The Big Think

July 30, 2009

Soundmen Tell No Tales

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 6:02 pm

Wherein Andie Redwine regales the Internet with stories of Jason on the set. Thanks, Andie!

July 26, 2009

That’s a Wrap!

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 4:24 pm

We just finished the last shot (called the “martini shot”) on Paradise Recovered! Wrap party tonight and travel home tomorrow. Time for rest.

July 24, 2009

Making a Movie- 2 days to go

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 10:18 pm

We’re in the home stretch here, and I can’t quite believe all we’ve done in the past three weeks. We’ve become a pretty well tuned machine (albeit one that clanks a bit as it goes down the road). We had a skinny dipping scene today that was a hoot to shoot (don’t worry, the actors wore bathing suits). The water was freezing and the shore was very, very muddy, so it was a bit of a freak-out to have a $30,000 camera and $5000 in audio gear around all that mud and water. Still, it ended up being a lot of cold and muddy fun.

Chick Magnet

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 10:03 pm

The awesome 1970’s junkmobile we’re using in the film.

Extras Day

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 8:46 pm

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July 23, 2009

Take that Skeptics

Filed under: Space/Astronomy — jasony @ 9:29 pm

For years, the moon-landing deniers have said that they’d believe we landed on the moon if only NASA would post pictures of the landing sites. Well, I guess the stupid argument is finally over. Now they’ll say that those pictures are faked. Sigh.

July 22, 2009

Making A Movie- day… what day is this?

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 12:41 am

One thing I’ve noticed when you’re in the middle of a production is that you enter this weird zone of timelessness. At one point yesterday we couldn’t remember what day it was and had to ask around. That’s because we’ve been working pretty insane hours every day. We worked 17 hours two days ago, got back to the hotel at 2am and had a 9 am call. Unfortunately, insomnia struck me that night (oh, the timing), and I ended up getting about 90 restless minutes of sleep, only to get up and work a 15 hour day. I ended up getting back to the hotel around 2am and going to sleep at 3. Woke up at almost 2pm this afternoon. Luckily, we don’t have crew call until 12:30 tomorrow afternoon, so we can rest more, which we all need.

In spite of the inevitable frustrations of being a one-man sound department on a feature film, I’ve been having an overall good time. I keep trying to communicate to the powers-that-be how important good sound is, and for the most part, I’m glad to say that I’m listened to. You’d be surprised to hear how often people say that they want good sound and then seem to almost go out of their way to undermine the sound man’s job. The director I’m working with really does understand and trust my ear, so we’re making the best of it even though some of the locations are a bit challenging. I spent today listening to the footage from yesterday and it all sounds pretty good (even though there’s a bit of BG noise in quite a few takes). I feel like we’re getting as good of stuff as we can get under the circumstances, but my perfectionism tends to rear it’s head and want more. Guess that’s what comes from having a sound booth in your own private studio: you get used to REALLY clean tracks and want them everywhere.

I spent about four hours today going through my gear and cleaning/reorganizing everything. I’ve already lost or misplaced several items: my new iPod headphones $30), a wireless receiver pocket ($20), and an adapter cable ($15). I’ve also managed to get my CF recorder sat on and broken, but the production company is going to pay for repairs, so that worked out. We managed to get an identical unit from a nearby University where we had some contacts and it’s working fine, for which I’m very grateful. At this point I really wish I had ponied up the extra $$ for the super-professional level equipment. At the time, the extra $1,000 seemed like a lot, but not having one channel of audio on the set makes that seem paltry in retrospect. I think after I get the unit repaired I’ll sell it on ebay and get the nicer one. It’s built like a tank and can literally be run over by a car and suffer no damage to its aluminum-milled housing. My current one is good quality, but the plastic housing and button position has always left me cold.

We said goodbye to one of our principle actors today. Andrew Sensenig has had roles on Burn Notice, Friday Night Lights, Prison Break, and just finished a small part with Jim Carrey. Andy and I really hit it off and it was a complete joy to work with him. We had one really long conversation where we talked about the industry and his experiences on different sets and I learned a lot. He was full of experience and had a lot of very helpful things to say to me as a sound man. Since he’s a composer as well, he definitely related to the aural side of things. I’ll miss having his wisdom and professional consideration around the set. Funny thing is: he plays the twisted bad guy in our film. Casting against type. The guy is wonderful.

