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Sunday, June 29, 2014

••◊ Teleprompters

Dominque and I spent yesterday at Video Gear making a tutorial about setting up and using teleprompters.  Yes, I know, not the most interesting of subjects, but it's what I have this week.  What I learned is that the MKH416 shotgun mic belongs in the hands of an experienced person.  An assistant had to use a boom pole because Dominque needed to walk around and set the equipment up.  Audio was hit and miss in terms of quality because of the microphone's directionality and Dominque would face random directions.  If we do this again I'm going to explore other audio options or better mic technique.  We were under a time crunch here, so we got what we got and I cleaned it up a bit in post.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

••◊ Screen Direction and Cinematography

This week's entry once again has photography yielding to wordsmith-ing.  This last week I attended the Directing Motion seminar by Vincent Laforet as a representative of Video Gear, one of the local sponsors.  It's an excellent seminar and well attended, as well as a real eye-opener on the vast knowledge I have yet to know exists.  That's one thing about film making; you never know it all.  It's a constant stimulating kick-your-butt challenge which means it's not for everyone.  There's a reason those who seem to achieve mastery get paid so much. 

This last year I concentrated on understanding more about lighting: the gear, techniques, terminology, intention...etc.  Vincent's seminar is aimed at directors and talks about how to use a camera for storytelling, which involves movement, composition intent, and coverage.  It's the DP's job to light the set, but often left to the director on how a scene is covered.  As a budding DP I see increased value in my skills if I can provide guidance in how to cover a scene and help the director.  I don't want to direct; or as I keep telling my director colleagues - I don't want to deal with actors!

One major difference I now see between amateur directors and experienced directors is the power of intention.  Experienced directors move the camera because of known intent - they know that it will move the story forward and make you feel something about a character.  Amateur directors move the camera because they think the shot will look cool since so-and-so did it in one of their favorite movies.  I'm certainly not an experienced director by far, but I am going to make an effort to expand my skill set into the power of intention.  Lighting-wise I'm reasonably familiar with intent.  Not a Hollywood level DP, but familiar enough for the size of projects I do work on.  Camera movement seems like a good growth opportunity for me.

A few of the things I learn that immediately come to mind are...
1.  Dolly trucking shots often use vertical lines to increase the awareness of parallax.
2.  When running out of time in a scene, consider a "one shot wonder" that starts wide/medium and goes in close.
3.  Always consider the intent of the language of the script, as well as the immediate emotion when gathering coverage of a scene.  It will help minimize the amount of camera moves.
4.  A moving camera often follows a character like a magnet being attracted to steel.

If and when I get the money together I'd like to get the seminar DVD's just as a reference, that is if my director friends don't get them first.  It seems to be difficult to find books and other media on cinematic language and camera movement.

Friday, June 13, 2014

••◊ Ainslie Henderson: Moving On

Just beautiful.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

••◊ Idaho Muscle Classic

Unfortunately my flight was cancelled or delayed while coming home today, so I'm stranded alone in a hotel room in Boise Idaho this afternoon.  While the chaos of re-awaking a dormant home awaits, I thought I would get in a few words written on the blog.  Craig Productions flew me in to work at a new start up bodybuilding competition this weekend called the Idaho Muscle Classic.  The weekend actually started quite nice.  The flight in was rather uneventful, as I was sitting next to a geriatric veteran who aspired to an equal level of in flight non-communication.  The people sitting across from me were triathletes coming in for the Boise half-Ironman competition on Saturday.  When I landed Elaine was running late, so I emailed my mom telling her how the night was comfortably warm with the sky pink on one end of the airport and Creamsicle orange on the other.  It was a gentle and quiet way to end my evening.

It must have been less expensive to purchase a ticket for Thursday since we had very little production work to do until Friday afternoon.  Friday morning I woke up and went for my usual morning constitution along the banks of the Boise River.  The Boise River Greenbelt trail runs east-west along downtown Boise and is well shaded by poplar trees, with an occasional park thrown in for a mid-morning stop.  The triathletes were out shaking off their airplane legs getting ready for the next day.  Couples were stopped at park benches, reading the newspaper together, with their cruiser bikes parked on the grass.  It was a nice way to begin the morning with a brisk 2 mile walk.


On the way back I spotted a well camouflaged sign from the Idaho fish and wildlife service and decided to take a 30 foot detour.  After walking on a very uninspiring bridge I found a second path and a seated viewing area, similar to what they have to view animals underwater at the zoo.  I was expecting a beaver, but saw absolutely nothing but murky blue water.  Then I switched window panes and there they were.  All the fish had suddenly come over to observe me!  I was the show.  These fish clearly don't get out much.

