Archive for the ‘moviemaking’ Category

Blockbuster Movies Without Visual Effects

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Before VFX: Blockbuster movies without visual effects.  The site at the following link has a collection of of behind-the-scenes photos prior to visual effects, hence revealing green screen etc. shots, actors festooned with CGI motion-tracking rigs etc.

Discovered via NoFilmSchool, which I subscribe to and heartily recommend for makers and enthusiasts of movies and videos etc.

It even has some shots from John Carter, in which I was a film Extra, though sadly none of “my” scenes.   I wish I could re-cut it, not only for my bits 🙂  but also to allow its climate catastrophe message to be more dramatically expressed, some of the “cutting-floor” scenes were truly emotional.  Regardless,  “all the world’s a stage” 🙁

iPhone App: ShotLister

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Dramatic Structure & Flow

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Just “Blog-Bookmarking” a great written tutorial:

Avid Media Composer: Practical Usage in Productions

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

  • MC 5.0
  • User and Beta-Tester experiences.
    • They like the (fairly new) Smart Tool
    • AMA is useful for producing on-set rushes and quick edits
      • They mention a Mac (..Book?) being used on-set, taking footage from a P2 card.
      • They show a card from a DSLR being plugged into a Lexar outboard card-reader.
      • {? I wonder if subsequently they ingest/import it in “traditional” fashion, e.g. to take advantage of media management and to minimise risks of obscure issues down the line ?}
    • 01:50 shows Steven Sprung, ACE Editor (Dispatch, Entourage). He looks a bit like me.
    • More than one editing-suite scene shows a graphic tablet being used.
    • [02:12] shows some track labels/assignments.
      • It can be instructive to see how others do it.
    • [02:14] et seq: Smart Tool
    • [02:14] Audio
      • e.g. level meters on each track
      • Track-based RTAS effects etc. are useful to help indicate to the sound department approximately what the editor requires artistically
    • [03:48] Editors (can be) on set 12-14 hours/day might also take work home on laptop.
    • [03:39] Graphic tablet shown as part of edit suite. Which one is it? How useful?
    • [03:59] Matrox MXO Mini enables use of a standard TV as monitor, including calibration tools (what kind?).

Big-Time Movie Maker: Michael Bay

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

I serendipitously discovered a forum website for Michael Bay, the Executive Producer of Transformers and Producer of Pear Harbour, amongst others.

It has a Film-Making and Movie Discussion forum.  What I’ve so far skimmed through suggests its more for film fans than film makers, but it does give production news/snippets/oddments and draws attention to trailers and makings-of movies, so who knows, maybe there’s more to be found in there.

Matt’s YouTube Battle-Game Video Makings-Of (e.g. Freddie Wong)

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Some budget CGI-inclusive YouTube Makings-Of  e.g. for battle video game vids /ads by Freddie Wong (FreddieW), that were drawn to my attention:

Movie Recommendation: Southland Tales

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Movie recommended to me (haven’t seen it yet):

This is a dark-sci-fi (good, I like those) with observations on the post-catastrophe balance between security and freedom/rights.  The cast involves numerous famous actors, encouraged into roles beyond their normal types.

The film was drawn to my attention by someone (Matthew Roberts) with whom I was discussing the process of movie critical/constructive feedback and consequent reworking.  Apparently the above movie was a case in point:   An early (and unripe) version of it was initially screened in Cannes, resulting in some negative feedback but also support.

The moral of this story (about that film):  feedback can be priceless.  The consequent partial re- write/shoot/edit of that film, subsequently released on DVD, arguably elevated it to “one you have to see”.  Thanks Matt, I’ll check it out.

Mist Forecast

Friday, November 18th, 2011

I want to shoot a brief film exercise, ideally in misty early-morning conditions.  How do I go about finding a mist-forecast?  Aha! (and Oho!)  Find an Aviation Weather Forecast, because pilots and airports care about visibility. The following seems simplest and best for my purposes (given I am near Alton in Hampshire, UK):

    • This Forecast weather table (by date and time), in its “Weather” column, includes a very obvious “Mist” icon when applicable.
    • Warning: There is more than one “Alton” in the UK, it is necessary to select the required one, which is not the default.

