Recent Shoot Log: UNC-Greensboro “Viral” #1

16 06 2011

It’s been months since the idea of shooting some marketing content for the UNC-Greensboro Office of Online Learning started talks.  If you’ve never worked for a state agency before, then you don’t know what the term “lots of red tape” means.  It takes lots of patience, time, meetings, more meetings, discussions, vetos and did I mention meetings? for ideas and projects to fully get off the ground.  Luckily, however, our division’s new marketing head and team are persistent and do a great job at pushing these projects down the line to let them be the best they can be.

In a world where text-on-a-page Web sites, documents, etc. are taking over our lives in this digital age, we were commissioned to design a marketing campaign promoting our multimedia-infused alternative.  The end result are a series of videos that will show text literally bombarding everyday life.

The first video for this campaign was carefully thought out between Patrick Griffin, A. J. Lee, Brooke Corwin, myself, Bryan Higgins and Jon Fredette.  We decided that the first one would be more of a “draft” than anything.  It was still unclear whether the idea was exactly what the higher-ups were interested in, so we decided to go with one of our many ideas that was the least daunting.  The idea ended up being of a girl, in her cubicle at work, who is caught in a raining “text storm”.

Pre-production was pushed through fairly quickly and we locked a location in our offices; the location ended up being coder, Colin Dai’s, cube.  We had to sissify his cube a bit since it would be a female actress playing the lead role.  The principal role went to actress Elise Duquette (apologies if I spelled this wrong, Elise!) out of the Charlotte area.  With a little time and bringing a female’s touch for a little help, we had a well-dressed location.

The project was lit with a variety of instruments.  All overhead practicals were turned off because of being a low quality fluorescent.  A Jokerbug 800 with 1/2 CTO was bounced off the ceiling for a bit of overall ambience, a 500-watt Lowel Rifa light was used as a key over the front cube wall at an angle, backlight was a 650-watt ARRI with diffusion rigged on a C-Stand in the cube behind, a 250-watt Lowel Pro Light with 216 was placed on the desk to keep exposure on the face when the umbrella went over and two 500-watt Lowel Omni’s with Opal diffusion created the slashes on the cube sides during the pull-back.  To add a bit of spice to the scene, a practical china light was placed on the desk and allowed to highlight out a bit.

A RED One was used to shoot the project in 4k 2:1 24fps mode with a shutter of 1/48.  The original shot was an actual dolly shot that was beautiful, but due to compositing factors, a static was used with a digital zoom added for practicality.  To all you budding cinematographers out there, sometimes it’s not always your favorite shots that get used, but sometimes it’s for the better of the project.

Bryan Higgins, our effects heavy lifter here, spent many hours compositing each of the little “texts” falling.  Afterwards, Jon Fredette did the sound design and I did very minor color tweaks on the final image.  All-in-all, it came out to be a nice little draft; nice enough, in fact, that the division decided to use it as the first of the campaign and commissioned us for two more.  Our second in the series has already been shot and is in the editing phase, and the third (which will be shot on 16mm film) will be produced in the next week.  Updates and posts on those two will be forthcoming.  The video for our first campaign is below (don’t know why the thumbnail looks so funky, but it works out when you play it):





Warner Home Video to Release Citizen Kane Blu-Ray

16 06 2011

Copyright Warner Home Video

Warner Home Video will be releasing a special 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray of Citizen Kane on September 13, 2011.

Long considered one of film’s classic treasures and twice voted by the American Film Institute as the Best Film of All-Time, Citizen Kane was the brain child of 25-year-old Orson Welles, who produced, directed, co-wrote and took the leading role in the film.  After the passing of newspaper magnet Charles Foster Kane (closely modeled after William Randolph Hearst), a newspaperman is sent to find out the meaning of his infamous final words, “Rosebud.”  In doing so, he finds a much more complicated and complex man behind the myth than he could have ever imagined.

The Blu-Ray packaging will include a host of extras including: a 48-page collector’s book, lobby cards, audio commentary by Welles’s friend and accomplished film director Peter Bogdonavich and film critic Roger Ebert, deleted scenes, full-length documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane, HBO docudrama RKO 281 with Liev Schreiber and James Cromwell, a DVD copy of Welles’s follow-up film The Magnificent Ambersons (which, narratively, The Royal Tenenbaums borrowed heavily from) and much more.

