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.

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.

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).

The RED ONE and The Cinematography of Winter’s Bones

If I was shooting a drama feature, a television pilot or really anything I could take my time over (soon enough), I would love to have a RED ONE. I was looking at the trailer for the upcoming film Source Code and found myself wondering what it was shot on. Turns out that they shot mainly on 35mm, with one segment using the RED – a technique that we are seeing a lot of now (this was also the case for Black Swan, albeit 16mm and Canon 5DMKiis and 7Ds). The director of Source Code, Duncan Jones, says in an interview that it was down to him seeing David Fincher’s test of Leonardo DiCaprio lit with a single match:

And Winter’s Bone: this is one that I kept hearing about but never managed to catch until the DVD release. Shot on a Red camera, with a partially inexperienced cast, this film is different and refreshing.

Here we have an interview with Michael McDonough, the cinematographer of Winter’s Bone, discussing the film.

The main benefits of the new large-sensor cameras, for me anyway, is the shallow depth of field, the ability to shoot amazing footage at low light levels and the price tag. That, along with the top-end systems available to consumers, levels the playing field and democratises filmmaking – but the content will always be king and hopefully it will result in a better range of entertainment.

UPDATE: More videos of remarkable things being done on RED cameras.

Adidas All In – Advertising Video

Sometimes ads are closer to what we, as video producers, create, than feature films. It’s nice to look at the full spectrum of media for inspiration but finding the top-level of material in our area can sometimes allow us to directly apply techniques and ideas.

Adidas have just launched their biggest campaign to date, it’s called All In and focuses on sport and music in this fast-paced 2-minute ad.

More information available at Design Taxi.

Introduction to Title Sequences

At the start of the year I had some time to research and work on some titles, something that I hadn’t done much of in the past. I often just used Final Cut to add some text and maybe some Photoshop backgrounds or similar. This is a trait I often see in video production – very basic title sequences. These are solid and work, but spending a bit of time on learning and producing something original and more dynamic is a great way to add value and interest to a project.

There are many tutorials for different styles and software but here is a link to a really great lecture by Kyle Cooper, a critically acclaimed title designer. It covers a lot of major contemporary films and the theory behind the titles and is really invaluable.

Contemporary Perspectives Lecture Series: Kyle Cooper

(I would embed, but it seems to be disabled now).

Flip Camera Footage to Final Cut Workflow

We got a handful of Flip Cameras to give to people during a live, improvised event, to see if we could get some interesting b-roll. We were primarily shooting with a JVC GY-HM700, which we have on loan until our own equipment arrives. Additionally, we were shooting some miniDV on a Sony handycam (and might be sourcing some mobile phone footage from the public..).

So I wanted to start cutting a rough edit and ran into a problem right away, with the format of the Flip Cam video files. They are MP4 format, which will need rendered and then can be inconsistent after exporting.

The usual recommendation – and one that works well when only using footage from a Flip – is to use Mpeg Streamclip (free software I mentioned before) to batch-convert your footage to a ProRes format, which Final Cut works well with.

But since we shooting on the HM700, our workflow is XDCAM EX format (1080i50). So with Mpeg Streamclip, all we do is change the settings to convert the Flip’s MP4 files to XDCAM EX 1080i50 (or you change it to the format you are working in – right-click on the footage and select item properties to find this info, if you don’t know). The conversion takes a bit of time – and longer than a ProRes conversion, but it is worth it so you don’t have to render as you go.

A good video explaining how to use Mpeg Streamclip for Flip to ProRes is here, but you can adapt the info to suit your workflow: Converting FLIP video camera footage for use in Final Cut Pro

The Special Effects of ‘The Black Swan’

To complete my trifecta of The Black Swan posts (see: Cinematography and Sound Design), I bring you a demo of the SFX used in The Black Swan. These small but significant effects on a film with rich realism have more of an effect on me than all the explosions and CGI trickery of a glossy Hollywood film.

I have also been working with After Effects recently, mainly for titles, which is not an area I am skilled in. The possibilities are remarkable and, through my research, I have decided that I want to try editing a project using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. I have the production suite, so why not try it out? The things that I have been hearing about it are enough to let me leave my Final Cut Pro safety net for a spell. I’ll cover this in the future.

The Sound of ‘The Black Swan’

I thought I’d follow up on the earlier post, The Cinematography of ‘The Black Swan’, with a nice video about the sound in the same film. Sound is often overlooked in Video Production, in favour of the aims and look. And ‘sound design’ is often not even considered; a good recording on someone talking + music is sometimes all that is required.

But I am fascinated by sound designers and the art of telling a narrative audibly. It’s one of the areas that I have never got into deeply myself but I hope to change that in the future. I’m not saying that intricate, original and experimental sound design should be on everyone’s mind when making a corporate video or filming an event – but it shouldn’t be dismissed either.

I hope to post more in the future, hopefully with a real-life example.