Job (finding out when the next mist is due) done!

Artificial Landscapes

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Examples highlighted by Matt:

Filming: Panning Tips (Pan-Rate, Frame-Rate, Shutter-Speed)

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Some issues I have experienced, and some answers from various sources:

  • At least when played on a laptop, motion seems juddery.  Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s as if the frame rate is uneven.
    • Appears to be due to playing a 25 fps video on a 60Hz refresh-rate display device (my laptop’s screen).
      • I did an experiment, panning around a garden (in daylight)
      • Conclusion: for online viewing of naturally-lit pans, 30 fps is best (consistent: record, edit and display) , even in PAL regions.
    • Try increasing the shutter-time.
      • I did an experiment, panning around a garden (in daylight)
        • Vimeo: (30 fps) and (25 fps)
        • Slowing the shutter from 180 degrees (1/60 sec) to 360 degrees (1/30 sec) did not affect the smoothness of the pan, however it did cause an irritating blur to the (panning) image.
      • So when the background is the subject, don’t do that !
      • On the other hand, when following a moving object, holding it stationary in-frame, long shutter time can produce a pleasing background motion blur, diminishing background clutter and suggesting speed.  Might be a problem (I guess) if object includes movement such as flapping wings.
  • What’s the best speed for a pan?
    • Typically 3 to 5 seconds
    • Don’t pan over too great an area, especially of a nearby object, especially if the middle portion is uninteresting.
  • Begin and end with a few seconds of static (static shots i.e. locked-off camera).
    • Cutting from a static sometimes better when first few frames up to half a second are static (pre-pan)
  • Tip:
    • For a stills camera: “Use a shutter speed between 1/8sec and 1/125sec depending on the subject’s speed and distance,”
    • For a video camera, I tried a range of shutter speeds from 1/25 to 1/60 and it made little difference to motion smoothness, the main factor was the chosen fps (on a laptop, 30 fps recording gave better smoothness than 25 fps recording)
    • (more…)

My Video: B-Roll Excercise in Ivy’s Garden

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

As an assignment for an on-line video course, I shot some B-Roll footage in an interesting garden.  While shooting, I was “hassled” by a lovely poodle called Ivy.  She appeared so much (uninvited) in front of the camera I decided to give her a starring role!  Hence it is now “her” garden.

I just posted it on Vimeo, at

Repeating the text Description at Vimeo:

This light-hearted and whimsical journey through an english country garden and back, occasionally accompanied by our fluffy hostess, Ivy, is my response to a film-course assignment, simply to record some B-Roll footage.  It sort of acquired a life of its own, partly because some of the clips fitted together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (that no-one designed) into some sort of mini-stories, and partly because the selected musical accompaniment turned out to reflect the various moods that emerged from the initial rough-cut, so in the end it became the editing back-bone.  Serendipity.

It was shot (on a Sony EX3) over a few hours, during which the (typical British) weather varied while I occasionally made way for handymen and joined in the moving about of furniture etc.   So not an entirely controlled situation then…

Please excuse the occasionally shaky camera shots of Ivy, not originally intended for use (she just kept getting in the way, demanding attention), but I couldn’t resist…and now the video even bears her name!

The musical accompaniment is what I believe to be titled “Introduction et Etude Brillante” (“Réveil des Fées”), which I purchased from the Vimeo Store under the title “Introduction er Etude Brillante”, which I assume to be a typographical error (until anyone advises otherwise).  It’s by Giovanni Sgambati. I didn’t realise at first it was also titled “Réveil des Fées”, but that’s great, because the owner of the garden has a thing about mystical fairy worlds, as you will see from her various statues etc.

