No Film School Expands Coverage with New Staff, Actual Office

This is a day I've been looking forward to for a long time: the beginning of a new era at NFS. Please welcome Liz, Jon, and Emily — and let us know what you'd like to see more of on the site! "It has never been more expensive to go to film school, and it has never been cheaper to make a film." This is a point I've made often regarding the increasing relevance of free and inexpensive educational film resources. But here at NFS we have rarely had the resources to do everything we want to be doing. We've always known that to fulfill the mission of this site, we were going to have to be patient, grow organically, and staff up when the opportunity finally presented itself. So I'm excited to be adding new people and new facilities! This will allow Continue reading "No Film School Expands Coverage with New Staff, Actual Office"

Know Your Below-the-Line Oscar Nominees

It was a truly incredible year for VFX. From a filmmaker's perspective, the most overlooked Oscar categories are often the ones that matter most. The public seldom remembers those individuals who labored on crucial aspects of the film such as sound editing/mixing, visual effects, costume design and, yes, even cinematography. (Unless, of course, you're "Chivo" or Deakins.) Luckily, the good folks at Art of The Film have created a terrific series of supercuts called Oscars in One Minute that recognizes the beautiful work of this year's below-the-line nominees. Filmmaker Vic Rincon has provided us with a piece emphasizing Costume Design as well. Cinematography
  • Ed Lachman - Carol
  • Robert Richardson - The Hateful Eight
  • John Seale - Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Emmanuel Lubezki - The Revenant
  • Roger Deakins - Sicario
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You Have No Excuse Not to Apply for a Kevin Spacey Foundation Grant This Week

The $10,000 'Artists of Choice' Award application is due on March 4, and it has the easiest application form ever. Applications close in just seven days for this year’s Artists of Choice Awards from the Kevin Spacey Foundation. Supporting film, theater, dance and musical artists from the USA, UK, and Canada, the grant provides $10,000 for early-stage projects. Winners are offered additional services throughout the year, including an industry mentorship (presumably with one of Kevin Spacey’s pals). This is one of few grants that focuses specifically on short film development, so if you've got a short in the works, get on this. Here's last year's film winner India Dupre on her short, Stripped, and the grant: Read More

Did These Companies Just Predict the 2016 Oscar Winners?

Tech firms are claiming they can predict the winners of Sunday's Oscars just by crunching numbers. Ever since Nate Silver correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states during the 2008 Presidential Election, more and more companies have started using Big Data to peer into the future, including Hollywood studios. This year, two companies, Cognizant and Clarabridge, are betting that The Revenant is going to take home multiple prizes this Sunday, including Best Picture. While this isn't exactly a wild guess (the odds in Vegas are also on the film), the methods the firms used to arrive at their conclusions are a glimpse into the ways Big Data, once used solely for political and sports analysis, is creeping into every aspect of modern life. Read More

Sony Releases Firmware 1.11 for the FS5, Fixing Some Ugly Codec Issues

The Sony FS5 has been out and about for some time now, but image issues have been cropping up for some users. In the new v1.11 firmware released today, Sony seems to have fixed these problems. While they addressed a major issue related to monitoring in the last firmware, this particular update is fixing a smaller problem that's related to the implementation of the XAVC codec. Instances of both macro blocking and tearing were cropping up, and the engineers over at Sony have managed to erase the problems by slightly modifying how the codec was responding with their image processing. cinema5D recently posted this video showing the improvements: The only thing listed in their notes on this firmware is this: < p class="indent1"> 1.) Image quality improvement regarding XAVC recording. Read More

Go Inside an IMAX Projector Room to See How ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Screens in 70mm

While Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in thousands of theaters, a special few got to screen it in 70mm IMAX 2D.

Most IMAX theaters that show major motion pictures have now moved to digital (all IMAX 3D showings are digital), but there are a number that will still show standard releases in the giant film format. Though only one scene was shot in IMAX for Star Wars (the chase on Jakku), the entire film was shot on 35mm anamorphic and blown up to 70mm for a handful of theaters around the country. Thanks to Denzale Butler (and projectionists Brian Elmore, Zac Simon, Greg Sanford), we've got a terrific behind the scenes of what it takes to prep a film like The Force Awakens for a 70mm IMAX screening:

< p class="first"> Read More

Wooden Camera Shows Off New Cable-Less Battery Mounts for the RED WEAPON

Wooden Camera has been making RED accessories for years, and they've just announced a whole range of battery mounts for RED's DSMC2 system, which includes RAVEN, SCARLET-W, and WEAPON cameras: Here are the links to the cable-less mounts (you can pre-order from these links, as the Quick Back is the only one shipping right now):
  • Cable-less V-Mount (Weapon/Scarlet-W/Raven): $645
  • Cable-less V-Mount Blueshape (Weapon/Scarlet-W/Raven): $695
  • Cable-less Gold Mount (Weapon/Scarlet-W/Raven): $645
  • Quick Back for Weapon/Scarlet-W/Raven: $250
  • Gold Mount Cable-less Module Assembly: $400
  • WC V-Mount Cable-less Module Assembly: $400
  • WC V-Mount Blueshape Cable-less Module Assembly: $450
If you missed it, here's an overview of some of the current WEAPON/SCARLET-W/RAVEN accessories from Wooden Camera: Easy Top In addition to the announcements above, Wooden Camera's other RED accessories are now shipping. The first is Continue reading "Wooden Camera Shows Off New Cable-Less Battery Mounts for the RED WEAPON"

