My friend Scott McElroy has created a strange character named Gary Fraptious. He’s a bearded, aviator glasses wearing 20-going-on-60-something with a thick southern accent who speaks mostly gibberish. Scott and I put our heads together a while back and decided to feature this character in a series of unrelated skits on our YouTube comedy channel. Here are a couple of our favorites.
The Aches recently entered NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest, and they asked me to shoot two live performance videos of them to submit to the judges. Because I only have one Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, and we wanted to capture the performances entirely live, I used my Canon T2i as a wide angle and reserved the Pocket for close-ups. I still have a lot to learn about the Pocket’s color science, and matching the footage from the two cameras was quite a chore, but I managed to get them pretty close. I used my Zoom H1 to record the sound. It’s a surprisingly great little audio recorder and the band was very happy with the quality I managed to capture. Below are both videos.
I’m thinking about canceling my Netflix subscription. Why? Why not a little history first?
Years ago people would dress up to go to a stage play. Attending the theater was a special occasion, a way to relax after a hard week, or even month of labor. With the advent of cinema nothing much changed. Most people treated movies like they treated theater—as a special night of entertainment. Going to the movies was still at most a once a week event, and people still dressed up.
Television changed everything. Suddenly there was dramatic entertainment available in the home every day. The only thing that kept television from becoming an all-consuming activity for it’s viewers was the scheduling—there wasn’t always something you wanted to watch on, and you had to wait a day or even a week to see the next episode of your favorite show. Even the most couch-bound kids would get bored of the cooking and home improvement shows that came on in the afternoon after the cartoons, and would go outside to play. I know. I was one of those bored kids.
Now that on-demand television and web streaming services like Netflix are available, everything you ever wanted to watch is available whenever you want to watch it, and people are really and truly having their lives consumed by entertainment—they’re becoming chronic streamers.
If you are a streamer, your day might go something like this: wake up in the morning after a late night of streaming, watch the latest humorous videos on Facebook before breakfast, drive to work, catch up on some of your favorite shows during lunch, drive home, watch some more of your favorite shows during supper, enjoy your evening watching the new hit shows you haven’t seen yet. Suddenly it’s midnight and you’re exhausted. Go to sleep to music or a podcast on your earbuds. Wake and repeat.
This lifestyle is truly nightmarish. For the chronic streamer, life is what happens on screen and real life is just the annoyances in between. This movement in our society is creating a world similar to Henry Miller’s “air-conditioned nightmare,” a world completely consumed by the foolishness of melodrama, the unhealthiness of a sedentary life, and the moral and spiritual destructiveness of complete self-absorption.
There’s nothing wrong with cinema. As a matter of fact, I believe that a well-made, truthful film can be a great force for good in our world. There’s also nothing wrong with melodramatic or comedic television when consumed in small portions. Sometimes we need a little melodrama or a little pulpy action in our lives to refresh our imaginations and emotions. It’s when a special night of entertainment becomes a life consumed by it that things go south. When we replace the wisdom of God’s Word with the wisdom of the young attractive actors we follow daily, when we replace fellowship with the people around us with watching the people on our screens, we shouldn’t be surprised when our lives are suddenly dull and meaningless, when we don’t have the energy to leave our houses or spend time with our families or reach out to friends. This streaming culture is destroying us.
Sure, if I just employed a little self control, having a Netflix subscription would be fine. It’s great to have access to so many good films, and I could always just keep my subscription and only watch one film or TV episode a week; but I just don’t know if I trust myself. For me, streaming is the ultimate opiate, a plunge into a never-ending world of entertainment pleasure. As a filmmaker, that world is doubly tempting because it’s full of inspiring art. But how much good is inspirational art if there’s no time to use it to create my own? Just like alcohol, I’d much rather be limited by responsible social consumption, by treating film and television like it’s supposed to be treated: as special night out after a long week of good hard work.
Last winter I had the privilege of helping my friends Colin and Christiana Flanigan with a photo shoot to promote their band The Aches. They specifically wanted an analog film look, so I used my Canon AE1 35mm film camera, along with a Polaroid Colorpack II instant film camera to photograph them. We headed out to a lakefront park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which gave us a starkly beautiful view of partially frozen Lake Michigan.
Here are some of the shots I captured.
As always, it was a joy to shoot with film. I love the aesthetic of 35mm and instant film, and I didn’t even have to do much work in post to get these images ready for publication. Chris and Colin really liked what we achieved and they’ve have already incorporated some of these images into their Facebook page. Check it out here.
Oh, and they’re also an awesome band! You can listen to some of their music here.
There’s a new camera in my life! This summer Blackmagic dropped the price of their little Pocket Cinema Camera, and I snatched one up. It’s incredibly powerful for it’s size and delivers a much higher quality image than my Canon DSLR ever did. I picked up a vintage C-mount lens from the antique store–a Bausch and Lomb 26mm f/1.9–and with the help of a Fotodiox C-Mount to Micro Four Thirds adapter I shot a quick demo with it. Here’s the result:
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, or BMPCC for short, delivers 12 stops of dynamic range. That means you can capture more detail in the dark and light parts of a scene than you can capture with an average video camera. This range is similar to the dynamic range of film, which means that the BMPCC has a look more akin to a 16mm motion picture than digital video–a look I’ve been trying to achieve for years.
I shot a second test film in Chicago with my friend Mike, this time with a Cosmicar 12.5mm f/1.9 C-mount lens. He was shooting a time lapse video with his 5D Mark II, so I decided to shoot a video about him shooting a video. Here’s the result:
It’s amazing how much detail I was able to capture, even at night. The high dynamic range gives me a lot of wiggle room, and even when what I’m shooting is underexposed, I can often get a lot of it back in post. Here’s another video I just shot over Christmas, this time experimenting with a little Olympus 9mm fisheye lens:
I’m really excited to see what I can do with this camera in the future! I’m currently shooting a short science fiction film with it, and so far the results have been stellar–no pun intended. It’s great to finally own a digital video camera that feels like a 16mm motion picture camera, and delivers a similar image.