Friday, December 24, 2010

Moments later, he plunged to his death...

...not really, but we don't condone this sort of horseplay. It's all fun and games until somebody gets killed.

Me, hiking on West Rock Ridge yesterday. Joyce bravely took the photo from another perilous ledge. We both survived.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Help fund "Lover's Leap"

The short film I worked on in September is seeking funds to complete it. This is an "epic" movie with tremendous production values, and it's going to look great on the big screen. I was the boom operator and utility guy, working with Josue Saldana.

That's me holding the boom as we prepare to shoot a scene for the film. My accounts of the filming are located here:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Here's the fund raising page on Kickstarter. The way it works is you pledge a donation with a credit card, but you ONLY are charged for that amount if the project reaches it's funding goal by the set date. That way, you're not out any money for a film that might not have raised enough funding to complete it.

"Lover's Leap" has set as it's goal a very modest $4,000 by January 12th. So anything you care to donate will have a significant effect on the outcome. And on the Kickstarter page you'll see a bunch of really great incentives depending on what level you wish to pledge. You can pledge as little as one dollar (but c'mon now, that would be silly; toss them a sawbuck at least!) or as much as the entire amount.

My brilliant idea for an incentive was for any person who pledges the entire amount be allowed to sleep with the cast member of their choice, but the producers shot it down without so much as a how-do-ya-do! Prudes.

Whatever amount you decide upon, you should know that you'll have an opportunity to see this awesome movie sometime in early 2011!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Keeping busy

For some reason, despite all the projects I've been working on lately, I've hardly posted anything about them on this blog. I guess that means I'm busy!

Watch here for news regarding "Jaki's Buzz" and "The Politics of Murder" in the coming weeks!

Not to mention other projects that are in post-production:

"To Dye For"
"Lover's Leap"

...and of course, I've got a few more projects that are in the preliminary stages.

No pay yet; but the more I learn and work, the more likely the rewards will come!

And I'll be putting up photos, video clips, and more links as we move along.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

AIr Line Rail Trail 2010

Here's some incredibly low-res video we made today during the unseasonably perfect weather, stitched together with a Roaring 20s soundtrack. We went back to the place we taped my first documentary five years ago.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Revisiting the Airline Rail Trail

This Saturday, Joyce & I are planning to retrace our 2005 Airline Rail Trail bike hike, documented in the short film below. I'll take some photos of the highlights of the trail, and post them here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My awesome 7" LCD monitor

I bought a cheap (price, not quality) LCD camera-top monitor recently. Shown here at a rally with President Obama.

The standard definition monitor is perfect for my Canon GL-2, and the "Buy-it-now" price on eBay was $139 (shipping included!)

Here's the link on where you can get this useful item.

And they also have an HD version, but that's a lot pricier. Better if you can output SD from your HD camera and use the cheaper monitor.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Lover's Leap from the water

The spot where we shot the film was so beautiful Joyce and I decided to spend a day kayaking there.

The complete story and a bunch of photos are on my sailing blog,

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Jaki's Buzz promo clip

Here's a teaser for the TV pilot of "Jaki's Buzz" we shot in August. Jaki Valensi-Lauper and Elegant Buzz Productions are currently marketing the show, and we'd all love to see it get picked up. Visit for more info.

And Joyce & I attended the Jaki's Buzz fund raiser at Master of None studio on State St, New Haven on Sunday. We met author Pamela Glasner there, and she signed a copy of her new book, "Finding Emmaus" for us (which we hear is soon to be a major motion picture!)

We also bought a CD for the band Addison Station after they played a great set.

And here's Colleen Ellis, who was boom operator and helped with the sound on the pilot, along with CT Joyce. Joyce really enjoyed the entertainment, the great food, and the complimentary wine! It was a fun night.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More photos from "Lover's Leap"

Saturday was a 13-hour shoot. Got home at 7:30AM, slept a few hours (those cat-naps while driving really helped!) and got back there by 4PM on Sunday. Luckily we were wrapped around 7PM.

Booming on location is always a bit of a challenge, especially finding a place to stand. Josue Saldana is recording sound next to me.

Final day of the shoot finds actors Mary Fegreus and Matt Bretschneider getting ready for a scene, with DP Trenton McRae at left, Director Atanas Bakalov left-center, and Wardrobe Irene Ludemann behind him.

