Slik Slidin’ Away to Benro-ville… when money is no object!

August 29th, 2013

My Slik tripod had to go… ever since I heard the words “fluid head.”

I have had it for more than a few decades and small parts were falling off. Then last week, one of the leg locks broke off into a handful of small bits! As one reviewer says, “Sure I’d love a Manfrotto or Sachtler, but I don’t want to spend 3-5 times more for it.”

Benro-C1691T

The Benro C1691T Travel Angel Transfunctional Tripod Kit with Carbon Fiber Twist Lock Legs with B0 Head would be a great replacement for the sturdy old Slik – if I was still just a “still” photographer. I am really impressed with the firm, yet extremely lightweight carbon-fiber, 4-part telescoping legs all folding down into a very trim package, with a nice zippered, shoulder sack included. It is currently (8/29/2013) priced at $485.

But, as a photojournalist turning filmmaker, I need to be able to pan and tilt a live-action shot without any hitches. I had to feel the action, so I did the evil-shopper dance down at my local Camera Corner store, asking questions and testing out all of the stuff in stock. I even checked on the rentals.

Benro C2573FS6

Above and beyond all of them, the smooth and silky feel of the Benro head was like the taste of rich, dark chocolate. I cannot stop thinking about the leap forward it will add to my work.

The Benro C2573FS6 Single Leg Video Tripod Kit has a fluid head designed for videographers …and that makes all of the difference! Price: $465.

But, out of respect to an old friend I did look at Slik’s latest and am even tempted to save some money…

Slik-Pro-500HD

Slik Pro 500HD Tripod With 500DX Leg & SH-736HD Head 615-501 615501 is now (8/29/2013) priced at $149.

…or save even more with Sunpak Tripods:

Sunpak 6200 PG digital 620-620-CPG Tripod

List Price: $89.99
Price: $29.98

If the Sunpak 620-PISTOLGRPQR Tripod, Ball Head (price below) is included, this is an amazing discount.

List Price: $49.95
Price: $24.99

 …and if all else fails:

Sunpak SPK620786 5-Inch Flex Leg Mini-Spider Tripod

Five Stars for “West of Thunder”

July 30th, 2013

West of Thunder is winning numerous awards including two from the USA Political Film Society based in Hollywood, California for “Best Film on Human Rights” and “Best Film on Peace”.

la-et-mn-west-of-thunder-capsule-20120921-001

Dan Davies… as Henry Seed

They were competing against some powerful contenders that included George Lucas’ Red Tails and the Andy Garcia/Eva Longoria/Peter O’Toole film For Greater Glory. Since 1987 these awards have been given to such films as Platoon, Schindler’s List, Good Morning Vietnam, Dances with Wolves, Saving Private Ryan, The Insider, The Green Mile, Remember the Titans, Hotel Rwanda, Dead Man Walking, Blood Diamond, The Hurt Locker, Gran Torino, Avatar, Inglorious Bastards – you get the idea. By the way, the other two March 2013 USA Political Film Society awards were won by Ben Affleck‘s Argo (Best Film Expose) and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (Best Film on Democracy).

Dan Davies (‘Johnny’) and Sadie Kaye star in this 2012 American Western feature film, directed by Jody Marriott Bar-Lev and Steve Russell. My friend and actor Ed DiMaio played the Bookstore Owner, listed among the  full cast and crew. He invited me to attend a local  film screening at Hope Church here in Sturgeon Bay. I went expecting to be polite and sit through a semi-professional local film. What I saw was much better than anything I have seen out of Hollywood in years – if for no other reason than to hear the beauty of Native American people speaking to each other in their own language with English subtitles appearing at the bottom of the screen.

But there are lots more reasons why I am quite impressed with this film. It breaks or blurs the boundaries between spirit and imagination, between ghosts and the incarnate. It provides a bridge that spans the missing gap in American history as European tides of un-settlers swept across the old West. It revokes the medals awarded to the decorated “heroes” of Wounded Knee, holding them accountable for their acts of barbarism imposed upon indigenous peoples.  I would categorize this film as a spiritual mystery tale. It’s spooky and very thought provoking.

If you are lucky enough to find it, resist judging the film by the opening titles or the credits. They are both absolutely repellent, each in their own distinctive manner. Call that the stale bread and toss it aside. The core of this sandwich is a rich treat. The actors are real unvarnished people, the kind who might be found more than a hundred years ago in a dried up small town on the outskirts of the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation. They have sinned and are held accountable in this dark tale of revenge and personal responsibility.

