Archive for the ‘Filmmaking’ Category (feed)

Canon: a piece of shit company

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years now, you KNOW how I had been a Canon fan girl for their consumer digicams in terms of video. Their previous digicam non-DSLR cameras were steadily getting better and better video controls, and that was something to cheer for. They were outperforming all other manufacturers by getting the *basics* of video right: exposure compensation, exposure lock, custom low colors, good frame rates at good bitrates, and some models even had manual focus and focus lock.

I was even, unfairly, called biased by certain people, for pushing these Canon digicams. But I’m not biased about hardware, I’m a hard realist. There were definite, true, and important reasons why I’d suggest Canon in the past (if your goal was artistic videography).

Well, the newer Canon cameras, starting last year, weaned off such abilities! FEATURES WERE REMOVED one by one, model by model. We are now at the point where the expensive, high end P&S digicam S110 does not even have exposure compensation/lock. This is obviously done so their more expensive dSLRs sell better, and their camcorder department doesn’t die. It’s an ARTIFICIAL way of keeping business afloat. That’s not what the market wants, it’s what Canon wants. Consider that the video section on the S110 manual WAS REMOVED too. Yup, removed. Where there used to be a whole chapter on video usage in the manual (in EVERY ONE of their P&S models), now there’s *none*.

For all that is worth, I can not suggest Canon to anyone anymore, when it comes to video mode in P&S digicams. What makes it even worse is that the other digicam manufacturers haven’t step up to the challenge to take over what Canon left behind. Most of the cameras from the other manufacturers also miss exposure compensation & lock, or they use fucked up frame rates. When it comes to semi-serious videography with these pocket cameras, they ALL SUCK, even if that was NOT the case 2 years ago!

I mean, they got to the point where they offered 1080/24p and 720/30p at good bitrates last year. What they should have done this year is to keep the old features and push their frame rates to 1080/30p/25p/24p and 720/50p/60p (just like in their dSLR range). I’m not asking for other crazy features here, neither I’m asking for full manual control. But when they go out on purpose and they remove the most basic of controls, exposure compensation and exposure lock, something that has been there since early 2000s, there’s something sinister at work there.

So, what to do? Get a dSLR or micro-thirds camera that happens to have the whole nine yards when it comes to video. Or if you prefer a camcorder, get the ones that cost over $1000 that also come with the whole nine yards. Since you can’t go for a good-enough $200 P&S digicam for video, shell the cash and get something appropriate for over $1000. At least you won’t be ripped off by buying a P&S digicam for $500 and not even get the video features that were present in a $100 Canon digicam just 2 years ago! So my suggestion is, either go all in, or try to find older models, second hand.

I personally still use my older, SX230, which is the BEST small camera for live shows, amazing mic quality on loud shows, and it still has all the other needed video features too. But it’s not the best in terms of other things (e.g. it has a slow lens). The S100 from last year is also good video feature-wise (if you ignore its hardware faults), the last of its range to support all the basic video stuff that are needed to make a video look professional, and not like a piece of shit cellphone video.

And let’s not forget that Canon only announced the full HDMI-out for the 5D MkIII recently after a third party firmware group said that they hacked in that feature. So basically, someone has to squeeze Canon’s balls before they actually offer what their hardware CAN do, but they refuse to put the software behind it to support it. Even if HDMI support might have engineering costs, this is not a case of “software costs” to the video features mentioned above, because the software for the specific features WAS ALREADY THERE. Instead, they’ve been CONSCIOUSLY removing them PROGRESSIVELY. As in, a strategy.

So, fuck you Canon, you are corporate shills and you suck donkey balls.

Update: The S110 manual I had access at the time of the writing did not mention video, but the updated manuals did, and they do mention exposure compensation and locking for the S110. The issues do remain for most of their newest P&S models though.

Tears of Steel

Blender is an open source 3D package, very powerful for its price (free). The Blender Project premiered recently their 4th “open” movie (free source footage, project files etc), titled “Tears of Steel”. The Blender community has been very positive about it after seeing Blender’s abilities on a real movie, rather than in pure animation. The shot tracking is very good (an Achilles’ heel previously for Blender), but I personally did not like the quality of the VFX or the animation (let alone the acting/script/direction, but these are beside the point here).

The CGI still looks like VFX animation and not realistic. It looks fake. Camera tracking is good, modelling seems ok, but lighting and animation aren’t. There are no shadows to talk about, everything it’s too HDR-ish. If that’s what Blender can do in 2012, then color me unimpressed. That’s no Hollywood-worthy CGI. And let’s not forget that this movie was produced by the Blender guys themselves, with hand-picked Blender artists.

Unfortunately, that quality is not even good enough for TV anymore. Sure, there have been worse VFX on TV than what Blender can do, for example the re-imagined version of “V”, but thing is, there have been better ones too. Back in 2010, Stargate:Universe had some amazing VFX in some episodes, more realistic than anything I’ve seen on TV, before or after. An even more important point for TV is the time it takes to do things with the app (since their deadlines are extremely strict). Blender is not that easy to use, Maya can do better in almost half the time.

