing the darn thing. Unless you get the camera connected to something, focusing will actually point the camera down and away or up and away. It's as if the light weight works against you in some scenarios.

For the shooting itself, DSLRs are yielding good latitude -- not as great as the highest-end digital cinema cameras, of course, and certainly not as good as film. But there's some very powerful image processing going on inside those cameras. They have done a lot of dark subtraction work to quiet those sensors down, and can make them very quiet in the blacks.

But for now, you can really only output HD for motion imaging from DSLRs. You can't get the full benefit of the resolution of the sensor to do motion picture RAW work with any of them. I don't know if anybody has hacked that yet, but it really would be a lot more valuable to be able to derive for motion pictures the same resolution in RAW format that you can for still images from those same cameras.

And truthfully, while the images generally look really good, the right image criteria is going to stress the sensor -- or at least stress the QuickTime output wrapper -- and you will get some color aliasing.

So it's just an absolute mystery why manufacturers haven't purposely designed these DSLRs as digital cinema cameras, based on the technology that's already in them. I think that companies like Canon have an enormous potential for building awesome digital cinema cameras, but they don't seem inclined to go that way... or at least I haven't seen them, or anyone else, SEEM to be inclined to lean that way yet.


The thing that I always keep in mind when I evaluate the trend towards using DSLRs is the same thing I keep in mind when evaluating any new camera: I don't have a judgment about it one way or the other. It's just another tool in the toolbox for certain kinds of shots.

What it really is, is an indicator -- a barometer of what cinematographers want. They want a camera that is smaller, lighter and easier to use, and that produces better looking pictures. The Canon 5D Mark II is the size that people wish the Sony F35 could be. If you could get that kind of performance in such a small package, then the result becomes the cinematographer's dream camera.

That has always been true. In the 40s and 50s, we shot movies and TV on big, heavy Mitchell BNCR's. And then along came ARRIFLEX (For image and more information please view Gary Adcock's article, "Digital Cinema Comes of Age.") with this amazing but noisy little thing called the 2C, which was sort of a byproduct World War 2. Everybody jumped in and had to have one, because it was so much smaller and lighter, and yeah, who cares about the racket it makes? Now we can handhold the camera!

That was a revolution -- but it's a revolution that a lot of people have forgotten about. It really is the same revolution that the Canon 5D Mark II has created. In that respect, it is already a big success.


We don't need to limit our conversation about DSLRs in digital cinema to their future potential. I think that DSLRs have a lot of value right now.

For example, I do a lot of visual effects work. I can use these cameras to get a shot that nobody has ever seen before. Say I was going to put a camera out on some train tracks to get run over by a train: I wouldn't put an ALEXA out there. I wouldn't put a RED out there, but I can go to a producer in good conscience and say, "I can get the plate that we need by putting a Canon 5D Mark II out on the railroad tracks, and running over it with a train." 

There are also times when it helps to have stealth in your toolbox. You can get a shot that, if you were there with a film camera or with an F35, you might have problems. If you are doing a wide shot in a public place, people might shy away from it, or they might just stare into it. You might even attract the ire of the local authorities, whereas if you are just standing there with a still camera on a tripod, you can gather an establishing shot of traffic going by for a movie or a TV show, fairly efficiently, without interference, and without attracting too much attention. To me, that's extremely useful.

There are numerous television shows that have been employing them to great effect. That is what has led to things like an entire episode of "House, MD" being shot with DSLRs [by Gale Tattersal, ASC], and episodes of "24" [by Rodney Charters, ASC].

I personally am not inclined to try and shoot a whole television show with a DSLR. But there are guys who want to be out there, on the hairy edge. This is sort of what they're doing to stay in the avant-garde. They're shooting entire TV shows, and even moving into features with the Canon 5D Mark II. I think it has that kind of value. I personally might never do that, but I honor those who would.


I have done some of my own testing with the Canon 5D Mark II, and I really enjoy shooting with it. As with any new camera, I enjoy finding its unique characteristics.

To me, one of the responsibilities of a cinematographer is to know how to use all the tools available, so that you can let the script and the story and the circumstances tell you which camera to use, rather than just picking a camera that you have a comfort level with.

It obeys a really old axiom, that when the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you know only one kind of camera, then every job you do looks like a job for that camera. But ultimately, what we learned from CAS is that every camera has its strengths and weaknesses. If you let the job tell you which camera to use, rather than just your knowledge of only one camera, then you are ultimately doing the greatest service to your producer.

