Friday, May 29, 2015


Notes you really don't care about:

Act II in 1301 is ready for mix. OMF and reference .mov have been built.

In 1401:

  • the merc ship ground and takeoff is rendering Blender rendering on the mac
  • the 01 drone scope series is being Blender rendered on the PC

I seriously and fundamentally do not understand how to render an object with only z-transp in Blender Cycles. I'm going to need some emotional help with that.

Our neighbor Keith at is leaving.

Seriously, why is rendering a shadow-only on an object so freaking difficult in Cycles?

An Album's Worth

Greg Bartus sent me some stuff to listen to before we play together next week. I'm kinda digging this stuff which was all recorded one or two years ago. Maybe three years ago. Anyway, I think we should totally release the unreleased stuff. Dark Star First Jam Loosely Regarded by the Cat Asleep by the Door is actually already on an album. So is, ironically, Diatomaceous Earth part II The Porcupines Dream is on that same album Measuring the Invisible is also on In the Vast Iteration But Sapphire Road Tractors? Totally an unreleased song And The Wooley Mammoth's Last Dance is actually a Diatomaceous Earth song

Dark Side of the Moon

Making a Gas Giant is 57 steps. 57.
It's actually a very good tutorial.
I didn't follow all the steps exactly though. Firstwise, Adobe changed its scripting language somewhat since that tutorial. You need to put in a semicolon between all kinds of expression stuff and the time variables. ;*-1 and suchlike.
The other thing is that it's actually our moon -- just that in the intervening time it's managed to turn all the way around. So that's the far side of the moon. And now it has rings. And two satellite moons of its own.
In the future, the world is rough.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Motors on Boys Day

Camera-less rig -- motorized dolly and motorized pan and tilt head. Tony Travostino in the background.
My buddy Brian Dalthorp of PopStudios lent me his Revolve slider system (vastly more advanced than mine). The advanced e'en more portion is a used Bescor 101 remote pan/tilt head. Also, we can use a nice Manfrotto fluid head instead. Sometimes you want a motorized dolly and a manual head. Sometimes a motorized head and a motorized dolly, sometimes a motorized head and a manual dolly.
Could not get the slider system to work at all, we just got slipping on some of the gears, so we went back to skateboard wheels on a flat board.
Libby ran this system mostly. On a couple shots it took two operators. Man I wish we had like Bluetooth focus pulling as an option.
What else, what else? So many things. I write these blog posts as I'm practically passed out from a day of shooting so I have no idea what I'm saying 'till I read them (and don't edit them) in the morning.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Ex Machina
The sounds she made were gorgeous. Very subtle organic-motor drive. Refrigerator logic: why didn't the older, dumb, model make those sounds?
I was envious of her robot costume. A fairly simple rig actually as they did a replacement of large sections of her body with rotoscoping and 3D models. But the base piece was that nice grey square rubbery material and then what was the costume equivalent of a disco ball. But with an added bit of 3D model underneath to create depth it worked rather well.
This is why we can't have nice things.
Why did they go for visual effect blood from the knife stabs? I have no idea.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

And then.

I can't even remotely finish any shots these days. Do you know how many more elements belong here? Neither do I. There's a giant robot. Some evil drones. A force-field. And probably something else in the distant background. Do I have those things? No. No I do not.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I'm the guy who didn't like Fury Road

I wanted to. I wanted to like it. But the screenplay is not that awesome.
Max has very little impact on the entire story. He makes no decisions. The titular character is figuratively and literally muzzled for half the entire movie.
The opening image is stunning. Spectacular. So full of potential.
Yup. The bar here is pretty high. That's because the bar is Mad Max II, The Road Warrior. Every single scene in that movie tells you about the characters. The first four minutes of The Road Warrior are wordless and a brilliant establishment of characters. We learn the entire world in one very simple car chase. We learn that fuel is precious, we learn that Max is smart (a better driver than others -- he never fires a shot and lets the bad guys shoot one another). We learn that Wez is a bad-ass dude who can take it as well as give it.
We learn nothing about Max in Fury Road. Maybe 3/4 of the way through the movie he makes a good strategic suggestion. Suggestion!
In fact, if you eliminated Max himself from this movie it would have been a vastly better movie. Actually, I suspect that there was a time in the evolution of the screenplay when Max wasn't in the movie. Because there is an active lead character -- one who makes decisions -- and it ain't Max.

