Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aaton XTR-J Camera Demonstration

Today, myself and two of my friends/partners went to Brian Fass' place for a Aaton XTR-J Camera Demonstration. It was our compensation for working for free on a low budget feature that he was DPing.

Since I come from a video background, I always imagined what it would be like to deal with actual film. Unfortunately, my film school experience wasn't glamorous enough to allow the gain of such hands on experience. That's why this demonstration meant so much to me. This is the starting block of gaining more experience on film cameras and possibly more job opportunities in the industry and hopefully Local 600.

Brian did a great job describing every piece of the camera starting with the body. First off, one of the best features of the camera is that it shoots Super 16mm as well as regular 16mm which eliminates the need for two different cameras. It's very basic, consisting of a PL mount (Positive Lock), a digital display which reads out the status of the magazine's roll, as well as battery information. On this specific version of the Aaton XTR, it takes 16v batteries instead of 12v, like on the normal XTR model. It has a film gate/aperture, registration pin, and shutter as well. The gate can be sealed off by a magnetic plate which is simply placed on top of it.

Batteries slide right into the back and are easy to mount and eject. Magazines are equally as user friendly, They just slide right in (you push until you hear a lock/click sound). Typically, you would want to check the film gate before loading any mags onto the body of the camera. This can be performed by simply shining a flashlight into it and checking for any artifacts such as hairs, dust, or oil (although no one should be touching the gate with their bare hands unless for reasons of repair). Using compressed air is a fast way to ensure that nothing stays there before mounting the magazine to the camera. Once the mag is secured on the body, you should turn the power on the camera which will activate the registration pin in the gate. That pin has to be synced with the perforations on the film (the holes on the side of the strip of film). You'll know it's synced correctly once you hear a click. Let the film role for a second to pass any flash frames (exposed film from loading and threading the mag) pass through the gate then turn the power off. You should wave a hand in front of the lens to notify the editor that those are just test frames which have no real use in the edit.

Lenses pop on very easy to the PL mount. It's pretty standard and self explanatory. Lucky I'm familiar with this mount because of working on the RED ONE recently.

Loading the magazine is very easy but would be too much to explain on this blog. Brian let all three of us practice on dummy rolls for now until a few weeks when we can practice using the changing bag and tent. You would normally put a fresh roll of 16mm film on the "feed" side of mag. This is where the film is fed through the film gate and then you have to thread the film through the "take" side of the mag where all the film goes once it's exposed. Threading the "take" side of the mag can be performed in light as these are going to be unusable "flash" frames. When a roll is finished, unloading the mag will obviously be performed in a changing tent to ensure that the film isn't further exposed beyond it's pass through the film gate.

We also briefly went over film stocks and ASA but more on that later. Again, a huge shout out and thank you to Brian Fass for allowing us to come to his house for two hours and listen to him discuss the camera. Also, shout outs to Kentrell and Agulo for making it out and making the demo more enjoyable.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"iWrapz" ipod Accessory Spot

Yesterday I was a 2nd AC on a commercial for an i-pod accessory called "iWrapz". They are decals that you can put on your ipod and iphone and they come in different designs. It was shot on the RED ONE. It was a two camera shoot with one on sticks (tripod) and one on a steadicam which got some awesome moving and tracking shots of the product in use. It really came in handy when the Lamborghini rental showed up in Manhattan's financial district. An actor pulls up in the Lamborghini, parks, gets out of the car and receives a phone call. At that point the Steadicam does a CU of the product in use and makes a 180 degree move from behind the actor to the front of the actor. It was such an awesome shot. Half way through the day a jib-arm owner/operator came with his gear and used it in a BMX park located in Manhattan under the Brooklyn bridge. We shot a BMX rider doing tricks, then landing on a quarter half pipe, he then takes out his ipod to change a song then continues to ride down the quarter half pipe. The Steadicam got some great stuff of him doing tricks and spins.

