Monday, January 31, 2005

More cool stuff happening...

Today was a standby day for work, so I got to do some pre-production stuff.

Yesterday I downloaded Pinnacle Studio Plus v.9.3 trial edition, which is good for 30 days. It has some nice features for a $99 program; I found out it does chromakey, so I decided to give it a trial run.

Chromakey (in case you don't know what it is) is when they film someone in front of a blue or green screen, then using some kind of digital magic they insert something else into the screen. Whenever you see a weatherman in front of a weather map on the wall, he's using green screen and the map is added digitally. That's why the guy is always looking off to the side, he's watching himself on a monitor to see if he's pointing to the right area. See? Told ya it was cool!

Anyway, I reserved the camera for today from the studio, and did some shooting there in front of the green screen. John, the technical manager there, showed me how to use the lighting board, and he helped light the set, so now I'm checked out on the studio. I did about five minutes in front of the green screen. Then I took the camera a shot a bunch of exterior scenes here in Milford.

When I got home I fired up the Pinnacle software and did a few chromakey scenes, like me standing on the hood of my car as it drives down the street, or a big building with me looming over it, and I even downloaded a picture of a weathermap and did the weatherman thing, which probably looked the best out of the three. In some of the images there's a green outline around me, but I think I can filter it out when I get better at the program.

Oh, and I spent more money this weekend, too...I ordered a Kenko (think "Cheap-O") Wide-Angle lens for the GS-70 Panny camera. It's a .45X lens, which is roughly a two-to-one reduction in field of view. It was only 25 bucks including shipping, which is WAY cheap. So that means I'm not expecting miracles or anything...I just hope it works!

Thursday Anthony and me are doing some more test shooting, and we'll finalize our pre-production tasks for "Death Knocks", and start looking for actors. Things are happening at last.

This is starting to get fun!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Another year older

And another Friday update...

Yesterday I turned 46. I'm not a big fan of birthdays in general, and mine in particular. When I was a youngster it was a big thing to have a birthday. They were fun and occasioned a party.

These days, a birthday is something I'd rather avoid. It's a glaring reminder of the fact that the clock is ticking on this life, and there's a lot of things I haven't accomplished. Some things I now know I will never do. I've crossed several items off my list: climbing Mt. Everest; winning a marathon; marrying a super model...stuff like that. (Actually, there's technically still a chance at the super model thing, if fate lends a hand, but I'm not counting on it. And besides, I love my wife and couldn't see going through the whole process of getting a new woman acquainted with all my eccentricities. It's tiring.)

Fortunately, there's still plenty of things I can accomplish. Like, making a movie; creating my own TV show; writing a funny script; sailing to Aruba; skiing in the Alps. So, I've still got goals, and I don't see giving up on them anytime soon.

Anyway, although I'm a year closer to my inevitable demise, I'm still trying to get these things done. And this week, Anthony and I did more test shooting at the studio, and we also discussed future projects. Besides "Death Knocks" (the working title for my script), we're also trying to put together a weekly TV show of indie films. It's fun developing the show, although it's tentative name isn't going over well with my friends. They seem to think the name "Cinema Tsunami" is in poor taste.

I think it would only be in poor taste if I used "Catch a Wave" by the Beach Boys as my theme song. But, people are complaining, so I'm looking for another name.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Nothing new

Two times this week I had to postpone the latest test shoot at the studio. Work's been brutal; long hours, driving in the snow, stress-fueled anxiety dreams at night, etc. It sucked. Gonna try to get some shit done next week. Probably on Tuesday.

Sorry this post isn't entertaining...I'm going to sleep now.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Did a test shoot last night

Anthony and I went to Soundview last night and experimented with the camera and lighting. I used my dual halogen work lights on the 6 foot stand; they total 1000 watts. We did some test shooting in the restroom and it looks acceptable. We also tested the tripod dolly, and even though it still jiggles a little, it's much better than the steadycam for horizontal movement. At some point I'll have to bite the bullet and build a proper dolly and track combo. But for now, it works well enough.

