Budget Forms for indie Producers

Hello dear filmmaker,

if you are puling together a no-budget, low-budget, or high-budget project you need to start with a blank budget. No matter how big or small your project is, you always need to have a budget to keep you in track of everything.

One of the most famous software to create and manage your budget is Movie Magic Budgeting. It is very easy to work with and any person can get the hang of it and learn the ins and outs very easily. The down side is that this software costs a lot of money. I got myself a demo version that only works for a couple of days, then I had to buy.

Another option would be excel budgets. They work just as nice and the good part of it is that they are extremely cheap. You only have to have excel, and if for some reason you can’t afford excel, you can also get open office for free.

I am making available here on my website two excel budgets that will work for most of production needs. I got them from friends and then I changed them a bit for my needs and taste.
They are based on templates from AICP, which stands for Association of Independent Commercial Producers. I just want to emphasize that I created these budgets that are based on existing AICP excel budget, but they were built from scratch, tweaked and modified to meet my own needs. I do not claim copyright on them because I took the idea from an existing excel form. They are not password protected, so if you want to change and modify them, by all means, be free to do it. Also if you want to share your work, send me your file and I will upload here on my website.

Thank you very much for your visit and hope to hear back from you.

Here are the files:
– BUDGET BLANK VERSION 1
– BUDGET BLANK VERSION 2

Scenechronize and Movie Magic Scheduling to go

There are 2 software that I need to post something about it. Both are for the field of Assistant directors.

The last 2 films that I worked (April Apocalypse and Lost Souls) I used this software called Scenechronize (more information please visit scenechronize.com).

It is based on cloud computing technology, where by all your data is saved and managed on line. It is very user friendly and easy to use. In my opinion it is a Movie Magic Scheduling on line. The advantages of this Scenechronize over Movie Magic is that your data is always available on line on any computer, you can easily manage changes and updates whenever and wherever you are, and it is free for a basic use. I believe that Scenechronize it is definitely a step ahead in the game when it comes down to production of films. The disadvantages of Scenechronize are the fact that it is not yet popular as MMS, your options are still limited, and some feature (like inserting new scenes and creating reports) are not as efficient like MMS.

I strong recommend for every 1st AD to take a look at this software and get the hang of it. If you are on a budget and can’t afford MMS, scenechronize it is your best choice. It is way better than Celtx because it has an interface that it is similar to what the industry uses, like colored stripboards, breakdown elements, and DOOD reports. There is also a call sheet export to excel that is pretty useful.

The other software that is calling my attention is Movie Magic To Go. It’s been quite a long time that MMS doesn’t upgrade their system, and now I understand why. They were developing this App that will be very helpful for the AD on set. It is the Movie Magic Scheduling for Ipad. Like every software delivered by Entertainment Partners, this one is not for free. The good thing is that the price is not as much as MMS. For only 29,99 you can buy the App that will bring all your desktop breakdown to the Ipad. The amazing thing is that you can have all your info with you everywhere you go on set. I think it will look very cool for an AD to show the breakdown on an Ipad for a director or producer. Other than the show off value, this app will also minimize the amount of paper one has to carry while shooting a film. The bad part about this app is that it is not synced with the desktop application, and there is no on line version of it. Which means that every change you do on your desktop, will not sync up automatically with the Ipad version. Also if you have the Ipad version, you still need the desktop version to create the breakdown.

My suggestion for the developers of software focused on the AD field is to create a synced system like scenechronize, with an App like MMS to go, and integrate the call sheet to an online calendar like Celtx. Everybody, everywhere, will be able to see in real time what scenes are being shot, changes, and latest updates. I know that sonner or later, some of the software companies will create something like that.

Integrate Movie Magic Scheduling with Google Calendar

So I receive a couple of messages asking how I created this integration between Movie Magic Scheduling and Google Calendar. Instead of answering one by one, I decided to create this tutorial that teaches how to do the integration.

The process is pretty simple. We have to create a CSV file using Movie Magic Schedule. To do that we need to run a REPORT that will transfer all the database info into a pdf file and save this pdf to a CSV file.

In order to do that you need the following software:

  • EXCEL
  • WORD
  • ACROBAT READER
  • MOVIE MAGIC SCHEDULING

PART 1 – CREATING THE PDF FILE

Download and import the following report that I created.

CALENDAR EXPORT – BY MARIO AMADEU.

To import a calendar you have to open a Movie Magic Schedule, click on DESIGN, a list of Report Layouts will appear, click on the IMPORT ICON, select the downloaded file and voilà.

