Saturday, October 22, 2016

How Big is Your Drone?

A drone scale test by Ian Hubert with Sarah Schoofs and Tony Travostino.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Blue Gears

I kind of like this very blue environment for a fairly post-apocalyptic city. I'm thinking I want a semi-apocalypse for our next movie. More "Stalker" than "Mad Max". Like there's a working society in walled cities but there's still a dangerous wasteland. With tele-k's and alien technology.
CG Aircraft Flyby from Steve Burg on Vimeo.

Also, Filmcity makes an even less expensive geared head than the one several posts below. Their DSLR Geared Head is $590.  I believe that other than the weight-bearing differences, the main difference between the DSLR version and the bigger one is the lack of multiple speeds on the cranks. But I will say that having two pan cranks is pretty nice.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Color film was built for white people. Here's what it did to dark skin.

Oh yes, the racism of film stock has been an open secret for years. Yet I think they missed the lede here. Primarily (as shown in the brief Amy Schumer snippet) it's light meters which are racist.

But that doesn't excuse Kodak at all, especially because of the iterative nature of what is labeled "normal" and, you know, white people.
The thing in the Vox video which talks about reds -- I think what they really mean is that the low-density resolution of reds were not so great in negative stocks. Or something like that. Maybe it's in release prints? Hmm... Yes, I'm going to guess that's what they mean. Because, as we all know, humans are all the same color, just with different amounts of saturation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Carbon Copy Second Day of Second Reshoots Wrap

These directions for building your own Pip Boy are a little vague, but he does excellent work. The key is really the weathering isn't it?
I do feel my next movie needs a Pip-Boy of some kind.
Oh. We wrapped on Carbon Copy.
The beautifully feral Kate Britton going all Ghost in the Shell on us.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Pandora Semioticry

A new semiotic standard. Duplicates are unavoidable.
So I have 5 days to make five more 2' wide panels. And also do some routing on the device device.
Do you have any idea what I'm talking about? Of course not.
Now I will embark on a journey of discovery about turning bitmaps into vector graphics. Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Reshoot 2/1

Julia Rae Maldonado looking quite noir today.
 This is the first day of the second round of reshoots on Carbon Copy.
I thought we would shoot most of everything on a 200mm lens. No no no. That lens was way too close. So I rout around in my bag (is that supposed to be "root"?) and I can't find the regular Panasonic lens. So...
Let me start again. I have a small collection of Canon S.S.C. lenses. They're really quite nice. And before I left for set this morning I was like "I should remember to bring those S.S.C. primes as well as the regular Panasonic lens because right now I just have this 200mm mounted on the camera."
Guess what I did not do? If you guessed "bring any lenses" then you are today's winner.
Joe Chapman, however, (unknown to me) has a phenomenal collection of very fast S.S.C. lenses. I had the FD to Micro 4/3rds adapter on the camera so it all went swimmingly. All of these images were taken with a 20mm... f2.8? Maybe?
Joe Chapman lends and literal and figurative helping hand.
 A family emergency left us down one actor for this MOS sequence. So we re-wrote it last night that it could be played sans that one actor.
Not the first time we've killed Willow Csulik.

Friday, September 16, 2016


The actual connections of the cables into the body are a bit tricky, aren't they?

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Sound Devices makes a little free utility called Wave Agent which will split poly .wav files into multiple mono .wav files, or join mono .wav files into single poly .wav files.
Since I derped and recorded a bunch of individual tracks the other day, it was nice to have a little utility to sew them all together again.
Shooting a reel or "demo" for a movie in a very beautiful bar in Astoria.
And also the Zoom F8 worked for two whole days recording 3 and 4 tracks (plus stereo) to two SD cards without failing! Woo! This is with the latest update to their firmware.
I ran a backup to a Tascam handheld recorder anyway, but it was nice to not have any failures on the F8.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Geared Head

Proaim Orion Geared Head.
Just under $2000.
This is what I need. And a decent dolly too. With a realistic way to pull focus. But yeah, somebody finally realized how we all need a good geared head for less than $15000.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Oblivion Status Update

Bob Teague asked me for a status update on Oblivion.
This is where we're at. We have a cut. We have a lot of visual effects. But Ian Hubert is em-bettering the effects and adding our giant robot Henry.
This actually means there's a lot of paperwork for me. I am labeling all the effects and making sure the background plates are properly labeled and rendering out files which have "context" so Ian can see what happens before and after the effect. The effects numbering is like "1401 02.100 downed drone series" and the like.
Huh. I just now realized I'd made an error in my numbering. The "1401" is correct because that's the number code of the movie. But the "02" should be for a visual effect in act 2, not act 1 as shown here. Oops. As long as no visual effect is given the same number though, that's the key.

There's going to be some ADR. The stuff outside was never properly recorded, but that was by design because the park rangers would have busted us on day 1 if we'd showed up with recording gear as well as a camera.

Now, I'm also in post on two other pictures. And I have to build sets for the reshoots on the movie which was once called Android Masquerade but is now called Carbon Copy. And then there are about a million things I have to do. I'm sure.

EDIT: my above mistake has been fixed. We're back to project number/act/shot number. Whew.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Krylon vs Rustoleum spraypaints. I'm using Rustoleum for metallics and Krylon for flat colors.

I'm thinking Masonite rather than MDF. Another thing I'm thinking is flats that are 24" wide rather than 48". Actually I'm thinking that 18" on center is more amusing to me but for practical purposes that may not work. From what I can gather Masonite is a tad more practical than Luan.

Blick actually sells 24" by 30" panels. I know I could cut the panels myself but that would be really irritating work to do.

I learned the difference between a Hollywood and a Broadway flat.

A guide for making corrugated cardboard set pieces.

Monday, July 25, 2016

These shots.

    • Running into position
    • Shooting at oncoming
    • Approaching Wall
    • Side View
    • Chaos
    • The Wide Shot of Stuff Exploding
 I think I have all those shots. These are things I think. Yes. This blog is just a notebook which contains information that only makes sense to me.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Aspectical Ratios

I always get myself turned around when trying to calculate percentages. Let me start from the beginning -- Adobe Premiere Pro does not have a letterbox plugin. This is irksome to me.

Vashi Visuals has some .png files to download with all the different aspect ratios at all sorts of resolutions

At first I thought that there were only 4K images in that download, which is cool but we shoot in 3840, so the image has to be ensmallened slightly. How much? Luckily there are calculators on the web for that.  The answer is 96%, which is how much I scaled the image to by eye, but it was nice to check the math.

That said, there are "ultra HD" .png files, I just didn't see them because they're at the end of the list and I can't read.

Remember Jarl's Premiere Presets? That's where they are.

Scenic Things

Sprayed MDF on timber formers.

I kinda dig that hatch.
I need a medical bay. It has to look like a set on a multi-million dollar picture. Luckily we can make it small so we don't need to spend that much money.

The thing about using wood on spaceships is that it tends to look like wood in closeups. Fiberboard, which can be slick on one side, can avoid that "wood" look.
Homewyse has a Cost To Frame a Wall Calculator. Obviously the shapes we tend to look for are more expensive but to get an idea of the cost of just the framing it's an interesting calculator. The cost is between $2.50 and $5.00 a square foot.
JCFabLab is a sort of workshare fabrication shop. $135/month to join.
Medium density fiberboard.

And don't forget styrene plastic sheets as a material that doesn't read as wood.

(I simply cannot make one of those widgets from Amazon to work with Blogger anymore.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Noise Reduction in Production

So check it out, Cedar actually makes a portable and simple DNS. It's interesting because it means that a dialog mixer in the field might very well use it because Production is incapable of shutting the hell up for takes.

This is a quick and dirty solution for cleaner-sounding takes, but it ain't cheap -- it's $4000. And cleaning up with single-ended noise reduction while recording is not the "right" way to do it. But two things about that -- 1 it's likely that you'll have separated tracks of each microphone being recorded pre-noise reduction anyway and 2 so many productions go through post so quickly that the production sound person really is the last time a sound pro will touch the audio so you may as well make it sound like the finished product.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

More Medical Bays

The upholstery on the Nostromo is really nice. What's it made of? Is that just vacuformed plastic? What I really don't get is how the seams don't show. Maybe there's weatherstripping involved?

Cantilevered platforms are out of our budget range. But the light and the sort of surgery/dentist tools above Kane are very nice aren't they? Making this room circular must have taken quite an effort.

This is a CG model from the Interwebs. It's much too detailed to be made as vacuformed panels.

The alien medical bay from another angle. Are those speakers on the wall above the lighting instrument in the photograph?

Ash's station here is not as super-duper expensive as (say) the bridge. But I like the sort of s-shape of the vertical pieces. What I fail to comprehend is how the seams work because it's like the whole thing is molded out of one piece. It's quite lovely actually.

Here's the medical bay from a video-game of Alien.

I tried simplifying the above CG image to see if it was something we could have vacuformed. It was prohibitively expensive.

So I'm pretty sure this is Leeloo or... wait, no. The medical bay in Prometheus.

I don't know. Production drawing for Alien maybe?

The state actually gives you a pretty decent apartment when you come out of hypersleep. Maybe it's because you have a cat? I do love how inconvenient the corner thing Ripley is leaning against is.

Details everywhere.

Looking at this again, this is actually one of the cheapest looking sets in Alien. It's not that it doesn't look nice, it's just not super-expensive (for Alien).

So. Reshoots and stuff. Which means the word "greeble" is all over the place in my vocabulary. Also, it seems like the cheapest small monitor is really a Kindle Fire 7". Because using VLC media player you can play .mp4 movies on a loop on the Fire (also you can "lock" the display so you can design your graphics for, and use it, sideways.)

This is a closeup of the newspaper in Blade Runner.
I've been looking at pictures of ISS recently. Mostly dorking out about Suni Williams. The station is filled with plain-old laptop computers. And from what I can see there's basically no in-wall wiring. Everything's exposed.
I believe this is in the Russian part of the station. Although the display is in English. I do so love the super-simplicity of the readout.
Inside the cupola of the ISS. There is more duct tape in use there than you'd think you'd want to have on a space station.
This is the inside of a garbage truck. It's actually a right-hand-drive truck, or rather it has both left and right hand steering wheels but you're looking at it from the "working" position.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

My three things today

Issues with monitoring with the GH4. Basically you switch from .mov to AVCHD recording and back again if it's not outputting video via HDMI.
Apple's Time Machine can get cranky about disk permissions. Just. Because.
Panasonic's VLOG-L is very interesting. I don't know why Panasonic is so weird about releasing it. It's a $99 upgrade but it's frequently "out of stock". I mean it's a flippin' serial number for a software upgrade and it's... "out of stock". Nobody knows why.

There are some complications using VLOG-L. One is that it doesn't really work in 8-bit as nicely as you'd like. And that's what the GH4 records internally. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mac Rogers Is The Man

Genius playwright Mac Rogers is all over The New York Times.

Mac also wrote the screenplay for our movie Angry Planet.
The part I seriously have to disagree with is this statement:

Mr. Rogers probably wouldn’t be much use if the robot hordes were to pounce.

I know Mac Rogers.  I met Mac Rogers when I was a subspace communication specialist (T-3) and he was a Marine door gunner on a landing boat on LV-426. Let me tell you something. If there's one guy you want standing by your side with a pulse rifle when the robot hordes are about to pounce, it's Mac Rogers.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016


So there's a LUT available for the Panasonic GH4 which will give you 12 stops on the camera. That's awesome. It's software and it's only $99. Fine.
It's on backorder from Adorama and B&H.
Just so we're clear, this is a freaking serial number so you can register the software that you have to download. They apparently mail you the serial number. On a piece of paper.
So. That then.
If my next movie doesn't look as nice as that image above I shall run amok.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Documentary Copy

The dude who made that documentary on Sriracha published an essay on his receipts. Now, as my dad would have said, dude is counting "profit" without taking out his own salary.
Ooh. Today was the last day of Cannes. We have a new movie, Carbon Copy.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Economies of Blurry Costumes Enloudened

The economics of a TV show. (It's not really the economics of a TV show, more general network economics. So. Like that.
Box blur. Is better than directional blur or gaussian blur or fast blur. So says Stu. So say we all.
I just steal all my content from Kevin Kangas.

