Time is flying by!

Whew, been a busy year so far and I've had fun shooting a bunch of things. First and foremost is that we wrapped principal photography on the documentary about human trafficking that I started last year. I returned to Florida to finish the shoot and I think we got some compelling stuff. There may be a pickup day or two coming up, but I'm proud to have finished my first feature length documentary. It was an interesting change from the narrative features I normally shoot and I learned some great stuff along the way.

As with last time on this documentary, we shot Epic-W at a 2:1 aspect ratio on Sigma Art zoom lenses. The sit-down interviews (not pictured here) utilized a Kino Select 30 and a couple 1x1 bi-color LED panels. We had a lot more walk and talk this time around, so I had an Easy Rig Vario 5 to help with the camera weight.


It may look peaceful, but there's danger lurking in the depths.

Interview on the beach

Some tilt shift fun with my Lensbaby Composer 50mm.
Recently, I shot another music video with long-time collaborator Emii. This was a no-budget lyric video, so we mostly used what we had available. Shot on the Epic-W and Sigma Art zooms, and lit primarily with some China balls wrapped in bleached muslin and on dimmers. I had just watched Dennis Villenueve's Enemy the night before and they really embrace the super warm yellow lighting at times, so I thought I'd give that look a try as well.

This wood wall treatment adds great texture and mixes well with the warmer color palette I was going for.

Gotta love out of focus backgrounds. For this room, I went with a little more neutrally balanced whites.

Tried to channel a little bit of my inner Wes Anderson for this shot.
I have a couple other projects I'd like to share, but I'm waiting to get some footage and approval to share, so those will have to wait until another time.


Hotels, hotels, hotels

Been a busy month doing hotel corporate work. I just got back from a week in Las Vegas where we shot some corporate events using Canon DSLRs and a Sony FS7. I stayed on the Canon 5D MkIII with a Canon 70-200. Being a live corporate event, we didn't have the opportunity to light and we had same day turnarounds on the videos, but it turned out pretty well all things considered. Below is one example of what we produced (we made 4 spots total).


Besides that, a few other hotel spots came out. The video from the Four Seasons Health and Wellness shoot last fall came out. We shot this on the Alexa Mini with Sony CineAlta PL lenses. The color grade is a little flatter than I would have done, but overall I like it.

Last month we also shot some interviews at a hotel, but while there took the opportunity to shoot a little promo video as well. While the interviews were lit, all the hotel promo stuff was shot in a working hotel and we couldn't light it. Still turned out decent, I must say.

When I wasn't working on hotel stuff, I was busy with pre-production on a nature documentary that I've had in the back of my mind for a couple years now. I met with some experts on the subject and have been researching more about this particular animal. Right now, I'm not 100% certain how I'm going to approach funding and producing this project, but will be looking at grant opportunities and making sure I've done all my homework.

In parallel, I've also been working on the outline for a feature length screenplay that, like the above documentary, I've been thinking about for years. I figure that if the idea has stuck with me this long, then I better do something about it. The outline is progressing nicely and this will be the year I finally get the thing written.

Back in the camera world, I also went out with a couple new RED owners (Scarlet-W and Epic-W) and did a little training with them, helping them to learn how to better use their cameras as well as some tips and tricks for setting up and getting the most out of their RED cameras. We had a great sunset that made for some fantastic cityscape shots.

Local rental house EVS had the new Canon C700 in for a few days to play around with. While I couldn't take it out and shoot with it, I did spend a good amount of time playing with the settings and getting used to the menus and buttons. As far as usability, I think the controls were well thought out, with logically arranged settings and quick access to the things I use most. I really like the design of the camera, so hopefully their sensor and processing pipeline lives up to the high marks I give the ergonomics and user interface.


A good ending to 2016

Whew, the end of the year really flew by with lots of travel work. The music video I shot for Karmin (see last post) got released and you can view it below.

I also shot some interviews and a hotel spot in New York City. We used a Canon 1D X Mk II with Canon CN-E primes. We were supposed to shoot three days, but managed to get everything done in two. The third day, after returning our rentals, we got to explore the city, which was fun. It rained a bit, but I took advantage of it and did some nighttime street photography. I wasn't super prepared to go out and shoot stills, so made do with the only camera I had: my cellphone.

Since selling off my co-owned RED Epic Dragon last year, I've missed having a camera to shoot with. With a pre-order in on a Scarlet-W, it was a matter of waiting for those to ship. Due to the extensive delays on shipping, RED offered a great deal to step up to the Epic-W with the new 8K Helium sensor instead. So now I'm part owner on a RED Epic-W kit.

Latest addition to the equipment family.

The documentary I was supposed to shoot in Florida went through, so I spent my time leading up into Christmas working on that. Although I had shot some short format stuff with the Epic-W, this was the first larger project test of the camera and I came away pretty pleased. I shot in 6.5K 2:1 most of the time (with some 6K 2:1 for limited slow motion sequences). Shooting 6.5K helped to save on data storage requirements. For lenses, I shot on the Sigma Art zooms (18-35mm and 50-100mm F1.8) and the Canon 24mm tilt shift. I'm pretty happy with the pairing of the Sigmas with the Helium sensor. A few screengrabs are below. The shoot went smoothly and we plan on shooting the other half in late February or early March.

In other news, the short film I shot this past winter, The Untimely End of Ms. Xiang, had a screening that I attended. The editor told me that everyone who he showed it to were amazed that I shot it on a Canon 7D, as they assumed it was done on a proper cinema camera. After seeing it, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. It's been making the festival rounds and has won a couple awards.

The house was totally packed by the time we screened The Untimely End of Ms. Xiang.

The DC tribute film that I co-shot, Fair Fight, has also been winning awards including "Best Fan Film" at the Action on Film Festival as well as Martialcon. That team went on to make a Harley Quinn fan film, but I was unfortunately unavailable to shoot that project.

There were a couple other random shoots mixed in there, interviews and YouTube content, so it was a very busy ending to the year. I'm looking forward to what this year will bring and am excited to push myself even harder.


October update

This past month has been yet another super busy one filled with work; a few shoots and lots of pre-production on some upcoming projects.

While it hasn't been released yet, I was very happy with the music video I shot for Karmin, Love Is Louder. I always jump at the chance to shoot in black and white, so was excited when the director and I agreed to go monochromatic. I was also encouraged to frame the performance bits in a "Mr. Robot" style. Hopefully this track will get its video release soon, but for now I'll just leave a few screengrabs.

Another fun project this month was shooting a lifetyle spot for Four Seasons. I utilized an Alexa Mini with my Sony CineAlta PL primes, with the camera jumping between a DJI Ronin, tripod, Dana Dolly, and handheld. We only had access to the hotel for a single day, so we kept the shot list simple and I had a team prelighting the subsequent scene while I was shooting. That allowed us to knock out a ton of locations within the hotel, before going to a second location to grab a couple last shots. I don't yet have any of the footage from that shoot, but will get some images posted up once I get my hands on it.

Most of the rest of my shooting month consisted of corporate interviews and a couple live performances (one dance event, one concert event). Since those were pre-lit venues, I didn't bother grabbing footage since I was more of a camera operator lead, as there was no lighting input from myself.

Besides the days shooting, I had some productive meetings for a couple projects, including a feature length documentary that we'll hopefully start shooting in December. I also attended Stan Lee's Comic Con (formerly known as Comikaze) where Nobility had a panel and I sat in as a panel member on a Low-Budget Filmmaking & Building a Team presentation. Usually I prefer to be behind the scenes making things happen, rather than in front of a crowd, but it wasn't too bad. The panel was centered around the award winning DC fan film, Fair Fight, that I co-DP'd a couple months back. I did manage to get a couple pictures from that, at least.

Last bit of news is that I decided to jump back into the camera market, as I miss having something where I can just go out and shoot whatever I want to, so now my business partners and I have a new RED Epic-W on its way. I'm excited to put the new Helium sensor through some tests to see what it can do. It should offer a lot of flexibility, giving us the ability to record everything from 2K ProRes up to 8K RAW (and all sorts of options in between). The payments have been made and things are shipping, so the kit should all arrive soon.


Rogue Warrior premiere, some music videos, and more!

A lot's happened since my last update, as I've been busy with numerous projects. First off, I shot a music video for Karmin for her track Love Is Louder off of her upcoming album. We shot that at the YouTube Spaces on a RED Epic Dragon with Canon CN-E prime lenses. The camera lived on a Steadicam for the shoot. The final edit just got locked and I'm quite pleased with how this turned out. I'll share the video once it comes out.

Next up was a lyric video for Emii's track Wait. It was kind of a rush job, as they decided late into the schedule to change from a standard lyric video into a lyric/music video hybrid. Since the song had a hard release date, we rushed in to get this shot and it was an ambitious concept with lots of set changes and wardrobe/makeup changes. We shot RED Epic MX with Sony CineAlta lenses. The camera spent a good chunk of time on a Ronin. I'm not totally thrilled with the color grade, as the turnaround was so fast that I was unable to sit in on any of it.

