The much-delayed Red Scarlet appears in a video, with 40,000 views since Tuesday. The Scarlet, with a 2/3″ sensor, was to have been a game-changer when it was announced in 2008. As we move into 2011, it still has yet to be released, and will compete against a multitude of similar cameras when it does (although the Scarlet promises 3k resolution). Still, worth a look:
Light meters are hardly the necessity they used to be when shooting film, when your only guarantee that the processed footage would look OK was the proper metering. The viewfinder of a camcorder is in essence the meter; you can eyeball what you’re going to see – more or less. The brightness setting of your viewfinder can often be a bit different than what you’re actually getting (EOS DSLR users tend, from what we see, to set the viewfinder brightness at +1), so a meter is not a complete anachronism. Sekonic just announced a meter intended for video use, to be released in January. Pricing is not yet clear:
Sekonic Corporation announced the launch of the DigiCineMate L-308DC, the simple and easy-to-use light meter that can be customized to display only specific functions used by today’s DSLR videographers, cinematographers, and still photographers.
“The versatility of today’s cameras is expanding at an amazing rate. Digital SLR cameras are being used to record moving images and digital video cameras used to capture still frames for printing,” Mr. Hiroshi Arai, President of Sekonic Corporation stated in a recent interview. “Sekonic is a recognized leader in light control for the motion picture industry. We have applied this experience to create the perfect entry-level light meter for this new and growing group of electronic cinematographers,” He added. Scheduled release: January, 2011.
Three Ways to Meter
Display only the specific functions you need for fast, easy operation.
* HD Cine Mode: Perfect for today’s DSLR videographers. Make exposure readings and control light using shutter speeds and frame rates and get aperture settings with one-tenth stop accuracy.
* Cine Mode: Designed for digital cinematography. Select from the most useful frame rates and shutter angles for exposure control with one-tenth stop accuracy. Lux and foot-candle readout enables quick set up of lights.
* Photo Mode: Full control for traditional still-image photographers. Shutter-priority display of a full range of ambient and flash functions including Cord and Cordless flash measurement as well as ambient EV measurement.
Three Ways to Measure Light
* The Lumisphere provides incident light readings for nearly foolproof exposure readings and enables lighting that scene before the talent arrives.
* The Lumidisc is perfect for lighting green screens, adjusting ratios and taking lux and foot-candle measurements.
* Reflected light readings enable measuring the brightness of subject tones, gray cards, light sources or window light.
Adjust the L-308DC to film or digital camera sensors or matching the L-308DC to other handheld meters.
Three custom settings tune meter operations and displays to fit your camera and metering requirements.
Lux (lx) and foot-candle (fc) display is especially useful for cinematography, theatrical and other applications that require precise control of light source brightness. Use custom settings to select lux, foot-candle or no display.
California-based documentary filmmaker Karen Everett’s New Doc Editing is a go-to resource for documentary filmmakers thinking through the edit on their project, especially when the story doesn’t have a straight narrative (such as a bio or journey doc). Earlier this month, she ran a webinar on editing that’s worth a listen.
Karen got some good news recently as a collaboration with filmmaker Tiffany Schlain has resulted in Schlain’s film, connected, being accepted at the 2011 Sundance film festival (Trailer below).
Turner and Bill Ross knew they were trying something different, and as such they knew that the inspiration for their first feature documentary would come from a different place.
“45365,” which premieres on PBS’s Independent Lens series Tuesday, is unusual in many ways, and it owes a lot to the notion of a Bruce Springsteen album, a collection of movements that build toward a larger theme of life in the small towns of this country.
Asked to point to films that might have influenced the project, they point to other medium – “we were more influenced by certain albums and books,” Bill says. “We were definitely listening to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’ ”
The film tracks through the simple moments of life in Sidney, with rather arresting effect. The film premiered at SXSW 2009 and won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature.
“With this film we weren’t trying to make a commercial success, but rather to make something for ourselves,” Turner says. “We still find it hard to believe people have picked up on this and given it the time of day.”
