The Signifigance of Art to me

Art to me, is interchangeable with journalism. To me, it should act to follow two principles:

  1. To give a voice to the voiceless.

  2. To spread ideas that can help change.

  3. OPTIONAL: To create laughter and happiness and joy, through humor or new awareness or discovery of the beauty that is the human experience, by showing people and helping people get through the suffering that is life. To show that we are all in this together.

For me, in particular, I know that I am in a bubble. And I know sometimes art can literally preach to those already converted. However even this art can plant seeds of ideas in those who don’t expect to have these ideas planted. All of it can be good, as long as it’s honest.

Right now, in particular, the working class in America has lost its voice in the art world. Wages are stagnant, and life has become a struggle. 60 percent of Americans don’t have $600 in emergency funds. So there is no time for the working class to voice their struggles, like never before.

For me, then, it is partially my ethical need to help tell their stories. And hopefully for other artists and filmmakers as well. How many films these days, when they are made, are about working class issues vs about upper middle class issues?

The old adage, “write about what you know” - I don’t know if at this point I agree with this. I think we need to explore areas that we don’t know about. And from here, not feel shame.

With all the shaming and negativity that exists online, it’s important to reach past that, and be motivated by ones own voice. To turn off criticism, turn off whatever one’s point of self-guilt is about privilege, and create using this to ones advantage. If you are upper middle class, then you have the most valuable resource of our era, free time. Something so few people have.

The drug of Social Media and How it Affects Us as ARTISTS

I am still addicted to social media, trying to wane off of it.

I have been since before it even existed.

At my college, eight years before facebook existed, we had an online network called “Learnlink” and I had forums on there and spent far too much time on it. Being online for social connections always appealed to me, because for someone shy, it is easier than having to call someone to spend time with them, or risk rejection.

I had always had a love of writing, and sharing ideas.

This has never left me.

And the want to help change the world that I still see as needing to change because, globally, as a community, I feel that we are on a course of distraction, mostly unhealthy to most people’s psychology, that ethically needs to change, whether it be due to environmental or wealth disparity or social beliefs.

Whether or not I should instead find solace internally, I have found at an early age that I am happiest when I am helping others, and part of this ties into making art to help others, including writing and filmmaking, which I see as intertwined.

I wanted to be the next Michael Moore or Frederick Wiseman, starting in high school, and I think, achieving some form of fame or feedback even, knowing that I was making a ripple, I became addicted to it.

Social media makes this hit of feedback buzz so much easier than traditional means, such as slogging for months and years on a film.

And I am aware of this, so which starts my cycle.

I quit facebook 4 times, then came back to it. Because, well, that hit of dopamine makes the internal unhappiness of my self fade for an hour or a day.

But I know this is wrong, so I try to quit.

And right now, I try to just spend 10 minutes on it a day.

Also part of the problem is that social media is an excellent resource. Like other camera forums like CML and Cinematography.net, there is a lot of good discussion and ways to learn from all this.

And this is tough, to quit that, to lose the knowledge and resources, but to gain time.

To try to limit the drug, that’s all we can do, I guess. To try to be conscious of it. To not quit cold-turkey, but be as conscious as possible of the good and bad of it.

My thoughts on the Alexa and where it's going

Via Zacuto Shootout https://nofilmschool.com/2011/06/zacuto-unleashes-great-camera-shootout-2011

Via Zacuto Shootout https://nofilmschool.com/2011/06/zacuto-unleashes-great-camera-shootout-2011

I have a love/hate relationship with the alexa.

The love is that I think it gets as close to film as most digital cameras. So, yes, I think it’s the best digital camera right now. But I don’t like that people are like, “ok this is the best, and it’s perfect and there’s no where to go except making it full frame or 4k.” Cause it’s not perfect. And there is a reason people still shoot on kodak film. Contrary to what many people think, film still, in my eyes, has the best, most natural “shot like how we have a dream” look. The look, the motion, how it renders highlights, how it blooms how it overexposures. How color look, how skintones look. Film stock changes each of how this looks - you can’t just say “film in general” is perfect, because it is all about the different film stocks. But the motion and the reaction to light and highlights and the lack of shadow detail, I am drawn to this. And it maybe just me, but that’s all I can go off of.

The alexa skintones are more natural than say, the Red Dragon or Helium. But overall, it can be improved. The sensor has a dramatic shift from magneta to green as you raise up the ISO. A shift that doesn’t happen when you underexpose film.

And the motion of the camera, it doesn’t have the same feel as film. I wonder though if that is changing now that film is scanned with a CMOS sensor vs CCD or how we watch film and mostly watch it on our computer. I still have a lot to learn.

And the noise of the sensor. The grain. I don’t think at 1600 ISO the Alexa feels like film grain, I think it feels like video noise. And at 3200 ISO, it is not film-like - it is quite ugly, well to me. As video noise, not beautiful like underexposing 5219 two stops.

What I like about film is that there is no shadow detail. Sometimes I think shadows should just be shadows. Of course, this makes it harder to work - you need more powerful lights. You can’t work with what already exists always. It’s slower, and productions have been significantly going down in budgets and therefore crew sizes and time, so it’s better to work faster, to get the coverage you need for the director.

So for me, I did try the Sony F35 as an alternative, as kind of “close to 35mm film” because of it being a CCD sensor and having red, blue and green, no subsampling. But there was something about its highlight handling that clipped more than the alexa that I didn’t like. And I tried the Red MX and later dragon. The Red MX I think the motion is pleasing, but the color is not there - it doesn’t have the saturation you can have with film, especially the newer film stocks.

So where does Arri go next? Unfortunately, it seems that they are now wanting to move forward in the resolution game. 4k Arri LF, and soon the 4k Arri LF Mini. For me, personally, I am not a fan of the alexa in 4k. I much prefer the look of the film, “Drive” shot at 2k pro res. The Cohen Bros. film I saw shot on the LF, it just feels too sharp to me. I use diffusion all the time when I shoot at 3.2k and I use softer, older lenses. So maybe it’s me and the world has moved on.

I think resolution isn’t the answer, and the crispness of 4k and above take out the mystery of film. The organic feeling of it.

Man I am rambling.

I think we still have a long way to go with sensors, and I wonder if there is a company out there that would be interested in, the modern era, matching the colorimetry and dynamic range of film, and the highlight roll off of film, and the shutter of film. I know Arri attempted this with the d21, and the Alexa Studio with a mechanical shutter. And my next testing I want to see how the mechanical shutter affects a handheld walking shot with it off.

Wow that was a fun rant. My apologies to everyone who I offended, which is probably 92% of those who read this. Sorry again, but taste is just a matter of taste, and God bless that we all have different aethetics and tastes and that people can claim that a Ingmar Bergman movie is better than an Adam Sandler movie, and some people would think the exact opposite. And God bless that. I don’t want to be a world that doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Here’s a great look at different ISOs and the effect on noise and color shift in the Alexa:

http://neiloseman.com/alexa-iso-tests/

Some CRI and Footcandle readerings, different LEDs

from piecing together newshooter’s tests and my own:

DIFFERENT LIGHTS, output 1m

skypanel s60: 1090 fc

gemini 2x1 :927fc

softpanel 1:2: 347fc

astra 6x - 588 fc

apurture 300d no modifier: 829 fc

aputure 300d with modifier: 996 fc

joker 800 with fresnel lens: 4300 fc

joker 800 with wide angle lens: 20,000 fc

Quasar Q-LED: 476 LUX at 1 meter - 44.2 footcandles

Quasar Q-ION: 55 FC

CRI rendering 5600k: 

softpanels: CRI (R1-R8) of 96.2 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 94.54.

gemini: average CRI (R1-R8) of 95.2 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 93.24.

