Wednesday, November 23, 2011

HDSLR Canon 7D, 5D - From the trenches

Here are a few observations about the HDSLRs Canon 7D and 5D, based on experiences on-location from our indie production. Though this is all very basic and already known information from various forums and DPs and pro-HDSLR users, we thought it might be good to share our views on these. Though we were initially skeptical about them, once we started work, we realized it is one of the best options for independent filmmakers, especially when you are going low-budget and/or experimental.

  •           Excellent Image quality(2K resolution) that looks like film (even Hollywood productions have been using the 7D/5D footage)
  •           Small, easily maneuverable in small spaces and can remain without being noticed
  •           Works very well in low light situations
  •           Big screen compatibility - Footage can be projected on big screens. This was a big question we had. So we tested the 7D and EX1 footage simultaneously at Real Image Media technologies, Chennai. The 7D stood up very well in comparison.
  •           Easy learning curve
  •           Camera accessories are relatively light-weight and can be made ourselves if we follow some Do-It-Yourself methods. We made our own dollies(track and tabletop), steadicams and the wheel cam rig, with help from youtube videos and the collective internet knowledge.

  •           Not very conducive for fast motion or action shots. You can, but you have to be selective about it.
  •      Slow panning also causes choppiness.
  •           Limited Lens setup but this will slowly change with a lot of new lenses(CP2) coming up. But again, they are expensive.
  •           Follow focus is very difficult considering the lenses that are compatible.
  •      Slow motion in full HD1920*1080 resolution is not recommended.
  •      When shooting outdoors, exposure has to be controlled consciously. Of course, this applies for any camera but with digital, take extra care. 
Gear used
Lenses used – 50mm Canon(F/1.8), 85mm Zeiss(F/1.4), 100-400mm L Zoom F/4.5-5.6 Canon, 12-24mm(F/3.5-5.6) Sigma(not recommended for 5D because of vignetting), 16-35mm Canon (F/2.8), Canon 24-105mm Zoom(F/4)

Two 8 GB Sandisk Cards
Kingston Card reader
Pics: One of our Cameramen, shoots a scene with the 5D and the DIY wheel cam rig. In the 2nd pic, the 7D is pictured with the 100-400mm L Zoom Lens and the 5D with the 16-35mm lens. The actors get ready for the take.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Not a dog’s day

(Ok, this post is atleast 2 weeks old, just found the time.) Perhaps the highlight of today is sitting at a coffee shop in the second floor of a shopping mall, in ‘mid-town’ Chennai and sipping on a cappuccino and looking out the glass window at the rain-mud-and-filth soaked traffic below. I neither feel pity nor wear a smug smile as I witness the rat-race because it really hasn’t been long since I was in the sludge, wading through murky waters which are obviously a result of our freakin awesome drainage system. Don’t get me wrong when I say that I’m in the shopping mall and contemplating life in such elite quarters. Mind you, I’m not a fucking elite, though I can be and sometimes act like one(and that’s a whole different argument altogether) just to empathize with things on both sides of the spectrum. I just freaking hate mindless consumerism but I will hate it from inside a glitzy shopping mall. I’m a minimalist, a bloody local with thoughts verging on the extreme. On the rare instances I will pay Rs.90 for a coffee with which I can sit comfortably in a lounge-like ambience for more than a couple of hours trying to make sense of Dito Montiel’s interview in Filmmaker mag or Arundhati Roy’s incendiary  ‘Shape of the Beast’(ok I ain't going for pretense there). As I wait for the guys to get back, I thought, ok fine, with all the commotion outside and inside my head, lemme vent out stuff.
Why is today not a dog’s day? Well, then don’t ask me if every other day is a dog day. Not for me, it’s not. Today, as with any other day I travel/commute, I witnessed about a 150 dogs, bitches, bitches with babies inside them and pups scattered all around in the rain doing what they would normally do. Experience a ‘dog’s life’. Having the life of an ‘underdog’. Spending a Dog day afternoon. Groundhog day. See? More references. No wonder we termed it so. (ok so groundhog doesn’t have anything to do with a dog but still they sound the same)And today was more than normal for them, especially with the cold and almost omnipresent uncertainty that the rains bring with them. And earlier in the day, before we came to Chennai, we had to transport 5 wet, shivering pups (who’d been taken away from their mother) from the soggy paddy fields to our humble abode in the village. Back to the 150 canines, their faces were so full of implication, that I could write a page each about what they were thinking. I mean, if they actually do. Or do they just live in the moment? Taking each day as it came? Surprisingly, many of our human kind seemed to have the same expression, or were they worse? Can’t tell. Really. But these days, my guess is we humans are becoming pathetic in more ways than one. So, pretty soon, to say, ‘it’s a dog’s day’ will become NOT a bad thing after all. Because, as people, especially as Indians, we suffer more than we can endure. No I take that back. We suffer uhh…more than what we think we can endure(coz we can endure shit-just-about-anything), but as we get accustomed to that, we reach the next phase of suffering and we endure that too and the chain continues. So henceforth, thou shall pat each other in the backs, in congratulatory delight, because we love to revel in our hopelessly romantic status as sufferers. (pic from google)

