Inspired: Side by Side

If you’re on Amazon Prime or Netflix (if you’re into movies you must be on at least one) and you have 99 minutes to kill I heartily recommend the documentary Side by Side. It’s a documentary that its tagline describes as “about the science, art, and impact of digital cinema“. Keanu Reeves is our guide and a producer of this doc’ in which we get to hear from a multitude of famous filmmakers about their opinion on the current transition from film to digital. These voices, apart from perhaps Robert Rodriguez, are the opposite of Guerrilla Filmmakers. They are the establishment and the old guard. They are either waxing-nostalgic, celluloid-holdouts or they’re technocrats leaping into the digital age and embracing the newest, most expensive toys. These filmmakers are not talking about cameras or processes that your average Guerrilla can afford to use but the debate is interesting despite this. The interest lies in watching the Luddites claiming that digital is the end of cinema as they feel their monopoly and control failing. That’s as it should be: revolution is not without pain.

A small section deals with the HDSLR movement in an off-hand way with established filmmakers predictably dismissing them while up-and-comers embrace them.  The whole thing reminded me of the arguments in still photography a decade ago that are now mostly forgotten. Side by Side is well crafted (digitally natch) but I wonder if it is of interest to anyone but other filmmakers and how long it will be at all relevant. That’s a pretty small audience and a pretty tight window. In the meantime, get it while you can as and I’m glad that these documentary filmmakers took the time to mark this moment in cinema history.

Joel Schumacher: The people who’ve come before us gave the world new ways to dream. I think it’s our job to continue that and to try to give people new ways to dream.

The H6: Zoom’s Response to the Tascam DR-60D

Zoom H6It was only a couple of weeks ago that Tascam announced the DR-60D field recorder that is designed with the enthusiast filmmaker in mind. I thought it was one of the three most interesting products at NAB 2013 but, no sooner than the buzz from NAB had began to die down than Zoom returns fire with the announcement of the Zoom H6 at the Musikmesse fair at Frankfurt.

Details are limited but we can see that Zoom has designed the H6 with video applications in mind. Most excitingly it has four on-board, XLR/TRS inputs, expandable to six with an optional, interchangeable XLR/TRS head and it will record all six channels simultaneously and each channel has a dedicated, hardware, level control knob. That’s making the Tasam Dr-60D’s mere two XLR inputs seem a little paltry by comparison. And that could be Zoom’s intention: you might have been just about to order the DR-60D but Zoom’s press release will give you pause – if you can wait a little longer, being able to record 6 channels from XLR at once could be worth your patience.

Why would you need so many channels? Options. With 6 channels being able to lav and boom all the talent on set will give you so many more options back in the edit bay. Hopefully you’ll be able to input one mic into two channels set at different levels; one dialed back for safety but both from the same source.

But this is just speculation as Zoom haven’t announced a shipping date or price yet. If the H6 is adopted by enthusiast filmmakers with as much enthusiasm as they’ve taken to the H4 over the past few years then Zoom will have another huge hit on their hands. Of course this depends on them pricing the H6 correctly and getting it out to the market before Tascam do any serious damage to Zoom’s fan-base.

4 Living & 3 Dead Film Podcasts Worth Listening to

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If you search for Filmmaking podcasts there seems to be so many to choose from. The problem is, it’s much easier to start a podcast than it is to keep it going so there are many remnants of abandoned podcasts out there so finding podcasts worth listening to that are still active is harder than it first seems. I’m just talking about audio podcasts: I know there are quite a few great video podcasts out there but we’ll get to those another day. I’m just talking about podcasts you can throw on while your driving your commute to help kill that time and to learn something or be entertained in the process.

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Paper iOS App POV Demo

This week’s inspiration is an amazing point-of-view video demonstrating some of the new features of the iOS drawing app, Paper. The potential for a video demonstrating a new feature or product being very dull is high but this video bucks that trend. It is beautifully crafted (I’m sure it took a lot of effort to look this casual) and it’s the best example of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s short but simply demonstrates the new features being used without any dialog. It’s party the aspirational, lifestyle context that makes this piece but also the clever cinematography, perfect pacing and serene density of the information delivered. Even if you’re not really interested in the App (which is great by the way) you want to keep watching. That’s a huge accomplishment.

Organize / Free Your Pages from FiftyThree on Vimeo.

How to Give and Take Notes Without Making Enemies

Useless!Filmmaking is a collaborative, artistic process involving people with egos and opinions. Just about everyone involved has ownership of some percentage of the final product and, especially if they are not getting paid or are getting paid very little, they are hugely invested in that final product being great or what’s the point for them being involved?

This can be a recipe for disaster in the pre- and post-production world. When you’re on set and in production the collaboration is face-to-face and the roles are defined and visible so it is easier to manage and to detect when something is heading in the wrong direction. In the pre- and post-production world where people communicate much more by email the potential for being misunderstood and for conflicts blowing out of proportion is so much greater. Often times the way we communicate is by asking for ‘notes’ or being given them whether we want them or not from people higher up the food chain.

There are two times we usually ask for and get notes: in script development and in the editing process. Getting notes, considering them and implementing them can make your film project better. It can also be frustrating, infuriating, it can make you very defensive and, if you blindly try to incorporate every note you’re given, it can make your film worse not better. Click for more

Top 3 Most Interesting Products at NAB 2013 for Guerrilla Filmmakers

If you follow video production products and technology you can’t help but notice that NAB 2013 has just closed. I was watching the news and press-releases from afar and here are the top 3 products that peeked my interest and that will be of interest to Guerrilla Filmmakers. Perhaps we wont be dashing out to buy these tomorrow but they do give us some insight into the direction that products may be heading in the next year or so:

BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera

No surprise what my top most interesting product of NAB 2013 is the BlackMagic S16 Pocket Cinema Camera. No surprise it’s of interest but I don’t think many people saw this one coming. For about a grand you get a pocketable video camera that records with 13 stops of dynamic range in lossless format to cheap SD cards and takes micro-four thirds lenses. Name one filmmaker who isn’t intrigued by the idea of a cinema quality camera that fits in your pocket. If it delivers on its promise of being small enough to carry anywhere but flexible enough and adaptable to scale into the heart of a full on film rig, BlackMagic are going to sell thousands!

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Freesound: Give & Take

Zoom H4 Recorder

If you’re a filmmaker at any level from just starting out to an industry expert you know that, in the edit process you always find a few sound effects, foley or ambient noises that you’re missing. If you’ve been in that situation you’ve probably been to freesound.org. Freesound is a constantly growing library of Creative Commons licensed sounds. If you’re looking for something their search engine usually returns a few hits of sounds that might be useful and it is often quicker and much more convenient than digging out your field recording equipment and hunting down the sound for yourself.

That said, I’m sure lots of us have a few eclectic sound recording languishing on our hard drives that we recorded for one project or another. If you have something you’re willing to share the process of uploading them is a little geeky (ftp) but they do have a web interface too and it is a simple way of uploading a bunch of files at once. You simply upload your files, then describe and tag them and then wait a couple of days for them to be approved. What’s in it for you? What goes around comes around and what good are those files you’re hoarding especially if you’re not going to use them again. I just uploaded some of the sounds I’ve collected in recent months and it felt good to share. I hope other filmmakers will consider doing the same and freesound will become an even more comprehensive and useful resource for everyone.