We were in NYC for a quick trip and we wanted to do a little street photography while we were there.  We have always been inspired by NYC street photography and we were excited to use the new Fujifilm X100S camera.    

Click on the image to look at the photos full frame.

Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell Ep 1

The first episode of Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell.  It was an honor for Swindy Films to work with Casper Kelly and Dave Willis and bring this wild show to air.  It's always so amazing to think about what it takes to get a show on air from concept to development to production to post and it's an exciting feeling of accomplishment to see it go to air.  The directors are truly an inspiration of creative tenacity - they don't settle and continue to work at it to make the scene work.   It's such a pleasure to help them get what they want on the screen.  Here's episode 1 - Enjoy!

Is the Steadicam Dead? Møvi the next thing?

A steadicam created by Garret Brown for decades has been the leader in stabliized -floating moving shots.  Iconic shots such as first seen in ROCKY and of course Stanley Kubrick's SHINING.  This technology and gear transformed how the camera moved and opened up the creativity of the director.   I've worn the "sled" several times and on my first feature I did whole elaborate sequences.  I decided early on that that was not for me.  Not because I didn't enjoy it - it was hard!  A great deal of physical strength, balance, and a penchant for tinkering is all required of steadicam greats.  And practice - lots of practice. 

The specialilzition of this sort of camera operation led to the esteemed position of Steadicam Operator.  They really are rockstars of the set - coming in when needed - and working closely with the actors, directors, and DP.  Then they move on to the next gig - all while getting handsomley paid.  Mind you - the sucky ones usually only get hired once.  There's nothing worse then a poor steadicam operator - the director's sad b/c the shots were not how they were envisioned, the DP's mad because the Producer didn't follow the recommendation, and the Producer's mad because the day was lost.  That's the worst!

Here's a clip of some of the greatest steadicam shots EVAH!

So what does this new piece of gear mean for the steadicam?  Hopefully it'll be the "game changer" that's it's been touted so much as.  I'm hoping it's easy to use and will just be something that we'll never want to be without.  I have been disappointed with gear in the past - but this seems different.

Will there be a new classification of operators - Instead of Steadicam operators will the be a Movi operator?  And - how the heck do you make that long "O" symbol over the work MOVI.  A MOVI operator.  I think probably this specialization will end quite a bit.  If all it takes is strong upper body strength to operate smoothly the zen like balance of a steadicam operator seems overpriced.  That may me harsh but I hope my steadicam friends invest in this soon so at least they'll still be considered the Smoothe Operators on set!

Here's a video by Vincent Laforet. I was a little concerned that it made a bunch of noise. I've use the Kensignton handheld gyros and they make a ton of noise and unusable for dialog situations.  Vincent personally assured me that the MOVI is deadly quiet.  I thought they were trying to pull a fast one when there was no natural audio in the vid.  Here's the making of vid (as if you haven't seen it already!)

How to Plan a Shoot.

First of all - what’s a smooth shoot? A smooth shoot to me, is when every idea, every element needed, every creative idea has been captured to the best of budgetary and time constraints possible. And - that the client, customer, studio, network, agency is beaming with the success.

And - What do you do when the @#$@$!!! hits the fan on a film set and when your client and crew look at you for answers? You should be able to say “no worries - Let’s do this!”

So let’s start with the P’s. Plan, Priorititze, Punt. (click to tweet)

Plan. You must no matter what your position on set that day is to be prepared. If you are a director - you’ve storyboarded, you’ve got your director’s notes to actors, you’ve got your shot list prepared and you’ve got your head in the game. This is important whether you’re a film lighting technician and forget you gloves or if you’re an A.C. and you’ve forgot your rain jacket for the terrible weather that day - it shows a lack of professionalism and inhibits you doing a stellar job. Psst…you wanna do a stellar job today so you’ll be able to be hired on that stellar job tomorrow.

Prioritize. This means that you should know what’s next at all times. What do we next? What can I be doing? This goes from knowing and planning a shot order to know what important for the scene and what’s gravy. This goes from knowing what light is important to set and which ones are unnecessary. Things change on set and knowing what’s important is…important. I also like to think of shooting as playing pool - you should try focus on the current shot fully but you are already a couple of shots ahead thinking about your next move. If you are a 2nd AC your mind is constantly going to what’s next - slating, lenses, etc - it then becomes second nature and you get a natural rhythm. It's the same with all positions find your rhythm and know where the song goes.

Punt. Because you’ve done your homework and planned and prioritize you know when it’s time to punt. Sometimes you can’t get that amazing long steadicam shot that was designed because the light’s going fast and you don’t have the time to set the lighting equipment to keep the look going - and then you may have to punt and try something different. That something different comes from the knowledge gained from the prep you did because you anticipated this happening and now you know what’s important. So that way you know what to do when the crew look to you - you’ve got the answer.

Communication: It’s so important to know what’s expected of everyone and that everyone is on the same page from the PA’s running around to the head agency guru. You do this by asking questions and following up with people. Repeat back what was said to clarify and reiterate that you are on the same page. And - listen. Listen to the people around you - don’t interrupt, don’t be distracted - focus on what they are saying. This clears up a ton of communication problems b/c sometimes we get too frantic in production that we aren’t listening to valuable information. So listen up.

Sometimes in creative meetings with clients I ask permission to record our conversations - only for personal review. When I do this I am always surprised when I listen back to the conversation how much I missed on my initial conversation and by listening again I can hear a nuance and subtly that they were expressing that I missed on the first go round.

Surround yourself with people who have the same passion and focus you do. Be that person that assists others even if you are the leader - others will do the same and reward you with their hard work and passion.

Eat. Drink....  Eating right’s important. I sometimes suffer from low blood sugar and I get really CRANKY! And - sometimes where just a banana will do wonders for my communication skills and overall happiness. Stay away from sodas that will mess with your sugar levels - avoid the crash. Drink water and your watch your electrolytes. Be hydrated because there’s nothing worse than going to the hospital to get an iv drip after a long day of work. One of my first PA jobs was doing an ESPN commercial in Florida where we had staged a traffic jam on the abandoned part of the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It was in the middle of summer and all I did was run around on asphalt all day. I remember collapsing when I was finally done with the day at my house and having to be brought to the ER b/c of lack of electrolytes. It can be quite dangerous.

....And Be Merry. A good attitude is really important - smile a lot - whatever’s bothering you will soon pass. Things could be worse - you could be stuck in a windowless office at a cube with carpal tunnel syndrome thinking about your next coffee break and how you might take up smoking b/c they smokers are allowed longer breaks.  Have I mentioned how great craft service is?

Anyway - Plan. Priotize. Punt. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Stay Focused. Smile.

Bye Bye Final Cut - Hello Premiere!

So - I’ve made the switch to Adobe’s Premiere Pro and their creative suite. I decided to get the monthly service which seems to be about the same price because I update every year and a half it seems.  I was terribly distraught at Apple’s abandonment from Final Cut Pro’s editing platform.  We’ve spent many hours and projects and I have several machines that run it.  I loved it. 

But she left me.

 I came from Avid and Media 100 and tape to tape, and was the last class to cut film from Florida State (source unverified).  I have always been one to enjoy learning new software - anything that will help the creative and make the best possible project (and to give me more time to do other fun things!).  

So - I tried Final Cut X.  I used a very early version and it had it’s up’s and downs.  Mostly downs.  I couldn’t believe it wasn’t supporting xml and had a crazy file management system.  I did love the interface and the swipe controls.  I felt like I was in the future swiping things around this way and that.  So I did one big corporate project with X which I knew would be a one off kind of project - it had a short shelf life and a loose deadline.  Perfect for learning this platform -  It worked out well but enough for me to look for more and I knew I would never cut any sort of longer form projects on it. 

I picked up Premiere Pro shortly after that and I have not looked back.  Okay I did go back to Final Cut once just to remember the good ole days like 2011. (click to tweet) There were some start up pains for sure with Premiere.  It had a nice feature where I could use all the keyboard short cuts from Final cut and I used that on the first couple of projects. And then I decided on a project to just go with how it was designed and learn how they imagined you using it.  So far - it’s been great and I’ve become really quick with it.  

