StoryBoard Artist 7 Review

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As a filmmaker, one of my biggest challenges has been translating my screenplays into storyboards. I know what I want but illustrating it in a way that my crew can understand is equally important. When I was sent a copy of PowerProduction Software’s new StoryBoard Artist 7 my prayers were answered.

Storyboard Artist 7 allows filmmakers to create a digital animatic storyboard that lets their entire crew visualize a scene prior to production, ensuring that they are all working toward the same creative vision.

New features in version 7 are unlimited posable characters, motion graphics that show character movement within shots, mobile app integration for storyboarding on the go and more.

The tool also provides a breadth of options for locations, props, characters and colors, allowing users to create custom galleries by importing art from their own libraries. Additionally, graphics selections can be overlaid on top of each other allowing the creation of a multi-layered world by selecting a background before superimposing other backgrounds on top of the primary background. Additional suites of libraries can be purchased ranging from action/adventure to sitcoms. I would have liked to have seen suites dedicated to horror and sci-fi.

While the poses and character customizations are somewhat limited, StoryBoard Artist 7 is an effective tool for prepping your next production. StoryBoard Artist is available for $499 with a Studio version available for $899. The latter offers additional customization for shots as well as integration with Avid Meta Sync.

3POD Orbit Aluminum Tripod and Q3 Fluid Video Head Review

Orbit

Since their introduction into the photo/video industry, brands like Flashpoint and 3POD, available exclusively from Adorama, have been bridging the gap between novice and expert photographers by offering high quality, professional products at affordable prices.

The 3POD Orbit Tripod is a full service photo and video tripod, featuring fully adjustable legs and shaft, as well as the Orbit Overhead Shot System, which allows the shaft to rotate outwards from the legs, for low angle, overhead, and other specialty shots.

Using top quality materials for a balance of stability and portability, the 3POD Orbit Tripod is an excellent choice for photography and video professionals. Mount it with your favorite specialty tripod head or choose one of our kits for added savings!

I found the 3POD to be light weight yet very stable.  Photographers and filmmakers choose Aluminum for its affordable durability and strength

The 3POD Orbit Tripod has all of the features demanded by imaging professionals:

Orbit Overhead Shot System
The Orbit Overhead Shot System goes above and beyond. Besides being height adjustable like typical tripod shafts, the Orbit Overhead Shot System allows the shaft to pivot away from the tripod body, for low angle, overhead, macro, and other specialty shots. The shaft can also be rotated independent of the tripod head, for pans, tilts, and panoramas. This is where it really shines allowing for some really creative shots.

Leg Spreaders
Each leg is topped by a leg angle lock, which allows the legs to independently be spread to 85°, 60° and 35° angles. This is useful to get best stability on uneven terrain, inclines, and steps, as well as for composing low angle shots. There is a bubble level on the top plate to assist in leveling the tripod.

Foot Spikes
When used indoors, unscrew the foot covers so that the spikes are covered by the rubber feet. These will ensure a better grip on smooth flooring, and prevent damage. For outdoor use or on rocky ground, screw the rubber feet up to expose the spikes. These will provide better grip on soft or impressionable surfaces.

Leg Grip
One of the legs has a soft grip surface on it. In cold weather handle the tripod by this surface to avoid touching the colder sections.

Flip Locks
For ease of opening and closing, nothing beats Flip Locks. Feel confident in the stability of your rig with the firm snap of the Flip Lock clicking shut.

Reversible 3/8″ and ¼”-20 Screw Mount
The shaft can easily be changed from 3/8″ to ¼”-20 screw mount by rotating the top plate until the screw mount comes out, then flipping it over.

This 3POD item is covered by a 5-year warranty.
Available in 3 or 4 section units, made from high quality Aluminum starting at $139.95 or Carbon Fiber starting at $249.95.

Q3

For my review, the 3POD Q3 Fluid Video Head was included.  This video head can be purchased as a kit with the 3POD aluminum or carbon tripods at a discount or separately for $99.95.

The Q3 is a videography head designed for cinematography setups such as cinema camcorders, Video Rigs, DSLRs and ILCs. With a maximum load of 15lb., this head features separate Pan and Tilt fluid friction controls, a bubble level on the base for perfect pans, a sliding quick release plate (with safety lock) for balancing your rig, an angle adjustable ambidextrous handle for stable control, and a comfortable padded grip. Separate tilt friction and lock controls allow this head to revert to the exact same tilt tension after unlocking.

If you don’t already have a video head to mount on the Orbit tripod, the Q3 is a perfect match at an affordable price.  The only design flaw I encountered is that when the Q3 is left mounted on the Orbit tripod, the tripod carrying case does not zip closed. Aside from that, the 3POD is going to be my go-to tripod for future use in the field.

Best of 2015/2016 – Red Giant Trapcode Suite 13 and Shooter Suite 13

Red Giant went out with a bang in 2015 and kicked off the New Year in a big way. Two great new updates were issued for some of their best products. With the introduction of Trapcode Suite 13 and Shooter Suite 13, Red Giant not only proves that they are consistent with their quality products but that they really listen to user feedback to make continuous improvements.