Tomorrow begins the last five days of shooting. We have some challenging scenes coming up that will film inside of a grocery store here in Bloomington. It’ll be a tough audio environment to say the least.

Really good memories from this week:

shooting outside at midnight at the country club and getting some incredible looking footage.

booming Andy during a raging, screaming, high decibel scene last night and nailing two high pressure takes. Lots of movement, very little boom clearance, two-takes only, without-a-net stuff. I had to boom with a very extended boom, keep it about a foot from the ceiling, avoid a ceiling fan, dance like a madman to keep the actor in the mic pattern, and mix one-handed at the same time while avoiding mic shadows. This at the end of the long day. It was a real dig deep moment for all of us and nobody screwed it up. It felt great.

booming a confrontation scene in a medium sized bedroom with a four poster bed, four actors, two camera people, me and my boom, and lots of motion. The actor and I worked out a rough choreography for the scene and it felt great to be part of the action even though I wasn’t in front of the camera. I’ll be proud of that scene when I see it on the big screen.

trying real-life raw tuna sushi with pureed fish eggs. I didn’t really care for it, but I’m glad I did it.

being the only crew/cast member to get a care package at the hotel front desk. Isn’t my wife the best?

having a crew member share memories of his mother, who died one year ago yesterday. It’s been neat to get to know these people and see how our common trials bring about common purpose and closeness. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this for three months on a bigger project.

finally feeling like we’re starting to “click” as a team and work with each other instead of around each other. We all have stuff to learn, but I’m seeing evidence that people are willing to take other people’s jobs into consideration.

I was talking to a crew member tonight who said that it sometimes feels like each department is just trying to get stuff out of a project for themselves so that they can move on to other things (i.e., the camera dept. just wants good footage for their reel, the actors just want one good performance for casting directors, etc). We agreed that it works best when everybody is looking out for everybody else and we all pull toward a common goal of a great film together. I know that’s the way it is in other industries, but things can feel a little fragmented in the film world.

Five days to go. Time is ticking and we have a lot of scenes to shoot. I’ll be glad for the rest, but it’s definitely an adventure.

Future You

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 12:33 am

Cicero said something similar in his famous essay on old age, “De Senectute,” from which my father often quoted. Almost everything you have in your older years is by reason of having it passed down to you by your younger self. Your habits of life and health, your home, your family, your savings. So said Cicero. (That’s alliteration, friends.)

This is a powerful lesson for us all. If we want to have a decent life in our latter years, especially with Social Security and Medicare nearing collapse, we need to accumulate while we are young. We most of all need to accumulate habits of sensible living — and especially not spending beyond our means.

The young you can save money, teach the old you how to live sensibly and train the old you in decent habits of care. The young you might want to take a few minutes every day to imagine the old you, unable to work, possibly because of health, possibly because of the economy, and plan accordingly.

The young you might want to acquire skills that will be of use even if there is a downturn in one or more sectors of the economy. The young you might want to find a life partner who behaves sanely.

And this is the key part: The younger you is you right now. However old you are, you are younger than you will be tomorrow.

link

July 18, 2009

Making a Movie-pics!

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 1:26 am

Paradise Recovered flickr pics! I’m sure I’m in there somewhere.

Mythbusting

Filed under: Mad Science,Movies — jasony @ 1:00 am

Adam Savage on the origins of Mythbusters.

Bubble Magic

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 12:52 am

Neat!

July 15, 2009

May the Force Be With You

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 11:16 pm

Recreating Star Wars, 15 seconds at a time.

Making a Movie, Day Seven

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 10:47 pm

We began our seventh day of shooting today by going out to farmland and shooting outside on a so-called “deserted” road. We ended up having to traffic manage most of the morning, and it was a bit of a pain for sound. After that, we moved on to a town square and got a lot more footage. All of us are sunburned but happy. Good day of shooting. Tomorrow: more outside scenes. Sunblock this time.

July 12, 2009

Read The Bill

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:52 pm

Hoyer conceded that if lawmakers had to carefully study the bill ahead of time, they would never vote for it. “If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,’’ he said. The majority leader was declaring, in other words, that it is more important for Congress to pass the bill than to understand it.