That doesn’t mean that Blender is useless. It’s not. You can’t beat its price and features in the advertising sector (which doesn’t require extreme realism, it mostly needs some animation tricks), schools (for obvious reasons), or as a hobbyist artist. Blender can also prove to be a life-saver for indie filmmakers who primarily have the time to deal with Blender (rather than the money to buy other packages). So it’s got its uses in the world.

It’s just that I don’t see it being able to compete for Hollywood movies and serious TV shows. It kind of echoes The Gimp, actually. Good-enough to doodle around, good-enough to do something worthwhile if you have the extra time, but if you’re really serious, you better get Photoshop.

John Maus – “Lost”

Unofficial music video for John Maus’ track “Lost” from his album “A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material”.

Original video footage by Rowan Lee Hartsuiker. Footage is used with permission, and was re-cut to the beat of “Lost”. Rowan shot this on a Canon HV30.

John Maus – “The Crucifix”

My second unofficial music video for John Maus. This one is animation too, but abstract-geometric instead. Made me realize the many limitations of Sony Vegas Pro when it comes to animation (I’m moving to After Effects).

If the Vimeo 1080p version is too slow for you, you can try 720p on YouTube.

Animation project, Part III

This is the last update for the animation project I’ve been working stead-fast lately, since 85% of it is done. The more the video is nearing completion, the more I’m slipping my sleep towards 3 AM, working on it day & night. Some of my favorite scenes so far:



Animation project, Part II

About half of my animation project is done. I thought that it would take up to May to finish it, but I might be able to finish it at some point in April. I love working on it, so I put more hours in it as time goes by. You can see a picture of my Vegas editing app with the project loaded. I hope the artist will like the final result of the music video (he doesn’t know I’m working on it), although I’m not too optimistic.

Scene where the heroes are escaping to space. Everything is just better in space.

UPDATE: One more frame grab, from the time travel section of the story…

Why “John Carter” Failed

“John Carter”, the recent fantasy/sci-fi action movie, is the biggest box office bomb in film history, with a total net loss of $166,566,620. The movie did “just ok” with critics, but most viewers who saw the movie, liked it (70% rating on IMDb & Rotten Tomatoes). So apparently, from entertainment’s point of view, the movie was not a disaster. It entertained better than expected. Marketing was adequate too. So why didn’t more people go to see it? I have a suspicion that I would like to share.

I believe that the reason it didn’t attract larger crowds was because of the theme itself. This is a very old fashioned story, more leaning towards kits fantasy rather than radical, modern sci-fi. When I first saw the trailer for “John Carter” a few months ago, I was left bewildered that Hollywood would finance such a movie. It had a feel of the 1930’s Flash Gordon in it, but with better effects. And that was its flaw: old fashioned, pure cheesiness.

In today’s day and age, most people I know are hungry for smart movies that mess up with their mind a little. That make them think. That have something interesting and new to say, or at least visually show something refreshing. A movie becomes a classic when it speaks about our situation today, or tomorrow. This movie has nothing like that in it. It’s a very sterile & dry interpretation of old epic fantasy films: some guy, fighting bad guys and monsters, amongst laughable technology.

Give me a break. While this might fly with a few young kids and very old people who don’t know better, it won’t fly with most of the rest of us, the main body of customers, who still have a brain and would like to use it occasionally.

“John Carter” deserved the money loss, but I fear that Hollywood will never learn anyway. They pour unnecessarily huge amounts of money on stupid movies such as this. And this, among other things, will be their undoing.

Animation project, Part I

For a few weeks now I’m working on a music video that’s animated. I use Creative Commons “Attribution” images as backgrounds, and then I animate the action by hand, frame by frame. I bought a Wacom tablet, and I do all the sketching on it and Photoshop. I used to sketch a lot when I was a kid, and I’m considerably good with it, but I have never done any animation work before. There’s a steep learning curve, but I learn as I go along. So far I have finished animating 16 seconds out of the 2:55 song. I estimate that the video will be ready sometime in May. I work on it a few hours a day.

Introduction scene to the bad guy:

The good guy on the run (scene where he meets the girl for the first time):

MobiSlyder test

MobiSlyder is the small brother of the popular Glidetrack slider. It’s meant for cellphones, P&S digicams, digirecorders, and small dSLRs. The MobiSlyder comes with an articulated mount for full flexibility with your phone, a mobile device mount which has a variable size and can fit both small and big phones, a 1/4″ standard mount, and an adhesive & 1/4″ ball mount.

I tested the slider with my Canon SX200 HS digicam, which worked great. The slider was really smooth, it was like pushing a feather! Very nice sliding, especially for that price!

I also tested with my Galaxy Nexus phone, which is a rather big phone at 4.7″ diagonial screen. The phone also had a plastic case which added to the bulk and weight. The mobile device mount was able to fit the Galaxy Nexus fine, but the articulated mount had problems supporting the weight (even after tightening it). The mount would just collapse under the weight occasionally.

Another problem was that the slider is a bit noisy, as you can hear below. I usually don’t care about capturing sound for my projects, so for me this is not a problem. Also, I’m more likely to be using the standard mount with my digicam rather than the phone too.

High Highs – “Flowers Bloom”

One of the most beautiful videos and songs of last year. Simple, but yet dreamy and powerful. Directed by the amazing Video Marsh.