United Adworkers Local 208

It’s that time of year where Adworkers is renewing memberships & signing new people up. This year, they’re doing it with a threat. You might have already seen it, but they include The Clown in the post as extra motivation.

I should add that I will finally be joining this year. Steve Farr has finally worn me down. Joe Ban helped, too. Plus Dembro is a scarry clown. and I don’t want him stalking me.

Zacuto Camera Shoot-Out 08

Zacuto recently held a camera shoot-out (video also embeded after the break) to compare image quality. Actually, it’s more of a format comparison. The cameras/formats compared:

  • 35mm Film
  • Red One
  • Sony EX3
  • Panasonic HVX200 (w/ Letus & Redrock Micro adapters)
  • Panasonic HPX170
  • Panasonic HPX300
  • Canon XH-A1
  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Nikon D90

You can probably skip through the first six minutes or so to get to the footage comparison. Copied & pasted from my IM with Dembro, here are my impressions:

  • Film: Awesome.
  • Red: I know for a fact Red footage looks great, what did they do ((Not to knock Filmworkers, but some Red footage we had color graded there & down-converted to SD also looked a little off as well. But I’m sure they, like the rest of us, are still working out our Red workflows.))?
  • HPX300: DOF is terrible, color is nice.
  • HVX200 (Letus Ultimate): Noisy, soft.
  • HVX200 (Letus Elite): Same.
  • HVX200 (Redrock): Same.
  • EX3: Not bad, but something seems strange with the focus.
  • HPX170: Okay, but a bit dull.
  • XH-A1: Blah.
  • 5D MkII: What did they do? That camera is praised for its low light capabilities, but the blacks are completely crushed.
  • D90: Flat.

Dembro & I both came to the same conclusions: 1.) Film looks pristine and b.) It looks like Zacuto is really trying to push their low end cameras to people who otherwise wouldn’t have even thought of renting one to begin with.

In all honesty, though, the closing statement is spot on: Any of these cameras in the hands of a skilled professional can produce great results.

Read More…

What We Got: Brad Lichtenstiein & Transmedia

dsc_0168 Friend, fellow filmmaker, documentarian, and all-around-good-guy Brad Lichtenstein has just started his own blog. His entry on “transmedia” covers the unique way in which he and his fellow cohorts are approaching their new venture What We Got: DJ Spooky’s Journey to the Commons. While your or I may not be familiar with the term “transmedia,” most of us are familiar with its building blocks: Creative Commons, participatory culture, and even open source. It seems their goal is to not only raise awareness of “the commons,” but also to engage the audience in a way that it might not even be appropriate to call them (us) and audience anymore.

Adworkers – The Clown

[flashvideo filename=”http://conigs.com/portfolio/Adworkers_TheClown_h264-640.mov” width=”640″ height=”292″ image=”http://conigs.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/adworkers-clown.jpg” /]

The Clown, featuring Ryan Dembroski, edited by yours truly. Produced for United Adworkers and featured at their Cannes Reel benefit tonight.

Credits:
Cast- Ryan Dembroski, Cesar Gamino
Director – Carlo Besasie
DP – Mike Gillis
Art Director – Matt Lemke
Assistant Camera – Michael Krieger
Gaffer – Chris Marks
Key Grip – Mike Luce
Best Boy – Ryan Plato
Make-Up – Kim Goodwin

Editor – Paul Conigliaro (Civilian Edit)
Music & Sound Design – Peter Batchelder (Independent Sound)

Equipment courtesy of Milwaukee Film Corps, Blue Moon Lighting and North American Camera.

Adobe is not abandoning the Mac

Yesterday, reports surfaced that Adobe is removing their booth from Macworld 2009 next January. In a statement to Macworld, an Adobe spokesman said “Adobe has decided to shift its focus at the Macworld trade show this year. Macworld is a valuable industry show and we will still be an active part of it with members of our product team involved in Macworld tracks, including a full day of CS4 demo sessions with Adobe evangelists on Wednesday, January 7.”

