Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

In case you haven’t noticed, filmmaking is changing. And the future of filmmaking is now.

In years past, if you wanted to make a movie, you had to raise enough money to not only cover the film and equipment, but you paid for your DP, your camera operator, someone to pull focus, someone to load the film, someone to lay dolly track and someone else to push your dolly.

If you wanted to create an awesome movie on a budget, you shot Super 16mm. Once the film was in the can, you paid to get the film processed, color corrected, transferred to video, edited “off line” and later blown up to 35mm. And all these steps were considered an affordable option!

Then you crossed your fingers, hoping to land an awesome distribution deal. Can you imagine trying to make movies like that? It’s easy to understand why most would-be filmmakers never took action.

Future Of Filmmaking

Photo © Dmytro Tolokonov / Dollar Photo Club

Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

With the emergence of awesomely inexpensive production technology, making a movie is getting easier. And everything has changed.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve heard anybody in the filmmaking community seriously consider shooting their first feature on film. And why would they? These days, if you want to make a great looking movie, you grab your $2,000 DSLR camera and you start shooting.

That’s it. No film stock. No silly processing costs. And no transfers to video.

You simply take your camera out of the bag, point and shoot. Then you edit on your computer and upload to several of the video on demand websites. And you can start selling your work to the world.

This is an AMAZING time to make movies, right?

Or is it?

For the first time in history, filmmakers are experiencing what happens in other industries when robots start producing comparable goods for less and less money. You get an overwhelming supply of inexpensive product in the marketplace, which devalues the market as a whole. Couple this with the demise of traditional DVD distribution, and you can understand why it’s difficult land a killer payday.

Considering these unfavorable odds, why would any filmmaker risk millions on a budget when there are less opportunities to make the money back? This is our new paradox as filmmakers.

Producing product is not the problem. It is easy to make a backyard indie.

The real challenge is keeping budgets low enough to increase the odds of recouping, while at the same time creating movies that people actually want to see.

This seems obvious.

While there are no guarantees in this or any business, aside from making an awesome movie, here are three things you can do to increase your odds of success:

  1. Know your target audience.
  2. Have a plan for reaching your target audience.
  3. Cast actors who have a large social media following.

Having spent the last half-decade working in marketing and distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers completely ignore these steps. Most never take time to sketch out a marketing, sales and distribution strategy for their movies. And as a result, most movies end up dying in digital obscurity.

Don’t do that.

The Atomos Shogun

How The Atomos Shogun Shows Filmmakers What They Are Capturing – by Michael Head

DSLR filmmakers have a distinct need to see what they are shooting, including framing, exposure and focus. The challenge is, DSLRs typically have small screens on the back of the camera, which are not ideal for viewfinding (even with the movable screens many DSLRs now feature.)

Enter the viewfinder. A viewfinder is basically a screen that takes an image from the sensor and lets you put it where you want it. Having a viewfinder is a great tool. Since the advent, many manufacturers have now incorporated the ability to record images directly from the viewfinder as well.

Doing this avoids the compressed video taken internally by the camera and allows for greater flexibility of recording format and media.

One of the leaders in this field is Atomos.

In the past, I have utilized the Ninja 2 recorder for about a year now, and I have never regretted the purchase. But with the increasing accessibility of 4k video, Atomos has stepped up to the plate with the soon forthcoming Atomos Shogun.


Atomos Shogun

Atomos made some very smart choices for their recorders.

While there are no shortage of monitor or recorders, many manufactures went the route of specialized, dedicated media. This basically amounts to an SSD (solid state drive) in a specially designed package.

Atomos went another direction with the Atomos Shogun.

For starters, the Atomos Shogun utilizes off-the-shelf 2.5 inch SSDs and spinning disk hard drives – the kind you would put into a laptop. I think that is brilliant because it means that while storage media must be considered, it is also generally affordable and coming down in price all the time.

The Good of The Atomos Shogun:

  • 1980 x 1200 DPI 7 inch screen – above HD to allow for additional controls
  • Records 1080P from 23.98 (24) fps to 120 fps – high defintion slow-mo!
  • Records Ultra HD 4K up to 30 fps – even over HDMI
  • Records in flavors of Prores and in Cinema DNG raw files – for cameras that can out put raw
  • HDMI, 3G-SDI, and Genlock for timecode inputs
  • Audio breakout cable with 3.5mm and XLR inputs – Who needs dual system audio?
  • Variety of battery solutions – use what you’ve already got (with adapters)
  • Records to Hard Drives and SSDs, including the option to use two disks in a RAID 0 array for increased speeds
  • Monitoring, including histograms, focus peaking, false color, blue only – just about anything a DP could hope for Audio Monitoring
  • In monitor play-back, with the ability to mark good and bad takes – start your edit early

The Not-So-Good of The Atomos Shogun:

  • Not cheap – $2,000, plus media!
  • Running audio into the recorder might introduce more need for cable wranglers during shoots.
  • Can it record Cinema DNG raw files over HDMI or only SGI?

Final Thoughts on The Atomos Shogun:

At NAB this year, Atomos representatives announced they were working with Sony during the development of the Atomos Shogun and the Sony A7s – so these two were just about made for each other! The A7s can output 4k over HDMI, and the Shogun records higher quality Prores then the camera can record internally.

Atomos has hit on a great market – accessible recorders and monitors, all in one. The Atomos Shogun is only their latest offering, but it is going to be a great addition to a cinematographer’s toolkit!

– –

Michael Head is a filmmaker and full-time geek living the the Dallas-Fort Worth Metromess. Follow him at @michaeldhead. Check in every Tuesday for Micheal’s “tech-Tuesday” articles. Check out his website at michaeldhead.wordpress.com.

Is The Panasonic GH4 Your Dream Camera?

Is The Panasonic GH4 Your Dream Camera? By filmmaker Michael Head

The future of production for the foreseeable future is 4K.

This is true even if the majority of distribution will remain at 1080P and 2K for a while. But each day we get closer and closer to wide stream 4K distribution, be it through Netflix or even YouTube.

That leaves camera manufacturers in a very precarious situation.

The majority of consumer users are still not ready for 4K, but clients will soon demand 4K video (even though they might not really know why) and professional video producers can use the extra resolution to make their lower resolution projects look better.

Enter the Panasonic GH4, a camera which has already generated a lot of buzz.

Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4, is a Micro 4/3 mount DSLR (ok, mirrorless) form factor camera that shoots up to 4K and Ultra HD video, and it already has a lot going for it.

Panasonic has a great pedigree of DSLR (mirrorless) video.

Keep in mind that the GH2 and GH3 are both good video cameras, and that was before users hacked the software and increased data rate and therein the detail saved in the video file.

If you need an example of the hacked GH2 on set, check out Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color – The second feature from the imaginative director, and the choice of camera was unique, but well made.

The Panasonic GH4 caters to video producers and photographers in a very unique way.

Where Canon loaded out two similar DSLR cameras which individually focus on photography (1D) and cinema (1D C), the Panasonic GH4 took novel approach to the divide – Produce a separate unit that focuses on what video producers need, that photographers do not need.

Enter the DMW-YAGH Interface Unit – a separate device that attaches to the underside of the Panasonic GH4 and includes XLR inputs, audio meters, and SDI output for professional external recording and monitoring.

The advantage of making a separate unit is that the photographers who don’t need it can skip it and videographers who might not be able to afford it at the start can use the camera without it and pick up the interface unit later.

I think that is a brilliant move on Panasonic’s part and shows a thoughtfulness and consideration of their broad client base that some manufacturers (*cough*Canon*cough) are missing out on (and PS, I’m a fan of Canon – my first camera was a 60D).

The Panasonic GH4 is not perfect – the camera features an 8-bit recording, which is somewhat limiting. And 4:2:0 cool subsampling in internal recording limits you a bit in post. But the Panasonic GH4 can output 8-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI and full 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video over SDI with the interface unit.

The Good Stuff
– 4k and Ultra HD resolution (4K – 4096 and UHD – 3840 selectable)
– 1080P at up to 60 (59.94) FPS
– MOV, MP4 (4k/UHD) and AVCHD (1080p) recording formats
– High Data rate – 200 MBPS at 1080, 100 MBPS at 4K
– Interface Unit with XLR inputs including phantom power and SDI output
– No 30 minute time cap on video
– NTSC and PAL selectable
– Highly adaptable M4/3 lens mount
– 10-bit 4:2:2 output over SDI, 8-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI

The Not So Good Stuff
– Separate Interface Unit (yes, I think it’s a good and bad thing because it ups the cost)
– 8-Bit 4:2:0 internal recording
– Internal recording to 4k requires class U3 SDHC cards (a new standard)

Questions About The Panasonic GH4:
– My number one question is this: What’s the dynamic range?

Final Thoughts On The Panasonic GH4:
As I get more and more experience with video, I am more and more convinced that dynamic range is vitally important to achieving the fabled “film look”. Panasonic’s choice to produce a special interface unit initially struck me as odd, and it does add to the cost of shooting for the professional videographer. But it also lets users choose their level of need and investment, and gives them a goal to aim for for increasing their possible output.

A while back, I was looking for a DSLR for video, and after extensive research, I had narrowed the choices down to the Canon 60D and the GH2. I went with the Canon for a variety of reasons including wider array of lenses and no overheating problems. But, if I knew then what I know now, the choice might have been different.

There has been a plethora of M4/3 mount cameras, and while camera bodies change rather rapidly, good glass can last for decades, and investment in dependable glass that can go across camera bodies is a large consideration these days. Good cameras like the GH4 are great, but don’t forget… The first thing your images pass through is your glass.

GoPro Hero Time Lapse

GoPro Hero Time Lapse
by filmmaker Joseph Ort

The GoPro Hero can be utilized for time lapse footage.

When dealing with time lapses, it’s all about doing the correct math. Not only because you want your end product to be a certain length, but also when dealing with the storage space while creating a time lapse.

The GoPro Hero cameras are nice for time lapses for a variety of reasons:

  • Built in intervalometer.
  • Can be placed in certain locations that you wouldn’t want your DSLR to get damaged.
  • Professional quality.

My timelapse was for a cross country roadtrip. So the basic rundown with the gear was:

The AC power adapter took away the worry of having to switch out the GoPro batteries every two hours (four hours if you have the extension); however, there was one problem that occurred. You can not have the LCD pack on the back of the GoPro on for long periods of time, even if you plug in the AC power.

Having the LCD pack plugged in actually caused the GoPro camera to get so hot, that it actually shuts down the camera completely.

Now the test was to see if the GoPro was actually recording or not throughout the trip. Sure you can leave the beeping sound on, but that can get very annoying – very fast. The best bet is to plug it in, know that it’s recording and then leave it alone. Check it when you’re at a gas station by leaning from the outside and check for the red flash that happens so many seconds. Since it’s a longer static shot at the gas station, it will easier to cut out that section of you peeping in through the windshield in post.

For GoPro Hero 2 users, there is not a worry, GoPro added the flashing on different spots of the camera now, so the guess work is no more. So then the question of – When do I need change the cards in the camera?

The GoPro Hero 1 takes 5MP and it averages 1.7 -2MB. So let’s say 2MB for easy math.

With a 32 GB card, that’s 1,024MB for each GB (let’s say 1,000MB for easy math), so that’s a total of 32,000MB. So if the GoPro camera takes 2MB stills, that’s 16,000 stills that can fit onto a 32GB card (32,000 divided by 2).

Then it’s time to figure out your intervals. For something that’s happening fast, like pedestrians crossing the street, cars passing by, fast moving clouds – you would want to shoot 1 or 2 second intervals. Meaning that every second or two seconds your camera is taking one still. For this roadtrip, since it’s going to be sped up so fast, I was thinking more like every 5 or even 10 seconds for each shot. I ended up going with every 10 seconds.

Once again math comes back into play. So for every 10 seconds my GoPro takes one still. That is a total of 6 stills in a minute (60 seconds in a minute divided by 10). For every hour that’s a total of 360 stills (6 stills in a minute times 60 minutes in an hour). That gives me a total of 360 stills in an hour.

If I can do 360 stills in an hour, I’ll take the total capacity that my card can hold (16,000) and the result is just about 44 1/2 hours.

To be on the safe side and since I had more SDHC cards with me, I switched it out before I even reached that mark. The main reason is to check the footage and to see that everything was turning out right. It’s better to split it up like that, than to waste an entire time lapse that definitely couldn’t be repeated without a major expense by relying on just one SDHC card.

So it’s good to know the math of the time lapse before you create one but it’s also important to make sure that the time lapse is actually working and to switch out the cards if you can.

Filmmaking Success Tips For Sourcing An Audience

Because of an eroding DVD market, the modern moviemaking model dictates that you (as a filmmaker) must treat your independent movie business just like any other small business.

YOU have a product (your movie) and YOU must sell your product. In order to sell your product, you must find a customer and convince them that your movie is worth more than their money. Obvious right?

But most filmmakers have no idea how to find a customer.  It’s not your fault. I blame the STUPID notion that filmmakers should concentrate solely on making movies without considering how to source their target audience.  Think about it. Filmmakers traditionally depended on some sort of middle-man distributor to come in deus ex machina style to provide a big fat cash advance. But that was then…

Now, as a result of DSLR technology, you have a whole world of filmmakers flooding the market with awesomely good-looking backyard indies.  It’s an example of supply and demand. There are too many movies! And there are too few traditional deals. And sadly, most filmmakers have no idea how to get their movies seen and selling. As a result, the entire world of indie filmmaking is belly-up.

The only way modern moviemakers can compete and succeed is to learn from traditional small businesses. Filmmakers must focus on finding creative ways to produce movies inexpensively and spend tremendous effort (and little money) sourcing an audience. Which, when you compare the filmmaker’s need for customer acquisition to other businesses, it’s really the same thing.

Welcome to the new movie business!

So who wins? Filmmakers who can source an audience for their movies are in better shape than those who can not. Period.

How do your source an audience: In two words – Internet marketing.

I got news for you. Selling a movie online is no different than selling an eBook! But not everybody knows how to sell things online. That is OK. I explain this in my book. And for those of you not ready to get my book (so you can discover my mad movie marketing methods) – here is a tip as well as an actionable item: Crowdfunding.

By now you’ve heard of crowdfunding. But the little secret that nobody is talking about is this – Not all movie projects will get fully funded by the crowd. BUT, by creating a campaign, you essentially get the word out about your movie. You increase your YouTube hits (because you presumably embed your trailer into your campaign)… And even if your campaign is not successfully funded, anybody who did donate is now part of your future audience. Hmmm.

I know I’m on a bit of a rant today. So I’m going to slow-my-roll. If you like this filmmaking stuff, make sure you click here   >>

And if you want to see me speak or attend any of my workshops, telephone your local film festival and leave this message on their answering machines –> I WANT TO SEE Jason Brubaker LIVE.

Feel free to comment below.