April Apocalipse

This month of September 2011 I was hired to work as 2nd 2nd AD in a feature film called April Apocalypse. I can start by saying that it was one of my best production experiences since I am here in Hollywood. I work most of the time as 1st AD for gigs that I get, but usually they don’t have what this gig had: a full production department.
My experience working on low budget independent films is based on the reality that I have to do everything and a little bit more. I never had a 2nd AD, nor production coordinator, nor line producer, working with me. So my biggest challenge in this production was actually figuring out what to do, because the production department had everything pretty much figured it out (like the TV productions I worked back in Brazil).

I didn’t know what a 2nd 2nd AD job was. I learned that one of the responsibilities of a 2nd 2nd is  for the most part getting the first team (main actors and directors) ready to set, paperwork related to cast, and handling and placing the extras/background actors in the picture. My “doing-everything-possible” attitude during the first days of production made me take care of a bunch of stuff except what a 2nd 2nd should take care. But as the days went on, I started to get the hang of it and by the end I was doing pretty damn good.

Another big challenge was set etiquette. My do-it-all attitude sometimes put me in bad situations. There were moments where instead of facilitating the job, I was getting in the way of people. Another difficult task was talking on walkies. I mean, it is hard for me to understand people when they speak English fast, but it is almost impossible to understand people talking fast on a walkie talkie (specially when they are screaming the walkie lingo). I was nurturing a good attitude even with stumbles, working hard and not getting caught up on little things. My tough skin, that I built during my prior working experiences, helped me endure the low and not over cheer the high moments.

There were a lot of good things that I will always remember. One of them was that in the very first day we had to separate the production in 2 units. While one was shooting with the main actors in one set, the other was shooting with the supporting actors in another set. I stayed with the main actors and I was able to do part of the 1st AD job, calling the rolls, getting everyone to their positions, and getting the shots done. Another thing that was pretty nice was that on the last day of shoot, I was relaying the messages from the director in the video village to the 1st AD inside the set, and for that reason I was able to call the picture wrap right after the director.  I was really happy with my path during this show.

Production department
The person who brought me to this production was Sazzy Lee Calhoun. She was the best first AD I ever had the pleasure to work with. She saw on my resume that I worked with Damian Chapa and she knew that I could handle pressure. To me was important to see how a good 1st AD takes care of the production. Bernie Gewissler was the line producer, but in my opinion he was a magician. The way he stretched the budget in order to make this picture a reality was OFF THE HOOK. ML Wills was the second AD. He had the most accurate and well thought out call sheet I’ve ever seen. Also he had a very good spirit during the whole shoot. By his side was Trina DeMattei, our production coordinator. She is just a sweet heart. Everything they taught me left a positive mark for the rest of my life, and I will always be grateful for it. Also in the production department there were a couple of PAs who were not only good workers, but real friends. Jack Brungardt, Andrew Higgins, Sarah Burt, and Rose Luther.

The film shooting
The film was scheduled to shoot in 15 days, with 4 major locations: The ranch, church, mansion, and dinner. The ranch was where we stayed for most of production and at that place we could shoot at least 20 different sets. The good thing about that location was that we had everything we need in one spot, we didn’t have to keep wrapping and setting up every day, and the place was very beautiful. The bad thing is that the ranch was too far north from LA, it was remote from important facilities (groceries store, equipment stores, rental houses, etc), and it was too big making it difficult to move fast from one set to another.
After the ranch we went to a church that was farther north and then we came back to LA at a mansion in Encino. We stayed at that Encino Mansion for 4 days and our last day was at a Dinner in San Fernando.

Crew
The crew was exceptionally knowledgeable about their craft even being a very young group of people. The DP Kyle Hartman impressed me with the quality of his cinematography. He respected his crew members and he knew what he could get from every person. I asked him a few questions to figure out what was his process of creating the visual of a picture and I was impressed not only with his answer but with the fact that he took his time to talk about it. There were 5 people in his department who backed him up: Ron Wilson (Key Grip), Wesley VonTracy and Jeff Siljenberg (gaffers), Jerry Franck and Gevorg Sarkisian (camera op). All of them were young, polite, talented, patient, and creative artists. They had a group of good professionals working with them. Mario Contini and Matt Claudillo were the 1st ACs, Nick Novotny was the 2nd AC, Steve Mangurten was the DIT. Big Mike was one of the grips together with Stephen Chan. Edwin Kim and Shane Moore were the electricians. There were a lot of day players, and I wish I could remember the name of all of them, because everybody did a great work.