“Transparency’’ is a popular buzzword in good-government circles, and politicians are forever promising to transact the people’s business in the sunshine. But as Hoyer’s mirth suggests, when it comes to lawmaking, transparency is a joke. Congress frequently votes on huge and complex bills that few if any members of the House or Senate has read through. They couldn’t read them even if they wanted to, since it is not unusual for legislation to be put to a vote just hours after the text is made available to lawmakers. Congress passed the gigantic, $787 billion “stimulus’’ bill in February – the largest spending bill in history – after having had only 13 hours to master its 1,100 pages. A 300-page amendment was added to Waxman-Markey, the mammoth cap-and-trade energy bill, at 3 a.m. on the day the bill was to be voted on by the House. And that wasn’t the worst of it, as law professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University noted in National Review Online:

“When Waxman-Markey finally hit the floor, there was no actual bill. Not one single copy of the full legislation that would, hours later, be subject to a final vote was available to members of the House. The text made available to some members of Congress still had ‘placeholders’ – blank provisions to be filled in by subsequent language.’’

read the whole thing, then call or write your congressperson to ask if they’ll actually read what they’re voting for. Republican, Democrat, or Other, it seems the least they can do.

Transparency

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:12 pm

Hoyer conceded that if lawmakers had to carefully study the bill ahead of time, they would never vote for it. “If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,’’ he said. The majority leader was declaring, in other words, that it is more important for Congress to pass the bill than to understand it.

“Transparency’’ is a popular buzzword in good-government circles, and politicians are forever promising to transact the people’s business in the sunshine. But as Hoyer’s mirth suggests, when it comes to lawmaking, transparency is a joke. Congress frequently votes on huge and complex bills that few if any members of the House or Senate have read through. They couldn’t read them even if they wanted to, since it is not unusual for legislation to be put to a vote just hours after the text is made available to lawmakers. Congress passed the gigantic, $787 billion “stimulus’’ bill in February – the largest spending bill in history – after having had only 13 hours to master its 1,100 pages. A 300-page amendment was added to Waxman-Markey, the mammoth cap-and-trade energy bill, at 3 a.m. on the day the bill was to be voted on by the House. And that wasn’t the worst of it.

If companies that are “too big to fail” are too big to exist, then bills that are “too long to read” are too long to pass. This sort of behavior — passing bills that no one has read — or, that in the case of the healthcare “bill” haven’t even actually been written — represents political corruption of the first order. If representation is the basis on which laws bind the citizen, then why should citizens regard themselves as bound by laws that their representatives haven’t read, or, sometimes, even written yet?

Link

Making a Movie- Day Six

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 12:52 am

Great day today. Pretty short, too (only six hours). We shot inside Genuine Joe’s coffee shop in Austin. I thought it was going to be a sound nightmare, but it ended up sounding really great- very natural and yet intimate. I was really happy with the way things sounded. We were able to shoot in a back area that we could close off. It looked to be new construction and had good windows so that, even though we were right next to a parking lot, very little sound got in. A tiny amount of ambience (“MOCHA!”) got in from the main dining area, and what did was natural coffee-shop sounding.

We seem to be hitting our stride as a group as well. It was a very crowded space, about 10’x30′, but we managed to stay out of each others’ way- no mean feat considering the amount of stuff that has to accompany us.

I also incorporated a good headphone monitoring system for the director and writer/producer so they can hear the takes via the sound gear that’s hanging off of my harness. It’s much easier to get good sound when the director can hear what you’re talking about. Storme has always trusted me to give him good stuff, but it’s really nice that I can let him hear things first-hand.

Overall, I’d have to say it was one of my favorite days on the shoot so far. Maybe that’s due to the shorter hours, or the change of location, or the fact that it was only 90 degrees in the room with the a/c off instead of 130, but whatever it was, I hope it continues.

Day off tomorrow and monday! Then we’re back at it for the rest of the shoot. Should be fun.

July 11, 2009

Movie-Day Five

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 9:18 am

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Lead actor Dane Hurlburt holds my boom while I adjust something. I really need a utility person to help me manage cables. I often resort to just handing my boom and mic to a stranger and saying here, hold this. The responses I get, ranging from surprised delight to terrified deer-in-the-headlights-please-don’t-let-me-drop-this are pretty funny.

We’re wrapped at that very hot location. Tonight we’re on to a real coffee shop, which I’m sure will be just a joy sound-wise.