Scene Sick is a company that makes post-apocalyptic clothes. Like Mad Max-type stuff. Reasonably priced and very sci-fi.
HideAMic is a series of products for putting the Sanken COS11 in clothes. I'm not entirely sure how they work or if they're better than the soft pads with tape on either side, but it's nice to have options.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

DAW, Transcriptions, Microphones, and Spaceship Panels

Here is my workstation where I am editing dialog and sound effects and music on Carbon Copy. I actually ended up with two workstations. The other one is half-set-up in the bedroom.
My little apartment seems weirdly spacious in this view.

Rev via Kangas. $1/minute transcription. This is relevant to my lifestyle choices.
Sanken COS-11 microphones. Without accessories. With accessories. Honestly, with the relatively inexpensive Sennheiser "Evolution" wireless systems I'm fairly happy with the quality of the wireless transmission and reception. I'm not as excited by the microphones that come with them (sort of a cheap-o version of the Sennheiser MK2). And in most scenes one shoots the difference between good mics like the Sanken and bad ones like the MK2 knockoffs really isn't that big a deal. But every once in a while you have a microphone in a bra or elsewhere that the location isn't quite perfect and bleh. The little bit extra by paying upwards of $400 for microphones makes a big difference.
2 Coast Customs makes props including spaceships panels. Sometimes a man needs spaceship panels.

Monday, March 21, 2016

End Titles Things

A reference guide for credits. Most of the following text is by other people.

The order of credits is determined by guild rules -- SAG, the DGA, WGA and other unions. the list that follows is for opening credits.

The order in which credits are billed generally follows their importance to the film, just not linearly. First is usually the motion picture company, followed by the producer, then the 'a film by' credit. Then we see the Title followed by the cast. from there we reverse gears on the whole "order of importance" guideline and work backwards to the director...

a NAME LASTNAME production
Lead Cast
Supporting Cast
Casting Director
Music Composer
Costume Designer
Associate Producers
Production Designer
Director of Photography
Executive Producer

If the writer and director are the same person, or the director was also a producer, hold his earlier credit and pair it with the more prestigious one (in this case "director"). so you would place "Written and Directed by" or "Produced and Directed by" or "Edited and Directed by" where the Director's credit goes. if your Dp was also your editor, you'd have "Editor and Director of Photography..." falling in the position where the DP credit goes. et cetera.

Closing credits do not have any hard and fast rules that dictate how they need to be ordered. But there are conventions that have been established. If you intend to have no opening credits (something George Lucas left the DGA over) you basically put the Director, Writer and Producer credits first, then go down the line for the closing credits:

Executive Producer
Lead Cast
Supporting Cast
Director of Photography
Production Designer
Associate Producers
Costume Designer
Music Composer
Casting Director

***if you credited the above in the opening, closing credits begin here ***

Unit Production Manager
First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director
Full Cast / Character List
Stunt Dept
Production Departments (Grip, Electric, Camera, Sound, Wardrobe, etc)
Post-Production Departments (Assistant Editors, Visual Effects, Colorist, etc)
Song Credits
Title Designer
Special Thanks
Camera, Lenses and Equipment Makers
Location of Final Sound Mix ("Recorded at...")
Copyright ©

special consideration is given for "name" actors, often they are credited just before the title comes up. and again, you have a lot of wiggle room with closing credits. some films credit the entire cast first, before the director. you have options here.

Here is a standard motion picture disclaimer...

"PERSON'S NAME OR PRODUCTION COMPANY" is the author of this motion picture for the purpose of copyrght and other laws.

This motion picture is protected pursuant to the provisions of the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any unauthorized duplication, distribution and/or exhibition of this motion picture may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution.

Characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

No animals were harmed in the making of this film. [Drew note: isn't this a copyrighted statement held by SAG?]

if you have an Animated Production Company Logo, place that at the very beginning, before your credits. it's the first thing we see. some studios/production companies will tag the logo on at the very end too.

