Monday, December 27, 2010

The New Media EVolution Has Started

Originally published in Markee 2.0 Magazine

By Mike Fickes

Have you noticed that content doesn't change when a new medium comes on the scene? Books, magazines, newspapers, radio and television all present fundamental forms of content: fiction, non-fiction, music, art, games, entertainment, advertising and public relations.The Internet delivers the same kinds of content, too. The difference is that the Internet's immediacy and interactivity make it possible to deliver content in more powerful ways. Three evolutionary projects tailored for the web demonstrate how content creators are mastering the Internet's potential.

The LXD Boasts Extraordinary Quality

Director (Step Up 2 The Streets; Step Up 3D) and screenwriter Jon M. Chu doesn't believe that television programs, feature films and Internet entertainment should have quality differences."In the future, online will compete with television and movies," Chu says. "As long as the entertainment is compelling, it will attract an audience." The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD), Chu's new online effort, is proving his case. The series, distributed by Paramount Digital Entertainment and launched on Hulu, revolves around stories of an ancient and secretive order of superhero dancers. In this year's first season, Chu directed five episodes ranging from 7:29 to 13:40 in length and produced 22 clips providing background on the characters.

"Dancers have extraordinary physical abilities," says Chu, describing the series' back-story. "Those abilities enable them to tie into energy that surrounds them. When dancers learn to focus this energy, they can use it to move things, and the ability to dance becomes a weapon. The better the dancer, the more powerful the weapon."

Chu and Director of Photography Alice Brooks shot The LXD at locations around Los Angeles using a RED camera with the new Mysterium X Chip. "It is a full-frame chip," Chu says. "It can detect more light in darker spaces, and that enables us to play more in the shadows." "The lenses were Zeiss Super Speed with a Schneider Classic Soft Filter," adds Brooks.

Instead of lighting from shot to shot, Chu and Brooks lit the entire location at the beginning of the single shooting day scheduled for most season-one episodes. "We didn't have time to relight," Brooks says. "So we used large sources like light through windows. We also used lots of lens flares and blown-out highlights."

Brooks managed a full camera crew with a first and second assistant camera operator, Digital Imaging Technician (DIT), gaffer, key grip, best boy electric, best boy grip, four electrical technicians and four additional grips. About 95 percent of each story was shot by Nick Franco using the RED in Steadicam mode.

The full-size crew reflects Chu's interest in producing material comparable to good television. "That's the goal," says Brooks, "to be as good as a television program. It's all entertainment, and entertainment requires a certain level of quality."

That, of course, is easier said than done. While good budgets don't guarantee quality, they make quality possible. And web-based entertainment has yet to evolve a business model that generates budgets comparable to television let alone feature films.

However, one of the innovations that The LXD is bringing to web entertainment is the development of a business model. Chu works with Los Angeles-based Agility Studios (, a company that produces Internet-based entertainment. "My job is working with a new generation of creatives who understand the Internet and enable companies like Agility to tailor business models to content — instead of tailoring the content to some idea of a business model," says Agility CEO Scott Ehrlich.

He inked the distribution deal for The LXD with Paramount Digital Entertainment and has broadened the dancers' reach with performances on the Academy Awards special, on So You Think You Can Dance and with the Glee tour. "The LXD is well on its way to becoming a well-established brand," Ehrlich says.

To read the full article please visit the Markee 2.0 Website

Music and Sound Drive Great TV Shows

Watching films, television shows and commercials is as much an aural experience as it is a visual one. Original music and sound design work hand in hand with picture to define characters, propel the plot and make advertising memorable. Four of the best in this field talk about the essential role their work plays on screens big and small.

Scoring a Mini-Movie Each Week

Scoring the music for the AMC Network political thriller, Rubicon, is an intense experience for Peter Nashel, a partner in Duotone Audio Group in New York City ( The point of the soundtrack for this intriguing tale of intelligence analysts, he says, "is to play out what's happening with the characters internally — which is an exciting role for music to play."

Episodes of Rubicon offer many opportunities for Nashel's music to take center stage. "From very early on, the executive producer, Henry Bromell, and I discussed the importance of score in both setting the tone for the show and creating an interior world for the characters. Because there are long stretches in the show that are dialogue-free, this allowed the score ample opportunity to accomplish both of those things."

To Nashel's knowledge, "it wasn't an intentional filmmaking decision to have long stretches without dialogue. It just developed that way organically. Both Henry and I agreed that some of our favorite shows had little or no music, so we were very vigilant about not 'over-using' score even though there were long stretches without dialogue. I think we found a great balance."

To read full Article please visit Markee 2.0 website

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Illuminating Choices

By Christine Bunish 

New lighting fixtures continually come on the market offering shooters and lighting designers new creative options and greater efficiencies. But adding these revolutionary or evolutionary new products to their lighting kits doesn't mean discounting the instruments they've come to depend on job after job. A noted tabletop director, a leading advocate of HDSLR video, a distinguished underwater cinematographer and an in-demand lighting designer share the contents of their lighting kits today.

For tabletop commercial director Tom Ryan, with Dallas-based Directorz (, there are no formulas for lighting food spots. "It's all about appetite appeal," he says. "I try to give every client I work with their own look."
Ryan primarily shoots film, although he has switched to the Phantom camera for high-speed photography, and uses a tight-grain slow film stock that demands "a certain amount of wattage" from his lighting package. He typically uses Mole-Richardson tungsten 20K, 10K and 5K fixtures for interiors and HMIs for  exteriors supplemented with focusable spot sources, lekos and dedo kits.

Ryan has experimented a bit with LEDs "but for the amount of light we use, they're  not always practical," he points out. "The beauty of LEDs is that they don't take a lot  of power, they don't put out a lot of heat and they're great on location."Ryan's tried-and-true lighting approach with conventional fixtures gives him a lot of latitude to create the different looks and moods his spot clients require.

In Taco Bell's "Cantina Tacos" with lime commercial, "conceptually the lime was a character and we wanted it to really pop," he explains. Ryan shot the tacos bursting with filling, their shiny aluminum foil and a drop of juice clinging to a luscious lime wedge, with a pair of ARRI 35mm cameras. The exterior patio was lit with HMIs; for "ultra-macro" shots of the food he blacked out daylight and went back to tungsten sources.

Ryan's stylish "Whole Meals" spot for Whole Foods was "influenced by old-school Irving Penn photos with clean white backgrounds," he notes. "The challenge was not to let the background overpower what I was shooting" — simple, fresh ingredients, white table linens, butcher paper and brown bags. "It would have been easy to wash out what the focal point of the pictures should be, and if you went too much the other way things would have become muddy and gray. So it was pretty critical to keep the balances consistent." Ryan took light-meter readings of the backgrounds and foregrounds and aimed for 2.5 stops difference; once that was established he kept the balance consistent across the board with his usual complement of tungsten fixtures.
He even kept the white-on-white place settings "in the same range as if they were ingredients" making "some creative decisions" as he went along about how much fill to add to separate the tone on tone.

Taco Cabana's evocative spot showing Lenore Segura in her kitchen assembling the ingredients for a brisket taco features "Rembrandt-style" lighting that "lets the shadows go and the highlights be simple and single source," says Ryan. "Where there were shadows on her we let them go dark, but we softly illuminated the walls behind her so the highlights separate the shadow." Ryan initially lit the spot with overhead Kino Flo sources then "backed away and decided it needed a more painterly feel," and turned instead to his trusty tungstens. 

Slow liquid pours are part of a tabletop director's repertoire and Ryan's "Once a Day" spot for the Florida Department of Citrus showcases the appeal of a simple glass of orange juice against white limbo. Ryan shot the entire spot with a Phantom using a lighting scheme similar to what he would have used with a Photosonics high-speed film camera.

"It took a lot of light — 20Ks with dimmers," he recalls. "With the white background we needed twice as much light on the background as on the juice. When I'm shooting video I'd rather shoot it a bit wider aperture so you get a bit of fall off for a more filmic look." A broad source gave shape and highlights to the slow pours that wash up against the glass like waves in extreme close ups. Delicious!

To read rest of the article please visit Markee Magazine 2.0 website

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Markee 2.0 Launches New Blog

Markee 2.0 Magazine is proud to announce the launch of their new blog-Markee2.0. The print version of Markee 2.0 has been published since December 1985. Markke 2.0 magazine offers a wide range of content tailored for a wide range of readers actively involved in film and video production. The Markee 2.0 will expand our coverage of the latest equipment and technology news on the web. We look forward to providing you with relevant and timely industry news.

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