Thursday, December 30, 2010

MH Update

There's a good chance that a new Marble Hornets won't be posted until 2011. That's kind of frustrating. The "powers that be" are holding up a stop sign at the moment until one or two details are ironed out. I guess I'll just consider it a longer than expected break. I'm getting antsy. I really hate making people wait.

So to keep you occupied for... however long it takes you to read it, I'll talk about some kind of neat production stuff.

So far, all of the entries of season two have been co-directed, a pretty big change from season one, which I attempted to direct all on my own. I was stubborn on how I wanted everything to go, and didn't want to give up the reigns easily. But I think I've grown out of that now, and am more willing to let someone else have a turn. Most everyone involved with Marble Hornets is a seasoned veteran by now and knows precisely the look we need. Unsurprisingly, it's Joseph that has stepped up on multiple occasions, usually when I'm already involved in a scene with Jessica, to sit with us during rehearsal and give us feedback. When the camera starts rolling, he becomes a really sharp listener and isn't shy to let us know when something isn't working. I should point out that he's had absolutely no experience with this kind of stuff before Marble Hornets started, so it's really cool that he's caught on so easily. I know he sounds all self deprecating in the radio interview , but he basically knows what he's doing as far as actual shooting is involved. He just wants attention. Don't give it to him.

Oh yeah, something else I've been meaning to comment on for a while now. Our acting. I read all the major forums dedicated to Marble Hornets every other day or so, and I'm happy to see that people seem to think I've gotten better at playing Jay. I must admit, in season one I wasn't too concerned with him as a character, I opted instead to have him as an extension of the camera. A medium for the story to be told, if it doesn't sound too pretentious (it probably does). The Gordon Freeman. That's the best way I can put it. But for season two, without spoiling anything that's already obvious, Jay is going to be much more involved besides being the human tripod. Luckily, I've been in one of the best acting classes I've ever had since this season started, and I feel pretty capable of the things that Jay has in store for him. We'll see.

That being said, I know that I nor any of the other people in front of the camera are not professional actors. There's been a few performance hiccups this season already (the latest entry is a good example in spots). I'm not going to try and defend it against the negatives that have been said with stupid, clich├ęd excuses like "YOUR STANDARDS ARE TOO HIGH" or "LET'S SEE YOU DO IT BETTER". Most of the time what I read are valid criticisms. But I will say that we're trying our hardest this season to address this kind of thing. Poor acting can take people out of atmospheric stuff like this super easily. That's the exact opposite of what we want, obviously. So believe me when I say we're taking it all more seriously now. No more completely improvised stuff like in last season. Promise.

So yeah. That's all I got for now. I guess it's time to go get a shower and figure out what the hell I want to do today. Maybe drop kick Joseph off a cliff.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mervin Christums!

This might be the greatest picture I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

For a while now, Ellis (if you're keeping score, he's on the right) has been hounding Joseph and I about getting  some kind of "tacky-ass" Santa picture with all three of us in it. Just because. I don't think his plan extended past that. I was a little reluctant at first. All I saw was us being those annoying WACKY KIDS in line that just makes everyone uncomfortable (in my head, they're also making loud references to lame internet memes the entire time too).

I kind of thought he had forgotten about it after about a week, but this Monday he came into my room and asked what I was doing the next day. I was off work and so was he. Guess what he wanted to do. Joseph had already agreed, so what the hell. At least we'd all three look stupid together. Bonding time.

We ventured over to the thrift store the next day. I never thought people did much actual Christmas shopping there, but man was it crowded. The pickings were slim, no doubt because of it being so late in the season. Joseph asked one of the workers where the Christmas clothes were, to which we were directed to the "cart full over there somewhere". There was really only one good sweater there, and Joseph called dibs.

Fast forward to the mall. Equally as crowded as the thrift store. Plenty of eyes to awkwardly try to not look like they're staring at us. I know the feeling well, ever since that time in high school when I wore hot pink ski pants for tacky day when it apparently wasn't. Whatever. Once we were in line with all the excited parents with kids in their own tacky sweaters, we started planning out the picture. There were some great ideas tossed around, from all three of us trying to fit on Santa's lap to us giving our best creeper smiles directly at the camera. We settled on the least offensive theme of bad family portrait. Unoriginal? Maybe. But look at that result. Santa told Joseph to "take one for the team" and sit on his lap, so Ellis and I just went from there. I wish I wasn't covered up so much, but that's something that will be fixed with next year's edition, I'm sure.