ARRI SC60-C SkyPanel 5600K Extended CRI (R1-R15)- 92.92

astra 6x - average 92.4, extended, 89.3

aputure 300d: average CRI (R1-R8) of 94.4 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 92.49

QUASAR SCIENCE Q-LED DIMMABLE - Average CRI 98.5 Extended CRI 97

QUASAR Q-ion - AVERAGE 96.9 CRI.  For the important skin tone range of R1, R2, R9, R13 and R15 all come in over 97 CRI. These are very solid numbers.

Conclusion: best CRI for most FC light when needed: Aputure 300d

best cri and half the light needed: softpanels 1x2

and also CRI is not the end all judge of how accurate a light is for skintone - you gotta use it yourself and see how it renders skintones for you. This is more than science, it’s an artform as well.




from newsshooter.com:

https://www.newsshooter.com/2018/03/06/litepanels-gemini-2x1-led-soft-panel-review/


https://www.newsshooter.com/2018/02/06/softpanels-1x2-led-review/


https://indiecinemaacademy.com/led-color-rendering-database-the-results/

Disk Drill Saved My Mother-in-Law's Hard Drive

Short story shorter: my mother-in-law gave me her hard drive to load a project file on.  I did it.  Gave it back to her.  She asked for one more thing.  She gave me back the hard drive.  I loaded it.  Gave it back to her.  She went to load it up - "unmountable."

6 hours later, I can move again.  I went through everything - every program, every help group.  Diskwarrior, Drive Genius, Disk Utility - all said the drive was a goner.  I even redownloaded Toast.  Remember that app from the early 2000's?  When we were making DVDs of our reels?

"This drive is dead - destroy it" - literally all three of these programs.

Then a message board saved my life - "hey guys, try Disk Drill."

https://www.cleverfiles.com/

I tried it - and boom, there are all the files.  I loaded it up as a virtual DMG file and now I am copying it over.

So as a solution for if you get a card back from the field and it says "drive not readable, initialize?"  Hit ignore and use this program.

Now writing this blog post to repay the karma.

Disk Drill001.jpg

Shooting at 200 ASA Again

  Now we all shoot at 800 asa. actually, I have heard some younger people get upset if they can't shoot at 1600 asa.  Pretty amazing to me.

Since most modern cameras can do this easily, and that gives you enough natural light in most locations, you just come in and shoot.  The style these days is use what already exists, and augment the lighting, and use grip to subtract light.

Subtracting light.  Before ASA 800, when many of us were shooting at around 200 ASA, you would add light.

Now we show up, use a window light - maybe put one light outside of it, and then 4-7 pieces of gripwear to cut it. 

Toppers, cutters, siders, eggcrates.   

But a recent job I did for a liquor commercial, we were shooting with the digital bolex as a b camera.  The bolex is a beautiful organic image, with a ccd sensor for beautiful motion and the ability to use 16mm glass, which is beautiful and lightweight.  We lit for this camera's low native iso, and the A camera, the alexa, we set at 200 ASA as well. 

At 200 ASA, I was back to where I started 10 years ago, and it was thrilling again.  

Light didn't spill all over the place - it faded into the darkness, had lots of falloff - and everything was deliberate. We Could liGHT up spaces deep in the bar with red color, and push light into areas we wanted, and hide the rest.  It was easier to do, since there were less stands to place on the ground and less rigging to do.

Grip takes up a lot of space and stands.   Lights -  not as much.

And we ended up making the bar more interesting than what it was - we transformed it. 

(I'll post videos and stills once the spots are released.

It was putting on a different brain from an earlier era - cause we had to move a different way. 

And we painted with 1k tungsten lights in a jem ball again and got that tungsten warmth again.  That color of a tungsten fresnel - it has a golden warmth to it.  Coming back to it, it reminded me of how unmatched by LEDs which have more green and yellow in them than that pure lovely orange glow are these chinese balls.

