Contrary to popular belief, “Midnight Special” is a spiritual movie, turned sci-fi, turned spiritual again.
Some Q&A, and ***SPOILERS***:
1. Where did Alton come from?
– Alton was conceived & born normally by his parents, as any human has. The fact that he could reach to other dimensions was a product of evolution. His father exhibits the same abilities (as shown at the very end when his eyes shine), but to a much smaller degree. The evolution of human kind to another state of being is teased.
2. Where did the alien structures come from?
– They were not “alien” in the traditional meaning. They were on a parallel Earth (or another dimension), an Earth that had a different evolutionary path than ours. Parallel dimensions are hidden from our awareness under normal circumstances, but the biological evolutionary step mentioned above made it possible for Alton.
3. What were these beings?
– These were light beings. That’s where the spiritual part comes in: “light beings” are considered in spiritual circles to be very advanced entities. It’s been teased by the movie that that’s where humanity’s future lies too. Also telling is that Alton is reborn by the sun (the light that gives life to everything in our planet).
4. What was the point of the movie?
– Alton is a messianic figure, just not in the traditional terms. The cult thought that he was literally a religious figure, while Alton is messianic in a more subtle way: he reluctantly gives a preview to humanity of what lies ahead for them. The movie is about humanity’s “first glimpse” of how expansive the Cosmos is. Not just in terms of aliens travelling from planet A to planet B (in the same universe) as all traditional sci-fi movies have been for so long, but also in parallel, and also up and down and inner and outer (in other words, the Cosmos is a web in all directions of different universes and dimensional existences). That’s next-level sci-fi. That’s the border between sci-fi and New Age spirituality (without the negative baggage that usually accompanies it in the minds of most people).
5. Ugh, so New Age hogwash was the point of the movie?
– No. What people today call “spirituality” is really science that hasn’t been understood yet. And since science can’t explain it yet, some “faith” might be required in the meantime for those who had direct experience with it. This is why it was so important for Lucas to say “I believe”, because after he had his direct experiences with Alton, he made the leap to faith. But belief is to be transcended by hard data, otherwise it becomes dogma, which keeps humanity down. This is what the movie is going for too: the leap from unbelief, to belief, to hard data, and not to dogma (that the organized religion/cult had fallen victim of).
The most telling scene on this interpretation, is at the very end, when Durst is cutting her hair. You can interpret that scene as simply trying to get away from FBI, so she needs to change her appearance. Another, deeper explanation would be though, that Durst’s character now is free from religion and dogma. You see, her braids were the same as the women in the cult. Even if she had left the cult, she was still bound by their beliefs for years after. By cutting down the braids, she’s now free from such beliefs and dogma, she understands that the cosmos is more expansive, and that said expansiveness is not necessarily “religious” in nature, but rather, “just is”.
This was for me the best movie of 2016. The most forward-looking, and the most “edgy” sci-fi movie of them all, by literally moving the needle of sci-fi from caricature super-heroes, monsters, and A-to-B aliens, to a more expansive terrain that’s more rich in potential. As an ex-filmmaker myself, that’s the kind of sci-fi I always wanted to make too (I’m a meta-psychedelic visual artist now).
6. So why didn’t so many people get it?
– It’s because most people aren’t indoctrinated in such cosmological ideas. Even if Alton did explain it at some point, about a “world on top of ours”, that still didn’t register with most people. Most viewers needed a way more spoon-fed explanation to get it (and maybe they should have received it, that’s a failure of the movie production companies involved to not insist that the director gives it to them).
Additionally, the press’ comparison of this movie to the ’80s Spielberg movies didn’t help at all, because this movie had absolutely nothing to do with these older movies (people went to the cinema expecting something specific and recognizable, and they got something completely different instead). So they found the movie a boring dud, as if without significance, and with a WTF ending. But there is significance in the movie, it tells of a larger world that we will eventually reach one way or another, but that we must have faith until that day comes, when that faith transforms from belief to hard scientific data.
This is not different than if the year was 1870, Jules Verne trying to convince people that one day we will have technology to reach for the stars, or the deeps of the sea, and instead, he gets people thinking he was crazy, or just a “fantasy story without significance”. All it needed was some faith in the natural process of technological and/or biological evolution. That’s what the filmmaker is asking of you today too.