Friday, November 11, 2011

An evening after the shoot

The calm after the storm. Was a hot sunny day with too much chaos in the location. We scrambled to get our day's work done. But the sun had had enough waiting for us. So we knelt down in submission.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Independent film in India - Status quo?

Yawn, we don’t need another filmmaker to rant and rave about the struggles of Independent filmmaking and how he/she braved the storm or carried the torch to create yet another ‘masterful, unique’ Indie film that not many people(except of course his/her close circle of friends) would pay to watch or even watch, do we? In other words, do Indie films in India even matter, in the larger sense of the society? We are the insanely loudest democracy in the world so much so that even the big, typically commercial studio ventures get silenced pretty soon if not for the star-frenzy or the weekend hype they manufacture. And multiply that with the differences in regional languages. I can’t help but make the comparison with the Indie film scene in the US. Of course in the US, there is quite a sense of that camaraderie through Indie magazines like Moviemaker, Filmmaker, Film comment or even DIY film sites like Indy Mogul, Video Co-pilot and programs like IFP and Tribeca AA. These agents help and guide the larger Indie community or at least seem to have a space for the outcasts. And sometimes, they lead to successful creative partnerships that could lead to getting their voices heard.
This is part of the reason why many Indian Indie filmmakers keep referring to the American independent film scene or deviants of the Hollywood system for some kind of insight. Is there a sense of an Indie community other than a few blogs that seemingly fight the good fight? Considering the already outcast status of Indie films, don’t these filmmakers need to stick together, in the sense of creating a din so loud with their films that they DEMAND to be heard and seen? Of course, even a couple of  reasonably informative web-zines(dearcinema) have only a minimal amount of posts by filmmakers that are creating something new or are off the beaten track. So to even say that we have an independent film scene would be an exaggeration, but we can think whatever we want to keep our restless souls assuaged. In that same vein when the filmmakers blame audiences for not coming out to support them, it seems like a bit overreached.
Pessimistic as it may sound but to romanticize the notion of Indie filmmaking as a way of being different for different’s sake without understanding the birth pangs would be tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot. The Indie community has almost every odd against them. So if they want to keep creating the work that they want, one has to have an unromanticized passion(if you can still call it that) towards their work or getting themselves to a place where they can at least not worry about satisfying the system or at least accept the fact that unless their work demands to be seen, they have to learn to accept the rejection. There’s this article about being a ‘nobody filmmaker’ which many filmmakers go through in their journey towards creating something meaningful. I think it’s part of the rite of passage or building character, the rejection and non-acceptance(in conventional terms) of work that you have passionately been churning, until you get that elusive ‘break’. Though I don’t completely agree that one has to bide their time to even think or aspire big.
So what do, ‘the insignificants’, ‘the nobodys’, ‘the outcasts’ category of filmmakers do in order to stay afloat, at least keep their head above water? The prime thing could be to keep churning out work that they truly believe in, at the same time and maybe(if it’s not much to ask) share a little bit of what they learnt during the process which kind of fosters a sense of support around each other. Having had a few encounters with ‘professional crew’ here, I sense a strong defensiveness about sharing what they have learnt over the years. As if teaching that to others would deprive them of their superior knowledge status and their careers. So in a way, that makes it even more compelling to do things unconventionally and hopefully result in an outcome that’s outside the box. And if there developed a forum where all things unconventional came together then that would gradually become the convention, where the Indies find the space they can work in and express the unexpressed. But as many have said before, truly ground-breaking work comes from limitations and deviations from the norm and so it is here that we learn more, from the trenches, the gutters, the filth and the stench of reality.
The above is a production still from 'Adiyaaluku Podiyal' (The Goon's stooge) where you can see our man 'Dass' wielding the Canon 7D. The rig that the 7D is mounted on, is our own, DIY, self-designed table top dolly with the stylish colors and the tripod head. Proof that the Indie spirit is alive and kicking.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