 Furiosa, in fact, does some very Max-like things. After getting through the wall she puts her arms up, effectively "surrendering" to the biker dudes inside the wall. This sort of echoes the way Max approached the refinery with the injured man at the beginning of the second act of Road Warrior. And, of course, she makes the fateful decision to return (even if Max suggested it).
And, of course, the events of the entire movie revolve around the fact that she's rescued the wives and escapes into the wasteland. Max is shackled and strapped to stuff for the first hour of the movie so nothing he does actually makes any difference up through then. Like literally nothing. If he had just stood there outside the car in the opening of the picture when the bad guys came after him the results of the rest of the movie would have been the same.
Okay, the scene with the two dudes spitting gasoline into their blowers is great. Is it as awesome as the shot coming out of Max's blower at the top of Road Warrior? No. But it's pretty cool. The thing is, it tells us more about the character of the war-boy dude than it does Max or anyone else.
Also, I found myself memorizing 1, 1, 2, Black, Red (it may have been "Black, Red"). But that whole thing? Totally irrelevant. The switch on Max's V8's guzzoline tank from The Road Warrior? Vastly critical to the rest of the events in the movie.
So yeah. I compare Fury Road to a movie which has a perfect screenplay (note that the version of the Road Warrior screenplay on the Interwebs has a different, and less good, 3rd act than the final edited version.)
So. I'm that guy.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day 8

Amanda Sayle as Delta and Sarah Schoofs as Sagan
 Today's innovation was to have a real tripod head atop the skateboard dolly. It tood a bit of practice to work dolly and pan&tilt at the same time. Once you added pulling focus there was too much for Libby to do and someone had to pitch in. But it totally looks like a Fisher dolly, just not with a Worral head.We did two scenes in single shots which moved around very nicely.
Joe Chapman looking sexy with the slate.

It's all about having lights in the deep distance.

The set painter made some beautiful "rusty" walls.

Sarah Schoofs in a pensive moment.

The robot rests.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Eric Ian Steele writes a gorgeous guide to writing a logline. Part I. And Part II.
I'm still working on this.
A secret to boom operating is to:

"...[Y]ell out “Stand by for speed,” in [your] most professional voice, to let people know that [you are] not ready, and speed has not been called."

It's a secret. Don't tell anyone. Although personally I'm a fan of saying "Flying in!" and then proceeding safely and apace with whatever you were doing when someone calls for something on set. Just don't say "Wait". Drives everyone nuts.
Andrew Kramer's 40-minute tutorial on making a blown-up city in Aftereffects (in 2D yet) is... amazing. Amazing I say.

What I like

Things I like better about Adobe Premiere than Apple's Final Cut Pro

  • The ability to import frame sequences as footage. Good grief that's annoying in FCP
  • The fact that if you make a mistake in your sequence settings it doesn't mess up the size of all the footage inside it, you can just fix the settings and all the footage doesn't need to be manually resized
  • A single button to export a frame grab (this has irritated me about FCP for years)
  • Not having to transcode every bit of footage before bringing into the project

An advantage FCP had was that the playback cursor would snap to objects just like objects snap to objects when, you know, snapping is on. But the deep dark secret is that Premiere works that when when you hold the shift key. Premiere actually has the advantage there as it means one doesn't need to keep flipping from snap-on to snap-off as much.
Like this picture, I have no idea what's going on here. That's Amanda Sayle; and Laura, Queen of Mars (and two hikers in the background). But it's a frame grab and that's fun.

The Lumetri Looks in Premiere? I find them disturbingly helpful. Like "I don't even use Magic Bullet anymore" useful. And when I figure out how the tracking works on mattes in color-correction, it'll be all over but the crying.
Now I did set the hot keys in Premiere to be much like the ones in FCP. So "a" is the selector tool instead of "v" for instance.
The human eye. ISO of 800 (will auto-set to as low as 1 ISO during daylight). Resolution of about 75 megapixels. F-stop of 3.5. Focal length of 22mm.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Food and You

There's an article on the awesome Cindy Keiter in NY Woman, with her favorite restaurants. Cindy gives culinary tours in Chelsea.
A recipe for flame-grilled mango margaritas.
There's a place called 25 Burgers in New Brunswick which my office-mate Kevin says has excellent chicken wings and fries.
Bertucci's is a chain but is supposed to have excellent rosemary chicken wings.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Day to Murder Chester Poon

Chester seemed like he came back to life though. That happens.
We shot the big fight scene today. Actually, I think three characters died today. We used cushions to break a fall!
First thing in the morning what did I do? Drop the camera. In the hallway of my apartment building. Shockingly, all it seemed to do was to pop a little clip inside the strap holder on the right side. Whew.
We shot three scenes but we took a while to do it. Tony insisted that we get three whole tubs of french fries (he was right to do so).
Huh. I coulda sworn I'd set the Tascam to record 6-track interleaved but I'm still getting multiple stereo tracks from it. Sigh. I'll look at it again next week.
Oh! And I broke the HDMI connector to the camera! Joyeaux! Whee! I have to order a new one.
Sarah Schoofs and Tony Travostino cower from the influence of the evil android.
We did some re-shoots and additional-shoots before lunch though. Queen of Mars had to do a Blade-Runner-y moving light gag.
Poor Bob Teague had to be dead all day. But he looked good doing it. And at least I had him be dead on the couch. ;-)

Friday, May 08, 2015

Just some notes for myself

Tomorrow we have the biggest gang on-set that we get on this movie. I think it's the biggest gang. Steve Niles, who wrote this picture, did a brilliant turn yet again where he keeps the ensemble down low, to a real small number of cast. In this case there are only six speaking roles. Many days only have two characters on set. But tomorrow is the big action scene at the end.
So I gotta pick up a minivan. Somebody remind me to make sure I bring my EZPass.
One shot. Two Ian Hubert models. 

You know what's really been working for me? Having a Kindle with the script and the call sheet(s) on it. I never make any notes in the actual set script so just having easy access to everything all at once in a compact form is really the way to go. Plus, you know, page turns are quiet and don't wreck sound takes.
I have in mind two reshoots. Three. Three reshoots. And one additional scene. Two. Two additional scenes.

  1. There's a closeup of Warfield where we missed the focus.
  2. An insert of the control panel which wasn't long or steady enough.
  3. The part where Cameron and Sagan walk in needs another take for focus. 

  • I want a pretty pan showing Sagan sitting in her place in the other hallway.
  • I want to try go get a show of Sagan and Cameron coming in the actual front door. We may use the "elephant set" at Joe Chapman's. We'll see how that works for us. I'm worried about getting enough light on the green screen. 
Also, I'm going to spend a couple minutes actually setting up the Tascam 680 sound recorder. Because I really haven't done that on this movie and I feel kinda stupid about it. 
Oh, and we need mug shots and 3D readiment shots of the android just... to have.
What else? Lithium AA batteries are doing a bang-up job on both transmitters and receivers. The Lectrosonics transmitter has a reputation for eating batteries but it's been working pretty well. I do wish we had a Sanken COS 11 for that transmitter though. I'm getting a bit tired of the boxy sound of the PSC Millimics -- even if the PSC's are relatively immune to clothing rustle. 
Oh look, we're 5 days away from the Cannes Film Market.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Pro Soccer

Last night I had an incredibly vivid dream about being on a semi-pro soccer team. My anxieties included the fact I didn't know the rules (I don't) as well as the fact that I knew I would just suck. But that wasn't my big problem in the dream. My big problem was that there was a mix-up with the uniforms and nobody really knew what our home or away kit was. We were going to play a British team and we knew we were going to be clobbered but we really did have to have the right jerseys.
So the dream was all about trying to figure out which shirt was which. At one point we thought the right jersey was actually a button-down shirt but then the issue was all about what sort of T-shirt could be worn underneath.

