The reactions in the first 24 hours to the release of Final Cut Pro X are somewhat mixed, with a good deal of the “Apple skepticism” that has rightfully followed their constant push to be cutting edge (such as iPods with inaccessible batteries that will last forever but don’t, or the irony of Apple beginning as an effort to hack AT&T’s phone monopoly for free calls, and decades later partnering with them in near monopolistic practice with the iPhone ).
This time the FCP X version has eliminated adjunct programs under the premise that the program itself will do it better. Based on that alone, I may keep FCP 7 for a while. The new program eliminates a DVD-authoring function, a move that seems both premature (I’m going to New Orleans this weekend to screen my doc, and they insist on using a DVD; we are also getting volumes of requests for when our DVD release is coming). Apple seems to want to force the notion that DVDs are dead and the future of film is digital viewing on (iPod/iPhone/iPad/Apple TV).
That’s where Apple’s quest for world domination bumps up against its penchant for innovation. I would rather seel my work via digital downloads, but an awful lot of people are perfectly happy with their DVD players, and will be for a while.
But, on the other hand, it seems true that Apple targets for users in the 25th to 75th percentile. They’ll let iMovie suffice for the low end, and concede the high end to Avid and potentially others. The loss of Color, for example, seems an acknowledgment that most people color-correct in FCP anyway.
But the first 24 hours since release is getting the discussion going. Other reactions to FCPX, starting with Ars Technica:
(Larry) Jordan doesn’t entirely agree with Apple’s assessment of the industry, though. The new color editing and grading tools, including what Jordan calls “power windows,” may replace Color for most users. But, while the built-in audio editing, processing, and effects are top notch, Final Cut Pro X just isn’t capable of multi-track audio recording. Also, Jordan said, “the inability to apply effects, volume, and pan settings to a track is a huge omission.”
And while Final Cut Pro—along with Compressor 4—excels at delivering video for distribution via the Web, the industry still relies on discs for delivery and sales. “Apple is fixated on downloads,” Jordan told Ars. “However, the world of media is using DVDs and Blu-ray to make money. I am personally very disappointed that Apple did not continue DVD Studio Pro.”
For users who still need to deliver projects on disc, they will have to use the existing version of DVD Studio Pro or consider Adobe Encore.
Most vexing for some pro users, however, is the lack of tape control for import and export. While Final Cut Pro X has some capacity to import from tape, there is no ability to control output to tape. Final Cut Pro X is largely built on the assumption that footage is captured digitally and output directly to some digital form. Editors that work in the broadcasting industry in particular, where tape is still regularly used, may not be able to work with these limitations. Again, the ability to install FCPX while still holding on to and using FCP7 will be advantageous here.
Here’s The Candler Blog:
Final Cut and Avid were written around videotape workflows. Not only are fewer crews shooting tape today, but even film can now be laid off to digital files and stored on massive hard drives. The age of tape is one of precision and tangibility, with media that could be labeled, handed off, shelved, retrieved, and so on. But it is coming to an end.
We are entering the age of tapeless editing, one which asks us to be more stringent about backups, more exacting about our organization and more considerate about our space limitations. It is unclear how robust Apple’s file management is in FCP X, though they did show off some cool tricks involving keywords and smart folders. The Las Vegas demo focused heavily, in fact only, on tapeless workflows, which should be a sign of great things to come. Tape has become a hindrance that manages to slow down workflows even when it is extricated from the process. If FCP X can drag the champions of tape into the next era of post-production, then it’s worth not only every penny, but every headache that is sure to come on everyone’s first project.
And, finally, MacGasm:
FCX is going to be great program that’s undoubtedly the best thing for most FCX buyers right out of the box. For the proshops and powerusers that need more from it, they’ll hang on to Final Cut Pro 7 for the near future. My guess is many users will be slow to fully transition, but all eventually will. And at $299, even the skeptics will be buying it in June.
I’m looking forward to the excitement of moving into the new Final Cut X. Not so much looking forward to “packing up the old house” — relearning where everything is, redoing all of my workflows I’ve developed over the last ten years, converting old projects, etc. Despite some things I may miss about “the old place,” it’s clearly a move for the better, and you can’t beat the price.
The question of what transmedia means and how it applies to documentaries is up for varied interpretations, but the notion of multi-platform storytellign is at the root of it. The question of why documentary filmmakers would broaden to transmedia is of extending storytelling in a way that enhances the film’s performance, or the economic viability of the film, or both.
Tribeca Film Institute has a piece on social documentaries using transmedia, but the first task is that of definition. Author Anjelica Das says, “Whether called transmedia, multi-platform, cross platform or just cross media, filmmakers from all genres no longer just make films.”
“Transmedia” is a term generally attributed to the MIT Media Lab’s Henry Jenkins (Now at USC), and generally used in connection with entertainment media. It involved creation of stories that might reach to film, books, video games and music, and also to such interactive places as fan fiction. Journalism has often defined itself as evolving into “multi-platform,” the notion of reporting reality using media forms such as print, video and audio.
Regardless of the term, the intention of spreading into multiple media forms is much easier now, due to digital media. To do a film/book project a decade ago would have likely created costs that would not have been matched by revenue; to do a film/web project creates scales of economy that might increase revenue.
Mixed media is not new, but it feels new. Fifty years ago, the most common transmedia experience might be seeing the movie made from the book; there were also books made from the movies, called “novelizations.” There were TV shows made from radio shows. All involved “extending” the story using multiple media forms, and perhaps enhancing the story through what each form delivered best.
In the Das post, she says,
The transmedia world as demonstrated by pioneer Lance Weiler can be daunting for the grassroots social documentarian. In the ultimate expression of an immersive storytelling experience, Weiler created an ongoing narrative beginning with film, and in its latest iteration, as a real time interactive gaming experience taking place in Park City. Through cell phones, audience members became active members of a Pandemic 1.0 population being tracked online.
Those sorts of approaches don’t seem to fit documentaries the way they do feature films, but crossing platforms can be beneficial in many ways for docs.
More recently, we’ve seen film/book releases that include such successes as “Restrepo” (co-released with co-director Sebastian Junger’s book ‘War”) and director Nancy Porter’s PBS documentary “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind ‘Little Women,’” co-released with co-producer Harriet Riesen’s Alcott biography (a project featured at this site in 2010).
But transmedia can extend much farther, and the obvious place is a website that is more than just a promotional device for the film but rather a place to extend and engage.
Here are some ideas worthy of exploration:
1) Use a website to provide an extended text narrative that might add again to the project. Think of the old liner notes that would fill the cover of a record album, or perhaps the text of a catalog for a museum exhibit. Facts in a documentary often outpace the space to embed them, but interested viewers will seek out more. An extended essay that informs and supports the project can be useful.
2) Extend through bonus footage. The edit of a good documentary pares down to essentials what is needed, but must also fit a fairly proscribed package of being “feature length” – 70 to 120 minutes, with the latter being a “long” doc. Extra footage can tell its own story.
3) Interactvity through audience engagement. These are real stories, and people might have real stories to tell in concert with it. Stop thinking of film as a one-way transmission. A forum or discussion page in which people can share their experiences on the topic can create a center of discourse (and don’t make it one in which people talk about the film, make it one that keeps telling the story your film tells).
