Archive for the ‘Movie Making’ Category

Shopping for Hard Drives? Two helpful resources…

Monday, May 9th, 2011

I’ve been setting up a home file server and HTPC with a MacMini and, in the process, I found myself shopping for hard drives. It’s amazing how cheap they are (about $80-100 for 2TB these days) when you consider what they do (i.e., holding all of your precious digital memories).

Unfortunately, other than relying on your own good and bad experiences, making informed decisions about purchasing new hard drives is next to impossible. The most important factor in a drive is reliability, but there’s no way to know if the drive you’re shipped is going to fail in 6 hours, 6 months, or 6 years. Compounding this is the fact that almost all reviews — particularly those from customers on retailer websites — are anecdotal by nature. Read the 1-star reviews on Newegg or Amazon for any hard drive and you’ll soon be looking for another model. And then another. And then… they all start looking equally awful.

Two websites to break through this logjam were Storage Review and Mac Performance Guide.

Storage Review takes hard drive reviews seriously. In searching for some reliable, large, and quiet drives, I followed their recommendations. I particularly found their “Leaderboard” of best drives useful and, after a little cross-checking, followed their recommendations.

Mac Performance Guide, on the other hand, is home to a motherlode of tips on optimizing a system. The site, authored by photographer Lloyd Chambers, bills itself as “offer[ing] the web’s clearest advice on selecting and configuring a Mac, especially for photographers.” That’s quite a claim, but I can’t refute it. The Articles and Guides section — which has multiple articles on backup, data safety, and optimizing Mac performance — is outstanding.

By the way, I ended up purchasing three different drives: a Western Digital Caviar Green, a Seagate Barracuda Green, and a Samsung Spinpoint F4. I bought none of them in confidence, which, I suppose, is the way you should always buy a drive. That’s why you have backups.

 

Adobe Story

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

 

I believe I’ve lamented my gripes with later versions of Final Draft (e.g., software bloat, etc.) elsewhere on this blog, but for what it’s worth, a few years ago I abandoned Final Draft as a screenwriting application. Yes, I know, it’s the “Industry Standard.”  That recognition didn’t make using it any easier. After one too many bugs, I dropped it and figured I could always convert my script to .fdr format after getting a draft out if I really needed such a thing.

Adobe Story

The problem is, I’ve struggled to find an application to replace it. Those applications have included Movie Magic Screenwriter, Celtx, and Montage. For my last script I bounced between Screenwriter and Celtx. But as I’ve dug into a new project for the last few months I’ve been trying out Adobe Story.

And I’m here to say I’m impressed.

I’m not going to go into a full review of the application, but the thing that really has me hooked is the elegantly-designed interface. The serious, deep-grey look of the application might not be for everyone, but it really helps me stay focused on writing without distractions, especially when engaging the full screen mode. Also, the scene navigator features a color coded interface that simply illuminates at a glance which characters appear in which scenes.

Adobe Story's Interface

Some other things Story has going for it:

It saves your files to the cloud and can be used via a web browser, but it also has a downloadable application for use when working off-line and you can export your files for safekeeping on your own storage devices.

Its collaboration functions are fairly straightforward.

It imports scripts fairly seamlessly and exports in the all-imporant Final Draft format, as well as PDF, TXT, etc.

Finally, for those using the Adobe Production Suite, it interfaces with those applications. This last feature has me thinking about giving Premiere Pro a test run.

Oh, and the price is right. It’s free, at least through April 2012.

Aside from some minor, occasional bugginess (it’s still officially in beta), the major gripe I have with Story is that I can’t use it on my iPad because it uses Flash. At least not yet (see addendum below).

If you’re currently unsatisfied with the screenwriting application you’re using, even if it’s the “Industry Standard”, give it a look.

UPDATE 5/3/11: Literally a day after posting this, Adobe released the Story iPhone app. The app does not allow actual editing of scripts, only the reading of them and adding comments. Also, it’s an iPhone app, which means you have to use it on an iPad in windowed mode (or in the blurry 2x mode). While disappointing overall, it’s still a step in the right direction, particularly when one considers that the feud between Adobe and Apple over Flash might have meant no development at all for Apple’s mobile platforms.

iPhone to Final Cut Pro

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Final Cut Pro does not like video that has been shot with an iPhone 4. I learned this shortly after getting my iPhone and shooting the Karpeles Manuscript Museum video a few weeks ago. I imported my iPhone-shot footage into FCP. I was skeptical I’d be able to do anything with it since it’s H264 footage and FCP (still) doesn’t handle that footage well. The picture was fine, actually. The problem was the audio — in the form of a big red render bar, to be precise.

What to do?

Thankfully, a benevolent soul (named Jeff Greenberg) has done two things:

First, he’s explained the problem and the solution. Not surprisingly, it involves transcoding to ProRes.

