Bach & Parachute – Sound & Image for You

Classical guitar

Here’s a video just for you. Cinematographer Andy Bowley was seriously captivated by this billowing parachute at Arcosanti.  I love listening to, learning and playing Bach. Two great tastes that taste great together. I hope you like it.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/SUebyb3-aho[/youtube]

Prelude for Cello Suite No. 1 for Guitar.  Recorded super lo-fi in my living room.

Drone Pilot at Arcosanti: Guest Post by Cinematographer Andy Bowley

Today’s post was written by cinematographer Andy Bowley.

i can’t remember if we drank a lot of beer that night.

but i do remember parting ways with david, after a nice meal on the upper west side of new york, saying yes! drone! arcosanti!

or something like that.

a few days later, he wrote to let me know he really wanted to do it.

really?

i had a few weeks to prepare, so i bought a syma x1 quadcopter (about $35) and flew it all around my apartment.  my tweedy green chair became landing pad #1,  my other tweedy green chair became landing pad #2, and a pillow on the leather couch became landing pad #3.

lil uav, aka Mr. Droney

i practiced everyday i could and crashed and crashed and crashed.  and after a couple of weeks, found i could wing the little thing around — landing and taking off from pads 1-3 in nimble succession.  i knew i was ready for arcosanti when i could actually fly without sticking my tongue out of my mouth.

days later, i found myself standing in front of a whirring DJI phantom in the arizona desert. and now, the playground was vast.
instead of gliding from pillow to pillow, i was doing 1500′ runs thru canyons, over cliffs, and over top of paolo soleri’s glorious creation.

i couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  which meant i pretty much kept my tongue in my mouth too.

 Andy may have been able to keep his tongue in his mouth at Arcosanti, but I was unable to lift my jaw off the floor after seeing the footage. Here’s one of the strafing shots he took of Arcosanti.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIrNnlXnFFo[/youtube]
==
Andy Bowley is a NYC-based cinematographer whose projects have won many national Emmys and one Peabody. He can be found here and there on this blog. Other posts by this generous man:

E-mail Andy: a b o w l e y at  e a r t h l i n k d o t n e t

[color-box color=”gray”]

What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]

Back to Arcosanti

Many years ago I worked in a record store  where I spent a lot of my time flipping through the inventory to see what I was missing. One day I came across an LP I had not seen before.

Sound Effects Death & Horror
Front cover.

 

Sound Effects Death & Horror
Track listing on back.

 

At the time I thought this was the funniest, cheesiest, most bizarre album I had ever seen. I wasn’t making films or audio dramas and I did not foresee any use for it, but still I had to have it. Plus, it was cheap, what with my employee discount and all. I brought it up to the cashier and with a laugh I said to whoever rang me up, “Who would BUY this?” As I took the money out of my wallet a lightening bolt of self-awareness struck me! I would buy it, that’s who!

Flash forward about 20 years and the release of Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, a film he shot in the jungles of Thailand.  At this point I am an admirer of Herzog and am particularly captivated by Fitzcarraldo and its companion, Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, a documentary chronicling the making of Fitzcarraldo. For the purposes of this post, you need only know that Herzog had a very difficult time shooting this film on location in the Amazon jungle.

Here’s a famous clip from Burden of Dreams wherein Herzog goes all Herzogian about the Amazon.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ze9-ARjL-ZA[/youtube]

Leaving the theater after Rescue Dawn, I turned to my movie-going companion and said, “It’s amazing, Herzog finally gets a decent budget and big name Hollywood actors, and what does he do? Right back into the jungle! Crazy.”

And last month I thought about what I had said as I booked a flight to Arizona upon receiving news about my income tax refund. So tomorrow (Tuesday, April 14, 2015),  cinematographer Andy Bowley and I will be back in the Sonoran Desert shooting Arcosanti and conducting a follow-up interview with Jeff Stein, AIA, successor to Paolo Soleri and president of the Cosanti Foundation. I know, I know, I’ve said production is over about ten times. But this is it. This shoot is for the ending of the film and very very necessary. So to the desert we go.

I expect they’ll be a post when I return, maybe some photos, and eventually some footage, too.

Stay tuned.

Birds of A Life’s Work

Like most people, birds fascinate me. I’m not a birder, not even close, but I enjoy listening to and looking at them. I also enjoy filming them, when they’ll cooperate, which isn’t often. Working with cats and kids are a cakewalk compared to birds.

Here are some shots the cinematographers of A Life’s Work captured. The first two minutes were shot by Wolfgang Held in Copemish and Manistee, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and Cordes Junction (Arcosanti), Arizona. I shot the next thirty seconds at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.* Andy Bowley shot the remainder of the clip at the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California. There is sound throughout, but it’s very quiet. The first shots were taken from inside looking out, so you won’t hear any chirping or squawking or feather-rustling or nothing.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/98448380[/vimeo]

It was fun putting this clip together and I find it very soothing to watch. I tried to tell a little story with the SETI footage.