According to ArtsMusic [], Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914), was considered as the most important Italian pianist of the 19th Century and was close friend to Wagner and Rubinstein.

Anyway, I hope the beautiful sights and sounds amuse you.  And that goes from Ivy too!

Filming: A Hampshire Garden

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Oops, this is one post I left in “Draft” too long.   It was about the weekend before last…

Spurred on by Den Lennie’s tutorials on shooting B-Roll, I grabbed the camera (EX3) and filters etc. to have a “play” in the garden, shooting stuff to edit together into a pleasant sequence of some sort.

The intention was to present the floral aspects of the property in an elegant easy-going fashion with occasional quirks like my girlfriend.  While shooting, the dog (a toy poodle) kept pestering me for attention, because obviously the only important thing in the world is playing ball.  It seemed best to “go with the flow”, so I assigned said canine a principal role.

This turned out to be a 4-hour shoot (with interruptions) of about 150 clips total duration about an hour.  It took another 4 hours at least (with interruptions) to ingest, catalogue and convert the clips (into MXF, for Sony Vegas) and probably about 8 hours of editing, plus a little further shooting etc.  In an ideal world there’d be no need to grade, but in reality some tweaks were necessary for continuity, especially since the lighting (sun/cloud) conditions were very changeable.

Hopefully I’ll  get it finished soon,along with the rest of my backlog, which now includes a Diwali corporate event and wrangling / editing my own version of a music video in good old faithful Final Cut Pro 7.

Training: Den Lennie’s “Music Video” Experience

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

I attended, working on one of the camera units.  Had a great time, learnt lots, at all sorts of levels.  Even how to make good use of the Movie Slate application on my iPhone!  Link:

iPhone 4: LightMeter (app) & Theory

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

iPhone app: “Light Meter”:

  • Uses iPhone-4’s cameras (front or rear), displaying image with overlays reporting framerate (can specify fixed e.g. 1/60), f-stop, ISO.
  • Usage with my Sony XDCAM EX3 video camera:
    • In settings, I set Stops to Halves, as that’s what the camera uses.
    • I typically use an EX3 with a Tiffen T1 IR-blocking filter.  What’s the ISO for this arrangement?
    • What do the EX3’s ND filters do to the ISO?
      • EX3 has ND1=1/8, ND2=1/64
        • (From EX3 user manual, page 50)
      • I think ISO is linear, so if Camera is 320 ISO, they imply equivalent ISOs by simple division:
        • 1080p: Clear=>320, ND1=>40, ND2=>4.5
        • 720p: Clear=>400, ND1=>50, ND2=>6.25
        • 1080i: Clear=>640, ND1=>80, ND2=>10
      • Alternatively, for ND1 filter you can leave the app’s ISO setting as Clear (no filter) and instead adjust the app’s Correction Factor to -3 EV (though it’s maybe better reserved for simulating lighting variations e.g. due to weather, as in the Exposure Value Table further below).
        • I guess from this one off case that EV is logarithmic, since 2^-3=1/8 as per ND1.
        • That guess was later confirmed by further web research (further below), stating that EV is an “additive system”, i.e. operates in the logarithmic domain, base 2.
      • Caution: being an ISO/EV newbie, I can only hope this is is all correct!
      • Nevertheless, when I tried my naive settings they worked just fine – I was successfully able to use the iPhone Light Meter to obtain a sensible camera configuration for good exposure level and (given the ND filters) the kind of shot I want (e.g. degree of DOF).  When tested on the camera, they all worked out as expected.  Cool!
  • The Light Meter app optionally displays EV400, EV100, Lux, FootCandle.  Latter units are explained in great detail at at [johnlind…] link below.
  • The app can also “log” readings – in the form of jpg images of the screen and overlays including geographical location – to a DropBox account.  For example, when I clicked the [Log] button, a jpf file appeared on my MacBook in the folder [ /Users/davidesp/Dropbox/Photos/Pocket Light Meter].