This marks the first time that the classic film has appeared on Blu-Ray and the first time that The Magnificent Ambersons has appeared on any digital medium.  Pre-orders are available now through Amazon.com for $49.99, or minus The Magnificent Ambersons for $44.99.





The Reader (2008) Review

16 06 2011

Copyright 2008 The Weinstein Company

★ ★ ★

I caught this movie just after it was nominated for Best Picture a couple years ago.  I can see why it was nominated only so far as it is the usual style of film that appeals to the Academy (again, period piece, historical, drama – you get the picture).

When a young man named Michael Berg (David Kross) falls ill, he is taken in by an older woman to recoup, Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet).  On return to thank her for her kindness, the two strike up a romantic relationship despite their age difference.  Michael continues visiting and, in addition to their romantic endeavors, reads to her from various classic novels.  One day she disappears and Michael can’t find her anywhere.  Eight years later, he runs into her again while a law student analyzing a criminal trial.  Hanna is one of the women on trial where she is alleged to have been a female guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Without spoiling what happens next, the decision of the trial and occurrences after deeply impact both of their lives.  The older Michael Berg is played by Ralph Fiennes.

The story is structured around three distinct narratives: the early relationship when Michael is a boy, his time as a law student eight years later and, finally, him as a grown man.  The narrative weaves between all three distinct parts of his life.  Though, in premise, the story sounds entertaining, the film as a whole really is a rather bland effort.  The cinematography by Roger Deakins and Chris Menges is outstanding, but other than that, the direction by Stephen Daldry, pacing, acting and story flow all just seem rather boring and cliched.

It’s not a bad film, but how it managed five Academy Award nominations blows my mind.  Kate Winslet won a much deserved career Oscar for this film, but in my opinion, she should have won it for the much better film and performance from this same year, Revolutionary Road.





The King’s Speech (2010) Review

15 06 2011

Copyright See-Saw Films 2010

★ ★ ★ ★

Where to start?  Well, I think Academy Award winners and nominees might be a good place to freshen up the new stock of reviews to come from the back log.  Why not start here with last year’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech? Sounds like a plan to me.

This was one of the few films last year I actually made it to the theater for.  I hate to say it, but with Netflix, I have become increasingly lazy with the idea of driving to the theater and paying $7 to $8 to watch a picture, but some films are worth seeing on the big screen.  After the well-referred reviews and Oscar nominations this film garnered, I figured it’d be worth the admission.  In the end, it was.

The film revolves around King George VI’s (Colin Firth) reign as monarch of the British Empire beginning in 1936 and primarily focusing on his rule through World War II.  Bertie, as he is referred by friends and family, assumes the throne following the abdication by his elder brother Edward VIII.  Though well brought up to be king, the newly named monarch is worried about his noticeable stammer.  Having been to many specialists for correction over the years, he is quite reluctant to try another; however, at his wife’s behest, he begins sessions with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist with unique methods.  Their tumultuous relationship as “doctor” and patient, result in a lasting friendship and new found courage for the king.

Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Writing, Directly for the Screen, this is a solid film.  Firth and Rush are brilliant in their respective roles, as is Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mother.  The direction by Tom Hooper is stagy and textbook, but works for the picture which is driven by performance.  A bit tailored for its eventual Oscar glory, being that it is exactly what the Academy likes to see (historical, period piece, drama), it is still an interesting telling of a truly inspiring story.





Opening the Flood Gates

15 06 2011

After careful consideration, I have decided to “open the flood gates” so to speak and go into back log film reviews.  Up to this point, every film review I have posted has only been reviews of films I have watched since beginning this blog back in March 2011.  However, since I am currently in the midst of watching several television series, my output to the blog has decreased to a degree.

To help close this gap and keep constant posts, I am going to go into my back log of films I have seen.  The primary difference between back-logged reviews and new reviews will be the length.  The usual length of my normal reviews runs about 450-500 words because the film itself is completely fresh in my mind and I am able to analyze a bit more without reference.  The back-logged films will come a bit shorter than this and be in the form of a “mini-review”.  It will still give basic overviews, thoughts and a 5-star rating, but just with less depth; it will be a quick guide if-you-will to what the film is about and whether or not it is worth watching.

What does this mean?  Well, this means that any film I have ever seen is now fair game for a review.  What kind of an amount are we talking about?  That’s a bit hard to tell, but definitely in the thousands.  So, I hope you stay tuned and appreciate the influx of reviews to come from early cinema to present day, black-and-white to color and foreign and domestic.





R.I.P. Gunnar Fischer (1910 – 2011)

12 06 2011

Gunnar Fischer (1910 - 2011)

Legendary Swedish cinematographer Gunnar Fischer passed away yesterday at the age of 100.  Fischer’s lighting and camera techniques brought to life some of Ingmar Bergman’s most iconic films from the director’s early period.  Though not as well known as future collaborator Sven Nykvist, Fischer’s style and visual eye has dazzled cinema-goers for nearly 60 years, though his general recognition remains mostly silent.

Born in Ljungby Vasternorrlands Lan, Sweden, on November 18, 1910, Fischer originally studied painting at Otte Sköld.  Following his education, he enlisted as a chef with the Swedish Navy, before turning to a career in cinema at Svensk Filmindustri. His first film credit was as assistant camera on Smålänningar in 1935, and his first feature as a director of photography came in 1942.  He worked with several international directors including Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer and British director Anthony Asquith.  However, his most endearing and remembered artistic partnership was with Bergman from 1948 to 1960.

The fruits of Bergman and Fischer’s collaborations include such films as Harbor City, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician and their final collaboration, The Devil’s Eye.  Like many fellow Swedish cinematographers of the era, Fischer was a master of practical lighting and operated his own camera on all his films.  Such classic images as Max von Sydow playing chess with Death or the wide dancing chain on the hill side from The Seventh Seal still move and touch viewers of all generations.

Bergman and Fischer went their separate ways after The Devil’s Eye in 1960.  Bergman went on to form another strong artistic partnership with cinematographer Sven Nykvist which lasted through almost the rest of the director’s professional career.  Fischer continued shooting feature films until 1979 when he retired.  In retirement, he continued to be close to his craft by serving as an instructor of cinematography at several prestigious Scandinavian universities.

An interesting article and interview regarding Fisher’s time working with Bergman from the Washington Post in 2008 can be found here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020100903.html





“Who am I? I’m the Doctor”

5 06 2011

Doctor Who logo - Copyright BBC Worldwide

Apologies on the sparse posting as of late.  I’m usually not much of a television fan, but have been engrossed in two shows over the past couple of weeks.  First, I’m still moving through the original Twilight Zone episodes; the reviews, which are updated regularly, are available on the Twilight Zone master guide page which is located here: https://notesonafilm.wordpress.com/twilight-zone-master-guide/.  I hope you’ll check it out and find some episodes that fit your taste!

The other show that has dominated my life, and much more so, as of late is the British science fiction classic Doctor Who.  I’ve long thought the series would appeal to me, but I try my hardest to avoid television programs (or programmes more appropriately for a British show) when possible because of the time commitments.  However, I have gotten myself sucked into yet another with this series.

Originally, Maddie and I were going to start with the original Doctor Who from the 1960s and try our best to move forward through the entirety of the series.  We actually did watch a few of the original episodes from the William Hartnell era and, though quality was not good because of magnetic tape storage, the stories were very interesting and held up quite well!  Being a show that has had almost 800 episodes, however, we soon decided to take a friend’s advice and start with the 2005 re-boot of the series by Russell T. Davies, which updates the viewer on much of the terminology and makes it so you don’t have to watch the previous 700 episodes to know what is going on.

Because of the BBC’s “cleaning tape” policy of the 1970s, many of the original episodes are unavailable.  Also, though the stories were intriguing, the dated sets and low production value of some of the early episodes were a bit hard to get through.  So, about a week and a half ago, we began the 2005 series which starts with the appearance of the ninth doctor, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston.  We just finished the first season and regeneration into the tenth doctor (David Tennant) and are decidedly hooked on this series.

The first season wasn’t the best looking because of being shot, obviously, on Digital Betacam in 4:3.  However, the stories, performances, direction and, for the time impressive CG sequences, really propelled the series and took the mind away from the video-like look of that season.  Having just watched the special Christmas episode and first episode of the second season, it looks like they made a huge jump in what camera they were using, as it’s 16×9 and 24p (still not sure if it’s SD or downrezzed HD, but looks WAY better).

In short, don’t be surprised if the posts are a bit sparse for a bit while I continue to navigate space and time in my living room.  Do check back frequently for Twilight Zone updates though and I will have a special post when I get the full first season watched and reviewed.  Thanks for your patronage and hopefully my eyes won’t bleed out of my head in the coming weeks from too much sitting in front of the tube!








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