Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cameras and Online Crowdsourcing Pitches:
Coulda Woulda Shoulda Book

The second notable (non-film) video pitch from the current crop on Indiegogo comes from the Books / Writing section of the site.

In this case, the writer uses the medium of video to good effect by, like Michael Hubbs, appearing in the video, as well as using video as a way of expressing some of what the book in question likely has to offer.

What makes this instance particularly stand out is that few of the aspiring writers pitching their novels, comics or other forms of literature took the opportunity to make a pitch video at all, much less one that employs any production values.

The video appears to be shot with a consumer HD camera, with infinite focus and a minimalist indoor set. But a library of fairly simply composed shots (all on the same set) are given some variety through effective transitions (like simulated rewinds).

Standing out in particular are the opening credits for the writing brand, with "Wordsmith & Wesson" in an attractive font, on top of a pattern that has been subjected to a simple but effective vignette effect.

As well, there is also some effective animation, as the protagonist of the pitch is progressively hidden behind a growing stack of digitally overlaid (but sufficiently realistic for these purposes) books.

The pitch video follows below:

And the site for the pitch itself on Indiegogo is here:

Coulda Woulda Shoulda on Indiegogo

Again, feel free to compare it to the pitch videos (where they have even been attempted) and consider how effectively the option of adding video - to the task of selling the written word - has been employed in each case.

Hit me back if you think anyone else out there is using video and the accompanying techniques to good effect in this arena.

Cameras and Online Crowdsourcing Pitches:
Michael Hubbs: Deaf, Olympic Hopeful

In the first example of consumer / prosumer cameras being put to good use by everyday people in online crowdsourcing pitches, we have the online campaign for Michael Hubbs, a hearing-impaired speed skater working to drum up funds to make his way to the Olympics.

The camera work reveals him to unquestionably be dedicated to his training, but what makes this pitch noteworthy is that there is thought put into the composition of the shots, and the editing / post-production is used to pretty good effect.

Setting aside for a moment that half of the athletic crowdsourcing pitches seemed to be geared toward sending college teams to the World Quidditch Championships (a worthy goal for any Harry Potter fan, no doubt) became apparent to me pretty early on in the pitch-surfing process that many hopeful recipients of your money didn't even put together a video pitch, opting instead for a single photograph in the space where a video could have gone.

Don't get me wrong. That wouldn't automatically prevent me from considering a contribution. But it is a lost opportunity to communicate with the audience you are trying to reach.

That said, if you do make a video, you had better do it right, or else you will face the wrath of the Cabbage.

In the case of the Michael Hubbs video, it seems to be shot on something along the lines of prosumer HD, give or take a point or two on the price scale. But there are a number of focus pulls (while shooting indoors), which makes me think that maybe they have something a few notches up that allows for some fast 50mm lens to be attached. Then again, most of the focus shifts were on near-stable shots, so it could have been the old "back up and zoom in" trick, often used with small-chip cameras to get a shallow depth of field.

The colors are pretty rich, so I'm inclined to think they did some sort of grading or saturation in the editing room. Also, they used the good old font from "24" which always adds a little drama.

The music is pretty simple and generic, but effective. All in all, it's a video that shows Michael Hubbs to be serious about his goals. The shot composition and snappy editing, with a bit of post-production value added, contributes significantly to this effect.

And if you want to check out the campaign for Hubbs' Olympic aspirations, visit the following link:

Michael Hubbs at Indiegogo.

To experience what I experienced, check out some of the other pitches under the "Sports" category and see which ones you thought used filmmaking techniques to their best advantage.

It should be noted that the opening of the video identifies GreySkale Multimedia as the filmmaking entity.

Also, my apologies to anyone for whom this video "autoplays." What a terrible feature, and if I hear any more about it, I am going to stop making use of Vimeo embeds, which would be a shame, because they were once at the forefront in terms of both video quality and respect for site users.

New Uses for Consumer and Prosumer Cameras:
Online Crowdsourcing Pitches

After a little time away from updating everyone on the latest techniques and settings for prosumer cameras, I've decided to take a little time to look at some of the things regular people are now achieving with consumer cameras.

The gear has come along in the last couple of years, though nothing has been revolutionized. Chips are still small. Depths of field are still infinite. But high resolution has gotten cheaper and more affordable.

As much as ever, it's not so much the tools at hand as what you do with them.

In this case, individuals (aspiring filmmakers and otherwise) are turning to crowdfunding for their projects at sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Since we would naturally expect the filmmakers to (hopefully) have some degree of training and at least semi-pro equipment, I thought it would be most interesting to look at what non-filmmakers are putting together for their "pitches" in order to draw funds from the public for their projects.

Especially since they aren't pro filmmakers themselves and (since they are crowdfunding) probably don't have access to a RED and the DreamWorks editing studio, it should be useful to look at what clever shortcuts and techniques they might be using, in order to utilize the required "video pitch" to its maximum potential.

