Friday, December 9, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

New New New!!!!

We've been busy the last couple months.  Really busy.  The biggest change for us has been moving into our new location.

Our new address is:
811 W. Evergreen Ave. Suite 301
Chicago, IL. 60642.

In addition to this, we've taken order of our second RED EPIC camera.  Our RED EPIC-X will be shipping soon and we're excited to implement it into our existing infrastructure of digital cinema cameras.

We also were involved in the production of a short film titled "Your Milkman" directed by Zacuto's Daniel Skubal.  Our very own (and very talented) Christopher Gearhart was the Director of Photography, and the footage is looking great!

The set of "Your Milkman"

Expect updates sooner rather than later, including more info on the making of "Your Milkman", the new location, and the new RED EPIC-X!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's in a Vision?

You've heard it before; a director discussing his or her "vision" for their project.  The director's vision in many cases might as well be the word of God, sent down as the ultimate truth for a film or video production.  In many instances someone on set will have a strong idea, suggestion, or even demand for the director, and it will quickly get brushed off with the words "that's not part of my vision for this".  This is the ultimate veto on a set.

So what's all the fuss over something so elusive as somebody's idealization of the project?  What does a director "see" when they have a "vision"?  Is it something that comes to them in the night and takes over them like some kind of spell? 

As a director it took me a while to get accustomed to being the final say in any discussion or decision.  Doubt naturally seeps in when making decisions on a major production as a beginner.  But after years of working at it I started to realize that decisions need to be a perfect blend of knowing it's the right thing logically, and knowing it the right thing instinctively.  Like anything, you get better at dealing with logistical issues it with experience; you learn from your mistakes and hone in on what works best for you.  The second is more difficult.  Over time, when considering a decision you just begin to know whether something is right or not.  You can feel it in your bones.  Half the time I won't know why I made a decision until I'm in the edit room and I can see the way a decision gives the right feeling, but it's nothing I really considered on set aside from that gut instinct.  This is a skill that also takes time to refine.

So that's how decisions are made in the moment, but what's with this vision?  Is it seeing the movie play in your head?  Actually, yeah that's it exactly.  It's how the piece comes together in the director's head.  For me, I literally see a little movie in my head.  Now for an actor this could be terrifying knowing your director already has their performance in their head.  The idealization of a director's vision can be the death of a project.  Nothing will be good enough because it's just not the same.  Instead of this, I've found that the vision is the map; it's the path to make sure the project has a unified direction in narrative, theme, and style.  The vision is not the be-all end-all, and it's never static. 

The vision is the first step in inspiration, and it will shape-shift throughout the process.  If there were a technology that would allow someone to extract my vision from my head and say that's the final product, I wouldn't purchase it.  Nothing is more inspiring for me as a director than the ability to have my vision altered and challenged by the creative people and settings around me.  The process of going through production forces a director to revisit that vision and breath new life into it.  This is how good films have a life and texture of their own.  It's how they lose rigidity and gain complexity.  An actor with expressive eyes can change the way we shoot and light a scene.  The way a room takes in light can change the set dressing and the overall blocking of a scene. 

OK, so you must think this is the most convoluted explanation for what should be a simple concept.  It's important to understand that it doesn't seem this complicated because the vision itself isn't complicated.  A vision can be simply described as the way a director sees a piece, at any given moment of its creation.  Much like an artist painting a mural, we need to know how the overall piece must come together.  But at the same time, we can get caught up in the moment and let inspiration take over when we step closer and start working in details.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Our article on Reel Chicago!

Ruth Ratny of Reel Chicago recently wrote a great article about Chris Gearhart, our company's president.  It also includes some information about our company and its leadership that you may not have already known.

Read it here!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seven Reasons Advertisers Shouldn’t Worry About Video Production

If you’ve been involved with or heard horror stories of video production, you may get a slight wave of panic and nausea when considering a production. Budgets . . . pre-production . . . location scouts . . . storyboards . . . productions meetings . . . edits . . . revisions . . . transcoding . . . dubbing . . . compositing . . . audio mastering . . . color grading . . .

Feel that first tingle of a migraine in your head yet?

Fear not brave warrior of advertising. We have made a set of thoughts to remember when approaching your decision on whom to work on your next visual masterpiece:

1. We love what we do. Truth be told, we’re total geeks. There’s a good chance that we actually enjoy the things you dread about video production. We’re in this industry because it’s our passion, and we embrace the challenges that others see as headaches.

