Final Cut Pro X

The new Final Cut Pro was announced this week and, after years of anticipation, it has really been shaken up. Above is a video of the presentation, detailing many of the new features.

I’m not going to go through all of these new features but you can read about it all over the internet.

While things like magnetic sound/visuals, usage of RAM and the price tag are very interesting – and liable to save time and money – I’m not as excited as a lot of the video production blogs and other websites out there. This is no slight on Apple or anyone posting multiple giddy updates about FCPX, I just couldn’t shake the thought that it isn’t going to make me create better films. I get it, though. I understand that people are on deadlines and the time that this might save could mean more money, it could mean more time with the family (or other pursuits), it could be a new tool to play with. Of course I want to spend more time being creative and focusing on the areas which I like best, but I think I just don’t get excited until I see something which widens my abilities, or allows me to do something which I could not otherwise achieve.

But yeah, I’ll probably get it anyway.

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Nostalgic Shooting and Martin Scorsese

Now that we have digital cameras producing amazing quality, people are often digitally converting them into polaroid style, old-film-look, toy camera, cross processed*.

Now that we have rich, deep blacks on television sets, people are shortening the dynamic range and effectively lightening the shadows.

These may be “fad” styles and techniques, but they are ubiquitous at the moment. It might be down to nostalgia and romantacising styles from different eras but it isn’t confined to teens on their iPhones.

In The Aviator, Martin Scorsese decided to shoot the film digitally then grade half of it to look like two-strip technicolor and the other half in three-strip. Despite my reservations of the saturation of the media with this stylistic choice, Scorsese gets away with it because a) it is a narrative-led choice and b) he has a vast knowledge of cinema and the colour processes used, when and by who. Most people can cover the how, but Scorsese can cover the why.

There were different processes around back then,” Scorsese says. “Each process was different, and therefore, each film was different. That period of filmmaking and film viewing was formative for me, in a very primal way, and those images remain imprinted in my mind.

Read more about Scorsese’s homage to early colour processes.

Also: read about colour and digital production during The Departed.

These might be a bit technical and another league from what some of us are shooting, but it serves as good inspiration in areas that may affect us and we can also apply some of the theory to our own decisions. These are Scorsese’s first two features he shot digitally and he speaks openly and honestly about the switch.

*I’d like to point out that I have been known to use these “fad” styles, from time to time..

Increasing Dynamic Range on 5DMKii / 7D

Depending on the project, I still like to bring out my 5DMKii once in a while, especially if there is little use for dialogue. I’ve come to modifying the look and colour of projects in After Effects and relevant plug-ins and have learned that, to get the most from the camera, you need to shoot ‘flat’.

The camera is designed to shoot nice footage out of the box, as opposed to the grey flatness required, and, as such, loses picture detail due to its smaller dynamic range. Luckily, some nice people have already made picture profiles that you can download and Luka has created a video going through the relatively simple procedure, step-by-step:

Visit the video’s page for associated download links.

I’m not too sure about some of his colour grading choices (although I do like one against a leafy wall), but that’s down to you in post.

Also, you will see a Marvels Cine picture style if you download the picture styles pack. A new version has recently been released and will be the one I am working with next. Click for information and download of Marvel Cine Picture Style 3.X.

Alternatives to SxS in Sony EX1 and EX3

It’s well known how expensive SxS cards are for the EX series of video cameras and filmmakers quickly found ways to get cheaper storage. The most widely accepted way to do this was to get an expresscard adapter, such as the MxM adapter, and use SDHC cards. This is what I have in my EX3: the SxS card that came with the camera and 2x MxM adapters, with one 16gb SDHC and one 32gb SDHC. Those are the dedicated cards, but as we have several SDHC cards, we can just swap them out of the adapters where needed.

But now you can also get adapters where, instead of having an SDHC slot, you have a USB 2.0 port. This means you can plug in external hard drives or flash drives and store increasing amounts of media. These cards are similarly priced, see this MxM USB 2.0 adapter, but now cards are being made available at much more reasonable prices. Take, for instance ,this USB 2.0 expresscard for £5.03.

See the video below for this set-up in action (it’s not in English, but you get the picture):

He also has a video for an 8gb Sandisk Cruzer flash drive.

Matte Paintings as a Solution to 5D MKii (and other DSLR) Moire Issues

This isn’t going to work on every occasion and will require more time and precision during the shoot and in post, but it is really quite impressive and opens up further possibilities with shooting on DSLRs.

In this video, Robino Films use still images to create matte paintings and effectively relight parts of the scene as they see fit. At the end there are further examples where elements are changed to their needs and there is no reason why this technique cannot be used to combat moire issues on things that new moire filters and plug-ins are not good for, like brick walls and roofs (as long as subjects don’t cross the area in question).

And a couple of free anti-moire filters for Final Cut Pro:

DSLR anti-moire filter for FCP

Moire filter plug-in

I’ve downloaded these but have not had a chance to use them (fortunately I’ve not encountered moire issues very much, although I have been shooting on other cameras recently).