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

Entries in DV Rebel's Guide (90)

Tuesday
Nov292011

Holiday Gift Ideas 2011

I’m hard to shop for. If I want something, I tend to buy it. This annoys and distresses those around me. But there is an opportunity lurking in that situation—every once in a while, I get the delightful surprise of a gift I didn’t even know I wanted.

Usually socks.

Looking for gifts for the DV Rebel in your life? Or for an easy link to send those flummoxed by your bizarre filmmaking nerd lifestyle? Here are some ideas.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation

Another in the must-have series of big-ass ILM books. Enough said.

Visual Stories: Behind the Lens with Vincent Laforet

It’s rare that a photographer is even consciously aware of the specifics of their style and technique. Rarer still that a world-class photographer with such an awareness has any interest in sharing these insights with the world. And then there’s the rarest of all cases: A world-class photographer who can inspire and educate us with truly revelatory words about some jaw-dropping pictures.

Rare as in, just this one book. Vincent slam dunked this one.

Screenwriting Tips You Hack

Images on the screen start as words on a page. A blank, terrifying, soul-crushing page. I’ve been following and enjoying Xander Bennett’s Screenwriting Tips You Hack blog, and now he’s compiled the best of it into a book. If had just been a collection of his pithy and insightful blog posts, that would have been great, Instead its, like, an actual book type book that expands on the blog’s best bits. Even better.

The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation

Animation studios use something called “color scripts” to plan out the color palette of a story. These long, filmstrip-like pieces of artwork are loose in detail but rich in storytelling color.

In other words, they are my favorite thing in the world. There’s so much beauty and inspiration in this book that it’s a bit overwhelming. That’s why I keep it in the bathroom.

Dot

Strap this little gumdrop to your iPhone 4 or 4S, download the companion app, and capture 360º panoramic video.

On your telephone.

For $79.

I need to sit down.

The DV Rebel’s Guide

Is it possible that you still know someone who doesn’t have this book? Heck, maybe the thing to do is buy the friend who already has it the Kindle edition. Speaking of which…

Kindle

This might be the Kindle year for me. I love my iPad, but I also love the imaginary notion that I’ll someday be somewhere sunny and the iPad will suck for reading there. I’ve also recently become infatuated with the indie author phenomenon, and I feel like simply owning a Kindle helps that movement grow.

I changed by mind since the last Kindle post. I think the simplest, cheapest one is the one to get. But I’d splurge and grab the one without ads.

A 50mm Lens

Please stop with all this “roughly what the human eye sees” baloney. The reason 50mm lenses are great is that they are fast and cheap. On anything but a full-frame DSLR, a 50 is a portrait lens. You know, for taking pictures of people. Which are the only pictures anyone cares about.

If you have a friend who has a DSLR with the crappy kit glass, get them the thrifty fifty for Canon or Nikon, show the the Aperture-priority mode on their camera, and transform their photography overnight from information gathering to emotion preserving.

Lightroom

Another photography life-changer. Whatever you’re using for your photography, if it’s not Lightroom, you’re doing it wrong.

Incase Origami Workstation for iPad

I’m writing this blog post using my iPad 2 (a great gift idea as well of course, if you are a Super Pimp Monster of Giving), Elements, and Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. When I travel for less than three days (a carefully-tested and validated threshold), I don’t bring my laptop. The reason this works is that if it’s more than one day, I bring the Bluetooth keyboard. But the keyboard is a bit awkward to pack and lug around. In fact, mine has gotten a bit beat up, with some keys held on by tape and school prayer.

Enter the Origami Workstation. It’s a case for your keyboard, not your iPad. But when you open it, it becomes a stand for the iPad. It’s simple, brilliant, and best of all, non-commital. Your iPad never gets connected to the thing, it just rests on top, in whichever orientation you like. It even works with iPads in cases (mine is in the Apple SmartCover, which is so wonderful that there are days I don’t even think about how overpriced it is).

Apps

Speaking of Apple stuff, everyone’s favorite evil company makes it easy to gift apps for both iOS and Mac. This is a really cool thing to do, and it’s often cheap as bad coffee.

  • Of course I’ll start by suggesting that if you still have a friend who doesn’t have Plastic Bullet, Noir, or Movie Looks, you can set them on the path of righteousness for just a few bucks.

  • Similarly, giving Plastic Bullet for Mac to your friend is a gentle but firm way of saying “You have no idea what to do with five dollars, do you?”

