Friday, December 23, 2011

Late December Evening


Late December Evening
December 16 - 17, 2011
Canon 60D | Sigma 30mm f/1.4 | Final Cut Pro 7 | Color 1.5

Last year during the holidays, I'd posted some shots of Central Park and Rockefeller Center that I'd taken during the month of December. I figured that this year, I would do something similar with a video.

The above video was shot late last Friday evening. After doing some Christmas shopping in Union Square, I took the 4 train up to Grand Central Terminal, arriving about 11:30 p.m. From there I walked to various sites, wrapping up at the Time Warner Center around 2:00 a.m.

Unfortunately, the big attraction lights (e.g. those at Rockefeller Center, Time Warner Center) were all off by the time I had arrived. I didn't have another chance to film these sites, so rather than focus on the big lights and crowds, I tried to focus more on the feeling on what these places were like after the lights were turned off, and most of the crowds had gone back to their homes or hotels.

Since I had another bunch of errands to run earlier in the evening, I didn't bring a tripod. For almost all of these, I swung my backpack around to the front, and propped my elbows onto it while holding the camera. The smoothcam filter in Final Cut Pro helped, but as always, it can be hit or miss. I might put a monopod on my gear wish list. Smoothcam can be ok, but I always recognize it when I see it, and it's not something that I can 100% rely on for fixing problems.

I did one color pass with Magic Bullet Looks, but I think I rushed the job, and it came out looking muddy, for lack of a better descriptor. Since I'd shot this using the Technicolor CineStyle Picture Style profile, I tried my second pass by clearing out the existing color work that I'd done, sending it to Color, applying the LUT there, and then making my adjustments. In the end, this was probably just as fast, if not faster, than what I'd done in Magic Bullet Looks.

Since watching Philip Bloom's great Looks tutorial, and because I am a big fan of his work, I've always wanted Magic Bullet Looks to be the tool I use for these sort of short videos. However, I've always found myself going to Apple Color instead, even for very short projects. I've realized that I have a slight bias towards Color, since the main book that I've read on color correction, Steve Hullfish's The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction, used FinalTouch, predecessor to Apple's Color, as its model, and my best guess is that whatever tool I might try and use, those workflows are the steps that my brain is working through at any given time.

What I find particularly helpful is sort of a layering approach, advocated by some of the colorists whom Hullfish interviewed. Make your main color balancing adjustments in the Primary room, and then make your more interpretive choices in the Secondary rooms. And then if you don't like what you've done in one of the Secondaries, you can just switch it off or reset it, and try something else. I also like being able to switch quickly between pulling a key, using a vignette, or making adjustments that affect the whole picture.

Of course, Looks isn't designed for that kind of workflow. At that point, a better comparison tool would be to use layered instances of Colorista while in FCP. I just mean to say that I've always wanted to have a blast with Looks, but I just haven't found the right project for which Looks provided the right answer to the problem (and of course, much of this depends on my subjective taste, as well as my own experience, or lack of experience with Looks).

It's a shame that Apple had only purchase Color in 2006, and, for all intensive purposes, seems to have dropped it from its lineup of pro applications. Since I don't plan on making any major software upgrades soon, it's probably the closest that I'll get in the immediate future to high end color correction tools like the DaVinci (much pricier). Colorista looks interesting, but I tried the free version and found it a bit too crowded on my MacBook Pro's 15" screen.

In any case, that's about it for this video. I've been enjoying throwing together these short videos of places/scenes and cutting them to music, but as I'd mentioned to a friend recently, I'd be very interested in exploring the different challenges involved in cutting together a narrative film. If all goes well, I may be working on shooting one such thing this Spring; will post an update once more of those pieces start coming together.

Hope all have a very joyous holiday season, and a happy New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The strange thing about Kim Jong Il

"The level of reverence for Kim Jong Il in North Korea is quite underestimated by the outside," Park said. "He is regarded by many as not only a superior leader but a decent person, a man of high morality. Whether that's accurate is not important if you want to deal with North Korea. You have to understand their belief system. Perception is reality."

- CNN.com

I don't know much about Kim Jong Il, but if the above is true, this is the most fascinating part.

