Stop whingeing about kit! it’s your fault

One of the joys of IBC and shows like it is eavesdropping on conversations by accident.
This year I heard a lot of people whingeing about kit, about how it didn’t give them the look they wanted, about how cameras disappointed them or software didn’t miraculously make their images great. Lighting hadn’t given them the look they wanted or camera movement, track, crane, drone, whatever, hadn’t done what they wanted.

I wanted to scream at them “learn your fucking job!”

It’s so easy to blame kit but the reality is that it’s all, and I mean ALL, pretty bloody good. Oh there are some tools that have issues but they’re not major image killing issues. There’s kit I don’t like the feel of and kit I don’t like the marketing of but thats different. I may not like that kit but I can’t deny that it does its job pretty well.

So why are people having problems getting the images they want?

They aren’t learning their job! They expect it all to just happen without having to put the time in to learn how to do it properly.

It takes time to learn to make great motion picture images, it takes time to learn about lighting, it takes time to learn about lenses, it takes time to learn about post, it takes time to learn the language of images

There is no Google translate for image making. You have to do it the hard way.

10,000 hours to become competent, not good or great, just competent.

Learn the job and stop complaining about kit, it’s you not the kit that produces the bad images.

TV pictures way too dark

This is just a plain out and out rant.

I’m finding more and more that I have to wait until night to be able to even try and watch some series. They are shot so dark that unless the ambient light is lower that it would be in a grading suite the whole thing turns into a radio show.

I think that there are a couple of issues at play here, first people, and that’s DP’s as well as directors, not understanding that an image doesn’t actually have to be dark to convey a feeling of darkness. In fact judicious use of bright area makes other parts look darker.
The other issue is highlights that are too bright, or areas of a shot that are too bright and that not only make dark areas look darker but also draw your attention away from the main interest of the scene.

I think, and I’m stressing that this is a personal opinion, that there is a huge amount of outright incompetence out there at the moment. People who really don’t understand how to use images to tell a story. People who should not be in charge of a camera.

Yes I do have a home with white walls and light grey floors and white seating and lots of windows but even at night with curtains drawn the image is too dark to see WTF is happening on screen.
Once we get HDR I’m going to have to paint the walls black change the floor and the furnishings, black the windows out totally and wear a burka to make sure that no light kicks back off my white face!

Guys, use a domestic set to check your grading and turn the f’ing lights up when you do, go out and watch it on a TV not a monitor in reception.

Ah, that feels better!

Oh and finally, I do have all the kit to set my screens up properly but I find more and more that I can’t use the “correct” setting on my home TV, I have to use a mode like Vivid! to see anything.

Get a grip!

Colour Grading for the blind

I can’t stay quiet anymore, I have to scream!

I’m a member of a number of colour grading groups on the net and they vary from the great, LGG, to the unbelievably bad.
I made a comment a long long time ago that the way to tell who was a dailies colorist was to look for the white stick and the dog.
It seems that now everyone is a colorist and most of the so-called colorists are either color blind, partially sighted or completely blind.
I see examples posted online asking for comments, I have refrained so far.
My only comment would be “go and find an optician!”
Guys, you need to start with a good image. If after loading your work into your software of choice ( usually Resolve) set the workflow to ACES and use the relevant IDT & ODT. If after this your work doesn’t look pretty good you have fucked up the shoot! go and start again.
Great grading has to start with material the colourist can work with, yes a really good colourist can rescue crap work but there are limits.
If you give them good work to start with…
Please notice I am saying that you should give your work to a good colorist, not that you should do it yourself.
If, for whatever reason, you end up doing it yourself then shoot it right and don’t do a lot in grading.

It seems that everyone using grading systems for the first time finds the 11 setting before anything else!

I am so fed up with seeing oversaturated images with crap skin tones and weird contrast. Learn to do it right first. Don’t use the “I am an artist” excuse to cover up bad work.

More files to peruse on your smartphone!

Digital Cinema Cameras Full resolution EXR files

These are links to ZIP folders of one EXR frame per exposure +/- 4 stops

The EXR’s were generated by the manufacturers own software, with the exception of the Varicam which was done in Resolve as they don’t have their own software.

They are VERY large files. Most are in ACEScc space, if not it’s because the manufacturers didn’t specify anything other than ACES so the may be linear or log.

ARRI Alexa SXT

Blackmagic Ursa Mini-Pro

Canon C200

Canon C300-2 & Odyssey

Canon C700 4.5K

RED Dragon

RED Helium 7K

RED Scarlet

Sony F5

Sony F55

Sony F65

Varicam LT & Odyssey

Varicam Pure

I’d recommend that you view these on your smartphone, it’s only 10.5GB in all and each file is at least 50MB but hey! your smartphone will easily cope with that!

If you do that you’ll see that there is absolutely no reason to get one of these cameras, your DSLR is way better and your iPhone better still.

Actually, I’m thinking of doing a similar test with some DSLR’s, I’d rather eat my own leg but I feel I have to do it just to prove a point.

On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong, maybe a $2K camera is really as good as a $60K one. If you believe that I’ve got this bridge you may want to buy…

Oh and just in case… load these files into Resolve with it set to ACEScc and 4K DCI, then set the input to ACEScc and the output to 709, don’t crop the image, move around it using the positioning controls in color.

This will let you look at the full beauty, or horror, of each file.

Yes, they all pretty much capture it all, well, a couple of horrors at the top end but you’ll find those for yourself. Now, look at the lower exposures and ask yourself how much noise and colour shift you can live with. You now have the USABLE dynamic range. Strangely enough it’s not always what it appears to be or what manufacturers say it is.

 

Results of camera evaluations

Well, I’ve uploaded QT files of all the cameras in HD and all the ones shot RAW in UHD as well.

They can be downloaded in their full unaltered by Vimeo form as well.

So how are people viewing them?

So far 606 total idiots have viewed them on their smartphones!

Unsurprisingly the Ursa Mini-Pro and the Canon C200 are the most popular however they also have the highest number of not completed viewings.

People viewing the evaluations via CML watch the videos to the end and tend to watch them at higher resolutions and download the original files far more than people going in directly to Vimeo or via other sites.

Why start viewing a camera evaluation if you’re going to give up after the first few exposures? one camera I can understand, you didn’t realise what was involved but the same person doing this on camera after camera? what kind of person does this, certainly not anyone who knows anything about cinematography. Anyway, WTF are you doing viewing them on a smartphone?

I will still go ahead and upload some EXR’s for the people who understand what their doing, precious few though it is!

WTF! I’m in an alternative Universe

I must be in an alternative universe, I just can’t believe what I see and hear.

11 years ago I shot a movie digitally, it was shot in HD in true RGB and uncompressed. Each of the 3 sensors had 1920 * 4320 photo-sites that created 3 * 1920 * 1080 images. It was 10 bit log and 4:4:4  generating 447.45 GB per hour.

Now Netflix are specifying that they will only accept “4K” cameras but they’re not 4K,  they’re 2K * 2K in green and 2K * 1K in R&B they’re barely 3K and that gives you with Redcode 5:1 a grand total of 189.10GB per hour. It’s not a problem of Redcode, it’s just it was easy for me to get those figures, all the cameras they accept produce similar data rates.

Now I accept that technology moves on and compression get better but 4 times the resolution and less than half the data! no chance.

The issue is that people making decisions don’t understand what they’re deciding and are swayed by marketing.

The lunatics are truly running the asylum.

The Joys of running CML

This is now the 4th day I’ll be wasting bouncing from support desk to support desk.

It’s never “their problem” it’s always the other guys.

I am in the ludicrous situation of having to go to a public Internet facility to be able to log on to our list server.

My ISP Ziggo says it’s not their problem, it’s a problem with the sites SSL, so why does it only effect me and why only the lists, which are not SSL, and not the main site which is SSL?

Dudobi who run the listserver say it’s all fine.

NetworkSolutions who are the main system provider say it’s all fine.

So if everything if so fine why have our pages listed on Google dropped from 2,500 or more to 94?

Why can’t I get connected to the listserver from home?

Sometimes I just want to pop round and give them a smack, difficult when they’re in the US, UK and Netherlands.

I’ve just received notification from NLPost that they have a parcel for me from Ziggo, I expect it’s the new Modem that I don’t need but id their standard response, change the modem.

Short term it’ll cost a fortune to install fast commercial fibre and install servers here but long-term it may be the only way to keep my sanity!

Happy Films

Why is it in a time of great depression that most of the scripts I get for films made in and about Britain are so profoundly depressing?

I realise that they are an accurate slice of these people’s lives, they reflect current life in the North and Midlands of England.

But the audiences live those lives! they don’t need to see them coming back at them from a big screen.

In the 30’s during the great depression the most successful films were ones that took people out of their depressing and hard real lives and gave them some hope.

Maybe not even hope, maybe just a few hours escape.

Busby Berkeley, the Gold Diggers series and Foot-light Parade, just sheer indulgence and fun.

Producers, Directors, look around, the successful films in the UK are happy ones, Billy Elliott, The Full Monty, 4 Weddings, Bridget Jones.

Are they art? who gives a damn!

They entertain people and make money.

Please send me a happy script…

Do you care?

CML was set up for high-end pro’s and those who aspire to be in that class.
I’ve never worried about offending anyone else.

There are lots of places on the net for cinematographers who don’t care about or maybe just don’t recognise a high quality image.
I never wanted CML to be one of those places.

My recent experiences of working with post people whose whole approach to life was “that’ll do” “good enough” “nobody”ll notice” has caused me to stop and take stock.

I feel that CML has been drifting in that direction.

I realise the political and economic pressures that are on us, believe me!

That doesn’t remove from the fact that if we don’t stand up for image
quality nobody will we are “the guardians of the image” and painful though it might be at times we have to fight that fight.

Answer for yourself a few simple questions, in a world where data size
didn’t matter, where RAW recorders were tiny and cheap, where transfer times were zero, where processing power was vast WOULD YOU EVER SHOOT ANYTHING OTHER THAN RAW?

Of course you wouldn’t because deep down inside you know that compression damages your images.

Next question, bearing in mind the conditions listed above, given a choice
of a system that recorded equal amounts of RGB and one that recorded 50%G and 25%R&B and then guessed what was in the holes that that approach left behind would you ever use anything other than the full RGB system?

Of course you wouldn’t because you know that resolution and colour are
compromised by CFA systems.

Now, given that you would go the quality route every time, why are you being such chickenshits and compromising your images all the time?

The BBC

I’m sure that I’ll regret this and get a lot of grief but I think it’s time that someone stood up and said that the outpouring of support that the BBC appears to be getting in the run up to potential change is strangely enough totally from parties with vested interests. Mostly tired old labour luvvies who couldn’t get hired in the real world.

Once upon a time there was only one TV channel in the UK and it was the BBC, then there was a commercial station and in 1964, if you lived in the south, or 1967 for the whole country there was BBC2 and colour!

Much later, the early 80’s saw Ch4, which I shot the launch for, and then Ch5.

There still wasn’t much choice and the reasons for the existence of the BBC were very clear.

Sky, which started in 1984 after a few years of tests, changed everything, we now have hundreds of TV channels producing material for all interests.

Where groundbreaking original drama was the preserve of the BBC in the past we now look to HBO, Amazon and Netflix.

And of course there is the real growth and change, channels that function via the internet and don’t use “normal” transmission methods.

So, does the BBC have any reason for existence in the present conditions?

Well yes and no, there is absolutely no need for the huge amount of material it produces that can be got on many commercials channels to at least as high a standard or in many case much better. The days of the BBC as a bastion of quality are long gone, both technically and artistically.

I’m not going to list the programmes that are transmitted all day that should be on commercial stations because I will confuse those that are on the commercials channels and those that are on the BBC, Location Location Location, House in the Country, and so on.

We could close Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC1 without any loss of quality programmes, OK there are a few BBC1 shows that I’d like to see survive but they could easily be moved to fill the holes made in the BBC2 schedule when you remove the stuff that shouldn’t be there.

The BBC should only be making programmes that nobody else would/will, they are not commercial, they don’t have to justify their existence to shareholders. Sometimes something like Strictly Ballroom will appear, it’s hugely popular but it’s also something that would not have been made elsewhere neither would Bake Off.

Do we need such a huge BBC web presence or is that strangling commercial startups at birth?

The BBC should certainly not be in the magazine publishing business.

Should people that make mind bogglingly stupid decisions like killing off the programme that is their most successful international sales platform be allowed to keep their jobs? And yes, Top Gear is a programme that the BBC should make, it’s safe from the pressures of the car companies and therefore should be able to make open and objective tests of cars.

It should have the freedom to offend a few people, that’s what allowed Monty Python to succeed.

And when it comes to offending people does the BBC have to be so absolutely PC? are a significant proportion of deaf people illiterate? if not why are repeats ruined for the majority of people with an overlay of a gurning madman waving their arms around, isn’t this what subtitles are for?

Also on the theme of PC, they are the BBC, that is the British BC, the presenters should reflect this and not the islington/Hampstead luvvies vision of equality. Lets look at percentages, in terms of presenters, aah what’s the point, I’ll just be called racist. Look at the 2011 census results for the country as a whole, not just London or other large cities, the people shown on the BBC are totally out of proportion to those figures. The BBC tries so hard to be PC that they screw over the majority of the population.

As for the people they employ and the money they are paid…

You could remove half of the staff and not notice the slightest difference, cull to a third of the present numbers and they may start to get more efficient.

Why on earth were they allowed to spend the billions on an ego project like the new broadcasting house in the heart of the most expensive area in London, what’s wrong with an industrial estate out near Heathrow. Ah no, that’ll be where a commercial enterprise that is knocking them out in terms of quality and originality is based.

I’m stopping now, I could compare shooting station idents for BBC2 and Sky but I’d start crying.