Joseph's already ordered a sweet mug with the picture on it. I wish we still had a mantle.

So what's next for us? I'm thinking Olan Mills.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A different kind of waiting

You know what I hate about editing? Rendering. Waiting on them to finish, specifically. Once I finish something and watch it dozens of times trying to catch tiny imperfections, inevitably after waiting on the half hour+ render to finish, I'm going to notice something that slipped by my previously sharp detection device (eg: my tired eyes). And so I have to go in and fix it. Then re-render the whole thing again. This process has repeated itself up to 5 times before.

It's annoying.

As you may have noticed, we were finally able to shoot the next entry. It was pretty miserable. We woke up early so we'd have plenty of time to shoot. Unfortunately, we forgot to check the weather. Steady rain all morning. Freezing rain. Since we were already behind on our posting schedule, we pushed on. It's about a 15-20 minute walk from the car to the location, so hauling all the equipment down there, while trying to somehow keep it dry felt like some kind of crucible. I think it's a small miracle we made it there at all. I was wearing four layers and a rain jacket and was still numb. I guess I'll never be used to anything besides sweltering southern heat. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not used to that either.

It went surprisingly smoothly once we started shooting, though. I think it only took six takes to get everything right. The fact that we were all human glaciers probably had something to do with that.

Monday, December 13, 2010


We're still waiting on our stuff to get here. Hopefully it'll be here tomorrow and we can get some shooting done at our location.

Like I said in the previous post, we have tons of footage for the next few entries that just needs to be edited together. I apologize again for the unexpected wait.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things going on

I'm offcially done with this semester. That's pretty nice to know. It was productive, but stressfull juggling two production classes, a copywriting class, and an acting class all at the same time. So what's going on with me now?

NOTE: I'm going to talk about Marble Hornets. If you're someone who values immersion, you should stop reading and go play outside.

Right now, I'm trying to stay busy on Marble Hornets. I was really bad last season with having gaps that were way too big between updates, which made people understandably antsy. So I'm trying my hardest to have a somewhat predictable post schedule this time around.

But of course, there's been speedbumps aplenty. We were supposed to do some shooting yesterday, but there was a hold up in the all too familiar form of having to wait on a few important things for the next entry to be shipped to us from Amazon. We have a ton of footage right now that's ready to be edited and posted, but we don't have anything for the upcoming entry yet, so we need to build that bridge.

I don't usually post behind the scenes stuff, but I feel like I should give you something since you're having to wait a little longer than expected for a new entry. Here's a few pictures from when we've been out location scouting for season 2. Taken with my 47.3 megasuperpixel cell phone camera:

Of course, I can't really elaborate on the context of any of these places, or if they're even going to be used this season, but rest assured we've found some neato locations while out searching.

Other than all that, I have a few good ideas floating around in my head that I'd like to develop into some kind of project. Marble Hornets is fun to do, but it kind of puts me in a corner creatively. I feel like if I stick to a certain way of thinking (in this case, psychological horror-esque stuff), the idea inevitably becomes stale. I need to step back to something different for a while so I can come back with a fresh perspective. We'll see where this new stuff ends up.

I think I'll start posting behind the scenes and production stuff a little more often 'round these parts. It's fun to talk about all the things Joseph and I have been doing. And I'd like at least some record, no matter how poorly written, of all the work we've put into this thing.

Now to wait on some packages to get here...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I think I'm going to take a break from my usual blog posts just this once. I feel like this is something that poorly veiled sarcasm and bad attempts at humor will probably hinder. Just saying. End preface.

I'm in the same class as a ton of talented people. I've thought that from more or less the beginning, but watching all the demo reels really cemented it. With stuff like David's beautiful perception of people, Henry's amazing use of framing and color, and Scott's hilariously awesome change in energy, I feel very very humbled. TCF 312 has been a learning experience that I'm so thankful for, and equally thankful for the artists (yes, all of you are artists) that I was able to share it with. When Prof. Raimist mentioned that the class should consider who we'd hire while watching the reels, I could think of good reasons for every last one of you. No lie.

Along with that, this class has proved invaluable not only for showing the massive pile of equipment and the particular look it gives your films, the surprising beauty of DSLRs, or the amount of teamwork required to just move a camera along a fixed track. That's all good things to keep in mind, but for me, personally, this class has given me something more. Something that few other classes have succeeded in doing.

It made me get off my ass and just make something.

I'm kind of a lazy person. It's difficult for me to really get "into" things for some reason, even when the subject matter interests me a great deal. Wait, scratch that, I can get into things. It's just really hard to take the all important first step. I have dozens of projects stored away with nothing more than a bullet point outline for the story. I can't take the true first step and write the script surrounding the ideas. It's just overwhelming to think of all the stuff that will need to be done to see the project through to the end. It's terrifying, honestly.

But TCF 312 made me face it head on whether I wanted to or not. And it's been exhilarating. I love the high I get from having a project flat out finished. I feel so accomplished. And this semester, I felt it more than ever before. I'm sure I'm far from cured, but I've made a massive step in the right direction.

Finally, like I mentioned in class on Tuesday, I've really enjoyed working with other people behind the camera. I've had limited experience sharing an artistic vision with someone, but getting the chance to truly collaborate has been great. I'm so used to going solo with the majority of aspects involved with a production, usually out of necessity, which has been the case with my ongoing web series Marble Hornets (I'm not going to plug myself with a link. I hate feeling egotistical). The opportunity to be able to get a second creative opinion has been eye opening. I've had plenty of shots over the semester that weren't put together by me alone, but by a collaborative effort. The final product has been aided wonderfully by it, too.

So, all things considered, it's been a great semester on the TCF front. All of you have my respect, and I look forward to working again with as many of you guys as I can in the future. See you next semester.

Good Reels

"Sweet music and timelapse". That's what I think of when I consider demo reels.

This is more or less true. Everyone like seeing timelapse. Sure, it may be overused, but to me, it will always look good. It shows film's ability to capture something that's impossible to see with your own eyes (although if you can, please teach me). It establishes on your reel that you're a cinematographer that not only knows how to do a timelapse, but more importantly it shows that you can make something that no other artistic medium can.

But, of course, that's not all there is to it. You can have the best timelapse in the world and still have an unmemorable reel. It's overused nature is its greatest weakness. Since timelapses (timelapsees?) are arguably a staple in demo reels, something else needs to be in there that shows the cinematographer's creative style, namely everything else.

This everything else really depends on what the cinematographer like to shoot and feels represents their work as a whole. Most of the reels that I've seen go with one of two things. Either they mostly keep the shots wide, showing breathtaking vast environments, or they get in really close and show attention to detail with things like ECUs of people's faces or rack focusing on objects in the frame's foreground and background.

But really, there doesn't seem to be any real hard and fast rules. A good demo reel can incorporate anything as long as the cinematographer feels it's representative of them. And as long as it's obvious that there's passion behind it, it can be anything.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Demo Reel

I didn't realize youtube would compress the everloving crap out of this. Apologies for now.

Getting Fancy with an Artist Statement

Before I came to the University of Alabama, I was stuck with a tiny old sony handycam that my dad bought on a whim at an electronics store that probably isn't even around now. It had a super thick lcd screen no bigger than a matchbox. It shot to miniDV tapes. It took me a good two or three months to just figure out how to get footage off them. I had seen plenty of movies, but knew that they were made with big budgets, huge crews, and lights that were maybe a little brighter than the sun. I wanted to "make movies", but had to find ways to recreate the things I'd seen with what I had.

Which is what got me started in always wanting to try new things with video. I see having virtually no formal training until college as an absolute blessing. If higher end cameras, lights, and sound equipment were thrown at me from the beginning, I probably would have just gotten lazy and followed the rules to a tee. Being forced to come up with creative solutions for low budget video problems has become invaluable to me now that I'm getting a taste of what the professional world is like. Enough prologue, though. No one ever reads that part of the book anyway.

