American Firelight Films

  1. April Fools and other Madmen, Part IV: For a Muse of Fire

    Based upon an excerpt from 'Henry V' by William Shakespeare

    Produced, Directed, Filmed, Scored, Mixed Performed and Edited by Benjamin Karl

    Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0
    horse by 3bagbrew • cavallicorsa by man • th_loud by Pingle • ambience02 by yewbic
    20070918.galloping.horse and 20060419.horse.neigh by dobroide
    Binaural Thunder A - Short by digifishmusic • D4. Indian Elephant Bells-No Attack, 3 Octaves Lower by hammerklavier • war noise rev by Leady • tvstatic by NoiseCollector
    01366 cinema swoosh 2, 01597 fire swoosh, 01113 knight fight orginal, 01367 cinema swoosh 3, 01153 great wings in motion by Robinhood76

    Info for The Free Sound Project at FreeSound.org

    Special Thanks to
    Scott Kennedy • Joey Song

    Copyright © 2011 American Firelight
    americanfirelight.com

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    Settings:

    DMC-GH2: ISO 160, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50

    DMC-GH1: ISO 160, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50

    Lenses: Panasonic 14 mm f2.5, Voigtländer 35 mm f1.4 , Voigtländer 50mm f1.5

    Memory: RAW Class 10 SDHC 16GB

    Lighting for Green Screen: (8) 100 Watt Open Face Reflectors.

    Lighting for Talent: (3) 100 Watt Open Face Reflectors.

    Audio: AT815b Shotgun Microphone connected to an H4N digital audio recorder

    Conclusions:

    First and foremost, Green Screen requires a lot of light which produces a tremendous amount of heat. If you’re planning on turning your garage into a small Green Screen studio, don’t do it on the cusp of summer, but rather early Spring or late Fall. The actors will appreciate it greatly.

    The primary purpose of this episode was simply to test DMC-GH1 and DMC-GH2 for Green Screen conditions. Can they resolve the necessary color space to pull a good key without tearing the subject to pieces? This is notoriously difficult in most video formats because of chroma-subsampling in consumer and prosumer cameras which reduces the amount of color information available when trying to isolate and remove a specific value. While I wouldn’t say it was ‘easier‘ to do with these cameras, the end results were better than I’ve gotten with other cameras. Part of that seems due to the cameras themselves and part of it due to the keying filter that I was using.

    I started out using the color key filters in Final Cut Pro and Motion, but found them woefully inadequate. I had stair-stepping issues all over the subject; it looked like he was assembled from a child’s building blocks. An old friend of mine that I used to shoot with put me onto Keylight from The Foundry. While pricier than I was looking for at this time, it turned out to be an amazing keying filter with many controls and features that you can use to fineness your key in ways that I had never considered. Bottom line; awesome filter and easily worth a few hundred dollars if you want to do Chroma Key and keep your hairline.

    A word about setting up and lighting your Green Screen. You can use ‘actual’ green screen material or paint, but if you light properly, then you can get away with almost anything. I have no plans to do extensive Chroma Key work so I picked up a roll of green paper from a local teacher supply store and hung it from the rafters in my garage. The major problem with paper is that it creases easily and, worse than that, it is highly reflective. You can’t light it directly, but rather you have to light it off-angle to keep it even. Lighting off-angle means moving your subject even farther from the screen (to avoid both your screen lights and green spill hitting your subject), which means you need to hang more paper which means you’ll need even more l lights...you can see where this is going. Plan on doing a lot of Chroma Key; Get real lights (watch your color temperatures to make sure everything is matching) and get a real cloth Green Screen (keep it clean and nicely folded when not used). You can find some decent ones online or go to a fabric store and pick up a bolt of green fabric (non reflective).

    Some big take-aways; Avoid summertime Chroma Keys indoors and there’s no cheap way through a good Key. You can spend on the lights and screen or you can spend on the filter, but you’re going to spend somewhere.

    Benjamin Karl
    President, American Firelight
    americanfirelight.com

    # vimeo.com/24466545 Uploaded 344 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode
  2. April Fools and other Madmen, Part II: What a Piece of Work

    

Based upon an excerpt from 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare

    Performed by Theodore Hoelter

    Boom Operated by Sean Cannon

    Music by Kevin Macleod



    Produced, Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Benjamin Karl



    Copyright © 2011 American Firelight

    

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Settings:

    DMC-GH2: ISO 160, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50

    Lenses: Panasonic 14 mm f2.5, Voigtländer 35 mm f1.4 , Voigtländer 50mm f1.5

    Memory: RAW Class 10 SDHC 16GB

    Lighting: Natural light only

    Audio: AT815b Shotgun Microphone connected to an H4N digital audio recorder

    Conclusions:

