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Watch the video to which this post refers here: http://youtu.be/xISXXrtVK4A
If you’re an aspiring filmmaker or photographer, (and have a 9to5 to pay attention to) there will probably be many, many times that you feel that you’re out of ideas. Who of you haven’t been sitting in front of your computer, or your notebook on a Saturday morning trying to think of an idea to shoot? - It’s so frustrating to think that you have a whole Saturday in front of you and you can’t come up with a “meaningful” idea for shooting a short film.
Now, quick story:
Three months ago, I was on plane traveling back home from business and looked through the window. Beautiful view, smooth layer of clouds above and below the flying path. It’s a view that you tend to ignore sometimes, particularly when you’re on business. I pulled my iPhone out and started filming the clouds, regardless if I thought they were nice or not. I tried to get nice angles (with all the limitations of the iPhone optics and the physical position of the phone against the window) and to shoot at least 30 secs of video in each shot. Of course I tried to be as steady as possible.
I did this thinking that maybe one day I might be able to use it for something, I don’t know… I also thought that these views were too beautiful to waste and I wanted to keep a record of them.
Going back to this article now…
Yesterday was one of those Saturdays. I thought “I’m off for Christmas, plenty of time in my hands to film… something, anything” - And then I realized that I couldn’t come up with anything with enough production value to put out there. It feels terrible because you know you can do good stuff (at least for your current competency level) but you’re lacking a good story.
So procrastination started to set in… started looking at cleaning the house, facebook, checking the bank accounts, reading twitter… procrastination.
Luckily (or maybe subconsciously) I started looking into my “Photo Stream” (the last 1000 pictures that iOS devices store in iCloud and that you can access from any of your iDevices or Mac) and was just frolicking in the memories of the stuff I have been taking pictures of. Then I saw the 1st clouds video in December. Then 3 in November. Then 3 more in October…
Pow! - “I’m going to make a nice montage of all those different videos and it’s going to be great!” - There was this little voice that kept saying… “nah, it’s a crap idea… surely it has been done many times”. So in order to shut the little bastard up, I searched youtube and found nothing close to my idea so that motivated me even more!
So went into iPhoto, downloaded the videos, did some stabilization, some cropping, some flopping, found some nice music, aligned the edit with the tempo and mood, and pow! had my nice relaxing clouds short film.
I learned A LOT doing this, and that’s absolutely marvelous, because sitting down and doing this project meant that I also learned.If I had let procrastination to continue, I would have lost an opportunity to learn by doing. (Quick list of stuff I learned at the end of the post)
Independently from you liking the video or not, I want to tell you that I enjoyed the process of coming up with an idea from stuff that was lying in front of me all of these time. It was a clear realization that we have more than enough material in our current lives to come up with nice ideas for short films and photography, it’s just a matter of sitting down and thinking out of the box. It’s just a matter of looking things differently, brainstorming and saying “yes” to everything.
Next time you’re out of ideas, check your smartphone Camera Roll, check your little point and shoot, read the newspaper classified ads, go to the news and read opinion articles, look through the window. I’m sure there are tons of ideas waiting for you out there.
and i’m searching
for the reassurance
that i love you
for any other reason
than the painful realization
that i can’t have you
Hey flatsound, let’s put music to this! - Interested?
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In the picture: me and my DP (who happens to be my brother) weightlifting with a steadycam and an FS100
A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with my good friend and aspiring filmmaker colleague Ronald Vonk (@ronaldvonk). We try to do this “filmmaking lunches” at least once a month, to make sure we stay in touch with the latest developments in everything… ideas, equipment, apps, upcoming projects, gossip… everything that helps us and drives us to keep working and keep getting better at filmmaking.
One of the coolest things I get from these lunches, is for sure motivation and momentum. Knowing that you’re not alone, and knowing someone that you can work with and bounce ideas (face to face) it’s superb. And in particular when that person shares similar “ life hurdles” to your filmmaking goals.
And then, when discussing how we enjoy doing everything in our film projects, and how sometimes you need to do it all, we came to the “Gym Analogy”
When you go to the gym (or if you practice any sport) you need to build your skill, or work each part of your body one at a time. You can’t pretend to go to a 1 or 2 hour session and be able to work each muscle group. You’re either going to break yourself down, or you’re not going to get a meaningful training for each of your muscle groups.
