5 Must Read Books For Freelance Creatives

5 Must Read Books for Freelance Creatives

As a freelance creative these ‘must read’ books will inspire you to see your creative business and career in a fresh and energising light. Being a freelancer is effectively the same as running a one person business and these 5 books will educate, encourage and motivate you to chase after your deepest ambitions. What more could you ask for?

Different – Escaping the Competitive Herd – Youngme Moon

Best Books for freelancersThis is probably one of the best books on marketing/business strategy that I’ve ever read. Youngme Moon is a Professor at Harvard Business School but in Different – Escaping The Competitive Herd she writes more like an accomplished storyteller than a jargon touting business academic.

The essential premise of the book is that being different is what will set you apart from the competition but that the way to achieve that genuine differentiation is far more counter-intuitive than you would ever expect. For example:

Reverse-positioned brands commit to with-holding benefits that the rest of the industry considers necessary to compete. Reverse brands say no where others say yes. And they do so openly. Without apology.

To see this kind of strategy in action just open up two more browser tabs and compare the difference between Google.com and Yahoo.com. One offers much more while the other does one thing and one thing only, but incredibly well.

The benefit to any creative freelancer in reading Different is that it will seriously open your mind to the importance and opportunity to make yourself stand out from the crowd, if you’re only willing to take some risks and do things a little differently.

Buy on Amazon.com | Buy on Amazon.co.uk

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

Best books for creative freelancersIn Malcolm Gladwell’s latest masterpiece; David and Goliath he takes on the topic of ‘underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants’. In doing so he covers a fascinating range of topics with his usual flair and insight with surprising results.

“There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources- and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.”

It’s a valuable book for any freelance creative to read because it turns the idea of what we consider advantages and disadvantages to be on their head. It will help you see the things you might think would work against your chances of success into those that will ultimately drive them.

This book is probably my favourite read of 2013, and is helping me to re-think the way I perceive my freelance film editing career and helping me to see exciting new possibilities.

David and Goliath is a brilliant and riveting book that ends up in some unexpected places. If you’re a fan of Gladwell you won’t be disappointed and if you’ve never encountered his work before you’re in for a treat.

Buy on Amazon.com | Buy on Amazon.co.uk/a>

The Pixar Touch – David A Price

The Pixar Touch - Books for FreelancersThe Pixar Touch by David A Price, charts the rise of Hollywood’s most successful animation studio, having earned over $8.5 billion from it’s films and garnered 27 Academy Awards. With both financial and critical success time and time again, Price writes a compelling and comprehensive account of the company’s founding moments right through to the present day. In the midst of this history he also draws out some of the magic, the Pixar Touch, that infuses every one of their films.

“[Jobs] embraced a seemingly ludicrous idea: He was going to take Pixar public soon after Toy Story’s release. One financial advisor after another told him to forget about it. At the time, the notion of a public stock offering for a company that had never even turned a profit was alien to the thinking of serious investors.”

If you learn anything from The Pixar Touch it is that hard work, determination and white knuckle faith are all required if you want to make your creative endeavour really happen. The guys at Pixar had always dreamed of creating an animated feature and with Toy Story they not only fulfilled that dream, but changed Hollywood forever. Why should you read this book? Because every creative endeavour is part art, part business and requires the same kind of determination and raw belief you’ll find scattered across the pages of this book. Inspirational stuff.

Buy on Amazon.com | Buy on Amazon.co.uk Click through for the final two great books

Posted in Books, Business, Craft, Creativity, Review | 5 Comments

Colour Grading – The Technical Stuff

Understanding The Technical Side of Colour Grading

One of the fun things about being in a creative field is the technical side of things, that is if you’re a geek like me. A lot of great content on this topic comes from Tom Parish’s website, so be sure to have a further rummage there, as well as Hugh Waters and Phil Crawley, who discuss the details of colorimetry in the video above.

If you want engineer’s bench level stuff then these two chaps are for you! They’ve got some great content (if you can handle the details) which I’ve sprinkled liberally throughout this post.

Color Grading Glossary

If you want a comprehensive glossary for all the terms bandied about in these resources then look no further than FinalColor.com’s interactive glossary, or grab it as a pdf here. Or you can download Company 3’s DI Dictionary for free from the Apple App Store.

How to calibrate your grading monitor

Essentially, get an expert to do it. If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about – wrap your noodle around this lot. If you want a ‘for dummies’ version then this home theatre calibration guide will walk you through the essential basics.

