Top 5 New Filmmaking Tools of 2014 December 30 2014, 0 Comments

Yep, it's that time of year to reflect on what happened in our lives over the past 12 months - which means of course making a list - and in the filmmaking world that list is full of what cool new tech made an impact on us and our work.

This is of course a subjective list and so what tickled our fancy might not have even been a blip on other folk's radar.

Some of these might be obvious choices and some others maybe not, but hopefully a few will be of interest and ultimately help (and inspire) your filmmaking endeavors in 2015 and beyond.

Here's our Top 5 New FIlmmaking Tools of 2014

#5 - DJI Inspire

We haven't actually used this new drone yet as it's not widely available at the time of this writing, however, we have used the DJI Phantom a lot and it has revolutionized how we capture aerial and other fast motion style (tracking) footage (see some cool shots here). This new quadcopter looks as though it will take this to the next level, not only in the updated design of the hardware, but also with the camera. 

The original cameras built-in to their drones were not very good, so when we first heard about this we were skeptical, however after seeing the sample footage and hearing that the sensor in their camera is the same at the GoPro Hero 4, we changed our tune. Oh, and of course having Philip Bloom as a pitchman helped too. :)

We're looking forward to getting our hands on one soon. And you can also order one here for $2899.

#4 - Red Giant Offload

This entry isn't near as glamorous as a new copter, but it's actually (debatably) more important and vital to any production. 

Larger scale jobs often have a DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) on set who handles the media management (copying and backing up footage) along with various camera image-related tasks like adding LUTs, transcoding footage, creating dailies, etc. However, on smaller jobs it's often the DP or AC or even an intern (ahem) who will copy the camera cards to drives on location or back at the studio.

"Automating" the copy and backup process is paramount, along with the Checksum verification this software does. Before this was around the primarly solution for this task was to use Silverstack, which is what most DITs use and it is quite expensive (it does do a lot more than Offload, but for most routine data wrangling gigs Offload is great).

Buy it today for the affordable, no-brainer price of $49 from Red Giant.

#3 - Element 3D V2

Video Copilot is one of our favorite places to browse for editing elements like their Action Essentials or Optical Flares, etc., but they also have a great 3D product for people who don't really need to know (or want to know) standalone 3D apps like Lightwave or 3D Studio Max. Element 3D works as a plugin within After Effects and the results achieved can be amazing.

They recently released V2 of the popular plugin with lots of enhancements and improvements over the original. It puts a very powerful toolset into the hands of pretty much any filmmaker wanting to do visual FX and motion design. We won't go into all the details here, but Andrew Kramer and crew have all the details on their site (and in the video above). Definitely check it out.

# 2 - DJI Ronin

This is the second mention for DJI on this list and it's something we've been using a while and really like.

Our first experience with these type of camera stabilizers was with a Freefly MoVi, and they are also great products. But they do cost more and don't necessarily do anything better than the Ronin.

The main difference we've found is the MoVi is lighter, which over a shooting day can make a difference, but with the right accessories or multiple shooters the Ronin will work just fine - and again, it's considerably more affordable at only $2699 vs. 3x that amount for one that will hold the same camera weight of 16lbs. The Ronin will also auto-balance the camera, which is great, although by no means perfect (you do need to balance it first, then it will help and correct it).

There are lots of competitors out there now and also lots of DIY ways to build your own, but putting an expensive camera on one will likely make you think twice about which brand you choose. In the end though, no matter what rig you like if you can move your camera it will add production value and polish to your work, and today it's easier to do that than ever before. 

#1 - Panasonic Lumix LX100

Our top pick might be an unlikely one, but hear us out... 

Talk is cheap and that's what most filmmakers do it seems: Talk. They talk about gear (like this list)... they talk about who's making what... they talk about raising money... they talk about writing a script... they talk about camera specs... 4K, 6K, UHD, etc. And they always talk about why something isn't good enough to do this or do that. And more times than not, they never do anything - but talk.

Stop talking and shoot something. Create something. Make a film.

And that's what this little camera will easily let you do. And, in 4K too.

Now don't get us wrong. We're not saying sell your Red Epic or your Blackmagic 4K camera (btw, the LX100 does make a great B camera to those or a crash cam). Those are great rigs and there is a time and a place for them. But what we are saying is don't use not having one of those as a reason for not shooting something. Don't wait until you can afford one of those to create. Don't make any more excuses.

Is this camera perfect? No. Far from it (no camera is). It's a bit cumbersome to use, the screen is hard to see outdoors in bright light and the zoom range is fairly short (it is a f/1.7 though on the wide end).

But, having a small form-factor camera like this that captures amazing 4K footage (in the right hands) really opens the door for anyone and everyone to start creating cool stuff today. Did we mention it shoots stills too? :)  It does, and very well. It also has a built-in timelapse mode, which is great.

And btw, if you didn't know, this little $900 camera shares the same M43 sensor as it's big brother the very popular GH4. So while it's not perfect, it's no slouch either. We won't go into the detailed specs, but rest assured as the video above proves, you can get incredible results with this little "point and shoot" camera.

As they say, the "Best Camera" is the one you have with you - and in this case this camera is very easy to carry with you at all times! 

And so it's our Top Filmmaking Tool of 2014. Check out a few new shots from us using the LX100 here and here.

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments below and Happy New Filmmaking Year!