Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hollywood movies follow a mathematical formula

Scary stuff;

( -- Hollywood movies have found a mathematical formula that lets them match the effects of their shots to the attention spans of their audiences.

Psychologist Professor James Cutting and his team from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, analyzed 150 high-grossing Hollywood films released from 1935 to 2005 and discovered the shot lengths in the more recent movies followed the same mathematical pattern that describes the human attention span.
Cutting believes obeying the 1/f law makes films “resonate with the rhythm of human attention spans,” and this makes them more gripping. Films edited in this way would then tend to be more successful and the style of shooting and editing more likely to be copied. Films of Cutting’s own favorite genre, the Film Noir, do not generally follow the 1/f law, with shot lengths tending to be more random. By contrast The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and the 2005 blockbuster movie Star Wars Episode III (which Cutting considers to be “just dreadful”) both follow 1/f rigidly.

Does anyone else find it amusing that someone who did a study about the way movies are cut, is named Cutting?!

More info on EOS Movie Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro

Canon has put up an information page with much more information about the functionality and operation of the upcoming EOS Movie Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro.

Availability is now said to be early March.

Ninth Annual FCPUG Las Vegas SuperMeet, April 13

The ninth annual Las Vegas SuperMeet will be held during NAB at the Rio Hotel and Casino on Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

Doors will open at 4:00PM for the SuperMeet Digital Showcase featuring over 30 software and hardware developers showing off their solutions. There will also be the first Las Vegas SuperMeet Open Screen Theater. Tickets are on sale now for the "Early bird" price of $10.00 each (plus ticket fee) Early bird price will end March 16, 2010. Then it goes up to $15.00. $20.00 at the door

The SuperMeet page has links to Hotle deals. You can register for FREE Nab Show Floor passes:
use code PP01

Beachtek DXA-SLR XLR adaptor for DSLRs

Philip Bloom got his hands on a pre-production DXA-SLR XLR adaptor from Beachtek and he likes it. He's written a review of the unit which solves some of the problems of getting audio into DSLRs including:

The SLR is an active adaptor and has pre-amps in it making it usable for just about all mics out there. It also has +48v phantom power so can power your mics that need it. There are also gain switches underneath the unit. There is a +15db switch for either of the two channels.

A very key and incredibly neat feature is the ability to “disable” auto gain control on the camera. It does this in a very clever way...It activates an inaudible tone of 20 kHz to the left channel (when set to STEREO operation) that prevents the Auto Gain Control from increasing the gain to its maximum level

One thing he laments is the lack of proper meters.

The DXA-SLR will be available at the end of March for a list price of $399.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Canon 7D Workflow

In addition to the comparison of CF cards, there's a couple of other interesting blog posts on the _mxr blog:

My 7D workflow
Outlines using MPEG Steamclip to recompress clips from the Canon 7D to ProRes for editing in Final Cut Pro.

Cineform for 7D
Outlines shooting in "neutral" profile and then importing using Cineform's NeoScene compressor. It seems he likes the way Cineform handles the image conversion better, but this method also mean's he's taking an extra recompression step (from H.264 to Cineform to ProRes) to get the best performance in Final Cut Pro.

I'm perhaps most interested that he prefers using the "neutral" profile compared to using a "flat-look" profile (which a lot of other shooters have been advocating):

[the] “flat-look” profile for your camera, which basically eliminates contrast by lifting blacks and crushing highlights when the camera sensor processes the image before compressing it. After playing around and testing for several months now, my opinion is that this is not the way to go, since the image will get very muddy, lose micro-contrast and detail.

Amazon:  Aperture 3 Upgrade $89.99, save $9.01

Red Rock Micro preparing $500 wireless follow focus

Cinema 5D has a video with Brian Valente of Red Rock Micro talking about a wireless follow focus product they are developing with a target price for a "basic system" of $500. He wasn't showing anything, or specifically announcing it, just talking about what should be coming. It will be announced "shortly" and is "nothing like anything that is out there right now."

As the guy says, focus is probably one of the biggest issues with DSLRs, so I'm really interested to see what they come up with.

