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Monday, May 27, 2013

••◊ Neshima ADR @ Mediatech, weekend 1

We spent this last weekend at Mediatech recording ADR for the feature film Neshima.  I mostly captured video, but since I had my DSLR there I took some pictures as well.  So if anyone involved feels left out, there's a more likely chance I captured video of you.

Two or three more weekends to go with the "3-hoodie mafia" (see picture below).  The hoodies were mostly a product of the air conditioning being piped directly into the mixing stage.  Being part polar bear, I finally felt at home in San Diego.  No such luck for Shoshanna.  Her isolation booth was a sauna.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

••◊ Stuck in the Middle

For those readers looking for pictures to tell the story, sorry, this isn't that type of post.  I've been feeling stuck in the middle lately.  I'm at a point in my filmmaker career where I've chosen a craft (cinematography) and I'm serious about becoming a professionally skilled crafts person.  Unfortunately there comes a point when you realize that the people you started with aren't as motivated as you are and the people who have made a life of the industry won't recognize you as one of them yet.  You're stuck in the middle.

I was talking with Tommy Friedman on the phone this week about feeling stuck.  Tommy is the director of a feature I'm working on.  He felt the same way.  His career in feature films is finally starting to take off after years of web videos and lame corporate gigs.  Despite having a crew around, this is a lonely endeavor.  No one is there to encourage you.  No one will suddenly recognize your skills and declare you a professional.  There's no graduation ceremony.  Everyone has an opinion that doesn't necessarily benefit you.  At least Tommy has Lindsey to support him.  The development path is just work and you hope that someday all that work and time dedicated to development, instead of personal relationships, pays off.  Someday.

I talked with my mom about it this week as well.  She went through the same experience with a number of activities.  She said at some point she had to leave some of her friends behind that she knew were dragging her back to mediocrity.  I know exactly what she means.  Every month there's a local filmmaker meeting in San Diego...and every meeting I see people show up saying they are going to do a short film or episodic web series.  How many of those get made?  My unscientific poll says about 1/5th of them.  Most people talk about doing something grand, but given the opportunity most people fall back into their comfort zone, which is mediocrity, and don't complete their projects.  I tell the newbies, I know the dozen or so people who REALLY make films in San Diego.  If you want to develop into a professional you need to know those dozen people because they are trying to do the same.  It's almost like a support group. 

My friends call me up and still want to make one-off comedy clips for funnyordie.com, which I know won't take my development anywhere.  These are my friends and I want to see them succeed in whatever they do, but at the same time I need to concentrate on jobs that build my portfolio and provide growth or else I'll remain stuck in the middle.  When I read others' blogs I hear about them being ten year overnight successes; maybe fifteen year overnight successes.  That takes dedication, determination, and a smart attitude towards business.  The best I can do for my friends now is to recommend someone else who is just learning .  Most of the time they are happy if somebody just has a camera so they don't have to pay for equipment.  The craft isn't as important to them as sharing their brilliant comedy sketch on Facebook or counting their Youtube hits.  If I really wanted Youtube hits I would just kick somebody in the balls (1M views) or dope up a kid at the dentist and cruelly film him in the back seat of a car (120M views).

So what am I doing to get un-stuck?  First, I write a blog for Video Gear that allows me access to lighting and camera equipment that freebie jobs wouldn't afford.  It allows me to development technical know-how.  Second, I volunteer for professionals.  Let me be on big budget sets.  All you have to do is give me access to craft services.  I'll work for free.  It allows me to develop contacts with professionals and learn how to work with professionals.  Think of it as the poor mans' film school.  Third, I go to as many professional events as my time can afford and network.  You never know.  Maybe someday I'll get that elusive job as Roger Deakins' second AC while at an ASC function.  Someday.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

••◊ Pictures from 2013 Emerald Cup Bodybuilding Show (Epic Post!)

Every bodybuilding show I work at is an exhausting experience, but I seem to be a glutton for punishment because I keep coming back.  In fact the entire crew keeps coming back year after year.  Everyone who works for Brad and Elaine (i.e. Craig Productions) seems to know that their efforts are appreciated and there's something rewarding about being a part of an undertaking as huge as the Emerald Cup Bodybuilding Championships.

This year was especially brutal on my sleep schedule.  My flight came in at midnight on Thursday, which meant we arrived at the hotel around 12:30am Friday morning.  Of course, no one knew the room number and one of the promoters was already asleep in the hotel suite, so we couldn't get up to the room until 1:15am when the other half of the promotion team arrived...then the room was locked from the inside.  After multiple phone calls, calling out for the door to be opened like a midnight drunk, and banging on the lock for 10 minutes we were finally in.  I managed to find a convenient place on the couch to crash around 1:30am.  Good thing, because I was starting to drift out of balance from lack of sleep.  My stomach, not knowing any better, woke me up around 6am for a pre-scheduled breakfast at 7:30am.  Brutal.  At least breakfast at the hotel was good.  

Every year there's something slightly different about the show, but one thing I can count on is a break during the bikini and fitness classes on Friday.  This is when I like to put the camera strap around my wrist and go exploring for photos.  When the bodybuilding show happens on Saturday I'm pretty much stuck at the production desk on the side of the stage all day, so any photos I get...I get from there...and between music queues.


