Juan Carlos Oganes' film-making and work blog.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New gonna-be born: the RED SCARLET

I remember when working on a film project pre-production meeting with the studio people a couple of years ago -being a digital freak with a crush on film-look- I insisted on shooting on digital but only in HD. The subject of the film was a script idea I began writing since 2005 based on the war we had with Chile back in 1879.

Being a period film, there was gonna be costly items and production stuff not only in the post-production stage but in the production itself (costumes, old era rifles and guns, canons, horses, wardrobe, locations, war scenes, explosions, etc). So, all the costs that involved shooting on 35mm film were simply out of the question as many FX work would have to be done digitally for the fight scenes where we had to do a lot of 3D duplicating for soldiers and artillery stuff. Wish we had a licence for the Massive software but with above $30,000 per machina licence.....no way!!

So digital must be....and of course in HD. Researching a year later, I came across an articel about this new little (but grandiose) HD camera capable of shooting in 4k called the RED ONE. I was astonished to read that it was gonna rival close to 35mm film and expand its latitude so much higher than HDCAM or the Varicam and other high-end cams out there....and of course, with the same variable frame rate shooting like my good HVX200.

RED ONE outputs 4,096 by 2,160 pixels is one of the most lusted after cameras of recent memory last year...and now they have announced the SCARLET, a hand-held Flash-memory based camcorder capable of a remarkable 3K resolution that can go all the way up to 120 frames per second!!!! And one thing I can't believe is that it's announced to be around $3,000. That means the relatively small Scarlet (in the pics here it's in its "naked" basic form and then with lots of accessories put on) will be capable of shooting digital video ready for display in digital cinemas, which mostly top out at around 4K these days (although typically only at 24FPS).
This RED guys also announced the EPIC, a new camera that will be capable of 5K resolution. Now that will be a cam that'll output humongous sized footage folks.....definetly, if you wann own one you'll have to take your ass to your closest serious computer store and build yourself the fastes most reliable workhorse around, otherwise your footage wont handle the amzing RAW video files it delivers. Jim Jannard definetly had a vision....the vision of putting in motion the simple question as to "if for some years now all pro still cameras manage to output RAW file picture that keep the pure signal out of its CMOS sensor (Adobe Lightroom anyone?), why not make a digital video camera that can output and handle such a chore and keep the best resolution the sensor captures intact?".....the RED Company was born....and their first baby was the RED camera.
Here is a chart I came across that explains the different resolution nowadays with different formats from pocket PC's all the way up to Ultra High-Defintion Video (passing thru HD, 3k, 4k and up).

Here's another one that should give a better idea of how different in aspect ratios and resolution each format compares with the other.

Now with the RED ONE at 4K resolution and around $17,500 just the body (accesories like lenses are like 6 to 8 grand each!! and the other peripherals arent less than $1000) this cam isnt for the normal indie filmmaker. Putting a good combo together would cost you no les than $30.000. Not cheap. I cant imagine how much then the EPIC with 5K must be. I read somewhere it was around $30.000 or so. So many will defintely run for the SCARLET at $3000. Myslef included for now.

Both EPIC and SCARLET cameras will be available in 2009, so people....start sending your downpayments to RED now! I'm sure there are lots of guys in line already.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cultural TV pilot

So, my friend Jose Alexis asked me to direct for him a TV show pilot.

It will be about cultural anecdotes of many popular places in Lima and province but that few people know details about.

Gerardo Zamora was invited to host this first section and many known artists and actors will be invited to explain and interview historians, war heroes' decendants and people who can sum valuable info on this good idea.

This first chapter was shot inside the beautiful Real Felipe castle near the port of Lima.

Wanted to shoot it in HD but the producers wanted to keep it SD for compatibility issues with their editing system. The sights were beautiful so it was a pitty not to be able to show structures in all their detail glory. Nonethless, it's a little good project and I hope it works its way to the stations and to the public. So far, we wanted to keep it simple but aesthetic and fun.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nikon D90 - a new toy in town

Now this is a nice transition for all pro photo and video lovers out there.

I consider myself so much into capturing moments and freezing memories for life. And if they are in "motion", the better. Sadly, few cameras feature extreme quality in both worlds of still and moving photography. I guess with this new baby out, this is gonna end and a dream will come true.

Enter the Nikon D90 12.9 (12.3 effective) Megapixel Digital still camera WITH 720p HD video recording! Yes folks, this new thing can record at 720p at 24fps. No more of those aweful quality 640x480 VGA lousy videos captured with your still cam. Of course, as one would assume, it doesnt stand up to the professional digital HD camcorders out there but it still is a great progress in the arenas of the digital HD world (I wouldn't trade my HVX no way!).

