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Infiltrators, Movie Trailer

In the summer of 2012, we had the opportunity to shoot a new action film. I’m proud to share our movie trailer for Infiltrators:

An ‘urban explorer’ is blackmailed into infiltrating a derelict building on the eve of its demolition in the hope he can recover a forgotten treasure.

Starring Jonny Cruz, Nathalie Kelley, Hallee Hirsh, Greg Jbara, Rocco Nugent with Robert Picardo and Steve Railsback.

You can read more about the movie on our productions page.

Here’s the movie Facebook Page. And the movie website.

 

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How Steve Jobs and Apple Changed my Life

Steve Jobs
On Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, I was flying home from Atlanta back to Dallas. It had been a long day, and we had just finished speaking to AT&T about a new startup company I’m working with. Discussions included talk about iPhone and iPad apps.

As the plane touched down, I turned on my iPhone to check my Twitter stream. I checked a few emails and then started reading things like: “He was a great man. We’ll miss you Steve.” Hmm, I wonder who they’re talking about. Then, it became clear. “Wow, Steve Jobs passed away today.”

I was sad–quite sad actually. Here’s a man I had never met, and he had no idea who I was, yet I was profoundly sadden at the news. Even more, I was a bit shocked at how it affected me so deeply, until I began to reminisce at how influential Steve Jobs and Apple had been in my life.

Apple IIe

Apple IIe ComputerIn 1981 when I was only 16 years old, my dad shocked us by spending $800 to buy me and my brother a brand new Apple IIe personal computer. With it’s 5 and quarter inch floppy drives, we were able to do some amazing things with this machine. We would spend hours programming it, taking it apart, putting it back together and just experimenting with this incredibly powerful new toy.

I soon learned the power of “word processing” and how fast you could type and store documents on the floppy drives. I was quickly using our new personal computer for school reports and research. Then after school, my brother and I would play games like Karateka, Lode Runner and Rescue Raiders.

Karateka   Rescue Raiders   Lode Runner

Interestingly, we never heard our mom say, “You guys are spending too much time on the computer.”

I continued using the Apple IIe into college. Writing papers and programming were an everyday task for me. One of my first classes at Texas State was a BASIC computer programming class. How amazing was that! Now, they had classes on how to program the computer.

My first purchase at college was a 300 baud modem. At home, I could simply dial into a special phone number, listening to the rhythmic cadence of modem handshake for a few seconds, and then suddenly, I’m logged into the school computer. Incredible! I didn’t have to drive to the school campus to code my program.

Apple Macintosh

Apple MacintoshAfter transferring to the University of Texas at Austin in 1986, I soon started seeing a new Apple computer on the scene — the Apple Macintosh. It started popping up all around campus. But, it sure looked weird. The monitor was built into the computer and a new 3.5″ floppy drive appeared on the screen. At first, I didn’t like it much. The new Microsoft machines were in color and the monitors were separate. It seemed like that was the way to go. But, soon after having to program on the PCs, I realized that I enjoyed the Apple Macintosh much more. So, in college, I purchased an Apple Macintosh SE.

People were using it for a variety of purposes–word processing, spreadsheets, and accounting. But, something different about this computer got my attention. First, it had a mouse–a small hand controller with a single button to navigate around and click on the screen. Wow, that sure made working on the computer much easier.

Secondly, it has this amazing ability to manipulate graphics and images with ease. And, with this powerful sound program, you could edit and manipulate audio with incredible precision and simplicity. I remember seeing those sound saves on the screen, and I could simply cut one section of audio and paste it somewhere else.

While at UT, I took a 3D computer graphics course. The goal for the entire semester was to program a Macintosh SE in Fortran to manipulate 3D objects in a 3D world. We had to study the 3D space formulas and camera angles. By the end of the semester, I had compiled a working program that could input 3D models and show them on the computer screen. I was so proud of my little 3D program on a Mac.

As I moved to Dallas to take my first job at Uniden, my brother came up one summer to intern. During the summer, he stayed with me. One of the fond memories I have was how we networked our two Macintosh SE’s together to play a flight simulator. In this game, we would dogfight by flying around this virtual world trying to shoot each other down. The loser had to clean up the kitchen. We did this for hours.

