Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Best in Black and White

Inspired by a recent post on Esquire.com, I have been thinking about contemporary filmmakers’ use of black and white – both the good and the bad. But for the purposed of this post, I am focusing on the good. As an amateur photographer, I’m a fan of black-and-white images, so I’m not averse to watching movies in monochrome, whether they’re old or new, classic or modern. Of course, they can’t all be great – or at least great to me – but here’s a list of five of my favorites. Do you have a favorite black-and-white film? Are you more of a color-saturated movie fan? Sound off in the comments.

Good Night And Good Luck
Probably my favorite black-and-white movie. Set in the 1950s and focusing Edward R. Murrow’s stance against McCarthyism, Good Night And Good Luck was considered a bold and risky move for director George Clooney, since this was just his second job as director (the first being Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, 2002). But this 2005 gem is enthralling and plays almost like a documentary. Viewers feel like a fly on the wall, watching Murrow fight for his cause.

Schindler’s List 
If you were making this list, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic likely would be on your list as well. It’s the first major black-and-white film in my lifetime that I can recall. (I was in college when it was released.) Certainly, the look of the film was befitting of the subject matter and tone. And the black-and-white also lends an even deeper realism to the amazing story of Oskar Schindler.

Sin City
This 2005 adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel ushered in a mini-genre of movies that look like ink on paper. That particular trend may not have lasted, but this movie still stands as a modern crime drama with a somewhat unique look. Moreover, the violence isn’t hard to stomach since the blood and gore are animated.

I really enjoyed the use of black and white in this 1998 movie. As part of the storyline, the main characters are transported into the monochromatic world of a 1950s television sitcom, but what happens then isn’t all laughter and comedy. And color doesn't just denote the setting in Pleasantville; it is used a metaphor. As the innocence fades from the residents of the fictitious Pleasantville, they are enveloped in color. This is a beautiful film to watch.

I still don’t fully understand this 2001 Chris Nolan film and I doubt most of you do either. The movie isn’t entirely in black and white, but Nolan uses the contrast to keep viewers aware of the two timelines in the story as the amnesiac protagonist tries to figure out who he is and why he is out for revenge. If you haven’t seen this one yet, be prepared to watch it several times.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making TV: Shooting Lawyers

By Michael Fickes

Fred Murphy, ASC, director of photography on The Good Wife.
Some television shows want you to forget about the camera and focus on the emotional contact among the characters. The Good Wife is a show like that. The quiet camera of the CBS drama, managed by Director of Photography Fred Murphy, ASC, has helped the show garner 30 Emmy nominations over five seasons – including one in 2011 for Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-camera Series.

Shooting style
The Good Wife is a series about characters, with a politician’s wife at the center. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) stands by her politician husband even when he is disgraced by an affair, accused of a crime, and sent to jail. After his fall, Alicia returns to work as an attorney to take care of her two children, while trying, and mostly succeeding, to remain loyal to her husband – as the good wife of the title.

The cinematography features lawyers “lawyering” by talking. “Lawyers play a mental game, not a physical one,” says Murphy. “For the first five seasons, we have shot their conversations simply, without too much camera movement, often without the people moving. That is the nature of the lawyer business. It is all about the mental game.”

In a change for the current sixth season, the camera will be on the move a bit more. The moves, however, remain simple and quiet. Murphy shoots with an ARRI Alexa with Panavision zoom lenses and Primo prime lenses. He selects something between 60mm and 100mm for close up scenes. While he does use zooms, he doesn’t zoom across the set. “For close-ups, we move the camera physically closer,” he said.

He doesn’t shoot much with wide-angle lenses. “For a wide shot of a small location, you need a wide-angle lens, but we try to use longer lenses – 25mm is wide-angle for us,” he said.

“We want the lighting to provide soft, polished realism,” Murphy said. “Then we place large sources, such as 12x12s or 8x8s – rarely anything smaller than 6x6 – close to people and bounce the light. Except for effects like the sun coming through the window, we always bounce large light sources to diffuse and soften the light. Most of the scenes are shot on stages set up to do this.”