HD footage to SD DVD

Just a quickie on how to get best quality output from HD footage to SD DVD. Thanks to Vijay for helping out with this.
1. Export as quicktime mov with Apple Prores HD codec. Same dimensions as your source.
2.  Encode to mpeg2 using Compressor. In settings, ensure "progressive" is selected, that you have 16:9 enabled.
3. Quality has plenty to do with bitrate you're using. Use variable bitrate (vbr). Somewhere in the ballpark of 3500-3800 kbps is a good number for avg bitrate for a 2 hour movie to fit on a 4.7 gb dvd.

Then play it on DVD player/TV to see results. Typically there's a big difference in watching on the computer screen as opposed to a TV screen.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Exporting for HD streaming on the web

This process has probably been done to death in Post-prodn forums but thought one more reiteration can only help. For search purposes, the above topic can also be phrased Exporting for Withoutabox or IMDB Secure Screener online. Because the requirements state that the file to be uploaded should be no more than 2 GB. So if you have a HD file(1920*1080) that is 10 GBs or more, here's what you can do to conform and still have a reasonable quality.

1. Export as a Quicktime Movie with Current Settings and check the 'Make Movie self-contained'. I don't know if keeping it unchecked would make a difference.
2. Now open this full resolution file in Compressor and choose the following export options.
3. In the Settings window, under format, choose 'Quicktime, H.264' and drag it onto the file above.
4. Once you set the destination, click on the file. Now on the Inspector window, you will see the options available.
5. Now click on the second(Encode) button and click on Video Settings. Change the dimensions to 1280*720. Keep the setting as H.264 and in the bitrate change it to the desired value. For a 40 min HD video, we set the bitrate at 4000 kbps to keep it under 2 GB. Use the bitrate that would work best for you.
One question may arise as to why we need to export/convert to a Full resolution video before compressing on compressor. 1. To free up FCP when you are using compressor. 2. To speed up the compression process as opposed to exporting from an FCP sequence. (pic courtesy from ken's fcp)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Metroxical New York - New Documentary Film

Music. Metro. New York city. Future of society. A poetic narrative about underground subway music in New York city and how it forms the basis for a futuristic collective society. Metroxical New York is our latest production in the roster of Accessible Horizon Films' documentary genre. The doc. is about music, the musicians and the New York city subway. Well, it's actually much more than that. 
It really started out with our exploratory subway commutes over time interacting with musicians from almost every part of the world, eventually leading upto this moment where we just burned DVDs for submissions to various international film festivals. Audio post-production was really tedious but we made it through. Still tons of things to learn. Anyways, will add more stuff about it soon. Trailer's on the way.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Editing – The Non-linear, Mind-bending Asana

