Archive for the ‘Principles & Productivity’ Category

Review: Stop Staring and Start Grading with Apple Color

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Stop Staring and Start Grading with Apple Color
Walter Biscardi, Jr. – Creative Cow MasterSeries
DVD-Rom – $49.95

Walter Biscardi, who is a leader at the Creative Cow website, has produced this fine Color training video. It’s consists of just over 2 hours of tutorials in the form of 9 lessons. All the lessons are QuickTime movies.

A small FCP project file with three clips, which you take into Color, is included on the disc. The project file that he supplies you with is very basic. I was a little skeptical at first that having only three clips wouldn’t be enough to learn the program, but it’s actually enough to get you started with all of the basics. In fact, I think the simplicity of Biscardi’s approach is an asset.

As a teacher, Biscardi is nothing if not an enthusiastic guy. (At times he’s downright manic.) He assumes you’re an editor well versed in other Final Cut Studio applications and now you’re being asked (or wanting to learn) to be a colorist.

All the movies are screencasts. When Walter wants you to see something up close, he zooms in on the element of the screen he wants you to see. If he wants you to look at something in the user manual, he’ll superimpose those pages on screen. It’s all very helpful.

The disc’s emphasis is really on speeding through as much as possible to get you to dive in. In most cases, I felt like Biscardi did a fine job of covering things with enough detail that the application felt approachable, but not overwhelming. Walt spends the most time on Setup, Primary, and Secondaries. One minor criticism: The Primary Out room is barely discussed at all and I felt like he sped through this room too quickly. (I later found myself not using this room much at all, but was that because Biscardi hadn’t taught me about it? Or was that because Biscardi understood it’s only occasionally used? I don’t know.)

Another minor quibble I have is that the DVD’s interface is clunky. It uses a web browser to load the QuickTime movies you’re supposed to watch. It’s slow to load at times, and this could be done more elegantly. As a solution, I found it was easier to simply find the QuickTimes on the disc and simply play them one by one without the interface.

Of all the discs I surveyed and studied, Biscardi gets you in the fastest. There’s truth in advertising: By watching “Stop Staring and Start Grading” while following along on my own computer I was quickly able to navigate through Color with some confidence. Highly recommended.

[Creative Cow info page]
[Amazon link for purchase]

Woo-hoo! Spring Break! Time to… Study?

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

All filmmakers are, in some way, students of filmmaking (I know I am), but this one’s for the REAL (i.e., in-school) student filmmakers out there:

Some of us are starting spring break today, while others will be enjoying spring break later this month. Assuming you’re not already using this time to make a movie this week, here are some ways to spend your time if you’re unable (or uninterested) in traveling to Cancun, Panama City, or wherever it is the kids go these days. No excuses — any of these suggestions can be done on a budget:

Read your camera’s manual! Seriously. I’ve met a lot of people that have never read their camera’s manual. You might be surprised at some of the things it’ll do. After you read it….

Take a daytrip for inspiration! Get out of your apartment and explore your area. Take your camera and shoot some location scouting shots. Already got some inspiration?

Work on that script you’ve been meaning to write! Visit your local library, take your notebook or laptop with you and don’t leave until you’ve written a few pages. And while you’re there…

Catch up on film history! Check out (literally) some of the greatest films of all time. Blockbuster probably doesn’t have them, but your library might. And get some books while you’re at it: Bazin and Sarris are your “beach reading” this week.

And for extra credit:

Teach yourself filmmaking software! There are a ton of ways to do this. Here’s just one of many: Lynda.com’s excellent Final Cut Studio tutorials are all available online, and for $25 you have access to every single one of them for an entire month. That’s enough time to learn enough about Final Cut, Compressor, Motion, DVD Studio Pro to move you to the head of your class.

The most precious resource for us filmmakers isn’t a camera or even money — it’s time. If you’re not already making a movie this week, use this week to recharge your batteries. Literally. Then go shoot. If filmmaking isn’t just a hobby, it’s your compulsion, I can almost guarantee that in ten years you’ll look back and consider this time better spent than doing tequila shots in front of MTV’s Spring Break camera crews. At the very least, you’ll remember more of it.

Take A News Break Day

Friday, February 15th, 2008

As many of you readers know, I was teaching at Virginia Tech on April 16 last year. The devastation we all felt losing people dear to us was deeply exacerbated by an invasion of a press corps whose satellite vehicles alone filled a football stadium parking lot. To say that these folks were insensitive would be an understatement. I never had any respect for the kind of journalism, especially TV journalism, that chases ambulances. But even my cynicism did not prepare me for what I saw those days.

So, in light of the Northern Illinois University shootings, I will be taking a news break today. I encourage you to consider doing the same. The NIU shootings will, no doubt, be the top headline on most news networks and websites and every click or minute spent watching gives more encouragement to these (mostly) commercial enterprises to exploit others’ pain for profit. My thoughts will be with the NIU community for today and for the days to come. But I’m not going to kid myself that viewing news reports on CNN or MTV is going to help these folks heal. But I’ll stop, because I’ve written about “pornography of the real” before.

If you must read about the shootings, I encourage you to visit Northern Illinois University‘s website, or to read the Dekalb Daily-Chronicle. In my experience last year the news sources that were most valuable were the Virginia Tech website and our local newspaper, the Roanoke Times, whose coverage was sensitive, even-handed, and comprehensive. Their coverage only (re)confirmed for me that when it comes to telling stories, place — where you come from, where you live, the people you call neighbors — matters.

MacHeist: Indy Mac Software + Good Cause = Insane Deal

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

If you use a Mac, you absolutely must check out the insane deal that MacHeist — an alliance of independent Mac software developers — is offering.

For $49.95, MacHeist is selling $428 worth of fully-featured (i.e., not demo mode) Mac software. And to make the offer that much sweeter, a good chunk of the proceeds go to charity. As of this writing, $227,000+ has been raised so far.

Plus, the software is good. I would recommend all three of the twelve titles that I’ve previously used:

SnapzProX – a screencapture utility that’s GREAT for creating screencasts
iStopMotion – a great program for shooting stop motion animation
1Password – a browser extension that saves all your passwords in one place, and generates secure passwords

I’m an especially big fan of SnapzProX. Last fall I used it (in demo mode) to create a screencast for some of my students. I found it to be the best application of its kind on the Mac. It normally sells for $69, but for the next four days people can get it, plus 11 other applications, for $20 less. And it goes to charity. So I’m getting out my credit card now.

As for the charities represented, according to the MacHeist wiki:

Purchasers can choose from the following list of ten charities, or opt to split the donation from their purchase evenly among the choices.

* Action Against Hunger
* AIDS Research Alliance
* Alliance for Climate Protection
* Direct Relief International
* Humane Society International
* The Nature Conservancy
* Save the Children
* Save Darfur
* Prevent Cancer Foundation
* World Wildlife Fund

Panasonic HVX-200 for sale…

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I’m selling my venerable Panasonic HVX-200 and its 8GB P2 card. No, I’m not giving up filmmaking; I just don’t need the camera. I was looking to rent an HVX this summer for a few weeks to do some shooting in Knoxville and Roanoke. For the few weeks I needed it, a rental wasn’t really cost-effective, so I just bit the bullet and bought the camera. Now that we’ve got a few HVX’s at Virginia Tech, I don’t need to hang on to this one. As many people who read this blog would probably testify, it is an awesome camera. The DVCPro HD codec at 24P is totally impressive.

Anyway, if you’re interested, email me personally [ pharrill AT you-know-what DOT com ]. You can ask me all about it and I can let you know all the details, accessories, etc. I’d rather sell it to a reader of SRF than put it up on Ebay, so I’ll entertain any reasonable, sincere offer.

UPDATE: Looks like it’s sold folks. Thanks for your interest!