What's interesting is I ran into several people from the Art Institute of New York City which is where I went to film school. At the beginning of the day there were a bunch of students looking for a shoot that their instructor organized. They though that the shoot I was on was that but they were looking for Ryo which is an intro to video teacher. They were on time but apparently he wasn't. They kept asking everyone on set about it but we didn't know anything about their project. I wonder if Ryo ever showed up for them. I also ran into Harley DiBlasio who is a fellow AINYC alumni. He graduated around the time that I started and he has a lot of experience in G&E (grips & electrics). His call was about half way into the day so i ran into him out of nowhere during lunch. Although we know who each other are, we haven't talked much before yesterday so I hope to work with this guy a lot in the future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Canvas" Fashion Spot (at least I think it was a fashion spot...)

Yesterday I was on set as a 2nd AC for the RED ONE. It seemed like no one on the crew knew what we were really shooting or who it was for. But by the end of the day we concluded that It was a fun and playful spot for a somewhat decent fashion line. The spot's visual theme was "canvas", so the models were being playful in a white void and at the end they spray paint the "TV"screen of the viewer. This footage will be inter-cut with footage of the models in front of a very well art-directed set with paintings and art supplies. The lighting was of course very soft and high key and the models looked great.

Anyway, my intentions were to learn more about the RED ONE, and I did, thanks to Johnny who was the 1st AC/DIT (odd combination but it's because I wasn't fully knowledgeable on managing RED data. So I apologize to him for having to run back in forth between the dumping station and the monitor to pull focus for Chase (DP) lol), I was able to physically touch the camera more. By doing that I was able to confirm everything that I have been reading on the camera. The best thing Johnny taught me was how to work with lenses as the 2nd AC. How to mount and un-mount lenses on the RED Bayonet mount. He also taught me the proper way to hand off lenses to another person as well as what and what not to bring with you while running a lens from it's lens case. All great information! Thanks Johnny!

Unfortunately, there was no chance of me getting hands on with the RED data while dumping because the director's set up was not the correct set up for this work flow. Johnny was literally just copying all of the raw data onto the hard drives which he mentioned is completely unsafe because you should always look at the footage to spot any problems that might be fixable on set while everyone is still on set. It would be interesting if we shot all day and nothing came out right so then either we'd have to re-shoot or just leave it as is.

Aside from the things I learned during the beginning of the day during the set-up, a few cool things happened.

1) Flipping the RED ONE upside down and cradling it in your arm like a baby is pretty interesting. ( I had to hold it while Johnny mounted the base plate for the steady cam.)

2) Seeing the RED ONE on the steady cam was a treat in itself. It just looks bad ass.

But, believe it or not most of my day was pretty uneventful and boring. I ended up having to make runs with the Director for some things that he needed for the shoot. Packing a large pedestal (a metal spinning platform that runs on a motor with an adjustable speed) into his really expensive Mercedes was not fun. Somehow I ended up operating the fan to get movement in the clothes in model's hair. I was really bored but Johnny came over and joked around with me, He said "Hey there buddy, are you learning a lot today?!" and I said "Sure am!" haha. And of course the part with the high power fan and the models skirt and the fact that she's standing but im sitting Indian style on the floor but we're not going to get into that. There just wasn't that much for me to do this time around.

My point of view for most of the shoot. Behind the fan...

Anyway, it was a good day regardless and it was a lot better than sitting at home doing nothing. Shout outs to Johnny Sousa (1st AC/DIT), Chasel Bowman (Director of Photography), Zeynep Catal (Key Grip) and Blake Eichenseer (Gaffer). Great crew! I hope to see these guys again in the near future.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Halo 3 ODST: Live Action Trailer

I'm not saying that a Halo film couldn't be done before but I hope this trailer pushes the Halo film back into pre-production. With films such as District 9 with it's composting and creature design and Gamer with it's shot's that make you feel like you're in a game with the characters, I think we will definitely see something soon. Having the RED will significantly lower the budget of the film so more can go into the art direction and animation similar to what we saw in this amazing live action spot.