The Quiet Season – A First Timer’s Filmmaking Experience with Magic Lantern RAW

by planetMitch4 Comments

I found this the other day when surfing for Magic Lantern RAW videos – and I reached out to Brandon Neubert who shot it as I wanted to know more to be able to share with you as well.

Before you go too far and skim down to see the video – please realize this is Brandon's “first “real” “short film” I’ve ever produced” – while it isn't “perfect” I consider it pretty darn good for a first project especially when you read how well Brandon planned his “first real short film” and how he went about using Magic Lantern RAW video!

Brandon's also shared his awesome color grading behind-the-scenes which helps us all understand how he's made the shots so much more alive.

It is awesome for me to see how people are picking up DSLRs and shooting projects – especially when the project is so personal and it is also so heart warming to see how people learn to use what they have available.

Brandon has also done a good job explaining his process and how he's managed to grow the visibility of his personal project.

The Quiet Season | A Cycling Short Film

From Brandon Neubert:

The concept behind The Quiet Season began with a letter that my mother wrote to me while I was away in Tennessee for a few years in service for my church.

When I received the letter, I read it through about seven times and went to a public library to type it into a word file and save it onto my portable hard drive. I don’t know what caused her to write as poetically as she did in that letter, but I do know it was inspired, and I’m glad she wrote it.

She’s an excellent cyclist and loves to ride. What I loved most about this letter was how it shared her reasons behind her riding, the honesty of it all. It was so visual, so vivid, that I could see, hear and feel everything as I read. Simply put – I knew that other cyclists shared those same feelings, and I wanted to share her experience.

Later that week I began basic scripting and very basic storyboarding. After that, I put it away for a year and a half until I could return back home to Utah.

People deserve to know that this was the first “real” “short film” I’ve ever produced.

I have my reasons for not uploading the rubber duck love story that my buddy Angus and I made in high school, though it is pretty awesome.

I’ll start out by saying my experience using Magic Lantern on the Canon 5D Mark II was fast, moderately simple (with a complex workflow), and delivered more for my budget than anything else in existence right now. You can read about my workflow near the end of the article.


This was actually my first experience with ML as well, making this project even more difficult. But I didn’t want to botch this and turn such a fantastic narrative into a sub-par home video.

At the time, all I had access to was a Sony NEX-5N. So I began doing research on HDSLR video.

I discovered Magic Lantern completely by accident. While searching for HDSLR footage and learning about bitrates, frame rates, 180 shutter rules and other technical stuffs, I stumbled onto some ML Raw footage on Vimeo.

I was absolutely and utterly blown away by the clarity I saw, and it blew all other DSLR footage I had ever seen out of the park, rendering it cheesy, cheap and totally obsolete. In fact, even footage shot at 540p on a tiny T3i in raw absolutely destroyed everything shot at the normal H.264 codec in “1080p.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, not all 1080p is created equal.The raw is so sharp and versatile, it doesn’t even compare. Here’s some post production coloring to show how data-rich raw footage really is:

Color Grading Example for the Film. Magic Lantern Really is Magic.

Now armed with some newly found knowledge of DSLR video and the incredible potential of Magic Lantern discovered, I began even more research. I learned as much as I could about production that I didn’t already.

I realized quickly that the Canon EOS 5D Mark III or its older predecessor were what I wanted.

Through all of this, I was still building my storyboard, writing shot lists, scheduling shoots, locating and selecting music (which turned out to be right under my nose, stupid me…), finding locations through Google Earth, managing my (very) limited budget, and going to school at the same time.

Apparently you can rent 5D Mark III kits with Magic Lantern already installed for about $200 a week, body only. But I sent a message to my friends and coworkers in the BYU-Idaho AV Department, asking if anyone had access to a Canon 5D Mark II or III, and another request for a CF card. Turned out that I was in luck.

Another friend and coworker, Andrew, was the proud owner of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a Glidecam HD-2000, a Tamron 18-24mm wide angle lens and was already incorporating ML into his workflow. Another friend owned a very quick CF Card, onto which ML was quickly and easily installed. I rented all of this from the two of them for $110 total for the four day weekend.

Shooting dates were set, I found a ride home, and armed with my new weaponry and knowledge I got to work.

I had two days for the shoot. Originally I had planned for three, but if weather isn’t one of the many destroyer of guerrilla filmmaking then I don’t know what is.

Day one consisted of mostly ambient shots – those I categorized without having a rider. We shot a little of my mother during the evening when my father returned home from work.

