Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meanwhile, On Actualities

On my Actualities blog, a few new posts: on a new project, an editing lesson, some editing skills and some editing ideas.

It's all about editing, I suppose.

Mile Seventeenish

Tomorrow I'll be shooting some footage as the New York Marathon goes along First Avenue, near my apartment. I have a few ideas on what might make an interesting microdocumentary, but it's tough to say what will happen or if a story will emerge.

I'm likely to shoot a combination of stills and HDV (at 720p30), and to also drag a small audio recorder around. This is similar to how Notebook on Santas and Elves was made. I learned a lot from that process, and I'm guessing it can be a workable way to make something about 5 minutes long.

I'm jotting this down because, as always, when I start a film (no matter how short or casual) it seems rather imaginary. It takes a while for anything to be gathered, anything to be put together, and for it to be shaped into anything at all. And then, if it is made into something watchable, there's a huge lag for it to go somewhere.

I have a list of festivals that seem like a match for this type of film, or for what I imagine the film will be. In any case, it will be interesting to check back in a few months and see where this went.

If you are running in the event, smile as you go by.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Little Eisenstein

As in past years, I'm having my editing class 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. (Try it yourself: grab the Eisenstein film over at

Some students just make shots shorter, and some completely remove elements you or I might say are essential to the story. Every time I do this exercise, at least one student misunderstands: "Here it is," they proudly say, "I cut it down to 30 seconds."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Advanced Photo Class, Register Now

My Advanced Seriously Fun Photography class starts at Hunter Continuing Education starts November 5th. So, register now.

They've changed the Web site, so the way to see the listing and register is to go to this interface and type "photography" into the search box.
Ready to stretch your creativity, and master the techniques you need for your photography? In this advanced photography class, we will address three topic areas of intermediate / advanced photography technique -- chosen by the students during our first session -- and we will have three special class photography sessions. (These sessions may include a class photo shoot, a museum / gallery / auction house visit, and a studio lighting shoot.) Students will also prepare a small portfolio project over the six weeks of the course, with a critique session in our last week.

Course/Section: SERFUNII/1 6 Session(s) 12 Hour(s) Tuition: $250.00
Day(s) Meet: Thursday Date: 11/05/09-12/17/09 Time: 06:00PM-08:00PM
Location: CS, 71 E 94 ST./
Instructor(s): FISHER, TED

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday At The Met: The Americans

I've taken many of my photo classes through Robert Frank's The Americans over the years, page by page. We look at it for sequencing concepts, for ideas on a documentary approach, and just because it's a good book.

So, nothing shocking to me in the Met's installation. But it's great nonetheless.

The highlight: one of the contact sheets reveals Frank shot four times when he saw a combination of the American flag, the front of a building, and women in the windows. He then shot a few attempts at something else, and came back for one last shot: and that final shot is the iconic image that's first in the book.

Quick Note On Balancing Flash and Ambient Exposure

Last night in my Seriously Fun Photography class we tried balancing on-camera flash and ambient light. A few notes on that:

1. First, let's set a manual exposure based on the ambient light available. For example, in the low-light conditions of a classroom at night, we found a reasonable exposure was around a sensitivity setting of ISO 1600, a shutter speed of 1/60th and an aperture of F/5.6. I tend to recommend dropping this exposure one stop -- after all, you may want your main subject to "pop" and the background to be a little darker. So switch to manual mode, and set an exposure that is about one stop underexposed.

2. Now pop up your on camera flash. Check the flash mode: "fill flash" will give you the best balance between subject and background. There's also a "flash compensation" setting, so if you are finding your flash is overexposing the subject, set the flash compensation to -1 or -2. Take the shot, and look how the subject and background are balancing.

3. For a more sophisticated take, consider "dragging the shutter" -- using a shutter speed that's a bit slower (for example, try 1/15th of a second). The flash will freeze the main subject, and the slow shutter may create a more interesting background to the shot. You can even purposefully move the camera to create a little bit more interest in the background -- you might get streaking lights or an overall warmly lit look.