The Rosses lived and worked in Los Angeles for more than five years but grew up in Sidney, Ohio, a town with a population of 20,000 and a ZIP code of 45365. They attended the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where Bill studied film and Turner studied fine-art painting (which has its effects on the film), and then began doing film work making shorts and music videos. Their shorts include “Dinosaur Curtains” (2009) and “Lee, his Son, and Fisherman Walt” (2009). After a while, Bill says, “We decided we needed to take a bigger leap.”
The film has no similarity (thankfully) to reality shows that might plow the same ground, be it “Laguna Beach” or “Cops.” The easy melodrama of such shows isn’t seized in “45365.” The film goes for a more challenging feel, an impressionistic, even painterly, mosaic of small-town moments that Roger Ebert (who called the film “achingly beautiful”) likened to Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 cycle of short stories, “Winesburg, Ohio,” and which made me think of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” a play about rural life in early-20th-century New Hampshire.
“The setup was very simple,” Turner says. “Billy and I wanted to move into making our first feature. We knew we wanted to do a subject we knew well, and we wanted to go to our hometown. We set up a generic cast list of characters we needed to find and places we needed to explore, and with a few months of planning we eventually just hit the road.”
For nine months, the Ross brothers shot the life of a town, on Panasonic DVX100B camcorders (which are Mini-DV format), with both shotgun mikes and lav mikes. “There wasn’t too much technically beyond that,” Turner says.
“We developed a basic sort of structural outline, where we had things as generic as ‘police,’ and then the other side of that. ‘High school kids.’ We began filling those in. We’d go to the police department and find the guy we’d spend time with. We’d got to the high school and find the kids we wanted to spend time with. In those first months we had some cast from that generic list and we began filming those people. Because this was not a narrative, we allowed those characters to lead us to other situations and other characters. Eventually it became a river that we let guide us.” That included friends of their younger brother, who was a senior at Sydney High School.That resulted in nearly thirty people who werethe “cast” of the documentary.
“What struck us about ‘Our Town’ and ‘Winesburg, Ohio,’ was the vignettes that were presented that don’t necessarily relate, but because of circumstance, situation and environment, they do draw connections.” What we found in the edit was it was more about moments and places that draw connections with a viewer, rather than a narrative story arc.”
The Rosses went to edit with between 400-500 hours of tape they’d collected over nine months. In the beginning Bill began to try to “keep my head” as he made notes and tried to envision how it could come together: “I tried to look at what might look nice next to one another, what small arcs we could play with. It was like going out and capturing the notes, and then trying to configure them into a song of some kind.” Turner noted it was “like going backwards,” in that “we tried to script it afterwards.”
Turner said the brothers “tried to allow people to convey what they wanted to us,” leaving a lot of material to sort through. “It was six months of plowing through this stuff just trying to understand what we had, and to interpret what our focus was. Once we abandoned any preconceived notions, “It was six months before Bill sent me something that was going toward what we were seeking out, both emotionally and aesthetically.”
Turner said they entered the shooting looking “to convey a time and place, and the residual emotion from that,” and while the final cut of the film was much different than what they’d first begun to envision, “it was what we were after.”
There was no paper edit; Bill did all the organizing in Final Cut Pro. “My bins would be character names; there was also a bin for ‘Atmosphere,’ and inside that bin were bins for things like ‘this side of town’ and ‘that side of town’ and ‘time of day’ and ‘time of year’ and that kind of stuff. The initial organization was very important.”
The film went to digital release five months after opening at SXSW, and that’s explored in an interview with A.J. Schnack at his All These Wonderful Things site.
The brothers are currently at work on a new feature-length documentary, “Tchoupitoulas,” an exploration of the New Orleans night. The film is supported by a Cinereach grant.
Like 45365, “we draw inspiration from other mediums,” Turner says. The new project “is like a good music album, in that it’s a collection of disparate things that are cohesive. You can exist within this world of color or sound or words or whatever it is, and they may be seemingly disparate, but somehow all exist within the same framework.”
