Saturday, May 23, 2015

Motors on Boys Day

Camera-less rig -- motorized dolly and motorized pan and tilt head. Tony Travostino in the background.
My buddy Brian Dalthorp of PopStudios lent me his Revolve slider system (vastly more advanced than mine). The advanced e'en more portion is a used Bescor 101 remote pan/tilt head. Also, we can use a nice Manfrotto fluid head instead. Sometimes you want a motorized dolly and a manual head. Sometimes a motorized head and a motorized dolly, sometimes a motorized head and a manual dolly.
Could not get the slider system to work at all, we just got slipping on some of the gears, so we went back to skateboard wheels on a flat board.
Libby ran this system mostly. On a couple shots it took two operators. Man I wish we had like Bluetooth focus pulling as an option.
What else, what else? So many things. I write these blog posts as I'm practically passed out from a day of shooting so I have no idea what I'm saying 'till I read them (and don't edit them) in the morning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

And then.

I can't even remotely finish any shots these days. Do you know how many more elements belong here? Neither do I. There's a giant robot. Some evil drones. A force-field. And probably something else in the distant background. Do I have those things? No. No I do not.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day 8

Amanda Sayle Rinzel as Delta and Sarah Schoofs as Sagan
 Today's innovation was to have a real tripod head atop the skateboard dolly. It tood a bit of practice to work dolly and pan&tilt at the same time. Once you added pulling focus there was too much for Libby to do and someone had to pitch in. But it totally looks like a Fisher dolly, just not with a Worral head.We did two scenes in single shots which moved around very nicely.
Joe Chapman looking sexy with the slate.

It's all about having lights in the deep distance.

The set painter made some beautiful "rusty" walls.

Sarah Schoofs in a pensive moment.

The robot rests.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Things

Eric Ian Steele writes a gorgeous guide to writing a logline. Part I. And Part II.
I'm still working on this.
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A secret to boom operating is to:

"...[Y]ell out “Stand by for speed,” in [your] most professional voice, to let people know that [you are] not ready, and speed has not been called."

It's a secret. Don't tell anyone. Although personally I'm a fan of saying "Flying in!" and then proceeding safely and apace with whatever you were doing when someone calls for something on set. Just don't say "Wait". Drives everyone nuts.
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Andrew Kramer's 40-minute tutorial on making a blown-up city in Aftereffects (in 2D yet) is... amazing. Amazing I say.

What I like

Things I like better about Adobe Premiere than Apple's Final Cut Pro

  • The ability to import frame sequences as footage. Good grief that's annoying in FCP
  • The fact that if you make a mistake in your sequence settings it doesn't mess up the size of all the footage inside it, you can just fix the settings and all the footage doesn't need to be manually resized
  • A single button to export a frame grab (this has irritated me about FCP for years)
  • Not having to transcode every bit of footage before bringing into the project

An advantage FCP had was that the playback cursor would snap to objects just like objects snap to objects when, you know, snapping is on. But the deep dark secret is that Premiere works that when when you hold the shift key. Premiere actually has the advantage there as it means one doesn't need to keep flipping from snap-on to snap-off as much.
Like this picture, I have no idea what's going on here. That's Amanda Sayle Rinzel and Laura, Queen of Mars (and two hikers in the background). But it's a frame grab and that's fun.

The Lumetri Looks in Premiere? I find them disturbingly helpful. Like "I don't even use Magic Bullet anymore" useful. And when I figure out how the tracking works on mattes in color-correction, it'll be all over but the crying.
Now I did set the hot keys in Premiere to be much like the ones in FCP. So "a" is the selector tool instead of "v" for instance.
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The human eye. ISO of 800 (will auto-set to as low as 1 ISO during daylight). Resolution of about 75 megapixels. F-stop of 3.5. Focal length of 22mm.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Day to Murder Chester Poon

Chester seemed like he came back to life though. That happens.
We shot the big fight scene today. Actually, I think three characters died today. We used cushions to break a fall!
First thing in the morning what did I do? Drop the camera. In the hallway of my apartment building. Shockingly, all it seemed to do was to pop a little clip inside the strap holder on the right side. Whew.
We shot three scenes but we took a while to do it. Tony insisted that we get three whole tubs of french fries (he was right to do so).
Huh. I coulda sworn I'd set the Tascam to record 6-track interleaved but I'm still getting multiple stereo tracks from it. Sigh. I'll look at it again next week.
Oh! And I broke the HDMI connector to the camera! Joyeaux! Whee! I have to order a new one.
Sarah Schoofs and Tony Travostino cower from the influence of the evil android.
We did some re-shoots and additional-shoots before lunch though. Queen of Mars had to do a Blade-Runner-y moving light gag.
Poor Bob Teague had to be dead all day. But he looked good doing it. And at least I had him be dead on the couch. ;-)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just some notes for myself

Tomorrow we have the biggest gang on-set that we get on this movie. I think it's the biggest gang. Steve Niles, who wrote this picture, did a brilliant turn yet again where he keeps the ensemble down low, to a real small number of cast. In this case there are only six speaking roles. Many days only have two characters on set. But tomorrow is the big action scene at the end.
So I gotta pick up a minivan. Somebody remind me to make sure I bring my EZPass.
One shot. Two Ian Hubert models. 

You know what's really been working for me? Having a Kindle with the script and the call sheet(s) on it. I never make any notes in the actual set script so just having easy access to everything all at once in a compact form is really the way to go. Plus, you know, page turns are quiet and don't wreck sound takes.
I have in mind two reshoots. Three. Three reshoots. And one additional scene. Two. Two additional scenes.

  1. There's a closeup of Warfield where we missed the focus.
  2. An insert of the control panel which wasn't long or steady enough.
  3. The part where Cameron and Sagan walk in needs another take for focus. 


  • I want a pretty pan showing Sagan sitting in her place in the other hallway.
  • I want to try go get a show of Sagan and Cameron coming in the actual front door. We may use the "elephant set" at Joe Chapman's. We'll see how that works for us. I'm worried about getting enough light on the green screen. 
Also, I'm going to spend a couple minutes actually setting up the Tascam 680 sound recorder. Because I really haven't done that on this movie and I feel kinda stupid about it. 
Oh, and we need mug shots and 3D readiment shots of the android just... to have.
What else? Lithium AA batteries are doing a bang-up job on both transmitters and receivers. The Lectrosonics transmitter has a reputation for eating batteries but it's been working pretty well. I do wish we had a Sanken COS 11 for that transmitter though. I'm getting a bit tired of the boxy sound of the PSC Millimics -- even if the PSC's are relatively immune to clothing rustle. 
Oh look, we're 5 days away from the Cannes Film Market.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Robot Messiah

Next up on the hit parade is 3rd Degree Silicone. This is to be a burned android look. Wish us luck.
Sarah Shoofs is the new prophet of the Robot Messiah. 
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I did two dumb sound things. Three. Three dumb sound things this weekend. But I don't think we're going to be punished for them.
The first thing is that I recorded the first two of three days at 44.1kHz. Well lucky for us it's the FUTURE and we have machines and software which can handle 44.1 and 48kHz on the same timeline. It doesn't seem to be bothering us.
Dumb thing number two is that I was recording three sets of stereo tracks for each take. Derp. Then I went and started recording mono tracks. Believe me, by next weekend I'll be down to one interleaved 6-channel broadcast wave file just like I'm supposed to. For now I'm just syncing the audio, then going and syncing more audio to the same take.
Lastwise we did exactly the thing you'd expect to do when you think to yourself "I'll shut off the transmitter and the record channel on the character we don't need to record." Then, of course, we got to the next scene and never even wired up that character. The irony is that character speaks all his lines directly into another, wired-up, character. So it's all good actually. Even though he wasn't wearing his transmitter, his receiver was turned off, and the channel he records to was deactivated.
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Picture-wise we've been having some epic battles with autofocus. I have every reason to believe the haze has been tricking the focus and making it "pump". Which is spectacularly annoying. But we have figured out the better way to flop the focus into manual and to keep the pumping from happening. That just... took a while.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

1401 Day Six

This is the movie we're making. Bob Teague. Amanda Sayle Rinzel.
Day six puts us past the halfway point, doesn't it?
I actually already have about 7 minutes cut together. It really helps in post to be a bit fanatical about cutting in-camera.
Bob Teague at the chess board.
We've been using the Letus Helix the last few days. Yeah, you can get it to do what you want. It's still fiddly. And you can get it to do the dolly-move things you're looking for. It's not easy though. We did get some nice pushes with it.
Bob Teague being menaced by an android (Amanda Sayle Rinzel).
We've had a number of failures with hazers. My nice Le Maitre hazer has decided to not work again. I bet it's the dang thermostat on the thing that's broke (again). Which is really obnoxious because it hasn't really worked since Prometheus Trap and we even sent it back to the factory for repairs.
The haze though, in general, does seem to mess with autofocus. But you know what my new favorite thing is with focus? Peaking on the monitor. I do so love how the monitor lights up with what's in focus. It makes pulling so so so much easier because it's dancing. If you've never seen it or used it you just gotta try it. Especially when I don't have my glasses and I'm looking at a monitor at the wrong distance or with a wrong diopter or what-have-you.

One more before we go out to shoot the next day

Sarah Schoofs and Tony Travostino

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Day 5

Empty set.
I took very few stills today. But lots was shot.

One More Just for You

Frame grab with Sarah, Tony, Bob.

Friday, May 1, 2015

1401 day 4

Version one of the picture on Sagan's shrine. These are Joe Chapman's costumes, actually, Tony is wearing one of Joe's old flight suits!






































We based the image off this Vietnam-era image.
They may get a CG Goose ship behind them.

Set by Joe Chapman and a gang of others. The working panel is amazing. And just look at the amazing lighting by the Queen of Mars! That's Sarah Schoofs and Bob Teague (costumes by Caitlin Cisek).

More Sarah and Bob.

This is what this enormous flipping set looks like. It's huge, no? All Joe's designing. A further list of the artists involved to come...

Tony Travostino will not believe that the meteorite could be a rescue ship... or worse...

Bob Teague was woken early in the morning to an emergency. All the sweat is real. ;-)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 3 Data Dump

Most all these pictures were taken by Tony Travostino, although not all of them.
Laura here is holding her own tap. You'll note she doesn't have it plugged into anything.

Here I am grabbing a closeup of Amanda Rinzel -- she's not in costume, just wearing the head pieces.
Shooting in the sand is, as it turns out, really freaking hard to do. The Blackmagic Production 4K is nice. Shooting to SSD seems okay. The camera itself is awkward to hold. Putting an eyepiece on it is very very fiddly (so we didn't do that) although putting a remote eyepiece on a 20-foot piece of BNC coax was very nice -- better than dragging a monitor on set which would be blown out by the sunlight anyway.
Laura Queen of Mars, me, Sarah Schoofs. Note forcefield plinth in foreground.
We were very very fortunate on costs on this trip. We got about the lowest prices one could get to Denver from the New York City area. And the house we stayed in is absolutely amazing. Another huge help was that Chester Poon immediately volunteered to cook dinner for us -- twice! We had delicious home cooking based on his Hong Kong mother's recipes which really and seriously need to be printed elsewhere.
We brought plenty of water but oddly we didn't get dehydrated so much as had to deal with a lot of sand. In our ears. Up our noses. My nose is chapped from being sandblasted.
Sarah Schoofs and Chester Poon. Not only was the sand everywhere, but we had to cross a very wide muddy creek on our way to and from the dunes.
We did get busted though. On our first day we went way north to the middle of nowhere. On the second day we were much closer in to where people normally came onto the dunes. Day three I decided to hike on land that was flat as possible (and, honestly, which gave some of our best views. Helpful hint: don't actually shoot in direct line of sight of the visitor station.
A ranger came out and asked what we were doing. We said we were making a family movie. He lectured us that we can't be making anything for a commercial purpose. He told us that people could see us (and our guns which are legal but, you know, they're wacky guns being waved around), and that the ranger station closes at 4:30. We took the hint, quickly finished a scene as the freaking hail moved in, and packed up and walked across the creek again and hid in the car until the rain/hail storm was over.
Delta, Amanda Rinzel, goes across the dunes. This is not a still from our 4K. In the motion version you can see the sand kick up -- it's pretty spectacular.
Every day someone dropped a walkie talkie into the creek. I mean, right? Yesterday was Laura. Today Tony took the honors. Laura's was found by a citizen who got on the channel we were using and said hi and that they'd drop it off at the visitor center. We picked that one up today. The other was found upside down in the mud by the creek. They both seem to work.
This closeup of Sarah Schoofs is an ungraded screen grab from the BMPC 4K. All detail is retained. And no rolling shutter.
Caitlin Cisek's costumes give a great solidity to the design. The contrasts are just right.
Plus I'm doing something close to no directing on this picture. Everyone is just doing stuff that's perfect. We're getting a lot of the decisions. We're enjoying wide shots and closeups.
Physically it's hard to shoot in. There's a good hour drive from our B&B to the Dunes. Then there's a mile walk over a mud flat and then sand. If you're ambitious, you then go another several hundred feet up. If you don't mind spending hours getting to location on foot you can get complete solitude and do whatever you want there. We did not spend that kind of time (which is why we got a talking-to by the ranger.
Laura, Queen of Mars; Andrew Bellware; Sarah Schoofs, Chester Poon, Tony Travostino, and Amanda Rinzel at the Yak N Cracker which was a place I was so excited about as soon as I'd heard of it that we just had to go.