Friday, November 30, 2007

The Online Audience

The video I made for NYIP on the recent Photo Contest has passed 2,000 views. It's a strange thing: 100 views a day doesn't seem like very much, until you realize that the Internet is on and available every day, 24 hours. So the first few days, you shrug. A few hundred.

If a video keeps going, however, soon the views are in the thousands. While that won't compare to broadcast audiences, it can be a significant number of people.

So the question becomes: what's the goal? I expect the screening tonight for "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" will be a medium-sized audience. Is that better? Worse? Just different?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Friday, Go To NY Short Docs

Yes. Go directly to NY Short Docs.

If you want to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


On Monday, I had my video editing class interview each other. Our topic: bad dancers. We shot with 2 Canon GL2s, one on a tripod and one handheld. A shotgun mic was setup on a stand, running into a BeachTek and into a GL2.

Today I had the footage from those interviews ready for them, and they started the process of getting to know the material, trying to find a beginning and an ending and the best bits, and trying to make order out of chaos.

Great fun. We'll see how the pieces turn out....

Monday, November 26, 2007

NY Short Docs on Friday

On Friday, go and see: NY Short Docs.

I'll be there, screening "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn." Bought my tickets today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Rules on NYC Photography and Videography

We are nearing the end of the comment period on the "new rules" proposed by the Mayor's Office regarding permits for photography and videography in New York. What should you do?

1. Read: The Rules, especially this paragraph on activity that will require a permit:

"Filming, photography, production, television or radio remotes occurring on City property, as described in subdivision (a) of this section, if such activity involves the obstruction of one or more lanes of a street or walkway of a bridge, or if such activity results in less than eight feet or one half of the width of a sidewalk or other public pedestrian passageway, whichever is greater, for unobstructed sidewalk use by pedestrian traffic."
2. Mail or email: your written comments to Mayor's Office Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, Communications Department, 1697 Broadway, New York NY 10019, or -- and I strongly encourage physical mail over email if you wish to be effective.

3. Attend: the public hearing at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2007, at the offices of the Economic Development Corporation, 110 William Street, 4th floor (between Fulton and John Streets).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Documentaries in the News

Well, any news from the world of documentary production? I'm glad you asked.

RTÉ launches inquiry into cocaine claims

"The station, which has come under increasing pressure to defend the claims made in 'High Society', last night confirmed that it had launched an internal inquiry into the production and commissioning of the series, which is expected to be completed by the end of this week. ... Beleaguered RTE executives are standing by the author, who claimed a minister regularly abused cocaine -- even after it emerged yesterday that a recording used to substantiate that allegation doesn't exist."
Maker of Undercover Mosque documentary considers suing police
"It was "something of a surprise" when the West Midlands police issued a press release eight months after the programme was transmitted in January, accusing its producers of selective editing and distortion. ... "Our reputation was really seriously damaged by this. We're only a small company but we've done quite a lot in the last 15 years," said Henshaw."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Frugal Traveler: Seattle

There's a new episode of The Frugal Traveler posted. This one's on Seattle.

I had a very tough time with this edit, but in a way that's hard to explain. The short version: the main strategy with these pieces is to create a flow. We follow along from one event to the next, but -- since it really isn't the type of thing where we worry "Will he make it?" or "Can it be done in time?" or "What will he decide?" -- there isn't necessarily a driving conflict or goal, but instead a need to keep it interesting from one experience to the next. We go along for the ride, so it has to be an enjoyable ride.

And this time, though there was the usual collection of good material, there were a couple of spots where there were two problems happening at once -- and I just kept feeling there was no way to make the material and voiceover work together. I ended up, midway through the process, abandoning the first half and finishing the ending.

And then I sat there, staring at two big holes, realizing I still didn't see a way to reasonably smooth out the viewers path through the video. I had shots to cut to, but there were reasons why one shot couldn't cut to the next -- and the usual amount of this that happens just by chance was, unluckily, amplified.

Eventually, as I got to know the problem areas on a first-name basis, I found ways to close those uncloseable gaps. Steal a little from this shot, intended for a slightly different purpose, then change this one here, then try that one ... Eventually there were ways to keep the written shape of the piece intact, and to keep the viewer on a smooth, comprehensible path.

I think the final version is straightforward and simple, but getting there was a complicated and tough road.

Without Commentary

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cast Photo

Last Friday, I shot a little video aimed at That's the cast, above.

The strange thing is, shooting that sort of piece is really all documentary production technique. I used a Canon GL1 with a little BeachTek adapter underneath it. A wireless body microphone and a clip on lavalier microphone were cabled into the BeachTek, one to the left channel and one to the right. Half was shot on a tripod, the rest following the actors around.

The thing is, fiction film is really documenting acting that happens in front of the camera, isn't it?

Trailer Theory

I did a little unit with my video class on editing movie trailers. We looked at about 20 old horror film trailers, then some trailer mashups -- for example, one that makes "The Shining" look like a Romantic Comedy and one that makes "West Side Story" look like a zombie movie -- and finally a few contemporary trailers.

One of the big points: the old techniques of Persuasion still apply, not any that different from how Aristotle thought of them.

You appeal to the emotions, trying your best to show a viewer that they can identify with the characters in the film and that it will make them feel a certain way. You appeal to the viewer also based on the reputation of the filmmakers and the actors in the film and the reviews the film has received. And you make a case that the film is about something the viewer should care about and want to see.

Beyond this: the marketing folks insist: there must be five "movie moments" -- five images one would want to see, selling the experience of seeing the film.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Just finished the next Frugal Traveler episode. It will run Sunday, so take a look at The New York Times then.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Short List

15 Docs Move Ahead in 2007 Oscar® Race

Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 80th Academy Awards®. Seventy pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order:

“Autism: The Musical”
“Body of War”
“For the Bible Tells Me So”
“Lake of Fire”
“No End in Sight”
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”
“Please Vote for Me”
“The Price of Sugar”
“A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman”
“The Rape of Europa”
“Taxi to the Dark Side”
“White Light/Black Rain”

Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meanwhile, in California

Profluence member Linda G. will be screening her film "Double the Pleasure, Eight Times the Therapy" at the Vines Short Film Festival in Santa Monica.

The festival dates are October 28 through November 11; specific screening dates and times TBA.

Save the Date for NY Short Docs

I mentioned that our film 12th and 3rd in Brooklyn will be part of the NY Short Docs program. Here are the screening details:

"NY SHORT DOCS (Presented by DCTV & Rooftop Films)
Friday, November 30th, 2007 @ 7:30PM
$5/Advance Tickets; $7/At the Door

New York is home to some of the most innovative and inspired documentary filmmakers in the world. And on November 30th, DCTV & Rooftop Films are proud to showcase an evening of short documentaries about NYC made by NYC Filmmakers from the Rooftop & DCTV Communities."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Where Hearts Were Entertaining June

Profluence member Dana B. is in the news for her upcoming documentary trip to Brazil:

Sambadendê will trek to its source

"The road trip sounds like a party. Seven band members on a bus playing their way through cities large and small, picking up local players along the way. Band members have enlisted the talents of New York-based documentary filmmaker Dana Bartle, who will accompany them and record interviews and performances by local artists, musicians, and cultural groups as they travel."

NY Short Docs

Just got an email from Maya: our short film "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" will be screening at NY Short Docs on Friday, November 30th.

The night's program looks very good. I've seen "A Son's Sacrifice" and really liked it, and I may or may not appear in "Bubblebattle" since I was there at the event....

Also, congratulations to Chris Schuessler -- "DiFara's" will be screening too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Monochromatic Angels of Parma, Ohio

Appearing as an anonymous video expert, I have now officially spoken out -- for all of two seconds -- that blue fluff is more common than blue ectoplasm, and that cameras don't actually record ghosts.

The Inside Edition story is here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Mist It

I did not get to see the 6 p.m. showing of Inside Edition so I'm not sure if I'm on it or not. But note the otherworldly rectangle at the bottom of this snapshot: it baffles even the most confirmed skeptic.

Another snapshot over at New York Portraits.

Three Seconds of Immortality

I just went across town to be interviewed at Inside Edition. I believe I will be on tonight, for a very, very brief time. More soon.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking "The Shot"

Well, sure, the idea of a "reality" television show about photographers might have jokingly crossed your mind once or twice in the past.

But did you think it would be as bad as The Shot is?

I mentioned the show to some photographer friends, and they watched it, and I feel sort of bad for that. Still, I'll probably suffer my way to the end. A challenge to photograph a model and a monkey? Even if it's bad, it's good.

Eisensteinian Diminution

So, in my video editing class today I gave a lesson I've taught before: we take the famous "Odessa Steps" sequence from Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin -- 7 minutes and 19 seconds long -- and work to cut 30 seconds out of it without ruining it.

It's a great process, and for those of you who enjoy editing I suggest you give it a shot. (You can grab the Eisenstein film over at

In any case, every student has their own ideas of what shots are crucial to the edit, and which can go away. Sometimes people are very conservative -- just making shots shorter, but keeping them -- and sometimes they go right for elements you or I might say are critical to the story ... and cut them right out.

It never fails, however: at least one student misunderstands: "Here it is," they proudly say, "I cut it down to 30 seconds."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

And then the Prequels Will Follow

Taped a new episode of "Photo Chick" today.

Episode One and Two continue on, with about 12,000 views between them on YouTube. That's not a huge number but -- if you've ever screened one of your films for thirty people, as I have -- it's a significant audience.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New NYIP Video

Here's a new video I made for the New York Institute of Photography.

The logistics were:

shot with Canon GL1, using natural light until the day faded away (then a little tungsten bounce light was added to brighten the room a bit)

each contest judge was recorded with a lapel lavalier microphone, then the general judging was done with the built-in camera microphone

the piece was edited, minor goofs were fixed and especially sound clean up done (since it was in a room where it would have been terrible to turn off the air conditioner)

and a pristine H264 format MPEG 4 file was exported (with some experimenting, a very very clean output was produced with a file about 42MB in filesize)

this was then uploaded to -- where they have special elves that make it look very poorly compressed -- and totally low-resolution whenever there's a cross dissolve or a fade-out-fade-in dissolve
More on fixing those "minor goofs" later.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Frugal Traveler: Chicago

There's a new Frugal Traveler video posted: Frugal Chicago.

Here's the strange thing about editing Frugal Traveler episodes: at the end of each one, after a process of watching a lot of footage over and over, I feel like I've been somewhere that I haven't actually been.

I find myself wanting to tell people about a place I haven't been, as if it were my own memory. It's a strange feeling.