Archive for the ‘Post-Production’ Category

Review: The Filmmaker’s Handbook, 3rd Edition

Monday, October 8th, 2007

My earlier post on the 3rd edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook was written in anticipation of receiving it. Now I’ve got it in hand, and had a chance to look it over.

A lot of people simply want to learn from a review whether or not they should own a book or not. If that’s why you’re reading, the answer is that, generally speaking, if you are a novice-to-intermediate filmmaker, this is an essential book.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some quickly-jotted observations:

There are lots of changes, but few surprises. And that’s probably a good thing. There’s only one new chapter, at the beginning, which lays out basic questions that filmmakers should consider before beginning their work. Aside from that, the changes are all revisions. The biggest change, because it’s something of a philosophical shift, is that the chapters on Video now take precedence over the chapters on Film. And, of course, the video chapters have been (predictably) overhauled and expanded. The film chapters have largely gone (predictably) untouched.

It’s still essential. I don’t know of any single technical manual related to filmmaking that collects so much information in one place. None of its chapters can compete with my favorite books on sound, lighting, etc. but this is a great place for novices to begin and it’s a great single reference book for the rest of us, particularly on the things that won’t change as quickly as video (sound, lighting, film).

It’s already starting to become obsolete. Steven Ascher notes this in the preface: “Right now, the pace of change in video and computer technology is so rapid, some things in this book could be dated before you get to the end of this sentence.” There is a small, one sentence mention of the Red Camera (bottom of p. 34). I expect there will be more on 4K and RAW imaging in later editions.

There will be new editions, and probably sooner than later. The cover of this edition conspicuously notes that this not the “3rd Edition”, but instead the “2008 Edition.” Aside from noting that, well, it’s still 2007, I have to imagine that this is a hint that we’ll see this tome updated more regularly. And it is a tome.

Readability is reduced. The Handbook has been such a staple of film education because of its (relative) readability. Ascher and Pincus do a fine job of making complex technical concepts understandable for novices. But as the book has grown (see below) it has sacrificed some of its readability. There is simply so much stuff in this new edition that it can be a little difficult to navigate through it to find what you need. Luckily the index is above-average for this type of book.

It’s big. Really big. I remember a film professor of mine once waxing nostalgic about how the precursor to the first edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook was a small pocket-sized book by Ed Pincus called Guide to Filmmaking. That book, my professor argued, was superior in some ways to editions of The Filmmaker’s Handbook because you could stash it in your back pocket while you filmed. He had a point. This is a “handbook” in name only — it has 830 pages and weighs nearly 3 pounds! (Here’s a similarly sized work of fiction, as a point of comparison.) I wouldn’t recommend eliminating anything, but I do wonder if perhaps the next edition shouldn’t be called The Filmmaker’s Desk Reference.

In sum, while this isn’t my favorite film book, if you are new to filmmaking, or if you are beyond the basics but need a single desk (or on-set) reference for tons of technical stuff, this is probably about the best $16.50 you could spend.

How to Set Up an Uncompressed HD Workstation

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Last February, Mike Curtis of HDforIndies, authored an article in DV Magazine about how to Build Your Own Uncompressed HD Workstation. Most people that visit this site probably also visit Mike’s site and/or DV Magazine, so I didn’t bother noting it at the time. I figured it’d just be redundant.

But now Mike’s written a follow up article that concerns the audio side of the equation, and it’s equally essential reading for any filmmakers looking to upgrade their editing system. So now it seems appropriate to mention them together. There are two versions of the audio article available online — the Mac version and the Windows version.

Last Fall, when I started putting the wheels in motion to upgrade my editing system I consulted Mike about what would be best for my needs. A lot of the suggestions generated by our conversation (and, no doubt, several others by filmmakers like me) are now in these articles. I was particularly intrigued to see that the specific system I “built” has elements from all three of Mike’s quality tiers, from desperate cheap-o indie stuff to true pro stuff. That’s the beauty of DIY — you tailor it to your needs.

Mike’s recently teamed up with Silverado Systems, who will now sell you one of Mike’s pre-configured systems. For a lot of people that might be just the kind of convenience they need. For myself, I can say that, though I’ve had a few headaches in the process, it’s been great fun — and a great learning experience — to do it myself.

Again, here are the articles:

Build Your Own Uncompressed HD Workstation

Upgrade Your Images with Audio – Mac edition

Upgrade Your Images with Audio – Windows edition

Freeware for Filmmakers

Friday, July 13th, 2007

FreeGeekery sent me word that they had recently drafted a post entitled “15 Must-Have Freeware Programs for Filmmakers.”

A quick glance at the list tells me that only 10 of these will work on a Mac, but all the better for me to link to this. So much of what I write about is Mac-centric; it’s nice to write about something for folks using Windows. (Plus, Mac users already have iMovie, iDVD, and Garageband. There’s really not much of a reason for us to be crabby.)

I cleaned out my Applications folder a few days ago, which had me thinking I should write a post about the Mac shareware I enjoy. FreeGeekery’s post has me thinking that might be useful. Stay tuned…

Ten Commandments from HDforIndies

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

Mike Curtis posted an amusing and, more importantly, instructive rant over at HDforIndies. The post, entitled “OK Indies, listen up – 10 THINGS NOT TO DO“, is a litany of Bad Things that Mike probably encounters once a day in his work as a post-production guru.

Eight of the DON’Ts are technology related. Five, in fact, deal in some way with the Panasonic DVX-100. That camera has earned its spot in the Pantheon of Great Indy Film Tools, no doubt, but its framerate settings (60i, 30p, 24p, 24pAdvanced) can cause a lot of problems if you don’t fully understand them. The fact that most of these problems happen in post-production only adds to the misery — if you’ve shot in multiple formats without understanding their differences and potential incompatibilities, you may have really hurt your project.

If you don’t understand this stuff, check out the CallBox DVD or read carefully in the DVXUser forums.

The two non-technology issues have Mike addressing the fact that so many poor independent filmmakers want him to do their tech consulting for free. Though his blog (like many others, including this one) provides information freely, Mike’s really in business to sell his expertise and information. Since the “product” Mike sells has no physical properties (i.e., it’s not a car or a widget) people seem to think that it should be given freely since it can be asked for freely.

I can relate. Since I teach, it’s my obligation — and it’s my pleasure — to give my information freely to my students. I also try to serve the community (both the film community and my local community) in different ways. But you have to draw the line somewhere in order to do your own work and to pay the bills.

Mike’s answer to people needing answers to specific post-production questions is that you can “pray to Google” or hire him. I’m someone who’s done both. Here’s a post from the past of my own experience in hiring Mike as a consultant.

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.