Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • 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)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • 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

Lightroom for Your Camera

The Most Important New Photo App Has a Fatal Flaw

Adobe launched Creative Cloud 2014 today, and along with it several new mobile apps. Photoshop Mix lets you blend layers using a touch-optimized version of Photoshop’s powerful Quick Select tool. Line and Sketch are drawing apps designed to work with Adobe’s own stylus and ruler accessories.

But the one I’m most excited about wasn’t a surprise at all. As promised, Lightroom mobile is now available for iPhone. Like the iPad version, it’s free, but requires a Creative Cloud subscription. (The bundle of Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99/month is now a permanent pricing plan, by the way.)

Despite having the exact same features, Lightroom for iPhone is a very different thing than the iPad version. Because this is Lightroom running on your camera.

I’m a “serious” photographer. I have cameras with red dots and and lenses with red rings. But I also take a ton of photos with my telephone. Having the power of Lightroom running on your actual camera is a major, important change to mobile photography. When you snap a shot, or, more likely, a series of shots on your iPhone, and then easily (even automatically) upload them to your Lightroom catalog, where you can then edit, flag, and now rate them, with all changes synced to your master catalog, you have a speed and power in mobile photography that will have you rethinking your iPhone’s role as a “casual” camera.

A New and Promising Workflow

Effortlessly getting your fresh iPhone snaps into Lightroom is great in a few ways. I started out wishing for nothing more than metadata management in a mobile Lightroom app, and I have productively used that functionality, but now I’m hooked on having the power of Lightroom’s editing controls in my pocket. Lightroom’s exposure, contrast, color temperature, clarity and shadow/highlights controls produce significantly better results than any other mobile photo editing app.

But the real power comes when you launch Lightroom desktop, and see all of your photos there, with their edits as nondestructive metadata. You can continue making your photos look their best, and the edits will be synced back to your iPhone—even those that Lightroom mobile can’t modify. This means Lightroom mobile is rendering the full Adobe Camera Raw engine, which bodes well for increased editing capability in the future.

iPhone photos thoughtfully processed in Lightroom can look shockingly good. Here are a few examples from my recent trip to Taiwan.

If you choose to automatically upload all your iPhone photos to Lightroom (the aggressive default when you first run the app), you could even dispense with syncing your photos to your computer the old-fashioned way (if it weren’t for pesky video).

The Fatal Flaw

Lightroom mobile is a work in progress, and it’s not perfect. I’d kill for user-created presets synced from desktop Lightroom. You don’t have control over where on your computer your uploaded photos are synced to. And when sorting through photos, you have to switch between flagging mode or star rating mode (new in version 1.1 for iPad as well), rather than having both available at once. You can’t even see both flags and stars at the same time, even though there’s plenty of space on the screen.

But the biggest flaw represents a fundamental misunderstanding of mobile photography. Lightroom mobile strips important metadata from your photos, including time/date and location. That’s right, Lightroom mobile kills one of your iPhone’s best camera features—the always-on GPS.

This means that if you edit a photo in Lightroom for iPhone, save it back to your Camera Roll, and then share it, the social media service you share to won’t know when or where the photo was shot. Apps like Facebook and Instagram use this info to make sharing better. If you’re more privacy-minded like me, maybe you use a personal diary app like Day One. Day One uses photo metadata to automatically create a journal entry with the correct date stamp and GPS location. But if you try this which a shot saved from Lightroom mobile, no such information is found, and the journal entry is created using the current time and location.

Every 99¢ (or free) photo app gets this right. That Lightroom doesn’t is an embarrassing omission.

Just The Beginning

I have high hopes that Adobe will address these shortcomings. We’re only at version 1.1 of Lightroom mobile. It’s almost my go-to mobile photography app (competing with Mattebox, an awesome app that offers custom filter building and sharing, and that leaves my metadata alone).

With proper metadata handling, user presets, and the ability to customize where synced shots are stored, Lightroom mobile could become a must-have for anyone who uses their telephone as a camera, which is approximately everybody in the world.

Lightroom mobile is available on the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad. It requires Creative Cloud, which is $9.99/month for Lightroom and Photoshop. Or get a year of full Creative Cloud membership for $50 off from B&H until June 20.


Guerrilla Filmmaking Class by Godzilla Director Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards is my hero.

His next film will be a Star Wars movie. His current film is Godzilla.

Prior to that, he made the microbudgeted Monsters, which he shot himself on a prosumer camcorder, in Mexico, with a tiny crew.

He did all the visual effects himself.

This was a crazy-like-a-fox methodology that he first boldly used on a BBC historical drama called Atilla the Hun. Fortunately for all of us, he documented his post-production process on that film with a course at FXPHD.

Now FXPHD is making that course available for standalone purchase of $99 USD.

I can’t recommend it highly enough. His approach of combining accesible, affordable tools and techniques with a progressive refinement of the entire film as a whole is masterful, and offers profound insights to filmmakers and visual effects artists of all levels.

Disclaimer: I get nothing for promoting this offer. This is me speaking to you from my heart: This is the best hundred bucks a filmmaker could ever spend.


A GH4 in the Hand vs. Sony a7S Preorder

I returned my GH4 and pre-ordered a Sony a7S.

It’s Not You GH4, it’s Me

After shooting very few tests with a small handful of lenses, including full-frame glass on a Metabones speedbooster, I packed up my Panasonic GH4 and sent it back to B&H. As much as I loved the controls, the form-factor, the variable frame rates and 4K sharpness, I couldn’t fall in love with the image quality.

But I came here not to bury the GH4, but to praise it. It’s a freaking awesome little camera. Here are just a few highlights:

  • After years of shooting with Canon DSLRs, having an electronic viewfinder with peaking, zebras, and even functional touch-to-focus was beyond refreshing.
  • I even put the little guy on my stabilizer and experimented with using autofocus. It was easy to set up an autofocus zone at a custom position and size within the frame, and the camera would quietly and smoothly focus the Vario 12–35 ƒ2.8 zoom lens on the subject, keeping up with all but the most abrupt of movements. Truly useful autofocus.
  • Variable frame rates are handled in a lovely way. You do have to dig in a menu for them, but once there, you have all the funky speeds you could want, including the all-important 22. Yes, 96 fps is a bit soft. But dude. 96 fps. And you can see your slow or fast motion playing back on the sharp, highly-positionable touch LCD.

A Crushing Blow

Ultimately, what doomed the GH4 for me was (what I perceived to be) its lack of dynamic range. Even after flattening out the image with the ample picture stye controls, my GH4 footage felt like reversal, not a neg. It felt crunchier and more brittle than even the footage from my 5D Mark III.

That, combined with a noisy image that didn’t degrade well in low-light situations, made me feel like the GH4 just wasn’t quite cinematically making up for its smaller sensor. Even with a Metabones speedbooster and a fast 50, I couldn’t quite coax the sexiness out of it.

To be crystal clear: The GH4 is a great camera. It just wasn’t for me.

For real, thoughful reviews of the GH4, check out the epic, detailed review at Cameralabs and Philip Bloom’s evolving video review.

You can never get enough of what you don’t need.

It’s easy to pick a camera for a particular project. But in the ever-changing world of tiny, affordable digital cinema cameras, if you don’t have a shoot on the calendar with specific camera requirements, then no camera will seem adequate. There will always be a “next camera,” the one that gets to be perfect in your mind rather than imperfect in your hand.

For many, that camera right now is the Sony a7S. I haven’t written about this little mirrorless marvel here yet, but you’ve heard all about it, I’m sure. It’s the latest in Sony’s line of impossibly-slim full-frame mirrorless cameras. It shoots 1080p video internally at up to 60 fps, and 4K 24p to an external recorder.

But what excites me most about it is that it seems to have the most remarkable low-light capability of any camera on the market (owing, presumably, to the gigantic gapless photosites on its modestly-megapixeled, 5D-sized sensor). Yes, this is fun for the stunt of turning night into day, but in practical terms this means low noise at normal light levels. And this little deck of cards with a lens mount shoots log. Which means it wants to be graded.

I’m fully aware that I’ve caught a case of next-camera syndrome here. I’ll let you know if the a7S is the cure, or just another symptom.

The Sony a7S is $2,500 USD and available for pre-order at Amazon and B&H.


Oscar at 96 fps

Dogsitting. Yard dug up for future lawn. Panasonic GH4 with Panasonic Vario 12–35 F2.8. Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 with new S-Curve tool. Ukulele.

So, obvously: