IPR Staff Picks: The Cutting Edge of Digital Video Technology

Being a filmmaker is a unique blend of tried and true, never-changing skills and ever-changing, constantly developing camera and post production technology. At IPR, we make sure that students in the Digital Video and Media Production program are grounded in the basics, while at the same time exposed to technology as it develops.

I asked DVMP and SDVM faculty members – and even our Campus Director – to help me put together a list of what they consider the “cutting-edge” tools of our trade. From hardware to software, these are IPR staff’s recent favorites:

Andrew Hunt: Instructor, Screenwriting, Production

Shot Designer ProA desktop and/or mobile application for blocking complex scenes, Shot Designer allows users to diagram camera movements, utilize automatically generated shot lists, animate action in real-time, and integrate storyboards into your blocking diagrams. The app will automatically move the cameras when you move a character, allowing users to make changes quickly and efficiently while on set. All of the apps tools are connected, so changing the diagram will update the shot list and alterations in the shot list will be reflected on the diagram. Shot Designer also includes an integrated set designer tool, an integrated lighting designer tool, an integrated director’s viewfinder, and a sync and team share tool that works via Dropbox. Shot Designer Pro sells for $19.99.

Wayne Johnson: Instructor, Production, Post-Production

Amazon Snowball: The snowball is a big, durable, 50TB drive for secure, off-site storage of large video and film projects. It’s tamper and weather-resistant and can withstand a 6-G drop. Amazon ships the drive, you connect it to your network and transfer your data, then ship the appliance back to Amazon. The rugged outer housing does double time as a shipping container and contains an E ink display control panel for efficient shipping. The whole service is only $200 plus shipping fees.

Troy LaFaye: Instructor, Production, Production-Management

LightSPEED eps: A web-based production management system for film and video, this software is free to students for four months and 40 users. LightSPEED manages breakdown pages, elements, and stripboards; has an automated script import and breakdown function; creates electronic call sheets; manages cast and crew contact information; generates shooting schedules; and a whole lot more. The software integrates with Final Draft as well as .pdf and Scheduling Exchange file formats.

James Lund: Instructor, Production

Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter: A variable ND filter allows you to control exposure by varying the amount of light entering the camera – with the convenience of a single filter. The Tiffen provides two to eight stops of light control, is small and lightweight, and does not require any additional accessories. From the Tiffen website: “The Tiffen Variable ND filter operates on the same principle as a Circular Polarizer – rotate until you reach your desired effect and shoot. It allows you to have continuous control over the amount of light coming through your lens… while maintaining the integrity of your image.” Tiffen sells the filter for $189.89.

Trey Wodele: Program Chair, Digital Video and Media Production

Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software: Designed by writer-director Kent Tessman, Fade In is inexpensive and feature-packed. It has all of the standard features of Final Cut or Movie Magic and so much more. Of course it has auto formatting and auto character name changes, page number locking and a PDF exporter, but check out the dialogue tuner, a function that allows you to see and edit all of a character’s dialogue in one place, or the word frequency tool, to find overused words.  Industry-standard breakdowns are included in the package and they can be printed, or saved as HTML or CSV files for import into other production management applications. There are mobile applications for iPhone, iPad, and Andriod and a cloud service to save your scripts online. Fade In uses Open Screenplay Format, an application-agnostic XML-based file format for saving scripts, making scripts accessible and compatible. A free trial version is available and the pro version sells for $49.95.

Jeff DesLauriers: Program Chair, Sound Design for Visual Media

SoundlyA cloud-based library of high quality, 96Khz 24 Bit sound effects. It was “built by sound designers and video editors, for sound designers and video editors.” It allows users to drag and drop effects into a project in Pro Tools, Logic, Final Cut, Premier Pro and other sound and video editing software. Users sign up and download the interface free of charge. Within Soundly is a massive, community-built free library called FreeSounds, as well as a shop with free and premium libraries for sale. Users can also upload their existing assets to Soundly and create their own index for personal use within the interface. Effects can be customized with effects like pitch, speed, and reverse and can be previewed in real-time. The free download is available for both Macs and PCs.

Norbert Kreuzer: Campus Director, IPR

Light L16 Camera: The first multi-aperture computational camera, the Light L16 takes DSLR quality photos, yet the camera is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. From their website: “Light’s technology combines folded optics with sophisticated computational imaging algorithms to deliver the highest quality images from the smallest possible device… With 16 individual cameras, 10 of them firing simultaneously, the L16 captures the detail of your shot at multiple fixed focal lengths. Then the images are computationally fused to create an incredible high-quality final image with up to 52-megapixel resolution.” The L16 also shoots up to 4K video at 35, 70, or 150mm effective focal length. The Light L16 is still in Beta, but it can  be preordered for $199 – the camera’s total cost is $1699. It is expected to ship in late summer, 2016


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