Archive for the ‘Tools/Equipment’ Category

21 Mac Shareware Applications for Filmmakers

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Back in July, I linked to a post that recommended 15 “must have” Freeware programs for filmmakers. Though it favored Windows users, it was still an interesting list of applications.

At the end of that post in July I mentioned that I’d try to add to that list, so here it is. Listed below are 21 freeware and shareware applications that I use regularly or which have, at the very least, really saved my butt a couple of times. There are only two duplicates betwen the FreekGeekery list and the one below.

Granted, some of these applications are, at best, only tangentially related to filmmaking. While it may not be as sexy as editing your latest masterpiece simple stuff like email, writing treatments, doing budgets, taking notes, and – yes – simply maintaining your computer probably constitute at least some of your time as a filmmaker. At least, I know it does mine. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s all part of the same process.

So on with the list. If you see a favorite application of yours missing from this list, by all means say so in the comments.


The Bible, Revised

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

In some fields, there’s that one book which, without it, your collection would be hopelessly incomplete. In my opinion, every kitchen needs a copy of The Joy of Cooking, a library’s not a library if it doesn’t have the Oxford English Dictionary, and filmmakers… well, I would argue that all of us need a copy of The Filmmaker’s Handbook by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus. At least that was true a few years ago.

First released in 1984, The Filmmaker’s Handbook was one of the first, and best, books to cover almost all technical aspects of the filmmaking process. Its presentation of technical concepts was accessible to beginners; its depth of detail meant experienced filmmakers could return to it again and again, always sure to learn new things.

For years, the Handbook didn’t need an update. Film technology had gone largely unchanged for decades. An f-stop’s an f-stop, right? Then, in 1999, the Handbook was updated to include developments in digital video. A necessary nod to the present, no doubt, but also an invitation to obsolescence.

The 2nd edition was first published in March 1999 — one month before the unveiling of Final Cut Pro 1.0. Things have changed. Radically. Needless to say, the Handbook‘s been long overdue for another update.

So when I say that the new edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook was released yesterday, well, if you’re sentimental about books like I am, maybe you’ll agree that this is a cause for celebration.

In many ways, though, it’s a bittersweet celebration. At this point, I don’t expect The Filmmaker’s Handbook to present any especially new information, exactly. The internet keeps me up-to-date on this stuff far better than any book can now. And, like so much of the technology it will no doubt discuss, I suspect that much of the information found in this 3rd Edition will be out of date within a year or two. If not sooner.

Yet, even when discussing evolving technologies, books have their place. Books demand (or at least request) more attention than digitally-presented information does. That’s a good thing, especially when you’re trying to learn something. You can also carry a book to a remote location where you might never have the internet access that would allow you to google for a solution that might crop up on set. But most importantly, a book lets you dog ear its corners, mark up key passages, and write in the margins. At least, that’s what I plan to do with my new edition as soon as it arrives on my doorstep.

And besides, a lot of what this new 3rd edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook will have to say has never gone out of style and won’t for a long, long time. After all, an f-stop’s still an f-stop.

Time Code

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

If you don’t understand at least the basics of timecode, you really can’t fully understand and appreciate video, at least as we know it today.

While reading B&H Photo/Video/Audio’s latest email newsletter (i.e., advertising) there was a nice little introduction to timecode. Sure, the article is littered with links to products — B&H is in business, after all — but this is a good introduction for beginners.

And, while I’m on the subject, here are a few freeware timecode calcluators for Mac and Windows.


From The Edit Blog: The iPod as a Time Code Slate

First Red Cameras Slated to Be Delivered Today

Friday, August 31st, 2007

More news on the Red Camera’s release as updates and footage become available.

Until then, assuming you haven’t been following this camera’s (fairly open) development, you can get caught up by reading the official propaganda from Red and Apple. Then check out the various forums:


Red forum on

UPDATES (last update 9/6/07):

FX Guide – “Red One Starts Shipping”
Words and photos about the release.

FX Guide – Shooting With Red

FX Guide – RED Podcast Discussion

“First Pictures” thread posted at
Links to first known still grabs and short clips from Red users. Registration is required to view the photos.

OffHollywood Studios’ Red Diary: Day…. 1, 2, 3

Updating Mac Software: Use Extreme Caution

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

To cut to the chase about what the headline of this post means, just click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below. If you want backstory, continue on, dear reader.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a few problems setting up my new editing system. For the most part, it was fairly straightforward. Still, there was at least one big headache. Right about the time that I had everything set up (MacPro, LCD and CRT monitors, RAID, and HD capture card) I started having problems.

What kind of problems? For one, Final Cut Pro kept freezing on startup, and — if I was lucky enough to get it loaded — FCP would freeze upon my first attempt to monitor footage off of my Multibridge. Oh, and I had a dreaded kernel panic or two. If you’ve never seen a kernel panic, consider yourself among the lucky. (For the uninitiated, here’s a photo of Mac’s equivalent of the “blue screen of death.”) To say that my excitement about this uncompressed workstation was dampened would be an understatement.

I suspected that the root of these problems was either a conflict between hardware components or just a plain ol’ dead piece of equipment. After all, this new editing system has many more elements to it, and the longer the chain, the more likely it is that one of the links is weak.

I wasn’t the only one to believe this. After spending an hour on the phone with a knowledgeable representative at Blackmagic Design (the folks that make the Multibridge) the rep said, “Yep, it’s dead. Send it back.”

That was last 5pm on a Friday, of course, which meant I could do nothing about it over the weekend. I couldn’t even ship the Multibridge out. All I could do was reflect on what else could be causing the problems. And, being the obsessive-compulsive person that I am, that’s what I did. Surprisingly, this was time well spent.

I decided to spend the weekend troubleshooting every thing possible. I tested cables, I tested drives, I tested RAM, I trashed preferences, I repaired permissions, I ran UNIX maintenance, and I swapped cards into different PCI slots… you name it.

Finally, after several hours of troubleshooting, including a complete rebuilding of my editing system (including uninstalling and reinstalling of LOTS of software) I discovered that the problem was not the hardware, but a software problem.

I have no way of knowing for certain, but it appeared to be a software conflict between Multibridge and Apple’s QuickTime and 10.4.10 OS updates.

As best I can tell, the problem might have stemmed from the way that I had used Apple’s “Software Update” to update my OS (i.e., using Software Update) and because I had applications running (like Final Cut Pro) while doping so.

After several fixes and reinstalls, everything seems okay now (knock on wood), but here are, for me at least, the morals of the story: