Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Head Trauma Re-Mix in Philly

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Yo, Philly readers:

Here’s a screening that would make William Castle’s head spin: Lance Weiler’s Head Trauma will screen with a live soundtrack, featuring performances by Bardo Pond, members of Espers, Fern Knight and DJ Chief Wreck’em. Some theatrics are being thrown in for good measure and there will also be some interactivity. Bring your cell phone.

Details can be found at I-House (the venue) and on the Head Trauma website. Or check out the flyer here.

I’m not a connoisseur of horror and suspense films, but I enjoyed the film when I caught it on DVD last fall. I certainly I wish I could be there for the extravaganza on Saturday. Hopefully Lance will discuss the process of setting the show up, as well as the results, on his great Workbook Project site.

Review: 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Call Box’s 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 is a new instructional DVD that features Noah Kadner, one of the early adopters of the DVX100, talking about different workflows and best practices when using those two eponymous (and ubiquitous) tools of independent filmmaking.

The DVD runs 90 minutes, and it’s divided into several small episodes in which Kadner discusses lots of basics (e.g., what’s a slate and how to use it, recommended tape stock) and some intermediate techniques (e.g., why and how to use CinemaTools, exporting projects for Color Correction at a post house, etc.). While some of the topics that Kadner covers seem pretty basic for anyone familiar with the DVXUser.com discussion boards, my suspicion is that this DVD grew out issues that Kadner has seen over and over in his consulting gigs. Sometimes the biggest problems that consultants solve stem from very simple things that were overlooked at the beginning of a project.

The video is well-shot on a bare-bones set, which puts the focus on Kadner, who is an engaging teacher. The DVD presentation is professional; it can be watched in one sitting, or chapter-by-chapter, which is useful if there’s one topic you particularly want to revisit. I do wish that it was a DVD-Rom, perhaps to include some quicktime files to practice with, but I suppose Kadner assumes we wouldn’t be watching if we didn’t already have these tools ourselves.

Do note that this DVD focuses almost entirely on circumventing workflow problems using the DVX100 and FCP. This is NOT a “how-to-edit” in Final Cut Pro DVD, nor is it a manual on how to get the most of the DVX100’s sophisticated imaging settings. (For an instructional guide on how to use FCP, I recommend Larry Jordan’s Final Cur Pro 5 Essential Editing, Beyond the Basics, and Essential Effects DVDs. For a guide on making the most of the DVX100’s image options, check out Barry Green’s The DVX Book, which sometimes ships with new DVX100s.)

If you’ve shot and completed a few projects without any hitches using 24pAdvanced footage, 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 probably isn’t for you. But beginning to intermediate users venturing into 24p production would do well to spend 90 minutes with this disc before racing into production. Some might hesitate at the $75 pricetag but, as Kadner points out on the DVD, he gets paid $75 an hour to solve other filmmakers’ problems. I guess you could think of this as preventive medicine (at 2/3 of the cost).

More information can be found at Call Box.

A Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking at William & Mary: Pt. 2

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Saturday morning at William & Mary began with Troy Davis giving Ashley and me a tour around the William & Mary’s Swem Library Media Center. The Director of the Media Center, Troy was my host for the weekend and one of the primary organizers of the Media Center’s Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking.

The Media Center is several things in one — an equipment training center, an equipment check-out center, a recording studio for music and podcasts. It’s anything and everything that students want and Troy makes himself, and his assistants, available to students to teach them anything from iMovie to Logic Pro.

Troy has been the Director of the Media Center for a year and a half, and it’s impressive what he’s accomplished. On a technical level, he’s helped secure some superb editing facilities (several Mac tower stations with Final Cut, Logic Pro, and the rest of the works, each in its own sound controlled environment). For a guy who describes himself as a “dabbler” when it comes to film, I was impressed with all the smart technology purchases he has been making, not to mention his ability to talk in depth about the subtle differences between various pieces of equipment they own.

Since there are, no doubt, places like this at universities across the country, the biggest accomplishment isn’t the equipment and stations he’s amassed — it’s the sense of community generates out from this media hub. A lot of that, no doubt, is due to Troy’s vision for the Media Center as a place that is accessible and inviting (as opposed to exclusive and intimidating). The Media Center, in fact, is littered with Troy’s self-desribed “propaganda” — humorous, well-designed posters — that invite students into the space and use the equipment.

After the tour, Troy and I recorded a podcast that covered making and teaching film. He had thought a lot about my work and had some great questions, which is really flattering. (The podcast will be posted at some point on Media Center site. I’ll link to it when it’s available.)

The podcast led into a “self-reliant filmmaking” workshop that I conducted with some of William & Mary’s film students and faculty.

I began by discussing the work I do on this blog, including my reasons for starting it, and how it’s transformed my own film practice. I then opened things up for discussion, which led to a wide-ranging conversation that covered everything from what video camera to purchase to some simple strategies for first-time documentarians. Ashley threw in some good advice during the conversation, to boot; I was happy she had joined me.