Exposure Values & Exposure Theory:

    •  <<The full name for Exposure Value, or EV, is the Additive Photographic Exposure System.  Exposure Value has two equivalent definitions.  The first defines how much light will be admitted to the film by the combination of lens aperture and shutter speed.  The second defines how much exposure is required by the combination of subject luminance (e.g., how bright it is) and film speed.  Setting a combination of aperture and shutter speed on a camera with an EV that equals the EV for the subject luminance and film speed should result in a properly exposed photograph>>
    • (The article continues at length.  For example the “Additive” element reflects the fact that this system operates in the logarithmic domain. The article also distinguishes luminance from illumination, explains units such as point-source intensity in candelas, flux in lumens, light illuminating a surface in foot-candles,  light radiated from an area in foot-Lamberts, luminence in candelas per area (square foot or square metre)
    • An EV (Exposure Value) table is presented.  I guess (?) this is useful for the iPhone app, where EV can be shifted up/down by a control, to estimate what would be needed should the lighting conditions vary:
      • -1 EV:  light sand or snow
      •  0 EV:  bright or strong hazy sun (distinct, sharp shadows)
      • +1 EV:  weak hazy sun (soft shadows; distinct sun outline in clouds)
      • +2 EV:  cloudy bright (no shadows; sun creates bright area in clouds)
      • +3 EV:  heavy overcast, but not “black” (no shadows; sun location cannot be determined)
      • +3 EV:  open shade (in shadow but 60% sky not obscured)
      • +4 EV:  deep shade (in shadow with obscured sky; under forest canopy)
    • Exposure value is a base-2 logarithmic scale
    • (This article has a more comprehensive table of EVs and weather conditions etc. than the above)


Casting: BBC: “Edwin Drood”

Monday, September 26th, 2011

I’m a background Extra in it.  No guarantee that my bit will make it past the edit of course.  A two-part drama to be shown on BBC4:

iPhone 4: MovieSlate

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Movie★Slate is a slate and clapper board— traditional movie-making tools for syncing picture with sound, and photographing shot/production info at the start and end of shots.  Movie★Slate also provides an easy way to log footage and take notes as you shoot— saving you time during capture and edit.

  • Documentation:
      • e.g. Starting a Take
        • To start a take, tap the clapper at the top of the slate.
          • Timecode IN, all production info, and camera optics data are automatically saved in History when you start a take. This data can be emailed from the History tab (see instructions below).
          • The clapper’s behavior can be customized from Settings -> Slate Behavior. Choose to play sounds, freeze the timecode briefly, show credits leader/end roll animation, and more.
        • Video/Audio Quality ★-rankings can be set during the take.
        • Circle Take button marks good takes by circling the take number in the History log. This practice is an old Hollywood tradition.
        • End the Shot button saves a Timecode OUT marker with the shot history.
      • e.g. Starting a Take – Shot Markers
        • (Log footage and take notes as you shoot— saving you time during capture and edit).
        • Add Shot Marker/Notes button saves timecode-stamped notes during a take. When shooting interviews, this is a useful way to document what remarkable thing was said, and when.
        • Build notes from Snippet phrases by tapping the Content/Shot/Movement buttons. You can also enter text with the keyboard. Use the Snippets tab to customize your phrases.
  • FAQs/Tips:
      • “Movie★Slate is a slate and clapper board— traditional movie-making tools for syncing picture with sound, and photographing shot/production info at the start and end of shots.
      • Movie★Slate also provides an easy way to log footage and take notes as you shoot— saving you time during capture and edit.”
      • Link: MovieSlate Help
      • What does M.O.S. stand for?
        • The term “M.O.S.” generally appears on a slate when a scene is filmed without sound.  Hollywood legend defines the term as “Mit Out Sound”.
      • MovieSlate’s optional PRO Sync (TimeCode-Sync)
        • (Normally) You’ll need a camera or timecode generator that’s capable of sending and/or receiving LTC (Longitudinal Time Code) over an audio cable.
        • My cameras are old DV units or are consumer models with no LTC support. Can MovieSlate’s optional PRO Sync module still help me sync a multi-cam shoot?
        • Yes, through additional software available from VideoToolShed.  Here’s how:
          • Set MovieSlate to output timecode through one of the audio channels and connect from the headphone jack to your camera’s AUX/MIC audio.
          • Shoot your footage with MovieSlate running and Sending sync through the headphone jack. The LTC audio signal will be recorded on on one channel of your DV tape. (Please note the obvious: If this cam is handling your main sound then you will not have stereo audio).
          • Import the footage into Final Cut Pro or Avid.
          • Use VideoToolShed’s FCP auxTC reader software to create an AUX TC track in FCP/Avid and sync your footage with your other cams and audio.
          • Disclaimer:
            • We do not have any relationship with VideoToolShed and also cannot attest to the function of “FCP auxTC reader”.
            • Please visit the website for more information and 3rd-party websites like Creative Cow for more information and workflow tips.

Cinematography Apps for iPhone

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Avid (and other) Workflows on “Iron Man” Movie

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

IMSDB – The Internet Movie Script Database

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

You can see and comment on a number of scripts, some pre-production.

Pre-Visualization Apps (for Storyboard / Animatrix / Virtual Studio)

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

General & Surveys:

Specific Applications:

Storyboard Advice

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Storyboard Advice Links:

London Filming Permits

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011
  • London Underground (“Tube”)
    • Student/Non-professional permit:
      • Crew max Five; Lightweight, handheld equipment only.
      • Fee £40 (inc VAT) – Valid one month from issue
    • “We generally need 2-3 weeks notice to process applications, but dependent on the request we can some times turn these around more quickly”
    • Great video of film-making on the Tube, at
  • River Thames
    • Filming and photography on the River Thames requires the prior written permission of the Port of London Authority,
        • The Port of London Authority (PLA) owns and operates Richmond Footbridge, Lock and Weir, situated between Teddington and Richmond, which offers a wonderful location for any type of film and television productions as well as still photography.
        • permission to film on or by the Thames requires a filming license issued by the PLA’s Corporate Affairs department.
    • Location “scouting”: Some on-line film clips:
  • Buses
      • “We don’t usually allow filming on buses that are actually in service. However, outside peak commuter hours you can hire a bus that will look like the bus on the route you wish to film, complete with driver.”
      • “In most cases you will need to give at least seven days’ notice.”

Conservative Software Policy in Cutting-Edge Movie

Friday, April 15th, 2011

  • << “Avatar” was cut on Avid Media Composer systems running software version 2.8.4. >>
  • << Even with the help of stalwart first assistant Jason Gaudio, the editing team did not want to risk upgrading their NLE software in mid-project despite the fact that Media Composers have been able to playback 3D sequences directly from the timeline ever since version 3.5. >>
    • (my italicization)
  • << So when they wanted to view the 48 terabytes of footage on their Avid Isis storage system holding both left and right eye tracks, they had to run both dailies footage and cut sequences through a QuVIS Acuity 3D playback platform. >>

Filmmaking: Reference (Wiki)

Saturday, January 8th, 2011


Monday, December 27th, 2010

Forms, Spreadsheets and Tools for Film-Making

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Forms, Spreadsheets and Tools for Film-Making:

