Simple, elegant screenwriting.

  • 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

Entries in Visual Effects (83)


fxphd July09 Term, AKA Show You My O-Week

Registration is now open for the new July09 Term of fxphd, the most in-depth visual effects training you can find. This term I’m joining Mike Seymour in teaching a course on DSLR cinematography, for which Mike, John Montgomery, and I traveled to Japan to train our lenses on some of the most tantalizing and notoriously film-unfriendly settings on the planet.

The double-chin is due to either the awkward pose or all the amazing food we ate—possibly both.

Here you see me hand-holding my Canon 5D Mark II with Mike’s Canon 70–200 f/2.8L IS in Tokyo’s teen fashion capital, Harajuku. This ill-advised activity is made somewhat more tolerable by the funky support rig I’ve created by bending my Gorillapod GP8 (the badass metal one — coolest thing I’ve added to my kit in months) into an outrigger that lets me support some of the lens’s weight with my focus-pulling arm.

Mike has a couple of updates (first, second) on his Dean’s Blog, and there’s a terrific “o-week” video (right-click to download) that provides a sneak peek at some of what we shot and how we shot it, as well as teasers for the amazing array of other classes in the term.

If you can’t tell, I’m a (somewhat biased) fan of fxphd. Mike, John, and their worldwide team of professors give you the good stuff, the likes of which I’ve not seen anywhere else. If you want to learn visual effects from real artists working in the field, fxphd is the place to do it.

Complete course listing for the July09 term here.



Last year I had the great fun of working with the Phoenix-based agency Riester on a series of three anti-smoking spots for the Arizona Bureau of Tobacco Education and Prevention. The finished spots were held up briefly, but finally airing in Arizona. Here are all three—click through to view them in fancy YouTube HD (link is below and to the right of the movie)!

You may notice that some of the footage appears to be hand-cranked. In fact, the entire spot was shot on the Panavision Genesis, a camera that quite prominently lacks a hand crank. So my DP (the brilliant Carlos Veron) and I shot the hand-crank sections at an even 50 fps (the Genesis's max), and then editor Gregory Nussbaum (of Pictures in a Row) and I ran the shots through the very same hand-crank After Effects project that I included in The DV Rebel's Guide.

Of course, some of the hand-cranked shots contain visual effects (supervised by Ryan Tudhope). As I told the crew at the kickoff meeting, it's not a Stu job unless we're doing something annoying with time. Ryan's animators actually worked at 50 fps on the original plate, and then rendered only the frames called for by the hand-crank retiming curve. This allowed them to be as surprised and annoyed by the hand-crank effect as the live action crew!

By shooting at 50 fps, we got smoother 24p results from the hand-crank effect, as it had more frames to pull from. You can do the same if your camera has a 60p or 60i mode (50 for PAL), as most do. All of this is explained in The Guide.

Carlos also shot wide-open much of the time. The combination of Super35 sensor, overcranking, and wide dynamic range (since we'd be shooting outdoors in direct sun) meant that the Genesis was really the only digital camera I felt we could use for this campaign. We almost didn't get one, which would have meant resorting to, gasp, film!

Orphanage colorist Aaron Rhodes graded the spots in Film Master, creating LUTs that the VFX artists used to preview their work with propper color. We used much the same workflow as we did on The Spirit.

These spots have everything I love, performance, cinematography, and a worthwhile message. I'm proud of them and delighted that I can finally share them with you. You can also watch them in their native habitat on the very cool web site developed to anchor the campaign:


Spirit Press: Film & Video

If you haven't heard enough about how I finally got to do that thing I was talking about, Debra Kaufman has written an excellent article for Film & Video called The Spirit Closes the Distance Between VFX and the DI.

The Spirit, directed by Frank Miller and based on the Will Eisner comic book series, points the way toward a new integration of digital production and post. That’s thanks to The Orphanage, a VFX/production company in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and its co-founder Stu Maschwitz, the movie’s second unit director and visual effects supervisor. “Every movie is a collaboration between visual effects artists and the DI artist, but they never meet and they never see each other’s work,” said Maschwitz. “They get approved in a vacuum. The colorist doesn’t get to pass any wisdom back to the VFX artist, and the VFX artist thinks, ‘We’ll color this in post.’ It’s an important collaboration that’s broken. We’re still scheduling the DI at the end of the process, approving visual effects shots before we’ve thought much about the digital intermediate."

With The Spirit, Maschwitz saw an opportunity. “I thought, here’s a chance to put my money where my mouth is,” he said. “Because of its principle creative, the movie is going to be a visual feast. I wanted to put into practice some ideas about how to better integrate those two really important processes: visual effects and DI.”


Spirit Press: Screen Daily

Are you sick of these yet? Here's an article on Screen Daily about, er, "The VFX genius behind The Spirit."

As for himself, meanwhile, Maschwitz, who is also an experienced commercials director, is developing his own screenplays and hoping for the chance to direct a feature. Making his second-unit directing debut on The Spirit, he enthuses, "was about as much fun as one can have within the confines of the law".

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