Oct 5, 2015

4K Filmmaking Challenge
Grand-Prize Winner Evan Mann Takes on a Mountain

By Harrison Jacobs

To call Evan Mann only a filmmaker misses the point. While he certainly creates films—strange, beautiful ones at that—he is much more. In his brief artistic career, Mann has been a painter, a printmaker, a sculptor and a video artist, exhibiting in art museums, galleries and film festivals across the country.



Mann’s films are experimental, juxtaposing natural and constructed settings and abstracting the human form. He manipulates familiar objects, sights, and sounds to create unfamiliar scenes. His 2014 short, “Real Ethereal,” —a winner of the 2014 Slamdance Festival and an official selection of film festivals in Boston, Chicago and Seattle, among others—features a cotton humanoid, occupying a white paper and fabric room, who accesses a rocky cavern by pushing a Q-tip through a David Lynch-like encased human ear. 2015’s “Pure Concentricity” is a stop-motion film of the naked male form moving through myriad terrain with shaving cream patterns that become of the natural landscape.

“When I was growing up, I drew to create things that didn’t exist,” Mann says. “That idea—creating something no one has ever seen before—continues to inspire and drive me.”

In his current incarnation, Mann is the director of Otherworldly Productions, a video-production company that he formed with his wife in 2012. As Otherworldly Productions, Mann produces sharp and off-beat videos for Colorado-based companies like Home Advisor, Soulstice Wellness, and the Denver Parks and Recreation Association, as well as directing music videos for artists like singer-songwriter Josh Garrels and electronic music producer Slow Magic.

Mann’s path to filmmaking was unexpected. While he took art classes in high school, his familial calling was real estate, and he applied to Colorado State University as a business major.

“I remember trying to talk myself into it. I thought, ‘Ok, I’ll go into real estate and then do art on the side.’ The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do art,” Mann recalls.

Right before school started, Mann changed his major and immersed himself in printmaking and drawing. At CSU, Mann developed a minimalist style that used subtle shifts in light and tone to create beautiful monochrome imagery. In his senior year, he met his future wife and business partner, Deborah, who was attending the business school. After graduation, Mann had dreams of attending a graduate art school, but was soon hit by reality: he needed to pay rent.

“I was trying to figure out how to make a living as an artist,” Mann says. “It was a bleak time.”

He began working for a care provider that assisted the disabled. It was a stable, but difficult job. Like many twenty-somethings, he felt rudderless. Deborah encouraged him to apply to graduate school, and he was accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design.

At RISD, Mann began experimenting with found objects—cotton balls, Q-tips, paint—to create strange and humorous sculptures and costumes. While Mann had long made prints and drawings of a similar style, bringing his ideas into the physical world was a breakthrough.

Mann’s first film was a stop-motion short called “The Body” in 2010. The film used an improvisational process that he still uses today. He first creates found-object sculptures, then uses the camera to film them in visually interesting ways. Mann created “The Body” with no predesigned plan aside from the sculptures that he wanted to use. Instead, he worked scene by scene, trying out new sculptures, vantage points and movements. By adding sounds and editing in post-production, he brought the objects to life.

“I fell in love with combining all these artistic processes into one final piece,” Mann explains.

Mann is able to bring his highly conceptual ideas and creative techniques to varied types of filmmaking through Otherworldly Productions, from commercial work and music videos to wedding films. Mann and his wife have expanded their team to include a second videographer, a marketing assistant and freelancers. Mann juggles a packed professional and personal life, with a young daughter and a baby on the way.

“I’m trying to find a balance between this amazing career and not letting it take over my whole life. I want to protect my relationships with my friends and family,” Mann says. Finding that balance, while still growing Otherworldly Productions, means developing a fully-fledged team to delegate filming, production and editing duties, while pushing the company to produce video for big, national brands.

“Up until now, I’ve been the director, the accounts manager, the videographer, the editor, the production manager. I wear all those hats, but the one that I want to wear is director,” Mann explains.

With his hectic schedule, Mann hadn’t thought much about entering contests up until this summer, when a fellow filmmaker told Mann about the PDN and Samsung 4K Filmmaking Challenge. Mann entered on a whim, and was surprised to learn he was one of the ten finalists.

When the Samsung NX500 arrived for him to shoot a film for the second judging round, Mann was daunted by the challenge. He had two weeks to produce a five-minute 4K film (Mann usually takes months to produce a personal film). Creating one of his sculptural motifs was out of the question. Instead, he decided to create a film using a different found object: his life.

Mann’s winning film, “This Mountain,” is a visceral documentation of his hectic life, jumping rapidly from scene. We see Mann embarking on a climb up a mountain, reading to his young daughter, commuting through Colorado and filming on location (with a guest appearance by one of his costumed characters on a trampoline). He alternates between macro shots and wide angles, and the textures, sounds, and repetition become mesmerizing.

