a fantastic ftp client for mac is 50%-off for another 12 hours or so – Panic’s “Transmit”

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Looks like my favorite ftp client for mac is 50%-off for a day, on their website and in the mac app store (and app store purchases can be used on all your computers). If you don’t have it, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. It’s a fantastic ftp client, which also supports dropbox, Amazon S3, and other services. It’ll also let you access ftp servers as if they’re disk drives. Nothing I’ve used comes close, except NcFTP at the command-line (and Transmit is using NcFTP behind the scenes). I paid double its current $17 price, and feel like I got a good deal.

If you do much transferring of media or projects to and fro via ftp, you should grab this.

Now working on — We Are Men

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

I’m now working as assistant editor on the CBS half-hour comedy We Are Men, which will air this fall. The editorial team is comprised mostly of veterans from the film The Man with the Iron Fists. If you’re curious about the show, here’s a surprisingly comprehensive cutdown of the half-hour pilot episode1:

It’s been a long time since I worked on a TV show, in fact my previous experience might not even count. Everything about that show was different. Travel with me back to Beijing, 2006, and feast your eyes on the promo piece I cut for NBA制造2. This piece was used to sell the NBA-produced “basketball lifestyle” program to various provincial TV stations:

Man, that show was a challenge, as it featured many interview segments and I barely spoke any Mandarin at that point. My solution was to type in translations of everything as markers on each clip. Eventually I started understanding enough of the interview subjects to not have to look at every marker. The interesting thing about people’s speech is that it becomes possible to parse out the different blocks of meaning and cadences well enough to edit it even without perfect understanding.

But back to the new show; We Are Men will air Mondays at 8:30PM, starting on September 30, 2013. It’s exciting to be working on something with quick turnarounds that’ll actually be seen by the public within months or weeks of shooting. Most of the films on which I’ve worked featured more than a year of postproduction. It’s like being back in a newsroom, except we’re making a fictional comedy rather than rushing to cover breaking stories. It’s also fun working on a comedy, as whenever I pass either the writers room or the editor’s suite I hear plenty of laughter. It lightens the day.

  1. At 20% of its original length it ends up feeling very very hyper, an impression increased by the occasional whoosh transition –but it wouldn’t really be a promo piece if it were the same length and speed as the original. And we’re all raised on video games these days, right? It’d be fun to drop such a promo in front of tv-watchers of the late 50s and see if their heads explode from information overload. Blipverts! []
  2. literal translation: “Made In NBA”. A cute play on the phrase “Made In China”. []

Trailer for Spike Jonze film “Her” has been released

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

I spent the last year-and-a-half working on this film and, upon request, attempting to give spoiler-free explanations of its content to friends and relatives. Now I’m freed from that responsibility1 by the Warner Bros. Pictures marketing department. Thanks Brothers!

The trailer for the new Spike Jonze film, “Her”, has been released and can be found on both YouTube and Apple Trailers. I’d recommend watching the Apple Trailers version as even at the HD setting the YouTube version is a surprisingly poor quality encode, or maybe it was downgraded automatically for my poor connection at work while Apple’s site deigned to make me wait for the higher bitrate (Apple Trailers’ preference and mine for quality over convenience match in this instance).

I’m so happy that some of the film is now on display.

For fun, see if you can spot any VFX shots. It’s amazing how seamless and ubiquitous those are these days. I think there may be 17 or so in there, all in place to help tell a story rather than simply to wow the audience or call any attention to their presence.

  1. I’m referring to the need to explain the storyline, not the responsibility of working on the film –though I have moved on to another project []

Anyone else curious when Filemaker Pro 13 will be released?

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

graph of days elapsed between releases of filemaker pro

This spreadsheet is the sort of thing I’ve done in order to guess the release date of a piece of software or hardware I’m waiting to buy. Rachel thought it was funny and encouraged me to post it here as an example of overkill/OCD.

–But maybe there’s at least one person out there waiting for the new Filemaker who’ll find this information useful. The Filemaker Developer Conference is coming up on 8/12/13. I bet version 13 of Filemaker Pro drops that week. It’s overdue if the long development cycle for Filemaker 12 is an anomaly and not a trend.

Fitz and the Tantrums Video: “Out of my league”, crazy lo-fi 3D with Kinect and RGBDToolkit

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Fitz and the Tantrums – Out of My League from Jordan Bahat on Vimeo.