Mac drive formatting - to Journal or not

As a Mac user, I kind of thought I knew how to format my hard drives (and whether to use Journaling or not), and I had thought that you should use Journaling for system and "work" drives (i.e. valuable data), but for drives you're using for video editing, it's better not to use Journaling. What you lose in security, you gain in performance.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to someone who told me I should always Journal the drives.

Thankfully, Ken Stone's Final Cut Pro web site has an article "Formatting a Hard Drive for the Mac" and he lays down the law:
Journaling is essential for OS disks (boot drives), but for disks used for video media, used for editing purposes, Journaling is not advised, as it can affect the speed of data being written. For video media (scratch) drives you would want to select the Mac OS Extended, no journaling.
If you're not up on all the ins and outs of formatting and Journaling, definitely read the article for the Caveat emptor's.

Confusing Press Releases - Matrox

Ever read a press release and get to the end and you still aren't sure what the product the press release is written about actually does? It's one of my pet peeves.

Matrox just sent out a press release: Matrox Enables State-of-the-Art HD Workflow for Quick News Delivery Using Matrox MXO2 Family of I/O Devices, and the two meaningful paragraphs seem to be:

Matrox® Video Products Group today announced Matrox Vetura Playback, a new application on the Mac for convenient playback of H.264 and .mov files using any of the Matrox MXO2 I/O devices. Field journalists equipped with a Matrox MXO2 device that includes the Matrox MAX H.264 encoding accelerator can shoot and edit their stories, then quickly encode to a very high quality H.264 file faster then realtime. Via any internet connection, the small H.264 file can be efficiently uploaded to headquarters then ingested to a video server or played directly to air using another MXO2 device and the Matrox Vetura Playback application.

"The new Matrox Vetura Playback application lets broadcasters leverage the power of Matrox MAX H.264 encoding acceleration to deliver breaking news stories to air in HD faster than ever before," said Wayne Andrews, Matrox product manager. "Matrox gives them the tools they need to scoop their competition."

From all that, the only part that really made any sense to me is this:
Matrox Vetura Playback, a new application on the Mac for convenient playback of H.264 and .mov files using any of the Matrox MXO2 I/O devices

Good stuff, but what's it really mean? Is the Matrox Ventura Playback simply hardware acceleration for playing H.264 files?

A search of the web revealed a lot of reprinting of the press release, but not much explanation. I did finally find this interesting blog entry from Andy Mees: Matrox prepping new MXO2 drivers (v1.9) and it says:
Ventura: It’s an all new standalone player app, and one of my favourite features of the new release ... open, view and playback your captured files directly on your big screen through the Vetura player with no need to fire up FCP or the like.
Ahh! Soooo, if you have a Matrox, with an external screen connected to it, and you want to play an H.264 video out to that screen, you can use Ventura Playback. I think I get it, though I guess I had assumed you could have done that with QuickTime Player if you can do it in Final Cut Pro...but I don't know.

Moving right along though, if you have a Matrox MXO2, be on the lookout for the firmware update, as it will include:
  • Core Audio Support
  • Active Format Description support
  • 16 Channel Audio support

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy 20th, Photoshop!

National Association of Photoshop Professionals

Canon 1Ds Mark IV next week? thinks the Canon 1Ds Mark IV might be announced next week, along with a new EF 24-70 f/2.8L IS lens.

I'm interested in the 1Ds Mark IV if only because there's also been a rumor about a Canon camera saving video in RAW. If the 1Ds did that it would be a pretty amazing development; not that I'd be getting one, but you figure that what comes out in the 1Ds this year will turn up in something cheaper in a year or so.

HDR-AX2000 manual is online

You can find the Operating Guide for the Sony HDR-AX2000 at the eSupport page at Sony's website.

Do faster cards improve image quality with the Canon 7D?

Over at the _mxr blog, there's a comparison of Cheap Compact Flast vs. UDMA cards. I've read posts before on forum's that hint at the faster cards resulting in better video quality (the theory being that the camera knows how fast the card is, and adjusts the quality of compression it is using.) But I've never seen any actual documentation of the cameras doing that, and it's interesting to see even some simple tests/comparisons like this:
Conclusion? In my opinion rolling shutter stayed the same, bitrate didn’t significantly change and color stayed the same. Only thing that is annoying with slower cards is that they need some time to buffer.

