Saturday, November 30, 2013

1202 Day 10

Today was a pretty quick day. But I think we got all of our plates which we need so Ian Hubert can do our CG. Jim Boyett was in today. This was super helpful because it meant that the Marsian Queen could deal with makeup and various on-set things like putting baby powder inside the barrel of guns so that some foof would come out when they're shot.
Clark needed a picture for his Facebook profile.

I haven't been taking enough pictures of Virginia Logan. So here's one.

Maduka Steady was our robot today. Here he is with Virginia Logan, squaring off against an evil robot.

I got to shoot at Virginia a lot today. I then began to cackle. I then realized that when the director is laughing maniacally while shooting dust pellets at the actors it's not exactly the most comforting of sounds. For the actors. Personally I was perfectly fine with it.

Squaring off against an evil robot.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day One Versus Day Two

So this is sort of strange. There's a book called Day One by Nate Kenyon.
You might recall that we made a movie called Day Two. The name it was released under was Battle: New York Day II.
Let's look at the cover art, shall we? Here's the key art for the 2011 North American release.
And this is the cover art for Day Two.
Um. Really? Really? I... okay then. So did someone actually look at the art for Day 2 and think "Hey, we'll do the same thing, just with a guy in the picture"? I have no idea.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mandira Movie

Our own Mandira Chauhan has an entry in the Doritos commercial contest. Check it out! Zombie Apack'o'chips!

Vote early! Vote often!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oh, for Full Duplex

How to use a walkie on set. I cannot over stress how important it is to wait for the tones to go across the network (after pressing the talk button) to speak.
Note that the sound department almost never uses walkie talkies (typically called "radios" by professionals). This is primarily because they're listening all the time and can't be interrupted. Also, they're intimately involved with set and the sound of a walkie would destroy a take.
The few times when I've needed a cue from a walkie I've asked that a PA with a radio stand near me and relay the cue to me. (On other kinds of big shows I used to mix the communications were crazy-time complicated with multiple channels of hard-wired and wireless communications. That's not the case here.)
Press the PTT button. Take a breath. Then talk. Why? Because then the words "Don't move the truck" become "Move the truck." I have seen that happen way too often to count. Truck gets moved. "Why are you moving the truck?!" someone squeals. But it comes out as "Are you moving the truck?!"
The response is "yes". But they don't wait and the response becomes "... phtht".
So then an AD runs, yelling at the truck driver, avoiding the use of technology in order to communicate: "Why are you moving the truck??!!!"
"Because that's. What you told me. To do. On the radio."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Front Light

So. Front-light. I've seen behind-the-scenes where someone is throwing an inky on actors -- you know, by hand. They're just carrying it around.
Well on this picture it's written such that it's all POV camera. That's, er, not the way I'm shooting it but that's not the writer's fault.
In any case, I realized that the robot (whose POV we mostly are) has a light on in his eyes. So of course the camera should have a light on board. Right?
Here's an iPhone picture of our camera rig -- that's a florescent light which operates on 4 AA cells, just below the lens; and a weird little 2-LED light which attaches to a 9V battery there next to the lens.
So here's the thing. You always want to have your light "modeling" the foreground by having some big huge amount of light coming in from the back or side of the image. That helps keep the image from being too "flat" looking. But counter to that you want to fill in eye sockets and have a bit of kick from some light in the eyes. The fill is to make people look better, the kick is so you can see what they're thinking (no, really).
The lights turned on make the iPhone's camera go nuts. I kind of like it.
Now you may have noticed these are two opposing things in light. And they can be a pain to make both work.
Attaching a little light or two to the camera works fantastic. Especially at a 1600 ISO at f2.8. You can light from behind just like you want to, but you don't need to worry so much about the kick and filling in the eyes.
And it's a relatively subtle effect too. You don't have to worry about everything looking like a bad television documentary where they attached a SunGun to the camera and went walking around in people's backyards.

We may slap a light to the camera rig just below the lens on all future movies. We just may. It sure makes the lighting director's job easier. I mean the DP's job. I mean the gaffer's job. I mean the Queen of Mars.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Your Three Things

Does anyone have a spare $25,000 I can have so I can get one of these Freefly M10's?

Stu Maschwitz on coloring.

John J. Bruno on producing guerrilla-style. I'm trying to count the number of things in his post which we straight - up do the opposite way. We don't pay our grips, we make our lighting director order lunch and do props without paying her, we consider budgets (and revenues) to be public knowledge and we absolutely never at any time ask anyone to sign an NDA. In fact, I want people to sign a "I will post many pictures to Facebook and Tumbl and whatever" agreement.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Walls II

So I think I have about 112 square feet of wall I want to cover.
Just as a side note: look at the carved wooden "cap" at the end of this room. Who doesn't want that? I don't mean in real life, I just mean in a movie. You want that thing, right? 

We're going to get a couple boxes of these from Home Despot. I'm gonna hang them on my wall. We'll shoot movies in front of it.

Check out all the ThreeDWall designs.

If you like, groove to the much more expensive leather panels. They'd make excellent accents.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


A very exciting part of the whole filmmaking process is walls.
Okay, maybe not.
But walls are the things behind the actors. So you have to make them look right.
We have right now, in my apartment, two different kinds of walls which are more than awesome.
There is a wall of painted molded pulp packaging (mostly for wine but I think there's a couple humidifiers and a number of hard drives' packing materials in there.) Marcie Kintish did the scenic painting on those pieces. I found most of the pieces in the trash.
That molded wall looks awesome. I can't say enough about it.
The second wall is what we (I) call the "Pepsi wall". It's made of delivery containers for one and two-liter bottles of Pepsi. I know. Most of them were in the trash at my apartment building. Others were found by Marcie and lashed together with plastic zip ties.
Now the brilliant Queen of Mars has found another cheap and beautiful wall material. This threeDwall stuff is amazing looking.
You know you want this in your own living room. 
We're totally going with this. It's going to rock. Our voles.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Double Robot Composite.

This is a quick shot we did with both robots in the room. Camera's locked and there's a garbage matte for when we put Rik in the other helmet and in the chair. The camera got bonked (probably from me hitting "record" but it re-lined itself up seemingly just fine. A little "neo" from Magic Bullet Looks with a slight increase of exposure and less contrast.

Day 9

Today we had the lovely Kimball Brown and the excessively handsome Walter "Barny" Barnes.
Walter gets fixed up by Maya before a take.
My building's super -- I don't know what we have to do for him for Christmas but it's gotta be awesome. We got permission to shoot in the basement and the basement is... amazing. There are so many completely different environments down there.
Note this is the "ARGUS II" which enters with Yerkov. Totally different helmet.

Walter did an amazing job in the suit.
 Maya made a very cool costume for Yerkov.
We're shooting all ISO 1600 at f2.8 with a color balance of 5300K. This will be important to know in the event we have to do reshoots.
I love this shot with Kimball Brown because we get a slash of shadow across her eyes yet we still have kick in her eyes!
The shoot is going rather well. Every set and location is new (for us). I can't wait to see how it's going to turn out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

1202 Day 8

Matthew Trumbull, Sarah-Doe Osborne, Virginia Logan, and Mary Murphy look at some newly-made nanobot zombies.
My bathtub is like a crime scene.
I'm really enjoying the "unlit" look of this picture. I'm willing to face reality and note that the Panasonic GH3 sinks the dark part of the image all on its own -- giving everything you put in front of it a kind of "filmy" look. And with a 5300K light balance the image just looks... well kinda nice in my opinion. We have nice colors but they don't get weird on us. 
I have a small 4x "AA"-cell battery-powered florescent light mounted to the front of the spiderbrace the camera rides on. This is working fairly well for us. It really only reads in closeups but in mediums it gives just a bit more "oomph" to the frontmost part of the image.
In-between scenes, Virginia Logan knits in uniform.

 Everywhere we shoot in my apartment building has nice lighting (at an f2.8 and 1600 ISO).
Steve Deighan, Matthew Trumbull, Sarah-Doe Osborne, Virginia Logan, and Mary Murphy. This is a fun gang of people to fight the zombie apocalypse with.
The images we get are very color-correctable but honestly all I really want to do is drain a bit of color from the whole thing and then walk away. But we could swing to blue or green or sepia as much as we really like. Yup, the blacks are unrecoverable (see Sarah-Doe's pants for instance). But the midrange gives us a whole lot of room to work in. Still, the image is pretty nice as-is. As far as I'm concerned.
Bad guys go up the stairs: that's Steve Deighan, Matthew Trumbull, Tarantino Smith, Maya Graffagna, and Sarah-Doe Osborne.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 7

La Reine de Mars waits to roll sound.

