Saturday, November 30, 2013

1202 Day 10

Today was a pretty quick day. But I think we got all of our plates which we need so Ian Hubert can do our CG. Jim Boyett was in today. This was super helpful because it meant that the Marsian Queen could deal with makeup and various on-set things like putting baby powder inside the barrel of guns so that some foof would come out when they're shot.
Clark needed a picture for his Facebook profile.

I haven't been taking enough pictures of Virginia Logan. So here's one.

Maduka Steady was our robot today. Here he is with Virginia Logan, squaring off against an evil robot.

I got to shoot at Virginia a lot today. I then began to cackle. I then realized that when the director is laughing maniacally while shooting dust pellets at the actors it's not exactly the most comforting of sounds. For the actors. Personally I was perfectly fine with it.

Squaring off against an evil robot.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Horror Without Victims

Our own Eric Ian Steele wrote the short story Clouds included in the "Horror Without Victims" anthology.

Eric wrote Clonehunter. And the story Clouds is a fantastic little piece of horror. Check it out.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Red, White, and Blue

So I guess Only God Forgives isn't really a big Hollywood film. But it's beautiful in a sort of archaic (meaning, what, the 90's?) way. Each frame is very deliberately composed. Long takes. Long elegant dolly moves.

But it's the color which I found so striking. There are a lot of red, white, and blue compositions. I don't know if they were deliberately going for something in particular, like Ryan Gosling being in red for the beginning of the movie and then another color later. It seems like the movie itself goes through color changes rather than the colors being related to particular characters. So we go from red to a sort of daylight-clear but using architecture to frame, then going blue. Or maybe the red is, like, representative of the mother's stifling oppression, man. The movie is formal.
And the movie is slow. I mean it's like 2001 slow. And if the slowness doesn't make you think of 2001, the Penderecki-like score will certainly do the trick.
Cliff Martinez scored the picture. He's done a number of things I've really liked, like Solaris. I love the score in Only God Forgives. He's kind of the master of these moody sorts of scores which sound massive but which you can put dialog over.
Sometimes the Foley is comically kung-fu-movie-like. Some of the scenes are super delicate in their use of sound against score. It's not like the movie is all that literal. I mean, time certainly isn't linear. And there are certainly "choruses" of unblinking extras who just observe unemotionally.
It's a pretty striking picture. But I mean seriously. Where does he get that sword?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day One Versus Day Two

So this is sort of strange. There's a book called Day One by Nate Kenyon.
You might recall that we made a movie called Day Two. The name it was released under was Battle: New York Day II.
Let's look at the cover art, shall we? Here's the key art for the 2011 North American release.
And this is the cover art for Day Two.
Um. Really? Really? I... okay then. So did someone actually look at the art for Day 2 and think "Hey, we'll do the same thing, just with a guy in the picture"? I have no idea.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To Do BA Dry

Under "things I want to do" I thought, especially to appease my friend Ed McNamee, it would be nice if there were a way to meld my triumvirate blogs ( and with the addition of into one feed. I don't think there's an automatic way to do it. So it looks like it won't get done.

So. With SCUBA. I'm allergic to neoprene. There are three options in the world of wetsuits that I know of.
  • There is stuff called Sharkskin which as far as I know is simply not available in the US.
  • Then there's a UK company called Fourth Element which makes a wetsuit from Thermocline. (I feel fairly confident that I am not allergic to the Thermocline material as I have a pair of AquaLung gloves made of Thermocline and haven't had trouble with them.
  • Lastwise there is stuff called LavaCore made by Oceanic. This is the cheapest option at about $220. (I have SCUBA "socks" made by LavaCore and again I feel relatively confident that I'm not allergic to it.)
Incidentally, tests have shown that what doesn't help is to wear (say) LavaCore underneath Neoprene. Nope. Still have allergic reaction. Apparently everyone on the Internet who has a Neoprene allergy says the same thing. It just don't work.

But then here's another thing.

Although all of those above suits are neutrally buoyant, which is very groovy, they're all fairly light-weight. Scuba diving in New Jersey is almost never warm. Because when you're not diving in the North Atlantic, you're diving in quarries which are under fifty-degrees at a depth of 50' year-round.
  • So that means that realistically a dry suit is usable all the time when diving here. 
  • And many dry suits are available without neoprene.
  • Dry suits are, unfortunately, expensive (like $2000).
  • Dry suits have almost no resale value, so you can pick them up cheap off of the Craigslist.

And that's about it for what I have to think today. I'm done thingking. Tinking. Finking.

Mandira Movie

Our own Mandira Chauhan has an entry in the Doritos commercial contest. Check it out! Zombie Apack'o'chips!

Vote early! Vote often!

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Trainwrecks

Did you know that new Trainwreck amps are being produced?
Trainwrecks sound great. But so do a lot of other boutique amps. Heck, there are some non-boutique amps that sound great too.

I love my Celtic Edana. Together with my Lil Dawg Mutt going through Celestion Alnico Blue 12" speakers they sound as good as the best amp I've ever played, the Blankenship Fatboy Supreme with Sour Cream.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oh, for Full Duplex

How to use a walkie on set. I cannot over stress how important it is to wait for the tones to go across the network (after pressing the talk button) to speak.
Note that the sound department almost never uses walkie talkies (typically called "radios" by professionals). This is primarily because they're listening all the time and can't be interrupted. Also, they're intimately involved with set and the sound of a walkie would destroy a take.
The few times when I've needed a cue from a walkie I've asked that a PA with a radio stand near me and relay the cue to me. (On other kinds of big shows I used to mix the communications were crazy-time complicated with multiple channels of hard-wired and wireless communications. That's not the case here.)
Press the PTT button. Take a breath. Then talk. Why? Because then the words "Don't move the truck" become "Move the truck." I have seen that happen way too often to count. Truck gets moved. "Why are you moving the truck?!" someone squeals. But it comes out as "Are you moving the truck?!"
The response is "yes". But they don't wait and the response becomes "... phtht".
So then an AD runs, yelling at the truck driver, avoiding the use of technology in order to communicate: "Why are you moving the truck??!!!"
"Because that's. What you told me. To do. On the radio."

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I sold a couple things on eBay.
One thing that's cool is that between eBay and PayPal the whole selling process is relatively easy.
Firstwise is that eBay now automatically figures out what category your item should be in based on previous similar items. That makes life much easier.

In the world of selling audio stuff people like to know the serial numbers just in order to be sure things haven't been stolen. So I always include the serial numbers.
Also it's nice to tell a little story about the item. Folks like that.

Betty White. If you're bored by the rest of this post, here is Betty White.
I even spelled the name of this thing wrong. Yeah. I know. It's because I was thinking "Philosopher's Stone" instead of "Philosopher King". So sue me. It still ended up in the right category and showed up under the correct searches.

But the thing that make my life the easiest is that eBay/PayPal will print out your mailing labels. I mean, you can even buy the postage (you know, through PayPal) and it prints out everything so you can just drop it off.
I thought I had to take the packages to the window. Turns out I don't. I did. But I didn't have to.
All in all a fairly painless process. Hopefully the buyers will be happy.

It Means "Horse" in Italian

My buddy Mike Kessell (who designed and built much of Millennium Crisis) plays drums for Cavallo.
They rock.
No, I mean they freakin' rock.
The above link is to their Bandcamp page. And the recordings sound great (I even own their vinyl!) But live?
Live they rock.
I mean they freakin' ROK.
This is the kind of band that's so dynamic that really it's all about hearing them live.
And they're an instrumental band. There need to be more instrumental bands.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Losing My Religion