If your goal is to work all muscle groups correctly, and you have other things to do during your day (like a day job that’s not gym instructor) then you need to get disciplined and patient and work each muscle group enough. That might mean working your legs one day, your abs the second day, and then your chest and arms the third day. Then… if you have a fourth day available, you do some cardiovascular workout, or go out and swim or play football and work all your the muscles you trained in the previous three days, at the same time.
Learning filmmaking (or any other profession or skill) and executing your projects is similar, and in particular when you’re doing it by yourself, with books, on-line resources or on-the-job learning with colleagues, like I do with Ron. And even more so, when you have another job with which you bring the bread to the table which means that you need to manage your time even more ruthlessly.
You can’t pretend (well… you can if you wish to) to write a script, a storyboard, scout the location, light it, summon the actors, explain them what they need to do, rehearse, shoot, edit and distribute and expect a 100% result in all of the areas, when what you have done is only bits and pieces here and there for each of the subjects. In other words, you half read the manual of your camera, you half watched a tutorial in lighting, you wrote half a script last night and haven’t pre-produced anything, and you haven’t taken the time to read and practice how to direct a crew (even if it’s you and your friend).
So, going back to training the muscles for three days, and then using them all in the fourth day, think about reading about lighting for a week, practice your lighting techniques on Saturday, and send your clips to your network on Sunday. Then repeat that for the other skills, and then in the fourth week, go out and shoot.
True, there are some advocates of simply going out and shooting, and getting better by doing more, writing more, shooting more. You can also do that, but in my opinion (and I want to stress: “in MY opinion”) you get more satisfaction when you’re able to execute a project closer to the way you want to execute it, which is probably as professionally as possible.
Please, don’t read this as a recipe. I’m not trying to curtail anyone’s drive. If you want to be shooting all day, and improvising until you learn, then go for it! - Ron and myself agree that is more satisfactory when you’re able to improvise less and execute more flawlessly and surgically (now I’m getting into medicine!)
Anyway, go out there… plan your workout and exercise efficiently and patiently! - Depending on the camera you use, you’re already working your upper body quite a lot carrying around all that weight!
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Pictures of Lightning…..have you ever asked yourself how are they taken?
I’ve always wanted to take a picture of a lightning striking the city… that electric discharge that tears the sky apart, cracks your ears and blows every ones minds. Recently I had the opportunity (and a great amount of “right place at the right time”!!) to take that picture. Based on my personal experience, capturing that image is more about patience than skills (of course, skills ARE required!). You have to be patient and make a quick study about where the lightning are striking and how often they are appearing. Of course, this is not an exact science but if you’re lucky, lightning can happen fairly regularly on the thunderstorm you’re looking at.
I live in a 9th floor back in Caracas. Luckily I have a fairly good view of the city’s skyline and the Avila mountain (“fairly” because there’s a tall office building that blocks half of my view). It was a cold august night, and it had been raining for the last couple of hours. A great thunderstorm accompanied the rain, but I couldn’t see any lightning…all of them were striking on the “blind spot” of my building.
I was bored and went to the balcony to see if I could see a lightning from there (I thought that maybe I could be lucky!). Two minutes later, a great lightning cracked the sky in half, escorted by a awesome loud thunder! So I ran to my room, picked up the photo gear and prepared to become a “Lightning Buster”!
The gear was a Nikon D200 and a Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, mounted on a rock-solid Manfrotto 055B with a 3-way 029 MKII head. After setting up the gear in position, I had to think what could be the “right” exposure to catch a lightning without screw everything up. And I say “right” because it’s a really difficult task….not all the lightning are the same, so the amount of light could be different with each lightning….and you have to remember that a lightning behaves like a flash, I mean, a light that appears just for a fraction of a second, with the tiny difference that a flash it’s a calibrated source of light. So with a lightning you have to be very careful and try your best.
Thank God it was a dark night so I could perfectly use the Flash Lighting theory…controlling the exposure with the ISO and the f/ number and use long shutter speeds. The difference with the flash here was…when the heck was a lightning going to appear?? Good question!! And here’s the trick: the Nikon D200 has a great Interval Shooting feature, that lets you program the camera for a number of shots. For this case, I programmed the camera to 200 pictures, with an interval of 2 seconds between shots. Next thing was the Shutter Speed and aperture…so I set the speed to 5 seconds (that way it gave the camera some chance to catch a lightning) and the f/ number to 8.0 (a little bit closed to gain sharpness in the picture and prevent for a great amount of light to reach the sensor). Last thing…the ISO…I used ISO 100 (the lowest value on the D200) to assure the best quality and the lowest quantity of noise on the image.
After a lot of shots, a cup of Irish coffee, hours of rainfall, some prayers between shots (just to make sure that a lightning didn’t strike when the shutter was closed) and great lightning, these are the results:
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I actually made and posted this more than a year ago in the Studio-Central forum, but thought it was cool to share it again!
So… I was tired of having the microphones in their pouches because it was difficult to pull them out and they were not very well protected.
Went out to my local music block, and the choice in the different shops was not very good. There were some gator mic cases but designed for mics like the SM58, therefore the foam had that shape. Not good for a large or small condensers, not even for a SM57.
There was also another generic flightcase with foam precut in small rectangles, but then again… too deep, and with the shape of the rectangles I was not going to be able to produce the exact mic shape. Anyway… that was the choice I was presented with, and nothing really caught my attention.
So I decided to go DIY - (and save some money as well)
I got an Electrician’s toolbox for £15, and half a square meter of adhesive foam cushions (intended to be used as padding in your garage walls for not wrecking your car door’s edges) and went for it. The foam was a rip off (£20) but that was the only stuff available in my local shop. Anyway… the flight case that was closer to what I wanted was priced at £70 !!!
So here’s how I did it.
The foam panels. Notice they were 50cm x 15cm
Removed the internal divisions of the toolbox. Cut the panels to a size 3mm. Longer than the internal measurement of the toolbox. Luckily enough, 2 panels next to each other in the longer direction fitted perfectly on the smaller side of the toolbox. After the first layer, the second came in the opposite direction, like lasagne. The last layer (totalling 3) was again, two panels in the horizontal direction.
Now the measuring. First I decided the way the mics were going to sit on the foam. Basically tried not to have them too close, to avoid (or delay) foam breakdown, and leave enough spaced for planned additions to the family. I measured each microphones main protruding features, from a diametric perspective. Notice for example on the e840 I’m measuring the ring that holds together the mesh to the mic body. I also measured the top of the mesh, the diameter changes and finally the smaller diameter next to the connector.
Since I wanted the fit of the mics to be tight enough to avoid them to come out, I subtracted 4mm from each measurement and drew a rough sketch of the mic features starting from a line that is as long as the mic minus 5mm. I used these line as the axis of the mic features graph. (Also remember that the foam will expand a little bit after being cut, therefore the hole will get bigger than what you originally measured)
Next, the cutting. Got the utility knife with a unused blade and started cutting along the outer border of the lines. (Make sure when you draw the lines they fall into the internal side of your measurement, so you take the marked foam in your cut) Apologies for not taking a good picture of the cut foam, but you can see a little bit of it of one of the holes for the SM57 on the upper-left side of the previous picture. The cuts are very easy and the foam comes away very nicely since it’s only the last layer you’re removing.
The finalized product. Bespoke Mic Cabinet adapted to the exact shape of my mics. Left room for another SM57 and another large cardioid condenser.
Let’s see if I can be handy enough to cut a stencil a spray “Keep Away” on the side!!
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(watch the short film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RzmU8lau4g)
Sunday morning. We woke up with the typical “we have so many projects on the pipeline and so little time to execute them… right, that’s it! Let’s just bring the gear in the room and do something!”
And that’s what we did. We thought… “let’s just document the typical Sunday morning Snooze…” Difficult but pleasant, that’s how it is. You want to wake up, the garden is waiting, the kids are waiting, breakfast is waiting… but no… let’s just stay a little bit more. And then… when you finally manage, there’s always the hesitation, “touchdown” … your feet have landed on the floor. It’s official: you’re up.
And that’s the plot… everyday life (ok… mostly Sundays. Agreed)
So that’s it… we’re up. Alice (the actress) was still a little bit dozy so we got great images from her. We ran the whole sequence from five different angles. It was a very short sequence so it was a bliss.
Since we were using a single lens (Nikon 50mm f1.4) for all the shots, I used the tripod heights to organize the shots and off we went. Improvising a little bit here and there, we managed to get 18 clips.