Now, for some reason, many people seemed to miss this statement and the knee-jerk reaction was that a.) Adobe is slowly abandoning the Mac platform ((If you want to look for evidence that Adobe takes the Mac platform for granted, look at Flash performance or render times in After Effects.)), b.) they did not want a public face at the event for fear of complaints over CS4 (?), or c.) both.

First of all, Adobe is simply removing their booth, not their presence. As stated, they are still hosting demo sessions and involved in several seminars. Secondly, this mirrors what Apple themselves are doing with regard to trade shows.

In February, Apple announced it would no longer be participating at NAB. Unsurprisingly, several took this as a sign that Apple was abandoning the pro-video market. Afterall, Final Cut Server, their collaborative workflow manager and asset management solution which was announced at NAB 2007, had yet to be released, QuickTime updates were plaguing stability of their video apps, and updates seemed to be few and far between. (Two months later, Final Cut Server was released and recent updates to their pro video apps have been mostly trouble free.)

In reality, Apple was simply shifting focus (sound familiar?). They later stated that they were participating in fewer trade shows and instead using different outlets, such as their website, brick & mortar stores, and smaller self-hosted events to reach the public.

Back to Adobe. Is it really any surprise that Adobe would be doing something similar? In light of the recent economic climate, it makes sense to scale back. This was later evidenced in a press release covering their Q4 performance:

The Company cited weaker-than-expected demand for its new Creative Suite 4 family of products that began shipping in Q4 in North America and Europe as the main cause for the shortfall in fourth quarter revenue.

Adobe also announced the implementation of a restructuring program, and has taken steps to reduce its headcount by approximately 600 full-time positions globally.

Again, this makes sense. Marketing is one of the first areas to be hit by slow economic times; companies often cut their advertising budget first. This directly affects agencies and creative houses who use, you guessed it, Adobe software. Jobs are often cut and the endless search for ways to reduce spending begins. Upgrading to CS4 was most likely deemed unnecessary for many creative departments.

So, Adobe is cutting spending (and jobs), not support for the Mac platform.

Imaginary Money

Is it any surprise that an economy based on imaginary money is failing? The next phase of this recession: credit card debt.

Joe Nocera published a letter from a banking executive describing the credit card industry:

Today, we are bailing out the banks because of their greedy and deceptive lending practices in the mortgage industry. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. More is coming, I’m sorry to say. Layoffs are being announced nationwide in the tens of thousands. As people begin to lose their jobs, they will not be able to pay their credit card bills either.

I never understood why exorbinant amounts of credit were so easy to get and so insanely pervasive, with little-to-no fact-checking. Sure, you sign someone up, give them more credit than they can really afford and rake in the money on interest. But that only works if they have the ability to pay.

[via Daring Fireball]

AE CS4: Leopard vs Vista

Being a Mac guy who works with After Effects, this news really bothers me. Keven Schmidt at Creative Mac benchmarked renders in After Effects CS4 on Mac OS X and Windows. The result? AE still renders faster in Windows, by roughly 1.2x. Now, AE has traditionally rendered faster in Windows, but now that we’re on v9 and OS X has been around for 8 years, you’d think there would be significant improvements. Kevin about sums it up:

Either Adobe isn’t tuning After Effects on the Mac at all, or tuning the buhjeezus out of the Windows versions. Hell, even single process rendering on Vista generally spanks multiple processes on Leopard, for the love of Pete.

This, coupled with the continued sub-par performance of Flash on the Mac really makes me doubt Adobe’s commitment to the Mac platform.  Are they still bitter about Final Cut Pro eating into Premiere sales back in 1998 & 1999?

As a side note, the other takeaway from the post is that enabling multiprocessing in AE doesn’t save much time in either platform. For longer renders, it may help, but for those intermediate small batches, you may be better of sticking to single processes. This is something I’ve suspected for a long time, and I’m glad to see some numbers on this.

