Sunday, September 30, 2012

Welcome to Jersey City

Everything's up to date in Jersey City.

Welcome to the exciting world of Jersey City, NJ!

Food: any food that’s in the house please eat. Drink any liquor or beer you find. Please. Oh, and feel free to fill up the Britta and make the water hot or cold as to your desire. Throw away anything that’s gone bad ;-).

A/C and heat: you’ll never be cold in the wintertime. Feel free to use the A/C and fans all you like if you’re overheated! Open some windows.

Electricity: Whatever you do don’t use the A/C and the microwave at the same time! Nor should you use a hair dryer and the microwave at the same time. If you do you’ll blow a fuse somewhere deep in the bowels of the building and you’ll have to get the superintendent to turn the power back on. The super is really nice, his name is Nick. But you really don’t want to wake him up at 2am now do you?

No. I’d rather not have to wake Nick.
See? It’s all good.

How do I get a hold of you?
The easiest way is by email.

What’s up with the telephone?
If you get cell service here, you’re a better man than me. There is a Skype phone in the computer. The headset is already plugged in. Phone calls to the continental US and Canada are free so knock yourself out.

How about the intercom?
Someone at the door can buzz #201 but they won’t be able to hear you talk and you won’t be able to hear them speak. You can, however, open the door from the intercom. There’s a matter of trust here.

So if I’m expecting someone and they buzz, I should just let them in.
That’s pretty much the deal.

How do I turn on the computer?
Just turn it on. It’s probably best to use Internet Explorer to check your email etc. just because my passwords are on the other browsers. But if you want to use Chrome or Firefox go ahead.

I want to use Wi-Fi with my laptop.
To get the password for the network, go look at the bottom of the router/modem (it’s by the television.) The “WEP” is the key/password. It’s printed on the modem. I don't remember it otherwise

I wanna do laundry!
Easy-peasy. The building’s rule is that you can’t do laundry after 10pm. The other important thing you want to know is don’t do laundry on this (the 2nd) floor! The washing machine on this floor just won’t spin your clothes dry. The first floor has a good washer that will take a big load of laundry -- wash is $1.25 in quarters, drying is $1.25 in quarters. The washer on the 5th floor is widely regarded by your neighbors as the best washer and it only costs $1.00 in quarters but it’s not quite as big as the washer on the 1st floor.

It’s 2am and I’m soooo hungry.
Dunkin Donuts is open 24 hours. The pharmacy inside the train station is also open 24 hours. Oh, and the deli inside the train station is also open. I have heard there is a decent diner about half a mile away but I’ve never been to it.

Can I play your guitars?
Feel free to play any and all instruments. Just after 10pm I try to be relatively quiet so as to enhappify the neighbors.

What is the deal with the train?
You are on the PATH line. Note that this is SEPARATE from the MTA (subway) system. The stop is “Journal Square” or “JSQ”.
Note that if you have a dollar amount MTA card you may use it on the PATH. But an unlimited MTA card won’t work.
Also, you can get a separate PATH card.
The PATH is (as of this writing) $2.25 a ride.

How late do trains go?
They go all night long. But after 11pm things get a little weird.

Weird... how?
The exit that’s really close to this apartment is closed shortly before 11pm. So you have to go all the way around the station. And, depending on which line you’re coming in on, you might make a stop in Hoboken first.

That seems really complicated.
You get used to it fast.

How can I see the World Trade Center from here?
Go up to the 4th or 5th floors, look out the stairwell window (the stairwell which is to the right as you go out of the door to the apartment).

Your shower is... amazing. Can I take it home with me?

Trash and recyclables -- where do I put them?
Use the trash can in the kitchenette. We have (apparently) single-stream recycling here so we intermingle everything. Eventually trash (and garbage, and everything) go down to the basement.

That can’t be.
I don’t make the rules.

What’s up with the TV?
I don’t have cable. The TV is hooked up to a region-free DVD player.

Parking on the street in this neighborhood is difficult. There’s no parking for more than 2 hours without a special resident permit and I don’t have one.
Now there is a parking lot next door. The parking is either $8 or $10 a day (it seems to vary.) If you want to experience a deeply vague business transaction with someone who may or may not be in charge of the parking lot, you will not be disappointed. That being said, I do park there frequently and feel my car’s been pretty safe there overnight. So don’t fret.

I heard that sleeping in your bed was an adventure with being poked by feathers.
I took the down comforter off the bottom of the bed. No more blood-drawing injuries.Sleep tight.

Advil? Shampoo?
Imbibe, construe! Please, use what you like. 

Me casa es su casa!

Some real hand-held power

These target pistols are dead sexy. Actually, the Remington XP-100 is an absurdly powerful bolt-action pistol which shoots an unusual kind of ammunition called the .221 Remington Fireball.
Now you might be wondering why you'd use one of these guns instead of, say, an HK MP5, to hunt werewolves, vampires, and replicants. And how do you holster it?
Uh. I don't know yet. I'm working on that.
The TV show Elementary -- I like it but what is up with all the dialog? It's all muddy -- like un-EQ'ed body mics. The dearth of upper mids in the 4kHz region and the emphasis in the 500Hz region make the dialog unintelligible. Those problems don't seem to affect the music, just the dialog tracks.
Plus they let faces get too dark.
It is both visually and aurally muddy. Why?
I think the airsoft versions of those XP-100's cost more than the guns (which are no longer manufactured) cost used.

David Wellington

Groove to new e-books by David Wellington.

I just read 32 Fangs. I really enjoyed it. He wrote the super-brilliant Monster Island too, which is the best zombie novel I've ever read.
Oh, and he wrote 13 Bullets and... it turns out I've read most of his books. And Frostbite is very good.
 Also I read his first self-published novel but I can't find it on Amazon.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


You'll recall, because you are deeply fascinated by this, that the last set of acoustic guitar strings I put on my Martin were, in fact, Martin strings.
And with the Delicate Cutters coming to town they needed to borrow an acoustic guitar because they absolutely could not fit another instrument in their van (I helped load the van, they seriously had zero room for an acoustic guitar.)
New strings, aren't you excited?
And I felt bad about not putting new strings on the guitar I lent them. But if I put new strings on it the day of the show they might have trouble staying in tune. Also, they could be too bright. So I didn't, then. But I did, just now.
The DR's I've now put on sound very good. And they seem to stay in tune very well so I needn't have worried (also, Janet from the Delicate Cutters has a preternatural superpower wherein her guitars just stay in tune... this is a power I simply do not have as I must re-tune at the end of each song (sometimes in the middle of a song.)
The strings might be a tad bright for a flat pick. That's a "might" be. And if you used the internal pickup in the guitar they'd almost be "electric-y". So it was maybe a good choice not to restring. I dunno.
Martin has a "care and feeding" guide  for acoustic guitars. They suggest a temperature of 72-75 Fahrenheit (which seems a bit hot to me) and 45-55 percent humidity (which seems a bit dry to me.) But that's just me.

Endeavor to Persevere

Indifferent Cats in Amateur Porn is awesome. Thanks to 555 for that.
I've been getting told that I suck for about two months now and although I have a pretty high tolerance for people telling me that my work isn't any good I've come to the end of my rope. 

So if you're thinking about crinkling your lip like you smell something bad at anything I say, just don't. Either get on the train or get off. If you've got any positive ideas, those are fine. Otherwise shut up.
I'm glad we got that out of the way. Now we can continue our regularly scheduled programming.
I need an Outlaw Josey Wales parka.


Yes, of course, just write the wattage on the lamp itself. Peggy Archer shows you how.
WANT! Lust. Desire.
It's the Aaton digital camera. The Delta Penelope.
Will it make our movies better? Well, possibly a small amount. Will it make us more money? Uh. Arguably maybe a few thousand dollars more?
It's a CCD camera instead of CMOS. I believe that means no rolling shutter distortion so handheld shots which we want to motion track composites into should be easier.
I'm sure the Delta Penelope will be worth every penny. When I say "every penny" I do mean about $150,000 after you get all the accessories and lens kit for it.

Let me run the numbers here... if we gross an average of even $30,000 a movie and the Penelope cost $150K then we have to make five extra movies which otherwise have no expenses to pay for the camera. All right!
If we were making 12 movies a year though... Or a TV series. Yeah. A TV series. Supernatural police procedural...
I do wish that the camera would do an ISO of 1600. I know it's got 14 stops and all but a 1600 ISO just makes my day.
Oh dear. The price might actually be more like $250K with accessories and lenses.

Pleasuring the Empire

My thoughts lately are that I need to put together a band to play all the stuff that Tyrannosaurus Mouse has rejected.
Essentially that's the entire Imaginary Opera.
I'm not entirely sure what the instrumentation should be. I had been kind of digging the electric upright bass sound but maybe a new band, "Pleasure for the Empire" if you will, would be better off with... what? A Koto drummer and cello?
Or maybe a straight-up power trio with backing tracks of synthesizer sequences -- old-school like early '70's The Who?
It'd be nice to get a group of people enthusiastic about playing this material.
The nice thing about The Imaginary Opera is that it has a story one would actually like to watch on stage.