Everyone is getting tired. We had a 10 hour turnaround tonight, which is really short when the crew pulled an 11 hour day, but everyone is having fun and morale seems pretty high. Off to get a cable…

July 10, 2009

Making a Movie, Day Four

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 2:32 am

We had a late call today (5pm) so I was able to mow the lawn and get some other chores done. Even though we got there at 5, we didn’t get any serious shooting (other than a few quick pickups from the previous day) done until after sunset. We tried to shoot a big scene outside but the cicadas were killing us. So the producer and director, God bless them, put the production on total hold for an hour until the sun went down and the cicadas went to sleep. We were rewarded with much better audio (though the occasional car and/or airplane blew a few of those takes). We worked until midnight, so it was a “short” day, but we spent most of that time outside next to a campfire. We’re calling this shoot “lake of fire hot” (from the script, kindof).

Got home around 1, washed off the smoke smell, and spent the next 2 1/2 hours going back through all of my audio naming files and transferring my notes. I really need an assistant to help me keep notes on this shoot, but it’s a small budget feature and I’m the whole sound dept. What that amounts to is that I usually come straight home from the set and transfer my notes to my big database while the day is still fresh in my mind (how did I set up the mics on which shots? who got covered? which mics did I use? Basically everything the sound editor-whoever that will be- might need during the dialog and sound edit). Sound on a movie is a pretty massive undertaking. It’s only the third day and already I have hundreds of sound files that need to be cataloged, listened to (and commented on), and dissected. The film editor will pick the best visual performances of each scene and craft them all so that they make sense within the story and that they flow with the best pace, then the sound editor will try and work around the inevitable dog barks, airplane flyovers, blown lines, etc, to come up with a seamless audio experience.

If you’ve ever heard the before and after soundtrack from a movie you’d be surprised. A tremendous amount of work goes into making the movie sound good (and compare with the competition). Inevitably, people hear the rough tracks and think that they sound awful (watch the extra scenes on DVD’s. They often contain the rough audio). Worse yet is when inexperienced directors and editors think that they rough location tracks are the FINAL audio. You can tell it from a mile away. Just getting decent sound in a noisy world is hard enough- people are shocked at how much can be heard through a thousand dollar mic and a good set of headphones. Getting great sound requires a whole lot of post production work. That’s why there are so many people involved in even the smallest production, and why the technical aspect of moviemaking has reached such a high level.

It’s also why I’m up at almost 4am finishing my sound files. Time for this soundman to go to bed.

THX-1136

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 12:31 am

365 days of Stormtroopers. Fantastic!

July 9, 2009

Who Do They Work For?

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:04 pm

Reporters from roughly 30 television networks, newspapers, magazines, and web sites celebrated the Fourth of July with Barack Obama at the White House last weekend. Why didn’t you know that? Because they were sworn to secrecy…These are the same people who just a week ago were whining in the press briefing about Obama’s malicious and dastardly attempts to “control the press.”

There is a cosmic irony at work here: The party was “closed press.” It was covered, under onerous restrictions, by a pool reporter—the Baltimore Sun’s Paul West. West was ushered in by White House staffers for a mere 40 minutes, so he could record the president’s remarks. He was kept in a pen so that he wouldn’t run amok and interview someone. He shouted questions at Obama as he worked the rope line, which the president ignored. Then he was taken away. West wrote up his blindered account of the party and then e-mailed it to the White House press corps, many of whom were actually at the party, outside of the pen, hanging out with all the other guests. And then, because they had temporarily signed away the right to do their jobs in exchange for facetime with staffers, a few cold Stoudt’s American Pale Ales, and some corn on the cob, their news organizations picked up that pool report and used it to tell their readers what happened at the party. This is how the press covers the White House.

link

Look, I’m not going to go all screamy-politikey here, but if the White House Press Corps is gong to raise a stink when the Administration has closed meetings with corporate big shots, why then is it okay when they do it? We’ve just spent the last eight years hearing about how it’s the duty of the press to hold the politicians accountable for their actions. Holding off-the-record closed meetings in exactly the same way that they have criticized others of doing is… is… I don’t even have words, really.

I want to know that the press is doing the work of monitoring the politicians and making sure that they really are doing the people’s business-and shining the sterilizing light of publicity when they aren’t. This doesn’t exactly give me faith that they’re keeping their solemn responsibility. Are they watchdogs or lapdogs? Their behavior leads to some pretty damning conclusions.

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