Filming “This Mountain” was undoubtedly a learning curve for Mann. Though his art is emotional, he never portrays his real life. In the 4K Challenge, he made that the focus.

“I was out of my comfort zone. I was filming people that I know and places that I visit and things that I do that are very intimate to me. It was a vulnerability to put myself out there,” Mann says.

At first, Mann says, he questioned what he was doing. He debated his intentions for filming certain scenes and labored over editing parts of his life down or taking others out of context. Eventually, he began shaping the film with his usual artistic process: tweaking certain bits, twisting others, adding sounds and chopping up the time.

“It’s basically two weeks of my life condensed into five minutes. Seeing all of that transformed my perspective of time,” Mann says. “We live such a fleeting life.”

View the winners' gallery including Evan Mann's film

Aug 28, 2015

Announcing the finalists of the 4k Filmmaking Challenge!

PDN and Samsung are proud to present the finalists of the 4k Filmmaking Challenge. The ten finalists are currently shooting their 5-minute 4k films, which will each be featured in an online gallery next month. Each finalist will also be featured in a special PDN and Samsung 4k Filmmaking issue, polybagged with the November issue of PDN, and the to-be-determined grand-prize winner will receive a four-page feature, a Samsung NX1 and $2,500.

ANGELA AND ITHYLE
www.angelaandithyle.com

JONATHAN CHAPMAN
www.jonathanchapman.com

PAUL KAHLER
www.paulkahler.com

JOHANNES KNUTH
www.johannesknuth.com

NATHANIEL MADDUX
www.slateandglass.com

EVAN MANN
www.evanmann.com

BROOK PIFER
www.brookpifer.com

SEAN REYNOLDS/SWANSON STUDIO
www.swansonstudio.us

SELLADORE FILMS
www.selladorefilms.com

BERTA TILMANTAITE
www.godoberta.com

Aug 6, 2015

Imagelogger Kristian Hill Goes Behind the Music and Deeper into 4k

Kristian Hill

Filmmaker Kristian Hill

To say Emmy-nominated filmmaker, director and editor Kristian Hill cut his teeth on video would be an understatement. Long before picking up a camera, he served an eight-year tour of duty as a video editor for the NFL Network and, prior to that, as an editor at Technicolor and a media coordinator for HBO.

Steeped as he was in the world of video production, Hill, a Detroit native, eventually got the bug to pick up the camera himself. Unlike many filmmakers though, he had the benefit of years of editing experience under his belt.

“As a filmmaker, I have more confidence in what I’m doing because of my editing,” Hill says. Many filmmakers will often tell you to shoot with an editor in mind—meaning they shoot enough footage for the editor to work with (but not too much!). For Hill, the experience of being an editor also gave him insight into the kinds of shots he needed to get. He is, he says, his own worst critic. “I can do that self evaluation so when I’m out as a director or DP, I can get shots that are compelling.”

Compelling indeed. Since his foray into filmmaking, Hill has seen his short film Electric Roots showcased at film festivals around the world and his Africa Channel special, Postcards: Mandela nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Electric Roots

Hill is well underway on his next project, God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines, a feature-film length documentary that has taken him to Russia, South Africa, Amsterdam, London, Japan and points between to unearth the story of how techno music sprouted in Detroit and went on to pollinate the global music scene. Hill’s fascination with Detroit’s musical legacy started early in life. He lived four houses down from Juan Atkins, the pioneering musician and DJ who is widely credited with coining the term “techno.”

“I’m not an activist per-se, but I’m trying to tell stories that are close to my community,” Hill says.

To tell those stories, Hill will increasingly be turning to Samsung’s NX1, and he’s excited by the prospect of 4k filmmaking. “It really gives me the opportunity to see the power of 4k, to see how clean the video is,” Hill says. It’s not just about the resolution, either. “It future proofs my work,” he says. “There’s no question that 4k is the future.”

As Hill notes, filmmakers always desire to see their work on the biggest screens possible, and 4k is accelerating the trend toward larger displays in the home. There’s a “thirst,” he says, for video experiences that have a closeness and clarity that 4k makes possible.

While Hill finishes work on God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines, he’ll be toting the NX1 for behind-the-scenes footage while beginning to put it to work for several future projects, including an awards show. His promise: “We’re going to push the camera, just as we would other cinema cameras.”

Jul 14, 2015

4 Essential Items for 4k

We live in an age of big data, and while that phrase is generally associated with the virtual trails we leave behind online, it applies nicely to video as well. 4k video is the ultimate big data, producing files that are about four times the size of HD video. That extra data translates into higher resolution video, but it also means that an investment in 4k recording technology may tax a workflow built around HD video.

Samsung’s NX1 Smart Camera uses an innovative new compression format dubbed HEVC to keep 4k video files manageable, but you could still find yourself in need of an accessory upgrade here or there to truly maximize your investment.

