Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mike's McMic

Well I got the ME66 tonight. I was surprised the UPS guy even bothered to come here as the Topanga fire is about 3 miles from here. The sky is black with smoke and it looks like it's snowing outside from all of the ash falling. Here is a picture:

That is all smoke - The pic is from the Z1 taken from the roof just a while ago. It smells like a bonfire outside and smoke is hanging in the air like a fog.

Well, I ran a bunch of tests with the ME66 and A/B'd it with the ATR55. - What a difference. MUCH hotter mic. On the test I linked here, the first part is the ME66 with the input level of the R1 about 1/5th of the way on. In the second part, the R1's input level is at max. For both tests, the mic is held at the same location relative to me in the room.

Test MP3

MUCH better!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dog days

Well, it looks like my friend with the "kick" dog that we were going to use is not going to be able to accomodate us (I think it will be busy flying through some goalposts somewhere that day *cackle*). So, it looks like a small re-write is in order to handle the dog situation. I will be writing the dog OUT of the film since we are at the 11th hour here on this and I don't have time to secure a new mutt.

We will block out a new idea to overcome the lack of the flea-bitten mongrel on the set this Sunday. I think I have a decent idea to make it work without the mutt. Additionally, the lack of mutt here will actually make the logistics of the shoot much simpler so this is probably a blessing in disguise. As they say, a Director's job is problem solving :)

UPDATE: Well, the original dolly FINALLY showed up at the house today. I guess for FedEx, next day air = 1 week. Nice... Well, it's now on it's way back to the vendor. He should see it in, oh say - about a month based on past performance here :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mike, Mic and more rehersal

We are headed back to the location again this weekend to practice some of the camera moves again. Nancy and I have been discussing how to handle the second shot of scene 2 since it's a complex shot and needs a lot of rehersal. My buddy Mike will be there to continue his sound training along with Randy to lend a hand.

Bought a Sennheiser SEME66 ME66 - Short Shotgun mic today. This mic is renowned for it's sensitivity and is a much hotter mic then the AT-55 mic that I was trying to use with the R1. Additionally, the Sennheiser supports balanced operation and can be used directly with the camera. An added bonus is that the camera will supply the 48v phantom power to the mic.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Eh? Can ya speak up sonny? And get that damn camera out of my face!

Well, we spent a good 3 hours on location yesterday running through the tougher setups. I was apprehensive about the last shot in the film since it requires a combination of dollying / booming / zooming / panning to pull it off, but Nancy figured out how to get it down and nailed it. Considering she has only had the dolly/crane setup for about 3 days, she did a killer job with the rig.

My sound guy is now trained and understands what to do and we rehearsed about 20 times, got him to set his frame line and hit his marks and repeat the frame line consistently.

It's clear to me though, that the mic is not sensitive enough. The audio that I get out of it is very quiet. I have to take it into the computer and boost the amplitude to make it usable, so I am going to research what I can do to get a hotter signal out of the mic.

In addition to that, I have to have the sensitivity on the recorder maxxed out and the monitor volume at max as well, so clearly a new microphone is in order here... (oy, says Nance. Another expense!)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Shopping!!! Oooooo! My favorite! or, prepping for the location tests.

Well, we finished all of the shopping last night. Got the weights for the crane, shims for the dolly track, netting mesh for the background diffuser, keepers for the cables on the crane and some very nice velcro strapping for the lead acid battery that the remote monitor uses.

The monitor turned out very nice mounting on the center of the crane and we mounted the lead acid battery back at the rear of the crane so it acts as part of the counterweight system. Picked up a cooler on wheels so we can have drinks on the set as well.

Most of the gear is packed up and ready for loading for today's tests and sound training. My buddy Mike will handle the sound for the shoot so I will train him on the use of the boom, setting a frame line, and aiming the mic for the dialog.

Just finished loading the crane into the car along with the dolly tracks. It's a tight fit in the ole Camry but I got it all in there.

Going to load up the rest of the gear and get ready to head out now. I'll post an update tomorrow on our results for todays setups and testing.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cranes, planes and automobiles - And a couch.

Well, we setup the crane last night and determined that we can use it for The Aquarium without the extension. We will prove that out on Sunday when we test on location. It was quite a bit of work setting up the crane but once it was done, it was very very smooth and easy to use.

To set the counterweight, we first used the diving weights that Nancy had lying around and determined that 17 lbs was far too much. Since she had some 5 lb barbells, we put those into a zippered pillowcase and draped that over the back area of the crane. This turned out to be just slightly not enough.

So we tossed in a lead acid battery that the remote LCD monitor for the camera uses to add 1.5 lbs and a Makita battery charger to add another 1 lb for a total of 12.5 lbs. This was just slightly too much weight so we removed the Makita and I tossed in a book that I guessed was about 1/2 lb in weight and it balanced perfectly.

So tonight we will pick up 2 5lb weights and a few 1lb weights and we will be set with a balance of 12lbs to offset the Z1U camera. After that we ran some tests and adjusted the crane so that all of the pulleys and camera tilt adjustment were working smoothly. Once that was done we did some test shots around the apartment and the results were stunning.

Just as I had finished capturing the test footage into Premiere, the apartment building fire alarm went off. I looked out the window in the office and could see smoke billowing up from the parking lot. Turns out some idiot had put an old couch by the dumpsters in the misguided hope that by some magic, someone would take it away.

