Professional video production BLOG

Sony PXW-FS7 Gamma Settings and Color Grading

The creativity of Film production and video production shouldn’t be hindered by the confusion of settings on a complex camera.

 

I spent the last 8 days or so shooting with the Sony PXW-FS7 trying to find the best settings for gamma and ISO. This camera’s functionality goes so deep it could be a mystery to ever find the best of the best settings. But after this week I feel I’ve found a set of settings and some LUT plug-ins that I would be happy shooting with any day of the week.
There’s a lot of discussion whether Rec709 is the best setting or is S-Log3 or is Cine EI or one of the many other gamma settings. I’d like to simplify life a little bit, and share with you my discoveries.

Firstly, I only tested comparisons between Rec709, S-Log3, and Cine EI.

Rec709 while giving you an instant look, and looking not bad at all on the FS7 has a drawback. That drawback is losing dynamic range. We all know that shooting a flat Log gamma is the best method for retaining dynamic range. So unless I’m shooting something that I need to give the card to someone who doesn’t know how to grade, or expect to have to grade the footage, I won’t be shooting Rec709. In this video above you can see the results of overexposure in Rec709 verses the same shot in S-Log3.
There is a loss of highlight detail in Rec709 that is retained in S-Log3.

Many people may be used to editing and color grading in a NLE with their DSLR footage. While this may give some good results with DSLR’s I don’t believe it will work with an S-Log Gamma. There needs to be some other form of grading.
That’s where LUTs come into play. What is a LUT? Lut stands for “Look Up Table”. Basically Look up tables are calculations that know the origin camera’s footage data and how to get it to look like certain film developing methods.
In other words. There is a LUT that can convert a Canon 5diii footage to the look of Kodak 5213 film. If you’re a cinematographer, rather than a videographer, you’ll want a cinematic look to your footage. This can be obtained with a lot of hard   work with curves, and saturation and all forms of grading, or you can simply apply a LUT and start there.

What I came across was a set of LUTs from http://vision-color.com called ImpulZ Luts. They can be incorporated directly in Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects, Davinci Resolve etc.
So for this week, until I find a shooting and editing method better than this, I will be shooting with the FS7 in S-Log3 Gamma and use LUTs to give my footage the initial pre-grade that I like.

So a breakdown of what I discovered.

1. Rec709 has a slight loss of dynamic range
2. S-Log3 gamma gives a great minimal-noise result with LUTs from vision-color.com
3. I lowered the R-Gain and B-Gain within the 5600k WB setting because my footage was looking purple.
4 Cine EI mode to me seemed very noisy even in light areas, and incurred a loss of detail.
5. 4k footage on the FS7 is incredibly sharp and detailed
6. 180fps with the XAVC-I codec is super high quality and can be upscaled to 4k to work within a 4k project and you won’t see macro blocking. (just don’t call it 4k footage if you do this)

My favorite LUTs thus far have been the Kodak 5213 and the Tetrachrome 400. I have to say I love the FS7 thus far.

EXODUS Gods and Kings. Why it’s inaccurate BUT…You should see it.

As you probably know, another Bible movie just came out and there’s so much controversy once again about it. Some Evangelical Christians crying “foul!”  Others saying something else.

Well I’m saying something else. I actually left the movie in tears pondering my faith in God and wanting to be challenged to know and trust Him more.   I’m going to explain why the movie can be deeply and profoundly impacting in a very good way and I think that every person who claims to have faith in God should see it.

While the movie had some inaccurate points:

1. Moses Fled after he killed an Eyptian (true)  He was not exiled as the movie portrays.  2. Moses spent 40 years in Midian tending flocks  (true) not 9 years as the movie suggests. 3. An angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush (true) not an eleven year old boy as the movie portrays.  4. The first plague of the water turning to blood almost happens in Sharknado fashion.  Giant alligators?  OK. I get it, we need LOTS of blood.