What do you make of it? Do you have a favorite shot?

And if any of you birders out there would care to identify some of these beauties, please leave a comment here or on Facebook or send me a direct message. Thanks.

* My lame shots have no business being sandwiched between such fine work, but I like the sound of grackles, so I decided to use that footage.

In addition to monetary help, there are many ways you can support A Life’s Work. Why not consider being a part of  the film’s growing community.

Filmmaker Clams

clams

Years ago, a friend and I referred to running, inside  jokes, phrases, or expressions as “clams.” I’m not sure where this came from, but I use it to this day.

The process of filmmaking results in many clams. When I think about production of A Life’s Work, one clam comes immediately to mind.

Andy Bowley and I were in Hat Creek, CA, at the Allen Telescope Array shooting. Andy brought his camera and gear and I brought mine, including a tripod that I bought used from a cinematographer, let’s call her Jane Doe. New York being the small place it is, Andy knew and worked with Jane, and he had, in fact, seen my tripod action. My tripod became known as the Jane Doe Tripod.

The Jane Doe Tripod
The Jane Doe Tripod at the Allen Telescope Array.

It developed a personality and it spoke in a sad, pathetic voice. Andy took photos of it and sent it to Jane with messages like, “In California without you and having a GREAT time with David and Andy.” This joke went on and on, each of us riffing on it, and it never got old. At least not to me. Eventually, Andy just needed to say “The Jane Doe Tripod” and I’d crack up. I still chuckle thinking about it, but you probably had to be there…

Postproduction also has its clams.  But right now, there is no editor for me to crack jokes with, it’s just me. There are two clams I have adopted based on the material. One is Robert Darden’s line when he talks about a setback the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project endured and how this affected him. “Ok, I need more faith.” I say this about the film, but also many other aspects of my life right now.

Another clam I’ve picked up is an expression Paolo Soleri uses in the following clip, shot at his first commission, Dome House. Look for it at two minutes in.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWObtRn_-fo[/youtube]

I find use that same facial expression when someone says something to me that would warrant a verbal response such as “So it goes …” If I were working with an editor, the full clam might be this expression and “Yeah, you know, he liked the floor.” But as it is now,  people get it when I raise my eyebrows and smile faintly. As Soleri also says in the clip: It works.

An interesting pair, these two: “I need more faith,” and “So it goes…”

Is there a catchall expression you’re fond of? Care to share?

 

 

Listen Up! A Clip featuring the SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter

Last week’s post, Please Forget Me, inspired a comment from friend and A Life’s Work subject Robert Darden:

I teach my Journalism students that they need to be invisible when they do interviews. I don’t want them to speak much and I sure don’t want the interviewee to know their political or religious views. In fact, I don’t know what any of the good reporters I’ve interviewed through the years think about such things … including the ones I see regularly. Their job is to get out of the way of the interview, to let the interviewee speak.

This reminded me of a comment left on How to Conduct an Interview, Part 2: Asking the Questions by friend and one of A Life’s Work’s cinematographers, Andy Bowley:

i think rule #1, to listen is supremely important. if you are listening — really listening and thinking over what the person is saying to you, they can really sense it. and if you’re doing it right, you should be listening and thinking. i mean you’ve got a lot to think about: you should be cutting their sound bites in your head, evaluating their ideas/stories for clarity, and maybe most importantly, letting your natural curiosity push you towards the next question. it’s nice to tell your interview subject that you’re just having a conversation — but if you ask questions that satisfy your curiosity or that clarify something — guess what? you really are having a conversation!

best of all, when you work this way your natural listening responses (nodding, smiling, scribbling, eyebrows whatever) tell that person that you are with them. no fake nodding necessary . . .

This in turn reminded me of an exchange I had with Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute. Why, I asked, is the Institute only listening for signals, and not sending them? What if everyone is just sitting around listening? (This is a hot topic in the SETI community.) She responds in this outtake.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/OKcQ-Ccg1ns[/youtube] 
What do you think? Should we be transmitting messages as well? And what should that message say? Write your thoughts in the comment box. I love hearing from you.

Time Lapses

Where Does the Time GO?

Wikipedia tells me that Georges Méliès first used time-lapse cinematography in his 1897 film Carrefour De L’Opera. Since then it has been used only god can count how many times. Many people, myself included, would say overused. This is a shame, because time-lapse does a great job of visually getting the point across that time passes quickly.

I am wrestling with using time-lapse in A Life’s Work despite its triteness. Below are two shots we set up for time-lapse, one at Arcosanti, one at the Allen Telescope Array. They are sped up so that about 40 minutes appears before you in about 40 seconds. (My software tells me it is sped up around 7,500%.) There are very good reasons to use these shots in the film, but relying on a cliche is usually not my style.