In the afternoon we had to do some show promotion work at the convention center, but I randomly spotted this building mural along the way.

The Idaho Muscle Classic is put on in conjunction with the Bodybuilding.com fit expo with bodybuilding.com being the title sponsor.  They were loading into the convention center on Friday when I took this panorama.  We plastered the convention center with posters, making sure that each of the bathrooms was covered with posters - leaving some light and appropriately brief reading material for the expo attendees.


The bodybuilding show itself was hosted at the Morrison Performing Arts Center at Boise State University.  Despite the 5:45am call time, the Craig Production engine was in full throttle by 7am.  Pump up room - check; production room - check; paper and plastic protecting all the walls and floor from various aerosols, oils, monkey goo, and whatever that spray tan stuff is - check; audio desk - check.  ...and away we go.


In our first year producing the show, we had about 200 competitors, however only 20 were bodybuilders.  That made my job fairly easy, especially with the excellent Morrison crew (a shout out to 'doc', the house audio engineer).  The show featured guest posers and northwest homies Tanji Johnson and Mike O'Hearn, along with inspirational favorite Nick Scott, and Shawn Rhoden.  After working backstage at these shows for nearly 30 years, I have to say that there was nothing notable about the show.  Now before you jump to the conclusion that it's a negative description of the show, I should probably be more specific.  There was nothing notable from a production point of view, and that's certainly a testament to the vast experience of the current incarnation of the Craig Productions team.  We came into an unfamiliar place, showed leadership in our roles, and ran a completely smooth, uninterrupted bodybuilding competition with inexperienced competitors.

With only half the running time of the show involving bodybuilders that left me a bit of time to find some new inspirational spaces for photography.  In a corner behind the production desk there were two work lights set up which provided excellent opportunities for chiaroscuro photography.  Unfortunately the photos were a bit hit and miss with the point and shoot camera I had with me, but that's the nature of documentary photography anyway - and part of the frustrating appeal.  I personally like the picture of Nick and Mike talking backstage.  The light from that angle was perfect.  I also experienced a happy accident when I took a long exposure of the women backstage and spun the camera.  I think the photo represents the controlled chaos backstage during a typical show, but I suspect that the photo won't be to conventional tastes.  Maybe it better represents how a bodybuilder feels after being carb depleted for weeks!

The unfortunate thing about this weekend is that the Boise half-Ironman was going on Saturday.  The city had the streets in the immediate vicinity blocked, making it difficult for spectators to come to the show.  It really affected ticket sales.  Only half the house was full at any given time.  I think if the traffic issues hadn't happened then we could have sold out the floor level.  Competitors were on the phone with their friends and family desperately trying to get them there on time through the confusing chicane of coned off streets.  Thank goodness for our show sponsors, Bodybuilding.com and HIT nutrition.


After the show was over and loaded out and we were at dinner, we all felt like Mike O'Hearn's dog, Striker - Dog tired.  She even came on stage and helped with the guest posing routine and stole the show.  Striker works as a hospice dog when she's not being Mike's superhero sidekick.

This entry took so long to write that I'm now waiting for my plane at the Boise airport, snacking on some cashews from Whole Foods.  It was a long productive weekend, with the banality of my regular life looming just two hours away.  So far I've only recognized two people from the show and they left for Portland.  Another plane is parked just outside the window, ready to depart for Seattle, and I really want to get on it to continue the adventure, but my mortgage dictates that I be a responsible adult.  After my initial flight was cancelled I almost got a ride back to Seattle and took a plane from there, which probably would have taken about the same amount of time.  I need an adventure.

Monday, June 2, 2014

••◊ New (old) Work: Code Duella

Scott over at Solar Light Films sent me a link to a short we shot for fun over a year ago.  I had a loan of the Sony FS-700 from Video Gear for a weekend, along with the Atomos Samurai and the Metabones Speed Booster lens adapter.  We were a group of filmmakers all dressed up with equipment and no where to go,  so Clarence came up with the concept overnight and we were shooting at the South Bay Rod and Gun club the next morning. 

When we first got there and thought we were in the clear of the firing range, but then Clarence heard a bullet fall at his feet.  Another half mile down the road we went!  The border patrol would come by and look at us every so often, but since everyone else there had real guns they must have figured that we weren't much of a security threat.  Perhaps the camera and tripod helped a bit too.  Don't tell the drug runners.

...and here we go.  Enjoy Code Duello.