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Recent Blog Posts in 2008

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November 01, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam: Planning the Jam
Posted By Randy DeFord
By the weekend, I can see about 8 chapters to this doc. I have 4 started.

The first in just an intro. We shot scenes of driving through the city of Berea, specifically, Berea College. Since the founders of the Love's Labor Jam are Berea College grads, we thought it proper to start the piece with the college as a visual backdrop.

The first chapter includes an explanation by the 4 people who were in San Fransisco in 1995 the day Jerry Garcia dies. They witnessed a pilgrimage that made an impression - so much so that they decided to create an event that would celebrate musicians and their contibution to the arts. After that interview, the first LLJ footage is shown from the performance.

The second chapter is about the food. Two main ingrediants in this section - a look at the special hybrid tomotoes af multiple kinds that are provided for the festival goers (keep in mind that all this food in provided at no charge) and the 170 lbs. of fantastic grilled chicken, including the man responsible for the monster grill and the preparation of the chicken. After that...footage of the ladies cutting the tomatoes that will be a part of the festival legacy the next evening.

The third chapter is based on the set-up of the festival the day prior. This includes constructing the stage under the giant circus-sized tent, the sound system and lights. There a a few interviews to further explain the  preparation for the event.

Then another performance from the Jam. The piece ends with the woodworker who builds the stage and has been to every Jam.

Next week, more chapters. A good start coming in close to 25 minutes of viewable content.
Continue reading "Love's Labor Jam: Planning the Jam" »

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October 20, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam - 10 out of 12 and Counting
Posted By Randy DeFord
It's October 18 and I finished capturing footage of the 10th of 12 tapes. This potion is the performances. The whole approach at the Love's Labor Jam was two cameras.

Adam Shephard was stationary at a given side of the stage shooting, mainly, stationary. His mic was also positioned, high, at the rear of the tent. This mic was an omni condenser that scooped up some pretty good sound. The other approach, from my end, was to be the man front and side of stage, getting the moving or close-up shots.

After determining which songs of the many from each performer would be a possible candidate for inclusion, I had to capture both perspectives of that song. My whole goal of this process was not to capture a lot of footage that wouldn't be used, so decisions were made to choose songs that best represented each performers style, as well as good audio and visuals, on our part. There is also the question, when the time comes to post, which audio is primary - the track that best captured a given performance.

With Adam and I doing all the shooting and all the posting, I had to move around a lot in hopes of getting a 3 camera style on some of the performances. At this point into the capturing, I think we're going to reach that goal.

At this point, all the captures should be done by the end of October, leaving November to be the month of decision on what goes where in the doc outline. The more into this doc I get, the better I feel. The archiving of events like this are important, especially when it brings so many different musical styles together in complete respect for musical art and passion for the craft. This doc needs to prove how that existed in abundance at this event.
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September 28, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam - Sifting
Posted By Randy DeFord
This weekend, I was able to hit the halfway mark, as far as total hours of captured footage. One of the things that struck me the most was the range of poor to great shots we obtained.

It's a good exercise in humilty to go back and view something that didn't cut the snuff, and then see another shot that really had the qualities needed to make the shots entertaining and informative....without the distraction of a poor light or technique. I was able to have enough sense to get some of the slow, pannning, zooming and sweeping shots I wanted, especially during one of the key interviews. Those are the ones that make you smile.

The best part is that you can eliminate the worst footage and concentrate capturing the good stuff.

Run and gun is defined by taking it all in, whereever it is, however it is, and whomever it is. After the shoot, the work begins to string the best shots togther into a story. There were a lot of the interviews on this capture and the start of the performance side of the festival. The bill was eveything from blues to bluegrass, and the sound was as good as I could have hoped since we used mic technique with native capture to the camera itself. I'm happy with what I'm seeing, so far.
Continue reading "Love's Labor Jam - Sifting" »

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September 16, 2008
  IBC 2008 - Day oo4
Posted By David Cox
Day #4 - only one short day to go.

Conventions always end up being reduced to a core set of topics and buzz words. This year's main talking point is "Stereoscopic". For those that have been out of the galaxy for the last year, this means the production and presentation of 3D experiences, with the stereo bit referring to the concept of shooting from two viewpoints just like the two eyes in your head.

The first Stereoscopic DI suite in Europe was installed at Concrete at the beginning of this year, so we have had more access than most for experimenting with this new format. Certainly it kicks up both production and post production challenges, and many of those were at least in the process of being dealt with at the show. For example, 3Ality showed an impressive 3D camera rig as well as a small unit to analyse stereoscopic material to help highlight on-set issues such as camera line-up faults.

There are plenty that "don't get it" and consider 3D to be something that gets tried out every few years but eventually disappears. My view is that it has a great chance to stay this time and the reason I think so is that there are so many angles and interested parties that are pushing it for different reasons. Of course, feature films are the obvious first-adopters as 3D helps to win back cinema audiences. For the cinema chains, installation of digital projection allows them to accept media from sources outside feature distributors, thus opening up other income streams. While they are at it, they might as well add digital 3D, especially given the stats that films shown in 3D are winning up to 4x the box office receipts compared to the same film in 2D. Other areas pushing 3D include the music industry, where a performer's core income comes from live performances now that "record" sales are so small. Recording a concert in 3D and presenting it in multiple theatres allows them to effectively "franchise" themselves. Yet another aspect is gaming, the net result of which will be more homes equipped with 3D enabled computer monitors, which in turn should lead to stereo over broadband. There is also major interest from broadcasters.

With all those differing but complimentary aspects of interest, it's hard to see 3D not sticking around.

That said, apart from feature films, there has not been a huge amount of production in the UK in 3D. It seems that producers are happy to assume that 3D won't affect them. I can imagine that when next year's theatres are full of 3D films, but with 2D commercials in front of them and with audience expectations raised to a new level, they will regret not paying attention sooner.

Of course, whether 3D stays this time actually isn't solely reliant upon technology making access easier. I was asked by a journalist earlier in the year why I thought 3D had not become the norm in the past. They were a little shocked by my answer because they were expecting me to explain that it was because film based stereo distribution was difficult - synchronised film projectors and all that. My actual answer was "I think previous 3D films have been cr*p!". This is the key point of it all; we are still happy to watch a black and white film if it's a great film, because it's the story that grabs us not the delivery format. Audiences will not adopt 3D if it becomes synonymous with uninteresting stories where stuff is thrown out of the screen at them for no apparent reason. The story is the king, not the technology that delivers it.

Wandering around the trade floor at IBC and NAB, it's easy to get swept up in the technology but forget that no matter what we do in the production chain, we are storytellers. If we all remember that with stereoscopic productions, we'll create content that audience want to engage with and 3D will be here to stay.

David Cox

www.concretepost.co.uk
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September 15, 2008
  IBC 2008 - Day 3
Posted By David Cox
Day 3 at IBC was reasonably productive - lots of back-to-back meetings. It seems that however far apart they get placed, I'm always late for the next one!
 
Red have finally released an SDK so that other developers can support the Red One camera files directly. Actually, it's only a partial release and they have only released the Windows version, not Linux yet. I always thought it was a big mistake for Red to lock themselves into a couple of manufacturers in terms of post production support. Professional clients have expectations about ability and performance, and don't see why they should give that up because of a business deal between the camera manufacturer and a computer company.
 
Concrete was the first Soho company to post produce a project shot on Red last year, so we're pretty confident with the data format and what to do with it. We had to create our own bespoke workflow and did so with the aid of SGO, as we used their Mistika product to grade and finish the project. This provided our clients with the realtime performance and grading ability they expected.
 
We are keen to add direct support for Red to all our systems. Today, I saw Quantel support Red files directly with their Pablo grading system. What is exciting to me is how this works with their Genetic Engineering product. Although this is mostly just a posh name for a SAN, GE does have a very neat trick. It "virtualises" data, meaning that clips stored as DPX files can be presented as a variety of file formats and resolutions. These files actually don't physically exist until an external device tries to copy them, then GE makes the desired file format "on the fly". Where this fits into Red support is that with GE, Red files imported into the system will be viewable externally as DPX, TIFF, QuickTime etc. This "Red enables" other products instantly. It's this virtualisation of data that prompted us to be the first Soho company to install Genetic Engineering, as it's support for a growing number of file formats helps glue all our systems together.
 
Two more days to go! Given that I don't seem to have been able to get to bed before 3AM yet, I'm becoming a bit "IBCed out". At least the sun has made an appearance - it has poured with rain for the last couple of days. This has prevented the use of the RAI 's (exhibition centre) best asset - "The Beach". This is an outside area next to an artificial lake where the ground is covered in sand and beach-style sun loungers are spread about. A beach hut bar completes the scene. Clearly, this is popular with IBCers for "meetings", "deals," "coffees" and other euphemisms for drinking Heineken.
 
My productive day at IBC ended with both a "meeting" and a "coffee" at The Beach.
 
David Cox
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September 14, 2008
  IBC 2008 - Day 2
Posted By Randi Altman
Avid, which was famously absent from NAB this year, is here with a smallish (compared to what they used to do at NAB in the past) booth and hinting that will also be the case at NAB 2009.