The portrayal of God as an 11 year old boy is most disturbing for some. One scene he looks a little like “Chucky”  But let me make a point.  To portray God as anything visual is inaccurate.  80 year old man actor?  Inaccurate.  30 year old man?  Inaccurate.  A woman? Inaccurate.  A voice coming out of the bush? Inaccurate.  The bible says “An angel of the Lord spoke to Moses”  Lets not forget that in Hebrews 11, it says that “Moses, for the sake of Christ, gave up his identity as the son of Pharoah’s daughter to be mistreated as a slave”  Hebrews 11:24-26. Wait, Moses lived before Christ…..or did he.  Let’s not forget that Christ himself said. “Before the foundations of the world. ‘I AM’.   The same words that the 11 year old boy said to Moses.  “I AM”  So the boy can be a portrayal of a young Jesus, who at a young age astounded the teachers of the Torah in the temple with His wisdom. Luke 2:39.  It’s something to ponder.

And there are a few more inaccuracies that I won’t go into.

So why should we see it anyway?   There’s a lot to learn.  The first quote which struck me deeply was when the overseer of the Hebrew slaves says to Moses in a disgusted tone: “Don’t you know that Israelite means. ‘one who fights with God’?”  and Moses quickly corrects him saying. “Actually it means ‘one who wrestles with God.’”. This is absolutely true.  In Genesis, Jacob who would have his name changed to Israel,  wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and said “I will not let go until you bless me” And therefore his name was changed from Jacob to Israel.  This wrestling with God is a theme throughout the movie.

Some Christians complain that Moses’ comment to his wife when he’s in Midian about his son Gershom; “Can’t you let the boy believe in himself?” is a reflection of the directors atheist point of view and is an attempt to teach people that we should rely on ourselves and not God.  I believe actually that this is perhaps a great way of showing that Moses had to learn to trust in God, and at the time of fleeing Egypt perhaps had not yet shed his identity as an Egyptian military leader, with great knowledge and understanding.  Most people with a lot of knowledge and training struggle to let go of their own strengths, trading it for God’s strength instead.

In the movie when Moses returns to Egypt to set his people free,  he begins with attempting to train the Israelites  for battle.  While this isn’t in scripture,  some historians claim that Moses was a military leader before he fled Egypt.  We don’t know if this is true or not but it makes another great point of giving up self reliance.  After Moses tries for a time to win a battle of attrition against the Egyptians, God says to Moses.  “I’ve been watching you horribly fail”. And a frustrated Moses says. “Well what do you want me to do?”  God replies. “For now, just watch”  Then the plagues begin.  Moses has no control over what God is doing, and almost watches in disbelief at what is happening.  This is another step of Moses laying aside his knowledge and beginning to work with God.

There are many more occasions in the movie when Moses has a choice.  Do I do things the way I understand them? or Do I do things according to faith?  Wow, this is a powerful message in the film! I walked away in tears.  On the drive home, I said to my wife;  “I just want God to use my life for His glory. I want my life to make up for all those who are believers but refuse to relinquish their control over their lives, in exchange for God’s purposes.”

In the scene following the plague of death, where all the firstborn of the Egyptians die,  Pharoah brings his dead son along with many others to Moses and Pharoah says angrily:  “Is this the God you serve?! A God who kills children?”  Some think this is a jab at God.  But Moses reply is gripping.  Moses pauses and ponders for several seconds.  The he says in a quiet tone. “No Hebrew children died last night”.  The Bible clearly beckons us to be on God’s side. Obviously there was a conflict in Exodus.  Slavery and Hebrews wrongly worked to death for hundreds of years, and a refusal by Pharoah to let them go.

What disturbs me more than things that are inaccurate in the film, or “jabs at God” as some people claim exist in the film.  Is the constant complaining from Christians.  It’s like an ugly noise.  Some people say, “I won’t see it, nor would I recommend seeing it.”  If they didn’t see it how can they comment?  It’s time for Christians to be light in this world and not a complaining stench.  Encourage people to see it, then they will ask you questions about the Bible.  Its a fact that after the Bible series came out on TV, google searches for Bible scriptures skyrocketed.  People began to study the Bible again.

I am currently in pre-production of a movie on Revelation.  I’m researching and talking to scholars, so I can accurately portray the events in the book of Revelation, but I know deep in my heart, Whenever it is finished, people will call me a heretic and more complainers will cry “foul!”  “He got it wrong!”

Let’s put down our reliance on self and begin to WRESTLE WITH GOD as this movie so greatly encouraged me to do.

