Archive for May, 2010

DSLR Part 3: Editing & DSLR

May 27th, 2010

Hollywood is trying out DSLR for segments of movies. The season finale of House was shot entirely on DSLR.

Although Canon, Panasonic, and other manufacturers are furiously working on improving the technology, still (pun intended), DSLR is in its infancy.

DSLR drawbacks

  • Image quality great but tech details not all worked out.
  • Double system so separate A & V files. Sync on DES (digital editing system). Make sure DES recognizes files.
  • Can only shoot for 10 minutes due to overheating and load limitations.
  • Long time to transfer to DES
  • No timecode .
  • No HDSI
  • Shallow depth of field – need separate focus puller to rack focus or zoom unless you use special lenses do that.

Here’s a tutorial for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 about editing with DSLR. Again, I am not advocating one DES over another – all are tools to do the job and get you work as an editor – but this Adobe tutorial gives a view into the post process.

Editing practices, Technical & process

DSLR Part 2: Let’s see it

May 24th, 2010

Now that we’ve got our heads around DSLR a bit, it’s time to learn more about the features of these new dual still and video cameras. And actually view some videos shot on DSLRs.

Here’s a summary of features gleaned from attending LAPPG’s* monthly meeting last week.

DLSR cameras – Video features

  • Sharpness and ability to adjust to low light conditions of film cameras.
  • Adjust well to low light due to large size of images.
  • Good with motion though needs some correction.
  • Shallow DOF (depth of field) as opposed to video camera which has deep DOF.
  • Close to film style shooting so DPs like.
  • Workflow simple except for longer transfer time.

A few specs

  • Shoots 720p, 1080p, 24p etc.
  • Makes super 16/35mm frames and reg 16/35mm frames
  • 2K and 4K possible, depending on model.
  • Four basic color settings:
    1. Saturation
    2. Sharpness
    3. Color tone
    4. Contrast

Day footage

And now for some gorgeous DSLR shots in a video which shows off its outdoor capabilities and includes DLSR audio filmed by a veteran videographer who gives on shooting engaging rock climbing footage.

Night footage

Beijing captured with available light and background sound shot by news shooter Dan Chung:


DP Shane Hurlbut’s video about the final moments of a man’s life showcases DLSR and was sponsored by Canon.

Hurlbut used 24p for the office shots at the start of this short film and 30p converted to 24p for its flashback sequences. Read more details on Hurlbut’s blog.

* Los Angeles Post Production Group monthly meetings are topical and well worth the $5 donation. Plus there’s a raffle of editing software, T-shirts, etc., home baked brownies, and a chance to schmooze with 50 other editors.

Editing practices, Technical & process

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) Part 1: Introduction

May 20th, 2010

This hot new type of video camera which both consumers and professionals are experimenting with just came into my viewfinder this week so I’m going to focus on it for a few posts. I am not endorsing any camera brand. I am merely exploring and learning about what DSLR can and can’t do in the video realm and how it’s integrating into post.

I would like to hear your experiences. Has any DSLR footage come into your cutting room? What was the workflow? How did it all work out? What do you see as DSLR’s future role in filmmaking?

Exactly what is DSLR?

DSLR, a.k.a. HDSLR, is a still cam that records HD video and audio to a computer disk. DPs like it because it’s close to film style shooting and has a film look. Price, from $2000 to $4000, is another reason they’re buzzing.

A DSLR can be placed on a rig and used on set or location. Off rig, it looks like a regular still camera so it is being snuck into places where video is prohibited (at least for now).

Here’s a demo from NAB 2010:

If you are interested in purchasing a DSLR or getting more specs, see manufacturers’ sites like Canon or Panasonic. Here are a couple of neutral, informative websites that review all brands: – website dedicated to DSLR.
There was controversy about some of this site’s recent camera tests so read the responses at:

In the next three parts of this four-part series, I’ll talk about more features of DSLR and put up a variety of videos showcasing their capabilities and put out what I know of how it’s being used by professional filmmakers. Feel free to chime in with your experiences at any time.

Editing practices, Technical & process

Professor views Hollywood’s take on LA via video essay

May 17th, 2010

Thom Andersen, a film critic and film theory and history professor at CalArts, created an iconoclastic video chock full of clips from Hollywood flicks depicting LA interspersed with footage of the real city. Deriving its title from a gay male porn film, Los Angeles Plays Itself takes a devilish look at the way Hollywood portrays his city and mine – the City of Angels.

I saw the 169 minute film when it first came out in 2003. Over dinner with a producer-friend last week, it came up again so I revisited it in clips online. Shortly a clip, but first some more introductory info.

Andersen divides his movie, which won several festival wards as well as the LA Film Critics Association Independent/Experimental Film and Video in 2004  into three parts: “The City as Background,” “The City as Character,” and “The City as Subject.”

