Saturday, August 30, 2008

Letus Extreme: Push the Release Button BACK

Here is another quirky problem I have come across a couple times, regarding the Letus Extreme depth of field adapter.


It's not really a design flaw, as the unit works perfectly well. It is simply a button on the Letus that works slightly counter-intuitively. If you have got your 35mm lens in the Letus and want to change to another lens, don't press the release button (the silver button on the bottom) INTO the adapter, which would essentially be pushing the button UP.

In this case, you have to push the button BACK toward the camera in order to remove your lens.

Best to learn this one now before somebody gets frustrated and breaks their unit with their "stuck" lens still caught in the Letus.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Useful Image: Resolution Chart

This is one of those cases where we just have an image that is a good reference chart you may want to return to in the future.

It shows the relative sizes of the various resolutions used by different digital chips (or which can be selected) in modern production. NTSC, PAL, RED, etc...

HERE is a chart that focuses more specifically on the resolutions of the various RED models.

Book Review: The Five C's of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli

It's not that often that I'll go out of my way to review or promote a book, but I was going through my shelves recently and came across and oldie but goodie that I hadn't looked at in a while.

I was quickly reminded what a useful beginners' tool / professionals' review book I had in The Five C's of Cinematography by Joseph V. Mascelli.

If you're experienced in the area, Mascelli still does a good job of reviewing things in a digestible way. If you're just starting out, he introduces concepts and principles that will largely form the basis of your cinematography work. It can be an especially useful read if you don't come from a strong still photography background and are therefore not heavily versed in shot composition, form, mass and the like.

Mascelli provides a wealth of relevant illustrations of each concept, framing and lighting actors and capturing the images that represent his principles in movie "screen capture" format. The book has been around for some time, and while techniques have evolved somewhat since the first printing, the fact remains that these principles do form the foundation of modern cinematography. You can't do trigonometry if you never learn arithmetic.

The New York Times review on the back states that "Mr. Mascelli provides the attentive reader with the equivalent of a complete course in filmmaking." While this may be a slight overstatement, it is true that there is great value for the time and money to be had within these pages, and especially so for the attentive reader. But attentive reading is generally required for all instances where you are reading to learn, rather than reading to escape. And Joseph Mascelli does a pretty good job of making it easy to remain attentive from cover to cover.

In case you want to take a glimpse inside the covers or at some samples of the writing, the link is available below.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Scriptfest 2 at DVXuser

Just a quick note to let everyone know that the top scripts have been selected over at DVXuser in this round of their ScriptFest 2 competition.


It looks like they had a very good number of submissions this time around, with aspiring writers putting their best feet forward. All of the submissions are still there if you want to get a taste of what the competition is like. The scripts can be viewed HERE, but a (free) DVXuser account is required to reach this page.

Anyway, congratulations to the finalists and there are still further developments to come from the competition.

And good work to DVXuser for providing another venue to keep people active and encouraged as they move on up in the business.

Canon XHA1: Turn the AGC Off!

I don't know how many times I've seen the same issue pop up in forums, time and time again...




The Canon XHA1 comes with a button called the Auto Gain Corrector (AGC). Generally, this is switched on and what happens? The camera interprets the environment and determines how much gain it will add to the footage for its idea of a better image. The result: Grain, grain and more grain.

If you are working with this camera, just start by switching the AGC off (located on the left side of the camera, just in front of the power / filming mode dial).

Then try getting the image you want in other ways, like aperture control. You can always switch the AGC back on if you're overwhelmed by the manual controls. But at least you'll have the option of not getting swamped with unwanted digital grain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Canon XHA1: "An Uncluttered World" by Steven Dempsey

For all the posts that I have done with regard to the Canon XHA1, it is about time that I actually devoted one to the work of Steven Dempsey, who is one of the more proficient users of this camera and out there improving its name by employing it with some artistry and expertise.

Not too long ago, he finished his most recent nature short (the genre within which he generally works) and it is titled An Uncluttered World.

Within the confines of the genre he has chosen, he has certainly shown an ability to bring the best out of the camera with some of his imagery. If this particular short doesn't blow you away, he does have a fairly extensive library and you are bound to find something that pleases your eye.

An Uncluttered World from Steven Dempsey on Vimeo.

His website for Pine Lake Films can be found HERE.

And the link to his cinematography DEMO REEL.

Canon XHA1: "The Signal" Continued...

As a follow-up to my original POST regarding The Signal and its being made with the Canon XLH1 (the almost twin sibling of the XHA1), I wanted to add a bit of additional information, given that this film does represent some of the most effective narrative work done to date with this camera.

Below are a couple of clips from the film, to get a taste for the style and results that were achieved by director David Bruckner.

And the official trailer...

According to IMDB, the film had an estimated budget of $50,000 and made triple that in its opening weekend, culminating in $250,000 American gross revenue (theatrical).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Online Resources:

Whenever an online resource comes along that is of potential use to the "little guy" out there trying to get his or her movie, short, production company or web content off the ground, it is always worth mentioning.

To that end, it is incumbent upon me to pass on the link for SOUNDSNAP.COM, which provides royalty-free audio clips that can be used for your projects and save you either a copyright infringement suit or hours and hours of foley work.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Funny Stuff - Bas Jones Self Defense

And a brief departure from the technical / professional side...

