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Recent Blog Posts in September 2008

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.
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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
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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 #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 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 ( and 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 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?

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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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