The art department had Susannah Lowber as the production designer. I liked that she was always in a good mood with me. We laugh together a couple of times and she made my days easier. She had the help of propmaster Jeremy Trimbach, who was one of my best friends on set. He always mentioned about the good work that I was doing. Nick Harrison and Ashley Prikryl were the set decorators and all of them were great artists. I even let them use one of my tents and sleeping bags for one of the scenes.

The wardrobe department was led by Victor Sandoval. He was a good spirit also and very easy going person. He had under his command Vaiya Simmons and Mishka Trachenberg. They worked really close to the make up department that had Adam Beesley as the commander in chief. Dan Gilbert and Brittany Dummit were also inside the most efficient make up department I’ve ever work with. Imagine had to create more than 15 zombies in one day to shoot a scene. Well they not only did that in one morning, but also were able to make themselves up and jump on front of the camera for a couple of occasions. They had always treat me nice even when I was trying to get talents out of their chairs.

There was a guy who was a department by himself. His name is John Barret. He was the script supervisor and a very interesting human being to say the least. He worked by the side of the directors Jarret Tarnol and Brent Tarnol. These two young and talented directors work very well together. Brent is the creative brain behind the script and Jarret is the one who brings the words to the screen. What I liked about their partnership is their mutual respect. I liked to see how Jarret runs the show, and how well he puts himself in every situation. Brent had a lot on his plate, because he not only wrote the film, but was one of the main characters. He was very funny and very polite. He even came one day and apologized for being rude with me, but to be honest, I didn’t remember when he was ever rude.  They have a company called Tarnol Group Pictures

Casting
April Apocalypse had heavy set of talented actors. The films stars Reece Thompson, Rebekah Brandes, and Brent Tarnol. In the supporting roles there are Stephanie Hunt, Todd Stashwick, Roger Bart, and Matt Shively. We also had a set of special guest talents like: George Lopez, Mark Rolston, Marguerite MacIntyre, and William Morgan Sheppard. The film also had a set of young upcoming talents like: Sarah Hyland, Randy Wayne, Matt Prokop, Elizabeth Small, Olivia Waldriff, and Charlie Lea.
I was amazed by how well Reece Thompson played his character Artie. Reece is an awesome guy, who loves to play ukelele, esteemed and confident of his abilities, nothing like his character Artie who starts as a fragile and unappreciated person. Reece had to dig deep into his emotional memory to come up with the exceptional acting he delivered in every take. Since the beginning I had a feeling that I knew him from somewhere and I was surprised to discover that he was in one of my top ten films: Rocket Science. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to tell him how much I loved his work in Rocket Science because I just discovered that after we wrapped the film. If you want to see the full potential of a rising star, please watch Rocket Science and April Apocalypse.
Rebekah Brandes is a sweet heart. She was always committed to her character. I even remember when I was talking to her in between takes and she was answering me as April (the character she plays). It caught me off guard and I had to adapt to her reality in order to make sense of our conversation, and most important, keep her focus. Another actress who caught my attention was Stephanie Hunt, who plays Regan. She is that kind of person who looks you in the eyes when having a conversation. Her character Regan had the obstacle of seeing her family die on front of her and had to find reasons to keep living after the fact. None of the actors were divas or had a bad attitude. I believe that one of the reasons was the fact that the production was really organized, not leaving space for complaints.

April Apocalypse
This film will be going places for sure because it has everything on it. It is a romantic/action picture, where the main character is chasing after the love of his life in the middle of a zombie outbreak. It has astonishing cinematography (we shot with two red ones, and one epic), A list casting, lots of blood, gore, drama, romance, and the most important fact of all, it was made by true filmmakers. It is set to release in 2012.