Calman Ultimate Tom Parish has a great interview with David Abrams from Avical, the ”the go-to guy for high-end video post production work” in LA (according to Tom), who details how he goes about his day-job as a monitor calibration engineer. In this interview David talks about why he uses SpectraCal CalMAN calibration software.

Tom Parish also has another detailed interview with Derek Smith of SpectraCal all about the software. If you’re after a quicker read all about SpectraCal and why you might want it, then this previous email letter from Patrick Inhofer (sign up for free) will give you a good primer. Needless to say the offer is no longer available.

Calman Color Checker - Free monitor calibration software

What is now available is a free download of SpectraCal’s CalMAN Color Checker. You will need a probe (can you borrow one from a mate?) but within 5 minutes you’ll be able to discern whether your display is in need of calibration. The software will work with a ton of different probes, what it won’t do is calibrate the display, but at least you’ll know here you stand. Download the free Color Checker here or grab the free quick start guide here.

Lastly on this SpectraCAL love-in, you can download a free white paper on ‘achieving colour critical performance with affordable monitors’ direct from SpectraCal although you will have to hand over your email address.

In this follow up video (to the one at the top of this post) Hugh and Phil discuss how to calibrate a monitor in some fantastic detail. “Do you want something that’s accurate, or something that’s nice.”

LightSpace Color calibration software

Another calibration system (which calls itself the “de-facto standard for advanced colour management within the global film, TV, and post-production industries“) to check out is LightSpace CMS from Light Illusion. It too has it’s own free version for ‘display verification’, called LightSpace DPS, which you can download here. Just so you’ve got another option.

Buying a grading monitor

Color Grading Monitor - Alexis Van Hurkman Set Up

If you’re thinking about becoming a professional colorist, then you’ll know that the grading monitor sits at the heart of all you do. In which case you won’t mind investing some wedge in a decent one. Colorist and author Alexis Van Hurkman recently tweeted this picture of his new FSI CM500TD ($7, 495).

Dell 4K display for $699

But the talk of CES2014 is all these new (computer) monitors that are coming out and their low-low prices. Dell announced their new 28″ ‘4K’ display at $699. In response to which Colorist Juan Salvo tweeted this (below). Click on the date stamp for the full conversation. Juan also tweeted that if the 4K display doesn’t have a 4 in it (as in 4096), its not real 4k, it’s Ultra HD.

Click through for a huge round up of technical colour grading resources

Posted in Colour Grading, DaVinci Resolve, DIT, Editor's Tools, Free download, Interview, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning Film Editing – Insights From Film Editors

Learning Film Editing From Film Editors

Learning more about film editing from talented film editors is one of my favourite things to do. Finding videos, articles and interviews with working film editors on how they go about solving the uniquely movable puzzle that is film editing is always time well spent.

Fortunately there is a wealth of great material out there, which I’ve rounded up into one place for some easy viewing.

Editing Hollywood Blockbusters

Anchorman 2 editor Brent White discusses his work on the film and his approach to editing ensemble comedy.

Gravity Editor Mark Sanger is interviewed by the chaps at Stackpod (2 film fans and friends) about his work on the film for over an hour. You can stream it online or download it here. For more on the making of Gravity, check out this post.

Dan Lebental is interviewed on the ever excellent Craft Truck, about his film editing career, working with director Jon Favreau and much more including Spielberg playing him the ukele.

The process of making a movie is a journey of discovery, and those people who would sit in this chair and tell you everyone knows what they are doing before hand and it all  just comes together are telling you a big, big fat lie. – Dan Lebental

Editing The Hunger Games

Editing the hunger games catching fire

Film editor Alan E. Bell (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spiderman) has been interviewed quite a bit about his work on the ever growing franchise of Hunger Games films, which is a great opportunity for other editors to learn more. One of the main take-aways from these interviews is the importance of mastering simple VFX techniques to improve performances. For more on that, check out this previous post.

When I was a fledgling editor, notes kind of scared me. The more I edit, the more open I’ve become. We might not necessarily agree on how to get to the end, but we all want to make the best movie we can, whether you’re a studio executive, a VFX supervisor, a cinematographer, a make-up artist or a grip. It doesn’t matter who you are; if you have an opinion about the movie, I want to know about it, so I can learn from it.

Click through for tons more interviews including the editors of The Hunger Games and The Wolf of Wall Street

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5 Books on Colour Grading And Colour Science

5 Books on Colour Grading And Colour Science

Color Correction Handbook

These days if you’re an editor you are expected to have a decent handle on colour grading and colour science. Being able to steward your project from the shoot to the screen whilst maintaining the highest possible quality and artistic opportunities.

