Jan 31, 2011

Big Sur

With cool ocean winds accompanying the ascent along the California coastline, we drove the PCH north towards San Francisco and through Big Sur.  The Pacific Coast Highway is hardly the fastest way between Los Angeles and the city by the bay, but it is without question the most scenic.

I can't say that I've ever done a drive that was quite like that, but it wouldn't take much convincing to do it all again.





Jan 29, 2011

Angry Charlie Reviews

For well over a year my friend Tyler Cyrenne has been trying his hand at writing movie reviews.  Like myself, Tyler went to film school and has always had a certain knack for recommendations (eye roll here).  He once suggested Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and I have yet to let him forget it.  

In all seriousness though, Tyler's site Angry Charlie Reviews is quickly growing an impressive library of reviews covering a variety of genres and styles.  I've found it entertaining getting to see Tyler express himself in an online project that he clearly has a passion for, and it's exciting watching his writing style and focus evolve as he gains more traction with readers.

I generally have difficultly with movie review sites simply because there are so many of them.  What makes Angry Charlie Reviews different is the framework that it's built on.  With reviews of some of the latest releases, several shots at video reviews, and support from his personal blog Don't Make Charlie Angry, Tyler is branding himself and the determination is starting to pay off.

He's been featured on the popular site Ain't It Cool News and has also had a pull quote taken for a movie poster that one of our friends was a part of.  I'd say that's a pretty good start.

While Tyler continues to refine and find his voice there's no question that his site will only continue to get better.  I thought I'd throw my two cents into the ring to try and help you out Angry Charlie.  Check out his site and latest reviews here.


Jan 28, 2011

Inspired Singles: Hard Times

Issue 16: Hard Times by Eastmountainsouth


This is a relaxed selection with a country/folk vibe.  It's the kind of song that I'd be listening to on a Sunday afternoon while I cleaned my place up.  That's to say that the tracks somber tone is ideal for thinking, adding a bit of color to the otherwise mundane, and chilling out.

To be honest, I've never been a fan of country music but I do appreciate hints of it to remind me of where I am in the world (Western Canada).  It's just the right mix of earthy twang with an edge of alternative weight behind it.  If you're anything like me, you'll find Eastmountainsouth is an easy addition to most playlists.

Jan 27, 2011

Downtown Los Angeles

Navigating the L.A. freeway system is an exciting experience. That is to say, it's fun because I knew I wouldn't be doing it again for a while. 

Leaving from Indio that morning, Dave and I headed towards Long Beach. You essentially travel from the desert and across greater L.A. to get there. With numerous different routes to get there we actually had no intention of seeing downtown, but one turn lead to another and there we were pointing out where the aliens in Independence Day parked their spaceship.

The theme song of the trip, and might I add it will never be as relevant in our lives again, was Bran Van 3000's song, Drinking in L.A.  The lyric 'what the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26' was why.  Downtown was just a blip on the radar, but I still managed to capture some nice pics as I weaved around a sea of cars.





Jan 25, 2011

Film Student Blog

The idea of having a film journal in my classes was something that I always disliked.  I didn't see the value in writing all of my thoughts down for someone else to read - but of course, opinions tend to change when you feel like you're discovering a method for yourself. Here we are.

I can't say this is really a film student blog anymore.  I'm no longer a film student and the content has grown from classroom complaints to general inspiration with a sampling of video and photography to match.  I'm not sure the film student version of myself was all that different from who I am now.  The worry about finding work has simply subsided for the time being.  

I often wonder what this space would look like had I started sooner in my film school career.  By the time Editing Luke came around in 2007 I was already on the down swing, looking for an escape strategy.  I'd like to think my musings have helped a few people over the years, but ultimately I think I was helping myself.  That's the key to a film student blog.

To be creative, visual, and organized is a tall order to fill on a regular basis.  What I've taught myself through blogging is how to express my thoughts and walk myself through a long term process.  The journal gives meaning and context to a journey that I'm not always aware I'm on, but even after the daily plot points have passed, here is a reference.  

A film student blog is not just about cameras, classes, your favorite movies or your peers, it's about learning how to tell your story.  The story doesn't simply end after university though.  The definition evolves as the space and content does.  That history is now a foundation for a whole new view of media, editing, and the world as I see it.  

There are so many new ways to share the things floating around in our heads.  Find the story in them, and film student or not, you've got some fuel to create.


2011 Best Picture Nominees

It's that time of year again, where the titans of the film industry rub shoulders to congratulate each other on another year of blockbusters, bio pics, and drama.  Cynicism aside, I actually really do enjoy running through the nominees each year to see some of the flicks I may have missed.

With ten best picture nominees now the standard, the reality is that I just get to cross more off my list.  The inclusion of more popular titles is fine, but generally these are movies I've already seen.  In any case, I look forward to this years challenge.

Nominees for Best Picture for the 83rd Academy Awards are:
127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone.