The guy was apparently one of the worst dictators ever, yet somehow conjured it so that the people of North Korea revered him even as he was nearly literally starving them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Notebooks

I started using Field Notes as a carry-everywhere capture tool a few months ago. I had been following some iPhone/Elements/GTD workflow stuff that I had learned of through Merlin Mann's work. However, the process of pulling out my phone, typing in the password, and then opening Elements eventually began to feel far more laborious then pulling out a notebook and writing something down with pen and ink.

At the same time, I've also had a growing interest in creative writing. So as handy as the Field Notes may be, I also had a need for a notebook that would be more comfortable for writing longer pieces and for longer periods.

Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, recommended on many an episode of Back to Work, says the following about notebooks:

Sometimes people buy expensive hardcover journals. They are bulky and heavy, and because they are fancy, you are compelled to write something good. Instead you should feel that you have permission to write the worst junk in the world and it would be okay ... A cheap spiral notebook lets you feel that you can fill it quickly and afford another.

From about sixth through eighth grades, in addition to the required textbooks and notebooks, I carried a marble composition book wrapped in brown paper, and that was my drawing book. Well, drawing and writing and just about anything else. I recall how in one such book, I wrote a science fiction story. I started it, and kept adding to it whenever I felt like it, with no predetermined plot. It had no end, aside from where it stopped.

This seemed to be in the spirit that Goldberg was suggesting, so I picked one up in the stationery section of the supermarket.

Both of these tools, little Field Notes books, and the larger composition book, have served their purposes well, and I must admit that part of the fun has been not only the writing, but also seeing these physical objects accumulate a healthy and pleasant looking amount of everyday wear and tear.

The covers of the Field Notes books get bent and wrinkled over the course of their 3 - 4 week tenures in my left front pants' pockets, and the composition book's pages develop this great crinkling sound as they get indented with ballpoint pen.

On a purely aesthetic level, it's nice to watch a tool age with grace, like the cast iron skillet described in Khoi Vinh's great post Designed Deterioration.

In this case, the fun is also the physical reminder that I've done something, performed at least the bare minimum that is the activity of writing that Goldberg, as well as Anne LaMont, advocate as very nearly an end it itself.

There's more to go- consciously orchestrating plot, story, structure, characters. But these are all areas that I've spent lots of time on in the past, resulting in some decently structured, but otherwise pretty hollow feeling pieces. What I haven't done is mess around, write on impulse, jot down ideas, and in the end, try to push through to come out with something that has guts attached to it.

That's a disgusting image.

Anyway, the closest thing that I can think of is the difference between how I would read a part during a first readthrough of a play, with conscious confidence and strong choices. Then in the midst of rehearsal, I'd get lost amidst trying to peg the character. And then hopefully, in the end, I came out ok, with the conscious acting choices melding together with the stuff in between.

With writing, I'm trying to similarly put these left and right brain pieces together, because I don't think I've ever put quite enough work into it to get past the "first readthrough" stage. At the present, this is happening through muddling about with pen and paper every day and filling up notebooks.


I have to admit that there are likely dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of posts online about writing and notebooks, and I've read at least a handful of them. As they've likely influenced my thoughts on the matter a good deal, here are a few links to posts that I've found particularly insightful:

  1. The aforementioned Designed Deterioration post by Khoi Vinh
  2. Objectified, film by Gary Hustwit about industrial design
  3. Sweet Decay, at randsinrepose, by Michael Lopp. In the post, Lopp does a thorough comparison of various notebook types, from Moleskine to Field Notes, and eloquently describes the appeal of a notebook that "decays gracefully".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Google Street View: blurred faces atop taxi cabs.


Private Eyes face is not; Grey Gardens face is.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Overheard at the bar.

Yo, I'm going to tell you this awesome idea. You can do whatever you want with it- I just gotta get a cut
Good. And if we all got paid cash for zero effort, we could be billionaires.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Great shot.

P112411PS-0067

via The White House

I really enjoy nearly all of the shots that come out of The White House Flickr feed. Not even necessarily from a political preference, but just the notion that there's something interesting that happens every day, not each and every one is great, but they take a shot of what happened and post it. And usually it's pretty good.

This one caught my eye just because, on top of whatever else, it's a sweet looking shot.