We decided to do the production in black and white, and cinema mode (where there are black bars across the top and bottom of the screen), which will hopefully make it look more "filmlike".

Everything is sort of coming together...we've got the script, the camera, the lights, the locations, the shot lists, and the enthusiasm. We still need actors, a costume, and catering (soda and sandwiches). Beyond that, we're almost there.

Some more stuff...we have several volunteers for crew, and one of them owns a Panasonic GS-120 camera, which is compatible with the GS-70s we're using, so we'll have access to up to 3 cameras for future shoots. I met a couple of technicians from Sound View who liked some of my home-made gadgets. One, John Ecay, has a live variety show on Public Access, and he wants crew for it. I'd do it, but it's produced midday on Fridays, and I have to work. I'll tune in today to check it out though.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I figured out something about this blog today...

And it's that there's a setting in the blog settings area that you can choose between everyone or blogspot members only being able to post comments. Idiot that I am, I had it set to "members only" being able to post. Hence, the complete lack of comments after any of my posts.

Wow, immediately after I changed the settings, someone posted a comment! I had to edit this post because someone was so fast. I guess it works...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Football, beer, and...oh, yeah, movie stuff

Boy, do I love watching a good game on the tube while enjoying an ice cold brewski! Damn, but there ain't NUTHIN' like the playoffs!

Not that I've just been sitting around all day being worthless or anything...I'm always either writing or tinkering or planning something to do with filmmaking. For instance, I've just finished testing an old computer that I'm going to loan to Ant so he has something to compose upon. This might seem generous on the surface, but trust me, it's complete selfishness on my part. He just gave me 10 pages of rewrites, and I'll be fucked if I'm going to type all that crap into the computer myself! Trust me, it's easier to throw together a PC out of old parts than it is for me to do all that typing.

So now he can experience the joy of typing. I'm sure he'll be thrilled.

Also, I bought a dry erase board for $1.99 that I'm going to use as a production slate. And I dug out a bunch of audio and video patch cables that I'm sure will be useful at some point.

I just don't want anyone to think all I'm doing today is sitting on my ass, drinking Budweisers and watching NFL football...

...but for Christ's sake, what's going on with the Packers? (losing to Minnesota 17-zip with 3:20 left in the 1st qtr...hope they can turn it around. And how 'bout dem Jets last night?)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The kid is on a roll!

Once upon a time there was a fledgling filmmaker named Bob. He had just built a wonderful contraption that's all the rage among no-budget filmmakers.

Not content with his brand-spankin' new $14 Steadycam, Bob tackles another project...the "$25 Tripod Dolly"!

Yes, bored out of his mind because there was nothing to do today, and suffering a severe case of cabin fever on this freezing-rainy/snowy day, Bob ventured out.

He takes a trip to the library, where he finds several useful books about filmmaking. As he peruses one of them, he spies a photo of a tripod dolly. He exclaims, "Why yes, that's it! I'll do something useful today, and cure my boredom!"

Frantically he scribbles a drawing on a piece of scrap paper, then hurries to his waiting car. Pausing to comb his unruly hair, he opens the car door and hops in. Wheeling out of the parking lot into traffic Bob grips the steering wheel tightly, his knuckles turning white. He negotiates the nearly empty streets and roars into the Home Depot parking lot. He skids neatly into an open space, then leaps from the vehicle with a look of steely determination plastered upon his visage.

Several minutes later he returns to his car, laden with two 6' boards, three 3" castors, and an assortment of nuts, bolts and washers.

Arriving home, he disappears into his basement. Fearful sounds of power tools, hammering, and unintelligible screaming eminate from the house. People walking by stop and look at the house, wondering if they should call the police.

Suddenly, all is quiet! Bob emerges from the basement, his fingers wrapped in bandages, wearing an eye patch, and with half his hair singed, but he is smiling. He smiles because in his hands he is carrying a work of art, an engineering masterpiece, and a thing of beauty. He sets the dolly carefully down, and gives it a light push.

The dolly rolls effortlessly across the kitchen floor, its rubber castors not making a sound, and it glides softly to a halt. Bob smiles to himself, and he knows that it is a good dolly. He picked up the phone, and reserved the camera for a test shoot in several days. Soon, he'll be happy to find out that his dolly will exceed all his expectations, and perform better than professional dollies that cost hundreds of dollars more.

That's the story of how Bob cured his boredom, and created a tripod dolly.

The End. (sorry, no pictures of it yet)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Last night Anthony and I went to SoundView and did some pre-production work.

First, we turned in our certification contracts. We're official now, so we can borrow the cameras and reserve editing machines for our projects.

Then we did some test shooting with my new steadycam. I built one of those Johnny Lee amazing "$14 Steadycam" things.

It's a very simple weighted tubular contraption that significantly reduces the jiggling and bouncing you get when using a hand-held camera. There are a few things you need to do with this device. Practice. A lot. It takes work to make this system function properly. Also, you need to bend your knees when moving. A slight crouch helps dampen a lot of movement. And you have to experiment with positioning your hands on the unit to get the best use.

It's actually quite tiring to use it for more than five minutes at a time. You can hear us panting on the test footage! But you can see the difference when compared to regular hand held shooting. It's not perfect, but it certainly is acceptable. And yes, it DID cost $14...actually, it came to $14.66, but I bought a few extra nuts and bolts. I bought all the parts at Home Depot, except the weight, which I got from Wal-Mart for $ 1.46; Johnny Lee deserves props for accuracy in his online instructions.

Next job - a $14 dolly, then a $14 crane.

Hey, I can dream, can't I? Huh?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


(Note: read the January 1st entry to know what I'm talking about here)

Joyce fucked up ALREADY! She wrote "04" on her VERY FIRST CHECK yesterday at work! She was so pissed she stopped what she was doing and called me to SCREAM!

Huh! Ain't so EASY now, is it WOMAN?!? LOL!!! ROFL!!!! WTF!!!11!1

('s truly the little things that make life worth living...)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Gimme '5!

It's a brand-spankin'-New Year, and I'm barely suffering from a negligable hangover. Joyce and I spent New Year's eve in downtown Milford, partying up the First Night celebration. We met friends, shared a beverage or two at the 7-Seas, saw a couple of fun bands at the City Hall ("The Banditos" and "Dr. Ya-Ya's Gumbo Band"), and finished the evening with fireworks over the harbor. It was an unseasonably warm night, and even my dad and his girlfriend enjoyed themselves. Fun time. Had a nightcap at Archie Moore's, then we got home without problems by 12:45, and slept in this morning.

Today marks the completion of something I've been trying to accomplish for about 20 years. Each new year I try to avoid writing the wrong year on my checks (or anything). Usually I mess up in late January or February. One year I got into April before screwing the pooch. Well, at midnight last night I managed to get all the way through /04 without mistakenly writing /03 even ONCE!

Believe me, the last few weeks were nerve wracking! Yesterday I was wrapping up some pork chops in aluminum foil for the freezer. I always mark the date on the outside with a Sharpie. Well, as I was writing "Pork Chops 12/04" on the package, my mind was screaming "Oh-three...Oh-three! OH-THREE!!!". I was certain it would somehow write itself on the foil! Sweat broke out on my forehead! Would I somehow sabatoge this amazing streak I was so close to completing? NO! I had amazingly managed to write "12/04"! Victory is mine! I collapsed in exhaustion after I finished! As I lay panting on the kitchen floor, I realized that all was right in the universe and that peace, love and understanding would break out across the globe and all mankind would unite in celebration!

Okay, so I'm being a little silly. But it was a big thing to me. Didn't I tell you I was hungover today?

Now for some good news! Yesterday Anthony called and said he got his certification (at last!) from Soundview, so mine will be here probably on Monday. Yay! Now we can get this party started!!! We'll schedule another meeting for early next week. And I met a screenwriter/actress via email through (Hi Paula!) who's interested in helping us with our project. We're looking forward to meeting her and hearing her suggestions.

That's it for now. Happy "Cero-Cinco" folks!