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Tools

Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

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

Needables
  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony
  • 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 Filmmaking (181)

Monday
May062013

Color Correcting Typewriters

The promo video for Slugline was a fun opportunity for me to try my hand at (AKA rip off) the “show, don’t sell” style of my hipster pitchman idol Adam Lisagor, as well as a chance to bust out some DV Rebel production tricks, such as stealing shots in plain sight, and approaching cinematography as an informed collaboration between the shoot and the color grade.

The opening shot features a row of typewriters, culminating in a MacBook Air. I shot it at California Typewriter in Berkeley. If an honest-to-goodness typewriter store sounds like a cool thing to you, then this place is your Shangri-La. Father-daughter proprietors Herb and Carmen gave me free run of their shop for an hour before they opened.

Here was my gear:

“Lighting control” is a fancy term for my humble request of Carmen to turn off the overhead fluorescents. But the Nasty Flag really did help me kill the fill from a skylight above my first typewriter.

I shot at 29.97 fps, knowing I’d slow the footage down to 23.976 in the cut. Shooting 30-for–24 helped smooth out my hand-operated slider move (a little). I was matching to an animatic with locked VO, so I knew how long my shot had to be—but I had to do a little math to account for the slowdown.

I did my best to stage the shot in a spot with decent lighting, but there was only so much I could do. So I shot flat, made sure not to clip, and started thinking about how I’d finish my job as cinematographer in After Effects CS6, using Magic Bullet Colorista II.

The solution wound up emerging from the visual effects component of the shot. To replace the screen on the MacBook Air, I used the After Effects 3D tracker. The results were solid throughout the shot, so I began experimenting with adding color correction masks in 3D space. Here’s how you do that:

  1. Select several points on the plane of the surface you wish to re-light
  2. Right-click and select Create Solid
  3. Preview and verify that the solid you’ve created “sticks” to the surface
  4. If it’s tracking well, enlarge the solid to generously cover the surface, and then sculpt your color correction mask using the After Effects masking tools.
  5. You may still have to add keyframes to the mask shape to ensure accuracy, but it should only take a few.
  6. Use the result as a Track Matte for an Adjustment Layer containing your color correction.

As you can see, I wound up with 3D masks to control the brightness of the keyboards on two typewriters, the shadowing of the back wall, and, most importantly, the sheen on the MacBook Air. Before I added that gleam to the lower surface of the laptop, the shot was simply not telling the story.

When you are the director, DP, and colorist, the sin of “fix it in post” is no sin at all—as long as you don’t write any checks on the set that you lack the chops to cash in post. Would the shot look better if I’d lit it properly and gotten the look in 100% camera? Of course—but that’s a useless hypothetical. Thanks to the kindness of some strangers, I had an opportunity to get my shot for free, based on the promise that I’d be low-impact and quick. If I’d shown up with a lighting kit, asking to tie into their power and block access to parts of their store, my hosts would, quite rightly, start thinking about charging me a location fee. And there’s no way I’d have been in and out in an hour. So I made use of the resources I had—which included a brief window to shoot in a very cool location, a heck of a lot more time at my computer later, and a personal predilection for elaborate color grading tricks.

I budgeted my hour at the location almost perfectly—which wound up meaning “perfectly wrong.” Just as I was reliably getting good takes, the clock struck noon, and Carmen opened the door to a customer who’d been waiting patiently outside with his busted, beige printer from the late Paleolithic era. Right near the end of my best take, a reflection from the swinging door pinged the shelf in a distracting way. So I fixed that too, by pulling bits of shelf from adjacent frames.

Gosh, you’ve really got some nice toys here.

In the time it took me to pack up my modest gear and put the typewriters back where I’d found them, Carmen had diagnosed the gentleman’s problem. His printer, from 1992, was skipping due to a bad belt. She dug up a replacement and had it working before I left the store.

The whole premise of Slugline is to bring screenwriting away from a software experience and back to a writing one—even a purely typing one. I realized in that moment that I’d truly found the perfect location for my opening shot.

I’ll return to California Typewriter. I’ll let you know which one I buy.

Wednesday
Apr242013

Spy vs. Guy

The latest Red Giant film by director Seth Worley is up, and it is as good as you’d hope. Better even.

How freaking cool is it that Red Giant takes over their whole front page to show you a hilarious film that is only vaguely related to a new product?

Go check it out, and the behind-the-scenes as well.

Great job Seth and Aharon!

Thursday
Apr182013

Slugline

You probably saw this coming.

Slugline is an app for writing screenplays. It uses Fountain as its native file format. It brings the power and simplicity of plain text to screenwriting, without sacrificing features that screenwriters need. In fact, Slugline is focused entirely on the writing part of screenwriting. It has annotation, integrated outlining, and Fountain’s ability to omit text without deleting it, all driven by the text you type.