The video on this page is peak into our movie. “Revelation end of days”

 

5 Tips for Staying Ahead of the Curve in Video Production

A few months ago I ran into a guy who had a video production business. We began discussing equipment and he said the strangest thing to me.  He said: “My business has been steadily decreasing, so I decided I should finally switch to High Definition Cameras.”
This conversation happened in 2014, and by this time people were already shooting footage in 4k and 6k resolutions! This guy was still shooting in Standard Def?!  No wonder his business was decreasing. His equipment and I dare say perhaps his skill-set wasn’t matching current demand for video production.

Over the past 5 years I’ve seen a huge flurry in advances in technology, not just in cameras but in software, hardware, stabilization equipment, etc. So staying ahead has been a challenge.  Sometimes an entire portion of our business week is spent entirely on learning new softwares, learning to operate new equipment, or studying trends.
So here’s a list of 5 things you can do to keep ahead of the curve for your Video Production or Marketing company.

1. Read Blogs by Tech Geeks.

I mean geeks in the most endearing of terms, because I am one.  For example a few websites like  cinema5d.com or cinescopophilia.com  sites have reviews of the latest equipment and what you might be missing out on in the tech world for Film and Video production.

2. Keep up with software

Adobe really helped us do this with Adobe CC. With a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud all software is constantly updated.  Current issues with video codecs, plugins, software versions are always updated and offered to you as part of your subscription.  You also need to check your third party plug-ins for updates in keeping up with issues like motion tracking, light generation, keying, camera tracking, color correction.

3. Follow people who you know are ahead of the curve.

It’s important to know what type of work is being created by respected artists.  It challenges you to change the way you approach your work.  I’ve really liked to follow the work of Andrew Kramer of videocopilot.net.  He has great tutorials on creating special effects and CG renderings.For a while he remained in obscurity, but last year he ended up creating the title graphics for “Star Trek Into Darkness”  This tells me his ideas are cutting edge.  Also his teams creation of the software “Element 3D” and “Element 3D V2″ have been groundbreaking. Above is a tutorial I did for the latest version of the software in creating
a 3D Logo from a .png  There are other people who have a lot of influence on the video production world.  I’m not saying you should copy them, but it helps to get insight to help you create really original content, whether it’s for marketing videos, film production or corporate projects.

4. Watch other creatives works on Vimeo, Behance or Youtube

I don’t always love what I see on Vimeo Staff Picks but it helps me with creativity sometimes.  Sometimes it tells me what I should strive for, and other times it tells me what I shouldn’t do.  But always being stuck in the box of your own head is not a good thing. I’m also not suggesting that you compare yourself to other people so much that it discourages you but rather to see what others are doing so you can be challeged.

5. Collaborate with others.

Don’t be a one man show.  You may be able to create something cool and good on your own, but all great things take teams  to do.  If someone does CG better than you, or that is their specialty, outsource that work to them.  Meet with other creatives to bounce ideas off of each other.  If you need aerial cinematography for your project, you could learn to fly a drone or helicopter and take years of practice and learning.  Or you could  hire someone who already is an expert.  I’m not saying to not learn new things, but sometimes it’s better to work with someone who already has the knowledge.  Part of collaborating with other comes with finding good music and stock video clips for your projects.  I used to write and record all music scores for projects, but now I look to sites like themusicbed.com or audiojungle.com  I’m a contributor on shutterstock.com for videos, and people are always buying my clips, so that tells me that other creatives are collaborating with me on a distant level.  Nonetheless they are using my work in their projects.

Cheers from Wollwerthfilms.com

 

 

When Creating a Marketing Video, Don’t give it away so quickly.

How many times have you clicked on a youtube video to find an advertisement that you could
choose to skip in 5,  4,   3,   2,    1?    How many times did you actually watch the video all the way through?  How many times did you click on “Skip Ad” almost immediately.    Well, as a marketing professional our goal is for people to be so enamored with the video right off the bat, that they will watch it all the way through.  Even if they aren’t the demographic for that product or service.
This may seem hard to do, but I believe there are a couple of key factors in creating videos that will engage people immediately.  Hence the title “Don’t give away what you’re talking about so quickly”.

