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Rules of Thumb for Picking a Codec

Art Adams admits he doesn’t know much about codecs but he offers a few rules of thumb he uses to when selecting a codec for a project.

Codecs

Everything I know about codecs could fit on the head of a dime. That’s after compression, of course. Prior to compression I think we’re talking a knowledge base that’s about the size of a deck of cards.

There are some people (Adam Wilt) who know enough about codecs that they could design and build them. I know just enough to be dangerous and keep myself out of trouble, mostly. Here’s what I know, in a compressed nutshell.

The higher the bitrate the better the image


This seems like a no-brainer, and it is, but keep in mind that there’s considerable pressure to keep bitrates down not just in post but especially on the set, where data has to be backed up before being shipped off to editorial. That often means spending a few hundred dollars more while a data manager goes into overtime making sure all the footage lands, intact, on two or more drives. Some producers would rather spend less on overtime and settle on images that are good enough rather than excellent, and indeed there are projects where good enough really is good enough. (The trick is to recognize those projects when they come along and act accordingly.)

As transfer rates increase due to technologies like Thunderbolt this is less of an issue, and hard drives seem to get cheaper by the day.

Provideo Coalition | Read the Full Article

17 Things I Learned From Working on Other People’s Films

Megan Griffiths offers up 17 bits of advice from a career of working on feature films.

Megan-Griffiths

It’s a pretty rare thing that a director has the opportunity to watch other directors at work. As a crew-member, I had a front row seat to almost every aspect of the job, pre-production through post. I never worked on a film that didn’t teach me something—whether it fell in the “to emulate” or “to avoid at all costs” column. These lessons helped me direct actors, assemble good crews, communicate effectively, have realistic expectations, and generally feel at home on a film set.

A little about me: In the past four years, I have directed three features (The Off Hours, Eden and Lucky Them) and been a co-, exec-, consulting, or straight-up producer on four others (The Catechism Cataclysm, Your Sister’s Sister, Koinonia and The Greens Are Gone). This recent uptick in creative productivity comes after a decade spent working below the line—first as a director of photography, then briefly an editor, then a 1st assistant director. Admittedly, much of the time I spent crewing was also spent longing for the day when I would be helming my own projects, but luckily I wasn’t so busy moping around that I missed out on all there was to absorb from working on other people’s films.

Give them what they need so that they can give you what you need.

Crews and actors don’t work in a vacuum. There is a collective goal in play at any given moment on a set, and in order to achieve that goal, people need information. The system is highly interdependent. Logging time on a variety of sets allows you to learn how departments run, what details people need to operate at their peak, and how to communicate that without pissing anyone off. The better you get at giving people what they need, the more you’ll find that they’ll provide the things that you need.

Watch and learn.

An underappreciated benefit of serving as an AD is that you have a front row seat to basically every aspect of the filmmaking process. You can listen in on conversations between all the key collaborators and watch what unfolds afterwards to see which methods of communication were most effective. I learned a lot from my vantage point, but here are a couple huge generalizations I noticed regarding communication: Actors respond to clarity, crews respond to decisiveness, and everyone responds to respect.

Hope For Film | Read the Full Article

Getting Started With Camera Drones: How One Small Rig Can Add So Much Production Value

Mike Wilkinson shadows Brent Foster, asking questions about how to get started in the exploding world of drone aerial photography.

Drone

Aerial videos that have been shot by drones have been flooding YouTube for the last few years, especially as the cost and expertise needed to get into it has come down. A birds-eye point of view can add a lot of production value to a video project, but where does one start when looking to get into aerial video? I spoke with Brent Foster who told me about the doors that shooting aerial video can open, as well as the challenges they present.

Brent’s background was originally rooted in photojournalism, telling stories through still images as a photographer for The National Post in Toronto, Canada. He began adding video into his stories, and his work moved him to LA, and then eventually to New Delhi, where he was a freelance journalist, providing both video and stills for the likes of The New York Times, TIME.com, and others.

About 4 years ago, Brent moved back to Canada and started to take his video work very seriously. He invested in sliders, lights, and all kinds of gear to add production value to his projects. You might remember him being mentioned on Fstoppers earlier this year, specifically about a documentary produced in Cuba called “Home,” and the recent Nikon D810 project, “Every Moment Counts.”

FStoppers | Read the Full Article

Disney Introduces Automatic Editing of Footage from Multiple Social Cameras

Disney has created an system of automatically cutting multiple camera angles using computer algorithms.

We present an approach that takes multiple videos captured by social cameras that are carried or worn by members of the group involved in an activity—and produces a coherent “cut” video of the activity. Footage from social cameras contains an intimate, personalized view that reflects the part of an event that was of importance to the camera operator (or wearer). We leverage the insight that social cameras share the focus of attention of the people carrying them. We use this insight to determine where the important “content” in a scene is taking place, and use it in conjunction with cinematographic guidelines to select which cameras to cut to and to determine the timing of those cuts. A trellis graph formulation is used to optimize an objective function that maximizes coverage of the important content in the scene, while respecting cinematographic guidelines such as the 180-degree rule and avoiding jump cuts. We demonstrate cuts of the videos in various styles and lengths for a number of scenarios, including sports games, street performance, family activities, and social get-togethers. We evaluate our results through an in-depth analysis of the cuts in the resulting videos and through comparison with videos produced by a professional editor and existing commercial solutions.

Disney Research | Read the Full Article

Disney-Editing

How Shotgun Microphones Work

How do shotgun mics achieve such a tight polar pattern compared with other designs? And how come they seem to be getting shorter every year?

Shotgun Mic

Shotgun or rifle mics are more properly called ‘Interference Tube’ microphones, and they are often assumed to have magically tight polar patterns that simply don’t exist in reality. Shotgun mics do have their uses, of course, but have to be used intelligently to avoid the significant compromises associated with them.

All shotgun mics employ a standard directional capsule — usually a supercardioid — but with a long, hollow, slotted ‘interference tube’ attached to its front surface. Although this arrangement inherently moves the capsule further away from the sound source — thus making the direct/reverberant ratio slightly worse — the hope is that the tighter directionality (at high frequencies), which reduces the ambient noise, outweighs this disadvantage.

The idea of the interference tube is that the wanted on-axis sound passes straight down the length of the tube to the capsule diaphragm unimpeded, but the unwanted off-axis sound has to reach the diaphragm by entering the side slots. Since this unwanted sound will enter multiple slots, and the distances from those slots to the diaphragm vary, the off-axis sound will arrive at the diaphragm with varying phase relationships and so partially cancel one another out — this is why it is called an ‘interference tube’! Consequently, off-axis sounds are attenuated relative to the on-axis sounds, and hence the polar pattern is narrower towards the front than would be possible with a simple super-cardioid mic on its own

Sound on Sound | Read the Full Article

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