On Friday I had a chance to meet and work with the Atlas Brothers, who are modern day strongmen acrobats doing moves worthy of Cirque du Soleil.  Truly nice gentlemen and they put on a hell of an amazing show.  Below is a picture of their Friday warm up between the morning judging and night show. 

Lucky for us crew, this year the promoters organized the show a little different.  The preparation area was upstairs and competitors were brought down to the staging area just before their class was due to go on.  Normally the backstage area is pure chaos mixed with baby oil permeating the air, like a pinball machine with four dozen muscled-up pinballs bouncing off the paddles.  Making a trip between the production desk and the bathroom is like being a football running back navigating a mile field.  You're bobbing.. you're weaving... you're dodging your way through people wearing tanning stain and baby oil, which permanently stains anything it comes in contact with.  In fact, I think it might stain anything within an inch of coming in contact just due to off-gassing.  Notice the plastic sheets up on the wall in the first picture?  I learned long ago to never wear nice clothes backstage even with all the pretty bikini girls present.  The cost/reward goes something like this...there's little chance of me getting a bikini girl's contact info, but a large chance I'll have to replace at least one piece of clothing after the show.  Thus, appropriate attire mainly consists of clothes that I don't mind throwing away or previous contest shirts if I want to look semi-legit.  Black is always in style.

Competitors have months or sometimes even years to prepare for the contest.  The contest is pretty much over after their two minutes on stage.  Dedicated volunteers like Dan and Geri below have hours to gather up the judges results and organize the night show.

On the crew we affectionately refer to the men's physique class as the "man-kini" class.  Long colorful board shorts seem to be mandatory.

On Friday the show hosted a small event called "The Sultans of Squat."  I was downstairs at the bodybuilding show when I heard about the athletes lifting over 700 pounds.  One 19 year old guy went for 775 pounds!  By the time I walked upstairs these bulldozers of men were up over 800 pounds, essentially squatting a Smart car!  One guy even went for 850 pounds, but didn't succeed.  I was almost sure the squat rack or the floor was going to give way.  Notice how far the bar is bending on either side of their back?  Ouch.  My back gets bruised and I use a padded cover.  No such girly man wimpy-ness here.

Power lifting is a completely different animal than bodybuilding.  You feel the energy pulsating out of the doors to the room when the athlete goes for their single chance at glory.  People around you are screaming till they're red in the face, then holding their breath until the lift is complete or the assistants grab the bar.  Just look at the athletes' facial expressions below, then multiply that times fifty spectators.

On Saturday another event was hosted in the same room called "Bros versus Pros."  The idea here was to face off fitness professionals against gym "bros" for the maximum number of reps of a fixed weight.  I only had time to make it up there for the women's dead lifting event.  The contest was broadcast on rxmuscle.com, so they were doing short interviews before each "bro" went and did her thing.  One woman's bio read something like her interests were "cheerleading, eating, and lifting heavy s#^t."  Gotta love that!  Amy Payne (blond short hair below) won with near 50 reps of 185lbs!  I wouldn't want to go up against her in her other hobby - roller derby.



Oh, and there were bodybuilders there too.  With so many categories of competition (bikini, physique, figure, fitness, power lifting, and bodybuilding) it's easy to lose track of the show's actual "bodybuilding championships."  The last two photos below are of Mark Dugdale, an IFBB pro and northwest native.  I remember him competing as a "bro" in our local shows years ago. 

During this part of the show I'm mostly planted in one location, so I get what I get from there opportunistically between song queues.


After working two days straight from 6am to midnight my body was done.  Sunday morning sleep was short lived due to my darn stomach's schedule.  Even on my flight home the airline clerk switched my seating location twice and I ended up in the "birth control seat" - equidistant from two screaming babies.  However, it was good to be home and Sunday proved to be a fruitful night of 8 hours of dreaming...not about bodybuilding...nor having children.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

••◊ Color Measurement of a Marshall Field Monitor

After taking the initial color temperature measurement on my field monitor I was hooked like a techno-junkie. I wanted FULL calibration.  A quick trip to Best Buy to purchase a DVI to HDMI converter and I was off to conquer the color science of this monitor.

Only...when I did a full factory reset on the monitor to get to a known starting point and took a quick measurement the monitor was nearly dead-nuts on!  I must have tweaked something the wrong way.  What?  I have no clue since I've never really calibrated the monitor before, but this was awesome!  I'm so glad I took expert advice from colleagues and spent the extra money for a Marshall.  My friend bought a no-name cheapo field monitor and looking at it is more of a burden than a help.  The color, gamut, and contrast are always off and there are too few controls to tweak it into shape.  I think it might even be a passive matrix VGA resolution LCD - yikes!

As shown below, the gamma curve isn't too far off from the ideal rec.709 2.2 exponential. Probably close enough.  Rec.709 has a two part curve with a linear portion near black anyway, which the dotted line limits shown in this graph doesn't really take into account.

The color temperature is also very close to ideal, with the exception of the black portion.  Typical of IPS LCD panels, there's more blue leakage when the pixels are set to black so you see a severe rise in color temperature.  I imagine this will go away as OLED replaces IPS LCD panels.

Also notice that the monitor covers the full rec.709 color gamut and the color coordinates are just about perfect.  Great job Marshall!

This is so cool.  Now I know I have a field monitor I can trust for rec.709 (HD) work.  It obviously not perfect for DCP, but I don't have the budget to handle the DCP color space anyway.