Friday, November 23, 2007

What frame rate for the next production?

We just bought an HD television.

Although filmmakers are scrambling to create HD content, the infrastructure to distribute and view that content is not at all firm. So, the filmmaker is faced with a difficult choice--what frame rate and format to shoot?

For a filmmaker, the safest bet seems to be to either shoot 1080 60i--1080 lines, 60 frames interlaced, or 1080 24p--1080 lines, 24 frame progressive. (In PAL land, the two options would be 1080 50i and 1080 24p.)

Maybe the best thing to do is to shoot 2-3 minutes of test footage at both frame rates. Then convert both samples to three final products: broadcast, film, and DVD.

I'll probably run this test before I shoot my next project, and choose the project's frame rate depending on how the conversion process goes, and what the final product look like.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Book endorsements

This week's work has been seeking endorsements for the production book. An endorsement is a 2-4 line blurb that goes on the back cover of the book. It is also used in promotion.

We began my making a wish-list of people. We later called these folks "the notables." We chose people of outstanding integrity and accomplishments in film and journalism.

Next we asked everyone we knew if they knew anyone who could help us contact the notables. Help and answers began trickling in. We now have packages off to the notables, and with luck we shall soon have endorsements by people we respect.

A couple observations about endorsements:
- Endorsements (2-4 line reviews for the back cover of the book) are the fuel that keeps the marketing engine running. They are more important than I ever suspected.
- Celebrity endorsements are the best fuel of all.
- The hard thing about celebrity endorsements is reaching the celebrity. Getting the endorsement is easier.
- The best time to get endorsements is well before the book marketing engine starts to rev up. Getting them late in the publishing cycle is frustrating and painful.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Camera book well underway

Writing on the camera book proceeds quickly.

After throwing out my earlier draft and re-thinking the idea behind the camera book, I realized that the how-to information was central to the book. I restructured the book around what is known as a "task analysis." A task analysis simply asks, "What does the user (reader) have to actually do?"

With this focus, the organization and content of the book quickly fell into place., a site created and maintained by Sven E Carlsson.

Excellent interviews and articles about film sound.

Canon XH-A1 Camera

I'm trying to decide if I need to buy a new digital video camera to replace my aging Panasonic DVC 80. The DVC 80 was a great camera in it's day, but it doesn't have the resolution I need, nor does it have 24p.

Everything I've read so far leads me to favor the Canon XH-A1.

Not the least of the Canon's attraction is a $600 Canon Console program that turns a laptop into an engineering console with a real time vectorscope and waveform monitor.

I'd rather wait until after NAB (April) when new cameras come out, and prices on current cameras go down, but I need the camera before then.

Video equipment list for location shooting.

Good equipment list by Derek Redmond, who teaches the Video 250 Course at Queens University, Kingston, Canada.

The Ten Commandments of Sound for Picture

Bad sound ruins a movie.

I have long believed that audiences will tolerate a lousy story, and may sit through crummy images, but they will walk out if the sound sucks.

Links to The Ten Commandments of Sound for Picture by Christian Dolan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

First peek at RED camera

Cinematographer James Mathers reviews the RED camera for Studio Daily.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ken Burns likes these documentaries

Dave Gilson interviews Ken Burns in Mother Jones magazine.

"I watch as many documentaries as I can," says Ken Burns, whose seven-part, 14-hour World War II epic The War starts on pbs September 23. "We are really in the golden age of documentaries right now." Some of his recommendations of classic films and filmmakers worth seeking out:

1 Robert Flaherty's groundbreaking Arctic silent Nanook of the North (1922)

2 John Grierson's Night Mail (1936): "A beautiful film that followed the mail from Edinburgh, Scotland, to London, England. Just an amazing black-and-white film."

3 Frederick Wiseman and John Marshall's Titicut Follies (1967): "Still one of the best cinema vérité films of all time."

4 Albert and David Maysles' rockumentary Gimme Shelter (1970)

5 Errol Morris, director of The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War: "I loved Errol Morris from the very beginning. I think he's one of our great filmmakers."

6 Jeff Blitz's Spellbound (2002): "Amazing film about a spelling bee— who thought you could be at the edge of your seat worrying about that?"

7 Michael Moore: "You'd obviously want to study Michael Moore to understand how propaganda works."

Ken Burns Interview

Dave Gilson interviews Ken Burns in Mother Jones magazine. Burns talks about his style:

"My style has eight elements: four oral and four visual. The visual would be the interviews, the footage, the live cinematography, and the still photographs. The oral dimensions are the third-person narration—"the voice of God"—the first-person chorus of voices, assorted readers, and then a complicated sound effects track to complement authentic music. Each one of my films engages these in varying degrees, so they seem to be radically different, you know? To those who say they're the same, I have to remind them of the diversity and the authenticity of the style."

Eizo monitor for HD video

Eizo Flexscreen: A good monitor for HD post production and for editing still photographs.

The colors are excellent, and the resolution is high enough to allow "pixel for pixel" mapping of the HD signal. The price is very good when compared to other HD monitors on the market.

As with all monitors, it should be calibrated regularly -- every 4-8 months for home use, once every month for professional use.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tor: Anonymity online

From the Tor site:

Tor: anonymity online

Tor is a software project that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Tor protects you by encrypting your communications and bouncing them around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the Internet's TCP protocol.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world use Tor for a wide variety of reasons: journalists and bloggers, human rights workers, law enforcement officers, soldiers, corporations, citizens of repressive regimes, and just ordinary citizens. See the overview page for a more detailed explanation of what Tor does, why this diversity of users is important, and how Tor works.

Digital Cinema Society

The Digital Cinema Society is the "go to" place for news on the latest developments in the world of high-end digital cinema.

Contributors are mostly working cinematographers in the motion picture industry.

DCS is a good source for no-nonsense camera evaluations and technical tips. Membership highly recommended.

Annual Membership Dues: $30 US

Membership Benefits include:

•A monthly eNewsletter covering the latest developments in Digital Cinema technology and techniques.
•DCS networking events, seminars and educational classes.
•Streaming web access to DCS activities.
•Access to the Digital Cinema Society’s on-line Q&A forum, classifieds, job boards, and a database of members’ resumes and services.
•Screenings, including new major digital releases and members’ own digitally created content.
•Discounts and special offers on products, trade publications, industry events and professional services.

Digital Cinema Solutions -- the documentary

Digital Cinema Solutions, a documentary about all aspects of digital cinema is available for $5 shipping and handling, here.

The documentary was produced and directed by cinematographer James Mathers, founder of the Digital Cinema Society.