Slugline

Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Needables
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Thursday
Apr172014

Slugline Birthday Sale

From the Slugline blog:

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Slugline’s launch. For Clinton and I, It’s been an amazing year of building and using the app.

By far the best part of the experience has been the amazing screenwriting community, more and more of whom embrace Fountain and Slugline with open arms every day. The feedback you’ve given us has helped make Slugline better than we ever could on our own. Your unanimously 5-star ratings and reviews have given us something to be proud of for sure, but we have so much more work to do.

But for now, it’s our birthday—so let’s celebrate! Today and tomorrow, Slugline is on sale for 50% off. That’s USD $19.99 instead of the usual $39.99.

Get it now on the App Store!

Monday
Apr072014

Lightroom Mobile

Adobe has released Lightroom mobile, an iPad companion app for Lightroom that syncs with your desktop catalog via Creative Cloud.

Is it the mobile companion app to Lightroom I asked for two years ago? Not exactly. It’s both much more, and a little less.

Lightroom mobile is based on the rather remarkable achievement of running the entire Adobe Camera Raw engine on your mobile device. This, combined with the recent addition of lightly-compressed proxies to the DNG format, means that Lightroom mobile can accurately edit the full range of values in your raw originals, and then sync those adjustments back to your main catalog.

If the editing features are miraculous, the sorting and metadata features are, let’s say, streamlined. The only thing you can sync are Collections. I don’t use Collections as a part of my organization, which means I have to create them just for the purpose of syncing. You choose which Collections sync, up to 60,000 photos.

You can flag and reject shots. That’s it. No star ratings, color labels, no keyword tags. You can move/copy shots from one synced catalog to another though.

I’d suggested syncing the catalog, not the photos. I wanted organizing, not editing. Turns out, I love having the editing control. But it does come at the expense of speed and storage requirements. You can rapidly flip through shots and flag or reject them with a swipe. But as you do, Lightroom will be loading that whole DNG proxy.

Lightroom mobile lets you sit back on your couch and rapidly triage a shoot, flagging and rejecting shots easily. There’s more than enough editing control to make an informed decision of whether a shot is a keeper or not.

If you collaborate, it’s pretty cool to hand off your iPad to a colleague (or spouse) and ask them to pick their favorites. Keep the desktop version up as they do, with a filter for Flagged, and watch your screen fill up with their selects.

I wanted a mobile companion app to help me keep up with the endless task of sorting and organizing my main catalog. We didn’t quite get that. Instead, we got some organization and metadata tools, and impressive, if not as obviously utilitarian, editing capabilities.

I like Lightroom Mobile enough that I bought a new iPad with LTE so I could use it to its fullest. It’s super useful, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted. Which is exactly what a 1.0 should be. With that in mind, here’s what I’d love to see in future updates:

  • Lightweight syncing of my entire catalog. I don’t need DNG Proxies for everything, but a thumbnail would be great.
  • Keyword tags, and the ability to search/sort by them.
  • Reverse geocoding. Show me my photos taken near where I’m standing, or let me tag a photo with my current location.
  • Presets. The ones in Lightroom mobile are Adobe-supplied. I’d like to be able to selectively sync presets from Lightroom Desktop.
  • Collaboration. I’d like to be able to share photos with a collaborator and let them set metadata separately from mine. Let me, the agency, and the client all make our selects, and then allow only me to see how they overlap.

Lightroom mobile is a free download on the App Store, and requires one of several several existing Creative Could plans, including the Photoshop Photography Program at USD $9.99/month. It requires Lightroom 5.4, also released today. An iPhone version is coming soon.

Thursday
Mar272014

Slugline 1.0.6

From the Slugline blog:

Slugline 1.0.6 is available now on the App Store. This is mostly what we call a “maintenance release,” where we fix all the great bugs you found in our last big update. But we also added something kinda big, which is support for Fountain 1.1.

The free demo has also been updated with the new features and fixes.

Tuesday
Mar252014

The Frame’s the Thing

Photo by Kenneth Lu

“The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively—because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a ‘box’ around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?”

– Frank Zappa

At this year’s CinemaCon, projector maker Barco has revealed “Escape,” a projection system that adds screens to the sides of the theater. Ted Schilowitz, formerly of Red Digital Cinema, demoed the system for me a few weeks ago. Here’s what he told Variety:

“The goal is to provide a bigger, more intense, more encompassing canvas,” Schilowitz says, “to extend the boundaries of cinema, to open the possibilities of what happens when you break out of the rectangle.”

If you can’t make it to CinemaCon, just check out the photo accompanying the Variety story. That’s exactly what it looks like in person. The side screens stick flat to the walls, and can show whatever the filmmaker chooses, from naturalistic periphery to juxtaposed imagery.

Dome on the Range

Growing up in Minnesota, my parents didn’t take my brother and I to theme parks much. We preferred the Science Museum of Minnesota, with its interactive exhibits, and, most memorably, its combination planetarium and Omnimax theater.

