Cinematography, Audio, and Color Grading Trends: A Year in Review

On the last Go Creative Show podcast of the 2019, host Ben Consoli, show producer Connor Crosby, show audio mixer Matt Russell, director of photography Chris Loughran, and colorist Rob Bessette discuss the trends in cinematography, audio, and color grading from the past year and what they expect for 2020. You can listen to the … Continued

The post Cinematography, Audio, and Color Grading Trends: A Year in Review appeared first on Newsshooter.

Tiffen Unveils New ND and Polarizer Filters for DJI Mavic Mini

Tiffen’s new filter set gives DJI Mavic Mini users an effective and inexpensive option for reducing light and cutting glare.

For some of you, 2020 means breaking in that brand new drone you got over the holidays. However, if you’re noticing that some of your images are too bright or full of glare, you might be in need of some extra accessories.

Well, DJI Mavic Mini users are in luck, because Tiffen has just announced a line of filter sets that include ND and polarizer filters that will give you more control over the look of your final images.

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Making Waves

Making Waves – The Art of Cinematic Sound, is an outstanding achievement not only as a stand-alone documentary film, but also as one of the only films that is dedicated solely to the art of sound for film. As we all know, when films started, sound was either done live with musical accompaniment or was simply exhibited silently.

It is a huge challenge to tackle such a wide ranging and meaningful advancement for film storytelling and yet undeterred, Midge Costin, herself a working sound professional, took it on. We spoke at length about her work on the film and her work as a filmmaker with sound, and as an educator.

Woody Woodhall (WW): Making Waves is your first film as a director and it’s been wonderfully received. Making documentary film is a long, grueling process that takes an enormous amount of time and energy. Can you talk a bit about the process of pulling it all together?

Costin Cannes 2019
The Making Waves film team at Cannes

Midge Costin (MC): Yes, for my producing partners – Bobette Buster & Karen Johnson and myself – it took us 9 years to make the film! And honestly, I started researching this film and working on it way earlier in 2002-4 but when I realized that there was essentially no such thing as Fair Use – which allows you to use copyrighted material if well documented – I dropped the project.  I knew that the only way to do this right was to play lots of film clips and there is no way we would have had the money to pay for the number of clips we needed and have used!  Then in 2010 Bobette knew that Fair Use had passed and she approached me about doing this project after talking with Gary Rydstrom who she met at Pixar.  Our editor, David J. Turner came on soon after my initial discussions with Bobette and Karen to help make a proof of concept video to help raise money.  There was no money forthcoming which was heartbreaking.  I don’t think anyone could understand how we could make this entertaining and thought it was going to be a technical piece.  So we struggled all the way and it was our Executive Producers who made it possible – especially my sister RoAnn Costin who is responsible for us getting this film done.  Without her we would still be working on it I think.

Once we figured out how to employ Fair Use and we had the backing of my sister and other Executive Producers we dove headlong into making this film with so much enthusiasm and passion – nothing was going to stop us!

WW: You’ve assembled a stellar team of noted feature film directors as well award-winning sound pros for interviews. Can you discuss the impact of “sound aware” directors for films?

Gary Rydstrom
Gary Rydstrom at the start of his career

MC: As Gary Rydstrom says in the film, it’s really the filmmakers who have made the difference in improving sound and making it matter creatively.  If there weren’t directors who cared about using sound creatively then sound would not have advanced.  It’s never sound for sound sake but always as part of the storytelling process.  Getting these big name directors on board who contributed so much to the history and aesthetics of cinema sound but also because they could attract an audience which might not happen if we just featured the behind-the-scenes men and women who do the work.  George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were behind the project from the beginning but getting them scheduled for an interview was next to impossible.  It was David Lynch who was the first director who agreed to set up an interview and with an artist of that caliber everyone knew we were serious.

Honestly, we got most of the directors through their sound people.  These directors have respect for their sound collaborators and were willing to sit for an interview because of their respect for them.  My contacts and credits in the film industry didn’t hurt.  We get tired of people not understanding what we do but I think the sound people knew I had a solid career as a sound editor and then I had been teaching sound at USC for many years.

WW: Having a career in post sound, did working as a director bring fresh insights into that aspect of filmmaking for you?

MC: Well, my teaching definitely brought an important perspective on how to present sound to the common person who might not have any idea what we do.  This took a while to develop.  The insights I got working on the film as a director was the history part –  I really didn’t know that much about the history of cinematic sound.  I was of course a part of this history – from analog to digital technology for example.  When I first started in the 80s I was sometimes using effects that were recorded optically which goes back to the earliest days of sound recording and editing!  I loved cutting on magnetic oxide film but wouldn’t go back for anything given all the flexibility and creative processing that you can do today.

But I didn’t know the overall history and how I fit into it which now is much clearer to me.  Since I team teach with producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, production designers and editors I have to say I have learned a lot over the years.  And being on the set gave me an appreciation for production.  I was really grateful to my Director of Photography Sandra Chandler as we have been friends since film school and she really had my back on the set.  I get more and more comfortable making decisions and was super appreciative to have a great team in production.

WW: I imagine in this process that there is a lot of stuff that never made it to the screen. Are there any highlights that got cut? Will we eventually get to see that stuff too?

MC: Imagine that we did 90 interviews and have almost 200 hours of material!  But I wanted to make sure to get as much as we could because we discovered that there wasn’t all that much in the archives and libraries that captured the sound process.  So I felt compelled to really do it justice at this juncture – documenting the second generation of cinema sound people.  But I was determined to make a 90-minute film – I believe this corresponds to the human attention span so I didn’t want it to be much longer.

