Streaming HD Video from a RC Helicopter

Teradek are partnering with Orange County based F-Stop Aerial Media, and New York based to develop a live-to-the-Internet HD streaming video solution for live event broadcasting. This video is from a successful test showing that Cube’s WiFi radio does not interfere with the helicopter’s control system.

This system can be used for live webcasts, and also filmmaking applications where the media is recorded in-camera, but the video is used for camera operating.

Two work flows are shown here. Video is transmitting from the Canon 7D via the Cube HDMI Encoder over WiFi. On the receiving side, a Cube HD-SDI Decoder is displaying video on a SmallHD handheld monitor making a small self contained monitoring rig. The second workflow is live video to the Web using Livestream, either directly from the Cube to Livestream using the new native integration, or through Telestream’s Wirecast, allowing multiple cameras being mixed and edited live on a laptop before streaming to Livestream.

Teradek are manufacturers of Cube, the world’s first camera-top HD video encoder. Cube streams HD video over WiFi locally or over the Internet.

F-Stop Aerial Media own and operate two purpose radio controlled helicopter camera platforms, and leaders in RC helicopter filmmaking.

Livestream is building a next-generation live cable operator. One that is global, social, user friendly, reaching all devices and accessible to anyone interested in broadcasting live video experience – for free.


VIA: Teradek

Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch

It takes an entire civilization to build a toaster. Designer Thomas Thwaites found out the hard way, by attempting to build one from scratch: mining ore for steel, deriving plastic from oil … it’s frankly amazing he got as far as he got. A parable of our interconnected society, for designers and consumers alike.

VIA: TEDtalksDirector

Filmmaker’s Duties to Investors

By Jon M. Garon
Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, PC

The filmmaker’s role as business operator creates specific duties of care and loyalty to the investors. Because the filmmaker is also an employee of the company and a primary beneficiary of the film project, the filmmaker must take great care to respect these fiduciary obligations and to carefully disclose the various conflicts of interest to the investors before they agree to invest in the project.

Duty of Loyalty

Whether serving as a general partner, managing member, or corporate officer and director, the filmmaker has a primary duty to act in the best interests of the business rather than out of personal self-interest. As a general matter, this duty limits self-dealing transactions. A manager should never give herself a loan from the business, pay herself a bonus, divert business opportunities, or otherwise take for herself any benefit that should go to the company.

For example, if the film company owns the sequel rights to the movie, the manager should not buy those rights from the company for the purpose of reselling them at a substantially higher price. Similarly, the man-ager cannot agree to sell the sequel rights cheaply on behalf of the company in exchange for a highly lucrative contract to direct the sequel. Although a rights transaction might be perfectly appropriate between the manager and an unrelated party, the manager has a duty to maximize the profits off the sale for the business; she cannot take that benefit for herself.

To honor the duty of loyalty, the filmmaker should plan ahead. First, certain situations will create clear conflicts of interest between the filmmaker and the business. As much as possible, the filmmaker should dis-close the terms of any material conflicts to prospective investors. The disclosure should be in a private placement memorandum or other offering document as well as in the language of the operating agreement, bylaws, or subscription agreement:

  • All contracts among officers, directors, managers, and partners must be disclosed to potential investors before they agree to invest. These contracts may include the writer’s agreement, director’s agreement, or actor’s agreement, or other agreements between the filmmakers and the company.
  • If the officers, directors, managers, and partners want to work on projects other than this film, they must disclose their nonexclusive status.
  • If the officers, directors, managers, and partners are fundraising for multiple projects, this creates a direct conflict of interest, which must be disclosed.
  • The ownership interests held by the officers, directors, managers, and partners must be clearly distinguished from the rights owned by the business. For example, if one of the managers is the original author of the screenplay who sold the business the right to film the script but retained the copyright—including rights to sequels, characters, and similar projects—then that arrangement must be made clear.

When individuals choose to invest in the business after having received full disclosure of these preexisting conflicts of interest, they cannot effectively complain that the transaction unfairly benefits the managers rather than the business. On the other hand, if the information was not made available in advance of the investment, the investors may have grounds to charge that the manager misrepresented the transaction. Once the investment is made, the filmmaker is of course restricted from making further arrangements that benefit the managers to the detriment of the business or its investors.

