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.

Red Giant continues to impress with Shooter Suite 12.6’s Offload and Instant 4K

Red Giant’s products just keep getting better and better. This year we saw the introduction of Red Giant Universe, a community with access to an ever-expanding library of new free tools for filmmakers, editors, visual FX artists and motion designers. Couple that with products like Shooter Suite 12.6 and you have a recipe for success.

As an independent filmmaker with limited crew and resources, I’m THE GUY who is responsible for exporting all of the footage shot in the field. And since it’s often a one man show with post production and I’m dealing with so many other things I don’t always have the time to immediately check my footage after exporting it. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at the edit bay and discovering days or maybe even weeks later that some of your footage files are corrupted. Enter Magic Bullet’s Offload available for purchase separately (only $49) or as part of Shooter Suite 12.6.

Offload is a simple method for transfers and backing up data. It’s so simple in fact that all you do is plug in your media card, select a transfer location and optional backup location and start the process.

Offload transfers all the data, checks it to make sure that the transfer wasn’t damaged, then runs the backup and checks that too. When it’s done, you can erase the data on the card and use it for shooting. That’s it – instant peace of mind.

In the short time that I have had the program I have grown accustomed to using it every time I return from a shoot. I’ll start the transfer/backup process and then walk away to do something else. Offload is a must have tool that everyone should have on their computer whether you’re a filmmaker or an enthusiast.

Shooter Suite, as an entire package, really won’t break the bank either. In addition to Offload, for $399 you get PluralEyes (audio/video sync software), BulletProof (a stand-alone app for on-set offload, backup and review of footage), Denoiser II (easy video noise reduction), Frames (deinterlace your older footage and convert it to 24P), LUT Buddy (import, create and export Lookup Tables) and the impressive Instant 4K.

Instant 4K lets you upconvert video to 4K resolution and other high-resolution formats. It’s a significant upgrade compared to their previous product Instant HD. It’s easier to use and produces excellent results. I recently put it to the test and upgraded FULL MOON RISING from its original 4:3 mini-DV presentation to 16:9 1080p. I simply selected the option for 1080p widescreen cropped. I could have left it in its native ratio but widescreen is pretty much the norm now. The results were pretty impressive and breathed new life into a 10+ year old film. You can make adjustments to the cropping but it was so minimal I didn’t need to. The longest part of the process was the render time.

Red Giant continues to impress and this filmmaker can’t wait to see what they release next.

Domke introduces the “Next Generation” of camera bags

The Tiffen Company, best known for its photography and video camera filters, has been expanding its line of products. Their latest introduction is a new line of camera bags from the Domke brand. Domke has been synonymous with low-profile, high-quality bags geared towards photojournalists, travel photographers, and anyone else looking to protect their equipment without drawing undue attention.

Domke’s “Next Generation” consists of eight new bags, each available in different choices of materials and equipped with Domke’s new GearProtex™ and PocketFlex™ systems of customizable dividers, inserts and storage pockets. I recently put the The Domke Chronicle (J-CHRON-RB) to test in the field while shooting in some rough wooded terrain on a considerably rainy day.

J-CHRON-RB

First Impressions

I have been a fan of Lowepro camera bags for a while. They are lightweight, fairly rugged and relatively inexpensive by comparison. As a fan of tech I’m always looking for something new but as an indie filmmaker with extremely limited resources admittedly, Domke would have been a bit out of my price range. Having used the Domke bag for a weekend I can now understand that you definitely get what you pay for.

My first reaction after unpacking the bag was that the fabric is very high quality. The bag in this review is the RuggedWear Black option. Also available are Cordura Black, Canvas, and RuggedWear Military. Too my surprise, Domke even includes a fabric polish to keep you bag looking fresh and new. The zipper and the clasps all felt really high quality too giving the bag that extra classy albeit retro look. It’s not glaringly apparent that it’s a camera bag, something that is always a concern for me when I’m shooting in less than desirable areas where there’s a higher risk of theft.

The thing that won me over was the GearProtex™ and PocketFlex™ systems. I looked at a number of bags before settling on the Lowepro and all of them suffered from the same issue – limited connection points for the dividers. Sure the Lowepro comes with an abundance of dividers but there’s really only so many ways to configure the bag do to its connection limitations. The Velcro connections are not that great too.

The Domke bag on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from this issue by a long shot. The dividers connect so well that I found it a bit of a chore at first to get them into the bag because they wanted to grip every point along the way. Slightly bending them allowed me to insert them and then straightening them resulted in a firm grip.

The only negative thing I can say here is that Domke doesn’t provide a lot of dividers (only three) which may be an issue for some people. For me, this wasn’t a problem because my Sony video camera is a good size.

Dimensions and Specs

  • Exterior:  15.75″ (L) x 7″ (W) x 10″ (H)  (40 cm x 17.8 cm x 25.4 cm)
  • Interior:  12.25″ (L) x 6.5″ (W) x 9.25″ (H)  (31.1 cm x 16.5 cm x 23.5 cm)
  • Weight: 4.2 lbs.  (1.9 kg)
  • YKK brand zippers
  • Top access double zipper
  • Expandable zippered side pockets
  • Expandable front pockets
  • Rear zippered pocket
  • Padded zippered tablet pocket (fits up to 11″ x 8″)
  • Antique steel hardware exterior flap fasteners
  • Detachable shoulder strap
  • Detachable hand strap
  • Velcro silencers
  • Numbered identity plate

Conclusion

I really liked this bag. It kept the equipment safe and dry out in the field. It’s one of the smaller bags in the Journalist series yet it’s still roomy enough to include a number of accessories. I can easily see me favoring this over my Lowepro bag now. It feels more comfortable on the shoulder and has a better low-profile look than most other bags I’ve used in the past.

Tales of Light & Dark Season 2: Full Moon Rising Part 3

Mike Lane (THE BLOOD SHED, FAIRVIEW FALLS) stars as Jimmy Wayne Garrick, a man who becomes obsessed with the idea that he is changing into a werewolf after being bitten by a wild animal. In Part 3, Jimmy confronts his worse fears as the beast within is finally unleashed.

“We don’t want to blow the ending to this story but we can tell you that it was masterfully put together.” – MicroCinema Magazine

“This movie also contains two of the greatest horror movies scenes ever made…The other scene is a spectacular moment in horror movie history; toward the end of the movie, a stripper (Syn DeVil) dancing in a club squeezes a crème-filled style doughnut covered with powdered sugar between her bare breasts and drops it in on the stage in front of a patron…” – Askew Reviews

Co-starring Frank Catalanotto and featuring special makeup FX by award winning makeup FX team, Gerner and Spears FX (I SELL THE DEAD, STAKE LAND). Additional makeup FX by makeup FX artist and acclaimed Friday the 13th replica mask creator, Gene Mazza.

This is a new 10th anniversary director’s cut enhanced in high definition wide screen. The story was first presented in the award winning movie THE TENEMENT. This new version features a new ending that ties to the events and Jimmy’s return in the season 1 episodes “OPEN CALL” and “GEOKILLING”.