Light through the window off the paper onto the President's face.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking Notes on Paper vs Laptop or Phone

Another thing that struck his audience: Forstall takes detailed notes without pen, paper, or laptop. “He listens to you and he starts typing on his iPhone,” says Matt Murphy, a partner at Kleiner Perkins and the manager of a fund at the firm that invests in iOS developers. “You’re thinking he’s not listening and sending a text message, then you realize he’s taking notes.”


- Businessweek profile of Apple executive Scott Forstall, via Daring Fireball

The article describes this behavior as if it's impressive, however I think this is a good example of why I will always prefer taking notes on paper to taking notes on a laptop or phone.

When you take notes on paper, the person that you're talking to gets the impression that you're listening intently.

When you take notes on a laptop or phone, the person that you're talking to gets the impression that they do not have your full attention.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'll have two, please


"As the nights grow cool, the leaves on the valley oaks begin to turn and fall. In honor of this yearly dance, we bring you Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale and invite you to enjoy the show. We use malt within days of roasting at the peak of its flavor to give Tumbler a gracefully smooth malt character. So pour a glass, and grab a window seat to watch as the leaves come tumbling down."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

New York City Flickr Group

Manhattan from Astoria

Groups in Flickr are funny things. They range from very active and vocal communities for photo enthusiasts, like The Hot Box, to less conversational groups focused around single subjects or events, like Grand Central Terminal or New York City Comic Con.

They serve many different purposes because the organizational principle is so simple. Photos that you choose to go into a group get posted up to a website along with photos taken by other members of that group.

I find the New York City group interesting because it does just that, at a pretty large scale. I don't engage much in commenting on photos on Flickr (though perhaps that means I'm underutilizing it), but then, I don't get the sense that there's much commenting and conversation going on in the New York Group. I view it more as a huge pool, in which photos by tourists and NYC residents all get collected and published.

As of this time, there are 485,044 photos in the group, and more go up there every day. Some of the shots are fairly common, and to be expected- Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty. But others have a much more specific, personal feel, like this shot from the 9/11 memorial or this one of a man at the Occupy Wall Street protest.

It's a great pool of collected experiences, all in one place, and for the most part, completely uncurated aside from the selectivity (or at times lack of selectivity) of the persons posting into the pool.

Definitely worth a look; check it out here.

Number of photos in the group now 485,045 and counting.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Should be one or the other.

New facebook newsfeed layout seems like a strange compromise. In the center is Facebook newsfeed pretty close to the way it's been for a few years. On the far right is Facebook newsfeed if it were to try and imitate Twitter as much as possible.

I'm not well schooled in design, but this looks like indecision to me. Not to mention confusing for the viewer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On the Train (shot & edited on iPhone 4)



August 24, 2011
iPhone 4 | ReelDirector 3.2 | Movie Looks HD | "Security Ballet" from Up in the Air score by Rolfe Kent

Movie Looks HD is available as a free download on the iPhone App Store for a limited time, through September 1st. It lets you add to your videos various filters inspired by a number of Hollywood films and TV shows (not unlike how Instagram lets you add to your photos filters inspired by vintage cameras).

So in the case of Movie Looks HD, a frame from your original video might start out like this:


And if you wanted to give it a CSI sort of look, you'd apply the present called "Crime Scene".


Or, you could use "Neo" to give it the slightly sickly color of the "inside the Matrix" scenes from The Matrix.


An imitation of another popular look is the "Optimus" filter, which provides the tangerine skin tones and teal backgrounds that have, apparently, been all the rage in recent blockbuster films.


Transformers uses this look a great deal, hence the invocation of that venerable Autobot's name. (For an overview of recent uses of this color scheme in Hollywood films, check out this great blog post at Into the Abyss).

I wanted to test this app out, so I took a handful of shots while I was on a NJ Transit train earlier this week. In order to have a go at the "everything done on the phone" experience, I used ReelDirector to edit the shots together, exported the video, and then applied a preset from Movie Looks HD (in this case, I used "Optimus").

I'd never used ReelDirector in earnest before, aside from a light test drive months ago, so editing on the phone was in itself a novel, and at times, challenging, exercise. The screen is a bit too small, and finger-on-screen control a bit too imprecise, for this to feel truly useful to me. I'm sure that were I to have sat down to do this at a computer, I would have been able to finish the edit much faster (or at the very least, gotten to this point in editing much faster...and then perhaps might have spent hours on end doing micro-tweaks and adjustments. This is a fault of mine).