4) Interactivity through crowdsourcing. People who can become part of the community a documentary film builds can often have much to share. If you make a documentary about a place or event, a place for audience photos of that place or event can become fun.
5) Apps and devices put transmedia at one’s fingertips. Devices such as smartphones and tablets allow new forms of transmedia to emerge. A digital book released via iPad can be another level of your project, and not expensively.
6) Think soundtrack, not just music. Collaborating with musicians who can provide music for the film but also release that music as its own package can work to enhance the film and make the music more visible. Finding musicians who see the possibilities can lead to some great results.
In the end, it’s the definition of media that’s changing. Film, like other forms, no longer have the “hard borders” of old media. The filmmaker who can explore and exploit the possibilities can often make a unique success.
ADDENDUM: See Adam Humphreys’ comment below. Here are screenshots of what he’s mentioned:
Two different news stories came together this past week, one from a far, and one more local. Both underline the notion of risk in doing the work of a documentary filmmaker.
Widely publicized was the April 20 death of Tim Hetherington, co-director of the Academy-Award-nominated documentary “Restrepo.” Hetherington was working as a photojournalist in Libya, covering the struggles to topple the government, when he and another photographer, Chris Hondros, were killed by incoming fire.
Less-publicized was the death of Justin Amorratanasuchad, a student at Emerson College in Boston, who fell off the roof of a four-story building while shooting footage of the Boston skyline on the morning of Sunday, April 17. He appears to have simply taken a misstep.
In each case, it was a matter of person taking a certain calculated risk to do the work, and ending up on the wrong side of the calculation.
Hetherington had been risking his life for years to do his work, something that has been viewed very differently by his colleagues.
In a remembrance in Vanity Fair by his “Restrepo” co-director Sebastian Junger, that author says, “You and I were always talking about risk because she was the beautiful woman we were both in love with, right? The one who made us feel the most special, the most alive?”
But in a piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Michael Kamber reflects on Hetherington and Hondros and says, “They were not thrill-seekers,” speaking of their assessment of risk versus outcome.
In truth, there was probably a bit of both at work.
I watched “Restrepo” again Friday evening, a film now informed by the fate of its co-director. In truth, each of the anonymous soldiers in the film has taken on as much or more risk as the filmmakers, not for Oscar nominations but maybe just for a way out of a small-town life, or the youthful sense of testing oneself. They go home mostly to obscurity, if they get to go home at all. A spate of films on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – “Gunner Palace” and “Battle for Hearts and Minds” as well – highlight the dangerous work of ground troops who then return to obscurity afterwards.
I remember a decade ago spending some time on the set of “The Perfect Storm,” where a couple of friends were working in production capacities. I saw both George Clooney, who I’d met once before, and Junger, who at one time had been the client of my own book agent. Both were movie-star-good-looking, but only one was a movie star. Clooney has probably never been in a remotely dangerous situation in his life, but works in a world of illusion in which he risks all to beat the bad guys. He’s been “Batman,” but when anything got dicey, his stunt man Brad stepped in to take over.
Junger, on the other hand, was a writer who could have enjoyed the money he made from the “Perfect Storm” book and movie and led the conventional life, but instead he was traveling to, and writing from, war zones – at that time Kosovo and Sierra Leone. He was an inveterate risk-taker. “Perfect Storm” was written from the safety of shore, but in one interview he noted that this “wasn’t me; it was the exception. I stepped out of my life to write that book, and then stepped back into my life, and most people don’t realize that.”
For documentary work, the assessment of risk, and its undertaking, does two things: By taking greater risk, one further reduces the number of competitors one faces. Only so many people want to risk their well-being. Two decades ago, filmmakers were limited by fund-raising – the money it cost to make a documentary was beyond most people’s means – but in this era of cheap filmmaking risk is part of the new attrition (as well, of course, as creative thinking, technical skill and smart production). Risk helps separate one from the pack, a pack that is only getting bigger.
Some filmmakers take limited risks: Morgan Spurlock risked his waistline and liver functions to gorge fast food in “Super Size Me,” and lived to tell the tale to great rewards. Werner Herzog steps out of the comfort zone when he makes documentaries such as “Encounters at the End of the World,” when he goes to Antarctica, but not so much as is taken by a filmmaker such as Louie Psihoyos in “The Cove,” in which again risk equaled reward as it won an Academy Award.
And, of course, a legion of relatively anonymous filmmakers risk health and physical safety climbing mountains, tramping across tundras and crawling on jungle floors to make films such as “Life” and “March of the Penguins.” The Emerson College film student Justin was on the roof with a purpose, unlike another student who the next day fell five stories and lived, partying on a roof to watch Monday’s Boston Marathon.
For most of us, our risk is relative. We risk thousands of hours of our time toward projects that may go nowhere. We risk in how far we may want to engage in a topic or cause (if you’re one of those). We risk making distance between ourselves and our loved ones in the name of some indistinct outcome – if you’re Ken Burns, the risk is small in a relative sense; the rest of us have to think harder about that.
But the risk of devoting long hours of work that may lead to a film lost in the ocean of new films is one that both creates this attrition (so many so-called filmmakers are infatuated with the toys but not of the long process) and can benefit those who persevere.
All good work involves some risk. But all risk involves knowing when to step back.
James Fair guest posts at Hope for For Film about the difference between being an amateur or a professional. His distinction is both economic and psychic; are we making money, but also:
Within filmmaking the common belief is that you are professional if you are paid and make a living from it, you are amateur if you don’t. But, working in a university, I meet many people who would argue that LITTLE of the film industry is ‘professional’, because it rarely requires examinations or formal training to work in many of the roles, which means that it isn’t strictly a profession at all, it is a ‘job’.
In other words, does it feel like a real job. But the economics of film are changing, especially documentary film, and thinking about what makes a pro is worthwhile. And being a pro, at anything you love, seems a worthy aspiration. Starting strictly on a balance-sheet perspective, and moving to the abstract, the questions might be such:
1) Am I making revenue directly from my films? Two key words here – revenue and directly. Business is a matter of revenue versus cost; if any money is coming into your account by having made the film, then you might make the case you’re a pro, even if it’s modest and the cost far outweighs it. Example: I spend $50,000 on my film and sell $30,000 in DVDs and screenings. I lose $20,000 – am I a pro? Does that change if my film costs $1,000 and I make back $100? On the other hand, if I spend $20,000 on the film, get into five film festivals, but then don’t get distribution, am I an amateur? This last question is moot, it would seem, because everybody can sell their film on DVDs or on the web. But the question remains how direct revenue determines whether you’re a pro.
2) Am I making a profit directly from my films? Profit, of course, is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Profit requires business sense and acumen that might be considered the mark of a true professional. Therefore: Let’s say I use my skills and experience to make a film for $20,000 that makes back $40,000 in revenue. Am I a pro now? I’ve just made $20,000. I must be – I’ll declare income on my tax return and by the IRS’s standards, I’m a pro. Now, let’s say I spend 2,000 hours making the film. That rates out to $10 an hour – babysitter money. Am I less of a pro because my hourly? Well, the fact is that if filmmaking is going to be your real deal, part of being a pro is making a film that has a cost/revenue structure that keeps me in business. On my most recent film, we are solidly in the black, having made the film inexpensively and having found an enthusiastic audience, mostly right now at paid screenings at universities, libraries and museums across the country. In the end, we’ll recover our costs and a healthy hourly rate. But if we’d been more daring and not thought as carefully about how we’d make money, does that make us less professional, even if less profitable?