Moving on, the science fiction feature film Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter had its premier this last weekend at the Action on Film Festival. It was pretty well attended and I enjoyed seeing some of the cast and crew for the first time in almost a year and a half. The movie went through some extensive rewrites and subsequent reshoots in the time since we wrapped principal photography, so it was interesting and surprising to see the final product, as I was not involved in the shooting of those additional scenes. Here are a couple pictures from the night.

Rogue Warrior premiered on the opening night of the Action on Film Festival.

A big chunk of the cast, and then me on the left repping the crew.

Screen 12. Same screen where the festival debuted the last two features I shot for Neil Johnson.
Lastly, Action on Film also screened the DC Comics fan film, Fair Fight, which I shot 2nd Unit DP. Due to other obligations, I was unable to attend that screening. Fair Fight has also been invited to screen at another film festival, so it sounds like it's being well received.


SDCC 2016

Another year, another San Diego Comic Con. As in recent years, both Nobility and Space Command had panels. What was different this year is that Nobility has a finished project, with color correction, sound mix, and FX complete (or nearly complete). The panel was well attended and the footage looked the best it has yet. This year, we even managed to get Doug Jones in on the panel.

Nobility panel and screening

For the Space Command panel, they had to use the entire length of the table! The panel was huge! Hey, wait...is that Doug Jones again? That guy is everywhere! Unfortunately, I had an appointment to keep and was unable to make it to this panel. They debuted the opening 6 minutes of the film. The VFX were not quite complete from what I've been told, but it's a start. This movie is extremely FX heavy so the post process has been excruciatingly slow, as they're working on a very small budget for what they're trying to pull off. But they're still at it.

Space Command panel. That's a full lineup there!
This year, Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter had a signing. Dave Seeley designed the movie poster and was kind enough to let us do a signing in his booth. I'm pretty sure nobody cares about getting my signature, but it was fun nonetheless. The film is in the final stages of the sound mix and color correction, so the director says he's aiming to premiere it at the Action on Film Festival in early September.

(left to right): Robot Fighter lead Tracey Birdsall, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Marc Hawes, not-appearing-in-this-film me, and (just offscreen) Neil Johnson.
Other than that, at one of my meetings I received some great news about Mystic Cosmic Patrol, the pilot I shot last year. It seems that there is some definite interest in it, with a deal very, very close to happening. As we all know, nothing's certain until the ink dries (and even then plans change), so I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that project. It was one of my favorite things to shoot and possibly my favorite end product, as it looks fantastic, sounds great, and is hilarious. I'm usually very reserved in my praise, but this is a show that I'd tell everyone I know to watch.

Well, that's it for Comic Con. It wore me out, but I had a lot of fun and my meetings went well. Here's to hoping I'll have some other new projects to showcase at next year's SDCC!


Fair Fight part II: A DC Comics fan film

This past weekend I helped out some of my friends who were shooting their DC Comics fan film, Fair Fight. This was part 2 of the project, with my fellow DP Scott Baker handling the first installment. We utilized the same location and camera, a BlackMagic Pocket camera. While I've shot with BlackMagic cameras before, this is the first time I've used the Pocket Camera. The one I used had a speed booster and included a set of Leica still lenses with a Duclos Cinemod.

I shot handheld primarily on the 25mm and 50mm, with a couple shots on a 100mm and a single shot on the 24mm. The B-cam shot on a 14mm or 35mm Rokinon on a small Glidecam-style rig. Matching the settings from part 1 as closely as I could (ISO 1600, F2.8, ProRes 422, 120° shutter), we shot pretty much everything with two cameras at a time. I'd occasionally shoot ISO 800/F2 when I could, but tended to stay at a 2.8 to give myself a little extra leeway since I was pulling my own focus off of the tiny Pocket Camera screen.

Since the original shoot was unable to recall if they shot with the flatter "film" profile and then graded, or shot straight to the "video" profile, I opted for the flat "film" profile, as it's easy to get the video look from that footage, while the reverse isn't true. They were also unsure about the color temp, so I went with 4000K, as the first part had pretty orange tungsten while the blues were fairly blue. By splitting the two temps, I gave them warmer than average tungsten and kept my blues nice and strong.

I believe these grabs are off the ungraded screenshots. I kind of like the muted color scheme, as it fits the darker and grittier nature of the content. Part 1 has a lot more saturation and contrast, so these will probably get graded to a crunchier look for the final product.