Your files are plain text, editable with any writing software, on any device. But when you print them from Slugline, they appear as a perfect, industry-standard screenplay. Better, in fact, because Slugline optionally lets you use Courier Prime.

Read more at the new Slugline blog, follow SluglineApp on Twitter, or just head on over to the Mac app store, where Slugline is exclusively available for $39.99.

Wednesday
Apr102013

BulletProof Unveiled

BulletProof is a new app from Red Giant that fills a huge gap in the DSLR shooter’s workflow. You’ve shot this great footage—now what do you do with it?

Large productions with high-end digital cinema cameras tend to be supported by a full DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) cart with customized software and hardware. But where was the DIT tool for indies? Red Giant saw an opportunity to bolster the workflow of one of the most common types of shoot—the DSLR-based, small-but-capable indie crew. So about 18 months ago, we sat in Sean Safreed’s dining room in San Francisco and started sketching ideas for BulletProof.

The Other Half of Your Camera

If you’re a cinematographer hired to create gorgeous images, you have a tough choice to make about how “flat” to shoot your footage. Flatter is better (log is best) for color grading, but your client might not understand why all their footage looks like it got a milk bath. And even if they do, who’s to say that they’ll color correct it anything like what you had in mind? Or maybe, to your horror, they’ll just fall in love with the “flat look,” since that’s what they’ve been looking at in the edit.

Or you could bake in a look into your shots in-camera. The client may love the dailies, but they also may be disappointed with the lack of flexibility you’ve given them down the line.

Now that we have an abundance of cameras that shoot a broad dynamic range, flat or log image, shooters need a way to not only review color-correct dailies on set, but also to begin the creative process of color correction—if only to “set a look” that conveys the cinematographer’s intent.

When I shoot stills or video, I’m already thinking about what kind of color grading I’m going to add later. Lensing the imagery only feels like the first half of the image-making process. That’s why we’re saying BulletProof is the other half of your camera—it’s a safe place to offload, catalog, and prep your footage for the edit. You can add keywords, markers, and other metadata—including Colorista primary color correction and a variety of industry-standard LUTs.

If you’re an indie filmmaker working on a small scale, you still have all the needs of a large production when it comes to managing your precious footage. You need a checksumed, redundant archiving process. You need to check your shots on set. And you might not have a dedicated script supervisor to take notes, so you need a way to mark your good takes, your crummy ones, and even key moments within a take—whether it’s you cutting the footage, or someone else.

BulletProof allows you to add markers and even in/out points to clips. This metadata is included in the clips your export, so your editor sees your Circle Takes, Rejects, and Notes right in their NLE, effortlessly.

Maybe the coolest feature is BulletProof’s Playlists. You can add shots to a playlist and they’ll play back in sequence, respecting the In and Out Points you’ve added to each clip. This makes it fast and easy to create a mini-cut on set, so you can check continuity and move on to the next setup with the confidence that you’ve got your coverage.

Like Red Giant’s Grinder before it, you can easily export all kinds of variations on your footage. You might create H.264 web-friendly movies with color correction and timecode window burn for web review, color-corrected ProRes files for offline edit, and uncorrected ProRes HQ movies for the online. All of this is driven by presets that you customize.

These are all wonderful features, but my favorite feature is that BulletProof is simple to use. I wanted to design something that would be intuitive and easy for a busy and distracted director to use on their own, yet powerful enough for a dedicated DIT to be a hero for their director or DP. The left-to-right “panoramic UI” makes it abundantly clear where your footage is coming from, where it’s going to, and what’s happening in between.

I’m really excited about BulletProof. I know it’s going to change how I shoot, and make my communication with my editors even better. But I know that we can’t do it alone. However much I might shoot, there are those of you out there who shoot more, and under more pressing conditions. So we’re launching BulletProof in a new way for Red Giant—as a free public beta. You can sign up now and help us shape BulletProof into the shooter’s companion app that you’ve always wanted. This summer, the app will ship for $199—a price designed to make BulletProof an easy choice for shooters at every level.

Photo by @donaldberube. Note the tea.

One Froggy Evening

Last night I got to show BulletProof to over 1,000 people at the 13th annual SuperMeet. The crowd was very supportive even though I had almost completely lost my voice! I felt privileged to be representing the hard work of the amazing team at Red Giant who have been bringing BulletProof to life. If you’re at the show and you’ve come by the booth you’ll immediately understand why I love working with this company.

If you’d live to see more great NAB news, including Sean and I talking about BulletProof, check out fxguide’s amazing show coverage. You’ll find Mike Seymour interviewing us at about the 01:26:45 mark in Part 1.

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