What is it exactly that I aim to do with video? I'll try and keep it short.

I'm all about story. To me, with rare exception, a great story can hold up someone's work incredibly well. I'm not saying that gives you the excuse to be lazy with everything else around it. Not at all. I don't know if this saying is mine or not, but I think that if you have enough creative thought, you can make a Mona Lisa with a box of crayons if it's all you have. Just be sure to go all the way and use all the colors.

My videos, thus far, have been about telling a story in a minimalist style adopted from these ideals that have been embedded in my brain. I like the low budget look with no explosions, call me crazy. I strive to make everything look real and spontaneous. I try to give the majority of my videos this look, but I refuse for it to look cheap. Having a viewer just think I'm lazy is not what I'm going for at all. I just want it to tell a story visually in a way that someone may not be used to, but appreciate as much as they would if it was big budget (and possibly had explosions).

I will be posting my demo reel tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

High Fidelity, an analysis of some proportions

High Fidelity is a pretty good movie. Actually, it's probably the best John Cusak movie ever. Except for maybe 2012, because that movie was awesome and not way too long and stupid at all.

So here we go. The opening of 2012 High Fidelity:

XCU of a record spinning on a turntable while music plays. Music is an insanely big part of this movie as you probably already know. Luckily, it's free of hipsters. Thank God, right?

In case you've forgotten the movie title since reading it a few words ago.

Cut to the controls for the player, then a surprisingly long pan along the headphone cables.

And it stops on the back of Rob Gordon's head as the music lowers in quality until it sounds like it's just spilling out of the headphones. Everything is out of focus beyond Rob. Like all those facebook "about me" sections say, music puts him in his own little world.

Rob looks up and, with one of the reasons I like this movie so much, talks directly to the audience.

"Which came first? The music or the misery?"

The frame is very tight on his face, with what little of the background you can see is still out of focus.

Laura walks up behind him, a neat little rimlight on the side of her face. I'm assuming it's moonlight. It makes her look "half angelic".

CU of Laura's hand yanking out the headphones.

Rob pulls them off his head unusually quick, giving Laura his best OH HI MARK face. The background is a little sharper, showing Rob's crapfully dingy apartment. Is that stretched out underwear?

I think Laura sees it too. Funny how prominent the music behind her is throughout the entire scene. Keep an eye on it.

Rob tilts his head slightly. I think that underwear is laying on a snuggie.

After Rob's awful last ditch attempt to get her to stay, Laura walks away. Again, there's the music in the background. Do you think this has any thing to do with Rob having to make a choice? Pfff. NO.


Rob goes after her, and watches her walk out the door. The music frame left shows some nice depth.

Cut to outside his apartment as laura walks down the stairs. The light facing Rob seems to be out. HMMMMM.

Rob slams the door. The movie starts.

Rob walks towards us in silence. Count how many times his music collection (or something music related) isn't in the frame. (Hint: It's like...never)

Rob starts talking about his top 5 all time breakups. The music comes in much sharper focus behind him.

But as he finishes up the list and becomes more self reflective, it falls back out of focus. The whole idea of the movie is Rob viewing his entire life in terms of "top fives". It's a brief moment, but you can see that Rob has figured this out right from the get go.

"Do you see yourself on that list? LAURA?! Maybe you'd SNEAK into the top ten!"

Note the music still in the frame.

He turns around and runs back to his record player in all his medium shot glory.

CU of Rob cranking it up to eleven.

Imagine if it was on some really happy song.
It's not.

Rob, with an excited little hop, darts over to his window. He blends in with the room at this point. If I liked sounding really "intelligent about films", I'd say something along the lines of "The music fills the room like an all healing liquid, blending him into the world as he aimlessly continues to live in his independent life" or something like that.

He leans out his window in a wide shot and screams at Laura. It's a super cheesy line that I can totally see a guy trying to use. I won't spoil it for you if you've never seen it.

XWS of Laura getting into her car. Strangely enough, it cuts before the door closes. I guess if there was finality to it, there wouldn't be much of a movie after this.