Regarding Movie Looks HD, the software without a doubt does what it says it will do. It does take a long while to render (in my case, 38 minutes for a 1:26 clip), and it can only render while it is the primary app open on the screen. If you pick up a phone call, the render will pause, and then resume when you go back into the app. A little annoying, but really, I've never used a computer that could instantaneously render out video files, so I understand this limitation as a fact of life.

You are, after all, editing and color grading a video on your mobile telephone.

It did an ok job with the color adjustments, similar to what I'd expect from the presets available in the desktop plugin software Magic Bullet Looks, created by the same company, Red Giant. The range of controls available does not compare to the desktop plugin, but hey, once again, it's a phone.

There were two noticeable drawbacks. First, at some point in the workflow, the resolution dropped from High Definition to standard definition. This is probably a result of my own ignorance, though. I tried searching for reports of other people running into this problem, and came up empty. Second, in many of the presets, Movie Looks HD applies a crop to your video clip in order to give it a widescreen look similar to what you might get in a movie theater. Not the end of the world, but if you plan on using Movie Looks HD, you should make sure that your subjects are close to the vertical center of the frame, and have a good amount of headroom.

Though I would not replace my video camera and laptop with an iPhone, I do appreciate its small and inconspicuous form factor, and the ease with which videos can be uploaded. I would not use the iPhone to shoot something that I had planned way in advance, but it would be the tool of choice for grabbing a quick shot on the street, making it look nice, and then sharing it up to the web in a short period of time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Photos has a new home

I'd started doing the five photos sets as a way to keep me motivated to take pictures, edit them and post them. Since I've been posting them regularly for almost a year, and since I plan to continue to do so into the foreseeable future, I figured it'd make sense to give them a dedicated blog at FivePhotos.net.

That blog will be just the photo sets; everything else (stray photos, writing, videos) will stay on this page.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Your next visit to Barnes and Noble

I recently purchased another book on my Barnes and Noble Nook, and the e-mailed receipt had the following as its tagline:

We appreciate your business and look forward to your next visit to Barnes & Noble."

It is strange to read in an e-mail the same phrase that you would hear a cashier say at a brick and mortar store.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bend your fingers

One summer when I was a kid (about 7, I think), I took a few piano lessons from one of my grand aunts in the Philippines. I was alright, but had a bad habit of sitting and plunking my fingers flat against the keys. She always corrected me, saying "Bend your fingers" as she corrected my hands with hers. Sitting up straight, hands above the keyboard, fingers bent.

I hadn't thought about this in years, but I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Hypercritical, in which host John Siracusa discusses how he's dealt with repetitive stress injury (RSI) stemming from working behind a keyboard for so many hours a day (keyboard of the clack-clack-clack, not do-re-mi variety). I hadn't thought about RSI as a legitimate concern for me before, more a mere annoyance. But the thought that it might cause long-term damage got me thinking that I should try and be a bit more proactive in dealing with it.

It sounds silly to complain about, but I get a good amount of aches and pains in my wrists (after all, I'm at a keyboard and mouse just about 8 hours a day, then a few hours more after I get home). I picked up an Evoluent Vertical Mouse about two years ago. It was somewhat helpful, though the ache moved from my wrist up to the inside of my upper arm, so it might be time for me to switch back to a normal mouse.

Sometime soon I'll try to get a keyboard tray under my desk, but in the mean time I'm working on my posture.

So I've once again been sitting up straight, hands above the keyboard, fingers bent.

Not much more to this post than that- just a current problem that reactivated a 21 year old memory.

--
NOTE 1:

I've been listening to the 5by5.tv podcasts incessantly these past few weeks, so it's no wonder material by their hosts are on my brain. I realized after finishing this post that I had unintentionally imitated some of the structural elements of Merlin Mann's great essay 'Cranking', which used a similar past-memory/present-circumstance/past-memory structure and vehicle (albeit much more developed and serious a piece). While I'm sure his essay is not the only piece of writing to have used this format, it's the most recent example of it that I've read, so it seemed to warrant citing. And it's definitely worth checking out.

NOTE 2:

In the harsh light of day, I see all my typos and grammatical errors.
I've corrected them. There may be more, but I'll leave those alone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Five Photos (11): Philadelphia

During one visit home in late May, I had a chance to spend a more than usual amount of time in the city itself. Because I'd moved to New York for college, I really hadn't spent a lot of time exploring the city as a grown up, so this was a neat change of pace (thanks in particular to my sister Jamie for showing me around).

Caddy
Caddy

Whenever I see an expensive car parked on the street, particularly a convertible with the top down, I can't help but imagine that the owner can't not be less than 20 feet away, and keeping close eye on it.

Sometimes, I start to imagine that this might get tiring for an owner.

Then, I start to imagine that as an owner of a really expensive car, there are some burdens in life that you're just going to have to deal with.

Big Ship
Big Ship

Nice view from the cafeteria of the Ikea on Columbus Boulevard.

honey
Honey

My sister took me out for lunch/brunch at Honey's Sit 'n Eat. This place was great. Nice ambience, great service, and delicious food.

Cars
Cars

Philadelphia Sidewalk
Philadelphia Sidewalk

Not all sidewalks in Philadelphia look like this, but it sure is a nice one.

This is right by the Belgian Cafe at 21st and Green Street. We had a chance to eat there as well, also really good.

--

More photos from this set posted on flickr

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Video Short: Washington Square Park


July 1, 2011
Canon HF200 | Final Cut Pro 7 | Apple Color 1.5

I had wanted to put together a quick video, and also wanted to get more experience with color grading, so I figured that catching some shots of performers in the park would be perfect.

Once I started shooting, I realized that I couldn't just do the usual of taking a bunch of shots and then cutting them to a pre-existing music tracks. Since it's musicians playing music, the only good choice would be to use the sound from their performance. So shots would have to linger longer in between cuts in order to catch any appreciable amount of music. I tried to take advantage of the HF200's optical zoom to move back and forth in order to keep these long shots interesting.

By way of disclosure, in the pianist section, I use the audio from the third shot as "master" and cut between shots before and after that were not filmed in sequence, though it gives the appearance of continuity. It's fudging reality a bit- not enough for me to think it an outright problem, but enough to at least warrant mentioning.

Color grading also provided an interesting challenge. I was down there around "golden hour", with some nice warm lighting of sunset coming in. All in all this was fortunate, but when I got into Apple Color in post, I found myself conflicted between the instinct to try and "correct" the warm light out of the picture entirely, and the desire to retain that golden look. Because I got the sense that the footage leaned almost too heavily toward orange, I wound up correcting it out to neutral, and then adding the warm bias back in in Color's secondary rooms. I imagine that this could be handled any number of ways, though.

I've gotten more used to Color, and the round-trip workflow back to Final Cut, but still find myself feeling a little wishy washy about the results in the final grade. Something feels missing, or at least, I wouldn't give it any credit as a particularly impressive grading job (though arguably it may be a good thing for the color adjustments to be unnoticeable). At the same time, there's nothing guiding just what this should look like (no director or DP but myself), so it's mostly up to my own tastes. Which, based on the material I've done on my own so far, seem to be pretty conservative.

I'll make it a task that for my next impromptu video project, I'll try to shoot something that will require a little more punch or stylization.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Independence Day


I was about to post on Facebook: 'Happy July Fourth'. I figured I may as well use the proper name, though, so then I typed 'Happy Independence Day'. I thought this sounded strange, in fact I don't think I've said 'Happy Independence Day' before.

I'm not aware of any other holiday that we colloquially refer to by its calendar date.

Towards the end of last year, when the holly and the ivy decorated our family's banister, I didn't wish everyone a Happy 25th of December. A month prior to that, while gathered around the dinner table, I didn't wish anyone a Happy Fourth Thursday of November.

I don't know the origins of the 'July Fourth' usage, but I'd suggest that 'July Fourth' describes the celebrations of the day, the whole package (hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks and the like).

'Independence Day' names the reason for those celebrations.

If you told a young child "We are celebrating July 4th," they may accept that that's just what you do on this calendar day.

If you told them "We are celebrating Independence Day," then not only have they gained more information, but they will hopefully have reason to ask a follow up question.

--

UPDATED 07/05/11: I revised this a bit for tone. My intent is more observation and less proscriptive, so I tried to lean more in that direction.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Five Photos (10): near the High Line

Last month I went out to the High Line and shot a short video. Most of the time I was focused on filming, but I grabbed some stills as well.

Doors
Doors

Couple in Color
Couple in Color

I edited a black and white of this as well, but wound up preferring the color version.

Four Women, Three Faces
Four Women, Three Faces

High Line
High Line

Figured I ought to include at least one shot of the High Line itself.

Sweeping
Sweeping

--

More photos from this set posted on flickr

Friday, June 24, 2011

Be careful who you stand next to.

F.B.I. Seizes Web Servers, Knocking Sites Offline

The F.B.I. seized Web servers in a raid on a data center early Tuesday, causing several Web sites, including those run by the New York publisher Curbed Network, to go offline...Mr. Ostroumow said that the F.B.I. was only interested in one of the company’s clients but had taken servers used by “tens of clients.”

- Verne G. Kopytoff, writing for NYT Bits Blog


They were apparently interested in the servers of just one company, but ended up seizing the servers of a whole bunch of companies whose servers were nearby. While I can only assume that Google or Facebook might be better equipped to push back at the government on something like this, at least in principle, all of our personal information online could be subject to similar seizures.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Five Photos (9): around Murray Hill and Kips Bay

One evening last month I had some time to kill and strolled around Murray Hill and Kips Bay.

Elephant
Elephant

I took this because I figured it'd be a nice bit with elephant-sharp, and background fuzzy. That part didn't quite work out, though when I started working on this in Aperture, I noticed the couple right underneath the elephant's tusk.

Tonic Crossing
Tonic Crossing

Relative to all the other buildings in the area, Tonic East looks like an evil villain's lair.

Creeping In
Creeping In

Empire State Building, poking its head out among the rooftops.

Long Line of Cars
Long Line of Cars

From the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Hail
Hail

--

More photos posted up on flickr

Monday, June 13, 2011

3 Random Sidewalk Finds

This was apparently the weekend for finding lonely objects strewn along Astoria's sidewalks:

small flowers
small flowers
Stayed out late on Saturday night, and on the way home ran into these at 2:51 a.m. Sunday morning.

flowers by a tree
flowers by a tree
Sunday afternoon, more flowers on the sidewalk down by 34th avenue.

fire truck
fire truck
Then, further up that block, a lonely fire truck, left and forgotten against a tree.

Shot these on my iPhone 4, and edited using Noir, by Red Giant Software. My Canon S90 was out of battery when I took the first shot, but it's just as well, since Noir on the phone does a pretty nice job with black and white.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Video Short: The High Line (Tech Info and Background)



Camera: Canon HF200
NLE: Final Cut Pro 7
Color: Apple Color 1.5

Background
Since beginning work with DSLR cameras last year, I've avidly followed the videos of Philip Bloom. One format that he does very well are short video pieces filmed on location and set to music. Examples can be found on his website; I particularly recommend Sofia's People and Skywalker Ranch.

I enjoy his work a lot. They are great examples of what can be done with with a camera, a good location, and a few hours at work editing and color grading. So I tried to make this in that same vein.

Music
I had originally wanted to use the "Hand Covers Bruise" track from The Social Network soundtrack, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The thought had occurred to me, though, that I may want to look at royalty free options if I want these videos to last online without fear of license complications. Fortunately, I stumbled upon the album Ghosts, that Reznor and Ross had recorded under the Nine Inch Nails banner. They had released Ghosts under a Creative Commons license that permitted use by anyone as long as the work was attributed to its creator for non-commercial purposes, and that any work building upon it use this same license.

Camera
Shooting on the HF200 again, as I don't yet have a 60D or GH2 in hand. While the video quality lacks the sharpness and very shallow depth of field of a larger sensor camera, on the whole I am happy with it. The color grading seems to help a long way here. I have to check my ambitions for a better camera with recognition of the actual number of times I get out to shoot video, which is not more than once every few months unless there's a project going on.

Color
For color grading, I felt like I had been running over the same steps over and over again with Magic Bullet Looks. I wasn't living in preset world, but I found myself spending too much time trying to make it look like film, rather than focusing on making it look good. For variation's sake, I went for Apple Color this time around. As usual, I found myself pulling back from more aggressive looks, but perhaps Color is the better tool for more subtle work.