Those of us using Quicktime Conversion to output out of Final Cut Pro in h.264 have noticed that the clips, when uploaded to Vimeo or YouTube, tend to look a bit washed out. It’s got to do with a gamma shift that takes place in the conversion. Here’s a tip from Videocopilot from a couple of years ago that’s well worth filing away:
After rendering into a QuickTime/h.264 file, open it up in QuickTime and select “Show Movie Properties.” Highlight the video track then click on the “Visual Settings” tab. Towards the bottom left you should see “Transparency” with a drop-down box next to it. Select “Blend” from the menu then move the “Transparency Level” slider to 100%. Choose “Straight Alpha” from the same drop-down and close the properties window and finally “Save.”
HD Warrior takes us through an explanation of the Four-Thirds vs. Micro Four-Thirds mounts and how it works on the new Panasonic AG-AF100 (and 101 in Europe). Micro Four-Thirds differs from Four-Thirds in the distance between the rear element and the camcorder’s sensor.
In order to offer the ability to change lenses, the Micro Four-thirds mount, jointly developed by Panasonic and Olympus has been adopted in the AG-AF101. The mounts designed to cover a 4/3 type sensor are Four-thirds (FTS) and Micro Four-thirds (mFTS). In order to achieve a compact camera body and be able to accept the greatest range of lenses, the AG-AF101 uses the Micro Four-thirds mount. The electronic signals are identical between the two mounts, so with the suitable Panasonic adaptor, the auto focus and auto iris functions on Four-thirds lenses can be used with the AG-AF101.
An adapter for using four-thirds lenses runs about $105.
The DC Film Critics awarded “Exit Through The Gift Shop” the Best Documentary Award, setting a tone for what should be a curious and possibly disheartening awards season. With the argument further brewing in a lawsuit about the “documentary” “Catfish,” which under oath may turn out to be far less than a true story, it muddies the waters in which some bottom-feeding goes on.
That “Exit” is not demonstrably true seems to be part of its appeal to critics, who seem to have a hipsterish love of spoofs and irony and much less for truth and inquiry.
In that spirit, here are the nominations for other Faux-docs of the year:
“Restrepo”: Did you really think Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington risked their lives in Afghanistan to capture the truth of warfare in a post-superpower world? It was all filmed in North Dakota with actors and rented costumes left over from “The Hurt Locker”! The “Afghanis” are actually Italian. Like Banksy, they know how to pull off a good one and get some attention.
“Waiting for Superman”: Come on, as if there’s really a problem with public schools in the United States. Davis Guggenheim pulled together a troupe of pranksters to pretend they’re frazzled parents, using cooked stats to make the less-quick among us buy into the idea that the educational system could possibly be near collapse. And those kids who supposedly are fighting for a decent chance at an education? Child actors with trust funds! You’ve been punked!
“Waste Land”: What a convincing piece of video that almost had us thinking there are destitute people in Brazil who live their lives in garbage dumps, scraping for any means for survival. The combination of a Brooklyn art installation done by some Pratt undergrads, and augmented by some Mac-based CGI, really builds the “In A World” fantasy. Really had you going there! Everybody knows Lucy Walker would never go to a place that was as smelly as that. Performance art at its best.
“Gas Land” : A clever mockumentary using this “journey” that was actually all greenscreened in Josh Fox’s garage with Final Cut Pro, using supratitles to trick you into thinking he actually traveled all over the country to ask questions about gas drilling and its effect on our water supply. Travel? Fox almost didn’t have to get out of his pajamas! And that famous shot of the guy lighting his tap water on fire? Same special effects people who brought you “War of the Worlds.”
“Precious Life”: Scripted, friends, just like “House, M.D.” The “conceit” of an Israeli baby born without an immune system was inspired creativity by director Schlomi Eldar. The film also creates tension with its doctor “character” who tries to save the child (although he’d have been better if Eldar had written him as having a drinking problem, bad leg or possibly a nasty temper).
Why are these films less deserving of honors than “Exit” and “Catfish”? If the truth is no longer a factor in documentaries, let’s throw in “Blair Witch” as the best of all time. Times are changing. That “Exit” has had a run that also has it on the Oscar shortlist tells you how much facts count. In the end, people who get stuck on “facts” are so… retro.
Just in case you think cameramen are born, here’s how they’re made: