Monday, December 14, 2015

Bruce Bickford's Cas'l is finally released on DVD + some musings

I've been waiting and dreaming of this for so long I had given up hope and completely forgotten about it, but I just checked out of the blue and it is here at last!!!

Here's a very old video - I haven't been able to find a recent trailer or anything:

This clip is interlaced - I'm sure for the DVD release it's got the deluxe treatment.

Here's the ordering page on his website: Cas'l DVD

I tried to order the special edition from eBay but nothing was found there. Only 100 copies were released, so I guess they're already sold out.

I posted about this on and made some observations about Bruce and his work - a subject I've long been fascinated with. I'll collect those posts here along with the video clips I linked there:

* * *

He tends heavily toward mythology. I happened to be reading Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth last night and he says just about every culture developed myths in which characters are killed and dissolve into the ground, only to spring forth in different forms - usually as vegetation. These are the myths of people who had recently switched from hunting to agriculture, so now their lives depend on the fecundity of the soil. Bickford's stuff is filled with that, plus characters devouring other characters and mutating into new forms. Heavily archetypal/mythological/psychological stuff. That's why it doesn't follow typical story form - it's more like dream logic.

Bruce is looking like a holy man/ visionary these days:

I noticed another odd convergence between Bickford's work and mythology. He likes to mix up different scales - little puppets beside big ones etc. In Monster Road he's sitting in front of a big window that looks out over a vast expanse of landscape and he says he used to dream of walking "out there" and finding that the houses are really as tiny as they look, and he's like a giant.

Joseph Campbell also talked about the differences between the mythology of forest people versus plains people - the forest people never see the open sky or a horizon line, or anything at a great distance, if they would step out onto the plain they'd think distant things are actually as small as they look and much closer than they really are. Weird that I happen to be reading this just now.

Bickford also seems to be obsessed with growing and shrinking characters and objects - very Alice in Wonderland.

Not only does he look like our idea of a visionary, but he does seem to have access to a glimpse of the primordial forces inside human nature, though as is so often true in mythology his visions are tragic because of some terrible price a visionary always has to pay for that power (like Odin losing an eye to drink from Mimir's well and then only being able to forsee the deaths of all the gods).

I think the reason I'm tuned in to Bruce is because I'm always interested in psychology and especially the subconscious. Mythology is practically a map of the human psyche, since it represents stories and rituals from pre-scientific times that reveal how we thought about nature and our place in it, how we warded off things that frightened us and the various ways in which we put a human face on the mysterious universe - the abyss looking back into us. This is why Freud and Jung made most of their insights by studying mythology. And Bruce seems to exist at a primitive, subconscious level in many ways, mostly because of his complexes and what he refers to as 'dyslexia' that makes it hard for him to differentiate between the 'macrocosm and the microcosm'. Lol well and also all the drugs he did in the 60's!

There are several more new Bickford clips online (new since a few years ago when I last checked) - Monster Road and Prometheus' Garden are up in their entirety now. Not legal I'm sure, but if people can finally see the films some might decide to buy the DVDs and support Bruce.

There are also a couple of clips of him giving talks. Interesting to hear him say he wished his animation was more coherent and had more of a story to it. At one point he said it's like looking into a washing machine, just everything moving all at once, and seeing it makes him feel nervous. He said when he animates he's not worried about story, he just wants to get something on film. This confirms my suspicions that his animation is done compulsively, as a warding-off. I feel like I'm getting to know him on some level now. I notice he sometimes uses phrases his dad used in Monster Road, and that the countless newspaper and magazine pictures George had taped up all over the walls in his house seem to be the material Bruce uses in his films - 20th century American cultural icons and pop culture references.

Historically there's always been a link between madness and prophecy or holiness, because madness opens up the unconscious and brings forth the archetypal forces that normally lie dormant until we're undergoing some important transition or crisis. The disturbed mind constantly sees those nightmarish visions that are locked away most of the time for the rest of us. And psychedelic drugs also open up the consciousness for those who are tuned in to the deep insights. Thinking of it this way it's easy to see why prophecy is always associated with madness and tragedy - they seem to be the price of profound insight into the psyche.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

My new film analysis blog has dropped

I've finally gone public with it. It was created to contain my Black Swan analysis, which has been in the works for some time. It's actually not fully finished yet (the Black Swan analysis), but then each time I think it is I end up discovering new stuff that requires further investigation and more writing, so I decided to go ahead and post it - it'll be a work in progress for some time now.

The latest post is a quick stream-of-consciousness writeup on the character web in Marvel's Jessica Jones, the new Netflix series. Turns out it's all built around abuse and trauma, and examines it in many ways, which for me makes it a  very intriguing show. I love when a work of fiction is built around some theme or idea, and I tend toward the more psychological ones, so this is right up my alley. I also am strongly interested in character driven drama, and JJ is an excellent example of that as well.

So, if you're interested in that sort of thing, pop on by and check it out!!

Oh hey - maybe I should post a link!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Filmmaking System

Note - it should be obvious, but everything I write in these Filmmaking System posts is specifically about my situation and my cameras. It's not meant to be general advice for anyone who's trying to learn filmmaking, although I'm sure some of it will apply fairly universally.

  • Keep the Leatherman on your belt with the big flat screwdriver open all the time - unless you have a quarter in your pocket to tighten and loosen screws on quick release plates and swivel heads etc. 
  • If you're using a microphone mounted on the camera, turn it around when you're standing behind the camera and talking.
  • Record some room ambience to plug in to shots that need it.
  • A monopod makes a pretty serviceable steadicam if you attach something heavy like a superclamp to the bottom of it. 
  • replace room lights with daylight balanced bulbs - then it will match daylight coming in through windows and make white balancing much easier, plus lamps won't have a weird yellow or red color in the finished film.
  • If you do a custom white balance each time you move into new lighting situations (sun disappears, different room or whatever) then it makes it almost unnecessary to color correct later, saving loads of time on tweaking and rendering.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Filmmaking System WARNING: (If your battery dies)

  • If your battery dies (makes a quiet sound like a truck backing up somewhere in the middle distance) remove the memory card and download it to the computer!! Otherwise when you put in a new battery it acts just like popping the battery out and replacing it (covered in an earlier entry about the screen warning Cannot Record - File Number Exceeded) - it erases the card!!! Though strangely, if there are any leftover clips that were already logged and transferred (in other words if you forgot to format the card when you put it back in) those won't be erased. Weird, aint it? The ones you don't need anymore are protected for some reason, but the ones you do need get wiped out.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Filmmaking System part 3 - more notes from experience

  1. Record each take separately, don't get long clips that need to be cut up later. This way you don't forget to focus for each new setup, and you don't feel rushed while doing new setups because the camera is still recording.
  2. Use AF Single, not AF Continual. In Single it focuses instantly and beeps, in Continual it shifts back and forth and never quite finds focus or beeps and you can't depend on it to focus during filming. 
  3. If you're going to be starting a shot with an 'empty stage' and moving something into frame, place it where it needs to end up, focus on it, then move it out of shot and start filming.
  4. Best to use infinity focus for most shots, except when you want a shallow depth of field for special impact. If you're a one man crew this saves a lot of headaches. 
  5. When the screen says "Cannot Record - File Limit Exceeded" it really means it - you can override the warning by popping the battery out and back in, but that erases the card and all previous shots are lost forever. 
  6. If you move into a new location with different lighting, re-set white balance. The Color Checker card's white rectangle is big enough to use for setting a custom white balance, which is necessary if you have a mix of daylight and indoor lighting.
  7. Switch off phones when shooting or they will start ringing and ruin your best shot. Maybe hang a "Filming in progress, please don't disturb" sign on the door, but I doubt it would stop anyone from knocking anyway.
  8. Only have your current project open in Final Cut or whatever footage you log and transfer will end up in the wrong one and you'll need to copy/paste it in.
  9. Find an interesting and quick way to do things - don't record a lot of bland footage of ordinary stuff nobody wants to see. It needs to catch the eye and fascinate, like a magic trick.
  10. Do more with less. Stage in depth (Citizen Kane style, but I don't need deep focus, I sorta dig the shallow focus). This way you can show several things in the same frame, rather than having to cut together different clips. Reduces camera setups and editing. 

Concerning cooking shots:

  • Trying to move the camera around to get a montage, you're either going to end up with a good meal or a good shot - pretty hard to get both. Especially if you have multiple burners going at once. 
  • You can concentrate more on the cooking if you get the whole thing in one wide shot. Using 2 cameras can allow for some cutting back and forth between A and B rolls.

