Using PIVOT and UNPIVOT

Using PIVOT and UNPIVOT.

In case you’ve been wondering why there have been so few posts. Been in tech research mode. Hopefully will emerge to be creative soon. All work and no play…you know the rest.

The Gear

What I Have:

  • Canon T3i DSLR (shoots 1080 video) – but sound is terrible.
  • Spare battery for T3i.
  • Spare memory card – 48 gb’s total of space for each day shooting.
  • Canon EF 50mm 1.8 fixed lens – low-cost. Shoots a little closer than I’d like, but don’t have many other options. May borrow a standard kit lens.
  • Canon Telephoto lens – very slow to focus, needs lots of light, but might be workable on the salt with light reflected from every direction.
  • Rode Videomic – Just got this, has lots of five-star reviews and seems to be one of the “go to” mics for the über indie filmmaker. It does make the sound much better, even in just the couple tests I’ve done.
  • Zoom H1n – I actually don’t have this in my hands yet, but again, highly rated and one of the “go to” options for low-budget productions. Should allow me to record high quality interview audio by itself, or pair with the Rode to get longer shots + sound. Also allows live monitoring of sound and a line out to record onto the camera for a scratch track. It’s almost like I’m a pro.
  • Rode Deadcat Mic Cover – looking at pictures of the salt flat is deceptive. It looks immense and dead, because it’s so flat and desolate, but I watched a documentary about it the other night and saw people walking at almost 45 degrees into the wind. After watching that I knew that the ‘fuzzy’ microphone cover was a must. It’s on order now.
  • Sunpak 8001UT tripod – this is a very low-end photo tripod, and honestly I should be looking for another, but the budget hasn’t got room so it will have to do. It should work for locking the camera down when doing interviews.
  • Cowboy Studio 3 lamp portable studio – 3 lamps with umbrellas and tripod stands, zip up into a small bag. Should help for interviews inside hotel rooms.
  • CN-160 LED lamp – hot shoe mountable and dim-able LED panel. Popular with wedding videographers and runs on AA batteries. Should be great in a pinch, though I don’t think there is going to be any lack of light on the Flats. Also includes a couple filters to warm / diffuse the light.
  • iPhone 5 – might work for shooting b-roll. Certainly worth a shot.
  • Studio NEAT Glif – tripod mount for iPhone.
  • 15” MacBook Pro – for pulling and clearing cards at the end of the day.
  • Sony Headphones – large over the ear style headphones for monitoring levels.
  • USB – SD card reader.

What I Still NEED:

  • Microphone extension cable (10’ +) so that the camera (which won’t shoot wide-angle), can be further back than microphone.
  • 1/8” splitter – to split line out from Zoom into headphones and camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Reflectors – large cloth reflector panels to bounce light behind subjects if possible. This really will only work if I get a helper for shooting.
  • Memory card for Zoom – the hand-held recorder only comes with 2GB storage. Need to upgrade to 32 gb so I can record all day.
  • Spring clamps – to position lights and reflectors as needed.
  • Lens hood or matte box – the Flats are going to be some very harsh lighting, need to be able to step it down a bit.
  • Shoulder Harness – to stabilize camera/light/Zoom/Microphone for all day shooting. Debating the merits of a rail system, versus a more ‘fixed’ approached. Will be building this myself, due to cost constraints.
  • Batteries – for everything. 9v for microphone. AAA for Zoom. AA for lights.

Things I’ll build IF there is time:

  • Small portable jib to mount on shoulder or tripod for “crane” shots.
  • Small portable rail slider for that “dolly” look and nice even panning shots.
  • A follow focus knob – this is a big challenge, as the 50mm 1.8 has a tiny manual focus ring and isn’t really easy to interface with.
  • Boom pole for microphone. Only really useful if I have a second pair of hands helping with the shoot, so this is unlikely.

Things I’d LOVE to Buy, but probably won’t:

  • Canon 35mm wide-angle lens – this baby is about $300 on Amazon right now, and would make it a lot easier to do group shots, but it is also $300 – so you see my problem.
  • Final Cut Pro with Motion – I’d love to upgrade video editing suites, as right now I’m just slumming it in iMovie, but since there won’t actually be any visual effects in this film, I should be able to make do where I am.
  • Adobe After Effects – Who am I kidding, I really want to put some sweet ass motion graphics in this, even if it is a documentary. I love nice design in a film.
  • Solar Charger – There is going to be 13+ hours of sunlight out there in August, it would be nice to be able to charge my gear mid-day, as it will probably be some distance to the hotel.

Deep Water

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I’ve been wanting to try my hand at filmmaking for a long time and I’ve gone and thrown myself into deep water now, without making sure I can swim. A little back story first. My brother Hans goes out to Bonneville every year for speed week. He isn’t just there for the salt and sun, he’s part of a team that’s gunning for records (and holds a few). He’s a member of the 200 club, meaning he’s exceeded two hundred miles per hour on the salt.

Well, Hans posted a nicely edited documentary about motorcycles (The Build Film) on Facebook the other day. It really caught my eye, it was exactly the sort of production I’d been wanting to put together, but had been struggling to find a story to tell. A mental light bulb went off and I realized that the pursuit of a land speed record might make for one hell of a story. I messaged Hans about the possibility of following him out to Bonneville to put something together. He responded with a hearty “Hell yes.” All I’ve got so far is a working title, On the Salt, and a whole bunch of ideas.

So now I’m in the deep water. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dog paddled before. In art school I did more than one art film and even had one get shown in an international film festival. I’m not a complete newb, as it were, but this is a much bigger production and a much tighter deadline than I’ve ever faced. Also, there’s no budget – my surgery earlier this year has stripped down personal funds to a bare minimum, so while I’d love to get new cameras and lenses, I’ll be shooting this on a shoestring.

All that said, I’m remarkably excited. I haven’t been creative in a while, really for the last few years NaNoWriMo is my only outlet. I’m researching every day now, learning new tricks for the DIY and low-budget filmmaker. I’m going to be building gear that I can and buying the few necessary items that I can’t (external audio recorder, as I’ll be shooting exclusively on DSLR).

It’s going to be a wild and short ride. Speed Week is in August, only 82 days from now.

Lessons in Liberalism

I’m trapped in a private moment, not even one I want to be in. A woman just walked by that bears a striking resemblance to an ex-girlfriend. It’s like when you drive past a bad accident, you don’t want to see anything, but you look all the same. I’m looking, fingers crossed that it isn’t her. A man, with what must be twenty years on me, stops me. At first I’m confused, like I said I was in this private moment and building up a defense for the possible oh god moment if it really is her and she wants to talk for some reason.

The last thing I’m ready for is an aging cowboy, dressed in denim from head to toe and thick silver stubble. His voice is low, too quiet, and I only hear him just enough to stop – not enough to know what it is he’s saying. He must recognize it in my face, as he softly begins anew.

“I’m real sorry, I hate to even ask,” he says. This is a suburb, it’s been awhile since I’ve heard this one, but my time in poorer neighborhoods lets me recognize this preamble immediately. I start to pat my pockets before he’s even asked. “I’m on my way to Dallas, on my last few gallons of gas…” he adds. He’s in the middle of a divorce, out of cash, and nearly red in the face. It took nerve to ask for anything. I privately wonder if the Obama sticker on my car makes it easier to ask.

“I don’t generally have cash,” I tell him solemnly, which is the truth. I tell him to hold on as I dig through the console, finding him every last penny. It can’t amount too much and I say so. I apologize that it isn’t more and he half smiles and ducks his head. He doesn’t want me to look him in the eyes.

I get in my car and start to drive away, noticing that he’s doing the same. He drives to the McDonald’s that was no more than fifty yards away and I feel a vein twitch in my right temple. From where we’d spoken there was a grocery store within walking distance and a gas station just as far as the McDonald’s, in the opposite direction.

I get mad. I wonder if I should have insisted on buying him gas at the pump. I wonder if I should have just given him some of the groceries I just purchased. I wonder if I should have given him anything at all.

I stop.

I breathe.

I’m putting too much on this one man’s decision. I give money because it’s the right thing to do, not because every recipient will make the perfect decision. I give because the world needs a little more kindness in it every day, not because I can fix everyone. We can’t always fix things, but we can always try to help.

Connecticut does what the rest of us won’t

Connecticut passed a gun control bill that should be the standard rather than an exception. This is one of those topics I’ve been struggling with for a while. I’m socially liberal on almost any topic, but I’ve always stood by the second amendment. Maybe it’s part of being a Texan, particularly since I was raised in a rural area, but I’ve always felt that gun control wasn’t really under the purview of the government. The government should prevent and punish crime that actually happens, not the people that own tools that are tangentially related to crime. After all, there is nothing inherently evil about a gun. Any hard implement can be used to do violence, given opportunity and sufficient motivation, and guns are tools, just like shovels. Guns don’t kill people, people do.

Part of me still wants to believe this. Part of me wants to believe in the inherent ‘goodness’ of humanity and that we can be allowed to own the tools of self defense without unjustly taking the lives of others. And to be fair, statistically that is true. The vast majority of gun owners aren’t frothing at the mouth. They haven’t committed shooting rampages in crowded theaters or schools.

All that said, those mass shootings weigh more heavily on me than a numerical statistics. This past year five year olds died to protect a hunter’s right to reload less often. Children died, that could have been saved, because some rednecks believe their 9mm and AR-15 will protect them when our government turns on them. People died because self interest out lobbied the public good.

The second amendment was written at a time when the height of technology was a single shot musket and a single shot canon. It takes a team effort to operate a canon, so the most danger the public faced from a deranged individual with a personal vendetta was a single shot. In Aurora, James E. Holmes was able to fire 30 rounds out of a 100 round drum before his weapon jammed. A random mechanical failure is all that stood between 12 dead/58 injured and an additional 70 rounds of auto fire. At Sandy Hook, in the span of only 11 minutes, Adam Lanza fired 154 rounds from his series of 30 round magazines. And for all of that, would either of them have lasted more than a few seconds against a drone? These weapons are no longer about protecting yourself from tyranny. They’re a symbol and a tradition to many, even to me as I write this, but mostly they’re a public menace.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Note that the amendment doesn’t lend much specificity to what sort of arms we the people are allowed to keep and bear. We don’t get Joint Strike Fighters. We don’t get attack helicopters. We don’t get the nuclear option.

We don’t get weapons of mass destruction, so where is the line where we go from ‘reasonable loss’ to ‘mass destruction’? In 2012 I found my line and it wasn’t where I thought it was.

Thoughts on starting…

The enormity of the gulf between starting and finishing can hardly be articulated. Starting is easy. Starting is fun. Finishing is hard. Finishing is work. The difference between starting and finishing is the difference between making up rules and following rules.

I’ve done a lot fo starting in my life. It’s easy to start. It’s easy to say you’ll do something, even something as big as creating a whole new world. It’s a lot harder to make that world. And that is where I’m at. A lot of easy starts. A lot fewer hard-won endings.

I like to worry over my craft. How well I put these words together. The construction of sentences, of thoughts, of worlds. But how important is the craft if it’s never getting put to use. Is it even craft, if its sole intent isn’t being realized?

This is a first world problem. This is my current first world problem.

Pixar Animator Recaps The NFL Season In The Best Way Possible

Pixar Animator Recaps The NFL Season In The Best Way Possible [Art] – ComicsAlliance 

I don’t really care much about football, but I would if it looked like this. Except for the Cleveland Browns…that was pretty icky.

The Briar King Wakes

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Working on a story idea, and being a visual person, I sometimes need to doodle my v
Characters to make them more ‘real’. This is Dyer, a ranger sworn to protect the realm from any threat coming from within the briar.