The thing that I think about most is my responsibility to the projects that I do. Sometimes part of the job description entails that you're here to save them from themselves. In the same respect that it's possible to spend too much money on a project, it's also possible to spend too little. Making the right choice palatable and desirable is a delicate dance.

Ultimately, a question that you must ask your producer and your director, as a responsible cinematographer is, "What is your expectation of the shelf life of this product that we are creating? How hard do you want me to work to make this product future-proof?"

By knowing and educating myself on a lot of different camera systems, I can make a choice. There's an important distinction to be made here. If I only know one camera system, I can't make a choice. I can only decide to use the tool that I know.

I can't choose some of the others that might work better, if I don't know what they are.

Dave Stump, ASC has worked as a DP, effects cinematographer and VFX supervisor on dozens of films including Quantum of Solace, X-men and X-men 2, The Bourne Identity, Army of Darkness, Star Trek: First Contact, Batman Forever and many more. He chairs the American Society of Cinemtagraphers subcommittees on Cameras, and Metadata.
In 2000, Dave was part of a team that received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® for hand-development of advanced camera data capture systems, which he describes in his first article for Creative COW Magazine, Metadata and The Future of Filmmaking. There, Dave describes a possible future for filmmaking -- faster, less expensive, and more creative -- as cameras and metadata come together.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

HDSLR Audio Round Up

HDSLR Audio Round UpPDFPrintE-mail
Written by Jem Schofield   
Friday, 11 September 2009 16:16
One thing is for sure, if you're shooting with the new crop of HDSLR cameras—Canon 5D Mark II,Canon 7D or the Panasonic Lumix GH1—you’ll need to put some serious thought into your audio workflow. While each of these cameras is capable of producing remarkable images with their large sensors and interchangeable lens systems, they are all pretty awful in the audio department.
Well, each camera does have built in audio capabilities, including a built in mic and a jack to plug in external microphones, but none of them give the user any real manual control over what’s being recorded. There are no meters, no trim knobs and no XLR inputs to use professional shotgun and lavalier microphones. Most importantly, all of the cameras use Automatic Gain Control (AGC) when recording, and it can’t be disabled. This is the real monkey in the wrench.
AGC works on the equality system. If Joe is talking to camera and suddenly an itty-bitty cricket makes a loud sound in the background, the AGC will kick in. It will increase the mic’s gain and try to make the cricket as loud as Joe. As you can imagine, the results can be disastrous. The audio levels will be all over the place, and unwanted noise can be introduced into the recording. It’s the equivalent of an audio roller coaster ride. Not good.
So, in order to combat these inherent HDSLR audio issues there are a number of current solutions that can be used to ensure that you’re getting the best audio on your HDSLR projects.

Double-System Sound
Zoom H4nThe first thing to come to grips with is that if you are going to shoot a real project with an HDSLR, and it’s not MOS, then you’re probably going to have to go old-school and record dual system. I will discuss options where you can record directly to camera a little later, but for the cleanest possible audio for your project, double-system sound is the only game in town. [NOTE: Watch Jem's video on recording sync sound with the Canon 5D here.]
The most popular, cost effective, recording solution being used for HDSLR double-system sound is the Samson Zoom H4n. It’s a portable flash-based recording device that has a built-in stereo microphone and also has two XLR inputs. It’s easy to use, costs less than $350 and the audio it records is very clean. It includes a low-cut filter (also called a high-pass filter, because it lets the high frequencies through but can cut lower undesirable frequencies out), and it can be coupled with the Redhead Windscreen when filming outdoors.
The H4n runs off of two AA batteries or the included AC adapter and is truly the Swiss Army knife of HDSLR recording. It can even be used to record reference audio directly to camera (using its mini jack line out).