These are, of course, a play on the educational video Bas Rutten's Lethal Street Fighting. I think the real Bas would appreciate the humor.

Friday, August 15, 2008

DIY: Prop Gravestone

Well, I came across a recent forum discussion where someone was looking to get a prop gravestone made in short order. And one of the answers provided was to the following link, where an indie filmmaker had done the same for one of his projects.

Anyway, since lots of movies involve gravestones, and real gravestones are expensive, and not everyone wants you filming the final resting place of their loved ones, here is one solution...


And HERE is another solution.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stabilizer Battle: Steadicam Pilot Video

Here is a video from the Steadicam website that explains some principles involved with using the Steadicam Pilot. It may be of use for those still trying to wrap their heads around the science of camera stabilizers, or those still plugging away at a competitive DIY solution.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

DIY: Softbox Lighting

And here is a FORUM POST I came across with a DIY flourescent softbox (by STYLZ at DVXUSER). It doesn't have the recipe for construction, but it does have pictures of the (not overly complex) finished product and some screen grabs with contextual description.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

DIY: Jib / Crane

Here are a few select posts on DIY solutions for jib / crane shots.








And some videos...

DIY: C-Stand

Well, for people putting together micro-production-houses and counting pennies... One area where you may be able to save some money without hurting your quality too much is by constructing your own c-stands.

The dude (TCINDIE at who posted this blog entry made his c-stand for about $39 in materials, which is a pretty substantial saving over what is on the open c-stand market.

Anyway, here is the LINK and if it helps you, fantastic.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Accessories: IndiSlider Footage

As a follow-up to my previous post on these accessories, I am gathering up a bit of footage of such items in motion for you, as always, to be the judge...


Ghosts I-IV Video with XH-A1 and indiSLIDER from Dmitry Futoryan on Vimeo.

blossom from stephen hutton on Vimeo.

Indislider Demo from James Stone on Vimeo.

Untitled from James Stone on Vimeo.

Pixelcarve's "Under Construction" from Pixelcarve on Vimeo.

And a fellow unpacking and setting up his IndiSlider right after it has arrived...

Indislider Arrives from Rusty Rogers on Vimeo.


Tripod Mounted Dolly from Alastair Brown on Vimeo.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jack's Links: A Collection of Valuable Forums

Here ye shall find many online forums where you can and will hone your area of specialty in filmmaking. And believe you me, there is a great deal of learning to be done in them...


DVXuser... has forums for virtually every area, from acting to audio...
Philip Bloom's Forum






DIY Chatroom

Lighting for Video: Instructional Links

Given that proper attention to lighting and technique is one of the things that beginning and amateur filmmakers can gloss over, and that it is also quite possibly the number one way to make your project look professional, here are a few useful and instructional links on lighting for film and video...

A good ARTICLE at

AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER: A great resource, and they have back issues online with helpful photos.

The ARRI LIGHTING HANDBOOK, with information not solely limited to use with Arri's.

A FEW TIPS at FilmSchoolOnline.

Some QUICK TIPS on 3-Point and Interview Lighting, and a COUPLE MORE.

Some PODCASTS from Izzy Digital Video.

And a quick VIDEO from DVCreators on how to set up a 3 point shoot.

And finally, a good POST over at BlueSky-Web.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Accessories: IndiSlider, T-Slide and Competitors...

For those independent filmmakers building their kits and making decisions about what is a must-have, what would be nice but isn't quite necessary, and what is simply just a gimmick, one item that has probably crossed their paths is a tripod-based slider.

These items are essentially a substitute for a dolly and have a track length of two to five feet along which a sled (with the camera mounted) can smoothly travel.

Examples of such items are the INDISLIDER and the T-SLIDE.

These items will generally run somewhere from $500 to $1,000, depending on track length and other accessorization like optional tripod heads.

A FORUM POST that deals with these items also has some discussion on the practical advantages and drawbacks of these accesories. Generally speaking, in order for them to be fully functional with a camera move that sends the camera to the far end of the track, the ends of the track should be supported with additional (not provided) structures like monopods in order to ensure stability. Others are sandbagging the primary tripod on which the sled is mounted for peace of mind.

All in all, it seems like a good tool for very short dolly moves, short "pushes in" and reveals from behind doorframes, etc. But it does not seem like it is necessarily an ultra-convenient tool that you just keep on your tripod, barely notice it's there, and turn every locked down shot into a dollly shot with barely any setup time. By that standard, it would fall into the category of "if it seems too good to be true..."

But there are many satisfied customers and people do speak well of the entrepreneurs themselves that have developed these products, in terms of professionalism and support.

Here is an example of a MOVIE TRAILER (No Greater Love), where the makers stated that the majority of the visible dolly moves were performed on an IndiSlider.

Also, at first glance, this does seem to be one of the accessories that would lend itself more easily to a DIY solution than some devices with more complex engineering.

In that vein, here are a couple of forum discussions on developing your own "DIY IndiSlider"...



HVX: Being used in "Childless"

Well, given that I've gone out of my way to mention some of the works being put out there with the XHA1, it is worth noting some of what is being done with the HVX as well, other than Cloverfield, of course.

Currently in production is Childless, starring Joe Mantegna (The Godfather III), Diane Venora (Heat) and Barbara Hershey (Beaches).

You can review the IMDB PROFILE if you wish. I haven't seen any production stills but at least the HVX will have some famous faces being focused on its CCD chip.