MY BOOK

SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil

SHOWCASING ‘SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA’—The Video

Here's the video from my recent reading in Berkeley

Roving Camera Album: Click Photo

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Canon T4i DSLR camera
Books / Writing | Travel

Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore

Bronze Certificate, Funny Travel Category, 9th Annual Solas Awards for Travel Writing from Travelers’ Tales, March 2015

It’s not easy being a mileage whore. Sometimes you have to do things that don’t seem to make sense.

United Airlines operates a major hub in San Francisco, and I’ve whored for their miles for years now. On my trip to Brazil recently, because I wanted the mileage, I had chosen a longer United itinerary through Newark going and Washington coming.

But when things got complicated on the return, I had to decide if the miles were worth it.

We wrapped our week-long video shoot in São Paulo on a Friday night—amid much hugging and thanking with the cast . . . CONTINUE READING: Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore

Books / Writing | Production | Travel

New Award & Reviews for SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil

My book SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA tells true stories from my long career as a director of photography, working on film and digital cinema shoots across the U.S. and all around the world—Japan, India, China, Uganda, the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Singapore, England, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil.

The book has recently been honored as a Commended Winner in Non-Fiction in the 2014 Self-Publishing Review Awards. One of the three highest non-fiction awards!

RECENT REVIEWS

Production

Two Worthy Film Projects Need Your Donations

I have just pledged money to two worthy film projects by Eliciana Nascimento and Eli Adler, and I urge my readers to do the same.

Eliciana, an MFA student at San Francisco State, took (and aced!) my Advanced Cinematography class this spring. She and husband Ben Watkins plan to film her thesis project, The Summer of Gods, in her native Brazil, and are trying to raise $30,000 to shoot and complete the film this year. The Summer of Gods is a short film about a young girl named Lilli who visits her grandmother in rural Brazil. Near her village, she encounters Orishas (African gods) who challenge her with a mission. . . . CONTINUE READING: Two Worthy Film Projects Need Your Donations

Production | Tech | VIdeos

Traffic Study—Timelapse with GoPro & 5D

The amazing little GoPro HDHero cameras can record full 1080p HD video, as well as timelapse and single shots. They’re tiny and easy to rig anywhere, as in the setup below where we used them on a corporate shoot, mounting six on laptops for a video chat, instead of the built-in iSight cameras.

But camera movement is where the GoPros shine. The HDHero comes with helmet mount, auto mount, body mount, or wrist mount, with both waterproof and non-waterproof housings. I recently bought the HDHero camera, helmet rigging, suction cup for autos, tiny clip-on LCD monitor, extra batteries and clip-on battery pack. In Timelapse mode on the GoPros, you can only control the interval between shots (2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds). Everything else is automatic—shutter, aperture, video gains, etc. . . . CONTINUE READING: Traffic Study—Timelapse with GoPro & 5D

Photos | Travel

Streets of São Paulo

Photos from my Brazil trip, August 2011 . . . CONTINUE READING: Streets of São Paulo

Production | Travel

Brazil: Smooth as Silk

Less than an hour after my last post (Brazil: Some Days the Bear Eats You), my friend The Dave Mitchell responded on my Facebook page: “Nice, Bill. Easy days are completely forgettable.” Isn’t that the truth?

“But,” added The Dave, a freelance gaffer/key grip, “I’m available if you’ve got any coming up.” If only!

After our tough time at the tower, the next couple of days shooting in Brazil were smooth as silk. Just as The Dave said, I can remember little about those shoots except for what we did and where we did it. I always find it amazing that I can easily spin out 1500-2000 words describing a bad day, but smooth shoots leave me with less material. That’s why OO stories (Overcoming Obstacles) are so popular in movies. It’s hard to find a narrative arc in a yarn about happy professionals cheerfully moving apace from setup to lovely setup. . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Smooth as Silk

Production | Travel

Brazil: Visiting the Rental House

On my first day in Brazil, I visited the rental house with Mush and Heeka.