My friend Jordan directed this music video for the band Fitz and the Tantrums (released on 4/22 on VH-1 and on the band’s web page and on vimeo in better quality), and I got to help plan and execute a technically unorthodox portion of the shoot. It’s a little odd for me to be involved on the production end of a project and to not work all the way through post-production (on films, post often lasts for more than a year) –but it was fun to shoot a bunch of stuff, hand it to the producer, and then see the final result weeks later. Now I know a little better how production folk must feel. Kudos to Jordan and producer Taylor for seeing the project through to the end.

A preview of the depth map as it was being recorded to a laptop during the shoot.
A preview of the depth map as it was being recorded to a laptop during the shoot. The different colors represent the depth at each point. Black spots represent holes in the data –areas in which no depth was recorded.

At around 30 seconds in, you’ll start to see the lo-fi 3D imagery I helped capture and visualize –point clouds and wire-mesh renditions of members of the band, rendered from various virtual camera positions.

The data was shot head-on from a fixed camera position1, using a Canon 5DmkIII DSLR to capture video and a Microsoft Kinect sensor connected to a laptop to capture a video depth map. The DSLR and the Kinect were locked to one another with a 3D-printed mount. Jay Trautman2 (thanks!) operated the laptop while I manned the DSLR.

The depth information for each pixel (or ‘D’) captured on the Kinect was recorded and later paired with the video info for that pixel (RGB) using a piece of free software3 called RGBDToolkit. It’s fun to play with. If you’ve got a Kinect and a video camera, you might give it a try.

There were some even-more-ambitious 3D data capture techniques at play during the shoot, involving an array of kinects and cameras (thanks Cedric!), which I’ll talk about another time. The non-3D shots were also captured on a Red Epic camera by D.P. Andrew Wheeler and his team.

My cousin Jenny did some great storyboards for the video, if they make it into her portfolio I’ll link to ’em. A ton of other people worked on the video. I’ll link to the full credits soon if I can find them.

  1. i.e. the camera was locked into position using a tripod []
  2. I worked with him previously on The Man with the Iron Fists []
  3. free as in beer and as in “MIT license” []

deal on a nice mic for temp ADR

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Blue Yeti mic

Woot’s got refurbs of the Blue Yeti USB mic for $59 today. That’s a solid condenser mic with a nice full sound when used well. We recorded a ton of temp ADR on The Man with the Iron Fists using a Blue Yeti (and at least one of those temp recordings is in the finished film). My recommendation: Set this mic to its cardioid pattern (the others are useless for this purpose and pick up additional background noise), move it a few feet further from your CPU fans than is convenient, and then place it within a foot of the performer’s mouth (unless they’re yelling).

My configuration of recording equipment didn’t look sane, but worked well. Because the A/D converters are all inside the mic, the device to which it is connected has no bearing on the quality of the recorded audio. For the sake of mobility and because the device is fanless, I recorded using the mic connected to an iPad. –But the Yeti draws just enough power over USB to cause an iPad to disconnect and complain. So I connected the Yeti to one of those split USB cables that come with portable hard drives; One end of the split cable went to the Yeti, the other split end went into a USB battery pack to provide additional power, and then finally that cable was connected to a USB mini hub which was connected to the iPad using the iPad Camera Connection kit. The free iTalk app was used to start, stop, monitor, and transfer recordings.

Inexpensive and familiar-looking studio monitors coming to Monoprice

Monday, January 28th, 2013

I always think of online retailer as a place to buy good and inexpensive audio and video cables, but they’ve been branching out. Recently, they’ve added microphones, an 8-channel mixer with USB IO, a $390 27″ IPS1 WQHD2 resolution monitor (which may be using the same panel as Apple and Dell’s 27″ IPS displays), and an interesting pair of audio monitors to their lineup. These are all the kind of items I use to outfit editing stations, so I’ll be keeping an eye on their new items. But I’m especially curious about those audio monitors.