Well, the couch is gone now since some equally brilliant person decided to set fire to the couch. The end result was no one was hurt, no damage to anything except the couch and Nancy has a bunch of footage of the firefighters ripping the couch apart and extinguishing it that she took from the balcony.

Meanwhile, Nancy and I made the determination that for future shoots, we will need a vehicle that is better suited to hauling all of this crap. The crane weighs a ton and it's 6' in length without the extension so we will probably sell the Camry after this film and get some kind of mini-van or truck to hail the gear to sets/locations.

On the dolly front, Fed-Ex had NO clue where the dolly shipment was (which also included the mounting bracket for the LCD monitor on the crane) so she contacted the vendor and they were very helpful. They arranged to have a new dolly sent airfreight overnight to us (along with the bracket) so we should have it today so that we can do our tests at the location on Sunday with the full rig.

Oh, and FedEx did FINALLY figure out where the dolly is at. It's in Georgia. So it went from San Diego, to "somewhere in the twilight zone" and finally popped out of it's alternate reality into the wilds of Georgia. Sigh.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Challenge Du Jour: Shipping company retardation and other ramblings

We received the CobraCrane yesterday and we will set it up today to set the balance on it. We have some variable weight bags that use shot so we can adjust the counterweight on the camera using that and then weigh the counterweight bag and determine how much permanant weight to use on the crane.

We will have to re-balance the crane after we put the Micro35 onto the camera since it adds about 5 lbs. I might add a mattebox/follow focus at that time which will probably add another 5 lbs. The crane will support up to 25lbs so we will still be well below the limit. We will do that on the next short (Dr. Wu). We don't really need it for this shoot.

We received the dolly track on Tuesday but FedEx managed to lose the dolly itself. Supposedly it will arrive today. If that happens, we can shoot some tests with the combined crane/dolly setup that we need for 2 of the shots in The Aquarium.

Friday we will audition for the last role in the film and after that run over and buy the counterweight for the crane.

Sunday we will go to the location with the final camera / crane / dolly setup to rehearse the shots. At that time, I will be training my sound guy on the digital recorder, setting a frame line and managing the boom for dialog recording. Going to use one of Nancy's purses to hold the recorder itself since it provides no method for a shoulderstrap or anything of that nature. I hope it matches his shoes :) Should be fun!


Looks like FedEx has actually lost the dolly - So the vendor is dealing with them and I have encouraged them to overnight me a new one and make FedEx eat the shipping on it.

Fed-Ex: When it absolutely, positively never needs to get there.

I think in the future, any junk that I need to get rid of I will just use Fed-Ex to ship it. Gauranteed to never see it again! OK, I'll stop now :)

Friday, September 16, 2005

The 3rd man: No, Harry Lime does not live here.

Well the auditions yielded 2 out of the 3 roles to be cast. The last role, the tough guy, was never cast so now I have to scramble to get this part cast. I have 2 guys lined up to audition for the role this weekend though and if looks are any indication, I think I have the perfect fit.

The shot list is finalized now and we will go through it on the pre-production meeting to validate what we are doing. Next weekend I will be training my sound guy on how to use the Edirol R-1 and how to boom a scene for dialog. We will do it at the location and simulate the scenes so that he can get a feel for doing this.

October 9th is our pre-production / crew rehersal and the 16th will be the principal photography day YAY!

I have been researching how to build a low cost 35mm lens adapter for the Z1U but so far no solution seems reasonable. I have not given up though.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Auditions done

Well, we held the auditions yesterday and had a blast doing it. Everyone loved the script which I had some apprehension that folks might not like it. Nancy and I will be reviewing the video of these today. We did a once over last night and saw some very promising stuff but we are going to review it in detail today and make our decisions for 2 of the roles.

We still do not have an actor for the tough guy role. We had a couple of auditions for that but nothing was even close to what we are looking for. So it looks like I will be putting up another advertisment for that role.

I really hope to be able to start principal photography by the end of the month. My 2 stumbling blocks will be the dog and Paul. But we keep plugging forward!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Auditions: make sure you get my good side.

Well, I have about 12 RSVPs to my invitations for the auditions. Going to hold them at a small theater that had the cheapest rates for a location for about 4 hours. The actors that applied look very promising. Only 3 roles to fill on this gig so I hope it's not too hard to isolate the right folks.

The auditions will be on the 11th. I will give an update on that. Nancy will be video taping the auditions and I will set up the double system for sound. Should be a fun day all in all.

Tomorrow or monday we are going over to the park to shoot some test footage and record test sound. I will post some stills of the park on here after we get back.

Location, location, location

Well we found the perfect location. After calling the city permit office they assured us that the permits are free for students. But the criteria is that it has to be a school sanctioned project so that is out.

They want about $500 for the location permit so I am going to have to go over there and schmooze them and plead poverty so that they can cut us a break I hope. If not, we will just have to find a new location.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who are we? Sorry, no existentialist explanations here.

B-Scene Films is the production company started by my wife Nancy and myself. She is a Director of Photography and I am a writer director.

We are currently in pre-production on our first short film "The Aquarium" which will begin principal photography at the end of September.

In the pipeline we have 3 more short films: Dr. Wu, The Rash and Private Paradise. All of the films average about 4 minutes in length except for Private Paradise which looks to be about 45 minutes.

Some of the tools we use are:

Apple Final Cut Pro Studio 5 HD
Premiere Pro 1.5.1 HD
After Effects
Various Discreet products

Sony Z1U HDV camcorder
EDIROL R1 digital recorder (double system)

Stay tuned for developments as they happen!