So of course we have so much great stuff on the cutting room floor!  It’s painful!   And so many important people who never made it in the film.  It was crazy!  But we will add some of these to our supplemental material for the BluRay and DVD.  However, I can assure you that we will make sure that all of these interviews will see the light of day.  We archived it really well by transcribing most of the interviews and breaking them down on Avid timelines into subject matter.  We always thought we would make a series but someone would have to come forward to finance that.  Just putting that out there…

WW: The subject matter fits exactly with your life’s work. Can you take a moment and discuss your start in the industry? Can you also talk about being female in a male dominated industry?

MC: I didn’t get sound when I was in film school.  It seemed technical.  I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of story and character and emotion. I came out of film school wanting to be a picture editor.  I apprenticed and then assisted on a show or two and then a friend from film school who had become a sound editor called me up one day and said none of the union editors at the sound house he was working at would touch 16mm (we were all working on 35mm in the industry at that time) so he said if I came in he would show me how to cut effects and he would cut the dialogue.

I had a short film I needed money to finish so I “lowered myself” and took the sound job.  Then I realized that I was the only sound effects editor and I needed to think about setting mood and tone and dealing with the plot points aurally.  And then soon afterwards the editor who I had picture assisted for asked me to take his place and I asked who was doing the sound.  When he said they hadn’t hired anyone yet I asked if I could do it.  This was the beginning and I think because I had been the reluctant sound person, I was like a born-again and have been super enthusiastic and love spreading the word of sound.

AI-Ling Lee
AI-Ling Lee sound designing and mixing

Then I found myself working with George Watters and Cece Hall on action adventure movies where sound is especially important it seems.  Most people would have no idea that sound seems to have a history of gender disparity in terms of who gets hired to edit certain types of sound.  So sound effects – guns, cars, explosions, doors – traditionally were edited by men.  Dialogue editing which is fixing the production tracks that are recorded on the set, entails doing lots of micro-surgery like adding ‘S’ to a word that got stepped on by another actor, or taking out birds, or [removing] a car by, in the background.  Essentially its very detailed work and women were stereotyped as having more patience and not able to cut the big action sounds which is ridiculous.

Because I started as a sound effects editor, I was one of the few women cutting effects as opposed to cutting dialogue or Foley or ADR.  I enjoyed the work and it felt important to be doing the big action movies to prove there is no reason why certain sounds are more male or female oriented.  And on the mix stages there were hardly any women.  That environment could get pretty crude and intimidating.  I have always found in the work environment – in the industry or in academia – that a more diverse team of people that reflects the world at large makes for a much healthier and happier environment.

WW: You are an Associate Professor at USC Film School and the first and continuing Kay Rose Endowed Chair in the Art of Sound and Dialogue Editing. What an honor! Can you tell us about your work over the years as an educator?

MC: I just got promoted to full professor recently, thanks to the film I’m sure.  I LOVE teaching.  It’s one of the few things I love more than cinema sound.  And because I felt so much passion about sound after discovering it outside of school, I was very excited about teaching it to film students like myself who were missing the storytelling aspects of it.  Even in the midst of working on those big action adventure movies in the 90s, I would try to teach a course at night as an adjunct professor whenever time allowed.  I believe everyone who works on a film is a filmmaker.   And the more you know about different aspects of film the better you are at your job.

I see myself as teaching future directors, producers, cinematographers, editors, production designers, etc. about sound; not just the few who will go out into the word to work in sound.  I teach them how to use sound to reflect character, plot points, mood & tone, rhythm; using sound in an emotional way is very satisfying.  It’s very gratifying.  Plus, I feel I get to teach students how to listen – to the world at large – to appreciate their sense of hearing and of sound.  It doesn’t get much better than that in terms of having a satisfying job.

WW: There have been many technical changes just in the time that you’ve been a professor since 2000. How has that changed the way you teach students sound today?

Anna Behlmer
Rerecording Mixer Anna Behlmer

MC: One of the big points we wanted to make in the film was that the most important thing in sound is not the technology.  We did amazing things when we were working with analog and even optical sound!  What matters is how you use sound to help with the story, with character, with mood and tone, with emotion.  So breaking down scenes and getting students to think in terms of sound is not that different.  But the technology has made major strides in making it easier to do things by yourself, more effectively and efficiently.  So as an editor you can process sound so much more than you ever could – dealing with frequencies and reverb and placing sounds where you want them to go (panning)

WW: I saw the film in a theatre and it sounded amazing. You had the advantage of using some of the most “sound-centric” blockbusters ever made. Talk about the sound edit and the sound mixing for “Making Waves.” Did that give you new takeaways from the directing chair into post audio?

MC: Well, our editor, David J. Tuner, did an amazing amount of work in the picture editing process.  It’s why I chose him for the job. He had been a student of mine at USC and he was extremely talented in both picture and sound editing and design.  So when Kimberly Patrick and Baihui Yang came on as supervising sound editors – also former students who developed their talents & experience up at Skywalker Sound – I knew they would just continue to enhance all the work that David did and come up with more in-depth work and help with difficult transitions, add Foley, needed ambiences, etc.  Sung Rok Choi (another former student) cut the dialogue and was very instrumental in making some really tough edits work.  That was great micro-surgery on his part I have to say.  Baihui and Kim helped convince the insanely talented Tom Myers to be our re-recording mixer.  Wow!  What a team to be working with.

