Serial Digital What?

3G, 4:4:4 and HD-SDI explained

At AbelCine, we’ve embraced the trend toward external video recorders. Convergent Design’s nanoFlash, launched in 2009, was one of the first on-camera HD recorders that actually offered improved recording quality over what was found in the camera. Since then, companies like AJA, Atomos, Cinedeck, Codex, Blackmagic Design and Sound Devices... Read more

All By Myself

A unique USB microphone, and devising a preproduction sound checklist

AUDIO-TECHNICA ATR2100-USB Q I was hired by an ad agency to record voiceover narrations for a corporate project. I’m producing the sessions myself and the budget is tight. I can’t afford to work in a recording studio. What’s your recommendation for the most cost-effective, reasonable-quality microphone that I could use at home to... Read more

Get The Balance Right

Tiffen’s Dfx software, dealing with compression and off the beaten path at NAB

ACHIEVING THE RIGHT BALANCE Q I don’t always get the white balance right when I’m shooting. Sometimes when I’m running and gunning, I’m not looking at a good color image on a monitor. It’s not until I’m done that I realize I’ve screwed up. Then I have to hand off my footage and am really embarrassed. I was... Read more

Disruptive Tech v2.0

With lower margins, the 99% wins

Many years ago, when I first started attending trade shows like NAB and Cine Gear, you always could count on seeing impressive booths from industry-standard companies like Panavision, Kodak and Apple, as well as pro rental houses displaying massive dollies and cranes. But, for me, like many indie filmmakers, the equipment was out of reach, as well as... Read more

Going Soft?

Understanding back focus

At AbelCine, we have a great deal of experience in digital cinema, with a strong focus on optics. Lately, I’ve been fielding a number of questions relating to a lens’ back focus, more accurately described as the lens’ flange focal distance. In this column, I’ll address some of the subtleties of back focus and why it’s so... Read more

Taking Aim

Room tone, and the Que Audio Q Sniper Kit

ROOM TONE Q Can you tell me a bit about room tone? What exactly is room tone, and how is it used typically? Mark W. Via e-mail A I sometimes refer to room tone as "audio Spackle®." Much like drywall Spackle® is used to patch over the uneven tape seams, nail holes and tears in sheetrock, room tone is recorded by sound mixers on set and... Read more

Lost In Transfer

It’s all in the details

FILE TRANSFERS Q I ran into a situation recently that has me a bit worried. I was shooting double-system sound, which I’ve done many, many times. I heard back from the person who was doing the post, and they were asking for some files that had already been delivered. At first, I thought I must have done something wrong. There does seem to be... Read more

Reality Is Relative

How Rango’s photo-realism is changing the future of movies

Misinformation isn’t always unintentional. As Martin Scorsese’s Hugo made lovingly clear, filmmakers have always been magicians and illusionists, expertly blurring the line between reality and fantasy. But while early audiences naively ducked and scattered at the novel sight of a train thundering toward them on the silver screen, audiences... Read more

Modern Sound Reports

Recording stereo, and apps for writing sound reports

RECORDING IN STEREO Q I’m embarking on my first student film and want to record the sound in stereo. Assuming the film will end up mixed in stereo or surround, is this a good idea? Ari R. Via email A You ask a simple question that actually has a pretty complex answer. Anytime you record or play back stereo signal, you’re creating or re-creating... Read more


Does HDR help take the art away from cinematography?

One of the most difficult tasks for a director of photography is controlling the contrast range between highlights and shadows. This technique usually separates the good cinematographers from the bad, and oftentimes differentiates the look of film versus video since one of the biggest giveaways for video is blown-out highlights. So far this year, the... Read more

Tanks For The Memories

A film production newbie learns some valuable lessons

For years, I dreamed of being in films, so after the Army, I came into contact with a local FX and stunt coordinator. It wasn’t long before my phone rang with my first job offer. There I was, standing on my first set complete with pyrotechnics, WWII tanks and people barking orders in what might as well have been Latin. My job was easy: I’d... Read more

LUTs, Looks And Scene Files

What’s the difference?

At a recent AbelCine seminar introducing the new ALEXA Studio camera, I gave a presentation on ARRI’s Look Files and their online LUT generator. Afterwards, several people asked me to describe the difference between a Look File and a LUT. I explained that ARRI’s Look Files were more like Scene Files. It seemed like an easy answer, but it... Read more