Saturday, March 31, 2012

flow chart of my day

lunch at the institute
homework: write a displacement shader
   homework (see line 3) + prairie home companion
hunger games
proofread an english paper

Friday, March 30, 2012

i was meant for the stage

when you're starting out at something, it's easy to be determined and believing. to stand at the gate and know that, if you work hard enough, you can make it. you that there will be challenges but because you know that, you also know that you won't give up and that that's the secret to making it. the challenge is exciting and you're ready to fight and take the punches and win the crown at the end.

when i was 22, i wanted to be a cinematographer. feature films would be awesome, but i'd be ok with shooting commercials, especially car commercials, since they looked amazing. as i neared graduation, things didn't go as i'd planned. the path to being a big director of photography was more vague than i was prepared for, and even people who seemed successful to me warned me of the steep and rocky nature of the path.
i had planned for challenges, but these weren't the challenges i'd planned for.

a few years later, i had found a new path: digital cinematography with pixar as my goal. still getting to compose shots and work with the details of lenses and framing, making some of the best movies ever made, all at a studio where i'd have a job every morning and could even go home in the evenings sometimes; it seemed to have everything i dared hope for in a job. plus, they like people with film degrees. i never thought i'd heard that.

but what if i don't get hired at pixar?
what if it's more demanding and intense than i would like? what if, even though i think i want to work there, i actually wouldn't feel comfortable there?
would i be happier at another job but i wouldn't know it because i'd want to be a part of pixar?
if i didn't get on there, would i be just as happy at disney or dreamworks?
what if i don't make it at any of those big studios and end up at some job that i never would have picked? will i love such that i'd be ok with not being at a big amazing studio?

i don't know.
i seem to always choose interest in industries that are rather narrow. with what i'm doing, there are only so many places to work and i manage to aim so high that i wonder if i'm fighting against people who seem much more talented and qualified that i am.
i briefly flirted with the idea of business school. i studied for the gmat and  even read part of a book about business efficiency. if i had a degree in marketing, there would be a lot more options for me out there.*

but that's not me.
and i'm doing what is me.
i don't know what's ahead down the pathway. somedays i wonder if that bridge wasn't supposed to collapse like it did, or that i missed a turn-off somewhere, but i never saw one.
so i'm going forward, doing the best that i know how.
and trusting that it'll work out. that the smart move wasn't to turn back a few miles ago.

(*editor's note: to the m.b.a.s and their families who may be reading, we acknowledge that having such a degree does not guarantee a job or a smooth path ahead. we raise an apple beer to all of your successes and accomplishments. you cool like a mule.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

paintin' in the rain

i got caught in arguably the heaviest downpour i've seen in texas tonight as i was helping my friend do some light paintings.
soaked in it twice, actually: walking there and back.

but i won the poster at tonight's "supercult" showing of cool as ice, so i'm counting this as a win and going to bed.

totally soaked

(getting home and into some warm dry clothes and a hot dinner helped sway that decision)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


on my phone i've started keeping notes of things i want to write about. thoughts, observations, stories, lessons, experiences, commentaries, opinions and whimsies. usually i'll just write the title (which usually comes as early as the idea itself) and a few lines of my idea and that's enough for me to go on when i sit down to write.

as i turn my head to notice that another month is fast away passing, i took a moment to go through and count how many unpublished ideas i've jotted down.

51. i have fifty-one different notes about things that i want to write about. some of them have lost their potency to one degree or another (they date back to 2011) and others are still fresh and interesting to me. and i was able to remember what each one was about, and often where i was and what i was thinking when i wrote it down.

i like writing. i love my little blog. i try to get at least ten posts a month and i smile when i see that i've been prolific enough some months to get 20+ posts. most days and weeks, though, life moves faster than my fingers on the keyboard can.

it's a little frustrating, because even if i wrote them all out today and let sheep go to heaven run on autopilot until the end of may, i'd likely come up with other things to write about that couple of months. so, many of them will likely never see their realization. 
i'll just think of it as a kind of sorting process, that time will let the duds fade and the gems will still shine with interest.

this isn't even one of the fifty-one.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

while you were sleeping

as seems to happen roughly every two weeks this semester, i was at school all night last night. didn't leave at all. i went to the lab after work and didn't leave until it was time to go back to work this afternoon.
that being said, it wasn't too bad. i kept in good spirits (even if i got quieter as the night wore on), the computer generally cooperated in producing the results i was going for, and i had a finished piece around 6 a.m., giving me some time to experiment with some other ideas (they didn't work out.)