Plus it might be amusing to do the things like Also Sprach Zarathustra live because let's face it, regular beer-drinking people will just love that.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Meetings, Energy, Hacks

I find this ScriptShadow post to be almost the direct opposite of what I do as a producer.
"First off, producing is a lot of MEETINGS."
I never go to meetings. I do a lot of things. I create tons of paperwork for distributors saying that there are no restrictions on advertising or use or likenesses for trailers. But we don't have meetings. We don't even have production meetings for crying out loud. I guess I'll meet with actors -- those are 10-minute meetings to, well, meet them. Other than that, no meetings.

The other day a producer on one of our pictures asked if we should have a production meeting. Ha! There's nothing that a face-to-face meeting will give you that a simple email exchange can't.
So all that being said I do send a lot of emails.
I've been on the receiving end of (at the low end) snark to (at the high end) outright hostility toward the idea of me playing the role of the bad guy in our next movie. The idea of me acting is, apparently, at best a joke and at worst an affront to Mankind.
This, of course, makes casting the rest of the movie somewhat difficult.
I'm half-tempted to re-hack the GH1 in order to make it shoot 24p again. I don't know yet.

My Review of the Cutter's Show Thursday 28, September 2012

FOUR SHOTS rang out in the night outside the piano lounge on the Lower East Side of New York. The drummer of the heavy rock outfit Delicate Cutters shot a man — now lying in the street bleeding out — just to watch the man die.
Just another night in New York City, just another gig for the Cutters. Known for their explosive stage performances and violent tempers, the Delicate Cutters arrived two hours late for their headline show at an abandoned warehouse on Delancy Street at midnight.
The crowd had already become restless -- having dragged an opening act consisting of three circus men and a Siamese Gibbon named "Rascal" off the stage, pummeling the clowns with bricks torn from the street outside. After several audience members were arrested for lighting fires in the unisex bathrooms beneath the stage the local police force simply withdrew, cordoning off the area in a 25-block radius as plumes of black oily smoke rose up over the East River.
I don't actually remember the concert itself as I'd been knocked unconscious just as the band took the stage. From what I was told I was one of the lucky ones. Whoever hit me with the back of a chair trying to escape the onslaught was inevitably killed by the bags of poisonous snakes the band threw from baskets they had lining the stage. I do have a vague recollection of the fiddle player throwing a Molotov cocktail into the rafters of the venue, which eventually ignited the fire which destroyed the children's hospital next door.
THE NEXT DAY I managed to talk to some people in the emergency operating room the National Guard set up in the wake of the show. I was triaged out of the M.A.S.H. with my head bandaged and a splint on my arm which covered what looks to me like a bite mark from a large dog.
The band was long gone. They had left in their tour buses screaming epithets about "anarchy" and "a people's rebellion" which the government is taking seriously enough that the President has called a press conference for later in the afternoon — suggesting the Government might be able to come to some "accommodation" with the "leaders" of the Cutters.
Here in the now eerily quiet streets where soldiers refuse to patrol on foot there are a thousand stories to be told. There was security guard Bobby "Bull" Jeremiah. Six-foot four, 260 pounds, he used to play with the NY Giants until he was sidelined with a knee injury. He now has a permanent scar on his left temple in the shape of a  Fender Telecaster headstock which was embedded in his skull by the band's singer in the first or second song of the night (he doesn't really remember). "I was worried about the audience rushing the stage. It never occurred to me that the band would rush the audience. I'm quitting this life, man. I'm quitting."
Another young woman who refused to be named said she saw the bass player pull out of his gig bag what she thought were flares "You know, for when you have an accident?" Too late she realized they were actually sticks of dynamite he used to blow a hole in the wall of the club and into the adjoining bank.
AS EVENING FELL the blood was mostly run off the streets with the rainstorm. Helicopters fly overhead, their searchlights enforcing a curfew in lower Manhattan. I think one of my molars is loose.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Delicate Cutters at the Roots Cafe in Brooklyn

What an amazing time and an amazing venue.

It was Standing Room Only when the Delicate Cutters performed at the intimate cafe venue in South Slope.
And look, they borrowed a T-Mouse guitar. That's my Martin.
The very groovy Rabbi Darkside was master of ceremonies and I have it on good faith that the grilled cheese is excellent. What a lovely group of people.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tears of Steel

The Mango Open Movie project by Blender has been released! Directed by Ian Hubert! It's an excellent demonstration of what Blender is capable of. Plus it's also all about Ian's unmistakable aesthetic.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Maybe this totally unsourced image I got off of Reddit will help.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's Next on the Hit Parade

I know from past experience* that composites are a lot easier if your whole color palette is limited. Our next picture is a dragon movie. This means there Will Be Dragons.
The dragons will probably be a lot more photo-real if our notion of what is "real" in the world has fewer colors than real life. And the colors the world does have will be over-saturated. And the blacks will sink into lush and inky darkness. The short way of saying that is that the movie will look like a movie.

In any case, our big question is what will the movie look like? We'll be shooting with a Panasonic GH1 using Canon S.S.C. lenses (probably mostly a 35mm and a 50mm at 1.8 or 2.0 or so, the 50mm will be like an 85 on an APS-C).
We'll be shooting a few days outside during the day. The slowest you can make the GH1 is 100 ISO. We could put some ND filters on the lenses. But we won't. So up there where I said we'd be shooting at an f2.0? I lied. We'll be stopping down much further than that for exteriors.
The other option we have is that we could turn up the shutter so that instead of a shutter of 50 we could go to a shutter of 100 or so. That would cut out some of our light and reduce rolling shutter distortion (which would make our composites easier.) But it would look more like a kung-fu movie fight scene. You tell me if that's good or bad.
I think we might want to go for some nice candy spot colors. Maybe. Each dragon could really be a color. Or, you know, we just sink the blacks down toward green, make the highlights go toward blue, and have the midtones go toward the Y line. I just don't know.
Here's the place where on a regular-budget movie you'd say "shoot some test footage". Yeah right. That is not going to happen. Our test will be on the first day of principal photography.
Has this little discussion of the look of our next movie actually resulted in either me or you having any idea of what our next movie will look like?
Unfortunately, no.
I'm just glad we had this little talk.
Maybe I'll shoot all the exteriors at f5.6 or down with the kit zoom lens. Maybe not.

*All experience is from the past.

Reddit on the Radio

Here's a collection of links in order to get your music heard on Reddit. (All this information comes from this post.)
There's Radio Reddit.
Plus ThisIsOurMusic.
And lastly ListenToThis.
This is probably not the last time you will see this giraffe.


If I'm reading this correctly then IMDB is backed up about 32 days for the creation of new titles. I went and submitted Prometheus Trap using this British link. I'm a tad confused -- is that a import into the UK? I don't know. Anyway, look again next month and see if the movie is listed. If your name isn't on it and you worked on the picture -- list yourself by "updating".
Yes, this is the official blog of Pandora Machine and there's a baby elephant on it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


The sheer amount of the business of filmmaking that isn't shooting a movie is pretty spectacular. The paperwork one has to go through in order to deal with distributors is mind-boggling.
And I spend a lot of time being yelled at by my distributors in order to get them the right paperwork, stills, audio, and visual effects.
So I'm finishing out the hardest two weeks this year of dealing with work at the Pandora Machine. Dealing with contracts and deliverables is seriously the least interesting part of my job.
And in the middle of it I got a call from an old friend looking to do some video for some commercial work which would pay in a month more than I make all year long with Pandora Machine.
Basically, I turned it down.
Because the worst day of work making movies is better than the best day of doing regular work.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dragon Notes

Here are some notes on our new dragon movie. Remember how this blog is my Internet notebook? Yeah well, here are notes which you will neither understand nor care about. I'm not even going to tell you who wrote what.
Here are some baby squirrels instead.

Biggest thing: Once Miranda is dead and Amelia has found her brother, there are no stakes left for Amelia. What does she want then? 

The end is kind of a mess. Too much action without enough motivation.

If we keep all the campiness in the dialogue, then we should also keep the teenage Sebastian flashback, so that the whole adolescent game thing is present. (maybe.)

I think there are tasers at one point in the tunnel. Really? Those will work in this world?

Quit being snarky about Tom's spelling.
Plus also:

Miranda:What are you going to do with this power?
Amelia:Nothing,I am just looking for my brother
Miranda:Oh deary,you should kill lord Sebastian with it
Amelia:What?What are you talking about?
Miranda: If you kill lord Sebastian than the jails will be free and I bet you will find your brother.

Joe: Lets get out of here
Amelia: I came to find you,but I realized I am here for a bigger reason.We have to kill Sebastian. If we dont know we are going to have to someday soon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cats, Tuning, Looming, Digging

We do need a cat in the studio. Cats are very important. Helpful. They are.

Reddit answers the question: why does the "G" string go out of tune first?
The short answer is that the writer likes this gauge set:
10, 13, 19 plain, 30, 44, 52
Remember, Looming Productions. Studio C. You know, for rehearsals.
I kind of dig this record "The Sand" by JP Haynie. Listen for free or buy a download. It's all good.

Clearer, Cheaper, Artistic, Selling

Kevin Kangas has a much clearer post on deliverables than mine (below).
One big difference we've found in the last year or so is that we're starting to be able to deliver on hard drives which, quite frankly, are cheaper than DigiBeta tapes.

Are you utterly fascinated by multichannel mixes like 5.1 and the like? You are. I'm re-delivering a movie so that the LFE channel has some material on it to make the meters dance a bit. This isn't an artistic decision, mind you. It's just to make QC.
You know what sells? Hard abs, hard drugs, and mentally ill people solving crimes.

Knives, Noise Reduction, and Freaks

The Gerber knife special forces dudes get when they graduate.
Neat Video makes a video noise-reduction plugin people apparently like.
Freakonomics on Sleep No More. Plus, I just knew that Stanford Prison Experiment was BS.
Ug. I'm in trouble with QC over not putting anything in my LFE tracks. Pththt. This is another one of those things that if LucasFilm had done it, nobody would breathe a word. But us? Surely those guys made a mistake! Sheesh.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

New T-shirts

I made a new T-shirt for Pandora Machine with Spreadshirt. Order yours today.

Must Needs Be Done

It's funny, completing a feature film is a monumental effort -- thousands of man hours of work and the willingness to see the movie through the end of its process no matter how you're feeling about the movie on a given day. 
But the actual delivery requirements can be... daunting. You think you're all done with color-correcting, with eliminating matte lines and cleaning up dialog tracks and then --
-- And then you have to deal with a LOT of paperwork.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. In fact there's a Federal injunction against me complaining about anything because, after all, I'm allowed to direct feature films for (a poor) living.
But I thought it would be amusing to post the sorts of delivery items one must produce in order to get North American distribution.
Note that all deals are unique and different. And this one particular distributor is more picky. Ironically the requirements for North America have become more legally detailed for low-budget indy pictures in the last few years due to the heady deep-pockets liability inherent in the big VOD services -- they're sticklers for every "i" being crossed and "t" being dotted.

  1. Screenplay
  2. Composers Agreement
  3. Sync & Master Use License agreement
  4. Paid Ads statement  ( On your letter head, detailing which actors/above the line crew get what credit, in what order, etc )
  5. Dubbing Restriction ( On your letterhead, detailing if there are any dubbing restrictions.)
  6. Director & Producer agreements  ( - similar to the writer's agreement)
  7. Title Search report .  ( You can use someone like  who is half price of Thomson Compumark )
  8. Copyright report (it's possible this may not be required)
  9. Stock Footage statement ( On you letter head, detailing if there is any stock footage in the movie and if so, where it comes from and legal rights to use it. )
  10. Chain of title document
  11. Trailer Usage.  ( A statement on your letter head that says there are no restrictions with actor usage in the trailer )
  12. Copyright FORM PA  Script and Movie

Notes Encore

Today the fabulous Steven J. Niles came to the studio and we recorded our commentary track. This was the first time I'd met Steven. We had a delightful time.
(You need to visit his pages for Sex Lies & Fish as well as It Came From Uranus.)
I've done about 20 pages of notes on Prometheus Trap in the last two weeks. You know, if we could actually finish a picture with three weeks before the deadline, we could do all kinds of cleaning up and "make betters" before we deliver it. That would keep us from having to deliver the movie, er, four times.

Now I have hundreds of pages of work to do getting the deliverables ready for Prometheus Trap, Android Insurrection, and Earthkiller (which has been renamed in North America to Total Retribution -- man, I thought "Earthkiller" was going to stick).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Finnish Nightmares

You clearly need a Finnish anti-drinking advertisement.

Don't watch just before bedtime.


Still doing some tests between the drone's onboard camera and the GoPro 2. If you're looking at this in your email you'll have to click through in order to see the exciting tests.
Let's start with looking at a picture from the Parrot AR.Drone 2. This is taken directly from the drone's onboard camera. Now let's look at the GoPro in the same lighting conditions. (Of course, the video is shakier because I'm just handholding it.) Now let's look at the GoPro in an exterior. YouTube does seem to clean up some of the noise issues in these videos. Note when I say "noise" I'm talking about video noise.
Still, the GoPro is very noisy in these videos. Plus, they seem to all feature Tom Rowen.
Now is the time I'll share with you some spam:
Are you noble and serious man? Are you looking a loving girlfriend?
I'm very gorgeous lady.
I 'm waiting for you to on-line chat.

What To Do

You can tell how completely out-of-touch I am with the arthouse film world because I didn't even realize the Toronto International Film Festival was going on right now.
It's on 'till the 16th.
So first I'm all like, I wanna do a Dark Star mockbuster. And Chance Shirley is all like "You should do a mockbuster of Robopocalypse" and I'm all like "Yeah." And then he's all like "Look at this list to figure out what movies to make." And I'm all like "Whoa."
I'm going through many pages of notes on Prometheus Trap. The sound editor had a couple pages of notes, the picture editor had a half-dozen pages of notes (and I've already been through about 10 pages of notes from the distributor and some ungodly number of notes from the producer.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Every Day in Every Way

I put a program called Finch on our editing computer in order to try to figure out how long it takes to edit a feature. That... didn't really work.
According to the DVD commentary on the 2nd season of Community it takes a week to a week and-a-half to get an "assembly" edit of the show. So if that's 7 working days then you're looking at about 35 working days for a feature, right?
We don't do assembly edits. Nobody in my shop works that way. The final edit is very close to the first thing anybody's ever cut. Sure, I go through the movie and maybe add a moment here or tighten something up there. But I really don't radically alter anything. (No matter how much my editors may complain that I do).

