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.