Another competition I won't be entering

Panasonic Broadcast announced last week a "Shoot It. Share It" contest for users of its AG-HMR10 AVCCAM handheld recorder. Through June 18, 2010, HMR10 users can submit a video demonstrating their interesting use of the handheld recorder for the chance to win prizes, including the Grand Prize of a 65” Viera Plasma Television with built-in SD card slot.

The downside? The AG-HMR10 is a handheld recorder that costs $2,600.00!

The battery-powered HMR10 records up to 12 hours of HD video on a 32GB SDHC card. Content can be immediately viewed on the handheld’s 3.5" LCD screen. With an HD-SDI in/out, the HMR10 can also serve as a standalone recorder for use with HD-SDI capable cameras, switchers and decks.

Panasonic extends free Edius Neo 2 software offer

Panasonic Broadcast  is extending to September 30, 2010 the offer of free Grass Valley EDIUS Neo 2 editing software with the purchase of an AVCCAM camcorder or handheld recorder. The offer had been scheduled to end on March 31, 2010. The EDIUS Neo 2 software is included in the box at the time of purchase, but a user will need to activate it via the Panasonic PASS support web site

All video professionals who purchased AG-HMC70, AG-HMC40 or AG-HMC150 AVCCAM camcorder or the AG-HMR10 recorder products after April 1, 2009 are eligible to receive EDIUS Neo 2, and users who purchased after Oct. 9, 2009 are eligible to receive EDIUS Neo 2 Booster.

EDIUS Neo 2 Booster software (Windows only), is valued at $229, and offers native editing of the AVCHD format.

Note that Panasonic also has a free transcoder, available for download that converts AVCHD files to DVCPRO HD P2 and downconverted DV files for use with most existing professional editing packages.

Canon 5D II firmware update in mid March?

Still no sign of the firmware update for the Canon 5D Mark II, which is supposed to add 24 and 25fps support. Cinema5D blog says they are hearing rumors of a Mid-March release.

Redrock DSLR Rigs

Also from B&H's latest newsletter, David Flores takes you through some different Redrock Micro DSLR rigs, from the $450 Ultraport and the $975 "Captain Stubling" bundle designed by Stu Maschwitz (filmmaker and author of The DV Rebel's Guide,) up to the $1,470 eyeSpy Deluxe.

I always gets a bit confused by all the different options and models of rig that are out there, which I think is why I have put off buying something.

B&H: B&H First Look: Redrock Micro

Sony HDR AX2000 review

Moshe Lehrer has written a hands-on review for the B&H Newsletter. It's a good overview of the camera, mainly explaining how it works and it's many features and functions.

He seems to like the camera, though he noted problems with auto-focusing in low light, and didn't seem to think that the optical stabilization was any better than that found on other cameras (which is a bit of surprise since Sony added something new; the "Active" stabilization.)
Right out of the box, the camera shot wonderful video in automatic mode. Zooming in was smooth, colors were natural looking and the autofocus worked fairly quickly,; though in lower light situations, it sometimes took a little while to get a sharp focus.
The optical image stabilization seemed to be on par with most other cameras in this range. Definitely acceptable. No complaints there.
In well-lit rooms, the images were colorful and well defined. Because the AX2000 can shoot in as little as 1.5 LUX, images were clear and surprisingly vivid even in darker rooms. As the room got darker, more noise became visible but the resulting video was more than satisfactory.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Editing a 3D Movie

Ron Proctor kindly explained how he assembled his 3D video (see previous post:"Low cost 3D video") using Adobe Premiere:

We started with two full color video channels (right and left) – anaglyph (the red/blue method) is not ideal, but it is accessible because you don't need a special screen (just special glasses). I'd like to try this with polarization or autostereo some time.

For the anaglyph version, we overlaid the two tracks in a video editor and set the compositing mode to "screen" (also known as "add" in some editors). We removed the red channel from the right, then we removed the blue and green channels from the left.

We also had to adjust the offset a little bit so the "focus" was on one of the middle birds. Whatever the two channels "line up" on will be the "focus," also known as the "screen plane depth." Whatever is in front of that will "pop out" and whatever is behind will "pop in."