2. We’re in the business of problem-solving. For a production company, just about every step of the process after the script is written involves figuring out how to make it happen. We do this for a living and solving problems is what we do every day.

3. We know advertising. I worked in an ad agency before coming here, and I’ve worked the knowledge I’ve obtained into how we run our company. We know the difference between a business’ brand, and its branding. We study how to speak to your target audience. We are concerned about your concerns as an ad agency, and want to help you obtain your goals.

4. We love film, and are filmmakers. What does that have to do with your ad? Everything! Almost any spot’s production value will be judged on the same merits as a movie. “Filmic” is almost universally synonymous with high-quality production. Equally important is the way film uses visual language to communicate its message. Commercials these days are like short-form movies, and the good ones share the same qualities as a good film.

5. We want you to be happy.  Let’s face it, if you’re happy with working with us and our work, you’ll want to work with us again. It’s good business. It’s also a core value of Lakeview Productions that maintaining good relationships is one of the most important parts of what we do.

6. We only aim for the highest quality. We are constantly trying to better ourselves creatively and technically in our art. We are very prideful of our work and strive for the same high level of quality in all of projects, no matter the budget.

7. We’re flexible. Our clients vary and logically, so do our projects. We love to explore different styles and genres, and can work on a broad range of budgets. We approach each project with fresh eyes and always are ready to adjust to its needs. Your crew, equipment package, creative approach, and budget will be specific for your project and your needs.

We could make this list much longer, but I think you get the picture. So take a deep breath, relax, and remember we’re here to help. We can make your next production not only bearable, but also fun!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Technical Specs of the EPIC: File Sizes

A few clients have asked what filming on the EPIC will look like on their hard drive—i.e., how big are the files? In the interest of providing an objective answer we ran some quick and dirty tests this morning. Not everyone will care about this, but some are curious.

Executive Summary: If you don't care to read the details, here's the scoop. EPIC footage is larger than that of the RED One, but not a whole lot. Based on our tests, EPIC footage at 5K is about twice as large as shooting with the RED One. BUT, you can dial down the bitrate and get files even smaller than the "old" 4K footage. Bottom line: the Epic is very flexible.

The Details
(For the geekier amongst us):
Keep in mind Redcode is a variable bitrate codec. Our tests were not particularly good for pushing the codec, but we wanted to have each test be somewhat repeatable. Your results may vary from these numbers, but they will give you a sense of what is involved with shooting EPIC.

To begin with a frame of reference, a 4k file from the RED One (non-MX) at 16:9, 23.98 timeline, 24 fps, is as follows:

Redcode 28 = 1.88 GB/min*
Redcode 36 = 1.57 GB/min*

(* Our other cameras were out this weekend, so we used iSee4K space calculator to generate these numbers. We hope to get the other cameras tested to see how the MX’s compare.)

We filmed two scenes with the EPIC. The first was a static exterior shot, and the second was of a focus chart. No audio was recorded.

Scene One: Each test clip was shot for 5 seconds at 5k, 16:9, 23.98 timeline, 24fps, no HDR:

18:1 = 115 MB = 1.38 GB/Minute
15:1 = 142 MB = 1.70 GB/Minute
10:1 = 214 MB = 2.57 GB/Minute
8:1 = 254 MB = 3.05 GB/Minute (Default setting)
5:1 = 410 MB = 4.92 GB/Minute
3:1 = 720 MB = 8.64 GB/Minute

Scene Two: To vary things a bit, we used a focus chart, panning back and forth for one minute (not the best way to push the variable bit rate, but at least it was somewhat repeatable).

18:1 = 1.48 GB/Minute
15:1 = 1.77 GB/Minute
10:1 = 2.65 GB/Minute
8:1 = 3.34 GB/Minute (Default setting)
5:1 = 5.26 GB/Minute
3:1 = 8.70 GB/Minute

Very much in line with what the static exterior shot normalized to one minute produced.

As you can see, the default setting of the EPIC (8:1) is about twice that of the RED One at 4K. We might try running actual tests using the MX cameras at 4.5K, with the additional Redcode 42 setting available. Presumably HDR would at most double again the file sizes, since it shoots a second frame under for the highlights.

