Saturday, December 10, 2011

A BIG Month

A lot has been going around here over the past month or so with pre-production moving at full speed on Brumar Films' own wrestling film The Hardest Six, and with the future addition of a Red Scarlet-X to our camera inventory. First things first, what is this movie? Well let me answer that with an excerpt post from the official movie blog, which resides at the movie website www.HardestSixMovie.com.


This isn’t exactly the beginning of a long journey, but rather the next step. As for this film, the journey started nearly 10 years ago. For me wrestling was a passion and a way of life, and there was nothing I cared about more, until I graduated high school and pursued filmmaking. Ever since that time, the idea of making a wrestling film has been a recurring theme in my life. I don’t know how to put it into words, but I have always carried a special place in my heart for the sport.

My first attempt at bringing a wrestling script to the big screen was in 2006. Not confident enough in my own writing skills, I commissioned the help of a freelance writer and former Ohio wrestler. It was a fun process collaborating on the story and character development, but the final story was not what I had envisioned and the script was put to the side. I still keep a copy, but to this day the movie never got made.

Then about six months ago I stumbled upon a series of books that changed my life, and my writing. Almost overnight I found a new sense of confidence to try and write my story the way I had intended it, the only difference was this time it would be a short film and not a feature. Forever I had felt that making a feature length film was crucial, and that anything less wasn’t worth the time. But after I finished the first draft of The Hardest Six, I realized how powerful a well written 20 minute film could be. The story was tight, the characters had real problems, and I was finally able to show off the only sport I ever loved in a way that seemed to fit. So with that all said, I have reached that pivotal moment when you can only say “It’s go time!”

From this point forward I invite you to join me, the cast, and crew of The Hardest Six as we continue the journey. I will be posting here regularly with news, photos, videos, and more as we complete pre-production, as we shoot the film, and right on through post-production up until we premiere the film to the world. I hope that you will follow along and enjoy the ride.

Right now The Hardest Six is in the middle of a 45 day fundraising effort to get the movie into actual shooting. If you would like to support this film with a donation, please visit the Donate page on the website. Any donation of $25 or more will receive a gift in return. Below is a short video which we shot giving another take on this production from writer/director Martin Whittier.



In other news, and yet still connected, Brumar Films will be adding the Red Digital Cinema, Scarlet-X to our camera inventory. Here is another excerpt from the Hardest Six website explaining how this camera integrates perfectly into shooting.


For a long time it has been a dream to shoot this film on the best camera system available at the time. Ten years ago that would have been 35mm film, but today with giant leaps in camera sensor technology, the new vision is RED. You can’t talk to someone in the motion picture industry without eventually discussing the Red. Red Digital Cinema came on the scene a little over 3 years ago with their first camera system, the Red One, a 4K high-resolution system that started a culture shift in delivering outstanding bang for the buck. Within the past year Red has delivered two more cameras to market with the introduction of their new flagship camera the Epic and the more entry-level Scarlet-X. Both cameras utilize the same smaller form factor and 5K 35mm sensor.

Initially The Hardest Six was slated to be shot on Epic with the older Red One MX as a secondary camera for faster paced shoot days. Now, Brumar Films will be acquiring a Scarlet-X as part of our camera inventory and it will become the primary camera for this film. The beautiful aspect of these new Red cameras is a considerably smaller form factor similar to DSLR still cameras, a very modular design allowing for infinite configurations, and full integration with our existing glass (Zeiss ZF.2 and Canon L Series zooms.) This system promises that the finished film master will be of the highest possible quality. This will put The Hardest Six into a special club along the lines of other famous movies shot on Red including Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Spider-Man 4, The Social Network, The Hobbit, and many other films.

I’m very excited about this news, and I am looking forward to learning this camera along side the rest of the crew. At the moment, the Scarlet-X cameras are on backorder with Red, but as soon as it arrives I will post un-boxing photos.

After our Scarlet-X arrives we will make updates to our rental page for anyone who would like to use it on their production. In the meantime continue to check in here as well as on the movie page to follow our progress.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Photon Effect DVD on Sale Now!

