Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NYC Doc Filmmakers Networking Event

Just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know about an event coming up this Friday, May 2nd sponsored by DCTV and Shooting People. If you are a docmaker in NYC you need to drag your butt out of the house and attend this event.

DCTV (Downtown Community Television) is a unique filmmaking institution wholey dedicated to the mission of fostering affordable filmmaking equipment, training, and resources to filmmakers throughout New York City.

DCTV is essentially a community-based non-profit film school for people who can't afford film school. They offer a long list of classes, workshops, seminars, and even production and editing services for documentary filmmakers. They also have some free filmmaking programs that serve inner-city teens and well as the handicapped. (Yours truly gave a book tour kick-off seminar there back in February.)

It was founded and run by Emmy-Award winning veteran doc filmmaker, Jon Alpert, (Bagdad E.R., Off to War, etc.) and as far as I'm concerned, it's probably the most-down-to-earth place for filmmakers and networking in the city. These guys (and gals) really care about filmmaking and serving our indie community and they've been at it longer than I've even been in the game.

The event is titled Documentary Filmmaker's Lounge and in typical DCTV fashion, it's free and open to the public. Not only that, but there's an open bar, free food on the grill, plus a raffle and give-aways.

Everytime I go to a DCTV event I always meet cool motivated like-minded indie filmmakers, some of which have become regular collaborators in recent years. The energy in that place is great. Needless to say, I will be there in-person this Friday. So holla at your boy if you come through! See you there!

Presented by DCTV & Shooting People
Friday, May 2nd @ 5:00PM-7:30PM
Location: DCTV (87 Lafayette St., NYC)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

35mm Adapter Class at Gotham Digital

As digital filmmaking continues to lap at the heels of celluloid filmmaking, new tools keep emerging to help close the remaining gap in visual quality between the two mediums. Some of the most prominent recent tools in the digital vs. film image-quality battle to date are:

1. 24P video cameras
2. More affordable CMOS imaging chips
3. Affordable HD and HDV resolutions
4. Film Look Software
5. Adjustable gamma, detail and color settings

(Side Note: I wrote an article in last month's issue of Student Filmmakers magazine on 5 Ways to get a Film Look with a few more details on pimping out your video images. I'll repost it here soon, if you missed it.)

And most recently rounding out the list are a whole line up of 35mm adapters designed to attach to the huge crop of fixed lens prosumer cameras. In a nutshell, these adapters allow you to shoot with professional 35mm still camera lens which will give you a nice sharp picture and most notably the more shallow depth of field of film cameras.

The end result is more cinematic images than these cameras can produce on their own and yet another bludgeoning blow in the film vs. video battle. (Which as anyone who's not in complete denial knows that digital will ultimately win, but that's another blog for another day.)

Since the first model appeared on the market a few short years ago, a number of contenders to the 35mm Adapter crown have stepped into the ring and some have faired better than others. To help you sort through the many models and various pros and cons, my good friends at Gotham Digital, one of the better rental outfits in NYC, have just started a class to help shooters and producers understand, compare, and get better results from this powerful new imaging tool.

This brand new class will feature a side-by-side comparison of two of the popular 35mm adapter units that work with Panasonic's HVX-200 camera: The Red Rock Micro and the Letus 35mm.

After the class attendees will be given a DVD with results of the work and tests performed during the class so that they can be armed with clear examples to show to prospective clients, directors, or producers who may be in the equipment decision-making process.

Click here for info on Gotham Digital's 35mm Lens Adapter Workshop. The next one is Sunday, May 11th.

Making the Movie Blog also has a decent little online comparison of basic features and pricing for several units.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spike and Nokia Push Mobile Filmmaking

I wrote about this new fringe movement in the low-budget digital revoltion in a blog post awhile ago and it looks like it's continuing to pick up steam. A cell phone is no longer just a cell phone it's a mobile communication and media device. (The phone industry is partial to the term, "Mobile Device", so I'll give them that, given that these days they really are much more functional than mere phones.)

As you read this, a select number of filmmakers are experimenting with shooting their projects on cell phones. Obviously, the quality of much of these videos is at You Tube level on a good day, but image quality is always improving and the trade off is complete flexibility, super-stealth shooting, ultra-light weight, and complete spontaneity. (I feel like making a movie- right now, right here!)

I haven't actually done any myself, but I imagine that it's a very liberating way to work without all the constraints and extra attention required when shooting with standard video cameras. I imagine the other attraction seems to be the ability to quickly and easily share those digital video bits and bytes by zapping them through the airwaves instantly to your friends (and subscribers?) cell phones or possibly even an editor on stand-by if you're shooting in a remote location.

The possibilities are definitely wide-open for new ways of working and gaining easier video access to more dangerous or elusive subject matter. (Think P.E.T.A. animal-cruelty stings, war coverage, surveillance, forbidden locations, etc.)

Narrative filmmakers are also testing the waters to experiment with new ways to tell visual stories, including Spike Lee, who is working on a promotion with Nokia where filmmakers like YOU can upload their video to a site for review by Spike and assistant directors who will ultimately choose a few select clips from the whole bunch to piece together a larger film on the subject of "humanity". Anyway, you can get a more complete description of this experiment from this NY Times article and the Nokia Productions website.

Want More Info on Cell Phone Cinema? Check these out:

Karl Bardosh, is one of my colleagues at NYU and he wrote the just released, "Complete Idiot's Guide to Digital Video". He is also the author of an upcoming book on Cell Phone Cinema which he is credited with introducing to India. Here's some more words about the topic on his website: Cell Phone Cinema Essay

Here's a music video for the song "Stunning" by 8mm. It was shot by the singer herself on her cell phone. (I hope the record companies don't get any ideas about budgeting music videos from this clip!)

And here's a video tutorial on how to shoot and upload video from your cell phone onto YouTube:

Apple Launches Final Cut Studio World Tour

It probably comes as no surprise that, like many indies, I'm a major MAC and Final Cut Pro fan. (Full Disclosure- I'm also an Apple stockholder- about 2 shares.) Apart from the sheer ease of use and effectiveness of the FCP tools, I believe in supporting companies that support indie filmmakers.

And long before AVID finally wised up and got on the band wagon to offer affordable editing solutions to indies, Final Cut Pro came out of the gate as the editing solution for the rest of us - user-friendly and at a price we could actually afford. Several generations of FCP later and it's only gotten better and more widely accepted by filmmakers at all levels, even Hollywood.

If you're thinking about crossing over to MAC or adopting FCP as your editing suite, you might want to check out the Final Cut Pro Studio Tour coming to city near you to learn more about the latest incarnation of FCP that now includes the provacative new "Color" program for a whole new level of image control and color-correction.