A musical score from both cultures is woven into the story, performed with fiery passion… be sure to sit quietly through those endless closing credits for a reward performance by Neville Farmer, Ian Hatton, Deni Bonet, and Jon Bridger. There are numerous Native dancers and an explanation of the Spirit of the Drum to accompany the beat of the Lakota.

And today… “Pine Ridge is the poorest area of the United States with the statistics of a third world country, lack of housing, lack of heat and running water, 85% unemployment, 70% school drop out, high rates of alcoholism and drugs, very high teenage suicide rates, poor health and nutrition and a life expectancy of only 47 years. The current reality is that Lakota people are at a precipice—unless something is done to affect change, this once noble nation will be ‘just pages in history books.'”

Profits from screenings of the film support the building of a K-12 school that will serve the Lakota tribe. Have I given you enough reasons to track down and see this film?

“This was a wonderful movie that honestly conveyed the real issues that affect the “silent minority” to this day. I loved the cultural awareness woven in through the film and how it makes us aware that The People truly survived through their choice of completing their circle, choosing harmony and peace-keeping ways. They knew that to do otherwise would destroy them. Their losses were so great through the massacres, loss of family, land, language and way of life. This is a part of “OUR” history and we are all complicit in our silence. Our prayers and actions are needed for all Indigenous People of the world. They are survivors, having much to teach us about living simply, in harmony and balance with Nature and each other.” – Melissa Nelson

Danny Strong on the Art of the Hollywood Pitch

October 29th, 2012

“I actually don’t think there’s a ton of luck in the writing game because writing is one of those things where you’ve got a script, you know, it’s 120 pages, or 30 pages for a TV show or 60 pages for a TV show …and it’s either good or it’s not good, and it doesn’t really matter whose name is on that cover page.”

Actor Danny Strong has established himself as a screenwriter, specializing in political dramas. The first script Strong sold was to HBO, based on the Florida 2000 election battle. Recount, was eventually directed by Jay Roach, and produced by Kevin Spacey, who also stars in the film. It premiered on HBO on May 25, 2008.

“You really need to get the person you’re pitching to see the story; to get them to be able to see the movie as clearly as possible. And sometimes that means being extremely detailed, and sometimes it’s a matter of having specific details that take them into the world of it and then having sort of more of a general discussion than having the entire thing, you know, beated out moment for moment. So it varies from project to project.” – Danny Strong

Recount went on to win three Emmy Awards in 2008:

  • Outstanding Made for Television Movie
  • Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special (Jay Roach)
  • Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie

Wildwood, a Festival with a Focus on Wisconsin

October 27th, 2012

The Wildwood Film Festival is a festival for Wisconsin films only. Whether it’s the primary creative personnel (producer, director or writer), the actors or even the locations, all projects featured must have direct ties to this state.

With its 8th event, it has showcased over 165 films that all have connections to this fine state. The 9th annual festival will take place in 2013 with screenings at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and the Kimberly-Clark Theater in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Wildwood Productions, Inc. has three official members, all volunteers:

  • Tom Thorne – board chairman and president
  • Jason Buss – director and vice president
  • Craig Knitt – director and secretary treasurer

Wildwood prefers submissions through withoutabox.com however, if this is not an option for you, then contact wfilmfest@yahoo.com to obtain further information about an alternative submission method.

Deadlines:

Early deadline: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Regular deadline: Saturday, December 1, 2012
Final deadline: Saturday, December 15, 2012

Support the Making of “S E ℞ U M” – a Wisconsin Indie Film

October 15th, 2012

Writer Sam Kozel and director Rex Sikes are co-producing a medical, science fiction work that might also be classified as a horror film.

Serum, the film

In the current age of pharmaceutical mayhem, “S E ℞ U M” could just as likely be mis-categorized as a documentary. As they describe it, “A young man takes part in medical testing. Side effects include: nausea, schizophrenia, temporary death.”

I have been following the making of this film in Milwaukee, thanks to the extra efforts of Rex Sikes who is publishing an ongoing series of behind-the-scenes videos. Many of them are great how-to lessons for burgeoning filmmakers. His Movie Beat Website is a special resource for everything film and TV.

With only a few days left in their fundraising campaign, they could use a little help. Unlike some make-it-or-break-it fundraising efforts, “S E ℞ U M” has elected to use Indiegogo’s Flexible Funding so, this campaign will receive all of the funds contributed by Thursday, October 18 at 11:59 PM PT.

CLICK TO CONTRIBUTE
…anything from $1 on up, with commensurate bonus rewards!

