Thursday, April 25, 2013

Papa's Got a Brand-New Bag

So the Pandora Machine got itself one of these cheap Gator bags.
It's my bag, baby.
The purple thing on the left is an old model Battery Distribution System. There's an Anker 12volt 10,000 mAh battery in the pocket on the far right. The Tascam DR-680 sits in the center with a Lecrosonics receiver there in the top left corner. Along the near side of the bag are three Sennheiser E3 wireless receivers. Those two cylindrical holes are for handheld microphones I think. I don't know what to do with that space yet.
This bag is closed.

Dragons Reign o'er Me

We have the artwork and teaser for Dragon Reign from Ray Haboush.
Dig it.
 Those are the actual Sintel dragons as modified by Nathan Vegdahl.
Now, groove to the teaser.
You must go here to see it.

Monday, April 22, 2013


You are utterly fascinated by relative broadcast levels of dialog, aren't you? Yes. Yes you are. 
The Angry Sound Professional explains the CALM act and what it really means. Here's part 1.
We used to have one of these jackets. It was stolen out of my car. 
In part 2 we go deeper into the meaning of dialnorm as Vince Tennant explains how the Act works. I suspect that part 3 will show how the act doesn't work but we're still waiting.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Your Two Things for Today

As per comments below, PSA and Lindsay Stewart, some links:
[Edit: Ha! I had a link here to Wondershare. It apparently is/was a video conversion utility although it was based on a GPU - licensed application. Dorp! In any case, the company is apparently trying to turn themselves around or something and they actually asked me to remove the link. I have no idea why. Anyway, use JES Deinterlacer. It's great.]
Casper, from ThinkCrew is an excel call sheet generator.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mind Bending

Brian blogged about his mind-transfer prop. The brain jacks look great. I'm very pleased with the Brazil-esque look of it.
Brain jacks. Jared Van Heel, master brain altering device, Tarantino Smith, Kimball Brown, and Julia Rae Maldonado.

Within minutes of making my last post on call sheets was
  1. everything fine?
  2. a fundamental error in what character was played by what actor made evident to me in an email by the screenwriter?
I'll let you guess.

Celtx Call Sheets

Getting call sheets out is the hardest part of filmmaking for me. Making them even remotely accurate is just a herculean task. Sheesh.

Up until now we've been using spreadsheets and manually filling in information on the call sheets. But on this movie I've been experimenting using Celtx.
Celtx will actually generate call sheets. One can "print" the call sheets to .pdf files (and then print the sheets). You do need to be careful that Celtx actually understands what character is in what scenes. 
  • Disadvantages include no specific place to put the address of the closest hospital.
  • Also, I'd like a place to put notes. 
But overall the Celtx call sheets look and work pretty well. We've only shot one day, of course, so who knows what other issues will come up? If a disaster happens I'll let you know.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Fortunately, Red Giant's BulletProof looks like a nice solution to our problems ingesting footage from the unhacked GH1 into Final Cut Pro.
Unfortunately, BulletProof is not actually compatible with Panasonic cameras.
Fortunately, Adobe Premiere will, as pointed out by Kangas in the comments below, work with Panasonic's .mts files.
Unfortunately, Premiere will not read and interpret those .mts files shot at 23.98 but in a 29.97 container properly.

Fortunately, the most recent version of JES Deinterlacer will read .mts files, reverse-telecine them, and create ProRes Quicktimes which can be read by Final Cut directly.
Unfortunately those same files don't seem to be readable by Premiere.
Fortunately there is a thing called Adobe Media Encoder.
Unfortunately it doesn't look like Adobe Media Encoder naturally does reverse telecine.

So... right now it looks like the JES Deinterlacer and Final Cut Pro. Unless it's the JES Deinterlacer and Premiere. I don't know. I'm sticking to FCP just because it's "the devil you know". But... I dunno.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Workflow

Neoscene is dead. Also, it's just not really working for me. Following the post here I'm trying FCP and compressor.
It took two days to get this still of Julia Rae Maldonado without interlacing.

What's going on is that I'm having hellatious problems with interlacing. Which, seeing as how we're shooting in a progressive format, just shouldn't be happening.
I can't figure out why Neoscene is being such a problem with interlacing. For years Neoscene worked for us. Then suddenly it stopped working. I had to download a new version (and Cineform quickly got me a new serial number for which I am thankful) and I had trouble seemingly with the checkbox to filter 420 to 422.
But now even that doesn't work.
So the new way of bringing in footage from the GH1 is to

  1. Log and Transfer into Final Cut Pro. (We use ProRes SQ). And then:
  2. Set the footage to 23.976 using JES. Because, you know, why use one step when you can use two?

Final Cut Pro is terrible when it comes to data management. Why you would put final actual camera footage in a folder called "capture scratch" is completely beyond me. I mean seriously. Right?
Then with JES -- I can't actually find any instructions on the Internet which reflect the transcoding program with its most recent interface. So, uh, you kind of have to guess how to do a "reverse telecine" with it. If you click through all the menus and do what you think you should it seems to work out all right.

EDIT: it has not escaped my attention that perhaps this all means that we should be going to Red Giant's BulletProof.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

1301 Day 1 III

 Once everyone has their brains hooked up to Brian Schiavo's mind-melder, there's nothing you can't do. Stacey Raymond, Jared Van Heel, Tarantino Smith, Kimball Brown and Julia Rae Maldonado.
See? This is the kind of framing I was wanting. We shot all day on sticks 'till we got to the last scene and there I went handheld.

Jared Van Heel wearing the brain jack while Stacey Raymond turns it on.
 Between Brian's device and Caitlin's costumes we really had an easy time building this world.
We managed to shoot like this because we had wireless microphones on everyone. Although Tarantino's went "phulfhpatt" near the end of the shoot so he had to deliver his line's in to Kimball's microphone.

Tarantino Smith and Kimball Brown wait warily as their leader is locked in a virtual-cast.

It's a long hard day at the rebel headquarters.

Ew. Kissing.

My kisses are made of light.
Tarantino and Julia. I really dig these two-shots I like the bit of extra space they give us.
Julia Rae Maldonado, the girl of your dreams? Or your nightmares?
 Brian Schiavo build this brilliant brain jack.

Watching the prisoners get jacked in. Note that Julia is wearing her coat from home and has an ice pack in her hand. This is clearly just a rehearsal.

1301 Day 1 Part Deux

The overly sultry Tarantino Smith strikes a thoughtful pose.
Today ran really smoothly. I did underestimate by about an hour how long we'd be there. But we worked quickly and shot a hello amount of pages. And we got some fantastic performances with some beautiful actors in great costumes. What more could we possibly ask for?
Kimball Brown, Stacey Raymond, Jared Van Heel, Tarantino Smith, and Julia Rae Maldonado in a wide gang shot.
I'm amused by the sheer number of guns we had on set. Plus, we had Julia tied up for about half the day. Could Caitlin have chosen a more perfect wig for Julia? I mean Hello! No!
Alvarez menaces Avatar Barbara. The Martian Queen's lighting on these faces makes you want to reach out and touch them, doesn't it?
 We did in fact run through a lot of pages. One scene ran over five minutes long. And the warehouse was cold today which was hardest on Julia because everyone else had layers.
Julia Rae Maldonado has her wig fixed by Caitlin Cisek. Note that's my hoodie covering Julia up in-between takes.

Kimball Brown in a sort of "lucky" take -- she'd actually walked out of her own light but into this very interesting light to do a couple lines. Serendipity it is.

Right. Exactly. This is what we've come to expect.

1301 Day 1 Part 1

Today was the first day of shooting Android Masquerade.
Kimball Brown, Stacey Raymond, Jared Van Heel, Tarantino Smith, and Julia Rae Maldonado in the rebels' hideout.
Caitlin Cisek did an absolutely knock-out job with the costumes.
Kimball Brown, Stacey Raymond, and Jared Van Heel.
The day went a bit longer than I'd intended. We had an 11am call at the train station and were wrapped by 8pm still -- I was tired by the end of it.
One of the ideas we'd had was to shoot in these sort of medium two or three-shots. That, I think, mostly worked.
Stacey Raymond in her techno gear. She has an engine that she's working at. And her jumpsuit is just amazing.

Jared Van Heel interrogates the prisoner.
 The Queen of Mars did all the lighting. I love the way the faces all modeled in the light.
Julia Rae Maldonado looks very different from how she looked in Dragon Realm.
We really haven't seen this environment in any of our movies before. It's almost a set that's built of boxes which hold enormous sheets of glass. And some computer server cases. I think.
More Julia Rae Maldonado.
Caitlin could not have chosen a more perfect wig for Julia. (Poor Julia whumped her thumb really hard in the very first take.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

La Roux

I'm not 100% sure that Red Giant's "Bulletproof" will really do the thing for us. It may be that it's a better tool for making ProRes files from the ridiculous .mts files we're shooting right now.
I think that one thingy about Bulletproof is that the philosophy behind it is that you want to save all your decisions about color correction until the very end of the post process.
I'm a big fan of making decisions early. If I could set the color of highlights and shadows right there on the floor while we're shooting, I would totally do that.
Bulletproof lets you import a LUT and do a bunch of things with your original footage. I can imagine there's a world where working with that kind of workflow makes sense, but that's not how we do things in our shop. I expect this is partly/mostly because I am lazy we have a fairly short period of time to get movies completed and we have no money or time to re-think details of color-correction which haven't basically been made when we were shooting.
In other words, we don't shoot "flat". I try to have some 100% video and some 0% in every shot. We try to go ahead and make the picture look like something and do minimal CC in post.
If we were shooting commercials or even movies with budgets exceeding $250K, we might think about staving off our color decisions to post. But maybe not.
There's a whole thing about mixing in the audio world where you keep telling your new recordists not to EQ things, not to compress or add reverb, because you'll deal with all that in the mix. It's hard to "un"-EQ things and virtually impossible to un-compress and un-reverb sounds. So dry, dynamic, and unmodified is the go-to wisdom on the subject.
And a journeyman sound person won't EQ recorded signals (except perhaps some high-pass to get out some rumble). But as my old buddy Alan Douches says "commit!" Alan is no journeyman. And up there in the lofty heights of the master level yes, you want to make some decisions about sounds and commit them to tape. No waiting. Make decisions now. As long as they're the correct decisions everything will go faster and the mix will be easier.
I'm not a master in audio. And I'm certainly less a master as a DP. Yet still recklessly I'd rather go in and get close to being finished at the acquisition stage.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Battery Power

I would love to use rechargable batteries for everything. You know, being all green and whatnot. But 9v batteries just haven't been there yet.
The Energizer Advanced Lithium 9v has somewhere between 750 and 1200 milli-Ampere hours (they actually say both on their website and the data sheet itself implies 1000 milli-Amp hours.
Now actually Lectro says that in some very high load situations the iPower out-performs regular lithiums. This is one of the reasons that just using the specification of "mAh" isn't always that helpful. You really have to see how a given battery works with a particular piece of gear.
The Amazon reviews for these 9v rechargeables are actually pretty good. And you'll note that most of the reviewers are using them for wireless.
So I'm getting three Energizers and a pair of the rechargables.

It costs less than $30 each way to take the bus to/from Allentown Pennsylvania from New York City. The secret is knowing that "Allentown" is called "Wescosville" on the Bieber Tours schedule.
And yes, they've already heard every joke you have about "Bieber Tours" so please. No. Just don't.
Today we had a read-through of the rebel team of our Android Masquerade. This is going to be a whole bunch of fun. Our first day of shooting will have us putting out 5 wireless mics for a big ensemble scene. Who doesn't love that?

Friday, April 5, 2013


You can, of course, get the Tascam DR680 modified. Busman audio does modifications -- 6 channels for $300.
The Tascam DR680 is fairly small and light.

I need a decent way to remotely power the thing. One could buy these Chinese 12v batteries (apparently the charge time on them is long though).
Or if one wanted to go rechargable and AA there are these Eneloop XX batteries.

Or you could go crazy and get a 12-pack of Energizer Lithiums for the whole shoot. Lessee, if, and only if, you could do an 8-day shoot on only 4 12-packs, that's about eighty some odd bucks.
So the conclusion is: ah. Erm.
There's also the option of getting one of these high capacity batteries for DVD players. That's $200. Word on the street is that it works.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On Wireless microphones

Dig this lavalier shoot-out on Vimeo.

Lav Shootout! Sennheiser Me-2 / Tram TR50 / Sanken COS11D / RØDE Lavalier from Chad Johnson on Vimeo.

Honestly, the Sennheiser ME2 doesn't sound too bad. I've used many an MKE-2 in my life and I are tired of 'em. I'm sorta interested in the RODE mics. Otherwise I might go in the direction of the Sannken COS11 mics but then again those COS11's are expensive and I find their shape to be weird.
I'm a-gonna cheap out and get a pair of Sennheiser G3 wireless sets.
The Sennheiser frequency finder is not the most intuitive tool I've ever used. Apparently blocks A and B are best for the New York metropolitan area. That's the word on the street at least.
The best information I can get is:
The Sennheiser ew 135 G3 is available in 3 frequency blocks: A (516 - 558 MHz), B (626 - 668 MHz) and G (566 - 608 MHz).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Prometheus Trap in Words and Pictures

Mockbusted reviews The Prometheus Trap.
I kind of dig the German version of The Prometheus Trap. "Stehle nicht von den Goettern" indeed! ;-)
I think I was already aware of this Horror News review of Prometheus Trap.
Here's a strange thing: Google notes that some search results for "The Prometheus Trap" have been taken down as part of a DMCA request by Lion's Gate. Yup, there it is at number 129. I have no idea why Lion's Gate's lawyer had it taken down, they don't even own Prometheus.

This is the Thing

Tascam DR 680.

Good for Pandora Machine, good for Tyrannosaurus Mouse, good for Russian Chamber Chorus of New York, good for The Imaginary Opera, good for the City Samanas, good for Pleasure for the Empire.

It can handle line in levels of +24dBu.

What doesn't it do? Timecode. I cannot even begin to express how little I care about timecode. I actually own an Ambient timecode smart slate (with timecode transmitter). And yet. Still. I don't care. I do not care about timecode at all.
The other much smaller issue is that the Tascam DR 680 does not have an onboard slate microphone. Honestly, it's been a long time since I've had a slate mic. We'd have to dedicate one of the inputs to a slate microphone in those rare instances where one really needs a slate mic. For me those are only the instances where the actors are 100' away from you on a long lens yet you're slating near the camera. I'll open up a slate microphone in order to get the smack of the clapper sticks nearby. Other than that, meh.
Six analog inputs will get you through most scenes. Even ensemble scenes in TV.
We're gonna need a couple more Lectros to get us through those scenes...