I swore I would not do to the sound people what happens to us all the time – dreaded picture changes while you are on the mix stage.  But guess what?  We had changes – sorry!  Not too many – but I didn’t want any!  To be there on the mix stage and listen to the magic that Tom Myers would come up with was a beautiful thing to behold.  It could be tough coming in and out of those huge blockbuster films or getting out of the quiet ones that were older and might need help with noise reduction.  And even though I was a sound editor for years I have to say that what Kim, Baihui and Sung Rok could do on the stage in the way of editing – when we needed to make changes – was truly magical.  And they were so fast!

I think the completely new experience for me (now as a director) was working with the music.  Our composer, Allyson Newman, was a pure joy to work with!   It was so fun to have a spotting session with her and talk about themes and issues relating to emotion and timing.  And she also created music to help with some difficult transitions.  But the recording session with our mixer Dan Blanck and the musicians…it still makes me teary.  When I went into the recording stage to be with the musicians as they played – a 19-piece orchestra –  I sat in front of the 9 violins and the music made me cry.  It’s funny because when you work in sound or at least during the era when I was, sound and music can really clash and if they haven’t collaborated during the process, you can duke it out on the mix stage about what should take precedence, sound or music.  Usually those of us in sound feel we aren’t appreciated.  But on this film I feel Ally’s work is totally underappreciated!  She is bringing so much emotion to the movie but in a beautiful and subtle way.  I feel she hasn’t received enough recognition for her work on the movie.

WW: You talk shop with the best of the best working in post audio – Walter Murch, Gary Rydstrum, Randy Thom, Ben Burtt – were there things that even surprised you to learn about regarding sound in creating this film?

Walter Murch
Walter Murch mixing Apocalypse Now

MC: I think I had read enough and talked with or heard talks by all these great sound designers so nothing they do in creating their sound design was a surprise but as I mentioned earlier the history is what blew me away.  Discovering the effect that Barbra Streisand had on getting Dolby Stereo into theaters – that was a revelation – even one that Barbra didn’t know!  She just thought Dolby Stereo was already an option.  There had been stereo and even surround sound earlier with films like Fantasia and the Cinerama films but her influence along with Kubrick and George Lucas was to convince the studios it was worth changing the theaters and the way the average viewer could hear movies.

Another fact that was mindboggling to me was that Walter Murch and his re-recording mixing partners – Mark Berger and Richard Beggs –  on Apocalypse Now had never even mixed a stereo film before they designed surround sound!  And even before all this – to hear Murray Spivack talk about how he created the voice of King Kong back in 1933 and how they had to hide him in the music department or the producers might have said “don’t bother with all that” – there’s been lots of change but in some ways…not so much in other respects!  But I found these stories absolutely fascinating.

WW: You and your team did an amazing job of tackling a very broad subject. You take us from the beginnings of sound, to the evolution as the technology changed, with many of the talented sound artists who took advantage each step of the way. Can you discuss the process of determining the scope of what you’ve covered in crafting the film?

MC: Early on the process, my producing partners Bobette Buster, Karen Johnson, and I got together with our editor David J. Turner for three or four days to discuss a timeline, the history, the important films & directors & sound professionals.  I think we thought we might have more details of the technological history but we discovered we had to give that up for other things we wanted.

For example,  I really wanted to cover the contemporary process and breaking down the different stages of sound, and the jobs from production sound recording, to re-recording mixing.  But this is the crux of what took so long in editing.  We were covering so much material.  And this is where our supervising editor Thomas G. Miller really helped out in the last 2 years as we put all the scenes we had together and we were determined to keep it as close to 90 minutes as possible.  It was so helpful to have Tom who hadn’t been on the show from day one and who could help us find the structure and “kill our babies” – all the precious shots & scenes it was hard to part with.

WW: I love the word play in the title – “Making waves” of course can mean making sound and creating waves, also sound recordings are called wave files, and also of course, a more general meaning of the term is to – shake things up. Any particular significance to the title?

Ben Burtt
Ben Burtt recording the bear that would become the “voice” of Chewbacca in Star Wars

MC: Yes, all those things plus the one big thing we point to about “shaking things up” is that time in the 70s when Coppola and Lucas and Murch move north out of Hollywood to do things their own way.  They wanted to make sound a more significant part of the process like bringing on the sound person early to be cutting sound while the picture is being edited (Walter Murch on THX 1138), and creating the sound design and library before they even shot a frame of the film (Ben Burtt with Star Wars), and transforming the way we mix and present sound in the theater based on the directors creative ideas (Coppola hearing the Tomita 4 track album during the shooting of Apocalypse Now and asking for what became 5.1 sound created by Walter Murch, Mark Berger and Richard Beggs), as well as being a sound designer and re-recording mixer which really started at Zoetrope and then continued at Skywalker Sound.  So many things happened outside of Hollywood by these people who were “making waves” including Gary Rydstrom’s work in animation with Pixar and CGI with Jurassic Park and beyond.

WW: Since this is your directorial debut – what awaits? What is your new project in the offing?

Midge Costin
Midge Costin directing making waves

MC: I have so many possible subjects that interest me that are swirling around in my head but it’s too early to talk about them.  But I will say that overall the process of making this film was so incredibly creative and involved so many inspiring collaborations that I am looking forward to moving ahead with our next film.

Look for Making Waves playing at theatres right now. It will be on DVD/Blu-ray and on-demand at some point later in the year.

Woody Woodhall is a supervising sound editor and rerecording mixer and a Founder of Los Angeles Post Production Group. You can follow him on twitter at @Woody_Woodhall

The post Making Waves appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

TTArtisan 11mm f/2.8 FE lens announced and available for preorder on Amazon US

In the middle of the Christmas time we got a new lens from China: The TTArtisan 11mm f/2.8 FE lens got announced and is available for preorder on Amazon US. Image samples:      

The post TTArtisan 11mm f/2.8 FE lens announced and available for preorder on Amazon US appeared first on sonyalpharumors.

SK hynix to showcase its first consumer PCIe NVMe SSDs at CES 2020

SK hynix: first consumer PCIe NVMe SSDs will be at CES 2020

Last August, SK hynix added its name to the list of SSD brands available to the general public, and tech media outlets applauded the move. Now the company announces its new PCIe NVMe SSDs.

When buying a new SSD, consumers tend to look for familiar names, from Samsung or SanDisk to WD, but as demonstrated in recent years, some of the names less familiar to consumers also have a word to say when it comes to technology. Some new arrivals may even surprise us. New additions to the list include names as addlink or Biostar, and since August a new name must be included: SK hynix.

SK hynix: first consumer PCIe NVMe SSDs will be at CES 2020Despite not being a familiar name to many, SK hynix Inc. is a global semiconductor maker based in Korea that has been in the market for some 36 years, mostly working as a major supplier to global OEMs including top-tier PC makers. The company entered the SSD market for the first time in 2012, and since then,  it claims, “we have become the world’s leading memory provider by rigorously producing products that require proven performance, reliability and durability. During that period, our brand focus was centered on working with server clients and PC OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) to provide enterprise and client SSD.”

SK hynix: first consumer PCIe NVMe SSDs will be at CES 2020

The fastest SATA drive

As a leading manufacturer of memory chips, SK hynix builds and supplies its own DRAM and NAND flash devices, as well as SSD controllers designed and developed in-house. Last August the company decided to offer its legacy of top-tier enterprise drives to US consumers, with the introduction of the SATA-based Gold S31 SSD, which was well received by tech media outlets. Jon L. Jacobi, contributor to PCWorld, wrote “In real world copies (data transfers), this first (consumer) SSD from SK hynix, proved the fastest SATA drive we’ve ever tested. The price is right, and the company is actually one of the largest semiconductor purveyors in the world so don’t let the name throw you. All the technology is in-house. A very good drive.”

Now SK hynix takes the next step, announcing its newest offering: Gold P31 and Platinum P31 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drives (SSDs) will be presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, which will be held on January 7–10 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The drives are built with SK hynix’s 128-layer 4D NAND flash, only six months after the company announced the mass production of the world’s first and highest vertical stack for NAND flash, demonstrating the chipmaker’s technological edge.

World’s first 128-layer 4D NAND

SK hynix delivered the samples of its solution products based on its world’s first 128-layer 4D NAND, developed in June 2019, as another step in the path towards the era of Terabyte (TB) memory, which is arriving with the innovative development of NAND Flash technology. According to the company, with advanced technology in three-dimensional stacking, controller, and firmware, the performance of the NAND solution products for smartphones, PCs, and servers is showing great improvements in all aspects including power consumption, speed, and stability.

“SK hynix’s new SSDs were built as premier solutions for users seeking advanced performance to run multimedia tools and the most demanding of PC games,” said the Company’s spokesperson. “We are excited to introduce SK hynix’s Gold S31 SATA, Gold P31 PCIe, and Platinum P31 PCIe SSDs for the first time at CES, at a time when the brand continues to expand its presence in the United States.”

The new Gold P31 and Platinum P31 PCIe SSDs will be on display at SK hynix’s booth #13529 in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central LLCC Hall. Before this newest addition, SK hynix launched “SuperCore” series of consumer SSDs starting with Gold S31, the 2.5-inch SATA III SSD, available on Amazo, in 250 GB, 500 GB and 1TB.

The post SK hynix to showcase its first consumer PCIe NVMe SSDs at CES 2020 appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

2019 resolutions revisited: what we hoped for, and what we got

Resolutions revisited – what we hoped for, what we got

About this time last year we sat down as a team to write some new year’s resolutions. But not for us – where’s the fun in that? No, we wanted to help our favorite camera and lens manufacturers out, by writing some for them.

Wishful thinking? Sure. Reasonable? Not at all. Borderline condescending, from a group of keyboard warriors who would struggle to complete a moderately complex jigsaw puzzle, let alone make a digital camera? Absolutely.

We didn’t get everything we wanted in 2019, but some of our resolutions / wishes / predictions (just go with us on this one, and don’t think about it too hard) did come true.

Feel free to play along at home via the comments.

Canon

Our 2019 resolutions for Canon:

  • Add IBIS to the RF lineup and update your sensors (or buy Sony’s).
  • Make the RF mount an open standard.
  • Reclaim your ILC video crown – no more cropped 4K!
  • Dump the M-Fn bar…
  • Make the 5D Mark V a true digital EOS 3.
  • Think different – embrace computational photography.

How things panned out: 2.5/6

Our resolutions for Canon in 2019 were ambitious, and probably for the most part unrealistic. What can I say? We’re big picture people.

The RF mount isn’t going to be opened up any time soon (why cede those lens sales to third parties when you don’t have to?), the EOS 5D Mark IV wasn’t really due for an upgrade, and while we know that IBIS is coming to the EOS R lineup, it didn’t happen in 2019.

But Canon did develop a very nice new sensor, in the form of the 32MP APS-C sensor used in the EOS 90D and EOS M6 Mark II. Not only does it offer excellent resolution and good dynamic range, it also works with an updated processor to allow for un-cropped 4K video. There are rumors starting to float around of an upscaled version of this sensor coming in the RF line possibly next year, so we’ll see. Canon also (sort of) dumped the M-Fn bar, omitting it from the EOS RP.

It remains to be seen whether the controversial control will be re-introduced in a future R-series model but we won’t be sad if it isn’t. We’re not against the concept of a touch-sensitive control of this kind, we just want one that works.

Fujifilm

Our 2019 resolutions for Fujifilm:

  • Make a full-frame X100 / monochrome X100 / 28mm-equiv X100.
  • Continue improving your face and eye-detection autofocus.
  • Make a proper X70 successor.
  • Refresh your F1.4 primes.
  • Don’t try to palm us off with 15fps ‘4K video’ ever again. For shame.

How things panned out: 2/5

Well, we didn’t see that full-frame X100-series in the end, but honestly that was probably a stretch. Fujifilm was pretty focused on its medium-format GFX range in 2019, but the company did release the unique X-Pro 3 (we didn’t see that one coming!) and update its entry-level X-A7 lineup. We were very pleased to see that the X-A7 finally offers proper 4K video. No more 15fps!

Fujifilm has also continued to work on its autofocus. A major firmware update was released for the X-T3 in spring, specifically aimed at improving face and eye-detection AF performance. Fujifilm has also improved the implementation of Face/Eye AF in the X-Pro 3, which presumably will filter down into future models.

Leica

Our 2019 resolutions for Leica:

  • Stop with the special editions already!
  • Make a Q2 – maybe even with a 35mm lens…
  • Make an M-mount camera with an EVF.
  • Improve service / repair times.

How things panned out: 1.5/4

Asking Leica to stop making special editions is like asking a Kuh not to muh. This year saw the launch of the ‘Safari’ edition M10-P, the Lenny Kravitz ‘Drifter’ edition M Monochrom (with snakeskin finish, no less) three limited edition versions of M-mount lenses, and no fewer than three special edition CLs: ‘Bauhaus’, ‘Urban Jungle’ and ‘Edition Paul Smith’.

Ouch. It’s almost as if Leica wanted to put us in our place.

Meanwhile, although we’re still waiting for an M11 with an EVF, Leica did release the Q2, which comes with some really welcome upgrades compared to the original Q. Ditto the SL. The company also claims to be continuing to invest in improving service times, which, because we’re feeling generous, we’ll say earns them a 0.5.

Nikon

Our 2019 resolutions for Nikon:

  • Keep developing that Z-series lens roadmap.
  • Bring 3D AF Tracking to the Z-series.
  • Make an FTZ adapter with a built-in AF motor.
  • Make the Z mount an open standard.

How things panned out: 1/4

We didn’t do a great job of anticipating Nikon’s moves in 2019, but nobody said that new years’ resolutions were easy, especially when you’re making them for other people. Nikon didn’t add a version of 3D AF tracking to the Z-series this year, but it did introduce a new camera, in the form of the APS-C Z50. Pending some final testing, we’ve been pretty impressed by its performance so far, but it basically has the same autofocus behavior as the Z6 and Z7.

The only one of our resolutions on behalf of Nikon which ended up becoming reality was perhaps the most obvious one – continued development of the Z-mount lens lineup.

We’ve really been impressed by the Z-series lenses so far, and 2019 saw the release of the standout Z 24-70mm F2.8 S and Z 85mm F1.8 S, with more still to come on the roadmap.

Olympus

Our 2019 resolutions for Olympus:

  • Start making small cameras again.
  • Update the OM-D E-M5 II.
  • Simplify your cameras’ menu systems, please!
  • Add PDAF to your lower-end PEN and OM-D cameras.
  • Add a large sensor to the TOUGH range.

How things panned out: 3/5

Olympus didn’t release a whole lot of products this year, but the OM-D E-M5 lineup did see a refresh in the form of the very powerful E-M5 Mark III. Despite being packed with powerful features (many of which were inherited from the E-M1 Mark II) it is even smaller than its predecessor, and features on-sensor phase-detection autofocus.

Sadly it still features a dense and complicated UI / menu, but 3/5 ain’t bad.

Panasonic

Our 2019 resolutions for Panasonic:

  • Ditch field-sequential EVFs.
  • Either fix DFD for video, or use PDAF instead.
  • Make a full-frame 4K video camera.

How things panned out: 2/3

With so many announcements in late 2018, it was hard to make too many specific resolutions for Panasonic in 2019, but the company did check off two items from our wishlist: An (apparent) move away from field-sequential and towards OLED electronic finders, and a full-frame 4K video camera, in the shape of the Lumix DC-S1H.

The S1H is an interesting product, coming so quickly after the launch of the S1R and the more video-oriented S1 – itself a hugely capable camera for shooting video, especially with Panasonic’s paid DMW-SFU2 update. The S1H can shoot perfectly good still images from its 24MP sensor, but it’s really a video-first product, and the first ‘consumer’ camera to be certified by Netflix for broadcast-quality recording. Impressive stuff.

Ricoh / Pentax

Our 2019 resolutions for Ricoh / Pentax:

  • Make a true successor to the K-1.
  • Give your fans a proper mirrorless camera.
  • Make a full-frame GR to compete with the Leica Q and Sony RX1R II.

How things panned out: 0/3

It was a very quiet year for Ricoh in the end, with the GR III the only significant new Pentax-branded product released in 2019 (actually late 2018, but it became available this year).

There were some signs of life though – Ricoh did unveil a new wide zoom for APS-C – the HD Pentax-DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 ED fisheye. This year also saw a small refresh of the HD Pentax-FA 35mm F2 AL, with new coatings and a redesigned aperture diaphragm. Will we ever see a K-1 III, or a reimagined Pentax-branded mirrorless ILC? Nothing is impossible but we get the sense that 2020 will be a make or break year for the Pentax brand.

