Merry Christmas

December 24, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · Leave a Comment
Filed under: World Wide Angle 
World Wide Angle wishes you a Merry Christmas

World Wide Angle wishes you a Merry Christmas

The illustration was taken from a Smashing Magazine post. More images are also available from HongKiat.

We hope you enjoy this holiday season.

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Hollywood Meltdown

December 22, 2008 by Derrick Faw · 3 Comments
Filed under: Cinephile 


After yet another disappointing year of film releases by the major studios, I have started to contemplate our own future in filmmaking. There have always been a few gems released amongst a mass of duds. It seems though, that each year fewer and fewer films of substance appear. There are a lot of complaints that could be directed towards the established industry other than the cinematic value of films produced. Box office ticket prices are so outrageous, families can seldom enjoy a night at the movies together anymore. Buying DVDs can also put a serious cramp in your budget. It is sad that older films that have made their money also cost a fortune. As the economy continues to dwindle, it is hard to imagine film watchers will continue to pay these high prices. While they attempt to bleed every dollar out of customers, many turn to alternative sources. Many films without copyright (Public Domain) have been released over the last several years and sold for $1 each. Companies releasing these films have done very well, as people are hungry for films and are looking for something affordable. It is too bad that there isn’t enough good films in this category, though they are some treasures. For others, it doesn’t take long to find a source for downloading films. I don’t advocate this of course, since it is illegal, but it does exist. The amount of films available as BitTorrent and through newsgroups is staggering. DVD rentals through the mail has also been a popular choice in America and also here in France. Also, the rise in use of home computers has made it very easy to duplicate rented and borrowed DVDs. It is logical to assume that the harder they try to forcibly combat piracy, the more the problem will escalate. This was the approach of the music industry, that went to unbelievable measures of prosecution and attempting to restrain freedom on the Internet. Issues with the music industry seems to have calmed down recently, this could be due to services like the Apple Store which allows listeners to purchase music at a reasonable price.

seatsI don’t believe fighting fans is the solution to the problem at hand. Artists, both in film and music, deserve to make a good living at their trade. I take the band Wilco as a prime example of how embracing the Internet and technologies can work to benefit all. When they were ready to release their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the record company dropped them. Instead of leaving the anxiously waiting fans without the album, the band released it for free download on their website. Eventually when the album was released,  it went on to be their best selling album to date with over 590,000 copies sold. This unprecedented move at the same time Napster was being defeated, earned them a special kind of affection from their fans. In 2005 YouTube hit the scene with a whole new way to experience video on the net. Since then dozens more video sites have sprung up, as well as softwares providing some sort of streaming video. Even the television networks have jumped on providing shows for watch online. We even stream video from our website and this blog. So where does the future lie, and how can we make a living making films? I believe it is on the Internet in some form that hasn’t quite appeared yet. It could be in services similar to the Apple Store or some kind of pay per view application. It is a shame to think that movie theaters could become a thing of the past. The big screen experience has been one of the richest elements in film history. Even with today’s big screen televisions and home projectors, the magic of going to the cinema can not be replaced. Finding funding for independent films isn’t as hard as having a means to make them marketable to theaters. I believe the status quo of the entertainment industry is prime for change. How it all will play out will be very interesting. One thing is for sure, young filmmakers today are standing at an important crossroad with great potential to make the kind of movies we all want to see.

Last Night Filming at chezGrace

December 19, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts, Filming 

We’ve filmed vernissages at chezGrace several times over the past three years and as time went by we learned a few business tricks.

At first, Grace’s attention was with the attendance. She loved videos showing that several various people came and enjoyed the show. As time went by, the main subject of these short videos became the artist and his works. Of course, we also film the visitors, especially visitors contemplating and commenting on the works. Eventually it evolved into a combination of the two.

Nassim Al Amin - chez Grace

Nassim Al Amin - Caméra Cachée

I really enjoy filming the artwork in motion, moving in and outside of the piece if it’s a canvas and around it if it’s a sculpture. When used with care during editing, it can produce a great effect in the final product. If we just want to use a frontal shot of the work, we usually rely on a photo shot instead of video. The photo shot is easier to reframe or color correct later. Also, for a frontal shot to work, the video camera needs to be perfectly still for four seconds. So, for four seconds, no one can enter your frame. This is easier said than done when filming a live event.

Filming the artworks can be teadious especially if they are framed in glass. A polarized filter on the photo camera has been our best solution so far.

