Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

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!

Review: Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Note: Though it’s clumsy phrasing throughout this review I refer to the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher by its full name because Primera makes a similarly named unit, the Bravo SE AutoPrinter. The AutoPrinter model prints, but does not burn, DVDs. It’s a critical distinction, and one that you want to make sure you’re aware of if you decide to purchase either unit!


Though the days of online distribution are upon us, DVDs still remain a (if not the) most effective way of sharing work seriously with an audience.

Obviously, one way of producing DVDs of one’s work is to burn discs individually on your computer. After burning, you can label them by hand or, if you have a printer that accepts DVDs, use a printer. This method works fine if you’ve just got a handful to burn. Sometimes these printers can be fussy, though. Don’t get me started on my experiences with my Epson R200 printer.

Another way of producing DVDs is to have them produced by a professional duplication house (e.g., DiscMakers). This is the way to go if you need hundreds for festival submissions, online or in-person sales.

But what about if you need somewhere between a dozen and a thousand? What if you find yourself needing to burn and print a moderate number discs, particularly projects that need to be updated intermittently (like, say, a demo reel)?

The Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher aims for this market. A combination laser jet printer, DVD burner, and robotic arm, it automates the burning and printing up to 20 DVDs at a time. I have been testing one for the past couple of months, and here are my findings:


Once set up, it does the job without hassle. Setting up the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher with a Windows-based computer was fairly hassle free. And once it was set up the unit performed like a charm. Readers of this site may be doing a double-take — Did Paul just say Windows machine? Yup. I first tried setting up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher using an older “sunflower” iMac. That unit simply didn’t have enough RAM and processor speed to do the job. Worse, though, was the fact that, regardless of the Mac computer I used, the included software was buggy and the features were limited. On a Windows-based machine the Bravo SE Disc Publisher has worked flawlessly and the included burning and label design software is easy to use.

Automation is a beautiful thing. The Bravo SE Disc Publisher will do runs of 20 discs. In my tests, the unit only stopped mid-run because of an error once, and that error was an operator error. (The “finished disc” tray should be extended when printing one disc, but pushed in when printing two or morel I left it out once when I should have pushed it in.) After a number of runs I grew confident that the unit didn’t need “nursing.” I felt confident leaving it alone and concentrating on other work.

It’s pretty speedy. The time it takes to burn and print a run of 20 is dependent on a lot of factors — the length of the program, the design of the label, your computer’s processor speed and RAM. With my set-up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher was able to burn 20 DVDs of a short program (30 minutes or so) with a basic text label in about an hour. I was satisfied with those results.

Results have been reliable. The DVDs I’ve burned work, and they look consistently good. ‘Nuff said.


Not so hot on Macintosh. Though, admittedly, I tried using an iMac that didn’t have enough oomph to get the job done, the design/burning software included for Mac was not as feature rich.

Ultimately, whether this unit is for you depends on your DVD burning needs. The results are more immediate than sending the DVDs off for replication, and the thing is far speedier than burning and printing with your computer and a printer that requires you loading discs one-by-one. However, for the cost of a Bravo SE Disc Publisher (about $1500 online) you could do two 300 disc runs (including cases and full-color sleeves) at DiscMakers. And remember, you’ll need to purchase blank DVDs, blank cases, print inserts, etc. if using a Primera.

You’ll have to do your own cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s most cost effective for the work you do, but for what it sets out to do, the Bravo SE Disc Publisher is a success.

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.

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.