We used available light (the light coming from the window) and no reflectors or bouncers. We played a lot with the iris ring to compensate in the different angles, and whereas you see some noticeable differences between shots, it’s also true that we managed a somehow uniform lighting through the different shots.
This is the first test run that we give to the Sony NEX-FS100. What a great piece of kit. We reckon we’re not even close of understanding all the functionalities but the ones that helped us the most were:
> Interchangeable lenses: gave us the ability to use an existing Nikon lens from the actresses photography arsenal (using an Sony E to Nikon adapter from MTF.
>Last Scene button: superb for checking out your last shot and decide on further work on the same shot. Critical for when your shot list is somehow improvised.
> Exposure and white balance preset buttons: makes balancing and recalibrating WB a bliss. In our case we were moving from shooting looking to a window, to shooting from the window looking inside the room. This gave two very different lighting conditons and having the switches, allowed us again to improvise and then… if we were already past the sequences from the window, we could always go back and recall the Exposure and WB setting.
Also we wanted to talk about our Zacuto rig.
Simply a beautiful piece of kit. We put it together like a lego a few days before. It took us some time (and a trial and error) to get the configuration we needed for our setup, but we managed in about an hour. Once it is assembled is an incredibly sturdy piece of kit. And above all, very very forgiving. We did not mistreat it, but we did use it with the camera’s centre of gravity out of alignment, we moved the mattebox back to front, removed the follow focus, then back in again, carried the whole rig by the double barrel’s transverse bar… and the rig was like when we started… tight and solid.
One of the things that helps us the most, is the ability of the Zacuto baseplate to travel upwards, which allowed us to align the focal axis of the camera with the Mattebox. You need to have the allen key handy, but hey… who doesn’t.
Another important feature is how the double barrel handles are assembled to the rest of the kit. The independent clamps allowed us to remove one handle when using the rig on a tripod, in case we needed to turn the head and the handle was clashing with the tripod leg.
(A word of acknowledgement for Zacuto’s customer service who I dealt with a lot when choosing the parts for the rig. They actually devised a totally new rig for the FS100 from our conversations, so that’s an honor for Rocanbol Studios!)
Alejandro (our Editor and man in Caracas, VE) took care of the color using Magic Bullet looks. He applied a customized preset to the whole sequence and then adjusted individually, but not a lot. He wanted to get a natural, dozy look without pushing the yellowy tones. He also prepared the titles using AE… we have to say that we loved the opening titles… I remember the discussion… “I want to design an effect that looks like if the fonts are getting out of bed, subtle” … got the vision into film very well we think!
Also many thanks to Phillip Bloom. Thanks to his “unofficial shootout” between the Panasonic AF100, Canon 5D and Sony NEX-FS100 we managed to decide to get the right camera for our needs. Sign up at: www.philipbloom.net
We had loads of fun doing this short film and we hope you too have fun watching it.
Feel free to ask any questions. We are like you… making films and learning on the way so we’re happy to share what we discover and learn from your experiences too.
Rocanbol Studios is a Media Production company focused in developing ideas for our customers (i.e. friends, acquaintances, soulsearchers, etc.) Do you have an idea for a song or a film but don’t know how to execute it? Give us a shout!
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Right, I won’t lie. This is just a test. Esto es solo una prueba… vamos a ver si logramos que toda la integración global rocanboleana funcione. Después vendremos con los posts serios!
Ahora estamos aquí frente a las computadoras… Alice en la fotografía y Tirso en la progamación web. Estuvimos haciendo algunas fotos en la azotea para ponerlas en el website. La pasamos bien la verdad… Alice destacando. Salieron algunas fotos excelentes (en nuestra opinión!) … aquí tienen una para que vean.
Pooooco a poco, pelo a pelo armando el site como un lego. Hay entusiasmo, un poco de curda y una salsa cerrada de La Fania animando el wire. Aquí vamos poco a poco soñando como será cuando la peguemos. La pegaremos?
En todo caso, un post corto solo para ver como se ve en el site. El próximo post si es de blogueadores serios. Bloguearemos sobre el WTFest Caracas 2011… bloguearemos en Inglés… capaz hasta en Francés.
No esperamos que lean esto, pero si por esas cibercasualidades caen aquí… bienvenidos!