I didn't miss Magic Bullet Looks terribly, and I do enjoy how quickly I can move between primary and secondary corrections, keying and windows in Apple Color. But the round tripping was really sucked up a good deal of time. If I were more experienced, I probably would have been able to work around the things that gave me trouble faster, but all in all it did take longer. Nonetheless, I'm liking it and will probably stick with Color for the next video that I shoot.

For the original post on The High Line, click here.

Video Short: The High Line


May 21, 2011

I had heard great things about The High Line, but hadn't had a chance to visit. This past Saturday I found myself with an open schedule, and since I hadn't edited anything in a long while, I brought along my camera and shot some footage.

I got there around 10:30 a.m. and it was very pleasant, pretty quiet. By about 12:30 p.m. it started to get crowded in a way that seemed counter to the otherwise calming environment. I'd recommend going early in the day if at all possible.

As a public space, it's got all sorts of fun nooks and crannies, from an observation deck that looks directly over 10th Avenue, to an area built to accommodate reclining sunbathers. There's another section due to open in June. With more to see, and likely a different look with the changing seasons, I imagine I'll be back to shoot more in a few months.

If you haven't yet visited, definitely worth going, and The High Line also has some great videos posted up on their site.

I've included more info on the background and technical info in a separate post.

Thanks for watching!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beaming Up and Climbing Out

During a trip to Italy during college, I was looking at a painting of the last judgment. I remarked to the professor next to me, a priest, "Isn't it strange that at that time people actually believed that they would climb out of their tombs like that at the end of the world?"

The priest corrected me, noting that in the Catholic faith, per the Apostle's Creed and many other texts, the "resurrection of the body" means just that. Climbing out of the tomb.

I didn't know what to say after that. It's like the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, or the incorruptability of certain saints' bodies. It's easy to believe that two thousand years ago, "one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change" (as described in HHGTG). It's hard to believe that after your body has been decomposing for years, your soul will reunite with it, you will make your way out of the ground, and you will look awesome. (The painter had been very generous to his subjects in that respect).

It's 7:39 p.m., and it would seem that for most of the world, now including the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, Harold Camping's prophesied Rapture has not occurred.

I guess that's pretty good news.

Camping's having assigned the end of days a day and date made this prediction perfect for ridicule. Camping served up a perfect litmus test - on May 21st, at 6:00 p.m., the world would either end, or it wouldn't.

If he had simply said that no one but God knows when the end of days will occur, then he and many Christians around the world could nod in agreement. In the Gospel According to Mark 13:32, on the question of Christ's return, it is written "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

The difference between Camping and many other Christians is one of timing. By Mark's telling above, the end of the world could just as well have been today at 6:00 p.m. No one knows and it could be any time, why not May 21st.

Or any other minute of any other day.

And then, it is said that when that time comes, persons won't be beamed to heaven. Bodies will in glorified form climb out of graves- "in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul"(Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Camping does not seem to have been a credible guy. Especially since by now he's 0 and 2. But it's worth noting that what invited ridicule was that he actively preached that the end was imminent, and he set a date at which he could be either proven or disproven. I'm glad that he was wrong, but I believe that if you remove the "date certain" part of Camping's predictions, in the news and in our conversations, we're left with plenty of jokes about a Biblical end of the world- an event that Christian faiths believe could happen at any time.

So for Christians, and for perhaps persons of other faiths as well, if their tradition includes a foretelling of the end of days, it is worth revisiting what we actually do believe about the end of the world. We've been confronted with the idea of it, had a good laugh, but it's reason to take a pause and think about what in our faiths' foretellings seem incredulous, unbelievable, or on the other hand, downright essential to that faith.

In the Catholic context, I understand that the second coming and the resurrection of the body are extremely important. But like when I was looking at the painting of the good looking people climbing out of their tombs, at least as of right now, I don't quite know what about it I can say that I believe with certainty.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Five Photos (8): Signs and Signage

Burritos
Burritos

I didn't eat there, but the sign looked cool.




Flynn Liquors
Liquors




Wits End
Wits End

A number of streets in Astoria had sides of them closed to parking in early April. I believe that this was for one of the Law & Order series.

Wits End is a production equipment company.




Local Calls Still Only 25 Cents
Local Calls Still Only 25 Cents




I Assure You, We're Open
I Assure You, We're Open

Sign on an eyeglasses store near Columbus Circle.

Not unlike the sign in Clerks.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Strange Days.