Editing is like intense meditation. More so, meditation that forces you to concentrate so intensely that you have to first take time to get into it, then stay in there focused and then take an equal if not more time to get out of it. Or it may also be comparable to sitting on the shit-pot on a fairly constipated day and trying to focus all your energies at that one point, ‘doing’ it and then slowly relaxing your way out of it. I had to resort to that scatological reference for nothing else could be more illuminating.
I am, at any rate, not a meditative person but tough times call for tough measures. So here we are, well into the Editing aura. Two major portions have been completed(rough cut) as of last week, but the remaining is yet to be brought into contact with the scissors. Today as I look up at what’s ahead of us, it’s sort of daunting to say the least. Actually, a better expression would be an anticipated sigh of exhaustion. It’s literally twisting the mind into following a rigorous and methodical procedure. (Signing off end of June).
Contd from present(The gap is thanks to the unavailability of power and the patchy access to internet) Another way of describing non-linear editing is that it resembles the writing process. Or you could say it’s basically re-writing the script visually but with your previously imaginary characters who now have a defined form and personality. I typically make a layout of the usable/good clips before starting the actual cut like outlining the script before I actually start writing the scenes. Just noting down random but usable thoughts in the detailed outline, then proceeding to write the nuances. So here in the editing timeline(like a palette to artists or the blank document for scribes), the re-re-creation happens. I say two ‘re-s’ because they say a film is made 3 times. Once while writing the script, 2nd while shooting it and 3rd while editing it. But anyways.
One thing I noticed though, is not to look at the entire layout too often. Take shots of a particular scene or a small sequence, get to work, finish it and then move on to the next one. Keep doing it until you have no other sequences. To be clear, basically, take 1 sure step at a time and don’t look at the mountain ahead too often. Awright, I’m getting out of character here and before I start rambling away, I need to stop. And the rough cut is almost done. I need to meditate a bit more.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rusticating away...from the past!

This is a post written almost 2 months back. So let's keep the chronology in mind....After all the madness of Production work(which is now comfortably in the near past) in the cities, Post-production now seems to be quite a breeze in ‘the little village we know so well…’, (yes, Asterix reference), ok lemme rephrase, in a little village called Kavanoor, near Arakonam Taluk. For the geographically challenged, it is about 170kms from Pondicherry or about 100kms NW of Chennai. When I say ‘breeze’ it is only in comparison to the city schedule, and I am, in no way, being a reductionist when talking about Post-production being a breeze. Get that! But again, before getting into the details of work, there are some things about village life that begs to be told. Not that 10 days of it are enough or qualifies one to write a thesis on this kind of living, just that in this age when we seem so frantically searching for something in our fast-paced urban life that will take us to the next level or whatever, it feels kinda like taking the back-seat and looking at things retrospectively.
Ok ok timeout…for now there’s a thunderstorm that’s adamant on demanding my attention. Am back. It seems months had passed since the rains smooched the earth and today, it's a hard-core French kiss. The strong wind is shaking the living daylights out of the big teak tree that’s in our backyard (as if it wasn’t already breezy enough here to sway the tree thereby emitting the only sound we can hear around us). Ok now continuing after a 4-day hiatus.
And about the subjective reality here. Yes, I’m gonna make a couple of revelations that may shock the shit of you city-slickers out there. One, that power outage happens every morning between 9 and 12. Not to mention the periodic (5 to 10 minute) breaks in power any time and also during the rains. Two, the lack of…uhh…the internet! Yes, don’t panic for us because we have gotten used to this way of life, at least for now.
But the biggest difference or change that you can feel, is the enormous availability or rather the protracted-ness of the indefinable and strangely(but ironically) unquantifiable TIME. There seems to be too much of it. Obviously you can’t help but romanticize the surroundings especially when you haven’t really experienced this way of living before. But then again, this extension of space-time(I use it both literally and figuratively and also because I don’t wanna segregate the two) really helps to do the one thing that’s most imperative right now – EDITING which is a process in itself. I’m gonna save it for the next post. Signing off around mid-June. The above is a shot of the backyard just after the rains.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Ok, this is one of those times when we've been meaning to update for a while but because of various avoidable and unavoidable reasons could not. I've written 2 posts in the mean time but haven't really sat down to post them. But what's actually been happening is E-D-I-T-I-N-G. So until we muster up enough resolve to let you in on the details...see? can't even finish this...

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Of the mind...

Just when you think you know it all, you get a reality check, a real fucking hard slap in your face. A lesson in humility, modesty…about the greatest ever lesson ever taught or will be taught – life. Yes, you can swear or scoff all you want, but it sometimes feels like an existential crisis out here, I mean, in the mind. Maybe ignorance is really bliss. Why do we have to try to learn so much and suddenly have to realize one day(that oft repeats itself) that you gotta unlearn it all and then relearn it all. Arrrrrggggghhh, the irony of it all!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Of radicals and resurgence...