Rob totally realizes what he just said sounded really dumb.

He slams the dirty window, sealing himself back in his elitist music cave.

And here we are. The shot that sums up everything. Rob sits down in his older than time, but super comfy looking chair in silence. One light completely missing him, spilling onto the floor. Everything beyond that is in darkness. Exactly how he likes it. For a time, anyway. Everything is an uphill battle from here. How does Rob figure out everything he did wrong, and become a better person while maintaining his...

High Fidelity

Oh my god that was the lamest thing I've ever typed sober.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tim Meets a Priest

Don't like breaking the formatting, so click this here link

This shoot ended up going much more smoothly than I'm used to. I think having everything (everything) written out beforehand helped immensely. Also the fact that it was all shot a good week before the due date had something to do with it too.

I don't think I have any more gray hairs, which is pretty sweet. Next time, I suppose.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Roger Deakins, a guy that makes your eyes smile

Like a lot of other people in the TCF department, if you ask me what my favorite director is, one of the first ones I'd name would probably be the Coen Brothers.

But you know, they just direct (and write, and produce, and more or less a million other things). But their movies wouldn't look nearly as good if it wasn't for this man:


No, wait, I mean this man:

Crap, that's not right either. Let's see here...



Close, but no.

That is Francis Mcdormand. She is not a man.

YES. That's right.
Who is that guy? Keep moving your eyes to the right. It's Roger Deakins. Who is he? No one special, he only makes every movie he touches look totally rad and awesome and [young american lingo].

He's been the Coen Brothers' Cinematographer slash D.P. since Barton Fink, which was a weird movie that I think was supposed to be about hell or something.

But yeah, he's really good at what he does. Remember the opening for No Country For Old Men? He did that. And it was beautiful. Forget youtube, watch it on a good TV. Don't even bother clicking that link. 

For real. Don't do it.

Whenever you do watch it, notice how dry everything in those shots are. Seriously, if you could take the desert and somehow make it a shot from a movie, it would be any given one of those. It makes my mouth dry whenever I watch it. Be a sport and get me a sunkist.

He also did Fargo, which makes sense seeing as how it was after Barton Fink. Have you been paying attention? Huh!? Here's something from it:

The majority of that clip isn't what interests me (I'm a waffle guy), it's the first two shots. Remember how No Country For Old Men was dry and hot? Well Fargo is dry and FREEZING. Look at that place. It's a desert. Just with snow instead of sand. No one likes sand.

"I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth."
-Anakin Skywalker 

And that cold goes on FOREVER. Look at the second shot. Geez. Fargo and Pluto are apparently the same place. Fun fact: The Coen Brothers could probably buy Pluto.

It's easy to lose perspective in all that snow. It all looks completely two dimensional it that opening shot. Which is how everyone besides William H. Macy's character, Jerry Lundegaard, sees his crime. It's completely inept and executed awfully by his "henchmen", and isn't discovered before too long at all.

It's not even close, she sees right through him.

But yeah, Roger Deakins. He's a master. This guy does everything with a camera, and makes it look amazing. Here he is seen sitting down with two sisters, probably about to blow their minds. They feel silly because they forgot Roger Deakins needs two chairs wherever he goes. They will correct this for future gatherings.

This guy also sums up exactly what I feel whenever I'm shooting something:

"Things usually work out better than you plan. When you're shooting a film you're so close to it, it rarely lives up to your expectations while you're there. You always want it to be better, more perfect. When you see a cut, maybe two or three months later, you come to it fresh. It's generally much better than you thought it would be."

I'm a fairly cynical person when shooting. And I think I may be an irrational perfectionist. I'm constantly telling myself how something can always look better and that I've had a terrible idea and should probably start over with something completely different. Maybe different lighting, or different gels, or the addition of Roger Deakins (just kidding, I always think that). But once I sleep on it and come back fresh, I feel much more like an outsider and usually finding myself impressed with the shot. Or at the very least, it doesn't look as terrible as I had originally thought.

So, to wrap up, conclude, terminate, and otherwise end this pile of words about a guy who rocks, go look up everything he's done. You've probably seen more of it than you think. Here, I'll make it easy for you with