The Photon Effect DVD officially goes on sale today via the movie's website www.ThePhotonEffect.com This has been a long time coming for fans of director Dan Poole, as the movie hit a slow point during post-production before joining up with Brumar Films to help with finishing this VFX heavy film. The DVD includes bonus features such as director and actor commentary, behind the scenes video, a scene breakdown, and interview with the director. The first 100 copies of the DVD ordered will get a signed copy by director Dan Poole. So if you haven't already, check out the trailer below, then head on over the web site to order your copy today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Girls That Dance - Music Video

About 2-3 months ago Brumar Films got hooked up with a talented director by the name of Jack Cook who was in the process of putting together a music video for a local band called "The Perfects." His vision for this video was clear from the start, and ambitious considering the many restraints we had to overcome. So after all the pieces were in place we started out on our three 1/2 days of shooting. The tools for this job was a Canon 7D with Zeiss ZF.2 Duclos lenses and Zacuto EVF, a Dana Dolly, and many lights. We did include several shots from a B cam 60D as well. Day 1 involved shooting the bands performance covering the entire song. The dolly added a lot of nice movement to the shots, and both the A and B camera went hand held when needed.


The second and third days of shooting introduced our lovely dancers and extras. Dan Poole and myself worked quickly to develop a lighting scheme to meet the directors style for the video. We continued using the 7D on our dolly for many shots in combination with tripod shots. By the end of the shoot we felt that we had a solid video and it would all come down to the edit. Director Jack then took the footage off to post where he put together what is now the final piece, which we are all proud of. This video is a great example of collaborative filmmaking in action.

Enough talk at this point, enjoy the video and check out more from The Perfects.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Does converting to ProRes really matter?

It started with a simple conversation between myself and another filmmaker after a day of shooting on the Canon 7D. We discussed the advantages of transcoding H.264 footage for faster and easier editing as well as improved quality in color correction. But a thought came to mind following this little chat: how much does this really show in the final product? Ever since DSLR cameras started to become popular for film making, transcoding to ProRes has always been a given, mostly because of advice passed down from respected authorities in the community.

The footage we shot that day was captured using the Technicolor Cinestyle profile, and would require considerable color correction in the blacks to suppress some fogging from direct light hitting the lens (a side effect of capturing some great flares.) It was during initial color correction tests on the footage that I decided to compare transcode ProRes versions of the footage to the original H.264 clips. Even though I have worked with this post workflow hundreds of times, it wasn't until doing this simple test that I could really appreciate what is gained in the translation between codecs.

Here is the basic breakdown of the workflow in this comparison. Footage was shot on a Canon 7D at 640ISo in native H.264. Using MPEG Streamclip, the clips were transcoded to ProRes422 (HQ) at 100% quality. In Final Cut Pro the converted clip and original clip were placed into a ProRes timeline and the S-Curve Technicolor LUT was applied using LUT buddy. A 3 way color correction was then applied to achieve the specific look in the shadow (in the case of this shoot, a silhouette). Lastly, still images were exported as uncompressed tiff. For comparison sake, the images were composited together in Photoshop and saved as a level 12 JPEG. (While I have taken great efforts to avoid introducing additional compression to the images below, Blogspot does recompress the uploaded images, so some aspects of my depiction may be harder to distinguish online compared to the source image.)



The image above shows a cropped portion of the shot uncorrected. Click on the image to view at full scale. At first glance there are few major differences between the shots. Upon closer examination we see smoother gradations in the color flare at the top of frame, and reduced noise in grays and blacks.





The corrected version of this shot holds true to the uncorrected version, except we can now see the strength of ProRes to hold up to severe color shifts. A noteworthy part of this image is the light source in the lower left frame. The flare rays in the H.264 image show considerable stair stepping and artifacting, while the ProRes image maintains smoother gradations. These differences are critical when performing extreme color correction or when compositing chroma key images, which tend to suffer stair stepping on edges.





These differences in color gradation can also be seen using Final Cut's built-in scopes. This can be seen best in the histogram (top right) and the RGB parade (bottom right.) The H.264 image appears in the scopes as a banding of colors, while the ProRes image shows smoother curves.