I watched the trailers of The Hobbit at 48fps and Avatar’s at 60fps (as their directors wished), and I really don’t like the smoothness. Originally, in principle, I was a high frame rate advocate for cinema movies (thinking that 24fps is simply a relic of a century old tech requirement), however, now I’m against upgrading the temporal velocity for regular film. The difference between my old opinion and my new one, is that now I know why 48 or 60 fps don’t work as well as 24 fps. I had to become a collage artist to understand why.
The reason is that high frame rate becomes extremely distracting. When there are more frames, it means that there is way more information on the screen. The eye and the brain gets way too tired to follow and analyze it all (it follows it by default, you can’t turn off that natural process). Because of that, the brain runs out of steam to follow the story fully, and so the movie fails because the story doesn’t shine through.
The same is true for color: if you look at Hollywood color grading, except for black & white, only 1 or 2 more color families are actively visible. For example, you will get red, yellow, and that teal color that covers both green and blue. Basically, the fewer color families that are on screen, the less processing the brain has to do, resulting in the viewer dipping into the story more.
It’s the same in collage: the fewer the color families used, the more successful a collage is. Otherwise, it looks like a mess.
Having said all that, there is a future for high frame rate (and more colors), but that’s only in VR, or in futuristic systems where the image is projected directly on the brain. Then, yes, there’s a requirement for “more”, since the whole point of VR is to “fool” the brain about the reality it displays.
But for TV & film, which is projected away from ourselves, and perceivable by only one of our senses (so it must provide less information in order to be processed fast-enough), “less is more”. That’s why 24fps is here to stay for these mediums in particular.
I received my Moondog Labs anamorphic lens for mobile devices today, and ran some tests. It is wonderful to be able to have such a wide field of view with a device such as the iPod Touch 6th gen. As you can see in the picture, the image is way wider than shooting in standard 1080p. But do not make the mistake to think that this is all the anamorphic lens’ doing. There are THREE factors that extended the wide field of view that much:
1. Shooting in 3k instead of 1080p (using the ProMovie app), the sensor gives you a completely different field of view. The crop of the sensor is smaller. This is the biggest hack you can do to get a wider field of view (it’s even bigger than the anamorphic lens hack!).
2. The anamorphic lens.
3. Turning off stabilization (which means that you must have some sort of other stabilizer at hand to shoot properly).
Here’s the test video I shot today:
Here’s how I shot:
1. I used the ProMovie iOS app, which allows me to record at 3k (3200×1800 resolution). I used 100 mbps, at 24 fps. I locked the exposure to 1/48th shutter speed, and then I set the ISO to lock the exposure. I set and locked focus, and white balance. The ProMovie app also has an anamorphic screen view! I set stabilization to OFF (that’s why the video is very shaky). Obviously, when shooting something seriously, use a tripod or a stabilizer/gimbal.
2. When using the Moondog Labs anamorphic lens, and you apply the 1.333 aspect ratio in the project properties and on each clip (I use Sony Vegas), the effective resolution becomes 4267×1800.
3. Then, I color graded this way, plus I added the FlmConvert filter with its “FJ H160 Pro” template, and also tweaked the template’s levels a bit.
4. Then, I exported at exactly 3840×1620, at 100 mbps bitrate (I exported no audio in my case). If using Sony Vegas, you must “disable resample” in all clips in the timeline before you export. Then, I uploaded on youtube. It is very important to export at the exact resolution stated above for 4k anamorphic btw, otherwise, people with ultra-wide monitors will get black bars on all four corners! The above resolution is ultra-wide UHD (3840 px wide).
It is definitely possible to shoot a movie with a mobile device, just like the Sundance movie ?Tangerine? did. And in fact, today it would look much better than Tangerine looked like (which had pretty bad lighting throughout). Being the bad girl I am, I ordered the Moondog Labs anamorphic lens, with a 52mm filter ring, to add a variable ND filter for outdoor shots and shoot anamorphically for more cinematic shots.
So, I spent $150 to buy FilmConvert today too, only to find out that I could do a better job myself at grading my iPod Touch 6th Gen footage. Click the images below to see the before and after properly (click through again to see them in full resolution).
For this tutorial, you will need the Sony/Magix Vegas video editor.