I will look at a couple examples from various non-film categories fundraising projects, with the accompanying pitch included.

Stay tuned.


Also, my apologies to any people with camera questions that may have gone unanswered in recent months.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ian Pfaff Demo Reel

Well, there is creative marketing and then there is CREATIVE marketing. In this case, we have FCP editor, prop builder, director (and other things) Ian Pfaff, who has put together one of the more original demo reels I have ever seen, showcasing what I assume to be most of his creative talents, though he may well have more...

Chances are, if you throw a rock in LA, you are going to hit somebody's demo reel with it, so take a page from Ian Pfaff's book and do something creative with yours!

Ian Pfaff's Demo Reel from Ian Pfaff on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Canon HF100: A Good Camera for Web Content

Canon HF100

One HD camera that is currently being produced by Canon (makers of the HV20, HV30 and XH-A1 among other models) is the HF100, an affordable and compact piece of equipment that has been rendering some pretty impressive results in terms of simple web content.

One example of the camera being put to use for these purposes is the work of personal trainer and fitness expert Brianna Graves, who runs the WitnessForFitness website. In the below clip, you can see the HF100 recording some of her instructions on static stretching.

As you can tell, the camera is rendering some pretty good detail, is handling sky and subject contrast quite well, and is just an all-around decent piece of equipment for recording and uploading to YouTube or the video hosting site of your choice.

As an additional example, here is a clip from the same site that focuses on some leg strengthening exercises. Over the course of these two videos, you get to see the camera operating and dealing with skies of various brightness. Given the relatively limited manual controls available for cameras in this price range, on the whole it does a pretty decent job of maintaining detail without silhouetting the subject or blowing out the sky.

Anyway, it's another option for you to consider if you are shopping in the sub-$1,000 range or looking for a "B" or "C" camera for your film projects.

As an "A" camera, I can imagine that with a very talented eye and some attentive color correction, you might be able to achieve something comparable to Ayz Waraich's "White Red Panic" but don't underestimate the amount of preparation and post-production that Ayz endured in order to get those results with a camera of that price range (the Canon HV20).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sony EX1: Ultimate Boston

The following clip is a nice compilation of footage put together by Tom Guilmette that gives us a nice sampling of two pieces of equipment of interest.

In addition to the Sony PMW-EX1 camera, Tom has added the Letus Ultimate depth of field adapter, a model up from the popular Letus Extreme.

In the following clip, in addition to a pretty good remix of The Killers, we get to see these two pieces of equipment working in conjunction (though the Letus Extreme was used for a few of the shots) and some experimentation with overcrank and undercrank.

Ultimate Boston - Letus Ultimate 35mm Film from Tom Guilmette on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: The Rolling Shutter Frames

Given the great deal of interest that has been expressed not only in the landmark film Slumdog Millionaire and its groundbreaking and technologically innovative director Danny Boyle, but also in the film's use of the Silicon Imaging SI-2K camera for some of the key shots in the film... will probably come as no surprise that there has also been expressed some interest and questions about the rolling shutter employed by the camera and its ramifications for the film itself.

With those questions in mind, I will say the following: there are some rolling shutter artifacts that do appear in Slumdog Millionaire, and while I myself am one of those who tends to avoid the use of a rolling shutter in potentially troublesome situations, I am also one whose eye has been trained to a ridiculous degree to spot these sorts of things.

So while I will state that the rolling shutter does reveal itself in a couple of instances, I will also state the following even more loudly: The film won the Oscar for Best Freaking Picture. The point is, that those on the technical side may obsess on the minutia of a given shot or film sequence, while even the voters for the Academy will be forgiving if a sequence or film works emotionally. This does not mean that you should abandon sound filmmaking principles - it only means that a couple of rolling shutter artifacts in a feature-length film are not going to be what the audience goes home talking about if you have done your job as a filmmaker.

With that said, here are a couple of frame grabs from about one hour and forty minutes into the film, as our protagonist is in a car, trying to make his way through a throng of camera-wielding fans.

As you will know if you have read any of my musings on the rolling shutter, camera flashes present a specific problem for this method of image capture. As you can see, only a portion of the sensor was active for the miniscule moment in time when the flash was active. By the time the rest of the sensor had taken in the image, the flash was gone. Likewise, we have a partial exposure in the frame below.

So I guess it all boils down to this. Even the pros -- even the Best Picture Winner pros can get some partial exposure artifacts in their work. But before you freak out, ask yourself... Did you notice when you watched the movie? I highly doubt it. So while I don't want to talk you out of being a perfectionist in your filmmaking, do also realize that some things are more worthy of your finicky obsessions than others. I, for one, am glad that Danny Boyle didn't cut these shots from the film.