To my dear readers: I'm Serving The Army of Singapore

Today will be the day when I'm shipped off to an island offshore of Singapore for the "National Service" program by Singapore. My date to the place will be at 1100 hours at the pickup point. What this opens up for me is an opportunity to train myself in the 'art' of discipline.

For all readers of my blog, I'm so grateful that you guys have visited my site and hopefully will do so in the future to read up on updates or refer back to the blogposts that I've written. You guys are welcomed to use the forum and chatbox. I want us to continually keep learning as a community. I have to give a shoutout to my wonderful readers outside of Singapore; those from USA! UK! Portugal! Canada! Australia! Malaysia! Spain! Germany! Sweden! and many others more to come!

I pledge to keep this blog continually growing. Because we love what we're doing, we love our videos and we love our photography and we love our graphics applications. Most of all, we celebrate our creativity.

What my going to serve the army means to my readers here: is that my blog will be updated inconsistently(as if it's not..pfft) and the frequency is abit spread out. Nevertheless, My duty to you is just as important as serving my nation 'cause i'll be serving the world with my blog.

So...my purpose is just FYI. Till my next post.

Cheers,
Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Note to self: making my photographs looks professional

Note To Self: Making my photographs look professional

No matter what the equipment, some photographers that I've talked to nowadays have the knowledge of what equipments and gadgets. They'd always inform me about the latest news about technology. Despite all that, most if not all their photos seem uninspiring. It still looks amatuer. Below, I've stated 8 important tips to make our photographs look like pro. I write this also to remind myself. Do not take this lightly.

1)Do not think in a point-and-snap way. Anyone can do a point-and-snap, but professionals' pictures have a habit of not looking like it, even if it is so. The secret? Always think about composition and angles or techniques that show that you have put your thought processes before taking the photo. Perhaps you can take a photo from your perspective that has never been thought of by anyone else.
This picture would have easily bordered on the 'snap-and-shoot" line if it was not taken properly
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 



2)Emphasize on the 3D space. The main point here is to show a photograph of the 3D world in a 2D medium. So always think of perspective and depth of field. Refrain from taking photos of the subject in the middle of the frame as it makes it dull and very 2D.
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski


3) Technical Knowledge. This separates the professionals from the amateurs. Nowadays, creativity can spring up from anyone and most of the time, professionals are faced with "creativity blocks" while amateurs are springing up with wonderfully creative "why-didn't-I-think-of-that" photos. Whether or not these creative works are succesfully executed is another matter. That is why professionals still have the upper hand.

4)Analyze your environment before you shoot. Remember point no.1 mentioned earlier? Well, to prevent the photo looking like a point-and-shoot, I usually take some time to get intimate with the scene of interest. I'd go around the area a couple of times, take some test shots and write up a few personal notes just to get to know the place and plan which angles and settings for my camera would prove to be the best result without it looking like I took the photo out of a moving bus. Then when I found my favorite 'camping spot', I'd just sit there, plant my tripod and wait for an unlucky human or animal subject to fill the void in the scene before I snap the photo. All-in-all, I'd roughly spend 15-30 mins just doing all this.
 
Took 45 mins for the right one to pass
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 


5)Keep it simple and straight-to-the-point. The problem with amateurs is that they want to capture too much stuff into a tiny frame. As a result, you wouldn't know where to concentrate your eyes on as both background and foreground look busy and cluttered. If you keep your frame simple, it wouldn't confuse your audience. Which...brings me to my next point...

 
Somewhere near where I live
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 

6)Remember that your background items should compliment the main focus of your picture or your theme. Most people don't look at every corner of the frame before snapping a picture. Note that your viewfinder is alot of times smaller than your photographs output display so always take extra measures to view through your viewfinder properly(Personally, once I view the viewfinder, the world 'stops', I can only hear my breathing and somehow or rather, I'd sweat alot and that's when I know I'm in my "zone"). I'd always either keep my background clear so that it won't obstruct my subject in the foreground or I'd have a background with, say, lead-in-lines to my subject or complimentary color patterns to my subject or I'd find background items that fill the frame to at least be a form of symbolism for my picture. One thing I've learnt is that audiences viewing your picture is always searching for meanings behind it.
The foregrounds' pillars act as a "lead-in-line" to the moon
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 



7)Don't crop at the joints. I dedicated a blog post on this very recently, If you'd want to go into details, perhaps you can search for it on this blog. Anyways, back to topic...turns out that it is important not to end your pictures at the joints e.g. neck, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, ankles etc as this usually tells your audiences that the cut is unintentional. Unless, your shot clearly illustrates that the cropped areas is the main theme of your picture(intentional), it is advisable not to do so. Instead, crop your pictures' somewhere in between those joints. 

Screengrab from the website: http://www.thephotographerslife.com/eletter_archives/cutting_off_legs_and_necks/#more

8)Personally for me, I'd want to capture a heightened sense of reality rather than just documenting something with a photograph. Think of ways to sensationalize it or add glamor to the picture. Perhaps, add lights(this will increase value in your photo!) or stage your talents or get props! One great example of this point is my favorite picture of Rachel Weiss as Snow White shown below.
Photo gotten off: http://www.binarymoon.co.uk/2007/01/disney-ads/disney-snow-white-rachel-weisz/


Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Note to self:Don't crop at the joints

Note To Self Entry

Read an article about what not to crop. Found it applicable to filmmaking. Basically, don't crop at the joints, like say, ankles, knees, hips, elbows and neck. Think about this and

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Sony entering the dslr race

Sony A77 and Nex 7 will premiere 24th August this year. The specs are too good to be true!

