Thursday, March 26, 2015

Talk myself down

So we're going with the Blackmagic URSA camera on this next movie. With all the kit and kaboodle it'll be about $2400 for the movie.
This is the quote.
What are things that concern me? Well firstwise I worry that after all is said and done we're going to need to do some reshoots/additional photography. Hopefully we'll get everything we need and not have to but I've never seen that happen in the history of things that happen. So we're going to need to get a 4K camera eventually. Or something.

The other thing that concerns me is something which I actually have trouble uh, making clear with the verbal thing where you say the stuff and then other people understand what saying you are making with the sense.

In short I feel we need more sophisticated and elegant camera moves in our movies.

I think this solves a couple big problems, not only does it make the picture look bigger and more expensive, but also it serves for visual interest while we watch characters think for a while. We've noticed that our movies tend to go a quite a clip and that we tend to be a bit "breathless" as well as going under-time. We need a moment, to watch the android inside the derelict ship, as she decides whether to kill everyone aboard or not. It's these kinds of moments which we need to be able to sit on, to experience, to bring us closer to the characters in the story.

If we were to rent a Fisher 10 (or 11) with a dolly grip for a weekend it would be about $2000. Thing is that on our sets we don't have more than about... er... 10 feet(?) to go on those tracks. Not side-to-side anyway. We could go with one of those gimble stabilizers, but only if we were to do a smaller camera.

Well, that's a $600 difference in price. There's no quality hit that I know of when going from the Ursa to the Production 4K. But the 4K will be easier to bring to remote locations and such. Hmm...

I'm kinda talking myself out of the Ursa.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


13 classic scenes that explain how horror movies work is interesting in that it shows some different techniques and counter examples to how they work.

Horror films are just too hard. I have no idea how to make them. So I don't.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Too Old to Play with Dollys

Everybody's been talking me out of a dolly. I would love a Fisher 10 or 11 and a full-time dolly grip. Then I got talked down to a Matthews doorway dolly, and now I've been talked down to a slider. Sigh.
One day. One day I'll have a Fisher with a jib and a dolly grip. One day.

Friday, March 20, 2015


This is a beautiful short, The Leviathan.

The Leviathan -- Teaser from Ruairi Robinson on Vimeo.

I may end up with a Matthews Doorway Dolly rather than a Fisher 10 dolly on our next movie. Sigh. I want the Fisher. The producer part of my brain is yelling at me. But the director part really wants a Fisher...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

памяти и куклы

памяти и куклы
That means "Memories And Puppets". Which, I think, is the Russian name of the shop in Android Masquerade where one gets one's android from.
Apparently I do not post this image often enough on this blog. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Voles, Crimea

So we're just pricing some things around. Looks like two days of a Fisher jib and dolly grip will be about $2000. That's to be expected, right?
Dealing with insurance. About $600 for liability and another $400 for workman's comp? That's about right, no?
Crimean vole. Do we need a geared head? Or should we give up on all this whackadoo grip gear?
Also, in the future there's some kind of space knife. There are at least two in this movie. What kind of knife to people have in the future? Maybe I'll make one of those bondo switchblades out of a comb switchblade...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

More on Ursa

The awesome Libby Csulik turned us on to which is where it looks like we'll rent the Ursa camera.
Shane Hurlibut says the Ursa wants to shoot at an ISO of 400. He says that whackity-doo* things happen to the image at both 200 and 800 ISO.
The fact he has a football strapped to his kit is all kinds of awesome.

The trick is to use infrared resistant ND filters for out there in the sunshine. Whether we feel the infrared pollution on the image is a good or bad thing may be up for debate, but we're GOING to need some ND. This morning I measured an f45 out in the daylight at 400 ISO at 24fps and a 180 shutter (I still have my Sekonic light meter from Pandora Machine). That's right, an f 45.

Obviously that will have to be knocked down a couple stops. The IR ND filters are delightfully expensive. Delightful!

This is information I frequently need:

Neutral Density Factors

• 2x = ND.3 (exposure adjustment = 1 stop, reduces ISO 1/2)
• 4x = ND.6 (exposure adjustment = 2 stops, reduces ISO 1/4)
• 8x = ND.9 (exposure adjustment = 3 stops, reduces ISO 1/8)

*My words, not his.

Update: a complete explanation of f-stops!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thinking Out Loud About Cameras

Our thinking nowadays is to rent the Blackmagic Production 4k camera.

We can rent the camera body for just under $900 for the shoot.
The Alphatron EVF is about another $325 for the month.
Add a shoulder-mount and an EVF thingy and we're staring down the throat of somewhere around $1500 for a month.
But that doesn't include lenses or batteries. I think we're okay with EF lenses, but our power needs are great. Perhaps two of the Switronix PowerBase batteries.  So think somewhere in the $1700 range for 30 days of 4K with global shutter.
Remember folks, we'll be shooting at about a 200 ISO for the entire shoot.
We'll need a decent SSD drive for the camera though. Adorama seems to have the best price. Although Ha! They don't have them in stock. So B&H it is. Think $500.
We will also need a reader. Think another hundred bucks.
So $2300 for a month with the Production 4k.
But wait a minute.
If we were to go with a Blackmagic Ursa, two cards and a reader, and a couple batteries, it would be about $2,000. Now we wouldn't have an EVF with that, but we'd have a variety of taps onboard. The camera is about 20lbs but we don't need a shoulder mount (but for about a hundred bucks we could rent one).
Just to make life more difficult the AJA CION is another camera which is interesting. Although all I can find are PL-mount versions and we don't have access to PL-mount lenses. So there.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oblivion Bible

Obviously from an Aliens video game. The details on the far right wall are interesting to me.

You know, just to remind you

A nice ship interior but I don't think it's for us.

Kinda cool. Way too big though.

For a medical room this looks pretty sweet. We just need all that tacked on stuff.

For a white and circular corridor design this is actually pretty nice, no?

This image is the most inspiring. How do we do those panels on either side? This is what I want. Those panels could go over flats and it would look like total rock and roll. How do we build those?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quote of the Day

This conversation happens at least once a year:

We: We're going to need a robot for our next movie.
They: What kind of robot?
We: It's a killer robot.
They: Does it kill people with swords, or guns?
We: Guns.
They: Laser guns, or like, bullet guns? 
We: Yes.

Although based on live action I believe that no part of this shot is, actually, live action. The whole thing is CG by Ian Hubert.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Peggy Archer on how over/under makes electricians cry. (Although personally I will tend to wrap electrics cables they way they want to go, rather than doing a barrel roll with them. That said, you do anything other than over/under with any of my expensive mic cable and I will become visibly upset, so I can understand.)
I want a lighting source that does not obey the inverse-square law. I'm tired of this so-called "physics" which oppresses me. I want a big instrument I can put in a shot which casts its light evenly along its throw.
A Fresnel can sorta do that. Not really but the "source" of the light is essentially thrown back by the lens to a virtual point somewhere behind the lamp's physical location. So even though the light itself obeys the inverse-square law of falloff, it "begins" further away to the change is less dramatic.
So then I started thinking I wanted a Fresnel LED instrument but those things are freaky-deaky expensive. Sheesh.
The Coast Guard publishes a list of "PROWORDS" to be used in radio communications.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Production Notes on Robot Revolution

Production notes on Robot Revolution
by Andrew Bellware (Director)

The script, a screenplay by Steven J. Niles, is written as a POV tale of woe and hardship as a police officer and her Robot partner try to track down a terrorist who unleashes a nanobot virus in an apartment building.
The initial idea is that the movie is told in flashbacks, primarily from the robot's onboard camera. Which is a stunning idea that Steven came up with. But we didn’t do the entire movie in POV shots, we shot between POV and a more traditional “angle” of handheld camera. The intent is to keep the energy of the action and being “you are there” but with a somewhat heightened reality of a mobile camera.
Virginia Logan as Constable Hawkins.
I tend to think of movies as either being “ensemble” pictures or “Alice In Wonderland” pictures. That meaning either we follow a single character or an ensemble throughout the movie. This particular movie has a strong point-of-view character in Constable Hawkins, played by Virginia Logan, but she ends up with a large gang of undesirables and miscreants whom she must save from the nanobot plague. So photographically we go (gently) between the literal point-of-view of her robot partner, and her subjective point-of-view. The idea of shooting the movie from the robot’s POV was one that was supposed to have made shooting it easier. But that was not always the case.
One tricky thing which the script called for was a rear-view mirror which our robot, ARGUS, looks into. And as the camera is supposed to be Argus’ eye, he’s supposed to see himself. I couldn’t think of a good practical way to do this shot until I saw a monitor for a vehicle backup camera. Of course, there aren’t rear-view mirrors in their vehicle, there’s a rear-facing camera and he sees himself in that. The irony is that the shot where that happens doesn’t make it into the final cut of the picture.
Another shot I wasn’t sure we could get did come through. At one point a huge and menacing robot walks down the hallway, stops, and deploys a cleaning brush. I was prepared to cut the cleaning brush from the shot but our visual effects supervisor, the extremely talented Ian Hubert came up with a cleaning brush! (As well as a 30mm cannon from the top of that robot in a later shot.)
Jeff Wills as ARGUS
One issue with a full face-covering helmet is that typically means the actor inside cannot hear. Usually they cannot see either. So whenever Argus was on set, the actor needed a “babysitter” to chase after him and lead him “back to one” at the end of each take.
1202 hawkins shoots2.png
We tried, as much as possible, to use practical effects. Although most guns cycle faster than a film frame, we’re so used to seeing them rock back-and-forth that we did what we could to make our guns “flashy” yet safe. A liberal amount of baby powder on the inside of the barrel helped.

Sarah Schoofs recording ADR.

We had a couple noisy locations on this picture --  like the fact that the furnace had blown out and a temporary one was installed that was amazingly loud -- right next to where we needed to shoot. There was no option to turn off the furnace so we just ploughed ahead.
Today we get to solve some of those sound issues! We’re replacing dialog  using an Oktava 012 microphone -- the same mic we used for boom on set (although this movie was almost completely recorded with wireless lavalier microphones). And there's a bit of distance on the mic, it’s not right up on the actor’s face when re-recording the dialog. This tends to make the dialog “fit in” better with the rest of the movie.
One thing I’ve discovered about doing dialog replacement is that it seems that for most actors, seeing the picture while they record isn't terribly helpful. So we've abandoned having a picture monitor in the booth. I'll play the line three times and then go into record. No bloops or leader or anything. It’s much easier to get back into the space you were in as an actor if you just listen.
The visual effects were a fairly straightforward part of post-production. And except for a couple last-minute location changes the structure of the picture pretty followed what Steven J. Niles wrote.
For music, the Australian-based Hurry brothers created a rhythmic and driving score to maintain the tension through the picture. We experimented with a couple different “moods” for the ending of the picture before we decided on the arch-dark version we have now. At the last minute we flopped the open and end-title credits, which also changed the mood and worked well with the new ending. Now that the picture is completed I have to find a place to put all the robots parts!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Real Numbers

Do you like real numbers? If you like real numbers, our man Kevin Kangas will hook you up. VOD numbers. Yeah, VOD numbers. There ya go.