Nearly True 3D Projection

picture-3
The ICT Graphics Lab at USC has developed a 3D projection system. This is not your run-of-the-mill, 3D  glasses required projection. Rather, it uses a rotating mirror and specially designed circuitry with an off-the-shelf projector. The result is a projection which you can actually move around and view in 3D. You really have to watch the video on their page to get the full effect, or rather, partial effect. To get the full effect, I’d imagine you’d need to see it in person.

[via PromoMotion]

Native R3D Support in Final Cut Studio

According to ProVideo Coalition, a recent update to Final Cut Studio now supports R3D files. At least, the same way it handles P2: re-wrapped as QT files.

We could always transcode to ProRes or work with proxies, but this now gives us the ability to work with the full 12-bit RGB data. This will be especially usefull in Color ((While I’m still relatively new to color grading and Red in particular, apparently DPX didn’t even support this. Which means we can really pull more highlight data.)).

There are a few caviats, such as being Intel-only, still no ability to work with full 4k (just the 2k data), and no Raw or Redcode timeline, since these are still read-only. Still, I’m very, very happy to gain the ability to work with the raw data instead of transcoded ProRes files or the proxies.

[Thanks John.]

Is apprenticeship dead?

For some reason, I’ve spent a lot of time perusing the Pro-App discussion forums on Apple as well as the AE forum on Creative COW. Many people on these boards are very, very helpful. When I get the chance, I try to pitch in as well to help someone through a problem.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed two possibly (probably) related trends, mainly on Apple:

  1. Senior users responding with the air of “why are you wasting my time?” or “your wrong/that was stupid”
  2. Novice users posting questions along the lines of “I was hired to cut this commercial and I don’t know anything about broadcast!”

I’m guessing after seeing too many of #2, you get the attitude of #1. But no one is forcing that person to post or respond. As far as #2 is concerned, I’ve gotten in over my head, too; however, there seem to be more and more of these posts.

While this seems to be a relatively new trend for video, it’s old news for designers and audio engineers. Got a copy of Photoshop? You’re a designer! Pro Tools? Hey, now you’re an audio engineer! Have FCP? You’re now an editor. Gonna by that new Scarlet for $2,500. That makes you a DP!

I made a similar observation on Slashdot back when Apple lowered the price of Shake in June, 2006 ((And I’ll also note that some people called me out on it. If you go up two levels, I did make a rather snide remark which made me sound like an elitist prick.)):

When powerful software gets into the hands of the untrained, the trend seems to be that it lowers the value of the services of people who do know what they are doing. […] I’m not saying the price drop in Shake is entirely bad, just that it will bring in more people who think they know what they’re doing, when really they have no idea.

Recently, I discovered this thread on FCP-L. The general consensus is that apprenticeship seems to be dead, at least in the video/indie-film world.

I don’t knock people for wanting to get into the biz, and learning a few things the hard way. I did too. But there is, more and more, a trend of people NOT starting out as assistants or apprentices…learning the craft while on the job and watching how it is done. People will just buy the equipment and without any knowledge go off and shoot something. […] What gets me is when these people now go “I have a client and am making a commercial for broadcast…how do I do this[?]”

comebackshane

I know many, many people (especially some with me in film school) who just decided since they had a camera and computer, that made them a DP/editor/director. I’ve seen sophomores at UWM drop of their “DP” reels expecting to get jobs shooting commercials. Now learning something along the way is one thing. You fall. You get back up and try again, learning something along the way. Only these don’t appear to be falls, but rather willfully walking off a cliff and asking for a parachute on the way down.

Though, those of us who have run the gauntlet ((I’ll fully admit, I’m still in that process. I’m pretty sure it never ends.)) really should try and help those who need it. And especially those who ask for it. Mark Raudonis later notes that apprenticeship is not dead in his shop:

We make it a point to teach, encourage, and give people an chance to contribute to the team effort. The first mistake they make would be my fault… I didn’t teach them. The second mistake is their fault… they didn’t learn. The third mistake is their last one… at our shop.

If you come across those that seem to have gotten in over their head, be willing to help out. It may be our only chance to keep apprenticeship alive. Just be weary of those that get into these situations who then refuse to think or learn, but instead wish to have others do the work for them. They won’t learn. They don’t want to.