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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

••◊ Last Call

Last night my musically inclined friend Ken dragged me out to his favorite watering hole; a dive bar named "Last Call." He was there recording a jam session by the group of musicians that show up as regulars on Tuesday. He came in, plopped down a field mixer the size of a 30" LCD TV, set up a couple small condenser mics in a stereo cross pattern above the bar...and away we go. The bartender didn't even look at him twice - just a "as long as you don't harsh our buzz, it's cool man" attitude. That pretty much kept with the feeling of the band. They casually filed in one by one with a smile for their Tuesday night band mates. The band picked up steam as the night progressed with more and more people joining in.

What's really cool about the place (to me) is that the walls are covered with Polaroids of their patrons having fun. Some pics are not exactly what you might show to your work colleagues on Monday. But when the bar's logo involves a mug of beer and a pair of goggles what exactly would you anticipate?

I, of course, brought my own Canon branded semi-Polaroid. Lighting was...well...bar lighting. f/2.8, ISO3200, 1/100th and still about a stop low. Thought it might be good to toss up a couple pics on the blog while I'm waiting for the new version of "Looking In On Tony Peters" uploads. I'll swap in the new link on Vimeo tomorrow. 'Till then...random pics of the band.

Monday, October 25, 2010

••◊ Looking In On Tony Peters

I would say that I have soup for brains today, but chicken stock is way too thick to describe the current state of my gray matter. Yesterday Holly came over at 11:30am to work on her 2 minute documentary video for her technology in education class. It turns out that she had made just a tad less progress on the edit than I would have hoped (i.e. nothing was really done yet). She called her husband in the early afternoon to say she would be home before sunset. I shook my head and told her she was crazy. Sure enough; at midnight we were just finishing up and uploading to Vimeo. It's quite respectable for her first go as a director and editor. Hopefully she's jazzed because I'm having trouble spelling 'chikin' today. Thank goodness for spell checker.

Holly, if you're reading this, I still want to meet the runner model...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

••◊ Best documentary win for "What is a Bgirl?"

Got word today that "What is a Bgirl?" won best documentary at the SCIFF film festival in Washington State. It's being screen this Saturday. Over 2100 views on exposureroom.com as well.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

••◊ Nuit Blanche

Out trolling for something to do on a Saturday night and ran across this amazing video on Vimeo. I definitely recommend clicking on the Vimeo logo and viewing it in HD.

...as well as the more amazing making of. This team has unbelievable skill in compositing. They composited much more than I ever expected.

Monday, October 11, 2010

••◊ Lack of sleep = fun with light

My phone rings at 7:40pm on Saturday evening. It's Clarence. Evidently things aren't going quite smoothly on the hip-hop music video shoot for a musician who goes by the moniker "Mask." The conversation goes something like this...

Clarence: Man, get down here. They only have a Home Depot tungsten light and the lighting isn't going so well.

Me: Well, they are custom white balancing, right?

Clarence: No, auto-white balance.

Me: Oh, that just means more noise in the blues and it will need adjustment in post.

Clarence: ...and they're shooting with saturation set to zero at f/4.

Me: Oh boy...where is this place?

Clarence: El Cajon.

Me: You mean I have to drive down to El Cajon (aka El Ca-bong) at night and leave my car parked?

Clarence: Yeah, but we have Miss California at the shoot.

Me: I'll be down in about an hour.

So I toss my stuff in the car and head down, hoping my car will still be there after the shoot. Clarence suggested that I over-pack, but really I only need to do the lighting. Sekonic light meter, c-stand, a 4-gang fluorescent soft box, plus a couple gobo's just in case.

Of course, we had to light more than our fair share of beautiful women, so I used my typical key, fill, hair, separation technique. We were somewhat limited in lighting fixtures to soft boxes. Man, I wish we would have had a couple HMI frenels. It would have made a huge difference in our capabilities. As you can see below, we had the obligatory hip-hop dancers randomly dancing in a parking garage, a car scene with the Angels, as well as a few office-type scenes to light with Mask holding (tightly) onto a stack of 100 dollar bills. The tungsten light was used low to the ground to give the golden glow that you see in the first picture. We used a series of fluorescents on the car to key the talent on the side away from the camera and do fill with the lesser lights. The two-tier scene was lit fairly evenly with a fluorescent on the ground just in front of the camera to light the lower tier.

Part of the music video concept was an art theft. The office was lit with tungsten balanced lights (practicals overhead in first picture), so I used the Home Depot light inside the doorway to light the "thief's" back and put a shadow on the wall. It was a homage to one of my favorite DP's, Roger Deakins. You can see the Home Depot Orange stand in the bottom left of the second picture.

It was 3am by the time the shoot was over and you know what...Clarence had already arranged another shoot with a call time of 8am on Sunday. By the time I get home I only get two hours of sparsely dozing off before my alarm goes off. I don't know where (mostly why) I mustered the mental pry bar to lift myself out of bed at 6:30am. Grrrr, grumble, some random incoherent thoughts. Each spoonful of oatmeal was taxing like curling a 50lb dumbbell underwater.

We filmed an interview for an artist named Tony Peters. His wife, Holly, is working on her master's degree in education and technology and this was her homework assignment. Tony is a painter with works in many local galleries throughout Southern California. Holly brought over her friend Pam Davis, a former CBS reporter and current NPR personality, to do the actual interview. Lucky for us, the interview was easy and laid back. Set up a couple lights, sit back, enjoy the *quiet* show, and don't start snoring. The most fun we had was convincing Holly to put on shorts and we would creatively film a scene that looks like Tony is drawing a Kate Winslet "Titanic-style" nude. In actuality Holly was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and we covered up her clothed body with Tony's back in the framing. The filming lasted until about 1pm. Time to go home and finally sleep. Yeah! Oh wait, that's too enthusiastic. It was more like...uh huh, um yeah...sssssleep.

I have to thank Clarence for these BTS photos. I was too busy doing lighting and DP'ing to take additional photos.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

••◊ Earth Sanctuary

Last Sunday I had a chance to decompress after a couple days of working on the Ironman Bodybuilding Championships just outside Seattle. My mom and I headed over to Whidbey Island to a Buddhist themed nature preserve called Earth Sanctuary. My mom had the winning auction bid for a tour by the owner of the private preserve earlier in the year.

Any trip to the Washington San Juan Islands starts via Washington State ferry. In our case we started the day at Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo while waiting for the boat to arrive. I know the resolution on the picture below isn't detailed enough to read, but the plaque at the foot of the stairs reads, "Landing Site of Captain George Vancouver." If you've been to the Pacific Northwest then you know that there is both a city on the border with Oregon named Vancouver as well as a city just north of the border in British Columbia named in his honor. For those curious about fog horns, I thought I would include a picture of one. I had never seen a fog horn before, but it makes sense why it has a massive steel baffle to project low frequencies miles across a water way. It's a subwoofer than would make Jay-Z pee his pants in awe.

I won't pretend for a second to be a nature photographer, but I thought it would be nice to take a few photographs to share. The Earth Sanctuary is approximately 77 acres that has been restored to natural habitat with nearly 1700 native species trees planted. The sanctuary allows happy frogs, beavers, and birds to just go about their business. What's really nice is that when you walk along the trails all you hear is wind and the occasional bird in the distance, which is a complete antithesis to a weekend of fire-breathing heavy metal and pop music thrusting out of a 20 kilo-Watt sound system at a bodybuilding show. Ironically, I control the volume knob.

Growing up in the pacific northwest, I had an opportunity to go exploring in the woods daily. It was our playground - something I think kids now day lack due to texting and the Xbox. Climbing trees, jumping over creeks, getting our pants and shoes muddy, finding an old rusted out tractor to hop on; those were the best times with friends. People I meet in southern California tend to not understand the color green. When I talk to native SoCal-er's they say, "it's green here," while looking at a palm tree; Never mind the pale brown dried scrub brush and rocks surrounding the tree. You want to see green? Go to a truly living, breathing rain forest. See below.

Chuck Pettis, the preserve owner, is a practicing Buddhist. When we drove into the parking area he was sitting there on a rock with prayer beads in one hand and his iPhone 4 in the other. Chuck made enough money around the turn of the century that he decided to do something philanthropic to benefit man and nature, thus the Earth Sanctuary. The first picture below is of my mom zen'd out on a bench overlooking one of the marshes.

I'm sure there's a joke about "if a bell rings in the woods and no one is around to hear it...," for the second picture, but for now I'll say that it's a nice sound when you ring it with a wooden mallet. It's sort of a random act of beauty to have a bell just hanging there in the woods.

No Buddhist preserve would be complete without a prayer wheel. I learned that the prayer wheel is traditionally turned clockwise, which is good for us conventional right-handers. Chuck has the wheel connected to a mechanical counter that is just visible at the bottom right of the wheel. I think I heard him say that the wheel has 1.2 million turns so far. That may even meet my personal classification for "oodles" of turns, but it doesn't compete with my bicycle wheels which are a two-for-one deal. Maybe I should make Buddhist themed rims? Prayer flags are, of course, everywhere on the grounds.

Chuck is also building a Stupa (not shown), which is a tall structure containing holy items. The concept is that if you walk clockwise around the Stupa it will reduce your cause of suffering. One of the people we were with on the tour had a rock in their shoe so I jokingly suggested that he walk clockwise around the Stupa foundation. He opted to remove the rock, then walk around the site.