"It's important for us to be here," said Avid VP/GM Kirk Arnold during an early morning breakfast roundtable with Avid execs that had a speed dating feel, with each table getting someone different after about ten minutes. After NAB 2008, they heard from their customers, who said it was important to see Avid at the show, and that in turn helps these editors/post house guys sell Avid technology to their own clients.

CEO Gary Greenfield was emphasizing integrated workflows, and the fact that Dave Lebolt, who used to head Digidesign Pro Tools and is now CTO of Avid, indicates that we will be seeing increased interactivity between Avid editing tools and Pro Tools. Something that the newly hired Martin Vann, formerly of Autodesk, emphasized by saying that audio and video cannot be thought of as separate "silos."

I asked Avid/Digi's Paul Foeckler how they kept and continue to keep Pro Tools from losing its spot at the top of the audio post heap. He said, "We have always had Pro Tools segmented at different price points," and he pointed to what Lebolt calls "the inspirational ladder," giving beginners an upward path. Something that Avid knows needs to be done with their editing tools - and the lower-priced software version of Media Composer is a good start. Arnold touted Avid's seven-month-old education initiative and said, "We need to talk to professors about how they use Avid in their curriculum, and we need to get to the next generation."

Avid readily admits they made mistakes - losing market share to Apple - and seem truly intentioned to do better. They know that talking to their key customers on a regular basis will help them not lose sight of where they need to be.
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September 13, 2008
  IBC 08. Day #2
Posted By David Cox
I'm back from the first full day at the show. Well, I say full day - the truth is that after the gathering I mentioned last night at The Old Bell, my head wasn't quite ready for IBC first thing, or indeed for the first couple of hours it was physically at the show. Despite this, I had a reasonably productive day. More on that later.
 
The gathering last night did indeed fulfil the promise of providing people from all aspects of the industry. We did solve every issue in the known world as expected and no, I can't remember what those solutions were. But they were good at the time. One thought though; there are a lot of TV journalists in this town. Every bar I go to seems to be stuffed full of them. So there must be loads of them, because I'm sure our beloved journalists don't spend all their time in bars, do they?
 
Having had a rant about badge placement in my blog of yesterday, I thought I would continue to find something else to rant about. Something a bit more serious though. I think trade conventions such as IBC and NAB are vital to our industry. Not just as a platform for sales but for the whole gathering thing, hangovers and all. It is therefore important, I think, that all interested parties support these conventions by playing their part.
 
There are some notable “headline” companies that are not present this year. Now I completely understand that having a big, impressive stand like Quantel's costs a huge amount of money, especially when the cost of staff travel, accommodation and beer is added in. I can also see that such huge sums are difficult to justify, if those marketing funds are required elsewhere.
 
However, these headline stands are essential to the success of the show. Without them, the crowd pulling ability of the convention would be much reduced, having a knock on effect to all the smaller stand holders that do not have the marketing budgets to access such quantities of potential customers by other means. So I think it is a responsibility of these major players to help support conventions like IBC.
 
With that in mind, you'll understand the annoyance – bordering on anger – from some parts because one of the major players that has decided not to support the convention this year is instead bussing people from the show to their own, cheaper demonstrations elsewhere. Clearly there is a saving for them doing this, but if all the big-boys did that, there would be no show from which to bus the non-existing crowds. So my feeling is that of course these companies have to operate as they see fit, but if they don't want to support the industry, they can't expect the industry to support them.
 
Rant over :-)
 
I did get to see some interesting things. SGO's Mistika on stand 7.C11 (www.mistika.tv) and www.sgo.es still continues to show up the larger companies, in terms of getting incredible performance from a Linux PC based system. Real time multilayer effects and colour grading at HD res and higher have been standard now for a couple of years. This year, they have added a very clever motion-estimating noise reducer that includes tools that help recognise where the estimation is struggling and instead uses spatial algorithms in that area. They also have a neat solution for delivering stereoscopic (left/right) streams from HD outputs designed for dual link connection.
 
I had a look at a FED (Field Emission Display) monitor on Astro Design's stand. This technology promises to supercede LCD monitors by providing superior contrast ranges and better blacks. As usual, it's pretty hard to carry out any from of detailed assessment on a convention floor, but the in-development FED display was clearly brighter and had noticeably less lag than the comparison LCD monitor set up next to it.
 
One other thing that caught my eye was a no-glasses, 3D display from Visumotion. I guess this uses the lenticular method which does lead to a display with lots of ghosting, so is perhaps not really (or not yet) suitable for entertainment usage, but it was certainly effective for digital signage and advertising.
 
Anyway enough for now. Day 3 beckons tomorrow and I have a fair few appointments to at least try and justify my expenses claim here :-)
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September 13, 2008
  IBC 08. Day #1
Posted By David Cox
Another year – another IBC. This is at least my twelfth in a row, so there is something wonderfully familiar about it all.

The first day of the show is a half day, so since I used it mainly just to drop by and say hello to a few people, there's not too much to report back about yet on the technology front. That said, IBC seemed busy with plenty of people ready to hit the stands at the earliest opportunity. The broadcast industry is currently under some economic pressure, certainly in the UK, so it's very positive to see a busy show right from the off.

For those that haven't made it to IBC before, it's held in Amsterdam each September. It's the same deal as NAB – just with Heineken lager instead of margaritas. There are always background rumours about whether IBC should move to another city. Some say that the exhibition centre is too far from the city centre, others complain about the availability of hotel rooms. For me, I really like it here. It has the fun factor that is essential for hosting an event for the media industry but also has the chill factor provided by quiet canal-side coffee bars. The city itself appears to work hard to welcome IBCers, providing each of us with free public transport across the whole city for the duration of the show. Hotels can be an issue and early booking is essential. Future delegates should note that Amsterdam seems to have a certain expertise in “budget” accommodation – those sorts of places where the 2-stars displayed at the door are perhaps a little optimistic!

As I mentioned, I just used this afternoon to touch base with the usual suspects and that inevitably leads to the centre of IBC activity – the IBC pub. This is where you can meet anyone you hadn't thought about arranging a meeting to meet with, since between meetings, that's where they'll be! This leads me onto a plea on behalf of all delegates of all similar conventions. We need to do something about positioning name badges. Hanging them around the neck so that they dangle around the owner's midriff causes severe social problems. The problem is, when you bump into someone, for example at the IBC pub, who you generally only ever bump into at bars at trade shows, it's often hard to recall their names. No problem – they have a name badge on them. The problem is that if you are caught looking down at their name badge, you could easily be mistaken for checking out their breasts (lady badge holder), genitals (male badge holder) or being Amsterdam, entirely possibly the other way around. Alternatively, you might get away with just disclosing that you rudely cannot remember their name. Might I suggest attaching name badges to foreheads would solve this problem completely?

Okay – so my first blog about IBC mentions nothing about technology or broadcast at large. That's not just because I spent the first afternoon in the IBC pub, but because I have my agenda over the next couple of days to report back on. Specifically, because Concrete operates equipment from every major manufacturer – Quantel, Autodesk, SGO, Avid, Adobe etc, I'm always on the look out for stuff that helps join it all together. I'll report back how successful that search becomes over the next couple of days.

Off to another bar now for an evening with a random collection of suppliers, delegates, journalists and other riff raff. Such gatherings are what IBC is all about – getting together with like-minded people from all sides of the industry with the intention of making things better. By then end of the night, we will have solved all the world's issues. Let's just hope we remember those solutions in the morning!
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September 12, 2008
  IBC 2008
Posted By Randi Altman
It's an hour and a half into IBC 2008 and I am already a bit queasy. It's got nothing to do with the tone of the show at all but has everything to do with a demo I got over at the Iridas booth.

Iridas's Patrick Palmer was emphasizing the importance in lining up the left and right eye (something that becomes easier with their FrameCycler product) and showing me what can happen when it's done wrong... and what can  happen is the feeling of just getting off the spinning tea cup ride at the local amusement park. Their product makes lining up the eyes much easier - but I wouldn't want to be the stereotogher in charge of doing it - I would need to eat Dramine like tick tacks.

But this is the concern with stereo 3D; it  has to be done right or it will turn people off. And thankfully companies like Iridas are building tools that ensure this doesn't happen. If you are here at the show, visit their booth and check out the gorgeous Coca-Cola piece. There is a fast pan in there, but for the most part it's just beautiful.
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September 10, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam - Post Work
Posted By Randy DeFord
All 12 tapes of the Jam have now been sorted. One of the more difficult things with a doc is deciding which memory will not make the grade. It's all part of taking the personal side out and making sure you compile a story that makes the best of the event and conveys the message and theme. In this case, the Love's Labor Jam is called such because it's a labor of love for the folk and country writers and musicians who organized it, in memory of the late Jerry Garcia.

This one will be a tough call whether we want to spend more time telling the story...or showing the performances. With so many good musicians, I'm sure we'll lean toward the performances to be sure everyone gets an equal shot. We'll be editing with Vegas 8.0 as soon as we put together the timeline...hopefully sometime next week.
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September 06, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam - Post Work
Posted By Randy DeFord

Earlier this week, you read my partner Adam Shephard's entries about shooting Love's Labor Jam. Now the job begins of cataloging the nearly 12 hours of DVD tapes for content. We did not capture to hard disc, but just to the native Mini DV media.

I have gone through 7 tapes so far, writing down times and events to make the capture process less storage dependent.

It also gives me a chance to review what events are  more likely to make the cut for the doc. There are sound checks, interviews, lots of B-roll and about four hours worth of performances to truncate into a 60 to 90 minute documentary. As with any doc, there are so many good memories and interesting conversations, but something has to go.

After I'm done sorting this weekend, Adam and I will create the event outline that will serve as the backbone of the rest of the process.

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September 02, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam
Posted By Billy

Our work began Sunday morning at 9:30am

The scope of “Love's Labor Jam” really made it ideal for capturing on film. Because it was a volunteer effort handled by old friends, something as simple as the arrival of a family or the preparation of food became an event. Those pauses in the day made for great breaks in between getting our interviews.

Although we did have an official point person, hooking us up with the many people who would be the subjects of the story, we had a gazillion others doing it unofficially. It seemed like every interview ended with, “Thanks. Hey, did you talk to Bob? Oh you gotta talk to Bob. HEY, BOB! COME HERE!”

There were lots of Bobs and Janes and Mikes for us to talk to and it very quickly became clear that we would need more areas for conducting five minute interviews. It was great exercise, spinning in a circle trying to find the next “perfect spot” and as people trickled in throughout the day, space became harder to find.

A calm hit around mid afternoon. We'd probably laid down thirty interviews by then along with sound checks and attendees wouldn't begin arriving for another hour or so. But when people did start flowing in, the pace didn't really get frantic. Everything was very well planned and we were able to glide fairly effortlessly through the crowd. Before we knew it, the warm up act had hit the stage.

It was at that point, we hit the closest thing we would experience the entire night to an issue. Stage lighting consisted of a modest amount of backlight and a row of PARs suspended from a rack attached to the center pole under the performance tent. In between the PARs was a white spot but the four PARs were all gelled pink and they only spread about 20 feet across the stage.

The result was a very heavy orange cast across the performers which was easy enough to deal with via the Panasonic's white balance but the sun had just barely begun to set when the first band took the stage. That meant that the light was changing fairly radically every five minutes or so. We ended up having to white balance both cameras after each number until it was completely dark outside.

The only other hitch we experienced had to do with the MCE 58 mentioned in the last article. Even though we had the feed from the board to DAT we wanted to safeguard the sound so that mic was placed on a stand, high up in the last row. The sound was perfect but that meant we would have to run cable from the mic to the DVX. We had decided we wanted to use the DVX for long static shots anyway so we perched it behidn the back row and took the gamble. Every time someone walked in the vicinity of the mic or the camera we flinched, anticipating one or both coming down. They never did though and our gamble paid off.

The performances were monumental and by the end of the show, we were exhausted. After packing up, we said goodbye to our hosts and new friends with promises all around to get together again.

The following morning we took a quick tour of the town to grab a last bit of B roll, then it was back to Indiana.

We now face about twelve hours worth of footage to work through. Capture has already begun. After that, comes that part where we sit and try to pick out great moments without getting too caught up in how much fun we had.

More to come about the actual post process. That's what you're all here for, right?

Continue reading "Love's Labor Jam" »

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September 01, 2008
  Love's Labor jam - Day 1
Posted By Billy

Just to show that nothing ever goes as planned, we ended up at the event without the net connection we thought we'd have. So, no blogging from the site. It was probably just as well though. With everything else we did, blogging would have been a bleary, late night chore.

First a bit about the event

The word “grassroots” is too often used to mask an effort by a large entity as a little, handcrafted venture. But “Love's Labor Jam” is a true grassroots happening. Built from the ground up by old friends and grown slowly to include new ones in subsequent years, the Jam brings together musicians and music lovers for the fun of it. In many ways, this was the perfect project for us. At 25 North Filmwurks, we do small scale productions with an eye toward capturing the heart of the matter. The Jam was no exception.


We were a crew of two, shooting 30p on one Panasonic DVC30 and one DVX100B. We used existing lighting: sunlight during the day and stage lights at night. Our primary audio was picked up via a Beyerdynamic MCE 58 run directly via the DVX's second XLR input. Secondary audio was the Shure SM63L through a Studio XLR PRO into the DVC.

The DVC was used for performance segments and most of the B roll. The DVX was used for all interviews, performance segments and additional B roll. It was run and gun all the way, except that we had releases taken care of, run of the property – we were even ASKED to be there. Go figure.

Getting in around mid-afternoon on Saturday, our day centered around getting footage of of the event setup and about half the interviews. We also met with the lighting and sound techs. We were happy to find out that audio for all of the performances was being taken direct from the board to DAT tapes.

We got a few rehearsals documented and headed home around 7:00PM. The idea was to get some sleep and be fresh for the following morning. After getting a bite to eat, we headed for a bed.

More tomorrow.

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August 29, 2008
  Shooting Love's Labor Jam
Posted By Billy
The night before I have to travel for a shoot is always interesting. I run around like a madman making sure that I remember everything. Once I'm positive I've taken care of business, I collapse, content in the knowledge that I won't be forgetting anything.

Of course, the following morning I discover that I've forgotten toothpaste, my hotel confirmation and all my socks. But I remember the important stuff: the gear.

We'll be shooting our first documentary this weekend ("we" being myself and Randy DeFord, my partner in 25 North Filmwurks) in central Kentucky. We'll be covering "Love's Labor Jam", an industry event that brings together industry giants and up-and-coming acts from the Nashville scene.

The Jam was created by Nashville songwriting legend Billy Edd Wheeler and Kentucky picker Richard Bellando as an opportunity for artists to perform for each other and spend time enjoying the art they create every day for millions of fans all over the world.

So it's a combo documentary and concert film. In my head, I see a country version of The Last Waltz. Fortunately, I'm able to laugh at myself so when I find out what it's really like, I won't feel quite so foolish.

And now you know what I know.

I'll write updates every night and, provided Post allows me to continue, throughout the post production process.

Stay tuned.
Continue reading "Shooting Love's Labor Jam" »

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August 29, 2008
  Love's Labor Jam: Pre-Travel Prep
Posted By Billy
The night before I have to travel for a shoot is always interesting. I run around like a madman making sure that I remember everything. Once I'm positive I've taken care of business, I collapse, content in the knowledge that I won't be forgetting anything.

Of course, the following morning I discover that I've forgotten toothpaste, my hotel confirmation and all my socks. But I remember the important stuff: the gear.
We'll be shooting our first documentary this weekend ("we" being myself and Randy DeFord, my partner in 25 North Filmwurks) in central Kentucky. We'll be covering "Love's Labor Jam", an industry event that brings together industry giants and up-and-coming acts from the Nashville scene.

The Jam was created by Nashville songwriting legend Billy Edd Wheeler and Kentucky picker Richard Bellando as an opportunity for artists to perform for each other and spend time enjoying the art they create every day for millions of fans all over the world.

So it's both a documentary and a concert film. In my head, I see a country version of The Last Waltz. Fortunately, I'm able to laugh at myself so when I find out what it's really like, I won't feel quite so foolish.

And now you know what I know.

I'll write updates every night and, provided Post allows me to continue, throughout the post production process.

Stay tuned.
Continue reading "Love's Labor Jam: Pre-Travel Prep" »

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August 14, 2008
  Scott's Blog @ SIGGRAPH - Day 3
Posted By Scott Sindorf
 
Day 3

After leaving the conference floor yesterday, we ended up meeting for dinner with some old dear friends I had the pleasure to work with in the past. To me, this is one of my favorite aspects of SIGGRAPH, reconnecting with old acquaintances. After dinner we went to the annual Softimage party. In the past these parties have been a way to show to the community the developments over the last year. This year for the first time they decided to do away with this and just have a party. The musician who hosted the party was none other than Vanilla Ice. The reason for this choice was to coincide with Softimage new I.C.E. (Interactive Creative Environment).  The relevance of this choice only dawned on me after the fact.

This morning I attended the computer animation festival in the new Nokia Theater.  The new format is tough to manage. Ideally I would like to see more of the animations, but it is difficult with so much else going on.  I am hoping SIGGRAPH goes back to the prior format, but I have my doubts. The Nokia Theater was projecting the images in 4K. The resolution is quite amazing and I am sure this will be the new format of choice for cinemas in the not too distant future. The downside of this is you see....everything in high detail. After finally adjusting to HD, this new format will require much more work and computing power. Technology just does not stay still. Another reason to continue to come back to SIGGRAPH.

One of the great things about SIGGRAPH is the Production Sessions. Typically, these are panel discussions about what takes place behind the scenes of computer graphic-heavy movies. I attended in the afternoon the “Machines and Monsters: Tippet and ILM Reveal the Secrets Within Cloverfield and Iron Man.” The panelists included from ILM's Ben Snow, Han Hickel, and Doug Smythe, and from Tippet Studio, Eric Leven, David Breese, and Chris Morley.

The panel first addressed J.J. Abram’s (of Lost fame),Cloverfield. This movie is basically an alien monster attacking NYC.  The budget was $25 million, which for Hollywood translates as a shoestring budget for a special effects movie. The interesting aspect of this film was it was suppose to look like a hand held camera, similar to the aesthetics of The Blair Witch Project. The challenge for Tippet Studio was how to keep this look seamlessly with the visual effects. Somehow given this budget, they were able to do this. The tracking alone for this movie was quite amazing and the resulting conversations very enlightening.

The second half of the panel addressed the visual effects of Iron Man by ILM.  They addressed the complexities of building an Iron Man, both from a practical point of view as well as well as from a perspective of computer graphics. Stan Winston Studios had built a practical suit of Iron Man, and it was ILM’s job to replicate this as a computer generated persona and create virtual sets through the use of 3D photogrammetry.  The amount of work and detail was fascinating to watch, making this panel definitely worth the effort.

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August 12, 2008
  Scott's Blog @ SIGGRAPH - Day 2
Posted By Scott Sindorf


SIGGRAPH Day 2

The Computer Animation Festival last night premiered “3D Screenings: A Visual Odyssey.” The idea behind this festival was to highlight the emerging technology for stereoscopic projection. Every audience member was given 3D glasses to view the approximately two-hour long presentation. This honestly can be a bit trying for the eyes, but there has been amazing advancements in this field. The highlight for me was the audience reaction to Bjork’s Wanderlust video. Given we did the post production for this music video, it was nice to see the audience reaction. The low point was the 3D medical clips showing 3D surgery. Admittedly, I am adverse to blood, and the clips were a bit too real for me. The audience overall seemed happy and companies like Pixar are really pushing the envelope in this arena. I did see several audience members duck and sway reacting to the screen confirming 3D stereoscopic technology is doing its job.

What a difference a day can make at SIGGRAPH. Today the conference floor has officially opened and the crowds are here. The Fjork animators, whom were so prevalent yesterday, are nowhere to be found. Several new technologies for 3D did make an impact for me. First, Organic Motion (organicmotion.com) has a new type of Motion Capture that does away with the encumbrances of traditional motion capture. Typically in order to capture the motion of an individual, the individual would have to wear a body suit with markers. This technology, through the use of camera triangulation, is able to capture motion without any of these add-ons. Just have the individual move and the software and hardware can capture the motion in realtime. I can see how this technology will help push the envelope in making motion capture more accessible to the masses. One does not even need a technician to make this happen, further reducing the cost to the consumer.

Softimage (softimage.com) has finally released its long awaited XSI Version 7. As someone who uses this program, the wait has been more than worth it.  The major component of this release is I.C.E. (Interactive Creative Environment.) With ICE, Softimage has completely redesigned its particle system. The interface is node based and works seamlessly with Softimage. One does not have to know how to script to take advantage of its open interface and I cannot wait to start playing with this.

On another note, the company Shapeways (shapeways.com) has developed a technology to allow you to take your 3D models into reality. This technology is not new, but the way Shapeways has thought about this is relatively novel and new. Previously, it always has been cost prohibitive to take your 3D files and have them built in a physical environment. Shapeways has now made this process much more affordable and accessible. You can send them your 3D file over the Internet and they will give you an instant quote for the manufacturing. I have been told the average price is between $50 and $150.

Within 10 days no matter where you are located, you will have the model in your hands. For character designers and architects, to name a few fields, this accessibility will hopefully empower the designer. Besides, which 3D animator would not want to have the robot they designed on top of their desktop? Count me in.
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August 11, 2008
  Scott's Blog @ SIGGRAPH - Day 1
Posted By Scott Sindorf
I just arrived with my fellow compatriots from uvph at the Convention Center here in Los Angeles for another fun filled SIGGRAPH.  It seems that L.A. is the favorite SIGGRAPH destination for cities. With the movie industry primarily located here in Los Angeles it makes sense, but one day I would enjoy seeing SIGGRAPH in NYC. The crowds are starting to grow, but tomorrow is the day the Exhibitions are open to the public and when the big crowds converge.  I am currently in the Geek bar (well named) trying to hear myself think over a robot to my right who is addressing the crowds as they pass by. It is also hard to miss the legions of fresh 3D animators who have Nordic hats yelling "FJORG!" Why? There is a 3d competition among this group for the best animation created within 32 hours. My question is why are they running around the convention hall as opposed to actually doing production? SIGGRAPH does know it's traditional audience: those who generally are adverse to sunlight, having spent the entire year in front of their computers.

The theme this year is "Evolve." Sounds good….and I do not believe there will be too many intelligent designers on the right fringe here who might take issue with this… but we will see. This year they changed the format for the animation festival. In the past, SIGGRAPH had various theaters showing the same animations every day, culminating in the Electronic Theater, which is usually reserved for the "best of the best." This year it is more in line with a film festival. My initial reaction was why? The animation festival in the past I always thought was well run, so why change this? Trying to keep an open mind, I will judge later if this is in fact for the better.  Today the theme for the animation festival is 3D.  We have a pass so I will report my reactions later.



Next immediately on my list is the Art and Design Galleries which this year is not to miss. Haptic technology has come a long way, and the Art and Design galleries are showcasing some of the best…and in some cases the worst….as in did you ever want to know what is like to have ants crawling around your hand and arm? Try the exhibit by which simulates this uncomfortable physical experience.  How about being pierced by a sword? Haptic technology makes this experience also possible.  On the other end of the spectrum positive haptic technology allows medical students to perform virtual surgery. This is being developed by the newly formed Butterfly Haptics.

As an old architectural student, I was pleased to a see 3D models of proposed buildings constructed by computers in the Design Gallery.  It is nice to see Architecture finally embracing this technology. I still remember being told by various Professors not too long ago that computers and architecture will never mix. As a consequence of this development, I truly felt excited for the future of design.
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July 22, 2008
  PRATO NEVOSO
Posted By Erik Paulsen

This is the reversal of the previous photo.

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July 22, 2008
  PHOTOS
Posted By Erik Paulsen

The above pic was taken in Prato Nevoso, Italy. Our production trailer is on the right, with the uplink truck in the middle and our mobile studio on the left. In the background is the ski area that hosted the finish for Stage 15 of the 2008 Tour de France.

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July 22, 2008
  THE ALPS
Posted By Erik Paulsen
It's been a while since my last post. We've been traveling in South France and the drives have been long between finish lines for us, but now we've just completed our first big mountain stage which took us to Italy to Prato Nevoso for a day and then back into France for a rest day. As I write this we're in Jausiers and tonight/tomorrow we will head up to L'Alpe-d'Huez. The races get a little longer up here in the mountain stages, which means our ingest needs to accommodate for that as well. We're starting to do some housekeeping because we're gonna need a little bit more space for the final push to Paris.
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July 14, 2008
  HAUTACAM
Posted By Erik Paulsen
The last few day have been great! Long ones, but all and all great. My Avid is rock solid for the most part and the Interplay is working well. That old DME I talked about earlier is getting some action as well. I saved off a couple of VFX for our EVS ops to send their stuff through to give their bumps a different look. Our TD is also using it to treat the background to comp behind our commentators.

Today we're at a mountain top finish in Hautacam. We were able to take advantage of some recreation after lunch too. We all jumped on the "mountain luge" before getting back to cutting. Tomorrow's our off day, so I'll try to get some more pictures up.
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July 10, 2008
  THE FIRST WEEK OF THE TOUR
Posted By Erik Paulsen
The last few days have flown by! We have driven countless miles and the days are beginning to blend into one another. Our Avid set up is working nicely. We have had a few hiccups and tonight our Avid tech from Cap Cine will be replacing a fiber card to alleviate the issues we were experiencing.

I love having two airspeeds for ingesting material while I can continue editing on my system. I spend most of the mornings compositing elements for the live show and for our taped preview show,  and then I move on in the afternoon to going through footage shot for short-form, behind-the-scenes features and product demos. I'm also working on travelogues that we shoot for many of the locations we're visiting.

Today was our first taste of the mountains as we were set atop a decent-sized hill at the base of a ski area in Super Besse. We descended back out and are about an hour south in Aurillac.


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July 08, 2008
  DAY 1
Posted By Erik Paulsen
Today was a rather quick set day at the finish line of stage 1 in Plumelec. Once all the trucks were parked and powered there was a lot of time spent stringing fiber cable from our Unity, which is in a support truck, over to my edit suite that is situated in the main production truck, and out to the other two suites that are sharing a room in a section of our upwardly-expandable studio set truck that sits about 200 feet from where the server truck is parked.

 

In this snapshot, you can see my Avid Adrenaline set up sitting comfortably next to a good, old-fashioned Sony DME 7000 that I'm very familiar with from my days in a linear suite. But, alas, it's not really for me, it's there for the EVS guys to treat some of their stuff with that film/glow look we know and love!

You'll also see a lot of other ancillary equipment and patch panels due to my room's location in the main truck. There's also an EVS operator sitting just behind me along with an EVS producer, so I'll be doing most of my audio with cans on. To my right is the main production area and audio booth and to my left another EVS operator and our video shading area.

Everything seems to be working flawlessly. We head in tomorrow to begin loading all our support elements early in the AM.

More tomorrow.

Erik
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