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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

••◊ A weekend with Element Technica, Metabones, and a Samurai

This last weekend left me completely drained.  Salvador from Video Gear called me up early last week and told me that they just got the new Metabones Speed Booster lens adapter and the Atomos Samurai in the rental shop.  He wanted me to take it into the field and test it.  On top of that, Element Technica sent me their FS-700 riser plate and shoulder pad to try out.

So I sent out an seemingly benign email to my director friends, seeing if they had any projects this weekend that were appropriate to test the equipment.  Normally an email like this would be met by many "I'm out of town this weekend" or "we already have plans"...etc, but not this week.  Two replies.  One for Saturday and the other for Sunday. 

I was supposed to pick up the equipment at 11am on Saturday, giving me a few hours to put everything together, pack, read manuals, eat, and generally get in the flow.  Then Salvador calls me up and says, nope - he needs to push back the pick up until 12:30.  OK, I can go with this.  I've used the FS-700 before so operating that camera isn't a complete mystery.  By the time I get home from the shop I only have an hour to turn everything around and start driving to my first location. 

When I try to turn on the Samurai recorder, it won't turn on!  A panicked call to Salvador was quickly made.  This turns out to be a simple battery installation issue.  Fwwewww!  I had enough time to recompose myself and do a quick test.  Yes, everything works.  The universe is in sync again.

My first stop was the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence Conference at the Catamaran Resort in Pacific Beach.  Time to get my namaste on!  Normally PB is known for 20-somethings getting drunk, drunk driving arrests, hit and runs, and a general bar hopping atmosphere.  Once you step inside the hotel it's almost like an oasis from the street side alcohol fueled chaos.

Working with director Tommy Friedman, who was at the helm for a feature I worked on last year, we were recording a Kirtan performance.  Kirtan is essentially traditional Indian music (harmonium, chimes, tablas, and a great big something-or-other).  The band walks on quietly, says a welcome message in a spiritual way, then strikes up a tune.  What caught me off guard for a moment is that all of a sudden everyone in the hall starts singing along in chorus.  I knew this wasn't exactly a Foo Fighters concert, but I wasn't expecting a sing along.  Cool.  I'm down with that. 

Originally I thought the performance was supposed to end at 7:30pm, probably because I wasn't paying enough attention to Tommy's email.  It ended at about 10pm.  I'm exhausted, but the recording seemed to go well.  I'm in bed by 11:30pm after dumping footage, formatting media, and putting the batteries in their chargers.   

But before I go to bed I check my email.  (Darn email!)  Sure enough, director Scott and Clarence finally finished their plans for a short on Sunday.  I have a call time at Clarence's house at 9am.  This means I get about 6 hours of sleep after a long exhausting day.  The camera batteries are recharged, but I'm sure not!

Clarence finds a location right next to the Mexican border out in the middle of nowhere (OK, so it's really considered Dulzura, CA).  After about a 40 minute drive we enter a dirt road and I'm thinking to myself "I hear banjos.  Does anyone else hear banjos?  This can't be good."  We drive past a sign that says "South Bay Rod and Gun Club."  Oh, great.  Not only has he taken me to the middle of nowhere, but they're probably going to shoot us, thinking we're some type of anti-NRA documentary film crew.  We'll have to trade Scott's poor girlfriend for our freedom.

About a mile later we stopped at a small field and get out of the car to look at the view.  Beautiful.  Stunning.  Then a stray ricochet bullet drops near Clarence's feet.  This location isn't going to work.  Another mile down the road we find another hill top that works and go to work filming the short.

It wasn't until later in the day that the U.S. Border Patrol stopped at the bottom of the hill to check us out.  Clarence and Philip are both wielding their air-soft pistols that we're using as props.  I'm thinking (sarcastically) "oh, great."  Our saving grace is that the South Bay Rod and Gun club is nearby, so wielding a gun is almost equivalent to shaking a baby rattle out here.  The best I can do is timidly wave to the patrol officers.  They keep going.

By the time we're done I'm barely staying awake.  It's been two long days and I didn't get anything to eat all morning and afternoon.  Time to go home, recharge batteries, dump cards, and pack everything away to return the gear to the shop on Monday morning.  

For anyone who is a self proclaimed gear head, I'm posting the gear reviews on the Video Gear blog over the next three weeks.  It's two days later and I still need sleep.

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