Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Apple's new computers impact filmmaking

The new Macbook Pro and iMac announced by Apple on October 24 heralds a major shift in the way PCs will be designed and have a cumulative impact on digital filmmaking.

Below are some of the major upgrades that affect the digital filmmaking process:

1.    No Optical Drive: Both the new Macbook Pro with retina display and the new iMac have done away with the DVD drive, with Apple calling it  obsolete in the age of blazing broadband speeds when movies and television can be easily streamed online or downloaded. The new iMac does have 2 Thunderbolt ports and 4 USB 3.0 ports to allow connection of external hard drives and other devices. Seeing that Apple is usually the trendsetter in computer design, we can expect competitors like HP and Dell to follow suit. This could spell the death knell for the DVD industry, and moviemakers will now be looking to go completely digital. Of course, home theatre systems and bluray players will ensure that the home video market doesn’t completely evaporate in the near future, but the transition to a more 'online' movie watching experience is surely on its way.  

2.    Much better screen resolutions: The new iMac has a full HD display (1,920 × 1,080 pixels) for the 21.5” version and 2,560 × 1,440 pixel for the 27” version. It certainly translates into a better film/video watching experience and the computer being used for watching movies and gaming more than ever. The Macbook Pro with Retina display boats of a tantalizing 2,560 x 1,600 at 227 pixels per inch. This one has four times the screen resolution of the previous 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro.

3.    Super powerful processors: The new 21.5” iMac starts with a config of Intel Core i5 Quad Core 2.7 Ghz Processor with 8GB RAM , 1GB dedicated NVIDIA graphics and 1TB hard disk. Even the Macbook Pro with Retina display is all about performance, speed and graphics. It boasts of an Intel dual-core i5 Ivy Bridge processor clock at 2.5 Ghz (minimum) For graphics it has the Intel HD 4,000 graphics support. The RAM is 8 GB and its all-flash storage has three configurations available: 256 GB, 512 GB, or 768 GB. Such top-end configurations in the base models bode well for popular film editing applications like Final Cut Pro.  Apple will be looking to release an even more powerful version of its flagship video editing app to utilize the full potential of its new line of computer devices.

The rise of smartphones and tablets coupled with faster broadband speeds have already given a fillip to the various kinds of digital filmmaking, both in terms of production and post production.  Apple’s new line of smart computers will be prove to be another turning point, particularly because the optical drive has been dropped across its iMac and Macbook Pro ranges.

What do you think of Apple’s new devices, and their potential impact on filmmaking?

Monday, October 01, 2012

6 Frequently Used Transitions Between Shots

Film editing is all about making (mostly smooth) transitions from one shot to another. Here we briefly discuss the 6 frequently used transitions between shots:

1. CUT: The end of the first shot is attached to the beginning of the second shot. The most often used of all transitions, it creates an instantaneous change in one or more of the following: angle, distance, subject etc. In narrative films, normally only cuts are used within a scene.

2. MATCH CUT: A match cut (sometimes called a form cut) maintains continuity between two shots by matching objects with similar shapes or movements or both similar shapes and similar movements. One of the best known examples of a match cut is from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), in which a bone slowly tumbling end over end in the air is replaced by an orbiting spacecraft with a similar shape. Watch video below for reference:

3. JUMP CUT: A jump cut is a discontinuous transition between shots. For example, one shot shows a woman running on a beach towards the water, and the next shot shows her running away from the water. A jump cut is sometimes used to surprise or disorient viewers. It may also occur if the film print or video has missing footage. Many filmmakers and film schools associate a jump cut with bad editing.

4. FADE OUT, FADE IN: The first shot fades to darkness, (normally black); then the second shot fades in(by degree goes from darkness to illuminated image). The fade out, fade in can provide a short but meaningful pause between scenes and sequences. If this editing transition is doe slowly, it can serve as a leisurely transition.; if done rapidly, it is less noticeable or not noticeable at all. Perhaps because of the current popularity of fast pacing in films, this transition is used far less often than it used to be,

5. LAP DISSOLVE: The first shot fades out as the second shot fades in, overlaps the first, then replaces it entirely. Lap dissolves may be rapid and nearly imperceptible or slow and quite noticeable, creating a momentary superimposition of two images, sometimes suggesting similarities or even meaning.

lap dissolve

6. WIPE: A wipe seems to push one shot off the screen as it replaces it with the next shot. The wipe, which comes with many variations, has been popular in science fiction, serials and action movies. but it has also been used in such diverse films as It Happened on Night, (1934), The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Seven Samurai (1954), Ed Wood (1994) and Battlefield Earth (2000).

Many other transitions are used but much less often than these six mentioned above. We will post more on video editing techniques on the Digital Filmmaking Blog in the coming days,

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Arri Alexa - a film style digital camcorder

The Arri Alexa is a film-style digital motion picture camera system made by Arri first introduced in April 2010. The camera marked Arri's first major transition into digital cinematography after smaller previous efforts such as the Arriflex D-20 and D-21. 

It features modularity, PL mount lenses, and a Super 35 sized CMOS sensor shooting up to 2880 x 2160 resolution.

Arri Alexa being used during the shoot of Transformers 3

Hands-on reports say the Alexa’s controls are similar to a film camera and include FPS, shutter, EI, and WB (white balance). Buttons control the functions and an LCD display shows all the camera settings at once.

Arri offers the following models in its Alexa range:

The first camera of the Alexa product family. Introduced in April of 2010.

Alexa Plus
The ALEXA Plus adds integrated wireless remote control, the ARRI Lens Data System (LDS), additional outputs, lens synchronization for 3D, and built-in position and motion sensors.

Alexa Plus 4:3
The ALEXA Plus adds integrated wireless remote control, the ARRI Lens Data System (LDS), additional outputs, lens synchronization for 3D, and built-in position and motion sensors and a 4:3 sensor making it ideal for anamorphic cinematography.

Alexa M
The Alexa M has its imaging and processing unit broken down in two parts to be small, compact and leightweight for 3D rigs and other uses where size is a concern.

Alexa Studio
The Alexa Studio features an optical viewfinder, mechanical shutter, and a 4:3 sensor making it ideal for anamorphic cinematography.

For full features of the above cameras check out the Alexa page on the Arri website.


The ARRI Alexa platform is aimed squarely at the RED ONE digital camera, itself already well established in the movie industry. RED digital cameras have been used by directors such as Steven Soderbergh, and on feature movies including Angels & Demons. ARRI has designed the Alexa for shooting feature movies, television dramas, and commercials.


Popular Film and TV series shot with Arri Alexa

Popular TV series Game of Thrones was shot with the Arri Alexa

2010: Upstairs, Downstairs, Anno 1790 (TV), Rosario

2011: Final Destination 5, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Hugo, Prom, Game of Thrones (TV), Melancholia, Fringe season 4 (TV), The Three Musketeers, Doctor Who (TV), Jack and Jill, How to make it in America (TV), Once Upon a Time(TV)

2012: The Avengers, Life of Pi. Bel-Ami, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Gravity, The Gangster Squad, Skyfall, World War Z, This is Forty, Rock of Ages, The Dictator

In Bollywood, Tigmanshu Dhulia directed Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster (2011) became the first Bollywood film to be shot on Arri Alexa.

Better than Film?
According to cinematographer Roger Deakins, the Alexa’s tonal range, color space and latitude exceed the capabilities of film. Also, in terms of speed, resolution and clarity of image, the Alexa produces a better image than film cameras. "[T]his camera has brought us to a point where digital is simply better”, says Deakins.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Shot Lister - An iOS App for Filmmakers

Vancouver filmmaker Zach Lipovsky, who is known for his work on Steven Spielberg's reality TV series On the Lot, has launched Shot Lister - an exciting new app that can help streamline the work on a film set.

Shot Lister has recently released on the App Store and for the first week it's at half price: $9.99. (only a day or two left)

Available for both the iPhone and the iPad (check out some cool ipad cases here), Shot Lister allows a filmmaker to build, organize, schedule and share shot lists digitally. Traditionally, AD’s carry a schedule document as a hard copy or as a PDF on their device with the inability to change or modify it. If changes need to be made, a laptop with the EP software would be needed – a time consuming process when other pressing things to be dealt with on set. (If you've worked on a film set you know how high stress levels usually are).

The scheduling app allows you to create a one-liner that has all the necessary information plus the ability to manage and adjust the schedule on the fly right from your iOS device. After putting in the shoot information into the app (either on the device or by importing from free template), you can then schedule out each day.

Not only do you schedule the order in which scenes are shot, but also the specific shots in each scene. You can then add the estimated time it would take for each shot and Shot Lister will let you know if you have enough time for what is scheduled.

Shot Lister’s Unique Features:

UNIVERSAL – share Shot Lister files on any iOS device, as well as full Retina Display Support.

INDUSTRY GRADE - Easily organize and store hundreds of scenes and thousands of shots with the flick of a finger

SCHEDULING - The only software available to easily create a shooting schedule on a shot by shot and minute by minute basis.

LIVE MODE - Experience the ground breaking “Live” production mode to see exactly how you are doing to the minute, and re-organize the day in a matter of seconds.

FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE - customize and order every category to your taste and needs. Also features a 24HR time preference.

DESKTOP IMPORT - Build shot lists in Excel or Numbers using our website templates then import them directly into Shot Lister

SHARING - Export PDFs of your shot list with or without estimated times, or share the entire Shot Lister project file via email with other crew members.

MULTI-CAM SUPPORT - Assign shots to different cameras and group them together to shoot simultaneously. Supports up to 11 cameras

CALENDAR VIEW - On iPad, display your entire shooting schedule as a calendar, just like the production board in the office.

COMPATIBILITY: Universal iOS 5.0+

About Reel Apps & Zach:

Reel Apps is about filmmakers creating apps for the industry – apps that save time, decrease paperwork, increase efficiency and look good doing it.

Zach Lipovsky, the designer of Shot Lister 1.0, is an indie filmmaker who shot to fame as the youngest filmmaker and only Canadian on Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg’s search for the best new director on the TV series, On The Lot.  Then, while directing his first movie, a horror flick for SyFy, he created a temp version of the app to use on set and with rave reviews from crew, decided to create the full iOS version.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Uses of Digital Distortion Techniques in Filmmaking

The vast digital world we now live in opens endless doors for remixing and reimagining both visual and audio effects through digitally- altered imagery and sound. Filmmakers are increasingly turning to new technology to create digital master pieces, rather than using traditional techniques and methods. It is this new generation of experimental film-makers that is pushing new boundaries and using over-saturated colour and distorted sound to inject new life into both visual and audio landscapes.


Below is a selection of brilliant examples of digital distortion, shown through some of the most prominent young filmmakers using these techniques to signify their work. Also, this article looks at Hit Film, an easy-to-install programme that enables digital filmmakers to experiment with their own work.

Yoshi Sodeoka -

Yoshi Sodeoka is a visual artist and filmmaker based in the USA, and originally from Japan. He currently produces digital videos that have been manipulated, altered and enhanced to create hypnotic, hyper-saturated, abstract results. He uses primary colours, distorted into a kaleidoscope of patterns. He is currently working on a project with a musician, Daron Murphy, to develop a series of videos that have been inspired by the psychedelic rock era, combined with Greek mythology. He uses digital distortion techniques to bring his inspiration to life.

Ryan Trecartin -

Ryan Trecartin is an American artist and filmmaker from America. He makes digital movies inspired by the fast, cut throat world of internet communication. He uses techniques such as voice manipulation, over-layering graphics, adding text and editing in a frenzied, abstract manner. His films are chaotic in nature and often contain narratives. Storylines are blurred due to his purposely confusing style of editing. He uses distortion to portray the vastness and frenzy of the online world, portraying a dark and disturbing picture of the internet. He reflects his use of distortion through his films’ eccentric characters; he adds unnatural amounts of colours to each one – going overboard on hues. His sped up filming techniques require the viewer’s full attention; clashes of colour and abstract sound make following what’s going on a purposely difficult challenge.

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung -

Kenneth Tin-King Hung is a digital filmmaker who was born in Hong Kong. His speciality is remixing images and sounds of pop culture, politics and modern communications through innovative, digitally distorted filming.  He draws on digitalised graphics that play on the aesthetic of video games to portray a cynical view of modern society. He uses hyper saturation and exaggerated hues to portray satire and has since been commissioned by music producer Felix Da Housecat – an artist also known for his dark projections about society through his work.

Home software

There are now many great software packages available for those wishing to experiment with digital distortion – both visual and audio – that are compatible with most computers. One computing company producing software is is FXHome. Its programme, Hit Film, is one of the best available for adding all kinds of special effects and digital distortion techniques. Hit Film allows the user to create cutting- edge visual effects, motion tracking, colour alteration and 3D compositing. Its 3D camera has optional depth of field, and can blur layers based on their relative distance from the lens. Hit Film Ultimate’s 3D facility allows interaction of layers and particle simulations. Other facilities include fine tuning, masks, invisibility, cloning, temporal effects, lighting and shadowing effects, and green screen editing facilities. It also comes with visual additions, such as blood spray, light swords, gun fire, lightening and lens flares.

Like with all filming equipment, make sure you invest in a good contents insurance plan, as not only is the hardware pricey but once you add on the software we're talking about a sizable investment; these programmes are rather pricey – Hit Film prices start at $149 for the standard version, $399 for the Ultimate version and $647 for the studio version.

For those able to splash out on Hit Film Studio – the top level version – you can expect an easy-to-use package for beginners that also adequately fulfils the needs of advanced digital filmmakers, combining video editing, advanced compositing in 2D and 3D and visual effects. The Studio package has features to rival any professional filmmaking studio, with highlights including a vocal eraser tool, which can easily extract unwanted vocals from films including removing vocals from songs; stereoscopic 3D; video compositing; colour correction, and surround sound mixing.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

SXSW festival being streamed live

The South by Southwest multi-day gathering, also called the SXSW Festival, since it’s being livestreamed from Austin, TX, enabling viewers around the globe to feel the love even sitting in the comfort of their home. 

