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 Sayle -- 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 Sayle, 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 Sayle 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.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 2 1401

I know, I'm actually pointing in this shot. Isn't that the most cliched thing in the world?
Andrew Bellware, Laura Schlachtmeyer, and Sarah Schoofs. Picture by Tony Travostino.
It's not hot out there. But it is dry. And it is over a mile in elevation. Here we're at about 8200 feet.
Sarah Schoofs took a picture of me after I got to the top of this one dune. We're still several hundred feet below the summit.
I like the Blackmagic 4K camera. It's a bit unwieldy though. The autofocus, at least at an f22, seems to work pretty well. I haven't figured out how to really make the iris button do what I want.
Making backups at night is actually a fairly big job. It takes several hours. So far I've blown through about 360 GB on the internal drive. And you know with how fast we shoot that's because the 4K (even at ProRes instead of RAW) eats data for breakfast.
There is dust everywhere. In my pants' pockets, in my (ugh) ears, and all over props and costumes. We do everything we can to protect the camera.
Tomorrow is our last day out in the field. I have one pickup I need to get I haven't told the cast or crew about. Hopefully nobody will notice that I'm doing it.
One of the first tests to your cast and crew is passing across a 750 foot mud plain. For some reason I have been consistently more luck hopping from mud clod buried just below the water. But note you will become completely wet this time of year.
When we got back all tired from shooting, Chester Poon made us an amazing dinner - a very Hong Kong rice noodles and chicken (and a tofu option). He added enough garlic, that's for sure.
We're on schedule. Moar soon.
Now I have to get a lot of sleep.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

1401 Day 1

Tony Travostino and Sarah Schoofs.
Walking on sand dunes is just about the hardest thing I've ever done.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


We got our big rental from yesterday. It's funny that without any doubt at all the cameras we're shooting on are of higher quality than the cameras used to shoot the Star Wars prequels, no?
Two boxes for our Blackmagic 4K kit.

They come with FedEx return shipping labels which is awesome because it eliminates a whole layer of potential incompetence on my part.

The smaller box has the bag with the batteries.

The larger box has a Pelican case within.

Cat is not included but if you make me an offer we might consider it.

The purpose of these pictures is to give a notion of how the box is packed so when we re-pack it it is... you know... repacked.

Yes we have two viewfinders so that in the bright sunlight both the director and producer can actually see what's going on.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Sarah Schoofs. Basic desert look, scarf down. 

Note daylight setting on camera, shooting in fluorescent light.

Caitlin Cisek adjusts scarf in the up position. 

Apparently anything we can do in order to go in a Lawrence of Arabia direction is good.

An indoor look (unfinished).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

And then there's today's blog which is filled with minimal information

One of the things I need to keep in my little head is exactly what flavor of "4K" we're shooting this picture at. The Blackmagic Production 4K is 3840x2160 in Quicktime and so I have also set up our brand-new GH4 to shoot at the same aspect ratio and 23.98 frame rate.
I had kinda held out a tiny sliver of hope we'd get the Blackmagic camera today. It's supposed to come tomorrow.

Tuesday we pile on the plane to fly to Colorado. Right now it's snowing. Which is... right? I know.
This says "Pandora Machine" in an alien font.

Tomorrow there are more fittings. Whenever I think the word "fittings" I think "fitting and just". Milton. Or something.
The important part of this is 3840x2160.
Remember: 3840x2160

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bo]]\\\ (Typos Included)

Bob Teague in Warfield hat (unfinished). 
 Caitlin Cisek was in the Machine today for some fittings.
You can barely see the groovy Road-Warrior-esque leg brace.

Tony Travostino in desert wear.

Option with hood up and goggles on. Note Time Warner bag, which is the best kind of bag.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

So then therefore

How to set up your new Panasonic GH4 for Filmmaking

Monday, April 13, 2015

Varl Gets a Gun

I don't even know what this is (other than it's a .68 caliber paintball gun). The three "barrels" (one is the magazine, the other is the pressure-thingy, and the middle is the actual barrel) are ridiculous and make it nigh-on impossible to holster. But the Blade-Runnery look of it is really nice. I got it a while ago off of eBay.
I have so much paperwork to do. Next week we go into production. We flopped the whole schedule recently to do some upgrades on the set, so we're going to Colorado first. We're shooting with the Blackmagic 4K in CO. I have to now re-send the shoot dates to the insurance company.
Like a total bozo I'd forgotten that Varl has a gun. I mean, he wields it all over the place in the script. But me? I totally forgot that. Luckily we have the perfect weapon for a fellow like him. Now we just need to figure out how to holster it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Caitlin Cisek

The lovely and talented Caitlin Cisek shows off the mercenary killers.
Sagan. She'll probably get a lot of sand in her shoes.

Cameron seems appropriate.

Varl and Rove ready to rock out some vengeance.

Warfield. We don't need him in the desert of course. Just everywhere else. By "everywhere" I mean Allentown.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Nearest ER

When you need to find the location of the nearest hospital for your call sheets (or, you know, if you're actually having an emergency right now) there is the ER Wait Watcher. The purpose of it is to find wait times, but it also shows the nearest hospital. It's surprising, to me, how otherwise difficult it is to find the nearest ER. I suppose most GPS's do it.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Varl Gets a Uniform

Spot Caitlin Cisek
In praise of the sci-fi corridor.
An unfunded Kickstarter for Bladerunner tiles.
Ennis House tiles for 3D printers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Roll With the Shutter

Cinema5D did a rolling shutter comparison of a bunch of cameras.

There are interesting tests between the GH4 and the GH3. At 4K the GH4 actually performs a bit worse than the GH3 but to my eye it seems less "liquid-y".
Phillip Bloom on the GH4.
At one point I had found a thing which gave the equivalent rolling shutter speed for motion-picture film with a 180-degree shutter. Because there is a little bit of "rolling shutter" on old-fashioned chemical film. But for the life of me I can't find it.
Sunrise and sunset times in Denver, CO.
Over the years I've gotten in more and more trouble for stuff I post on this blog. I keep being surprised at who reads it. I'll probably end up putting more troublesome stuff on Pleasure for the Empire. "Troublesome" in this case simply means more information about what I'm doing.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Color Correction and You

I know nothing about color correction other than watching Stu Maschwitz' Lightroom Iron Chef.
He's working in Lightroom, which doesn't have a direct analogy to the programs we tend to use for video (and we certainly aren't shooting in RAW) but it's very helpful -- even where I don't exactly agree with his decisions on the final correction it's nice to see how he makes those decisions and experiencing his (very sophisticated) sense of color. 

The video it entirely worth the hour-and-a-half to see the process. Note that the changing the aspect ratio is not something that's really a thing that's possible in the world of movies. But the way he approaches the skin tones and using gradients is really interesting to me.
Honestly I just use his Magic Bullet Looks, maybe adjust the exposure, maybe fade the effect back a bit, and then move on. I'm not saying it's a good idea, it's just what I do.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I Mentor Ye

One Thousand Birds is a post sound facility in Brooklyn.
It not often a man gets to offer advice to the world. But on occasion he can because the wisdom he has gained should be passed on to others. I have the opportunity to impart knowledge I have gained so that you might benefit from it. Do not tell your distributor you're making a movie about robots playing chess.