There's a new CMOS sensor and according to the Nikon press release it's D300 quality output all the way up to ISO 6400 and one thing being borrowed by the higher end models is the awesome 3.0-inch VGA screen as the D3/D300. It also has a Live Preview function and the needed dust removal option too. Another awesome feature is its HDMI output for the video!!....but i'm sure it has some drawbacks. There's no free lunch, u know, and as I compare and see, there's a lot similar to the D80, though there is a new shutter and 3D tracking AF seen on the D3/D300.

When I checked it out, the D90 is very similar to it's ancestor (the D80) and it looks to me more of an upgrade more than a complete new model replacement of the prior model, but what will really catapult this one to be a fav for many amateur and prosumer user will be the 'world's first' DSLR movie mode. I certainly wouldn't recommend to use it to make your films, of course, but what I saw was that -having the CMOS sensor and the use of 35mm lenses- I could have that depth-of-field so loved by us filmmakers. The holy grail of our "religious" motion-picture career without the need of any expensive adapter.

So, in brief, the camera has this features:
  • 12.9 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor (effective pixels: 12.3 million)
  • Dust removal system
  • Bigger, better screen (as D3, D300)
  • Live View with contrast detect AF
  • Movie Mode
  • Wider ISO range, upgraded AF system (3D tracking, face detection)
  • Active D-Lighting, vignetting control and extra retouching options
  • Automatic chromatic aberration correction
  • Picture Control presets
  • Faster continuous shooting and larger buffer
  • Pictmotion slideshows
  • 3.0-inch 920,000 pixel (VGA x 3 colors) TFT-LCD (same as D3 and D300)
  • Live View with contrast-detect AF, face detection
  • Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
  • Illuminated focus points
  • Movie capture at up to 1280 x 720 (720p) 24 fps with mono sound
  • IS0 200-3200 range (100-6400 expanded)
  • 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting (buffer: 7 RAW, 25 JPEG fine, 100 JPEG Normal)
  • Expeed image processing engine
  • 3D tracking AF (11 point)
  • Short startup time, viewfinder blackout and shutter lag
  • Slightly improved viewfinder (96% frame coverage)
  • Extensive in-camera retouching including raw development and straightening
  • Improved user interface
  • New optional compact GPS unit (fits on hot shoe)
  • Same battery and vertical grip as D80
  • Vignetting control in-camera
  • 72 thumbnail and calendar view in playback.

This new camera defintely is one to check (or to own for some serious photographers that would need the 720 HD feature). All in all this one is a serious contender to many still cams out there and for about $1 K (body only) its quite cheap for a model with this features.

UPDATE: It seems that some users have seen some "funny features" on this camera. The CMOS sensor has some serious issue that is skew: slow-read reset of the sensor and the results are some type of "funny" elastic motion like jelly shaking. Here is a video test I found on the net that shows it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Re-found an old treasure

Found again a little treasure I forgot its name of some years ago.
While doing some research for a TV show I was producing a few years back, the topic I wanted to focus on that week's show was our most old memories of my generation. Being in my 30's, all my farthest ones date back to second half of the 70's and all the 80's. Many people of my generation mostly run the media now in Peru and the lesser half are the old school who began doing TV way back in the 50's and 60's. Dinosaurs that have seen the progress of TV as we know it and live to tell it. My full respect to them.

I spent countless days laughing and amazed at some old stuff I couldnt even believe was still also being remembered by hundreds of other people: TV shows, old TV commercials, funny shampoo ads, old teenage bands, ridiculous girl stuff, memorable performances from long gone artists, places that were the "hot spot" back then, old fads, silly sneaker shoes that were the shit back then, videos that started a fashion, songs like "woodpecker's on space" that I used to dance to when I was so much into breakdancing, candy things that were the sensation, old sayings and slang words that started with my generation, when I used to chase the coca cola trucks all around the neighborhood in my BMX to collect their promotions when you saved ten bottle covers with the right word printed in the back, the late 70's jaopanese shows like Sankuokai or cartoons like Meteoro (Speed Racer now turned into a movie) which was the shit to me (and when I saw a rerun later in the 80's I was so surprised how in the world I could like that crap, but hey...I was just a kid!), old soccer games when I was heavy into soccer playing, Maradonna's "God's hand" when he scored against England and Argetina won the World Cup back in Mexico 86, watching my namesake Juan Carlos Oblitas do his amazing moves with the ball in Spain 82, etc, etc....and there is even this page that I was so crazed about called ARKIV (www.arkivperu.com) unmeasurable info on those years, years that are gone and won't come back but live in this colective memory of my generation in Peru....and Im sure of many in latin america!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The End of a Dream

After making the video many sensations came to me. One of the main ones was the fact of making a past dream that was good in its moment a present one. It was good while it lasted at least.