In general, good compact cameras and good DSLR cameras do a reasonable job of balancing subject and background when handled this way, but usually you'll want to dial that flash compensation down a stop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Advanced Relief On 88th Street

I saw that someone had left a bottle of "Advanced Relief" on the iron gate of the church, and it struck me as a strange thing. You would have to reach up to put something there.

Ten hours later, it was still there. Not moved in the slightest.

I'll look the next time I go past.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bronx, Looking Toward Manhattan

That light-grey speck in the distance? The Chrysler Building. Or have they changed the name, now that it's been sold?

A Tree Grows In Not Exactly Brooklyn

I snapped this while walking in The Bronx because it's unusual to see a tree branch growing out of a building, but also because it reminded me of:

Nature Photography, More or Less.

Photographer, Upper East Side

I'm generally not a fan of shots taken from behind people. It tends toward the exploitive, and tends to feel unconnected as well. Still, once in a while there's one I think works. Maybe it's the light streaming past.

For some reason, I thought this guy was a tourist. Maybe not. What was he so intent on photographing, up in the sky? I don't know: I snapped this with my iPhone and continued home. I'm usually fairly tuned in, but this time I just never thought to look.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Final Cut Pro Without A Mouse, Part One

Want to work fast in Final Cut Pro? Learn to work without the mouse.

Oh, you'll need the mouse sooner or later. Some tasks are best done with the mouse. If you want to edit fast, however, you may want to learn a few useful key commands that will speed up your editing process. Besides: it's cold and flu season, and who knows what's on that thing. So let's try a little mouse-free editing.

Get prepped:
Let's do the basics first so you'll be ready for this adventure. (In fact, you'll probably do this step with the mouse, just to keep things simple, but that's okay.) Start Final Cut Pro.

First, you'll need some sort of video clip to work with. You should have your "easy setup" set to match -- so if the clip is in DV-NTSC format, set your "easy setup" (located under the Final Cut Pro menu) to the same format. Close any project that's open, choose New > Project and then save it somewhere using an easily-understood filename and keeping the .fcp suffix.

Now choose New > Sequence and give it a name you'll understand -- like "tedshandsfreeedit01" or something appropriate. You don't want "Sequence01" or anything default or unclear.

Now, let's import your video file: choose File > Import and select your file. Set that mouse aside and let's practice. Hit Control-u to change to the standard interface. That will arrange your windows in a way that's good for the type of work we'll be doing.

Now let's work.
  • Hit Apple-4 to activate the Browser window.
  • Use the Up-arrow and Down-arrow keys to select what file is active. When you are on the video file you want to work with, hit the the return key and that will "load" the video clip into the Viewer window and activates the Viewer window.
  • Now you can use the j, k and l keys to move the playhead around. Tap "l" and the playhead will move forward at normal speed, tap it more and it will move forward faster. Hitting "k" will pause. Hitting "j" will move the playhead backwards; hitting it more will move the playhead backwards faster. The spacebar can also be used: it toggles "play" and "pause." To move by single frames, use the leftarrow and rightarrow keys. To move in one-second intervals, hit shift-leftarrow or shift-rightarrow.
  • Move to where you think a useful part of the clip starts. Once you have your playhead there, hit the "i" key to mark your inpoint.
  • Move to where you think a useful part of the clip ends. Once you have your playhead there, hit the "o" key to mark your outpoint.
  • Now, let's preview if you have the right inpoint and outpoint. Hit shift-\ and you'll see the clip play from the inpoint to the outpoint. If it is wrong, move the playhead to a better point and hit "i" or "o" to set a new better point.
  • Once you have the clip like you want it, hit apple-u to make a subclip.
  • You will see this new clip appear in the Browser. It will have jagged edges (note that the main clip has smooth edges) and it will have the text selected -- it's ready for you to type in an appropriate name. Like "Moe pokes Larry in the eyes" or something that will later help you identify the clip.
Now, repeat these steps and you can make subclips out of your single video clip, all ready to edit or to hand over to another editor. How do you get those on the timeline and edit them? That will be in our next edition of "Final Cut Pro Without A Mouse."

