Monday, March 22, 2021

Carry a camera!

 This piece of advice is less important nowadays when nearly everyone has a fairly high quality camera (or even a 4K) in their pocket as part of their phone.  But nine or ten years ago when I visited NYC my phone camera was poop.  I used an HD pocket camera and grabbed shots of buildings as we drove out of town to  head "home" to Florida.

Years later I would be playing around with a shot of my Pie Tin UFO on Blue Screen and need a background.  I chose one of those shots (I recently organized old stock footage into a folder on my computers) as the  background and foreground for my sequence.

So, even though you may always have a camera with you, remember to use it.  Don't just shoot videos you think will be good on TikTok or Instagram today, but remember to shoot some photos of video clips you MAY want to use later.  Especially in places you may not be able to get back to easily and especially in PUBLIC places where the footage will be free for you to use.  Hold that phone horizontally so the shots will drop nicely into your movie projects and archive them someplace besides your phone or a cloud  you may not subscribe to next year.

This lifetime collection of shots is a great way to remember your travels and where  you've been, but as a digital media artist, they are also a part of  your ever expanding toolbox.  Pieces you can back to that will save you time, money and travel in the future.  Inspiration for future compositions.  Even if you only use old footage as a placeholder, I find it helpful in laying out shots and figuring out what I need from a new shot to make the composition work better.

Anyway, here is the 12 second video which inspired today's blog.  Layout of the layers and such is in the video description.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Gory Eyeball from a Dollar store Ping Pong Ball Eye

 I saw a post from Dead Glow Makeup, LLC about an eye the artist had made.  It had veins out the back and was shiny and goopy looking and just looked great.  I remembered I had bought a pack of 6 eyeballs for a dollar around Halloween with the intent of using them on puppets and monster masks (You can see them on a pumpkin monster in Jack vs Lanterns ) and thought trying to gore it up like Dead Glow's eye would be a neat project.  It was fun, but the results were hardly the same.  I'd suggest if you need an on screen eye, a display eye or one for a great costume, you for over the $15 and buy one of theirs.  (Seriously, follow the link above to see the photos.)

But, if you've got more time than money, need some more "disposable" goopy eyes and like to craft stuff, maybe make a few of these as well.

Also came across someone else's project on a DIY light up creepy eyeball jar that uses the same eyes.
I think added our gore strips to her project would really dress it up a bit.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Flying paper spaceship!

 So, for no reason at all, I started gluing together space ships made from index cards I had laying around.  It seemed like a harmless enough, free way to pass the time, but then I needed paint, some new brushes and now I'm going to need more movies set in space in which to use my ships, which means more aliens, monsters, puppets, stop motion, miniature sets, etc, etc.

So much for free.

Anyway, I started trying some shots of the one ship suspended from fishing line.  It didn't have an anchor point built into the design, so it was front heavy.  Made for a kind of cool stance when flying at the camera, but, it also made it "spin" a bit or sway from side to side.  I decided to use some post animation and make use of those turns and the effect is a very 1960s, moved by string, look, which I love.

I know a lot of filmmakers shoot for ultra realism in their finished product, but unless I'm shooting dead serious drama, which I rarely am, I prefer the unworldly, dreamlike quality of old F/X.  I think part of creating a fantasy world is letting the audience in on the fact that it's all make believe with the subtle hints of "not quite right" F/X.  Total immersion when telling a serious story is great, but a touch of, "hey, we're playing heroes" when telling a fantasy adventure story is an invitation for the audience to relax and enjoy the fun.  

Anyway, here's how I did it.

Let me know in the comments if you'd like a video on how to make simple shape space ships like these.
Coming next, how to make a gory eyeball from a dollar store ping pong ball eye.

Also check out Indie Streams on Facebook for free footage you can use in your own space operas.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Quick look at cheap lights.

 Saw a light at Dollar Tree.  It's a little LED, but pretty bright and it reads as "white" on camera.  The demo shots of my face aren't the best because the exposure was set when I wasn't in the shot.  I could have opened it up a bit more, but you can see from six feet away that it does cast light and in a fairly small, controlled area.  I think as a practical light within a shot, it's a handy tool to have.

For someone like me who works with miniatures quite often, it's going to be even more useful.  I am probably picking up at least one more.  Small lights making lighting set ups for miniatures very intuitive as everything is "to scale".

Anyway, here is a video on it.  Check out the skeleton at the end.  You can see through his rib cage pretty cleanly on the blue screen matte and shot on a 15 year old Sanyo Xacti.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

DIY "no digital" Flying Saucer

It's been awhile.  If you've been following me on Facebook, you know last year I wanted to shoot 20 shorts.  I think I got 4 done, plus six episodes of This is Space Force.  So, halfway there?  I actually wasn't going to count individual episodes, but that makes it really sad.