A report called Calendar Export by Mario Amadeu will show up. Run the report by double clicking on it and then click on Print Preview. The content generated will be barely readable, don’t worry about that because I did this way so the whole information stays in one page for exporting purposes. Print the file as PDF so you can transfer to excel. The first part is done.

PART 2 – CREATING THE CSV FILE

Open the generated PDF file, rotate 90 degrees clockwise, and save. Select all, copy and paste to a word Document.

Every line should have a set of information. For some reason the line breaks messes up sometimes when copying and pasting to word. Because of that, I created one more step on word just to make sure everything will be smooth. With the text copied to word, go to EDIT->REPLACE. In the field “Find what:” type “}”, and in the field “Replace with:” type “^p”. Hit REPLACE ALL button.

Note: if the line breaks are fine, then replace “}” with a “blank space”

Save the file as txt. Open Excel and click on DATA->GET EXTERNAL DATA->IMPORT TEXT FILE. Open the text file created on word and a Text Import Wizard will open.

On step one choose Delimited;
On step two select Semicolon;
On step three select the second column and change the data format to DATE MDY
Hit finish.

The excel file will be created. Select the column B, START DATE, and format the column as a DATE with format MM/DD/YYYY. Save the file as CSV. DONE.

PART 3 – IMPORTING TO GOOGLE CALENDAR

This is the last step. To import to Google calendar, you have to open Google Calendar and under OTHER CALENDARS click on ADD->IMPORT CALENDAR. Browse for the csv file you just created, select the calendar to export to, and hit IMPORT.

If for some reason you get an error message, open the CSV file on Excel and break the table down in less records. Save 2 or 3 CSV files, each one containing 30 lines maximum. Repeat the first line with the header and save it for each one. Import the files into Google Calendar. DONE.

CONCLUSION

The good part of this integration is the fact that you can add cast and crew to the calendar, they can see details like maps, description, synopses, page count, estimated time and comments. I am pretty sure that more features will be created in the future, and maybe in a next version of Movie Magic Scheduling we will have this integration built in.

What I am working now is creating fields for call time and more detailed information like inserting day breaks and so on.If anyone figures new things, please comment here and share with the world. Thanks.

Single chip camera evaluation – Cine Gear Expo

Bob Primes, ASC produced a documentary that evaluates the new wave of single large chip cameras.

This documentary was showed at the Paramount theaters during the Cine Gear Expo of 2011.

Bob Primes, Image Quality Geeks

I was there for the screening and also could watch a Q&A with the producer Bob, cinematographer Stephen Lighthill, and post supervisor of the documentary Mike Curtis.

This documentary is a carefully Single Chip Camera Evaluation, shot on 12 cameras . There was an extensive battery of tests that evaluate the following:

  • sharpness,
  • sensitivity,
  • over and underexposure latitude,
  • low light performance,
  • compression artifacts,
  • color reproduction,
  • skin tones,
  • shutter artifact

The cameras being evaluated were:

  • Arri Alexa,
  • Sony F35,
  • Red One MX,
  • Panasonic AF100,
  • Sony F3,
  • Phantom Flex,
  • Weisscam HS-2,
  • Canon 1D MkIV,
  • Canon 7D,
  • Canon 5D Mk II,
  • Nikon D7000
  • and two film stocks: Kodak 5219 and 5213

Before we go over the details of this evaluation, let me explain how they did the evaluation which I think is very relevant. All cameras were recorded in their best output formats, which means that if a camera had as its best output a 4:4:4 12 bit to a external device, that was the way they shot this particular camera in all tests. Also each and every camera had a person called “camera master” that would be responsible for tweaking the camera for optimum quality. There was no color correction on the footage that would disregard the evaluation. The editing was soundless, so we could focus on the image. Last but not least, they had total control over the whole process from conception to final cut, with no interference from any of the cameras manufactures.

With that being said, lets show some graphics taken from the documentary that explain in details the camera performances.

Maximum Resolution

Maximum resolution is the amount of data in one pixel. As you can see in the graphic below, the camera that performs better is the film camera. Surprisingly enough, the Red camera is as good as the film cameras in this category. The worst cameras are the DSLRs, which is expected because they have the worst compression, huge aliasing/moire and terrible recording outputs (they record only on internal cards).

Maximum resolution

Sensitivity

Sensitivity is how well the camera (sensor/film) will capture light. In this regard the film cameras were the worst ones, but I did some research and I saw that these 2 film stocks (Kodak 5213/5219) were actually pretty slow. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that they are 200 and 500 ISO. Which means that it is expected the low sensitivity results. The best camera, or the most sensitive, was the Canon 1D, that also has the biggest sensor. Of course that everything comes at a price, and in this case is the amount of noise that the Canon 1D has.

