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

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.

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

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.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Finnish Nightmares

You clearly need a Finnish anti-drinking advertisement.

Don't watch just before bedtime.

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

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

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.


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

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.

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.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

In Space No One Can See Your Century Stand

Whose fault is this? Mine. It's all my fault.
In the last year we've been getting dinged more and more for quality control issues. Now the reality is that our markets have put us up against some multi-million-dollar movies. And this means that our QC is up against movies which have post budgets the size of houses. Big houses. Before the real estate bust. In nice neighborhoods. With good schools.
So we are completely capable of being hit with an astounding number of QC issues, most of which it's simply impossible for us to address because our budget levels are so far below the sorts of pictures they are used to.
Which isn't to say that there isn't any amusement to looking at some of the... things... we get on our QC list. Then again, I may be the only one amused.

We are to look at the following list as what not to do. OK, let's begin.

Embarrassingly, that's MY water bottle and gloves in the frame.  
Whenever stuff like gaff tape or gloves end up in a shot and nobody sees it until later -- we call those "a little victory for G&E." The distributors call it something less amusing.
I did a "garbage" version of this matte, intending to clean it up later. 
This particular matte was the subject of much argument and debate. But I got to go in there tomorrow and clean it up.
This shot is entirely practical. I don't know what the deal is with it. 
We even get dinged on stuff that's perfectly good -- because of course once you start seeing stuff you start looking for stuff.
Hair stuff. In space. You know, because they still need hair stuff... in space. 
Sigh. There were some things we just couldn't address. Hair stuff was one of those things.
The whole background does indeed chatter. I'm going to see what I can do to fix it.
I came up with a fix for the above shot of the Hercules. It's on my other blog. No, the other blog.
Oof. Yeah. Oof.

Sunday, September 02, 2012


Winston and Meydl try to take up as much of the chair as possible.
 Cats. Can't live with 'em. Can't blog without 'em.
A closeup of Winston demonstrates felinical contentment.
Note intertwined tails.