3) Am I making money because of my films? Does making films that might not directly realize profit still bring in money from other sources? For example, my first documentary filmmaking effort (after years of magazine writing) was done for a budget of $7,000; I got a $3,000 grant during the process, got a $5,000 grant toward the end, and saw it play in a half-dozen festivals. It had a number of paid screenings, and a number of unpaid ones. And then afterwards put the DVD on Amazon’s Createspace for anyone who wanted it. Over four years I’ve sold a couple of hundred DVDs (I consider that OK for something that was a learning effort and for which I no longer spend any active time marketing) and my share of that has been about $2,000 more. So I made money directly. But at the university at which I’m a professor, I got a merit raise based on my non-academic work (the university has that fund to encourage us to do things such as make a film, then to bring that knowledge back to the students). And my teaching job leaves me 22 paid weeks free per year to do as I please, so the case might be made that my filmmaking is compensated at good pay as such (as are the books I’ve published, etc.). But my friends Doug and Susan run a film company in New York City that has an office, equipment, interns and so on. They sold a documentary to HBO and have had others in major film festivals. Are they more pro than I? Undoubtedly so.
4) Am I earning money as a result of my filmmaking? A friend forwarded me, for my opinion, a quote for a corporate-identity video her company was having made. The quote – $3,500 for about three day’s work, seemed reasonable, but also delivered the filmmaker a rather generous fee (about $100 an hour, I guessed). I told my friend that this quote seemed the going rate. “I could get somebody cheaper,” she said, “but these guys make documentary films and they’ve won awards at film festivals.” Therefore, the work that hadn’t likely made them money had gotten them the bid on the corporate work. To borrow some marketing terms, professional filmmakers often use their personal work as a “loss leader” to create a “cash cow” of corporate work that keeps them going. Even if they made nothing on their documentaries, you can make the case they’re pros. The documentaries become their professional calling card (and if their bloodbath/horror/goth film that made the midnight show at the local film festival is their calling card, I doubt they’d get the job – that stuff, to me, screams “amateur”). Now, keep in mind that a “pro” used to be defined as “someone who owns the equipment.” A lot of jobs used to go to less-than-professional characters who had at least invested in the gear. Now anybody can get the gear, so the pro sells skills and outcomes. The results of one’s own filmmaking efforts have a lot to do with sustained income from other sources. That might include being a cinematographer, or editor on somebody else’s project, but it goes toward being a pro. That includes weddings, events and other work that derives from the skills – there’s no shame in honest work, and pros know that.
5) Do I feel, act and talk like a pro? I remember when I was a young reporter at The Denver Post, the top pay rate was referred to as “journeyman” rate. I liked that phrase, the notion of moving past one’s apprenticeship and finding some level of professional knowledge and comportment, of how one “goes about his business.” I think a person becomes a pro when one abandons pipe dreams and best-case daydreams and just does the work, and does so with a level of confidence, control and purpose. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to great things resulting, but when the work becomes the value rather than the outcome, it seems to me that this is when you really can call yourself a pro. That, in the end, f goes toward a state of mind and a self-perception, and not strictly toward dollars and cents.
I’ll leave you back with James Fair:
Ultimately, I believe it is our human nature to want to classify things and identify our position within society. It is a way of understanding both others and ourselves. I am a ‘nobody’ filmmaker creates a distinction from a ‘somebody’ filmmaker. Therefore their situations are different. I am a ‘professional’ and you are an ‘amateur’ means you are not qualified to understand me. The titles position us within society and even within this community that Ted has created. Even worse, the connotations of these titles have the potential to divide us – the ‘amateur’ thinks they makes films for the ‘love of the art’ whilst the ‘professional’ is a ‘sell-out’. Andrew Keen’s book ‘The Cult of the Amateur’ attacks amateurism for being sub-par quality, unpaid and unqualified. However, I’ve seen great quality stuff from unpaid people and I’ve seen sub-par quality stuff from qualified people. Our lives are more complex than these labels give us credit for.
When John Scheinfeld set out in 2004 to make a documentary on the 1970s music icon Harry Nilsson, he did so with a small budget and high hopes for a good film. When the film was finally released six years later, it was (as we covered in Part 1 and Part 2), a star-packed cast reminsicing about a somewhat forgotten friend.
The fact that it took so long to release “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)”was mostly do to the hurdles of getting rights to archival materials, more often than not the most budget-burning aspect of a documentary film project.
While the trend toward live-action narratives has allowed many filmmakers to avoid that issue altogether, for classic interview-based docs, the rights chase can be heaven or hell, depending on you look at it. Scheinfeld says he’s of the former persuasion: “It’s the part of making a documentary I love most,” he says. “I call it ‘The Treasure Hunt.’ You’re on a hunt for the best audio-visual material to help you tell your story.”
As a highly prominent singer and songwriter, Nilsson was often in the public eye, but he was also a man who did no concerts.
With Harry, I had a very different set of challenges going on than I’d ever had before. First and foremost, “How do you make a movie about a guy who never performed live?” I didn’t have concert footage to work with. Any time you see biographies of musicians they’re always going back to the concert footage. I didn’t have that. At best, I had a handful of TV appearances. So I needed all of those.
We went after all the material we knew about and then tried to find material we didn’t know about. We were very lucky that people like Mickey Dolenz and record producer Chip Douglas gave us home movies. Sony was extremely generous and opened up the photo archive – thousands of photos to choose from of Harry, but mostly professional stuff. They didn’t charge us for that. Then we had family who had a lot of photos.
So I’d say in terms of licensing photos, we licensed maybe 20. Four of them were about the incident at The Troubadour (when Nilsson and John Lennon were ejected from that nightclub for drunkenly heckling The Smothers Brothers), because there was actually a photographer there that night. I had to have those.
Photo archives tend to be more experienced in such matters. They also seem to understand that working with a filmmaker’s budget can lead to some, instead of no revenue those archives are supposed to generate. With photo agencies and archives struggling to monetize in the free-for-all of the web, they seem to have flexed in this way.
But, Scheinfeld says,
Video was another matter. Harry only did about seven or eight TV things. Two were special performances for the BBC, so it was more than just one performance. He did The Tonight Show a couple of times but those were gone, he did Dick Cavett once but that was gone, did a couple of other talk shows but those were gone. So the BBC stuff was important – we had to pay for those, and big dollars. They didn’t care. I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing how much we paid, but we paid close to rate card, what they charge per second for material.
The hunt led to some old television shows.
One of the shows Harry did was “Playboy After Dark.” It turned out he had sung three different songs on that show. I called up the licensing people for Playboy and told them who I was and what we were doing. I got this woman with attitude. It was like, “Well, even if we would license this to you, it would be $12,000 to $13,000 per minute, and you can’t afford it, so just forget about it. And I’m the wrong person to say that to.