i've felt like i've been lagging behind in this class, and while i'm upset with myself for once again rushing to finish it at the last minute, i'm happy with today assignment. this week's work revolved around reflections, the most difficult of which was to produce caustics, the concentrated areas of light when it bounces of a curved and shiny surface. 

despite feeling very vulnerable in showing a work that isn't at a point that i would proudly put it on a demo reel, i figure i'll share it here and resist any urge to apologize for its shortcomings. (you can check out my sweet, sweet caustics on the elephant, however.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

in the company of jeff

sometimes, i wish i could just to go to the cinemark and pick a movie and enjoy it.
that i wouldn't sit there and think about the story and the characters and what the movie was saying and what i got from it.
that i could just go there and be happy with the pretty movie stars and the explosions and the robots and the aliens.

that i didn't have to spend 11 months of the year waiting for "oscar season" for a movie that really challenges me and is worth my time. that i didn't have to wait years in between movies like "wall-e" and "the tree of life", movies that really make me stop and think and change how i see life.
that i thought critically acclaimed movies were boring and too artsy, that i wasn't looking for anything more than just an escape for a few hours.

but that's not me.
and while it's frustrating and discouraging, i like this about me.
i love the excitement of sitting down and, after a long drought, finding something fresh and new. of characters and scenes and worlds and ideas that are things i'd never thought before, or that show me my world in a new light.
that prove that all of the good stories have NOT yet been told, that remind me that great movies can still be made.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

an introduction to ingmar bergman

the former 786 and i have been talking movies longer than this blog has been around. and we still do. our tastes differ but there's enough overlap for us to share things with one another. occasionally in his netflix-empowered cinematic journey, he'll ask me for an introduction to a particularly difficult movie, something that would give an appropriate context for him to better appreciate the movie. you know, like we'd get at byu.

tonight, he experienced the seventh seal for the first time.

since i don't have time to post anything else tonight, i'll share it here:
(looking at it now, i honestly had no idea i wrote this much. i genuinely thought i'd be copy/pasting a brief paragraph)

first off, the seventh seal is, in my opinion, behind only "2001" as the greatest movie of all time. (i follow that with kurosawa's "seven samurai", and, at the moment, i forget how i usually round out my objective top five...)

 the 1950s were when film had enough of a history that it could finally begin to be studied as an art form and not just a form of popular entertainment. it was also when film makers began reaching outside of the normal boundaries and trying new possibilities: france's "400 blows", japan's "rashomon", and sweden's "the seventh seal" all proclaimed that a revitalization (if not a rebirth) of art film was happening around the world.

throughout his career, bergman dealt with three major issues (or, perhaps he might refer to them as "demons"): death (see also "wild strawberries" from the same year), God (most notably his "silence" trilogy of the 1960s) and sex ("cries and whispers" and "scenes from a marriage" from the 1970s). here, he confronts death and the terrifying unknown of what comes after as literally as possible: not only is death personified directly (as opposed to the figurative personification by anton chigurh in "no country for old men"), but he is also engaged in a battle with the protagonist knight from the very beginning.

the image of the knight playing chess (played by max von sydow, only 27 at the time yet looking almost as old then as he did at the oscars last month) is arguably the most iconic image in any international film. even people who have no idea of its swedish origin recognize the concept. and yet its meaning shows so much of bergman's apprehensions with life: death comes so quickly and without any escape that the notion to be able to have any hope of another chance is wonderful. but the knight isn't in a frenzied fear over dying; rather, he, like bergman, has been told about God his whole life (ingmar's father was a notoriously strict lutheran minister, a theme which occurs almost as often as subtitles do in his films) and yet wanted some answers for himself. again and again, the knight asks, wanting to know what is out there and, if there is anything, why won't it speak. the director's own opinion of the church is shown clearly when the knight has a conversation with who he thinks is the local priest, but who turns out to be his strategic and mortal enemy, death.

the knight and squire meet other religious devotees who, despite claiming to have embraced religion, seem just as confused or lost as they: the mourning parade of the flagellants, wailing and lashing each other and themselves in hopes of drawing to God yet no result is ever seen. further, the protagonists meet a woman who is accused of having relations with the devil. knowing that the devil would know something about God, the knight asks the woman and is once again left without an answer when he determines that she, too, is a fraud.

that's not to say that this is an entirely bleak and somber movie. like its medieval setting, the story is a classical structure, with lighthearted comedy interlaced throughout. there is squire john (played with refreshing sarcasm by another bergman regular, gunnar bjornstrand) who's jaded and laid back attitude offsets the seriousness of his knight's continual questioning. further, there is hope in humanity, portrayed by the acrobat family. the husband is a good man, but a bit of a dreamer, and so it is he who sees the blessed virgin and Child, not bergman's on-screen persona the knight. many of the adventures with the acrobat family are light, even farcical, including the other classical theatrical plot, marital infidelity and the shenanigans that surround it. squire john's assistance in the showdown between the two parties provides a scene that i often end up laughing out loud with.