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My friend Doug McCulloh was in town for a few days. You should probably buy his books:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, Snap

Had a good studio lighting session in Seriously Fun Photography. Above: what happens when a strobe fires while taking an iPhone snapshot.

But First, Arm Wrestling And A Slap Fight

I really enjoyed this post by Maria Lokken. One of the reasons I have my students read books by both Walter Murch and Ralph Rosenblum is to give them a sense that often the relationship between director and editor is more important than just knowing how to edit. No matter which role you are playing -- or if you are both -- the process of moving from production phase to editing phase can make or break a film. If the wrong goal is set, or if the wrong parameters are drawn, the editing process will not lead to a great outcome.

So how can a director make that process work?

Working with an editor
"Once I hand everything over I walk away. Yes, walk away. Let him or her work with it like a sculptor with clay. Let them put their creative stamp on it, and see where it takes the piece. You can always pull back. But it takes longer to get something out of an editor if you’ve shut them down from the beginning by saying this is the way it has to be, no changes, no exceptions."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Adobe Photoshop For iPhone

Above: I took a snap of a micro pumpkin patch on 89th Street this evening. It was a great opportunity to test out Adobe's Photoshop for iPhone.

Here's the process: I clicked on the Photoshop icon, and it asked if I wanted to take a photo or use an existing image. I chose the image, then used the crop tool to take out some unneeded detail, turned the saturation slider to plus 10, turned the exposure adjustment up a little, and chose to exit and save. That's it. The photo appeared in my phone's photo library and was ready to post. The original is at left.

It's a very simple app, it's free, and it does the basics. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sunday In The Park With Joel

Is there any news from the world of photography? Tons of it. Joel Meyerowitz in NYC parks, for one.

Documentary Photographer Turns His Lens on City Parks
In the latest phase of his career, Mr. Meyerowitz, 71, has turned his lens onto nature and wildlife in city parks, in a project evocative of the work of the artists and writers hired by the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal. The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation has commissioned a series of expansive photographs of city green spaces from Mr. Meyerowitz. The resulting works — 90 photographs — are now on view in an exhibition, “Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks,” that opened on Friday at the Museum of the City of New York."

Rock Followup: Hair Still Good

News from the world of documentary lawsuits.

Woman Declares Chris Rock's Documentary 'rip-off', Case Dropped
A judge in Los Angeles District Court dismissed a plagiarism lawsuit against Chris Rock that claimed the comedian lifted a woman's ideas when he filmed a documentary about African-American hairstyles.

Ted's Ideas On Editing Chase Scenes

On Wednesday I'm giving a lecture in one of my classes on editing chase scenes. I've given it a few times before, and it's usually a pretty big hit -- it seems to really help students get a handle on some basic editing concepts.

They may never edit a chase scene, but the bigger point is that they learn to develop a rational plan to make an otherwise complicated and confusing set of shots seem completely coherent, comprehensible, and clear.

We look at clips from about a dozen films, and illustrate the ideas below.


How do we know which character is which? Does one wear a white cowboy hat and the other a black one? Does one have a red car and the other blue? Is the pickup basketball game shirts versus skins?

If we see the leader pass the big red building, then ten seconds later the other, we know how far apart the characters are. Often, a camera will stay at a landmark position, and pan from one character to another.

If a car is chasing a moped, the car has a clear advantage. But when the moped goes into the subway and the car driver follows on foot, now the moped has the advantage.

Is a character gaining or falling behind? A shot where the camera is pulling away, or where the character is catching up to the camera may tell us. A shot with both characters in it might reveal the relative status as well.

We want to know what the character is thinking, feeling and doing -- so a cut to a shot through the windshield might reveal the character's expression. Or a cut to the foot on the brake might tell us what's happening. Or a closeup on the gear shift. Make careful note of where the character looks -- the next shot might be their "point of view."