For the last 20 years or so I've been inclined toward high-end (preferably Neve) microphone preamps. This is in part because I felt I was suddenly able to make things which sounded like real songs once I started using real preamps.
It seemed and seems that mixing is much easier when everything's been tracked through some API's or Neves. That may be in part due to what Alan Douches calls the "accumulation of subtleties" which is what goes into making a good mix.
But then again, it may not.
With some exceptions it can be very difficult to hear the difference between a high-end preamp and some cheapo $10 preamp built into an interface or cheap audio console. I mean while just listening to it alone. And without having the ability to A/B the cheapo preamp against the Neve 1272 you have sitting there in your rack you won't be able to listen to a track and just straight-up say "Oh, that's the preamp built into this Souncraft mixer on this snare drum track".
But presumably we can hear the "buildup" of tracks all recorded through (say) a Trident A-range versus the same tracks recorded with a Mackie mixer which has been sitting underneath your dirty laundry since you quit that job mixing that web-series in 2005.
I say "presumably" because you absolutely cannot get the same performance out of a whole bunch of instruments to do a true A/B test.***
Is it too late for me to become a Hammond organ player?

So let's pretend that there's an accumulation of subtleties in recording, that is: the mix is better because of all the very slight increases in quality brought about by high-end microphone preamps.****
Those increases in quality are nothing, nothing at all, compared to having better instruments to record and, you know, actually practicing more.

Yeah. Practicing more. Now there's a subtlety that'll definitely accumulate.*****

So basically, the guiding religious principal of recording that I've been operating has developed a schism. Although I can't help but feel that preamps somehow magically make the music sound better, I can't prove it. And the fact is we're using four channels of Neve 1272 preamperage and another two of Lindells (which are vastly less expensive but still theoretically better than the built-in Tascam preamps in the A/D converter).
So, you know, we should be ahead of the game as far as the sound is concerned.
The drums are typically being replaced in Drumagog so it's basically irrelevant what the preamps are (or what the microphones are).******
That leaves us with just a bass or a guitar not recorded with a high or higher-end preamp.
Having recorded the bass in Diatomaceous Earth a number of ways I have to admit I don't really get bent out of shape when we use the Tascam's built-in preamps for it.
I've non-blind A/B'ed between the Tascam and the Neves for bass guitar and although I should be prejudiced toward the Neves I'm just not feelin' it. I can feel the difference between basses and have my preference there, but not with the preamps.

Which, in a way, is almost too bad because there's a world of loveliness out there in the world of preamps nowadays. Seventh Circle Audio makes some cool kits (non 500-series based.) There's a whole DIY culture too

But I've lost it. I don't have the faith that those things would make nearly the difference that would... well... make a difference.

I'll stay with the preamps I have. I mean, I'm not going to curse the gods when my sacrifices have already been made. But there's no need to sacrifice more. That I know of.


***That's almost true. But if you were recording entirely electronic instruments which you pushed through the high-impedance inputs of preamps you could do an A/B test. Hasn't anybody done this?
****And yeah, that's preamps. Not "microphones". So many great sounding records have infamously (or famously) been recorded using Shure SM57's that it's impossible to count. But in my experience, it's the preamps that make the biggest quality difference in the mix.
***** As a guitar player I'm... pretty terrible. I have exactly one trick: I can make the guitar sound good. I can't play fast, nor accurately. But I can get a decent guitar sound. Enough that if I play slowly and simply it seems like a choice rather than a necessity.
(I just need to practice more. Specifically I need to practice playing rhythm. I do not have a funky bone in my body. It has been strongly... er... requested that I become better at this. So I'm... gonna work on that. Oddly this particular point is not relevant to my thesis here as the one thing I can do is sound -- recording-wise -- good.)
******Note that the overheads -- which is where we get all of the cymbals -- are recorded using nice microphones with a pair of Neves.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Front Light