I wasn't even stressed by the fact that I'm not a soccer player. I just couldn't figure out the clothes.

Robot Messiah

Next up on the hit parade is 3rd Degree Silicone. This is to be a burned android look. Wish us luck.
Sarah Shoofs is the new prophet of the Robot Messiah. 
I did two dumb sound things. Three. Three dumb sound things this weekend. But I don't think we're going to be punished for them.
The first thing is that I recorded the first two of three days at 44.1kHz. Well lucky for us it's the FUTURE and we have machines and software which can handle 44.1 and 48kHz on the same timeline. It doesn't seem to be bothering us.
Dumb thing number two is that I was recording three sets of stereo tracks for each take. Derp. Then I went and started recording mono tracks. Believe me, by next weekend I'll be down to one interleaved 6-channel broadcast wave file just like I'm supposed to. For now I'm just syncing the audio, then going and syncing more audio to the same take.
Lastwise we did exactly the thing you'd expect to do when you think to yourself "I'll shut off the transmitter and the record channel on the character we don't need to record." Then, of course, we got to the next scene and never even wired up that character. The irony is that character speaks all his lines directly into another, wired-up, character. So it's all good actually. Even though he wasn't wearing his transmitter, his receiver was turned off, and the channel he records to was deactivated.
Picture-wise we've been having some epic battles with autofocus. I have every reason to believe the haze has been tricking the focus and making it "pump". Which is spectacularly annoying. But we have figured out the better way to flop the focus into manual and to keep the pumping from happening. That just... took a while.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

1401 Day Six

This is the movie we're making. Bob Teague. Amanda Sayle.
Day six puts us past the halfway point, doesn't it?
I actually already have about 7 minutes cut together. It really helps in post to be a bit fanatical about cutting in-camera.
Bob Teague at the chess board.
We've been using the Letus Helix the last few days. Yeah, you can get it to do what you want. It's still fiddly. And you can get it to do the dolly-move things you're looking for. It's not easy though. We did get some nice pushes with it.
Bob Teague being menaced by an android (Amanda Sayle).
We've had a number of failures with hazers. My nice Le Maitre hazer has decided to not work again. I bet it's the dang thermostat on the thing that's broke (again). Which is really obnoxious because it hasn't really worked since Prometheus Trap and we even sent it back to the factory for repairs.
The haze though, in general, does seem to mess with autofocus. But you know what my new favorite thing is with focus? Peaking on the monitor. I do so love how the monitor lights up with what's in focus. It makes pulling so so so much easier because it's dancing. If you've never seen it or used it you just gotta try it. Especially when I don't have my glasses and I'm looking at a monitor at the wrong distance or with a wrong diopter or what-have-you.

One more before we go out to shoot the next day

Sarah Schoofs and Tony Travostino

Friday, May 01, 2015

1401 day 4

Version one of the picture on Sagan's shrine. These are Joe Chapman's costumes, actually, Tony is wearing one of Joe's old flight suits!

We based the image off this Vietnam-era image.
They may get a CG Goose ship behind them.

Set by Joe Chapman and a gang of others. The working panel is amazing. And just look at the amazing lighting by the Queen of Mars! That's Sarah Schoofs and Bob Teague (costumes by Caitlin Cisek).

More Sarah and Bob.

This is what this enormous flipping set looks like. It's huge, no? All Joe's designing. A further list of the artists involved to come...

Tony Travostino will not believe that the meteorite could be a rescue ship... or worse...

Bob Teague was woken early in the morning to an emergency. All the sweat is real. ;-)