Sigma

Our 2019 resolutions for Sigma:

  • Create a range of compact F2 lenses.
  • Try again with the 24-70mm F2.8 Art.
  • Develop some native Sony FE lenses.
  • Reverse-engineer the Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts
  • Create a range of full-frame Merrill compacts.

How things panned out: 3.5 / 5

Well, either we got unusually good at guessing, or Sigma listened to us (I’ll leave you to figure out which is more likely) because of our five resolutions for Sigma in 2019, three of them became reality. This year we saw the porting of Sigma’s popular DC DN range of fast prime lenses to Canon’s EF-M mount (hey, they’re F2.2 equivalent), the release of the distinctive and very compact (albeit not for everybody) 45mm F2.8 for E and L-mount, and the launch of two high-performance ‘DN’ zoom lenses, also for E and L – one of which sort of counts as a second try at the older 24-70mm F2.8 Art.

The only one of our resolutions which definitely didn’t come to pass is reverse-engineering the Nikon Z and Canon RF mounts, which to be fair may be a decision out of Sigma’s hands. Meanwhile the full-frame fp earns a 0.5 for being pretty close (in spirit) to a full-frame Merrill, while offering so much more, especially to videographers.

Sony

Our 2019 resolutions for Sony:

  • Release a Cyber-shot RX1R III.
  • Create some new APS-C lenses.
  • Make your video and stills AF experience consistent.
  • Release an FE 35mm F1.8. Your non-pro and pro customers will thank you.
  • Focus on user experience.

How things panned out: 4/5

Another very good showing for the resolutions crew in the end, but Sony has been releasing so much new technology every year that we felt pretty optimistic about this one.

2019 saw the release of some really welcome E-mount APS-C lenses, including the excellent (albeit pricey) E 16-55mm F2.8. And we finally got that FE 35mm F1.8! Meanwhile the company did make efforts to improve the UX of its latest cameras, particularly in the a7R IV, which also offers a more consistent stills / video autofocus and user experience,

It’s a shame about the RX1R III, though. Maybe in 2020.

Tamron

Our 2019 resolutions for Tamron:

  • Continue developing full-frame E-mount lenses.
  • Reverse-engineer the Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts as soon as possible.
  • Resist the temptation to create large, heavy F1.4 glass.

How things panned out: 2/3

Again, the decision whether (or when) to reverse-engineer the Nikon Z and Canon RF mounts is probably down to Canon and Nikon, so we’ll let Tamron off the hook for that one. Ultimately, while the physical dimensions of the mounts themselves can be copied, the protocols governing data transfer between camera and lens are protected by IP, and licensing will happen on Canon and Nikon’s respective schedule (if it happens at all).

As for the other two resolutions, we’re pleased to see that Tamron did indeed continue to develop new native E-mount glass, in the form of the 70-180mm F2.8 Di III VXD and 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD. Meanwhile, the company announced three lightweight (I’ll get in terrible trouble in the comments section again if I suggest they’re ‘compact’) F2.8 primes. But alongside these small (ish) lenses, Tamron also sneaked in one of the highest-performance 35mm F1.4s we’ve ever used, in the form of the SP 35mm F1.4 Di USD.

We’ll forgive it.

Looking ahead to 2020

So there you have it – not all of our 2019 resolutions became reality, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2019 it’s that we don’t always get what we want. Another thing we’ve learned is that lexicologically speaking, things get really complicated when you start trying to make resolutions, which are really requests, but also kind of predictions, on behalf of third-parties.

Lesson leaned. So what does 2020 have in store? As always, the future is hard to predict, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Here are some resolutions predictions from the DPReview team – feel free to add your own in the comments.

  • ‘Professional’ mirrorless ILC from Canon and / or Nikon.
  • At least one more serious DSLR from either / both of the above (in addition to the EOS-1D X Mark III and D6).
  • Computational imaging approaches will continue to make their way into dedicated cameras across the board.
  • More affordable full-frame L-mount ILC from Panasonic (and maybe an APS-C body?).
  • New X100-series or similar compact from Fujifilm (possibly with a medium format sensor?).
  • More lenses, and a sub-$1000 full-frame E-mount camera from Sony.

The 10 Best Indie Movies of 2019

One of the great joys of this year in cinema has been seeing the many great indie films that have been released. Companies like A24, Neon, Fox Searchlight, and Amazon Studios among others have generated hype for a number of strong releases and made it possible for cinephiles to see some of the year’s best films outside of their festival runs. Among the best indies of the year are many personal tales from passionate filmmakers.

Due to the high number of great indies this year, it was challenging to narrow it down to just ten. However, these ten films represent the variety of stories that were told this year and span many different genres. Here are the top ten best independent films of 2019.

 

10. Blinded By The Light

Finding an intersection between inspiration and nostalgia, Blinded By The Light celebrates the universal power of art and how it can expand someone’s worldview. As a British-Pakistani Muslim, Javed (Viveik Kalra) doesn’t expect that he’d have a lot in common with Bruce Springsteen, but the music of the iconic singer ends up allowing Javed to feel seen for the first time and helps him explore his passion for telling stories. While there’s a lot of entertaining references to Springsteen’s music, the film isn’t only based in nostalgia, and is keen to show what Javed creates as a result of his inspiration.