Since the first day I wanted to have my name on the quote of the day, and I finally made it by the last day of shooting
Zombies in my Van
Camera Crew
Kyle Hartman – Director of Photography

 

Rosa Morena

Neste Domingo dia 5 de junho fui assistir ao filme Rosa Morena que estava sendo exibido no Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival. A minha irmã Miriam Amadeu participou deste filme com uma personagem fantástica.

O filme trata-se da história de um Dinamarquês, Thomas (Anders W. Berthelsen), que vai para o Brasil tentar adotar uma criança. Pelo fato de ser homossexual, Thomas enfrenta grandes obstáculos que o impedem de adotar uma criança na Dinamarca. A personagem que a minha irmã faz é a primeira tentativa real de Thomas na busca de seu sonho.

O filme é muito bem feito com atuações verdadeiras e com um roteiro real e denso. Os personagens tem muita profundidade e os diálogos são sinceros. O que mais marca no filme é a perfeita combinação de humor e drama. Homossexualismo é um tema que para ser tratado precisa-se muita coragem e sutileza. O filme lida com o drama dos personagem de forma humana, e não levanta bandeiras que possam gerar polêmica. Eu acredito que que a audiência vai se identificar com a história independentemente  da opção sexual ou da opinião sobre o assunto. Esse é o motivo que mostra o brilhantismo dessa produção.

O filme foi produzido com capital Dinamarquês e Brasileiro. Um dos produtores do filme é o Ivan Teixeira. Conversamos um pouco ao final da apresentação e fiquei muito contente de conhecer um profissional brasileiro tão talentoso e simpático.

O video acima é uma das cenas que a minha irmã faz. As fotos abaixo são do Grauman’s Chinese Theatre em Hollywood lotado durante a apresentação do filme.

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Miriam Amadeu
Anders Berthelsen
Miram Amadeu

Single chip camera evaluation – Cine Gear Expo

Bob Primes, ASC produced a documentary that evaluates the new wave of single large chip cameras.

This documentary was showed at the Paramount theaters during the Cine Gear Expo of 2011.

Bob Primes, Image Quality Geeks

I was there for the screening and also could watch a Q&A with the producer Bob, cinematographer Stephen Lighthill, and post supervisor of the documentary Mike Curtis.

This documentary is a carefully Single Chip Camera Evaluation, shot on 12 cameras . There was an extensive battery of tests that evaluate the following:

  • sharpness,
  • sensitivity,
  • over and underexposure latitude,
  • low light performance,
  • compression artifacts,
  • color reproduction,
  • skin tones,
  • shutter artifact

The cameras being evaluated were:

  • Arri Alexa,
  • Sony F35,
  • Red One MX,
  • Panasonic AF100,
  • Sony F3,
  • Phantom Flex,
  • Weisscam HS-2,
  • Canon 1D MkIV,
  • Canon 7D,
  • Canon 5D Mk II,
  • Nikon D7000
  • and two film stocks: Kodak 5219 and 5213

Before we go over the details of this evaluation, let me explain how they did the evaluation which I think is very relevant. All cameras were recorded in their best output formats, which means that if a camera had as its best output a 4:4:4 12 bit to a external device, that was the way they shot this particular camera in all tests. Also each and every camera had a person called “camera master” that would be responsible for tweaking the camera for optimum quality. There was no color correction on the footage that would disregard the evaluation. The editing was soundless, so we could focus on the image. Last but not least, they had total control over the whole process from conception to final cut, with no interference from any of the cameras manufactures.

With that being said, lets show some graphics taken from the documentary that explain in details the camera performances.

Maximum Resolution

Maximum resolution is the amount of data in one pixel. As you can see in the graphic below, the camera that performs better is the film camera. Surprisingly enough, the Red camera is as good as the film cameras in this category. The worst cameras are the DSLRs, which is expected because they have the worst compression, huge aliasing/moire and terrible recording outputs (they record only on internal cards).

