DIGITAL FILMMAKER MAGAZINE PDF
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They can run tests to see the quality of the projection. With the medium of film, you have more control. I mean, you can even bring your own projector!
Ken Jacobs: I disagree. You had disasters. Ken Jacobs: Yes, there were problems. It is this fantastic brain that can do anything. It gives just incredible freedom and control. But these days I can do much better conversions using Final Cut Pro and some other compressors than they can do.
There are only two film-processing labs in the city now. These problems with video will cease to be problems after a while. Video is constantly improving. Flo Jacobs: But the other problem with digital video is preservation. Ken Jacobs: The labs tell us that the only way to preserve digital video is to put it on film—on 35mm. The practical changes they occasion are a big part of our daily lives.
But the changes in our thinking are harder to grasp. The other day, I was watching experimental documentaries by students from Union Docs, and I asked them a question about sound, and every single student had downloaded their sound from the Internet. Instead, they seem to want to work in a cleaner comfort zone.
Of course, we all work with found footage, and I adore that. But the surprises that come from working in the field teach you something about who you are in the world. I asked these people, who are all in their early-to-mid-twenties, if they ever go out into the world to listen to and record sounds.
Their answer was no, for the most part. For them, filmmaking is more about acquiring the world than engaging with it. Windhausen: Mark, do you find this with your students? Street: I can make an analogy with books.
Nowadays there really is a more acquisitional approach to sound and images. Ken Jacobs: They live only in their own times.
They are not listening to the world, just making something out of the computer. Turvey: Hold on. Turvey: Lynne and Mark, if I understand your work correctly, you use multiple for- mats to shoot on, right? Do you do so because each medium offers different possibilities or advantages? Street: For me, yes. I was in the basement today looking at a 16mm print that Craig Baldwin sent to me. I had to go downstairs and thread up the projector just to look at it, and there are limitations involved in that, just as there are limi- tations involved in shooting 16mm and Super 8mm film.
I try to let those limitations speak, while also enjoying the freedom of the digital age.
But then I transfer it to digital and that opens up other possibilities. Ken Jacobs: What moves you to still shoot film? It has its own weight and characteristics. You know? Thirty-six exposures: a roll of still film becomes like a little narrative, a little vignette of sorts. I remember when I first started shooting videotape, I would fall asleep looking at my footage.
I had six hours of footage. It used to be I had two rolls! So I like those limitations, I like being hemmed in, because making work is always about overcoming the obstacles.
Turvey: You are also interested in 35mm film, right? Where does that come from, that attraction to 35mm? Street: Well, for a very brief and misguided period of time, I thought I could cir- cumvent the fact that 16mm was disappearing in the early s. I made a film called Sliding Off the Edge of the World  in 35mm in the hope that I could maintain the purity, such as it is, of the filmgoing experience.
I was motivated, in part, by the experience of trying to show my films on 16mm. Windhausen: Ken, you did a couple of found-footage films on 35mm as well, right?
Ken Jacobs: Both are. Windhausen: For the size of the image, because they are widescreen?
It costs so much, the meter is always running, and I honor that. Turvey: So you find the extra volume of material facilitates creativity and surprise? Ken Jacobs: I look at that stuff the way you might look at the world with a film cam- era.
Turvey: Luis, if I understand your projection process, you use 16mm film exclu- sively, is that right?
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Recoder: And 35mm. Turvey: You are from the youngest generation of filmmakers in this room, and so that means you would have gone to school in the s, would that be right? Turvey: Can you say something about why you work with celluloid film? Recoder: I think it has a lot to do with what Lynne said earlier about the availability of media. Digital made celluloid film more available. You can now find it in a flea market for really cheap. It was more about availability and economic fac- tors. Working with a projector and found footage, by chance I became a projectionist.
I was going to festivals and was invited into the booth to set up my projector, and I learned about projection that way. So it was really a schooling through the rear end of cinema, through the projection booth, which happened by chance. Windhausen: Guy Sherwin says that as well—that you can now buy film projectors really cheap. For him, digital has made it easier to work in film projection and performance than it was before, because you can just go on eBay and buy all these cast-aside film projectors that nobody wants anymore.
Have you seen other artists at these festivals working in video in ways that run parallel to, or in interesting contrast with, what you do in film?