To rediscover those old tungsten fresnel units, that was also important to me.  These old lights you can now get as every grip house throws them out, as the world has moved onto led lighting like skypanels, these old lights are a thing of beauty.  

Prevent Cfast Card Errors with Alexa Mini

I did a shoot where we lost a roll of shooting on the alexa mini.  And I have heard a lot of people with similar tales.

Well no more.  (Kind of) Just by using a program for mac os x - drivedx - https://binaryfruit.com/drivedx - let's you quickly see the reliability of a cfast cards.

You just boot up the card, and then it shows you how many times the card has been used and its history of failures.

Most solid state media either fails at the beginning of it's life or at the end - there is a significant white paper on this.  So if you do a checkout from a gear rental house and you see some history of failure or that the card has been reformatted and seen a lot of use - maybe send that card back.  What's it worth, right, to take a risk?

On our shoot, luckily we caught it right after we shot it.

Because we were in a sand dune in Oregon doing a product shot for Dorittos.  Would probably have been hard to recreate that with greenscreen, or to go back there.

 

DriveDx001.jpg

Alexa vs Red Dragon vs Blackmagic Micro/Pocket

Thank the world for CML This great website/resource from Geoff Boyle really helps cinematographers the world over!

And now redwidegamut with log3g10 - the dragon sensor low light olph - matches pretty darn well with the alexa - well not perfectly - I would most likely in all situations choose the alexa over the red dragon sensor (and personally over the helium sensor) in terms of skintone - but still gives a smoother highlight roll off which is pleasant.    

And that blackmagic micro - not a perfect camera, but sooo cheap and match the skintones of alexa pretty well!

With the red dragon dropping in price - it's a nice sensor - not best past 1600 ISO - but still a good sensor in a tiny package.

Next to test the c300 mark ii with raw to the odyssey 7q vs the internal codec.  

 

 

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve1465.jpg
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve1467.jpg
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve1464.jpg

Jack of all trades, master of none?

I read a post recently saying that a DP also being a steadicam op, or movi operator, or editor, or director, is the death of them. 

I kind of disagree.

I think from the directing I do, the more I learn the needs of the director when I am DPing.  Also the value of good directing, seeing how difficult it really is.  How to communicate, how to understand this.

And by having a DP know how to do other things, like sound, you understand what the sound mixer needs.  And of gaffing and gripping, same thing, you understand the emotional and physical weight of saying to someone "can you move that 18k please over there."

It's also good to speak in everyone's familiar terms, and to understand what each crew position does and needs.  

I agree though you can waste your hours a day being focused on too many things, but at the end of the day, how much of our free time is wasted on facebook or instagram or god knows what else.  There is plenty of time in the day to learn as much as you want.  

Learning itself, and breaking yourself free of one's specific focus can regenerate the brain I feel, and make it more exciting when you bring what you learn to what you are doing.  

Milk crates and Teradek Screws

It's no secret that everything in film is expensive. Milk crates...super useful for storing gear and bringing on jobs are kind of pricey.

So I just get them from dairy outlets.

Here's one on ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/usr/milkcratesdirect

Also Teradek screws go for $20 - for a 1.5' 1/4-20 screw you can get it from a pool supply store for $10 - 2008 Thumbscrew 1/4 - 20 x 1.75 inch - from Masterspa.com

Fun to get deals like that.

Sony A7S Settings I like

I spent some time working on the Sony A7S to make the most natural skintones I can. For me, I'm realizing I really enjoy natural feeling blue skies as well as healthy skintones with a good amount of red in the face. I use it combined with Filmconvert Kodak profile for the A7S cine4 profile.  I'll mess with it and double check soon.

Black level 0

Gamma CINE4

Black gamma - range wide level +1

knee - auto - max point 100%.  sensitivity mid

color mode - s-gamut3.cine

saturation +7

color phase minus 2

color depth - all zeroed out

detail level -5  adjust - type3

That's about it.  

I think it's nice.

 

nice blue skies

nice blue skies

nice horses

nice horses