A little excerpt from one of the many ramblings...

"There are a lot of things that's making me feel alive. I'd think twice about saying this out loud, but i think i'm evolving into a state which makes my foundational philosophies question literally just about everything. the basis of everything we've learned.

No specific goals in the horizon but this time i feel, is a time for revolutions, not of the gun-trotting kind but of something more infectious...more viral...more in times with the 'now' where everyone feels the need for change but not sure how to go about it. but i feel energized, a sort of resurgence within, which we hope to spread through the ideas within. for right now, thots are being made into celluloid reality through radical means for that is the way to go.

now i feel is a time, where non-conformism is the new conformism, where the darkness of shadow is the presence of light somewhere close, where the unheard voices will be heard, where the mind is without fear. coz that is the only way to break out of this godamn prison the humans have created for themselves. the alienation, the desperation for something as basic as love, the feeling of helpless doom where the soul is cornered into a seemingly irreversible blackhole. "

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ok been there done

What do you do when you reach a point in time which you’ve been wanting to for a long time? So much so that you think, ‘I’m gonna burst my lungs out in pure inhalator-y bliss?’ when you reach there. Do you actually scream out in ecstasy? Do you run around naked like Archimedes when he hit upon the discovery and yelled Eureka? Do you feel like the shaken, corked-up champagne which has just gotten its liberation? I mean, do you ‘really’ feel the exhilaration?
ORRRRR…do you feel a transcendent moment where everything seems sublime & ethereal and experience a quiet sense of ‘It had to happen and now I’m here’ and not really feel the way you thought you would feel? Now that we have completed a process, one that has been pending for a long time, I am left wondering in a state of intermediate high as to what one should feel. Anyways, here’s a tiny glimpse of what’s yet to come. No points for guessing who this is.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Amidst the calm...

I've never wanted someone so bad (ok wisecracks, you know what I mean). I even had a dream a couple of nights back - a faceless but somehow intense 'Jenny' came up to me and said "oh you still haven't found her, you poor, languishing insomniac? Lemme put you out of your misery...yes...I'll be HER". Ok, fine, she didn't exactly say that but you get the drift. While we brood over Jenny's so-close-yet-so-far predicament, lemme put out something to show a sign of activity. This is in Palavedu, Periya Annan's headquarters.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Casting Call - Jenny!! Where are you???

Casting Call - Alternative Tamil Short Film (Chennai/Pondicherry)
We are casting for a key female character 'Jenny' in her early t0 mid-20s to play an extreme character. Interested folks can contact the number in the poster. (Orig. pic courtesy Google.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Grinding Halt

I guess I spoke too fast last week. We suddenly find ourselves coming to a screeching halt in our production. All because of you --- > JENNY, JENNY --- WHERE ART THOU?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cosmic Conspiracy - Production still

Sometimes I wonder what really makes things happen in the cosmos. I mean, how does a thought become a creation…through a series of seemingly chaotic, difficult and sometimes impossible stages? Here, in Bangalore, we just finished our shooting schedule surmounting a sequence of things that weren't in place. The people aligned, the location aligned, the process of shooting itself aligned, the flow, the vibe, the energy, literally everything came into alignment. The shoot went quite well, with the adrenalin pumping and everything. Who do we acknowledge apart from the people? I guess it's needless to say. It's also strange that some other things happened too but let's leave it for later. Here's a glimpse of what happened.

Monday, April 04, 2011

A morsel from the cauldron

I know we haven't been updating anything from the 'making of' process. As expected, the going got very crazy and we are still figuring out our next schedule. But here's a little morsel out of the production cauldron. This is a tree that we shot one of our scenes from, in Palavedu village, a little away from Avadi. This is from the 'Social Worker's' story.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The madness is on...

It's finally time and pre-production is almost over. Our short films are on the verge of taking an identity. Planning for the wildest ride in a long time. My head is about to explode into mushroom cloud. At least that's how it feels. The anticipation, the craziness, the fucking high...wonder if dope can be this intense. The psychedelia of it all. Mannnnnnnnnnn......

Friday, February 04, 2011

Distinctly Pondy

One of the few roads not taken much but very distinct in its style. Where French meets Indian.