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Saturday, June 29, 2013

••◊ Video Aspect Ratios: Why so many?

I found this video on Vincent Laforet's blog and thought it was fascinating on why film and television developed so many aspect ratios through the years.  A must watch for any film buff.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

••◊ High Frame Rate Video Lighting

I went into the Video Gear shop to do a test on lights for high frame rate video using an FS-700 and four standard video lights. Check it out on their blog.

Friday, June 14, 2013

••◊ Build a Net

It's been two weeks since I've approached the blogger composition page, but things have actually been busy.  I'm working with Tommy Friedman and the engineers at Mediatech on a production highlight video for Neshima.  Filming ends tomorrow, so I'll be knee deep in editing next week.  Meanwhile, you'll be reading my latest slightly self loathing thought dissertation this week.

In the last two days at least four people have asking me when I'm going to take up cinematography full time.  It's like I'm beginning to feel peer pressure.  Don't they know that I'm putting enough pressure on myself to succeed?  ...so much so, that I've developed physical health problems.  Is my life really destined for a depressing malaise of mediocrity?  I hope not.  Much to my mom's night terrors, I do want to be that guy hanging out of a helicopter photographing cool stuff.  I do want to capture car chases at 160mph, and make people cry in the process.  As stated before on my blog, I have a plan and I'm executing it.

My mom keeps telling me the phrase "jump and a net will appear."  What she doesn't understand is that in this industry you have to build a quality net first, quite literally - that is, a network.  This part of the success path doesn't come easy for me as it's something I've struggled with my entire life.  Admittedly I've neglected it far too much.  So my self-development efforts of late have been to try to build my network as much as I can, but it seems like I've exhausted the doorsteps of the San Diego network.  Our local 600 camera operator union is probably something like 10 people.  The two networking groups in town are the San Diego Filmmakers (mainly "developing" filmmakers) and the MCA-I (mainly corporate video folks).  Just like everyone else, I haven't found any secret formulas.  It's a bit like being Juan Ponce de León chasing the mythical fountain of youth.

Still, if this was really enough to discourage me then I wouldn't be fit for the industry.  There are a hundred fresh faces getting off the bus from central Iowa in L.A. every week.  They believe in the "dream" of flashy sets, beautiful actresses, and everything will be peachy in the end with a sunset.  A small fraction of these folks are better photographers than me, but they'll only succeed through their network.  It takes a team to make a film.  When you go into battle you want people surrounding you who know what they are doing and care about the success of the mission.  The flashy sets are really done in on an old dark warehouse sound stage, the actresses look beautiful on camera after they've gone through hair and makeup, and the sunset is a matte painting lit behind a window.  That's the reality, but somewhere in there is the ability to be a part of a compelling storyteller team - that's the real dream to me.

My chosen occupation is a cinematographer.  That means that I don't direct films.  I don't write scripts.  I don't edit.  I don't do visual effects.  I photograph.  Sometimes I direct the photography and camera/grip crew, but essentially it's my job to not screw up the picture.  The downside to this is that projects are generally initiated by producers, not by me - which means to have a job I need to find producers.  It's cool to go off an do little 1- or 2-man band self interest documentaries on weekends, but that's a hobby. 

So the answer here is, as always, I need to work on improving myself *and* building my net to jump into.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

••◊ Report from Cinepor... uh, I mean Cinegear 2013

Greg, Bob, and I saddled up for the wild ride up I-5 to Cinegear in Hollywood yesterday.  I personally always dread the section of I-5 near Santa Ana, but since Greg was driving my cortisol levels remained consistently low yesterday.  Cinegear is affectionately known as "Cineporn."  It's all the equipment you could dream up for your film production, but will likely never afford.  It's sort of like that sketch I saw a while back in a sitcom.  Actor to waiter: "I'd like to sample that cheese on your cheese platter."  Waiter to actor: "Sir, you are not ready for that cheese.  May I suggest another?"  I'm probably getting stupidly off track, so back to the lovely machined pornography that is Cinegear. 


Paramount Pictures is hidden just slightly off of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.  From the parking garage you can see the Hollywood sign off to the left and the Griffith Observatory off to the right.

The "Paramount Pictures" building edifice picture below is the Sumner Redstone building on the lot.  The office inside is VERY nice and proudly displays a number of Oscars.  We asked permission to walk through the lobby.

We also attended a seminar in the Paramount Theater (last two pictures in the series below).  The panorama photo is from the lobby.  This is perhaps the nicest movie theater I've ever experienced.  That, and on a day where the temperature is about 85 degrees outside the air conditioning was a welcome change.  You could tell the vintage of the movie by the sharpness of the pictures hanging on the wall.


The pictures below are some of the incredible ways Hollywood gets camera movement now days.  Need a fast moving camera?...attach it to a gyro stabilized crane on a Porsche.  Need a really, really fast moving camera while capturing images at 2500fps?  Attach is to a robotic crane arm.  The picture could either say "come play with me" or "I am your new digital overlord, bow peon!"  Need to follow something in high places?  Rent the helicopter plus crew for $18k/day like Roger Deakins did with the helicopter below on Skyfall and his new movie, Prisoners.


The more I see the BBS version of Source Fours, the more I like them.  I first saw these lights at NAB and I want to be able to rent them.  The original Source Four tungstens are just a burden to work with.  These LED ones that BBS make are reasonably cool and don't require gloves.

I had to show an 18k...just because it's so gear-porntastic.

Even Mole-Richardson was highlighting their new LED lights.  The Hollywood standard fixtures were kind of off to the side where people were mostly ignoring them.  The LED series seemed to be where it's at.  The thing I don't quite understand yet is that if they are doing themselves a favor or a disfavor by choosing to keep the same form factor as the mid-20th century tungsten lights they have been producing.  It seems like most other people have moved on to lighter weight, more agile, and mobile form factors.


Speaking of form factors, the new "lowcaster" lights from Arri were my find of the show.  They put out as much light as a litepanels 1x1, have a built in lens to give a circular beam (unexpected from the shape), dim, +/-green, and allow for color temperature adjustment.  There is also a lens accessory that replaces the barn doors which narrows the beam even further.  Way cool for what I need to do.

The "broadcaster" version of this light simply adds DMX control.  Something I don't need.


One of the vendors told me that Cingear takes on a whole different look at night.  Once 7pm hit, the guys with the light balloons and 24k fresnels went to work.  On my way out I spotted "The Ice Man" truck and took a photo for my amusement.  I wonder if they make snow cones in between blizzard scenes?


Back to the studio today for more ADR.