  • I mentioned I’m writing this using Elements. It’s a great little iOS writing app. Thanks to SPMD, I’ll probably write a good chunk of my next screenplay on it.

  • On the Mac side, Byword is a simply lovely app for writing. Both it and Elements work beautifully with Markdown. Life is good in textopia.

  • Here’s a fun double-whammy. Order your friend a Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad and the ArtRage painting app. It’s like handing them a license to smoke clove cigarettes.

  • The gift of a Kindle is an invitation to read more. But maybe you don’t really care, like $100 care, that your friend reads more. Maybe you more like $5 care. In which case, buy her Instapaper. It’s the best app for reading web articles on your iOS device, and it’s integrated with Twitter. The next time someone posts a link to a cool article that you don’t have time to read right now, you’ll tap “Read Later” and it gets saved to your Instapaper library. Or you do it from your web browser using an easy-to-install toolbar bookmark. Later, you can read the day’s articles in a lovely book-like presentation, even when away from your internet connection. This is a home-pager for me on both my iPad and iPhone.

    Either this or a smack in the head would be a perfect gift for your friend who types “TLDR” a lot. Your choice.

Monsters

Inspiration. It’s a strange thing. Sometimes a great movie inspires me, other times, a festival of back-to-back terrible films is what it takes to get me writing like the wind. But the film that has kicked my ass up and down the block with shameful, abusive inspiration lately is Monsters by Gareth Edwards. He flew to Mexico and shot this movie himself with a crew of fewer than ten, including his two lead actors. He had a loose plan and a ton of faith in his ability to make something out of nearly nothing. In his own words:

I guess creativity is just being stupid enough not to realize you can’t do something.

The Blu-ray is gorgeous, and packed with supplemental features. I keep the slipcase tacked to my office wall.

Happy holiday shopping from Prolost!

Oh, wait—one more:

Point-Blank Sniper Gear

The man’s a myth.

Wednesday
Oct122011

The Misfits, the Rebels, the Troublemakers

This is long, personal, rambling, and a week too late. There are so many better things your could read about Jobs than this. I’m posting it because I didn’t want to look back at this year on Prolost and see just a hole here. If you decide to read on, this is as good a time as any for me to humbly thank your for your attention.

In 1985, i was learning to program BASIC on an Apple II in my 8th grade computer programming class. I wrote a Death Star trench flight simulator that was every bit as impressive as my ability to not ask girls to the dance.

That same year, a friend whose father worked at the local university took me to a special room where they had a Macintosh. Instead of our usual skateboarding and lighting things on fire, we spent hours drawing Opus the penguin in Macpaint.

In film school I used Amigas for filmmaking, but when I graduated I bought myself a PowerBook 170 with a black and white screen. I felt I could afford it because I was working at my dream job, using a $40,000 Silicon Graphics workstation to create visual effects for movies like Twister and Mission: Impossible. On the latter, I met John Knoll, who showed me how he was using his Mac to recreate space battle shots for the Star Wars special edition.

He looked like he was having so much fun. My SGI workstation felt like an incredibly powerful computer. John’s Mac seemed like a limitless creative tool. I started taking my own time to learn After Effects, Electric Image, and Photoshop. I spent close to $10,000 setting up a pimped-out PowerMac at home. I started writing screenplays and dreaming up short films. After a year of learning how to be a post-graduate human, I was back to making my own movies with computers.

John Knoll started the Rebel Mac Unit at ILM and asked me to lead it. The systems guys took my SGI workstation away and replaced it with a Mac. For a minute, I panicked. I was about to bet my career on the theory that I could create ILM-quality effects using a computer and software that any idiot could buy.

We made space battles for Star Trek, displays for Men in Black, a minefield for Galaxy Quest, and hundreds of shots for a new Star Wars movie. We had jackets made with the Rebel Alliance logo on one shoulder and an Apple logo on the other, stitched black-on-black because there were people at the company who genuinely hated what we were doing.

When I saw the first digital video camera, the Sony VX1000, I bought it immediately. I got my hands on an early prototype of a FireWire card and put it in one of the two Macs I had on my desk (that was Rebel Mac’s version of a multitaksing OS). I started writing a short film that would be finished completely on a home computer.

The name “Rebel Mac” hearkened back to the stories of Jobs starting the Mac division at an Apple that had sprawled out of his control. But we couldn’t use it in public, because ILM had an exclusive PR deal with SGI that ended the year I quit that dream job.

