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Sunday, May 18, 2014

••◊ If you can't beat 'em, fill 'em.


Clarence and I spent yesterday up in Venice Beach doing an interview with painter Rhea Ashcraft.  Rhea is a painter who owns and manages the Trunk Gallery in just off of Venice Boulevard, blocks from the world famous beach.

What I originally intended to do was to light Rhea with the LED light kit I brought.  I borrowed this kit from a local rental house for evaluation.  Unfortunately, even with ambient light blocked the LEDs just weren't enough to do much on camera.  They were many stops too dim.  Our 'A' camera was the Sony EA-50, which has a native ISO of 200, so this shoot required some serious light!  I really, really miss the Hive lights I used on the cooking shoot a few weeks ago.  I really, really, seriously miss them!  Did I mention how much I miss them?

The lesson I learned here in the general "use what you got" category is to supplement the ambient light through a window with the LED lights.  What you see above and below is that I added a highlight onto her hair on the left, filled from the side; just enough to avoid harsh shadows on her and the wall, and filled from the right with a large soft source.  My plan B was avoid the harshness of real daylight, but make the frame look natural at the same time.

We also learned that Clarence's Sony VG-30 needs to go on EBay fast.  Neither of us were happy with the default contrast-y image that couldn't be adjusted - too consumer-ish.  We also learned the hard lesson to never trust the back LCD on the Sony A7R, which was used as a C camera.  The footage comes out looking about 1 stop brighter than it looks on the camera's LCD!  When we got back to my house we tested it again and found the screen to be untrustworthy.  It turned out to be a less than flattering angle, so we're going to scrap the C camera footage anyway.

The only other thing I think we should have done differently is bring sound blankets.  The gallery has all hard surfaces, which makes for a great echo chamber.  I tried to get the mic as close as possible, but there's still a lot of echo in the audio.  Reminder to self...if it's in a gallery, tell the producer to buy/rent sound blankets.

Friday, May 9, 2014

••◊ Northwest Premiere of Stronger + One Last Rep...And Other Stuff Too.

Wednesday was an in-and-out mission to Seattle for the northwest premiere of my documentary "Stronger + One Last Rep."  I'm still in recovery mode today, so I'm hoping my faculties hold together well enough to coherently finish this blog entry.  Two days of getting up at 4am for early morning flights has a way of taking the gusto out of you.  The flight out wasn't nearly as bad as the flight back on Thursday morning.  Although, I nearly missed the flight out due to the parking lot bus driver being lackadaisical about driving from the lot to the airport and two women who didn't understand that the TSA doesn't accept one ticket on a cell phone screen for two people.  Other than that, it was an uneventful flight. 


Usually Alaska takes me to the north terminal, so I don't see the shops in the airport, however this time we ended up at the C concourse.  Upon arrival at Sea-Tac I spotted the new Sub Pop store.  Any Seattle native growing up in the 90's knows Sub Pop.  Formed by John Poneman and Bruce Pavitt, this was the record label that launched Nirvana, Mudhoney, and the general Seattle sound back in the day.  I even worked at Sub Pop's Ultra-Lame Fest back in the late 90's loading in for Mudhoney, although I didn't know who they were at the time.  Sub Pop still has a number of great artists on their roster, but are now 49% owned by Warner Music - sell outs!  I had just enough time to stop and pick up a t-shirt.  Ever a subversive label, the store gave me a sticker that proudly states, "spanning the globe for profit."  Their musician rejection letters are infamously known for starting off, "Dear Loser."  It's a Seattle disestablishmentarianist thing, so you may not understand.

My Aunt was playing chauffer and host for the day, so we decided to go see two of the press screenings for the Seattle International Film Festival, which starts on the 15th.  They rejected my film this year, so it was good to stick it to them by getting into the press screenings without paying for a full series pass like everyone else had to.  Buh-ha-ha, buh-ha-ha.  I can recommend the film "Lucky Them," but I was hesitant about "Obvious Child."  We parked over at the Seattle Center, which meant an obligatory 20 second stop to take tourist photo of the Space Needle.  Got that out of my system.  I feel better now.

However, before seeing the films my Aunt recommended that we stock at the Chihuly art gallery to take a walking tour.  Dale Chihuly is a native of Tacoma and now lives in Seattle.  He's world famous for his elaborate glass sculptures.  The first thing you see when you walk into the gallery is a "Wet Umbrella Bag."  That clearly confirmed that I was in Seattle, despite the perfect spring day.  One thing you'll notice in the last picture of the series below is that a robin took up residence in the glass sculpture in the garden.  If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it you'll see the robin dead center in her nest guarding her eggs. 


I know this entry is totally pathetic and probably misleading because of the blog title, but I was actually there to see my film in the company of the northwest fitness community, film fans, friends, and family.  After an excellent dinner at Costa's on University Avenue we headed down to the Lucid Lounge for the Seattle True Independent Film Festival screening.  The night before I had little sleep because I worried that the projectionist would mess up, as happened at the LA Sports Film Festival where they blamed a faulty switcher box for the video intermittently going out. Sure enough, they roll my Blu-ray first and there's no sound!  Augh!  The production volunteers didn't think to test the sound!  Also the screen isn't fully extended so the bottom part of the picture is cut off.  They didn't think to test that either.  At least the projectionist eventually fixed the sound and restarted the film.

Still, I was grateful that my friends and family came out to support my little film.  Quite a few of them made cameo appearances during various parts of the film.  It was hard not to feel good that I finally shared my film with the community I wanted to see it.  Things happen.  You just have to let them go and appreciate the bigger picture sometimes.

In the picture below you see David Patterson, the subject of the film, in the white shirt.  Brad and Elaine Craig, bodybuilding show promoters, are sitting in the second row.  My Aunt is off to the left in a cyan shirt.  My sister is in the back corner.  Even Nacole Patterson, another person in the film, is in the back row.  By show time the place was packed and we were running out of chairs.

Thursday morning was another 4am wake up for a 7am flight home.  At the last minute I decided to switch seats to a less crowded aisle on the flight, but unfortunately ended up to a pregnant Mexican woman with a case of ADHD. Every ten minutes she had to get up to go talk to her family, hand something across me, murmur something in Spanish to her kids in another aisle, or who knows what.  Her obstetrician must drink a six-pack of Red Bull to keep up.  I desperately needed sleep Thursday night, but I also needed to do laundry, so there were at least two cat naps in between dryer buzzes.  Tonight seems like a good night to turn in early as well.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

••◊ Hope Cooks!

Video Gear bought some new Hive plasma lights this last week and they asked me to take them out for a test drive.  My friend Hope wanted to do a few web videos on healthy cooking, so this seemed like a safe way to try out new equipment.  We loaded in with an FS-700, my camera support, and the lights and I lit the video like a PBS cooking show.

We had the "Wasp" outside the window you see at the right of the picture below.  This was providing the hair highlight and shoulder separation.  The "Killer" was at camera far right and I had a 9x9 bleached muslin sheet providing Hope with soft diffusion.  A "Bee" flood lamp was placed right beside the camera and provided mostly on axis fill about a stop down from key.  I wanted to keep things bright and cheery.

These plasma lights have a lot of advantages.  They don't generate nearly as much heat as other technologies, they don't hum like HMI's, they're bright enough that the backyard didn't go totally nuclear in exposure, and they're true daylight matched (unlike HMI's nor most LEDs, despite what vendors claim).  All I had to do was set the camera to 5600K white balance and as they say in the UK, "Bob's your uncle."  I'm a fan of these lights and I consider myself a picky DP.  My friends use another word to describe it, but I won't go into that here.

Anyway...here are some screen shots from the footage.