One of the things that sometimes one learns the hard way is the fact that one's dream is not necesarily other's no matter how good or similar they were to all. And although people that spent a part of their life together for a supposedly similar reason, they get their own personal impresions of one same experience instead of a colective one. Common sense as it should seem like, no matter how close a union can be, the parties get a hold of their own ideas out of something tangible no matter what.

And this is what I learned late -in a way- out of a colective musical dream that started sixteen years ago and that was put in hiatus several years back. As hard as it was to put together the members of this band for the video, it was good above all else to see my friends under one same roof performing what we shared "as-one" years ago. As sentimental as it may sound it was a good way to make things feel good nowadays.
Kinda like lighting a good old flame to make today good also. But sometimes things like that are just momentary or illusional....like this one.

Years pass, people change, priorities change and sometimes deep inside you think that people are remembering one simple time experience "as-one" but in most cases you are wrong. People form families, have kids, go on with their lives and eventually....change.

Anyway, it was good to see us back at least for one single simple video....while it lasted. Plans were made for a second one but the dream de-inflated and real personalities of each one came afloat making oneself hit a hard wall. Didn't see it coming but I kinda like thought about it lately.

People change....but dreams remain. At least in my head they will.
Maybe it was like my close friends said: "The music was your sole brainchild after all. Perhaps you needed a closure".
If it was like that then, as a good father, I will protect my child from loneliness.

Good bye hope....the music and the dream will be remembered always.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Utopía - finished and ready

At last...finally the new video complete.
Just done editing and it's up and ready to show!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Media Bullshit

The other time I was talking to a good old friend of mine from my theater school days. I have always admired him for his talent to transform onstage but also for his ability to impersonate people. His gift of mimicking with all gestures, voice, and body moves was so amazing that he would defintely win any contest of impersonations on TV or elsewhere.

We lost contact for quite a long time and happened to talk again thru a common friend. Catching up on our own lives I discovered he wasnt into acting anymore, and although his passion was that, he couldnt get enough gigs to live and support his daughter and family. It was a sad thing to learn and after asking him how much he tried and waht doors he knocked I realized it was the very same idiosincracy and complex this fucking TV and media has: racism.

My good friend happens to be dark-skin indian type looking, and though standing no more than 5.5 ft he just doesnt make the cut for a leading man, no matter how good his talents. He would merely get roles as chouffer, robber, drug junkie or one of the yes man of the bad guys. Nothing higher than that. I feel sorry not for him but for this stupid peruvian and worldwide media ways who relies on looks more than in talent.

Time ago, when at production meetings with PR and A&R media executives, I always had to play the part and of course play the game as everybody does, and although I -a personal hater of the "system"- needed to play the cards well and not be soaked in media bullshit, it was hard at the same time stay afloat and make a living. In other words, be good while getting my hands dirty. That's why I chose since day one to lead my own life with my company and be able to make my own decisions from investment to casting and themes. Independent productions give you a freedom that Chollywood (our own peruvian Hollywood in slang) doesn't give. Of course you have tighter budgets but the freedom of expression is the good price you receive. You then make a name of yourself and people just call you.

In my own work I have always chosen not only friends that do their parts well but also the people that have what it takes to bring life to the character, regardless of looks or race. Yes, it's true that some races are associated with certain attitudes and doings but typecasting is to me a live animal left open wound waiting for it to die and not doing something about it. The real delicious feeling of seeing a story come to life is much better than just putting a good looking guy or a curvy model and expeting it to sell. Of course it sells in a way, but the creative process and trascendence requiered to leave a good message in the audiences mind is lost for a more inmediate bubble-gum pop seudo-called expressionism where feeding beauty ego is more important than giving a good teaching message to the public. Sadly, the public has learned wrong so then...expects more "wrong" from the media producers. It's a vicious circle.

Media meetings we had between executives were essentially deals on how to push a project alive and see a good thing come out of it not only money wise of course but also message wise. Most of meetings in the media are not done that way. Most are real-time deals of making the connections, getting a story together with know faces in it and walking at the end of the month to the bank to reclaim your money. Usually the way to talk business with top TV or film executives is to speak their lingo, and their lingo is definetly legal and financial. Sad but true.

The success of a film or TV series relies soley on the damn rating and people hate messages or be told soemthing valuable or to see reality and media executives know that. That's why they "feed" people with what they ask for: entertainment that makes them escape their damn reality with supernatural heroes, over the top digital effects and cheap sentimental moments put there just for the sake of not being told that it wasnt human. Sex sells says the saying. It does because it feeds one of the main basic needs of humans but it also degrades the message if not done in style. Executives dont care, thats why we get to see so much crap on the screen. The power of money distorts the real intention of what communication sciences (where film and TV rests upon) are all about: sending a message. That's why TV or film executives are 99.9% lawyers or administrators and none or little of them have a communications background or media degree.
Our ability to make a good damn film with a good script is basically the main drive for the independent filmmaker, but if you send the script or try to pitch it to one of those executives you simply wasting your time or looking for rejection easily. And that's because the TV stations or film studios dont make stories much anymore.....they make money deals (with a facade of the fakest slogan ever of "supporting national values").

So, scripts or screenplays are reviewed not by art people or filmmakers but by lawyers or corporate magement persons (MBA's so to speak). They dont understand what doesnt bring them money so they reject them. As typical as retarded people: they reject what they dont understand. They are not capable of comprehending deep interpersonal relations between humans. They see artmaking thru their distorted filters. Sadly, they run the show and they are the decision makers of what the whole wide world sees on TV or on the big screen. They measure success not on how many lives can be touched but on how many numbers can it bring to their pockets.

The "playin'-safe" attitude of those people has really made the media world what it is today and has given us a bad reputation of being cold, egocentric and pleasure-driven, when that's actually a choice not a fact of many involved in this beautiful field. They rely on "proven formulas" that will sell and that's why we get to see the same faces again adn again and I'm persoanlly tired of that. Like if those faces were the ONLY ones around. There are more....much more....they just don;t take the time to dig deep or be around.

That's where independent filmmaking enters the picture. We might not have sometimes those exorbitant budgets Hollywood (or Chollywood) has but at least we have integrity and a voice to make ourselves be listened. Yes, of course we care about money also and we expect our film to win us enough to make a living out of it, but it's NOT our main goal if really genuine on our craft and field. Success is just a result and should not be a goal. The process of making art is valuable by itself. Entertaining is soemthign inherent in any film, but should not rely solely on scandals or cheap filthy stuff just to sell because those cliches are what actually bring not only us filmmakers down, but our society as well. The audience needs to re-learn what they need to watch. Until then, top executives will always fall into the trap of formulaic untasteful stuff just because uneducated people likes it.

So, until we, as an audience learn to wacth quality stuff, a lot of talented people will just pass and pass and die unheard of, uncknown and ungiven of a chance to show or teach us soemthing with their talents regardless of looks or race.

I feel sorry for the media, for my country and for all the assholes who insist on feeding the monster of ignorance as long as it brings money in.

In the meantime, Peru is losing one of the best actors we can have. I will play my part at least and with me I know he can always have a medium to show his talents and above all....make his life dream come true.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Utopia last shooting day

Finally, we shot the second part of the videoclip was shot yesterday. It was gonna be a long drive to the deserts of San Bartolo and do some off-raoding.Started with some problems as usually every production has but was fixed quickly.

I was glad the location appealed everyone as it was a bit far but it was worth it. The results were awesome and the sky and sun was there with the precise position, the precise intensity, the wind was blowing not too fast, not to slow and the whole day was filled with fun and laugher and Toño Valero documenting all the behind the scenes with pictures and his little camcorder.The hawk and the trainer couldn't make it today but I'll do pick up shots of it probably on monday if possible as it has to be done way south outside of Lima. Maybe I'll arrange another nearby day.

We did a shot where a cape was used on top of a huge rock to to mimick a hawk and the wish to fly. We did it in sillohuette against the sun and the results were quite good. I loved the theatricality of the shot showing not an explicit but a more implied-artistic representation of the bird. Maybe if while editing I see this shot works better I'll just keep it and discard the real hawk shot....no matter if it's easy now to obtain it. I love those birds but the whole video idea is more important than bird.

For the long shots, the Nikon 80-200mm zoom was used and I think this was the best testing of it....now looking at the footage with the pro monitor at the studio it shows very clear, crisp and no color aberrations. Edge to edge sharpness was achieved and with the Canon 18-35mm there was no vignetting either. The Letus showed an incredible sweet bokeh and like I said...all the lighting and sun was perfect. Like if we paid it big bucks!