I brought my Canon 5D, a slew of lenses and two GoPro cameras with me from the States, but we’ve arranged to rent a second 5D camera body, two tripods, a small monitor, a wide angle lens, and some accessories from Universo Imagens here in São Paulo.

Visiting the rental house is a time-honored ritual on international shoots. The most interesting rental house experience I can recall was in India several years ago. In a small warehouse crammed with a variety of battered and somewhat obsolete lighting instruments, a dutiful staff brought out each light we were renting, then plugged in and turned on . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Visiting the Rental House

Production | Travel

Back to Brazil

On my first trip to Brazil in 1993, I was shooting for a Japanese high-tech company. We arrived in São Paulo and went out to scout at our client’s manufacturing facility nearby.

We met with the general manager of the company, a Brazilian who was impressed by this visit from corporate headquarters.

“What can I do for you?” he asked our clients from Tokyo. “Where would you like to film?”

“We are here to film the manufacture of our cellular phones,” they responded.

A frown crossed the general manager’s face. “Cellular phones?” he asked, then consulted in Portuguese with several of his colleagues.

“We have not made cellular phones here for three or four years now.”

Somehow, the geniuses . . . CONTINUE READING: Back to Brazil

APPs | Production

Production APPtitude: Artemis Director’s Viewfinder

This is the 2nd in a series of posts about useful iPhone apps for film and video production.

In the beginning, directors and photographers framed their shots with two hands, spreading thumbs and forefingers at right angles, then raising them together to define a rectangle.

Simple and cheap. Analog and infinitely adjustable. But inaccurate for defining aspect ratios, impossible to calibrate to particular focal lengths, and, well, a bit pretentious to watch.

So years ago, I bought my first director’s viewfinder, made by Birns and Sawyer, a metal cylinder with focal length scales for 16mm and 35mm on the sides. Twist the cylinder: the magnification increased or decreased, and the view appeared to zoom in or out, showing an . . . CONTINUE READING: Production APPtitude: Artemis Director’s Viewfinder

APPs | Production | Tech

Production APPtitude: Sun Seeker

This is the first in a series of posts about useful iPhone apps for film and video production.

In the past few months, during my shoots overseas, I have been confronted by producers, crew members, drivers, waiters, and ordinary folks on the street, using iPhones for texting, tweeting, gaming, emailing, translating, navigating, Facebooking, computing currencies, listening to music, showing photos, shooting video, sometimes even talking on the phone … and exploring new apps created to help people like us, who work in film and video production.

Apple products have long been popular with folks in the visual media. In the US, I am used to seeing Macs and iPhones on production crews; sometimes nearly everyone has one! But recently, . . . CONTINUE READING: Production APPtitude: Sun Seeker

Production | Travel | VIdeos

Brazil: My First iPhone Video

Shot on an iPhone 4 in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, and edited in iMovie. . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: My First iPhone Video

Production | Travel

Eerie Times at USP

In Brazil, our story was based in Ribeirão Preto, (pronounced something like “HEE-bay-roan PRAY-toe,” though all Brazilians laughed at our attempts to say it) a city of a half million, three or four hours inland from São Paulo. Our final shoot was at the local campus of the Universidade de São Paulo. In search of an interview background that was neither a glass hotel nor a slum, our local production assistant Erica took us to the university.

The Ribeirão Preto campus of “OOS-pee,” as USP is known, is spread out, tree-covered, and rural. Driving through campus, Randy chose a spot in front of a blue house with some mottled light coming through the trees in the background, then . . . CONTINUE READING: Eerie Times at USP

Production | Travel

Continental Drift

I’m hunkering down at home right now after a three-week trip through Europe and South America to shoot a global corporate medical film. Our route took four of us – and 13 cases of video and audio gear – drifting through the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Brazil. Plus one day shooting here in the San Francisco Bay Area last Monday.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we go to China to finish shooting the project. It will be the fourth continent on this shoot for DIT Jim Rolin and me. Director David Rathod and producer Anne Sandkuhler joined us for the travel legs in Europe. After shooting at three locations in the US, director Randy Field and producer Lori Wright then joined Jim . . . CONTINUE READING: Continental Drift