    • Editing Log
    • Field Tape Log
    • Location Contract
    • Camera Shot List
    • Talent Release Form
    • Call Sheet Template
    • Location Relase Form
    • Personal Release Form
    • Location Scouting Sheet
    • Production Budgeting Proposal
    • Call Sheet
    • Daily Editors Log
    • Cast Contact Sheet
    • Crew Contact Sheet
    • Daily Continuity Log
    • Daily Progress Report
    • Easy Script Breakdown
    • Script Supervisor Notes
    • Daily Production Report
    • Continuity Synopsis Sheet – (18.1K) *
    • StoryBoard Tool – Windows based program with simplistic, yet effective tools.
    • Sample Location Contract *
    • Sample Performer Release *
    • Sample Script Agreement *
    • Sample Compensation Contract *
    • Camera Journal
    • Equipment List in Excel format. – (7.09K)
    • Detailed Budget in Excel format.
    • Databases for your Palm Pilot
    • SMPTE Color Bars for your computer Screen – (6.80K)
    • Time Code Calculator for Camera number crunching – (247Kb)
    • Vid Prompt – Turn your computer screen into a teleprompter. Good program to have – (89.2K)

Film & Theatre Educational Material

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Michael LoMonico’s tutorial on small-scale (e.g. serious student) film-making:

Michael is “the Senior Consultant for National Education for the Folger Shakespeare Library”. His course material provides a great overview of project planning (to deliverables), roles (Cinematographer, Director…), actor abilities/assessment, filming/camera technique and more.  The other UNITs cover for example the stage area terms.

2D to 3D Movie Conversion

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Great article by Studio Daily at, on the 2D⇒3D conversion company In-Thre  from this article I learnt that:

  • Some new movies, not just legacy ones, are being converted from 2D to 3D (stereo).  This step is being planned as part of production.  Don’t know why they can’t just shoot it in stereo (cost? maturity? conservatism?) but that’s how it is.
  • The method: a tech & manual rotoscoping pipeline (production line) where images are masked to create layers and artistic judgement is applied to the appearances of individual objects.  As one would imagine, no simple “magic solution”.  However beyond those basics they have their own patented 2D⇒3D inference algorithms operating on individual objects even at sub-pixel level.
  • Not quick or cheap: “for a 100-minute or 120-minute 2D-to-3D conversion, you would need about 300 to 400 artists phasing and out of production over about four to six months.”.  Clash of the Titans was so-processed in under half that time – possibly explaining some negative press (mentioned in the article) regarding the quality of its 3D.

The interviewee in the article was from In-Three.  Their website explains:

  • Dimensionalization is a method developed by In-Three of converting 2D content to stereoscopic 3D content.
  • There are various approaches to creating 3D content: capturing 3D using dual camera rigs, rendering 3D using dual “virtual” camera rigs within a computer graphics environment, and creating 3D by converting 2D content with processes such as Dimensionalization.
  • Dimensionalization is trademarked because it describes a patented process which gives the unique, depth, shape and perspective to each individual object on a pixel or even sub-pixel level. Throughout our process, there are a multitude of “special and unique techniques” our experienced stereo team has and continues to develop, so that you can be confident that we bring the tools and the skill to any conversion project.
  • The Dimensionalization process is covered by a number of U.S. patents. These patents make In-Three a leader in the development of intellectual property surrounding the conversion of two-dimensional films to stereoscopic experiences.

Pre visualization – StoryBoard Artist (

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Heard about it at, which said: “People are using existing multimedia tools for previsualizing projects,” … “One exception to this trend is PowerProduction Software’s StoryBoard Artist drawing package, which helps automate the drawing of storyboards by non-artists. The software comes with a collection of pre-made characters, props and backgrounds that can be viewed from various camera positions and animated.

I checked it out and it looks to me mainly aimed at contemporary scenes, not for example english period drama.  Within its own context, it looks extremely slick (hence quick) to use.  Nothing that can’t be done by more general tools but just plain handy, all there and convenient; less technical fiddling to distract from the creative process.  Quick & simple is what you want when the previz needs to be adaptable (e.g. is part of a dialog or things turn out differently than expected) rather than a fixed plan.

Of the three products I saw at that website, the StoryBoard Artist  product ( seemed most appropriate.  It has a timeline for soundtrack etc..  Also “Multi-angled, multi-positioned characters with overheads and expression.”.  And  “Non-linear linking storyboarding for DVD and iTV prototyping”.   Or indeed uncertainty…

I’ll keep an eye on it.