Category Archives: Rant

The Taking – The Grade…

Well, I’ve started the grade, first at home and later at UWE.
An initial problem, that I was aware of as we shot, is that we used in camera looks and they don’t translate to Resolve or any “real” grading system.
Both RED and ARRI have used their own format of “look” files in the past rather than using an industry standard one, ARRI have fortunately learned and their latest camera accepts industry standard LUT’s.
The problem that non-standard looks cause is that everyone has got used to the look both on set and in the offline, now we have to try and get something like that in the final grade but it’s not easy.
Sure we can debayer into Resolve using the look stored in the metadata but this is a destructive process and if we do that any detail that is in the RAW file in the highlights or shadows is lost.
Well as the whole point of doing a grade is to refine the image we can’t go that route!
Graeme at RED kindly sent me a LUT that can be loaded into Resolve that will created RED Gamma 3, this is great as I always have the underlying log image to pull data back from but I now have to try and re-create the contrast and saturation alterations that we added to the looks.
This is much harder than it should be, I’m guessing that pivot points are at different places for RED and Resolve contrast and that 50% saturation means different things to them both…
This has led me to start a grade from scratch and take a different route, of course this causes problems because everyone has got used to the look and now doesn’t want to see a change.
Oh the joys or RAW and log!

Day 10 into Day 11

I’m tired, very very tired, we are starting a run of nights now and I’m shattered before we start.

Combine that with losing Martin our second most experienced AC and I see more tiredness in my future, I don’t need Mystic Meg to make that prediction!

I did get delivery of a Leica M yesterday so that put a smile on my face and managed to distract me from my job…

Our universal trainee Jake is doing a great job of going from 3rd AD to 2nd Boom to data monkey, an Energiser Bunny, he just keeps on going and going with a smile all the time. AND he brings me lots of black coffee.

Just looked at his screen grabs and a slight addition to the previous paragraph, he’s discovered the grading controls in RCX and is wading in with wild abandon. Just a small tip, if the image is desaturated and cold it may be the way the DP intended. Small level corrections are fine, major re-grades will get you beaten around the head with the soggy stump of the arm I ripped of when I caught you at the trackpad and saturation.

The difference in both out operators and 2AC’s from day one is incredible, one still needs to grow Rhino Skin but…

The camera crew theme song courtesy of Tom Petty:-

“Rhino Skin”

You need rhino skin
If you’re gonna begin
To walk
Through this world
You need elephant balls
If you don’t want to crawl
On your hands
Through this worldYou need eagles wings
To get over things
That make no sense
In this world

You need rhino skin
If you’re gonna pretend
You’re not hurt by this world

If you listen long enough
You can hear my skin grow tough
Love is painful to the touch
Must be made of stronger stuff

You need rhino skin
To get to the end
Of the maze through this world

You need rhino skin
Or you’re gonna give in
To the needles and pins
The arrows of sin
The evils of men
You need rhino skin

So if I pass a gentle comment on your performance, I think gentle correction but you may hear WTF did you do that for?

Just think of Rhino Skin.

I’ll be playing the Christian Bale recording on set today just so all the camera crew know what being shouted at is really like 🙂

I’m getting great assistance from RED with translating the looks I’ve generated in RCX into ones that I can use in Resolve. Thanks guys, I like the pictures it’s just the ergonomics.



So, after a cold night slipping in mud up on the moors how was the first week?

Well, apart from the previous comments about crew, and please hold that bloody frame once we’ve agreed on it because there are people using it to do THEIR jobs and if you keep messing with it then the art dept doesn’t know what’s in shot, the electrical dept wastes time dealing with cables and flares that aren’t in shot and I get really pissed off.

Oh and keep your mouths shut, just do the bloody job, nobody cares about your theories or how you did a similar shot on your last 7D movie whilst we’re in the swamp up to our waists.

It also distracts the actors so show them some respect and let them do their jobs in peace.

On the equipment front, well, a lot of people think that I hate RED, I don’t that’s just a story put around by people who like to have an enemy to blame for their errors. Anyway, the Epic, as I said, it has over heated twice. Now guys, this is Yorkshire, it’s not exactly hot here…

I actually like the pictures out of the camera but the ergonomics are a beast. Unfortunately RED seems more concerned about what producers and directors think a camera should be than what cinematographers need. There aren’t as many boxes hanging off it as we’ve had in the past but there are still too many. That’s boxes to make it do what it should do in the first place.

The SolidGrip slider that we’re using is amazing, we’re getting tracks in minutes that would take an hour on a dolly and track check it out we have 4 lengths of the track and it’s just gorgeous.

The other life saver is the LitePanels 1*1 that is fully dimmable and colour correctable and runs most of the day on one camera battery it’s just so nice to have no cables.

I may be having a go at my crew but they are actually doing a great job under difficult circumstances, but I know that they can do a lot better.

Precision, symmetry, the only answers I want to hear are yes or no and if no WTF not!

Whether you get your next job or not, regardless of who its with, depends on how well you do this one.

Think about it…


Day 6 The Taking

OK, I’m not managing to do a daily blog as I’d hoped, today is a late start because we’re shooting on the moors at night today.

Most days we start at 7:30am after a drive from our camera crew house to the unit base, the shooting day ends around 7pm but I’m then checking and correcting rushes which has me finishing anywhere from 9pm to midnight so no time for blogging.

Its been a variable week, I’m really happy with the look we’re getting and the Epics have only overheated and cut out twice so in that regard we’re doing well!

The 2AC’s who are actually final year film students have progressed pretty well, starting in startled deer in the headlights mode but now anticipating what we’ll need and making sure its there. One is picking it up faster than the other but hey! the race is only part way through, there’s lots of time to catch up and overtake…

Our operators aren’t as experienced as the guys I usually work with and there is a bit of bringing up to speed and a bit of “yeah I know you do it like that on your one man crew movies but that’s NOT how its done in the real world” again a difference in speed but again there’s time.

I nearly lost it with them a couple of days ago, “just what don’t you get about a door with windows either side being framed symmetrically?” I want precision, I want the start of a shot to be the same take after take after take, I don’t want ” Oh I thought that this would be better” just do it as it was set and rehearsed and switch the wannabe director/DP part of your brain off.

At one point I was looking for the operator with one leg and cataracts, I was sure that there must be one looking at the monitors.

I know I’m pushing them but hell, of course I will, that’s what I’m here to do!

I don’t care that the move means you have to wade through a swamp and that your trousers fell down and an alligator bit your balls, did you get the F’ing shot or not?

If not don’t give me excuses just get it right next time.

My lighting crew is doing a great job with very limited facilities, faster guys faster 🙂

Gregg my long time AC has been doing an amazing job holding it all together, we wouldn’t be shooting at all if it wasn’t for his wonderful variation between slow and patient and explaining clearly and the “for fucks sake just bloody do it”

I never thought I would say this but much as I love our director he needs to be more of a bastard and less considerate of the crew.

Dom, please, don’t ask. just bloody demand!


Prep The Taking

Well as always happens nothing was as it was meant to be.
I got off the flight from Bangkok to find my phone full of messages from Gregg my lead AC telling me about all the kit that wasn’t there and the random changes that had been made.
I still had another 5 hours of rail travel to look forward to before I got to the prep and it would be close to midnight by then so I decided to ignore it until the morning in the hope that it might get better.
I did send a few expletive laden emails to people who needed them!!
So, two days of bartering later and I now have Epics replacing the Red ones and Arri/Fujinon Allura’s replacing the Optimo’s, one a win and one a fail 🙂
On top of that my PC decide to stop recognising RED SSD’s unless I rebooted every time I wanted to load one, thanks for that last upgrade Microsoft.
So, just reading the script and playing with generating looks in RCX for the next 2 days and then a reasonably simple start to the shoot…

NAB 2014

It’s really sad that the obsession with numbers that was started as a marketing tool by one camera company has swept over the entire camera market.

Now, all anyone wants to know is has it got a big number, not what are the pictures like.

I guess that it’s easier for non camera oriented people to grasp the idea that a big number is better but it isn’t!

Just look at the NHK 8K demos, very sharp but no dynamic range and garish colour, it was like television from 40 years ago.

We have to get back to looking at pictures and not worrying about numbers.

This is why Dolby Vision is so important, it’s about better pictures and that’s all.

Happy films

Why is it in a time of great depression that most of the scripts I get for films made in and about Britain are so profoundly depressing?

I realise that they are an accurate slice of these peoples lives, they reflect current life in the North and Midlands of England.

But the audiences live those lives! they don’t need to see them coming back at them from a big screen.

In the 30’s during the great depression the most successful films were ones that took people out of their depressing and hard real lives and gave them some hope.

Maybe not even hope, maybe just a few hours escape.

Busby Berkeley, the Gold Diggers series and Foot-light Parade, just sheer indulgence and fun.

Producers, Directors, look around, the successful films in the UK are happy ones, Billy Elliott, The Full Monty, 4 Weddings, Bridget Jones.

Are they art? who gives a damn!

They entertain people and make money.

Please send me a happy script…


Hacking the CML website


I can sorta understand the bragging rights of hacking into a very visible system, and CML is definitely not that.

The initial hacker understood this, it’s why he promoted his hack as getting into a millionaire film producers personal site, as if!

He added a folder and some files and says he did nothing else.

Well, there are well over 1,000 damaged pages on CML, I’ve repaired 660 of them so far, some are relatively easy to fix, some are most definitely not and it looks like 6 are gone forever.

It’s obviously a viscous attack as the damage is dome mainly to the links to sponsors sites.

The original hacker was asking how to monetise his “achievement” suggestions included hijacking the site and holding it to ransom.

Someone certainly tried to hack my PayPal account and to change my passwords at various banks.

If someone ran down a high street smashing shop windows he’d be dealt with very quickly, if you could find any high streets still around!, but this online vandalism really isn’t taken seriously enough.

Well you pathetic fuck, well done, you’ve caused huge damage to an educational site that helps people progress, I hope you live the life you deserve.


Accurate pictures or not?

I see and hear comments all the time about accurate colour and gamma reproduction and I always find myself wondering why.

My job isn’t to make accurate pictures, its to make pictures that effect an audience.

They may be pretty, they may be brutal but the last thing they will be is accurate!

The pictures will reflect the story I am trying to tell or the product that I am trying to sell, they will have nothing to do with reality or accuracy.

I don’t want an accurate camera, just as I never wanted an accurate film stock, I want a camera that is malleable, that can produce images that can be changes in any way that I like.

I’ve had problems in the past because the curves I use to de-log images aren’t accurate, well of course they’re not! I never intended them to be.

Single sensor have problems due to the nature of the sensor cameras

These all, I repeat all have problems with colour and aliasing and moire due to the nature of the sensor.

There are ways to reduce these problems but nobody has yet avoided them all.

The sensor design is fundamentally at fault, it’s a pattern of RGB sensors with holes between the different colours.

These holes cause colour errors, someone has to guess what colour was in the hole, yeah I know they say they use sophisticated algorithms but that’s just a smart way of saying guesses.

The holes cause aliasing and moire which the manufacturers reduce with OLPF filters, optical low pass sound a lot better than diffusion doesn’t it?

Oh yeah, that’s what they’re doing, reducing the resolution to reduce the errors. Brilliant!

Just what I want, a camera with faulty colour and a diffused image…