I’m a very visual person and I love the look of the user interface with the track colors and you can vary the brightness of the background.  It’s the little things that make me happy sometimes.  I love that it handles almost all formats with no need to convert - yippee.  I also love how you can make edits that are super precise with the audio - you can nudge clips with just fractions of one frame.  I also like the bins and how I can see thumbnails and play the thumbnails in the bin.  It’s great for reviewing your footage.  The "dynamic link" action between Premiere and After Effects works well and much easier than FCP.  Also, it seems like the compression is faster than Compressor worked and it seems to have a more diverse set of output options - great for multiple format delivery. 

It’s come a long way since I tried Premiere Pro a a couple of versions ago which was…not so good.  This is a lot less clunky and I’ll admit I’ve been editing with it for a year and I’m still learning it.  I think the most impressive thing was when I realized that I can edit Red Epic’s 5k footage on my laptop - bring it to after effects - play with the HDR function of the camera - smooth out rickety DIY dolly shots and make them smooth - all while being on the road and editing in a hotel room.  That’s just incredible to me.  I edit on a Mac Book Pro a lot right now.  

Now, I know they’ve updated FCX a lot since - and perhaps I’ll give it another try.  But - I am liking where Adobe has picked up the ball.  I decided to challenge myself and edit the feature I’m editing and producing right now on Premiere.  So far so good.  I’ve had to break up the sequences a little because the playback gets a little weird and wacky.  But, I think that’s more to do with the hardware than the software.  

I think an editing platform should be simple to use yet robust in it’s capabilities.  I believe for the most part - it’s all pretty much the same except where the buttons are placed (except for X!).  I do encourage young editors to learn as much as they can about the process and not get hung up on the platform.  You can make great projects on many different editing platforms.  It’s about making the right creative choices and getting to that polished final cut as fast as you can so you can play outside and enjoy the weather.


Night Shoots: How to deal with going to bed at sunrise.

So you’ve got a 6:30pm call and you’ve gotta go all night - WHAT DO YOU DO?

For those Vampire/Graveyard shift workers - Let’s not panic - you’ll get better with practice but it’s all about changing your sleep pattern and creating a beautiful slumber spot.  The goal is to be rested and feeling refreshed and prepared on set so you can be AWESOME.  So...

  1. Plan ahead.  When I know we are heading into night shoots I start prepping my body by forcing myself to stay up later and gradually get there to a similar schedule so it'll be a little less jarring come shoot day.  
  2. Try and get complete darkness in your slumber spot so the harsh daylight doesn’t come through.  They make black out curtains which work wonders - make sure though that it really does block the sun.  Some cloth curtains can still let a lot of light in so - I suggest testing it - and you may have to double up some curtains.  And - make sure they fit all the way around the window so no light leaks in.
  3. Turn off your phone.  I have an iPhone and it has a great feature called “Do Not Disturb” which only lets chosen phone numbers come through in case of emergency.  This is essential b/c you don’t want to be awoken by some dodo head who doesn’t understand your vampire working ways.  
  4. Alarm is set.  I enjoy putting several alarms on to gradually wake myself.  This annoys others around me but it makes me happier when I finally wake up.  I’m working HERE!
  5. Drink lots of water.  This is a common thing I always find on lists but somehow it’s seems to fit.   So hydrate.
  6. I use a sleep mask b/c sometimes the curtains not enough and my loved one is getting ready for their day with the bathroom light on etc.  I call it my eye pillows.  I use the one made by tempurpedic which lets your eyes open in complete darkness. 
  7. If you have a lively house during the day -  get some ear plugs.  They’ve got all sorts of makes.  I find the simple orange ones work well.  Just scrunch up and place in your ears - and hello solitude.  Make sure your alarm is set on high volume!
  8. On set - try and resist caffeine after lunch for the first couple of days of your new schedule.  It’ll really effect how much you really want to sleep when you get off work.  
  9.  Make sure you have a nice brew/whisky/scotch ready when you get off work. You deserve it. (click to tweet)
  10. Enjoy the sunrise.  And be amused at the whole rest of the world going off to their offices while you sip on your beverage satisfied with a good days work.
  11. Hit the Hay.