So. Front-light. I've seen behind-the-scenes where someone is throwing an inky on actors -- you know, by hand. They're just carrying it around.
Well on this picture it's written such that it's all POV camera. That's, er, not the way I'm shooting it but that's not the writer's fault.
In any case, I realized that the robot (whose POV we mostly are) has a light on in his eyes. So of course the camera should have a light on board. Right?
Here's an iPhone picture of our camera rig -- that's a florescent light which operates on 4 AA cells, just below the lens; and a weird little 2-LED light which attaches to a 9V battery there next to the lens.
So here's the thing. You always want to have your light "modeling" the foreground by having some big huge amount of light coming in from the back or side of the image. That helps keep the image from being too "flat" looking. But counter to that you want to fill in eye sockets and have a bit of kick from some light in the eyes. The fill is to make people look better, the kick is so you can see what they're thinking (no, really).
The lights turned on make the iPhone's camera go nuts. I kind of like it.
Now you may have noticed these are two opposing things in light. And they can be a pain to make both work.
Attaching a little light or two to the camera works fantastic. Especially at a 1600 ISO at f2.8. You can light from behind just like you want to, but you don't need to worry so much about the kick and filling in the eyes.
And it's a relatively subtle effect too. You don't have to worry about everything looking like a bad television documentary where they attached a SunGun to the camera and went walking around in people's backyards.

We may slap a light to the camera rig just below the lens on all future movies. We just may. It sure makes the lighting director's job easier. I mean the DP's job. I mean the gaffer's job. I mean the Queen of Mars.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Knives Allowed

So, I'm unpacking a new air mattress from Amazon and I don't have a pocket knife. And my eldest brother has no pocket knife. And my father has no pocket knife.
I'm all like:
How is it that three men do not have a single pocketknife between them? Is this all because of the TSA?
The answer was "yes".

But it turns out that we can carry pocket knives again! Whoopie!
I'm a tad confused about when these new implementations go into place. But they seem pretty reasonable to me.
I just might order a whole bunch of pocketknives for everyone for Christmas. Gerber, baby. Not just Gerber for babies. Gerber knives. They're just the best. Get some for Christmas.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Your Three Things

Does anyone have a spare $25,000 I can have so I can get one of these Freefly M10's?

Stu Maschwitz on coloring.

John J. Bruno on producing guerrilla-style. I'm trying to count the number of things in his post which we straight - up do the opposite way. We don't pay our grips, we make our lighting director order lunch and do props without paying her, we consider budgets (and revenues) to be public knowledge and we absolutely never at any time ask anyone to sign an NDA. In fact, I want people to sign a "I will post many pictures to Facebook and Tumbl and whatever" agreement.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Harrowing of the North

So I was checking out the Bandcamp blog and there's this dude who reviews metal and he has a blog with this post about a band called Wiht. I think they only made one album. Which, in their case, means they only released two songs.
This band is/was amazing. Think an instrumental Tool but with more delicateness and subtlety. They're definitely a "heavy" act but there's a world of dynamics and Floyd built in. I think they're no longer together.
Devouter Records.

Set List

As per Ethan's suggestion, a set list with a link to the latest version of each "song" indicated.
Now, to start with, we haven't really decided on the first song. This is just my suggestion.
1. Eyes of the World (soundcheck, trade fours)

So. This is what I've got right now. One day things will be different. Today is not that day.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blue Weasel

Above (click through to the post if you don't see a music player in this post)is a song we did with just Greg, Lily, Lou, and Drew. Lily was playing the fretless through (oddly) a Roland Jazz Chorus (a small one) which was replacing the Fender Twin. Lily goes back and forth between using a direct feed through an Alembic preamp and going through an amp. Personally I like the amp sound the best for her. She tends to prefer the direct sound.
Anyway, Blue Weasel. We were looking for ways to sound more "open" and jazz-ish. In doing so I had to leave the snare sound natural (not replaced).
There's also a bit of Electro Harmonix HOG2 on my guitar but in a couple weeks we're going to try that on the melody side of the Chapman Stick.
We also learned that I need a good 6 bars notice before we make a change. I'm just slow.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Stacey Raymond

Stacey Raymond interviewed!

Walls II

So I think I have about 112 square feet of wall I want to cover.
Just as a side note: look at the carved wooden "cap" at the end of this room. Who doesn't want that? I don't mean in real life, I just mean in a movie. You want that thing, right? 

We're going to get a couple boxes of these from Home Despot. I'm gonna hang them on my wall. We'll shoot movies in front of it.

Check out all the ThreeDWall designs.

If you like, groove to the much more expensive leather panels. They'd make excellent accents.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


A very exciting part of the whole filmmaking process is walls.
Okay, maybe not.
But walls are the things behind the actors. So you have to make them look right.
We have right now, in my apartment, two different kinds of walls which are more than awesome.
There is a wall of painted molded pulp packaging (mostly for wine but I think there's a couple humidifiers and a number of hard drives' packing materials in there.) Marcie Kintish did the scenic painting on those pieces. I found most of the pieces in the trash.
That molded wall looks awesome. I can't say enough about it.
The second wall is what we (I) call the "Pepsi wall". It's made of delivery containers for one and two-liter bottles of Pepsi. I know. Most of them were in the trash at my apartment building. Others were found by Marcie and lashed together with plastic zip ties.
Now the brilliant Queen of Mars has found another cheap and beautiful wall material. This threeDwall stuff is amazing looking.
You know you want this in your own living room. 
We're totally going with this. It's going to rock. Our voles.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Golden Age

We live in a golden age of audio.
The fact is that there was a golden age of audio in the 1950's. The recording chain of professional audio was pretty well perfected at the time. They had the finest microphones and many studios had the best consoles and preamps ever (or at least they did by sometime in the 1960's.)
But what we have is the ability for boutique makers of things like microphones to be able to make simply awesome microphones -- at absurdly low (and, from a business perspective, quite frankly unsustainable) prices.
Dig if you will Mesanovic Microphones. The sweet little Model 1 is only $700. For a ribbon microphone. Hand made right here in the Good Ol' USA. That sounds pretty sweet in the demos.
A stereo pair is $1350. I mean come on! I'd be interested in how they sound with a little more distance on 'em.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Double Robot Composite.

This is a quick shot we did with both robots in the room. Camera's locked and there's a garbage matte for when we put Rik in the other helmet and in the chair. The camera got bonked (probably from me hitting "record" but it re-lined itself up seemingly just fine. A little "neo" from Magic Bullet Looks with a slight increase of exposure and less contrast.

Just Some Notes

We've been discussing directions and suchlike with Diatomatious Earth. So here are some randomly collected notes.
Here's the City Samanas doing their "Blue Shadow". (D9 to A9)

And then. Grateful Dead with their 7-7-89 version of Fire on the Mountain: (B and A) "Don't Let Go (Part 1)" by the Jerry Garcia Band ("Mostly A but some D's thrown in.") Grateful Dead "Althea". ("This is B#m A E A and B#m A E".)

Day 9

Today we had the lovely Kimball Brown and the excessively handsome Walter "Barny" Barnes.
Walter gets fixed up by Maya before a take.
My building's super -- I don't know what we have to do for him for Christmas but it's gotta be awesome. We got permission to shoot in the basement and the basement is... amazing. There are so many completely different environments down there.
Note this is the "ARGUS II" which enters with Yerkov. Totally different helmet.

Walter did an amazing job in the suit.
 Maya made a very cool costume for Yerkov.
We're shooting all ISO 1600 at f2.8 with a color balance of 5300K. This will be important to know in the event we have to do reshoots.
I love this shot with Kimball Brown because we get a slash of shadow across her eyes yet we still have kick in her eyes!
The shoot is going rather well. Every set and location is new (for us). I can't wait to see how it's going to turn out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

1202 Day 8

Matthew Trumbull, Sarah-Doe Osborne, Virginia Logan, and Mary Murphy look at some newly-made nanobot zombies.
My bathtub is like a crime scene.
I'm really enjoying the "unlit" look of this picture. I'm willing to face reality and note that the Panasonic GH3 sinks the dark part of the image all on its own -- giving everything you put in front of it a kind of "filmy" look. And with a 5300K light balance the image just looks... well kinda nice in my opinion. We have nice colors but they don't get weird on us. 
I have a small 4x "AA"-cell battery-powered florescent light mounted to the front of the spiderbrace the camera rides on. This is working fairly well for us. It really only reads in closeups but in mediums it gives just a bit more "oomph" to the frontmost part of the image.
In-between scenes, Virginia Logan knits in uniform.

 Everywhere we shoot in my apartment building has nice lighting (at an f2.8 and 1600 ISO).
Steve Deighan, Matthew Trumbull, Sarah-Doe Osborne, Virginia Logan, and Mary Murphy. This is a fun gang of people to fight the zombie apocalypse with.
The images we get are very color-correctable but honestly all I really want to do is drain a bit of color from the whole thing and then walk away. But we could swing to blue or green or sepia as much as we really like. Yup, the blacks are unrecoverable (see Sarah-Doe's pants for instance). But the midrange gives us a whole lot of room to work in. Still, the image is pretty nice as-is. As far as I'm concerned.
Bad guys go up the stairs: that's Steve Deighan, Matthew Trumbull, Tarantino Smith, Maya Graffagna, and Sarah-Doe Osborne.


“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of un-bar-b-qued lips, and I live among a people of greasy ribs, and my eyes have seen the King, and tasted the food at Soul Flavors which is now closed.
For years I found Soul Flavors in Jersey City to be the best soul food I'd ever eaten. Now, 'tis tru my cousin did introduce me to Red Rooster in Harlem and yea verily I do pronounce it as good as Soul Flavors. 
But it's in Harlem and I live in Jersey City. 
In sadness I post this bunny.
Just up the street from where Soul Flavors was is a real hole-in-the-wall Polish restaurant. Every single thing I ate there -- stuffed cabbage, stuff chicken breast (mozzarella), pierogies (of course), and sauerkraut, were delicious. And helped take the edge off my speechless sadness at the demise of Soul Flavors.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Day 7

La Reine de Mars waits to roll sound.

Clark on his first day. The awesome super at my building let us use the part of the basement I'd never seen before. This scene Clark blows it up watching his mother/zombie get killed with a baseball bat. On a side note, what rating were we going for here? On another note, I'd asked his mom if seeing his mom get killed would qualify as either traumatizing or awesome and she allowed that for him it would be clearly on the side of "awesome".

Dirk Voetberg as the sleazy landlord Bennicker before he comes to an untimely end by whomever that is behind him.
We stuffed Clark in a closet. He got me back:
Him: "Did you write this movie?"
Me: "No."
Him: "So you're just the director."
Writers everywhere rejoice and smirk.

Annalisa Loeffler going after a robot with a baseball bat. That's a Pandora Machine bag in the background which the Producer took away for the final shot. Many thanks to Virginia Logan for her baseball bat. Apparently kids these days all use aluminum bats. Back in my day you weren't allowed to play with aluminum bats.

Annalisa Loeffler's new Facebook picture.

Dirk Voetberg looks on while Clark slates a scene for Annalisa Loeffler.

Okay, so this is Annalisa Loeffler's new Facebook shot.

Annalisa Loeffler, Maya Graffagna, and the Queen of Mars look at video tap (yes, after years of not having tap, we have it once again) which doesn't actually show up when you take a still (meaning that the duration of the frame that is actually shot is not transmitted to the monitor, we are all otherwise actually looking at the frame you see above.)

Annalisa Loeffler and our little tribute to Sleep No More.

Clark in front of our two walls. These walls were built by Marcie Kintish and are freakin' beautiful to shoot. In fact that wall you see on the left is staying right there -- I'm gonna live with it. It's like a big piece of art on that wall.
Someone left those salt and pepper shakers in the front hall of my building yesterday for someone to take and I decided that someone would be me. It turns out they're electric salt and pepper grinders.
Clark wouldn't touch those pancakes. His loss -- they were delicious.

Die K├Ânigin Mars.