Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wireless Conflict and Effects

The Apple AirPort Extreme card has a couple strikes against it. Firstly, it costs about 2.8 gazillion dollars. Or at least forty dollars.
Second-like, it's a major-league pain-in-the-tuchus to install.
Draper's Lamia.

So I went and ordered a USB wireless for the Mac Pro (and for my PC desktop) because I thought at our new place we'd only have wireless. Turns out we have hard-wired right in the wall behind (my) computers. Maduka brought in our router, Blair's gonna bring in his wireless, and it'll all be super sweet.
William Martell on making sure there's conflict in every scene. Oh man I couldn't agree more. When you have a scene without conflict the movie just dies. I think horror movies are especially guilty of that because there's that opening set of scenes where the teenagers are headed into the woods and they're all laughing and happy because the filmmakers want to show us how things were good before they got very very bad because of the man with the ax.
The Stylizer plug in for Final Cut from Luca Visual FX looks kinda cool.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Machine Churns Slowly

I can't really stomach paying over four thousand dollars for a video card. I mean, what the what? Update: this is the link.

And other than that I'm not really getting a whole bunch of work done and I really haven't gotten much work done since we moved. But we will. We have to. I just have this stupid cold which won't go away.
Of course, moving in has been hard work. We only just got power over to that workstation (where the music keyboard is... for now) over my right shoulder.
You'll note the bottle of vodka waiting there in case of hard times.
Oh, but there's actually a story to that workstation. I was walking to work and there on the corner of Reade and Church someone was throwing away a lot of office furniture. Most of it was/is pretty unusable. But the desk looked pretty good so I went and got a cart and a tape measure and sure enough, it's pretty good. There's a couple little drawers and a keyboard/mouse tray. 

Muslim DSLR's

First Blair gets his arm chopped off, then a giant robot kills him, in Solar Vengeance.
Our main man Blair Johnson is DP on this groovy documentary "The Muslims are Coming".

Philip Bloom's camera shootout includes a hacked GH2. I believe the "correct" answer for the stills is:

1 5D
2 NEX5
3 AF100
4 C300
5 D7000
6 F3 AB
7 F3 S-Log
8 FS100
9 GH2
10 7D

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Attack the Block

And there be spoilers here. Although really if you're reading this blog and haven't already seen any movie I talk about then you're only here for the pictures of naked people and cats.
You're welcome.
I thought Attack the Block was almost really good. There were a number of very nice and awesome things about it, but I felt let down by the characters. Of course, the fact that they spoke with such heavy working - class London accents made it so I couldn't understand most of what they said, so that might have a bunch to do with it.
But after the first 30 seconds I had a list of who was going to die because, lets face it, they should die. And they didn't die.
That's the sort of thing which would drive my sister nuts.
Indeed the head - count for it being a horror movie was pretty darn low.

The creatures were spectacular in a low-budget way. First of all, they (mostly) weren't CG. They're guy-in-a-suit with hand extensions. And the idea of making them blind but with glow-in-the-dark teeth is quite awesome.
If I were to re-make it it'd either have to be about a drug dealer who refuses to mug some girl, or it would be about a drug dealer who's in trouble with another drug dealer from the very beginning (when there's a shoot-out natch.)

Monday, December 26, 2011


I've probably made considerable noise of late considering on the fact that we absolutely must shoot and post a minimum of three pictures this year. Perhaps four. Well heck, if I'm dreamin' we should do five but them dreams ain't worth the hyper-paper they is written on.
What I have so far is Dragon Girl, then Joe Chapman's picture Alien Exorcism. After that we have picture called either "Alien Revenge" or "Alien Treasure" depending on the draft we're reading (written by Bruce Frigeri).
Before all that comes to pass, o'course, we must finish Android Insurrection. I have plans to do that in three weeks. Don't know if we'll make it. I expect we'll have a finished cut, tho' we'll want to clean up some visual effects before delivery.
The first thing I won't be makin' a deciding on is what to do with this whole Apple Final Cut Pro debacleation. We'll edit at least one more picture in FCP (that'd be Dragon Girl). And if things ain't be worked out by comes summertime, we'll maybe find ourselves on the side of the fence where Premiere doth grow all pretty and gentle-like.
Yes, I've been re-watching all of Firefly.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Desks Apocalypse

Laiva desk from Ikea is only $20.
But it's a bit too tall, the HealthyComputing says that these are the ideal heights:
Writing: 28-30 inches

Mousing: 27-29 inches

Typing: 26-28 inches

The Laiva could be cut down. That would be the cheapest way to get a couple new desks. I'm gonna guess we should be at 27 inches. I wish my parents had a tape measure. How can they not have a tape measure? Oh, I know -- my dad always keeps his in the car. Anyway, their desks are at a pretty cool height.

