Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good ol' Film.

Film is a medium of the past, right? For some, this is true! Why pay for film stock and developing fees when you can have unlimited takes on a digital video camera?

Many people forget that digital is an instant gratification version of film. ISO, iris, shutter speed... what does this ancient language mean? Nowadays we can just turn the camera on, put it on auto, and press record. Done! Sure this is nice for the quick YouTube video or shot of your friend singing "Mother Lover" drunk... but honestly? Why wouldn't you want to control your image?

Don't get me wrong, high end digital HD video cameras with manual settings are awesome. I love my HVX200 35mm Adapter rig. But in a way, I still feel like this is cheating. I could never imagine sites like Vimeo or YouTube catching on if 8mm and 16mm cameras were still the norm. In a digital age where everything is instant, why go back to film?

I decided to pay my respects to film and its history by investing in a gorgeous Bolex H16 16mm film camera. Without a doubt, the best $235 I've spent on eBay. When I got it, I had no idea where to start. I started fiddling with knobs and cranks to see what they did. I hate reading manuals unless I absolutely have to. For the Bolex, I definitely will have to spend a good amount of time reading up on this 60 year old camera to fully utilize its functionality. But just to say that I've atually shot 16mm film is awesome. 16mm is the "HD" of our grandparents. Even today, some low budget films such as The Wrestler and Hurt Locker are still shot on 16mm. Something about digital will never compare to the look of film. Sure we can fake the "look" in editing, but it will never truly be the same thing. The random bursts of light flickering as each frame passes through the projector is hard to replicate. The random film burns that occur when the film gets overexposed or too hot. These and more are all characteristics of film that can never be mirrored in digital video cameras. Many Directors of Photography (DoP) who shoot high budget Hollywood films swear by the use of film over digital. Only with film are you able to capture extensive amounts of detail in both the highlights and the shadows (aka dynamic range). Film is and probably will always be the norm for big Hollywood productions. The quality and dynamic range of each film frame far surpasses anything obtainable on a digital camera.

I am very excited to shoot on my 16mm. As soon as I get a decent C-mount lens for the Bolex I hope to shoot a little short film test. Considering you only get about three minutes per 100ft of 16mm film, it kind of has to be a "short" film. Anyways, until that time, here's some photos I've taken of my camera. Something about old cameras and the way they look just has that sort of vintage appeal that makes it a piece of art.

Here's my newly acquired Bolex H16 16mm film camera in all it's glory!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Playing With Lenses.

I recently did a quick shoot where I tried out a bunch of borrowed Nikon lenses on my 35mm adapter. I used a wide assortment of lenses to portray how they uniquely depict the image. Any of you guys who have a 35mm adapter or are considering investing in one can get a better idea of which lenses give off the image/look you want (distorted image, wide DOF, shallow focus, flattened space, etc.). I personally loved the shallow focus on the 180mm and the 105mm, but I also loved the cool effect the lensbaby created. There's a time and a place for every lens, but here's a rundown of a lot of common lenses one might have to choose from on set.

I've Got the Pug Fever!

I GOT A PUG!!! Anyone who knows me knows I am crazy about pugs! From the collection of stuffed animal pugs, to my pug calender, to my hand sewn pug pillow that my girlfriend made me... It's hard to ignore that I have an obsession.

While visiting New York, my aunt took me to a pet shop, which had an assortment of very cute puppies for sale. Admist all the barking and yapping, I saw the cutest docile pug eyeing me from across the room. I went over to her, and instant chemistry. I played with her for a bit before leaving to head back home. I had no intention of getting a dog, especially not while I was in New York. Something about this dog I could not get out of my head. So for the next 3-4 days I weighed the pros and the cons of finally getting that pug I've always wanted. In the end, the pros outweighed the cons, and long story short, I am now the proud owner of a 5 month old pug puppy. She's the best dog anyone could ever ask for. Friends for life.

Here's a short film I made on the first day I got Coco the pug!

So guess who won the "Wish I Had an Ikan" short film competition?

Ikan, a company that makes external monitors for video cameras, came out with a short film competition entitled "Wish I had an Ikan." The whole point of the competition was to make a short film with this concept of wanting one of these external monitors. Because I had already invested in an Ikan monitor, I knew I would have an advantage over the other contestants. I cranked out not one, but two entries to better my chances. One was a live action action/thriller while the other was a romantic comedy stop-frame. Sure enough, a few days after the contest had closed, I received a phone call from Clint Milby, Ikan's Director of Marketing, notifying me that I had won the contest with the stop-frame that my girlfriend and I had worked on. If that wasn't enough good news, he also told me that my other film had won second place. Considering there were so many great and creative entries I was very excited to say the least. Nothing beats getting a check for three thousand dollars in addition to a lot of cool film toys to play with all for doing something that I love. Thanks again Ikan for creating this amazing opportunity!

If you haven't already done so, check out Ikan's awesome line of camera monitors and accessories I can vouch that these guys do an awesome job when it comes to making great products that aid in the filmmaking process.

1st place: "I-KAN LOVE"

Meet "Cammy" the Camera! He spends his days longing for the company of an Ikan Monitor. One day, Cammy stumbles upon a short film contest in which the winner receives a free Ikan monitor. Cammy embarks upon a mission to make the greatest film ever!

2nd place: "The Ikan Difference"

When shooting HD projects, it is often hard to compose and focus properly, especially when using 35mm adapters. Trusting the resolution of a 1080p image to a small low-res camera LCD is a risky move. The only way to be sure your image is as good as it possibly can be is to use an Ikan monitor.

For this short film, we took the same concept for a film and shot a version with and without an external monitor. Please enjoy or comedic exaggeration of how much an IKAN monitor can affect your final product!

NYC meets my Letus Extreme.

About a month ago, I traveled with my family to the lovely state we call New York. I spent the majority of my time with relatives, but I always had my camera on hand. Wherever we went (Woodstock, Rhinebeck, New Rochelle, NYC, etc.) I tried to record something that would portray that location in such a way that would show the beauty of the location. My mother and brother were very patient with me when they had to wait for me to setup my equipment in order to get a shot. In the end, I feel it was worth it. New york is beautiful and magical place I soon hope to return to and make yet another film. Until then, here's a short film documenting my travels.

Thoughts on Social Networking.

It's been awhile since I've updated my blog. Blogs and I just do not "clink" (as my 10 year old brother would put it). It's been a very eventful summer and part of me wishes I had recorded every event so that I wouldn't forget all the fun things I've done and all the friends I've made. The other part of me fears that if I get too caught up in the digital social networking craze, then I will do things to write/blog about them rather then do them just because I want to. As the days pass, I seem to entangle myself deeper and deeper into this mess of online networking sites (i.e. facebook, youtube, flickr, myspace, twitter, etc.). Sometimes I read my own posts and think to myself does anyone actually care, and more than not I answer "probably not." I've thought long and hard about what causes me to constantly update my statuses, pictures, videos, etc., and I've come to the conclusion: I do it for myself. These sites for me are simply a data log of my everyday occurrences. To go back ten years from now and read old facebook posts is a way for me to hold on to memories. I wouldn't be surprised if 50 years from now, our grandkids were checking our facebooks to see the interesting lives we've lived. A virtual diary log that will live on forever in this digital infrastructure we call the web. Like all things, many people abuse social networking sites by notifying the world about every meal, bathroom break, and TV show/movie watched, myself included. In the end, it all boils down to "why." I do it for me and no one else.

Doug Smith

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yet Another Claymation Under our Belt.

My girlfriend Jenny and I were out of ideas for stop-frame projects. Jenny's mother offered a few, how you say "lame" ideas that we just laughed at and ignored. Well turns out her birthday was coming up and Jenny had no money to get her anything. We came up with the brilliant idea of animating one of her ideas for a claymation while still making her believe that it was a stupid idea. It took about a day to create and about two days to edit our little project. A few imperfections, but overall a really cool film that I'm fairly happy with. The smoothcam filter on Final Cut was a godsend for this project!

Anyways, here is our newest claymation entitled "Happy Burfday"

We had some extra footage/time lapses of the two of us stop-framing so I decided to make a Behind the Scenes video that talks about what stop-frame is and how it is achieved. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Playing on the Horror Genre.

Everyone has to make one horror film during the course of their filmmaking careers... right?

Sometimes I just need an excuse to shoot something. I found some really cool creepy songs online, and figured that these would be perfect for a horror film. Now one thing I hate about filmmaking: actually coming up with the idea. Don't get me wrong, I love shooting films, I just hate thinking up the films. Nowadays everyone wants to see something new, edgy, and controversial, but that's becoming harder and harder by the day. Regardless, what I'm trying to say is don't expect gold. This film is a string of "pretty" shots that just so happen to tell a simplistic and trivial story. If you don't enjoy the film for its content appeal then hopefully you will at least appreciate the cinematography/lighting. I also worked to try and utilize my dolly and slider for those slow punch ins to draw out suspense and create uneasiness.

Please enjoy my latest film "Welcome Home"

Those of you that have seen Sculpey the Slug may enjoy this

Also, this summer, I got few more film toys to play with. The one thing I'm most excited about is my three foot Indifocus Indie Slider Pro. This device acts as a sort of mini-dolly that can be placed on a tripod head. This allows a quick setup for simple dolly/movement shots. Another plus about the slider is the fact that it has different resistance settings so you can get that really consistent smooth dolly look that we've all seen in Hollywood films. My only qualm with the slider (and this may be related to my tripod) is when the camera is fully extended to one end of the slider, there is a bit of sag. I'm sure with bigger beefier tripods, this would not be a problem. My 501 HDV head really does not like the added weight. But for now I will use the slider in moderation or when doing quick ground dollies, which by the way looks amazing. Regardless, I'm very happy with the slider. Yet another weapon to add to the arsenal of filmmaking tools in my possession.

Here's a quick test of a few shots I got with the Indie Slider. Enjoy!

"Pancakes and Death"

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Future of Digital CInema?

The death of SD is imminent. So many people, including myself, are selling their souls to HD. What many people don't realize is just because you have an "HD camera" does not necessarily mean you have the quality of HD. You simply have the resolution sizes of 720x1260 or 1080x1920. Why else would there be $200 HD cameras and then $30,000 HD cameras?

HD is slowly becoming the new SD. I look at HD footage now and sometimes think to myself... "Is that all?" I know HD cameras are capable of recording gorgeous images, but bigger and better resolution sizes are on the horizon. Just look at the RED One camera which records an image 2x that of 1080p HD, and this is only the beginning. RED is supposedly engineering a sensor that is capable of recording an image that is 15,750 pixels by 28,000 pixels. WOW! To see an image that high quality with that amount of detail would probably make our heads explode. Not to mention we currently have no way of projecting an image that high quality, but still, RED is working on it.

Just look at this comparison chart

It just blows my mind to think that there is something bigger and better than HD out there, and it's not film. In fact, RED's camera "The EPIC", appropriately named, has an even higher resolution than IMAX 70mm film. This means that in a few years, indie filmmakers will be able to afford and produce a film shot at the resolution of IMAX on a camera no bigger than a standard Panasonic HVX or Sony EX1 camera rig.

Here's a look at the different sensor's used to record your image

The 2/3" sensor on top is what is common in most high end HD camcorders. Now look at RED's Epic sensor on the bottom. Just the sheer magnitude of it blows my mind! Imagine getting dust on that bad boy. A sure fire way to ruin your day! Anyways, this is what we're dealing with. Every frame shot on the Epic camera at a resolution of 15,750x28,000 will be the equivalent to a 261 megapixel image taken on a still camera. It's questionable to say how practical it would be shooting an image with such high a resolution, but simply to say we can is a feat in itself.

Also, with the emerging market for video DSLR's (Digital SLR cameras capable of recording video), getting a film like image is now becoming increasingly easier/affordable. The huge success of video dSLR's such as Canon's 5D MKII, Nikon's D90, and Panasonic's soon to be released GH1 prove that an affordable digital video camera with a built in 35mm adapter is in high demand.

Film will always have the nostalgic look and feel that so many of us film geeks love, but digital is getting very close. I would love to shoot on a real 35mm film camera, but financially it doesn't make sense when the digital alternative is a fraction of the cost. So for now I am forced to shoot all digital, but that's not looking like such a bad option anymore. Digital is slowly catching up to the look of film, both in quality and resolution. It's hard to predict what will happen in the next few years, but I am most certain there will be changes.

Take a look for yourself! If someone told me">this was shot on film, I would believe them.

Is film dead? Of course not. I'm sure big budget Hollywood productions will continue to shoot on 35mm film for many years to come, but then again many big time film directors, like Steven Soderbergh, are switching to an all digital workflow. I am curious to see in the coming years if other directors will follow suit and abandon film altogether.

So the question is, why would you spend the money to shoot on film stock when you can get an identical or better image from a digital video camera? Only time will tell.

The future is looking very bright for Indie filmmakers like myself. I can't wait to see what's in store!

Monday, May 18, 2009


... is the name of our 2009 neo-noir film made by the Film Production Coalition. I was fortunate enough to be cast as the DP (Director of Photography) for the film, which means I got to use my HVX 35mm adapter setup!! Going into the film, my biggest concern was all the night shoots because my HVX does NOT like low light situations. With most night shoots the hardest thing is lighting for night. A number of shoots proved to be very difficult, but in the end we worked through them all.

We finished principal photography a few weeks ago and now the post team is hard at work. We have a rough cut done now, and our sound guy Ed is hard at work sound mixing the film. I sat in on a color correcting session with Ben Bunch to give my input on different color palettes. I'm really happy with the way things are going and I can't wait to watch it on the big screen on May 30th!

In the editing suite

Here's our 45 minute film in the FCP timeline (look at all the different clips!!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Paper or Plastic"

This is the first short film I have ever made for a class at UCSC. One of the assignments for Film 170B is to make a short narrative film. Because my first film treatment got rejected, I came up with a second film treatment as a joke. Once I started working on this project I realized that it was turning into a really fun short film. Filmed in the course of a week on my HVX 35mm adapter setup

HVX 35mm Rig

Here's a screen grab from the film I edited in Photoshop
"Paper or Plastic"

And without further adieu, here is my first serious short film

"Paper or Plastic" from KMPer02 on Vimeo.


The National Holiday for smoking marijuana. I decided to document the the historic event that attracted over 10,000 people.

April 20th (4-20)

April 20th (4-20)

April 20th (4-20)

April 20th (4-20)

My first claymation...

Haven't updated this in FOREVER! Figured I'd just do a massive update today.

Anyways, beginning of this year, Jenny and I made our first ever claymation (clay stop-frame animation) entitled "Sculpey the Slug." Let's just say the concept seemed a lot easier than actually doing it. What you may not realize is this film is about 5 minutes long at 12 frames per second. Almost every frame includes some sort of change to the clay. In total I think I took about 3500 images. The project spanned about 5 days and included many sleepless nights.

After the final edit, I was very happy with the finished product. So much so, I sent an email to the coordinator of the Santa Cruz Film Festival. I was almost certain it wouldn't make it but it was worth a shot. A few days later I received an email from Julian Soler (Santa Cruz Film Festival Coordinator) and he said he absolutely would love to show "Sculpey the Slug" at the festival free of charge.

Sculpey is now premiering in front a large audience on Thursday May 14th 6:30PM at the Regal Riverfront Theater. Very excited!!

Anyways, here's the short film if you haven't seen it already!

"Sculpey the Slug" a short claymation from KMPer02 on Vimeo.