Saturday, August 28, 2010

Novacut is on Kickstarter!

I'm very happy to announce that Novacut is on Kickstarter!

Update - October 3, 2010 : Kickstarter campaign finished a couple days ago - many lessons learned. To learn more or support the project, please visit

We spent way more time than we expected setting up the Kickstarter project, but turns out it's pretty hard to describe what we're doing.

Actually, I take that back: what we're doing is easy to describe, we are:
  1. Developing free tools (a video editor in particular) to help artists reduce production costs even further
  2. Building a direct artist-to-fan venue through which artists can distribute their work (TV in particular) and make money from it
  3. Developing a free, iTunes-like player to make it easy for fans to find the entertainment they want, support the artists they love
But the hard part is explaining why we're doing it.  This is a convoluted, complicated subject, not because it involves such subtle reasoning, but because it touches so many seemingly unrelated pieces.  Our "body of evidence" for why the time is right for Novacut is a long, meandering story born from the countless hours of discussion we've had over the past few months as we tried to convince ourselves that Novacut is a good idea, that it will work, and basically that we aren't crazy.

When we try to explain the idea to others, we tend to lay out this whole sweeping body of evidence in gory detail.  Problem is, that's just too long and too boring (especially for the Internet).  Many pieces will be self-evident for many people without us boring them with an explanation.  And some pieces that we think are self-evident may not be for most people, do require a straight-forward explanation.

Thanks to feedback from friends and family, not to mention a zillion rewrites, we think we finally have something concise and action packed enough to work for Kickstarter, so we launched.  But the why of Novacut still needs lots of work, and that's where you come in: feedback is our greatest currency - take a look at the site at and let us know what you think of the story.  Drop us a line, in the comments or take your pick: Facebook, Twitter, or

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inspired by LXD

I don't own a television, and haven't for over two years now. All the programming I watch I watch through the interweb, so naturally I'm a regular Hulu watcher. Stumbling (just a few days ago) onto the League of Extraordinary Dancers, a beautifully filmed dance TV series that Hulu is sponsoring, I felt pretty good about choosing internet TV over network TV. For if I hadn't made this change in my TV viewing behavior, I probably wouldn't have found this visually stunning gem.

What makes my find even more exciting is that it happened around the time Novacut launched into existence! The timing of it all got me thinking about the story-telling possibilities Novacut can foster and grow. I started to think about Novacut being a place where dancers/choreographers could collaborate with directors of photography, sound engineers, editors, etc. in making interesting TV. Dance can be a form of story-telling. So why not use it as a story-telling medium in the world of TV? Why not run with this great idea that Hulu has had the vision to support?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Opening the language of video

I've come to really respect DoctorMo after following him on Planet Ubuntu for a while.  Today he has a post about screening "Sita Sings the Blues" at DebConf.  He raises the important point that the "source-code" for a CC-licensed work is far less useful if it can only be manipulated with a single, proprietary application.

This is a primary reason why we're developing a video editor.  Access to the source-code is a big part of what has allowed free-software to accomplish the unthinkable - software that is written more quickly, for less money, that at the same time is higher-quality than its proprietary counterparts.  On the surface, it seems the math is wrong somewhere there.  But it's not, this weird math is working everyday in the free-software industry.

There are two big reasons why this works.

First, it's an education thing.  If you want to learn how complex, industry-leading free-software is written, you can look at its source-code and see exactly how it's designed.  No secrets.  Importantly, you can also follow the exact process through which the software evolves and improves day-to-day.  The free-software community has such a high concentration of great developers because it's the easiest place to learn to be a great developer.

Second, it's all about brutal peer-review.  If you talk to free software developers, they'll all say that knowing the world will see their source-code keeps them on their toes, makes them write better software.  No one wears their professional hearts on their sleeves the way free-software developers do.  But this unforgiving peer-review has raised the bar very high, and has fueled a staggering rate of innovation.

The Novacut team wants to make sure the "source-code" for professional video production is as useful as it is for free-software.  And the cool thing about video source-code is that not only will it allow you to learn about and further the state-of-the-art in video editing, it will provide a window into the entire video production process.  For example, when looking at finished HDSLR videos, I'm always curious what the virgin clips coming from the camera look like before color-grading.  After all, it's hard to learn how to get the right video from your camera if you can't compare apples-to-apples.  But with the source-code for a video, our editor will show you all the details for making sense of the process - how the raw clips look, the exact color adjustment values used, and how the clips look with these adjustments applied.  The Novacut video editor will help directors-of-photography up-their-game even if they never do a lick of editing themselves!

P.S.: It's freakin' awesome that Nina Pasley is screening "Sita Sings the Blues" in person at DebConf!  Rock on, Nina.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Portland Kickstarter Meetup

I had a blast at the Kickstarter Meetup in Portland! There were so many amazing people with great projects, many already fully funded by Kickstarter donations. I was super impressed by the level of quality and creativity in the room.

It was the perfect opportunity to explain Novacut to some filmmakers who were right in the thick of things, either in or just out of post-production for their own films. I got lots of enthusiastic responses, and some important insights into what filmmakers value in their editing software, how they feel about the industry, and how technology is changing everything right now.

Speaking of technology, here's a couple of projects you should definitely check out:
  • Coup de Theatre, a feature length comedy beautifully filmed with a Canon 5D Mark II. I got to hang out with Sean Parker, half of the creative team for this film, at the Meetup. Sean got this project fully funded by Kickstarter, and was so excited about Novacut that he gave us an invite! Can't wait to see the whole movie, Sean!
  • Thomas Hayden of Slopeviews makes incredible 360 degree panoramic video using a specially designed camera with twelve lenses. You have to see it to believe it!
  • Justin Hamel is part of a team that sends weather balloons practically into freaking space and takes pictures of, you know, like the curvature of the earth. I asked him how he gets balloons into space and he was like: "hydrogen, doi". Well, of course.

I was also excited about several projects on the non-technical side of things:
  • Elly Blue's got a zine: "Ring Road Boys" about being a bike commuter and a woman in Portland. It'll change your mind about some things.
  • Chloe from reading frenzy was showing off the latest issue of Crap Hound, a cool book of classic, um, clip-art for lack of a better word. Its cool clip-art though, seriously. They got featured on Boing Boing a while ago and are pretty huge with the tattoo artist set.
  • Cute-as-a-button Crystal of pieLab PDX blew my mind with her granny's strawberry rhubarb pie, and then sent me home with some Crack Pie. I have to go steal a stereo now to fund my new Crack Pie habit. That stuff tastes like cinnamon graham cracker magic.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vision, Cameras,

The Novacut blog is a good place to understand the trends that we have seen emerge, that drive the need for Novacut. Much of seeing a new kind of media emerge has been keeping an ear to the ground and picking up on certain changes as they approached.

When something significant comes across our radar, it will appear here. is a great reflection of the same spirit we share here at Novacut. They have ambitious goals for their project. Fundamentally changing how Northwestern's creative undergrads showcase their work is no small task. Yet their project budget is primarily to buy an HDSLR, a 5D Mark II to be exact. aims to do much with nothing more than a camera and some supporting equipment.
All we need is a single camera to bring an incredible new resource to the digital media community.
That's the kind of change HDSLR cameras represent to video production. With $3,300 in equipment, this project aims to produce pro-quality HD video.

They aim to create a new media outlet where none was possible before. The limiting factor was the cost of equipment and production. The advances in camera technology represent a sea-change in how video is produced and who can produce it. The cost of filming has always been a prohibitive obstacle for the aspiring film maker. Now that is simply not the case.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

LA Kickstarter Meetup

The Kickstarter meetups were our first chance to introduce novacut to the world. Can't imagine a better place than the LA meetup to make such an introduction. It's one thing to be excited about your own idea, but when other people start getting excited, that's when things start to get interesting.

Seems like things are about to get very interesting.

Big thanks to
The Fishes

Monday, August 2, 2010

From stills to director of photography

Just recently I read an interview that Vincent Laforet (the creator of Nocturne - a video short Canon commissioned to promote the 1D Mark IV) did for; it got me thinking about the options still photographers now have because of HDSLR video capability.

As still photographers, we already know how to compose a shot that's interesting to the eye. We know how to capture the imagination with good use of line, light, texture, color and so on. So it makes sense that Laforet is now making head-turning moving pictures as well - that he's been able to move fluidly between the still and moving picture worlds. In fact, he's been so successful as a short film and commercial director that he's managed to stay busy during this recession with seemingly no end in the near future.

Thinking about Laforet's success, I can't help but get excited about still photographers making their own opportunities as directors of photography. Through Novacut, they can find exciting artists (screen play writers, editors, sound engineers, etc.) to collaborate with, and build a financially supportive fan-base for T.V. they want to make. Photographers no longer have to wait for a client and job to come to them; they have the power to create their own work.

Canon HDSLRS and Novacut have given the still photographer another way to make a living. Brilliant!