1. Shoot your movie with either Filmic Pro, or if you have an iPod Touch instead, the ProMovie app. The ProMovie allows up to 100 mbps bitrate, and for certain newer iPods, it can shoot at 3k instead of just 1080p. At the end, you will be exporting again at 1080p (or 2k), but you will have a wider angle and more pixels to work with than shooting in 1080p.
2. Make sure lighting is adequate indoors. If shooting outdoors, always have the sun on your back.
3. Set your app at 24 fps, and lock the shutter speed at 1/48th. Lock white balance to the best value you can, and lock focus. For ISO, observe the exposure meter, and always lock the ISO half a stop below of what the app thinks it’s the best exposure. This is because mobile apps tend to overexpose. This is mostly true for outdoor, or brightly lit scenes.
4. Record (preferably with a tripod or a gimbal), and save the video in your gallery (there’s a small icon to do that). Connect your device, and copy the MOV file(s) over to your PC.
5. In Sony Vegas, it’s very important to set the right project properties to match the clips (right frame rate, tell it it’s progressive, etc).
6. Bring the footage in your timeline. Select all of them in the timeline, right click on any of them, and hit Switches/Disable-Resample. If you don’t do that for ALL your clips in your timeline, you will end up with “ghosting” (blurred images).
7. Pick a clip in the timeline, and click the little + icon at its far right to add plugins on it. In the new window that opens, click the little + icon again on the right of the window, and add, in this order:
– White Balance: amount 0.100
– Saturation Adjust: pick the preset “Reduce minor color noise”
– Brightness & Contrast: Brightness -0.040, Contrast: 0.075
– Color Corrector: Saturation 0.800
– Gaussian Blur: 0.0003 for both horizontal & vertical ranges
8. For exterior, sunny shots, it’s the same as above, except for a few small changes:
– Brightness -0.040, contrast 0.000
– Color Corrector: Saturation 0.750
No scene is the same as another, so you will slightly need to adjust the above to better match your scenes.
9. After you color corrected all clips separately, click the + plugin icon on the left of the video timeline (that’s the icon for the global plugins). Add the “Levels” plugin, and select the “Computer RGB to Studio RGB” preset. This will make your footage look “flat”. That’s ok, it won’t look like that when it’s rendered at the end. We need to do this, otherwise all h.264 exports will come out way too contrasty (they will differ from your Vegas working preview, and this plugin prevents this).
10. Export by clicking File/RenderAs and opening the MainConcept AVC/AAC format. Select the “Internet HD 1080p” template, and click “Customize Template”. Make it look like exactly like this (and give AAC audio 160kbps at the very least). Then, upload to Youtube the resulted .MP4 file if desired.
Note: Interior shots might need denoise. You can do that using the Neat plugin (commercial), or by bringing your noisy scenes to Photoshop one by one (use an intermediate codec in that case). I used Photoshop above for the interior shot of my living room.
Note 2: A very interesting Vegas plugin is the LAB Adjust. With it, you can mute the green colors (or too much orange colors), by using the “Channel b” very slightly (bring it towards the left). Some shots might require this plugin. Hollywood movies have strong reds and blues, but greens are rather muted.
A little bit of a test this evening: iPod Touch 6th generation, vs the BMPCC camera. Obviously, the BMPCC looks awesome with minimal processing (just a LUT), but the iPod Touch is not too shabby either after some serious work is done on it to clean it up. Click through the image file to view in high res. If I had a newer iPhone model, no noise would be visible, and with sharper results. Basically, yes, it is possible to shoot a movie with FilmicPro on iOS, just like the Sundance movie “Tangerine” did. And in fact, it could look much better than Tangerine looked like (which had pretty bad lighting throughout). And being the bad girl I am, I ordered the Moondog Labs anamorphic lens, with a 52mm filter ring, to add a variable ND filter for outdoor shots and shoot anamorphically for more cinematic shots. I use the ProMovie app instead of Filmic Pro myself, which has additional features for iPod users: shoots in 3k instead of just 1080p, at 100 mbps. Sweet.
Lawyer Timothy Sandefur wrote an editorial for the “Claremont Review of Books”. In it, he’s saying that Picard’s non-interference politics were a step backwards from Kirk’s constant seek of justice, and that in the movie “Insurrection”, the race of Ba’ku were backwards people, shunning technology and exploration.