So I wrote a very passionate letter to Hugh Hefner, who I did not know, about what we were doing and why it was important and why we really needed this material. We Fed Exed it to The Mansion, and three days later we got a call from the number-two guy in the Playboy empire. He said, “Hef got your letter… loved Harry…thought he was a great artist… you can have whatever you want, no charge.
That’s really a lot of the help we got from people. Some material we paid for because they were owned by archives that really didn’t have a reason one way or another to help. But all of them other than the BBC were gracious and made deals with us based on our budget.
The film wouldn’t work without lots of Nilsson music, so much of it creates instant recognition. People who’ve not heard of Nilsson remember “Jump Into The Fire,” “Put De Lime in De Coconut,” “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “Without You.” To get representative music into the film was make or break, as photos and video were not. Scheinfeld notes,
For the music, that’s a jungle unto itself, trying to license music. Part of it was that Harry’s estate owns most of the publishing (rights). It’s administered by publishers, but the estate controls it. The estate said we could use it, so we were able to do that for virtually no money. There were a few songs that Harry didn’t write, so we had to do some deals on that. And again, they were quite gracious and gave us fees based on our budget.
Where we ran into issues was with Sony, who owned most of the master recordings. BMG had bought out RCA, which was Harry’s company, then BMG had merged with Sony.
They were wonderful to us during the making of the film, but once it was done and I said I wanted all these songs gratis, they said “…Gratis? What does that word mean?” It was the lawyers talking now. The creative people understood what we were doing. The lawyers said, “We don’t know if we can do that; we don’t know if we can set that precedent.”
We never got a yes, and we never got a no. Then two presidents came and went, and then they shed BMG. It was company in transition. It was a company in chaos. And we couldn’t get an answer.
This was why the film was delayed in release. Years went by. Finally a new president came in, understood what we were doing, and said, “You can have what you need.” That’s rare.
In the end, Sony even let Scheinfeld’s crew bring master recordings into a studio to strip songs of lyrics and use that music as underscore for the talking parts of the film.
As Scheinfeld notes, with more documentary filmmakers and more ability to make low-budget documentaries, part of the task is helping sources understand who you are, what you need, and why they should care.
My feeling is you treat each film as a different animal. You find a reason why people should help you. Many will; a few won’t. At some point you have to decide either, “OK, I’ll suck it up and pay it,” or, if you can’t help us work to the budget, it just won’t be in the film.” Some won’t care, and some will.
For those of you who haven’t seen Andrew Wonder’s “Undercity,” yet, check it out:
Andrew Wonder (andrewwonder.com) is focused. Seriously. When he descended into the depths of New York City’s forbidden zone of subway spelunking, Andrew stuck his foot in the track and lost his shoe. He retrieved, but didn’t notice the blood until some time later.
“After climbing for a few more hours I looked down to discover my pant leg soaked with blood and my ankle completely black and blue. I had done some real damage but didn’t want to stop shooting and even with an ace bandage around my ankle and a cut that took weeks to scab we kept shooting.”
This would impact his weight distribution, the handheld camera work in “Undercity” wasn’t “quite as smooth as usual (especially when climbing).” But that didn’t slow him down. Indeed, he trained his body to readjust — a tip for beginning shooters wanting to shoot steady handheld shots:
“For just over a week I would walk around my apartment with a mug filled to the brim with boiling water. Soon I was able to walk around on my bad ankle without burning my hand which gave me the control I needed to run and climb while still keeping the camera steady.”
Steve is an adventurer and “Undercity” did not slow him down. He’d been interested in shooting in the tunnels for several years, but couldn’t find much through online research.
One day I stumbled upon Steve’s site. I got very lucky with my timing, Steve was having a welcome home party from a trip to Russia and after reading my e-mail he invited me to join. I told him I’d love to shoot and check things out, told him I had experience with extreme conditions (thanks to parkour shooting) and he agreed to take me down if I would capture footage to make a short reel for him since he was about to move out of town to attend grad school. After the first night of filming where I injured my shin and ankle we became close friends and realized we loved going into the tunnels for the same reasons. We kept filming almost every night for a month.
After a week of filming I realized we had something that was more than just a montage and thought we could develop it as a TV show. I put a teaser online to gauge interest (it was huge) then developed a structure/format for a show. I then took my favorite adventures from the filming to create a short doc to showcase them along with Steve.
Some people criticize the piece for not showing enough of the environments. I have all that footage but this was a choice because I wanted the film to be an intense character piece on Steve and his passion for what he does. After a few cuts I realized the film felt even more intense when we took out establishing shots and always stayed within a few feet of him.
Andrew is a filmmaker at heart. By the time he was 20 — and while still a student at NYU film school — he was accepted into the International Cinematographer’s guild, working as an AC, but “after a few real sets I fell very out of love with ‘traditional’ shooting.” He wanted intimacy with his subject — an intimacy found when shooting stills with “my Nikon F and Rangefinders. Those small cameras always allowed me to connect with my subject better than any traditional video camera and I always dreamed of them capturing motion.”
So with the release of the Canon 5D Mark II, Andrew said, “I had finally found my paintbrush.” And “using the 5D with canon lenses is the perfect mix of Panavision and Fujinon.”
Black magic in the 5D
Indeed, Andrew loved to use other cameras, such as the Sony EX1 and F900, as well as “ENG cameras because of the way they shot quick and handled, but with my Canon lenses I can shoot quicker and more efficiently than any other camera out there. The other thing about the 5D is that it’s the first video camera I used that everyone who sees the footage has a emotional response to. Even the F3 still feels like a video camera (raw, lifeless, etc) as do most current film stocks (vision 3 is flat/lifeless). There is some black magic in the 5D (especially in the dark or mixed lighting situations) that makes it a clear choice for me at this point.
Although he hates “how people compare [Canon 5D Mark II] and use it like a true cinema camera. I was a union AC and used every film camera out there. The 5D is no cinema camera.” Rather, he feels it’s “something completely different and when you treat it as such you can get amazing results.”
The strengths of the camera lies in the fact that it is a part of the evolution of cinema history, Wonder says. “We are at a place in cinema where for the first time in 100 years we have tools to make films NOTHING like what we’ve seen before. The 5D can go places and capture emotion in ways no camera has been able to do. I really feel like when people let go of the notions of ‘legitimate’ cinema and stop trying to make everything look cinematic and embrace these new tools everyone can make films audiences have never seen before.”
Testing out the 5D with parkour videos
Before shooting “Undercity,” Wonder tested the camera’s ability to “see if the 5D could handle action and extreme environments (like my Rangefinders),” Wonder explains. “We actually shot one with Steve who took the athletes to some real funky abandoned places upstate New York (http://vimeo.com/18064000) and a cool one with EX1s (this was before clients believed the 5D could do anything) where we shut down a state fair and I would climb rollecoasters with them as they jumped (http://vimeo.com/17746153).
Broadcast work using the 5D
Wonder has not only used Canon’s 5D for personal work, but he has also shot two reality shows for MTV with it. One, The Real Show Choir, “was shot almost completely wide open on a 50mm 1.4 and was aired pre-House,” Wonder says. “The second aired this fall and was the 200th episode of MTV’s MADE. I shot it with a Sigma 24-70 and a beta copy of the Beachtek DXA-SLR (which I burned through 5 of before figure out how to make it production ready). I still prefer the zoom H4N to the Beachtek but when you are giving a network 12-16 hours of footage a day not having to sync is a lifesaver.”
