Thursday, June 30, 2011

Everything you always wanted to ask about FCP X...

but were afraid to know... Apple posted a page on the most asked questions about FCP X and about what they are planning for the future. They also posted a nice overview of the 50 most important features of FCP X. How kind of them!
(by the way, the response to my post yesterday about 5 kilo's of FREE FCP TRAINING BOOKS has been overwhelming. But no one wants to be photographed?!)

This picture is not just gratuitous sex aimed at luring you to my blog. (although it helps!) This is the result of googling for pictures on 'FCP X' and using the 'Large' filter! There were more scarcely clad ladies but this one appears to be the most X in my view...)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free! 5 kilo's of Apple Certified Training

Anyone interested in a vintage series of Apple Pro training books? Five volumes including Motion, Color Correction, Optimizing your FCP system and Advanced Editing Techniques. Hundreds of highly informative pages, each book including a DVD. New price between $400-500! I'll throw in the unforgettable Final Cut Pro 4: time-saving tips and shortcuts from the pros, just for the hell of it.
There's only one 'but': you have to collect them at my place and agree to have your picture taken for this blog! Alternatively, the whole lot will be donated to the Apple Museum of Brutalized Applications.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beauty of Bokeh

A first experiment in defocus. Edited in... tadaa FCP X! Hard to say anything about it because I just delved in. It's a completely new and unfamiliar program... Will say more about it once I get to know the app. Definite iMovie feature: exported my timeline straight to Vimeo. But do I like that? The export editor is limited and I have no idea where the QT file is on my computer?! Or has my creation merely been absorbed by The Cloud?
But back to bokeh. It's just as hard to get a consistent bokeh as it is to get accurate focus!

Soft Summer in the City from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

7UP in the USSR

I'd like to mention a documentary series that ranks high in top documentaries of all times: the 7-up series. The idea is simple: follow a group of children from the age of 7 and revisit them every 7 years. Take children from various social backgrounds and from different parts of the country and ask them about their dreams, their fears, their passions, struggles and daily lives.
What you get is a extremely personal and confronting portrait of a people and a nation. With every 7 years added to the series, the project becomes more interesting because all the (unfulfilled) dreams and (unexpected) developments have a history we know of. Once we meet people as children, you understand and sympathize with them as grownups.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New: Camera pants

It's sunday, I have an incredible hangover, I visit my mother and she gives me these (swimming)pants. The upside is that I have a subject for my blog. The downside is that I'll look like a freak the entire summer... Love ya, mom, thanks.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I did it - FCP X is mine

I have to say, much of what is missing in FCP X, I really won't be missing. I don't work in a complex editing environment. I hardly use third party software. I am a one man band. I don't work with tape. My current FCP system is not stable. I want that lightning fast 64-bit rocket speed. I like new stuff. Lots of reasons to take the plunge. And then I read this, which tipped the scale in Apple's favor. I think Apple will deliver the goodies (for me, at least). In the meantime, this setup will work fine for me.

(One more thing: who says it's only €240? You're not going to leave out Compressor and Motion so it's actually €320. (or US $400))

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mailbox: Slik Pro 700 DX tripod

I received my Slik tripod today that I was very much looking forward to. My Manfrotto 525P kit is just too bulky and heavy when riding my bicycle around town to shoot video. (or the occasional photograph)
Besides, I already had a Fancier 717AH video head and only needed an extra pair of legs to have a second tripod for events and video registrations.
I bought this from a US eBay seller and got slapped with €30 VAT and import taxes when the courier delivered at the door. As a business, I get the VAT back (€20) and the import tax I can deduct later on but still... this was the first time in years I had to pay for importing gear. I had practically forgotten about these taxes! It's probably because it's the biggest piece of gear I have imported in years.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

(e)X Final Cut Pro?

This hurts. A lot of bad stuff has been written about the new Final Cut. And rightly so. It appears Apple has said goodbye to professional video editing environments. There's just too much to neglect. No backwards compatibility with 'vintage' FCP, no multicam editing, lousy compatibility with other postproduction software, no professional external monitoring, no way to customize media organization, no capture from or to tape (aside from firewire), the list goes on.
And yet... FCP could still be for me. I am a one man band and almost exclusively deliver finished projects, quicktime files. I just signed up for an informative meeting around FCP X, to get the nitty gritty from the pro's. I am unsure whether to buy: should I go Adobe Premiere, AVID?

The world has changed. FCP is no longer the realm of video professionals. It belongs to the masses. A revolution is about to take place. What will happen to all the usergroups? Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group? L-AVID-UG? LA-AP-UG. Or the more generic LA-VIDEOEDIT-UG? The base of these groups may very well disintegrate. Macvideo? Will it lose its following? The Mac has lost its exclusive, cutting edge image. It aims for the Big Numbers. If financial success is a measure, then hipster Mac has become the new nerdy Microsoft...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Final Cut Pro X hands-on!

The first video's are starting to appear where people are actually using FCP X. I just watched one and I am excited and disappointed at the same time. Excited because it's new, fast and full of good stuff... and disappointed because I feel iMovie users will be faster at editing than I am with my 10 years of FCP experience...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We got 'm!

FCP X is here to download. €239,99 We got a new Compressor (4) and Motion (5) as well. 39,99 each. Friendly numbers...
I'm scared: 10 years of FCP experience means nothing anymore! I want to download and install and get to work but maybe it'll be weeks before I can even finish a simple assignment. Help!!

Sexiest topic on earth(not): lens adapters

no-brand, well machined

(too) simple design
Ok, so it's not the most sexy topic in the world: adapter rings. An adapter is an adapter is an adapter, right? A simple piece of metal designed to connect two otherwise incompatible connectors. Yes and no. On the one hand it's supposed to do just that: connect two alien bodies. (it's getting sexier already...) But on the other hand: even simple little devices can vary enormously. Since yesterday I discovered some adapters are far more superior than others, even though they cost a lot less than some of their counterparts.

thicker metal, better grip

it works, but not great
Comparing the C mount to micro 4/3 adapters from Camdiox and a no-name one from this seller, I noticed that the no-name is much better machined, uses thicker metal and, perhaps most importantly, the outer ring has a very nice 'grip-design' that lets you attach and detach your lens with ease. It's the difference between disposable design and craftmanship. At US $8 including shipping this ring is highly recommended. I give it 4 stars: **** (out of five- always leave room for improvement...)

grip and thickness difference

Monday, June 20, 2011

Small camera for Big Jobs?

I'm still holding off to shoot a commercial assignment with my Panasonic GH2. The reason is as simple as it is silly: appearance. Many clients still like -demand!- big camera's. And they distrust small camera's. I have heard people talk in derogatory terms about 'that small camera', 'that photocamera' and other nasty references to what people consider to be 'unprofessional equipment'. I have seen beautiful footage shot with the 5D Mark II, much more impressive than what I could do with my EX1R, but the one thing that stuck in their minds was that 'the guy worked with a really small camera...'. An ignorant remark perhaps, but it's the reality of working with certain clients.
I think a matte box will do an adequate job of impressing clients that require so... Well, in combination with the Gini rig, follow focus and an external monitor that I already have. But the matte box wouldn't just serve cosmetic purposes. I think the convenience of a matte box for adding and removing ND filters would be a great plus. A matte box is a simple system designed to hold filters and reduce flare. But looking at their prices you'd think you are buying high tech space constructions. Looking for a solid Chinese or Korean alternative but even the simplest design goes for well over 100 dollars. And that doesn't even include some rod-mount option. So if anyone knows of a quality, budget mattebox with rod-mount- I'm open to suggestions!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

FCP 7 to FCP X

This is going to be a Pain in the Butt for everyone but there's no escaping this one: a complete reinstall of the OS and (editing) software. Before you master FCP X you may want to keep a copy of FCP 7 to get those quick jobs done... quickly.
Here's a tutorial on how to keep multiple operating systems on one computer and 'Make a seamless transition' from (Snow) Leopard and FCP 7 to Lion and FCP X.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Budget portable jib

This looks like a great jib at a very reasonable price. I just asked about their shipping costs to Amsterdam but if it's too much I may add it to my 'US gear shopping list' when I visit the East Coast this summer!

Portable 4' Video Crane Samples from Olivia Speranza on Vimeo.

Friday, June 17, 2011

When disaster strikes...

...continue to work and pretend nothing is wrong. Last night had very bad karma. I was suffering from a bad headache that lasted for 2 days and had barely slept the night before. And when you're tired, you slip. I discovered that I forgot my quick releaseplate (at home, attached to my Canon 550D) just before we were about to shoot a group of people interacting. Four hours of panning and zooming without a tripod? Disaster. My partner gave me a roll of duck tape and I taped my EX1 to my tripod. It's a heavy camera so it took a lot of tape! It was sitting all crooked but by turning the Guide Frames on in the LCD screen I was able to level the camera by eye, using the walls and windows in the background to match the horizontal lines. Far from ideal, but it worked.
After about 3,5 hours of non-stop shooting, disaster number 2: my partners Sony A1 broke down. It refused to close when changing tapes... it jammed, blocked and stayed that way whatever we tried. We looked like a battlefield: one crooked, one broke. Disaster never seems to travel alone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mailbox: Russian Helios 44-2

I just couldn't resist when a Russian made Helios 44-2 came along, a 58mm f2 lens, and I bought it for 20,-
I took it outside to play for a few hours and shot this footage of raindrops in the park. I called it 'dewdrops' because it sounds better ;-)
Unfortunately I couldn't fit my Fader ND filter on the lens to be able to shoot wide open. Most of it is actually almost closed at f16. From what I've seen and read, you get some really funky bokeh with the Helios- which isn't too apparent here. Shots came out nice though and the lens is pretty sharp.

Shot with the Panasonic GH2 and Helios 44-2

Dewdrops from Filmersblog on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3 million viewers in one year

I've been watching my 10 year old son, who's developed an addiction to Lego Star Wars animations on YouTube over the last few months. To my surprise, he doesn't watch trailers or excerpts from the original Star Wars trilogy but prefers to look at the simple (or sometimes not so simple) Lego figure animations.
I though it was so funny that he was fascinated by all these amateuristic, homemade video's but I soon understood why he liked them so much: because it was part of his experience. He has the same action figures and star ships and can recreate that world. Which he does: hours and hours a day. I encourage him to make stop-motion films or at least make photographs and share his creations with likeminded peers. So he can accomplish what I can only dream of: reach over 3 million 600 thousand of viewers in one single year!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The promised land of tapeless acquisition

Life was supposed to be all good once tape was abolished and we were all going to the promised land of tapeless acquisition. Well, the acquisition part is mostly good and I'm glad I never have to think about buying tape or worry about running out of tape in the last ten minutes of a theatre registration...

But the convenience of handing over a tape at the end of a shoot and writing an invoice is also history. Because handing over your flash memory cards is a no-no unless you can make a copy at the spot. Which means dragging a laptop and a harddrive to the set, make extra time to copy all the files, hand over the drive to the client and hope you get it back. Not very practical.
My last job I chose to send the files to my clients' server. Upload speed was 50 Kb/s so I was 'lucky' it was only 10GB in files. After 50 hours the upload was finished. My client can't see my work because he needs to send it to his editor to import it into a NLE-system first.
I love tapeless acquisition. It's just that life was a lot easier when I could just hand a tape over to my client.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

DIY quickrelease viewfinders

I really like my clone LCD viewfinder. It took a while to figure out a good way to work with it, but ever since I disposed of the metal sticky frame (kept falling off), I was good to go. (With the articulating screen on the GH2, glueing a metal frame on the screen was never an option.) I use it like a jeweler, hanging the loupe around my neck. Whenever I need to check focus or whatever, I stick it on and otherwise its off, out of the way. Especially when you're on the go and want to set up and break down quickly, this is a nice, portable approach. 
Then I saw a DIY video on something I had thought of before but had never seen: using the LCD-protector mounting system to make a 'quickrelease viewfinder'. Great! And for those of us born with two left hands, here's a readymade solution that's not going to break the bank.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A few cents for smooth pans

An oldie but goodie. Never seen it before. Should also great in combination with a slider so you don't get those jerky starts or stops.

Rubber Band Tip from Braxton McCarthy on Vimeo.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A documentary masterpiece

I saw the incredible documentary 'Stand van de Sterren' (Position of the Stars) the other night. It is the last part of a trilogy on three generations of Indonesians: an old woman, her middle aged son and a granddaughter. The maker, Leonard Retel Helmrich, is a completely original and tenacious filmer who has developed a unique way of operating and using a camera. His films have a 'fly on the wall' feel but now 'the fly has left the wall' and circles and flies with & around his subjects. His aim is to shoot a scene with as few interruptions as possible; as one long, smooth shot.
He does this with amazing agility and I believe he has developed special gear to fly high or low and get incredible perspective. Sometimes he approaches the face of his protagonists within inches and, amazingly, they don't even flinch an eye. It's like the filmer and his camera are not there.
Not only his style, but the content of this trilogy is baffling as well: at once extremely personal and dramatic, showing his characters vulnerable, flawed and at all times captivating and intimate against the backdrop of social turmoil and changing times, religious differences and inequality.
This is a film that every film and documentary maker should see, as an example how style and content come together to form a masterpiece.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A bag for my new tripod

fancy but heavy
It seems like I'm spending a few bucks more on this tripod than planned... Funny, hasn't that happened before... with other purchases?
But I have to protect my new investment. Can't go around slugging and beating it against the pavement, in and out of cars, on and off my bike without some sort of protection. So I started hunting for a tripod carrying bag and found a really nice, affordable 'Slik' bag, designed specifically for my tripod, but it seems just a bit short for the legs and leveler and head combo. Another downer is that this bag adds 3/4 kilo's to the weight I'm trying to save...
So after a little more research I think I found what I'm looking for. 20 euro's incl shipping.

slim and lightweight

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tripod on the way: Slik 700DX Pro

I went ahead and ordered this set of tripod legs. These legs combined with the Fancier 717 AH video head and Manfrotto 438 ball leveller will form my new portable tripod set, while serving double-duty as a second pair of decent legs for event registration. The set weighs around 4 kilo's, which is a whopping 3 kilo's lighter than my Manfrotto kit. With a maximum load of 6,5 kilo and rising up to 1.90 meter this tripod fulfills more than all my needs.
Strange that these Slik legs are not available in the Netherlands. I decided to order from a US eBay seller for 92 euro's all in, a very decent price for a solid yet light set of legs. Below a guy doing a review who was advised to buy this combo by a knowledgeable photographer who contributes to the B&H photo and video website. My combo beats that by a 100 bucks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

(royalty) free music

Who doesn't need it? A soundtrack for a commercial, a soundbite here, a musical interlude to spice up a clip... When I just started out in this business, I would simply pick a nice tune from my extensive music collection, add it as a soundtrack and everyone was happy... I never imagined I had to pay copyrights for these 3 minute budget productions I was making. But then a client of mine was approached by a copyright organization about the music I used for a video I produced for them.

It just happened to be that I 'composed' it myself in Garageband but it was a warning nonetheless.

Lately I've pretty much exhausted all the Garageband tunes and was looking for something else. A friend and colleague of mine pointed me to this online library where you can find a lot of great tunes, many of which you can use for commercial purposes, as long as you credit the makers. With over 90.000 tunes available -and growing- there must be something for every clip and every mood. Some of them sound more professional than others but if you take the time to explore, this is a very worthwhile place for finding royalty free music for your videos.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I need some legs

SILK PRO 700DX legs
I've got a head, so that's taken care of. I've also got a ball leveler, thanks to a good tip from Neil, a loyal reader. Now I just need a nice set of legs. After doing a lot of reading and clicking, somewhere along the line I stumbled on a set of Slik Pro 700DX legs for US $89,- That's a price I can live with, especially considering the raving reviews.
These sticks are very hard to find in Holland and if you do, they are 2 to 3 times the US price... Maybe another purchase during my trip to the States this summer..? The only doubts I have about this tripod is the weight: 2.7 kgs for the legs only. If I add that to my fluid head and ball leveller, won't it match my big Manfrotto kit in weight? There must be something lighter, I don't mind if it only carries a few kilo's. But carbon is way out of my budget... Any ideas anyone?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sex sells

I just watched the latest episode of this informative series by Larry Jordan & Co on 'sounddesign' ie the importance of adding layers of sound to create an extra dimension -or extra dimensions- to your film. I have a great deal of respect for Larry Jordan and have learned much from his tutorials on FCP and the entire FCS over the last years. But the 2 Reel Guys don't cut it for me.
I have to start out that content-wise I have nothing but praise so that's not the issue. Larry and his partner are knowledgeable and the topics covered are relevant.
But I cannot help feeling that I'm looking at two very nerdy schoolteachers who talk too much and really like to listen to themselves. And they use too little examples to clarify their points. And when they do, it's pretty lame: a cheapish highschool theatre setting with overacted dialogue. (Or is it a joke? I couldn't tell.) Everything screams 'zap me outta here'...
Yes, watching this episode is like being in high school all over again: when can I get outta here? But just as it was in high school, sex saves the day. Larry introduces the biggest set of tits and suddenly I'm all eyes and ears! Tell me, Larry, and look me straight in the eyes, was this girl a lucky break or was this 'n old trick of the trade..?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review: C mount 4-12mm Tamron 1.2

Here's a kid who's made a nice, thorough video review of this C mount lens on the Panasonic GH2. Also interesting information about using C mount lenses in general and surveillance lenses (such as this Tamron) in particular. Only critique I have is that there's no link to a seller of this lens! (he mentions he bought it for around 90,- but didn't say where)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Special offer: DVD Willem + book for 15,-

A few years ago I made a film, my first feature documentary, about a Dutch artist called Willem van Malsen. In Dutch the film is called: 'Willem, een duivelskunstenaar'.

The literal translation would be something like 'Willem: a devilish artist'. But the word 'duivelskunstenaar' in Dutch has several meanings: someone who is a master in his trait, a sorcerer. In relation to Willem it has even more meaning because he had a devilish/dark side to him. First off, he was funny as hell but it was it was the (d)evil in him, his substance abuse, that ultimately killed him at the age of 65.

These are the first 6 minutes of an intimate portrait of an irresistible, gregarious individual and wildly versatile talent through the eyes of some of his best friends, family members and colleagues.

This film was selected for the Nederlands Film Festival and was broadcast by the AVRO (public broadcasting) in 2008.

'Willem: een duivelskunstenaar' from Imagine Video on Vimeo.

The DVD plus a special edition sketchbook by Willem can be ordered for 15,- excl shipping for a limited time. (month of June) To order, please send an email to

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Biking in Belgium- no filmpost!

Just finished 120 km in the Belgian Ardennes and driving back to
Amsterdam, wasted and satisfied with my performance. Two things on my
mind: bath and beer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

great deal on a DSLR-bag

Late last year I bought a LowePro Slingshot 102AW for a decent price. I had (and still have) a LowePro backpack for DSLR and laptop and love the quality of their products. The Slingshot seemed ideal for running (biking) around with a DSLR, extra lens and tripod.
But the design never really worked for me. I used it a few times but it never became a love affair, to say the least... I want to be able to quickly have access to my camera: open a velcro flap and that's it. I wound up using an old Sony mini-camcorder bag and the LowePro disappeared in a closet. But the camcorder bag does not hold an extra lens and LCD viewfinder. So I decided to look for a new bag; a shoulderbag that can hold 2 extra lenses and a viewfinder, plus an extra compartment for cards and batteries.

Now I've always liked Crumpler bags. I like their look, the padded, waterproof nylon and thick shoulderpad. And one eBay seller had the right Crumpler bag for the right price: the Messenger Boy 8000 for 45,- incl shipping. That's less than half of what they charge in a store here in Amsterdam. UPS delivered it blazing fast; the very moment a lady stopped by to buy my LowePro Slingshot. The nice thing about the Crumpler is that it is much more versatile than the Slingshot: it holds a DSLR but also my Sony EX1-R videocamera. And take the dividers out and you have a regular messenger bag. I think I love this bag...