The artificial intelligence based colour grading system Colorlab Ai certainly looks like it could transform the grading process. Colorlab AI advisor and investor Steve Bayes explains why he became involved and how this technology should eventually become available to Final Cut Pro X users.
The current state of the world has posed challenges for all of us. As filmmakers, our challenges have been extra unique. Budgets are reduced, crews need to be smaller, and we are generally expected to work with less resources. That’s why we created the free Ninja Filmmaking mini-course: to show you how to create big results by outthinking your challenges. We’ll break down exactly how to plan out your story and be a far more proactive, stealth and intentional filmmaker.
Graphic courtesy of Muse Storytelling.
Graphic courtesy of Muse Storytelling.
The Muse Storytelling folks have launched a free online short course under the title Ninja Filmmaking that is aimed at helping moviemakers cope and survive if not thrive in this pandemic-affected world.
If things were difficult enough for independent self-funded documentary moviemakers before the arrival of COVID-19, they are even more challenging now with personal income and resources radically reduced and yet even more need for us to produce compelling visual storytelling to production standards that are constantly growing higher and higher.
Luckily, we are in the post-DSLR filmmaking revolution era, the now well-established mirrorless hybrid era with high quality, affordable cameras that can record excellent stills as well as video footage to current UHD broadcast and cinema projection standards.
Moviemaking remains, however, a predominantly white, middle-class occupation except in places where those of us locked out of the system have banded together in cooperatives with the support of donors and mentors to equip and teach ourselves to tell our own stories.
The last such organization located in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Paddington shut its doors several years ago after charging high fees for equipment rental and training during its later years.
Any free or affordable training by well-qualified moviemakers is welcome and I am for grateful Muse Storytelling’s ‘Ninja Filmmaking’ online course and advice on what for current production standards by one-person bands.
Moviemaking remains costly here
As Drew Turney of Filmism.net shared in a recent newsletter:
We all know moviemaking is an inherently expensive exercise. Even the amount of money we’d consider low (or no) budget filmmaking would be enough to get the average middle class family out of debt for the rest of their lives.
Drew bounces between Perth in Western Australia and Los Angeles, and is doubtless aware that moviemaking is an even more costly exercise in Australia than it is in the USA, with our exchange rates, lack of importer and retailer competition and local unavailability of many key items as well as non-representation of a number of useful, even essential, brands.
Nonetheless the equipment list shared by the Muse/Ninja folks is a good one based on the currently most affordable and versatile feature-quality Super 35 hybrid camera, the Fujifilm X-T4, supported by microphones from Australia’s own world-famous audio equipment maker, Røde Microphones, along with other currently popular lighting and grip products.
Production hardware recommended by Ninja Filmmaking
Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.
Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR professional Red Badge standard zoom lens.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 with Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric wide to standard zoom lens.
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens mounted on Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, water-splashed to demonstrate weather-sealing on lens and camera. Image courtesy of Panasonic Australia.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G100 mirrorless digital camera with Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric zoom lens and Panasonic DMW-SHGR1 Tripod Grip.
Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K.
Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K aka BMPCC 6K with Meike 35mm T2.1 Super 35 cinema prime lens.
Sigma fp L-mount 4K 35mm sensor hybrid video and photography camera.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 with Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens and Atomos Ninja V 5″ 4K HDMI Monitor/Recorder.
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art EF-mount fast zoom lens can be adapted for a range of Super 35/APS-C cameras or for cameras with larger sensors that can be set to Super 35/APS-C.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional prime and zoom lens collection as of late 2017, all with manual clutch focus, invaluable for fast, accurate and repeatable manual focusing as well as linear focus-by-wire and autofocus.
Meike 35mm T2.1 Super35 Cinema Prime with EF or PL mount.
Miller Air Carbon Fiber Tripod System.
Sachtler System FSB 4 Fluid Head with Sideload Plate, Flowtech 75 Carbon Fiber Tripod with Mid-Level Spreader and Rubber Feet.
Rotolight Aeos 2-Light LED Kit for video or stills photography.
The Muse Storytelling team’s Ninja Filmmaking gear list is a good one and in the best of all possible worlds would be affordable and findable at local retailers, had COVID-19 not arrived to disrupt supply chains and global air freight not to mention Australian and US postal reliability, or rather, the lack thereof.
As underlined by the Ninja Filmmaking list’s reliance on Røde Microphone’s products for audio recording, Australian brands such as Atomos, Blackmagic Design and Miller Tripods are highly regarded in video production around the world for their affordability and durability under challenging conditions.
While Fujifilm’s X-T4 Super 35 hybrid camera is an impressive performer and the company’s Fujinon prime and zoom lenses are justly respected by cinematographers, there are other approaches to video production.
Panasonic has been making strides in its S-Series 35mm sensor hybrid cameras with the Netflix-approved Lumix S1H while the recently announced S5 looks like a respectable and affordable lower-specced alternative A or B camera.
Panasonic’s G-Series Micro Four Thirds hybrid cameras like the Lumix GH5, GH5S and even the G9 have impressive video capabilities, excellent IBIS and a documentary-style Super 16 4K look and feel, though many moviemakers regret the company’s reliance on DFD contrast-detection autofocus when autofocus rather than traditional manual focus-pulling is becoming increasingly important for one-person bands.
While Westcott’s Flex Lights are impressively versatile in combination with the company’s Scrim Jim bounce and diffusion system, I have long relied on industry-leading Rotolight’s LED lights for stills and video.
Sachtler’s Flowtech tripods are reportedly fast and efficient to use on location by solo moviemakers while Miller’s solo user tripods are solid performers and prove great investments, lasting for many years in the trenches.
Independent stills and now video tripod maker 3 Legged Thing continues to expand its range with constant innovation in a field where innovation was sluggish for years.
Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro manual clutch focus cum fly-by-wire autofocus professional lenses are benchmarks of lens design in any sensor format whereas Meike’s expanding collections of affordable geared cinema lenses show real promise in independent production compared to the exorbitant prices usually charged for cinema primes.
The question is, then, what look and feel, what visual and operating style suits you, your personality and your personal circumstances best?
Hardware and software Ninja Filmmaking forgot
The Muse Storytelling folks have assembled a great core list of hardware recommendations but they left out some essential items of hardware and software for the “proactive, stealth and intentional filmmaker.”
To date no hybrid camera other than Fujifilm’s X100 series comes with built-in neutral density filters so one must invest in sets of fixed value neutral density filters or the variable neutral density filters that are most appropriate for one person run-and-gun moviemakers.
Quite a few documentary and video journalism cinematographers have matching variable NDs permanently attached to each lens in their kit to avoid exchanging filters on the spot.
Brands to look out for include Aurora-Aperture, Breakthrough Photography, Formatt-Hitech Firecrest, PolarPro, SLR Magic and many others.
If you are collecting filters with industry-standard diameters of 77mm or 82mm then you need step-up rings to attach them to lenses with smaller filter diameters.
Brands I use and recommend include Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan, PolarPro and Sensei, but I lean towards hardened aluminium or better yet brass, and look for knurled step-up rings for ease of use, and fast removal and attachment in the field.
Lastly, whatever camera you are using, you cannot go wrong with Paul Leeming’s Leeming LUT Pro system for creating perfect colorimetry and colours indistinguishable from what your eye sees.
Expose your footage using Mr Leeming’s recommended ETTR aka expose to the right method, demonstrated on the Leeming LUT Pro web page, and your footage will be eminently gradable to feature film standards in editing and grading software like Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve.
3 Legged Thing – “The most technologically advanced tripod system in the world.”
Blackmagic Design – DaVinci Resolve – “DaVinci Resolve 16 is the world’s only solution that combines professional 8K editing, color correction, visual effects and audio post production all in one software tool!”
Leeming LUT Pro – “Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table (LUT) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading. The Pro II LUTs are designed for perfect Rec709 colorimetry and have a linear luma curve, with an average measured dE(2000) of less than 1, meaning they are visually indistinguishable from reality to the human eye.”
Rotolight – “From the very first LEDs to offer the shoot what you see benefits of continuous lighting and High Speed Sync flash all-in-one, to the brightest 2×1 soft light ever made, Rotolight LEDs streamline the workflows of imagemakers across the world.”
“I spent a quarter of a century editing on Avid and several years on Premiere Pro, so why did I decide to ditch them both and go with Final Cut Pro X? I’ll tell ya….
There’s a small but growing number of editors who have made the jump. The process is fairly predictable. Surprise when we first hear a fellow editor rave about FCPX. Followed by a willingness to give it a shot. And then two weeks of massive discouragement and frustration, because it’s unlike any other edit system we’ve used before. And finally, the lightbulb moment, the “NOW I get it” realization that comes with understanding the radically different workflow….”
LumaForge – “Jellyfish shared storage is designed for one thing and one thing only: collaborative editing. This requires a respect for the programs that make video creation intuitive to you. We’re platform agnostic because we believe the problem isn’t with the NLE you’ve chosen, but rather with the lack of ingenuity in the shared storage experience. It’s hard enough to find software you love. We’re making it possible for you to work seamlessly with the programs you’re comfortable with, while no longer needing to continuously pass drives back and forth.”
“This video demystifies use of Rec.2020 HDR footage on a Rec.709 timeline in Final Cut Pro X 10.4.x, especially for Panasonic GH5 & GH5S users who shoot in HLG. I don’t own a SONY camera, but the same workflow shown in my video would apply to Sony Rec.2020 HLG as well. Leeming LUT offers a Sony HLG to Rec.709 LUT….”
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 with Panasonic DMW-BGGH5 Battery Grip and Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens.
Panasonic DC-GH5S with DMW-BGGH5 battery grip and Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens.
“Josh Beal is a Hollywood editor who has work on such shows as Counterpart, Bloodline, and House of Cards. As a TV editor, Josh thinks it is time for Hollywood to reconsider Final Cut Pro X as a viable editing platform. In this presentation, Josh explains why Avid Media Composer is the King of the NLE in Hollywood and what needs to happen to convince current Media Composer editors to switch over to Final Cut Pro X….
… “I believe it’s the most forward-looking NLE on the market,” Beal says of FCPX….”
“At last year’s FCP X World in London, people were dazzled by watching London-based commercial editor Thomas Grove Carter of Trim Editing cut together an Audi commercial live. The speed with which he conducted the edit was mesmerizing….
… But FCP X, with its magnetic timeline and the powerful tools packed into its browser, is built for lightning-paced cutting—you just have to know how to use it!
As I see it, there are two standout techniques involved in Thomas Grove Carter’s process:
Mastery of three-point editing (and its keyboard shortcuts)
Mastery of FCP X’s browser-based system of organization and labeling…”
“… Final Cut Pro X is very good at certain things. Unfortunately Apple hasn’t yet cracked collaborative workflow and sharing Libraries between editors can be clunky.
Jasper Siegers at broadcaster EO in the Netherlands has been working on a project that allows all of its FCPX editors to collaborate by enabling version control. The free app is called PostLab and is available for download from the PostLab website.…”
“MergeX will merge two Final Cut Pro X events, combining keywords, ratings, metadata, etc… for every matched clip in each events. It works with every kind of clip: common, synchronized, multicam, compound. The resulting merged clips will be updated in the projects.
To take the simplest example, provided two occurrences of a same clip but with different keywords and ratings, MergeX will output a single clip embedding all the keywords and ratings of both inputs….”