Personally, I find his positions immature. His positions are opinions that I would have agreed to 10 years ago. Back then, I’d fight for justice, and I’d interfere too. And I felt that technology and science were everything! But now, at age 42, I see the world differently.
In my opinion, it’s a mistake to interfere in another species’ actions — sometimes even when asked to, unless your own species (or alliances) get in danger because of these actions. It’s part of the evolution of every individual and species and their society to have wars, or even massacres. There is no society that can grow if everything is all rosy, or are held by the hand. The ugly things must happen for the good things to arise and become part of their nature. So who are we to get in the middle of an alien civil conflict “so we save them”? If you don’t let them duke it out, you don’t save them, you just postpone it. On a case by case basis, interference might be justified if the species tries to eradicate itself via nuclear weapons. Second chances can be given, but if they insist in extinction, then this is their right. Stop trying to “save” them. Your human morals don’t apply to all species. Let the universe play itself out.
As for the Ba’ku being backwards people, the author doesn’t get their philosophy at all. The writers of the movie left clues about their abilities: they were able to manipulate space and time via the mind (remember the bits about “the eternal moment” where time was stopping). They needed no spaceships to “explore”. Their minds were constantly as if in deep meditation. With that ability, they could visit not only other planets in their galaxy, not only the rest of the universe, but also other universes! Something that the Federation’s technology couldn’t do!
So, no, the Ba’ku weren’t backward people. They were miles ahead of the other humanoids on Star Trek.
They say that there are 5 “soul ages”: infant, baby, young, mature, old. People who re-incarnate on Earth can be any of these 5. Most of them are in young/mature categories in the Western world (with the Tea Party/religious fanatics belonging in the “baby” category). The way the author sees the world puts him right between “young” and “mature”. Similar ideas as those expressed on Reddit by moralist atheists.
Problem for them is, there’s a 5th stage, the “old soul”. And the old soul sees things differently, and I do too.
So, in the example the author gives, about the looming Klingon civil war, the various soul ages would react as such:
Infant: “Bwahahaha, nuke yourselves already! One less competition/enemy!” (Ferengi/Klingons)
Baby: “I’ll let you fight it out, and then conquer you while weakened.” (Romulans/Cardashians)
Young: “If I help you, you should help me too in what I need!” (Andorians)
Mature: “No, stop what you’re doing! You’re killing yourselves!” (Kirk / Early Federation)
Old: “You’re free to do what you want to do.” (Picard / Late Federation / Most Vulcans)
My mini review of the Cinema FV-5 Android application, tested on the OnePlus One phone. The app is able to do all the basic things needed to get a good quality, flat result out of your phone’s camera. It supports: exposure set & lock, WB set & lock, manual focus and lock, low contrast/saturation/sharpness (“flat” colors), 24p support among other frame rates, and up to 40 mbps bitrate. On my phone, it supports up to DCI 4k resolution (the free version of Cinema FV-5 does all the above too, but it goes only up to 720p — which can be enough for most cases). In some phones (particularly if they have Lollipop), the app also supports manual shutter speed and ISO settings. If you couple your phone with a variable ND filter for phones (to control the camera better outdoors, where they tend to overexpose), and a small steadicam, you could have a winner.
It worked fine on my OnePlus One, but on the 1st Gen Moto G with Android 4.4.4 it had problems: no focus, no recording (it only recorded once, and then it refused to do so again). It’s very possible that these problems will go away with a Lollipop upgrade, because Lollipop has a much better camera API.
I was close on getting a Panasonic LX100 for its 4k video, but then I found a deal at Amazon for the Canon S110, for just $180 (1/5th of the LX100’s price). The S110 doesn’t have 4k or full manual control, but it does have the bare minimum to be able to shoot nice videos: exposure compensation & lock, manual focus, flat colors, an ND filter, and 1080/24p at a good bitrate. If you half-press the shutter button, it also gives you the shutter speed, so you might be able to lock the exposure at a shutter speed close to 1/48th, to achieve an even more filmic look. The camera has a larger sensor and faster lens than most P&S cameras, so for the price, it was a steal. I haven’t shot anything interesting with it yet, but so far, I like what I’m seeing.
I’ve been a vocal supporter of Canon in the past, both for their dSLRs and their P&S cameras, but rest assured, these days are over. Canon is left behind in dSLRs when it comes to video, while they consciously removed existing video features from their new P&S (exposure lock and custom colors are now omitted from most new P&S), making them utterly useless. I sincerely can not recommend any new cheap Canon P&S anymore for video, while their 3 year old models performed better in terms of feature-set.
Sony has made some evolutionary steps in the right direction, but it’s Panasonic who has come to its own with their 4/3s cameras (particularly the GH4), and their P&S line. Their latest offering, of their popular LX line, is the LX100, arguably the best P&S ever. It comes with a large 4/3s sensor, a very fast f1.7 lens (with a 43mm thread to add filters!), 24p/30p/60p frame rate, 100 mbps bitrate at 4k resolution (!), full manual control, and some color control too.
Basically, it makes it the perfect video camera for indie filmmakers who don’t want to bother with lenses (e.g. if they shoot guerrilla-style all over the place), while retaining the large sensors found in dSLR-type cameras. The 4k quality you’re going to get for $900 is unparalleled too.
Now, if you don’t want to bother with 4k editing (which can be slow), then the tiny Canon EOS-M mirrorless camera is still the best bet (coming with all the video features one would expect from a Canon dSLR). It’s now selling for about $230 on eBay, as new, which makes it very cheap for what is capable of. You’d still need to buy 2-3 lenses for it though. Overall, with a wide prime, and a cheap zoom you’re probably be paying about $500. Which is still cheaper than the LX100’s $900. But you don’t get 4k or the ease of mind of using a P&S.
Personally, for the type of videos I shoot (art-type stuff), these are my best options right now.
I’ve written 1-2 such articles in the past, keeping the cost below $500. But this article actually aims to acquire professional-looking results, and so you’d need about $1500+tax for that. Which is still dirt-cheap if you think about it. You will also need a minimum of two people as crew, to help you with the shoot (in addition to the actors). One will have to take care of the audio part, and the other one the lighting, clapper, and decor, while you’re shooting and directing.
Camera + lens: Canon EOS M + 22mm kit lens: $325
Best video camera for the money. It outperforms others in the sub-$500 range in bitrate, fps choice, color control, audio controls etc. And it comes with a really good lens! You will have to shoot with a “flat” color profile to get the best out of the camera (install the Technicolor CineStyle), and you will need to disable continuous autofocus in the settings.
Additional lens: 18-55mm STM kit lens, $130
If you’re going to have a second lens, this one is also very good and versatile for the price! These two lenses made for the EOS M are both very good.
0.6 ND filter: 43mm Tiffen: $15
0.4 ND filter: 52mm Tiffen: $10
ND filter for the two lenses when shooting under bright sun. Lets you open up the aperture more!
43mm lens hood for 22mm lens: $9
52mm lens hood for zoom lens: $8
Avoid sun flares for the two lenses.
Lens cleaning kit: $10
Trust me, you don’t want dust on your footage!
Two UV filters, at 43mm and 52mm for the two lenses: $10 both
This is mostly about protection of the front glass rather than anything else. Modern cameras don’t really need cutting down UV.
Class-10 SDHC cards: 32GB, 5 of them: $100
Always backup after finishing shooting to a laptop & external drive (double backup).
Batteries: Opteka LP-E12 2000mAh: 7 of them, $100
You only have 30-40 minutes of video recording on these batteries, so you’ll need quite a few.
Fluid-head tripod: $45
The tripod head must be fluid for video panning.
Revo SR-1000 Shoulder Support Rig: $80
For run & gun or action sequences.
Revo Stabilizer: $140
If you must follow the subject down the alley or through a house, that’s the accessory you need.
Audiotechnica Mono Microphone: $55
This is a good mic for the money. You convert to stereo in post-processing (Sony Vegas can do this). If you want an even better mic, you can go for this Senal one, for $99. Finally, have extra batteries for your mics.
Wind muff (aka “dead cat”): $29
For the times that there’s a lot of wind while shooting.
Boom pole: $49
Must-have accessory if you’re serious about audio. Forget mounting the microphone on the camera and be done with it. It will never sound right that way. You need a “booman” to hold the pole close to the actors.