View from the camera of the actual Lover's Leap. There's maybe an 80-foot cliff right there. It was a bit nerve wracking at times when the actors got close! Apparently, some allegedly drunken moron waltzed off the edge a few weeks ago.

Needless to say, it didn't go good for him.

What a view! Lake Lillanonah is lovely; Joyce and I are going there in a few weeks for kayaking.

I want one. Really, I do.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Night 2 of the shoot

Call time was 3:30PM for crew. The location was a bit different from last night's. Don't worry, there's no spoilers here; just a few behind the scenes photos.

We were lucky to get to shoot in a nice home. The owners were very generous and gracious, and they put up with a long, late night of noise.

The camera crew positioned the dolly for the party scene. The house was filled with antiques, and the crew was required to take off their shoes or wear boot covers to keep the floors pristine. My biggest fear was of accidentally knocking over a Ming vase with the boom pole. I don't even know if they had any Ming vases there, but I was really careful just in case!

Product placement! Since the producers didn't want to have to deal with clearing any trademarked items, the art dept. came up with these clever fake product labels.

I don't know how it'll taste, but I'd like to try a Konig beer sometime! (I'm sure it tastes like water...this is all make-believe!)

Here's a shot from the big party scene while I boomed it from the balcony. Director Antanas Bakalov is at left. Atanas was in my FITP Sound Dept. class this year. Standing next to him is cinematographer Trenton McRae.

Party scenes are always fun to shoot, but we took hours getting all sorts of different angles and set ups. At least we didn't have to deal with generator noise.

I got home at 6AM, and after I saw my wife off to work, I promptly fell asleep. Sunday was pretty much a lost day for me, but I got to watch a lot of football!

We have a day or two more shooting scheduled for later this month. I'll post more updates then.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Night shoots are fun

Worked on a short film last weekend, "Lover's Leap". The two days were scheduled as night shoots, so the first night we got to the location around 6PM, and I expected us to be there at least until midnight.

Silly me, thinking I'd actually get home before dawn!

Grip & Electric gear spread out during preparation for the shoot.

Sound mixer and producer Josue Saldana at the sound cart. I worked as boom operator. Predictably, there were some minor equipment issues both nights, which made for an interesting exercise in dealing with problems. Location shoots are special that way.

Josh had great sound hardware on his cart for us to work with. This is a Sound Devices 788T digital recorder, absolutely top of the line model.

Josh also was involved in procuring a Red One camera for the shoot. The Red cameras are totally amazing, and often provide a better-than-film look.

The clear air in the hills around Candlewood Lake cooled down quickly after sunset, making it a chilly evening for the cast and crew. There were issues with the generators making noise that hindered us sound dogs, but we captured the sound that was needed. Several times I mic'd from inside a car; once with five of us and a camera in a less-than-spacious sedan. Fun, except for the leg cramps.

The sky was just starting to show signs of dawn when I finally got home. More photos soon from the second night of the shoot.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Wilhelm Scream

What with me being a sound guy, I'm a fan of obscure film trivia related to sounds. The "Wilhelm Scream" is a great example of this.

In the early 50s, a character in a western named Wilhelm was shot in the leg with an arrow. The sound department used a shriek of pain that had been recorded a couple years earlier in another film.

Since then, the scream has attained a sort of mythical underground cult status amongst film buffs and sound engineers. Here are two videos that relate the entire story of the Wilhelm Scream. First, the history of the scream:

And next, a video compilation of some of the 130+ films and TV shows that have used the Wilhelm Scream over the years:

So now that you know all about the Wilhelm Scream, you too will be able to bore your friends and acquaintances with this trivial bit of film lore!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Coming Attraction?

(cross posted from my political blog

With Hurricane Earl possibly moving in to ruin my weekend boating plans, I figured it was about time to take a trip down memory lane about a storm that roared through Connecticut 25 years ago.

Cliff Clavin Dept:
It's a little known fact that "Gloria" was the most popular name given to newborn girls all throughout southern New England in the weeks following the storm.
(See how I cleverly used a well-known character from a popular 1980s sitcom as a literary device to state a fact about a storm from 1985? Awww yeah! I'm da shit, yo!)