This blog has been getting way too safe for work lately. This is my partial effort to correct that.

Ducks, Love, Unicorns, and Tape (or Not)

Rain. Makes everything better. Enjoyed by both dinosaurs and ducks.

Do you enjoy having to pay a fee so that your play will be read as part of the application process of a short-play festival? Then you'll love Estrogenius.

Unicorn accommodation.
Acrylic adhesive tape.

Boom Recorder -- for recording production sound directly onto the computer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Picture Day

Today is picture day. Actually, today is "do the fourth version of Prometheus Trap" day but as we've already done three versions and are still working on notes, "Picture Day" is more interesting.
We'll start with some cats. My lovely sister sent me pictures of cats. And here I shall post them.
Pippin and Nikki.

Felidae Luxuranious.
 Pictures of cats power the Internet. They are what make our economy work. Job number one is to post pictures of cats.
But it's also a day to fly my Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 because I need more flight time on it. I'm flying it here with my iPod Touch. I took this still while Tom looked on.
Andrew Bellware and Tom Rowen seeming very close.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Drone for Production

I'm experimenting with the Parrot AR.Drone in order to use it for the "dragon's eye view" in our next movie.
Here you can watch me bash it repeatedly into walls outside my office. Here's my conclusions regarding the onboard camera:
Using the onboard USB stick doesn't really buy you a lot of image quality over what gets recorded via Wi-FI.

  • The image has too much noise to be usable for a dramatic feature.
  • The image distortion on the on-board camera is too much for a dramatic feature. We'll have to mount a GoPro to it.
  • The drone is surprisingly stable in "hover" mode. At least in no-wind interiors.

Audio and You

Here's my post where I disagree with virtually everything Stu Maschwitz says in his blog post on production audio. Well, not really. But I think he's put the emphasis on the wrong things in the world of production audio. And I have some time before my next render is uploaded.

Aren't you excited?

My basic thesis here is that it's not the recording tools that are hard to use, it's actually recording that's difficult. The reason is that your brain cannot do both things at the same time. And even though your production sound is half the quality of your final movie, nobody puts half their effort into sound, and by-and-large resent having to do anything non-picture-related.

Stu says:
I love filmmaking. I love shooting. I love everything about the on-set experience.
Except recording audio.
Let's then be looking at why this might be. Now, not to protest too much with my bona-fides but I am a production sound mixer. I'm a lazy and cranky production sound mixer, but I am one. And I have re-recording-mixed (meaning: post-production mixed) numerous features which have been distributed to markets around the world which are renowned for being a pain-in-the-neck as far as taking deliverables.

So, having got that out of the way, what's the big difference between audio and everything else on set?
The sound department is the only department not working for picture.
I’m a pretty smart guy. I truly get, in my bones, that poor production audio is the quickest way to sink an indie production. So I’m motivated to learn more about audio. I’ve tried, and tried. But it doesn’t stick.
I'm a DP who started as a sound guy. I can make professional quality stuff in either picture or sound.
You'll note I said either. Because when I'm on set as a cameraman I absolutely cannot do sound. I can "see" the audio path in my mind (microphone, cable, mic preamp, A/D converter, etc.), I can look up and see if the microphone is too far away to record adequate dialog (although my accuracy is not always 100% at that.) But I cannot do sound when I'm doing picture.

And neither can my computer.

So it's not you.

  • Sound is very difficult
  • On the other hand, sound is very simple
  • Sound is expensive. A big difference between sound and image is that the minimum basic requirements for good image are lower than for good sound. 

This picture has nothing to do with this essay.
Sound is difficult because it's completely abstract. You can't look at some part of sound and say "make this more blue". You can literally see everything that's wrong with picture. "There's a flare, there's not enough light on her face" etc. With sound it's like "Well, it seems a bit band-limited but it may not make any difference once the music is in."
Sound is simple because in production audio all you have to do is put a microphone within half a meter of the mouth of the person talking. Make sure the meters are in the middle without any part of the sound going above 0dBfs. Make sure you've pressed "record". Make sure there's no other noises than people talking. That's it. If you can do those things then you've done a professional job of recording sound. It's very simple.
Sound is expensive for a couple reasons. Actually a whole bunch of reasons. One is that there's not much of a consumer market for being able to record production audio well -- which is why all those portable recorders are aimed at recording bands well.
Post isn’t easy, but it’s much more forgiving than production.
No. No it isn't. Post is where the movie is made. It is not forgiving at all. 
Apparently I'm the only one who thinks this. But the fact is that my distributor yells at us about image artifacts and Foley more than anything else. 
Come up with stuff that makes my ideas seem trivial and silly. 
Okay. If you could make it so that you had an artifact - free method of extracting dialog from the yuk of production noises then you could use the mic on top of the camera -- the one with the automatic compander you don't have to set. But right now the best noise reduction is neither automatic nor as selective as you really want. 
Other than that, the fact is that a Sound Devices 702, a dumb slate, an Oktavia microphone, and someone who pays attention to dialog exclusively on set is all you need.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Today I Finished a Rewrite

