Monday, May 31, 2010

My Trip to Maryland

I just came back from Maryland. Had a blast down there, I always do. Got some good practice in with the new camera which was great. I'll throw some of it up here in a few days. It's really difficult to take bad shots with this thing.

While at my all time favorite bar, Cancoon Cantina, I came up with a movie idea. It will most likely be a romantic comedy set in and around a country bar. Why? because I'd like to have an excuse to go back again, and while sipping a beer, looking out at the line dancers in front of the main stage, slow dancing to some good country music, I realized that there is something romantic, something very deep and pure about a slow line dance.

I nearly shed a tear thinking about it. The cowboy boots, and hats, and the women in their dresses. There is something nostalgic about it, which I think would make for an interesting story. We'll see what comes of that.

In the mean time, here is a country song I was just turned on to.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Clonehunter (North American) Trailer

Here is a trailer I cut for an independant film called Clonehunter. The film is directed by Andrew Bellware, a brilliant no budget filmmaker who looks great in feathered masks.

Andrew composed the music, and Ben Thomas, the clonehunter himself did the VO. I simply edited the piece. It's very exciting for me as it is the first time my work will be viewed in such a large, professional capacity.

Clonehunter Trailer (N. America v3) from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.

It's Here, It's Here, It's Here

My camera came in today. Thank you very much Adorama. You not only saved me the embarrassment of explaining to a client that I can't make her promotional video because my camera is backordered; you also got the camera to me in enough time to bring it to Maryland and this weekend so I can figure out how to use it.

I shall have to leave work early so I can go pick it up before catching my ride down south. I'm so excited, I can't stop smiling, and people at my job are giving me strange looks.

Something to think about. When in history did it become a bad thing to smile at work? If I had to guess, some guy was probably smiling right before he lost his mind and started streaking through the rows of cubicles.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Low/No Budget Films

I found this while cruising through YouTube. Just goes to show you what you can do with a lot of ambition and very little money. Rock on guys.

The Pieces Are Coming Together

I received a large package from UPS yesterday, I bet by now you can guess what was in it. It was everything for my camera rig, except the camera and the shoulder mount. Very exciting stuff, although it's a bit of a tease. I sat and played with my new toys for about five minutes before a thought set in. All of this nifty stuff is useless without the camera.

However, I had to call Adorama Customer Service today to correct an issue with billing (they were very polite and helpful, and quickly solved my problem) and I found out the camera is shipping today, which, if the accessory package is any indication, means the camera will be here tomorrow. If that should be the case, I'm hoping to pick it up before heading to Maryland for the weekend. That way I can learn how to use the darn thing, and shoot some test footage of my buddy and I riding ATVs.

Super excited!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Road

So I popped a copy of The Road into my DVD player last night, and much to my surprise, I stayed awake into the wee hours to finish it. Now I should explain this a bit. I generally do all my movie watching late at night, as this is when I get the time to relax. Generally, I will start a movie around midnight, and make it about half way through before I start passing out. I then resume the movie the next night. Few and far between are the movie that keep me up for the whole film in one sitting.

The Road is about a father and son traveling through a post apocalyptic world trying to survive.
I expected the movie to be good, but HOLY CRAP. Cinematically, it was beautiful. The set designer and CGI artist really did a great job of putting together a post apocalyptic world. The interaction between the young boy and his father is at times uplifting, tear jerking, and gut wrenching. The dramatic scenes truly had me on the edge of my seat. Movie trailers say that all the time "it'll have you on the edge of your seat" but this really did.

My favorite part of the movie was the consistency of the theme. For the Save the Cat readers out there, I can't remember where it was stated, but there was a constant theme of humanity. The loss of humanity in the cannibalistic survivors, the struggle of the father to maintain his humanity via caring for a protecting the boy, and the boy himself, an innocent, who despite being born in this waste land, is a constant reminder of the world that was. As the dad (Vigo Mortensen) begins to lose his kindness, becoming hardened by the world around him, it is the boy who reminds him that they are the "good guys", preventing him from becoming blood thirsty like so many of the other survivors.

All and all, top notch flick. Definitely give it a view.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Camera En Route

Well I've done it. I place the order for my camera rig last Wednesday. The order for the camera and the lenses didn't go in until Friday due to the shop being closed, but the IndiSystem Ultra Compact shoulder mount should be here any day now. I imagine I'll be running around pretending the camera is attached when it gets here.

I'm really not sure when the camera and accessories will arrive, as the camera is still backordered, but let's keep our fingers crossed. I'm sort of scheduled to shoot a promo video a week from Thursday, and it would be great to have the camera and the extra lenses available for use.

No matter when it gets here, the first item on the to- do- list is to read the manual and go shoot some test footage.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Late Night Pondering

I got called to do a lighting strike last night. I was pretty tired when I got the call, but the pay was good, and in cash, so I figured "why not"

On my way home at 2AM, I found myself wondering "wouldn't all narcissists be self proclaimed narcissists?"