TIPS and TRICKS — THE TECHNIQUES OF ANDREW WONDER
Andrew Wonder’s approaches to shooting includes evolving from a Zoom H4n to the smaller Zoom H1 and manually focusing by muscle memory rather than using the LCD screen. The following are the techniques he used while filming “Undercity” in his own words.
Creating intimacy in “Undercity”
I had seen a lot of videos of TV programs that had dealt with this subject matter and they always felt bland and emotionless. People seem to have so many preconceptions of the mythical world of the underground that I wanted to play with those fears and tensions while still teaching a bit of history.
Emotionally I hoped that if I was always within five feet of Steve and if he was always speaking to me, the way he would take a girl on a date, you would have a true visceral experience when watching. What also makes this shooting style effective is that since you never see my reaction to the situations then audience members are forced to project their preconceived notions about the dangers of the underground onto the film creating even more tension. We took this idea even further in the edit using a mix of quicker jump cuts with drawn out long takes to keep an continual sense of uneasiness.
Creating the look in-camera using Portrait picture style at 2800K
I used a custom profile based on the portrait setting in the PP menu. I wanted everything to pop and I didn’t want to do it in post. We were almost always shooting at 2500 ISO or above so I knew that any grading (no matter how minor) would make the footage even noisier. I also think the skin tones are nicer in the portrait settings (with the right white balance and color tone) than the neutral.
For white balance I always use 2800K for tungsten lighting. I felt like it was handling mixed lighting better than 3200K.
Getting clean audio and saving a Zoom with rice
We were always using the Zoom H4N but originally we were putting it on a hot shoe on top of the camera with the lav receiver velcroed to the back of it. That worked for a while until I was climbing out of a sewer and the zoom hit the manhole and fell into the sewer. Somehow by immediately putting it in a bag of rice when I got home both were saved and still work to this day.
After this failure I started wearing a AC pouch with the Zoom H4n and receiver on my belt which gave me more flexibility. Recently I’ve switched over to using the zoom H1 because it’s so small and sounds great. The 1/8″ in works great with my lavs. I also now put another H1 on top of my camera with a hot shoe adaptor to get me nice stereo recording of the ambiance in the tunnels. I learned that using a traditional shot gun (like the rode mono video mic) is not good in the tunnels because you’re mostly looking at someone’s back and all the creepy noises really mess with the audio gain and don’t record well. The stereo recording (even the in-camera audio) mixed with the lav on the zoom created a really nice mood where you got to hear my actions and Steve’s. I would record the entire shoot without stopping and then used PluralEyes to sync up in Final Cut Pro.
The biggest invention that saved my life was the Zacuto Rapid fire (now Striker). At first when trying to put it in my arm pit I hated it, but I quickly discovered that I could hold it in a bayonet position which would allow me to run backwards and forwards while keeping the camera steady (as opposed to the arm pit method which only worked when I stood still). What I loved about the rapid fire is that when you need it, it’s there but when the camera is on a strap over my shoulder it’s like nothing is attached to the camera. For camera straps I prefer my old Sony DV strap because I can draw/drop it much quicker than the canon. It’s also more inconspicuous when trying to get the camera to a hidden location.
I used the Canon 24mm f/1.4L Mark I. I tested both versions and felt like the version 1 was a little softer in a good way (I swore the moire problems were less pronounced) and the flares looked more cinematic. I felt like the Mark II tried to hide the flares with its fancy modern coating but the times they did show up it was much uglier and since I wasn’t shooting stills I couldn’t Photoshop them out. Sadly I had to use the UV filter (creating more flares) because of all the muck down. Originally I wasn’t using the lens shade but when we were climbing out of a station I smashed the front of my lens pretty hard and realized it was very helpful for protection.
Zone focusing with muscle memory
I am a huge Zacuto Z-Finder fan but it would have been way too dangerous to shoot in the tunnels with it. 90% of the time I was either running, climbing or watching out for obstacles (3rd rail, etc) and had to shoot/focus without looking at the LCD screen. To focus it I had to go back to my rangefinder training and try to use zone focusing. I spent a few days with the lens and trained my hand to know the distance for a close up, medium shot, wide shot, and infinity on the lens. When we were running through the tunnels I used muscle memory to keep Steve in focus and rack to the background when necessary. I bought the camera right before shooting this piece and got used to pulling Canon lenses with my hand that now I can’t focus anywhere near as accurately with a follow focus or longer rotation focus barrel.
We used all natural light. In situations where it was too dark I would give Steve a Litepanel miniplus to use as a flashlight
Editing and sound design: Put little music the mix (use nat sound)
My editor, Matt Kliegman (steamclam.com) and I spent a lot of time figuring out the right feel for the piece. From the start I wanted to keep things authentic and honest. I didn’t want to use inserts, cutaways, or any other editing tricks that I feel “lie” to your audience. We chose jump cuts to preserve the feel of the real adventure.
There are several moments where we use the transition from quick cuts to long shots to help build tension. We purposely put enough jump cuts at the beginning so that when you hit the first true long shots (especially Steve leaving City Hall) you instinctively know something is going to happen if we’re not cutting away. I think this technique was very effective throughout the whole film.
Another HUGE asset to the rhythm of the piece was the work of my golden eared sound mixer Robin Shore from Silver Sound (silversound.us). We worked really hard to make the trains the loudest sounds in the whole piece so when they do show up it’s a big shock. I am not a big fan of music in films because I feel like it always takes you out of the moment (even if it helps add more emotion). I have worked with Silver Sound the past few years to create a system where I use a combinations of lav and stereo ambience to help build soundscapes in post. This was an excellent example of how the technique can be effective to build more authentic emotion than a music track.
Final words of advice
Fortune favors the bold. Stop reading the internet and worrying about messing up. Make your HDSLR a part of you and march bravely towards cinema. Don’t worry about the problems (artifacting, moire patterns, rolling shutter) and push yourself to get places no camera has ever gone before.
Kurt Lancaster, PhD, is the author of “DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video, Focal Press, 2011.” He teaches digital filmmaking and multimedia journalism at Northern Arizona University’s School of Communication.
This article first appeared on Kurt’s blog, DSLR Cinema.
It appears that the HDSLR revolution may have forced the original vision of Red’s Scarlet into extinction. OK, as Mr. Spock said, an exaggeration. But it has been nearly three years since the original announcement at NAB, and still no Scarlet:
No Film School posted how the high end Scarlet is being replaced by the Epic-S camera for around $12,000 (formerly announced at nearly $7,000).
Jim Jannard, the founder and visionary behind the Red camera, explained how the higher-end Scarlet is being renamed the Epic-S (a light version of the Epic-X) and it will be a professional camera priced at about $12,000 — and that this will be shipping after the Epic M and X models:
I know many of you are waiting to hear what is happening on the EPIC-S front. While I still don’t have final details from the engineers, here is what we know now.
1. We have moved from the less robust Scarlet S35 chassis to the EPIC S35 chassis (like going from the economy car frame to the truck frame). Pro, not prosumer. [...]