http://www.eoshd.com/content/3604/new-sony-nex7-a77-dslrs-have-full-manual-video-controls-and-avchd-2

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

HDTV

Found this online. Thought it would be an interesting read. One of our most popular playback mediums this day and age.

http://www.squidoo.com/lcd-televisions

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Constructing the best HDSLR workflow

Photo gotten off http://www.frosted.ca/2009/03/26/canon-5d-mark-ii-premier-pro-cs4-1080p-workflow/

As with everything else, a different camera requires a different workflow, different set-ups require a different workflow, different storytelling needs require a different workflow..and well, you get my drift. So I went around a few sites to gather what to me is considered a basic dslr workflow and to spice things up, what I'm going to do here is present to you a hdslr workflow with all the best equipments and software highly recomended by professionals. Let's make pretend, we have an endless stream of cash in the bucket just for post production. Get ready to access your wettest video post-production dreams my dear friends...

The Production: Every one reading this article wants to know how to do a post for hdslr right? So I assume it is safe to conclude that you're shooting with a hdslr for video and an external audio recorder for audio to combine both these to form a short narrative film right?
Photo gotten off http://www.canon5dtips.com/2010/10/shape-wlb-composite-review-hdslr-rig/


Essentially, this is what the generic workflow would looked like(...or at least, how I'd do it):
1) Transferring the footages to your external hard drive( through card reader or usb which will allow "picture style editor")
2) Conforming your footages to 24p and transcoding to an edit-friendly codec
3) Get another external hard drive to back-up your files
4) Opening up your NLE and synching the audio to video
5) Creative editing process begins
6) Color grading
7) Animation, effects,greenscreen etc
8) Export out
9) Output playback medium( DVD, HD DVD, Blu Ray, softcopy, youtube etc)


So you finished shooting your next big film project,(this line sounds cliche right?) and want to do a proper basic workflow that is a standard across all professionals dealing with motion picture. How do you go about doing it? Which Non Linear Editing(NLE) software should I use?

By the way, I have to mention that it is essential that in production, you:
1) Record your image in the 'neutral' setting in your picture profile as you wouldn't want the camera to decide your color scheme. Remember that you'd want to go into post production with a pristine image that captures the highest possible dynamic range without compressing your colors else you couldn't manouever much with your master footage.
2) When recording audio with an external audio recorder, remember to also record your audio signal into the camera itself so that it acts as a reference for Pluraleyes™to sync your audio and video together in post.
3) If you happen to have loads of cash, your dream would be to record pristine lossless image from your camera. Nikon and Canon dslrs compress your video to MJPEG and h264 respectively which is a liability in most if not all areas. These two codecs are not edit-friendly and are lossy codecs. There is a solution though as you can purchase a data field recorder in the form of Atomos Ninja™ as well as others so that it records in a lossless format and bypasses in-camera compression. Plus, it taps into the camera's hdmi or hd-sdi system. There are known issues though with Canon using these data field recorders as written in this article: http://urbanfoxtv.blogspot.com/2011/02/ninja-ships-disappoints-dslr-users.html
Screengrab of the Atomos Ninja as displayed on their website http://atomos.com/ninja/

4) Another thing that I would like to mention is that dslrs, sadly, doesnt like to record footages for a substantial amount of time, or to even leave it on is dangerous- for your image. Nikon dslrs have a bad habit of shutting off when the camera is left on for too long to avoid over-heating while the Canon dslrs will have noise introduced to it's imagery when the camera starts to over-heat. Not good for image at all.

Step #1: Transferring footage to external harddrive
Photo gotten off the seagate website: http://www.seagate.com/www/en-au/products/external/replica/


Alright then, the ultimate first step is transferring your footages into an external harddrive that uses firewire800, USB 3.0(thunderbolt anyone? =]) or at the very least, a USB 2.0. Why? 'Cause you don't want delay going into your cuts when you're editing. In fact, I think it is essential that editors have a RAZOR™ mouse for what I like to call "precision editing". Fluid movement and speed is a need, but then again, that's a story for another day.

Before you do the transfer of the footages to your external harddrive, consider whether you'd want to:
a) use an SD card reader to transfer the footages. OR. b) Use the usb cable to connect camera to computer. This is important because i read an article that said one could do a 'color enhancement' called picture style editor when connecting a usb cable to connect camera to computerhttp://vimeo.com/7256322. If you happen to edit your dslr footages in FCP, then perhaps you can take a look at this: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/eos_movie_pulgin_article.shtml

Step #2: Conforming footage to 24p & transcoding 

Screengrab of the mpeg streamclip interface: http://www.squared5.com/
Once your footages have been transferred to an external harddrive, your next step in the production pipeline is to conform your footages to your desired framerate(if you haven't already done so in-camera, shame on you!). But I understand that some cameras don't have the option of recording in 24p. It's either that or that you'd want to conform your 50/60fps framerates to 24p so that you'd have an overcranked silky image, am I right? =]. Before that, I'd advise you that you first transcode your footages to an edit friendly format so you wouldn't have to grab a cuppa coffee everytime you add a transition or effect into your edit later on. If you haven't done so, please proceed to download MPEG streamclip™(http://www.squared5.com/). From there, you can transcode your footages to edit friendly formats. Do note that, some people transcode their footages in lossless formats thinking that it'll help their image gain back information that is lost, but that is not true. I encode my footages in MPEGstreamclip to a lossless format because I don't want to face daunting render times when I'm editing later. For true lossless image recording, use an external data field recorder in the form of Atomos Ninja/Samurai or Convergent Design's Gemini 4:4:4 just to name a few. Anyways, just transcode your footages with the edit friendly codec of your choice.