Here are four essential items you’ll need to tackle 4k’s big data.

Faster Memory Cards

4k by Samsung

The NX1’s HEVC compression enables you to record 4k video directly to an SD card, but you’ll still need to be sure your cards can keep pace. Samsung’s PRO+ SD cards fit that bill. You’ll enjoy read and write speeds of up to 95MB/s and 90MB/s respectively, plenty fast enough for the NX1. The cards come in 32GB and 64GB capacities with the later capable of holding up to 110 minutes of 4k video.

External Recorder

When you record 4k internally using the NX1, you’ll create an 8-bit file with 4:2:0 color sampling. For many users, that file is just fine. But videographers may want to bypass the NX1’s internal recording, opting instead to output less compressed footage for color-grading in post-production. Use an external recorder and you’ll get a 4:2:2 file with more color data to edit.

Atomos Shogun

A 4k-capable external recorder, such as the Atomos Shogun ($1,995), connects to the NX1 via HDMI and stores footage on removable SSD memory. The recorder will also automatically transcode HEVC files to Apple ProRes or CinemaDNG, which are more widely supported by video-editing programs. Outputting to the Shogun also gives you the ability to embed time code in your footage, which could be helpful for synchronizing audio and video files if you’re using multiple cameras and/or audio recorders for a shoot.




4k Monitor

4k

What good is recording in 4k if you don’t have the monitor to match? The 31.5-inch U32D970Q ($1,300) can display 1 billion colors, giving pixel-peepers plenty to peep at. The monitor’s color gamut covers 99.5 percent of the Adobe RGB color space and 100 percent of the sRGB color space, with an option to display both color spaces in a split-screen view on the monitor. The UD970 offers automatic white balance correction and is pre-calibrated to ensure uniform color out to the edges of the screen.


T1 SSD

4k

This slender solid state drive (SSD) crams up to a full terabyte into a minuscule enclosure that’s just about the size of a business card. It boasts transfer speeds up to 450 MBps and employs AES 256 encryption and password protection to keep files secure. It’s available in capacities ranging from 250 GB to 1 TB.


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May 9, 2015

Three Reasons to Go 4k

Display resolutions don’t change often, but when they do, the change is momentous. When the world switched from standard to high definition, the revolution transformed both the media and electronics industries.

A similar revolution is underway again, as the world starts its trek from high definition to 4k or “ultra high definition.”

As with any change of this sort, early adopters face a number of challenges before taking the plunge. But those who do strike early can be rewarded. Here are three reasons why now’s a good time to invest in 4k.

It’s the future

Creating a 4k “master” of your video is an investment in the future of your work.
4k by Samsung

The consensus among market research firms that track this stuff is that 4k TV adoption is a matter of “when” not “if”—and the “when” starts just about now. The Consumer Electronics Association projects that 4 million 4k TVs will be shipped this year in the U.S. alone, up 208 percent from 2014. Worldwide, the trend looks similarly bullish. Futuresource Consulting pegs the global market for 4k TVs at 100 million in just three years—representing more than a third of every TV sold.

As those screens find their way into homes, the race is on to fill them with content that fully takes advantage of all that resolution. It’s why streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, UltraFlix and others are rapidly building up their library of 4k videos—from original programs to feature films and documentaries. YouTube and Vimeo have also rolled out support for 4k video as well.

Whether your video is destined to be viewed on desktop monitors or TVs, creating a 4k “master” of your video is an investment in the future of your work, viewable on the highest quality displays ever built for the world’s living rooms.

It makes your HD video better

4k

Many industries, such as wedding videography, don’t necessarily need to produce a 4k deliverable today. Even if you a client only requires an HD file, it can still make sense to shoot in 4k. All those extra pixels give you ample room to crop or reframe your video to improve image stabilization or remove extraneous detail without sacrificing resolution. You can pan across your 4k video using post production software without rapidly running out of pixels.

Depending on how you’re shooting, a 4k video file may also capture more than just additional pixels, but more color information as well. Armed with this additional color information, you can down-sample a 4k file to HD with improved color detail.


Screen Grabs Are Awesome

Shooting in 4k doesn’t just mean high quality video—it can enhance your still photography too. Isolating still images from HD video produces images that are a measly 1920x1080 pixels in size or about 2-megapixels, barely enough for a decent print.

A 4k still frame, on the other hand, is a chunkier file—either at 4096x2160 or 3840x2160 pixels in size, depending on your setting. That’s equivalent to an 8-megapixel image, ample resolution to print by.

This doesn’t just mean that stills from your video production will be higher quality (though they will be), it also means you can use 4k video as a “burst mode on steroids” for moving subjects to capture images that your camera might otherwise miss. It’s not necessarily applicable in every situation of course, but it opens up new creative possibilities that aren’t available to you when shooting in high def.




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