Red Giant Trap Code Suite 13 Review

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Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite is often hailed as the essential tool for motion graphics artists. Each of Trapcode Suite 13’s eleven plugins can be purchased separately but buying the bundle will save you $690. And for what it does, $999 may seem a lot but it’s a steal.

Four of the eleven plugins are new: Trapcode Particular 2.5, Trapcode Mir 2, Trapcode Shine 2, and the all-new Trapcode Tao. Three products have received updates: Trapcode Sound Keys, Trapcode Starglow and Trapcode Form. The suite also includes Trapcode Lux, Trapcode 3D Stroke, Trapcode Horizon and Trapcode Echospace.

Trapcode Particular 2.5 is the most essential tool of them all. It allows you to add particles to compositions and create visual effects like fire, water, smoke and other organic effects. The latest version of Trapcode Particular has a new, powerful user interface that makes generating effects more creative and intuitive than ever before. The new Effects Builder allows you to preview particles in real-time and save your custom presets which are big time savers.

Trapcode Mir 2 allows you to create 3D flowing surfaces, endless tunnels and abstract shapes for use in your motion graphics. You can design realistic or alien landscapes using Mir’s fractal displacement mapping. Mir uses After Effect’s 3D Camera and Lights so you can fully integrate your Mir surfaces with your motion graphics and VFX shots. Seamless Looping is a great new addition allowing for easily creating loops of effects that you have created.

Trapcode Shine 2 brings light and life into your motion graphics and VFX. It gives your footage the natural effect of Sunshine through clouds, headlights in fog, or under water light rays. It includes a host of new features for creating 3D camera-aware volumetric effects. 3D Point Control gives a huge amount of control when it comes to setting up looks for the scenes you create. What was previously an effect that could only be applied in 2D now allows for 3D point control.

Trapcode Tao is an entirely new product for creating beautiful complex motion graphics with animated ribbons, geometric shapes, and more. Tao generates procedural 3D geometries using built-in auto paths, mask shapes, and the motion from 3D lights. Tao is GPU-accelerated, so that features like repeaters, image based lighting, reflection maps, and ambient occlusion, all render at incredible speeds.

In Sound Keys you can now choose to show or hide the various UI elements, making it easier to isolate and integrate them into your motion graphics work. It also adds the ability to change the color mapping and quantize the VU meter as separate blocks.

Trapcode Starglow adds new color/direction presets. Tracode form adds a new Square particle type.

Trapcode Suite 13 is compatible with Adobe After Effects CS6, CC, CC 2014 and CC 2015 and is available for both Mac and Windows.

Once again, Red Giant has proven that it is first in class when it comes to creating tools for motion graphics artists and filmmakers.

Red Giant Shooter Suite 13 Review

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Hot on the heels of Red Giant’s new Trapcode Suite 13 is Shooter Suite 13 which features the new PluralEyes 4.0.

Topping the list of new features in PluralEyes 4.0 is the ability to sync with PluralEyes directly in Premiere Pro, without having to leave the host app, Smart Start capabilities, automatic drift correction, vertical track scaling, integration with Red Giant Offload, and more simplicity and automation than ever before.

Just hit the sync button in the Premiere Pro Panel and PluralEyes takes care of the rest. Giving users ease of mind, PluralEyes in Premiere Pro offers the same color coding capabilities as it does in the standalone version, so editors will know which clips, if any, require attention.

Importing media is easier than ever with PluralEyes’ Smart Start feature. Drag and drop an entire folder of media into PluralEyes, and during a sync it will automatically detect which device the media came from. Your files will be sorted so that media from the same device are on the same track.

When syncing long clips, sound and video can tend to stop matching up perfectly. PluralEyes can account for this and export a perfect sync with Automatic Drift Correction, announced in version 3.5. New in version 4, when drift is detected, PluralEyes will automatically fix it, then give editors the option to toggle between the drift-corrected sync and the original audio for comparison.

An essential feature from the PluralEyes beginnings, color coded visuals show editors the progress of the sync, making it easy to make adjustments. Now, export from PluralEyes to Premiere Pro features a color coding option for clips that don’t sync properly.

Red Giant Offload performs a checksum during media transfer from camera card to hard drive, giving filmmakers the peace of mind that footage was backed up with no loss. PluralEyes 4.0 is able to detect Offload events and bring footage over, for a seamless workflow from Offload to PluralEyes to the host-app.

Shooter Suite 13 also includes Offload 1.0 which allows for simple and reliable backup of your footage in the field. Instant 4K lets you upconvert video to 4K resolution and other high-resolution formats. Frames lets you deinterlace your older footage and convert it to 34P.

Shooter Suite 13 is a must have suite for anyone who is shooting with a DSLR camera. Its plugins are compatible with CS6, CC, CC 2014 and CC 2015 with Frames also supporting CS3, CS5 and CS5.5. The suite is available for $399, a  $197 savings over purchasing the plugins separately.

Review of Adorama’s new Flashpoint AutoStands

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Adorama has a new series of heavy duty, lightweight light stands that they call the AutoStand. The stands are easy enough to set up and reposition with one hand and versatile enough that you can use them across all of your gear.

The reversible mounting stud can accommodate lights or accessories with a ¼” or 3/8” thread. The stud is also side mountable when you tilt it at 90 degrees.

If you are looking for an affordable yet sturdy light stand you can’t go wrong. The Flashpoint AutoStand comes in two sizes – 7 foot (which folds down to 30”) and 9 foot (which folds down to 40”) – which easily fit in the trunk or back seat of compact cars like my Honda Civic. Both stands also come with a carrying case.

The 9 foot stand, sent to me for review, held up well during my short time testing it in the field and traveling to and from the studio. For as low as $59.95 for the 7 foot AutoStand or $79.95 for the 9 foot AutoStand you can’t go wrong when compared to competitor name brands that are almost double the price. Watch the video below to see just how easy the Adorama Flashpoint AutoStands are to use.

Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 12 Review

Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 12 provides all the tools for color correction, finishing and film looks that a filmmaker could possibly need. Their latest Suite is more than just an upgrade. In addition to new versions of Looks, Colorista, Mojo and Cosmo, the new Suite includes one completely new plug-in, Magic Bullet Film. The Suite also includes Denoiser II and LUT Buddy which have not been updated.

Magic Bullet Film

I was eager to try Magic Bullet Film the moment I first read the press release. Looks has always done a fine job of creating certain moods and atmospheres and is a snap to apply to your footage but it always seemed like something was missing.

Magic Bullet Film fills the missing gap and gives you a number of negative films to choose from and four “print” films for output. Just like the Looks plug-in, Magic Bullet Film has slider controls letting you adjust pretty much any element of the film stock in real-time. It also lets you protect skin tones, something I haven’t seen in other film emulation plug-ins like the ones offered by DigiEffects.

Magic Bullet Cosmo 2.0

Gone are the days of messing around with Premiere Pro’s color corrector to get better looking skin tones. With Cosmo, you can easily adjust skin tones. Cosmo will show you areas that it has recognized and then you can fine-tune the results using sliders and apply both tint and smoothing.

Magic Bullet Mojo 2.0

Mojo lets you give your footage the stylized color grade of a Hollywood blockbuster film. Like Cosmo, Mojo also has skin detection which helps save time by giving you a starting point to fine-tune from.

Magic Bullet Looks 3.0

Magic Bullet Looks 3.0 is a whole new animal. This is one of my most used plug-ins and it seems that Red Giant has been listening closely to what users have been asking for.

At first glance, you’ll see a new interface and much improved font rendering but there’s a lot more going on under the hood. Red Giant has added 198 new customizable presets. There’s also some overlap with the inclusion of some of the Mojo presets.

Like Cosmo and Mojo, I found that the latest version of these plug-ins ran much faster by making good use of GPU power.

Magic Bullet Colorista III

Colorista III’s color correction tools and new 4-way color with ranges tool is very impressive. The wheels in this new tool are arranged in a diamond, with a Master color wheel in the lower middle position. The interactive Ranges graph allows you to change which colors are affected by the Shadows, Midtones and Highlight color wheels. Combined with tools like Cosmo, Colorista III is a color correction tool that is unparalleled.

Magic Bullet Denoiser II and LUT Buddy

Denoiser II allows you to easily remove noise and grain from your footage. LUT Buddy allows you to make, share and use Look Up Tables within your host application.

Conclusion

Sadly, the only plug-in application from the Suite that is still compatible with Adobe CS5 or 5.5 is Denoiser II. All of the other applications support CS6 through CC 2014. The Suite  also now supports Final Cut Pro X.

As much as I love Adobe I’m very much against their subscription model. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for an independent filmmaker, like myself, to have to pay an annual subscription when funding can often be difficult to come by. I know there will come a time when I’ll be forced to upgrade from Adobe CS6 (the last standalone non-subscription suite) but I’m hoping that’s not anytime soon.

It’s nice to see that Red Giant Software still supports CS6 and hasn’t forced the subscription model on to consumers. I do love Red Giant Universe (a library of free tools that also offers a subscription service – read my review here) though and appreciate that the subscription is optional.

At $799, Magic Bullet Suite 12 is more than affordable, a much improved and is a must have software suite for anyone involved with color grading video and film.

Tales of Light & Dark: Full Moon Rising Over Germany

Selected scenes from FULL MOON RISING when it was originally released as part of THE TENEMENT in Germany. The movie was released with an equivalent NC-17 rating yet all the gore and nudity were cut from it.

It’s fun to listen to the German dub. The voices and soundtrack are very different from the American version.

Featuring Mike Lane, Frank Catalanotto, Chris Alo and Leon Taylor.