The video editor we used was Adobe Premiere CS4, but you can also do this in cheaper / free software. I also tried it in the video sequence editor in Blender and got a favorable result.

The following video shows a slightly different method of removing the color using Final Cut Pro: Make a 3D Movie: 4-Minute Film School.

Viemo News

I got an email this morning from Vimeo with various news, some of which I'd heard before:

Low cost 3D video

While there's some other expensive options for 3D, Ron Proctor & Amy Jo Proctor at Weber State University have put together a low cost rig using two Kodak Zx1 cameras!

You can see the rig and sample video here, though they don't explain how they processed the video...

[UPDATE] Editor/Videographer Daniel Phelps has done something similar, and you can see a video here.

Philip Bloom Meetup, March 7th Venice Beach

As previously noted, Philip Bloom is conducting an HD-DSLR Masterclass in LA on Sat March 6th. At the time of the initial announcement he made hints about holding a Meetup the day after, and now he's posted details. He's planning a Meetup on March 7th at 12pm on Venice Beach. Location details are included in his post.

Canon .THM files

If you're a Canon camera owner like me, you've probably seen those .THM files along with the .mov or .avi files, and you've probably figured they are some kind of information file, but never bothered doing anything with them.

Turns out these .THM (Thumbnail) files contain a small JPEG image, as well as EXIF data (what camera settings were used etc.) And, they are actually valid JPEG files, so you can open them with any program that can read JPEG. Simply rename the file to .JPG, and then open them with Photoshop (as well as other applications) and view the EXIF data.

Source: From Still to Motion Facebook page

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Panasonic has a 3D camera for you, and more...

Got $1,000? That won't get you a camera, but it's enough to reserve Panasonic's upcoming AG-3DA1, the HD 3D Camcorder, which will list for $21,000. Oh, the deposit is non-refundable! Delivery is sometime in the Fall.

At less than 6.6 pounds, the AG-3DA1 is equipped with dual lenses and two full 1920 x 1080 2.07 megapixel 3-MOS imagers to record 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) and 720/60p and 50p in AVCHD. It can record for up to 180 minutes on dual 32GB SD cards in Panasonic's professional AVCHD PH mode, and offers professional interfaces including dual HD-SDI out, HDMI (version 1.4), two XLR connectors, built-in stereo microphone and twin-lens camera remotes.

Panasonic also announced the AG-HMX100, a low-cost HD/SD digital A/V mixer that incorporates a built-in multi-viewer display output and combines high-quality video switching and audio mixing features. It supports SD, HD, and 3D HD formats. The HMX100 mixer will be available this June at a suggested list price of $5,800.

Finally, the BT-3DL2550, is a 25.5-inch 3D LCD production monitor with full 1920 x 1200 resolution. The BT-3DL2550 3D production monitor will be available this September at a suggested list price $9,900.

Problems with the HXR-NX5?

Adam Welz posted a report at on a problem he's having with the HXR-NX5 he just bought. After noting that the camera behaved badly when he powered it off in the middle of a recording. That's an annoyance, but he then went on to describe a second problem he'd encountered where he had a "buffer overrun" or "buffer overload" error message while dual recording to the FMU unit and an SDHC card.
The camera then remained frozen for a few minutes -- even after I turned the main power switch off. This message remained on the screen until I got fed up and removed the battery to shut it down.

When I restarted the camera, the touchscreen gave me the option to choose to recover the clip, to which I said 'yes' -- but this just cycled back to the same screen three times before finally coming back to the same black screen with the 'recovery in progress' -- which I had to stop again by pulling the battery off after turning the power switch off did nothing.

When I restarted again there was no option to recover the clip again -- and no sign of the clip at all on either the SD card or either the FMU128 unit, to which I was recording simultaneously.
He's understandably concerned.

A message like "buffer overrun" suggests the problem occurred while trying to write to either the SDHC card or the FMU. At the moment, it's anyone's guess why it happened. I recommended reformatting the card and FMU (if he hadn't done so after the first "crash" caused by the power off), and to also try a different card (or even a Memory Stick Pro card) to see if that makes a difference.

If he can't isolate the conditions of the problem (i.e. it happens all the time, or only when doing "x") it's going to be hard to get it fixed!