I have a new re-write of the Dragon script. Version 6.03 if you must know. And the ending still needs to be fixed.

This is your favorite not-safe-for-work bicycle advertisement. And yes, it needed a director's version.

Best Bike Rental (Director's version) . from Stason bros. on Vimeo.
I actually bought this bear pattern. Now I have to figure out how to make the bear. Medved. Today is Russian Day apparently.
Ato Essandoh interviewed.

What to do

Canon's new C100 will list for eight thousand bucks. That's a lot of camera for $8G's.
I'm on my... er... 5th? feature with the Panasonic GH1 and I'm getting tired of the rolling shutter "jello-cam" and I'm getting tired of the artifacts which show up in low-light/low-contrast footage.
Via Jeremy Crowson. Our goal is to pick three. 

What's wrong with this sentence in a screenplay?

She leaps up and starts running at full speed down the corridor.
"Starts running..." No no no. Maybe she runs. Maybe she pushes herself into a full gallop. I don't care, but she doesn't starts running
You absolutely must write what we see and make it as active as possible. 
And under no circumstances will you ever write "They are locked in a life-or-death struggle" or I will put your name in the slug line of the scene with a note saying that you wrote that terrible "action".


So in the world the bulk of audiences are good people. Only a tiny minority in the audience are difficult and make the performers' jobs more difficult and make the experience miserable for the rest of the audience. In the theatre we have a special word for those kinds of people.
That word is "assholes".

So, I saw the first show of Sleep No More last night. Part of the schtick is that the audience all wear masks, they can go anywhere they like, and they have to shut up. And the group we were in had a couple guys who would not shut the hell up. Like, what did these guys think? That this dance performance piece was going to be like the haunted house at Zeta Beta Douche?
The hell.
Now the fact is that the crowd control in the show was super-pro. First thing that happens is that a group of about 20 are gathered into a room where we get our masks and are told the basic outlines -- keep your mask on, the black-masked people aren't there to guide you but will help you if there's an emergency and will keep you from doing anything you're not supposed to do, and no talking.
So these guys just can't stop laughing and giggling at how awesome they are. Sort of like 30-year-old second graders.
The hostess introduces us to the rules and begins to let our group into the elevator but stops these morons. "Gentlemen, I believe I've made it very clear that there's no talking." while letting us all pass.

OK, look, the same hostess had to talk to me once. My number had been called and I walked up with my ticket and my drink in hand. "Oh darling, no drinks allowed inside. Please, finish at your leisure and go in later." Exactly. Perfectly right. I just bought a $20 champagne cocktail from their own bar, how was I to know I couldn't bring it in? In my own theater we'd made a specific rule that patrons could bring food and drink inside.
So I was ignorant. Then I became learned. The hostess was kind, gracious, and clear. Hospitable. What more could I want? I went back to the bar and finished my drink. It's all good.
But back to the frat boys who couldn't shut up -- who are you guys? Why are you here? You're in an audience with other people in it. Oh. Right. you don't care.

In any case, my first goal after getting out of the elevator was to get the hell away from those knuckle draggers. Because if I didn't, I was going to garrote them one at a time and drag their bodies off to a dark corner where they wouldn't be found for weeks. And nobody would stop me. And as far as you know, I didn't do that.

But either I managed to elude those asses successfully, or the talking to they got worked, or they'd simply been thrown the heck out at some point. They returned not to irritate me again, which was not the result of my having tortured them, killing them, and stuffing them in the incinerator.

Furthermore, I'm not the only one who photographed his kissed mask.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Prometheus Trap Trailer on the Tubes

Here's the YouTube version of the Prometheus Trap trailer.