Reference Audio & Direct to Camera Recording
When recording dual-system, it’s important that the audio your camera records is as clean and audible as possible. Whether using software to sync your double-system sound (more on that later), or doing it manually using audio waveforms, if you don’t have good levels and clean audio it’s pretty much a game over.
To help you capture better reference audio to any of the HDSLRs mentioned in this round up, there are a few small microphones that can be used. Remember, these mics don’t disable the AGC in the camera, but they will have better pick-up and audio than the built-in mic.
Sennheiser MKE 400 MicThe first is the Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Shotgun Mic. It’s tiny, mounts to a hotshoe and runs off of a single AAA battery. It has low and high gain settings and also includes a low-cut filter switch. It comes with a foam windscreen, and there is the MZW 400 Hairy Windscreen that can be added for outdoor, windy conditions.
RODE SVMThe second mic is the RODE Stereo VideoMic. It’s considerably larger than the Sennheiser, but it has a true stereo X/Y microphone, a built in shock mount, a high pass filter and a -10dB pad switch when the mic is too hot for the device it is being used to record to. It runs off of a single 9V battery, has great pick-up and even includes a Dead Kitten windscreen for outdoor recording. RODE also makes a mono, very directional, shotgun mic called the RODE VideoMic. It’s another option when you want to record clean audio to your HDSLR.
Sennheiser wireless mic system ENG G2The stealth approach when recording to your HDSLR is to use a wireless mic system like the Sennheiser EW 100 ENG G2 Series. This system includes two transmitters (one for 3.5mm devices and one for XLR devices), one receiver and one lavalier mic. When you want to be on the down low and still look like you’re just shooting stills, this is an excellent option. You can even use the included XLR based transmitter (only one transmitter can be used at a time), when you want to use a boom mic in a wireless configuration.

Under ideal conditions, indoors with next to no ambient noise, you can record pretty clean audio directly to your HDSLR using an external mic. If you want to use other professional mics (like the Sennheiser wireless system mentioned above or a XLR based shotgun microphone), adding a mixer to the configuration can give you even more control.
JuicedLink makes a number of cost effective mixers that have 2 or 4 balanced inputs that output to a standard 3.5mm stereo jack that runs to your HDSLR. Their products include the CX211CX231,CX411CX431 and the CX471. The 11 series doesn’t have Phantom power (the 31 series does), but all versions of their mixers have three gain settings (low-noise preamps), and separate trim knobs for each input. All of the JuicedLink mixers run off a single 9V battery and the CX471 also includes audio level meters.
If you’re not using the CX471, you’ll have to do some test recordings to the camera’s flash card, transfer them to your computer and tweak the levels as needed. As there is no headphone jack on any of the HDSLR cameras, this is something you probably want to do anyway (regardless of the device that you are using to record direct to camera). It would be a best practice workflow each time you record in a new location.
Juiced Link 231 Juiced Link 431 Juiced Link 471

Disabling AGC
The last device I want to mention is unique to the bunch. It’s the BeachTek DXA-5D Dual XLR Adapter. While it was originally designed to work with the Canon 5D Mark II (and has pins that line up with the bottom of the 5DMKII for mounting), it will also work with the Panasonic Lumix GH1 and the Canon 7D.
BeachTek dxa-5dWhat makes this device unique?
Well, the DXA-5D is the only commercial device on the market that was designed not only to allow direct to HDSLRcamera recording, but also to disable the Automatic Gain Control Disable in your HDSLR camera. Pretty cool, huh?
What the device does is send an approximately 20Khz tone to the camera (we can’t really hear that frequency), which tricks the AGC feature in the HDSLR. This allows you to record audio and not worry about giving equal billing to that cricket I mentioned earlier.
The DXA-5D runs off of a single 9V battery and can provide 12V or 48V Phantom power to external mics. It can record in Mono or Stereo and has two ground settings (G1 and G2), which are used to reduce noise. It also has audio meters and a headphone jack to monitor audio.
Under ideal conditions, you can get away with using the DXA-5D to record useable audio. As it disables the AGC in the camera, it can be a great device to use for both direct to camera recording, for certain projects, and to improve the quality of the reference audio that is recorded to the camera. The quality of the audio won’t be as good as recording to a separate audio device like the H4n, but for certain applications it may just do the job. It’s small, inexpensive and probably a good addition to an HDSLR shooter’s kit.

Connecting to the Lumix GH1
While any of the above solutions will work with the Panasonic GH1, when recording audio directly to the GH1 remember that you will need a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter. That’s the mic input size on that camera. Other than that, nothing is different.

Syncing In Post
Once you have recorded double-system sound... and you should be, what do you do in post? If you’re using Final Cut Studio for post-production, you’re in luck! Singular Software makes a product calledPluralEyes that was designed for Final Cut Pro and it really works. Once installed, you set up your FCP sequence to match your project’s assets and name it PluralEyes. You then drag your good audio, recorded to an external device such as the Zoom H4n, and the picture and reference audio from the HDSLR camera into the sequence. Fire up PluralEyes, press Sync and it lines it all up in one click – it even creates a new sequence with the synced version. It’s worth every one hundred and forty nine dollars that it costs as it can save you hours of syncing. The company is working on versions for other NLEs, but Final Cut Pro is the only supported application at the time this article was written. [NOTE: Jem's video demonstrates syncing audio with FCP and Plural Eyes. Watch it here.]
If you are using another NLE for post-production, slating each take during acquistion is really important. The current gang of HDSLRs don’t record timecode, so the audio waveforms that are recorded to both camera and your external recording device are your best friends. Slating will give you a definite visual and auditory reference to make syncing in post much, much easier.

