Category Archives: Vlog

Love and Robots poster frame

“Love and Robots” Hits the Festival Circuit.

Love and Robots poster frame

I’ve wrapped post production for my short film “Love and Robots” and now I am in the process of entering it in film festivals. The film is entered into the Sundance festival, The Boulder International Film Festival, and the Festivus film festival in Denver Colorado. “Love and Robots” is the story of a female robot who wonders if robots can experience the emotion of love. It was shot with a Panasonic GH2 DSLR camera with a dedicated volunteer cast and crew and no budget to speak of.

I am also in the process of finding a venue for the unofficial world premiere. You can check out the trailer at: http://loveandrobotsfilm.com/trailer.html we also have an Internet Movie Database page and a Facebook page.

Why I Love Final Cut Pro X (The minority report, despite the tar and feathering by my peers.)

NOTE: Since writing this post, I have found serious flaws in Final Cut Pro X. Please see the follow-up post “How FCP X Broke My Heart.”

Okay, first sentence; it’s not perfect. But something this revolutionary, never is. In the words of Morpheus, you need to “Free your mind.”

FCPX GUI

iMovie Pro...Not!

I should just say that I have been editing video as a profession since 1985 and I’ve worked on everything from old CMX tape editors to KEM flatbed film editors to most the NLEs out there, I’ve edited national PBS shows and I teach Final Cut Pro editing at the local community college.
The most important thing I ask of an NLE is that it be fast and be intuitive. On these two counts, I’ve found Final Cut Pro X to be both. I’ll also add the caveat that while I’ve only logged about 16 hours using the new app, I’ve been able to do some pretty amazing stuff in that 16 hours.
Before I get to all the complaints that editors are posting (and they are well documented, to say the least) I want us all to take a deep breath and look at the bright side of life, as it relates to video editing. FCP7 was getting old, editors have been flocking to Premiere because of 64bit architecture, and “native editing” which FCP7 didn’t do. Also for the five editors in the world that edit 4K on a regular basis, FCP7 didn’t handle that workflow , so you had to use proxies (boo hoo!) Well, ladies and gents, FCPX does do 64bit, “Native” editing and 4K. I’ll actually use that 4K editing for time lapses, so hooray for 4K! The 64 bit is nice and in case you haven’t noticed we’ve now got a whole new host of 64 bit effects, They alone are worth your $300 that you are crying about spending on a full-featured NLE. It’s even got “Looks” included. I do love Stu and Red Giant, but for the price of Red Giant Looks, I’ve got a whole NLE attached.

Titles and Text sucked in FCP7, They suck a whole lot less in FCPX, font previews is just one little thing that makes me edit faster, and everyone knows a fast editor is an employed editor. Oh yeah, those nice 64bit effects and transitions are rendering in background while I keep editing, I wonder if I’m going to miss the “render wander” hmm… no more billing for watching the render bar, no wonder some editors are upset.
Video editors hate making friggin’ slide shows. But almost every friggin’ project involves animating Joe the photographer’s wonderful stills into the project. At times I’ve contemplated (gag) going into iMovie just to use the Ken Burns effect. For the record, I hate iMovie and I would hate iMovie Pro, if that’s indeed what FCPX was (and it isn’t.) But if I can take a still sequence and Ken Burns it without having to key frame, that’s mo’ money in my pocket. Yet another FCPX feature that makes me a faster editor.
Once you get over the initial new GUI shock, FCPX turns out to be very intuitive. I was able to make some edits right away without even opening the Help menu, where all the documentation is stored, a far cry from the four volumes of dead tree manuals that came with FCP6. For me anyway, the trim window and the precision editor are far more intuitive than FCP7.  Slipping, sliding rippling, and extend edits are all a piece of cake. Also I have to mention how easy syncing is now. On FCP7 I have the Plural Eyes plug-in just to handle syncing dual system sound. I shoot with a DSLR, so most of the time I’m doing dual system sound. With FCP X it’s as easy as importing the sound clip and choosing “Synchronize Clip” from the Clip menu, that’s it ! It’s simple and just works.
I’ll have to say that initially I’m not a big fan of FCPX’s media management. You kinda have to get over the ideas of projects, sequences, and bins. And that’s sorta like saying you have to get over the idea of breakfast, lunch and dinner. And no “Save As” is just freaky. I’m thinking events are like projects used to be and projects are like sequences used to be. I’m still messing with this whole new paradigm, So I’m going to say that I need to mess with this more to judge it. But I will say this, there are those that are saying you can’t put footage on an external drive and that you can’t share projects and assets, That is just plain wrong. You can import clips to wherever you want, and FCPX can use them, it does give you the option to copy the clips to the same drive as your project file, but you can opt out if you wish. And you have menu options for sharing and copying assets and projects for another editor to use. It’s no Final Cut Server, but big post houses that are running FCP Server are going to stick with FCP7 as long as their slow moving corporate giant minds will allow.
That brings me to “native” editing. Why the hell do you want to edit h.264 on a SD card natively? Because you like to be slow? Okay, most of you are smart enough to transfer your cards to the hard drive where you can import them into the NLE for editing. But then you say “I’m editing H.264 natively” you may think you are, but for all those edits you’re making, the NLE has to transcode and make I frames and reconstruct the GOP structure, that’s just the way it is. So while FCPX will let you do that now, the smarter way to edit is to let FCPX turn all that long GOP crap into beautiful 422 I framed ProRes for you in the background while you edit away “natively” and when you export your project , you’ve got a nice archival quality ProRes copy of your program. You DO have an archival ProRes copy of every program that you create, don’t you?
If you are worried about output formats, spring $50 for the new compressor or use your old compressor on your exported master file. And if you need to go to tape, you really should already have AJA or Matrox or Black Magic hardware. DVD? You probably already have DVD Studio Pro and the DVD standard isn’t going anywhere soon, so upgrading DVDSP is pointless. Blu-ray? You can output to an external burner and you even have limited custom menu options available in Compressor.
At this point I should point you to the excellent David Pogue article where he talks to Apple product managers to dispel many of the myths about FCPX. You can read that article here: Pro editors weigh-in on Final Cut Pro X
Now, let me tell you what i hate/ dislike or need to have added to FCPX. I need AAF export or XML export to send projects to After Effects. I need round-tripping or multitrack export to Soundtrack Pro or (gag) OMF export to send audio to Poor Tools (SIC.) Multi-Cam would be nice, although I don’t use it much in FCP7. I need more numeric input options. There are a lot of the time where I’m editing “by the numbers”, so knowing where to type in time code numbers for ins, outs and durations would be great. You should be able to tag clips on import like the old “Log and Transfer.” I’ve found in the “Import from Devices” window that you can import partial clips from devices, but you can’t label them in that window before importing them.
Finally, I’m going to directly quote David Pogue as to the bottom line:
“Professional editors should (1) learn to tell what’s really missing from what’s just been moved around, (2) recognize that there’s no obligation to switch from the old program yet, (3) monitor the progress of FCP X and its ecosystem, and especially (4) be willing to consider that a radical new design may be unfamiliar, but may, in the long term, actually be better.”

Why the (hacked) Panasonic GH1 is a better video camera than the Canon5DMk2

If you are a Canon 5Dmk2 fanboy you may want to shut your eyes. The lowly Panasonic GH1 just got supercharged with a firmware hack that makes a great HDSLR video camera even better. Here is my list of things that make the GH1 a better video camera than the 5D. First let’s take a look at the 800-pound gorilla in the room, The Canon has a full frame 35mm sensor, therefore, there is no crop factor when using 35mm lenses. Canon’s full size sensor is 4 times the size of the 4/3rds sensor in the GH1, which also means that the Canon must compress 4 time the data for the same bandwidth, all thing being equal (which they are not.) Supposedly the 5D is writing data at 35Mbs, compared to the (stock) 17Mbs of the GH1, which means that it’s still throwing away half again as much data as the GH1 (4 time the sensor and only twice as much data as the GH1).

GH1 Camera rig

My GH1 Camera Rig

But the GH1 has a secret, with the Ptools firmware hack from Tester13, the GH1 can shoot true 1080P 24fps with no pulldown at 50Mbs. And since both cameras use h.264 compression, with the software hack, the GH1 is compressing the data from its sensor far less.

But there’s more, the GH1 hack also enables the 1080P mode using MJPEG compression at 100Mbs for short shots. While this setting is kind of like using nitrous and it’s really pushing the limits of the camera, it is a real boon if you want to get the highest quality video possible. The advantage that motion JPEG has over h.264 is that it only uses spatial compression instead of the temporal and spatial compression of h.264. This means prettier pictures. His holiness, Phillip Bloom posted a great blog post on what the firmware hack brings to the GH1 which you can read on his blog.
I’ll admit that image quality is close enough between these two cameras that the 5D might win if that were the only issue. But the GH1 is a far more usable camera than the 5D, First off, for shooting video you can’t beat the fold out LCD screen on the GH1. It’s just better than the Live View screen on the 5D, period, even with a Z-finder. Second, the GH1 has continuous auto focus when using the kit lens. With 5D in live mode, you are stuck with whatever focus you had when you started recording. Thirdly, even un-hacked the GH1 can shoot 30fps 1/2 speed slow motion. You just shoot at 60fps 720p and play back the footage at 30fps, no frame blending or doubling, just plain good old fashioned over-cranking.
Okay, Let’s talk about glass. The 5D still uses an optical viewfinder, which means it has a pentaprism and a mirror, which it must flip up to take video, which, of course, makes the optical viewfinder unusable. This arrangement also means that the Canon has a deep flange distance. the flange is the measurement from the back of the lens to the surface of the sensor. Traditional film and video lenses have a short flange distance and don’t work well with 35mm SLR bodies. The GH1 has no optical viewfinder and therefore has a very short flange distance, which means it can use practically any 35mm SLR, video or film lens that someone is willing to make a adapter for. There is even a PL mount adapter that cost as much as the GH1, so that you can use cine lenses that cost 100 times as much the GH1. I use all my old Canon FD SLR lens as well as some Minolta, Olympus, and16mm film lenses and even cheap CCTV lens with my GH1.
Finally, let’s take a look at the form factor. The 5D is big and relatively heavy DSLR. Great if you’re trying to impress other photographers or the bridesmaids at a wedding shoot, not so good if you’re actually trying to shoot steady handheld video. The GH1 is lighter, smaller, more balanced and just plain easier to handle.
I won’t argue that the Canon 5DMK2 is a great still camera, and better than the GH1. But when it comes to real world video shooting and video quality, 5D, you’ve been served!

The Jaybilizer 3000 and the Canon 7D and 5DMk2

Due to the weight and high center of gravity of the 5Dmk2 and the 7D, these cameras do not work well with the Jaybilizer 3000. I did offer a 5D modified version, but I am not happy with the design, as it is too heavy to use for extended shooting. I have discontinued the 5D modified version. I have a working prototype design which is lighter and easier to balance the Canon DSLRS.
I will have a new Jaybilizer HDSLR model available as soon as I get some parts from the machine shop and stickers from the printer. I also have to make a how to balance video and set up the e-commerce site.
Thanks for your patience and I am very excited about the new model.

Panasonic GH1 Jaybilizer3000 torture test

Panasonic GH1 Jaybilizer3000 torture test from Jay Shaffer on Vimeo.

Testing the GH1 on my DIY Merlin-type camera stabilizer (the Jaybilizer3000 jaybilizer.com )
This is kinda a worse case scenario, I was testing for rolling shutter with rapid side to side movement and to see how 24fps looked when moving quickly on a stabilizer also I wanted to see how smooth the camera was on the stabilizer. Obviously for real production footage I would have slowed down my motion to smooth out the 24p.

Beat Back The Attack, Swine Flu PSA

Beat Back The Attack from Jay Shaffer on Vimeo.

This is a 60 sec. PSA for the college I teach at. It promotes the use of hand sanitizer to prevent flu infection.
It was shot in one class period using an Canon HV30 camcorder. I also used a Jag35 DOF adapter for several shots and shot all but two shots using the Jaybilizer3000 camera stabilizer.
Post was in FCP I only used the three-way color corrector and vignetted shots to match the DOF footage.

Credits:
A film by Jay Shaffer
Asst. director: Gavin Townsend
Uninfected Student: Tim Brazzell
Infected Students:
Matthew Cooper
Daniel Davenport
Susan Glarion
Brett Hughes
Roldan Melcon
Andrew Parkins
Nicholas Ramirez

Samsung HZ10W WB500 Test

These are the first test shots using the HZ10W. Shooting in the 720P mode at 30FPS. This is somewhat of a contrast torture test, shooting from shade to extreme sunlight, and the Camera did pretty much as expected the highlights are blown out and this camera seems to be exceptionally noisy in the shadows. That said, I still like the image better than the Lumix TZ5, the JPEG artifacting and the CCD Flaring was unacceptable on the TZ5 and is why I traded to the HZ10. Another reason is the wider angle lens on the HZ10.
I’ll get some better video posted as soon as I get more familiar with the camera.

Samsung HZ10W WB500 Test from Jay Shaffer on Vimeo.

Bokeh Flowers

This is my first test movie using the Jag35e DOF adapter on a HV30 with a Canon FD 50mm F1.8 at F1.8. It was Shot in 24FPS 1080 in Cine exposure mode. I had a real tough time with the vignetting and the HV30 would not focus the DOF adapter other than very slightly zoomed in. also it was difficult to pull sharp focus in the inverted viewfinder. The footage was digitized using FCP’s HDV to Prorez import setting, and then converted to 24P in Compressor. The clip[s were then pan and scanned to 150% to mitigate the vignetting and graded in Final Cut. It was output to Quicktime at 24 Fps using the H264 codec at 1440X1080 at 1394 Kbs.

Bokeh Flowers from Jay Shaffer on Vimeo.