I think back on some of the most powerful commercials I’ve ever seen.  The ones that made me say,
“Wow, that was a powerful ad!”  The ones that raised the bar in my mind to the company represented in the ad.   Take for example Dodge.   Dodge took a risk on the 2013 Superbowl ad.   It was  a whopping 2 minute commercial.  Paul Harvey’s voiceover with nothing but photos, very good photos shot by photographers with credentials.  Some from National Geographic. Some merely edited in 2 1/2 D.

https://vimeo.com/103747053    Click Here if you can’t view the video above

The commercial had me riveted.  I watched with tears in my eyes when he talked about the son
wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps.  All the while I was saying,  “What is this commercial for?”   It was for Dodge?!!?!    Well,  kudos to Dodge, they’re image was just raised in my mind 10 times!  They never said “Dodge” one time in the Ad.  They didn’t give it away right from the start.
They played with your emotions in a very powerful way.   They maximized on curiosity initially, then nostalgia, then personal family ties.

My favorite quote from a friend of mine who is a pastor of a church said.  “People do what they want to do.”   So why do we barrage people with facts to make them move instead of causing them to feel why they should move.   People begin to move once they are touched at their deeper levels of feeling.
So that’s the job of a powerful director/writer; know what makes people move, then create that piece.

Don’t be fooled by all high end production companies.  Sometimes creativity is lost in all the people involved in a project.  Just because it’s expensive doesn’t make it good.  I’ve seen lot’s of well shot, well lit, well paid for commercials that made me click on “skip ad” within 2 seconds.  They all lacked one key component initially.   (Grab-you-by-the-throat curiosity creating content)  These commercials instantly let me know what they were selling before I even cared.  They didn’t compel me to care.

We all know the phrase “Curiosity killed the cat” Curiosity is such a strong emotion and we need to learn to as writers, directors, and marketing content producers maximize on curiosity.

Had the above mentioned commercial started with the Dodge logo, I would have turned it off.
Instead they took a risk and bet you would watch all the way through before you knew what it was about.  It turned out to be pretty smart. 

So the first element I mentioned was curiosity.  Another element we might want to consider is
surrealism.  Why don’t we like watching other peoples home videos?  It’s because it looks like boring real life.  Someone else s boring, real life.   We tune out the “normal” very quickly so it’s important our videos have an element of “another world”.  Be it through colors, camera movement, time manipulation, or whatever you can think of that is outside the box, there should be some of this within our works to compel the viewer to KEEP WATCHING.

I’m currently working on a project that the client wants to be a national campaign to compel people to understand the value of water.   We’re in pre-production phase so there is a lot of brainstorming happening.  How to get people interested in something so normal as water.  I have some ideas…
See you next time.  

Understanding Your Marketing Video Client and the Brief

A few years ago I got a call to do a marketing video for an ambulance company that was making a pitch to the Regional Medical Center. As a professional video production company they sought us to help them be the first choice in ambulance service for the Medical Center and wanted to stage themselves above several other ambulance service providers locally. The big problem…..We only had three weeks from pre-production to delivery.

I had to understand this client very very quickly, get as much knowledge about their method of doing business, technology and their vision. This meant a lot of listening and perceiving. Making a great marketing video is so much more than having a great camera, jib, lighting, editing suite, etc… It all first comes down to; Can you understand your client and convey their mission and vision in a powerful way?

We sat down for lunch together, and I listened to what they wanted to share with the Medical Center,

“We care about people.” We treat our patients like family.” were sentences I heard over and over again. In addition to this, I knew that I needed to raise the bar for their image as professionals.

It’s one thing to be “caring” but are you “caring professionals”? I spent a lot of time on the phone with this client asking questions: What is your average response time? Why did you start this company? What is your passion? Why do your EMT’s work for you and not the other guy?

I also asked a lot of questions from the EMT’s themselves. These interviews opened up a lot of deep story to this company, very powerful stories. You’ll see in the video that one EMT actually became interested in becoming an EMT because much of her family was killed in a car accident and an EMT saved her sister’s life in that accident.

All these questions and more helped WollwerthFilms make this short but powerful 3 minute pitch for the Medical Center. In the end, the client wanted NO CHANGES or deviations from the video we created. They saw that we understood their vision, and conveyed it powerfully, even making tears come to the eyes of the viewers.
After the presentation, people came up to the owners of this Ambulance Service and asked if they could use them as an example for their business model…..Wow, the power of a well told story!