Murphy refines the big source lights with a little back lighting and a little edge lighting. He has balanced the lighting for all of the sets for a 2.8 F-Stop camera setting. “So you shoot at the same stop – 2.8 at 800 ASA – all the time. “It can be awkward to set up large sources like this, but once you start shooting, you don’t need to re-light for close-ups,” he said. “The large source crosses the set and bathes everyone in beautiful light. When you go close, you simply adjust the fill ratio.”

“The basic shooting style is modified 1940s movies, which focused on making people look dramatic and beautiful,” Murphy said. “We decided early on to make the show elegant. We want Julianna Margulies [Alicia Florrick] to look elegant. We stay away from wide lenses, and rarely use anything under 50mm if she is close to the camera. And we position the large light sources as close to her as physically possible. We also use a small Schneider filter – very weak, but it helps smooth out the shots.

“She is a wonderful actress,” Murphy continued. “She can invest small gestures with a lot of meaning.”

That is the key to the drama of The Good Wife. Most of the cast has the same kind of talent, the ability to communicate in subtle, understated ways – a phrase, a raised eyebrow, a cold stare – perfectly timed to build the tension and drama. Murphy’s lighting and camera work delivers all of that – the mental game that lawyers play – to the audience. And it is riveting.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Behind The Scenes of My Favorite Movies

Recently, while watching the bonus material on my Blu-ray copy of Star Trek Into Darkness, it struck me how lucky we are to have the opportunity to see how our favorite movies are made. It wasn’t so long ago that the general public had little to no knowledge of how movies were created; of how certain scenes or visual effects were accomplished; of how much planning, manpower and ingenuity went into producing just a few minutes of entertainment.

But the storage capacity allowed by the DVD format – and now Blu-ray discs and digital downloads – changed all of this. Movie fans are given the chance to see how their favorite films were created and many of the hard-working men and women behind the camera are given the opportunity to shine. The cinematographers, visual effects artists, stunt people, makeup artists, Foley artists, sound mixers and others can showcase their craft. Thus, the general public is made aware of just how large and collaborative an undertaking it is to make a movie.

Sure, these DVD extras are used as a marketing opportunity to entice us to buy the movies, but for me they are much more. Watching these behind-the-scenes vignettes makes me appreciate my favorite films even more. I want to know how the films were made, how certain effects were created, and I want to “meet” the people who did the work. This is why I buy DVDs; I want a greater understanding of the how the world’s best entertainment is made. I was amazed to learn that the red planet used in the opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness was built from scratch and the plants and trees were hand-painted! And seeing how the final climactic scene came together for Skyfall, the latest film in the James Bond saga with Daniel Craig, was impressive to say the least.

With such knowledge, I enjoy my favorite movies even more, and I actively seek out the films of cinematographers, VFX artists and other professionals whose work I have appreciated. It’s nice to see these people – you people, our readers – get some well-deserved attention and respect. No longer are you just names scrolling through the end credits. You are the stars of making-of documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage of America’s vast DVD collection. Keep up the great work. We’ll see you at home.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

M2 Digital Post Inc: A Clearly Cloudy Future

By Toms Inglesby

Michael Towe, president of M2 Digital Post.
At NAB this year, a section of the exhibition space was designated as the Cloud Pavilion.  About 20 companies exhibited – to the extent that anything called a “cloud” can be exhibited – and discussed applications for this digital environment. A cynic might revert to one of the early clichés of computing and refer to some of it as vaporware; a nice pun, that.

But there are some practitioners who have had their heads in the cloud for a while and they seem to think it actually has value. Not only value, but value balanced with growing pains. Markee had a digital discussion with Michael Towe, president of M2 Digital Post Inc. (www.m2digitalpost.com) in San Diego on his experiences with clouds.

“Let’s start with strengths,” Towe began. “The production industry is changing and has been for a few years now. The era of large production houses is gone. … The trend is for smaller, more distributed production resources. The editor that used to drive into the large post house to work now has his own system and is working out of his house. But working out of the house has drawbacks. It makes the act of collaborating more difficult, as well as the task of client review and approval. This is where the cloud comes into play.”

