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