Rendering The Last Birthday Card in After Effects 4 on the blue G3 in 1999. Click to enlarge. Don’t miss the render time.

With my new blue G3 tower and version 1.0 of Final Cut, I finished my short and joined two friends in starting a company to make films and effects. We had grandiose ideas and “Lombard” PowerBooks. To promote our launch at the Sundance film festival, we made a promotional DVD with a pre-release version of Apple’s DVD Studio Pro.

We released version 1.0 of Magic Bullet. It was Mac-only and cost $999.

Our company grew, and our PowerPC-based Mac Pro workstations started to feel slow. We decided to switch to Windows, in part for access to faster Intel processors. Adobe and Intel worked with us on that transition, and I even took out an “advertorial” with them talking about our decision. We didn’t receive much in exchange for the promotion. Amidst rumors of a skunkworks division at Apple testing OS X on Intel processors, I had been considering writing a letter to Steve Jobs explaining the difficult position we were in. The advertorial was the easiest way to make sure he’d read it.

Apple responded by terminating our beta testing of Final Cut Pro, and retracting an offer to bid on the launch video for a new PowerPC Mac. I heard through a friend who got the video gig that Steve Jobs had referred to me as a “whore.”

I remember being so thrilled that he knew who I was.

Two years later at WWDC, Jobs announced that Apple would be switching to Intel.

That was 2005. Around this time, I was collecting my thinking about accessibility, creativity, filmmaking technology and post production into a book. It’s pointless to describe how essential my Apple laptop was to creating The DV Rebel’s Guide. Now you can read it on an iPad.

I directed the Second Unit on a movie in 2007. I had my 17” MacBook Pro with me every day. So integral to my process was it that the grip crew built a stand for it on my monitor cart. We called it the Nerd Station.

When we closed our company in 2009, I was once again left with nothing more than my Mac laptop. Now, when I walk into the offices of an executive who might be greenlighting the next phase of my career, it’s either that laptop in my hand, or my iPad.

Steve Jobs was instrumental in creating the tools that were not only the means of my creative work, they made me feel that there was no limit to what I could do. Everyone else makes computers for people who like computers. Steve Jobs made computers for people who like life.

He also made computers for people who can’t help but make things. When I’m working on the next Magic Bullet idea, there’s not a moment that I don’t try to imagine what Jobs would do in my shoes. How would he handle this idea, these products, this launch? On my best days I feel like I’m channeling a hundredth of a percent of his design principals—but in my own way, as he so eloquently reminded us.

As it happens, the day we all learned that Steve Jobs was gone, I had lunch at Pixar. A beautiful place full of amazing people using groundbreaking technology to do great work.

That’s the world I live in. That’s the world Steve left behind.

Shot with my iPhone 4 and processed in Noir for iPhone

Thursday
Aug042011

Project Runway

Project Runway Season 9 just started, and I will be rabidly watching every episode. I think you should too. Here’s why.

A few years back, I did a talk at NAB about one of the fundamental ideas in The DV Rebel’s Guide: production value. Specifically, that your film’s production value is not coupled to your budget. The example I gave is Project Runway, a show where designers compete to create beautiful clothing. Each designer is given the same budget to shop for fabric. They all have the same tools and the same amount of time. But often, when the finished garments are judged by Heidi Klum and her panel of fashionistas, only one or two of them earn this praise:

“That looks expensive.”

Project Runway is inspirational and good fun no matter what. It’s a weekly art contest, and unlike cooking shows, we viewers can actually appreciate the work. Watching people succeed and fail under pressure can be invaluable education for the director, who ultimately does their most important creative work on a tight timeline and in front of dozens of people. The show is downright classy by reality TV standards, and can even be supremely touching — I defy you not to cry watching last season’s custom patterns episode. But through all the laughter and tears and boobs, the show is also a great, ongoing reminder that it’s not what you spend. It’s not what tools you have. It’s what you do with what you got.

Friday
Jul012011

Plot Device

On Tuesday I wrote 700 words about the new Magic Bullet Suite 11, mentioning the short film Plot Device offhandedly at the end, when really what I should have done is save myself all the typing and just post the video:

Plot Device is getting a huge reaction (120,000 views on Vimeo in four days!), and deservedly so. The filmmaking is terrific, the acting is great, and it’s funny as hell. It celebrates DV Rebel filmmaking in every way. My hat is off to Producer Aharon Rabinowitz and Director Seth Worley for their accomplishment. Seriously guys. I’m inspired.

Here’s the making of, by Jeff Venable: