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Category: Movie Making News (page 2 of 237)

Red Depth: A New Must-Read Movie Blog

Red Depth Will Tordella Blog LogoFrom colorist and cineaste extraordinaire Will Tordella, a new manifesto on the emotional content hidden within the color spectrum of a video image: “Red Depth”. Knowing Will, I suspect his “Red Depth” blog will become a must read.

Here’s an excerpt from his first post:

The problem is that human perception of the color green is not as receptive as our appreciation of the red spectrum.

The reason is red’s long wavelength and that our eyes respond more to long wave ranges. This results in wrestling with it. In the video realm this has some very practical outcomes. (Most of the following can also be found on Wikipedia.)

For us to perceive the colors as equal, the green and blue are compensated for in the video signal. This causes red to have a “weaker” representation in the signal and during its life cycle with signal deterioration red suffers first which results in increased noise and smear.

In the past with analog signals the green was prioritized color. The issue with the red component is the same for analog as well as a compressed digital signal. The red’s area is reduced, hence it is more pixelated. Problems also can arise with focus when shooting in predominately red light.

And so we have a little “Red Death,” if you will, like the light of a star begun it’s descent to the end of life.

Things get more technical here. (But don’t let it put you to sleep. Red Death is Life and Death when we’re talking about the effect of an image on audiences.)

Red Death is not an illusion – it arises from something called chroma subsampling. Most video codecs do not represent color in full resolution as a way of achieving greater compression by taking advantage of the way that the human eye is more sensitive to brightness (“luma”) than color (“chroma”).

It’s slightly more complicated though: the brightness is actually made up of the sum of the three color components: Red, Green and Blue. And they’re not encoded as RGB, that would be require more bandwidth, they’re encoded as YUV. Y corresponds roughly to the green component, and the U and V are Y minus the red component and Y minus the blue component (a gross approximation, actually – if you want the whole formula look here).

In most codecs, the U and V components are sampled at a lower resolution than the Y. This is expressed in the three-way ratio you often see if you hang around video forums too much, e.g. 4:2:2 or 4:2:0.

A common example of this notation is in the codec name “ProRes422” the 422 bit comes from 4:2:2 meaning for every a 4×2 rectangle there will be 4 Y samples in each row 2 UV samples in the first row (half the horizontal resolution) and 2 UV samples in the second row. So ProRes422 has half the chroma resolution of the luma.

This means the red channel on its own has one quarter the resolution of the overall picture.

And yet…

Our eyes literally have a greater physical capacity for immediately responding to the color red than they do any other color.

So actually that is more breadth on the red side then, isn’t it? It is therefore our responsibility (as can be true outside of the color spectrum) to provide the depth. We must plumb the depths as it were. Red seems to beckon us like a siren of the rainbow, with its sweet, sultry song.

So let us accept that single invitation as an excuse to stare deep and longingly into the whole sumptuous image. Let us be seduced, and perhaps provide some flirtation ourselves. Let It passionately and boldly course through our veins (as if we had much choice.) Let it bleed into our psyche. The color is caught up in life and death. It gushes, it spurts, and it imbues. It vibrates, it glows and it captivates.

It envelopes.

Let us plunge into the whole spectrum of possibilities. Cinema, at it’s heart is moving imagery given life. We give it life, and we receive life from it. The best can fill it in and from every direction. We are sat down to observe, and so we shouldn’t take that lightly.

Look and listen well. I am best at looking.

So here it is. We will take in all of it. We will obsess. We will squint. We will ponder and mull. We will lust. Review, re-watch and freeze-frame. Follow the motion. Follow the emotion.

We will pull this dying light back from possible oblivion, and see what it reveals. We will listen. Turn your best ear and lean in.

So, that is to say, let’s watch some movies.

(minor editing and reformatting)

Check out the full post on Will’s Google Plus. It goes into great depth on the use of color on the TV Show Hannibal.

Your Weekend Viewing: A Single Life

My favorite of last year’s Academy Award-nominated Short Animated films is now available to watch online:

What I love about “A Single Life” is the rather profound way it gets at the regret for the passage of time, and how it uses the unique languages of film — montage, music, visuals — to make a point. And in less than three minutes!

The film is by a Dutch animation company: Job, Joris & Marieke. Here is their website. Nice of The New Yorker to make this awesome short film available to the public! The New Yorker’s Screening Room website hosts a number of interesting video shorts.

JJ&M’s latest video is an experiment involving 3D-printing of frames from a digital render to create a sort of “animated” sculpture. If I take it correctly, it is meant as an art installation:

What do you think of JJ&M’s animation style? What did you think of “A Single Life’s” themes about ‘taking it slow, before you’ve got to go’?

Your Weekend Viewing: Rare 1963 interview with West Side Story director Robert Wise

Wise talks about the difficulty choreographer Jerome Robbins faced in creating a vocabulary of dance moves for the (relatively for that time) realistic New York streets. Wise was immensely concerned with the setting. He also talks about the idea of opening the film with epic helicopter shots of the city.

They shot on a street that had been condemned and abandoned (to build the present-day Lincoln center). They were able to make a deal with contractor to hold off on tearing it down so they ended up with a very authentic New York street as their own private backlot.

[Via @LaFamiliaFilm]

Book Review: The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook

The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook: Real-World Production Techniques, 2nd Edition
Sybex: A Wiley Brand
by Barry Andersson
MSPR: $49.99 USA/$59.99 CAN

I read a lot of filmmaking books for this site. While I love the geeky, detail-oriented books, I’m always also on the lookout for a well-rounded filmmaking book that provides a useful overview of all aspects of filmmaking. In Barry Andersson’s DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook, I have found just such a book.

While the title is not inaccurate — the book does indeed orient toward making films using DSLRs, or Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras — it would actually be of great value to any beginning filmmaker, regardless of what camera they plan to use.

That’s because Andersson and his Wiley editors have done a great job explaining and illustrating the basics of filmmaking: topics like camera stabilization, camera motion, lighting, sound and data management.

Highlights

The section on camera settings is very good, and contains information on calibrating the color on your camera which I have not seen elsewhere. As someone who is constantly updating lens advice, I have to acknowledge that the info in this book is super-solid and better-organized than I’ve ever managed to do.

The emphasis is definitely on Canon DSLRs over those by Nikon or Sony or other companies. While you might expect this to be a drawback, I actually see it as a plus. Continue reading

Your Wednesday Links: Most Over-rated Films

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Reddit: What is the most over-rated film?

Cali Sunday: Starlee Kine visits a unique film director’s lab

The Film Stage: Toronto International Film Festival review of Zhang Yimou-directed Coming Home

PetaPixel: This is what you get when you strap fireworks to a drone for a long-exposure photo

Wired: The Radicalization of Jar Jar Binks

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:

Cassavetes later said that [novelist Edward] McSorley taught him the three most important things he knew: 1) that character was more important than plot, and that the most important thing of all was to present characters truthfully; 2) that the artist should not explain or define too much, or “do too much thinking for the audience,” but that the story should “evolve, so that people could understand it only gradually as it went along;” 3) that “style is truth” and all that really mattered was that every scene should be as true to life, truthful about the characters and their real feelings and behavior, as possible.

–A Bitter Sweet Life: John Cassevetes on Writing

OLD POSTS UPDATED:
HD Cameras Comparison

Your Weekend Viewing: Status Anxiety

I post this video not only because it’s a nice example of using animation to bring voice-over to life, but because it also applies to the life of an independent filmmaker.

Any aspiring filmmaker has chosen a life where they value art over the traditional material signs of success. There will be a tiny few who are co-opted (or allow themselves to be co-opted) by Hollywood and who get the fancy cars and the ridiculous houses.

But no clear-headed filmmaker is going in with that in mind. The art is the metric, and sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of that. Whatever other people may think of your status, you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are working toward something a lot more fulfilling and a lot longer-lasting than a BMW.

A short documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s lenses

This little doc was my favorite part of the touring Stanley Kubrick art exhibit which passed through LA a few years back.

After watching it, perhaps you’ll agree with me that it’s a tragedy that these useful lenses, so carefully chosen as tools of filmmaking, are instead touring the world as artifacts behind glass.

As a former magazine photographer, Kubrick had a deep understanding of not just how lenses would photograph a scene — dark, light, deep, shallow — but also every element of composition.

His camera positions are so artfully chosen. For example, the demonically-foreshortened low angle on Jack Nicholson when he’s trapped in the storage room in The Shining. Or there’s the story of the young Kubrick pulling rank on experienced d.p. Lucien Ballard in The Killing. Kubrick asked him to switch lenses for a long tracking dolly shot. When told switching lenses would mean Ballard’s lights were in the shot, requiring him to re-light the whole scene, Kubrick stood his ground. Ballard could change lenses or he could start looking for a new job.

Meta: Site Layout Updates

Regular visitors will notice a new look to the site. You may even notice changes day-by-day. The goal is to have a fresh, mobile-friendly layout and to constantly tweak it to make it better. Sorta like editing a film.

Right now I’m experimenting with the well-reviewed Hemingway theme. In addition to looking better on phones and tablets, it should also do a better job of handling video and large images.

It’s going to be a work-in-progress and things are going to break. Or display in weird and funky ways. Your comments and requests are quite welcome during — and after! — this process. Let me know what you think!

Movie Reviews: The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything

Imitation-Game-PosterThe Imitation Game

The Imitation Game seems unlikely to win Best Picture, but the crackerjack screenplay, by Graham Moore, has a good shot to win Best Adapted Screenplay. It takes the life of mathematician Alan Turing and turns it into an Enigma code that comes together letter by letter, intercutting three time periods. The dialogue, which you can tell stars like Benedict Cumberbatch (Turning) and Kiera Knightley (who plays his colleague and beard) are enjoying immensely, is sharply witty and dramatically charged. Other than a certain sawhorse refrain that clumsily returns as a mantra to bludgeon dimwitted audience members who require their themes spoonfed, I loved it.

It works as a spy thriller, it works as an emotional mystery, it works as the tale of a tragic decline. Pay no attention to the naysayers who are tarring it with the “not historically accurate” brush (like poor Selma). Rubbish. To understand history, you have to engage with the people and the events and Imitation Game is a perfect blueprint for how to do that and make an entertaining film at the same time.

Now, if you know going in how Turing met his end then you may, like me, feel that there was a case to make it a part of this story beyond just a title card. The filmmakers opted not to dramatize that, and I respect that. But I do feel the film ‘chickened out’ a bit at this and some other harsher aspects of the true story. Commercially, of course, indisputably they made the right call.

The Theory of Everything PosterThe Theory of Everything

This scientist biopic also surprised me. Yes, it has the awkward love story and the uplifting struggle against a debilitating neurological disease, but it also goes into some places with the characters I wasn’t expecting. Perhaps because it is based on Hawking’s first wife’s memoir rather than his own accounts, it offers a unique perspective on his professional achievements and the challenges of raising a family and sustaining a marriage.

Eddie Redmayne positively disappears into the role. I know it’s conventional wisdom that playing disabled is Oscar bait, but this is no dilettante performance. At every turn there is a trap of exaggerating the look and movements of the real Hawking into clownishness. But Redmayne never does. That would be enough (dayenu!) but Redmayne also adds a layer of — for lack of a better term — ‘eye-acting’ that provides a window into the character’s deepest thoughts and feelings. It’s worth the ticket price alone.

The script, by Anthony McCarten, meanders a bit. It never quite brings its central metaphor home (Hawkings’ thoughts on the universe expanding forever or contracting to doom mirror his own attitudes toward facing his disease). But I’m also a fan of not forcing messy real lives into some artificial structure. Jane, the wife character (Felicity Jones), is quite interesting in her own right. Her struggling with fidelity and what her husband’s discoveries mean for her faith was all quite dramatic. I wish there had been even more of her journey: A scene of her struggling with the kids, struggling with Stephen’s bodily functions. (I believe the one time he’s shown on the toilet, he’s unrealistically wearing pants. #rant Filmmakers: either you show us the nitty gritty of what this disease is really like or don’t. Never go pant-on-toilet! #endrant)

In the end, I had some idea of what it was like to be Stephen Hawking and live his extraordinary life. I had a bit less of a sense of what it was like to be Jane, and almost no sense of what it was like to be his kid. Hawking is in his 70’s and still going strong. I wager this is not the last biopic we’ve seen of him, or of Mr. Turing.

Movie Review: Selma

selma_ver2Selma is about a later chapter in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyewolo). The film opens with Dr. King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Stockholm for his work in ending segregation. But the work of civil rights is not finished.

As he later puts it to LBJ (Tom Wilkinson), nothing will change in the racist communities without self-determination. He and his sometimes fractious coalition will make their stand in Ferguson, Alabama — not because it is particularly worse for black voters there than other places in the South. They will do it there because they can count on the violent local sheriff and the racist governor to make it into a scene.

With the events of Ferguson, Missouri and the failure to indite the police officers who strangled Eric Garner in the news it’s hard to imagine a historical film that feels more relevant to today. But of course, most relevant is the 1964 Voting Rights Act that the Selma marches galvanized. It was just repealed by the Supreme Court.

Director Ava DuVernay, apparently working from her own script instead of credited British writer Paul Webb’s, delivers the goods. Historical moments come to life with emotion and power, and the Kings — Martin and Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) — both come to life as complicated, conflicted figures, not to mention the other names from history that live and breathe on screen: Joe Lewis, Malcolm X, Mahalia Jackson, Jimmy Lee Jackson, and so many more.

As for the controversy over not getting a Best Director nomination… totally justified. This was one of the best-directed films I saw all year. While there are a few moments where the camera angles don’t edit together smoothly, the direction was otherwise first class. DuVernay got 10,000 times better performances and more emotional impact than Bennett Miller did with Foxcatcher. (Sorry, Bennett. I still love Moneyball.) The movie is truly epic. Scenes with hundreds of extras play just as well as two-person chamber scenes. You feel the righteous power of the Selma marches. You feel the swift brutality of the violence. You feel the weight of history. And yet the characters don’t feel stuffy and arch. It’s incredibly well directed.

DuVernay’s boosters (of which I am now one) can console themselves with the thought that she is only three films into what looks to be a long and promising career. I look forward to the work, whether the stuffy old Academy Awards voters recognize it or not.

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