Apple Macintosh Quadra 630

Apple Performa Quadra 630While working full time now, my next Apple computer was a pretty sweet machine–the Apple Quardra 630. It was a beefer machine, and it was even more powerful that the SE I had previous.

What made this machine memorable to me was the fact that you could now connect to this thing called the internet. My first email address was [email protected] I purchased a simple dialup plan for $29.95 and soon I was calling into to a 56K modem bank and browsing AOL and Yahoo, the only two websites at the time.

Things were beginning to change.

Video Editing

Media 100In 1997, I purchased my first video editing software called Media 100 for the Mac. It was both a hardware and software package. Initially, I used Adobe Premiere as my editing software, but soon switched to Media 100’s entry level video editing software.

Video editing required pretty extensive hard drive space, and you had to use fast hard drives, usually requiring a RAID array. So, I plopped down $2,000 for a disk array system holding four high-speed drives with an amazing 8GB of disk space. With that setup, I could edit up to 30 minutes of Standard Definition video. It was awesome!

Soon, I was editing and creating home videos. I quickly learned After Effects at the recommendation of a friend who was also in video production. I also learned a new program called Bryce that let you create these virtual 3D worlds quite easily. Then, it happened. I made my first 30 second commercial using my Apple editing system with Media 100, and I got paid for it!

Everything began to change after that. Though I worked in corporate America by day, at night I would stay up late and play with my new found passion — media production.

Final Cut Pro

Final Cut ProDuring this creative season in my life, I went through quite a few Apple computers. The model numbers were a blur, but I do remember getting Final Cut Pro.

While I liked Media 100, it was pretty limited in what you could do. You only had two video tracks, some graphics tracks and some audio tracks. The editing was clean and the playback smooth, but you were pretty limited in what you could do.

Then, a friend told me about Final Cut Pro. I researched it a bit, and fell in love with it. Soon, I was editing more and more. With my creative mix of Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop, I could create quite a bit. Most of my paying work at the time was with After Effects.

In 2007, I fulfilled a dream. I produced, directed and edited a full length feature film called Fissure. One of the most amazing aspects of that experience is that I edited the entire feature film on my home computer — an Apple PowerPC G5 computer with Final Cut Studio. An entire feature film on my home computer.

G3, G4, G5, Mac Pro and PowerBook

Through the years, I went through Macs pretty quickly. The Mac G3, G4 and G5 towers were pretty amazing! Just a few years ago, I finally ventured into the Intel version Mac computer, the Mac Pro. Today, I use a pretty sweet machine, the 8-core Nehalem Mac Pro computer. It’s loaded with software and I use it for a variety of work functions.

A few years ago, I also purchased a PowerBook, my first laptop. With Final Cut Pro loaded, I was able to do some amazing things while being mobile. I would often use it for onsite editing for clients or projects.

iPhone 2G, 3G and 4G

iPhoneAnother interesting Apple product was the iPhone. Rumors started emerging while I was working for Nokia. At the time, Nokia was the cell phone king, dominating the market and quite proud of it. Then, Apple changed all that.  They launched the iPhone.

It was a bit awkward for me. I was working for Nokia but I loved Apple products. It was like my parents were getting a divorce and I had to choose.

But, the choice got easier in 2005 when I resigned my position at Nokia to launch my own production company, Top Pup Media. Today, my business produces hundreds of videos for a variety of clients, including many Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, Nokia, Haggar, BP, Fluor and many others. We’re a Mac production house and continue to use Mac products every day in our business.

Thank you Steve Jobs

I can’t express how much I appreciate all that Steve Jobs did by bringing Apple computers and devices to our generation. What an amazing, creative and visionary individual! His innovativeness and execution made a way for me to live my dreams.

Thank you, Steve Jobs!

 

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First test Panasonic AF-100 & Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Lens

My Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 lens arrived last week after much anticipation, and I immediately shot some test footage. And, it did not disappoint! I was amazed at the footage. Very clean lens and very sharp.

Here’s a short clip of the footage I shot on my Panasonic AF-100 camera:

The above footage was shot in 1080p 24fps, film gamma (F6) and slightly color corrected.

Here’s my “first look” review of the Voigtlander lens:

  1. The lens movement as you focus is incredibly smooth and tight. Very nice movement! It spins cleanly and consistently. Feels very solid.
  2. I was a bit surprised at how small the lens was. For some reason, I expected a bigger lens, but the smallness is actually quite nice.
  3. The focus range is interesting. From close up to about 3 feet, there’s lot of room for focus. The lens seems to slide so far around. But, once you get past 3 or 4 feet, you have very little range, it seems. For close shots on video, rack focus is pretty easy to hit, but for longer shots, the focus is a bit harder to hit. I know it’s not a cinema lens, but it’s something to keep in mind when using this lens for video.
  4. The depth of field is super, super shallow at f/0.95, but that’s what you’d expect. And, I love the bokeh! It’s a beautiful soft blurring effect. Very nice!
  5. The f-stop ring works well. It has lots of notches and sub-notches so there’s a good range of stops you can hit.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the lens! I’m planning to use it this weekend on a big production project where we’ll be shooting a live concert in the evening. I’m looking forward to see how the lens performs.

I do have one complaint about the lens: it’s the only one they have for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount! That stinks! I want a whole family of these lenses. How about a 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, 135mm and a 200mm?

Maybe some day!

In the meantime, I came across this video on how the lens is manufactured. Very cool.

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Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 and the Panasonic AF-100

Since purchasing my new Panasonic AF-100 camera, I’ve really enjoyed the functionality and image quality that the camera offers. But, I’ve been disappointed at the limited number of lenses available for its MFT, or Micro Four Thirds mount. There’s not much in the way of high quality lenses.

So, here are my options:

Birger Adaptor for AF-100Birger Adaptor for Canon EF Lenses

My first solution was to purchase an adaptor for my Canon EF lenses that I’ve been using on my Canon 7D, but there’s a problem. These modern EF lenses use electronic signals to change the aperture, and it won’t translate to my Panasonic AF-100. I’ve enjoyed my fast Canon 50mm lens, Canon 85mm lens and my Tamron 17-50mm while shooting video on the Canon 7D, but they won’t work easily on the AF-100. To change the aperture, you have to take the lens off the AF-100, put it on a 7D or 5D, and set the aperture, then put it back on the AF-100.

Currently, a company called Birger is developing an EF to MFT adaptor that would allow me to use my Canon lenses on the AF-100, but it won’t be available until later this year. The adaptor is supposed to run about $700. Philip Bloom did a nice test shoot with the AF-100 and the Birger adaptor:

Using my Canon FD Lenses

Before purchasing my Canon 7D (with its built in shallow depth of field), I was using the Letus 35mm adaptor on my HVX-200 to get the shallow depth of field I wanted. And, I was using some old Canon FD lenses with used manual focus and aperture. They worked great. They were relatively fast lenses, ranging from f/1.4 to f/1.8. And, they were cheap because they were older lenses. The quality was pretty good for what we were using the for.

Here’s a short film we did using the Letus adaptor and Canon FD lenses.

I purchased an inexpensive MFT to FD adaptor ($40) for the AF-100. and I’ve been using my FD lenses on the AF-100. We recently did an interview with President George W. Bush using this setup on the AF-100.  The image capture quality was quite good.

Voigtlander 25mm f 0.95

Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Lens

Voigtlander announced a new 25mm lens earlier this year, and it is phenomenally fast! f/0.95 is rare, especially for a price of $1K. I ordered it this morning and I look forward to using it on an upcoming project next month. More on that later.

Right now, they only have this 25mm lens. I hope they will soon have a series of lenses at different focal lengths.

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Interviewing President George W. Bush

This week, I had the opportunity to interview President George W. Bush for a project here in Dallas. We decided to use the Panasonic AF-100 with Canon FD lenses for the interview.

It was the first time my DP used this camera, and he was very impressed with the quality and the ease of use (compared to shooting interviews with the Canon 7D). We had done quite a few projects using the Panasonic HVX-200, and the controls and usability were very similar as expected.

Overall, I was very pleased with the camera.

George W Bush Interview with Panasonic AF-100

Panasonic AF-100 with 85mm f1.8 Canon FD Lens

George W Bush Interview with Panasonic AF-100

Panasonic AF-100 with 50mm f1.4 Canon FD Lens

President George W. Bush and Russ Pond