Or if you’re an apprentice colourist looking to deepen your understanding of the art, craft and science of colour grading then these four books will provide you with an excellent place to start.

One of them is even totally free!

Alexis Van Hurkman – Colour Correction Handbook, 2nd Edition

Having purchased Alexis Van Hurkman’s comprehensive first edition of his Color Correction Handbook, this updated edition is well worth the update. Originally published in 2010, a lot can happen in four years in this industry. The latest edition is revised and expanded with an extra 120 pages to a beefy 672 pages.

Not only that, but the book now also comes with a download code for a ton of Pro Res 422 HQ media so you can follow along in your preferred grading system. In the first edition this was available on an in-sleeve DVD, although there are plenty of new clips too. Publisher Peachpit Press also allows you to download a sample chapter on Primary Color Adjustments, if you like to ‘try before you buy’.

Author and colorist Alexis Van Hurkman details on his website just how much as gone into the second edition:

adds about 200 pages of brand new content alongside many updates to existing topics; this includes a new chapter on grading workflow, a completely updated and expanded chapter on displays, calibration, and room setup, new sections on log-encoded grading, a new section examining the intersection of fine art portraiture and color grading, additional skin-grading techniques, and many, many new and updated techniques spread throughout nearly every chapter.

Another excellent aspect to the book is that it was reviewed by technical expert Charles Poynton and Company 3 senior colorist Dave Hussey (500 Days of Summer, Constantine) keeping Alexis ‘honest’ as he puts it.

If you’re looking for a one-stop comprehensive education on all things involved in color grading from setting up your suite to understanding your color management workflow as well as the technically creative aspects of bringing a film to life, you really can’t do better than Alexis Van Hurkman’s Color Correction Handbook. The main challenge you’ll face is simply taking it all in!

Buy on Amazon.com | Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Click through for 4 more books on colour grading, including a free one!

Posted in Books, Colour Grading, Craft, Creativity, DaVinci Resolve, DIT, Free download, Speedgrade, Toolbox | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How To Be A DIT – Part 8

How To Be A DIT – Insights From Working DITs

What does a DIT use?

If you’re looking for the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a working DIT then Charlie Anderson’s excellent blog is well worth a read. In his most recent post he shares some battle stories, technical updates to his cart and some of his DP work. It’s a great example of the range of abilities a DIT needs to master; file based workflows, colour grading and colour management as well as an eye for artistry.

(I was working on) a 2 camera show shooting Alexa at 2k ProRes4444 on SxS cards.  I was monitoring in LogC and then de-logging with the usual Film Emulation LUT provided by Company 3.

The shoot itself was pretty hectic, mainly using Boxx wireless to monitor and color a signal (which isn’t exactly ideal but we made it work) and also talking screenshots with Blackmagic Media Express (which is my favorite way to submit reference still BTW, just quick and precise and to the point).

The Lift Gamma Gain forum also recently had a great discussion called ‘Picking a DIT’s Brain’ which develops into the pros and cons of different carts and gear in different scenarios, and the intricacies of live-grading.

If you are grading – even basic LOG-to-Rec.709 – you need to know you have an accurate monitor that you can trust. The FSI CM-171 is a great choice. On features and series, I work with rented 10-bit panels like Cinetal B230, TVLogic XVM and Sony BVM OLEDs, but for the day that those aren’t available and the production insists on their own 17″ Panasonics, I will buy a CM-171. – Patrick Hogue

Lastly colorist Juan Salvo posted this twitter puzzle, the replies to which, are worth reading.

Enders Game File & Color Pipeline

Enders Game Pipeline

There’s been quite a lot of interesting internet fodder on the VFX and color management pipeline involved on Ender’s Game, not least the excellent 19 minute case study (below) on the “progressive data management and color pipeline” of Ender’s Game from Light Iron Digital CEO, Michael Cioni.

Studio Daily also have a decent interview with Cioni and Light Iron colorist (and co-founder) Ian Vertovec on the particular challenges of providing the film’s post-production file and colour management.

“With Red, it’s very straightforward,” Vertovec said. “We essentially just pulled the Red log film, with a Cineon curve, from the R3D files, loaded it as 10-bit RGB in log and then colored directly into P3 color space.” The DI was performed on a Quantel Pablo 4K connected to Light Iron’s GenePool shared-storage system.

