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:

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.