Here's my early camcorder video, with loads of archived TV news footage included:

Is this a "coming attraction"? I hope not!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Did a brief day's work this week on a short film, called "Ethan" about a young boy and his father, played by a young boy and his father, Greg Nutcher (who was in the FITP short film "To Dye For").

Directed by James "Jim" W. Hawk (IMDB listing), and filmed by Tristan Douglas (whose mom Maria was in charge of wardrobe and props), I also did double duty on the film, helping with lighting.

Jim and Maria discuss set dressing and wardrobe for a scene.

Tristan positions the camera for a low angle shot. We obviously filmed on location, which was the actor's home in this case.

Me, with my super-awesome boom set up.

Cast and crew after successfully wrapping all the scenes with dialog. The next day the rest of the crew shot exteriors MOS, so I was wrapped for the project.

I'd gotten a voice mail while we were shooting about another project, which will be a short film in early September. So I'm keeping busy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Photos from the weekend shoot

Here's some photos from the project we shot over the weekend. It's a pilot for "Jaki's Buzz", which we expect will be ready very soon. Don't worry, there's no spoilers here, except maybe for the fact that everyone worked like hell over the two days to successfully get all 19 pages of the script shot!

This is me in a totally posed shot, pretending to work the mixer that really never worked properly. We ended up recording directly to the camera, and used the on-camera settings to control the levels. To good effect, I should add.

Booming a scene, with Alex Winter on camera shooting actress Crystal Aya. As the production crew had no sound equipment available, I loaned the use of my low-budget consumer-quality equipment to the show.

Above, I'm using my Rode Videomic attached to the upper arm of a mic stand, which extended about six feet and made a passable (but not very lightweight) boom pole. I also used my Nady Duet Encore wireless lavs for several scenes, but they were just a bit temperamental, so we tried to use the boom mic as much as possible.

Colleen Ellis was the other part of the sound crew, helping with boom and utility. As I totally expected, she did a terrific job. That's Jaki on the right, listening to direction from off-screen.

"Ooh, donuts!" Actor Brett Epstein joins Crystal for a scene in a room, which is roughly the size of a largish refrigerator box. How we got six people in there, I'll never know!

On location during the second day of the shoot, Colleen stretches out the boom to get a wider, more open sound.

Cool photo of me booming a scene in silhouette.

The sound dogs at the end of the exhaustive but fun two-day shoot!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A shoestring political ad


By "shoestring", I mean it cost absolutely nothing (other than a single mini-DV tape and the gas to drive there and back).

I shot this in under two hours at the location, then edited it for maybe another four, counting the extra time it took to recover the hour or so of labor when I accidentally deleted about half the nearly finished project because I was so tired!

I used my Canon GL-2 with my .5x wide angle lens, my Rode Videomic on a mic stand just out of frame for the interior shots and mounted on-camera for the exteriors. I didn't use additional lighting, but tried to work with the available lights. During the editing I used the Scorefitter music from Pinnacle Studio 11. I know I need a Mac, but that's way out of my budget for quite a while.

There's absolutely a few things I would like to have done to tighten the final video up and make it a bit smoother, but considering the very limited shelf-life of something like this, I needed to get it done and posted quickly to have any usefulness. The primary is only a week away, so I didn't have any time for extensive "tweaking".

Anyway, I was glad to do it for free. Kevin Lembo is one of those rare public servants who go above and beyond duty to help people in this state, and it was a real pleasure working with him on this project.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Documentary project

I've been working about two weeks on my video project, which is to document the final few weeks going into the primary (August 10th) of candidate for Governor Ned Lamont's campaign.

Basically the campaign has given me tremendous access to tape appearances and talk to the candidate, due in part to my years of supporting Mr. Lamont and helping the Democratic party as a political blogger. You should visit to read about the actual political stuff.

Above: Taping Lamont and Lt. Gov. candidate Mary Glassman (off-picture at left) during a tour of a high-tech Connecticut manufacturer.

For equipment I'm using my trusty Canon GL-2, shooting on mini-DV tapes. Format is 16x9 widescreen. I'm using a cheap .5x wide angle lens (Kenko? something like that) to allow for tight close ups, which really helps the audio when there's a lot of background noise. Like in most of my run-and-gun videos.

