Making the Movie

Filmmaking tips, resources, reviews, news and links.

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Your Weekend Viewing: What Cheer?

What Cheer? – starring Richard Kind from Five Eyed Films on Vimeo.

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.

Wednesday Links: Crowdfunding, Now with Equity! Edition

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

Hollywood Reporter: Want a Piece of the Movie Profits? New SEC Rules Could “Revolutionize” Crowdfunding

Marginal Revolution: Assurance Contracts for Indie Films

Song Exploder: Composer Brian Tyler breaks down the title track for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Geek Tyrant: If We Want Original Films, We Have to Support Them

Reddit thread: What is your favorite “cut to credits” moment in any movie?

Kottke: Movie intro megamix

The Film Stage: The making of Interstellar‘s tesseract (hint: it was mostly practical)

“Film’s thought of as a director’s medium because the director creates the end product that appears on the screen. It’s that stupid auteur theory again, that the director is the author of the film. But what does the director shoot—the telephone book? Writers became much more important when sound came in, but they’ve had to put up a valiant fight to get the credit they deserve.”
–Billy Wilder in The Paris Review

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: Free Video Editing Software Tutorials

Vimeo has a whole bunch of free tutorials in their Video School, including…

  • Adobe Premiere
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • iMovie
  • Windows Movie Maker

No Avid MediaComposer there, but you can find official tutorials for that on Avid’s website and YouTube:

If you want to make a living doing editing (as I currently do), I recommend learning Avid first, then Premiere (fewer job opportunities, but a growing field), then Final Cut X (even fewer opportunities as of right now, but potentially more when they add more pro workflow support). Movie Maker and iMovie will give you the basics, but won’t help you get work.

Some Basic Editing Software Recommendations

Avid MediaComposer is pricey and has a less intuitive interface, but they offer a student version at a price that’s competitive with the other major software solutions. It’s a pain-in-the-ass to get and activate (and transfer between machines). The new Adobe subscription licensing is another major reason I think Premiere is currently on the rise.

For low-budget indies, the Adobe workflow is very attractive, especially if you are doing documentaries and can make use of the auto-transcript features. Happy cutting — and US readers have a great long Memorial Day weekend!

Book Review: Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I, by Shinobu Hashimoto

Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I
by Shinobu Hashimoto, translated by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto

Legendary Japanese screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto’s memoir is drenched in nostalgia. There is nostalgia for the train stations in Tokyo and the post-war neighborhoods which they evoke. There is nostalgia for the pine forest of his youth, where he would go to cry when his parents were unkind to him, every tree of which was torn down to aid in Japan’s futile war effort. And most of all, there is nostalgia for the personalities of the Japanese film industry in the 1940’s and 50’s — chief among them: Akira Kurosawa.

Hashimoto was the sole disciple of director and screenwriter Mansaku Itami, a leading light in 1930’s Japanese cinema. Though Itami died of tuberculosis before his time, he had plans for Hashimoto — at that time a salaryman for a munitions concern who spent his free time screenwriting.

Itami’s designs lead to Hashimoto’s screenplays falling into the hands of Kurosawa and his producers. Kurosawa immediately recognized the potential of one script, which would go on to become Rashomon. Hashimoto’s third screenplay, another collaboration with Kurosawa (and this time adding Hideo Oguni, another ace screenwriter of the era) became the classic film Ikiru.

Writing advice from one of the great screenwriters

The memoir goes in depth into Hashimoto’s writing process, and it all stems, he says, from his mentor Itami’s emphasis on themes: Continue reading

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.


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 Weekend Viewing: The Important Places

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


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

HD Cameras Comparison

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