And Now, the Time Lapse Shots

[youtube]http://youtu.be/1JtHqcfwOSk[/youtube]

And Now, About the Time Lapse Shots

I remember when cinematographer Andy Bowley and I set up the Arcosanti shot. We trekked down a ravine and up the mesa across from Arcosanti. Andy planted the camera, pressed the red record button, and we sat on a couple of rocks and watched the sunset. These little birds  flitted around us and charmed me. Their wings made a sound like I had never heard before. I said so to Andy and he told me that’s because they weren’t birds, but bats, and it was likely we were near a bat cave. I knew bats were beneficial, and I’ve always had an abstract fondness for them, but until then I had never been so close to so many. (I’m a city boy, and my city isn’t Austin.)  I was momentarily freaked out and worried about one landing in my hair. Andy assured me this was an old wives tale and I put it out of my mind and enjoyed the sunset, the swooping, fluttering bats, and the desert’s summer evening air.

I have no memory of bats or anything else when we captured the Allen Telescope Array time lapse shot.

And  Now, About the Sounds Accompanying the Time Lapse Shots

Arcosanti: That’s me playing steel string acoustic guitar, a doodle I came up with while at Ucross. I kind of like it. I recorded this in my bathroom, sitting in the tub, with the shower curtain closed, my little recorder on the toilet tank. Hope that’s not TMI.

ATA: These are sounds recorded by NASA/JPL. They are, in the order they were played:

Lightning on Saturn, captured by Cassini

Lightning on Jupiter, captured by Voyager

Saturn’s radio emissions, Captured by Cassini

These bits of audio have been time compressed as well. Amazing how we can manipulate time, and how it manipulate us. (The guitar music was not manipulated in any way.)

You can hear more space sounds, and download some great ringtones, from the NASA website.

 

 

Process: A Life’s Work and the Canon 5D by Guest Blogger Andy Bowley

Andy Bowley 5D

Today’s post was written by cinematographer Andy Bowley and originally published in June 2010. I’m putting up this “encore post” because shooting video with the Canon 5D has recently come up several times at my day job. That, plus I just like this post and Andy is an awesome writer.

I know. You’ve been wondering after reading this blog: what’s Licata really like to work with in the field? Sure, he seems measured and nice and all when he’s tapping away in his socks, all warm and cozy in his New York apartment–but what’s he like in the trenches? Is he a screamer?

Well, no–the opposite, actually. He’s a wonderful collaborator. But more importantly for my sake, he is well in touch with his inner geek.

Example: When he invited me to shoot the work being done by the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project in Waco, I suggested we do some macro work with extension tubes and obscure Ukrainian/East German lenses to get close-up shots of needles and grooves.

His initial response? “Ooooh”

I told him it would be tweaky and slow working with these lenses, which would sometimes allow us just a millimeter or two of effective focal range — and that we’d have to mount them to a Canon 5D DSLR and go through a not-yet-tested workflow.

His response? “Great. If you can think of more possibilities, bring ‘em on”

Just what I hoped hear. A director with patience. But more importantly, another geek who understood. I was excited. But time was short.

I began to test my macro set-up the next day. I was training for a trail race at the time, running every morning along the paths that cut through a wooded section of Central Park. Along the way I found a pinecone–perfect for the test–and maybe useful for A Life’ s Work.

My Manhattan pinecone had lots of interesting shapes and exuded its own woodsy charisma, but I needed to make it move for the camera. Not having enough time to construct a motorized turntable, I biked to the hardware store, bought a lazy Susan, plunked it under a metal Ikea filing box (the heaviest thing with a flat surface I could find in my apartment,) mounted my Zeiss Jena 80mm lens on an extension tube and tilt adapter, and shot some test footage with the Canon 5D.

The results?

[vimeo width=”500″ height=”300″]http://vimeo.com/12648502[/vimeo]

I liked what the lenses did that day – but the lazy Susan filing box turntable system was less than optimal. No matter. Much of the macro stuff I hoped to shoot in Waco would be moving–records spinning, needles dropping–and if all else failed I could use my new Kessler pocket dolly to make the moves.

That night, I somehow managed to pack all the gear (lights, grip gear, tripod and dolly) into two checked bags. I was leaving for Waco early the next morning.

Tune in next week for Here’s Andy’s post about the shoot and some beautiful HD footage. If you want to read Andy’s tech notes about the pinecone test, click here.

===

Andy Bowley is a NYC-based cinematographer whose projects have won many national Emmys and one Peabody, but he considers the coolest thing on his mantle to be an old Pentacon six medium format camera, which now sits next to his beloved Manhattan pinecone. He has found a lot of other things while running through wooded sections of Central Park, but doesn’t want to talk about it.

E-mail Andy: a b o w l e y at  e a r t h l i n k d o t n e t

 

Tourist Eyes – Andy Bowley

Andy Bowley, cinematographer for much of A Life’s Work, heeded the call I sent out last post and emailed me this photograph.

Andy writes: This was taken in the neighborhood where I live part time. It is certainly a tourist destination (the architecture is a big draw) but it’s rare that I take the time to look through a lens at any of it.

Andy_Bowley_Oak_Bluffs

For his efforts, Andy will receive an origami crane, made with my own two little hands.

I’d love to post more photos, especially one taken by YOU! (You take good photos with that phone of yours, I’ve seen them on FB.) If you’d like to see it published on this blog (and be the envy of your friends because of the origami crane I’ll send you), just attach it to an email.

d a v i d [ a t ] b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s ( d o t ) c o m

How to Conduct an Interview, Part 2: Asking the Questions

Andy Bowley, Cinematographer

Last week in How to Conduct an Interview Part 1, I dealt with preparation. This post features some pointers once you are sitting across from the interviewee with your questions in hand. Ready? Go!

(Note: Make sure to read this post’s comment by Andy Bowley. He’s worked with some great interviewers so he knows what he’s talking about. That’s him operating the camera, and me in the corner, trying to be invisible.)

Listen

You’ve organized your questions and they have an arc and everything. That’s great. But don’t be a slave to the pages in front of you. Interviews are best when they are more like conversations. With Jeff Stein, President of the Cosanti Foundation (Arcosanti) and Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute, I’d ask one question and they’d answer it and the next few follow-ups as well. I’d then ask the next logical question without having to look at my printed questions.

Shut Up and Listen Some More

You are not there to impress the interviewee with your knowledge of their subject. You are also not there to tell them your personal history. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, when you talk to you’re saying something you already know; when you listen you might learn something new.

That being said you don’t want to be a question-asking automaton. Be friendly and personable, and judiciously share a brief anecdote  or two to show that you can relate to interviewee , but don’t go over do it.

Be Expressive and Responsive

You will not see or hear me in A Life’s Work, so it is important that I not talk while the interviewee is talking, and that includes no hmmms, ahhhs, or ooohhhs. And those interjections, under ordinary circumstances, propel a conversation.  So I nod a lot, smile a lot, frown a lot, raise my eyebrows a lot. This gives the interviewees something to respond to. You need to show you’re interested, after all, because then they’ll be excited to tell you their stories.

Silence Is Gold

Don’t be afraid of silence. There is the small silence necessary after an answer so you’re not stepping on the toes of the answer and making for difficult edits, but there is also a bigger silence. I will pause once in a while and check my page of questions to make sure I’m covering ground, and this bigger silence can lead to unexpected places. Often subjects thinks they’ve finished answering, but then something comes to mind that they want to add during that silence. This is often the real good stuff. Another reason to do this is you may want a shot of the subject sitting silently — these can be interesting shots — and these pauses can provide that.

Be Ready to Improvise

Some people are talkers and don’t need you to ask questions. David Milarch of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is one of those people. I had the great, mind-blowing pleasure of shooting an interview filmmaker Roland Tec conducted with David Hockney and he was this way as well. They are unbridled and there is no way to control them, so you just have to let them go. When they give you a chance, sneak in a question and get out of the way.

You’re the Boss

While some folks cannot be reined in, it’s important to remember that you are still the boss. Be confident. You did the work and deserve to be where you are. There’s nothing to fear.

This is not always easy to do, believe me, I know. When I had to interview Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, I was very aware that I was interviewing a man who not only had been interviewed many times, as all of the subjects of A Life’s Work had been, but also a journalist who conducted hundreds, maybe thousands of interviews.

Full disclosure: The first few interviews I conducted, I had this at the top of each page of questions.
header

Rephrase Questions When Necessary

Come up with a couple of different ways to ask the big questions. The big questions deserve being asked more than once, and sometimes a simple rephrasing will yield the answer you could only dream of. Do this, too, if you feel you were misunderstood or if the answer given wasn’t deep enough for you.

Take Your Time

Don’t rush it. And if you can, conduct interviews you think will be lengthy over two days. As I’ve said elsewhere, everyone gets tired after a couple of hours. Sometimes though, you are hard pressed for time. In that case, try to take a little break, go to the bathroom, get water, stretch your legs. Talk about something unrelated to the topic, joke around.

Don’t Be Selfish

Though you are the boss, there’s no reason to be selfish. Invite the interviewee to ask you questions. I always ask the cinematographer I’m working with if s/he has any questions they’d like to ask of the interviewee. Their questions, and the subsequent answers, have been very valuable.

This has been a public service from A Life’s Work.

Was it helpful? I’d love to add to it. If you have questions or tips, please send them my way.