When recording audio on a job, each location and job will require that you make tweaks to each of your device’s settings. It’s the nature of the beast.
I find that when recording directly to the H4n, using the Sennheiser ME66/KP6 shotgun mic, that I set the H4n’s recording level to between 55 and 65. This, of course, has to do with the location, type of mic and the placement of the mic. You can also use the H4n’s Phantom Power, but be warned that while it will give you 48V of Phantom power for potentially better dynamic range, it will also eat the AA batteries for breakfast. You’re better off using the adapter if you want to use the device’s Phantom power.
The only real disadvantage I have run into with the H4n is that you can only set one recording level for both of the XLR mic inputs, which are recorded as stereo to two discreet channels. If you’re really serious about your audio (and you should be), you may want to consider adding a mixer such as the Sound Devices 302. This will allow you to control the individual levels for up to three mics and then run those as two outputs into the H4n.
When using the JuicedLink mixer I found that using the medium gain setting produced the best results. This is based on one set up, and while I can’t see using low for any practical applications (I was very close to the mic during the test), I could see using the high gain setting when the mic was further away.
When using the Beachtek DXA-5D with a single mic setup (Sennheiser shotgun again), it seemed that plugging the mic into the right channel, setting the ground switch to G1, activating the AGC disable feature and recording in stereo gave the best results. This effectively gave me a clean audio track in the right channel, the 20Khz tone sent to the camera in the left channel (which can be disabled in post), and the least amount of noise. Again, this was based on one set up but this seemed to be the right combination. I also left the trim knobs all the way clockwise on the DXA-5D as any counter-clockwise adjustments would attenuate (lower or reduce) the input levels. While the DXA-5D is definitely noisier than recording to the H4n directly, it has its place. In good conditions it can produce very useable audio directly to camera, which can eliminate a step in post – syncing audio from an external device.
In the end, though, it’s still best to record double-system sound. While it’s a little extra work, it’s all worth it in the end.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