Sony’s New AXS-R7 Recorder Enables 120fps 4K RAW on the F55

Sony has a brand new version of their RAW recorder. To get RAW video working on the F5 and F55 cinema cameras, you needed the AXS-R5 RAW recorder accessory that mounted on the back of the camera (and also worked with the FS700 with an additional accessory). Now they've introduced an updated version, the AXS-R7, which has two recording slots, and have announced that there will be new AXS media and a new firmware, version 8. They've added a few interesting features with this recorder. The first is the ability to shoot 120fps 4K RAW on the F55 only, something the company has been teasing for the past few weeks. They've also added cache recording up to 30 seconds, which is great for documentary or nature shooters. In the cache recording mode, the camera is always recording, but overwrites the information Continue reading "Sony’s New AXS-R7 Recorder Enables 120fps 4K RAW on the F55"

5 Ways to Make Your Film’s Score Oscar-Worthy

Music is more important than you think. An expertly written score can add so much to your story by creating atmosphere, tone, or emotion. But what sets a great score apart from a mediocre one? In what ways do they add to the narrative and visual components of a film? And what techniques do composers use to turn a score into a storytelling device? In the video essay below, Evan Puschak (Nerdwriter) breaks down the Oscar-winning score of composer Howard Shore in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, explaining how musical themes, or leitmotifs, are used to elevate the story. There's quite a bit of information to digest, so we've highlighted five qualities that seem to be present in not only this Oscar-winning score, but in the vast majority of them. Read More

Filming Without Running Water or Electricity: Berlinale’s Inspiring ‘Nakom’

The first-ever Berlinale film from Ghana, Nakom was shot with no running water or electricity, with a crew of people entirely from the village. The first-ever Berlinale film from Ghana, Nakom was actually made by two Americans: T.W. “Trav” Pittman and Kelly Daniela Norris. Inspired by Pittman’s time in the Peace Corps stationed in the titular village, the film follows a promising college student who returns to his rural home in northern Ghana after the sudden death of his father. Newly in possession of the family property and saddled with his father’s burden of debt, the hero (first-time actor Jacob Ayanaba) attempts to modernize his family’s onion farm, all the while struggling with village dramas and pondering his newly uncertain future. Ahead of the film’s premiere in Berlin’s Panorama track, NFS caught up with Pittman and Norris to talk about Continue reading "Filming Without Running Water or Electricity: Berlinale’s Inspiring ‘Nakom’"

Hand-Drawn or Computer-Generated? Innovative Animators on Why It Matters

As the refrain goes, "it's a medium, not a genre." The more artists continue to expand storytelling using animation, the more people are starting to understand why. Is it a coincidence that the award for Best Short has gone to an animated film for the last two years at Sundance? What's changing in the animation genre? What tools does it take to tell amazing stories? At Sundance 2016, No Film School sat down with three amazing animators at the top of their game to ask these questions and more. Here is Part 1 of that discussion with Mickey Duzyj, director and animator of The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere, as well as Drew Christie and Rose Stark, two animators who worked individually on NUTS! to creatively interpret the story of J.R. Brinkley. The talented artists talk about the Continue reading "Hand-Drawn or Computer-Generated? Innovative Animators on Why It Matters"

What We Can Learn from the 2016 Oscar-Nominated Doc Directors

Documentary and narrative filmmakers alike can benefit from hearing how each of these helmers approached their lauded docs. There's one silver lining to this year's #OscarsSoWhite: the subjects of the nominated documentaries are as diverse as Hollywood is, well, not. The honored films this year include The Look of Silence, about how a survivor deals with his brother’s murder during the Indonesian genocide; Amy, on the life and untimely death of singer Amy Winehouse; Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, a front-lines look at the Ukrainian civil rights uprising in 2013; Cartel Land, a violent portrait of vigilantes protesting the Mexican drug cartels; and What Happened, Miss Simone?, on the singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone. Read More

An Eye for an Ojo: Iñárritu, Aronofsky and How To Tell A Story Through the Eyes of Your Protagonist

Trying to pump up a character's emotional depth? The solution may lie within the pupils of your actor. It's looking like this will be another big weekend for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. You can credit Lubezki as much as you want for how beautiful The Revenant turned out, and sure, throw Leo an Oscar for putting his body through immense physical pain, but what really drives the story home is the inner turmoil going on inside the character of Hugh Glass. Namely, this:
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio is very cold in The Revenant
Last year, it looked like this: Read More

5 Essential Tips From Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters of ‘Carol’ and ‘Room’

Two Oscar-nominated screenwriters offer fascinating insights on how to shepherd tricky adaptations to the screen. Seventeen years after its first draft, Carol, Phillis Nagy's adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt, finally arrived last fall. Meanwhile, fellow Oscar nominee Emma Donaghue wasted no time; she adapted her book Room before it was even published. In a special interview episode of The Black List Table Reads podcast, Franklin Leonard digs into the stories behind these adaptations. We recommend that you find time to listen to these interviews in full (below), but if you can't, here are five tips that all aspiring screenwriters should heed. Read More

Voigtländer Has Three New Insanely-Wide Full-Frame E-Mount Lenses: 10mm, 12mm, 15mm

Voigtländer makes some of the nicest all-manual lenses in the industry. Their newest full-frame 35mm Sony E-mount lenses, manufactured by Cosina in Japan (the same company that has made Zeiss still lenses forever), are some of the widest rectilinear (non-fisheye) lenses around, with the 10mm now being the widest in the world. This means that as much as possible, straight lines stay straight, and you don't get the circular warped image that comes from using a fish-eye. The 12mm and 15mm lenses are already available for Leica M mount, and the 10mm will be added later for Leica cameras. Not only are these incredibly wide, but they are also designed for filmmakers in mind, as they can be de-clicked just by turning a ring on the lens to have a smooth iris. All three have integrated lens hoods, but only the Continue reading "Voigtländer Has Three New Insanely-Wide Full-Frame E-Mount Lenses: 10mm, 12mm, 15mm"

Ricoh Unveils the WG-M2 4K Action Camera

Ricoh is the latest company to get in on the 4K action camera market with their new WG-M2. The WG-M2 packs a ton of features into a package costing just $300, including UHD 4K up to 30fps, 1080p up to 60fps, and 720p up to 120fps. One of the interesting features of the WG-M2 is its incredibly wide lens with an angle of view of 204° in the widest mode, and 151° in the Narrow mode. What might be the nicest feature of the camera is its durability, and the fact that you don't need an external housing to take it underwater. It's waterproof down to 65', shockproof up to 6.5', and freezeproof to a chilly 14°F, and with the built-in 1.5" LCD on top, you'll be able to monitor the whole time.
Ricoh WG-M2 Side
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Sony’s New PXW-Z150 4K Camera Shoots HD Up to 120fps

While narratives have mostly moved away from cameras with fixed lenses, there is still a huge place for them in today's market. As long as people are shooting documentaries, TV content, or anything that requires a zoom lens, ND filters, long recording times, and depth of field that's not too shallow, these fixed-lens prosumer/professional cameras still have a place. Sony's newest, the PXW-Z150 4K XDCAM, can record UHD 4K 3840 x 2160 at 100Mbps up to 30fps, and is capable of full HD at 120fps. With its 1" sensor (which is a little smaller than Micro 4/3), it's possible to get shallow depth of field when you want it without too much effort.
Sony PXW-Z150 Left Side
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Panasonic Has a New Splash & Dust-Proof 12-60mm Micro 4/3 Lens

Panasonic's newest Micro 4/3 lens is designed to keep out the elements. The Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 has a pretty wide range for an everyday lens, with a full-frame 35mm equivalent of 24-120mm (though for video shooting the variable aperture can be tough if you're trying to shoot wide open and zoom in):

Covering wide-angle to telephoto perspectives, the lens' design incorporates three aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion element to reduce spherical and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range for increased clarity and image sharpness. Additionally, an apt POWER Optical Image Stabilization system compensates for the effects of camera shake and is also compatible with cameras featuring Dual I.S. for robust stability to benefit handheld shooting in difficult lighting conditions.

MTF charts for the lens: Read More

How Cinematography, Editing, & More Enhance Oscar-Worthy Performances

So much goes into a great performance: an actor's ability to connect with a character, to emote convincingly, and -- great filmmaking. In this video essay from Keyframe, Jake Swinney discusses the connection between Oscar-nominated performances and the quality of the films in which they appear, asking, "How can something technical manipulate our perception of an actor's performance?" There's more to great acting than just -- great acting, and Swinney does a fantastic job of breaking down the technical elements that enhance an actor's performance. For example, if cinematography works to inspire and increase certain emotions in the audience with lighting, framing, and camera movement, an actor's projection of said emotions in his/her performance is bolstered when paired with it. Take Swinney's commentary on the cinematography in The Revenant for example:

This technically Continue reading "How Cinematography, Editing, & More Enhance Oscar-Worthy Performances"

Four Sundance Editors on How to Disagree with Directors (Even Werner Herzog)

Indie filmmaking's unsung heroes shined at our Sundance 2016 Editor's roundtable. Sundance films are among the strongest independent offerings each year, but the 2016 lineup was particularly noteworthy in terms of editing. We put together a powerhouse group of editors to discuss their craft, including Marco Capalbo (Reveries of the Connected World, directed by Werner Herzog); Matt Hannam (Swiss Army Man, co-directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan); Jeanne Applegate (Dark Night, directed by Tim Sutton) and Nels Bangerter (Cameraperson, directed by Kirsten Johnson). In this video, we discuss working with directors, the difference between an invisible and a visible edit, and advice for editors starting out. (Part 1/3) Nels Bangerter on communicating with a director:

"There is something to be gained from a little genial disagreement. Continue reading "Four Sundance Editors on How to Disagree with Directors (Even Werner Herzog)"