Speaking of the client approvals process, Towe recalls: “In the past, I had office space that was nice and big and comfy and expensive. “Now I work out of a 400-square-foot patio [at home]. I made the move in a large part because the cloud enabled me to do so. I send clients a video via a cloud review and approval service, they look at the video and send me changes. I came to the realization that I was spending about $3,000 per month to have a big office I didn’t need. So in early 2008, I dumped the office space. I now do 99 percent of my review and approval via the cloud.”

So what about collaboration? A big part of this industry is sharing ideas, brainstorming with others. Towe has that covered. “The cloud has helped here, too. The review and approval process I just explained can be used with others. I use it quite often for motion graphics work and especially for voice work. Now I can use online services to post my job. Within a couple hours, I have auditions to put in front of a client; they pick the one they like, and we’re off to the races. Granted, there are still times where getting everyone to a recording studio is the better choice, but those jobs are few and far between.”

Brainstorming isn’t all like it used to be. Face time is valuable when you consider the travel time and coordination necessary. According to Towe, “I find myself sharing ideas and impromptu brainstorming with so many through social networks. Things like Twitter and Facebook become a valuable resource to bounce ideas off of friends. Sites like YouTube and Vimeo have given me hours of inspiration from simply looking at others’ work. And when it comes to getting people together in a virtual room to discuss things, I have used sites like GoToMeeting and Skype.”

So what about weaknesses? What’s the downside? “There is one big downside,” Towe admits, “and that’s spontaneity. That water cooler moment with a coworker that sparks a great idea really is gone. To be honest, I don’t know how you get that back. Social networks come close, but it’s still not the same. Speed is another drawback. We’re still at relatively slow Internet speeds for the size of files we need to push around in the video world. I still find myself having to ship a drive from time to time because the files are just too big. Another downside is it does make client management a bit more difficult. You need to develop a different set of skills to manage those clients when dealing with them through emails.”

So Towe is working in what might be called a hybrid cloud environment, combining real world (FedEx, hard drives) with cloud activity. “My quick conclusion is the cloud is here to stay,” he confesses. “The video profession has changed drastically in the past 10 years. The cost of entry has come way down so competition has gone way up. This in turn has driven profits through the floor. What I can charge today for a five-minute, corporate trade show video is a fraction of what I could charge for it in 2004. That means I have to find ways to cut back my costs to remain competitive. The cloud has enabled me to do this by making office space a thing of the past. I have lowered my overhead by thousands of dollars a month because of it.”

Last thoughts? “Darwin taught us that you need to adapt or die. The most recent adaptation in the video production species is a connection to the cloud. Those that don’t make that connection will go the way of the Dodo.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What's Your Creative Process?

Every creative person has his or her own process for developing and finishing projects, whether it is a job or a hobby. Call them quirks. Call them idiosyncrasies. Whatever you want to call them, creative individuals need this routine in order to complete the task at hand. For my own creative work – the writing part of my job – I have a series of steps I must go through for each article before the final step of sitting down at my computer to compose the first draft.

Of course, my work starts with research and interviews, but the quirk of my writing process is the composition. You see, once I have all of my notes together and I know generally what I want to say with a certain article, I will "write" it in my mind before a single word is typed at my keyboard. I will think about the article for days, working it out in my head exactly what I want to write. So, when I finally sit down to compose an article, I will know how it begins, what I want to say in the middle of the article, how the article will be structured, and how it should end. Most people probably do this with notes or an outline, but I've just always worked it out in my mind. It's just the way I work.

This might not be the most efficient or practical way to work, but the process works for me. It is just my way of doing things, of getting the job done. In thinking about my own process recently, I started to wonder what your creative processes must be like. Surely, you each have specific, or perhaps peculiar, ways of getting the job done. How could you not? You work in a creative field and often are tasked with finding new ways to do your job. So do you have a unique creative process that others find quirky and idiosyncratic? Tell me what this process is, how it works for you, and why your coworkers raise their eyebrows. I'll understand, and perhaps other readers will too. Who knows, you may inspire someone to adjust his or her own creative process.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Playing With Fire: When fire breaks out on Chicago Fire, it’s real.