Our workshop group talked for nearly two hours, so Ashley and I had a quick break for lunch before I ran off to a screening of some of my own short films at the historic Kimball Theatre. The films looked good in this classy venue, I was happy with the turnout, and the questions the audience asked were, again, really good. (I even received some email from audience members after the screening thanking me for sharing my work.) There was a little reception in the theater lobby afterwards, and I enjoyed talking with some of the William & Mary faculty members that had come to the screening. That conversation led to a coffeehouse where Sharon Zuber, who teaches W&M’s production courses, and I compared notes about how to teach film production.

We closed out the day by stopping by the premiere of the Cans Film Festival (pun intended), a student-organized screening of films produced at a variety of Virginia universities. (There weren’t any entries from Virginia Tech — maybe next year?) Ashley and I weren’t able to stay for long — I was beat and we had a long drive back in the morning. We did manage to catch one zombie flick before we left.

Before we left on Sunday morning, Troy treated us to breakfast at one of Williamsburg’s many pancake houses. Ashley and I had seen a number of pancake houses on our drive in, and I suppose they reflect the fact that Williamsburg is a haven for retirees and a magnet for tourists (motto: “Where History Lives”). The three of us had one last movie-saturated conversation, and Troy told us about his next dream for the Media Center — restoring an unused auditorium in the William & Mary library and making into a screening facility/microcinema.

As we drove out of town, past a few more pancake houses, I thought about a place like Wiliamsburg. Even with the occasional major production (like Malick’s The New World) coming to town, it would still be surprising to see Williamsburg develop into the next Austin. Williamsburg’s a town of 12,000 people, and a lot of the people are transient (whether they’re tourists, college students, or retirees). That’s a tough place to build a film culture. Of course these things don’t only apply to Williamsburg. If this sounds like your town, too, well, so be it. It sounds like mine.

The thing is, something is happening in Williamsburg. Things like the Kimball Theatre, and the William & Mary Media Center are part of the puzzle. The “corner pieces” of that puzzle, though, are a dedicated group of people with vision, passion, and resourcefulness. That’s the real lifeblood of regional filmmaking and film culture. Some places don’t have this, or have enough of it. Luckily, for Williamsburg, it has Troy Davis, Sharon Zuber, Arthur Knight (coordinator of Film Studies at W&M), and a host of student filmmakers. Something tells me that their numbers will only continue to grow.

Cinema vs. Home Theater

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

There’s an interesting discussion going on at the Onion’s AV Club these days about the relative merits of watching movies in the theater or at home. Noel Murray and Scott Tobias began the discussion in a “Crosstalk” article, and that ingnited a nice little debate in the discussion area. Josh Oakhurst has weighed in on the issue, too (via FresHDV).

My partner, Ashley, manages a one-screen historic art house cinema. With the exception of 19th century costume dramas, I’ll see pretty much anything they screen. On the other hand, we also have very modest home theater setup. Just so you have the context, here’s the setup:

    – a low-end video projector
    – a movie screen bought for $10 from junk merchants that had set up shop on the side of the road near Joelton, Tennessee
    – a dvd player
    – an old home theater audio system handed down from my dad
    – home-made window blinds that completely blackout our living room when we want to screen in the daytime (unnecessary at night)

It’s not fancy, but we love it.

As for which is better, I think there are certainly pros and cons to either experience. I’m certainly not going to argue that people should give up going to the theater, nor that they should stop renting movies. De gustibus non est disputandum, as the saying goes.

These articles did get me (re)thinking the cinema vs. home theater debate. Here are a few personal observations inspired by Murray, Tobias, Oakhurst, et al.

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Loss of deck connectivity in Final Cut? Try reinstalling QuickTime

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Normally I try to write less prosaic (or at least shorter) post titles, but hopefully this will help some Final Cut Pro or Final Cut Express users that are googling for a solution to deck connectivity problems.

A few weeks ago a student came to my office nearly in tears because Final Cut Express, which she had on her iBook, wouldn’t recognize her camcorder when she was trying to capture footage. In fact, most times, FCE would crash when she tried to capture footage.

We tried to isolate the problem:

Was it a connection problem? No, we tried firewire cables (including some known to work). The problem continued.

Was it a camera problem? No. We captured footage on my laptop without any issues.

Was it a computer problem? Probably not. She was able to capture footage on her computer using iMovie.

At this point we began the googling. After a while, we happened on the problem (QuickTime) and its solution (reinstalling QuickTime).

Here’s Apple’s article on the subject: Restoring a DV device connection in QuickTime 7.

It’s worth noting that this tip also works for Final Cut Pro. And its a good reminder that a smart first place to search when encountering problems with Apple-manufactured software is Apple’s own support site.