Here's sample text for the 2257 compliance notice:

2257 Compliance: In compliance with United States Code, Title 18, Section 2257, all models, actors, actresses and other persons appearing in any visual depiction of content whether actual sexually explicit conduct, simulated sexual content or otherwise, displayed in the Picture were  at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time such depictions were created, and all other visual depictions displayed in the Picture are exempt from the provision of 18 U.S.C. Section 2257 and 28 C.F.R. 75 because such visual depictions do not consist of depictions of conduct as specifically listed in 18 U.S.C Section 2256 (2) (A) through (D), but are merely depictions of non-sexually explicit nudity, or are depictions of simulated sexual conduct, or are otherwise exempt because the visual depictions were created prior to July 3, 1995. Records required to be maintained for such materials pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2257 and 28 C.F.R. 75 are maintained by Licensor (“2257 Compliance”).

Friday, March 18, 2016

To Do

Today's goals involve mixing act 9, working on the end-title credits, and making some android walking in act 3 on Carbon Copy. Also: vacuuming behind my couch.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Handheld Presets

With a hat tip to both Kangas and Ian Hubert, Jarle's Deadpool Handheld Presets. I know, right? These kinds of things are not perfect -- they won't handle images which have extreme foreground and background where the parallax would mess you up. But for most images with a relatively flat plane they can be lifesavers.
I've been using some footage I shot where I was trying to be as still as I could with a handheld camera. But I'm definitely going to check out these presets.
I'm selling a bunch of stuff on the eBays. Some production sound gear -- a bag, a computer audio interface, a power distribution thingy. You know you need these things. Bid now!
Am diligently working on Carbon Copy. The number of details in post is quite astounding. All sorts of picture things and all sorts of sound mix things has me with machines rendering all the time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hap and Leonard

Jim Mickle's new TV series on Sundance airs tonight (March 2, 2016). Hap and Leonard.
I'm gonna watch the heck out of this.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Costumes I like

There are things I like about The Expanse. Many of those things are set design. The chairs on spaceships. Spacesuits which are wetsuits and drysuits.
But then there's this costume.

Normally you'd think this kind of thick collar would not be flattering. But good grief it works.

She gets to wear a new costume in every scene.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Time Code and You

Let's face reality: in indy feature films there's practically no reason to use timecode. There just isn't. You can't really sync any sub-$100,000 camera with timecode on set, and so you can't really use it in post.
But because I was a sound mixer in a previous life, I have a fancy-pants timecode slate made by Ambient. Thing is, I've never fed it timecode. Originally I had one of those Fostex PD-2 DAT machines. That was a clunky thing. Expensive. Fiddly. But it could read and write timecode in whatever format you wanted, do pull-up and pull-down and whatever nonsense people used to do when shooting at 24fps, blah-blah-blah.
Then I went to a computer system. Metacorder. Way over-priced but fairly workable. That system would actually jam timecode too. Uh. Just on the output? I think maybe it just output timecode which the slate could sync to. I think. Wow. It's been a number of years...
But then we worked with non-timecode Sound Devices recorders for the last many years. And we use the slate because it comes down and makes a "whack" sound which is easy to sync up on the timeline (actually, I like the Ambient slate because there are these lights which come on when the slate actually hits and that makes finding the visual mark where the whack happens really simple.)
The slate here is twice as expensive as the 8-channel recorder. What you see here is the transmitter to the slate, a battery (top) and the Zoom F-8 (in stop so it's not transmitting TC), and an Ambient slate.
I found that as a production sound guy, producers loved the numbers going around and around on the timecode slate. They never used that timecode and pretty much nobody on set knows what they're going to do with anything you deliver anyway, but that's just how it is.
The timecode menu on the Zoom. Note that you can set the "user bits" to be almost anything you like. Here I'm experimenting with having it display the number code for a movie called "1601". The "auto mute" means that it only puts out timecode when the recorder is running, so the slate will only display moving timecode when you're in record.
So now that I have timecode available again, even though we'll never use it, I'm still going to make sure the slate receives it. Why? Who knows? It's completely irrational of me. But we can do it, so we're going to.
It's ten minutes of 8pm. You can see the record light is on and the Zoom is recording, therefore it is outputting timecode. When the slate is clapped, the user-bits will show up for a second or two but that is just about impossible to photograph with a still camera.