Even in music there is a revival of the old analogue hands-on process. Windhausen: So in your experience of going to these festivals, there has been a revival of expanded cinema largely in the photochemical-film and analogue- video modes, but not so much in the digital-video mode? At film festivals—not just at expanded-cinema events but also traditional film festivals—they are opening up spaces for installation art and performance, and my partner Sandra Gibson and I fall into that niche.
A lot of festivals, even big ones like Sundance, want to high- light materiality. They invite us because they want materiality, again due to the crisis occasioned by digital media. With digital media, there is nothing material to see or touch as a medium. Sachs: I think one of the interesting directions that the digital world is taking us toward is a fetishism of decay.
We miss decay, so we have to create the activity of something physical breaking apart or aging. In the world of architecture they create furniture that looks faux-worn and antique. It is very peculiar to me that there are digital effects that can create scratches and dust. Nevertheless, we miss the chemical reactions, the fact that physical things change, so we simulate decay. The desire for decay is a nostalgia for the aura of the original and its physical transfor- mation.
Things that experimental filmmakers first discovered about film or liked to reveal to an audience are now so easy to achieve digi- tally.
I used to have this idea that you could go out and get projectors, Dumpster-dive, buy stuff on eBay, etc. Then a student brought in an old camera, a regular 8mm camera, and it was rigged in a weird way with a funny magazine, like a regular 8mm magazine that you would pop in. I had never seen anything like it, so we poked around on the Internet and discovered you could buy those magazines through a Web site. There was a guy in L. I realized there was something faux-nostal- gic about this.
Rather, it was about re-creating it, in an anachronistic way, like wearing a pince-nez or jodhpurs or something like that.
Ken Jacobs: But the marks of these older technologies mean something. They ring a bell, they do something. I studied decay, OK? What is it made of? What is its character as a series of light impressions? Windhausen: There is a video by the artist Cory Arcangel called Personal Film , which is full of the effects you are talk- ing about, but he made it on a desktop digital imaging pro- gram and had it transferred to 16mm film.
The flameouts—I kept them in my films for a number of reasons. Do you care? Recoder: Yeah, I do. When I started doing projector performances, a lot of the peo- ple who came to see the show were let down because there was no performance in the traditional sense. I try to work with Ken Jacobs. Celestial Subway Lines. Is it film? Is it video?
I work within the space of that confusion. Recoder: Slightly. Windhausen: Do you care whether they think they see a film performance or a video performance? Ken Jacobs: No, I do care. We were in Paris, and the interest in seeing the machinery was so strong, I just opened it up. I want people to realize that it really is a magic lantern.
The result is coming from these primitive means. Now, some of it is being recorded on video. I also want the effects onscreen to be appreciated for themselves. Windhausen: Ken shows artifacting, pixelation. Street: Ernie Gehr shows the space between the frames, as in Crystal Palace . Street: Right, things that remain particular and idiosyncratic to that medium. Windhausen: Cameras these days are like computers in that they have built-in obso- lescence, like laptops.
After a certain number of years, a camera is going to be off the market and obsolete. So the question becomes: why bother doing medium- specific work when your medium is obsolete within a year?
Ken Jacobs: Young people, I believe, are sampling. They encounter something, they get an idea, and then they go for something else. Filmmakers can now continually revise their work, because they have it on a hard drive. You just look up a particular file and continue working on it. The open work is becoming more of a norm now. Street: I think that openness is good. I always encourage my students—this is Final Cut Pro talk—to create a new sequence every time they sit down to edit, as if they are reinventing the film every time.
Filmmaking was linear; it involved a progression. As you edited it, the film hopefully got better, shorter, clearer.
But in the digital age, you can sit down on a Tuesday and reinvent your film and on a Wednesday reinvent it again; you are not bound by a linear progression.Windhausen: And is more of your work being seen, not just at festivals but in venues that are interested in showing works by Mark Street or Ken Jacobs, now that they can find a DVD to rent?
In fact we are so consumed with working on this project, that other ones are slowing down a bit. In contrast, even if digital data is stored on a medium that will preserve its integrity, highly specialized digital equipment will always be required to reproduce it. Prefer to send a gift voucher? High quality digital cinematography systems are capable of recording full resolution color data or raw sensor data.
I felt that I could walk in and walk out of it, not physically but perceptually.
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