A camera can be low in the front of a car, can look out the rear window, can sit in the passenger seat, can look down at the brake pedal -- and all of these shots are useful. It can run alongside the moped as it plunges down the stairs. It can turn to watch the car streak by. It can shake, float, or fly.

If a car goes from screen left to screen right, we expect it to keep doing that unless we some change -- a shot where it turns, or where we "move" into the car before coming back out. And we expect the car chasing to also maintain consistent screen direction -- unless we see a change happen.

If we cut from the big black car to the little red sports car -- should the sound change right on that cut? Or should it change in other ways? Do we want to hear the sound of the car coming toward us, then going away?

Even in a short chase, all go-go-go action wears thin. It's usually more exciting to have a lot of action, then a tiny pacing "deep breath" before the big finish.

That tank chasing the laser-guided skateboard just knocked over every fruit stand in aisle 19. Maybe we could cut back to see what happened, and the angry manager shaking her fist at us? Or maybe our wheel can't take much more and is starting to wobble -- maybe a closeup to reveal that?

Touching Retouching

Great article about students in Baltimore who salvage photographs, then use Photoshop to restore them. I think there's something in my eye.

High school students try to save neighbors' memories
"The Patapsco photography class was spending part of Monday afternoon examining their first batch of work: photos from the flooded basement of Jane Haines. Haines lives in Logan Village, one of the communities affected last month by a main break that sent water gushing into more than 100 homes in the Dundalk area. Throughout this month, the students are offering to digitally restore photographs ruined in the deluge."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Party Like It's 1993

Is it just me, or is a lot of the current conversation about the future of film distribution very similar to the discussions folks had in the early 90s about the future of the Web?

I have a book about the "future of art" on my shelf, printed just as the World Wide Web came along. Its predictions are completely wrong. I remember all the excitement about media moving to CD-R. That's faded away, though you could certainly do that today easily -- but no one wants to. And I remember many people who were very adamant that they would never read on a computer screen or buy online. Others said they'd never visit a page with advertising.

I streamed a live video conference in 1997, put streaming video online not that long after that, and have made a lot of work for the Web -- so I'm not surprised by the changes that have happened.

What I don't get, the part that is surprising to me, is how flat-footed people in the film production world have been caught by the changes. I think it's being explained in the wrong terms: it's not that you can't make a film, and it's not that you can't distribute a film. Those things are actually easier than ever. The problem is that they no longer make financial sense. The financial system in place works fine at a certain scale, but doesn't work under the new conditions. There's pressure to make Transformers 8 or a YouTube video of your hamster.

The stuff in the middle -- the good stuff -- needs a new model.

Eggnog All Around

As of this weekend, stores were ready. Break out the Santa suits.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

He Told Them To Rush, More

Does Wes Anderson's Director of Photography really think he's a butthead, or is this a planned P.R. stunt? Either way, today's Los Angeles Times article on the retro stop-motion process behind The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a very interesting read.

Fur flies on 'Mr. Fox'
Not everyone could muster a magnanimous word for Anderson's M.O. -- especially his on-set absence. "I think he's a little sociopathic," cinematographer Oliver said. "I think he's a little O.C.D. Contact with people disturbs him. This way, he can spend an entire day locked inside an empty room with a computer. He's a bit like the Wizard of Oz. Behind the curtain."

Informed of Oliver's discontent, Anderson said: "I would say that kind of crosses the line for what's appropriate for the director of photography to say behind the director's back while he's working on the movie. So I don't even want to respond to it."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

IMDB Web Series Credits Update

A while back -- on April Fool's Day, unfortunately -- I posted about IMDB Web Series Credits. Casey McKinnon had just announced the result of her conversation with Col Needham, IMDb founder and managing director: IMDB would be creating a Web series category.

She's still waiting, and has an update....

I want my… I want my… I want my Web TV!
"How much longer do we need to wait? How much longer must we submit our web series as “TV Series” or (straight to DVD) “Video” titles? I sent Needham an email the other day asking for an update, and just sent an email through the IMDb contact page last night. If you’re a producer with the same concerns, I suggest trying to touch base with them through your own networking channels. Let’s get this pushed through!!!"
Of course, maybe IMDB has been busy. They did, after all, add Twitter.

Long Enough To Reach The Ground

What's the right length for a film? Esquire Magazine makes one argument:

The 90-Minute Movie: Because 80 Minutes Is Too Short, and 100 Is Too Long
They could have cut out the entire China subplot from The Dark Knight — easily 20 of that movie's 152 convoluted minutes — with no effect on your enjoyment or comprehension of the film. And was it me, or did the fifth hour of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button start to drag?
Also, the list of films shortlisted in the Academy Awards short documentary category was released this week: almost all of them, as usual, 39 minutes long. Many are really films made for the 52-minute television hour, but cut down to 39 to take a shot at Oscar recognition. No nomination? Put 13 minutes back in, go to cable. (There have been a few exceptions over the years, notably the 17-minute Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story (2006) by Nathaniel Kahn.)

Oscar short documentary contenders named
Thirty-seven films were submitted in the short doc category and on Friday the Academy's documentary branch released a list of the eight films that have been short-listed. Three to five of them will be nominated when the nominations are announced on Feb. 2.
Above: The Quad, on 13th Street.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Marathon Women

Many of the films from the International Documentary Challenge can now be viewed on Snagfilms. Above: Marathon Women, a 5-minute doc made by two friends of this blog for the 2007 competition. Enjoy, and remember you can "snag" the film and embed it anywhere.

34th Street Revisited

Friday evening I found myself standing in the same spot where the end of Blind Faith: A Film About Seeing was filmed.

Above: an iPhone snap from that spot.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Speaking Of Snapshots

Above: an iPhone snapshot on 91st Street earlier this evening.

The Snapshot Gap

All those U.S. presidents who had brush-clearing as a hobby, take note: there are better ways to spend your time away from starting pointless wars.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's Photographer-in-Chief?
"A wide shot of a rising moon, a macro close-up of an icy branch and flames dancing in the darkness are a small taste of the photos in a large collection of personal photography by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev the Kremlin has posted online."

Seriously Fun Photography, Session Two

Last Thursday night was the second session of Seriously Fun Photography

We reviewed what we learned Week One then thought again about the relationship between aperture and depth of field. While we start to get the idea when we say "f/2 -- shallow depth of field and f/22 -- deep depth of field" actually trying this out in with some real world shots is always a good experiment. So, to make a photo where a person is in focus but the background is out of focus, we did the following:
1. Set your zoom lens toward telephoto -- 50mm or longer -- or use a telephoto lens. 90mm would be an excellent choice.

2. Set your aperature toward f/2 -- on most basic zoom lenses, you might only be able to go to f/3.5 or f/4 or f/5.6, but that's okay. If you can get closer to f/2, that will work even better.

3. Position yourself, your subject, and the background. Generally, you should be close to your subject and the background should be far away to achieve this result.
We experimented, and soon everyone was able to produce a photo with the subject in focus and the background somewhat out of focus. This is a great way to emphasize the main subject of the photograph.

We then went on to begin the long and complicated process of thinking about compositional strategies. For example, we introduced the "rule of thirds" -- which I have posts on here and here and here.

We then looked at how to create a relationship in a photo -- between a subject and the negative space around them, between two or three people, and in various other senses.

Nearer the end of class, we looked at ways to think about the space we are photographing in and how this can change / work with our compositional idea.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Documentaries In The News

With all the talk of documentary distribution, I guess one tried-and-true plan hasn't been discussed enough. That's right: suing the heck out of somebody.

Chris Rock sued over Good Hair film
Kimbell said she screened the film for Rock back in 2007 on the set of Everyone Hates Chris. Like Good Hair, My Nappy Roots traces the business and cultural history of black hair care and interviews celebrities about their hair stories. It has been shown at colleges and film festivals since its completion in 2006.

Color On The Street

Thursday night I teach my photo class at Hunter Extension. I've asked the students to tune in to color during the week, so I've tried to as well. Here's an iPhone snapshot from this morning, probably taken at 1st Avenue and 89th Street.

Parallel Eye-Jabbing Action

Today I taught my editing class, emphasizing smart and fast technique. When the students came in, each computer was ready to edit -- but the mouse was hanging off the desk, useless.

"Don't touch it," I told them. "The mouse is for weak-minded people. Today we edit like adults."

Which was true, and by the end of the class even the most hesitant students were able to make subclips and perform insert and overwrite edits with keys-only technique. It was very .... grown up.

Except for one thing: we were editing clips from a Three Stooges movie.

Call It "Barking Mad"

In these difficult economic times, newspapers like to give their readers a glimpse at alternative, wacky careers. You know, like photography.

How hard is it to photograph a wedding?
"The memorable shots from Marc and Sylvia Day's wedding are unusual, to say the least. Decapitated guests, a ceremony hardly visible through the gloom, and random close-ups of... not the bouquet, or a snatched kiss, but of carriage wheels."
The noisy art of pooch photography
"When the gadgets don’t work, Schwartz mimicks animals, woofing, mooing, clucking, sometimes resorting to bogus sneezing and the occasional raspberry; whatever it takes to garner cooperation from his subjects, who tend to be preoccupied by their surroundings."
I like the idea of a situation comedy about a pet photographer forced in hard times to shoot weddings -- keeping the tactic of making animal noises, of course -- or maybe something on the world's worst wedding photographer. More likely: a reality show where pet photographers and wedding photographers switch jobs for the day.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Photography In The News

Brian Duffy, for most people who follow photography, is not the first name to come to mind. Say "David Bailey" and a particular place and time and attitude will come to mind. But Duffy?

He was right there, though, part of the "Terrible Trio" with Bailey and Terence Donovan. Swinging London. Picture David Hemmings in Blow Up. So why isn't he remembered?

For one: he quit photography. Also: he burnt quite a bit of his work.

Why would you burn your life's work?
"One morning I came into work, my assistant said we haven't got any toilet paper. I was employing four staff, was managing director, head of this organisation and my decision was on toilet paper. At that moment I cracked. Later that day I burned something, then I went into burning mode. I got reported and the council came round. "They were in a big bin. I was making a lot of smoke. Negatives don't burn easily. They make a hell of a lot of smoke."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Happy Holidays

It's October. Duane Reade is ready.

Documentary Digital Distribution Dollars Delineated

Scott Kirsner has an article and followup on the current state of independent film distribution through online venues -- and actually provides some hard numbers to consider.

The numbers:
One of the most popular documentaries on iTunes brought in over $100,000 from downloads; Apple gives a 70/30 revenue split. Typical results are more like $1,000 per title over a year, however.

Netflix pays a flat annual fee; one source claims the one-year rate ranges from $1,000 to $10,000 for the "Watch Instantly" streaming service.

Hulu is bringing in 6 million unique visitors each month, but mostly for the mainstream material, not the indy material.

SnagFilms appears small next to Hulu, but its distribution model (you "snag" the film and put it on your own site) means it's probably larger than initial reports; it also feeds some documentaries to Hulu.

The most significant point, I think, is just hinted at in the article: indie films, especially documentaries, now need a smartly timed release cycle. Get the film into festivals, get the media talking about it, then find a way to sell viewings in a cycled release: maybe $9.99 early, then at lower rates as the cycle cools. Maybe the long tail is DVD sales, maybe it's pennies per click via advertisements inserted into "free" viewings. Theatrical release or a cable purchase can happen in the middle, but this hasn't been a great year for that, really.

Indies still looking for Internet equation
'One thing the Internet has clearly changed, observes distribution consultant Adam Chapnick, is access to an audience. "But having easy access to the global audience doesn't get anyone to see your movie," he says. A solid marketing strategy, whether traditional or digital, is still essential.'
An Update on the State of Indie Film Online
'Rick Allen, CEO of doc-streaming network Snagfilms, takes issue with the traffic figures I cited in the story, supplied by Compete says the Snagfilms site gets about 100,000 unique visitors a month, compared to about six million for Hulu. Allen accurately points out that some of Hulu's most popular full-length films actually come from Snag (like 'The Future of Food' and 'Super-Size Me.') And he argues that a lot of Snagfilms content is viewed on other sites, describing Snag as "a massively sub-distributed network."'
By the way, did I mention you can see Blind Faith: A Film About Seeing on SnagFilms? For "free" -- so watch it over and over.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pointing And Laughing At "Persistence Of Vision"

Look, here's the deal: the concept of "persistence of vision" was discredited decades ago. People who write about it and tell me it's a very important concept are dumb. It's not even a coherent idea, which tells me these "writers" are just taking the ideas handed down to them from other people and pretending to understand them -- and then they are "teaching" those ideas as if they were true. Makes one wonder what else they are teaching.

So, in the interest of public service I'm going to start calling people out on it. I'm going to start pointing and laughing at people who write about "persistence of vision" as if it were still a valid idea.

Just so you understand how long this has been discredited as an idea:


That paper was published in the Journal of Film and Video in 1993, and it complains that a previous paper -- published in 1978 -- hasn't put a dent in the constant renewal of this discredited notion. They point out it really has been proved wrong SINCE 1912, yet keeps returning.

So, who's "teaching" about the importance of "persistence of vision" today?

Understanding Video: A Video Primer for Photographers
by The Luminous Landscape.
"Because of something called the "persistence of vision" (the human eye hangs onto what it sees for a small while) these two fields merge in our brains. Incidentally, it's this persistence of vision that allows us to see a 24 frame per second movie as continuous motion rather than a series of flickering still images."
That's simply not true. Stop it, please. Ask yourself: why do I think this is true? Has anyone ever shown me that it's true? Or have I just heard it or read it somewhere -- and believed it? If you can't verify it, why are you teaching it? What do you mean by images "merging" in our brain? How do you know that? What evidence do you have for it? If there's none, please stop publishing it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Doc On A Stick

One swallow does not make a summer, but two documentaries on USB flash drives? I think that marks a trend.

Mann releases mushroom doc on USB stick
Canadian director Ron Mann is testing a new method of movie distribution, releasing his documentary Know Your Mushrooms on a customized USB stick. The Toronto-based filmmaker was in the U.S. promoting his new doc — which follows mushroom-hunting gurus and explores mushroom culture — when he discovered a company that creates these flash drives in different shapes, including that of a mushroom.
Limited Editions and Blu-ray Disc!
We’re pleased to announce two limited-edition versions of Objectified designed by our friends over at Build, and the Blu-ray disc edition of the film. Available for pre-order now! USB Limited Edition: Fixed media? Meh. We’ve put a digital copy of the DVD on a tiny, custom-printed 16gb USB drive. Copy the file to your hard drive, watch the movie, and then use the nice little USB stick for all the things you normally use a USB stick.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Update on Polanski Doc

On my other blog, there's a little more on the revelations about that documentary on Polanski. Less Hypothetically

Less Hypothetically

indieWIRE has more on an incident that will surely appear in future textbooks on documentary ethics: what happens when the subject of your film says they lied?

“Desired” Director Zenovich Responds To Polanski Prosecutor’s “Lies”
Zenovich said that the day she filmed Mr. Wells at the Malibu Courthouse, he gave her a one-hour interview. “He signed a release like all my other interviewees, giving me permission to use his interview in the documentary worldwide,” she said. “At no time did I tell him that the film would not air in the United States.”

She went on to say she is “astonished” that Wells has changed his story. “Mr. Wells was always friendly and open with me,” she said. “At no point in the four years since our interview has he ever raised any issues about its content. In fact, in a July 2008 story in The New York Times, Mr. Wells corroborated the account of events that he gave in my film… It is a sad day for documentary filmmakers when something like this happens.”