Creative Cow has a nice written breakdown of the same Light Iron case study, but they also have some great HD sized screenshots fresh from colorist Ian Vertovec’s Quantel Pablo which are well worth a look.
Click through for more on Ender’s Game and resources on better understanding codecs and compression

Posted in Arri Alexa, Colour Grading, DIT, Editor's Tools, Visual Effects, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Thunderbolt Expansion Peripherals for Editors

Expand your editing set up with Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt Connections and devices

So I’m thinking of upgrading my trusty MacBook Pro later next year, but it only comes with 2 USB 3.0 ports and 2 Thunderbolt ports and an HDMI port. So I’ve already begun looking into how to expand it’s usefulness through all these nifty Thunderbolt peripherals you can get these days. Here is an epic run down on some of the best available Thunderbolt devices.

Expand your laptop edit suite with thunderbolt peripherals

What’s the difference between Thunderbolt 1 and 2?

Thunderbolt 2 speeds

Thunderbolt 2 delivers twice the throughput of Thunderbolt 1, providing up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth to each external device and allowing you to daisy-chain up to six peripherals on each port, so, if you wanted to, you could plug in up to 12 external devices via Thunderbolt alone. (If those devices also allow for daisy chaining, with additional Thunderbolt ports on them.) The new Mac Pro will feature Thunderbolt 2.

Inside Thunderbolt 2 cable speeds

If you are after them, The Register has some good technical details on Thunderbolt 2, where they also note that the upcoming USB 3.1 should expand its capability from 5Gbps to 10Gbps. Everything is getting faster.

Jigsaw24.com Free Shipping!

Jigsaw24.comI often buy things from Amazon as it tends to be the cheapest, but my next go-to site for editing gear is usually Jigsaw24 as I have a long standing relationship with Tim Bridger, one of the excellent sales chaps there, when I need a speedy delivery, some detailed questions answered or just greater levels of service.

I was emailing Tim about some of these devices and he was kind enough to offer a special deal to readers of this blog! If you’re looking to purchase any of these Thunderbolt peripherals in the UK get in touch with Tim Bridger (tim@jigsaw24.com/0115 916 5536) mention my name and you could get free next day shipping!

Thunderbolt Expansion Hubs

Thunderbolt 2 expansion peripherals

If you want to be able to plug in more USB 3 or 2 devices, HDMI connected screens, Gigabit ethernet and daisy chain in a few more Thunderbolt peripherals then a Thunderbolt Station like this one from Caldigit might be the right thing for you.

For $199/£179 you get 2 Thunderbolt ports (allowing you to connect and daisy chain) three more USB 3 ports, an HDMI port, Gigabit ethernet port and two 3.5 mm audio I/O. This is probably the device that I’ll get as it seems to represent the best value for money. Caldigit have a decent FAQ on the device here if you want to find out about charging devices or running an Apple Superdrive via the Station. For a very thorough review check out this post over on FortySomethingGeek which includes various transfer speed tests and connecting four different displays!

Buy on Amazon.com | Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Click through for a huge article covering Thunderbolt expansion chassis, RAIDS, video I/O, adaptors and more!

Posted in DIT, Editor's Tools, RED, Review, Thunderbolt, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Color Grading Craft Stories

Insights on the Craft of Color Grading

Colorist David Cole Grading Tron

In this round up I wanted to share some of the great resources to be found online about the art and craft of color grading. While many of the grading posts focus on the technical details of colour spaces, working in Resolve or achieving specific looks, I thought it was worth rounding up some insights on inspirational work too.

Interviews with Colorists

It used to be that it was quite hard to get quality interviews with colorists but these days there are plenty to go around. To kick us off check out the Mixing Light colorists profiles from Juan Salvo and Alexis Van Hurkman.

In this short interview with colorist David Cole you can pick up a few tid-bits on grading a 3D film vs a 2D film, from his work on TRON:Legacy.

There are a lot of tricks you can do in a 2D world that get exposed when they are put into 3D. We had to test and see what we could and couldn’t do and develop new techniques to use in our arsenal.

Adam Glasman grading World War Z

Colorist Adam Glasman is interviewed briefly over on Arri.com on his work on World War Z, which was shot on Alexa and used a print emulation LUT to kick off the grading process.

Before we went through the whole film, we created some examples of distinct looks designed to represent different locations in the story. This was to ensure that everyone was onboard with the approach before we did the entire thing.

DNEG has an interesting Q&A with VFX colorist Garry Maddison who has worked on Rush and The Dark Knight Rises, who answers emailed in questions. It’s a great opportunity to hear from a different side of the color grading work world. There is also a superb collection of other VFX artist profiles on the same site.