38 More Ways The Film Industry Is Failing Today

38 More Ways The Film Industry Is Failing Today


A year ago (May 15, 2009)  I wrote a blog post ” 38 American Independent Film Problems/Concerns”.Unfortunately, all of the problems I listed then still stand today; four or so from that list have improved slightly, but they certainly remain issues.  Of more concern is that the list keeps growing and growing.  I can contribute another 38 even more pressing issues today. You do the math: we now have over 75 things wrong with our industry that we are not taking action to fix.
In fact, we have no one to blame for this list but ourselves.  It is our inability to be proactive that has brought on us this terrible state. Ask yourself what currently concerns and frustrates you about where film culture and the film business are today.  What heights is our industry capable of reaching and how does it compare to where we actually are?  Do we really have the capacity to sit and wait to get there?  Isn’t our silence delaying the trip?
I must admit that I am a bit disappointed that I had no difficulty adding another thirty-eight items to this list of where we are failing.  The exciting part (and why #38 of last year ’s list was “lists like this make the foolish despair”) is that these lists demonstrate a tremendous opportunity for those willing to break from the status quo and take action.  Things may be wrong, but they could always be worse.  From here, we just have to work together to make it better.  It is that simple.  Every deficit is an opportunity for the creative entrepreneur, right?
So how has the film biz continued to reveal itself to be troubled this year?  What do I suggest we start to focus on, discuss, and find solutions for?  This list is a start, and I wager we will expand it substantially in the days ahead.
  1. We cannot logically justify any ticket price whatsoever for a non-event film.  There are too many better options at too low a price.  Simply getting out of the house or watching something somewhere because that is the only place it is currently available does not justify a ticket price enough.  We still think of movies as things people will buy.  We have to change our thinking about movies to something that enhances other experiences, and it is that which has monetary value.  Film’s power as a community organizing tool extends far beyond its power to sell popcorn (and the whole exhibition industry is based on that old popcorn idea).
  2. The Industry has never made any attempt to build a sustainable investor class. Every other industry has such a go-to funding sector, developed around a focus on the investors’ concerns and standardized structures.  In the film biz, each deal is different and generally stands alone, as opposed to leading to something more.  The history of Hollywood is partially defined by the belief that another sucker is born every minute.  Who really benefits by the limited options for funding currently available other than those funders and those who fee those deals?  We could build something that works far more efficiently and offers far more opportunity.
  3. The film business remains the virtually exclusive domain of the privileged.  Although great strides have been made to diversify the industry, the numbers don’t lie.  The film industry is ruled by white men from middle class or better socioeconomic backgrounds.  It is an expensive art form and a competitive field — but it doesn’t need to be a closed door one.  Let’s face it: people hire folks who remind them of themselves.  These days everyone needs to intern and the proposition of working for free is too expensive for most.  Living in NYC or LA is not affordable for most people starting out.  We get more of the same and little progress without greater diversity.  And although I essentially mentioned this last year (#36), the continued poor economy limits diversity even more now.
  4. There is no structure or mechanism to increase liquidity of film investments, either through clear exit strategies, or secondary capital markets.  The dirty secret of film investment is that it is a long recoupment cycle with little planning for an exit strategy.  Without a way to get out, fewer people choose to get in.  Who really wants to lock up an investment for four years?  Not investors, only patrons…
  5. Independent Filmmakers (and their Industry advisors) build business plans based on models and notions selected from before September 15, 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed and everything changed.  It is not the same business as it was then and we shouldn’t treat it that way.  Expectations have changed considerably, probably completely.  Buyers and audiences’ behaviors are different (those that still remain that is).  Products are valued at different levels.  We live in a new world.  Our strategies must change with it.
  6. The film business remains a single product industry. The product may be available on many different platforms, but it is still the same thing. For such a capital-intensive enterprise to sell only one thing is a squandering of time and money.  Films can be a platform to launch many different products and enterprises, some of which can also enhance the experience and build the community.
  7. We have done very little thinking or discussing about how to make events out of our movies.  The list seems to have stopped at 3D. There’s only been one “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the first one is very very old.  Music flourishes because the live component is generally quite different from the recorded one, and the film biz could benefit from a greater differentiation of what utilizes different platforms.
  8. We ignore film’s most unique attribute. As demonstrated by how little of people’s online time is spent watching content (30%), we know that people want connectivity & community more than anything else. There used to be film societies, just like reviewers once placed films in cultural context — we need to recreate a community aspect to film going. If you wonder why people don’t go to the movies more, it is not as much about the content, as it is about the lack of community.  Without that, why not just stay home to watch?  Film’s strongest attribute is its ability to work as a community organizing tool.  Film forces us to feel, to think, to engage — let’s not ignore that.
  9. Independent film financing is still based around an antiquated foreign sales model despite the fact that all acquisition markets are collapsing and fee levels shrink market to market.  This old model is centered around stars’ perceived value — an attribute that has been less reliable than ever before.  There has got to be a better way than the foreign sales estimate model, but no one talks about it, or even admits to needing one.  The participants that get most hurt by this are the investors who take the advice of the “experts” that this is the way it’s done.  It used to be done this way, but we have to move on before we burn to the ground.