I mean if everything is about them, you'd figured they'd be the ones to say it.

Any thoughts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Waxing Poetic About Rolling Shutter Problems

On another late night walk around the Village, I started thinking about the whole problem of rolling shutters. For those that don't know, rolling shutter refers to a problem with the way a lot of cameras, DSLR's like the canon T2i, and 7D included capture video frames. I can't explain in great detail, but essentially, the censor in the camera doesn't do a uniform scan of the image projected through the lens. Rather, it scans it from the top to bottom, or the bottom to the top, or side to side. I'm not really sure on that. What this adds up to is a bluring or distortion of images moving quickly past the camera, particularly vertical lines.

I've seen people test this "rolling shutter" effect with the T2i by rapidly panning the camera back and forth while aimed at a building, and yes, the building seems to bend and flex, kind of like that silly magic trick with the pencil that was really amazing in kindergarden.

Here's my arguement for those who really complain about the rolling shutter. Who films like that? In what movie have you ever seen someone jerk the camera from side to side? I've never seen it done. What about whip pans? Well my thinking is that a whip pan doesn't really need to be crystal clear until you land on the object of interest. As long as he, she or it is clear when the pan stops, does the rest matter? If all of the scenary between point A and B does matter, are you really going to do a whip pan? Maybe just a smooth pan will work fine.

Furthermore, I think the rolling shutter might become an audience accepted film technique, because honestly, the few times I've seen it in films, it just seems to enhance the feeling of movie at great speeds.

In conclusion, it would be nice if the sensor scanning could be corrected to prevent rolling shutter effect, HOWEVER, I don't think it's as a big a deal as everyone makes it out to be. If you don't believe me, watch 2012, and see if you can spot the rolling shutter in the film.

A Theory on Film Theory

Late last night, I took a walk around Washington Square Park. I do this often when I can't sleep, which, sadly is also a regular occurrence. While wondering the dark streets of Greenwitch Village, I started thinking about all that I've been reading, regarding lenses, and censor size, and depth of field, and picture resolution. This inevitably brought me to film theory, or rather film standards.

Standards, we are all bound and guided by standards in one way or another, and the same is true for film. With all the new technology blooming for digital film making, the industry is more or less still trying to live up to the expectations set by 35mm film cameras. I like old school 35mm movies. I like the texture of the image, and the high contrast, but I often find myself thinking, is that really better?

With the advent of HD, image quality has become unbelievable clear. Colors are vivid, and with a deep depth of field, you can see detail in the background of a football game. I spent most of my walk wondering why, with this technology, we are trying to meet the standard set by what is seemingly a lesser technology, rather then trying to create a new standard. Again, I do actually prefer the look of 35mm over digital films, because, well thats what I grew up with, I just think it would be interesting to see a new standard set.

Monday, May 17, 2010

So Anxious

So I'm still eagerly awaiting the arrival of my check to order my camera rig. Despite being able to afford the camera currently, I would rather wait and order everything at once. A self created pseudo christmas; if you will.
I've managed to find the camera available, however, it will cost me slightly more then I expect (about $50) but hey, whats ten pounds on the ass of an elephant.

While waiting, I decided to do some research into audio. In the big leagues, there's someone that worries about this for you, the audio guy, but as an aspiring independant, broke ass film maker, I feel it's important to know, at the very least, a little bit about capturing good audio.

That being said, I learned there are two major problems with the DSLR variety of cameras I'm interested in. First is AGC (automatic gain control). Essentially AGC tries to keep the audio at a consistant, middle of the road level. A nice idea in theory, but it doesn't work. During moments of silence, the AGC kicks up the gain levels to balance things out, and you just end up with a bunch of noise. FUN!
The other problem is there is no headphone jack on many DSLR cameras.

Well thanks to the BeachTek DXA- SLR these problems have been solved. I wont go into a lot of detail, but it is a small device which can mount under your DSLR camera, plugs into the mic jack, has two XLR inputs, level control, a headphone jack, and an AGC disabling switch. It is a very nifty piece of gear. If your having audio issues with your DSLR, I would surely look into this more.

I don't have the money for one at the moment, but imagine that further down the line, this will become an important addition to my rig, atleast until Canon comes up with a good Firmware update for the T2i

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The down side to waiting

So I received my new credit card in the mail yesterday, but am still waiting for that check to come in. Not sure if I mentioned in a previous blog, that one of the advantages to the Rebel T2i was that it was about $400- $500 cheaper then the Panasonic. I had really looked forward to saving the cash, but as my over ambitious mind would have it, in my waiting period, I managed to find ways of spending that money.

Again, knowledge is both a gift and a curse. I did a lot of reading on lenses, and various accessories one might add to their camera setup, and found that, I too needed these accessories. I'll be honest, I probably don't need EVERYTHING I've got in my online shopping cart, but I think it's still a pretty conservative bundle of goodies.

I don't have the list in front of me, but let's see if I can recall off the top of my head. There is of course the camera, which comes with a 18- 55mm 4.5-5.6 lens as well as a canon ef 75-200mm lens. There is the shoulder mount rig, including accessory frame, and follow focus.
through this great website I would like to order a canon ef 50mm f1.8 AF lens (nice fast lens for cheap), and canon 85mm f3.5 i think, two 16gb SDHC cards, a card reader, a camera back pack, a lens cleaning kit, and Azden WLX wireless mic system, a hoodman loupe (for view finding on the camera's LCD) and I think that's it.
All told, it will probably end up costing about $2100 or there abouts. I will still need a tripod, but not right away so that will wait. When I planned the GH1 purchase, I figured it costing around $1700, but that was really just the camera, shoulder mount, a soft case, and an 8gb memory card.
For $400 more I will have a pretty tricked out camera set up, which will suit my immediate purposes, and hopefully be impressive enough to land me some paid work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Purchase anticipation

So the pieces are starting to come together. I think I've found the camera that will fufill all my needs, the Canon Rebel T2i. My Discover card with an appropriately high limit should be speeding it's way through the mail system. Hopefully the check for the lighting gig I just finished at St. Francis College is doing the same.

Now it's just a matter of patience. I'm sure everyone has been in this position. The one where you know what you want, you've been looking, and shopping, and researching forever, and you finally find it... AND you have to wait to buy for one reason or another.

Despite my inner need for instant gratification, I'm glad I have to wait. It gave me more time to look around and research. If not for that time, I might have just bought the GH1, spending more money for a little less camera.

Oh and um, well the site that has the best deal on the T2i, is currently sold out, as is many of the other sites with preconfigured packages. So I will wait for my card and money to show up, and if these places aren't restocked yet, I'll put together my own package.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lighting Tech... To be or not to be

Before I was into film production/ post production, I was a lighting technician, or at least I thought so. I've been doing lighting setups for about 7 years now for both theater and independant films, and despite a lack of proper training, I was fairly successful. Knowing this; the captain of the paintball team I play for (Bacon Force) called me the other day to hook me up with some freelance lighting work. Woo Hoo! Extra money to fund the camera, and a chance to work in a grander, more professional capacity. Sounds like a win win.
Here is the tale of last nights lighting job.

When I arrive at the location I see about 4 tractor trailers filled with film gear, and about 20 of the saltiest looking grips I've ever seen, and my heart immediately sunk.
"This is way over my head", I thought. Well after hitting up craft services for some snacks, I meet my contact; a man named JD who looked nothing like I imagined. Over the phone he sounded like a hip 30 something kind of guy. Well I was wrong. I'm not sure how old he is, but here's the image. Long gray hair colored a purple/ auburn color, and braided, with an equally braided goatee. Whatever his age was, he was in very good shape, and ran around set with the best of them.
Upon showing up, the crew was wrapping a shoot that could only be described as something you would see on QVC. Our job was to break the set down, and turn the space into a runway for the fashion show which would take place the following morning.
To achieve this we had to hang pipe, run cable and power, hang fixtures, adjust, focus and color the fixtures, while the other crew built the runway... all in 6 hours.
I ended up on a ladder much more then I expect, and although I'm not afraid of heights, the idea of falling from them gives me shaky knees, a stiff back and profuse sweating. Never the less, I did the best I could and pushed through the day, despite some of the other grips poking fun at me for holding on to the grid with one and leaving only one hand to work with.
We ran an hour late, but the lighting looked great. JD is one hell of a lighting designer. He could tell you how much space a 36 degree barrel light would fill at any given distance at the drop of a hat, and the whole plot was built on this knowledge. It's probably the reason why it looked so damn good.

Now if you've managed to read this far without falling asleep, you might be wondering the point of this whole story. There are a few actually. Firstly, I knew that the lighting design I've done was by no means professional, but it looked good and I've never gotten any complaints. After seeing this man at work, imagining all the hours he spent honing his craft, I realized I have A LOT of work to do to be even close to a true lighting designer.
The second realization: I don't think I want to work in lighting. I use to love it, really truly love it, and even thought of making a career out of it. However with my fear of falling from heights growing, my pashion for making and editing films growing, and my decreasing interest in lighting in general, I would rather phase out my days as a lighting tech, go out in my prime so to speak, rather then becoming lazy, and doing a half assed job when called in for a gig. Now this is not to say I don't respect and appreciate the craft. I'd like to continue to learn about lighting fixtures and their different applications, as an aspiring film maker, I think it's important to have some knowledge of how to light a shot, and what to use, but man oh man, how I would love not to climb any more ladders.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Which camera to buy?

So in a previous post, I said that I had been dead set on buying the Panasonic GH1 and my entry into the world of digital film making. Well I did what I normal do when considering large purchases, I read... alot, and ask a lot of questions before buying because in my life, it's very rare that a large purchase for me exceeds dinner and a movie with the girlfriend.

Upon reading and asking tons of questions of my Genre film maker Drew Bellware, I discovered that the GH1 might not be the best choice of cameras. The fact that I technically can't afford anything else is unimportant in my mind. When I want something, I figure out what to sell, or where to work to get it. So I start crunching numbers, and the more I crunch, the darker the tunnel gets, and just as all hope seems to be lost, just as I'm preparing to tell all the people I set up video shoots with that it will have to wait... there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Drew found the Canon Rebel T2i. This camera is probably old news at this point, being that it came out in late march, but if you haven't heard of it, hit up google.
You will find many different reviews and spec sheets, and comparisons between the 7D and the T2i, but to make it simple, and put to use the hours of reading I've done:

The Canon Rebel T2i offers nearly all of the same HD video formats and functions as the Canon 7D for HALF THE PRICE! Professional videographers, and photo journalists will say that it can't compare to the 7D, and they may be right in some respects. As far as still images are concern, the 7D takes the cake hands down. As far as a camera that you can drop down a flight of stairs in sleat, dust off and start using again, the 7D still probably takes the cake, because that's what it was made for.

If you are a new comer to HD digital video like me, the T2i is where it's at. You will have to be a little more careful with the camera in harsh elements, but hey, if you stand under an awning to use your iphone, I'd imagine you'd do the same with your camera. In my mind, and from what I've read, buying the T2i is like getting a toyota corola and finding a ferrari engine under the hood. Check out this link, and the video at the bottom, and you tell me what you think.
With video like this, save the extra $800 or $900 you would've spent on a 7D, and invest in some lenses or dolly's or mic's, or cocktails at happy hour.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thank you Discover Card

So thank you to the fine folks and Discover, I am one step closer to getting the camera I've been saving for this past year. Within a day of submitting my application, they responding, offering me enough credit to purchase the camera and shoulder mount I'm interested in. IN YOUR FACE HSBC.

On another film related note, I think I have landed some more editing work for "Day 2" Drew Bellware's latest project. I spoke with the editor, who has edited a large portion of all the indoor footage. As he is very busy with other projects, he thought having me edit the outdoor shots would serve two purposes. 1. it would give him a little bit of breathing room. 2. having two different editing styles may make for a more interesting movie.
I'm pretty excited. The film isn't likely to be the next blockbuster, but I can at least say that people are paying to see my work. Score!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Beginning

So I've spent the last two days working on this blog. I don't really consider myself the blogging type honestly. I get a little frustrated when people update their statuses on Facebook with every meaningless happening in their day to day life, and am a little concerned that I will become one of those bloggers.
There is nothing I would hate more then to become one of those whining, sniveling, self loathing bloggers who complains about how horrible their life is, or uses their blog as an arena to say nasty insulting things about people behind their back.

I will do my very best to keep the post upbeat, non personal, and above all else, interesting.

That being said, I'm sitting here typing this as I sit on hold with the credit card company. You see, nearly a year ago I decided I wanted to get a decent video camera and start shooting and editing my own films. So I starting stashing away cash, and researching the camera I wanted. I've decided on this camera package
and this shoulder mount
The camera is the Panasonic GH1 DSLR. I saw the footage it takes while working with Andrew Bellware on his most recent film, Day 2, and it looks great. Although the Codec isn't great for green screening, I think it will suit my purposes. The shoulder mount is a little bit more fancy then I need it to be, but part of me thinks that getting work, can sometimes be as simple as the way your equipment looks. If it looks like a really pro set up, sometimes you can get away with not having pro credentials.

Anyway, the whole thing will cost around $1600.00, but I need to increase my credit line. I got the card when I was in college, so the limit is only $500. I put in a request digitally and was only offered an additional $500 of credit. Via a conversation with one of the "credit specialist" in the credit department of HSBC, I come to find out my credit limit increase was denied because I don't spend enough money on the card. I responding by saying "how much damage can you do on a card with a $500 limit" "give me the increase because I'm trying to spend more money"

My complaining resulted in nothing changing. Apparently the only way to get more credit is to spend a ton of money. It just doesn't seem to make sense to me. If they give me $5000 in credit, and I only use a $100 that on a month to month basis, does the other $4900 of that credit go bad? Do they only have a limited amount of credit to hand out, and they don't want to waste a drop on someone who wont use it?

Oh well. I will find some way to get the camera. I have to. I started filling my schedule with gigs needing a camera to justify spending all that money. I planned on shooting 3 or 4 different pieces this month to make sure the camera didn't just sit around and collect dust, so I'll have to figure it out.