We start the grading process at the beginning of each show to neutrally balance all of the plates using in house designed grading software. We grade and review the sequences with the supervisors of the projects to make sure we have the right look, and create contact sheets for easy and quick referencing on groups of shots.

Becoming a colorist

In a really interesting article Junior colorist Aurora Shannon, who has assisted colorists like Stephen Nakamura on Quantum of Solace, shares how she got her start in the business as a runner at Company 3 in Soho, London. I think the big take away to those looking to work as colorists, is to do what you can to get yourself in the room so that when opportunities arise you can seize them!
Click through for even more colorist interviews

Posted in Baselight, Colour Grading, Craft, Creativity, DaVinci Resolve, Interview, Visual Effects, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Adobe Speedgrade CC Tips & Tutorials

Tips and Tutorials for Adobe Speedgrade CC

The latest release of Speedgrade allows you to ‘direct link’ between Premiere Pro which means that you now no longer need to render out new media after grading. There are limitations with this workflow and these are also discussed in this tutorial from Josh Weiss at Retooled.net. Check out Adobe’s official Direct link help page here, for more information.

For two free downloads grab the official Adobe Speedgrade keyboard shortcut pdf as well as colorist Mathieu Morano’s free keyboard shortcut guide. If you want to know what else is new in Speedgrade CC check out this Adobe TV introduction.

Speedgrade Tutorials

As mentioned in my Best Training on Lynda.com For Film Editors post, Pat Inhofer from Mixing Light has a great introductory series for anyone looking to grade with Speedgrade CC. Here are all the freebies from lynda.com. (These embeds always appear as black boxes for some reason so just click play to find out what each freebie covers!)

Click Through for 9 more Speedgrade Tutorials

Posted in Adobe, Adobe Premiere Pro, Colour Grading, Free download, Speedgrade, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Making of John Lewis Animated Advert: The Bear & The Hare

John Lewis Christmas Ad 2013 – Bear & Hare

This advert for John Lewis (a UK department store) is pretty special. I always love seeing the intricate, passionate, endless work that goes into make amazing animation, which you can see in the making of video below. Directed by Elliot Dear & Yves Geleyn it’s very lovely work. Creative Review has a good article featuring co-director Elliot Dear on the creative process.

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The Best Training on Lynda.com for Film Editors

The Best Training on Lynda.com for Film Editors

Lynda.com is a hugely valuable resource for digital creatives the world over who want to pick up new skills, learn new software packages or hone their craft. I’ve used Lynda.com in the past (Larry Jordan’s training on Soundtrack Pro was especially helpful back in the day) and thoroughly enjoyed having instant access to so much quality training with over 2200 courses and counting.

One of the main benefits of Lynda.com is that you can simply pay for a month at a time and cancel whenever you’re not using it. The best way to get a real feel for what’s available is get a week’s free trial with complete access to the whole site to give it a test drive for yourself. Personally I find it easier to learn whilst following along, so if you do sign up, I’d recommend getting a subscription with a exercise files included.

All that said, I thought it would be useful to round up some of the best training for film editors that’s available on Lynda.com, which will help you get to grips with the skills, software and knowledge you need to flourish in the business.

NOTE: On some browsers all of the freebie tasters embedded in this post seem to show up as black boxes, but if you click play you’ll get a free lesson from each course.

Learning Editing Craft on Lynda.com

In this series from editor Ashley Kennedy has put together a two hour series of tutorials on Narrative Scene editing inside of Avid Media Composer. Although many of the techniques Ashley demonstrates are unique to Media Composer such as Avid’s ScriptSync but most of the editing knowledge is applicable in any NLE.

Trainer Christine Steele takes the same content as the course above but puts it to work with Narrative Scene Editing Inside Premiere Pro. If you’re new to Premiere Pro CC this is an excellent course for mastering all the fundamentals, as well as honing your editing craft.

Another great series to check out is Norman Hollyn’s Foundations for Video Editing. Norman is a Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (and he also wrote the very handy Film Editing Room Handbook) and in this 4 hour NLE agnostic series, he teaches you the essential principles of the craft of film editing from script analysis to recutting your work.

Click through for more valuable training from Lynda.com for film editors

Posted in Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, AVID, Colour Grading, Compositing, Craft, DaVinci Resolve, Documentaries, Editor's Tools, FCP-X, Free download, Motion Graphics, Sound Design, Speedgrade, Tutorials, Workflow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment