Thursday, April 30, 2015

Armor Image Dump

Today I am presumably prepping. There is so much sand in my house. I don't know what to do. Can one wash sneakers? I'm going to find out. All of my 15-minute chargers and all my 15-minute batteries are... dead. So I'm switching over to lithiums. So much for the environment. Actually, at less than $2 a piece for the vastly improved number of hours they run they might be better for the 'viron. I dunno.
My sister is designing a deck of cards I want these so much so much want now.
You'd have thought that for five thousand dollars we'd have got something that looked this good.
I gotta pick up a Helix today. I gotta figure out how to use it.
The new Kindle works fine.
We need a log book and stuff to put on the wall for a shrine. Dog tags, pictures, that sort of thing.
I want to create a new numeral system for a number system that goes to 12

(box with vertical line through it)
(box with horizontal line through it)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Other Stuff Learnt

Having got back from Colorado last night I'm jet-lagged to the point of incoherence.
We shot about 520GB of 4K Quicktime movies. That's about 220 (or so) individual shots.
Marijuana doesn't actually do that much for me. I'm not saying it does nothing to me, it just isn't exciting enough to eat more granola bars or smoke.
I think I brought back about three-quarters a ton of Colorado sand back from the dunes in my knapsack. Right now it's hanging upside-down over my tub in an attempt to dry it off after multiple rinsings.
Un-color-corrected screen grab android in the desert. did a very nice job of dealing with our rental. They sent us that Pelican with the BlackMagic 4K inside. And all the other (seemingly infinite) bits and pieces you need. We did the trick of putting a paintball gun inside and declaring a firearm in the baggage. The theory is that makes it harder for baggage handlers to steal your luggage. I don't know if it worked. We got everything we checked (and carried on) back at the end of the flight, so maybe it worked (Southwest Airlines lets each passenger check two huge bags for free.)
The altitude affected me. I became very achy. I know, I know, marijuana can help with that -- ha ha. But seriously, I needed more time to acclimate.
The script and the call sheets were all on my Kindle. This worked out vastly better than flapping sheets of paper all over the place. But the screen on my Kindle got a divet in it. I contacted Amazon about that (admitting that it probably got scratched against something in my pocket) and they're sending me a new replacement for free, which is some excellent customer service.
We're done shooting with the Blackmagic for this shoot though. The rest of the movie will be on the GH4. It should be interesting.
You know, it would only cost like $38,000 to fly cross-country on a private jet...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 3 Data Dump

Most all these pictures were taken by Tony Travostino, although not all of them.
Laura here is holding her own tap. You'll note she doesn't have it plugged into anything.

Here I am grabbing a closeup of Amanda Sayle -- she's not in costume, just wearing the head pieces.
Shooting in the sand is, as it turns out, really freaking hard to do. The Blackmagic Production 4K is nice. Shooting to SSD seems okay. The camera itself is awkward to hold. Putting an eyepiece on it is very very fiddly (so we didn't do that) although putting a remote eyepiece on a 20-foot piece of BNC coax was very nice -- better than dragging a monitor on set which would be blown out by the sunlight anyway.
Laura Queen of Mars, me, Sarah Schoofs. Note forcefield plinth in foreground.
We were very very fortunate on costs on this trip. We got about the lowest prices one could get to Denver from the New York City area. And the house we stayed in is absolutely amazing. Another huge help was that Chester Poon immediately volunteered to cook dinner for us -- twice! We had delicious home cooking based on his Hong Kong mother's recipes which really and seriously need to be printed elsewhere.
We brought plenty of water but oddly we didn't get dehydrated so much as had to deal with a lot of sand. In our ears. Up our noses. My nose is chapped from being sandblasted.
Sarah Schoofs and Chester Poon. Not only was the sand everywhere, but we had to cross a very wide muddy creek on our way to and from the dunes.
We did get busted though. On our first day we went way north to the middle of nowhere. On the second day we were much closer in to where people normally came onto the dunes. Day three I decided to hike on land that was flat as possible (and, honestly, which gave some of our best views. Helpful hint: don't actually shoot in direct line of sight of the visitor station.
A ranger came out and asked what we were doing. We said we were making a family movie. He lectured us that we can't be making anything for a commercial purpose. He told us that people could see us (and our guns which are legal but, you know, they're wacky guns being waved around), and that the ranger station closes at 4:30. We took the hint, quickly finished a scene as the freaking hail moved in, and packed up and walked across the creek again and hid in the car until the rain/hail storm was over.
Delta, Amanda Sayle, goes across the dunes. This is not a still from our 4K. In the motion version you can see the sand kick up -- it's pretty spectacular.
Every day someone dropped a walkie talkie into the creek. I mean, right? Yesterday was Laura. Today Tony took the honors. Laura's was found by a citizen who got on the channel we were using and said hi and that they'd drop it off at the visitor center. We picked that one up today. The other was found upside down in the mud by the creek. They both seem to work.
This closeup of Sarah Schoofs is an ungraded screen grab from the BMPC 4K. All detail is retained. And no rolling shutter.
Caitlin Cisek's costumes give a great solidity to the design. The contrasts are just right.
Plus I'm doing something close to no directing on this picture. Everyone is just doing stuff that's perfect. We're getting a lot of the decisions. We're enjoying wide shots and closeups.
Physically it's hard to shoot in. There's a good hour drive from our B&B to the Dunes. Then there's a mile walk over a mud flat and then sand. If you're ambitious, you then go another several hundred feet up. If you don't mind spending hours getting to location on foot you can get complete solitude and do whatever you want there. We did not spend that kind of time (which is why we got a talking-to by the ranger.
Laura, Queen of Mars; Andrew Bellware; Sarah Schoofs, Chester Poon, Tony Travostino, and Amanda Sayle at the Yak N Cracker which was a place I was so excited about as soon as I'd heard of it that we just had to go.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 2 1401

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

1401 Day 1

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015


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

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

The smaller box has the bag with the batteries.

The larger box has a Pelican case within.

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

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

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

Friday, April 17, 2015


Sarah Schoofs. Basic desert look, scarf down. 

Note daylight setting on camera, shooting in fluorescent light.

Caitlin Cisek adjusts scarf in the up position. 

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

An indoor look (unfinished).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bo]]\\\ (Typos Included)

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

Tony Travostino in desert wear.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Varl Gets a Gun

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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Caitlin Cisek

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

Cameron seems appropriate.

Varl and Rove ready to rock out some vengeance.

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

Nearest ER

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

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

What's next?

So, what are you doing?
We're getting ready to shoot our next movie.
How's that going?
Well the schedule is up in flames.
What's up?
You know, art, set, that sort of thing.
Doesn't this happen on every. single. movie. you. make?
Why yes. Now that you mention it. It does.
What are you shooting first?
It looks like we'll be shooting on sand dunes in Colorado first.
Really? You're flying out to CO?
Yeah, we're staying in a house.
Wait, marijuana is legal in Colorado.
I was not aware of that fact.
My NSFW street cred was having some trouble lately.

What are you shooting on?
We'll be using the Blackmagic Production 4K. We'll be shooting on sticks as well as handheld with a brace borrowed from Libby Csulik. We're shooting at 400 ISO just like all the blogs tell us to, but we're using a .9 ND filter to drop the light down 3 stops.
What about tap?
Right now I have this ridiculous notion that we'll take the SDI output from the Alphatron eyepiece and feed a second Alphatron eyepiece because the sunlight will just be too bright for a regular monitor. That way two people will be able to watch through the camera without setting up some obnoxious tent to cut down the light suitably to look at a monitor.
So what about the shooting in the studio?
I don't know. One thing I feel is that we need to use the Letus Helix because we have to emulate having a huge dolly on set. Oddly, the Blackmagic does not work perfectly with the Letus because of the optical center -- it means there's a big motor right where the monitor on the Blackmagic camera is. You have to put another monitor on the Helix.
At the same time, there is a kind of merit to using the Helix with a Panasonic GH4 (at 400 ISO) because of the flip-out monitor. Now, the Panasonic, like the Blackmagic, gets noisy above 400 ISO. And the Panasonic has more rolling shutter. But the interiors do not need composites the way we'll be compositing out in the desert (my problem with rolling shutter is the way compositing works, or doesn't work, without global shutter). Also, the smaller sensor size of the GH4 gives us a bit more depth of field which helps our lives when we have a moving camera and are desperately trying to follow focus.
You seriously have no idea what you're doing, do you?
I do not. I am, however, desperately trying to find out.

Roll With the Shutter

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

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


Montserrat Mendez has directed a new play called Unmentionables.

Get tickets.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Oceans of Ganymede

The Gallien-Krueger bass amp plugin by Audiffex is really quite remarkable. First of all it really feels like a miked amp. It really does a musical job of making the bass "better-er". There's a weirdness with the plugin in Samplitude where it seems to lose the preset you were on when you re-open the project or if you split the object it's in, but the sound quality is fantabulous and I can just "freeze" the tracks where I've applied it.

I am particularly proud of my guitar lead on this track. Marc did all the work by coming up with that ostinato. The slow guitar is kind of exactly the thing I've been working toward for a while -- that legato, melodic sort of "sung" lead.
As of this writing I'm still working on the mix. The bass recording was noisy. I don't know what that was about -- converters needing a reboot, bad pots on the fretless, an issue with phantom power? I was too busy playing guitar to hear/do anything about it while we were recording.

In the meantime I saw Marc's band this week. They were awesome. But that's another blog post.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Color Correction and You

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

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

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

I Mentor Ye

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