  10. Filmmakers don’t own their audiences yet (and few even attempt to).  What will happen when agents start to cut deals for their clients who have 1 million engaged fans, people who will pre-order their content, promote it passionately, and deliver more of their friends? There is a shift in the balance of power about to happen, and those that have prepared for it, amassed their followings, will be able to change the conversation significantly.
  11. We’ve failed to develop fetish objects to demonstrate one’s love of cinema.  The only merchandise we sell is “fan-boy” toys.   We need to come up with items that demonstrate their owner’s sense of style and taste.  Beyond the books of Tashen, what is there?  We can do better.  Such products manufacture desire and enhance identification with the art form.  We need to streamline the process of the transformation of leisure time into both intellectual and social capital (i.e movie going and its byproducts).  How do we identify, reward, and encourage those that appreciate our work?
  12. Creators, Distributors, and Marketers have accepted a dividing line between art and commerce, between content and marketing.  By not engaging the filmmakers in how to use marketing tools within their narrative and how to bring narrative techniques to marketing, we diminish the discovery and promotional potential of each film.  We limit the scope of our art by restricting it to the plane of the 90 minute product.  Movies should find us early, lead us to new worlds, bridge us to subsequent experiences, connect us to new passions and loves, help us embrace a more expansive definition of cinema, life, and self.
  13. We don’t recognize that one of film’s greatest assets is its ability to generate data.  Filmmakers and financiers should be insisting on owning the data their films generate. It is an incredibly valuable commodity.  The VOD platform allows for tracking of where and when and who in terms of the business, yet this data is restricted to aggregators not creators.  When you license something for a small fraction of its costs, shouldn’t you share in everything that it generates?
  14. We fail to utilize the two years from greenlight to release to market our film and build our audiences.  Despite having the key economic indicators (i.e. stars & concept) in place at the time of greenlight, we underutilize that two year period when we could be sourcing fans, aggregating them and providing them with both the ramps and the bridges necessary to lead them to our work and then carry them to other new work.
  15. Why can’t our Industry develop more stars?  The talented actors exist, but they don’t have “value”. Why is it that we don’t have more serious actors who are worth something financially?  Isn’t it just about giving them the roles that help them build audiences? Why don’t we encourage more actors to take more risks in terms of the characters they portray?  Audiences, filmmakers, financiers would all be better served by industywide initiatives to launch more talent.  Say what you will about the studio system of old, but they were damn good at developing new talent.
  16. We need a greater embrace of innovation and experimentation in terms of both business models and building communities.  We keep doing things based on the status quo long after the practice has stopped being fruitful.  People are so fearful of failing publicly that new approaches are shunned.  This is a perception and PR problem as much as it is a structural one.  Filmmakers should have the will to fail, and take risks (but be practical about it).
  17. We allow consumers to think content should be free but it is okay that the hardware they play it on is very very expensive.  All the entertainment industries allow the hardware manufacturers to have policies that encourage such thinking.  They get rich and it grows harder to be a creator by the day.  People only want the devices because there is so much great stuff to play on it.  Why is the balance of wealth so misguided here?
  18. We – neither the creators, audiences, or their representatives – don’t make a stink when aggregators get rich, and the content creators live on mere pittances.  It’s not just the product but also the services that have flourished on the labor of the creators.  Instead of growing angry we have been embracing those that gather and not those that grow.  Again, we need to look at the inequity here and re-evaluate how the equity is dispersed.
  19. We don’t insist that our artists are also entrepreneurs.  We don’t encourage direct sales to the fans.  We don’t focus on building mailing lists.  This needs to be as much an accepted “best practice” as it needs to be part of every art school curriculum.  We can’t keep producing artists and not prepare them to survive in the world.  Passion without a plan to support it can only lead to exploitation.
  20. We have failed to engage constructively with other industries that we should be aligned with, most obviously, the tech world.  Why is only SXSW where film, music, and tech meet?  Can’t we do better?  The music industry has The Future Of Music summit, but there is nothing similar in the film world.  The facilitators at the agencies rarely know who’s who in terms of web and tech designers.
  21. Where is the simple site where you can get whatever you want whenever you want however you want it (other than what the bootleggers offer)? Why do we let the thieves beat us at our own game?   Soon it will be too late to win the people back.  The fact that the one place that comes close is ultimately in the business of selling hardware — and the industry seems okay with that — shows how we can’t see the forest for the trees.
  22. Where are the new curators?  The ones with a national or international audience? Why have we not had a more concentrated industry/community wide effort to give a home to all the fired film critics?  Is it that we are afraid of the bad, just like the studios are afraid of social media and film future exchanges because they are worried about negative buzz? We just need to make better movies and treat people well and then there is no negative to spread, right?  Anyway, with such a plethora of great work being made we need to offer audiences better filters to sift through it. What’s up with our collective failure to deliver more Oprahs, individuals whose support will lead to action?