Not the end of an era, but an end of something.

I was a freshman in college, first semester, trying hard to stay awake all night in Alpha House while I was reading the Fagles translation of The Odyssey for a Harry B. Evans class. I fell asleep probably around 3 AM, and woke up six hours later. Strange things then happened- class got cancelled, and I started getting phone calls from my family on my mobile phone (a Nokia that barely knew what a text message was). Later, I was huddled in a dorm room with 5 other people watching the TV, later that afternoon, sprinting next to one of my friends to get to Finlay, and later still, trying to get to the roof of Walsh to get a look at what was going on.

I set off the roof alarm while I was trying to get up there, and felt like shit for, in essence, having tried to rubberneck, and also for having added unnecessary decibels of noise to what was already a terrible and chaotic situation.

The next day, classes are cancelled but the RD is telling us stringently not to treat this as a snow day. That weekend, at Alumni Hall on Fordham Road, someone carried an American flag around the bar. We all sang 'God bless the USA,' I think, probably cognizant that at this point, that the sense of pride alone was comforting.

I will grant the fact that, at the time, this was a sense of real resolve. America is about rebuilding, starting fresh, and coming back stronger.

But myself and likely everyone else on that campus had a sense that things would never be the same ever.

Tonight, things aren't necessarily all better in one fell swoop. If tonight's NBC newscast was any indicator, tomorrow, we will hear a great deal about Joint Special Operations Command (or JSOC, as the broadcasters seemed to have enjoyed saying so much). Details will then unravel about how the operation took place, graphics will show on screen the timeline of the operation, from August, 2010 to the present, and maps will show where the compound was, complete with 3D-esque topography. Not so terribly unlike ten years ago, as details started to unravel about the plots, training camps in Afghanistan, and how this terrible thing came to be.

In themselves, tonight's news does not necessarily bring closure, or categorically end the story that started 10 years ago (though arguably, that story may well have begun much earlier).

But hopefully, perhaps idealistically, in contrast to 10 years ago, our country just might have better days ahead than those that are behind.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

St. Patrick's Day, 2011

I'm enjoying Easter weekend with family, and am taking some time to catch up on editing photos. These were taken on St. Patrick's Day. I work pretty close to Fifth Avenue, and couldn't help but hear the noise when I stepped out to lunch. I usually avoid crowds, but I remembered at least one photography book suggesting parades as a great opportunity for practicing shooting, so I walked on over.

St. Patrick's Day Parade, from Vanderbilt Avenue
St. Patrick's Day Parade, from Vanderbilt Avenue

There were a number of groups queued up between Vanderbilt and Madison. I guess this was their staging area as they waited to join the parade.

Watching the Parade
Watching the Parade

Hot Dog
Hot Dog

I didn't notice this guy holding his hand behind his neck until I went through the photos later. It seemed to lend itself to a pop-art-ish sort of look, so I messed with the saturation, vibrance and added a vignette to try and get that look.

Band
Band

By Connolly's
By Connolly's

Orange County Fire Fighters
Orange County Fire Fighters

At the Ready
At the Ready

Drums
Drums

Gaelic Society at the Parade
Gaelic Society at the Parade

This group was from Iona College. Unfortunately I didn't have time to find the delegation from Fordham University, my own alma mater.

Point!
Point!

This guy looks like he was having an awesome time.

Get Your Hats
Get Your Hats

Ready.
Ready.

Looks like this was a group from the Air Force.

These are most of the highlights. I've added a Flickr set that has a few more shots, as well as some from Times Square.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Five Photos (7)

Light at the End of the Tunnel
Light at the End of the Tunnel

Reminds me of the street set from Blade Runner.

Passageway
Passageway

A security guard stopped me when I started taking pictures from within the passageway. I guess it's private property in there. It's just as well; this shot that I took from the sidewalk came out better anyway.

Girl Reading
Sitting and Reading

Fifth Avenue Apple Store at Night
Fifth Avenue Apple Store at Night


St. Patrick's Day Display at the Four-Faced Liar
St. Patrick's Day Display at The Four-Faced Liar

One of my favorite bars in the city. Despite being smack in the middle of the West Village hubbub, it is a has hole-in-the-wall coziness, pleasant staff, and affordable prices.

For more photos, check out my photostream on flickr. Thanks!