Saturday, December 27, 2014

Monster Road (Bruce Bickford, animator)

 I reviewed this long ago, and now I see it's available on-line for free.  How cool is that.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

LED projectors

I've worked in the A/V field now for over 20 years and have installed, re-fitted, replaced, and fixed  many A/V related equipment.  The largest expense, and the most maintenance heavy piece of equipment is the LCD projector.

No matter where I go I am confronted by these dinosaurs and as always I've written memos on what to do about them that usually lands on deaf ears.  replace those LCD with LED projectors and you're organization will be happy, and a even have a bit more cash.  LED projectors are quite good, and can last 10 to 20 years.  Now of course the having a piece of equipment that last almost 20 years may not be the greatest.  After all you want your organization to have the latest pieces of equipment, bu a projector is just that a display device.  Hook it up to a computer and or a DVD player and you have an instant presentation device.  Include a smart board and have a multimedia 21st century blackboard.

Why am I talking about this?  Because organizations are slow to move on technology.  If it ain't broke don't fix it, but I would ask you one question and that is how much did you spend on bulbs this year.  When lamps are $100 to $300 don't complain about blowing lamps when they are used everyday by teachers, salesmen, and administrators.

LED solves all that.  Bright image, quality bulbs, and almost maintenance free.  Filter cleaning still is a must, but with less classrooms, and meeting rooms that have caustic material flying around the less dust gets trapped in those filters.  But make no mistake have a maintenance schedule for your projectors or they'll soon fail.

What types of LED's you ask?

The PRO Series 7, 2100 Lumens LED HD Projector is a good basic LED projector.  It only has 2100 Lumens so it may not be good for a room where daylight seeps through the windows and over powers the room.

Casio XJ-H2650: LED/Laser Conference Projector is a good one for the classroom

There are several out there but what you want is a projector that is nicely built and has a high lumens.  One needs to shop for the right one, but there are projectors for your organization that will be better then and less expensive to run.

Remember high lumen, portability or non-portability.  The potable LED projectors do have smaller lumens so beware. 

The Panasonic PT-RW430UW WXGA 3500 Lumens Integration Projector is another good one, but one that may be a bit expensive.

Have any questions about lumens, projectors and LED projectors?  Try this resource at E-bay.  It is helpful and will clarify any questions you might have with projectors.

LED Projector Buyers guide.
I've worked in the A/V field for nThe life of an LED light source is seriously spectacular. Even with 40 hours of viewing per week, the average LED can run for an impressive 10-25 years, which is longer than the expected life of the product itself! Let us put in perspective how long 25 years really is in the world of technology. In 1985, the VHS was the standard in home recording, a really huge TV was only 32 inches, CDs were new, DVDs were only a dream, and high-definition was still 15 years away. Thus, because technology changes so much, the use of the same LED projector 25 years into the future is not really practical. But theoretically, it’s possible! - See more at:
The life of an LED light source is seriously spectacular. Even with 40 hours of viewing per week, the average LED can run for an impressive 10-25 years, which is longer than the expected life of the product itself! Let us put in perspective how long 25 years really is in the world of technology. In 1985, the VHS was the standard in home recording, a really huge TV was only 32 inches, CDs were new, DVDs were only a dream, and high-definition was still 15 years away. Thus, because technology changes so much, the use of the same LED projector 25 years into the future is not really practical. But theoretically, it’s possible! - See more at:
The life of an LED light source is seriously spectacular. Even with 40 hours of viewing per week, the average LED can run for an impressive 10-25 years, which is longer than the expected life of the product itself! Let us put in perspective how long 25 years really is in the world of technology. In 1985, the VHS was the standard in home recording, a really huge TV was only 32 inches, CDs were new, DVDs were only a dream, and high-definition was still 15 years away. Thus, because technology changes so much, the use of the same LED projector 25 years into the future is not really practical. But theoretically, it’s possible! - See more at:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

Gone to soon.  A brilliant thespian, comic, and performer.  He will be missed .  Thanks for the laughter. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Cheap: My life in low budget filmmaking by Greydon Clark

 I have a fascination of low budget films, and when I heard that Greydon Clark wrote a book about his career my interest peaked, and so I was happily given the book by my family for a father's day gift.  Who is Greydon Clark you ask?  He is the producer and director of such films as: Black Shampoo, Without Warning, Joysticks, Satan's Cheerleaders just to name a few.  Why should you care?  Well if you're a film enthusiast, a filmmaker, or even if you happen just to like low budget films this book may shed some light on how hard and difficult it is to produce these types of films.

Mr. Clark goes about telling us how he financed, and how he produced and directed his films.  Many of these films were ultra low-budget, but you would be surprised to know where all the money goes, and that is talent.  Clark never skimped on his talent, and knew that he needed to draw audience's in by getting bankable stars.  Mr. Clarks budgets ranged from 50K if you can believe that to a couple of hundred thousands, but in each of his films he puts it up all in the screen.  There is one film called the "The Forbidden Dance" that was produced for about two million, and shot within 18 days.  I won't go into details, but the story behind "Forbidden Dance" is a movie in itself.  From conception to actual movie all within 90 days.

The book is littered with stories on how Mr. Clark went about financing and shooting his films.  It's even really amazing to hear how he himself was stiffed by unscrupulous producers and distributors.   Mr. Clark does not mince words here and is a gentlemen through and through.  He does not exploit some of the problems he had with his talent, and he keeps it civil which shows what type of guy Clark is.  No low blows.  The book is all about the films and his career and how he had to fight his way through the production madness we call filmmaking.

The book is laid out in script form, and to any filmmaker it seems familiar but may be a bit distracting for other readers though I didn't find it a bit.  I liked the way it was laid out.  The book does contain photos also of his productions, but here I believe it cold have been laid out better.   But I'm sure publishing costs to do a different layout would be a bit more expensive, and Clark wants to tell us the stories, and that is what's important here.

I have a whole new respect for the man though.  Clark consistently gambled on his future by investing in his films.  I always thought that for someone to consistently put his own money and risk his own fortune on his abilities as a filmmaker shows that this man has stones,  Simple put he saw a market, exploited it, and sold his film off so he could make the next one.  I find it hard to believe that no one in Hollywood would even put up his or her money and have Mr. Clark direct.  It was Mr. Clarks speed, and his cost consciousness that got him the gig for "The Forbidden Dance".   I guess it is as Mr Goldman says in his book "Adventures in the screen trade".  "Nobody knows nothing in Hollywood".

The book is really interesting when Mr. Clark get's personal, and he does share his credit with his late wife who was always behind her husband and very supportive.  It is tragic on how she passed, and it's heartbreaking to read.

If you're interested in filmmaking and want to hear what it's like from the trenches back in the day this book is a great read.  Some of his ideas and his chutzpah would still work, and should be of some value to fledgling filmmakers like myself, but otherwise it's a fun read.  It's available from the filmmaker's at his web site

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Earth to Echo (2014)

My oldest who is twelve wanted to see this and so over the July 4th opening we went with the family to see "Earth to Echo".  A film about four kids on a search for extraterrestrials.  This is not ET, or a re-hash of it.  This is a bit different.  The movie focuses on the kids, and the film is seen through video that the kids record as they go about their adventure.  I thought the way the film was presented was kind of cool, and was a different take on movies with the same plot line.  The movie reminds me a bit of a Spielberg produced movie entitled "Batteries Not Included", but their are differences such as the main characters are kids and the movie is marketed to younger teens and kids that are a bit younger.  The movie is not great for children younger then 8, or that's how I felt.  My youngest who is ten liked it, and thought the alien was cute, and there is the movies problem.

For all the promotion of the movie there aren't enough scenes in the film with our little alien friend.  There should have been more scenes involving the teens and the alien.  ET is the movie standard that the filmmakers needed to overcome.  Spielberg knew what made his film and that was ET's interaction with the children in the movie.  Here in Earth to Echo there isn't enough of that.  The scenes with the alien and the kids are classic, but again not enough, and therefore I think the younger audience wouldn't care about the film.  I believe the filmmakers made a mistake here, but one that isn't fatal.  Maybe for their box office, but not for the film.

What the filmmakers have in their favor is that the movie is one if not the only movie that is out this summer that is for kids.  I implore the studio to push hard on the kid friendly movie aspect, and maybe then they'll have better success at the box office.  After all it seems as though this summer Hollywood is experiencing tough competition from other entertainment outlets, and it just being summer and kids have better things to do then going to movies.

The movie is like a puzzle and feels almost like a video game.  Echo needs parts, and he is rebuilding himself.  He has a mission to take back a long buried star ship under the earth.  Now how the ship got there, and why we humans haven't found it until recently is a bit of a mystery to me.  Also it seems that our government knows of the aliens existence and had shot it down, but how they knew it was heading to the ship, and why they shot it down in the first place is a mystery.  The plot holes in the movie are big and confusing.  Maybe something was lost in the editing of the film, but both my wife and I looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders and went with it.  The government agents don't show themselves in black, and carrying guns, which I believe is because of the demographics the movie is trying to appeal to.  After all you don't want to scare your audience that you're trying to appeal to, so again I didn't make it an issue.

There's a lot to like though in this movie.  I really was rooting for the alien, and really thought the children in the film were really good.  I loved how they presented the movie.  Like it was a video you would find on the Internet.  A sort of found footage movie, but it did have scenes where we the audience were taken out of the footage the actors supposedly shot and into a conventional movie scene.  But the filmmakers (Dave Green, Henry Gayden and Andrew Panay) do this skillfully, and it helps the movie.  I think what sells this movie are the actors performance.  They are good, and the four actors have chemistry together.  It helps with the story line.  Teo Halm, Brian 'Astro' Bradley, Reese Hartwig, and Ella Wahlestedt all do a great job in the film, and it is because of their performances that the film works.

I think this may even have some fans among the young ones it s marketed to.  After all the message is that "your important" and "you can do anything".  It addresses emotions that young teens and teens for that matter feel that no one takes them seriously, and the film doesn't preach the message.

All in all I enjoyed seeing it with the family.  We all had fun, and we laughed even my mom had fun.  So if you're looking for some family entertainment don't hesitate to go and see "Earth to Echo".  Great family fun.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Okay it's been a while and another summer is upon us.  That means it's summer blockbuster time, or that's what the movie studios want you to know.  The Transformer series has been a sort of tradition in our household.  Having two boys who love the series they got their parents to also enjoy them.  I even have a love for the animated series and see how complex the series was.  But I digress.  Is this a movie you could enjoy?  The answer to that is yes, but only if you like BIG blockbuster action, where things blow-up often, and you love robots battling each other.  If not then this may not be the movie for you.

The magic of these movies are that you go with the family and enjoy it together.  The movie has a universal plot of good versus evil sure, but there are some things that Michael Bay puts in that actually mimic our times.  "Keeping Earth human", and "If you see alien activity report it" are slogans taken from today's headline on the war on terror.  So you see Bay is using today's climate to enhance the plot line.

It is said that Bay wants to re-boot the Transformer series, and this is the first of two more.  From what I know and what I've seen from the series itself there is ample characters and plot lines to further the series into a sustainable franchise.  The object is not to over saturate the market with too much product.  I'm sure the studios have it all planned out, and Michael Bay has already starting pre-production on the next two in the series.  After all it was George Lucas along with Peter Jackson who filmed their franchise (Star Wars & Lord of the Ring) all at the same time because it was cheaper to do so.  After all sets are built, CGI material is rendered, and actors are locked down for the production.

But the magic of the series is that it is family entertainment.  Sure there are curse words in the film, but not the dreaded F word.  A lot of "damns" and "shit", but if you have older boys they've seen and heard worse in games, so don't stress it.  After seeing the effects you'll say a few expletives yourself.  The effects are pretty mind blowing, and fun to watch, and can I say here that I really like Mark Whalberg, who plays Cade Yeager.  I really think he's a good actor and though this is no Shakespeare it's entertainment to the max, and on a hot summer evening it's a great get away movie to watch while you munch on your popcorn.

Both boys said in their own words the movie was "AWESOME".  And that's what this movies is suppose to do.  I even heard my wife yell out as the baddie dies.  The movie makes me a fan of the franchise, and it tries to draw in new converts among the young.  It does this very successfully, and I wouldn't look down at this type of entertainment.  The animated series had heart, and I really believe Michael Bay is trying to do this for the series now.

Also I'd like to say that I really like Bay's sense of direction, and his attitude.  He's a true entertainer, and he certainly gives us our monies worth.  The film is 2 hours and 45minutes and my boys sat through it all with no bathroom breaks.  We all did, and that's because the images were riveting, and the story was compelling.  Many critics rip Bay but I have to defend him here.  I think he is the quintessential showman.  Thanks Mr. Bay for re-booting the series and providing my family a fun filled day at the movies.

I highly recommend the movie.  For you ladies Mark Whalberg is in the movie and he's so good.  Stanley Tucci is also in the movie and he provides some funny banter and funny sequences in the film.  Kelsey Grammer is the villain and he does a good job here.

Go see the movie if your a fan, and if you have young boys who love robots give it a whirl.  You and your boys won't regret it.  Nicola Peltz plays Whaleberg's daughter and she plays the strong willed young lady, who has some funny scenes with Whalberg, so the movie has a lot for everyone.  It's a fun movie simply put.

For some more interesting info on the making of this movie.  Check this out:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Micro Filmmaking

Here's another example of micro-film making, and this from Director/Producer Joss Whedon. 

In Your Eyes - Trailer from Bellwether Pictures on Vimeo.

One more example of a micro-film getting  world wide exposure.  All through the Internet.  I can only hope and surmise that bold new films will enter our consciousness, and take film making into a new realm.  If companies can make this viable for EVERYONE, maybe content will increase, and new forms of entertainment will evolve. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Blackmagic URSA

 Since NAB 2014 is this week there is a lot of info coming out from them, so here's one of them.  The price seems very nice, and it's 4K.   Check out the link for specs.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Film Trooper

Here's a link that may inspire you or if anything it may make you think.  I try and find inspiration where ever I can, so check it out and see what you think.

I've always been a dyi guy, and if it doesn't start with you who else is it going to start with?

Check it out.  Though he filmed his film "The Cube" with a Canon Rebel T3i I myself think there may be other cameras that are better and are far less expensive.  In the end use what you have and make it work.  Better then doing nothing.  Stay creative people.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014)

It was once again time for a family outing, and since our boys have been keen on seeing "The Lego Movie" since it was announced last year, so it was off to the movies.  After breaking several piggy banks for the admission fare, and the goodies that go with movie watching we caught an early show.  I had heard things about this film being pretty smart, and funny, and I can say I wasn't disappointed.  The filmmakers do a great job pandering to their audience, which face it is anyone under 12.  But that's the charm of the movie.  There are so many in-jokes, and jokes that kids won't get that makes the film pretty funny at whatever age you are.

Sitting here writing this review I still can't remember all the jokes in the film, and maybe that's what the filmmakers wanted.  After all maybe after seeing it with the kids maybe the grown-ups will see it again, and you know they'll have to take the kids again, so double score for the studio in the money department.

The animation is top notch, and the puns, innuendos, and plain silliness of the flick is a win.  The movie works on so many levels, and I honestly am not the biggest Lego fan at all.  After all Lego has come a long way since I was a kid.  The movie pokes fun at our pop culture without it being too highbrow.  The children that were watching it with us really liked it, and that is it's primary audience.  There is even a nice moral in the film that says something about the creative mind, and that being different is okay.

There's not much I can say negative about this film.  Even the stars who voice the characters are having fun here.  I was very surprised to see actually Will Ferrell make an appearance.  Ferrell does the voice of President Business, and all I'll say is that he makes an appearance and it totally works.

The makers of this film should pat themselves on the back.  It's a funny, sweet, and thought provoking film without talking down to its core audience.  It also winks at us adults and makes us think as well, so kudos for that.

I have to say if you have a little Lego builder in your family they'll love it, and surprisingly you will too.  I know you'll be laughing just as hard as the children do, and that's what makes this movie a special event.  I know award time is in March, but someone should not forget this film for next years awards.  Seeing it in
3-D I've heard is nice, but children do hate those glasses, so if you want to save a few bucks & spare the kids some headaches take them to the regular 2-D viewing.  I promise you they won't miss anything, and you'll be happier or at least you're wallet will be.  The film is a classic, and it will be one film that today's generation will go back to and share with their families.

Highly recommended for family.  Sit back and enjoy.

And with that I have to leave you with the "Everything is Awesome lyric video".  Because it's AWESOME!!!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Scorsese letter: It's a bright future


Dearest Francesca,

I’m writing this letter to you about the future. I’m looking at it through the lens of my world. Through the lens of cinema, which has been at the center of that world.

For the last few years, I’ve realized that the idea of cinema that I grew up with, that’s there in the movies I’ve been showing you since you were a child, and that was thriving when I started making pictures, is coming to a close. I’m not referring to the films that have already been made. I’m referring to the ones that are to come.

I don’t mean to be despairing. I’m not writing these words in a spirit of defeat. On the contrary, I think the future is bright.

We always knew that the movies were a business, and that the art of cinema was made possible because it aligned with business conditions. None of us who started in the 60s and 70s had any illusions on that front. We knew that we would have to work hard to protect what we loved. We also knew that we might have to go through some rough periods. And I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.

I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.

And I’m also moved by the artists who are continuing to get their pictures made all over the world, in France, in South Korea, in England, in Japan, in Africa. It’s getting harder all the time, but they’re getting the films done.

But I don’t think I’m being pessimistic when I say that the art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema – moving pictures conceived by individuals – appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.

So why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.

But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make - is something else. There are no shortcuts.

If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.

This isn’t just a matter of cinema. There are no shortcuts to anything. I’m not saying that everything has to be difficult. I’m saying that the voice that sparks you is your voice – that’s the inner light, as the Quakers put it.

That’s you. That’s the truth.

All my love,


*A letter published at the Espresso web site by Martin Scorsese.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Digital Super 8


Can I get excited now?    Just heard about this, and it is still in the development stages, but it's exciting to hear about this innovation.  Before I ventured into 16mm there was my handy dandy Super 8 camera.  The epics that were shot with that camera were fun and filled with enthusiasm.   Even my dad filmed with his own 8mm camera the family events while I was growing up.  It seems like ages ago, and some how when I view the footage taken back then a feeling of nostalgia comes over me.  The color, and even the sound comes popping off the screen and I'm transported back to that time. The magic of home movies everywhere, but with Super 8 it was different then what we have today.   There were no shaky camera movement, because it was film, and we only had about three minutes worth to capture the people and places we loved.  There was a lot involved in getting that image, and you wanted it right, and perfect, and somehow that translates into the footage.  Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic, but I do marvel at the film footage back then, and feel there is a different aesthetic then what people are shooting today. 

Well now this company is developing a cartridge that can be used with your old Super-8 cameras and shot right to SD cards.    it will be interesting to see if the footage shot through this digital process looks like anything that was shot back in the day.  How does it work?  Here's what they say on their website:

"At the heart of the Nolab Digital Super 8 Cartridge is a tiny but powerful 5 megapixel image sensor similar to the one in your smartphone. Combined with a custom glass objective lens, the sensor focuses on a ground glass image plane pressed against the camera’s film gate. By using a 5 megapixel sensor we can capture 720p HD footage at the native Super 8 aspect ratio of 4:3.

Processors integrated into the image sensor are able to  process and encode the footage in real time to a removable SD card. Optionally the same processors can apply one of two predefined Film Look color correction filters to the footage. 

That sounds simple enough, To allow the Nolab cartridge’s image sensor to synchronize with the camera’s shutter, a unique sensor had to be developed. It’s this design that allows the cartridge to work properly in any camera at any frame rate up to 60 fps."

How cool is that.  I really like this and I have several cameras I'd like to try this out on.  Yes I did keep them and kept them in good working order.  I'm a man attached to his tools, and even when they become antiquated I sometimes think they'll make a resurgence.  After all everything old is new again, and this certainly is proof of that.

To see for yourself check this link.  I think you'll find it interesting.   Will be interesting to see it work.  Hurry up guys.  I know I'm interested.