The Sony F35 was the one that I was amazed by the sensitivity performance. It is not bad, but the low light performance resembles what the film cameras capture. I would even dare to say that the F35 would be similar to a 1000 ISO Kodak film stock (if that’s even a possible consideration).

The Arri Alexa is a very good camera overall, and I also like the Sony F3 and the Red One.

Sensitivity

Latitude

Latitude measures the amount of light a camera/film can process and still creates an acceptable image. For example: a good camera has a greater latitude and it will be able to capture in one frame the highlights and the shadows without any lost of information/detail.

Of course that the film cameras would perform better in this category because they are film, and there is no digital sensor capable of capturing so much information than a film. What I was amazed is how close the Arri Alexa is from the latitude of the film stocks. In the latitude category, we could divide it in three groups. First is film and Alexa, then is Red and F35, and then is the rest.

Latitude

Over and Under Exposure Latitude

This category evaluates the latitude but having a middle point where the image is properly exposed and then the exposure is stretched over and under.

We can see now that the sensitivity evaluation meets with the latitude evaluation at this point. The film cameras perform better at over exposure and lack at under exposure. The Arri Alexa is again a very reliable camera, and the rest is pretty much the same.

Over and under exposion

A good visual comparison would be the following video from Nick Paton, ACS comparing both 7D and Alexa. Check it out!

 

Rolling Shutter and Compression Artifacts

In my opinion, for the evaluation in this set of test, we can divide the cameras into 3 categories. The good ones, the not so bad ones, and the ones that are terrible.

In the good ones category there are:

  • Arri Alexa
  • Sony F35
  • Kodak 5213/5219

in the not so bad ones there are:

  • Phantom Flex
  • Weisscam
  • F3
  • Red One
  • AF100

In the terrible ones there are:

  • 5d
  • 1d
  • 7d
  • nikon

Color

This was a very subjective evaluation and in my opinion there is no way I can even give my impression. I think that for this evaluation, everyone has to look at the image and decide by themselves.

Conclusion

Well, lets get to the bottom of the discussion. There is simply no better camera that does everything. It all depends on questions that are not related to technology but external factors like:

  • budget or “how much is being reserved for the camera and/or camera department?”
  • aesthetic or “what is the feeling being sought by the cinematographer?”
  • final medium delivery or “where this video/film will be seen?”
  • expertise or “how well the cinematographer uses this tool?”
  • personal taste or “I don’t care what other say, I love the camera I use!”

What makes a good picture is definitely not the camera itself, but the good use of  objective and subjective visual components.

 

New website based on WORDPRESS!!!!

In this post I will go over all the great features that I have on my new website, as well how I built it, explaining the step by step, so anyone could build their own WORDPRESS site.

I had a BLOGSPOT website where the design limitations were upsetting. Changing to WORDPRESS not only gave me better design features, but also interaction and control features that are simply um comparable with BLOGSPOT. The bad side though is that I had to learn how to build a WordPress site from scratch. I didn’t want to use any available WordPress.com templates because I didn’t like them. So I ended up building my own.

Prior to this experience I didn’t have ANY knowledge of PHP, CSS, MYSQL, and DREAMWEAVER. I had to learn everything from the beginning. At first I thought it would be impossible, but it is not as hard as it seems. Of course that I have some knowledge of computer programming. If I didn’t have it, then I couldn’t do it. I don’t suggest for a person that is computer illiterate to jump in here thinking that they can just do it. It will be frustrating trying to figure and managing the gigantic amount of new information. I am definitely not the best teacher, but I will go over how I did it and maybe, just maybe, help someone who is trying to create their self-hosted WordPress site. Please, don’t expect to get all the pieces here. If you are trying to go over this route, you will have to do a lot of research and testing on your end.

It took me one week and a half to build this website. There are many steps in order to create a website totally customized as this one. The steps are: 1- DESIGN, 2 – LOCAL SETUP, 3 – PROGRAMMING, 4 – HOSTING, 5 – EXPORTING.

1- DESIGN

Instead of designing  a site from scratch I started by selecting a custom design from a library of designs that I have. The one that I liked is called Video Flick, from Press 75. I liked the feel of it and the fact that it has a lot of visual links. I started the design by changing the width of the posts and also changing the background. I changed the header for the home page to be different than the header of the post pages. I also changed a lot of little other minor things.

Most of the changes happen in the STYLE.CSS file. The best way to edit the stylesheet file is to integrate your WordPress theme with Dreamweaver.

2- LOCAL SETUP

To work your site locally and create a unique custom design, the best way is to integrate WordPress with Dreamweaver. There is a tutorial that teaches how to do this integration. I followed the steps of Lynda.com. This tutorial got me from the noob level to better than noob, but still noob level. If you want to try the tutorial before buying it, you can always look around for alternative ways of getting it.

3- PROGRAMMING

That’s the hardest part. As soon as I got the hang of it, it became easier. The best way to learn is by trial and error. By the fact that I was working on a local site, I didn’t worry about messing up my page. I made as many mistakes as I could. I just made sure that I had a back up so, if needed, I could reset everything. The only two files that I messed with were CSS files and PHP files.

CSS files contain the styles of each element in your page divided by category. Which in noob terms means that to center a “post content” I would have to set the category responsible for Post Content on a specific CSS file.

PHP files are like HTML files. They contain the  programming of each part of the page. The way WordPress handles pages is by calling a bunch of different php files for each part or function of the page. The header of a WordPress page is inside of the header.php for example. The post content of a WordPress site is inside of the single.php page.

The files that I changed most of the time were style.css (responsible for all the major styles of everything inside the site), header.php, single.php, footer.php, and functions.php. During this process, I did a lot of Googling and I messed up a bunch of times. As soon as I started to make mistakes, and fixing theses mistakes, I became more knowledgeable to a point of knowing exactly where to find my answers when I needed to change something.

4- HOSTING

As soon as I was done with my LOCAL DESIGN, it was time to transfer everything to a web host. There are a lot of good places to find a host for WordPress. The one that I selected was GoDaddy because my domain is register there and because they have a very easy to install platform. I know that you NEED a server that handles PHP5 and you also NEED a MYSQL database. It cost me 100 dollars for 3 years. For this money Godaddy gave me 10 Mysql databases, 10TB worth of space and unlimited bandwidth. Which is a lot for my small personal website.

5- EXPORTING

To transfer everything to the web host was easy. At this point I already knew what folders to copy, what files to change, and how to troubleshoot. A key to this transfer is to keep the folder structure the way it is. WordPress has a unique way of handling the files. I didn’t mess with the structure since the beginning and that helped me to have the site without any code problems.

 

Side by side comparison – AF100, FS100, F3, 5D

The new wave of large chip cameras

Hello all,

The fast explosion of DSLR shooting speed it up the development of large chip camcorders. Today the major video camcorder manufacturers are fighting for the best large chip cameras. There are 2 options in the market for the prosumer level and one option for the entry professional level.

The prosumer level cameras are:

AF100 – made by Panasonic
FS100 – made by Sony (release at the end of the summer)

Both in the range of US$5,000

The professional entry level is the Sony F3. It goes for US$15,000 with no lenses and US$18,000 with three prime lenses.

There are a lot of good places to research and understand the best option for every person. One of the best places is the personal website of Philip Bloom. He is a filmmaker with a lot of experience in all of these cameras as well DSLRs.

I took a video from his vimeo page and I removed some frames so we could compare side by side the 3 video cameras and the DSLR 5D. The full video can be seen at the bottom of the page.

Click to enlarge

 

MY FIRST HACKINTOSH

I finally got a perfect working version of my HACKINTOSH system. It took me a couple of months but I could get my PC to run a Mac OS with a working Final cut 7, plus Color 1.5.

The way that I did was first getting the right components. The motherboard that I bought was the Gigabyte UD5, processor Intel i7, and Gskill 6gb memory. The next step was to set up my bios, and download the correct software that does the installation. In my case I used the Kakewalk 2.2. It’s really easy to install. I used the USB method. It took me a couple of trials but at the end I could get everything working.

I did all that because I wanted to have the final cut, which is the industry standard for editing, without having to pay outrageous money for a new hardware. I am a PC guy and in order to buy an used Mac I would have to literally sell all my pcs and a couple of other things that I own and still get some money from someone else. Well, now I can say that I am a PC/MAC guy.

My suggestion for someone that wants to build a Hackinstosh is don’t do it. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not user friendly process. I know a lot about computers and I had a really hard time. If you have money to buy a Mac, go ahead and buy it. It’s worth every single penny. I wish I could have a Mac. A Mac computer is made to last more than any equivalent Frankenstein PC. But if for some reason you want to try, you can follow this simple steps.

I will write a summary of the steps.

1 – Hardware: Gigabyte ex58-UD5 , Intel quad core i7 920, Gskill F3-12800cl7t-6gbpi, Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+
2 – OS: Kakewalk 2.2 install, Snow Leopard 10.6 retail
3 – Software: Final cut 7, Color 1.5

4 – Make the USB using a working mac. follow instructions from kakewalk.
5 – Set the bios: Set HD to AHCI, Set boot from USB, set Hpet (following kakewalk instructions)
6 – Install osx
7 – Enjoy and when you have money buy the original, you won’t regret.