Cinematography, editing, motion graphics, VFX, 3D animation, film gear - In the second of a three-part series, we profile five blogs that are wonderful resources for moving picture technical professionals.
In the first part of our series on blogs for film professionals, we featured three general filmmaking blogs, touching on the art, craft and business of making movies. This week, we shift focus to our community of our industry's technical professionals, and five outstanding blogs that cater to them.
Disclaimer: This is by no means a comprehensive list of film tech blogs, or a 'best-of' list. We realize there are many resources out there, and we'd love to hear about your favorite sites in the comments, especially up-and-coming blogs that aren't on everybody's radar yet. In this series, we're primarily focusing on one-person blogs, run by film professionals as a way to share what they've learned with their readers. With that said, shooters, editors, motion graphics and VFX artists, 3D animators, please take note, because this article is for you.
Wolfcrow: Workflows galore
Sareesh Sudhakaran is the definition of a multihyphenate. He is a writer, director, producer, production company owner, and electrical engineer based out of Mumbai, India. If that wasn't enough, he somehow finds time to author and operate wolfcrow, an intelligent blog on end-to-end film workflows. Camera guides, product shootouts, advice on rigging, lighting, audio, editing, CGI, delivery - there's just an amazingly vast array of articles spanning the entire technical spectrum of filmmaking. He even offers advice on the business of filmmaking, as evidenced by his recent series Cinema vs. Television vs Internet Video, with a clear breakdown of the opportunities for filmmakers distributing in each medium.
One of the most impressive aspects of wolfcrow is the ease with which Sudhkaran explains very complex and technical information, bringing clarity to jargon, such as in a very detailed series of articles on the difference between full swing and studio swing (Part 1 here), or in his epic three-part series determining The Best Video Editing Software of 2013. (Our parent company EditShare also owns Lightworks, which was featured in the series. Spoiler: It didn't win, but fared very well against the competition.)
Sudhakaran has incentivized sign-ups for his email newsletter by offering four eBooks, including guides to rigging the Blackmagic Cinema and Pocket Cameras and a primer on RAIDs. But the big draw is the mammoth, 612 page guide The Comprehensive Guide to Rigging ANY Camera. As an subscriber to the wolfcrow newsletter, I can tell you that this resource is a mind-boggling collection of useful information, allowing the reader to confidently gear up all cameras, with the possible exception of the latest round of cameras post-NAB 2014. But I would expect an update to this eBook in time, as Sudhakaran has made Wolfcrow a destination for the latest in film workflows.
Hurlbut Visuals: For shooters, by a shooter
Let's say that you're looking for a blog with more rigidly-defined focus, say, for cinematography, and the one workflow that you want to master is that of a director of photography. There are several great blogs out there for shooters, all run by shooters. Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet run exceptional blogs that are worth checking out. But we're going to shout out a very useful blog from a talented cinematographer who has bounced back nicely from a well-known, career-threatening incident.
I'm speaking of Hurlbut Visuals, a great site packed with tips and advice for shooters of all experience levels, and its author, DP Shane Hurlbut. If you don't know Hurlbut by name, you may remember an audio recording of a certain tirade from a certain actor on the set of 2009's Terminator: Salvation. (Christian Bale has since apologized.) Getting lambasted by a star actor isn't exactly the go-to move to ensure career longevity, especially when that star is very loudly threatening to have you fired in the middle of production. But Hurlbut steadfastly bounced back from that unpleasantness, finished the film, and through skill and diligence, continued his career unfettered by Bale's, shall we say, passion.
Okay, back to the blog. Hurlbut Visuals really delivers when it comes to keeping readers informed on the news that's important cinematographers, while giving great tips that only an experienced shooter would know. Would you like to know how a Hollywood DP makes color correction easy, when mixing different formats and lens types? Sure you would. How about a list of still photography lenses "that can grace the big screen?" Or lighting breakdowns taken from a summer popcorn flick, shot by Hurlbut?
It's precisely his access to this world of big-budget cinematography that really sets Hurlbut's blog apart from others. Here's an example: Hurlbut's behind the scenes microsite for Need for Speed, the 2013 Aaron Paul, ahem, vehicle. The microsite, sponsored by GoPro, gives viewers a glimpse, through video featurettes, of the making of the feature, along with a roll of blog posts from Hurlbut's main site, related to either the film or GoPro products.
It's commendable when someone at the top of his or her game thinks enough of the community to give back. So you can't be but so mad at Hurlbut if he goes a week or two without a new post. But if you're interested in cinematography and comb his site, I'm sure you'll find something worthwhile and valuable, every time you visit. (And if not, just give him a yell; I hear he's into that sort of thing.)
Jonny Elwyn: The blog for freelance editors
The life of a freelance editor is increasingly challenging. Years ago, an edtior-for-hire could more easily position him or herself as solely an Avid editor, or a Final Cut pro Editor, or Premiere, or Vegas; the point is that you could basically pick a platform, and if you were skilled enough, you could work in that platform alone, possibly for your entire career. And while there are many freelance editors who do just that, these days it really behooves you to have a working knowledge of all the editing systems, or at least the most common ones. The more editing workflows you can instantly step into, the more marketable you'll be when looking for that next gig.
With that in mind, London-based editor Jonny Elwyn is doing freelance editors everywhere a great service by authoring his blog. Much like many of these blogs from professionals, the landing page highlights his recent work, proving his worth with a collection of commercials from clients like Nike, Sony, Honda, IKEA, and Vodaphone. Impressive stuff, but it's his blog, the Toolbox, which you should bookmark, as it's a great site to re-familiarize yourself with the breadth of editing systems out there, and it's chock full of advice.
Would you like to know what Darren Aronofsky's editing set-up looked like for the film Noah? Then check out Elwyn's post on the Inside of a Professional Edit Suite. How about a checklist of gear for the film editor? Go Here. I wouldn't say that Elwyn's blog is the only site you should visit for nuggets of editing wisdom, just one of your first.
Elwyn's focus on the freelance editor extends to an eBook offering, How to be a Freelance Professional. Unlike some of the other eBooks mentioned throughout our series on blogs for moving picture professionals, this one isn't free, but if the blog is any indication, it's well-worth your $25, for the advice on how to raise your rates alone.
Lesterbanks: The motion graphics & 3D animation mega-blog
It was tough picking just one blog for such a broad field of artists and technical professionals. We nearly occupied this space with the constellation of CG Cookie sites, which are tremendous resources for 3DS Max, Blender, Modo and Unity users. But many of the tutorials are only available to CG Cookie Citizens, i.e. people who paid for subscription access to the premium tuts. I don't think there's anything wrong with charging for this content, as it takes time, and therefore, money to produce, but we're profiling blogs that share the majority of their content for free, so we decided to go another way.
Greyscalegorilla was also a contender, as it has a high output of strong articles and a loyal following, but is made for Cinema4D users, largely ignoring the other platforms.
The blog Lesterbanks (not the actual name of the blog operator, but he does claim to answer to it) fits the 'personal blog with useful content' paradigm very nicely, and widens its gaze to all motion graphic and 3D animation programs, including the aforementioned, as well as After Effects, Maya, and even the cloud-based Clara.io. The only for pay items on the site are t-shirts, meaning all the fantastic advice offered to motion graphic and 3D artists won't cost them a dime.
What's more, Lesterbanks (or whatever his name is) has a wonderful attitude when it comes to his site and what he's doing for the community. A long-time graphics and animation teacher, Banks started his blog as a means to shield his students from tutorials and techniques that would send them in the wrong direction. Since then, the site has become much more, although in his own words, it's not easy:
I try to keep the scope of the site manageable and relevant, which is becoming increasingly harder to do. The site is just me. I don’t have a “team” of authors and journalists, and the items that get posted are not done so through some sort of automated system. It is done manually, every day as part of my daily routine.
So, if you visit Lesterbanks and find it useful, you can drop him a line HERE and let him know, or contribute by sharing some of your own motion graphics and 3D animation news, tips, and work. He promises to respond "promptly, and in a friendly manner."
Cheesycam: For the gear-obsessed
To round out our selections of 'Must Read' film tech blog, we come to a sentimental favorite of mine. When I frist decided to take the plunge into HDSLRs, one of the first sites I came across was Cheesycam, run by the mysterious Emm (which also isn't his real name. On a side note: what's with the need for anonymity?) He keeps personal details tightly guarded, but what he does share is a seemingly endless barrage of product reviews, sales, and DIY solutions. In other words, nearly everything you could possibly want to know about film gear, especially for the HDSLR set, as those are the cameras that need the most help in rigging to make them truly usable for filmmaking.
Have you ever wanted to know if a relatively inexpensive Chinese-made vest and stabilizer could measure up to a comparably equipped Steadycam outfit? What about the quality of aftermarket battery grips? Or progress on the Cheesycam DIY Video Tripod Platform Push Dolly Project? Alright, maybe that last one wasn't on your mind, but if you're a tinkerer who loves staying up on the latest film gear and accessories, or you're just in the market to spend and want to know what to buy, check out Cheesycam. Just give yourself a budget before visiting.
- Wolfcrow for complete workflows.
- Hurlbut Visuals for cinematography.
- Jonny Elwyn for editing.
- Lesterbanks for motion graphics and 3D animation.
- Chessycam for film gear.
Got it? Good. And come back next week when we conclude our series on blogs for moving picture professionals by profiling Must Read Screenwriting Blogs.