Neat Video 5.2 adds support for Metal

Denoising software Neat Video 5.2 has been released with Metal support in MacOS plug-ins which can improve render times as well as a few new improvements. What’s New? Support for Metal in MacOS – Neat Video 5.2 can now use the new Metal technology (in MacOS 10.15 and newer), in addition to OpenCL. Using Metal … Continued

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Here’s Why ‘Birds of Prey’ Wasn’t a Failure

Birds of Prey might be lagging at the box office, but the bigger picture of several DC/Warner Bros. releases tells a different story.

So, here are the facts. DC’s new Harley Quinn-fronted film Birds of Prey opened to a modest $33,010,017 (domestic) against a roughly $84.5 million budget.

Yes, this is a bit low for an opening, especially for a film projected to do about $40 to $45 million its first weekend. Many have taken these numbers and run with the idea that the film is a failure or a flop, when it really isn’t at all. For instance, Birds of Prey opened at number one that first weekend.

A lot of things affect box office returns like this. Timing is a big one. (The Hollywood Reporter even pointed out that coronavirus fears could have stunted the film’s Asian returns.) The movie’s R rating is another factor. A PG-13 rating would have given more viewers the opportunity to see the film.

For a big-picture perspective, writer Mark Hughes over at Forbes took a good long look at the last few years on the DC/Warner Bros. slate to put things in a broader context.

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Canon Releases New Firmware for C500 Mark II

No camera is perfect. It may take time in operators’ hands to discover hidden problems or missed details. In the case of the Canon C500 Mark II, Canon has just released a new firmware update for the 5.9K full-frame camera to address a few bugs. Nothing major, but still small bugs may cause someone a significant headache.Canon

C500 Mark II Firmware Version fixes:

  • Remote A terminal and Remote B terminal can be used simultaneously.
  • Sensor mode information can be displayed.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which, under specific conditions, high-brightness areas may appear tinted.
  • Fixes a phenomenon where the [C. Temp. Increment] setting cannot be changed.
  • Fixes a phenomenon where the SSID (stealth) setting cannot be made in a Wi-Fi connection.
  • Fixes the metadata to be recognized color profile correctly in some editing software.

Canon C500 Mark IIIMPORTANT: Precautions for updating the firmware

If the firmware update is not performed correctly, the camera may stop working.
Please be sure to carefully read the important points, and perform operations in accordance with the following operating procedure.

  • All camera settings will be reset when you perform the firmware update.
  • It is not possible to revert the firmware back to a previous version after you have performed the firmware update.
  • Please be absolutely sure NOT to operate the camera buttons or remove the camera’s power source during the firmware update. Doing so may cause the camera to malfunction.

You can find the firmware update on the Canon website.

Canon EOS C500 Mark II Firmware Update v1.0.1.1

Canon has released a new firmware update for the EOS C500 Mark II that addresses a number of bugs. Firmware Version incorporates the following fix: Remote A terminal and Remote B terminal can be used simultaneously. Sensor mode information can be displayed. Fixes a phenomenon in which, under specific conditions, high-brightness areas may appear … Continued

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Chernobyl After HBO: Exploring the Hidden Places Tourists Don’t See

Last year, more than 120,000 tourists visited the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and in 2020 that number is expected to double. Mass tourism has forever become a part of the Exclusion Zone, mostly because of the successful HBO series “Chernobyl.”

Over the summer weekends, dozens of buses filled with extreme tourism aficionados show up. As a result, Pripyat is no longer a ghost town. Instead of an eerie silence—which was a staple of the abandoned town not that long ago—now tourists or stalkers can be seen (and heard) illegally entering the zone and committing mindless acts of vandalism.

For these reasons, the best time to visit Chernobyl is in the winter, when the harsh weather and low temperatures effectively deter (for now) the majority of post-apocalyptic sightseeing fans, and provide me with a greater feeling of comfort while working and the ability to freely search for places with an interesting backstory.

Satellite maps are best for these types of searches. You can use them to find inconspicuous buildings hidden amongst dense trees and bushes, which otherwise wouldn’t be visible. Usually, I spend a few labor-intensive days studying these maps before I arrive at my destination, looking for places of potential interest, and then checking them out one by one on arrival.

On average, I find something interesting in just one or two of the dozens of places which I go to.

The first abandoned building is off the beaten track, away from the tourist routes. Snuggly surrounded by vegetation from all sides, it effectively hides its secrets. The average tourist has no chance of getting here. They don’t know the location or have the time and permission to do so.

Inside, most rooms are empty. Just as I suspected, the furniture and appliances have long since been removed or stolen. The only thing remaining are documents of no significant value. Hundreds of kilograms of paper waste.

Among them, however, I find dozens of old photographs and rolls of film. Most come from the years 1986-1990, which was the period of cleaning up the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. They depict the employees standing in front of a newly built sarcophagus, traveling to work by bus or living on floating barges.

Images like these are extremely important historical documents, thanks to which not only can a lot be learnt about the liquidators and their work, but also about the everyday life they tried to lead in those difficult times. As time passes, such photographs become even more valuable, because not only do they set words and images in stone, but they also serve as a way to remember the disaster.

Unfortunately, due to moisture levels, many photographs are in poor condition. Many of them have faded, so it’s difficult to see the details. It’s already too late to save them, but I take measures to secure a few dozen of the best preserved ones against further deterioration. Maybe someday a museum will be interested in acquiring them?

The floor in the room next door is covered by a layer of books and magazines over half a meter high. Among them, I notice a bunch of extremely rare posters. Some of them have never even been unpacked.

All of the posters feature Lenin, communist symbols and propaganda slogans. Lenin’s legacy—blind trust in the state and the mechanisms of Soviet authorities supporting the falsification or concealment of information—significantly increased the tragic consequences of the disaster.

Finding the next interesting building, its use difficult to guess today, takes me less time than before. As soon as I walk into it, I notice piles of documents—one of them, consisting of thousands of folders stacked neatly on top of one another, forms an enormous paper wall 2 meters high and 10 meters long.

Some doors show signs of forced entry, big holes in the doors, through which burglars had gotten inside. It was easier to kick them in or ram them using some type of heavy object, rather than to pick the lock. But not everything was looted.

In the adjacent room, I find hundreds of documents connected to the construction of the Chernobyl power plant. Projects, permits and instruction manuals. Among them, I notice huge blueprints of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, including the unfinished Block 5. This must have been the archive. Now all this long-forgotten paperwork is scattered throughout the room.

I also find photos here. Interestingly enough, next to them are the newspaper clippings in which they were published. Where did the original photographs, which were later published in the newspaper, come from? Food for thought.

Searching for traces of history in old photographs, documents and posters isn’t the only thing I do during my few days spent in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. I also managed to visit some abandoned factories near the power plant.

One of them was involved in the production of reinforced concrete elements used in the construction of the old sarcophagus. After its completion, the factory was repurposed. For what, I’m able to guess, judging by the remnants of chopped up helicopters lying around, which were involved in the clean-up effort. They were most likely brought here from Rossokha (where they were stockpiled) for decontamination, and later to be scrapped and sold because of the aluminum and other precious metals they contained.

Right next to them I find something special: the remnants of the STR-1 remote-controlled robot that cleaned the roof of the building next to the damaged reactor. My dosimeter warns me that the still-attached bulldozer blade—used to throw pieces of graphite, parts of fuel rods and uranium fuel off of the roof—is still highly radioactive.

The robot is one of three that I know of in the Exclusion Zone. I found the second one in 2011 at the radioactive waste site in Buryakovka, and the third can be seen on display in Chernobyl. I wrote more about them in this article.

The next day I notice a small lot on the satellite map, with grayish-brown looking objects in the distance. No details are visible, but the elongated shapes resemble vehicles. I decide to check it out.

What I find is a dumpsite full of abandoned buses. Most of them are just vehicle shells, stripped of any valuable items. Hundreds of used tires and other car parts litter the area around them. On some of them I notice lettering which indicates that they were used to transport employees during the clean-up of the disaster’s consequences.

Walking around vehicles and measuring pollution levels, I counted almost 80 of them. Radiation levels are normal.

It’s time to head back. I still have a few potentially interesting places to check circled on my map, but unfortunately, I don’t have any more time. Everybody seems to think that they’re easy to find, but that’s far from the truth. Let’s be realistic: what are the chances items that have been left abandoned for over 30 years remain untouched? Most of them have long since been destroyed because of the elements, trampled by tourists or stolen by thieves and vandals.

Despite this, abandoned items are still to be found in many of the Zone’s nooks and crannies. For some, they represent a pile of scrap metal and paper waste with no value whatsoever, and for others they are precious and historical and artifacts documenting the Chernobyl disaster and bringing about reflection on its causes and effects.

About the author: Arkadiusz Podniesiński is a Polish photographer and filmmaker, a technical diver, and a graduate of Oxford Brookes University in Great Britain. You can find more of his work on his website. This photo essay was also published here.

7 Editors Take Us Behind the Curtain on Cutting a Sundance Feature

Our editor’s roundtable covers many important topics… like what to do during renders.

During Sundance 2020, we gathered a group of editors to discuss a variety of topics, including how they got started, details on their editing setups, plus advice for future editors.

How does the idea of a film evolve? How does a story come together in a cut or a performance?

These editors explain their role in the process alongside their directors, in crafting and almost rewriting the story. How sometimes they talk more than edit, and how they often have to show the worst version of the movie possible.

Editors featured on this podcast are Gabriel Rhodes from Time, Tyler Walk and Maxwell Anderson from Welcome to Chechnya, Sofi Marshall from Save Yourselves! Eileen Meyer from Crip Camp, Pete Ohs from Beast Beast, and Matt Friedman from Palm Springs.

For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

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Watch How ‘The Mandalorian’ Literally Moved Mountains with StageCraft

This Making of The Mandalorian video further Illuminates its astonishing innovations

During the ambitious production of Catch 22, legendary director Mike Nichols wanted to shoot only during “the magic hour.” He had a lot of cache at the time (hey, it’s not often you are coming off making The Graduate), so he was allowed to do this.

But it was kind of crazy because it meant paying a star-studded cast and full crew to wait around and do… whatever… while only working about 3 hours a day. Stories included the biggest names at the time spending their days playing tennis or swimming while waiting around to shoot, all on the production’s dime.

Hollywood sure has changed.

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Cosina Unveils Voigtlander 60mm f/0.95 Lens for Micro Four Thirds

It’s been an exciting day for Micro Four Thirds shooters. Not only have budget brands Yongnuo and Venus Optics officially joined the standard, but Cosina Japan has unveiled the Micro Four Thirds mount Voigtlander Nokton 60mm f/0.95.

This manual focus lens joins a few other Micro Four Thirds Voigtlander Nokton lenses like the 42.5mm f/0.95, which are aimed at low light photographers and those who want to squeeze as much bokeh as possible out of their MFT cameras—even more so given that it’s the longest focal length in the series with a 120mm full-frame equivalent focal length.

Optically, the new lens is made up of 11 elements in 8 groups, and boasts a stepless 10-blade aperture that ranges from f/0.95 to f/16. Minimum focusing distance is 0.34m (~1.1 ft) and the maximum magnification ratio is 1:4 (or 1:2 full-frame equivalent).

Here are some sample images captured with the new 60mm f/0.95, and published by Cosina Japan:

The lens was only announced through the Cosina Japan website, so we don’t currently have any official US or European pricing or ship dates. According to the release, it will retail for 145,000 Japanese yen, approximately $1,300, and is set to start shipping (in Japan at least) in April of 2020.

To learn more, visit the Cosina Japan website and keep an eye on the online retailers to see when it becomes available here.

International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020: The Gaze of the Old Filmmaker

Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye,  Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? — William Blake As one of the centerpiece programs at the 49th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), “The Tyger Burns” was a canny display of un-hipness. What a joy it was to pay repeated witness to such a mammoth series of movies so gleefully, so wilfully out of touch. What better way to undercut the widespread love of emerging voices, new talents and young geniuses than to turn to aging, even senile artists who have either fallen […]