Thursday, December 17, 2009
The bag can be used as a waistbag or a shoulder bag and comes with a nifty way to tuck away waistbelt. But I have it's most comfortable by using a combination of both. The bag also comes in a smaller Wired Up 10 size but I found the 20 was actually big enough to double as a laptop bag for my 13" Macbook pro. And with a small prime you can carry both in the same bag. There is a removeable padded insert with tons of dividers so you customize the interior anyway you like.
There are pockets galore throughout the bag and its all very user friendly. Believe me after lugging around all of my equipment on a recent shoot to London and Paris i wasn't tired and my shoulders were thankful. I found that I was able to switch out lenses more quickly and also having the audio at waist level allowed me to monitor levels more easily. That's why those audio guys always wear those belt packs.
Think Tank is a great company made up of award winning photographers who make really well thought out products for the professional photographer. Part of their philosophy is that you don't have to wear everything on your back while shooting. It's about accessibility and ease of use. They also have a belt pack system that you can add what you need. Here's the cofounder talking about some of the other multimedia products.
Highly recommended bag for the HDSLR one man band who is doing double system sound. Think Tank makes great products and solutions so check them out as well.
They are sold on the Think Tank website, Calumet, Adorama and a shout-out to this great store FOTOCARE who was extremely helpful.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
All in all, it was a pretty great decade for cinema. And in many ways, so many of these films are not only my favorite films of the decade, but some of my favorite movies of all time.
1. City of God - When this film came out, everything about it was original and exciting to me. Fernando Meirelles set the tone and style of so many movies of the decade and many more to come. It was handheld, quick moving unrelenting and undeniably powerful. But what makes the film a masterpiece is that it also managed to be tender and touching. If I had to pick one, probably my fave of the decade.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - A close second is the visual masterpiece by Michel Gondry (a wizard of cinema tricks) from a genius script by Charlie Kaufman. Yes the filmmaker in me marveled at the “How did he do that?” But the romantic in me found the sentimental love story absolutely irresistible. I have another Kaufman film on my list and just as Meirelles changed the way we film movies, Kaufman has changed the way we look at storytelling.
3. Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Schnablel’s painterly and heartbreaking film puts the audience literally behind the skin of the main character. For the entire film, I felt trapped in and paralyzed like the lead yet at the same time stunned by the beautiful images that Schnabel paints onto the screen. What seems like an impossible story to translate to cinema was not only a success but managed to be uplifting and inspirational.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I watched this movie at the NY Film Festival with a bunch of hardened critics and press. At the end of it, I was amazed to see all of them rise to their feet and applaud like a bunch of school kids at a matinee. And I shared in their enthusiasm. It’s no secret that I am a lifelong Ang Lee fan and this film shows his artistry once again. A love story, an action adventure and an homage to the cinema of Ang Lee’s youth.
5. Pans Labyrinth – Perhaps I was already charmed by an interview I watched with Del Toro and the three amigos on Charlie Rose but you cannot deny the filmmaker’s meticulous detail and singular vision of this fantasy. I had written a similar story when I was in my 20s and again on a personal level, it was rewarding to see that you can mix real period drama with surrealistic fantasy.
6. In the Mood for Love What’s interesting about this selection is that I did not like it when I first saw it. But over the years, I could not stop thinking about it. Someone had bought me the DVD as a gift and I watched it again, and then I had a completely different reaction. The haunting images and love story stay with you, mostly because it achieves a mood I suspect mostly because of Chris Doyle’s unique style of cinematography (I now try to use only available light) but also the evocative soundtrack by Umebayshi Shigeru. Wong Kar Wai of course has to be credited, but it’s the mood of the film that stays with you.
7. Amelie Yes it’s corny, yes its overly sentimental, but I still love Amelie. I’m writing this right now while I’m on a shoot in Paris and even as we shot the steps of Montmartre, I could not separate my love for the city and my memory of this film. Movies for me when they succeed are magic, and this film had no shortage of that from Tatou’s waifish charm to the cartoonish direction of Jeunet to the wonderful soundtrack of Yann Tiersin.
8. Being John Malkovich Yes that’s right another Kaufman film. This one I admire because it was our introduction of the great writer. As I have written now two screenplays in this past decade, I can appreciate more Kaufman’s ability to take absurdity and mix it with simple moving storytelling. It’s a very hard balance to strike and what makes him so great. Let’s not forget Spike Jonze’s skillful and playful filmmaking. Also kudos to Jonze for his brilliant adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are...
9. Lost in Translation I lived in Hong Kong for two years long before I saw this movie. But when I watched it at an early preview, I had such a strong relationship to the character and how uncannily Coppola was able to capture a foreigner’s view of Asia. I was certain that the film would fail since so few people would have shared this experience, but I came to realize the story is more universal and the love story such an unusual one. I have a bit of professional jealousy that I feel towards Coppola hard not to as she is the princess daughter of a legend, but this film shows she has real talent.
10. Mulholland Drive Okay the end of my list is a film I forgot came out this decade, but it is probably my fave David Lynch movie (toss up Blue Velvet) because of its mysterious plot and truly original story telling. Many filmmakers attempt to portray the dream world but no other director succeeds at making it work. What was in that box?
ALSO RAN: The Lives of Others, The Incredibles, Talk to Her, Reprise
Saturday, November 14, 2009
A few months ago, I purchased the beachtek 5d unit. While it worked wonders for the first two months, the unit completely conked out while on a commercial shoot in Miami. This is totally unacceptable and after talking to fellow filmmakers, they had similiar experiences. I decided to go for a dual system sound option.
After testing both the Tascam DR-100 and the Zoom h4n (the go to model for 5d mark II), I decided to go for the Tascam. Here's why. The first difference were the on-board mikes. TASCAM is a pro-level brand and the sound quality was shockingly much better than the H4n.
Secondly, the TASCAM has both a headphone out with dial controls and a line out, which means that you can send a signal to your camera while simultaneously monitoring the Tascam. Because of the headphone dial you can use it like a built in attenuator and if you set the headphone dial to roughly 3, the signal is clean into the camera eliminating the need to sync sound later in post. This is a huge advantage over the H4n which only has one output.
Furthermore, the unit has separate volume controls for the XLR inputs another short coming from the H4N.
The build quality is excellent with most of the controls you need to use easily accessible with switches. The body is all metal. The pre-amps on the XLR inputs are excellent. It has two batteries a rechargeable lithium battery as well as AA batteries. Like the H4n, you can easily mount the unit on your camera with a hot shoe adapter. My tests allowed for about 7 hours recording time with the two batteries.
I bought the unit for $329 at Dale audio but i did notice that the price has gone up since my last purchase. You can still buy the unit for about $310 on Amazon.
CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The TASCAM out preforms the H4N in every category except for one and that is the option of 4 channel recording from the H4N. But since I was so disappointed in the on-board h4n mikes, I concluded i would probably never use it. It is the ideal system for external sound for the 5d.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
as you can see when you pull off the top half what's left on the camera becomes a sunshade! it clicks on tightly when its on and easily comes off when you dont need it. brilliant. so all i did was go and buy i used eyecup from an old JVC camera ($15) that fit perfectly on the unit. total cost $175. the square unit is too big for the camera so i might actually create a connection piece for it that will retrofit the part that connects to the camera.
highly recommended if you want to great option from the zacuto!
this rig is fantastic and allows you to focus while being handheld. that's almost the most important thing with these cameras. extremely portable. here's the part i didn't learn until the cavison. build quality is very important. this unit is priced at 695 but it is machined well and was custom fit for DSLRs so the ergonomics are right. You can also turn the handles upside down and gives you a more eng style. ofcourse there are other rigs at this price. i had seriously considered the redrock THE EVENT but i found out that the dslr plate doesn't allow you to change the battery without removing it. i also looks at the gorilla kits from zacuto, found those things really awkward and unbalanced with a heavy lens and as everyone knows overpriced. this unit fits nicely on the tripod using my same quick release. this system will allow you to later attach a chest pod or a shoulder mount or follow focus, matte box if you want.
here's a video i used with this rig
music from jon brion. little person from synecdoche new york. shot on 5d mark II. brooklyn bridge park, dumbo brooklyn.
never ending rain in the city. used it as an opportunity to test timelapse using intervalometer as well as my new rig in the park near my place....
open shot was time lapse using intervalometer. kept shutter open for 1 second.
lens: 24-70mm f/2.8L (my favorite)
here is the website
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I directed this series of videos for American Airlines new website called www.blackatlas.com. The project is a social networking site developed by Burrell Ad Agency out of Chicago, Juxt Interative and American Airlines targeted at the African American traveller. Nelson George, my frequent collaborator, friend, co-director and co-producer for our upcoming feature documentary (STAY TUNED), is the host and editor of the site. We shot the entire series on the Canon 5d Mark II. The first videos were shot in Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Miami, LA and Jamaica. We will be continuing to travel to more destinations through next year...
And for you tech nerds like myself out there, my kit includes Cavision shoulder mount, Beachtek dxa-5d, sennheiser g3 wireless mics, sennheiser ME66, lenses are 24-70mm/2.8L, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8, 70-200mm/2.8, lensbaby composer (for artsy shots), hoodman loupe which i outfitted with velcro, litepanel micro, manfrotto 190cx 501hdv head, Lowepro Slingshot 200a.
Normally I shoot with a DP but because of the quick turnaround and sometimes run and gun style of the videos, I chose to shoot myself. This kit is amazingly portable and since my lenses are fast and low light, I was able to use available light 90% of the time. I do believe these DSLR hybrid systems are going to revolutionize our industry. I literally could carry all of my gear through the airport in a tiny backpack.
I have to say, having shot with all of the prosumer HD cameras from HVX200, EX3 and EX1 this camera blows them away in terms of image.
One downside is the audio options. I used the Beachktek DXA-5d which is specially outfitted for this camera and allows you to disable the AGC as well as attach pro mics. Since you can only monitor what goes into the beachtek and not what goes into the camera itself, you have no way of knowing what you are actually recording. I like the way it is designed but the connector has already given out. Very disappointed. I think I am moving to a two system with either the Tascam DR-100 or the ZOOM.
check it out. www.blackatlas.com
Friday, May 22, 2009
Link TV has put the entire episode of Open Book's pilot online. please click here to watch.
Here are some nice things people are saying about the show... Hope you get a chance to see it. and if you are wondering, yes, i did write all of these myself ;)
"In addition to being gorgeously filmed, this has got to be the hippest TV show on literature out there. Love it and can't wait to see more!"
"Amazing direction---the way the stories are told, layered with the music, the light, the colors, the setting is just gorgeously rich. Gives the concept the depth it deserves."
"It’s great to see new programs that transcend today’s unfortunate standard of mediocrity."
"wonderful show I am already addicted"
"may well be the first TV show to focus on Story, storytelling, and books–and not be “for readers only” or dull."
From Washington Post
"Eschewing the usual talking heads approach (Zzzzzz), Open Book packages author interviews in beautifully filmed segments, directed by Diane Paragas, that show writers reading from their work against mood music and artsy clips. Jeffrey Wright delivers a passage from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," and in a particularly lovely segment, a Whitman impersonator talks about his decades of devotion to the the author of "Song of Myself.""
Chicago Literary Examiner,
"The scope and precision of Open Book is awesome; this is not just about a book or a place, but about the humanity we all share. It's a work of art in itself, and a testament to the enduring power of the written word."
"might make any bookworm switch off the flashlights, emerge from beneath the covers, and turn on the TV.
Please let us know what you think.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
I worked closely with long time friend and colleague Amy Lawday who produced, co-wrote and edited the film. Together with writer/editor/asst Director Liron Reiter, the three of us made this film together. We were thrilled when Kristen Stewart of "Twilight" mega fame agreed to be the host of the PSA and the film. Security on Campus will have a red carpet premiere in Philadelphia on April 30th.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I've used pretty much every camera out there from the p2 cards/ HVX200, Sony's EX3, Red Camera as well as the varicam, the cinealta. Now all of these cameras are okay but either they are expensive and heavy, or they just don't have the picture quality or the optics to satisfy my needs. One rig came close: using a very crude DOF adapter like the LETUS and putting it on a HVX or an EX1. I used this technique for a spot I did for Obama. But adding a contraption in front of a prosumer camera then putting a Nikon or Canon lens in front of that seems a bit cumbersome.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Best picture - Slumdog Millionaire*, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Benjamin Button
Best Director - Danny Boyle*, David Fincher, Ron Howard, Gus Van Zandt, Stephen Daldry
Best Actor - Mickey Rourke*, Sean Penn, Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt
Best Actress - Kate Winslet*, Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor- Heath Ledger*, Robert Downey Jr, Josh Brolin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Shannon
Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz*, Marisa Tomei, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Taraji Henson
Best Foreign Film - Waltz with Bashir*,
Best original Screenplay - Happy go Lucky*, In Bruges, Wall-E, Milk, Frozen River
Best Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire*, The Reader, Doubt, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon
Best Documentary - Man on Wire*, The Betrayal, Encounters, The Garden, Trouble the Water
Overall pleased with academy choices even though i was wrong on a lot of them.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire*, Benjamin Button, Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight
Best Director - Danny Boyle*, David Fincher, Gus Van Zandt, Christopher Nolan, Ron Howard
Best Actor - Mickey Rourke*, Frank Langella, Sean Penn,Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt
Best Actress - Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet*, Angelina Jolie, Sally Hawkings, Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger*, Robert Downey Jr, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress - Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz*, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Marissa Tomei
Best Original Screenplay - The Wrestler, Happy Go Lucky, The Visitor, Rachel Getting Married*, Dark Knight
Best Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog*, Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, The Reader
Best Documentary - Man on Wire*, Standard Operating Procedure, Trouble the Water, Encounters at the End of the World, Pray the Devil Back To Hell
Let's see how accurate I am. pride myself in being pretty good at this.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Jeffrey Wright channels Walt Whitman from Diane Paragas on Vimeo.
10. Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Despite the lack of chemistry between Pitt and Blanchett and annoying flashback structure,this film is on my list for its technological achievement and sumptuous cinematography. I admire Finchers dedication which shows in every frame of this flawed film.
9. Wall-E. Pixar does it again in it's smartest and perhaps most adult film to date. The film pays homage to movies like Brazil and 2001 and manages to make a scathing social commentary amidst the dazzling animation.
8. Happy-Go-Lucky. Mike Leigh knows how to cast a film and just let life happen on screen. Poppy played with heart by Sally Hawkings, goes from loveable to irritating and finally by the end of the film to human.
7. Man on Wire. Best documentary of the year. The mixture of archival footage and live action is seemless and the heroic tale of Petit is pure magic.
6. Rachel Getting Married. Jenny Lumet has written a no holds barred family drama. Debra Winger and Anne Hatthaway give nuanced performances. Demme uses his documentary style to give more intimacy to this story.
5. The Visitor. Quiet and restrained this film would be higher up on my list if not for the ending. Richard Jenkins has created a complex character and the supporting cast is wonderful.
4. The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke is heartbreaking in a role that seemed to be made for him. Aronofsky pulls back form his usual showing off antics and never resorts to exploitation in this tender drama.
3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. My favorite film from Woody in years reminds me why I love him so much. Penelope, Scarlett, Rebecca Hall and Javier in the Spanish countryside is a great place to start, but Woody proves again how he understands the female psyche.
2. Slumdog Millionaire. Classic Capra meets City of God. This fairytale of rags to riches is told with exuberance and optimism and non-stop energy. The film is best in the first act with it's talented young actors. Danny Boyle proves you can tell a tale devoid of cynicism with an artful and delicate hand. Kudos to any film that has you dancing in the aisles literally.
1. Reprise. This small film from Norway about two 20-something writers tackles friendship, love, creative angst, insanity and ambition. Writer/director Joachim Trier perfectly captures the spirit of youth and creates to me the most fresh and original film of the year both in style and substance.
***One film that I thoroughly enjoyed but because of illness slept through a large part would be on my list but I would feel dishonest having not seen the whole thing is Waltz with Bashir.