Monday, October 26, 2015


It took a lot longer than expected - that's because I'm trying to learn video editing software as I go. It's also filled with mistakes, but I'm leaving it as is and calling it a learning experience. There are parts of it I'm happy with.. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Filmmaking System part 2 -- concerning the remote monitor

New stuff I've learned and need to remember:

  • Don't hot-plug HDMI cables! Have both devices (camera and monitor) switched OFF when plugging or unplugging cable. Hot-plugging can damage the electronics, and will most likely cause the camera and monitor to both shut down suddenly after working for a little while. 
  • Don't change anything on the monitor after recording begins or the monitor will shut down instantly and the camera will stop recording.
  • Always remove battery from back of monitor when it's not being used - it drains even while shut off. See about getting a power adapter for it since it gets used only in the studio. 
  • If you forget and hot-plug the HDMI cable or change a setting on the monitor and it screws everything up, you probably need to re-format the memory card before camera will record properly again.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Putting a system in place for filmmaking

Finished the solenoid actuator bracket late last night after a marathon two-day build - got hours of video to edit down to a montage that will go live today or tomorrow. And learned lots of lessons about how to do filmmaking right (and wrong).

Notes I jotted down during the shoot:
  • Never use the GF3 when you can use the GH2
  • Go to the extra trouble to do each shot right - don't get lazy and end up capturing crap shots.
  • When going in for a closer shot change to a different viewing angle as well.
  • Move camera around a lot - you don't want an entire film shot from a single viewing angle.
  • Be creative with camera angle and lighting.
  • Use B camera to capture incidental stuff to fill in the story.
  • Shut off music while filming - otherwise you'll need to replace the entire sound track. 
  • Don't sing or whistle or say dumb stuff while camera is rolling - see previous item.
  • Clean up areas that don't look good. Clean them thoroughly - dust, cobwebs and dog hair will show up clearly in HD.
  • Make SURE camera is properly focused!!! And make sure it's recording.
  • Look at the lens - don't look at yourself in the monitor! (when shooting yourself)
  • Pull battery before it's fully discharged and pop it in the charger - have 2 fully charged ones always ready to roll (or 1 charged and 1 charging). Also have spare memory cards close at hand. Need to come up with  system to temp mark batteries to show if they're charged or discharged at a glance. 
  • Always transport memory cards in protective cases.
  • Before hitting record button, always check time remaining and battery life.
  • Always double check that every shot from the card has been transferred to the computer, then clear the card, and always format in camera as soon as the card goes in. 
  • Don't sit and watch footage as it transfers - let it do it's thing and get back to work.
  • Have card already in computer before opening Final Cut or it will crash. Always save project after importing new footage.
  • Final Cut is pretty stable while rendering or exporting - you can hide it and use the computer for other things. But it's very unstable while ingesting footage - don't try to make it multi-task at that time. 
Man, shooting live action stuff is a huge hassle compared to doing stopmotion! Just the sheer volume of material you need to capture and whittle down - I filled up an external hard drive that had over 300 gigs of free space!! I've ordered a much bigger hard drive for this, and I definitely need to learn more about how to set up a Final Cut project and work with the files, delete what you don't need as you go etc. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Combining footage from different cameras/ different frame rates works

Tested several different combinations today - footage from the GF3 and GH2, both in 1080p mode, and both AVCHD, but one camera was shooting 24 fps and one was 30. Final Cut had no problem importing and working with the different frame rates (well, it actually crashed the first time when I tried to import the 2nd card, but after that it went smoothly). Quicktime plays it no problem. I opened the inspector to see what framerate it was using and it seems to have exported the whole thing at 24fps, which was the setting from the first piece of footage. So it seems it used that info to create the project and conformed everything to it. I even tried uploading it to youtube and it worked flawlessly.

I also tried combining AVCHD and Mjpeg footage, both shot on the GF3 and at the same size and frame rate. That also worked, though I didn't try uploading it to youtube.

Since last night I've been trying to figure out how I was getting 24p from the GF3 - can't replicate it today. Possibly I was just mistaken, or maybe it was in one of the photo modes (you can set it up in stills mode and press the dedicated video button and it will capture video using the stills settings). I'll keep messing with it and if I find it I'll write it down before I forget.

Anyway, now I know I can use a 2-camera setup to record things and the footage will combine flawlessly into a single video -- as long as it's all the same size (didn't even try combining different sizes).

One thing I've discovered is that I now need to come up with a much better system for logging my footage and storing it - I literally need to write down what I'm recording on each card and create a nested system of folders on a scratch disc to contain it all, as well as a systematic naming convention for it all. It's weird - adding just 1 camera to the production line suddenly multiplies the logistical difficulty by several factors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hacking the GF3 - Mjpeg 720/30p mode is now 1080/24p!!

Today I put Flowmotion v 2.02 on the GF3, which was formerly a really good stills camera (with a great intelligent auto mode) but a crappy video camera, with soft mushy details all over. Now it's a turbo-charged movie machine with crystal clear visuals, and the Mjpeg 720p mode is magically converted to 1080p! Not only that, but whereas it's normally 30fps, it's now 24. Perfect - it's a cinematic badass now, and with one of the 64 gig 95MB/s cards it will give an hour and 24 minutes (or was it 40-something?) of pristine video.

It's still no good for stopmotion - won't take a remote of any kind and can't be set up to full manual in any mode. Of course I could rig the solenoid actuator on top of it to push the shutter button physically - in fact that's the original reason I bought the actuator. But no manual controls is a deal breaker. So it's now my little fun camera, for running around and just playing. It was ridiculously cheap - $58!! I can't help but wonder if the seller made a mistake converting from Yen into Dollars and left off a  decimal place, and maybe when the money showed up in his account he was slapping himself on the forehead over and over or something. Or maybe he inherited his dad's camera and just wanted to clear out some attic space, I don't know. At any rate, it's mine now and so cheap that I have little fear of damaging it (except for the lens of course).

Spent a good part of the day familiarizing myself with some of the video features - man, today's digital cameras are freakin complicated!! So much to try to remember - I think I'll just keep it in intelligent auto and try to discover what it can do for now.

I must have been capturing video from one of the stills modes like aperture or shutter priority, because I just checked and in movie mode the Mjpeg 720, while it has switched to 1080p, is in 30 fps, not 24. Complicateder and complicateder! I suppose I need to do a bunch of tests and write down the results, make myself a cheat sheet so I know what's going on. But then, since this is really just a run & gun camera I'm not concerned over what framerate it's using, just that the footage looks good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Testing for my latest project

I want to be able to take pictures with my foot..

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Actual visible benefits of hacking the GH2 and how to access them

Ok, I'm in deep research mode and the blog is once again my notebook. 4th info-heavy post today:

This is from a thread about the actual visible differences between the hacked and unhacked GH2. I need to understand it and learn how to take advantage of the benefits:

"The hack version brings some subtle for some but big improvement to someone like me. There are three aspect where I find big big improvement, I put them in how the hack unfolded.

The first thing was the codec in motion (not shown at all in the above test). The hack does improve the image quality when in motion, you will see it much better in high detail scene. No more image breaking up when panning etc. Some have developed low gop settings that they claim result is much more filmic (with the latest ptool there is a bug which is causing some inconsistencies, while it brought 1 gop... avcintra territory).

The second thing is in the shadow details ala dynamic range. Where the base codec was smoothing any underexposed area, the hack just preserve the detail below (it even preserve the noise!!!). Just boost your gamma in post a little and see how those macro-block just pop up. Now you can meter to a certain level for the highlight and recover by boosting the shadows in post, effectively the hack has increase the dynamic range of the gh2. By 1,2, ... stops!!! until further test I don't know, but it is quite substantial and something huge for me. I would like to know (test) what happens to the highlight also, if the same principal applies because the codec is geared towards what I would call normal viewing. That is it cuts details where normally mister consumer won't see, more so in motion, to achieve higher efficiencies.

The quantization/gradient/banding setting from the latest ptool. This is another huge improvement from the hack. In the previous iteration of the hack it was seen that even if you could achieve some high bitrate on detailed scene, on lower detail scene the birate would decrease a lot and could be the cause of the gradient/banding on large surface of flat colours . The prime example being blue sky where the gh2 exhibited a lot of banding, even a bit more compared to other 8bit camera. Again I think it is the consumerist nature of the avchd base codec, tuned primarily toward efficiency before quality. With the work of Chris and Vitaliy they have enhanced/change the base setting resulting in high and more constant bitrate across the board, and the gradient/ banding is greatly reduced.

When you take all of the above for me the GH23.VK is a much much better camera than the base gh2 (which was already good) and as someone at personalview who has a red says "I'm a RED owner and am truly amazed at what I'm seeing" . Now, if you are going to shoot some family or tourist shot the hack is surely unwarranted. But if as me you intent to do quite some image manipulation, heavy grading etc, the GH23.VK makes a huge difference. The base image breaks down much much faster than the hacked one."

Every little bit helps (bitrate info concerning the Sedna hack and stopmotion)

For my own edification, here's info on the hack I installed in my GH2. The important thing to note in each block is the bitrate - that's the amount of information captured by the sensor, which equates to greater detail resolution in the video.

Sedna A - Max Detail Q20 version, including the Pasadena Pulse audio hack

SDXC card - Sandisk 64Gig, Class 10, write speed 95MB/s (the bulletproof card)

Shot done in HBR mode (high bit rate):
FPS:                            29.97 (standard in HBR 1020 AVCHD)
Shutter Speed:            1/30 second  -   nice smooth panning - tested @ 1/25 and got jitter
Profile:                        Smooth, flat (everything set to - 2)
Bitrate on playback:   150.54 mb/s

Shot done in 24P mode:
FPS:                            24 (standard in 24p 1020 AVCHD)
Shutter Speed:            1/25 second   -  nice smooth panning
Profile:                        Smooth, flat (everything set to - 2)
Bitrate on playback:   160.97 mb/s
I had to laugh to see that the bitrate is actually higher in 24p mode than in HBR (high bit rate)! Those are really astonishing bit rates - pre-hack I was getting rates of 114.26 mb/s (it looked really good even then!) But here's the really crazy thing... I just checked the data on a couple of the clips shot on the old G1 in stopmotion, using still pictures assembled into a video file. Those stills of course are much bigger than 1920 x 1080. Here's the info:

Shot on the G1 in stopmotion:
Uncompressed full size video files:    Size: 2963 x 1240
Bitrate on playback:                             1,216.94 mb/s (!!!!)

Uncompressed HD video files:          Size: 1920 x 803
Bitrate on playback:                             376.72 mb/s (!!!) 

Wow!!! Even after reducing the size to HD, the stopmotion files are still more than double the bitrate of the Sedna files!! And this is on the G1 - the first Micro Four Thirds camera, @ only 12MP. It will be even better with the GH2, a 16MP camera.

shutter speed for 24p video - 1/25 of a second!!

And while I'm documenting things I learn so I don't forget them..

The standard procedure is to always shoot video with your shutter speed double the framerate. Ie - for 24 fps, shutter speed would be 1/50 of a second. Or that's as close as you can get anyway - on a PAL camera it would be exact because of the 25 fps framerate. But it actually works better to use a much lower shutter speed, which increases brightness considerably and gives more motion blur. And by lower I mean 1/25 of a second. Sounds crazy, and you'll get a lot of extremely pissed off shouting from people who learned the standard programming and have never tried anything different.

I first heard this on the Personal Views website, where people discuss hacking the GH2 and other Panasonic cameras - it's to combat the excessive strobing (judder, shudder or what have you) that you can get when panning rapidly using a high bitrate hacked camera - objects moving sideways tend to show up as double or even triple images and move in a jerky fashion. The standard way to deal with this in film and video in The Biz is to always pan very slowly - they even have a formula to figure it out (and you know how much I love formulas, right? Pfft!)

Because of the increased motion blur it actually creates a much more filmic look, at least I think. Though that might just be my initial impression - frequently when you first discover something really cool like this it delights you and then after you come down from that and see it with a more sober eye you realize it's gimmicky and crude - time will tell. Anyway, now I've got the info documented here (and this is exactly the kind of technical stuff that tends to evaporate from my brain quickly).

Megapixel lens ratings - 2MP = 1080 HD

Just went through a little learning curve and I want to document it for future reference. For the first time I ran across something called the megapixel rating for lenses. I didn't really know exactly what a megapixel is, but I do know that my G1 has 12 of them and the GH2 has 16. So just now I was on the verge of buying what looked like a really decent 6.5mm wide angle when I notice it's rated for only 2 MP. Wait, what? Seriously!!?? I mean, isn't that like - totally 10 years ago or something? Who has a 2 MP camera?

A little digging turns up that while many cameras have high MP ratings for still photos, 1080p HD is only just about 2 MP. Ok, actually it's 2.07, but apparently a 2MP lens is good enough for shooting HD video at full 1080p. Though I wonder if a hacked GH2 might be trying to capture more detail than a 2MP lens can resolve? Would using it basically negate the hack? Like putting a low flow shower head on a high pressure hose?

Possibly, to some extent. I don't know tech stuff (love that line from the Terminator - use it every chance I get). But then I have some 1/2" format CCTV lenses that resolve only a small image circle in the center of the G1's sensor, and need to be severely cropped, which reduces the resolution to probably around 1MP. I'm not a pixel peeper or a perfection junkie, I believe as long as it works then it's fine. Hell, I love a lot of old films shot on 16mm film handheld with bad exposure and all that stuff - it can give a film a visceral punch in the gut kind of feel as opposed to a careful, overproduced and over intellectualized feel. Screw it, I'm gonna get it.

No good for stopmotion - the really wide lenses capture stuff that's all around you and almost behind you - you'd need a wraparound set including a sky or ceiling and to have the camera jammed way back into it so you don't end up seeing the basement walls over the edges, and a set like that would make it hard to reach in and animate, unless of course you're building a massive set that the animator can walk around on like a Laika production. But anyway, it would be good for some live action video stuff.

"In a megapixel (MP) camera such as the GoPro Hero line, the focal plane spot size of the lens should be comparable or smaller than the pixel size on the sensor. So if you are capturing high MP media you should use a lens that will resolve the pixels for the resolution you are capturing. MegaPixel ratings of a lens relates directly to the image sharpness, the ability to resolve pixels at a particular resolution. Using a lower MP lens than the MP rating of the mode you're shooting in will still work, though the media may be a little fuzzy (less sharp).

For GoPro Hero 4 & 3 video modes, here are the pixel measurements:

4K = 3840x2160 pixels 8.3MP (16:9)
4K Cin = 4096x2160 pixels 8.9MP (17:9)
2.7K = 2716x1524 pixels 4.1MP (16:9)
2.7K Cin = 2716x1440 pixels 3.9MP (17:9)
1440p = 1920x1440 pixels 2.8MP (4:3)
1080p = 1920x1080 pixels 2.1MP (16:9)
960p = 1280x960 pixels 1.2MP (4:3)
720p = 1280x720 pixels 0.9MP (16:9)
WVGA = 848x480 pixels 0.4MP (16:9)

For GoPro Hero 4 & 3 photo modes, here are the pixel measurements:

12MP Wide: 4000x3000 pixels
11MP Wide: 3840x2880 pixels (11.1MP)
8MP Medium: 3200x2400 pixels (7.7MP)
7MP Wide: 3000x2250 pixels (6.8MP)
7MP Medium: 3000x2250 pixels (6.8MP)
5MP Wide: 2592x1944 pixels
5MP Medium: 2592x1944 pixels

To figure out the MP of a photo or video resolution, you would multiply the pixels by each other. For instance, shooting a video in 1080p means you'll use 2,073,600 effective pixels (1920 x 1080 = 2,073,600). That 2,073,600 pixels is 2.07MP, or "mega pixel". So that means that if you plan to mostly shoot in 1080p (like we do) you'll simply need a 2MP or higher lens. The higher the MP rating of a lens the sharper the captured media will be, assuming you're capturing at a high MP that you'll be able to notice any difference. Using a 12MP lens (such as the stock one) to capture 1080p (2MP) content is theoretically not that much better than using a 2MP lens. There are other factors which affect image quality, such as the diameter of the outer glass element, anti-reflective coatings and of course the quality of the optics used (i.e. glass vs plastic)."

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Nice demo on camera movement

Explains what effect various camera moves can have on the story or the viewer's perception of what's happening. You need to know why you're moving the camera.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Got a GH2 and learning editing - keyframing brightness filter

I haven't made any direct progress yet on the stopmo flick, still haven't got the power fixed. But I did buy a couple of cameras and start to learn Final Cut Pro. In the spirit of journaling - largely to preserve the info here in case I need it later, here's the quick rundown.

