Monday, December 31, 2007

I’ve been tempted…

Every time I’ve been in Blockbuster I’ve been tempted to pick up a copy of one of Asylum Films knock-off versions of the recent batch of summer blockbusters. I know they’re gonna suck, I’m just curious to see just how bad they’re going to suck. Asylum is one of those production companies that cranks out knock-off films.

Here is their most recent release, “Alien Vs. Hunter”. No doubt released in time to capitalize on the trailers for the new “Alien Vs. Predator” sequel. Although why you would want to make a crappy knock-off of a crappy studio film is beyond me.

Here is their release of “Transmorphers” next to the more popular “Transformers”. Perhaps “Transmorphers” is based on a knock-off Chinese cartoon from the 80s…

They also have a movie titled “I am Omega”, skillfully blending the recent Will Smith blockbuster “I am Legend” remake with the Chuck Heston classic “Omega Man”. Nice.

When I was working in LA, I’d met several grips and electricians who worked on Asylum productions. They all worked on one, learned their lesson then moved on. I too had hoped to work on an Asylum film and learn my lesson, but never had the opportunity. Alas, I can only watch the productions and enjoy them from the viewer’s perspective. Perhaps some Saturday afternoon soon I will have an Asylum viewing marathon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My new HD camera

So I got a new HD camera, but it's not what you think...

My consumer miniDV camera finally died, and I needed to buy a new personal camera. The trouble is I wanted to future-proof my purchase, as the 2009 analog transition is looming large. Unfortunately the cheapest consumer HD cameras are still around $600. Way too much for something I will likely drop in the water or leave on a train on vacation.

Enter Aiptek.

Aiptek (who?) has a couple of "hybrid" still/SD/HD flash card palmcorders out for very cheap. They have the GO-HD which does 720p and has a 3x optical zoom lens for ~$200. I almost got one. The problem is that it is autofocus and has a tendency to search for focus. NG. The other model is the A-HD. This is a fixed focus non-zoom camera, and it sells for ~$120. I picked one up. For $120 it's pretty darned cool. It records to .h264 mov files which is awkward for editing, but great for storage. I can record an hour of 720p onto a 2gig SD card ($20), and the quality is not too bad either.

At any rate, I decided to do a comparison between the AHD and the HVX200. The results can be seen here:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Red One

Well, actually it’s Red #21.

Saturday I had a chance to attend a RED Camera demonstration by Torrey Loomis of Silverado Systems. They have 2 Red Cameras, serial #s 21 and 22. The presentation only briefly discussed the camera, and instead spent most of the demonstration going over workflow and software. That seems to be the biggest end of the equation: post. We may have opportunity to shoot a spot in the next couple of weeks, but it’s all dependent on if we can make the workflow work with our Final Cut set-up.

We shall see…
The Mysterium revealed!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Jay Jib 3.0

So I think I may build another Jib.
This one will be my 3rd. The first model was highly successful. It’s main beam was 4” square aluminum tubing and was 8’ long. It was designed to fit on a Mitchell mount tripod (which were in abundance at my filmschool). It was simple and robust. It was strong enough to hold a fully loaded BL4 no problem. It also got a lot of use. At one point I lent it out to a friend, then another, then another – it spent 6 months floating around film school before I called it back for a feature. I’d occasionally see it on shoots around campus at random times. That worked out good for me, it wasn’t easy storing an 8’ hunk of metal in our 1 bedroom apartment. I eventually had to get rid of it due to storage issues.

Once we bought a house (with a garage!) I once again got the bug to build a jib. The 2nd version was to be built of tubular aluminum pipes and “T” joints. It worked great on paper and in my head. In real life – not so much. After building the fulcrum I decided not to proceed as the tolerance was just too loose.

After renting my friends Cobra II crane, I’m now inspired to build a new Jib. I’ve decided to model it after the Cobra II design, but with a few changes (upgrades in my book)

First, I’ve decided to build a junior mount base. This will eliminate the single most expensive part of any home built jib – the tripod. Instead I can use any common junior or combo stand. I can also extend the combo stand up for big height if needed, something you can’t do with a tripod.

The second change is to incorporate a lazy susan bearing into the base, this should (hopefully) allow for easy pans.

The third change is to have the option of a locked level, or a hand operated tilt mechanism. This picture shows it in locked position, but you could unlock and use the guide bolts to determine the level.
I’ve never liked the way the Cobra relies on the tripod head to tilt the camera. It has always seemed a fairly wonky setup - putting all that weight on a fluid head, then tilting it up and down. My design is similar to Agung’s design, and it seems a much better way to do it:
Here is a final shot that shows the back end where the weights will be mounted. I plan on filling the aluminum tubing with wooden dowels at this point and at the fulcrum to make it more rigid.

Well, hopefully it will work as good in life as it does in my head!

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Jazzman

So my cat (Jazzman) brought home her 7th trophy mouse head last night. She left it on the back porch. It’s kind of gruesome. She eats everything but the head and spine. It’s better than the alternative, which is to have 7 mice and their offspring running around my house. Good job mousebreath. In case you haven’t seen this before, here is a small clip of her in action when she was smaller and cuter:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh Yeah...!

That's all I've got to say...


This is one of the great things about living in Sacramento. I try to go running 3 times a week, and it’s really nice to have an asset like this:
This is the bike trail alongside the American river. Actually, it’s the horse trail alongside the bike trail, and it’s 30+ miles long. I’ve seen wild turkey, quail, snakes, cranes, and deer like this one:It's a young deer standing next to a white egret (It's like a big crane) in the river.
I’m not going to take it for granted, especially when compared to the gravel oval track at the elementary school is my alternative.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Demo Derby-O-Rama

This last weekend was the state finals for the Demo Derby at the State Fair!!!!Always a great event. Below is a video clip from my new cell. OK, it's grainy, small and short, but it's new technology for me, so I think it's cool.

Even though the state finals were last weekend, I'm still looking forward to this: It's a benefit for the Rio Linda Public Library, and should a bit more "authentic" than the swanky affair put on at the Cal Expo last weekend...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I ran 8 miles along the American River bike trail.

Sunrise Blvd. to Old Folsom. It may have been 7 because the trails are unmarked, but I think it was 8. At any rate, I think that's the longest distance I have ever ran. woo-hoo. We will see how far I go next weekend.

(Update: The next weekend I ran 9 miles. My goal is to get to 10)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Koval’s Trade Market

Just finished post on a spot for Koval’s Trade Market. This was a branding spot for a new food store who is competing with Whole Foods and Trader Joes, while offering prices comparable to Raley’s or Vons. This a great opportunity to have a new business with no image history and create their public perception from scratch. We decided to go with a glossy, visually appealing ad. We shot it in HD with the HVX200, with a 35mm lens adapter using an 28-105 sigma zoom lens. We also had a .5 wide angle adapter we put in front of that for some semi-fish-eye shots. The spot turned out nice.

(update: 8/16/07) Here is an h264 version:

Here are some set shots:

Setting up for a dolly-out shot in the cheese Isle. Mike on Dolly grip, and Jeff Bloch on lights. In the foreground is Mark, the store liaison.

Here is the shot.

Jeff operating the jib for the opening shot.

Here is the shot, starting in a tight CU of the Koval's logo on the basket, then pulling out and up over the store.

Changing lenses in the wall-o-foods aisle.

Here is the shot. The wide angle adapter adds nice barrel distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberration.
Working with talent in the hot foods section.

Here is the final shot, splitscreen with a CU of the hot foods.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Failsafe - 10x10 challenge

This last week I worked on a short film for a 10x10 challenge. (10 minute film in 10 days) I’ve always questioned the desire of people to do those, I mean if you are going to go thru the effort to make a short film, why limit yourself to one where you are under prepared and don’t have enough post time?!? I guess it’s like what I went through at film school. I always said I would never again partake in such an exercise, but last week… I did.

Why? For me it was an opportunity to work with friends, some of whom I hadn’t worked with in several years. We shot for 3 days, but I could only do the first 2. Unfortunately for me, they were night shoots that turned into overnight shoots... also I say, never again…

At any rate, I get to see the final film tonight, hopefully it will turn out as good as it looked through the lens. I also got to work with some great people and some great equipment. Here are some set stills taken by Andy Pischalnikoff (

Night 1, an airplane hangar in Lincoln, CA.

The Director, Eric Espera.

Night 2, night interior and exterior. Here I am building my new light, a 7’ 1k softbox. It took a while to build and rig, but once it was set, we were lit for the scene.

Setting the light 20’ up with a mafer clamp on to a 2x6 beam. The light had a safety cable, I wish I had one!

Once the light was set, it was worth it.

Another angle with the director and myself in the corner.

I got to fly a glidecam, yea! Always love that.

A Dutch camera trick my friend and SoCal DP Eric Petersen showed me on my first film. Thanks Eric!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Antique Trove - The Musical!

I've just finished post on a 1950's Technicolor style musical commercial for a local client. The budget was small, and we put way too much work in on this spot, but it was just too much fun to stop…

This is my Father playing the roll of “The Dad”

And again, showing the lighting setup.

Here he is in the final composite.

This is a frame grab from the final edit, staring Susan Fore.

You can view the spot online here at:

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Music Videos

The new music videos for Freex and Olson Olson are done! The Freex video was for the song “Box”. It was shot inside a 7’ box.
You can download it here (9 megs):

The Olson Olson video is for the song “En Passant”. We shot the performance footage on a white cyc stage at The Studio Center in Sacramento. The narrative footage was shot in HD with an HVX200 (for the slow-mo) with a 35mm adapter. We shot near the American River and in a Safflower field outside Davis.
You can download it here (13 megs):
Here are some location stills:
Shooting on a bridge over the river.
Hunting butterflies in a field at 60fps.
Trying to figure out the HD->SD in camera downconvert workflow.
Justin, Guitar.
Tom, Drums.
Wading thru the safflower field. I had to wear shorts that day, Ouch!
Directing Jennifer, the singer. Note Justin with playback.
A snake slithered by during the shoot. See if you can spot it's cameo in the video...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

If I lived in springfield...

...this is what Siobhan and I would look like:

Super cool. I made it here:

Thursday, July 05, 2007


This last weekend was my father in law’s 60th birthday. We celebrated the event at my in-laws cabin up by Yellowstone. Siobhan drove up the week earlier with her mom. I left after work Wednesday and picked up my cousin-in-law Zach at the train station. From there we picked up a rental car at the airport for the long drive (for only $150 for the week, it was well worth it not to put the miles on my car…)We drove through the night, stopping at the Red Lion in Winnemucca, Nevada.

We got up early with the hopes of making it to Rigby Idaho by 4pm. Why Rigby Idaho? Rigby is the home town of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of electronic TV capture and Display. He came up with the idea in the 1920’s while plowing his families potatoe (Quayle Rules!) fields at the young age of 14! Rigby Idaho also houses the Philo T. Farnsworth TV and Pioneer Museum. They are open from 10am to 4pm, and I’ve missed them before. We hauled our little Chevy Colbalt as fast as reasonable and made it there by 3:45. Enough time to pay the admission ($2) and enjoy the simple homage to someone who changed the world with and Idea in a potatoe field. The museum was nice and quaint, but I think Philo deserves more…

After the Museum we drove up to the cabin and got to visit many relatives from Kentucky, including Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandpas and Grandmas. A rare opportunity.

The next couple of days we spent touring the park. It’s basically too amazing to go into details. Amazing geology (geysers) , wildlife (buffalo) , and food. (buffalo burgers) If you’ve never been, go. Give yourself 3 days.

The only unfortunate part of the trip was the demise of Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful are the parks two big draws. About a year ago, there were some earthquakes and the springs dried up about 98%. The whole hillside used to be a rainbow of intense colors. Now it’s dried and cracked and looks like the moon:

On Sunday my cousin and I went canoeing along Henry’s fork of the Madison River. Very nice. A little shallow at times, but crystal clear. That afternoon Zach, my wife and I left back for California. After consulting with the GPS, I discovered that by swooping down past Salt Lake City, it only added 10 minutes to the total trip. I always like to drive a circular route rather than straight and back if I can. I was surprised at how nice that part of Utah is – absolutely picturesque. Soft green rolling hills leading to rocky peaks. Nice. After swinging through SLC, we hit the Bonneville Salt flats just as the sun set. Magic hour in a truly alien landscape. Totally cool. I’ve always wanted to shoot a music video or SciFi there. Again if you have never been- stop by if you can. I wouldn’t budget 3 days though. After about 3 minutes you get the point.

About 10 minutes past Bonneville is Nevada, and the first town – Wendover. Like any border town in Nevada, there are Giant Casinos. We stopped at Paradise Beach or something like that. Huge. Big as any Vegas casino. We ate at some aquatic themed restaurant. Shrimp cocktail and ribeye – yum! We stayed the night about an hour past wendover in some town I can’t remember. It had two hotels and a gas station. Next time we will just stay in wendover.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cinegear 2007!

Cinegear: Wooooooo!

Sorry, just a little excited. This weekend I went down to LA to visit a friend and attend cinegear. My good friend and best man picked me up at LAX and we headed over to the Expo. I've missed the last 3, so I was excited to see what's new. Afterwards we stopped by Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles - YUM!

Here are some pictures from Cinegear:

Socal DP and best man E. G. Petersen at the Briese lighting booth with their 11' umbrella reflector:

Element labs was also impressive. They have a 5 phosphor led light that does near full spectrum lighting. Most are white LEDs only, some use RGB lights to make white, These guys add Magenta and Yellow to fill out the gaps. They also make a *very* cool led panel display that can be as large as a building and can display full color motion imges. This display was showing a quicktime movie off of a lap top.

Here is Eric getting a closer look:

Some other items that caught my eye:

A 58k light from the people at photosonics. No, not 58k color temp - 58 thousand watts. 58 1k bulbs packed tightly in a 2'x3' box! This thing can only be turned on for 10 seconds max before it starts to melt the diffusion screen.

Dragon Grips was cool with their ladder platform and cross beam-less dolly track:

These guys had a cool aesthetic for a rental house:

The Nila LED lights were 1,200 Par HMI equivelents, with less power and almost no heat:

And this is where old steadicam ops go to retire...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Olson Olson music video

This weekend we began production on a music video for the band "Olson Olson" The first phase of production was on the white cyc stage at the studio center in Sacramento. Two weeks from now we begin production of the narrative scenes. The band helped out by painting the stage. Nothing teaches respect for the white cyc than painting it. In fact, the only errant footprint that day was one one of mine...
Loading the "Shabby Chic" Piano into place.
The final product, good as gold.