Hued the camera colors to the blues and cyans to jump one step in color correction in post.

So far, this HD footage takes quite long hours to render.At night we went to my good friend Jean Pierre Vismara's house. Although a bit far from the desert location (he lives in La Punta-Callao) and somewhat delayed in schedule, we finished fast.It was good to see him after almost two years. He was kind enough to lend me his house for the shooting. I shot there another videoclip in 2006 for Big Mike as a return of favors and he delivered. His house lends itself to lots of visuals as you can see on that video. And Rodolfo here stressed by the long hours of set up. He simply is not acustomed to audiovisual production scenarios and times. Impatient as he is it was such an ordeal to him to wait so long hours for shots that took actually minutes to do. You can see in his face his uneasiness....he is such a great guy. Very funny. Good old friend for the last 17 years!
It was a good day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hawks & Deserts

I have always digged hawks.

Since a child myself I have always admired the royal elegance of such a beautiful strong bird. It's typical silverish tone of the first one I saw in my life made it look like shining metal and so magestic it look soft and respected at the same time.

In psychology class back in college days I found out why I happened to relate myself to those birds, for its elegance and for its ability to soar high and away and always protect its bird family as they are very territorial and protective of what it considers its own. As corny as it sounds to some, I relate to that much.
Now, years later, I wanted to say such a strong image in the song "Utopia" while writing the lyrics and now, for this shot I have tried to get in contact with people that breed and train hawks and pray birds, and I finally got one!

Im just waiting to confirm for the hour they can get the falcon to our location in the deserts south of Lima. I went location scouting today and found a place close to what I had in mind with that dried-soil look to it.

So now....sunday is the day. It will be awesome to have finally a hawk for the takes.
Later that night, the pick up takes for the middle part of the song.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Color test of the "Utopía" videoclip

Here is the first color timing test of random clips from the video.
So far, so good.

UTOPIA videoclip color test from Juan Carlos Oganes on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Filming the Alter Ego video

So finally....the Utopía videoclip was shot on monday.
The day was packed with details that made it a frenzy one in production anecdotes.

Lighting took quite a while as the place was big and the main power box was a bit far from the shooting sets. We had a late start and had to push my singing shots to the end of the day and overrun our schedule ending time by three and a half hours. We wrapped for the day early morning the next day. Besides of that, it was good to see all the band together after years of being apart.

Establishing shots were done in 720p at 24fps using a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, medium and tight tele shots were done with the Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD and Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF zoom lenses all using the Letus Extreme.
The HVX200 delivered beautiful colors and details but had to lower the V-detail a bit to get rid of the "video" sharpness and get closer to film edge-quality.
Tried far to hue the colors in-camera as not to overload post-production and rendering times. So far, on today's tests, it's giving me five hours per minute of video.
The Jib-arm bringed those floating shots I so love and raising up to 12 feet, it sure brought production value to the shots.
As always, my good old friend Aguinaga was with me on the lights and it was a good thing to work once again together after so many years and like on every job, he is quite ready for light directions I might have. Most of my latter work was done with him under and I must say he is not only a great professional but a great friend.

Here are some pics of the shooting.
The second day of shooting will be on the weekend.

Here below is a first color grading test of random clips from the video.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Utopía wardrobes

We went to pick up the wardrobes for the videoclip. The wardrobe maker is Emilio Montero, excellent professional and good friend. He makes costumes for the Lima Prolírica Opera and also the Zarzuela. I chose him not only because he is so talented in his craft, but also as HD captures every nuance in fabric and texture that we need to be very picky on things like this and he is the guy for it. Toño Valero also came with me, his guitar riffs are gonna look cool with wardrobes like this.

So far, this is what he has. I'm liking it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Utopía" videoclip getting close

Now as the day for the Alter Ego videoclip shooting comes close, I'm making visual examples to aid on the look style I want for it so I show my gaffers and crew. I always loved medieval, ancient, castle-like structures kinda like in the gothic arquictecture and for interiors the classy candle light ambiences. The song "Utopía" is dark and heavy so this bloomy and contrasty light/dark atmospehere need to resemble it. From wardrobe to make up, from scenography to lighting. All needs to be thought of well Tomorrow I'm checking for the type of cloth each band member fits to.

Here are some pics that exposes in a way the look I want to achieve for the clip.
The widescreen pictures are from Aaron Hobson that I happened to stumble on the net. Excellent work he does.