Falling back on conforming frame rates for your footages, there are a few options you can do: (Do take note that since you're overcranking the frame rate, you should also turn up the shutter speed x2 of the frame rate you've set according to the 180 degree shutter rulehttp://blog.tylerginter.com/?p=385)

1) If you are using FCP, you can import your footages to a new project then highlight the footages which you'd set to 50/60fps then go to "view">"Open in CinemaTools™">"Conform"> Choose your frame rate. Voila!
2) For Adobe CS users, you can conform it straight from Premiere Pro without any issues. How blessed! http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-conform-overcrank-60p-footage-24p-slow-motion-adobe-after-effects-398050/
3) For Avid users, maybe this link can help you http://community.avid.com/forums/p/77253/430851.aspx
4) For Sony Vegas users, maybe this video can help you out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h-PBfcXctw&feature=player_embedded
Readers beware, changing the frame rate from MPEGstreamclip™ from 50/60p to 24p does not 'overcrank' the footage. What it does, is deduct 50%(more or less), so that the footage is 24p. What we want is a 50/60p footage playing in a 24p timeline.

Twixtor...many of us would drool at this name. Since we have no restrictions on cash here, I will elaborate on this wonderful plugin! here are some samples of what this plugin does:



So, before you hastily put your videos into twixtor to 'slow mo' it, there are a few things you should take note of. You'd want to record in a higher frame rate than 24p, because you are going to replay it back in that aforementioned frame rate. Also remember to conform it first! Another important thing I should mention is that, you should always put your shutter speed x2 of your recorded frame rate so that you don't have strobe issues with your 'twixtor-ed' footage. How I know? It's because I did so and my footages happen to look something like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=vPD7dvAIVZU

~Note~ I haven't found this twixtor issue mentioned anywhere(but I'm sure there are some articles i've missed), so for the benefit of everyone I'm going to explain how my colleague helped me solve this phenomena:

The issue: When you slow down a clip with twixtor, the clip retains it's length which will result in the slow-mo footage to end prematurely.
The answer: create a seperate sequence>drop your footage into the sequence>duplicate it or increase the length of the footage(remember to calculate how long you'd want your slow-mo footage to be, e.g If I'm going to slow the clip down to 50% of the original clip in twixtor, i would duplicate the clip twice)> then i'd proceed to nest the sequence together> place the nested sequence in your main timeline> Apply twixtor

Step #3: Back up your files...again

After you've done with playing around with frame rate conforming, remember to have another backup of your files as you've made two big changes; Transcoding as well as conforming your footages. Prevention is better than cure they always say ;P

Step #4: Synching Audio & Video 

Photo gotten off from: http://www.cinema5d.com/news/?p=4645
The next step is to open up your NLE system and start synching the audio to the video. Remember earlier when I told you to record audio in-camera in conjunction with your external audio recorder? This is to act as a reference to your synching, for those who use PluralEyes™, this is crucial. Also, for safety measure, I'd always make it a point to put a slate so it would be easier if I happen to end up synching audio and video by hand. Shown below is Philip Bloom's tutorial on using PluralEyes™ to sync audio and video with little fuss(for FCP users).
http://vimeo.com/5774898
...And here's the link to download the software: http://www.singularsoftware.com/
PluralEyes™ works on FCP, Premiere Pro and Vegas. There's also DualEyes™ which can compliment all other systems that PluralEyes™ doesn't support.

If you happen to have problems with PluralEyes™ or that you don't think your footages are substantial enough to be used with PluralEyes™, perhaps you can go with the other option; hands-on audio/video synchronizing. This is when your audio recorded in-camera is useful(as well as your clapperboard). take note that there's a known phenomena called "Audio drift" which is when you sync the audio and video at the start of the clip but towards the end of the clip, the syncing varies slightly. This is caused by some dslrs, more commonly the 5D MK II recording footage in true 30p"...which doesn't conform to the industry standard 29.97 fps"(Koo, nofilmschool.com, http://nofilmschool.com/dslr/audio-sync-drift/). A way to solve this issue is to, once again conform your footages to the sequence settings of your respective NLEs, 24fps to 23.98 fps, 30fps to 29.97 fps, 60 fps to 59.94 fps just to give you a heads up. In your NLE software, just show the audio waveforms from both your external audio and in-camera audio and match them up. This should help.
*For FCP users, I found this on nofilmschool.com: http://vimeo.com/9602352

Step #5: Creative Editing process begins

Photo gotten off from: http://www.geniusdv.com/weblog/archives/learning_final_cut_pro_with_an_editors_keyboard.php
 Okay, here's step 5...here comes the fun part...Editing! All i want to say is this, before you have some fun, check to make sure all of what's discussed above is done to avoid issues. As a guideline, here's my set-up information by the time I reach this step:
1) Sequence settings: 23.98 fps(in most if not all NLEs, it will display as 24p regardless it's true 23.98fps)
2) Audio and Video synched seemlessly( with the in-camera audio trimmed off)
3) I'd have a folder of 23.98p footages and 50p footages for which, the latter, I'd have already conform to 23.98p.
4) My codec in which I'd have transcoded in would be Apple Pro Res 422.
5) I'm editing straight from my external hard drive with a firewire800 port(remember to always reset where your scratchdisk is located, especially when you're editing a couple of projects from different external harddrives)
6) I'd have created a "side-sequence" containing all of the shots that have gone through "conforming" and "twixtor-ing"
7) I have to, have to say this...To make editing pleasant, make it a habit to name your clips and put them in bins if you have to. I can't stress how important it is to keep your media organized. Also, it makes it easier to find files. In general, I'd group my photos, music, footages, slow-mo footages, effects seperately.