Omnimax is a special kind of IMAX that uses a domed screen. You shoot on the same 65mm, 15-perf cameras as IMAX, but with a special off-center fisheye lens. A similar fisheye lens on the projector throws the image onto the 180-degree domed screen. And it’s a big dome—just walking into an Omnimax theater is an experience.

We’d gleefully soak up a rather dry documentary about the grand canyon, because each new scene would be established with a helicopter shot racing down the Colorado River. Below you, white water. To either side, craggy rock walls racing by. Above you, clear blue sky—and even a glimpse of the helicopter’s whirling rotor.

It was like flying.

An Omnimax movie is much more of a ride than a film. In fact, one of the most popular Omnimax theaters isn’t even billed as a theater—it’s the “Soarin’ Over California” ride at Disney’s California Adventure park. Adding suspended seats and scented wind to an Omnimax film feels as natural as popcorn in a traditional movie theater.

At its best, the experience of Escape felt a little like Omnimax, but with some notable technical issues yet to be resolved. In an Omnimax theater, it takes you a minute or two to get used to the distortion of the image if you’re not siting near the center of the theater. In the prototype Escape setup I experienced, I never quite got used to the way peripheral images played on the side screens. Horizons kinked at the large seams, and I was often more distracted than immersed.

Between Escape and all the excitement around the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, it seems clear that some in the cinema world feel the natural next step for movies is to break free from the confines of the rectangular screen. Maybe 3D flopped (for a third time) because objects leaping out of the frame wasn’t “immersive” enough. Maybe the problem is the frame itself.

Sauce for a Steak

My brother-in-law makes the best steak.

Making good movies is hard. But when it’s done well, there’s nothing like it. I cry at movies. I cry three times in Finding Nemo, like clockwork. I cry at I Love You Man.

When that happens, I am immersed. There’s nothing better. The desire to create that experience for others is what drives everything I do professionally.

Filmmakers fail often in their attempts to immerse their audiences with character and drama, and those failures are expensive. So I understand the impulse to reach for a more concrete, reliable way to captivate the audience. Technicians love movies too. It’s only natural that they should try to use what they know to make the experience more immersive.

But the problem with these attempts is that they run contrary to the very fundament of filmmaking. They undermine precisely what is so effective about cinema.

Nothing about cinema is real. It’s all gloriously, magically fake. Acting is fake. Lighting is fake. Sets, concepts, levels of attractiveness and charisma, ease of parking, thematic relevance of small details, amount of lipstick on the leading man’s face after a kiss—all fake. Once one aspect of the experience breaks rank from that dream-like unreality—say, by going 3D, or increasing the frame rate, the experience becomes disjointed and uncomfortable. The edges of the frame are sometimes distracting in even a great 3D movie like Gravity. The high-frame-rate version of The Hobbit made daylight exteriors look tantalizingly real, but revealed lit interior sets for exactly what they were.

Go into a great steak restaurant and ask for steak sauce. See what kind of looks you get. Adding “reality” to cinema is like putting hot fudge on a steak. It’s the wrong sauce for a dish that, when prepared well, needs no embellishments.

Framing is Authoring

Scott Stewart directing the pilot of Defiance for Syfy

An event happening in a room is reality. When you put a box around it, it becomes storytelling. The conceit of the frame is what makes cinema possible. Yes, it makes composition possible—a pleasing arrangement within the frame, but more importantly, it makes a cinematic voice possible. Removing the “limitation” of the frame is actually removing the storyteller’s most important tool—the ability to show us exactly and only what matters. The ability to tell the story, rather than merely present it.

Movies Are Broken

I’ve said in the past that movies aren’t broken, but that’s not entirely true. Movies don’t need any technical fixing, but they are a bit broken. Schilowitz may be right that “if cinema stands still, it will lose,” but what cinema is losing to in my household is not roller-coaster experiences in a theater, it’s TV shows with complex, captivating characters, adult content and themes, and zero risk of not having a good time. I’ve still yet to convince my wife to watch a few of last year’s well-reviewed three-hour movies with me, but we’ll happily plow through three episodes of House of Cards in a night.

We watch it on a big, rectangular screen. We’re captivated by it. Immersed. And never once do we turn to each other and ask, “I wonder what’s just outside the frame?”

If movies want to compete with TV, putting extra stuff on the edges of the screen isn’t going to do it. They’re going to have to put better stuff in the middle.

They’re going to have to learn to make a steak as good as Game of Thrones, or True Detective.

A Place for More

So is Escape worthless? No, nor is Omnimax, or virtual reality, or any other “experience” that may borrow some tools of cinema to work its magic. I loved those Omnimax films as a kid, but they didn’t make me love movies any less. They were something else entirely.

There is a place for these non-cinematic, kinetic experiences. I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff lately behind closed doors, and I’m excited about the experience—and even storytelling—possibilities of these new platforms. They’re not movies, but they can be pretty cool.

See, I love ice cream. And I love it more with hot fudge on top. So keep doing what you do, saucemakers. But leave my steak alone—and leave us steakmakers to the worthy challenge of making a steak so good, you’d never dream of saucing it up.