Friday, April 29, 2016

Field Test: 24/7 Holster M Camera Bag

The so-called "wine country" of Northern California is one of my absolute favorite vacation spots—not only for the wine but also for the incredible scenery and picturesque towns found throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys. There are photo opportunities at every turn, making it difficult sometimes to let go of my camera and just be in the moment. Nevertheless, I always carry my camera with me, so my most recent trip to Sonoma and Napa in late April of this year provided the perfect opportunity to field test a new camera bag.

The bag, called a Holster M is part of a new brand launched exclusively at Adorama. The 24/7 Traffic Collection was created for the urban photographer looking for infallible support and organization when shooting from location to location, according to the manufacturer. So the major selling points are durability and all-weather protection. Currently, the collection features six, lightweight, nylon bags, which you can view on Adorama's website.

Granted, I definitely wasn't in an urban environment, but the same rules apply for me. I much prefer to have a lightweight, smaller bag when vacationing. This forces me to really consider what camera equipment I actually will use (Am I really going to stop and set up a tripod everywhere I go?), and it surely gives my shoulders a break. There are many instances where I have chosen to make-do with a point-and-shoot. But for this trip, I knew I needed my Canon Rebel.

The Holster M is a medium-sized bag designed to hold a DSLR and a few accessories or everyday carry items, which suited my needs perfectly for a long weekend of wine tasting and exploring the countryside of Northern California. The bag features an adjustable, removable shoulder strap, a padded interior that holds a camera body and two lenses, secure storage for an extra memory card, an exterior pocket for your cell phone and other items, and a rain cover that stows neatly in an exterior pouch on the bottom of the bag. Other than trying out the rain cover for size, I didn't make use of it during my travels, but I can't say that I am disappointed in having sunny—albeit chilly—days for the duration of my trip.

What I can say is that I really enjoyed having this bag strapped across my body. Even when fully loaded, I hardly noticed its weight (the bag itself weighs less than one pound), and its relatively small size (11-5/8" long by 10-1/4" high by 4-7/8" wide) ensured that it never got in my way. When full, it easily carried my DSLR, a 50mm lens, a 28-80mm lens, a spare camera battery and charger, a lens brush pen, a padded camera strap, my iPhone, and a few personal items like allergy medication and a small tube of sunscreen. For me, it is the perfect camera bag for shorter trips because I don't like to be bogged down with a heavy bag full of camera equipment.

Editor's note: If you're curious how some of my photos turned out, click on over to my Flickr page.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The 'Cooke Look' Brings Murder To Life

When Director of Photography Julián Apezteguia, ADF (La Asociación de Autores de Fotografía Cinematográfica Argentina—Argentinian Society of Cinematographers) got the chance to work with Director Pablo Trapero for the second time, on the director's latest film El Clana dark story set in the 1980's about a family of kidnappers and murderers—they used a full range of Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses to give the film a “strong optical personality.” 

The lens package for the Goya Award-winning Best Foreign Film in the Spanish Language, winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and Argentina's Oscar® submission included the Cooke Anamorphic/i 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 100mm lenses, with Apezteguia primarily relying on the wider lenses. El Clan is the third feature film that Apezteguia has shot with Cooke lenses, and his first shooting anamorphic, using the Alexa XT in 4:3 sensor mode.

“Working with a director like Pablo Trapero is always very collaborative because he has a strong vision of the kind of film he wants to shoot, but he also needs to walk the path with his DP and Production Designer in order to find the way to bring this vision to life,” said Apezteguia. “With this process, there’s a lot of discussion about the technical and aesthetic aspects of the film, evaluating different options in order to get the desired result. This exchange of ideas goes all the way to the final grading of the film.”

Set in Buenos Aires the 1980’s, El Clan is the true story of the Puccio family who kidnapped four people and killed three, and how they live their lives through these events. Starring Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, and Gastón Cocchiarale, the story demanded that the characters maintain a strong look.

“We decided to give the film a strong optical personality, and for this we chose Cooke Anamorphic lenses with an Alexa XT 4:3 camera,” added Apezteguia. “I feel the way the anamorphics render perspectives, and the [unique] way they twerk the out of focus part of the image—what’s behind the subject in focus—gives the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses a unique look that is perfect for generating the feeling of a strange place or situation.”

Apezteguia relied on a host of other optical techniques, such as split field diopters, starting or finishing a shot with the image out of focus and even taking the lens out of the camera while recording. All of this helped build the optical personality.

Shot entirely on location, Apezteguia used tungsten fresnels, Kino Flos and HMI lights, both big (12k, 6k) and small (1.8k and 400w). In some specific instances, sodium or mercury streetlights were used.

“The main challenge I had to face was a series of sequences that Trapero wanted to shoot in a long Steadicam shot with no visible cuts. These were the kidnapping scenes (exteriors involving cars), the final sequence where one of the main characters jumps from a building trying to kill himself, and a long walk of the father from the family kitchen to the bathroom/dungeon where he keeps his victims. It’s always difficult to light a scene when the camera describes many different points of view without cutting, so I try to use the minimal quantity of fixtures possible, or use practicals so that they can be seen by the camera. Also coordinating the camera movement with the actors’ performances is part of the hard teamwork involved in the making of this film.”

Having used Cooke S4 lenses on two previous feature films, Habi, la extranjera and Dias de Pesca, plus many commercials using Cooke S5s, Apezteguia is very familiar with the distinctive look that Cooke lenses give cinematographers. “I like the texture they provide; they are sharp but not too crisp. I think this works very well with digital cinema cameras, giving you the chance to keep the cinematic feel working with an electronic image. They are also very kind to the actors’ faces.”

Apezteguia is so confident in Cooke lenses that they were chosen without testing against any other lenses. “We did extensive testing with the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses so we knew how to get the exact look we wanted. One of the interesting things about working with anamorphic lenses is the particular perspective they provide that is inherent to the construction of a lens that squeezes the image that will be un-squeezed later. Cooke was the obvious choice because we got the perspective without losing definition...and with the plus of getting the ‘Cooke Look’ for our period film.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Best of 2015

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

As the staff of Markee continues to plan our 2016 editorial, we can't help but reflect on the articles we published last year. There were so many great projects covered and interesting perspectives revealed. So naturally, we wanted to share a few of our favorites with you again. Enjoy!

After Post Afterglow
Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas from Screen Novelties.

At the beginning of the year, we featured a collection of articles geared toward independent filmmakers that demonstrated the "Business of Film"—from what to do with dailies to cloud-based storage options to following your passions. If you've already read this collection, it is worth reviewing again, but if you didn't catch it at the beginning of last year, I encourage you to read it now. There are many great lessons to be learned.

Changing The Soundscape
Frank Morrone at work doing a mix at Technicolor Studios.

In the spring of last year, we interviewed MPSE President Frank Morrone about how sound editing and production has changed during his illustrious career. "The big changes now are just in workflow because our track counts are getting bigger, and our budgets are getting smaller, and our times are getting shorter. That’s been the biggest change,” says Morrone, who has mixed sound for high-profile TV shows and movies, including The Strain, Boss, Sleepy Hollow, and the Oscar-winning When We Were Kings.

Lighting Up The Hunger Games
Julianne Moore from The Hunger Games. (Photo: Murray Close)

Last summer, we had the chance to speak with DP Jo Willems SBC about his work on The Hunger Games franchise. It was a rare opportunity for us to take readers behind the camera of one of the most successful series of films in movie history. Willems and his crew described for us in detail all of the lighting tools, equipment, and techniques they used for The Hunger Games. Budding filmmakers will want to read this article throughly—and take notes. Willems and his team have a great deal of knowledge to share.

Monsters Under The Bed
A model bridge—a bigature—goes up in flames and flying debris for a scene in The Lone Ranger.

In a world where digital effects reign, there still are talented professionals creating practical effects for movies and even some television programs. Last fall, we profiled 32TEN Studios, which has worked on practical effects for such features as The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, and Tomorrowland. "As you can see, our practical elements are always used in conjunction with CG to create the imagery the production desires. But without the practical, the virtual would be less believable in this age of digital excitement on the screen," says 32TEN CEO Tim Partridge.

1,000 Feet To Victory
A student from PS 57 competing in the the annual Soapbox Derby in Akron, Ohio.

Last, but certainly not least, we recently featured a documentary film that followed the students and teachers from a New York school system (PS 57) as they traversed the country to compete in a soapbox derby. Photojournalist Steve Eisen followed the soapbox kids as they not only had a great time racing, but learned valuable lessons in science, math, engineering, and technology. It's a great story that you really must check out. “As a photojournalist, working for all of the major networks for more than 20 years, I’ve covered the darker side of neighborhoods such as the one the kids were growing up in,” Eisen notes. “And I’ve also covered how competitive sports can make a big difference in their lives."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ancient History

By Tom Inglesby

Photo courtesy of Ben Weiner via Flickr.

‘Tis the season to be …cleaning out the garage in my case. An annual event that should, in all honesty, happen six or seven times a year, not just once. Our small section of Southern California has been experiencing a very unusual weather pattern this year with summer-like temperatures well into November and then a sudden return to “normal” temps (i.e., from 88 to 65 days and 65 to 35 nights) as we came up to December. Good weather to stay inside and clean, rearrange, reorder, and recycle. It’s also when memories come out of hiding.

When I left the sanctuary of being an audio producer at Encyclopedia Britannica Films to go out on my own as an indie, I already had been active sub-rosa—freelancing in my spare time. This was common knowledge at EBF since some of the work I did was for their producers, those not willing to stand in line waiting their turn for the studio time they needed. To keep a wall between the day job and the night one, I scarfed up a lot of used equipment to build up my own mixing studio in my basement (obviously, not in California where the term “basement” draws looks of bewilderment). The big recording studios would generally have time available for voice and ADR work at a reasonable rate for me in the hope that I’d bring the company’s work along. Going indie removed that leverage, but the audio community wasn’t that large and we helped each other when we could.

I mention those days because I keep coming across reminders whenever I start moving things around in the spare space in the garage. This time it was a four track, half-inch Ampex AG440 tape deck, packed away in a shipping carton, sans electronics. The 440 was the workhorse for studios in the 1970s, replacing the older AG300. Why I had the deck without the amps I still haven’t figured out.
In the bottom of the same crate were some of my infamous (in Chicago, in the 1960s) SFX tapes. At least that was what the boxes were labeled; the tapes themselves had long since deteriorated into Mylar ribbons and oxide dust and memories.

Once I had gotten my hands on the EBF Nagra IV-L portable recorder and a selection of mics, I started to record everything that made a sound. Growing up with radio as a constant companion, I was in awe of the great radio dramas and their story telling sounds. Music, sure, but the squeaking door, the growling engine, the horse clopping, those were the things that made you know what was happening without the visuals in films and the nascent TV shows. I wanted to learn the methods to making sounds that could be easily understood and add to the impact of the visuals in the films I worked on. I wanted to make radio shows with pictures! My most gratifying film work was on an Oscar-nominated short call Fire Mountain that had no VO, no music, just sound effects.

But all I have to show for all those years of recording is a box full of boxes full of dust. And the memories, of course. If you are still working in film, or have a collection of your work still in sprocket media, visual or sound, don’t waste another month, transfer it to digital, make copies, store them in Cheyenne Mountain (if you’re a government producer), buy a cloud and upload everything, do whatever you can to protect those hours, days, months, years of work. Or someday you’ll dread going into your garage to clean, knowing what you’ll find isn’t what you remember it to be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Roots and Branches

By Tom Inglesby

The old adage “Everyone has to start somewhere” is both obvious and somewhat profound. In the digital age, however, the “where” sometimes gives the starter a false sense of accomplishment before it is earned. What I mean is, the Internet is filled with videos “produced” by people with cameras who become celebrities and instant filmmakers without the traditional training and experience. If anyone with a camera is a filmmaker, where will professional filmmakers work?

Ages ago, I learned the trade incrementally. Back then, we actually had apprenticeships, learning opportunities at the bottom of the stack. I had a background in radio and educational TV from my college days before I landed my first real filmmaking job, as an audio engineer—the sound guy—for Encyclopedia Britannica Films, the premier educational film producer. In the late 1960s, I developed their in-house recording studio and found myself going on locations to record everything from natural sounds to voices with a Nagra tape recorder.

By working with the producer and crew in the field, I was learning by observation. And being there when something went wrong—these were, after all, basically documentaries and we know that things go wrong in docs—gave me both a chance to see how to deal with problems and be available to help solve them. There is nothing scarier than having a respected producer yell at you, “Hey, kid, get on that second camera and get to work.” Especially when you’ve never touched an Arriflex before.
Back in the studio, we dubbed the voices and sound effects on magnetic film so the editor could match it to the visuals using a Moviola. It was primitive compared to today’s digital editing, precluding easy entry by those with interest—and often talent—who didn’t have access to the resources. And that, perhaps, is where the traditional methods let us down. Professionals came up through the ranks before getting their big chance; classic story line. But talented people found many doors closed if they didn’t go down the university path or union apprenticeship. Another old adage: “You need experience to get experience.”

The cost and ease of entry today marks a change, one that lets talent be the driver not experience. But ease of entry also builds, it seems, an uneasy relationship between professionals and wannabes. When we have film festivals honoring the value of shooting a feature with an iPhone, those who labor long hours with an F65 might feel a little dishonored.

Some companies in the business understand the need to get more opportunities for talent to come forth through education. VideoBlocks is one, sponsoring a College Film Contest. Filmmakers at the undergraduate and graduate level are eligible to win a first prize of $5,000 by sending in an original piece that incorporates VideoBlocks content. Four runner-up prizes of $1,000 will also be awarded, in addition to a $1,000 prize for the sponsoring professor of the first place winner—a total of $10,000 in cash prizes.

Cinematographer and director Arthur Albert will judge the contest. Albert has served as director of photography for Breaking Bad, ER, The Blacklist, Better Call Saul, and numerous other film and television hits. The contest is an initiative to support the artistic development of the next generation of directors, cinematographers, and producers.

As one with his roots in educational films, I applaud VideoBlocks for their efforts and look forward to seeing the results.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Get Involved

Markee 2.0 magazine has joined with the CINDY Awards to connect with our mutual audience: film and video producers. If your niche is the educational, industrial, government, corporate, or other non-theatrical segment of our industry you may not be familiar with Markee 2.0. The magazine has been around for 30 years, in print and more recently digital format, addressing the theatrical film and video production market. In this digital age, the technology and techniques for that segment are just as applicable to the non-theatrical side.

Twenty or more years ago, that might not have been true. Equipment was large, expensive, and complex. “Movies” were shot on 35mm or 70mm film; educational filmmakers used 16mm. Today, everybody uses the same gear because it’s much less expensive and hundreds of times more capable. Yes, there are many more switches and buttons on a RED or BlackMagic camera than there were on an Arriflex 16 or Éclair, but that’s because they can do so much more in camera.

Since the gear and technology is common to all segments, why not adapt the techniques as well? That’s where we like to think Markee 2.0 can help. We bring the talent of major film and TV producers and production companies to you in our pages, regardless of the segment where you work. Markee 2.0 strives to inform and educate, entertain and clarify, just like you do in your medium.

If you are new to Markee 2.0—or a longtime reader—we’d like to ask a favor. Like you, we need information to be successful; we’d like you to share your experiences with us and our readers. There are two ways to do this: connect with us as a member of our Editorial Advisory Board or send us a note on what you are doing that could be of interest to our readers.

The Advisory Board lets us know what trends they see in the field where they work and what new and innovative ideas they have come across. It is open to practitioners and vendor representatives alike. Just e-mail me at and let’s communicate.

If you have a project that has found a solution to a problem, that has adapted a technology or technique in a unique way, that has stretched a boundary or two, let us know and we’ll work with you to create an article for others to see and to gain the same benefits. Again, contact me for details and to let us know what you’ve been working on.

Already a CINDY winner? Let us know what you did that made that project so great. Others want to know.

Let Markee 2.0 be your two-way conduit for knowledge and expertise. That’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Do You Show?

Tom Inglesby

Photo: Jack Moreh/Freerange Stock

Do you Show? I mean do you go to Trade Shows, like NAB or CineGear? Some industries are totally dependent on trade shows for getting the news out about innovations and upgrades to last year’s innovations. The construction field, for instance, has several major shows that draw tens of thousands of visitors; the electronics industry—or perhaps it’s better to call it industries—has a show that brings in more than 100,000 visitors each year.

One complaint about trade shows is that they are too far away. Doesn’t matter where they are held, it is too far away for those from half the country. New York? Long way from LA. LA? Too far to go for those in Atlanta. Las Vegas? “Well, we might make an exception for that show…”

Yes, Las Vegas draws better than almost any venue for a trade show, regardless of industry, and I suspect it’s not because it’s centrally located. It’s not. So what is the draw? If you have to ask, you’ve never been there.

In the days before near-universal Internet access, what the computer geeks call the “green screen days,”  there were few ways to find out what was new in your field. Weekly, monthly and even daily newsletters and magazines showed up in your mailbox or in-basket, festooned with ads and articles on what was available. A trip to the store, a few calls around, and you felt you were on top of it. Then, plan the trip to the annual trade show! Meet the vendors, network with your friends from all over the country, and at the end of the week, trek home with literally bags filled with literature.

Now? Turn on the computer, scan a few websites, and you have more information than most people can digest in a day. And this is every day. Data overload! It’s becoming a case where going to a trade show is a good way to get away from too much information. Never thought walking all day would be so relaxing….

And you get to actually touch stuff! That’s the real advantage of a trade show: you don’t just get information, you get tactile stimulation. Hold it, play with it, and discuss its features. Hard to do on the Internet when you are talking about “stuff.” No matter how many pictures you see, they don’t give you the same sense of understanding that you get looking through the viewfinder or turning on the light panel.

Markee 2.0 goes to the shows and we like to meet our readers there. But there are so many competing events. Where do you Show? We’d like to know more about your trade show plans. What shows are the most important to you and your segment of the market? How much time do you spend at a show? Where do you prefer to go—or prefer to not go—to attend a show? Why?