Clark on his first day. The awesome super at my building let us use the part of the basement I'd never seen before. This scene Clark blows it up watching his mother/zombie get killed with a baseball bat. On a side note, what rating were we going for here? On another note, I'd asked his mom if seeing his mom get killed would qualify as either traumatizing or awesome and she allowed that for him it would be clearly on the side of "awesome".

Dirk Voetberg as the sleazy landlord Bennicker before he comes to an untimely end by whomever that is behind him.
We stuffed Clark in a closet. He got me back:
Him: "Did you write this movie?"
Me: "No."
Him: "So you're just the director."
Writers everywhere rejoice and smirk.

Annalisa Loeffler going after a robot with a baseball bat. That's a Pandora Machine bag in the background which the Producer took away for the final shot. Many thanks to Virginia Logan for her baseball bat. Apparently kids these days all use aluminum bats. Back in my day you weren't allowed to play with aluminum bats.

Annalisa Loeffler's new Facebook picture.

Dirk Voetberg looks on while Clark slates a scene for Annalisa Loeffler.

Okay, so this is Annalisa Loeffler's new Facebook shot.

Annalisa Loeffler, Maya Graffagna, and the Queen of Mars look at video tap (yes, after years of not having tap, we have it once again) which doesn't actually show up when you take a still (meaning that the duration of the frame that is actually shot is not transmitted to the monitor, we are all otherwise actually looking at the frame you see above.)

Annalisa Loeffler and our little tribute to Sleep No More.

Clark in front of our two walls. These walls were built by Marcie Kintish and are freakin' beautiful to shoot. In fact that wall you see on the left is staying right there -- I'm gonna live with it. It's like a big piece of art on that wall.
Someone left those salt and pepper shakers in the front hall of my building yesterday for someone to take and I decided that someone would be me. It turns out they're electric salt and pepper grinders.
Clark wouldn't touch those pancakes. His loss -- they were delicious.

Die Königin Mars.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


There's a thing which is available now and which I wish I'd had back when I was a production sound mixer.
One of the biggest hassles with recording production sound in a movie is the clothing noise actors' costumes make when you're hiding lavalier microphones on them. You can drive yourself crazy by making little "footballs" of gaff tape and using bunches of moleskin and whatever else you can find, in order to make a kind of rig on the lav mic in order to keep them from rubbing against the clothes they're behind.

Undercovers -- made by Rycote -- do the thing you want them to do. They're stupidly simple double-stick pieces of tape like wigtape, with little fuzzy felt covers which go over the lavalier microphones.
I will admit that where before I might rig a mic and then spend a long while listening to it to make sure it wasn't rubbing, I now will rig a mic and then walk away -- never listening to it until we get to the edit bay. (I know. That's totally not pro of me. But I'm the cameraman for crying out loud. Why do I need to listen to the mics?) Still, it's about the confidence that I have in a mic rigged with Undercovers that allows me that sloppyness.

Day 6

 Today we had a treat as Dirk Voetberg and Chance Shirley were on set. We made Chance do camera for us. And Dirk played Bennicker in Steven J. Niles' Dead Residents.

After Dirk is shot by the robot, he reaches around and finds a piece of his brain implant chip.

Dirk makes a good headshot.
We also made Chance put on the robot costume. Here Laura fixes his carapace while Virginia Logan looks on.
We had to cover up Chance's beautiful blond locks don't you know.
Zoom in so you don't see his left arm and you'll get the idea.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Celtx Scheduling

For the last few movies now we've been using the free program Celtx for scheduling movies, not just writing the screenplays.
I'm pleasantly surprised at how good the program is at dealing with schedules. I mean, I realize that on this movie we're shooting I've showed up on set having no idea how we're going to shoot some things. But that's my fault, not the scheduling software.

But Celtx could be even more perfect. Yes. There's further for it to go. 
Things I wish Celtx would do:
  • More easily combine duplicated characters. I don't know why characters get duplicated. I wish they wouldn't. But it would be nice if they would easily "combine" back together again so you didn't have duplicates all over the place. 
  • Do automatic page counts of scenes. You know. In 1/8th pages. Just like they do in the big time. 
  • Do a strip-board of scenes. Just because sometimes it's easier to see scenes like that. 
  • Automatically print sides based on what's on the call sheet. And automatically print them in that sexy half-page booklet size too. Just to save on ink and trees.