For monitoring while shooting. If you’re recording audio via the camera, you’re wearing the headphones. If you’re recording via an external recorder, the booman is to wear the headphones.
3.5mm extension cable: $9
This one is good for 25ft (7.6 meters). Please note that if the cable touches itself while tangled, or other electrical cables, you might get audio noise.
Audio monitoring splitter: $26
So you can monitor via headphones while recording (since the camera has only one jack).
Microphone Attenuation Cable: $35
To cut off noise that is usual on non-phantomed 3.5mm mics, especially when using such long extension cables.
Lights and audio are more important than how good your camera is. They literally “make” your movie. There are various tutorials online on lighting. If you have the extra money, prefer this model instead, which has a third, “fill” light. If you need more, or less light than these light bulbs provide in a shooting situation, you can purchase and use different watt bulbs.
To stop shiny, unprofessional-looking faces. Get your actors to do their own make-up btw. Ask them to bring their own clothes, but you will need to instruct them as to what kind of clothes, and what color.
Spring Clamps: $8
So you can clamp the lights/reflector in more places for more interesting lighting looks.
Light meter: $50
It helps you figure out how to be consistent between shots regarding lighting, especially outdoors where the light varies with time.
Clapper Board: $5
Important, especially if you’re recording audio externally and need to sync audio in post-processing.
Gaffer tape: $13
Even NASA uses tape, it’s one of these things you should always have around. Also useful to place it on the ground, so actors know where to stand while shooting.
Food for cast & crew: $50
A lot of people would be willing to come and help your movie for free, but they get grumpy and they lose interest easily if they’re not fed. This is a known fact among filmmakers: always feed your cast & crew.
Canon EOS lens adapter: $100, or from Fotodiox for $60 (some claim that it doesn’t support IS).
This allows you to mount the rest of the Canon lenses (and with an additional adapter, Nikon-mount lenses), should you already have such lenses lying around.
Macro: Raynox DCR-250: $70
It lets you shoot macro on the cheap, should you need such shots for your movie.
External Recording: Tascam: $100
This is only useful if you have a dedicated audio guy, rather than just a booman. If you record via the camera, you, the shooter+director, will do the audio monitoring. But if you buy this, you will need the guy who holds the boom pole+mic to actually control the audio recording too, and he needs to have a good clue of what he’s doing. Otherwise, skip this, it will be a hindrance rather than a feature. Audio, just as lighting, is not easy to master.
Lavalier mic: $20
It’s tricky to use one of these between two or more actors, but some shots might require it. Don’t use more than one of these mics though, or you’d get into audio-mixer hell.
So the light stands don’t trip over so easily.
Rails + follow-focus: $265 + $200
You don’t really need these, but hey. Let’s indulge!
The successor to the S95 is here. Canon just released the CMOS-based S100, the first camera with the brand new Digic IV chip in it (which hopefully alleviates most of these issues that plagued older Canon cams). The camera has a 1/1.7″ sized sensor, an f2.0 lens, and a 5x zoom. Personally, I would have preferred to sacrifice the zoom down to 3x and get an f1.8 lens instead, but hey.
The biggest new feature I was waiting for this year was full manual control in video mode, since the main competitor to Canon’s S-series, the Panasonic LX-series, do support this since last year. Canon didn’t give us manual control though. So, according to the manual, here’s what you get with the S100 in video mode:
- 1080/24p @ 38 mbps and 720/30p @ 24 mbps (new).
- Force aperture to open-up with the built-in 1/8 (3 stops) ND filter (new).
- Use external RCA monitor as a recording display (new, HDMI port is playback-only).
- Wind filter for the stereo microphone (new).
- Zoom while recording (new).
- 120 fps slow-mo at 640×480 (new).
- Shoot using preset focal lengths (no step-zoom) (new).
- Exposure compensation (P mode).
- Exposure lock.
- Autofocus lock.
- Manual focus.
- Miniature Mode.
- Auto & Custom white balance.
- Custom colors (set sharpness, contrast & saturation to minimum values for “flat”).
Personally, I will buy one (especially since I gave away my SX200 IS to my brother, so I’m without a good P&S atm). It’s not 100% what I wanted (faster lens, manual video control, additional 1080/30p option), but it’s the closest one out there to what I want. Unfortunately, the LX-series don’t offer enough bitrate and sensible frame rates to me, so I can’t consider them. I expect Canon’s new Digic 5 to produce a clearer picture in video mode than any older Canon camera too (and this includes dSLRs).
This is a music video I shot last year, but I was not able to edit it for so long because I got the equivalent of writer’s block, but for video (long story). Which is such a shame, because the track is wonderful (future of music, right there), and the band is both great guys. Both the video, and the song/EP by Old Arc are available for free download.
We shot the video within two hours time (in a quick trip down to Santa Cruz, the band is from there), using the Canon SX200 IS P&S digicam (flat colors, -1/3 locked exposure). The 720/30p footage was converted with Cineform to 24p (20% slow down), and edited with Sony Vegas Platinum 11. The CartoonR free plugin was used quite some. Here’s a directly-out-of-the-camera screengrab.
On my color grading adventures on Sony Vegas I often felt limited by the lack of a re-lighting plugin. Of course, the rule of thumb is that we should always have near-perfect lighting while we’re shooting, but in real life this is almost not possible, especially for most of us DIY enthusiasts who have no major clue about lighting, or we’re using cheap $100 equipment.
I would love to have a plugin that let’s you add virtual lights on your scene, in the 3D space (like Vegas’ 3D track support). We should be able to adjust the number of lights, their strength, the focus, the distance, and with the help of masking, even adding lights behind a subject. Similarly to lights, we should be able to add shadows, to darken parts of the screen.
Of course I don’t expect this to be as good as real lighting, but I’m willing to use it if needed. Right now I’m Vegas’ “soft spotlight” method via the Bump Map plugin, which is not ideal, but some of my footage required it.
Now that the rumor has it that Red Giant Software won’t be supporting Magic Bullet for Vegas anymore, another plugin I’d like to see in Vegas is a AAV ColorLab clone. Unfortunately this freeware plugin is too buggy and not developed anymore, so in order to easier emulate lots of movie looks, Sony themselves must recreate it. That plugin allows you to change saturation, hue and lightness on specific colors only (without the pain in the ass UI that’s called “Secondary Color Corrector”). One added feature I’d like to see in it is the shrinking of the range of these colors. For example, anything that’s around the blue/cyan values should be able to crash towards the ultimate blue (kind of like removing the number of blueish colors and replacing them with the same true blue). This can help to easily recreate old cameras. It’s a stylistic thing, as color grading really is.
This must have been the closest call of any Kickstarter project at that level. From the $15,000 goal, $15,023 were pledged, after $300 were withdrawn in the last hour (almost giving me a heart attack). I’m so glad that the film was eventually funded though.
“Terminus” was shot last month in Atlanta by (the HV20-famed) Solomon Chase. He used the Canon 5D MkII, and the Technicolor CineStyle picture style; which allowed for an amazing look. Just look these amazing screen-grabs below. The Technicolor CineStyle picture style has even replaced my own ExtraFlat style, as it’s… even flatter and with more dynamic range in the shadows. Very cinematic.
The kid actor is the same kid from “The Walking Dead” TV series! Can’t wait for the film to be released.
Update: I backed two more indie projects on Kickstarter, both sci-fi films: “The Falconer” and “The B-Ring“. Payments are really easy, since there’s no need to enter credit card info if you already have an Amazon account.
Update 2: Solomon was very kind to send me info on how he color graded. Here’s the original un-graded version, here are his instructions (1, 2). Solomon wrote:
“I use different processes depending on what I’m going for. The flooded house shot used 3-4 different layers for example. Again though, as with “Rainy Day” cinematography, if you shoot in overcast weather… the dynamic range is going to look A LOT better. People think there is some magic effect I’m using. As you can see, the original shot looks just fine. The blueish, low contrast grade I created is a very specific and intentional effect – I wouldn’t go using it on everything. The 2nd “Multiply” layer is to add density to the blacks… you can adjust to taste (usually between 15%-35% looks good).”
And here is the result of my re-enactment of the look on Vegas. The way I got close to that look, in a simpler way I think: 1, 2.
As you can see in the ungraded version, it’s neither the grading in post, nor the Technicolor Cinestyle that makes the shot look so great. It’s the lighting. The lighting is perfect during the shoot.
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