Now, you are ready to enter the world of fun...Enjoy!

Step #6: Color Grading

Photo gotten off from: http://www.borisfx.com/Adobe/bccae/new_filters.php
Color grading, is an exhilirating time in the production pipeline for me, personally. And since we've established that we have a never-endless stream of cash in hand, I'm going to introduce the big names in post color grading with softwares such as RedGiant's "Magic Bullet Suite"(Oooooh!), BlackMagic Designs' "Da Vinci Resolve/Lite"(Aaaaahhh!), Final Cut Studios' "Color"(woahhh~), Synthetic Apertures' "Color Finesse"(Haarrrghh!) and The Grading Sweet! *faints*. Note~ color grading should best be applied after picture lock. Just saying ;P
Da Vinci resolve(The lite version was released a few months ago)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYG0ta6kn0w&feature=player_embedded
Magic Bullet Suite(Catch their promo video for Suite 11, "Plot Device"http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/news/featured/plotdevice/)

Oh and, by the way, you don't need to have a joy-ball control panel or any third party hardware to do all those amazing works. One thing I feel is a must though, is a tv monitor that is hooked up with your NLE so that it shows the correct color representation when you do your grading. Whenever possible, do not forego this! why? 'cause a computer doesn't reproduce color signals like a tv does and If your final output is to a TV, you'd have a chance of your color grading not being represented correctly as how you viewed it from your computer screen. Apart from that is the fact that your interlaced lines would look ok on the tv but not on your computer(I used to make a mistake of deinterlacing my videos when I output to DVD thinking that it looks crappy when interlaced. When watching it back on the tv, it looks like the video has dropped in resolution). Anyways, back to the topic. Once I've gotten my tv monitor set-up, I'd do a monitor calibration. Click on this link for step-by-step tv calibration

There's also in-built color grading controls that can be applied from within your NLE without spending a cent more. These effect/controls/preset however are pretty much basic and won't give you options to go do advanced color grading. Typically, If I know I have to review a project with m clients several times, I'd just go ahead with 3-way color correcting(which is a preset effect in most NLEs i believe) until the client and I "lock" the video. Only then, would I call the client to have them sit with me as I color grade the project using a third party software.

~Note~ http://www.kuler.com/ gives you tips on choosing your color scheme. Very valuable to have since I didn't have any color-theory background. Most hit movies you see have color palettes that are recommended on kuler.com.

Step #7: Applying Effects, Animation & Greenscreen

Gotten off from the movie: Sin City(2005)
Having done color grading, we'd move on to doing the Effects, Animation and Greenscreen. I won't go on too much about this though as this is most often another department's workload, but for the indie filmmaker, you'd have to do this by yourself if you're super restricted budget-wise.

Let's start off with greenscreen. Why greenscreen first you say? 'cause you're suppose to do this step in the editing process(step no. 5). My bad. Anyways, you'd need to key-out your green/blue from the background as your objective. I'm sure most if not all NLEs have the "chroma-key" feature in it's array of effects & presets. You can either key out natively from your NLE or find a compositing software to do an advanced chroma key for you in the mould of Adobe's After Effects(yay!). Other software that can help include Blender™(Get Blender here!), HitFilm Standard™(HitFilm standard features) or Nuke™(Get Nuke here!).

Next up: Animation and Effects. Aha! Rarely do we see movies nowadays with no effects. The opening credits itself screams out effects and animation, so does the end credits if you don't happen to have animation in your movie. Or you could be a Dogme 95 enthusiast, I don't know. I doubt any dogme enthusiast would even be reading this post ;D Forgive me. You can do your effects with the abovementioned compositing softwares for relatively simple effects like this:
A TV spot done by me while working in Pixsync, Singapore( done up in After Effects)

For more comprehensive 3D animation, you'd need a different set of software and tools(Maya, ZBrush, 3Ds Max etc) and I would need a different column for that post, so we'll just leave it to another day. Besides, I'm not any good in 3D animation, so I would be the worst consultant.=[

Step #8: Exporting out

Screen grab from the export tab in Final Cut Pro
Ok. Step no. 8 on this workflow: Exporting out. Once after you've applied your visual effects/animation to your edited masterpiece, you can proceed to export it out. I'd always export out my final piece in the native codec that I set my sequence settings in which is "Export Quicktime Movie" from FCP. I think it is important that one exports out his master copy with the highest resolution possible. Then I'd save it to my external harddrive and then use MPEGstreamclip to compress it to a lossy codec depending on which output medium I'd want to display the video to. DVD or Youtube(online) is always the question on my mind.

Step #9: Output Playback Medium

Which brings me into my last checkpoint in this workflow. Generically, for DVD, i'd run Roxio's Toast Titanium to convert my video to DVD. I'd just drag my master copy into 'Toast' and let it do the burning to DVD, HD DVD, Blu ray or DATA disc. One could also use software such as FCS' Compressor and DVDstudiopro for a more elaborate DVD set-up with a personal touch like adding subtitles, chapters, extra features. But if there's no customization needed, then 'Toast' would be fine. There are also other DVD output software such as Imtoo, DVD Wizard Pro etc. For more on how DVDs work, Click this link!

If I'd want my video to premiere on the world wide web, I'd do all my settings in MPEGstreamclip™ itself as I'd have the choice of controlling how big my files would be since different sites require different codecs and cap size on the video. Also, I'd chose to de-interlace my project. I usually do up a few copies of the master, each one for a specific website like youtube or vimeo etc.

Screengrab of the short by redgiant: http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/news/featured/plotdevice/
That's it! All done. All these steps can be jumbled up if the need arises, but this is what most other people would go through. Do take note that television output is not listed here, because it needs a different requirement. If I had covered television as another one of the output medium here, I'd have to add in afew other steps or perhaps completely re-think the whole workflow. Some of the steps include telecine, Dbeta conversion, broadcast safe rules etc. But that's for another day. I hope this post is helpful. Have fun making your blockbuster! ;0]

P.S. photos in here are not mine.

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Creating a summer blockbuster film look

Creating a summer blockbuster film look with Stu Maschwitz.
Vimeo- Color grading with Stu Maschwitz using magic bullet

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Synching Audio

DSLR help: Recording audio in a separate set-up. Read up and interesting article from nofilmschool.com:
http://nofilmschool.com/dslr/audio-sync-drift/

Here's a video from Philip Bloom on how to sync video from 5D, audio from H4N using pluraleyes:
http://vimeo.com/5774898

If you'd prefer to sync the two sources by hand instead('cause of trivial ammount of footage), you'd want to see this video link:
http://vimeo.com/9602352


Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Picture style

Here's a video for canon dslr shooters who'd want to set your 'picture style editor' to maximize the dynamic range captured on the camera. This comes as the next step after you've set your in-camera picture style from standard to neutral.

http://vimeo.com/7256322

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

1000 Page views!

I wonder who will be the 1000th viewer on my blog? hmmm...If you are, leave a comment!

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Blog Sitemap

This is a sitemap of Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski. Please wait till page loads fully for sitemap to appear at the bottom of the posts column on the Post Page. Click the Post Title to go to the post page and see the sitemap.

The sitemap does not appear on the Main Page. It appears only on a separate page of it's own. It is autoloading and shows all the posts from the blog.

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Test shoot for 50mm prime

Photo gotten from http://camerani.com/canon-nifty-fifty-50mm-f1-8-prime-lens-first-impressions/

I did a test shoot for the 50mm EF lens that my friend has. He just wanted to see how the images I shot will turn out. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Bokeh very much because I love wide shots and architecture. I like my images to be sharp. The only exception to that being in making narrative films/videos as to keep the focus central. So, well...I did use the 50mm...and here's the result.

P.S. The video is in 360p...it's not optimum...my vimeo page has a higher res link. http://vimeo.com/27590026


Anyways, you know what? Had I have with me my full gear plus audio equipment, I would've done something like Philip Bloom's "Venice's People". Amazing. Alas, gear doesn't come cheap this days, especially for a fresh grad.
Video gotten off youtube;Philip Bloom's "Venice People"

...Could have...Should have...made it more narrative.

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Trip to Joo Chiat

Made a trip to Joo Chiat today. Along the way, I decided to take pictures. I took around 20 shots but decided to put up just 4 here. I didn't think of a specific theme to when I was taking those pictures, but now I think I know: Chinese motifs.

A miniature kingdom made out of paper. Very symbolic in buddhist rituals in Singapore.
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski

A close-up shot of the "paper" kingdom itself. Would've preferred an ancient chinese emperor standing in between the doors though. Too bad, my animation skills ain't good enough
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 

Felt I needed to take another wider shot of the shot previously.
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 

Innitially, I wanted to insert some peach blossoms falling from the trees. Figured it'd be too superficial, but that was what's going through my mind at the time I took this.
© 2011 Fadly M.H Wychowvski 

I haven't been as diligent enough as I'd want to be in my photography side though. Too much things to do these days(especially when I'm always reading up video & animation production sites to update this blog!) I'm posting it up on my flickr page. Do visit it once in awhile. Once I get more photography specific gear, I'll take more great photos, I guarantee you!

P.S. Lion OSX has a strange way of scrolling.

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

A fighter in his own right

I'd just like to dedicate this post to mourn the loss of a great friend. An even greater human being. He passed on two days prior to today while battling a form of rare tissue cancer. He was very reserved and close to me and a few of my circle.  This came as a form of shock for me as he, my friends and I would meet up at least twice a week before the few months which he MIA-ed from us, never to return. He stated that he needs to "finish up some unfinished business" and that he was busy. Never did it occur to us that he was receiving treatment by himself through the 3 months plus he was away from us. Calls and text messages weren't answered. His reason that we found out later from his mother was that he didn't want to worry us. He appeared online once or twice and when questioned, he said, he would return back during july/august and then, poof, went offline. We were hoping and waiting he would. We shared big dreams together, I'd say that I wanted to work with him on projects in the future, he said he would welcome it.

As he went through the furnace of cremation, memories flood through my mind of a friend who had been so dear to me. We had spent most of our high school life together. I would frequent his house in the mornings and we'd have breakfast at Ah Mei's in hougang point, afterwhich, we'd spent more time in his house playing video games. He has never been affected by relationships, fashion or anything, the modern materialistic world would've.

The last time we met, he had a swelled up hand to which I didn't know the severity of. He'd persevere with my friends and I through video game session, mashing buttons on those console controllers or on keyboards and then later he'd be by himself, rubbing his sore hands. I remembered his hands shivering once and he mentioned how painful it was.

Surprisingly, after his death, it was told to us that even in his deathbed and through countless surgeries, he didn't scream or yelp out in pain. His face looked calm, but his grip, deathening. A few more revelations came as it was mentioned, he did alot of community and charity work to which, we didn't even know he did. For us, we happen to contact each other almost everyday and he didn't seem busy. He always had time for us. It is sad, death only takes the best of us.

Now that he is no more. I can't seem to shake off the void in my soul. For, a perfect gentlemen has gone. No more video game stress-relieve sessions with him anymore.

Oh how I wish I wasn't busy with work, so I could have innitiated to contact him and go to his house to knock on his door(my friends and i had been planning to). It's too late now. I am sorely saddened and disappointed. All throughout, he requested his family members to not bother his friends( he has always separated friends from his family life vice versa), his family respected his decision. He should've told us.

Remember his name: Anees.

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

2011 Zacuto's great camera shootout Part 1

Disclaimer Note: I do not own all the pictures below. They are screenshots which I took from the video; Zacuto's Great Camera Shootout 2011 Episode One. Link is stated below.

 http://www.zacuto.com/the-great-camera-shootout-2011/episode-one

Based upon the success of my previous post entitled ' Zacuto's great camera shootout Part 2', I've gone ahead to create this post on my thoughts of the Part 1 version of this 3-part webseries. Thanks to all of you who have read it, agreed or disagreed with me. I hope with this post, i'll get some useful feedbacks on this article that I am going to write(since this post has comments enabled on it).

Without further ado...on to the article then.

As you all know, I'm writing this article after the Part 2 version. Why? well...it could be said that part 1 has more or less satisfied me. As far as dslrs go, I don't have an issue with the way dslrs performed in this webisode. So, for the sake of writing this new article for my readers, I viewed and re-viewed the video a few times with more scrutiny(hopefully i'd find a bone to pick).

Lesson learnt. I still couldn't find anything which made me re-think the usefulness of dslrs. The first episode of the series tests the dynamic range of the cameras and the usable exposure latitude for each camera. So the prestigious SCCE team carried out a:
1) Dynamic range analysis( using a dynamic range test chart the team in conjuntion with a few other devices, can determine the  dynamic range of the camera between the 'just-before-clipping' of the highlights and the 'just-above-noise level' of the shadows. The range of usable exposure latitude are those ranges in the middle of these two aforementioned 'dynamic checkpoints')
dynamic range test chart: 'just-before-clipping' to 'just-above-noise level'

 
The number of usable 'circles' indicate the dynamic range latitude
DSLR results(with Arri Alexa as reference)
Just in case you needed to know how film prevailed
Here's the results from all the cameras

2) Under Exposure Test( A scene was intentionally underexposed. The character that was the test subject in the scene is underexposed 4.5 stops under base exposure which is the other subject to the left of frame)

Felt the 7D did a much better job
...and the Nikon D7000 did even better according to my eyes
With reference to the RED ONE

With reference to the RED ONE
With reference to the RED ONE
Basically, what you would want to look at is the separation between background and the lady in the shadows and separation between coat and dress of the lady. In the better cameras, one could discern the differences between the background: Coat: Dress.
This...

...compared to this
I think that our beloved film stocks took a huge hit in this underexposure test. =[ Uh Oh!
"Shadow detail in the film...[pause]which would only get worse once you started duping it." -Calvin Gardiner, ACS Cinematographer
I think he summed it up there. The expression on his face...priceless.

3) Over exposure Test: This was a test designed to gauge how the cameras can hold on to the highlight details of the overexposed areas in the scene. The hotspot situated on the window is 7.5 stops above base exposure, which is the lady to the left of frame right beside the mirror. Oh and I need to mention that the whole window is 5.5 stops over base exposure. The main emphasis is on the window. On a sidenote, I noticed how Nancy Schreiber was in charge of the design of the over exposure test compared to Matt Siegel, who designed the under exposure test. Yeah, i tend to overindulge sometimes;P

I liked how 7D still manages to include the details of the tree branches in the window
With the Alexa as a reference

With the Alexa as a reference
This is how the Canon's matched up against one another
So...here's the exposure latitude results from all of the cameras.
Pretty good guide as to what your next camera is 'gonna be right?;P
In summary, I'd just like to echo what most of the cinematographers say. That's, if you're a good cinematographer, the instrument that you use to produce your image doesn't matter. In essence, even if the camera is lacking in shadow or highlight capture, remember: You can change where your base exposure lies so that you capture maximum details no matter what your scenes are as the whole latitude will shift with your base exposure.
"Yeah, I mean you know video cameras don't handle highlights very well that are blown out. And, if you consider how that was shot, they chose a midpoint so that everywhere started with a midpoint. You can go seven stops into the shadows with the F3, you can't go over very much. So if you'd set your midpoint father down on the slider, Then, I think if you expose for your highlights which is generally what you do in your video...you expose for your highlights and grade up."  -Den Lennie, F-stop Academy
As far as my concern for dslrs are concerned, the latitude and dynamic range for the price I paid were justified and were even better than my expectations(look at 7D's overexposure test!).

Now, I just need to buy an external audio recorder, microphone, data field recorder, rigs, zacuto z-finder to truly make it a basic video camera minus the shallow DOF. ;P

Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Thanks for reading the Zacuto Great Camera Shootout article I wrote!

From Videomaker.com, Charles Schultz


Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

Recording fluid action movement in: 6 tips

Sometimes, a carefully planned long take can liberate movement 
Video taken off youtube
Hard Boiled(1992)


One of my earlier blog entries was to write a post on tips to instill fluid movement and transitions between shots when recording continuous movement in a short temporal space. This is an issue that I felt needed some fine-tuning to as I felt student and amateur filmmaking have somehow forgotten how to compose,plan, shoot and edit a fluid action sequence. I initially wanted to write 5 pointers for effective movement recording but figured I'd throw in a few bonuses.


1) Camera movement to assist actual movement

A lot of movies that I observe today have great action sequences that has a lot of camera movements either to a) exaggerate actor movement or b) To create a variety of movement.

Short static shots are typically for Close-ups that typically contain an 'impact'(refer to pointer no.8). These static shots are used to supplement moving shots rather than the other way around, which tends to be the case. This is because, if majority of your shots are static, a moving supplementary shot will stick out like a sore thumb.

The reason why amateur and student films lack fluid action motions in their films is that they don't have the necessary gear to carry out these movements effectively. Let's face it, we need equipments that will specifically suit the needs of the film. It's not that we can't get all these equipments(dolly,cranes,jib etc) to produce silky movements with our cameras, it's just that the movement options provided by dollies, cranes, jibs are generic in their movement and provide very little liberal movement. Hollywood producers would get manufacturers to customize certain gears to fit their needs right?

Actually, if done in the right way, handheld(Shoulder mount or stabilizer off course) can make your motion shots look good. Don't be afraid to stray away from the tripod. Remember, we want liberal, organic movements, not mechanical movements. You can take inspiration from the fight scene below.

 (Press #3 on keyboard to see the fightscene between Ting En and the challenger)
Video taken off youtube
 Fist of Legend(1994)

2) CU Reaction movement rather than CU of hands performing movement(Closed & Open framing)

The common mistake that is done today with amateur auteurs is that when they do a close-up, most of the time, it is of the hands throwing a punch or hands holding a gun(Closed framing) instead of an Open framing of the persons' face to suggest an action.

I'm not saying that it is a bad thing to include closed framing CU shots of the person's hands. By all means, do it, but moderation is key. Remember that since the hands are moving fast and wildly, it means, you'll either capture a) information that is too fast for your audience to catch or b) Your audience doesn't know what's going on. That's why, to capture a facial expression of him taking the gun from his pocket(off-screen sound) and shooting(off-screen sound) is muc more impactful. In my opinion use the Closed framing "hand shot" if the shot it is undercranked or on the 'results'(refer to pointer no. 8)

3) Editing pace

Photo gotten off http://www.sonypicturesmuseum.com/filmmaking/postproduction

I think the care and attention to the edit pace amongst student and amateur films have decreased over the years. Action sequences in a film by amateurs would be conformably be fast throughout. As a result, audiences don't follow you through the motion because some things take much more time to be absorbed into our brains. While others, like the 'hidden shots'(refer to pointer #6), can be instilled into our brains instantly after the split second burst.

The common advice that I would repeat here is pay more attention and follow circumstances, don't just bulldoze through the pace of an action sequence.

4) Variety of shots


Are you using a dslr? If you are, then you can get even more variety of shots and angles from hard to reach/manouver places. The article below is a testimony of this fact:

Captain America uses 5D Mk II for it's action sequences

It is best if you record the same action from the beginning of the whole action sequence to the end. Then you'd just keep doing it again for another shot angle or camera movement e.g Cam A takes a steadicam one-take of the whole sequence, Cam B then takes a crane view of the whole sequence. Once both cameras are done doing their run, Cam C will take the insert shots needed for the scene to be more dramatic or understandable. Off course, since Cam C is a supplementary camera to the Cam A and B, the action of the whole sequence need not be repeated as a whole anymore. In this sense, you can do a multi-cam edit if your system supports it.

Oh and by the way, Cam A, B & C can all actually be the same cam.

In this regard, the reason why amateur films are not as efficient looking in action sequences compared to their hollywood counterparts is because amateur films show repetitive action. In order to avoid the greatest "sin" in cinema: Camera shake, Amatuers stay on the safe side and do it on a tripod. What you end up with is a huge amount of 'perfectly' static shots which looks very unorganic( I don't prefer it!).

I worked on a short film before with a local Singapore filmmaker for the film "Steadfast". Basically, what this guy shot instead of a tripod static shot is he held the camera close to his body and fake a subtle "swaying" motion so that the static shots are not completely static.

I think it definitely works better.


5) Frame rates

Frame rates are the most important and to me, the most basic which is overlooked here. I remembered someone saying that 24fps is how the mind's eye sees things, while 30fps is how the human eye sees(that's not the exact quote but it's around that same department). The reason why films look so dreamy while tv looks "too real" lies in the different frame rates. That is the most simplest way I can think to put it. Ahah.

There's also variable frame rates which you would want to put into certain parts of your film to suit your story and improve motion. For example, take a look at martial arts films that speed up their frame rates so that the action is faster? or some action movies which slow down it's frame rate to add emotional content to their action(hem…John Woo, i'm looking at you).


Bonnie & Clyde End scene

‪(Press #6 to view the awesome undercranked shot)

6) Hidden shots that often get overlooked

You might be surprised what you might discover when you open that DVD casing once again and insert it into your DVD player….under the influence of alcohol. When everything moves so slowly, this is the most opportune time for me to re-watch a movie with complex actions and complex editing. Most of the time, we miss shots that are so fast, they last barely a second! the amazing thing is that, the whole action sequence wouldn't make sense without it!

The other day, I was watching the Roger Ebert's commentary on the film "Dark City" by Alex Proyas under the special features. It was mentioned there that Alex Proyas had a more than three cuts for the opening scene whereby the knife rotates in mid air and lands on the floor! Or how about Inception's "rotating hallway" scene?


(Press #9 to view the 'split-second' shot)

Therefore, it is advisable that you take into account all these 'hidden shots' to make your story more efficient.

7) Don't forget your over-the-shoulders shots

Quite essentially, every amateur forgets to add this, but it adds the value of facial expression and action information in your shot. This is an advantage especially for films that require close proximity hand-to-hand combat. Need I say more?

(Go to 3:38 to view the wonderful OTS shot)
Video taken off youtube
 Fist of Legend(1994)


8) The basic formula

When shooting action, there are some general formulas in the way in which it is edited. In most circumstances, the general flow consists of four mechanisms; run-up,impact, result, reaction. These four form the backbone of your action sequences no matter whatever which way it is decided to be put. Remember, different films require a different way of approaching it's action sequences, some add and modify to the aforementioned 'building blocks', others throw away one or two of the four mechanisms. Long takes displaying an action sequence in one single take also bypass this.

