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The Old Man’s Pendant III (TOMP3) Video Log #1

I’ve decided to document the process of making The Old Man’s Pendant III and this is the first installment. In this debut entry I discuss the challenges of the first two films and the thought process that defines the third one which I’m currently working on.

A new reason to really HATE that stupid Asus keyboard power button

Instead of a highly useful “end” key, Asus has been putting the power button in the top-right corner of their high-end laptops.

Asus laptop power button
That should be an END key. I hate Asus so much for this.

Aside from the fact that the “end” key is something I use constantly when typing out things like the post you are reading right now and I have to disable number lock to work around the missing editing key, lately I have been waking up and walking over to the laptop in the morning only to discover that the computer has somehow died overnight! I thought it was some sort of extremely hard to reproduce hardware problem until I also found some white stuff on the keyboard one morning. On closer examination, it was kitty litter.

The cat has been lying on my laptop at night and the stupid Asus power button on the keyboard lets the cat hold the power button to force my laptop off.

Picture of a cat
The cat is a lot cuter when not turning off my laptop

Needless to say, this has seriously pissed me off. I already had a major problem with the missing “end” key and with the risk of accidentally tapping the power button, but to have the cat killing my computer in the middle of the night is absolutely ridiculous.

Asus, you need to install a proper power button on your high-end laptops. This power button on keyboard thing is really stupid and I’m very unhappy about it.

Protip: filmmakers, STOP “shooting flat” or using cinema color profiles on your camera

I plan to do a much deeper video on this subject later, but for now I’ve found a perfect example of the sort of “you should shoot flat [for that coveted film look of course]” bad advice I see online all the time. If your camera does not output files that are RAW video or at a minimum 10-bit color channels, you should NEVER SHOOT FLAT, LOG, or CINEMA COLOR PROFILES, EVER. I’ll point you to this article  “Shound I Shoot Flat and Underexposed?” with a Technicolor CineStyle example image so you can read their advice and then I’ll show you with THEIR OWN IMAGE why shooting flat on your DSLR is a really bad idea.

Here’s their original image which was shot with Technicolor CineStyle, a “flat” picture profile that supposedly helps you get more dynamic range and therefore better looking video:

Technicolor CineStyle example image
Technicolor CineStyle example image from The Association Blog

And here’s what it looks like after I pull it into an image editor, boosting contrast, saturation, brightness (a little) and gamma (a little) to make it look “normal” again:

CineStyle image after color correction
Color-corrected image. Note the blocky artifacts and unnatural colors.

Let’s take a closer look at the face side-by-side, before and after.

Original CineStyle, vs Corrected
Original CineStyle, vs Corrected, double size to show detail more clearly

Keep in mind that this is a small JPEG image from their website, not a lossless shot of the original frame; there are JPEG artifacts visible in both images, but those artifacts help us get a better picture of why “shooting flat” on cameras without 10-bit color or RAW video is a bad idea: notice how the JPEG artifacts in the corrected image are WAY more obvious and the quality loss after my simple color correction drastically lowers the apparent “production value” of the image? That’s a big part of the problem, but the other part is the colors. The reduced saturation requires heavy saturation boosting to look normal again but the damage caused by discarding a lot of the color DIFFERENCE information cannot be undone; the face has color banding issues that make it look more “plastic.” The flatter you shoot, the nastier this color banding gets. No amount of correction or magical LUT will ever make it look normal again.

When you shoot flat, the 1/2-stop of dynamic range you gain comes at the cost of effectively ruining your color and increasing blocky compression artifacts and noise. That’s why you can’t color grade properly. That’s why it looks like garbage when you push it in post. It’s not your fault; you were given advice intended for $10,000 cameras and you’re holding a $500-$1000 camera. This applies to any flat, LOG, or “cinema” picture style. Technicolor CineStyle, Panasonic Cinelike-D and V, V-LOG, Canon S-LOG, all of them will permanently damage your 8-bit footage and possibly make it useless. You can’t outsmart the basic math: 8 bits of space can’t hold more than 8 bits of data.

Use a standard picture color profile with all tweaks set to zero or their default values (turn noise reduction all the way down though, especially on Panasonics), take test shots, push the footage in your editor to see how far it goes before falling apart, tune your settings, and repeat until you get the best results possible straight out of your camera.

As I mentioned before, if you happen to have a camera that can output 10-bit color (to the files on your memory card, 10-bit HDMI alone doesn’t count) or RAW video then you have 4x or more added color detail that will be lost in the 8-bit final product after editing anyway, but the only DSLR or camcorder I am aware of that is affordable to consumers and has 10-bit color is the Panasonic GH5. Even Canon’s expensive new 5D Mark IV DSLR only outputs 8-bit color! In the camcorder world, 10-bit color is available on the Panasonic DVX200 which is about 40% more expensive than a Canon 5D Mark IV.

If you want to read more, this excellent article does a great job of explaining further, including images that illustrate the problem of “breaking up the histogram” brought about by shooting “flat.” I will post a  video about this eventually, so subscribe to my YouTube channel if this topic interests you.

2017 in Review and Where 2018 is Going

2017 was pretty cool. 2018 is going to be really sweet. I have so many great short films and projects planned and I’m looking forward to seeing them through. Oh, if you want the latest version of that camcorder I held up around 2:50, here you go: http://amzn.to/2EteYYP

Some of the wonderful things I have planned for 2018 include gear reviews, short films (watch out for The Old Man’s Pendant III in particular), and reviews of terrible things I found on VHS tapes. I also plan to continue being super bad at playing the recorder in the classic 8th grade tradition. I haven’t decided on whether or not I’m keeping the hair I’ve grown; it looks funny to me, but it’s cold outside and every bit of insulation seems to help for now. Yes, I am an intellectual rockstar, but only in my own mind.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my channel and watch the great new stuff I’m going to put out in 2018! Have a wonderful new year!

A proposed bumper for The Basic Filmmaker

The Basic Filmmaker put out a call on YouTube for people to make a new bumper for his channel. This is what I came up with in a few hours. I think some aspects of it could be improved but I’m pretty happy with it as-is. The five-second time limit was a bit constraining and I would probably do it a little differently if I made it a second time around. Anyone who has watched my short films might recognize a couple of the clips in this video from the “Behind the Scenes” during the credits of The Old Man’s Pendant II.

Hubsan X4 H107C quadcopter/drone cell phone fisheye adapter modification

I attached a cell phone fisheye adapter lens to my Hubsan X4 H107C quadcopter/drone and flew it around for a bit. Most camera mods involve disassembly and possible damage, but this mod is harmless. This footage is color corrected but has not been stabilized.

This is definitely the cheapest and simplest camera fix mod you can do for this little quad. All you need is a $3-$5 cell phone adapter lens kit, some strong clear tape, electrical tape to mask off the light leaks, and careful hands to line the adapter rear up with the direction of the camera. The results speak for themselves. The lens flare is inevitable because the lens adapter has uncoated elements.

After this video, I added a thin rim of electrical tape sticking out of the front edge of the lens to cut down on lens flare from sunlight outside of the visible area. I don’t know if it helps but it certainly can’t hurt.

Slow computer or slow internet? Also, comedy: “STOPTIONAL”

I recently visited a business that I’ve helped with computer problems for nearly 10 years. They claimed to need faster computers because their accountants were trying to send QuickBooks data files to themselves through remote desktop tools and the speed was pretty terrible. When I got there and talked to them for a bit, I realized they were probably on a 10-year-old DSL internet package, so I ran a speed test.

1.5 Mbps down, 0.5 Mbps (512 Kbps) up. That’s nowhere near fast enough to upload QuickBooks data files fast enough! I told them to call CenturyLink and see about upgrading their package, possibly saving them thousands of dollars in computer upgrades and replacements.

Also at the start of this video is a fake Monster energy drink “sponsorship” skit. Don’t worry about the loud crash; the Monster can survived intact. 😉

Camera advice: don’t cheap out

Alternative link

I often see two forms of advice in response to “what camera should I buy for video?” Some push buying expensive full-frame DSLRs with rigs, but more often the advice is to use what you already own (usually a phone) or get the cheapest thing that can possibly work. I think the latter is good advice, but I also think that it can be bad for the beginner to cheap out too hard on their first camera.

In this video, I ramble about why it makes sense to buy something a little more expensive.

XAVC-S with SDHC cards in a Sony HDR-AZ1 action camera

This is a quick tip for anyone that has a Sony HDR-AZ1 action camera and bought a high-speed MicroSDHC card (32GB or less) and is disappointed to learn that the camera refuses to record XAVC-S on the card even though it can handle the necessary write speed.

Put the card in your computer and format it with the exFAT filesystem instead of FAT32. Yep, that’s it. The default filesystem is the major difference between SDHC and SDXC cards and formatting the SDHC as exFAT is enough to fool the Sony camera. I think the exFAT requirement is actually present because exFAT supports files larger than 4GB in size while FAT32 does not; XAVC-S can result in some really large files compared to other modes.

The camera and apps will complain and beep about the card “not being compatible” but it’ll record XAVC-S at the full 50Mbps 60p rate to your card despite the annoying protests.