  23. The majority in the film industry are essentially luddites and technophobes, barely aware of the tools we have available to us to enhance, economize, and spread our work.  How can we teach our industry how to use what has already been invented (and then focus on everything else we need but don’t have yet).
  24. We don’t encourage (or demand) audience “builds” prior to production.  Why shouldn’t every filmmaker or filmmaking team be required to have 5000 Fans prior to greenlight?
  25. We know incredibly little about our audience or their behavior.  We spend so much making our films without really knowing who our audiences are, why they want our product, how to reach them, or how they behave, or how they are changing.  Does any other industry think so little and so late about their audience?  Does any other industry do such little research into their audience?  Shouldn’t we all be sharing what info we have?
  26. There is no major, visible, high-level “non-partisan” free-thought film industry think tank and/or incubator to consider new models, new approaches, and enhance audience appeal while inspiring both government and private investment,  developing “best practices” to maximize revenue and  audiences, expanding aesthetic methods, and facilitating the creative dialogue internationally.  IFP and FIND do their part, as do festival institutes but we need something that can consider the bigger problems than that of just US “Indie” filmmakers…
  27. Where’s that list on best practices for preventing your film from being pirated?  Shouldn’t all producers know this?  I know I don’t and I can’t name another producer who does.
  28. The Industry has no respect for producers.  Granted, this might sound a tad self-serving, but producers’ overhead, fees, credits, and support are under attack from all fronts.  Yet, it is the producers who identify and develop the material and talent, package it, structure the finance, identify the audience, and unite all the industry’s disparate elements.  All the producers I speak with wonder how they are to survive and remain in the business.
  29. Let’s face it: we are not good at providing filmmakers with long term career planning.  Whether it’s financial planning, secondary professions, or just ongoing learning — we don’t really get it, and that sets artists up as future prey.  As an industry, and as a class, creative people get stuck in a rut quite easily, and are the hardest dogs to teach new tricks.
  30. With our world and industry changing daily, shouldn’t we have come up with a place where we learn the new technology or at least hear of it?  One that is welcoming even for the luddites.  The tech sites speak their own vernacular which is a tad intimidating for the uninitiated.
  31. Where’s the embrace of the short-term release?  With digital delivery here, can’t we get in and get out, only to return again and offer it all over again?  The week-long booking of one film per theater limits content to that which appeals to the mass market.  Niche audiences are being underserved, and money is thus being left on the table and some highly appealing menus not even being considered.
  32. Film Festivals need to evolve a hell of a lot faster.  Festivals need to ask what their value-add is to both the filmmaker and the audience.  One or two could ask that of the industry overall too.  Now that we recognize that festivals are not a market, and that filmmakers have to do a tremendous amount of work ahead of time in order for them to be a media launch, the question remains what are festivals and who do they serve?  The everything-to-everybody style of curating films no longer works.  The run-of-the-mill panels have become dull and boring.  The costs associated for filmmakers attending are rarely worth the benefits they receive.  Film Festivals need to be rebuilt.  There are a lot of good ideas out there on how to do it, but not enough have been put into practice.
  33. The past ten years of digital film are going to vanish.  We do little to preserve not just the works, but also the process and documents behind them.  Digital is not a stable medium.  We have a migration and storage issue in terms of keeping access up to date.  Those films that currently exist in digital format only, won’t stand the test of time.  Film remains a better format for archival purposes.  We need to take action soon if we are not going to see our recent culture get out of reach.
  34. We don’t encourage advocacy around the issues that affect us.  How many film industry professionals could rattle off the top ten government policies that affect their trade?  Why don’t our various support organizations, unions, guilds, and leaders list issues and actions at the top of their website?  Are we all so afraid or so unaware?
  35. Okay, it’s a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face, but it seems to me that film industry folk spend less time going to the movies (and I mean seeing films in the theaters) than the average bear.  Going to the movies should be viewed as a political act.  Support the culture you want with your dollars.
  36. Most of the bootlegging that I encounter comes from within the industry itself.  I recently heard of a manager who asked the studio execs and his Facebook friends to send in the bootlegs of his Sundance prize winning client’s film — and he got over 70 back; they all unfortunately were an early cut of the film too.  I admit I get a lot of free DVDs from agents & managers, and I admit I make dubs for my directors so they can see actors — but I have started to donate to crowdfunding campaigns to try to balance it out.  We have to come up with a uniform practice and commitment to avoid the Industry supported bootlegging.
  37. So few of us have determined what we love, not just in film, but also in the world in general.  The more we have defined our tastes, the more we strive to bring them into existence.  The more we know what we want, the greater our defenses are against that in which we do not want to participate.  Where are the filmmakers who can list the things they think can lead us to make better films?  If more filmmakers, distributors, and executives conversed more publicly in both the art and the business, the bar for all of us would be lifted higher.
  38. We love to read, talk, and engage more about the business than we do about the art.  Some of this comes perhaps because we have more forums for the business than the aesthetics, but it is much harder to get a conversation going about creative issues than it is about financial.  I’m just saying…
This is my first co-post with The Huffington Post.  Please go to it here. Perhaps ALSO leave your comments there too.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