5. Price has risen due to the chassis and HDRx™ change/additions. Expect somewhere in the neighborhood of $12K. Package prices will be posted as soon as we are sure what they will be. We will not post another “interim” price structure in the meantime. Next price posting will be final.
6. EPIC-S will use the same production line as its big brothers (which we are setting up now in California) so there will be no additional delays to produce this model. However, the EPIC-M and EPIC-X models will be released 1st as has previously been noted. [...]
Given the competitive landscape, we think that the EPIC-S will have no price/performance competition. Think 5K, REDCODE RAW, HDRx™, record to SSD, modular system, size of a Hasselblad with many mature professional workflow options. (Epic-S (old Scarlet S35) update, Jan. 1, 2011).
I was — and still a little — excited about the Scarlet. Last year, I researched my book, DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video (Focal Press, 2011):
During this research, I interviewed Ted Schilowitz, Number 2, at Red, and he discussed how Red is focused on resolution as the key to attaining cinematic image quality:
We at Red are resolution fiends. We believe the more the better. We believe in the history and the legacy of celluloid and the reasons why film has lasted so long and has been so successful through so many other technological changes is that there is a nice amount of usable resolution in shooting 35 mm film to get it up to large size cinema screens.
In short, HDSLRs are good as “still cameras”, but limited resolution prevents them becoming cinema cameras, Schilowitz feels.
Indeed, many people, including me, held out, hoping for the release of Red’s Scarlet any month now.
Even last month we saw footage of a real Scarlet, so we know it’s coming sometime (perhaps at this year’s NAB — but I’m not holding my breath):
Ted Schilowitz shows of the Scarlet, recently at the Consumer’s Electronic Show:
While doing this research in Los Angeles last March, in which I interviewed Philip Bloom, Jared Abrams, Ted Schilowitz, Jeremy Ian Thomas, Neil Smith, Shane Hurlbut, ASC, among others for the book, I planned on purchasing a Scarlet. I came out of the Red Studios tour with Schilowitz convinced that holding out for the best was the way to go. In Schilowitz’s words at the end of the interview:
If you are looking to move into a camera that is going to be very affordable, that is going to shoot the kind of motion picture images you want, extract the kind of stills that you want to get out of it simultaneously, and you are not an EPIC customer because you are not talking about $30 to $40 thousand dollars in terms of the full-on set of gear (which is still remarkably inexpensive for professional use), but if you are under that [budget], if you are an indy film maker, a student film maker, if you are a high end amateur, then look at the success that has come before with the Red One and make a choice because [the Scarlet] is like a miniature version of that.
Great resolution, great functions (XLR inputs, RED RAW codec, and so forth) — why would I get a Canon 5D Mark II if I can get a cinema camera for another $1500 or so. Get real.
Then I darted over through the Hollywood traffic to Hdi RAWworks and talked with Neil Smith, the company’s CEO, who had originally developed it as a postproduction house for the Red camera. He told me last March (2010) that Red would have a hard time delivering the Scarlet, because they didn’t have the infrastructure to handle a large volume of sales that, for example, Canon was getting with their cameras.
I wasn’t convinced. Any company can market a product and get it to the consumers’ hands. However, here’s Smith’s clincher that made me doubt my Scarlet dreams (as transcribed in my interview with him):
We are a Red house, we know image quality, we graded the first 4K images off of the first spread. We understand all about color space and resolution. And then we got Rodney [Charters, ASC, dp of 24] to come in here one day and do a comparison test. [...] And they shot here on the lot a Red, a [Canon] 5D and a [Canon] 7D. And I don’t know if Jeremy [Ian Thomas] showed you the footage? He should have, if he didn’t show it to you, you should have a quick look at that. Because we did this. Rodney was with us for a day.
He shot Red, 5D, and 7D and we made this nice little story and they shot it here on the lot and we showed this intercut demo to hundreds of people, ASC DPs, independent filmmakers, documentary makers [...]. And we actually showed [the film] in a room of 200 filmmakers at HD Expo in October of last year. We asked everybody, if you can guess absolutely correctly which is Red, 5D, which is 7D and we will buy you the best meal you ever had. Have not had to buy a meal.
My heart beat faster. What? Professional image makers couldn’t tell the difference? I mean, haven’t scientific tests (as Schilowitz mentioned in his interview) been done?
In fact, chip chart tests support Red’s position:
Image from Field Dominance. See http://www.fielddominance.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/resolution-chart.jpg for a full scale image.
Certainly, the 7D looks weak on this chart. Why couldn’t these filmmakers see it? At the end of the interview, Smith walked me over to Jeremy Thomas’ editing suite and they put up Rodney Charters, ASC film — “Dream in Possible” — onto a studio quality plasma screen:
They offered me the same deal. Guess which camera was behind particular shots, and they would give me a free meal. I guessed wrong, just like many of the others — including, according to Smith, Schilowitz himself.
Later, doing additional research, I came across Jared Abrams’s (Cinema 5D news) interview with Lucasfilm’s head of postproduction, Mike Blanchard, who felt that DSLR footage wouldn’t hold up to the big screen — but then discovered otherwise:
“Certainly when we just look at the footage and put it on a big screen it holds up way better than it has a right to,” he says. A lot of people get caught up in the numbers game, comparing one type of camera to another, he continues, such as the argument that
film is 4K, blah, blah, blah. You know, it’s really not, because nobody ever sees a projected negative. So by the time you do a release print and [put it] through its paces, it’s no way near [what] a lot of people claim that it really is. So the great part about working at Lucasfilm, for people like Rick [McCallum] and George [Lucas] — working for them — is that you just show them things and that’s where it ends. We don’t do little charts about how it doesn’t have that or it doesn’t do that. We make it work. And that’s just a beautiful way to do work, because it opens up everything. (Interview with Jared Abrams, 15 April 2010).
Blanchard is right in the 2K world, but 4K? Perhaps film does drop to around 2K after it comes to our local theaters, but when those local theaters start screening on 4K projectors, then Red’s ahead of the game.
Despite all of this, I decided to purchase a Canon 5D Mark II and never looked back. If the Scarlet came out for $3700, perhaps I would consider it, but whatever the new price will be (perhaps $5,000, but perhaps higher), it’s still a lot more than a $800 Canon Rebel — and, yes, deservedly so (the Scarlet will out perform the Rebel, so there’s no argument there).
And now Sony and Panasonic have released prosumer video cameras with larger chips, because they realized that there’s a market for cinema-like cameras and the ENG market — at least for low budget cinema makers, independents, and cinema students — just wasn’t good enough when faced with the soul of the Canon HDSLR camera.
I’ve seen Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, beautifully shot by Jody Lee Lipes on a Canon 7D. I watched it at New York City’s Independent Film Channel movie theater in November — so it was on a big screen. Here’s a preview:
In short, the story’s good and the 7D delivered a strong cinematic image (despite all the published information about its weaknesses with moire, rolling shutter, chip charts, blah, blah, blah, to quote Blanchard from Lucasfilm). The movie delivered, because it had a strong story and I didn’t see any weaknesses in the cinematography, despite it being shot on a $1700 camera. The camera can deliver a cinematic look in the hands of a good cinematographer. Video journalist Travis Fox uses this camera for documentaries on PBS’s Frontline.