this was bergman's 14th film, and he was just getting started, releasing his final film ("saraband") almost fifty years later. he made plenty of weaker films, himself conceding that he probably only made seven or eight good films over his career. he considered "winter light" to be his best, while i obviously love "fanny and alexander." yet if you only see one, this is the one you have to see. its required viewing not simply for anyone interested in bergman, but for anyone interested in film period. "the seventh seal" showed that movies could reach beyond comedy, romance, and adventure, and could be stages where the biggest questions of life could be asked and pondered. while bergman struggled with these questions his whole life (his trilogy of themes are all addressed in "fanny and alexander", which was planned to be his final film), the end of "the seventh seal" is not hopeless. rather, it sums up his personal feelings perhaps better than he himself realized: yea, Lord, i believe; help Thou mine unbelief.

roger ebert has a list of great movies that he said he wished he could see again for the first time. this would be near the top of my list. i'm excited for you.

fun fact: the silhouette of the line of dancers on the hill at the end are not the actual actors. the production had wrapped for the day, but bergman and his cinematographer saw that the light was perfect for the shot and so dressed up any remaining crew members in the actors' costumes and filmed them for one of the most iconic shots of the movie.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

the stars at night are big and bright

apparently tonight is the best night
in years to see them together
i've been reading pages upon pages of heavy critical art theory for the last several hours and needed a break away from my computer and so decided to take a walk.

it was awesome.
just being outside, walking around my neighborhood felt great.
i've determined that, on an average day at school,  i spend between 45 minutes to an hour walking, but that's always with a destination, a deadline. to just be able to walk and not really think about anything particular was refreshing and soothing. so much so that i think i might make it a habit each day when i come home from school.

naturally, i found myself looking up at the stars and found myself wondering why jupiter and that other planet were so close together. then i found myself even wondering what that other planet was. and wondering if that red one that i thought was mars actually was mars. and then i remembered the google sky map app on my phone.
soon, i found myself grinning with delight in the dark as i was able to move my phone across the sky and immediately know every constellation above me. (that "other planet" was venus, by the way. duh.)
so, it seems that it might be time for an astronomy date again.

i also saw a shooting star.
and made a wish.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

soy un perdedor

i really liked this article.

i watched lost in translation tonight.
it'd been a while.
it's still very good.

Monday, March 12, 2012

on my windowsill

  • a root beer bottle
  • fake vampire teeth
  • an orange camera filter
  • a box of animal crackers shaped like cars
  • an iphone case (i don't own an iphone)
  • a dark chocolate orange
  • red lipstick
  • a wizarding wand
  • swimming goggles
  • a wall-e lunchbox
  • four rolls of camera tape

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

my resolution

one of the unique aspects of the dark knight is that major action sequences were filmed in IMAX, which is 70mm film run sideways through a camera, as opposed to the standard 35mm. it helped create a much more impressive and immersive experience, particularly if you saw the film in an IMAX theater. the technique has since been employed on inception and mission:impossible- ghost protocol. i was lucky to see both of those in IMAX and yeah, it was pretty dang.

describing their reasoning behind this, wall pfister, asc, told american cinematographer magazine,

“It’s ironic,” muses the cinematographer, “because many filmmakers are trying out digital cameras that actually capture less resolution and information, and we’re going in the opposite direction, upping the ante by capturing images with unparalleled resolution and clarity.”

so, yeah.
why would you go for less resolution when you can go in the opposite direction?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

the videomaker

so, i make videos for my job.
i work in a very classy and cultured building and actually get to do video things.
it's awesome.

my first project last fall was to work on the department's "holiday" card, which my boss said was his least favorite part of his job and that it would be a chance for me to learn how to use adobe after effects. after effects is kind of like photoshop for video and i never learned how to use it at byu because a) i was going to be a cinematographer, not some cg vfx guy, and b) i opened it once and it really intimidated me.

so i watched some online tutorials and started working on something. this kind of backfired on me in that, as i was writing different scripts/copy for the video and going over the drafts with my bosses, they called me into their office on afternoon and said that i was a much better writer than they had expected from their grad assistant. so i think that landed more responsibilities on me.

after a lot of collaboration and revisions and searching through dozens of files of images and that guns 'n' roses confusion, we finally came up with something.

it looks kind of boring now, but in the world of higher learning institutions holiday cards, it was a pretty big hit. i came back to work in january with several email forwards of praise from people. one said that we "pretty clearly won the holiday card competition this year" or something.

i was feeling pretty cool and started to work on the next video we had (which ultimately got scrapped because, well, it just didn't work; so i'm not invincible here.) about the time that i was desperately needing a break from this dull project i was working on, i was told that the vice president wanted to "de-holiday-ize" the holiday video so that he could use it as an intro for an upcoming presentation.

still thinking of myself as the unstoppable genius grad student, i told them that we'd already made something like that. and yeah, we had, but it was, well... meh.

"this needs to be for an aggie football crowd," i was told.

and so i spent the next two days staring at my computer, not knowing what to do, frustrated and feeling like all of my brilliance cred was spent and gone. it was a few days of just running down the clock until i could leave, it seemed.

finally, i decided, heck with it, i'll do whatever i feel like and see what happens. i found some heavy metal music and pretty much cranked things to 11.

after a day or two of work, i pulled my boss in to look at it. i expected him to say "yeah... that might be a little too much."
instead, he high-fived me.

so, i had a gnarly project and was told to run with it. things got more excited around the office as everyone was getting glimpses of what i was working on and as we were tossing around ideas on how to make it better.
i was the rock star again.
i put in a long couple of days before the day of the presentation (after a preview, the vp said he just wished it was longer, so that added more images and more text to debate over) and was continually haunted by the knowledge that there were probably a dozen ways to do what i was doing quicker and more effectively, but i was just doing it the only way i knew how.

again, the vice president loved it.

with what was once a placid video with dissolve transitions, i'm pretty proud of it.

and now i'm back to learning more techniques as we're preparing for the next video.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

post-oscar post

at the request of a faithful reader, here are my thoughts on last week's 2011 oscars:

apparently the dean from "community"
is also a really awesome writer with
a great sense of humor...
  • there were no real surprises this year, except meryl streep winning. and while i really wanted viola davis (whom i didn't even recognize AT ALL in her short hair and slim dress) to get the recognition  she's earned over the years, i liked that streep was genuinely surprised that she won. and, after losing 16 (?) times in a row, i can be happy for her.
  • i was getting really worried when hugo was starting off with its wins. 
  • and i guess my biggest surprise of that night was that the tree of life didn't win "best cinematography." even the people who didn't like the movie couldn't deny it looked beautiful!
  • i was disappointed to learn that that guy was NOT actually a seasoned seat-filler. that would have been so cool.
  •  will ferrell and zach g. with the cymbals were my favorite presenters. unlike everyone else, they had me laughing. 
  • the robert downey jr. doc thing: a little clever but, meh. 
  • i liked the actors sharing their memories with their favorite movies. they chose talented actors and they talked about good, real movies (they even mentioned and brought in werner herzog! this stuff's for real!)
  •  billy crystal was fine and all (the "black-face" issue just seems like people want something to get offended about), but why not conan?? his hosting of the emmy's a few years ago was phenomenal! guests on his show were praising him for it for months afterwards. and yes, he's more of a "tv personality" than a cinematic one, but jon stewart's done it twice. 
  • crystal's "chapter 11 theater" comment was sad but funny.  
  • jean dujardin thanked douglas fairbanks: yeah, totally owed that role to him. and anytime someone in hollywood is brave enough to show that they actually know film history, i applaud them.
  •  angelina jolie: she looked unhealthily skinny, her hair looked thin and whispy, and her face looked plastic. and her leg pose for the presentation was so forced it was easily my favorite awkward moment of the night.
  • no, wait, the nick nolte red carpet interview was my favorite awkward moment.
  •  after hugo's early lead, i was getting nervous for the artist. but when it won for best director, we cheered and i felt much better about things. and yes, it won. i read someone noting that, for a while, more "daring" and unconventional movies were being crowned best picture: no country for old men, slumdog millionaire, and the hurt locker, but that the last couple of years have fallen into "safer" choices with the king's speech and, now, the artist. i'm reminded of 2005, when crash beat brokeback mountain, and people cried that hollywood was homophobic (really?) roger ebert replied that, no, it was simply because crash was the best movie. i'd say the same thing here. i've enjoyed all of those movies, and while i don't think those were necessarily THE best of their years in my opinion (i would have voted for there will be blood, wall-e, and the social network, respectively), i enjoyed all of those movies and can accept their choices. but it doesn't come down to a battle of "unconventional vs. traditional", it's simply that the artist was the best movie there (well, except for the tree of life, which was about as "unconventional" as has ever been nominated for best picture.) whether the black and white silent film is "daring" or "safe" is ultimately irrelevant: it's a great movie and just a whole lot of fun, and that's why we love the movies in the first place.
  • p.s. plus, it's got the tuxedo coat scene. ; )