These findings may not be revolutionary, but I do feel they are reassuring. This reenforces that the workflows we filmmakers have established are worth the extra time and storage space, because the final product is superior both visually and technically. Also keep in mind that the advantages of transcoding ProRes are not limited to only DSLR footage but can be applied to other formats that suffer from MPEG compression such as XDCAM or AVC.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Boys and Their Toys



Just arrived this week was a brand new set of Duclos moded Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, 18-85mm. So with eager excitement and the need to try them out I gathered up a Sony FS100 and Nanoflash, and took the kit out on a mini shoot. The location for this short would be my father's garage where he stores a decent collection of classic cars (mainly Fords.) I set out with the aforementioned kit and my Dana Dolly to add that cinematic touch. Side by side with my father we shot for a couple hours and even thought of a fun little story for the movie. In the end I think we made a nice show piece for his cars and a strong video showing off the camera system.

As for the techie side of this post, let me just say that working with the Duclos moded ZF.2 lenses are a dream. Having worked with cinema PL, Nikon, Canon, and even Zeiss CP.2s, the ZFs are a delight by comparison to most. The FS100 I'm still getting a feel for. The buttons are a little like a jigsaw puzzle, and their are a few nice features missing. But the image it makes is perfect, and I am really happy with the video we shot. I have a feeling that I will be working with this package much more in the future.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Zacuto EVF Arrives

As expected the NAB 2011 wish list is slowly being whittled down one item at a time. It started with the Dana Dolly which we reviewed in a prior posting, and today we received our new Zacuto EVF Flip. Zacuto has only been shipping EVFs since the beginning of June and already many reviews have been posted web wide, so I'm not looking to duplicate efforts but merely touch on a few key issues. This post assumes that you are here because you are already familiar with this product, but if you are not, be sure to check out the plethora of information available at Zacuto's web site including an 8 episode series that goes into extreme technical detail on the EVF.

So what is it that we the consumers need to know about this product following its heavily hyped debut. Well for me, opening the box was reminiscent of opening a brand new Apple product, in that it is carefully packed with tons of smalls bonus items in a sleek layout. Kudos for presentation. The build quality seems pretty robust but it doesn't live up to the hype. I suppose I was expecting something that felt a bit tougher, but time will tell on how it holds up. The menu structure is superb, everything is easy to find and within minutes I customized the EVF to our 7D and was shooting away.

Let me touch on the screen and custom scaling profiles. This screen rivals the iPhone4 but just falls short, however it definitely helps make pulling focus much easier. The preset camera profiles are perfect. By simply selecting your camera, you get a full screen image cropping off the extra information that typically fills the back of the Canon 7D and 5D. Finally, looking at the DSLR image feels right as if using a real video camera, about time! And let me add one extra shot in the arm to Zacuto for minimizing drop out when switching to record mode, the drop out which can be seconds on other systems is nearly unnoticeable on the EVF, this is huge for me.

Alright, since Zacuto isn't a sponsor of our site I guess I'll share the aspects of the EVF that were a fail. My biggest complaint is with the hot shoe 1/4" 20 mount. The mount does not seem to be strong enough to support the weight of the EVF and loop and repeatedly loosens itself even with ginger handling. Another aspect which I have seen referenced on other reviews surrounds the in built peaking feature. I was looking forward to this function, but unfortunately the peaking really only sharpens the entire image and does not aid in focusing. Lastly, and I hope this is only a fluke, but our EVF arrived with about 6 hot or dead pixels on the screen. To Zacuto's credit they have addressed the problem and will be sending out a replacement, but I expected more after their months of rigorous quality testing.

Overal thoughts on this product are high. Not everything has met the hype but most things don't. I feel that the EVF will have a prominent place in our everyday shooting and will surely make life a little easier. To anyone still on the fence about taking the jump, I say that you definitely get a lot of bang for the buck, and compared to other professional EVFs and LCDs on the market Zacuto is surely at the front of the pack.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dana Dolly Review

In a past blog posting from NAB 2011 I wrote about several smaller equipment companies who manufacture memorable products, one of which included the topic of this post, the Dana Dolly. First impressions of the small dolly kit were high so Brumar Films decided to pick up one of its own. An impromptu video shoot led us to a local ball field where we put the dolly through its paces and were able to get a real world feel for setup and operation. Check out the video below for a detailed look at the Dana Dolly kit, footage from the shoot, and our final thoughts.




Local crews in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York can now rent the Dana Dolly at www.BrumarFilms.com

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Syncing Dual System Audio

With the advent of DSLR video recording, the production world has truly come full circle regarding the relationship between audio and video sync. Back when everyone shot film, it was standard practice to record your images separate from audio and to sync via a clapper board later on. And for the most part audio recorders were analog tape formats and were not today's digital metadata-rich recorders. Video cameras have always been a god send in the fact that audio is recorded on board and saves so much time in post, not needing to sync files. But now once again, due to the limitations of DSLR cameras, we find ourselves dusting off our slates and recording separate systems once again.

There are two major advantages today with the way we record two systems for DSLRs versus film. One is the plethora of digital recorders with unique file naming, and secondly, the built-in microphone. A useful aspect of having unique audio file names is that an editor no longer has to listen to the verbal slate ID on every take to find what he/she needs to sync. Instead, by simply adding an extra box to the clapper for audio file numbers, the editor only needs to look at the slate to know which audio file is connected to the video. (See the above sample photo) This is a huge time saver, and really speeds up the syncing process. I would like to point out that there are great software plug-ins to assist with this process such as PluralEyes, but this tip is still useful for those filmmakers who don't own these apps or for when these apps can't make a proper sync.

Secondly, your cameras built-in microphone is a powerful weapon for multiple reasons. What if you don't have a slate? Or forget to slate? Or haven't synced for dailies? Your on board mic records fairly decent scratch audio that can make syncing much easier, so instead of looking for sticks, you can just listen for a particular sound on your camera audio and mixer audio to sync. Many times when on the run and just a in need of a quick sync reference, we will simply clap our hands very loudly, but the beauty is that you don't even need to be on camera, just be loud enough for both mics to pick it up. That on board mic might also save you one day should the worst happen and your "good audio" files fail you. I have seen where 7D and 5D audio had to substitute for the good stuff and to everyone's surprise it worked out pretty well. So keep your mics on and slate your file numbers and you'll be good to go.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

First Look at the Technicolor Cinestyle Profile

Within the past week or so, a lot of buzz has been building up surrounding the newly developed Cinestyle color profile for Canon EOS cameras, developed by Canon and Technicolor. As with many video cameras, it is common to apply a flatter color profile to preserve the highlights and shadows creating a pseudo raw image for later correction. This new profile does the same thing replacing the Canon's built in neutral profile which we have used in the past with decent success. The big thing to remember is that like shooting in s-log, it is necessary to color correct your images or apply a LUT. Other wise your images will look gray and flat. This profile can be downloaded here, free of charge: http://www.technicolor.com/en/hi/cinema/filmmaking/digital-printer-lights/cinestyle

In true video geek fashion, after downloading the new profile we took out a Canon 5D mkII to shoot some test footage. The basics of the test are as follows:

1. Shot two different takes, one as Canon Neutral profile and the second as Technicolor Cinestyle, exposing for the skin tone while protecting the highlights as best possible.
2. Converted both shots to Apple ProRess422(HQ)
3. Color corrected a copy of the Cinestyle take to personal taste, pushing black to 7 IRE and white just at 100 IRE. Exported the whole sequence out at ProRess422 (HQ) to then upload as H.264.

The color correction for this test was done in Final Cut Pro 7, but could also be done in Color utilizing the s-curve LUT that Technicolor has also just released. The color correction in this test is not overly aggressive but there is definitely room working the colors as needed. The big thing I noticed, and where the new profile excelled was in three distinct parts of the frame. When watching the video look at the base of the tree and trunk, the amount of detail and shades of gray are greatly improved. Next take a look at the side walk, which overexposes in the Canon neutral profile as does the white car in the background. Both the car and the sidewalk retain nice levels of detail in the Technicolor profile.



Everything considered this new profile seems like a nice new tool to keeping the Canon DSLR cameras in the running along side their competition F3, Af100, and FS100. Have a look at the video and decide for yourself, and feel free to download the higher quality h.264 file from the Vimeo. Enoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Short Film - Based on the Book

Some very good friends of Brumar Films approached me two weeks ago about shooting a short film for their son's class project. After learning more about the book, "Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key," I was excited to take on the challenge. The story was written about a boy with ADHD who has trouble dealing with his everyday life because of home and medical issues. But after meeting his new teacher "Special" Ed, he takes a turn for the better.

We started out this project with a quick pre-production meeting over pizza to work out which aspects of the book we would tackle. After all, the final target length was only 5 minutes. After nailing that down, we gathered props, and located our fellow actors and locations. For this shoot, it was a family affair. Our child star's parents stepped up to play boom op and 1st AC, while I cam op'd. Thanks to my lovely wife Daniela and good buddy Dan for playing key roles in the movie. And thanks to our local church Creswell Christian for allowing us to film there on such short notice.


The whole shoot lasted only one day but was pretty intense, especially for a majority novice crew. We started with a fun scene in a tall grass field where our star destroyed an entire blueberry pie. And then moved on to the church to complete all of the other scenes. All in all we shot 6 scenes that day before returning back to home base for a quick session of narration.

Immediately after wrapping on production, I dove into a marathon session of editing, audio mixing, and color correction. Post-production lasted all of 36 hours, non-consecutively thank goodness. I must admit that it was fun to work on such a project. It wasn't based on clients or budgets, simply about making an entertaining piece for a class of 12 year olds to enjoy. And I think we all succeeded.


The final film, at a blistering length of 6 minutes is funny, serious, and somewhat insightful to a world some of us may not understand. I had a great time working on this little film and I hope you enjoy watching it. And Tom Cruise, you should watch out as I think we may have a new star on the rise after this goes viral.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

NAB Coverage 2011 - BIG Ideas from Small Companies


Let me first apologize for this blog not being updated sooner. Incompatibilities between Blogger and my iPad have had me in a losing battle to post new content. Anyways, NAB has continued to showcase new and inventive products for film and video professionals. This post will mainly focus on the new lesser known products from start-up and mom and pop companies. But I will first acknowledge the introduction of Apple's Final Cut Pro update. From what I have seen here in Vegas, the update is being met with mixed reactions, and many are worried the program is moving more towards consumers than professionals. Let me just say that tape is not dead, and removing tape capture is ridiculous. I admit it is less in use than 3 years ago but there are still many shooters using BETA, HDV, and even DVCAM. If Apple keeps up their recent consumer-grade trends, Adobe and Avid will surely step-in and reclaim their share of the market.


So like I said, big ideas from small companies. A genius little gem I found was from Dana Dolly. This product is a real solution for moving your camera regardless of production size and camera weight. I have seen many sliders and dollys this week from Kessler, Matthews, and Fischer, to name a few, but this one takes the cake at the right price. The Dana Dolly consists of a basic 12" x 12" platform on silent rubber trucks. It comes equipped with multiple tripod mounts for 75mm - 150mm as well as Mitchell. Instead of providing overpriced track, this system includes connecters for using standard Home Depot grade 1 1/4" pipe. What this means is that you end up with a system that can handle any camera from a Canon 5D to an Alexa, and it fits in a single small case for under $600. I played with this system for 15 minutes and was truly impressed.


Carbon XL was another company that caught my attention. They sell a 20' portable jib system that breaks down into a small tripod bag, all weighing less than 45 lbs. Selling for about $15,000, this jib is amazing. Every component is made of carbon fiber materials and is designed to nest one piece inside of another. This allows you to get a very large setup into the trunk of a smart car with minimal set up time. No, this system won't be a big camera solution, but the way cameras are heading, you could shoot with a DSLR, F3, or light Epic. Max payload is 20lbs.


One last product I want to touch on is a space efficient camera cart from Inovativ. This company manufactures camera or equipment carts similar to Magliners, but with the unique ability to break down into a very compact briefcase-sized package. There are three different size options depending on your needs, but all three are capable of carrying heavy loads, and can be equipped with Steadicam docks, tripod mounts, or DIT monitors. Regardless of your needs, Inovativ has you covered with an assortment of customizable carts.


It has been a great week in Vegas but all good things come to an end. When I get back to Maryland I'll get a few more pics online, so be sure to check back. And also take a few minutes to visit some of the great vendors I mentioned earlier.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NAB 2011 - Day 1

After arriving in Sin City it was a mad dash to the convention center to check out all the gadgets being introduced. Before I get into the details, let me say that if you have never been to NAB like myself, it is truly an amazing experience with city blocks of exhibits. My first stop was the Sony booth, and they really aren't messing around with the introduction of the new 8k resolution F65 cinema camera.


No word on price but Sony doesn't have a track record for cheap cameras and this may not be in the same league as an Epic or Alexa. I also had a chance to try out the new Sony super 35mm sensor NX cam. This is a neat little camera, very small and fat, with a top mounted flip up LCD; it will potentially take any type of lens via an adaptor and is right in line with the image quality of the F3. Priced $5,500 without a lens, I would consider this camera over the AF100 any day.





A couple big things I noticed this year was the continued push for 3D as seen in the GoProHD 3D kit and also in LED lighting. Many venders showed LEDs but the most impressive were by Lightpanels and are housed like traditional Arri fresnels, but run cooler and have a touch screen controler for dimming with DMX built in. One of my next stops was to Red Cinema's booth to check out the Epic 5k camera. Huge crowds showed up to get a glimpse, and as expected Red had lots of cool bits and pieces to go with it including the new Clutch shoulder support. The camera itself is a great size and looks like a dream to work with. Red also showed a nice Dutch gear for mounting between your tripod head and camera and getting 180 rotating shots.

Panasonic, JVC, and Canon had a few new additions to their product lines for the show but overall nothing too impressive or memorable. Most notable was the update from Panasonic's HPX-170 to the HPX-250, adding some more manual functionality to the lense system and 30% cuts on P2 media. Adobe, on the other hand, released updates with CS5.5 production premium, providing 64 bit performance, more codecs, workflow additions, and much more.

I visited the Zacuto booth to get a look at their newly hyped EVF. And let me just say it is a pleasure to use. I have used both the Cineroid and higher end EVFs like Red's, and this one blows them all away. The resolution reminded me of an iPhone4, 6" from your eye, and the build quality is superb with a rigid metal body and professional feel. They really hit the mark on this one.

Be sure to check back as I continue my exploration of NAB 2011.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

NAB 2011 Coming Soon to Las Vegas


It's that time of year once again, when industry vendors, filmmakers, photographers, hobbyists, and electronic toy lovers come together to ogle the newest shiniest concepts in the world of broadcast and cinema. I'm talking about the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, which starts April 9th and continues on till the 14th at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The past year has seen many exciting releases in the cinema realm including new electronic viewfinders for DSLRs like the Cineroid and upcoming Zacuto EVF. Also Panasonic gave us the 4/3 sensor AF100 as well as Sony releasing the S35mm F3. Both cameras stepped up the game below the $20,000 price point with their large sensors, interchangeable mounts, and true video functionality. Yes, it has been an exciting year since the 2010 convention, but what will we see for 2011?

Well, Sony has already started sharing footage of their new NXCam boasting a S35mm sensor like its F3 big brother, and from initial specs and pricing, this camera will surely give the Af100 some real competition. On the Red front, we can expect to see big things this year. It's been about 3 years since Red One came on the scene and changed the way we look at digital cinema cameras, and this year promises to do it again with their new Epic 5K camera. The Epic comes in at only 5 pounds and is described as if holding a Hasselblad 120mm. On top of form factor improvements the Epic is spec'd at 5K resolution, includes ~18 stops of latitude, thanks to built in HDRx, and new Canon EF support with a touch-to-focus 5" LCD. Yep, if you want in, you can place your deposit starting the week of NAB; the selling price for the Epic brain is $28,000.

Regardless of what happens this year, and what major surprises are introduced for us filmmakers to snatch up, Brumar Films will be present covering the event with daily video, photo, and written updates. Be sure to check back to this blog throughout the week to see all the goodies. Also check out our Twitter feed for additional bits via @BrumarFilms or find us on Facebook. And to my colleagues attending, I'll see you in Vegas.