By Michael Fickes

Photo: Matt Dinerstein/NBC. Copyright NBC Universal, Inc.    

Fires – real fires – rank as major characters in Chicago Fire.

Director of Photography Lisa Wiegand and Special Effects Coordinator John Milinac carefully plan the fires for the NBC show from prolific hit-maker Dick Wolf. 

Milinac works with his crew to design and install networks of pipes that jut out of the floor and ceiling for the fire sets – often built in a warehouse. Then, the crew pumps fuel for a fire into the pipes. For safety, camera operators and dolly grips don fire retardant automotive racing suits before the shoot.

In a typical scene, fire trucks drive up to the building – a real building in Chicago with real flames from fireboxes installed in the windows. “The cameras, two ARRI ALEXAS, are always with the firefighters,” Wiegand said. “So the audience discovers problems along with the firefighters.”

Starting fires
Inside, Milinac brings the fire in each pipe up to a planned and pre-tested level. The actors wear firefighter bunker gear – protective clothing and equipment that can withstand high temperatures. “John is always there, along with Stunt Coordinator Rick Le Fevour,” Wiegand said. “If something goes wrong, they will turn off the fuel and put the fire out.”

Holding back fire
Onscreen, the scenes look extraordinarily dangerous. In one scene inside a multistory downtown apartment building, a character named Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) herds two residents into a room with a window and slams the door on the growing fire that has blocked their escape route down a stairwell. 

Firefighters outside must raise a ladder to the window. While they work, the raging fire pushes against the door. Casey braces his back against the door to keep it shut. The pressure from the fire pushes the door ajar and flames lick around the openings. Casey pushes the fire back and the fire pushes Casey back. He bounces back and forth, moving a foot or more each time. That better not be real fire coming through the openings around the door.

“It was real,” said Wiegand. “But it looks worse than it was. Casey wasn’t moving very much, and the shot was dull. Then Reza Tabrizi, the camera operator, tried zooming way in and way out rapidly and repeatedly. It worked and gave the scene all that energy.”

The crew carries three Angenieux Optimo lightweight zooms for each ALEXA: 15mm-40mm, 28mm-76mm and 45mm-120mm. Then there are two primes: 135mm and 150mm for each camera. The lightweight lenses facilitate handheld shots, which make up 90 percent of each show. Two 12:1 Angenieux Optimos handle studio shots. 

Speed counts
Chicago Fire is a demanding show. Every scene, even the difficult rescue scenes, must move quickly. Large crews facilitate that. “My departments dealing strictly with photographic concerns number 30 to 50 depending on the day,” Wiegand said.

Technology helps. The show uses Burbank-based FotoKem’s nextLab, an automated software solution for productions shot in high-definition digital video files.

“We set up look-up-tables or LUTs before the season,” said Scott Rader, VFX supervisor on Chicago Fire and creative director at Spy, a post-production house with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“The LUTs are digital files that contain color specifications for various scenes,” continued Rader. “For example, Lisa wants a certain look for the interior of the firehouse during the day. There is a LUT that contains color and lighting specifications for those scenes – and there are LUTs for other kinds of scenes.”

When the digital video loads into nextLAB, the software downloads the appropriate LUT for each scene, attaching each to the appropriate video files. “That corrects 90 percent of the color,” Rader said. “We fix the rest during final color correction.”

It’s an innovative system that is slowly replacing disk drive storage. Rader also is in charge of VFX fire. Although the fire scenes are real, Rader’s team often makes them bigger, smokier and scarier, while painting out the safety riggings and harnesses that keep the actors safe during the shoot. So while Lisa Wiegand can scare you with a zoom lens, Rader does it with animation software.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Northeastern Trailblazers

It is no surprise that the filmmaking industry attracts independent spirits. It takes a certain kind of pioneering attitude to complete projects under the stresses of shrinking budgets and condensed timetables. Running a small company in this industry not only requires a trailblazing disposition, but a willingness to learn new skills and to know when turning down a job might be the best thing for your company. With our eyes on the Northeast region of the United States, Markee 2.0 shines its Spotlight on a few small businesses forging their own paths.

Adventure Productions

George A. Stover III, a former TV news videographer, started Adventure Productions in 1998 so he could spend more time on each project and have more creative control over the final product. Almost immediately, Adventure began producing numerous weekly TV series such as Around the House, Bloomin’ in the Garden and Rodricks for Breakfast. The company also specialized in commercials, corporate videos and underwater videography – a specialty of George’s who also is a certified scuba instructor. Today, Adventure Productions – managed by George, Creative Director Mark S. Sanders, and Marketing Director Carol Stover – takes on larger and more involved projects.

“I think the most notable thing about our company is that we just keep reinventing ourselves,” Carol said. “This industry is changing so rapidly, and the uncertain economy is driving a lot of this change. If you are resourceful and fast moving like we are, you can weather those changes and keep getting better at what you do." READ MORE

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Robots to the Rescue?

Earlier this year, while speaking to students at the University of Southern California, Steven Spielberg foretold of the impending "implosion" of the movie industry as we know it. His reasoning was the failure of many "megabudget" movies to turn a profit. "There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm," he told the crowd attending the opening of USC's School of Cinematic Arts' new Interactive Media Building.

Spielberg's estimation wasn't that big-budget movies no longer would be made, but that the pricing structure for seeing such films would cost theater goers more than an independent film, for example. He suggested the ticket price to see the next Iron Man type of movie could be $25. He might not be far off base.

If you believe the words of movie producer and author Lynda Obst, then "spectacular, Cameron-inspired technology" is all Hollywood has left to showcase. Obst argues in her book, "Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales From the New Abnormal in the Movie Business," that 70% to 80% of studios' revenues are from foreign box offices – particularly China and India – places that produce their own comedies, dramas and other "small" films. Therefore, she says, all that Hollywood has to offer the overseas audiences whose entertainment spending they crave are "razzle-dazzle effects."

If this is Hollywood's future, I can live with it. There are plenty of other outlets for creative writing and storytelling – cable and network television, and online entertainment sources such as Netflix and Hulu, which already are producing their own original programming. Spielberg can see the writing on the wall; he produces the very entertaining Falling Skies for TNT. What I can't live with are continual regurgitations, reboots and unending sequels. Fewer Fast & Furious variations or Superman remakes. More Pacific Rim. If all we're going to see in theaters are "big" movies, I don't want to see another superhero remake. Clearly, the man of steel can't rescue Hollywood. But perhaps men and women fighting for our planet from inside steel robots can.

Share Your Knowledge

With increasing frequency, I have been attending web-based seminars (webinars) on how to be a better journalist (with topics as varied as social media metrics and entrepreneurial journalism). I find that these sessions can be quite instructive. And they certainly are easy to attend since I don't have to leave my office. Plus, technology and the publishing industry changes frequently, so it is important to stay on top things.

Attending these webinars has me thinking: I'm sure there are many Markee 2.0 readers who have valuable knowledge they could share with other industry professionals, and magazines such as this one have built-in audiences for these sessions. Additionally, I'm sure there may be new skills or techniques that many of you would like to add to your repertoire, but you just haven't found the time. Further, I don't have to tell you how often technology changes in your industry. Well, surely you could spare 1 hour while at your desk -- perhaps over lunch -- to learn a new skill or find a new way to get your projects completed.

So, why not try to make this happen? Are you an expert in creative lighting techniques, specialty shooting, video or audio post-production, etc.,? Let's discuss some webinar ideas and make this happen! Just send me an email to get the conversation started.

You provide the knowledge and expertise; we provide the audience. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Where Imagination Thrives

BigStar composited footage of a real raven in a promo for Game of Thrones.
As I wrote here last month, I am a fan of television commercials. Unlike most TV viewers, I look forward to the spots running between the scenes of my favorite shows. I'm not just looking for a good laugh or a palette cleanser, if you will, during heavy dramas; I admire the creativity behind many TV commercials. (Some of my favorites are listed here.) Markee 2.0 admires this as well, and we often celebrate the creators of these spots in our print publication.

Recently, we featured the work of BigStar, which created a fascinating spot for HBO's Game of Thronesa52 VFX, which developed an intriguing spot for Nescafe Latin America; Ntropic, which created a spot to showcase a new car from Lincoln; and MPC LA, which worked with Spike Lee on a clever ad for the NBA. What do all of these commercials have in common? Imagination.

Chris Paul appears & disappears in a restaurant booth in an NBA spot by MPC LA.
As Christine Bunish wrote in the article: "Spots and promos are fertile venues for innovative VFX and CG work. Whether they play on broadcast networks, cable, the web, or at trade shows, these short- and long-form advertising messages offer high-quality executions of compelling, heart-warming, elegant and fun creative." For general audiences, these types of spots will be remembered; they will be talked about among friends and shared online. For those of you in the business of creating such spots, you might admire this work for a multitude of reasons, and the work could inspire you when creating the next spot of your own.

So, if you haven't seen these commercials and you're looking for some inspiration while working on your current projects, please read our article and then follow the links to view these spots. Get inspired. Create some of your best commercial work and then send us the links to your finished spots. Who knows, you may end up in a future issue of Markee 2.0 and, in turn, inspire someone else's great commercial work.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Commercial Music

With the 2013 Clio Awards taking place this month (May 15 in N.Y.C.), I've been thinking about some of my favorite commercials. In today's DVR world, most American television viewers (and I suspect most TV viewers around the world) tend to fast-forward ("skip") through the commercials while watching their favorite programs. However, I actually enjoy commercials and am keen to find the next spot that will make me laugh, cry, or scour the Internet looking for the song used in the campaign.

Some of my favorite campaigns over the years have come from Publix SupermarketsHeineken, Subaru, and Apple.

What appeals to me in finding those next great commercials is the writing. As a writer myself, I am acutely aware of the creativity involved in being able to tell a story in a 60-second or 30-second spot – one that not only is memorable, but a story in which the viewers are able to identify with the people or situation. And the advertiser hopes you would, in turn, want to purchase their product. It's astonishing how much of a story can be told in so little time.

Of course, we all know that these great stories must be filmed and edited, and that's where the talented readers of Markee 2.0 Magazine come in, right? With our "Making Commercials" articles, we highlight the talent and creativity involved in making some of television's best spots.

The music and sound found in television commercials also can draw a great deal of attention. Think of the early iPod campaigns or the Nike ad from 1987 when "Revolution" became the first Beatles track to be featured in a spot. Just as in film, music can play a key role in making a commercial memorable.

Throughout its history, Gap Inc., has strived to make its commercials memorable through music, from Madonna and Daft Punk to The Avett Brothers and now, Ki:Theory. As Markee contributor Michael Fickes described in a recent article ("What Color is the Music?"), "Few brands have a commercial footprint as recognizable as The Gap. Gap commercials are recognizable after a few frames of white scrim and a few bars of music." Indeed. Have you seen the ad Fickes describes? The image below from the commercial links to the full ad on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NAB 2013

One of the more interesting booths at NAB 2012, TVLogic's doll display.
It's that time of year again. The time when it seems the entire industry gathers in one place – the Las Vegas Convention Center – for the NAB Show. Every year, it seems the show gets bigger and better, with more exhibitors, more specials sessions, and exciting product announcements. If you've never been, I encourage you to go; it's an amazing spectacle.

Markee will be at the show in full force with nearly our entire staff. Moreover, our March/April issue will debut at NAB so be sure to stop by one of the magazine bins and pick up a copy or two. (It's ok, you can grab some for your friends.) The issue features an NAB Preview of some of the new products you can find in the exhibit halls, so you can use it to plan your sojourn through the convention center.

Speaking of being prepared for the show, I recently ran across an interesting blog post about how to be best prepared for the size and scope of NAB – it covers everything from what to carry, what to wear, and what not to bring or wear. You can check it out here: http://www.toolfarm.com/blog/entry/micheles_nab_survival_guide. The site contains some valuable information; be sure to read through it before you finish packing for the show.

If you can't make it this year, look for a post-show report here soon, and follow us on Twitter (@MarkeeMag) for regular updates from NAB 2013.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Ben Callner Made His Super Bowl Commercial

Tunewelders Ben Holst and Jeremy Gilbertson.

Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" winner Ben Callner's "Goat 4 Sale" commercial began with an idea about a ravenous Doritos-eating goat. Culminating the narrative he envisioned relied heavily on sound to sell the authenticity, dramatic tension and humor at play in his 30-second spot. He tapped longtime collaborators Tunewelder Music Group of Atlanta to make it work. Led by Music & Audio Post Supervisor Ben Holst, Tunewelders worked closely with Callner to hone the spot through sound design & editing, foley, voice-over, mixing and mastering.

To view "Goat 4 Sale," please visit: www.doritosgoat.com.

"Ben Holst and Tunewelders put the project first," Callner said. "Other than being just really down-to-earth, excellent people, they go above and beyond to make sure that you're not only happy, but that everyone – including them – is proud of the final product. In something like the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest, I wouldn't think of going anywhere else. I know they're going to make whatever I give them, in whatever condition, sound absolutely fantastic."

"Ben has a way of theatrically pushing the envelope and making the absurd believable and not too cartoony," added Holst, who has collaborated with Callner on numerous film, commercial and interactive projects since the two first met on set during a film production in Atlanta in 2007. "A big part of that comes from his care for detail across the production, and with his deep musical background, that certainly extends to sound and creative where he's very hands-on. Even inside all the tedious work of syncing goat crunches, which fly by you in a matter of milliseconds, there's always an element of fun and general silliness working with him."

Capturing sounds unique to Callner's story required more than the SFX package and pre-cleared music that Doritos made available to all of its contestants. Greg Linton, location sound, provided a library of real goat crunches recorded on site. The tedious process of syncing the crunch sounds with the goat's chewing gestures needed to demonstrate both believability and comedic timing.

For the comedic payoff when the goat screams from apparent Doritos withdrawal, the challenge was finding the best voiceover performance for the scream, and then realistically syncing it. The solution involved Callner's childhood friend Keith Bahun and an iPhone.

"Goats actually have a distinct scream, so mimicking it with the human mouth was tough to cheat," Holst recalls. "We explored it all the way to the final delivery because it was so crucial to the punchline. A bunch of us had recorded some takes, but Ben still wasn't sold. Keith was known for this great scream, but he was all the way in Savannah, Ga. I said, 'iPhones make great recordings, just have him do a lot of takes and make sure he stands far enough away from the phone so it's similar in distance to the goat in the shot.' We managed to pull it off last-minute and it came out perfect."

Holst and Callner went beyond the obvious visual cues using Doritos' trademark mixed bag of crunch samples. For example, to intensify the goat owner's growing insanity as his pet incessantly snacks into the wee-hours, their sound design incorporated building several layers of different crunch sounds to embellish the moment.

For the final scene depicting the goat ominously hoofing it towards the owner in hiding, the team also enlisted foley work using the same prop hooves shot in the scene.

For Tunewelders, the project offered the opportunity to showcase what they have quietly been doing since launching four years ago: developing long-term relationships with national brands, production companies and agencies, and translating their ideas through sound and music.

"We love working with Ben," concludes Tunewelders Partner Jeremy Gilbertson. "When he has an idea, we generally don't say no because we believe in his talent and the longevity of his career. I'm sure everyone in our community who contributed their support and resources share the same belief, and we're honored to be among all the exceptional local talent who rallied behind him to help make the spot such a huge success. Great things are happening here in the music, film and entertainment sectors, so we're proud to represent Georgia and the City of Atlanta on the national stage."

Friday, February 1, 2013

What's In Your Camera Bag?

Guest blogger: Craig Kelly

"One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." – Benjamin Disraeli

Those of you who have read my rantings over the past year have no doubt seen that I mine the subject material from the LinkedIn group I started a few years ago called TV Camera Operators. With more than 3,000 members from so many countries, I lost count of where they all live. What is great about this resource is the sheer amount of eclectic answers received to questions posed there – intended for new or volunteer camera operators as they forge their way in the their new vocation – even if it is in a volunteer situation. Maybe even more if it is in a volunteer situation. It seems that many people like to share their personal experiences, stories and trade tips.