The day after, Saturday, was completely spent rushing from one location to another, taking two to three shots and moving on. I named my new ulcer, Freddy. Days were short, and the golden hour quickly faded into the golden 5 minutes, or so it seemed.

A Small Portion of My Shot List and Text Storyboard.

The Quiet Season - Article for Planet 5D

Through some miracle, I got most all of my shots in, as well as some that I hadn’t planned on before the sun disappeared on Saturday night. On Sunday morning it was snowing, but was able to capture the footage of the geese – to me, a key element of the film.

Other decisions involved cutting external audio from the film, a decision made to save time and also to make it more cinematic. On Sunday I also recorded the narrative with my mother in her studio and she gave me the music. I’ll tell you right now, having a studio producer for a mother is the best connection in the world. You can hear some of her other work here on her Bandcamp page: lisaneubert.bandcamp.com.

Please remember that this was my first short film.

When I finished, I had a massive amount of data to work with. I had researched previous ML workflows, run some tests and learned about how ML worked. But when you’re working with that much data, it can be overwhelming. I was juggling three external hard drives around and had multiple file types in different codecs for each clip: DNG Sequence, Lossless AVI, Unprocessed ML Raw and a couple AE composition files. However, soon I was organized and ready to edit.

Magic Lantern RAW workflow

My workflow looked like this:

1. Use Raw2DNG to extract DNG files into their own folder. Label and organize shots according to folder.
a. This may be the most important step of your entire workflow. I had all of my shots numbered and lettered before shooting anything.

2. Use After Effects to create proxy editing files. Build your rough edit.
a. (Now, I’ve learned you can use RAWanizer to combine steps one and two, a great time saver)

3. Use Adobe Dynamic Link to link back to your original files in After Effects. Replace proxy images with full-res DNG sequences.

4. Make basic color corrections and grading as you go.
a. The video was so versatile and easy for me to color with my photographic experience in Photoshop and Lightroom. Without raw, it would never have looked like it does now.

5. Complete your final edit in Premiere.

6. Review all coloring, and make adjustments as necessary using Adobe Camera Raw in After Effects.

Many hours, late nights, caffeinated beverages, test audiences and prayers later, I finally reached the release date I had set a month earlier – Thanksgiving Day. I premiered it at home, made minor corrections (you never finish, you just submit it with faith), and uploaded it online, adding subtitles through YouTube’s awesome subtitle tool.

After uploading, it turned out I was only half way done.

The next few weeks were spent contacting local bike shops, Facebook organizations, international online blogs and all sorts of pages to find my audience. Now, beyond my own belief, I’ve reached over 17,000 views – a solid 16,500 more than I even pretended to hope to gain. I

t’s been viewed all over the globe in places such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Spain, Italy, and even Kazakhstan. I’ve received thank you letters from many people around the globe for sharing their own feelings and riding experiences in The Quiet Season. See, cyclists everywhere share a common bond that The Quiet Season was able to portray to others.

This project was an incredible experience for me. It was the largest projects I had ever undertaken, and took many hundreds of hours in planning, researching, learning, messing up, stressing, contacting, shooting, editing, driving, scouting, praying, and having a blast. It was so much fun.

I’m really grateful that I took the initiative to film this narrative. It has been the building block in my current career outlook, and has opened many doors.

For me, I just love telling the story. It takes a lot of work – to attempt this in a week would have been impossible to say the least. To attempt it in a month would have been difficult. It had been a project in the making for over a year. But hidden within the research, stress and sleepless nights was a story worth telling, and that made it all worth it.

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


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Comments

  1. MarkCurran2

    Astounding! He did a great job on this cycling film.

    PS: Would love to see a horror project with interiors done soley with the Mark II shooting RAW

  2. Charles O Slavens

    New formats and technical horizons come and to. It would have been a worthwhile film regardless of the format. Let’s keep in mind that it’s the singer, not the song.

  3. BrandonNeubert

    Charles O Slavens  Thank you very much! I’m glad you felt it to be a worthwhile project.

    I agree with what you’re saying – to a point. I write about the format and medium I used because it was such an integral part of the film. With my photography experience, not only was coloring the footage easier and faster for me through RAW, but was also much more flexible than any other format I could have used. The film would have had the same shots, but would have appeared dull and unprofessional, or even colored incorrectly had I used H.264 or another format. The shots would not have been as clear either. Through ML Raw I was able to portray the feelings of the film the way I intended and in the sharpest and with the deepest color depth that I could afford (being 14 bit).

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