The film is narrated by Encke King, a former student of Andersen’s. King has the deadpan voice of someone who’s spent years walking bleak city streets at night – something impossible in LA due to the ubiquitous freeways chopping up the grid. It’s the perfect tone for a film which indirectly pays homage to LaLa Land movies as it pierces the veil of how Hollywood sees its surrounding city.

In this clip from Part 1, Andersen examines how Hollywood belittles its own outstanding mid-century modern architecture by showing clips along with footage of the actual buildings:

I highly recommend this film to all Los Angelenos, film students, and movie lovers. Warning: It is exhaustive. Best to ingest it in two viewings. In limited release due to rights issues, I found it available on DVD from Netflix.

Here’s another snippet – the Bradbury building in downtown LA – in movies made from 1943 to 1995.

History/research, Joy goes to the movies

Take it from one who knows:
Kermit the Frog on why it’s not easy keying green

May 12th, 2010

Ah yes, the pita (pain in the ass) factor can be high when you work with green screen shots.

Fun & games, Visual FX editing

A helpful book
Or budgeting for editing means understanding the process

May 10th, 2010

Confession 1: The book that I am about to recommend came free (at my request) from Michel Wiese Productions, my publisher who in turn requests that for each free book I write a five star review on Amazon. I only do this if I feel the book warrants it. And most of my publisher’s books do.

Confession 2: After re-writing my first book, Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video, I plan to create my own movie, so this is mostly why I ordered Film & Video Budgets by Deke Simon. Budgets are anathema to me and I need to start thinking beyond the cutting room, like a producer.


Budgeting Book CoverI expected this book to be just a bunch of budget forms with boring explanations. Was I off the mark! It’s a 465-page handbook that educates moviemakers on what happens in each stage of a project, explaining how to anticipate a film so that the process runs as smoothly as possible. Veteran producer Simon details preproduction preparation, production challenges, and postproduction processes so that you can plan your film and its budget. For instance, he goes over the issues and solutions for getting a film print from a digital file, tape, or tape.

Don’t know when or how to market your video, how to choose a camera or deal with unions? This book guides you through each step of your film or video, lavishing specific advice and the type of information that only comes from years of experience and up-to-date knowledge.

Use this book if you are setting out on your first or fifth student film, feature, documentary, corporate video, or music video. It contains budgets for each of these as well as links to free, downloadable budget forms.  (Hint: poke around publisher’s site.) The book deciphers what each line item in a budget means. Also, it helps you know what questions to ask when negotiating with facilities, unions, etc, and how to make deals.

I plan to rely on it to make my first film. Combined with previous editions, the book’s sold over 45,000 copies. Have any of you used it? Let us know what you think.

Marketing & budgeting

Will hand cut movies be the wave of the future?

May 5th, 2010

Many editors who cut on film and made the switch to video or straight to digital complained that they missed the feel of the film in their hands, insisting that this was a vital part of editing that was lost in the transition. While I will always maintain that you edit with your head and your heart – and not necessarily in that order – perhaps the future will go full circle.

Watch this video about a small LA-based company called Oblong Industries. Tamper, the company’s video workstation of the future, envisions waving your hands to sweep the drawing board and walls. 3D – whee! Or should I say, wii! Even though the workstation doesn’t cover even the most basic editing functions – inputting footage, making cuts, manipulating sound – and seems more like playing with action figures, it does open your mind to future possibilities. Let me know what you think.

Technical & process

Paper Cut Musings

May 4th, 2010

Paper Cut paper cut. Ouch, damn, now there’s blood on my document or book.

paper cut. Outline that provides the initial plan of attack for editing a documentary or other non-scripted piece.

I’ve always been amused by the double entendre of this phrase, appreciated only by those in our business.  A paper cut is a linear ordering of topics, lines, shots, and sounds to include. I am also amused by the fact that we create from a linear piece from a linear paper cut yet we edit on non-linear systems. Having created a lot of online training courses, I know that viewers can absorb material in a non-linear fashion. I also know that films are linear in the end; no matter how much they jump back and forth in time, viewers watch them as they’re intended to be seen, from first frame to last.

In this time of sped up editing schedules and mountains of footage, many editors (especially on scripted shows) have little or no time to screen footage – they just plunge in and start cutting. So paper cuts may be going the way of the synchronizer and the splicer. Also, as we know, the footage does not always cut together the way a paper cut calls for, just like a script.


How many of you make index cards and lay them out on a table or pin them to a wall so you can organize your doc ahead of time? Do you make notes on a transcript? Make your own outline and/or use the director’s/client’s/producer’s?

To mischievously mix meanings: In this steadily “going green, paperless” world, will there will be no more paper cuts?

Editing & life, Editing practices