First I decided to get another camera. Not for doing the stopmotion - the G1 is plenty good enough for that, but to document the process, to shoot stills (with the G1 in shot) and video and maybe even some time lapse. So I needed something capable of HD video, and I thought it would be wise to get another micro 4/3s camera so I could use the lenses I already have. Checked eBay and immediately found a Panasonic Lumix GF3 going for the ridiculous price of $58!! - they're usually more like $400 to $600 body only, even used. So I snatched it up, got a couple spare batteries , and then made the disappointing discovery that it doesn't do time lapse and has no socket where you can plug in a remote shutter release. Well crap! In fact, a little more digging turns up that it was aimed at people used to a camera phone or point and shoot who wanted to step up to M4/3s. So made to be used mainly in full auto mode, though it does allow manual control.

I played with it for a while, and cooked up a crazy plan to devise some kind of electronic shutter release using a linear actuator, something I've seen the Mythbusters use a lot for pushing buttons. Researched that (ok, I begged on SMA and Thomas Nichol was kind enough to talk me through the whole thing) and bought the stuff I need to rig it together, including a beginner's soldering kit for electronics.

Meanwhile I had also bought a 7" monitor since the camera's rear screen doesn't flip out allowing you to see it when shooting selfies. And it turns out it will work with a monitor - sort of, that is until you start recording, at which point the signal shuts off and the monitor goes black.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I ordered a Panasonic GH2 - a filmmaker's wet dream said to capture video as good as $5,000 cameras and nearly as good as the $10,000 ones. That's if you use a hacked GH2 - this Russian guy named Vitaliy Kiselev found a way to get into the coding and trick it out so people could start creating patches to upgrade various parameters of its performance.

The GH2s tend to go for around $600 - $800 body only, but I found one for $330. Started researching on how to hack it, downloaded all the stuff I need and when the camera came in I started getting familiar with all the menus and features, and suddenly realized it must already be hacked, because the ISO goes all the way up to 12800! That's definitely not factory. No idea which hack it has, but the amount of detail and clarity is astonishing. And it should get even better when my new SDXC card comes in - the write speed of the card determines the data rate while filming.

Anyway, aside from that, I've been recording some video every day and editing it into little movies - stupid ones at this point, littered with bad cuts and bad shots and every error imaginable, but this is how you learn. By the time I get to work on the stopmo flick I plan to have reached a point of competency with editing and getting the right kind of shots to allow for good editing and good storytelling.

Last night I was testing various lenses for low light performance while walking through the house, some dark rooms some lit, and outside a bit. And I figured out how to add a brightness filter and keyframe it to bring light up smoothly in the dark areas and back down in the light ones. Really sweet!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Brush brush brush..

Major unearthing done, and now it's down to the delicate work with tiny brushes, like any excavation job.

I'm going to finish this film

Suddenly decided last night that I cannot let this film die. It's so close to completion - a few more months can see it all the way through. As you can see, the set literally needs to be excavated before I can even get within 2 feet of it! So much stuff piled around it and on it. Let the digging commence.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Looking for

Here's the link where you can see it in's Wayback Machine:

It's with mixed regret and relief that I've let the site lapse. I purchased the domain way back before there was a YouTube or a Blogspot, and in order to post videos on the internet then you had to have a host site - one that you paid for on an ongoing basis. Since then of course things have changed immensely - not only can you host videos for free on YouTube, Vimeo or any number of other sites, but blogs allow you to also post written material and images for free as well. Not only that, but bandwidth has increased insanely since then, to the point that it's no problem for most people to stream videos in HD without waiting for buffering at all. Those little MOV files I was posting way back then were tiny because it was recommended clips be under 1 MB in filesize, otherwise too many people would have to wait a long time to let them load.

Well, today most people don't know what an MOV is or have the software to watch it! And they wouldn't understand why the clips are in such low resolution or so short, or why many of them have no sound (all to keep filesize down). As more time goes by the site got to seem more and more like an anachronism from some bygone age - I'm using Blogspot now,and YouTube if I ever want to upload a video file (which hasn't been for a long time).

So I decided to let it lapse. It just didn't seem like there was any reason to keep paying for it anymore - I didn't think anybody was even looking at it anymore.

I'll post that link in the sidebar of this blog in case anyone still remembers it and wants to visit. I just checked to make sure it was working, and was amazed to find the video clips are still functioning!! I didn't think it worked that way - text and images sure, but usually not the video. Maybe it's because they're quicktimes rather than flash? Or maybe it's because the files are still hosted on the server? Yeah, that's probably it. Anyway, at least it's still there in some form - actually virtually the same, as long as the clips still work.