Disclosure and Approval for Conflicts of Interest

In independent filmmaking, even when a manager is scrupulous about adhering to the duty of loyalty, conflicts of interest will arise throughout the filmmaking process. To be of concern to investors, the conflict must be material. Contracts to acquire rights, to distribute the film, and to compete with the film company by working for another company are among the types of transactions that are clearly material. Eating the catering on the set is not. The manager must use common sense in determining whether a reasonable investor would consider the conflict important, erring on the side of overdisclosure.

To resolve conflicts of interest, the operating agreement, partnership agreement, or bylaws should provide clear provisions. For example, the policy might mandate that when officers, directors, managers, or partners have a conflict of interest, such a transaction can only be completed after the following steps have been taken:

  • The conflict of interest is fully disclosed.
  • A disinterested group meets for discussion and approval of the transaction without the participation of the interested person. This may mean the disinterested directors on the board of directors, disinterested managers among the managing members, or a committee formed specifically for this purpose.
  • If the conflict includes a bid to provide services, a competitive bid or comparable valuation is solicited, if possible.
  • The body approving the transaction determines that the transaction is in the best interest of the organization.
  • The decision to approve the conflict of interest is summarized in writing, to be kept in the minutes of the corporation or the records of the business.

In many situations, no disinterested board of directors or managers will be available. In such a case, the operating agreement or bylaws should specify that substantially similar steps are taken by the members of the LLC, partners of the partnership, or shareholders of the corporation. In that situation, the best approach is to seek unanimous written consent of all investors by providing the information in writing and seeking signatures of approval.

Duty of Care

The duty of care requires that the officers, directors, managers, or partners act in good faith and exercise prudent decision making in the undertaking of the business for the benefit of the business and its investors. Whereas the duty of loyalty provides a very demanding standard, the duty of care sets a low threshold to meet. Independent filmmaking is a highly risky enterprise, so wide latitude is given to the filmmakers to act reasonably in an uncertain business.

The duty of care essentially requires that the filmmakers avoid being grossly negligent in the operation of the business. The filmmakers must be fully informed of their obligations and make every reasonable effort to meet those obligations. The duty of care would make the filmmakers liable to the company and its shareholders for failing to keep records, failing to acquire the rights necessary to make the film, or materially violating tax or professional obligations.

Other potential breaches of the duty of care are more ambiguous. Perhaps the most interesting and difficult situation would arise if the filmmakers determined that a film project would cost $100,000 to shoot under their business plan but they chose to begin principal photography when only $50,000 was raised. Is it unreasonable and grossly negligent to hope that an angel investor will appear before the money runs out? Certainly it would have been more prudent to adjust the shooting schedule or other expectations to make a $50,000 film or to wait until full financing was in place. It might have been more prudent to spend $10,000 to create a trailer to help raise the additional funds. Nevertheless, the filmmakers may not have been grossly negligent in going forward with the shoot, depending on how reasonable it was to expect that the additional funds would be raised. If the filmmaker’s expectations were low, then such a strategy may very well have been grossly negligent, in which case the filmmakers would be personally obligated to repay their investors. Fortunately, independent film investors know how risky the industry can be, so they are generally reluctant to seek personal reimbursement.

The duty of care should serve as a check on the risks that independent filmmakers are willing to take. If there is no reasonable likelihood of a return, then the investors’ money should not be spent. If the filmmaker goes into a project knowing the risks are very high, then she should disclose the high-risk strategy to the investors, or seek to fund the movie with gifts from friends and family.

* Jon Garon is admitted in New Hampshire, California and Minnesota.

Adapted from The Independent Filmmaker’s Law and Business Guide: Financing, Shooting, and Distributing Independent and Digital Films, A Capella Books (2d Ed. 2009) (reprinted with permission). Jon Garon is professor of law, Hamline University School of Law; of counsel, Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell.

“Gone With The Wind” Screen Tests

Here are auditions and screen tests for maybe the best cast film in history, “Gone With The Wind”. Over thirty women were given screen tests for the part of Scarlett. You can see some of them here along with other cast members.

David O. Selznick’s memo regarding the casting of the Gone With the Wind:

…As to the casting of “Gone With The Wind”, I feel that new personalities are preferable – first, selfishly because of my belief the roles of Scarlett and Rhett will make stars for us; and second, from the standpoint of illusion created by the picture itself: wellknown personalities are liable to be identified with their previous roles, whereas a new personality will be accepted, provided they are sufficiently talented and properly cast as Scarlett and Rhett.

Appearing: Tallulah Bankhead, Susan Hayward, Margaret Tallichet, Frances Dee, Mary Ray, Lana Turner, Paulette Goddard, Anita Louise, Dorothy Jordan, Linda Watkins, Frances Fuller, Adrea Leeds, Jean Kent, Anne Shirley, Marsha Hunt, Mervlyn Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, Joan Bennett, Jean Arthur, Hattie Noel, Hattie McDaniel, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, and Clark Gable.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Volume 3″ teaser screenplay?

“The Bride shall fight once more…” someone claiming to be Quentin Tarantino announced with the release of a 3 page teaser of “Kill Bill Volume 3″ via twitter: “Ya’ll ready to see the first Kill Bill 3 preview?! Say pretty fucking please, with suga on top!” – Quentin Tarantino. He then tweeted the link to the PDF teaser version of Kill Bill 3’s screenplay.

Later he tweeted: “Hey, ask me if Chloe Moretz is playing B.B.”

Is it real? With only 5,000 followers I’ll let you decide.

Worldizing: a sound design concept – by Walter Murch

Manipulating sound until it seemed to be something that existed in real space. This refers to playing back existing recordings through a speaker or speakers in real-world acoustic situations, and recording that playback with microphones so that the new recording takes on the acoustic characteristics of the place it was “re-recorded.”

Oscar-winning Saul Bass short: “Why Man Creates”

Why Man Creates is a 1968 animated short documentary film which discusses the nature of creativity. It was written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon, and directed by Saul and Elaine Bass.

The movie won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. An abbreviated version of it ran on the first-ever broadcast of CBS’ 60 Minutes, on September 24, 1968.

Why Man Creates focuses on the creative process and the different approaches taken to that process. It is divided into eight sections: The Edifice, Fooling Around, The Process, Judgment, A Parable, Digression, The Search, and The Mark.

In 2002, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Part 1/2

Part 2/2

DSLR Cinema- The new dawn of filmmaking?

HD Digital SLR cameras have revolutionized the independent filmmaking world. With their relatively low cost, shallow depth of field, low light capabilities and professional quality resolution, filmmakers and photographers have embraced this new technology with open arms. But with all of the successes of these cameras, there are also notable drawbacks and backlash in certain communities. Well-known HD DSLR masters Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet discuss and debate the current state of HD DSLR cinema, the strengths and weaknesses of this technology, and the future of HD DSLR filmmaking as they see it. This conversation is moderated by filmmaker and camera expert, David Leitner.

Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro v5 – REVIEW

Fans of the of the plugin Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro for After Effects have been waiting patiently for a 64bit compatible version of the plugin that will work with the latest iteration of After Effects: CS5.  Roughly 8 months after Adobe CS5’s launch, Zaxwerks released 3D Invigorator Pro 5 and now  motion graphics artists from around the world can finally our 3d freak on in AfterEffects. And the best part: they’ve made it a lot better.

For the uninitiated, Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro is a plugin that, once applied to a layer in After Effects, turns that layer into a window on a 3d scene complete with it’s own internal camera and lights (both of which can be switched to After Effects’ built in camera and lights). Invigorator’s core function is to create 3d visualizations of graphic elements and logos for slick and polished motion graphics. And did it ever! Zaxwerks ushered in an era of great looking 3d without having to leave the comfortable setting of AfterEffects.

Sample Logo animation experimenting with glass tube textures (background from Digital Juice background)

Drop in a Vectorized Logo and instant 3d object!

The new version Invigorator still allows you to create 3d objects from illustrator vector files or through a type-in text editor, as well as creating 3d primitives (spheres, planes, cubes, toruses, cylinder, cone, and pyramids). Although the interface features 6 new preset workspaces everything will be pretty familiar to the veteran user and new users shouldn’t have too much difficulty navigating around.

A new workspace: the family 4 pane view with my name in a blocky font.

But the biggest and most exciting addition to Zaxwerks Invigorator is the ability to draw curves directly inside the plugin. These curves can be used as the basis for 3d shape extrusions, lathes (which we’ll discuss later) and, most importantly, as edge shapes.

A custom drawn easel right inside Invigorator

The ability to design custom edges directly in Invigorator opens up a huge world of creative possibilities: from fine tuning basic bevels to creating fantastic and bizarre edges with floating tubes and complex curves.

In fact, it looks like Zaxwerk’s goal is to incorporate many of the tasks that you previously had to do in an outside program right inside the plug-in itself. A huge time saver and an integral part of making the micro-massaging of your 3d object that much more fun.

The Easel from above with a custom edge including a free floating gold tube (See below image for the sample edge used)

An early version of the edge demonstration from above (note: the geometry is different)

If all this seems overwhelming, fear not: Invigorator Pro ships with a huge assortment of pre-made materials (from pearls, golds, chromes, chocolates and even camouflage) and object styles (which are custom edges with matching materials) that will deliver great results right out of the box. And all pre-made materials and styles can be fully customizable so you’ll find yourself starting with a basic style you like and changing the materials and colors to get exactly what you want.

Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro also boasts a robust materials editor which includes controls to fine tune image maps for color, specular, bump, transparency and reflectivity. Still included are are number of shading options that include the perennial favorites like Cartoon and Wireframe and also something called Fresnel which gives an object a different color depending on it’s relation to the camera.

One color for faces that are seen straight on and another color for faces seen at an angle

Inside the material editor are new built-in gradient and noise generators that can add some randomness to your visual design. To set your materials, Invigorator comes with several mapping options including UV mapping for precise placement of your color maps.

When it comes to animation the latest version of Invigorator streamlines the process. Objects can be placed into one of eight sets which can be animated in terms of position, rotation and scale or parented to another 3d layer you create in After Effects. In previous versions, knowing which set an object belonged to was a bit of chore, but the addition of a visual set manager makes it extremely intuitive.

Once those objects are organized into groups, a new warp feature allows you to bend and twist those objects. Creating a wrap-around text, a pain staking chore in previous versions, is now a simple operation.

A Lawn Light? Lathed around a slightly mis-shapened circle (prior to my Lathe epiphany)

A new and fascinating addition is the Lathe tool which works much like it’s real world counterpart. Design a profile and the program sweeps it along a circular path. That’s great for creating vases and piano legs, but the options explode infinitely when you realize you don’t have to just sweep along a circular path!!

Stars, gears, polygons – the lathe path options are unlimited.

Trippy Organic Lathe object rendered as a wireframe.

Lights can be added either inside the plugin or by using After Effect’s 3d lights and telling the plug-in to “use comp lights”. The shadows created by the plug-in lights do leave a little to be desired when viewed up close.

As advanced as the new materials editor is, those looking for advanced shaders and raytracing capabilities will be disappointed. Real raytraced reflections and shadow maps do add a touch of realism but this feature may simply be too much to ask in a plug-in that is designed to help meet the tight broadcast deadlines.

Speed wise, with everything turned up to the highest quality, even my powerful desktop PC has trouble keeping up when editing a full 1920×1080 HD project. Fortunately there is a draft mode which disables the high quality texture rendering and allows the editor to quickly make minute changes. Another good time saver is to utilize the layer tracking feature (described earlier) which allows you to perfect your animation using flat 2d layers in After Effects 3d space as stand ins and then translate those animations to Zaxwerks 3d objects when your ready to finalize.

The Render Preview button is a nice way to see the high rez version of your work right in the plugin.

Zaxwerks Pro Invigorator has been a staple my After Effects plug-in folder for nearly a decade now. Though motion graphics styles have changed over time currently favoring more clean flat imagery, there will always be a need for a simple yet stunning 3d graphic work. Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro brings that capability back to Adobe After Effects CS5 and adds a bundle of new functional features to help streamline the design process. If your work involves designing graphic elements with After Effects, Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro is one of those plug-ins that’s simply a MUST-HAVE.

Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro V5 website
price: $449 new
upgrade: from $199
All Prices at Publication

Dead Celebs: A Living For The Dead

Who is the biggest dead celebrity money maker in the world? If you said Elbert Einstein you would be right. Another interesting fact reported by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes is (according to the IRS) there are currently over 84,000 people listing Elvis Impersonator as their primary profession. Somehow those two facts make the World seem right.

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