    Having really fast lenses is great (except when you’re shooting outside in daylight)! If you’re going to use super fast lenses, you just have to get ND filters to shoot outdoors in daylight. We set the ISO as low as the GH2 would go and closed up the lenses as far as we could. After that, we were just careful about what direction we were shooting so as not to get blowout where we didn’t want it. On a still camera you can increase the shutter speed to darken things a bit, but when you’re shooting a motion picture the result would be the impression of fast movement even though the film is playing back at normal speed (i.e. the opening battle in Gladiator (2000)). Fortunately the day was quite overcast and the deeply muted tones lent themselves nicely to color correction for a colder wetter day than it actually was.

    Both the Voigtländer 50mm and Panasonic 14 mm (remember, this translates to 100 mm and 28 mm respectively in 35mm format) performed admirably as usual. Very easy to focus, adjust aperture and so on (though switching m43 adapters gets tiresome and is made more difficult in cold and rainy conditions). The Voigtländer 35 mm is just too difficult to focus, particularly in very bright situations, due to a very limited range of motion on the focus ring. It produces a great picture, but I won’t be using it in the wild again.

    The extreme small size micro four-thirds format cameras makes them easy to get into super tight spaces, though it can be very jittery looking any time that the camera is physically very close to an onscreen element. The physically further the element is from the camera, the easier it is too avoid that “shake.” Interestingly, because the camera itself is so small and weighs next to nothing, I found that by extending the legs of the tripod, closing the center spreader and then holding it from underneath, by the spreader’s center fulcrum, created a kind of steadicam effect. The legs counterbalanced the top weight easily and the whole thing is no heavier than just carrying a tripod, so it was easy to execute one handed and generate a nice float without seeing the operator’s footfalls.

    Audio was a challenge because we had so many natural noises from the birds, the creek, wind and distant sounds of cars or airplanes, but ultimately it worked for the type of story / editing we’d set out to for. At one point, I’m afraid the H4n was dropped and it began to record a sort of high pitched squeal. I was able to isolate the frequency using Apple’s Soundtrack and pull it out without noticeably affecting the remaining audio. Similarly, the car sequence needed work to remove the din of the aging engine without loosing the whole bottom end of the actor’s voice. Again, Soundtrack gave me the flexibility to isolate a range of frequencies that the actor wasn’t using too much and pull them out.

    

The big take-aways from this shoot were: (1) If you’re going to shoot outside, get some ND filters or slower lenses. Fast lenses are fast even at their slowest. (2) Test your equipment thoroughly as soon as you acquire it. The Voigtländer 35 mm is beautiful when it works, but frankly too much of a hassle due to its focus range. I love the other lenses. (3) m43 cameras have tiny bodies, sometime weighing a lot less than the lenses you’re putting on them, so tripod those shots (even if you have to cary the tripod) so it doesn’t look like it was shot on a cell phone. (4) Don’t drop your equipment. It will get you back.

    
Benjamin Karl
    
President, American Firelight
    
americanfirelight.com

    # vimeo.com/23207394 Uploaded 435 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode
  3. April Fools and other Madmen, Part III: Sound and Fury

    Based upon an excerpt from "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare.

    Performed by Theodore Hoelter.

    Produced, Directed, Filmed and Edited by Benjamin Karl

    Copyright © 2011 American Firelight

    _____

    Settings:

    DMC-GH1: ISO 200, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50

    DMC-GH2: ISO 200, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50

    Lenses: Panasonic 14 mm f2.5, Voigtländer 35 mm f1.4 , Voigtländer 50mm f1.5

    Memory: RAW Class 10 SDHC 16GB

    Lighting: 3 100-watt open-face reflectors, 1 bounce board.

    Audio: AT815b Shotgun Microphone connected to an H4N digital audio recorder.

    Conclusions:

    3oo watts was more than enough light to easily shoot the scene at a low ISO (200 is the lowest that both cameras go) in order to reduce grain and maximize bokeh. I was even able to stop the lenses down just a touch to open the depth-of-field enough to give the actor room to move.

    Both cameras resolved the dark and/or black areas of the image with little-to-no noise, which was great. Even when the 1:1 crop mode was enabled on the GH2 (this nearly doubles the focal length of the lens), there was no notable increase in noise as there had been in the candle light test, previously. It would seem to be a valuable feature so long as you have reasonable lighting. In poor lighting it is unacceptable.

    Both cameras produced surprisingly saturated images. I found that I had to reduce the overall saturation by about 20% and another 15% was pulled out of the red hues in particular.

    It should be noted that the GH1 imports natively to FCP7 at 1080i / 29.97fps ProRes 422 whereas the GH2 imports natively at 1080i / 23.98fps ProRes 422. While they can be edited in the same timeline with no noticeable issues, they need to be transcoded to the same fps before you can make them into multiclips. Both cameras maintain high data rates sustained over 18Mb/s which means that transcoding takes a substantial amount of time.

    Some conclusions, some observations.

    Big takeaways were that I'll have to watch saturation closely in post, 1:1 crop isn't a total loss as long as there's a lot of light and a lot more time needs to be allocated per project for transcoding.

    Benjamin Karl
    President, American Firelight
    americanfirelight.com

    # vimeo.com/22881601 Uploaded 195 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode
  4. April Fools and other Madmen is a series of short scenes from the works of William Shakespeare.

    Each scene is designed to test the latest additions to our camera family (Panasonic DMC-GH1 and DMC-GH2) under various shooting conditions (i.e. low light, fast movement, file compressions, lens speeds, depth of field, etc).

    April Fools and other Madmen, Part I

    Based upon an excerpt from 'Measure for Measure' by William Shakespeare

    Produced, Directed, Filmed, Performed and Edited by Benjamin Karl

    Copyright © 2011 American Firelight
    americanfirelight.com

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    Settings:

    DMC-GH1: ISO 800, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50, f2.5, Lens Panasonic 14 mm (2x crop factor)

    DMC-GH2: ISO 800, 1080i AVCHD, Shutter 1/50, F2.0, Lens Voigtländer 50mm (2x crop) with 1:1 Crop Mode enabled (additional 1.8x crop)

    Memory: RAW Class 10 SDHC 16GB

    Lighting: 4 candles.

    Audio: AT815b Shotgun Microphone connected to an H4N digital audio recorder.

    Conclusions:

    While both cameras handled admirably under extremely low lighting conditions, the 1:1 Crop Mode on the GH2 introduced a tremendous amount of noise, suggesting that it is an unusable feature in low light.

    As a videographer I have been accustomed to 'push-white balance' and found it difficult to achieve in camera. Short of enabling the automatic feature, it has to eye-balled while adjusting the kelvin reading. This seems to be the case with most, if not all, DSLR Hybrid Video Cameras.

    Using Apple's Final Cut Studio, I was able to reverse telecine the 1080i AVCHD to 23.97fps Apple Pro Res 422 for a beautiful filmic sense of movement. I used Color simply to push the highlights and crush out blacks, no additional color correction was performed. The footage with the 1:1 Crop Mode suffered a fair amount from pushing the levels, though the footage without the 1:1 Crop Mode stayed crisp even with extreme leveling.

    Both lenses were beautiful and I was able to achieve some really nice bokeh without having the depth of field too narrow for ANY movement.

    I had no issues with recording time limits, data write speeds or overheating despite leaving the cameras running for long periods while setting up shots and doing multiple takes with the large viewfinder fully lit the entire time (in previous tests with the Canon 5dMkII, I had a number of overheating issues under less taxing conditions).

    The big take-away was not to use the 1:1 Crop Mode in low light. Otherwise, both cameras were very user friendly, easy to intermix, and produce a nice filmic image.

    Note: The end titles contain a known typographic error. It should read 'Flickr' not 'Flikr.'

    Benjamin Karl
    President, American Firelight
    americanfirelight.com

    # vimeo.com/21917948 Uploaded 332 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode
  5. “A young man wakes up one morning to find the walls that distinguish his past from his present quickly deteriorating . . . that's when people start dying.”

    From American Firelight and Uranium City Films. Produced by Benjamin Karl - Written and Directed by Joseph Johnston.

    Starring Theodore Hoelter, Melanie Schmitt and Anita Jung.

    Copyright © 2010 American Firelight
    Independent Film in Metro Detroit, MI

    americanfirelight.com
    uraniumcityfilms.com

    # vimeo.com/16495436 Uploaded 26 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode

American Firelight Films

Benjamin Karl

American Firelight is a professional video production company based in the Metro Detroit area of South Eastern Michigan.

American Firelight is a producer of documentaries, feature and short films as well as music videos, all in a variety of genres.

American


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American Firelight is a professional video production company based in the Metro Detroit area of South Eastern Michigan.

American Firelight is a producer of documentaries, feature and short films as well as music videos, all in a variety of genres.

American Firelight believes that by breaking down the barriers that separate the often cerebral world of independent film from the entertainment focussed world of the studio system that stories may be told once more for the people and not just for the production houses.

Benjamin Karl

President, American Firelight.

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