And in my classroom of 24 students in an introduction to video production class at Northern Arizona University, every one of them loved using Canon’s Rebel T2i (the School of Communication purchased 18 of them). Some of my students purchased their own cameras, and for $800 how can you go wrong?
Even if you have to spend another $1,000 to get good audio and other accessories, you’re still paying less than a prosumer video camera. And for the first time in eight years of teaching such classes, I’m seeing better looking images coming out of that little Rebel than $3500 video cameras. And now I’m teaching a class on DSLR Cinematography. It could be taught with prosumer video cameras, but why waste the money on a $3500 camera, when you can do more with an $800 camera?
Let’s face it, it appears Canon beat Red at their own game (at least in the $2K market).
Kurt Lancaster, PhD, is the author of “DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video, Focal Press, 2011.” He teaches digital filmmaking and multimedia journalism at Northern Arizona University’s School of Communication.
This post first appeared on Kurt’s blog, DSLR Cinema: http://www.kurtlancaster.com/dslr-cinema/03/01/2011/why-i-dropped-the-red-scarlet-dream-and-got-a-canon-5d-mark-ii/
The question of who is in your documentary film has become a game unto itself, one that creates further pressures to deliver marquee names. Ken Burns’ “Civil War” didn’t have famous people featured in it; being featured in it made those people famous, Shelby Foote and Doris Kearns Goodwin most notably. Two decades later, in “The Tenth Inning,” Burns uses many well-known faces – George Will, Keith Olbermann and Bob Costas. It’s become more necessary to get these faces in film, as a competitive edge.
John Scheinfeld’s film “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)” is notable not only for the fact he shot it in Standard Definition, as we covered in Part 1, but that it is packed with people who are instantly recognizable – Robin Williams, Terry Gilliam, Dustin Hoffman, and many others.
The film, released in the fall of 2010, not only uses the famous, but uses them well. The subject of the film, the singer and songwriter Harry Nilsson, was important to all of them. Scheinfeld, a man who has worked in film and television for decades, has been able to enlist many famous names for his various documentaries, in including “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” and “We Believe,” a 2009 film about the Chicago Cubs and their frustrated dreams of a championship. Scheinfeld says,
Part of it is, I’m fearless. I’ll just go after somebody if I feel they have a place in the film. With this film, with the Lennon film, with the Cubs film, these are A-list people. I find that if they feel you know what you’re talking about, and they feel it’s a smart approach, and if they have something to say, that they’re going to be open to an interview. I’m well known in my circles for writing very passionate letters, so I would write letters these guys – this who I am, and this is what we’re doing.
Scheinfeld note that there are aspects of making a documentary that may seem obvious – such as, don’t try to do the same film everybody else is trying to do. While the documentary field has its trending – global warming and food seem a couple of the topics that have dominated the last few years – he knew with the Nilsson film that the man, as famous as he was in the 1960s and 1970s, had faded from the collective memory.
We were helped by the fact that there hasn’t been anything done on Harry. It’s not like these people were being approached all the time. It’s not like John Dean being approached to talk about the Nixon White House – ‘Oh great, I have to go and do that again.’
These people loved Harry. So it was like, ‘You want to talk about Harry? Of course.’ In some ways, I think it was the easiest one I’ve ever had, because these people really had something they wanted to say. They felt Harry was really due, and they wanted to be part of that tribute to him.
Scheinfeld notes that in pre-production, it helps to have a clear idea og whom you’re going for, and why you think they’ll help the film – and why the film might benefit them.
In terms of strategizing, I think the Harry film was an anomaly. With Lennon, the Cubs and other films I’ve done, you really have to have strategy. You have to think about who you can go after first before you go after the real tough ones. But always, what’s on my mind is ‘Who has a reason to do this?’ and why do they might have a reason.
In ‘Harry,’ we approached different people in different ways. Robin Williams had agreed to do our Jonathan Winters documentary, and we asked him if we could piggyback a Harry interview on that, and he said yes.
Each story requires a different approach, Scheinfeld says.
With the Cubs film, I wanted a wide range of cultural observers and commentators; with “Harry,” I only wanted people who knew him intimately. I didn’t want to talk to a rock journalist, and I didn’t want to talk a writer, and I didn’t want to talk to a historian. I wanted people who were there.
I cast my documentaries the way I would cast a feature film: I want a broad range of people who’ll cover different aspects, and I also want something… different. I don’t want the same people turning up every time. In the Cubs film, I wanted someone who could talk about faith in the 21st century, because the Cubs fans are all about faith. I know Chicago is a very Catholic city, so I decided I’d go after the Cardinal (Francis George). So I called them up, and they said ‘We can’t imagine he’d do this.’ They said to write a letter, and wrote one of impassioned letters, and about five weeks later an assistant called and said, ‘Well, we’re all stunned.’ They didn’t know he was a lifelong Cubs fan, which is why he agreed to do the interview. His father would take him to Wrigley Field when he was a boy. But how many times has the Cardinal ever been asked to do an interview on the Cubs? And in the end, he got two of the biggest laughs in the film.
Walter Cronkite was in the Lennon film, maybe one of the last interviews he did. I had read a story about when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, Cronkite’s daughters made him watch, and he was taken with the energy he saw. I also knew he had strong opinions about the Nixon White House, so he had a reason speak. (Nixon had the FBI investigate Lennon in an effort to deport him and thereby silence his criticisms).
We were only turned down by one person, and not because of any negative feeling. It was Ringo (Starr). He and his people were amazingly helpful to us, with archival material, and permissions, and connecting with other people, and all that. And Ringo’s attorney is actually in the film. But what we were told every time we went back to try was, ‘It’s just too emotional for him.’ What we were told is that Ringo really won’t talk about John, or George, or Harry.
But it was the emotion of speaking of a beloved subject that drew more people to agree than to turn Scheinfeld down, and to infuse the film with what he hopes is a secial quality.
A couple who attended a screening told me they liked the film more than Lennon, because it was ‘more emotional.’ I think these people loved Harry so much, it really came across, and the audience can’t help but be drawn into that.
In Part 3, Scheinfeld will talk about the search and securing of archival material for the film
Canon should clue in – people want functions on their DSLRs that make it more of a professional camera. My school where I teach (the School of Communication at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff) purchased 18 Canon Rebel T2i. We have limited funds and the price point was perfect, especially when combined with the kit kens, spare battery, Rode VideoMic, Rycote windscreen, 8GB memory card, a 70-300mm lens, UV filters, a Manfrotto 190XB tripod with the 700RC2 head, and a Portabrace bag–which puts the kit at around $1600. (Here’s the B&H list with an audio recorder: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/wl/330BB308FF.)
Yes, we would have loved to purchased the Canon 60D–with its manual control of audio and swivel LCD screen–but $600 is $600.
Why pay an additional $600 when you can get the firmware hack, Magic Lantern, for free? (You should donate to help the cause.) It includes disabling of the automatic gain control (AGC) for audio–which is absolutely key when you want to even attempt to get usable audio in your footage. Furthermore, it puts the audio bars on top of the LCD so you can see what the audio is doing (something that even the Canon 5D2 and 60D don’t do). In addition, it has a spot meter, zebra patterns, histogram, and crop marks for safety zones (for broadcast purposes). You can even dial in color temperature!
I have installed it on one of my school’s Rebels and it works great! Be sure to go to the config menu and save any changes.
I love the fact that the LCD brings up the percentage figure of exposure on the spot meter and it provides the focal length on my zoom lens and it gives me the focal distance of what is in focus (in cm)! This means you can mark focus with tape. Most excellent!
Ok, the pic is a bit blurry because I used a Droid to take this image:
Image by Kurt Lancaster. The audio meters change color (green for within the zone, yellow getting hot, red for clipping). The focus distance is in cm/meters. The exposure percentage occurs within the area of the rectangle, center (which indicates a 6% exposure in the dark are of the Christmas tree). While the histogram hovers above center to the right.
Here’s my short guide (I take no responsibility for failed installs and damage to your camera. Proceed at your own risk):
1) Be sure the Rebel has the latest firmware release (1.0.9). If not, then go to Scroll to the bottom of this page and hit “I agree”: http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/firm-e/eosdigital7/firmware.html You’ll be taken to another page where you can download the firmware. Place the file on your memory card or plug in the USB cable and use the EOS Utility. Put the camera in manual mode on the top dial and dial over to the third toolbar menu. Go to firmware and click on it to update. Let it do it’s thing.
2) Download the firmware: (22 Dec. 2010), scroll to the bottom of the page for the attachment: http://groups.google.com/group/ml-devel/msg/c7b3f6483fa622de and unzip it.
3) Plug in your camera’s memory card and copy the magiclantern.fir file to it (don’t place it in any folders).
4) Put the memory card back into the camera.
5) Update the firmware as if you’re doing step 1.
6) Pull out the battery for about 5 seconds and turn the camera off.
7) Put the memory card back into the computer.
8. Make the card bootable. The Magic Lantern Firmware Wiki shows steps for doing this for the Mac and PC. MacBoot did not make the card bootable. I went to a PC and downloaded EOScard (which is on the Magic Lantern wiki page). Just right click on the hyperlink on the wiki and you can download it. As stated on the page, “Select your SD card drive, check EOS_DEVELOP and BOOTDISK and hit Save.”
9) Delete magiclantern.fir from the memory card.
10) Go to your Magic Lantern folder and copy over the autoexec.bin, all the *.bmp files, and the magic.cfg file to the memory card.
11) Plug it back into the camera and put the camera in video mode. Turn on the camera and hit the delete button to bring up the menu.
12) The camera will use Magic Lantern with this card. If you want to use it on other cards, then you will need to install the same files listed on step 10.
13) Read the Users Guide to see what each function does. My settings:
Default settings for audio, including AudioMeter: ON
Global Draw: ON (turn it OFF and ON again by using the SET button)–this will clear the Magic Lantern text on the LCD screen
Zebras: OFF (I prefer to see my shot without all the red and blue graphics getting in the way)
CropM: OFF (I only need it if I want the “safety” zones, which I really don’t worry about)
Trap Focus: OFF
ISO: Here you can dial in ISO settings beyond what Canon provides.
Shutter: You can choose shutter increments beyond what Canon provides.
White Bal: Hit the SET button to dial in your color temperature [the Display will still shot the
Brack [Test bracket]–I don’t use it.
Focus–I don’t use this since I focus manually.
Debug–CAREFUL here. The only I do here is hit “Save config” after I’ve made changes, so when I turn off the camera and turn it back on again, it’ll keep the settings I chose.
Kurt Lancaster, PhD, is the author of “DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video, Focal Press, 2011.” He teaches digital filmmaking and multimedia journalism at Northern Arizona University’s School of Communication.
When John Scheinfeld started making his documentary on Harry Nilsson, it was in a standard-def world.
The Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker has always juggled various projects (often on musicians), but the film “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?),” which was first shown in 2006 as a work-in-progress but came out this past fall after a series of production issues, was made in its own time.
The film tells the tumultuous story of Nilsson, who songs are well-remembered (“Put de Lime in de Coconut,” “Jump Into The Fire,” “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Without You,” and many others). The film includes interviews with such celebrities as Robin Williams, Mickey Dolenz, Terry Gilliam and Dustin Hoffman.
The film, released to DVD and Netflix, is squarely a 4:3, SD product. He says few have even seemed to notice.
“This, in so many ways, was a real indy film. It was independently financed, it didn’t have a huge budget. We called in a lot of favors and did it betwixt and between other things. The first interviews we shot in depth were in 2004. It was really on the cusp of HD then. So we hadn’t anticipated that we would need to do that.
“Because we had started to shoot the material in standard def, and because all the archival was standard-def, we thought that would match fine.”
He says what didn’t happen when the film was released this year was that people said, “I didn’t like it because it wasn’t in HD.”
The HD (and now 3D) arms race has escalated, but the Nilsson film hasn’t seemed to have been hurt. In today’s New York Times, in an article entitled “The Revolution Is Being Shot on Digital Video,” Manohla Dargis writes,
A decade ago, when independent movies shot in digital video like “Chuck and Buck” (2000) started hitting the big screen, it was easy to tell you weren’t looking at film because the often smeary, muddy visuals looked about as bad as an old VHS tape. Audiences didn’t seem to care, possibly because, after decades of watching battered home videos on standard-definition televisions, they were accustomed to degraded imagery. For many the pleasure of being able to rent a Billy Wilder movie at their leisure outweighed complaints about how lousy the videos looked.
The Nilsson film is well-lighted, well shot and just not quite as razor-sharp as films shot on more recent/expensive camcorders.
“We were concerned a bit when we knew this would be going into theaters that this would hurt us. I’ve now seen reviews of this film for two-and-a-half months, and I swear not one review I saw made mention of HD vs. SD. Nobody really cared.
His new film on the Chicago Cubs is shot in HD, so Scheinfeld is no Luddite, but the notion of story-over-pixels is foremost with a man who was a writer earlier in his career.
Scheinfeld, who has done documentaries on John Lennon, Bette Midler, The Bee Gees and others, began his career at Paramount Television, where he worked in development, then later at MTM, Mary Tyler Moore’s company; in the late 1990s he was writing pilots for network television.
“I knew Groucho Marx’s grandson, and he said ‘Why don’t you do a documentary about the Marx Brothers?’” Scheinfeld says. “I said, ‘What do I know about making documentaries?’ and he said, ‘You’re a storyteller.’”
Scheinfeld got the rights for that doc and teamed with a filmmaker named David Leaf, who knew people at the Disney Company looking for documentaries on pop-culture subjects. “Back then, Disney was a pay channel, and they’d program for adults from 8 p.m., on.”
“The Unknown Marx Brothers” got “great response,” and he was on to other projects. That includes work on films on John Lennon, Bette Midler, Ricky Nelson and Peter Sellers. “We Believe,” his documentary on the Cubs, connects with his roots as a Northwestern grad.
“You spend a lot of time on these projects and you better love it, you better have a passion for it,” he says. “Does is nurture my soul? Does it make me laugh? Does it inspire me?”
Part 2 will run next week