5D Sound Solution by Mark Messenger at

5D Sound Solution by  Mark Messenger at

5D Sound SolutionThe Canon 5D and other members of the Canon DSLR camera family are getting out on video shoots more and more, thanks to their image making qualities. But this creates a problem for audio. Recording through the mini jack microphone input to tracks that will be compressed on the whim of the camera is hardly going to create audio of a quality I would like to put my name to.
I recently landed a job, only to be told it was to be shot on the Canon 5D.
At first I wasn’t concerned. My thoughts were to simply treat it like a film camera and slate everything. But I was told the job was a behind the scenes, observational style documentary. Using a slate every time we rolled just wasn’t going to be practical.
Some form of double system recording was needed – without a slate. That’s when I began my search for a solution that allowed us to button on and off frequently, and at the same time provide something that the post-production guys could deal with efficiently.
Efficiency was very important – we were planning on providing 50 plus clips per day. This would require good metadata on each clip, so that the editors could quickly identify each one and marry it up to its corresponding sound.
It was clear that some sort of batch auto sync system would be ideal because it would mean the editors didn’t have to spend a lot time and money syncing each clip individually.

5d connections
Connected for Sound
The easiest way to do that was to have identical time-of-day time code on each clip and corresponding sound file. But the Canon 5D doesn’t have a time code generator or time code input. This meant that the time code would have to come from the sound recorder.
This eliminated the Zoom H4 sound recorder and Sound Devices 552 mixer combination because an external time code source would be required. I wasn’t sorry because I had tested the Zoom recorder and found it very limited and lacking in functionality with quite a few traps – it’s a fairly crap recorder if you want to use it as professionally.
As well as that, the 552 mixer doesn’t seem to have metadata input and just increments each file number as 1,2,3,4…. etc. The chances were high that audio files would be given the same name across card changes and different days. This could confuse the editors and waste time in post – especially if there was more than one crew working on the same day.
After some thought we came up with another idea: to use Echo Digital Audio sync software. But this presented potential problems too. Again you would have to sync up each clip individually, and it appeared you needed to separately to press both camera and sound on and off button at nearly the same time.
The next idea was to use a fairly unknown technique of sending time code from the sound recorder and putting it down on the audio track of the clip within the camera. When the editors get hold of the clip they can use the “read audio time code” function in the “special” menu of Avid. They then use this time code as a sync reference for the separately recorded audio track.
getting it right
Connectors into the 5D
I found that I had to pad it back quite a lot as the time code comes out a roughly line level and the 5D input is at mic level. If you sent it in too hot then there was a good chance that it might distort the time code making it hard for the Avid to read.
We did some tests and got the editors up to speed (something that you need to do before starting to shoot).
It worked great. The editors seemed to love it as it meant they did not have to waste time syncing each individual clip, they could batch auto sync saving the production money.
Mark Messenger is an Auckland film and television sound recordist.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Canon 4K Concept Camera

One of the most interesting things was the Canon 4k concept camera and 4k monitor! It’s only 2/3rd inch but it’s still interesting and a sign of where they are going? I must emphasise this camera will never come out. It’s a concept camera showing the technology. Are they planning to take on RED? No idea but it will be interesting to see where this path will take us…it’s no Epic that is for sure…which is real and being tested out in the field…how long though before Canon bring something like this out for real? Ideally for me in an APS-C minimum sized chip but I talk more about this further down the post. The 4K monitor was great as you can imagine, 32″ and sharp as hell. It’s one of those things of course that you need to see in person…
I was actually the first one in...
I REALLY like the XF 105. It’s tiny and has amazing specs. 422 50mbs hd sdi and genlock. The XF 100 is the same but without the SDI/ Genlock. Both record onto CF cards. I guess it is a direct competitor to the JVC 100. Size wise it looks identical, almost…but spec wise it is simply really impressive. It’s the first camcorder in recent memory that I have actually wanted. It has all the facial tracking auto focus that the Vixia has but in a much much better cameras.
XF 105 3D rig
As you can see, it's tiny.
This is the Canon 4K concept camera.It was actually working and was crisp as hell…This concept camera had  a fixed 2/3″ 20x Zoom lens as the chip itself is 2/3″. I am not sure what the idea of it is, they mentioned something about medical something or other. It’s obviously not a cinema concept camera due to the fixed lens. The image out of it was actually really really nice. As I have said and I and am sure you all want to,  is to see an APS-C chip in camera like this and use all the current Canon glass or PL lenses…but Canon have a different marketing strategy to someone like RED. RED announce their road map and make it very public. Canon keep things close to their chest. If there is a cinema camera coming out or a new improved DSLR for video there is no way they would show a concept camera of it and show the competition what they have up their sleeve. Canon do not give much away and of course that is probably from a business stand point the best thing to do. That is why this camera really is to show what they are capable of more than anything, not what they plan to do…I would put money down that we won’t know until pretty close to release of any big developments with regards to video in DSLR or the next evolution of that.
There was also no word of any firmware or other lenses, they were all announced last week. I expect the much rumoured and much expected 1DSmkiV will make it’s debut at Photokina in Cologne later this month. I will be watching this very closely as it MAY have improved video functions, again, pure speculation but I can be positive and hope can’t i?

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