From March 9 - March 18, there’s a party going on, and you didn’t even need to fly there in order to attend. This event, which is popularly know by its acronym SXSW is streaming various live events, music and photos online here. Events are best viewed using Internet Explorer 9.

This year, more than 500 parties — a record — are on tap at venues around town. With its focus on music, film and interactive offerings, SXSW naturally attracts interest each year from record labels, film distributors and high-tech firms looking to make a big splash with lavish events featuring celebrities, freebies and, of course, lots of food and booze.

Overall, SXSW is known as a great creative mashup attracting filmmakers, distributors, music promoters, talent buyers, members of the national and international press, digital creatives, technology geeks, entrepreneurs, fans and fanatics. This year is the 19th time the South by Southwest film event is being held. The largest demographic represented among attendees are people in their 30’s (40%), followed by twenty-somethings (31%).

While it has a reputation for being hip, it aims to steer clear of being a stuffy, snobbish atmosphere, and based upon press testimonies , the South by Southwest gathering seems to have reached that goal in past years. And then some.

The interactive part of the festival continues for 4 more days through March 13th, while film viewing will last 8 more days through March 17th and for those who love the music events, there’s a great line up that will take folks out 9 more days, through March 18th.

A Microsoft gala last year at downtown's ACL Live venue, for example, reportedly cost $750,000. But the festival also appeals to other firms, including automakers, fashion designers, television networks and even the makers of Red Bull energy drink.

All are eager to reach the 20,000-plus trendsetters in town, hoping to generate buzz, which, in turn, generates sales.

 Visit the South by Southwest home page for a more comprehensive list of events and programs.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Avid for iPad is here


Avid has launched a new video editing iPad app, which it hopes will give Apple’s iMovie a run for its money, and is Avid’s first prosumer video editing app for the iPad.


Avid Studio for the iPad enables you to quickly arrange your clips in the Storyboard, make precision edits using the Timeline, and add high-quality transitions, effects, and soundtracks to your movie footage.

Avid has created an app with the power of a professional editor, yet is easy enough for newcomers. It looks to be a big step up from Apple’s iMovie app, which is strictly for home hobbyists.

The Avid Studio app combines a storyboard and timeline interface, where users can arrange clips in the storyboard, then use the timeline for precise cuts. It also offers touch controls not found in the desktop, like the ability to resize and rotate titles with a gesture.

To get media to edit, users can capture video or photos within the app, import media from iTunes, or capture from a camera using the iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29).

More than a basic editor, the Avid app includes picture-in-picture effects, as well as multiple audio tracks for layering sounds. When they’re done, users can upload their creations directly to their YouTube or Facebook accounts, save them to their computers, or send them to their Avid Studio desktop program for further editing.

Other features include 3D animations, transitions, and titles; full title and graphic control; pan-and-zoom for photos; and full screen playback.

Get the Avid for iPad App now:


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Canon C300 poised to take over Hollywood?

Canon c300 video camera

The EOS C300 – the latest Digital for Film camera from Canon – starts shipping from today. Aiming to compete directly against the Reds of the world, it carries a Super 35mm CMOS sensor capable of up to 4K resolution 1080p capture, and should be helped in large part by the company's top-shelf lenses; like the 14.5 - 60mm and 30 - 300mm. When we first learnt about C300, it was priced at a hefty $20,000. But that's no longer the case, instead it'll cost a less painful $16,000 for the body only.

Canon has always made video cameras alongside its stills cameras, and the EOS C300 is really the natural evolution of the 5DMkII.

Canon took principles of the 5D — a full-frame SLR which shoots hi-def video — and developed it into a proper movie camera. The sensor is a conservative 8.3MP, and it records 1080p video in each of the three color channels. These pixels are big, for good low-light performance, and the movies are recorded to standard CF cards.

canon c300 for tv

From there, things get very movie-techy. The C300 records in the open-source MXF (Material eXchange Format), can capture compressed MPEG2 Full HD, uses 4:2:2 color sampling and hooks up with all manner of movie accessories. In short, unless you’re a movie pro, not much of this camera will be familiar to you.
The new camera will be joined by a range of EF and PL mount lenses, and in Canon also has a 4K-capable SLR camera in the making.

Canon is counting on a wider range of offerings as digital cinema gets more serious. There’s time. The first significant all-digital movie came out a decade ago: Once Upon a Time in Mexico, where “significant” applies more to digital cinematography than to the flick. Some movies are shot with a combination of film and, for special effects, digital. Even in Hollywood, the ability to streamline production and see daily rushes without the cost and delays developing and printing film, can be an important money-saver when studios shoot all-digital.