While it is often a whimsical coming of age story, Blinded By The Light doesn’t avoid serious issues, including bigotry and familial conflict. The realistic depiction of a fundamentalist family and their traditional practices is empathetic to each family member, and part of Javed’s pivotal character arc revolves around his ability to respect beliefs that he doesn’t completely agree with. Memorable side characters and spirited musical numbers make Blinded By The Light a feel good film that unfortunately was underseen by a vast majority of audiences.

 

9. The Art of Self-Defense

Some films leap out as being future cult classics, and the darkly violent satire The Art of Self-Defense is definitely one of them. Riley Stearns’s brilliant second feature is ingenious in showing how a charismatic leader can indoctrinate someone into radical thinking, and uses an untraditional karate club as the center of a strange and mysterious crime plot. Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast as Casey Davies, a quiet and reserved accountant who is reeling from being randomly attacked, but it is Alessandro Nivola who steals the film as “Sensei,” the hyper masculine karate instructor who pushes his students to become more aggressive.

Sensei is obviously exaggerated in his over the top traits and dedication to his craft, but the film still makes it understandable why Casey would want to learn to defend himself and use karate as a coping method. As Casey gets closer into Sensei’s inner circle and learns of his true intentions, it’s evident how the process of luring students in with false promises works. The commentary never distracts from the compelling nature of the story, and although there’s a lot of expected physical gags, Stearns is able to take the narrative in genuinely unexpected places and pull off more than a few shocking moments.

 

8. A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick’s films this decade have been quite experimental and surreal, and while those films are brilliant in their own right, A Hidden Life is a change of pace for the filmmaker that nonetheless feels true to the themes he likes to touch on. The true story of Franz Jagerstatter (August Diehl), a conscientious objector to the Nazi regime in World War II, is a powerful story of how even the smallest stand against evil can be important, and Malick’s lush environments and the beautiful score by James Newton Howard make it a haunting experience. Diehl gives an amazing performance, and is able to show the doubt and pressure that Jagerstatter feels as he becomes ostracized from his community and eventually imprisoned.

It’s a three hour long film that takes its time to build up its environments; much time is spent in St. Radegund, Jagerstatter’s small village that is far removed from the war, and these scenes do an important job at establishing the world he left behind. Once Jagerstatter is imprisoned and subjected to the cruelty of the Nazi tactics, it is inspiring to see his resilience and the way in which he stays true to his beliefs. Another spiritual epic from Malick that tributes the great sacrifice of a real man, A Hidden Life is a crushing and essential cinematic experience.

 

7. The Souvenir

the-souvenir-sundance-honor-swinton-byrne

One of the many films this year that was loosely inspired by the filmmaker’s own life, The Souvenir gives Joanna Hogg the chance to tell an untraditional coming of age story that is rooted in a deeply mismatched relationship. Honor Swinton Byrne gives a breakout performance as Julie, an ambitious film student who falls in love with the mysterious government employee Anthony (Tom Burke). While Anthony’s narcissism and unclear backstory are initially intriguing to Julie, it becomes crystallized as the film goes on that his destructive tendencies aren’t worth the occasional bits of wisdom he gives to her.

It’s a methodical film that takes its time to set up Julie’s inspiration and what she wants to accomplish, but the small clues as to what Anthony’s real issues are give the film a sense of urgency as their relationship unfolds. Even when it’s clear the Julie should leave, it’s understandable why she feels compelled to help Anthony, and the excellent lead performances do a great job at exemplifying what is unsaid between the two. Ending on a somber note that nonetheless completes the arcs of both characters, The Souvenir is an enchanting film, and it will be interesting to see how Julie develops further when Hogg completes The Souvenir: Part II, which is due sometime next year.

 

6. The Peanut Butter Falcon

Quickly compared to classic Mark Twain stories, The Peanut Butter Falcon is an old fashioned road trip adventure that is easily one of the year’s most heartfelt and entertaining films. The film’s breakout performance is the one from Zack Gottsagen as Zak, a 22-year-old man with Down syndrome who breaks out of his living environments and journeys across North Carolina as he seeks to attend a wrestling school; as an actor with Down syndrome, Gottsagen is able to deliver an inspiring performance, especially when it is hard for actors with disabilities to break into the industry. Zak’s good spirit and belief within his dream is endearing, and Gottsagen works brilliantly with Shia Labeouf, who plays Tyler, a fisherman who accompanies him on an adventure.

The two have great chemistry, and the film works best when it shows how these two very different characters must work together on their trip and inadvertently learn from each other. As they live off the land and survive the wilderness, Tyler teaches Zak many practical skills, but Zak is able to show Tyler the side of life and friendship that he’s been missing due to his run ins with local criminals. There’s no forced drama or manipulative emotional moments in The Peanut Butter Falcon, as the story and relationships all feel completely genuine.

The 10 Best Arthouse Films of 2019

In a year where Disney films dominated 80% of box office revenues, it’s been easy to feel discouraged about the medium’s future. Fortunately, like every year, there’s still a batch of inventive and moving works from artists devoted to pushing film’s limits. This list summarizes some of the year’s finest achievements in arthouse filmmaking.

Oddly enough, many of the movies listed involve, in some capacity, ghosts. This was purely coincidental.

 

10. Black Mother

Khalik Allah, an artist who found his way onto many radars after lensing segments from Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album, has an impeccable eye. Black Mother, his second feature documentary, incorporates 16mm and digital cinematography as it delves into an exploration of Jamaican culture.

Structured as a quasi-travelogue, Black Mother also takes influence from Allah’s street photography. The movie juxtaposes portraits of people against shots of nature, encapsulating a complex vision of Jamaica. This complexity manifests in Allah’s filmmaking which offers impressive range. Black Mother’s footage originates from a variety of cameras, simulating different perspectives.

The entire film is jarring in its construction, with little formal consistency. Ultimately, this approach is very refreshing. Allah rejects most conventions of documentary cinema, producing a poetic film that stitches together a variety of sources. It’s at times immediate and infinitely larger than Allah himself. Yet his unique eye gives the film life, making it hard to ignore.

 

9. Manta Ray

Manta Ray’s opening images are brilliant: a man, wrapped in rainbow string lights, steps through the woods, rifle-in-hand. This air of ambiguity persists throughout the movie, filling every interaction with mystery. The film is Thai filmmaker Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s debut and yet he shows a natural command of film language, his movie thriving on moments of enigmatic imagery. Manta Ray is full of gaping silences, telling an often wordless story about the strange relationship between a fisherman and injured man he finds washed up on the shore.

Much of the film’s unforgettable atmosphere stems from the audio. Aroonpheng creates discomfort in a similar style to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return or Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, boosting ambient background sounds to dominate the soundtrack. The sounds of the forest or the electric buzzing of interiors feels extremely present in the mix. All of the diegetic audio blends seamlessly into the otherworldly and unnerving score from French experimental duo Snowdrops. Driven by menacing drones and melancholic organs, the music is the film’s soul. Aroonpheng’s knack for elusive visuals combined with Snowdrops’ score — rivaling Oneohtrix Point Never’s Uncut Gems music for score of the year! — makes Manta Ray into a haunting, dreamlike film.

 

8. An Elephant Sitting Still

Following an ensemble living in Manzhouli, Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still details four characters’ attempt to find meaning amidst the anguish of existence. Running four hours and composed as a series of tracking shots, the entire narrative unfolds over the course of a day. Much of the movie is overwhelming. It feels like the cinematic embodiment of depression, the characters’ hopelessness radiating out of the screen. However, this is merely a testament to the impeccable empathy Bo establishes. The pain on-screen feels absolutely real, as the camera renders all landscapes into a grey, dying environment.

Yet there are moments that undercut the feeling of hopelessness. The characters form connections with each other and achieve instances of clarity. Bo approaches storytelling with an undeniable human touch. He has tremendous sympathy and affection for his characters. There is no aestheticization of depression. Tragically, An Elephant Sitting Still was Bo’s first and only feature, as he ended his life shortly after its completion. Hopefully, he found some kind of peace and clarity at the end of his life.

 

7. Tommaso

Abel Ferrara’s sober, late-period career is often self-reflexive and, in the case of  Tommaso, brutally so. Ferrara casts Willem Dafoe as an alternate version of the filmmaker himself, a deliberately thinly-veiled and semi-autobiographical self-exploration. In a move that aims to upstage Carlos Reygadas, Ferrara casts his own wife and child in the film, playing themselves. The movies upholds Ferrara’s tendencies for brutality and bleakness, though with a newfound level of intimacy. Dafoe, a veteran Ferrara collaborator, delivers a flawless performance in what is, presumably, an incredibly demanding role. He’s both tortured and charismatic, a duality Dafoe captures effortlessly.

Ferrara’s films tend to feel small-scale, more concerned with completely deconstructing and breaking down characters than scale. Similarly to the phenomenal Pasolini, Tommaso probes into the depths of the protagonists’ psyche, structuring the film around an abstract, non-literal terrain. Told through stream-of-consciousness, the film merges dreams and reality, all the while rendering the distinction between “truth” and “fiction” arbitrary. Ferrara’s entire movie is designed to expose his protagonist and, by extent, himself. The result is full of vulnerability and confessional self-loathing.

Admittedly, Ferrara’s intentions are, at times, befuddling. It’s hard to imagine what would compel someone to expose themselves so nakedly to theaters of anonymous spectators. Yet perhaps that’s the key to introspection: absolute honesty in self-recreation in order to see oneself objectively when looking at the piece of art. Regardless, Tommaso is an endlessly fascinating achievement, and a worthy addition to Ferrara’s enigmatic and underrated body of work.

 

6. Vitalina Varela

No stranger to the exploration of grief and mortality, Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela is another elegiac probe into the subject of death from the Portuguese filmmaker. As per usual, Costa works with non-professional actors. Vitalina Varela plays a somewhat fictionalized version of herself. Costa met Varela while directing his previous feature, Horse Money. Intrigued and moved by her story, he made her the basis of his next feature.

Vitalina Varela follows a woman settling her recently deceased husbands’ affairs, meditating through the mementos of his existence. Costa’s camera imbues the entire house which the film predominantly occupies with a sense of loss. All ordinary objects become souvenirs of the past and reminders of death.

Costa’s compositions are dimly lit, built around black and grey. Vibrant colours almost never slip into the frame. The film’s world is built around Vitalina’s state of mind: subdued, mournful, and bleak. And yet, Costa manages to craft absolutely striking shots. Working with a tiny crew and cinematographer Leonardo Simões, much of the shoot was spent perfecting lighting. The end result is a film that unfolds almost as a series of still lifes. Vitalina Varela, static and meditative, feels like the experience of sleepwalking, existing between opposing states. Costa pulls no devestating punches in his latest rendition of grief, and yet, that’s what makes Vitalina Varela so remarkable.

2019 TOP TEN of the most read SAR articles…and a Happy New Year!!

Happy New 2020 folks! Here are the top ten of the most read articles: Number 10: (SR4) Sony will launch TWO new APS-C E-mount cameras the last week of August ? Number 9: LEAKED: First image of the four new…

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