Tell me Law & Order: Baldur's Gate wouldn't be awesome.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


We should probably make a mockbuster of Prometheus. Oh wait, we are making one.

The trick is remaining friends with Joe Chapman as I hound him to finish his Alien Exorcism picture. Because I'm going to be one giant pain in the butt. Because that picture is going to be awesome and I want to see it. I want to see it now!
You know what we need? Spacesuits. And lots of 'em. I want helmets that fog up like crazy. Do we like spherical helmets? Or would we dig some that are like three plates of glass? Anybody?
We finally (mostly) assembled the Whisperroom (which we now simply call the Tardis). And I think everyone is in agreement that the desks we have are just exactly too large. When we get slightly smaller ones we'll be able to fit five people in our studio without feeling any more on top of one another than we ever did before.
Irony 1: I actually pay $25/month less at the new studio than I did at Theatresource.
Irony 2: The commute is so much shorter that I've blown through my stop going home twice now. I'm going to get a lot less reading done.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Digs

We've moved into our new place. We're renting office space from Michael Mailer Films. We found the space on Loose Cubes.
Here's a pretty appalling picture of Maduka and me waving at the camera. I look fairly deranged. Maduka is fairly blase.
Amazon sent me the wrong adapter for my phone. But I just discovered that J&R is only 4 blocks from our new office.
We need another desk. Like 4' x 4'. And we need a throw rug. Oh, and we need this movie we're working on to get finished.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Harlem Rage

Our boy Tom Rowen wrote and directed this. Stars our own David Ian Lee (the man with America in his blood) and the continually more frightening each and every day Maduka Steady as the badass.
This picture looks nice boy.
Who shot it?
This should be a feature.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First of Us

Peggy Archer says funny things about lighting instruments.
We have, on occasion, tried to build our own "chicken coops". I can't say they've been terribly successful. Honestly, a couple cheap scoops with 300W lamps in 'em seems to do a similar thing. Those florescent lights we call "chicklets" do a somewhat outstanding job of smacking a whole lot of pretty (and uncontrolled) light on people.
The fact that I don't even own a light kit is simply absurd. Luckily I'm partners and/or friends with people who do own light kits. But have I mentioned how absurd it is we don't own one of our own?
The Last of Us. Teenage girl. Zombie-esque.

Reminds me of Jim Mickel's Stakeland too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Do or Not To Do

Here's a kind of neat video tutorial for lighting "talking head" - type videos. And it's exactly the opposite of what we do when we light.
Us? We start with the back light. Then we fill underneath. That's the Mitchell Riggs way.
If there are any lights left we might hit the face with some, maybe get some kick light in the eyes.
Lastly make sure something fun is happening in the background. If you did it right it's probably that rim light you set up at the very beginning.
I know. It's just the opposite of what everyone else does.
Speaking of what everyone else does, here's David Ian Lee on Funny or Die. Spectacularly not safe for work.


So, we're going to have a regular Skype line in our office. Were's still waiting on the little interface-things for these handsets we have that have 4-conductor plugs on 3.5mm.

Please, for the love of all that's holy, don't call it and leave weird prank creepy messages on it at 7:30 in the morning. (+1 212 461 4887)
The cost was only $30 (half price for the year) plus a subscription -- $3/month unlimited to North America. And then there's some sort of discount on that. I think it was 15% if I paid for a year up front.
We're gonna need new business cards.
So that's how things are.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interplanetary Free Locks

Interplanetary is one of Steve's Top Ten favorites of the year.
Video Copilot is giving away free smoke stock footage.
We have locked picture on acts 1, 3, 4, and possibly 5. Although there is a whole lot of cleanup which needs to be done on composites in Android Insurrection.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Space

We have a new address.
81 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013
Sarah Doe Osborne as Yurra-1 in Android Insurrection.
We also have a new phone number, although I haven't tested it yet.
(718) 306-9696 [UPDATE: This is NOT our new phone number.]
It's Google phone. So supposedly it'll ring directly to my computer. I'm not 100% sure of that yet.
But we have a new home and we're very excited!