“Every bit helps and the ‘widow’s mite‘ (Biblical story) is so applicable,” says Rex. “For some, it is easy to give and we appreciate it for certain. For others, it is very difficult to give – and we appreciate that. When people give for whatever reason, and for however much – it is important and so helpful. BUT for those who give when it is tough – wow – wow – wow – that effort on your part, really touches our hearts and warms us in ways one can not imagine.”

The Cast and Crew of Serum

The Cast and Crew of Serum

Join in the conversation at… facebook.com/SerumTheMovie.

Dr. Bill McConkey’s Business Leadership Lecture Series Filmed and Produced at DesignWise Studios

October 12th, 2012

Two business training courses by UW Professor Bill McConkey teach Leadership and Inspiration with 34 video lectures filmed at DesignWise Studios of Door County.

This is final edit of the first of 19 lectures in Course 1, “Leadership & Inspiration” by Dr. Bill McConkey, filmed and produced by Stephen Kastner at DesignWise Studios of Door County in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

“This was shot in our green-screen staging area and filmed with a 3-chip Sony HVR-Z1U using the onboard mic,” explains Kastner. “Closeup hand-shots were done by Patrice Lazerroni using our Kodak Zi8 mini-cams.”

The music was written and performed by British composer Alastair Cameron.

Breakthrough Tools: Livestream Studio HD500 Brings Affordable HD Multi-camera Switching to Streaming Broadcasters

September 5th, 2012

“A key part of our mission at Livestream is to make it easier and more affordable for producers and event owners to produce high quality, HD, multi-camera live streams.” says Max Haot, Co-Founder and CEO of Livestream, LLC .

Livestream Studio HD500

Livestream Studio HD500

It is an exciting time to be working in tandem with a rapidly evolving informed culture. Being an information creator is no longer dependent upon selling your soul to the devil aka the mainstream media. Unlike many other industries like Detroit, the technology industry seems to be continuously going against the grain, becoming cheaper, better, faster and smaller.

As a private indie filmmaker since 2006 and a content creator all of my life, I too am evolving thanks in great part to the availability and affordability of new and emerging “power tools.” Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalog explains it best, “…a realm of intimate, personal power is developing that of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.” In 1968, his publication of the first edition marked one of the earliest examples of desktop publishing, due in no small part to breakthrough tools.

IBM Selectric ComposerBrand says his breakthrough tool was the IBM Selectric Composer, “…a fancy electric typewriter with a replaceable ‘golf ball’ instead of individual keys striking the paper. Typesetting was instant and cheap. The other revolutionary tool was a Polaroid MP-3 camera, which allowed us to copy line shots directly from books and to make halftones which could be pasted right onto the layout sheets.”

In a similar fashion, the affordable tools to produce indie, live, multi-camera broadcasting have now been introduced by Livestream…

The Livestream Studio HD500, built to television broadcast standards, features:

  • 5 HD/SD SDI inputs
  • 5 Live Video Outputs (HD/SD SDI, HDMI, Component, S-Video, Composite)

Livestream Studio provides real-time multiviewcut & fadegraphics overlayvideo clip playback and recording (DDR) plus a full audio mixer with cross-fade support. At $8,500, Livestream Studio HD500 is less than half the cost of competing SDI integrated switcher/streamer products, many of which aren’t even portable!

A free, software-only version of Livestream Studio is still in the works, set for an early 2013 release.  The paid version will let you stream to any streaming service provider or in-venue screens via the live video output (SDI, HDMI, Component, S-Video, Composite.) The free version will exclusively stream to the award winning Livestream service (live video output will be disabled.)

YouTube vs Facebook Video Quality

July 5th, 2012

I am posting two examples of the same digital 6-minute film short taken at the Door County Renaissance & Fantasy Faire that I uploaded to Facebook and YouTube.

It is surprising to see a significant difference in the visual quality of the rendered videos. Each of the two video-sharing sites present some specific advantages as far as distributing the resultant content, so it is valuable to use both …and others like Vimeo and Daily Motion as well.

Here is the YouTube version:

Here is the Facebook version:

The grainy quality of the typography in the Facebook version is immediately apparent. I thought this might simply be a symptom of not waiting long enough before watching and I hoped it would clear as is was “digested” by the Facebook engines… but no such luck. It can even be detected in the following screen capture, especially in the smaller line of type below.

Worse yet, while the embed feature is static in Facebook and very customizeable in YouTube… the speed of delivery is also markedly slower when streaming back from Facebook.

Luke at Blogworld sums up the following differences in the features provided by both.

Facebook Video Features

  • Videos can be up to 20 minutes long.
  • You can tag people who are your Facebook friends in the videos.
  • People who aren’t yet fans of your Page can “like” it from within the video clip, just by hovering the mouse over the video screen.

YouTube Video Features

  • Clips can initially be up to 15 minutes long, but you can gain approval for longer uploads.
  • A YouTube tab on Facebook looks much better than a Facebook video tab.
  • A YouTube channel can be used to direct traffic from YouTube to your Website or Facebook page by using the annotation feature.
  • A YouTube clip will rank higher in Google’s search results than a Facebook video.
  • YouTube tabs can display the number of views a clip receives. Displaying the views can work in favour of popular clips to increase the likelihood others will view them.
  • YouTube has online editing features.
  • YouTube annotations allow for on-screen menu options that viewers can interact with to bring them to other brand videos.
  • YouTube Insights is more detailed than Facebook’s Insights for video.

A Photojounalist’s Social Media Approach to Wedding Video Filmmaking and Distribution

February 20th, 2012

The documentary has been my favorite film form since 2004, when I started hosting a Saturday night film-screening series at a local Fish Creek coffeehouse.

We watched films on all sorts of subjects. As a photojournalist, I like the honesty and authenticity of storytelling with moving pictures in the documentary film format. In 2006, I spent 6 months in China learning to become a filmmaker.

Now, I produce feature newsreels, music and promotional videos and keep on expanding my editing and shooting skills. In my other life, I am a social media and marketing consultant. So, when I was asked to shoot my first wedding video, it seems like all of the boundaries blurred and I ended up creating a fusion concept – the wedding video as a multi-episode excuse to relive the highlights of your wedding with friends and family using social media as the vehicle.

The Angie Brusky and Josiah Lent Wedding Story is now an official Facebook Movie page, but my actual intention is to create a short-form episodic film series, more like a TV show. The chapters of their wedding story are published and broadcast each week on Wednesdays at 7 pm, online as their own, personal, wedding TV show in 7 chapters. Each week a new chapter in Angie and Josiah’s Door County Wedding story is posted on their Facebook Movie Page. I like to work as a fly-on-the-wall, filming discretely to capture an authentic story. This is how I was taught as a reporter, to shoot news photography. Never submit a “grip-and-grin” photo as newsworthy, my editor at the New York Times-owned Leesburg Commercial would  warn.

As the lead producer, editor and filmmaker at DesignWise Films, I have taken my background as a professional photo-journalist and applied it to making documentary wedding films. Please, take a look at the first two episodes and help me grow the movie’s fan base to over 25 Likes, so I can register a proper Facebook username. I am working on final edits for Chapter #3, “The Wedding” – to be released on Wednesday, February 22 – so stay tuned!

Their wedding videos are also posted with my other work, on the DesignWise Films YouTube Channel, where they are much easier to locate and can be easily shared or embedded elsewhere from there. If you are planning a wedding in northeastern Wisconsin and this format seems appealing, please contact me as I look forward to my next wedding documentary project.

2nd Annual Green Bay Film Festival Submissions Due by December 30

December 26th, 2011

The 2nd Annual Green Bay Film Festival (GBFF) will be held in Green Bay, Wisconsin from March 23 – 25, 2012.

The GBFF is seeking adventurous filmmakers who are looking to share new ideas, discover opportunities and develop new audiences for their work. The festival presents films on four screens over three busy festival days and offers opportunities for visiting filmmakers to engage with audiences and each other.

In 2012, the GBFF will award Audience Choice trophies in seven categories, including best narrative, documentary and short film. The GBFF also offers seminars on screenwriting, filmmaking and music, as well as numerous opportunities to meet vendors and professionals from various filmmaking fields.

The Festival offers visiting filmmakers all-access passes, as well as numerous press opportunities, a special invitation to the Gala opening, party and a delicious Sunday brunch with GBFF sponsors. The GBFF also offers complimentary transportation to the Festival from the airport and special rates at the nearby Radisson hotel.

Click for film submissions…

UPCOMING DEADLINE
December 30, 2011 – Late Deadline
Upgraded projects save $5

MORE ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
At last year’s inaugural event, dozens of filmmakers made the trip to Green Bay from around the world, including Vladimer Rajcic, whose film Serbian Scars opened the event. Green Bay is a city where the art and commerce of film is flourishing and the GBFF is well on the road to becoming a great place for filmmakers to screen their films and network with peers. For the chance to be a part of a festival on the rise, submit to the Green Bay Film Festival today!

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