Photo courtesy of Petrol Bags.
With this article, I am taking a new look at a question that I posed months ago asking, what is in your camera bag? I know as a DP, there are a few items that you feel like you have to have with you on every shoot. Greg N. From Phoenix, Ariz., posed this question for the group a while back reprised as What is the single piece of backup gear that has 'Saved the Day' for you? We have had so many great answers from many group members; I thought I’d share some of them here:

Peter K • The spare tripod plate I keep in my emergencies kit in the glove box. I think hands down the most useful piece would be the roll of gaffa tape, got a small roll in my kit and again one in the car. 

Glenn N • A spare card for whatever camera you use. I've done it twice, ran out during a big shoot, once in a plane, I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

Stephen C • Clothes pegs. Out in the sticks where crocodile clips were as rare as hen's teeth, and the hired in lighting kit came without the means of attaching diffuser. Since then, I've always carried some and have used them for hanging scrim on para-cord when making makeshift hides for wildlife shoots. Also useful on still life and fashion shoots for pegging backdrops and cloths. Blue-tac is my other indispensable friend. Sun block and Avon Skin So Soft. I once got separated from my sun block on a doco shoot in a remote area and boy, did I burn........and Skin So Soft has so far proved to be a better midge repellent than Deet or any other proprietary insect repellent I have tried so far.

Olivia P • My leatherman pen knife. And a 20p coin for tightening tripod plates etc. Although gaffer tape is definitely a good one.

Greg N • Hi, I keep a few U.S. quarters in my bag for my camera plates!!

Jim N • The biggest and best inverter you can afford. No power, no pictures. In cold climates especially, batteries crap in half the time.

Charlie W • Duct tape. Good for everything....

Stephen C • Velcro ties for (audio) cables prevents them getting covered in sticky grunge. Freezer bag ties for keeping lapel mikes tidy. Insulation tape usually better than Gaffa tape as it's easier to remove and less damaging. Tie wraps (or zip-ties) provided I have some side cutters or knife to remove them. Yellow Gaffa usually reserved for taping cables down on floors. 

Matthew A • Gaffers' Tape and my multi-tool are super important but I use my tiny AAA, LED flashlight more than anything. When you need it though, bug repellent is the MOST useful!

Jillian B • led key ring torch for when you can’t see the tripod bubble.

Matt Q • I carry what I call my 'Gaffer Box' - It contains spare Gaffer tape (of course) a few basic tools including a gas soldering iron, some cleaning materials (bottle of IPA, swabs etc) a tin of small croc clips, fuses, some tripod screws, some VERY long nylon cable ties and a few spare phono, XLR and BNC connectors... A few odd lengths of wire stripped out a 3-core flex Oh; and a 'tub' of random-sized plastic clamp/clips from the DIY store... 'Saved the day' many times - usually when someone else's kit has let us down due to lack of prep/maintenance!

Conor L • Shower Caps - perfect for protecting lenses in downpours, fits snugly over a matte box too.

Jim T • HANDY is an ALTOIDS box, and coins, they make a great 'nose lift' when shooting off the ground.... Other favorites, MINI- leatherman with scissors, LARGEST Black trash bag you can buy for A) Raincoat, B) Camera rain cover, C) 'tarp' for other gear and kit bag.. I also routinely carry: 

Chris K • A backup camera: when traveling always have some kind of 2nd camera recording device. In case your #1 camera goes down for any reason.

DAVID D • My leatherman Wave, saved me on a shoot for Bob Dole once, had to tear apart a tape deck and clean it 10 minutes before show time. Had 2 minutes to spare!

Craig Kelly is a veteran free-lance, TV camera operator/DP with more than 25 years of experience. He writes these articles to be included in his blog found here at www.craigjkelly.com. Often the subject matter comes from the 3,000 + global membership in the LinkedIn group he started for new camera operators and volunteer operators called TV Camera Operators. Kelly is also the International/North America Representative to the Guild of Television Cameraman as well as advisory board member for two colleges and two high schools in the greater Seattle area. In addition, he writes for Worship Musician Magazine and conducts workshops for new and volunteer camera operators. Kelly welcomes comments here or via email at zoomit.cam@craigjkelly.com.