Friday, March 14, 2008

Howard as Catalyst

How did this whole blog thing start?

Well, a little over a week ago I sat with a bunch of friends having dinner at Yaffa Cafe in East Village. As always we talked about our favorite films, media, creativity and such, and for some reason I decided to get real honest and talk about my creative constipation. I shortened it a little because truly it is a long sad story about ambivalence, ambiguity, fear of both failure and success, stage fright, perfectionism, and all other hindrances that come to creative people. 

Don't take me wrong, I can work easily under pressure when I have an assignment, just tell me what you need, and I will find a way to create those images or movies for you. No problem there; sure I will get a little nervous about the results, but there is a deadline, so there is no time to waste and all energy has to go toward getting the best shoot.

But give me a couple of days off and I will spend most of my time hanging out with friends that also have a couple of days off, or I'll spend hours and hours checking up on the latest camera tech stuff on my favorite forums and blogs. (Am I the only one here... Backgammon anyone?) What I don't do is keep working on my half cooked ideas, abandoned short films, many technical and creative tests, or polish on the couple of scripts i have in various shapes. It has been a struggle to figure out how to keep moving forward. 

Then Howard Said:

All you have to do is take the first step, you will know if it is the right one because of what happens next.

I have heard words like that before, but something clicked in me right then and there. You mean I don't have to wait until an entire script is polished perfect and in its seventh approved draft to be ready to start doing something. To me it was intriguing, like a good detective flick but in real life. And I did kind of know right away what the next right move would be.

It was all about an Anamorphic Lens.

I have a video camera. It is not a RED or a GENESIS or a VIPER, or even a SI 2K or HVX200 or the new FX1. It is the humbly priced Canon A1. However this camera is an amazing machine for the money. It shoots HDV with an amazing quality of those images. To me, they looked sharper and seemed to have more dynamic range than anything out there under $10K at the time when it was bought last summer. 

The camera was bought on a limited budget for the production of a fishing industry movie. Two of us were going to be stuck on Russian fishing ships way north next to Greenland for days waiting for the catch, then we would have long interview scenes, go into humid fish processing plants and cold storage rooms etc. These conditions left out any P2 solution as that would be too much about changing cards. The budget could handle the Canon with a Firestore. (I thank the clients deeply as they let me keep the camera in exchange for some editing in a scrambled together post production suite in Hong Kong)

It was during this editing that it became clear that even though it is already the HD format and everything looked great on the monitors blown up full, it wasn't until my friend Tore suggested to put the black letterbox bars that we got the great Aaaahh. You can check the industrial video here.

[geek warning]

HDV resolution is 1080 pixels high by 1440 pixels wide stretched to look like 1920 to fit into HD television format. With black bars on top and bottom the effective resolution in this case would leave 1440 by 820-800 depending on aspect ratio. 

I had seen somebody putting an anamorphic lens adapter on the HV10 on some forum, and started thinking that there might be something that fits the Canon A1 with its 72mm lens diameter. There is,it is the AG LA7200 made for the Panasonic DVX100 to convert standard definition 4:3 to 16:9.

When you put this lens on top of an HDV camera it pushes the 1440 pixels out to 2560. And if you then bring this down to 2K 2048 or HD 1920 would the bicubic resizing pick up some of the lost sharpness of the horizontal 1440 resolution from the extra resolution in squeezing the vertical resolution. 

Would it be sharp enough, or more importantly, does the Anamorphic lens adapter make the images look cool?

[end geek warning]

I didn't know and I wanted to know. This became the "first step" I needed to take.

Called up B&H and yes, they had a used one, and yes, I could come in and bring my camera and make a test there in the store. When I stood there  and began recording, all hooked up with cameras and cables at the counter the guy said that since it was a used lens, I could do a proper test by buying it and then return it within two weeks if I didn't like the results. 

Here is where that "what happens next thing"... happens.

Just as I came out of the store, I ran into this guy Jonathan. For months I have talked to him about beeing a possible guy to include in one of the half cooked projects. We had scheduled to meet and do some kind of film test and experiment together, but it just never happened. Here he was on a job and was running to get some solvent from the hardware store right across the street from B&H.

So in the five minutes that we had, we were able to both make a fast screen test to get to know if he liked being in front of the camera, and also see if the lens ended up creating a cool look. The lens was dirty on the inside and created some spots on the test, but you can see the interesting glare effects and the distortion towards the edges. Me like, went back and got a new one after checking it out for a couple of days. You can check out the test here.

Fantastic, I had done both the first and the next step in only a couple of hours.

Thank You Howard

Putting up the blog and posting the videos naturally followed one step at a time after that, tech stuff about that may be covered in a later post. And Yes, I still have only a very vague idea where this project is going, but I am having fun,blogging, shooting stuff, posting videos and working gradually like this.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog through DVXUSER. com, I haven't been on there in months, but I decided to stop in and see what was new. I have been doing the same kind of tests here in Utah on an HV20 with the Panasonic Lens and also a lens from Century optics, that was built for the PD150/VX2000.

I work at TV Specialists
so I have access to alot of new equipment and a lot of random old equipment. One of our home theater rooms has a Vidikron Vision 70 with an anamorphic conversion lens, that takes your 2.35:1 movies and pulls them out to the full cinema scope wide image.

So I was able to take the footage I shot with the anamorphic lens and view it on a 200" screen in the proper aspect ratio. It looks really good. There is definitely some softening going on because of the anamorphic lens. (SD lens=SD glass built for an SD camera)

Sorry about the long comment, I was really excited to find someone doing something this geeky.

agwah said...


made my day