Proving I'm Single

I got the Parrot AR Drone 2. It's three hundred bucks but you need to get at least one extra battery (about $50) and you need an iPad, iPod, or some sort of Android device to control it.
The quadracopter comes with two cameras: a front-facing HD camera, and a downward-facing SD camera. They both shoot onto very compressy codecs. There's also the option to have the camera record directly to a USB stick. I haven't gotten that to work yet because the stick needs to be FAT32 and my main sticks are all ExFAT (because that's how I roll.)
Drew Bellware, drone pilot. Note the dead shark eyes of the stone-cold killer.
The images have very little color. And they're very compressy.
Here's another thing -- the 'copter hates the dark. It uses the bottom-facing camera for stability (I believe it uses some sort of sonar for calculating altitude.)
Do you like to watch someone incompetent bang his new helicopter against the walls? I honestly wish I had a Parrot Drone simulator.

You know, for a three-hundred-dollar thing, the drone is extraordinarily stable. But I do not feel confident enough to take it outside yet. I need a lot more flying time on it. The camera is borderline usable for us. It's not actually usable, just borderline. But people manage to get a GoPro on the 'copter so we'll be trying that. In the meantime I'm going to learn how to not over-control and to deal with "reversing" the controls when the drone is coming at me.

New Prometheus Trap Trailer

PROMETHEUS TRAP WEB FINALv0912 from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.
Click through to embiggen.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Lady MacBeth Kissed My Beak

I put a lot of mileage on my feet watching compelling dancers move through a fantastically large multi-environment show.
I followed all three rules and Lady MacBeth kissed my beak.
Rule number one: wear this mask.
Rule number two: shut the hell up.
Rule number three: when a performer or one of the black-masked people indicate you should move out of the way, DO IT.
So I'm watching the red-haired Lady M eat a strawberry. She's clearly a bit bonkers. What we nowadays call a "hot mess". She headed toward the door. A girl stood in front of her. Lady M waved at the girl to schooch over. Girl didn't. Lady M grabbed the girl by the hips and moved her out of the way.
So I'm being all good and standing by a pillar and Lady M just stops when she gets parallel with me. She turns, puts her hands around my neck and around my shoulder. What am I supposed to do? Well, take my hands out of my pockets I suppose. So I put my hands flat against my legs. Then I realize that's a strip-club rule. Does it apply here? I don't know. Lady Macbeth looks longingly into my eyes and goes in for a kiss.
How is this going to work? Oh right -- the mask. She kisses the plastic beak of my mask.
Lady M's lipstick on my beak.
The choreography of the banquet where Banquo shows up is the most amazing piece of choreography I've ever seen.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


So, we have this dragon script where in a post-apocalypse world this girl runs around fighting dragons or whatever.
The idea that the world would suddenly not have high technology is actually from Elegy Beach. At least, that's where I stole it from.
Revolution has the same notion in it. Electricity doesn't, you know, work anymore. And yeah, you can ask "well wait, then how does physics work?" But it's kind of a waste of time. It's just a conceit. You know, like doors slamming in a romantic comedy. Don't fret none about it.
I don't know about the screenwriting in Revolution though. The dialog is a bit en pointe. Firearms work, it's just that they're illegal somehow and that seems to be enough to keep the local militias in charge.
And crossbows have a lot of stopping power.
Any why not many horses? I know why we don't have any horses -- it's 'cause they're expensive.
One thing they do get right are the gratuitous shots of overgrown world. The sunken church was particularly nice.

Hoo boy. As Kevin Kangas pointed out. I bought the wrong GoPro camera. So now I've ordered the right one. Luckily GoPro has a money-back guarantee.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


The GoPro is available "naked" (just how I like my cameras.) Welcome to the world of today, where I work on the 12 pages of QC notes we just got hit with.
I just ordered the GoPro. We're going to use it on this dragon movie once we get started shooting.
 But ordering it directly from the GoPro site is about twenty bucks cheaper even with shipping.
In the meantime, has anybody edited a feature with the new Lightworks?
Because, you know, it's only sixty bucks and if it could replace Final Cut Pro I would be there in a New York minute.
The King's Speech was edited with it. So too Hugo.
I'm scared. Hold me.
The FedEx with the 9pm deadline is at 70 Spring Street.
Did I mention that today is re-delivery day for Prometheus Trap? I'm hoping we're solving our fun QC rejections.
Ha! There's someone standing there. Am I allowed to blame the editor? I think I will. It's the editor's fault.

It's a Sartre reference for crying out loud.
Normally by this point in the movie we'd have been able to upload mixed acts to the Internet and let our inner circle see them. But we've been so crammed for time that just hasn't been able to happen.
You have no idea how much this shot has plagued me.
 Hunting down matte lines can be nigh on impossible because oftentimes they don't show in the Final Cut Pro prerender. But boy do they show up in the final render.
This was properly identified as an Andrew Kramer energy orb. I stand guilty.
Sometimes there's no time to make a new effect. Sometimes I just steal title treatments from
Because I'm a sleazy producer, that's why.
Too noisy in the background.