The second difficulty is to interact with people. First, I usually try to let them know that they’re are in the frame. I make sure they are aware of my presence and that I’m filming. I pay attention to their reaction. At the least sign of embarassement, I’ll stop filming and go ask them if it is a problem. If someone says he or she doesn’t want to be filmed, I won’t point the camera their way again and if ever they are in the frame, I’ll cut out the shot. This is actually very rare. Most people agree to be filmed. I often reassure people and tell them we’ll edit the footage and take out everything inapropriate so they shoudln’t worry. Surprisingly, few ask what the video is for. I usually go ahead and tell them because they are even more cooperative when they realize the video is only to promote the artist and Grace.

We do not ask people to act. We try and capture the fun moments of the evening. One thing I have learned though, was to recognize the people that are really confortable around the camera. They will usually accept, if asked, to repeat something they just did that I might have missed. We also get a lot of cooperation from the artist (after all, he or she is the one who will benefit from the video). We’ll often ask the artist to be filmed in front of his works or around his friends and also, a necessary shot each time, with the host of the exhibition.


Nassim Al Amin

As I’ve said, we do not direct people, they are visitors and we are only covering the evnt. We have to capture moments and try not to get in people’s way. One thing we can do though, is give our input beforehand. For example, changes in the lighting or move some furniture around. An important thing we discvoered was that the cocktails should not be in the main exhibition room.This creates a huge gathering around it that makes it difficult to film. Shots of people eating or drinking are really not what you want in this type of video. If the cocktails are placed too close to the exhibition space, you will always have someone eating or drinking in your frame.

Filming a live event like this is an interesting exercice. On one hand, the creative part is limited: we don’t direct people or prepare shots. But, on the other hand, we learn to react quickly, to adjust and to observe. A lot of the work is done in the preparation. You have to always be ready to catch a good moment. You need the right equipment for the job. It should be light and efficient. Also, it’s a great occasion to practice and see what does and doesn’t work.

Tarantino in Montmartre ?

December 18, 2008 by Derrick Faw · 1 Comment
Filed under: MicroBlogging 

We heard through the grapevine that you might spot Quentin Tarantino in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris. He’s shooting there from today until Sunday. I suppose for Inglourious Basterds. Check out this article at Unique Screenwriting.

The Sony Minidisc

December 18, 2008 by Derrick Faw · 3 Comments
Filed under: Equipment, Filming, Sound 

MinidiscOne of the most valuable items in our equipment bag is the Sony Minidisc Walkman. These handy little gadgets hit the market in 1992 and have come a long way since. They were originally intended to be the replacement of audio cassettes as a recordable CD. They never caught on with record companies, so consumers never really had a chance to experience the advantages over other technologies. Only a few albums were ever printed for the Minidisc. Where the Minidisc did succeed though was in its ability to capture sound. The list of uses for recording sound on Minidisc are almost as big as your imagination. With a microphone you can record live music, dialog, sound effects, background noise, conversations, take notes, etc, etc. Optionally you can record directly through the line in port from any device outputting sound: computers, tape decks, radios, scanners, soundboards, VCRs, DVDs, Video Games, etc, etc. A headphone port allows you to listen in real time as you record. It is small enough to fit in your pocket and yet delivers amazing sound recording capabilities. Not only does it record, it does so at near CD quality if not arguably higher depending on the model you use. Recordings can easily be split into tracks for later review and handling. Tracks can even be edited straight from the recorder. What is even better about Minidisc is that they can be reformatted and used over and over again. Though we use the Minidisc for recording only, todays Minidisc recorders have the ability to not only play mp3s, but can be used as a USB mass storage device as well. The Minidisc offers a very small medium, it measures 7cm x 6.75cm x 0.5cm (2.75” x 2 21/32” x 3/16”). They are known to be virtually indestructible. A good resource for all things Minidisc is (The Minidisc Community Portal). The website is a bit hard to navigate, but filled with a lot of useful information and stories of people and their Minidisc.

We currently use the Sony MZ-RH10 Minidisc Walkman, introduced in 2005. If you plan on purchasing a Minidisc Walkman, be absolutely certain it is a Hi-MD model. which replaced and greatly improved on earlier models. According to Sony, Hi-MD is: Hi-Capacity, Hi-Battery Life and Hi-Quality Combine to Create Ideal Digital Music Solution sonyminidisc Features:

  • HI-MD WALKMAN with large 5 line LCD display
  • MP3 / Atrac3plus direct playback
  • SonicStage for easy music management and unlimited check outs of your favourite tracks
  • Supports all popular digital audio compression formats: ATRAC / MP3 / WMA / WAV
  • Remote control
  • Record from multiple source: USB-in / Mic-in / Analogue-in / Digital-in
  • Extremely fast music transfer from and to PC: 1 CD in less than 40 seconds
  • Capable of storing audio, video and data files on your HI-MD disc (Word, Powerpoint, ATRAC, MP3, JPEG, MPEG, etc)
  • Rechargeable battery, Charging stand, AC Power Adpater
  • Long battery life of 25 hours
  • G-PROTECTION Jog Proof
  • Transfer up to 45 CDs onto a single 1GB Hi-MD disc (with Atrac3Plus compression).

Recording Modes:

  • Linear PCM: (16bits/44.1khz, i.e. CD format) Over 1 ½ hours of recording time on a 1 GB HiMD disc.
  • Hi-SP: (Sony ATRAC3plus encoding at 256kbps) Almost 8 hours of recording time on a 1 GB HiMD disc.
  • Hi-LP: (Sony ATRAC3plus encoding at 64kbps) Approximately 34 hours of recording time on a 1 GB HiMD disc.

ECM-D870PIt is powered by a High-Capacity Nickel-Metal Hydride rechargeable battery. Our model also supports an attachment that allows it to run off a single AA battery. There are several other accessories available, making the Minidisc even more versital and practical than anything else on the market. We often use a Sony ECM-DS70P stereo microphone with the recorder. It captures very clear and crisp sounds, though it is a bit sensitive. Fortunately enough, the Minidisc Walkman has a variety of recording settings, such as mic sensitivity. As a music player it also has lots of features and abilities, but for our purposes the recording is the most important. I leave the mp3s to the iPhone. The only real drawback is that Sony software has to be used on your computer to process recorded tracks. However this can be done with a PC or Mac. If you need a method of recording sounds on location, this device can serve as a primary or at least backup recording system.

Before purchasing a Minidisc Walkman consult the Minidisc Community website to find out about the differing capabilities and characteristics of each model.

Editing in Widescreen

December 17, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · 2 Comments
Filed under: Editing 

Last year, our JVC Camcorder gave out after several years of good service and we decided to replace it this summer. In the meantime, we had got our Canon EOS 350D photo camera and really got to like it. So when the time came to pick a camera, we payed special attention to Canon. We ended up buying the Canon GL2. Our JVC was PAL, the GL2 is NTSC. We used the JVC as 1.33 aspect ratio (default, square) and started to use the GL2 as 1.66 (widescreen). Basically, everything is different.

When it comes to editing, there are a few things to know.

When you create your new project, you must select the right presets which can be:

  1. PAL Standard
  2. NTSC Standard
  3. PAL Widescreen
  4. NTSC Widescreen

The values that will change depending on the presets you select are:

  1. The frame size
  2. The frame rate
  3. The pixel aspect ratio

These settings will be important to have in mind when exporting the final movie and when importing outside elements like photos or animations. Of course you might also be editing in HD which is yet another format. I will not talk about HD here as we’ve not yet used it for our films.

Here is a sumup of these three values for the four availalbe presets:

Pal Standard

  • Frame Size: 720×576
  • Frame Rate: 25fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.067

NTSC Standard

  • Frame Size: 720×480
  • Frame Rate: 29.97fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 0.9

Pal Widescreen

  • Frame Size: 720×576
  • Frame Rate: 25fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.422

NTSC Widescreen

  • Frame Size: 720×480
  • Frame Rate: 29.97 fps
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.2

As you can notice, when switching from Standard to Widescreen, the frame size doesn’t change, the pixel aspect ratio does. If you need to import an image from a photo editing software, you will need to make sure your image respects this in order for it to fit (without distortion) into your movie. The same thing goes for an animation you might have produced before hand.

But why play with these odd pixel aspect ratios ? If pixels were squarred, the NTSC widescreen format frame size would be 864×486. So you can actually create your photo or animation using these dimensions and the standard squarre pixels. When using them in your movie project, these will look correct (no distortion). It’s a lot easier to handle them that way, even if it means remembering more numbers.

Here are the frame sizes (using a square pixel ration) for the two widescreen formats we are interested in:

PAL Widescreen

1024 [720 * 1.422]

576 [1024 * 9 / 16]

NTSC Widescreen

864 [720 * 1.2]

486 [864 * 9 / 16]

To illustrate these explanations, I used one of our photos and resized it three different ways then imported it to a NTSC Widescreen editing project.

  1. Resized it to a 720×480 squared pixels image
  2. Resized it to a 720×480 1.2 pixels image
  3. Resized it to a 864×486 squared pixels image

I imported these images into the project and displays them into the monitor.

  1. As expected, the first image doesn’t fit. It looks like a “Standard image” into a “Widescreen frame” with black empty lines on the sides
  2. The second image has the correct ratio, it is not distorted and fits the mointor.
  3. The third image is also correct

A 720x480 squared pixel image in a widescreen movie


A 720x480 1.2pixels in a widescreen movie


A 864x486 sqared pixel image in a widescreen movie

We had to study these issues recently as we switched to a Widescreen mode and hope our conclusions can help you understand these aspect ratio problems. We are also opened to any sggestions about working with widescreen you may have.

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