I also have one in editing.  We kicked off this year with "Legacy of an Invisible Man" and have three more shorts written, cast, costumed and with locations ready.  We shoot one this Saturday and the other two are waiting on schedules.  My newest actress, Felcia Mathis, has been a huge help in getting me back on track.  We've done 5 shorts together already since November of 2020.  That averages to about one a month.  What indie filmmaker could ask for more?

But, do the instructional you're here for! 

While doing F/X for a friend of mine I realized that my assumption that every piece of video editing software and app could do basic matting was wrong.  I sent him footage of a ship on black and he had no way to drop it into his prerecorded backgrounds.  This simple set up will show you how to do it with just a model, fishing line, some background footage and a TV.  Think of it as old school rear screen projection.  My buddy and I used this back on Super 8 and VHS back in the 80s and 90s to make models (and in one case, the drawing of a spaceship I Scotch taped to my parent's television, fly.

And below is the first movie I shot with Felcia Mathis and friends.

So, would you guys rather instructionals go here or diary updates?  Both as I have been doing?
Follow me on YouTube for immediate video uploads. 
I only get on here every so often, as you can see, but I am working on that.

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Nearly 2 Months Behind

So, the whole Covid-19, self isolating thing?  My wife and I started that over two weeks ago.  We have been working from home, did some photography for agents who had property or empty houses, but aside from our yard and walking the dogs, we did little else outside the home.  We even sat in the car or out in the parking lot during most of the closing, until one of us was actually needed.

What I didn't risk in that time was bringing a cast together.  That alone wouldn't have been bad, but I lost two shoot dates to a Real Estate Class that kept getting rescheduled due to snow and flooding.  Those who know me, and have seen GRIM, know that snow and flooding are far less a problem for me than a virus.  Weather doesn't stop me from getting things done (except filming in the rain when it shouldn't be raining ).  Anyway, things happen and if this class had to keep conflicting with my film life to keep other agents and students safe, so be it.  It was a state required class to keep my license, so I had to finish it and couldn't miss a single entire class.

That said, I am a bit irked, because NOW the class is being offered online and it is no longer mandatory that you be there in person!  I couldn't done my shoots if I had any inkling that would happen.

As it is, I am attending a class online Monday.

Fortunately, in order to try hit my goal I had been planning several "one man shows", like This Is Space Force and one about the last worker in an undersea lab.  I hadn't planned on playing all of the single roles myself, but if I have to, I will.  I'm probably adding "Johnny Pitchman" to the roster and of Course, Pratt was always planned to make a come back.  Maybe Jack will go on a particularly shopping adventure.

One real bit of irony?  I finally have an entire country full of empty locations and I'm not allowed to bring a cast and crew together in any of them.

Meanwhile, I have made all of my videos on Cocoscope free until the end of May, the rental at Little Creek Rentals is open to Covid-19 Responders and I am uploading old episodes of "Inside HFP" to Amazon Prime (all of our movies there are going to "included" as well. Amazon is taking their time with it though.)

Jason is sad.

Oh well, back to work!

See you in the streaming world, gang.

Monday, February 3, 2020

"This Is Space Force" - Season 2, Written

Instead of following political stories and doing random videos this year, "This is Space Force" will follow a full season story arc.  The episodes will lead into each other and continue from Season One's last episode.

Don't worry, the main elements of the show will still be there.  It will still look at social and political goings on from today as seen through the eyes of a future "Space Force".  Each episode will still feature me as Commander Ramrod and the special F/X will still look like they were made for a 1970s episode of "Doctor Who".

There will be aliens, explosions and painfully slow space travel.  The episodes shouldn't run more than a few minutes, so even with seven separate episodes the entire series will be like a short film.  With me playing nearly every role, with the exception of a Martian, portrayed by a puppet most of you will find familiar (If you have watched "Biggy Wiggy")

The scripts are all written.  The biggest problem I'm having getting them done is memorizing the lines and figuring out the best times to shoot the episodes around doing laundry.  You see, the only location I need is the studio downstairs and I'm the cast and crew.  But, with all of the dialogue in the episodes being performed by me, I have to remember at least long enough sections to do entire takes.  Some planning for how to layer myself into shots with the backgrounds and, well, myself, is also needed, but I have had most of those images planned in my head since I wrote it.  It's really how to shoot over the shoulder shots and close ups when the camera stays stationary.  I have to plan where I'm standing and what backgrounds I'll be using.  It's a lot like how I had to shoot and edit "Jack vs Lanterns".  I know how to do it, but I worry about it until I get into editing.

Meanwhile, I'm writing my undersea adventure.  I have come up with a bit of a side story to add some depth and mystery to it.  It's still a bit cliché, but I find that tried and true concepts work well in shorts.  They're instantly recognizable and only the details need to be filled in.  I'm planning on trying to play most of the roles in that story as well.  Costuming and miniatures already worked out, except for one: The monster.  And I need to paint my tentacles.

Overall, I'm going into February quite a bit behind where I wanted to be production-wise, but that's no reason to slow down.  If anything, I think to crank things up.

Meanwhile, take a peak at the tentacles in action their very first time.