As an aside about the first issue; someone recently complained to me about the EX1 having a similar problem (of losing a clip) if you turn off the camera in the middle of recording. These memory based cameras act more like computers in that the file can be completely corrupted if the camera doesn't "finish" writing the file. Interestingly, this same person said that the JVC flash-based cameras don't have the problem.

But this all points to an underlying "problem": it seems to me that what used to be unique/focused devices are acting more and more like computers pretending to be these devices. i.e. a camera is really now a computer with a lens attached to it, rather than a camera with a computer chip in new Blu-ray player acts more like a computer than the DVD player it replaced. There's much more thinking, and flashing of "I'm doing something, wait" messages with this device, and it opens with a computer-like start screen, all of which I find really annoying.

Sometimes it seems like we take two steps forward, and one giant step back.

You gotta promote...

Raymond De Felitta is a writer and director who has a new film, "City Island," winner of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival audience award, which opens March 19 in New York and Los Angeles. He's been blogging about the process here, and he writes about blogging here.
So there you have it: I am an avowed Internet whore, out to shamelessly and relentlessly promote my movie. Look, when you're in a field where every opportunity might be your last, why not take matters into your own hands?

Teletest BINORIG

Here's more details on the Teletest BINORIG rig:

  • the whole rig can be set up and ready to shoot with two genlocked cameras eg Sony EX series or JVC GY- HD251
  • Weighs less than 4.5kg
  • Price around £6-7k ex VAT
  • Delivery mid-March

Monday, February 15, 2010

Details of Adobe CS5 emerge

Appleinsider has a post detailing some of the improvements expected in CS5. Nothing on Premiere or After Effects, though it does note about Photoshop:
The casual Photoshop user won't recognize too much of a difference in the software over the existing version, these people say. Instead, the enhancements will play to designers who work with relatively large files, manipulate 3D objects, and work with video.

Teletest "affordable" 3D rig

Teletest will be showing at the Broadcast Video Expo their new Binorig, an affordable 3D camera rig. This compact and lightweight 3D camera rig is able to support most professional broadcast cameras and lenses.

More information can be requested here.

Canon Full Frame DSLR shooting RAW video reports rumors of a dSLR that can shoot RAW video. There's also speculation as to whether this would be a 5D replacement, or the 1Ds Mark IV.

And by RAW, do they mean the whole frame (i.e. 18MP, or whatever)? Or is it scaled to HD resolution, but saved in RAW? Things are getting interesting...

Kevin Smith too fat to fly

It seems that independent movies aren't the only endangered species. Airborne (overweight) movie directors may be next. Kevin Smith got booted from a Southwest flight on Saturday because he was "Too Fat to Fly."

Of course, the way Jamie Oliver sees it, that may be happening more and more frequently.

Stu Maschwitz: DV Rebel (part 1) has an interview with director, writer and visual effects artist Stu Maschwitz. Stu worked at Industrial Light and Magic and co-founded a company known as The Orphanage, is the author of The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap, and blogs at ProLost.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

Harry Potter: The Exhibition has been at the Boston Museum of Science the last few months, and closes on Feb 28th. I managed to catch the exhibition this past weekend, and if you like all things Harry Potter, then you'll enjoy it. It's almost entirely made up of exhibits of costumes and props used in the movie, arranged very theatrically.

One of the prop chess pieces from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Someone asked; why is this exhibit at the Science Museum, rather than the Museum of Art? I really don't care about such questions; I'm not a museum strict constructionist.

Still, it's an interesting question because a similar exhibit was at the same museum a few years back related to The Lord of the Rings. And the same thing could have been asked about that exhibit, except that - upon reflection - there was a considerable difference between The Lord of the Rings exhibit and this one. The Lord of the Rings exhibit included not just costumes and props, but it also devoted at least half of it's space and exhibits to showing how the movies - and the costumes and props - were made. There were short movie clips, examples of the evolution of character designs, and 3D modeling examples. There was even a fake cart where two people could sit and it demonstrated forced perspective, the effect used to make the Hobbit Frodo appear smaller than the wizard Gandalf.

But you will learn nothing at all about movie making - or even costume design or prop making - at the Harry Potter exhibit, and I couldn't help think the exhibit suffered because of this.