Audio provided by a Rode Videomic, which is a super-cardiod. Sony 7506 Professional headphones provide crystal clear audio so I know what's being recorded to the tape.

I'm using the new Video Innovations shoulder mount (see earlier post), and coupled with a cheap $20 monopod, I have a lightweight and comfortable carry mount. With the monopod folded up to about 18" long, I rest it just above my hip to provide extra support and stability. It works great!

Monday, July 26, 2010

FITPing around

I've been ultra-busy lately, what with my project of following around and videotaping a candidate for governor here in Connecticut, but I've also been keeping up with my Facebook friends.

Jeff Cannata has posted an awesome video (below) that shows quite a bit of the outdoor production of our student film, "To Dye For". You can see me several times during the video (if you don't blink), but I've saved you the trouble of blinking and looking for me by grabbing a couple screen caps:

This is me, expertly handling the boom (giving the actress what we in the biz call a "haircut") during a scene in the car.

Here's a shot of me on the right, at the mixing board during the day-for-night outdoor scene.

And here's the terrific video that should be used as a recruitment tool:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another useful little gadget

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a big fan of low-cost solutions to problems. Anyone can solve a problem if you throw enough money at it.

The trick is, to solve the problem while throwing little or no money at it!

How about this? Here's a nifty little shoulder mount that I found at B&H:

Great huh? Girl not included (sadly) but it's still a nice shoulder mount, for $59.95 with free shipping from B&H.

Another cool thing is that the camera can slide about 6" along the top of the mount, so you can optimize how you want to look through the viewfinder. And the hand grip can be placed in about five different positions. Plus, the entire mount can be placed on a tripod (or monopod) without removing the camera.

It's simple, affordable, and very useful.

Is it as good as some of the $500 shoulder supports? Of course not. But for an inexpensive solution to preventing those shaky arms (and shaky video) after holding the camera for a few minutes, it works great.

All I need now is the green light for my documentary project, and I'll be likely using this before the end of the week!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Documentary: Dissent or Disloyalty

Now that I'm back from my week-long vacation on the sailboat, I'm ready to get back to work!

This is a short documentary I created last September, after attending several very contentious political events during the lead-up to health care reform. It is one of the over 300 videos I have on my Youtube channel ( and be warned: quite a few are crappy production-wise, but posted for sheer fun or news value)

Now that I've completed the FITP program, I'm currently in talks to arrange a zero-budget political documentary, which will quite possibly begin production next week.

I'll keep you updated about that, and also other creative projects I'm working on. In the meantime, please watch "Dissent or Disloyalty?" Comments and/or criticisms are welcome; but please be gentle, as I'm still learning this stuff!

Friday, July 02, 2010

FITP: Day 20

(Go back to Day 19)

(If this is the first time you're visiting my blog, please start at Day One of the Film Industry Training Program to follow my progress. At the end of each post is a link to the next day's entry!)

(Disclaimer: please note that my opinions are strictly my own, and don't reflect the opinions of the Connecticut Film & Digital Media Workforce. In fact, many of my opinions don't reflect what is commonly thought of as "consensus reality" in any way, shape, or form!)

The final day of the shoot! Wow, that was a fast four weeks! It was a perfect day, sunny with low humidity, which was great because we were shooting all exterior scenes.

Tracy mixes a scene early morning. Our call time is 9AM and we got completely set up and the first take shot before 10AM, which is incredibly fast to get everything set.

The next scene I mixed a total of three mics with two actors outside the car and two inside. We had two actors with radio mics and a boom covering the actors in the car.

I boomed a few takes of the actors talking and then fleeing in their car, then Colleen had to sit in the back seat to mic the actors while a camera mounted on the door was filming.

Pat boomed a scene at the car, and by then it was starting to warm up a bit.

Director Richard Dobbs sat in the back seat to shoot a scene, while Samantha mic'd the actors like Colleen did in a previous setup. The back seat of a Chrysler convertible is small enough to start with, and then having two people with video and recording equipment trying to work in there is quite a task.

It's a wrap! After loading out and packing up Chat's car, we posed for one last group photo by the sound cart. Chat bade us a very fond farewell soon afterward as he needed to drive about three hours to get home tonight.

Clockwise from upper left: Atanas, Jon, Tracy, Dan, the sound cart, Chat, Fred, me, Samantha, Colleen, Pat.