Libby Csulik at the End of the World

 The awesome Libby Csulik made this groovy matte. Post-apocalypse here we come.

Original plate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Melissa Schlachtmeyer in The Brooklyn Rail

Friend of the Pandora Machine Melissa Schlachtmeyer is interviewed in The Brooklyn Rail.
I think I want a sense of the world it physically inhabits, which is usually a discussion referencing some wheres and whens, either portraying a recognizable historical time and place or incorporating visual references to one or more, but could also just be pure visual invention
For $80,000 I'd expect not only a whole lot of camera, but a general lack of abuse from the manufacturer. Philip Bloom's experience with the Red isn't entirely like that.
For $80K you can rent a whole lot of camera and lenses and hire a 1st AC to babysit it all for you.
I don't get what the whole cult is over 4K shooting. I'd much rather have higher ISO on the camera. Shooting in low-light is very groovy because the "painting" with smaller lights is so much easier (plus shooting night exteriors without lights is, let's face it, awesome.)
The Penelope wants to be a high resolution camera. I wonder if it'll still "purr". I sure hope so. Ooh look, it has a name, the "Delta". I sure wish it would do 1600 ISO.
Either that or we just slap one of those Canon 300's onto an Aaton XTR. Because c'mon. You know you want it.

Feng Shui

So the Feng Shui of our new office has some issues. Yes, I know it's not actually "Feng Shui". And I also know that we have these 63" wide desks and we're moving into a room with these pillars and bases which make it hard to put things up against walls.
So this is my first plan. It's not pretty. But we have to get up and running within a day so it's the plan we've got. I have a month and 5 days from now to finish Android Insurrection so you know we're going to be rendering right away.
Joe, however, will have vastly better ideas for how we should use the space.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Shooting, then Scoring

The outside of our door.
I need some decent percussion sounds -- orchestral big sounds for scoring with. So I'm thinking about True Strike. It's only $419.
I may also end up needing some decent orchestral strings. But the awesome thing about percussion is the way it stays out of the way of dialog.
In the meantime I still have my Roland JV1080 to get me through the day. I've got the orchestral expansion pack.
Do these posts belong here, because I'm talking about music for film? Nobody knows. I could put them in Pleasure for the Empire or Tyrannosaurus Mouse.
Have I mentioned lately how awesome the Creative Commons site for sound effects is? Because it's awesome.
Videoguys has DIY recommendations for a hex-core PC for AfterEffects etc.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our New Home

Across the street is the most amazing Fascist piece of architecture in NYC -- this AT&T building.

This is the door to our building. My skills as a photographer plummeted upon reaching TriBeCa. Maybe I'm just more committed to my art. Yeah, that's it. I'm making art now.
 The building is concrete-chic. It makes us very cool.

When you first walk in -- the top foyer -- movie posters everywhere.
Go down the first set of stairs.
Then you come to this door.
And go down the second set of stairs.
Our office has two doors.
There's really only one right corner in the office. And there's a window there.
There are two brick pillars which are slightly inside the room.

Here you can see how the pillars terminate into concrete blocks.

Here's a closer picture. I guess those are granite blocks.  We'll have to make our desks go around those.

The big question is why do I have this measuring tape clearly labeled with another theater companies name? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't Work Too Hard

Peggy Archer complains about 14-hour-days and 6-day weeks.
I complain about them for different reasons.
If G&E is working a 14-hour day then the director and producers are working 18 hours. If G&E is doing 6-day weeks then the director and producers are doing 8-day weeks (you do the math).
Now, the exhaustion that happens is mostly felt to be physical -- dragging cable up and down hills and that sort of thing. But physical exhaustion is bad, mental exhaustion is dangerous. With G&E that means you can have accidents -- mis-patching feeder cable can actually kill you. With everyone else (especially in California) it means people are driving while tired -- and that can kill a lot of people.
But the strange thing (to me) is that there is simply zero advantage to the director and producers to working that hard.
After about 8 hours you just stop thinking. For a lot of departments it doesn't really matter "bring sandbag over there, hold microphone over head, press big red button on camera". But for the director and producers not thinking clearly means bad decisions.*
So all that shooting you're doing after hour 10? It's junk. You could have done it four hours ago and then the stuff that you're going to be shooting later in the week will be that much better to.
I can't tell you how many shoots I've been on in New York where they go to do an 18-day shoot and they start losing locations so that by the end of the shoot the entire crew is literally standing around waiting for the director, the 1st AD, and the producers to go scout locations for us to pick up the rest of the shots. Scouting. While the entire crew waits in some park or something. Maybe I shouldn't use the word "literally" there because as a sound mixer I would surely be sitting down by that point. But you know what I mean.

So don't work long days. Long days will actually cost you time. I realize that every once in a while there's going to be a day where (say) the camera breaks at 10am and you have to wait for 4 hours to get a new one.

But as a rule, don't work long hours every single day. And take breaks. So say I. So say we all.

*Yes, we're all aware that many directors and producers are going to make stupid decisions long before getting to set when they're well-rested, but it gets worse when they're tired.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Takeover

Juanita Arias, Jeff Wills, Joe Chapman, Tom Rowen, and Virginia Logan in Android Insurrection.
Via Stu there's this Russian-language short

I suppose I don't really understand the purpose of a trailer for a short, but the work by Big Lazy Robot looks nice.
The Underwater Realm is a Kickstarter project. They're shooting some dry-for-wet and a bunch actually underwater.
Don't tell Joe but I'm totally planning a takeover of his new feature film. The trick is getting onboard without anybody noticing that I'm directing it. Maybe I just won't tell anyone.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


So, in the coming year, it's going to be all about increasing revenue. We must increase revenue. It doesn't even matter if we increase debt at the same time, we must increase revenue.
I think that our costs are dragged about as far down as we can possibly make them. We shoot on a GH1 and I do all the post-production sound (and music) myself nowadays.
We need to shoot three scripts this year. Gee whiz I wish we had a disaster picture which was magically shootable. ;-)
I don't know if moving to another studio is going to end up costing me more or less than what I'm paying right now. I'm not sure where we're going to move to. There's this one space we've found which would be awesome but it may already be taken.
Juanita Arias, Virginia Logan, Tom Rowen, and Joe Chapman in Android Insurrection.
A quote about John Rodgers at John August:
John Rogers (@jonrog1) at Leverage is a productivity nerd, so he likes to use his writing staff to try out new processes. A lot of what we did there has stuck with me: working on a story for 48 minutes, then resting for 12. That one’s inviolable. You can’t fool around too much during a 48, you can’t discuss work on a 12. If caught, John would stop you — “Respect the 12!” — thus inculcating the idea of an earned rest period.
Productivity. 48 minutes on. 12 minutes off. Interesting.
This is one of the reasons I'm becoming a fan of the "cigarette break". That's the 12 minutes/hour you shouldn't be doing anything. I'm not suggesting you smoke, I'm suggesting you go stand outside for 12 minutes. Or maybe 9 minutes outside and 3 on Facebook. You get what I mean.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lookit! More Real Numbers

Over at John August there are some real numbers on the residuals for "Go".
I didn't really know which blog to put it on but I made a whole post on "synthestration" for film scores.
And Brian Schiavo says: "Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if our mutating heroine grows a giant bug arm and kills a hooker with it?"
This still is from a movie called, obviously, "The Drill". I can't figure out if the picture is complete, or if they're still in pre-pro or if they've gone to festivals or if it's a short or a feature. I wish they'd spent more time on the production dialog. But the mattes look pretty cool. (Via Joe Chapman.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Now I want one

Via Stu, the Canon 300

Canon EOS C300 = Awesome from Jonathan Yi on Vimeo.
No more jello-cam?
Gimme gimme gimme.

So This Is The Problem

So the thing with making a disaster picture is: what is the plot. Let's take solar flares. The sun is jetting out 1.6AU flares that come and lay some cities to waste. The Internet, shockingly, is still up (because it was, after all, designed to withstand a nuclear attack).
But that's not a movie. Here's a movie: A guy (gal/robot/thoughtful rabbit) has a problem that's hard to solve (especially because the world is blowing up). He's gotta solve his problem, even during this catastrophe. But then things get worse. They meet someone and that person gives them some more problems but also a different world view. Then things get even worse.. And shockingly things suck so much that there's not plan at all to fix the first problem, let alone the second problem.
But then the guy/robot/girl at the beginning remembers something that the person they met on page 20 told them. So they figure a plan.
The plan goes swimmingly. Until it goes dreadfully badly. And then it's all lost and there's no way to any good to come out of this except for -- that person from page 20. Whatever they did or said or gave to our hero can be used right now.
And the whole world is saved.
So. How do we do this? What could be so important that our protagonist is put into action even though the world holocaust is going on right now? It better be compelling, that's for sure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Today in the Machine (part many)

We have a delivery date for Android Insurrection. Our sales rep has told us that our robots better look very good! ;-) I think they do. In any case, we're making delivery available by the 15th of January (that's an arbitrary date, and on a Sunday, but it's what I'm committing to.)
Today I visited a studio on East 19th Street as part of looking for a new home for Pandora Machine. It's listed here in this Craigslist ad. The ad, of course, will be gone if you're looking at this post after the beginning of 2012. ;-)
The space is very groovy and quiet. They have a little dining area and two "half" kitchens. Plus a small Pro-Tools-based recording studio, of course.
I'm not sure what we want to do about sound post-production. I could very well move all "sound" oriented things to my apartment (including the Whisperroom). That would include guitar amps and such. I just don't know. I'll have to ask my office-mates what they think.
Sometimes I can get a color-key to just work, and sometimes (most of the time) I have to use the roto-brush to go crazy with rotoscoping frame-by-frame. It's very odd.
Redneck Words of Wisdom has a nice list of things for your characters to say.
The top 10 Paradise Lost quotes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stu and Not Stu

Stu Maschwitz is the dude who keeps the DSLR camera world honest when it comes to shooting movies. We even named a character after him in "Battle New York Day 2". He puts in a very well thought-out and researched post on using any of the various DSLR cameras in the "super 35" world.
A great, great deal of what we do here in the Pandora Machine is done because it's what Stu says to do. Essentially, I've built the world's smallest motion-picture production studio on the DVRebel's Guide.
We only do two things which go against Stu's teachings. Two. I think. It's just the two. Everything else is straight - up Stu.

  • The first thing we do is that we do not color - grade at the highest bit depth available. Why? Because we'll never ever finish a feature film that way. We simply don't have the processing time or machines available to do a 90-minute picture, and then because mistakes were invariably made, do it again, and then (oh, look) we made another freaking mistake so we have to render out the whole picture again

We have enough trouble with Final Cut Pro failing to render using Beauty Box and Magic Bullet Looks. Usually those problems can be lessened by reducing the rendering bit depth down to 8 bits. Maybe with the extra RAM and the heavier-duty video card we have now we can move up to 10 bits. But we ain't gonna move color-correction duties out to AfterEffects, we just don't have the time.

  • The second thing we do is to not really get too frustrated either way with an APS-C sized sensor on our cameras. Which is ironic because in the DV Rebel's Guide Stu suggests that you not get one of those crazy 35mm adapters to slap on a "normal" video camera (this was before the DSLR's really started to be available for movie-making). And back in the day we did use a Letus 35mm adapter. 

So it's a tad ironic now that we use the Panasonic GH-1 which has a smaller-than-APS-C sized sensor. It's not as small as one of the old video cameras (like the venerable HVX200) and it's actually a bit bigger than Super-16mm. But it ain't got the bokeh the bigger-sensor cameras have.
And it's true that I'm not that big on the limited depth-of-field. Citizen Kane is just alright with me. But for commercial purposes we haven't heard a peep from buyers or distributors about depth-of-field for years. Because this problem has been solved -- heck some of those Canon cameras have shallower depth-of-field than a regular old Panavision shooting Academy.
And that's interesting. If you want shallow, shoot shallow (and have a great time focusing there, champ. ;-) And if you want deep, you can go with deep. The buyers don't seem to care anymore.
The debonair Jeffrey Plunkett in Clonehunter. This is shot with an HVX200 with a Letus adapter and (probably) an 85mm Canon at f1.8.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Output and Intermediary Formats

Did you know that AfterEffects will cycle mask colors? Why isn't this the default? Sheesh.

More conversation between me and Nathan Vegdahl regarding delivery formats.

Me: I worry about legacy issues. In 10 or 15 years, will a movie I make today still be in a readable format? I dunno!

Nathan: The more open the standard, the more likely it is to be readable in the future. h.264 and AAC in an mp4 container is good, because it has open-source implementations. Worst-case scenario: someone has to pull up old source code and use it to convert your movie to a new format.
OpenEXR is also open source, so same deal.
The formats you have to worry about are proprietary formats, because if the companies behind them stop supporting them, you're out of luck.

Me: The main trick for our lab is: will they be able to take the file we give them and make a DigiBeta tape out of it? Because we still need to deliver DigiBetas.

Nathan: [editor's note: TL;DR: use Handbrake and/or skip to*] Hmm... I don't know if ffmpeg can encode for digital beta. I'll look into it. I use currently use ffmpeg 0.8.5 on Linux for all of my final encoding. I do everything from the command-line, because it gives me more precise control over the encoding process, and I get to play with all kinds of weird settings. But for the most part I keep it simple.
If I want to encode to a nearly (but not quite) lossless H.264 file that is widely compatible with other software, I use this command-line:
ffmpeg -i input_file -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf 1 output_file.mp4
Where "input_file" is the name of your input video file, and "output_file.mp4" is the name of the file you want to create. Ffmpeg auto-detects what container format you want from the output file extension. In this case, it knows that .mp4 means the mpeg4 container.

The "-vcodec libx264" tells it to encode the video as H.264. The "-vprofile baseline" tells it to only use the most widely supported H.264 features, for maximum compatibility. The "-crf 1" tells it to encode nearly lossless (0 would be lossless, but isn't supported in the baseline profile; higher numbers are more lossy).

Sometimes you also need to tell it what pixel format to use, especially if you're encoding from an image sequence (I'll get to image sequences in a moment). You can do that with the pix_fmt option:
ffmpeg -i input_file -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf 1
-pix_fmt yuv420p output_file.mp4

For fully lossless encoding, we drop the profile specification and use crf 0 and 444 chroma:

ffmpeg -i input_file -vcodec libx264 -crf 0 -pix_fmt yuv444p output_file.mp4

The resulting file, however, will not be widely supported, including by Apple's h.264 support.

You will also probably want to use AAC for your audio. Ffmpeg uses aac by default with the mp4 container, but we can specify it manually to be certain:

ffmpeg -i input_file -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf 1 -acodec
libfaac output_file.mp4

And if we want to specify the bitrate of the audio (for example, 320kb/s):

ffmpeg -i input_file -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf 1 -acodec
libfaac -b:a 320k output_file.mp4

If you have separate video and audio source files, you can specify them both, and ffmpeg well merge them:

ffmpeg -i input_video_file -i input_audio_file -vcodec libx264
-vprofile baseline -crf 1 output_file.mp4

When I render anything from a 3d application (for example, Blender) I always render to an image sequence. When I'm ready for final encoding of the animation, I render to png's, which are lossless, and then use
ffmpeg afterwards to manually encode them into a video file. To do this you need to tell ffmpeg where in the file names the frame number is. You do this with "%d" and some variants thereof.

If your files are named like this:

Then you specify the image sequence as "image_%d.png". The "%d" goes wherever the frame number is. Ffmpeg will then find all the files matching that pattern.

If your files are named like this:

Then you specify the image sequence as "image_%04d.png". The "04" (that's zero four) between the % and the d tells ffmpeg how many digits long the number is.

So, using this in an actual ffmpeg command-line:

ffmpeg -i image_%04d.png -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf 1

The problem with images sequences, though, is that they contain no information about frame-rate. So we need to tell ffmpeg what frame-rate they are supposed to be in. You must specify this _before_ the image sequence on the command-line. This, for example, would give the image sequence a frame-rate of 24fps:

ffmpeg -r 24 -i image_%04d.png -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf
1 output_file.mp4

You can also specify the frame rate with decimals and fractions:

ffmpeg -r 29.97 ...
ffmpeg -r 30/1.001

If you plan to use the file for video editing, make sure to set the GoP to 1, which means that every frame will be encoded on its own without reference to other frames in the video (such frames are called "intra frames" or "I-frames"). This makes the file size much larger, but it means that a video editor can pull frames out at random very easily, which is good for scrubbing etc. You do this by adding "-g 1" to the command-line:

ffmpeg -i input_file -vcodec libx264 -vprofile baseline -crf 1 -g 1 output_file.mp4

So there you go, that's a quick-and-dirty tutorial on how I do my video encoding. Although, internally I usually use Matroska ( as my container format instead of mp4. But... then again, I use an open-source pipeline, where mastroska is well supported. I always use mp4 containers when sending material to other people.

If you don't want to use command-line ffmpeg, you can use Handbrake (, which is a cross-platform GUI-ified version of ffmpeg. It exposes most of these options, though sometimes they can
be hard to find.

*Come to think of it, ffmpeg has an open-source ProResdecoder as well. So, for example, you could use ffmpeg to convert from pro-res to h.264 if you wanted to. I don't recall if it supports ProRes422 yet, though. But presumably it will in the future if it doesn't already.

Is this testing whether I'm a replicant or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard?

Apache Wave is an open-source Google Wave application. Briefly I thought Wave would be a good project management/project co-ordination application for us. But then they closed down Wave.
We're using DotProject right now. Of course, now that the Queen Herself hath spake to us regarding project management, I'm not entirely sure what to do with it.
Moo mini-cards are kind of sexy little business cards.
It's the day before Thanksgiving and we have to expedite a PAL copy of Battle: New York Day 2. That's OK, I'm hiding from traffic before making my way to my parents'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maduka Vs the Friendly Skies

The all-too-sexy-for-you Mr. Maduka Steady plays a very dangerous man with a gun* in this clip from Pan Am.

*Which is just like the time we met in the jungles outside of Bogota -- remind me to tell you that story sometime.

Nathan Vegdahl's Demo Reel

Groove to it. Nathan is helping us out on Dragon Girl. His animation and rigging is beautiful.
You want a full-res version? He's got that too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Labor Laws and Social Media

So here's a funny thing. As an employee in the US you do not have some sort of 1st Amendment right to free speech. You just don't.
Your employer can fire you for any stupid thing you say, Tweet, blog, etc.
I mean, unless it's especially protected speech. That is to say, speech which is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
Posting a Facebook status where you say "My boss is an ass-monkey" can get you fired. But a post that says "My boss is an ass-monkey for not giving us better wages and working conditions" is protected.
"Candidly discussing wages, hours and working conditions" is something that's allowed under the NLRA. So get over it.

Plus, here's a fantasy ninja sword.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Word From On High

So, the word from the mountaintop, writ large upon some stone tablets is:

Make Disaster Films

Disaster kitty says "make disaster movies".
That's the word from on high. Disaster pictures.

Project Management

Do you know what's really exciting? Project management.
Trello isn't working for me. Basecamp doesn't allow for dependencies.

This picture from Android Insurrection amuses me greatly. That's David Ian Lee and Jeff Wills.
I'm also putting together information about where we might move. Nobody will come to Jersey City. It doesn't matter if it's actually easier for them to get to than other places. But frankly, for Rebecca and Maduka, Williamsburg and Greenpoint actually are closer for them.
Wix has a free space in Union Square. A free open-space office?
Greenpoint Coworking is $350/month.
Work At The Yard has private offices for $400/month
Missionfifty is in Hoboken. So except for the fact that not one of my editors will ever come there, it seems cool (they also have about zero information on their own website so I was looking here.) has space in midtown.
Projective Space is worth visiting. They're in Soho.
Imrey Culbert also rents space.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reports from the West

The word from the front lines is that AFM was better this year than last. Of course, last year made for a low bar. ;-)

Just because it's kind of cool, dig Ironbound Studios in Newark, NJ.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gabi's Video

Our own Gabriella Willenz directed this beautiful music video.

I'm really digging the amber and emerald color palate.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Earthkiller Machine

I'm neither an Apple nor a Microsoft partisan. Nor do I advocate Intel over ATI. Heck, I don't get spittin' mad over Neve versus SSL. Wait, what blog am I writing?
Anyway, as I sit and wait on renders, I think more upon having a simply earth-killing computer machine.
Macs have traditionally offered us the advantage of interoperability of their files with labs and other studios. But I'm deeply afraid of Apple's ability to be total buttheads and trashing professional support.
The dual hex-core from Apple is $5649 while the dual hex-core from Dell is, oddly, $5420. The big difference between the Apple and the Dell is the video card. But the "Apple tax" isn't terribly high on the very expensive machines.
But I have no way to compare video cards to one another because video cards are a dark science of occult which burns the souls of all ye who dare approach.
The other strange thing is that the Dell actually comes with no real operating system. FreeDOS is what it has. I don't know what that's all about.
An Apple dual quad-core is $4149. So it's .73 the price of the hex-core and (theoretically) .66 the number of cores. Right? Who knows? My math is fuzzy.
These Apple machines are both spec'ed with the better video card that Apple has.

Dell's dual hex-core with 12GB of RAM.
The last two facts here are that Apple makes a (generally) stable machine. And the 24 months 0% financing is like... well it depends on what you think of interest. A couple hundred bucks? A thousand bucks?
Who knows?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cats, Tracks, and Hacks

VooCAT is a motion-tracking package which works with Blender. I haven't tried it. It's only a hundred Euros.
The "non-commercial" version is Voodoo Camera Tracker. But to use it with a modern version of Blender you need this import script (the instructions for installing are here).
My goal with the above paragraph was to bore you until you cried. Did it work?
Do you find that sometimes you want to paste onto a specific track in Final Cut Pro? And FCP doesn't want you to do it the way you do? Here's how to tell FCP what track to paste into.
Allan Mackey reminded us (in the comments below) about Trello. So I'm working in Trello to schedule. I'll tell you how that goes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Three Pandora Machineries

So we doubled the amount of RAM in our Mac. It was, for some reason, only 4GB and that kind of sucked. I bought two more 2GB sticks and put them in.
For a while the computer was reading 10GB of RAM but that there were ECC errors on one of the old sticks. Then the computer decided it only has 8GB of RAM with no errors. Which is what I thought it would do. Still. Weird. But it renders a LOT faster now.
Firstwise Part II.
Then I quadrupled the amount of vRAM by installing a new video card.
That project has gone more weirdly. I do not, nor can I, understand video cards, what they do, and how they work. In the fantasy world of computers that my little mind lives in: one video card for each of two monitors should be better and faster. Right? That's how it works. Right?
Anyway, of the three video outputs on the new video card, only one is DVI. The other two are the tiny proprietary connector which costs another $100 I don't want to spend.
I have the old ATI Radeon HD 2600 the computer came with in slot three
I have the new fancier ATI Radeon HD 5700 in slot one
Right away everything seemed to work. But Final Cut Pro will not absolutely will not no way no how use the right-hand monitor (from the 2600) as a "Digital Cinema Display". FCP will gladly use both monitors otherwise though.
So I've set up a custom set of windows where the "Canvas" window is in the right-hand monitor. Which is essentially how we used to work with the "Digital Cinema Display" anyway.
And yeah, the "Digital Cinema Display" will work on the primary (center) monitor -- but when you do that you have no tools or anything because the display takes up the whole screen. This is, apparently, a known issue. But maybe I don't care about it because this seems like a perfectly reasonable way to work.

Editing in Final Cut Pro. That's Virginia Logan on the left/center and Jeff Wills on the right.
Groove to the sickly orange glow of the incandescent lights in my studio.

Thing number two.
I tried Manymoon for project management. It doesn't have task dependencies. I wanted to set up project management so that we could schedule, say, the mixing of an act to be dependent on it being edited first. But Manymoon doesn't work that way. So I'll be doing something... else.

I'm considering formatting the camera drive for Dragon Girl using ExFAT. The advantage to exFAT is that both (modern) PC's and (modern) Macs can read and write to it using large file sizes. I'll tell you (you'll probably hear me screaming) how that goes.