Jan 24, 2011

Year in Gear

With everything seemingly in place as 2010 faded out, it was disappointing, but not altogether surprising that things didn't quite go the way they should of this month.  

Trying to shake my winter apathy I had everything wrapping up around Christmas to welcome January with open arms and a fresh start.  But, a day into 2011 and it already looked like the edits I was working on weren't ready to leave my desktop yet.  Christmas bills pending I was feeling good knowing that these edits would cover my holiday expenditures in full - that was until the heat on my car started to go.  

Snow piling up, complications with translations for the corporate edits, and delays with my full-time media work began taking their toll early.  It's not just the number of things on the go, but the stagnation that the combination encourages.  It seems to go this way every year for me.  January shows a glimpse of promise, but then throws a wrench in my otherwise good luck for several straight weeks of continuous frustration.

The only reason I'm writing this now is to further convince myself that I might finally be in the clear.  A Chinook has rolled in and is finally starting to ease the winter conditions, my corporate edits are all away and just awaiting a final thumbs up, and after taking the opportunity to get some preventive maintenance done, I should have my beloved Jaguar back in a couple of days.

It just goes to show that no matter how organized you are - and for an editor I believe I am - there really are never a shortage of variables waiting to test and challenge just how prepared you really are.  As the stress begins to melt now I'm finally remembering what I was thinking several weeks ago.  

What should I do with my 2011?  I think perhaps it's finally time that I start working on a new video project for myself. 



Jan 23, 2011

North Shore Motel - Salton Sea

Abandoned North Shore Motel before demolition in 2008.

When the idea first came up in mid-2009 to drive to California and check out the Salton Sea, we were already too late to see the North Shore Motel standing. 

I've written and shared my photos and video from the two visits that my friend Dave and I made on our California road trips in 2009 and 2010.  Many of these have centered around the North Shore Yacht Club as we were able to see it abandoned on our 2009 trip, but then saw the result of a complete renovation and renewal as a community center and museum on our 2010 trip.  More on that here

What remains of the motel now is a barren slab of concrete just across the road from the Yacht Club.  The area is still hauntingly quiet and full of clues regarding a more promising time.  The swimming pool has been filled in with concrete now and the desert brush is reclaiming the parking lot.  Still, you can't help but let your mind wander and think about what it all must have been like when the destination was on the up and up.

My fascination with the Salton Sea and locations like the Yacht Club or the former North Shore Motel continues to grow the more I learn.  The history is hidden, a novelty of sorts, waiting for some future improvement to give it the proper context.  

What will become of the Salton Sea isn't exactly clear as there are still major environmental and economic hurtles to overcome if the area is to ever thrive again.  However, one thing is for certain.  The area remains an incredible place to discover and explore in your own unique way.

Site of the North Shore Motel - September 2010.

View from the motel to the Salton Sea.

Tiles from one of the bathrooms baking in the sun.
An old grocery sign discarded in the parking lot.
The tennis court having seen better days.

Jan 20, 2011

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Featured prominently on the state sign and state quarter of Nebraska, Chimney Rock was one of those places I learnt about as a kid because of a video game.  If your school also had the floppy disk version of the Oregon Trail than I'm not alone in this discovery - Chimney Rock was one of the first stops in the game and was known as a marker for the rougher trails ahead.

In 2007 on our Mount Rushmore road trip, my friend Andrea and I headed further south to try and reach the Colorado border.  The day was really just about exploring and wanting to be able to say we'd actually seen and drove across Nebraska - there were lots of cornfields just like they say.

The stop at the Chimney Rock interpretive center was short and sweet, and along with being an attraction in its own right, there were also markers for the famous Oregon Trail and Pony Express close by.  I shot some random footage of this leg of the journey which you can check out below.










Jan 18, 2011

Winter Semester

Although I'm no longer in film school, the routine and doldrums of January echo with the same bleakness that I came to despise every year with the university winter semester.  Take note that I was going to school in Saskatchewan, Canada and that as far as Canadian winters are concerned, this province is one of the top contenders for long, drawn-out deep freezes.  

I've since moved back to Alberta, where throughout the season warm winds come down off the Rocky Mountains (known as Chinooks) and melt the snow.  Well it seems these have been incredibly short lived this year as we've had snow on the ground since the first major snowfall in November.  Again, bleak.

The winter semester, like the New Year, always kicked off with excitement.  You have plans for the year, you reminisce, you get to check out all these new classes, but a week later the novelty has worn off and you realize that spring is what you're really excited about.

Call it cabin fever, seasonal affective disorder, or whatever, it's all tough to deal with in long stretches.

What I recall about my winter semesters in the dorms was that these feelings were amplified.  Small space, no where to go, and trying to be inspired within a film program during one of the most uninspiring times of year.  Seems like the irritation hasn't worn off even now that I'm making money and doing what I like.  

I think I just needed to rant. Spring can't come soon enough!  

Campus snow art seen from my dorm - the one bright spot in a sea of cold.

Jan 14, 2011

Sunset Beach, California

Continuing south from Long Beach we stopped to explore Sunset Beach.  Dave had mentioned earlier in the road trip that he had wanted to collect some rocks or shells from a California beach to give as a gift.  This was one of those quintessential California moments, and one of the few times when driving in the VW Bug felt slightly less gay (not that there's anything wrong with feeling gay if that's what you're after).  

It was the middle of the week so the beach was almost empty, but this proved to be just a primer to the beaches we'd see and explore as we headed north up the Pacific Coast Highway in just a couple of days.

Jan 13, 2011

Inspired Singles: I'm Running

Issue 15: I'm Running by Misstress Barbara (feat. Sam Roberts)

This track has been a regular favorite for the last year, and usually ends up in various playlists that I like to listen to while driving.  An enthusiastic beat accompanies forward thinking lyrics - it's tough to listen to it and not think about moving. 

Sam Roberts has been a favorite of mine since I was first introduced to his music back in high school.  I've seen him in concert a couple of times, and actually met him in person once when a couple of friends and I were hanging out at the Arts Centre in Regina.  His presence here is why I discovered the track in the first place and then came to explore the electronic musings of Misstress Barbara.

I always like learning about new Canadian artists as it makes me feel more connected to what's going on in my own backyard.  Check out the music video to see this duo run around Toronto.

Jan 12, 2011

Departures on OLN

It's one of my favorite shows on TV.  Departures on OLN (the Outdoor Life Network) is not just another travel show - it's a dramatic, poetic, and visual exploration of incredible landscapes, textures, and experiences. 

We follow Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach, along with the very talented cameraman/DP Andre Dupuis as the three end up in some of the most remote, epic, and profound locations on the planet.  What I love about these three guys is that they find the right balance of making you feel like you're there experiencing the destination with them for the first time, while still providing a context for why the area is significant.  It's personal without being cryptic and broad without being stereotypical.  

The videography and subsequent editing is amazing.  A modern blend of stylized slow-motion and sweeping steady-cam shots are a noticeable trademark of the show.  Departures does exactly what the title suggests.  For a half hour it's one of the easiest escapes you can get.

Jan 10, 2011

Flip Ultra HD Review

Small, pocket-sized HD cameras are becoming increasingly common and affordable.  For less than $200 the options are surprising as the market for web-based video expands.  Vloggers, first-time movie makers, and anyone who wants to capture everyday life and share it in HD need only find a camera that suits their tastes - for me, this was the Flip Ultra HD.

As the 4th video camera in my current collection, what drew me to the Flip in the first place was that I was eager to shoot home videos.  You might expect that with three other cameras this wouldn't be such an issue, but the truth is that it's tough to be spontaneous when carrying a full-sized camera around actually requires some pre-planned dedication.  Portability is everything in this case.

Flip Ultra HD - Front View


The video quality here is impressive given the size and price of the unit, although the Flip Ultra HD shoots 720p at 30fps (1280x720 widescreen) as opposed to the full 1080p.  It comes with a rechargeable battery pack that can also be switched out with two AA batteries, and is otherwise charged through the USB port that pops out of the side of the camera.

Shooting is kept simple and straightforward.  The red button on the back starts and stops recording, and your videos are automatically kept track of given the time and date.  There is a small zoom function, and basic navigation that lets you scroll your videos on the camera.  You can also preview your recordings as you go on the 2 inch screen, which I actually found quite comfortable.

Uploading is equally easy.  Pre-loaded software helps catalogue your footage into folders by the month it was shot in, where you can then organize and export your footage as you please from your computer.  Existing footage on the camera is then removed after capture to free up space for your next outing.

Flip Ultra HD - Back View



Things to keep in mind during shooting is that given the small size of the camera, you'll experience a lot of shaking if you're moving around too much.  Even with an image stabilizer, this is unavoidable with a small unit and you might want to consider using a tripod - there is a mount on the bottom of the camera.  

The Flip Ultra HD should be looked at as an entry level camera (and not an alternative to the full-sized cameras) as there really isn't any way to upgrade it.  There's no mic jack (although it does record audio), no additional space for a memory card, and shooting features are at a bare minimum.  

Still, it's an agile and fun little video camera that makes shooting simple and spontaneous.  Not to mention, it's still a huge step up from what most cell phones are capable of.  You'll find yourself more willing to take it out because you can hide it in your back pocket, and for the sake of sharing more with friends and family this is a definite plus. 

This concise unit is sure to make you rethink the way you shoot video or maybe even give you the courage to start doing it more often.  Throw the Flip HD in your pocket and have fun capturing your everyday adventures!

Below is a Flip cam test that I shot while experimenting with how I could mount the small camera to various points on my Jaguar.  The border around the video was added in post - more on this Flip HD test here
 

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