But to tell someones story, you have to first listen to what they want to say.

Looking back on this whirlwind marketing experience really makes us appreciate the fact that God gave us two ears to listen and only one mouth to speak.

R/C Heli Reel

So You Bought a New Drone? But Does Your Work Show any Promise?

So You Own a Drone… But do you have what it takes to be an aerial cinematographer?

Let me give you a little background. I built my first drone 5 years
ago, 800 size helicopter, carrying a Canon 7d, got me business almost
immediately. I was already a small video production company, but now I
was going to incorporate aerials. 3 years later I was getting calls
from the big dogs regularly. I shot for Fox Sport EPIC commercial
“Happy Days are Here Again”. Partnered with Mi6Films in Hollywood as an
east coast representative for Drone Aerial Cinematography.

HSI Productions called for commercial shoots. I also turned down some
projects I thought would hurt my reputation, such as shooting aerials
for a “Puff Daddy, King Louie” music video, or “Elephant Graveyard”
another zombie flick.

Now that my background is covered lets talk about drones. Everybody has one now, and everybody

wants to be an aerial videographer/cinematographer. But does everybody
have what it takes to create compelling works just because they have a
tool. I’ll let you decide, but I will tell you what I know.

Capturing compelling images with a drone still requires the same
elements as shooting anything on the ground with a camera. These
elements are as follows.

1. A subject: hmmm. You mean my aerial cinematography has to have a subject? Well if you point

a camera at nothing, and it’s up in the air, does it become more interesting? It’s still nothing.

So if you’re flying a drone to create a video make sure you have a subject.

2. Proper lighting: I’ve seen a lot of aerial video shot in the heat
of the day with harsh looking lighting. And even if you have
improper lighting a little post production and color grading might help a
bit, but that’s an art learned over years of experience.

I was really happy when we shot for the Fox Sports Ad “Happy Days are
Here Again” that we were the first on set at 6am and had the privilege
to shoot at around 7am with a nice warm light.

Here is a screen shot from that shoot.

And here’s the video.

3. Proper framing. I know in photographs we talk about the rule of
thirds, and it’s not a staunch rule I follow, but when I look at the
most compelling aerial shots I’ve done, somehow there’s always that rule
of thirds that seems to creep into the most pleasing aerial videos.
Below is an example: Painter in lower left, sun in upper right third,
horizon not quite a third but close. You can watch the video here.
http://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-6899053-stock-footage-artist-painter-painting-a-beautiful-sunset-lanscape-wearing-a-long-dress-and-sunhat-cinematic.html?src=gallery:detail/jIWdjvQ7ivvL-b2Fqpc_aA:1:3

4. Proper camera movement: So much drone video floating around is
herky jerky, no semblance of an actually thought through shot. Too much
panning, too many shifts in motion. Think clearly through what you are
shooting and what it is you’re trying to accomplish. In this video,
the last shot

was well planned. Coming out from the porch of the house, switch to
drone shot, camera is reversed going away from couple, through the
trees, then suddenly rises to 200 feet revealing the landscape of their
home.

 

Other things to consider: Is the shot rising or falling? Pacing something? Straight down rotation?

Good Aerial shots are mainly comprised of ONE good camera movement, not
many movements. See something in your mind then try to re-create that.
But that does mean you have to be a good drone pilot. Even though
these new drones with GPS, stabilization and return to home features are
easy to fly you need to make sure you can make the drone go exactly
where you want it to.

One final thing to consider is responsibility.

Recently we saw a drone pilot fly through fireworks on the 4th of July and the video went viral all over the internet.

My question is. Did he have permission? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t

But one week later, I flew my drone through fireworks at a City Festival in Beaufort SC, but I

had permission from every authority I could think of. City, Chamber of
Commerce, Festival coordinators. Acting responsibly is one thing most
new drone pilots lack. The use of drones is becoming soured by
irresponsible people doing dangerous things, flying into aircraft flight
paths.

Have fun using your drones, and keep up with WollwerthFilms so you can
learn how to create powerful video productions that don’t crash and
burn.