Blog Archives

Space lights… the final frontier

There are many good ways to light a film studio for green screen cyc or white screen cyc setups.  There is also one best way: SPACE LIGHTS!  Space lights (Mole calls them “Spacelites“) provide a level of control, softness and consistency that is difficult to achieve with other methods. In the past we have always used other specialized instruments for the task, but it has sometimes been a struggle.

Eight space lights on Flip2media green screen cyc

Eight space lights on Flip2Media green screen cyclorama wall.  Sorry about leaving some of the layout board on the floor!  It’s all green under there.

So, after years of renting space lights when clients needed that no-compromise lighting performance, we now have our own collection of these gems.  Our new space lights are permanently hung on our huge green screen stage, ready to create an outstanding look for your next studio production!

On top of that, we now have more cyc wall painted permanently green than ever before.   Along with 30 feet of white, we also have 45 feet of green screen cyclorama wall always available.  From now on, you’ll be able to shoot those big and deep scenes without the big and deep painting costs.

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Post production: CRT vs the Panel Display

Video image finishing is the last step before the distribution of a motion picture project.  It stands to reason that the quality of the video monitoring equipment being used by the editor or colorist is essential for producing the best looking end product.

At our editing suites, we continue to rely on our inventory of legendary Sony BVM-D20 and BVM-D24 color critical, evaluation grade monitors for this most vital work in our editing suites and director control positions.  Sure, we’ve added various flat panel monitors to our edit systems, and they are absolutely necessary (especially with Ultra-HD).  However, there are many things that panels just don’t do very well so our CRTs will remain as part of our production chain for years to come.  Here’s why.

There is no better way to see field order defects
As panel monitors began replacing CRTs a few years ago, we began seeing (on network television no less)  judder artifacts that we would never let leave our facility.  It is partly due to field reversals.  Likely, it propagates through the transmission chain because the editors just can’t see it anymore with their new monitors.  We can’t see it either very well – on our own panel displays.  When we edit, we WANT to see such problems and it is easy on the CRT.  An essential capability of video finishing is being lost as CRTs disappear.

Panels mask field problems, either by design or by the inability to react fast enough to show them.  So who cares about field reversal if today’s consumer sets are hiding the problem anyway?  Put another way, if you can’t see a problem, is it a problem?  The answer is not quite so simple. The process of distributing content may take a technical path through compression and playback equipment that doesn’t always play nice with hidden artifacts.  Thus, a video with some ugly reverse judder that is invisible to the editor or colorist can end up being seen by all viewers at distribution.

Color grading is easier
A limiting aspect of typical panels is that you really only get a good view of the picture if your head is perpendicular to the display.  You can see it on your own laptop. This characteristic was so bothersome in the early days that Apple even designed the famous flat panel imac “iLamp” with a 3-dimensional articulating arm so that you could gracefully mitigate this most annoying problem.  Granted, panels have improved but they are certainly not consistent and the need to get right in front of the monitor is still there.  So, two people cannot physically see the same thing at the same time – a real struggle in a collaborative editing session.

Our CRTs can be viewed at any angle, and the colors/luminance don’t shift at all.  There is no urge to get right in front of the monitor.  In this way, color grading is far more effortless.  The CRT shows the colors reliably.  With the panels though, there is always some lingering doubt. The CRT is the only mechanism that ever consistently achieved the venerable REC 709 color specification.

Every resolution it displays is native, not scaled
Panels are manufactured with rows and columns of pixels.  As such, they can accurately reproduce one resolution.  Feeding them any other resolution requires various tricks to scale the image in order to approximate a correct view of the picture.  The CRT instead alters its scan dimensions without having to conform to any other fixed screen resolution.  In the suite, we look for edges and gradual curved shapes in video content that may exhibit “stepping”.  At times, we may see these subtle details on the panels and ask ourselves “is that on the video, or is the monitor causing that”.  On the CRT, there is no doubt.

Happy grading!

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Super Powers

I’m not saying that everyone’s done it, but If you’re like me, you’ve spent some time thinking about the “super power” you’d like to have.  Sure, I’d like to be Superman, but somewhere in the rules that I’ve made up in my head, you’re not allowed to pick those super powers. They’re the benchmark and off the table.

That said, I’ve given it some thought over the years and unexpectedly this morning I picked mine. Out of nowhere this jerk cut me off in traffic. He rushed up behind me and cut into my lane with such force and disregard that when the shock passed it was replaced with uncontrollable hatred. As he continued zigzagging up two lanes into the distance marked by a string of flashing red tail lights it came to me. If I could stare hard enough to do it, I’d blow this guy and his car up – right off the highway. Ka-boom! And that was it. My super power. Blowing up cars driven by selfish idiots. Almost immediately, my higher self interceded and I knew I’d better set some limits or risk the support of adoring commuters. If I wasn’t careful, I might eventually use my powers for personal gain (Damn, I’m late, I better blow some people up!) instead of for the greater good of the driving public. (Did I mention that I’m delusional?)

So here are the rules I set for myself:
Rule #1: I could only blow up one driver a day. (See above.)
Rule #2: I couldn’t kill anyone, but it would hurt really bad, like a head-to-toe ice cream headache. It would last like an hour.
Rule #3: Their car would be destroyed. It would not be available again, ever. And they’d either have to walk home in humiliation – after an hour (See Rule #2) or call for a ride.

The big question now is one of good or evil. As with most things, my status in the hero-world is one of perspective. To some I’m the good guy, to others the villain. In this case, it’s where you are – behind me or in front of me.  It’s all so subjective. BOOM.

phone taped to head

I shot this photo as a passenger in our production van while traveling back from a location shoot.  Seriously.  The gentleman in this picture has a cell phone attached to his head using packing tape.  This would be a great example of the day after I blew him up with my super powers for inconsiderate driving while talking on his cell.  Thanks to me, he is now “hands free” and attentive.  The truck is not his.

What would your super power be?

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Psychic, eh?

I’m a little sheepish about telling this story.  As funny as it is, I’m still unsure about the power of the unknown and what exactly telling this story might get me.  What the hell.  Here goes.

A lot of strange people find their way to the door of our production company.  These generally unannounced, potential clients of “a certain ilk,” always start these meetings off the same way – “Boy do I have an interesting project to talk to you about.”  This is always thinly veiled code for “I don’t have any money, but you once you hear this idea, you’re going to want to go in on it.”

I have to say this one was better than most.

I get a phone call from a woman who tells me that she’s authored a book and she’d like help making a film.  We rarely turn away conversations about projects, even unlikely ones, and since she lives locally in the East Bay, I do the polite thing and invite her to stop by sometime.  The next thing I know, she and her husband are at our conference table.  An older woman, she’s brought along a copy of her book which turns out to be an autobiography – hers.  From there is gets interesting.  It turns out she’s a psychic.  The book recounts  her life from the discovery of her gift to stories of contacting the dead and solving cold cases and abductions for the FBI.  It was fascinating.  I eat this stuff up.  I’m sure I came across as an enthusiastic listener.  And she was a believer for sure.

So the storytelling starts to wind down and soon we find ourselves sitting there together in silence.  It’s awkward.  She and her husband are just looking at me.  And I’m waiting for them to talk a little about funding, her possible benefactors, a distributor, even a timeline.  Nothing.  Crickets.

The other thing that’s rolling around in my head about now is the extent of this woman’s “powers.”  I’m wondering if she can she read minds?  Can she voodoo?  It’s unsettling.  The show is apparently over and it’s time for me to say something.  While interesting, I can sense this project is ultimately going nowhere.  I want them to leave, so I go to my standard script.

“Hey, this is a really impressive project.  Wow.  Let me put a budget together and I’ll send it over.  Thanks for stopping by.”  At first, she and her husband just look at each other. Then they both look back at me, blink, and break into smiles.

After that, it’s glad-handing, laughing and a “can’t wait to work with you,” as I usher them out of the building.  Then I notice she’s left the book behind.  Uh oh.  I guess she figures that I’ll need it for the soon-to-be-written screen play.

Relieved and a little spooked, I eventually throw a modest budget together.  I don’t spend much time on it given the circumstances.  But I promised, so I send it over and I was done.

A couple of days later, I’m out of town on a location shoot when I check my office voicemail.  And that’s when I get the meanest, most threatening message I have ever received.  I recognized her voice through the anger and my heart just started racing.

The gist.  Who did I think I was?  How dare I charge THEM such an exorbitant amount of money.  They had offered me the privilege of making their movie and I had led them to believe that my company was going to take care of all the production costs.  I had deceived them and that they were going to report me to the Better Business Bureau! They were going to contact the News!  They were going to tell everyone what a liar I was and how untrustworthy my company was!

She was so vehement and threatening.  Being out town made my anxiety worse.  I feared she was going to get me with all her psychic might.

And then it dawned on me, if she was such a great and talented psychic, didn’t she see this ending coming?

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