At the wrap party at Aunt Chilada's on Whitney, I shot this photo of Marty Lang, who wrote the screenplay, Chuck Miller, and A.D. Danielle Rigby, whom I let know that I learned an amazing lot about the A.D.'s job simply by watching her.

Finally I got a photo with Angelo DiGiacamo, the Director of Photography who took some time the other day to coach me about how to work on a set. I thanked him for his honesty and congratulated him on his retirement, which begins today. He'll still be involved in the business, but on the teaching side.

We all felt sad that this incredible experience was drawing to a close, but we'll stay in touch and hopefully get to work together again. I can say now that I had a wonderful and challenging time, and it was intense at times but also very rewarding. I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity to learn, and after I get back from vacation next week, I'll start looking for a job.

And now, here's some video goodness for you:

I'll post more updates after I get back from vacation next week, but for now I'm beat and going to sleep. Email me at futuredv *at* if you wish to contact me.

Especially to offer me a production sound job!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

FITP: Day 19

(Go back to Day 18)

Another 10-hour day on location. We all got to do some cool stuff today.

Samantha mixes a scene while Pat "thirds" for the Sound Crew. Thirding is basically a utility person/cable puller, who supports the mixer and the boom op.

Director Richard Dobbs (center) discusses blocking a scene with actors Marty Lang and Greg Nutcher. Marty also wrote the screenplay.

After lunch there was a scene that required Atanas to stretch out the boom pole about 12 feet to mic the actors. Usually it requires a bit of muscle to hold the boom steady at that distance. After a minute or so you start getting trembling in your arms.

Well, Atanas got to test his muscles because this was a scene where the director wanted to keep trying new things while keeping the cameras rolling. Meaning Atanas had to hold the boom over the actors the entire time without letting it dip into the camera frame, nor drifting too high that it loses the sound.

Which is all well and good if the scene goes for a couple minutes. But Richard kept tossing out ideas to the actors while the roll was going, and I noticed the timecode on the digital recorder creeping up past three, then four minutes, I began getting concerned for Atanas.

Then Richard ran through a bunch more ideas, and the timer hit six, seven, then EIGHT minutes (for a SINGLE take, mind you!) and I really began to worry. As soon as the director finally yelled "cut" somewhere just shy of nine minutes, I ran onto the set to help Atanas. The poor guy was soaked in sweat and clearly flayed, but he toughed the scene out and did an amazing job with the boom. It wasn't my turn to boom but I decided right there and then to relieve him. He was relieved all right, and the first thing he did once he was disconnected was to grab his water bottle and take a giant swig out of it.

I boomed a couple of scenes and did a good job, then went back to the sound cart to see where else I could help. We were well into the afternoon by then, and were on our way to finishing up the rest of the interior scenes.

This is a shot of the living room set where a couple cameras were set up. We had an "A" camera and a "B" camera for many scenes, and that made it challenging for the boom operator because they had to watch TWO frame lines.

Our dear instructor must have had a taxing day trying to whip his sound crew into shape, because during some interminable delay waiting for the cameras to get ready for a scene, Chat rested his head on his arm and took a short vacation to snooze-land.

By the way, it clearly is weird how camera crews can take all frickin' day to set up and tweak their cameras to perfection, happily holding up production for hours if needed; but if the sound department takes more than two minutes to properly resolve a mic issue, they all look at you like you're preventing them from eating Thanksgiving dinner until it gets cold! I mean, c'mon guys, how 'bout a little respect for the people who invented the concept of "talkies"? If it wasn't for us sound-dogs, movies would simply be shadows moving on a wall.

Although, our Director of Photography Angelo DiGiacomo is very much a sound crew's kind of guy. He was very attentive to our needs when it came to video monitors, and the few times he needed to point out our mistakes, he did so in a very low-key and constructive way. He's a great guy.

Back to Chat's snoozing. The best part is when the flash from my camera woke him up! I didn't even know the flash was ON, so there were TWO very surprised people involved producing this photo. Thank god I didn't try to snap a photo while on the set; the director or A.D. probably would have killed me!

And I'd have deserved it, too.

Now I'm gonna get some sleep. Tomorrow is the final day of the shoot. No way do I want to be late!

Click here to go to Day 20