Secondly, he’s gone a step farther and created an iPhone 4-to-FCP compressor droplet for you.

To edit your iPhone footage in Final Cut Pro, all you have to do is download this file, drop your iPhone movies on the droplet, and import them when they’re done rendering.

Perhaps we’ll be able to expect better H264 in the new Final Cut Studio. Whenever it’s released, that is… Until it’s released in June, this is the workaround (or one of them).

Launched: The New Self-Reliant Film.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The new and improved SRF.

If you’re looking at this website in anything other than an RSS reader you can probably tell that we’ve completely overhauled the website. Thanks to our wonderful designer friends at Nathanna, we’ve both expanded and simplified the Self-Reliant Film website.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, our new look is based on some new directions for the website.

Today, with the launch of the new site you can do a few things that you couldn’t do before:

 

Sign up for the email list. Our new email newsletter will have exclusive content we don’t put on the blog. We’ll share tips on great films we’ve recently discovered, we’ll provide some extra filmmaking tips, and you’ll get access to see our films for free. The newsletter is only sent once a month, we never sell or share others’ email addresses, and it’s ad-free. Subscribe!

 

Watch our films: Some folks that visit this site do so because they’re fans of our films. Others visit the site because of the blog. If you’ve not seen our work, or you want to see our films again, or you want to see more of them… we’ve spelled out all the ways to watch.

The easiest and least expensive way is to sign up for the email list. But there are other ways, too. Find out more here.

Must reads: Look to the sidebar on the left. These are a few of the most popular posts on the site. Check them out if you’re new here or if you’ve not read these. The Declaration of Principles was the first post on the blog, and it’s still pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was drafted in November 2005.

 

Resources: If you click on “Resources” (look to the upper left of this page) you’ll see some of the more helpful pages we’ve assembled for filmmakers (and everyone) since beginning the site. Over the coming weeks we’ll be updating and expanding these pages.

 

Submission guidelines: We’ve always received emails from readers wanting us to watch and/or review our films. This has been done pretty much catch-as-catch-can in the past. We finally drew up some ideas about how to do this, as seen in the sidebar on the left. We want to review and put a spotlight on great films more than we’ve been able to recently. This is a way to encourage this. Click on the Submission Guidelines and and let us know if you’ve got a film you want us to watch.

 

What hasn’t changed?

 

Our blog still features all the same stuff that we’ve championed and discussed from the beginning — DIY, regional, and personal filmmaking. We’ve moved it to selfreliantfilm.com/blog, so update your bookmarks.

(If you bookmarked an old page from the blog it should automatically redirect to the new permalink structure, but if you encounter a broken link, let us know!)
 

Finally, one other thing that hasn’t changed: This site is still ad-free.

For us, self-reliance has always gone hand in hand with the idea of simplicity. While filmmaking is a vocation that often resists even our attempts to simplify the process of making movies, we feel the least we can do, sometimes at least, is keep our tiny corner of the internet quiet from flashing banners, pop-ups, and google ads buried within our own reflections. This website, like our films, continues to be a labor of love.

We hope you like the new site, and the things to come. If you do, spread the word by sharing with a friend by using facebook, twitter or, you know, by actually telling someone about it face-to-face.

The Panasonic GH2: Some thoughts.

Friday, February 4th, 2011

I have made no secret of my frustration with DSLRs for making motion pictures. I’ve wanted to love them, sure. In my quest to find a small camera I could love, I’ve bought and sold (or returned) a Canon 7D, Panasonic GH1, and a Nikon D7000. The Canon and Nikon were each impressive in their own ways, but I gave them both up because I could never fully trust the image that I saw in their LCDs. After being burned a few times by outrageous moire that only appeared once I could view footage on a real monitor, I gave up trying to shoot with those cameras.

The GH1, which I tested last summer after my frustrations with the Canon cameras, was more promising, especially with the ballyhooed firmware hack that surfaced last year. That camera didn’t have problems with moire or aliasing, and its mirrorless design (the GH1 is not, technically speaking a DSLR at all) opened up the opportunity for using several different types of lenses (PL-mount cine lenses, Nikons, Canons, and many more).

Unfortunately, the camera clearly felt like the product of a “consumer” division of a large electronics company. Parts of the camera felt shoddily put together, there were reports of design issues with the lugs that held the neck strap and, worst of all, the camera exhibited a nasty fixed pattern noise problem that made any dim area in a shot have strange vertical blue streaks. Hacked or not, the camera didn’t seem ready for prime time. Hope springs eternal, though. I thought, Panasonic might be onto something if only they would fix some of these glaring problems.

In December, I managed to get my hands on the GH1’s successor, the still-hard-to-find Panasonic GH2, shortly after they arrived in the US. A month or so later, here are my thoughts on the camera as a tool for filmmakers.

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