That’s because the Monoprice “5-inch Powered Studio Monitor Speakers” look suspiciously similar to M-Audio’s BX5 monitors –the size and specifications are nearly identical3. But Monoprice’s sell for 40-50% less money. Here’s a little comparison:


  • 1″ silk dome tweeter, 30w amp
  • 5″ Kevlar cone woofer, 40w amp
  • freq response: 56Hz-22kHz
  • crossover freq: 3kHz

$165.78 a pair

M-Audio BX5-D2:

  • 1″ silk dome tweeter, 30w amp
  • 5″ Kevlar cone woofer, 40w amp
  • freq response: 56Hz-22kHz
  • crossover freq: 3kHz

$299 a pair (MSRP. $230 street)

The similarity leads me to wonder whether Monoprice and M-Audio are buying from the same factory. If so, I wonder if the speaker was originally designed by M-Audio or whether the factory sells the same model to all comers, and each company just changes the look of the enclosure. I’m always curious about manufacturing and the provenance of products, so I’m very interested to know more about how (if I’m right) both companies ended up selling almost the same speaker with a different housing and at very different price points.

Were I building an editing station from scratch right now, I’d probably be checking reviews of Monoprice’s mixer, their 27″ IPS monitor, and their audio monitors (once they are all released). These are key components of any editing system, and I’ve definitely spent beyond those prices kitting out my setup of hardware that has roughly equivalent specifications.

  1. “In Plane Switching, a very nice type of LCD panel. []
  2. 2560×1440 []
  3. There is one minor difference I spotted between these models, and that is that the Monoprice monitor includes a “four-position high-frequency bias selector switch”, which is not a feature of the M-Audio BX5-D2. But previous versions of M-Audio’s BX5 did include such switches, so maybe Monoprice’s monitor is more of a match to M-Audio’s older monitor? []

The brief first flight and untimely end of my quadcopter

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Perhaps that title is a bit dramatic. As best I can tell, one of the engines is bad, shut down in flight, and then its pylon snapped free from the wing. The copter/plane is all patched back together now, and will be ready to fly again as soon as I receive a new motor and two replacement propellers.

Video was captured using a GoPro camera mounted to the Quadshot Mocha multicopter’s built-in tripod mount, and an 808 keychain camera #11 with D lens velcro’d to the Gopro (accidentally rotated to the vertical).

More to come.

Two deals on the Canon T3i, just for today

Monday, November 26th, 2012

People often ask me for recommendations for DSLRs with which they can shoot video. I think the Canon Rebel series of cameras (T2i, T3i, T4i) are the best bang-for-the-buck in that category. Today, perhaps in celebration of Ridiculous_Invented-name_Consumerism-holiday1, a couple of very good deals on nice entry-level Canon DSLRs have popped up. I read about these deals on the site cheesycam, which is a site I would recommend to any budget-minded filmmaker who is looking to save money and can manage to not buy so many good deals as to render the idea of “saving money” a bad joke.

Deal 1: $499 for Canon T3i DSLR Kit (includes a lightweight and dim 18-55mm lens with built-in stabilization)

Deal 2: $669 for Canon T3i kit with 18-55mm kit lens and 2 additional lenses (55-250mm, 75-300mm). I tend not to recommend lenses that cover long ranges as there are so many design compromises that go into maximizing that range that other qualities of the lenses suffer, but in this case they come out to costing very little. If you don’t like them you could probably sell them on eBay afterward and cover a portion of the cost of the camera.

As far as I know, the video quality of the Canon T3i is identical to that of the T4i and T2i, and pretty indistinguishable from that of the 7D and 60D. If you need such a thing, both of the deals listed above seem pretty good to me.

  1. “Cyber Monday”, ew. []

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Blu-ray is very cheap at Amazon

Monday, November 19th, 2012

It’s not every day I see a film I’ve worked on listed on the Fatwallet Hot Deals forum as a hot deal. But today’s that day.

Assuming the deal lasts at least until this link is clicked, Amazon’s selling The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] for $5.99. That’s a two-disc set full of tons of extras. Even if you’re just technically-minded, those extras alone are worth the cost, as it’s fun to see how the tons of VFX shots were executed. I’m not just talking about the head replacement –the boat floated in an impressive CG sea, actors were aged and youthened, foreign and domestic locations stood in for one another. Lots of groundbreaking VFX.

I’d previously posted when the film was at Amazon for $14.99 back in late ’09. I don’t really understand how film retaling works, I’d love to see a graph of its pricing over time, I wonder if this is a normal price decrease or if they’re hoping to spike Christmas sales.

Regardless the reason, this is a good deal. I think the DVD’s $1.99. But if you can play Blu-ray, go that route. It’s a great-looking film.