Maximum resolution

Sensitivity

Sensitivity is how well the camera (sensor/film) will capture light. In this regard the film cameras were the worst ones, but I did some research and I saw that these 2 film stocks (Kodak 5213/5219) were actually pretty slow. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that they are 200 and 500 ISO. Which means that it is expected the low sensitivity results. The best camera, or the most sensitive, was the Canon 1D, that also has the biggest sensor. Of course that everything comes at a price, and in this case is the amount of noise that the Canon 1D has.

The Sony F35 was the one that I was amazed by the sensitivity performance. It is not bad, but the low light performance resembles what the film cameras capture. I would even dare to say that the F35 would be similar to a 1000 ISO Kodak film stock (if that’s even a possible consideration).

The Arri Alexa is a very good camera overall, and I also like the Sony F3 and the Red One.

Sensitivity

Latitude

Latitude measures the amount of light a camera/film can process and still creates an acceptable image. For example: a good camera has a greater latitude and it will be able to capture in one frame the highlights and the shadows without any lost of information/detail.

Of course that the film cameras would perform better in this category because they are film, and there is no digital sensor capable of capturing so much information than a film. What I was amazed is how close the Arri Alexa is from the latitude of the film stocks. In the latitude category, we could divide it in three groups. First is film and Alexa, then is Red and F35, and then is the rest.

Latitude

Over and Under Exposure Latitude

This category evaluates the latitude but having a middle point where the image is properly exposed and then the exposure is stretched over and under.

We can see now that the sensitivity evaluation meets with the latitude evaluation at this point. The film cameras perform better at over exposure and lack at under exposure. The Arri Alexa is again a very reliable camera, and the rest is pretty much the same.

Over and under exposion

A good visual comparison would be the following video from Nick Paton, ACS comparing both 7D and Alexa. Check it out!

 

Rolling Shutter and Compression Artifacts

In my opinion, for the evaluation in this set of test, we can divide the cameras into 3 categories. The good ones, the not so bad ones, and the ones that are terrible.

In the good ones category there are:

  • Arri Alexa
  • Sony F35
  • Kodak 5213/5219

in the not so bad ones there are:

  • Phantom Flex
  • Weisscam
  • F3
  • Red One
  • AF100

In the terrible ones there are:

  • 5d
  • 1d
  • 7d
  • nikon

Color

This was a very subjective evaluation and in my opinion there is no way I can even give my impression. I think that for this evaluation, everyone has to look at the image and decide by themselves.

Conclusion

Well, lets get to the bottom of the discussion. There is simply no better camera that does everything. It all depends on questions that are not related to technology but external factors like:

  • budget or “how much is being reserved for the camera and/or camera department?”
  • aesthetic or “what is the feeling being sought by the cinematographer?”
  • final medium delivery or “where this video/film will be seen?”
  • expertise or “how well the cinematographer uses this tool?”
  • personal taste or “I don’t care what other say, I love the camera I use!”

What makes a good picture is definitely not the camera itself, but the good use of  objective and subjective visual components.

 

Side by side comparison – AF100, FS100, F3, 5D

The new wave of large chip cameras

Hello all,

The fast explosion of DSLR shooting speed it up the development of large chip camcorders. Today the major video camcorder manufacturers are fighting for the best large chip cameras. There are 2 options in the market for the prosumer level and one option for the entry professional level.

The prosumer level cameras are:

AF100 – made by Panasonic
FS100 – made by Sony (release at the end of the summer)

Both in the range of US$5,000

The professional entry level is the Sony F3. It goes for US$15,000 with no lenses and US$18,000 with three prime lenses.

There are a lot of good places to research and understand the best option for every person. One of the best places is the personal website of Philip Bloom. He is a filmmaker with a lot of experience in all of these cameras as well DSLRs.

I took a video from his vimeo page and I removed some frames so we could compare side by side the 3 video cameras and the DSLR 5D. The full video can be seen at the bottom of the page.

Click to enlarge

 

Kevin Costner

This month of October I did an interview with Kevin Costner. It was amazing!

I was having breakfast with my wife and we were talking about destiny and positive thinking. My phone rang and it was a production coordinator from Globo (a major TV network in Brazil). She asked me if I could do an interview in 2 days from that time with Kevin Costner. WOW! Totally random. I agreed with the terms and prepared for the big event.

Kevin is going to Brazil with his band to do a concert in Bauru, a city in Sao Paulo. This TV network is promoting the show and they sent a reporter to ask some questions. Her name is Luciana Martins and she is very talented and special professional.

Kevin received us in his new house in Santa Barbara. He is a very humble and nice person. He got very excited about us and he even showed us his property. I really enjoyed the time we spent there.

The interview was amazing! I used the sun as my back light and to get more exposure in their faces I used a 750W ctb balanced hard light pointing to them. It gave me at least 2 stops more in their faces, enough to balance the back sunlight.

My wife went there with me and she helped me with the set up. Kevin also liked her. Well who doesn’t???


Taty and Kevin


The interview with Luciana Martins


Me Working

 

Fist of Gold

I put together a video for a non profit organization based in Pomona California.
They provide kids with boxing classes and support for competition. Their work is amazing and the Head Coach/Director Jorge Castaneda and his right hand man Jerry are really cool and down to earth guys.

We shot one of the scene of the film Last Act in their gym and they helped us not only with the space but also with a lot of extras. The day we shot in their facility was definitely one of the best days of the production. The person in the production who helped us to get all this done, was the fantastic Coco Cook.

Please take a look at the video below.

Thank you

MY FIRST HACKINTOSH

I finally got a perfect working version of my HACKINTOSH system. It took me a couple of months but I could get my PC to run a Mac OS with a working Final cut 7, plus Color 1.5.

The way that I did was first getting the right components. The motherboard that I bought was the Gigabyte UD5, processor Intel i7, and Gskill 6gb memory. The next step was to set up my bios, and download the correct software that does the installation. In my case I used the Kakewalk 2.2. It’s really easy to install. I used the USB method. It took me a couple of trials but at the end I could get everything working.

I did all that because I wanted to have the final cut, which is the industry standard for editing, without having to pay outrageous money for a new hardware. I am a PC guy and in order to buy an used Mac I would have to literally sell all my pcs and a couple of other things that I own and still get some money from someone else. Well, now I can say that I am a PC/MAC guy.

My suggestion for someone that wants to build a Hackinstosh is don’t do it. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not user friendly process. I know a lot about computers and I had a really hard time. If you have money to buy a Mac, go ahead and buy it. It’s worth every single penny. I wish I could have a Mac. A Mac computer is made to last more than any equivalent Frankenstein PC. But if for some reason you want to try, you can follow this simple steps.

I will write a summary of the steps.

1 – Hardware: Gigabyte ex58-UD5 , Intel quad core i7 920, Gskill F3-12800cl7t-6gbpi, Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+
2 – OS: Kakewalk 2.2 install, Snow Leopard 10.6 retail
3 – Software: Final cut 7, Color 1.5

4 – Make the USB using a working mac. follow instructions from kakewalk.
5 – Set the bios: Set HD to AHCI, Set boot from USB, set Hpet (following kakewalk instructions)
6 – Install osx
7 – Enjoy and when you have money buy the original, you won’t regret.

COLLAGE

In this post there are a series of various collages inspired on distinct themes and each one with a unique emphasis.

Le me know what you think. Thanks.

 

“What we are made of?”
Inspiration: YouTube, everyday life.
Emphasis: Color
Feb 2010.

“Deep Balance”
Inspiration: Sid, the science kid-PBS.
Emphasis: Lines
March 2010

“Nothing News”
Inspiration: CNN.
Emphasis: Texture
March 2010

“Looking to the future”
Inspiration: Waste Land – Brazilian Documentary 2010.
Emphasis: Position/Shape/Contrast
April 2010

“Crazy lines”
Inspiration: Shutter Island.
Emphasis: Mass
April 2010

“Mask”
Inspiration: Eyes wide shut.
Emphasis: Harmony
May 2010

“Los Mighty”
Inspiration: LACC.
Emphasis: Proportion
May 2010

“Tasty Blood”
Inspiration: Top Chef – Bravo.
Emphasis: Variation
April 2010

“A little of everything”
Inspiration: Works of 2010.
Emphasis: Perspective and movement
May 2010