So: After you establish the lead-in to your action sequence, you are ready to display the four mechanisms, run-up, impact, result, reaction. After which, you just "rinse and repeat" several times(when I say rinse, I meant, reshuffle your order of mechanisms)

Do take note that mechanisms stated here ARE NOT shot variations! Some mechanisms contain a few shots to complete the idea.

e.g. Set-up: Fugitive manages to escape from his holding cell. He leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake. A surviving security guard sounds the alarm before he faints again. Good cop gets a call-up from his headquarters, and a car just went past him driving at 100mph, upon closer inspection, it is the Fugitive which he apprehended two days ago. He's escaped! Good cop now rushes to his car and starts his engine, before long, Good cop is already chasing the Fugitive's car in front of him…the chase begins

Run-up: is the beginning of the motion that reveals the action/intention.i.e punch, gunshot, item drop etc Typically this happens very fast. If this were to be applied from the 'set-up', it'd be: Fugitive sees Good cop trailing him. Fugitive peers out his window and fires a few shots aiming at the tires of the Good cops' car.

Impact: Is when the action/intention comes to it's full realization.i.e punch landing the face, gunshots hitting a person, item lands onto the floor. Typically, this is a once only shot, unless the director wants to make the movie a highly stylized action sequence like in Ong Bak). If this were to be applied to our 'set-up', it'd be: Good cops' window glass crashes all around him. He ducks, but one of the shots graze past his shoulder. Blood gushes out.

Result: This is the aftermath of the impact. Short and simple. This shot or series of shots establish the damage taken from the resulting impact.i.e broken jaw, person falling to the floor, item breaking into pieces. Typically, 'results' and 'impact' are so intertwined together that it can be in a single shot together and you wouldn't notice anything e.g. Discovery channels' TimeWarp. There has been a large trend of undercranking 'results' in the cinemaworld. If this were to be applied to our 'set-up', it'd be: Good cop flinches in reaction to the pain. He applies pressure to his shoulder to regulate bloodflow. 

Reaction: This is the facial acknowledgement to what just happened prior. It conveys the emotion to the audiences and at the same time, lead them to be feeling a certain way(which is planned for). i.e a shocked expression. Typically inserted to add drama. If this were to be applied to our 'set-up' it'd be: Good cop shouts in pain. He looks up to the fugitive's car in front of him. Fugitive turns around and gives a smirk.

>>That sums up all of the mechanisms. Now…it is time to 'rinse and repeat'.
e.g. Good cop now returns the favor, he fires a salvo of shots straight for the fugitive. One of the shots hits the fugitive. The fugitive's car swerves and hits the lamp post. The car is overturned but the fugitive is still trapped inside, unconscious.







Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

DSLRs: A passing phase?

Alot of companies are taking advantage of the growing trend in filmmaking which is: HDSLRs. We hear Director of photography's proclaiming that this enables more indie filmmaking because it democratizes the art. The video below is a testament of the DSLR revolution;
 
Video of Philip Bloom giving his opinion on the dslr revolution, taken off youtube

Guys like Philip Bloom(above) and Vincent LaForet(amongst others) have made the revolution even more worth taking note of.  Apple's premiere editing brand; Final Cut has come out with it's latest version; Final Cut Pro X. This new NLE has come with features that cater more towards home-based filmmakers with dslrs hoping to make it big on youtube, with idiot-proof functions such as h.264 rendering and direct export to youtube among many of it's amazing features. Companies such as Zacuto have furthered the interest in providing rigs made for dslr filmmaking.  On the other end, companies producing quality video specialized cameras are forced to tone down on their pricing and provide us with more full frame sensors and mounts supporting the tempting idea to interchange lenses.

Oh how amazing all these seem. Yet, these companies churning out video dslrs like Canon and Nikon took awhile to capitalize on this accidental stumble, upon a new market. It took awhile for Sony's dslr line to churn out it's first top-draw video dslr, the Sony Alpha A77. Canon and Nikon both didn't intend for it's hdslr to attract filmmakers and thus didn't fully design a camera for that specific purpose yet(although rumors are on the way).

Sooner or later, the revolution will just be a passing phase as:
1) Video cameras are integrating attractive features of dslrs into their system without the cons of dslrs...at a relatively cheaper price than before.
2) Higher resolution playback discs appearing on the market e.g. Blu ray & HD DVD which will make dslrs native compressed video codecs look like it only belongs to DVD.
3) Higher accumulated cost of a dslr production(rigs, data recorders, audio gadgets etc) vs a video camera with a slightly higher cost than dslr but has near lossless codec, manual audio controls and no need to buy unnecessary rigs etc.
4) HDSLR makers hesitant in continuing the footsteps of these great filmmaking dslrs(technology is moving fast, sooner or later, dslrs will just be obsolete)
5) People buying dslrs will grow, clients will charge less for freelancers either because they now have the know-how's to make a video or that freelancers not knowing market rates will under charge, with clients giving them less money to continue spending. More frustration
6) The advent of 3D, Motion graphics, Animation is making more mainstream waves. It is cheaper to buy a single software to create endless creations.

The moral of the story is, that if dslrs don't step up, i think all these factors will hurt the revolution more than it can take. Resulting in collateral damage to dslrs then to video cameras that is unreversible. DSLRs have monopolized filmmaking but is choking the art by not moving forward fast enough. My senses tell me that it is going to fade-out, but then again. that's just an opinion.


Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski©

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