Final Shoot Update

IMG_4722 We are done with principal photography for the Sounds of the Season 2014 project! We wrapped up the last two scenes early Wednesday morning.

One of the coolest locations we shot at was an Olive Grove, in East Texas. Who knew such a place existed.

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The whole experience has been great. It’s funny though, two of my favorite days are the first day of shooting and the last day of shooting. Lots of work and late nights went into the production, with more work to come in post. I can’t wait to see everything come together for Sounds of the Season 2014 at Mobberly Baptist Church.

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IMG_4695 Sometimes the haze got a little thick, but it sure added a nice effect to the footage.

Judas prepares to betray Jesus.
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Kerosene soaked torches have a longer lasting flame. Always be careful when using fire!
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We had some great extras for the teaching scenes.
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A retaining wall near a retail center provided a backdrop. Shooting on a budget, you use what is available. Be creative.
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A morning campfire.
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The last shot.
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How to Build a Tomb Set

The project we have been working on for Christmas has included quite a bit of set construction. This past week week we needed to build the open tomb for a scene with the resurrected Christ. I got to learn how to do it.

First, you need a flat with a door opening. We used old set piece from a previous Easter production.

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Then we braced it upright near the side of a hill. We started adding wire mesh to build a framework into the hillside. We made the opening smaller, to make it more historically accurate.

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We started applying the texture, and realized that the mesh should be covered with some paper.

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We used a texture that comes in two propane-sized tanks, under pressure. The contents of the two tanks mix in the nozzle to create a foaming, slightly-expanding substance that is very sticky.

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When it’s done, allow the texture to dry. Then apply spray paint. The result looks surprisingly good on camera.

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Here’s the back. (Note the graffiti) Hard to believe that plywood, mesh, paper and some spray texture could work so well.

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One word of caution, if you are in a high wind situation, make sure to anchor your bracing. The day after the shoot we found this:

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We were done shooting, so this wasn’t an issue, but it could have been very bad if we had pushed a scene to another day. With any outdoor set, weather is a factor. There wasn’t much chance of this lasting outside until Easter, anyway.

We have one more shoot, very early tomorrow. Then we are done with the capture phase of this project. Watch for another post with pics from the last shoots. Next… edit, ADR, and everything post!

Shoot Update

We’re just a few scenes shy of being done with principle photography for our major Christmas project. In the first post about this project I showed bit of the farm building we were using. I wanted to share a few more shots. You can see some of the sets we built.

This was one of my favorite sets, Joseph’s workshop. When lit correctly, it really works.
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And exterior street set.
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One of or actors prepares for his scene.
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Even disciples like foosball.
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Working on lighting for a scene.
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Hard to believe it in this image, but this collection of PVC pipe, wire and paper becomes a great looking cave.
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Shooting by candlelight.
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This was the final set we built in the “barn”. Always amazed how plywood flats covered in painted foam can look so good as a slightly out of focus background.
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I don’t want to give too much away in the photos, but this one was too good to pass up.
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We’ve wrapped up the shoot out at this location, and the rest will be outdoors.

To see the finished product, don’t miss the Sounds of the Season 2014 at Mobberly Baptist Church.

Buying a House (Updated)

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 12.38.02 PM(See Update at the end) I have never had so much trouble finding a home than we have had here in Longview.

We have a great agent, but there just aren’t a lot of 4 bedroom homes in our price range. They do exist but you have to weed through the listings to find them. We looked together a couple of days, but then my wife had to go back to Florida. So I’ve kept looking. If I had money, I would build a lot of homes with 4 bedrooms in this price range. You could make a killing here.

At one point we had a contract on a large home near the church. But, the inspection revealed some major issues. Like, the septic system was about to overflow into the yard. The electrical system had fire issues and major grounding issues. The rafters on an addition were not supported properly. So, we pulled out of the contract.

Which put us back on the search. Today, I was in the process of signing an offer on another house that was dry similar to the one we had in Florida. But it was a little more than I wanted to spend. Still, in order to get the house we needed, I was willing to try.

If this offer wasn’t accepted, we were going to move into an apartment complex I found that has 3 month leases, and look again after Christmas. We are right at the limit of being able to close on a purchase before Thanksgiving.

As I’m signing I get a call about a new house on the market today. It’s right in our price range and it has been completely updated. It’s in a good location. So I didn’t sign the offer, and I’m seeing the house tomorrow. If we like it (My wife sees them via FaceTime) we will make an offer.

Wouldn’t it be just a God thing if we found a better option just before we made an offer on something that would stretch us? If it doesn’t work out, we can decide whether we want to offer on the higher priced one, or rent for a little while.

Update: Well, we went, we saw, and tried to buy that house. It was not to be, however. We cold not come to an agreement. Another home we had been interested in came on the market, and I went to see it: Too small, wrong rooms. One we had not been able to see at all finally gave us an appointment, and i went to see it.

While I was in my car waiting to go in, I scanned the Realtor.com app for any new listings. Low and behold I happened to see one, located less than a mile from where I was waiting. So I drove over. Turns out it was a house we had seen back when we first visited town. Back then it was priced much higher. Since the the house was purchased by a RELO company, and they had dropped the price considerably.

So we offered, and they countered and we now have a contract on a great 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath within a few minutes of the church.

Shooting, Shooting, Shooting!

IMG_4381One of the things that I really like about my new job is that this church is very ambitious when it comes to shooting video. Yes, we shoot the normal interview, ministry highlight kinds of projects, but we also stretch and shoot more complicated films. I say films because that’s exactly what the are. Before I got here they had shot several series of “sermon bumpers” that were dramatic, narrative. One was a crucifixion focused series, the other used comedy to break the ice on a financial series.

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This past week we kicked off a major project for Christmas. We spent the weekend on a ranch in West Texas, and then came back to Longview, built sets in a barn and started shooting. The schedule is very ambitious. 35 scenes, on multiple locations. To give you an idea of the scope of the project. My feature length script has 57 scenes with fewer locations.

Most of the preproduction was done before I got here, so I am just jumping in where I can.

The very first scene we shot was at night, in a field. We created the “moon” by putting 3 lights in a truck bed and powering them off a generator.

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We had plenty of light for the Blackmagic 4K camera we were shooting with.

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IMG_4398We were using the DJ Ronin gimbal with Easyrig backpack. With all the remote control gear, and camera and batteries and screens, it’s pretty heavy. The Easyrig helps take some of that weight off the arms. We use a Teradek device to stream video to people who are controlling the gimbal pan and tilt, and even a remote focus puller. So it takes 3 people to fully operate the gimbal. It didn’t always work perfectly, but we got what we needed. (For those interested, that’s a ’46 Plymouth in the background.)

IMG_4407 We also used more common gear, like sliders and tripods. The challenge for these shoots was getting all of the people and gear out into the field. Literally, the field. Some places were only accessible via ATV. For one shoot I was holding the gimbal on a stand in the back of a “Mule” ATV, and we were going out to the location. I got so covered in dust. Luckily, one of the team had remembered to cover the camera before we starTed driving. My sunglasses had a thick layer of dust on them when we finally stopped. West Texas dirt.

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Overall, we got some spectacular shots out on the ranch. I’m eager to see them in the finished product.

IMG_4427Once we got back into town, we didn’t slow down. Sunday afternoon we hauled 24 4’x8′ flats out to an air conditioned barn in nearby Gladewater, TX. Then we got to building a set in our makeshift studio. Of course, this barn isn’t really a barn. It’s like a small camp. Bathrooms, kitchenette, it has all the comforts of a home. Plus enough space to build and light the sets for many of our scenes. (See panoramic image below.)

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I’d never been a part of building a set like this. Most of my experience has been on location, so this was educational. Foam, heat guns, hot knives, putty, filler, paint, and texture. I still have remnants on my fingers. But we cranked out the last of the set construction and taped the first couple of scenes, with more to follow the next few nights. Then we tear this down and build a new set in the same space. Finally, we will do a few more shots outside, on location again, to round out the project.

It’s going to be very nice when we are done.

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