So, if file size is a concern for you, shooting the EPIC at around 12:1 or 15:1 should give you what you're used to with the RED One at 4k. If you've shot with the MX, I would guess that 10:1 or so will give you what you're used to. The default of 8:1 is probably not a bad compromise as a default setting. Hopefully we can update this comparison shoot at a later date.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Epic News

We're excited to announce that RED DIGITAL CINEMA has selected us for their RED EPIC-M program, and we will be receiving our RED EPIC-M camera today!

EPIC-M is a hand-machined model of the RED EPIC that is only being released to people in the film industry selected by RED.  What that means is we are among a very small group that will own the EPIC for it's release.  We're in good company, as James Cameron just bought 50, and Peter Jackson is shooting on the EPIC-M for The Hobbit.

So how much of a head start do we have until the EPIC is available to everybody?  Well, not even RED knows that.  The tragic events of the Tsunami in Japan affected mass production of the EPIC, and it's release is indefinite.  At this point in time the EPIC-M is the only available RED EPIC, and will be for a while.

That being said, we're excited to continue our tradition of being on the bleeding edge of high-end cinema.  Stay tuned for unboxing and first impression videos.  We also plan on doing some heavy shooting to share what the EPIC is capable of.

Until then, check out these great videos other EPIC-M owners have shot!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Behind the Scenes peek: Camera prep.

Chris Gearhart goes over the camera prep for a two camera shoot.  The setup consisted of two RED ONEs. One with a Cooke 18-100mm zoom, and the other with Zeiss Super Speed primes.

BTS Photos

Enjoy these behind-the-scenes photos from our latest production. 
April 20, 2011 Shoot

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Close-Up

In my mind there are certain moments in film that seem suspended in time, and put goosebumps on my arms when I think of them, and most of them are contained in a close-up.  The close-up demands your full attention.  It's what actors long for and dread all at once.  As a filmmaker, it's crucial to have the close-up in the arsenal as a powerful tool to draw the audience into the character's mentality as well as the actor's performance. 

The insane, yet disturbingly precise movements of Marlon Brando's insane gaze as he confronts Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.

The complete loss of hope in Maria Falconetti's eyes in The Passion of Joan of Arc.

The reluctant yet emotional declaration of guilt as Daniel Day-Lewis screams "I've abandoned my child!" in There Will Be Blood.

The next time you watch a film, pay attention to when the director elects to go into a close-up.  If done well, it's at a key moment that strikes a note about the character's involvement in the scene.  It grabs your attention as an audiences and tells us "this is important".  Pay attention to the amount of time the close-up is held.  The above shots are held for a long time and draw you in as a viewer.  I remember watching these moments and literally holding my breath, staring at the screen without blinking.

Do you have a favorite use of the close-up?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some evening musings on film

Often times I sit and think about what it is I actually do for a living and my mind begins to go in all sorts of directions. Essentially, we in the film industry work on a refined process of creating illusions that come close enough to something our brains interpret as some level of reality. There has been a lot of discussion on what makes film what it is. Walter Murch, the great editor of Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Part II, and The Conversation wrote a great book on breaking down the way film goes past being a series of flickering images.

Going to the movies is kind of a bizarre concept. You go into a dark room full of seats and strangers. You shut off any connection with the outside world. The lights go dark. And you sit and stare at a white wall with projected images flickering on it in rapid succession. Yet, this experience draws us in. It challenges us. It inspires us. It was enough to make me want to spend my life trying to make those experiences for others.

It's even more bizarre to think of how distant those images are from their original creation. When you watch Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia running from Stormtroopers in the Death Star, you're not thinking about the rehearsals, repeated takes, missed cues and stunt teams behind those images. You're not thinking about the electrician hurrying to get the 1K scrimmed just right to cut the glare from Stormtrooper #5's helmet, or the caterers that are running behind on lunch because an actor wanted their salad without croutons and someone forgot, or the AD barking orders at the below-the-line crew, frantically trying to stay on schedule. You're not thinking about all of them, but they're there. All of them working tirelessly to bring you a moment that you almost forget is purely fiction, and purely illusion.

So what are we in the business of doing? My answer to this question will change day-to-day, but today my answer is this: We're in the business of manufacturing a meticulously staged series of moments, capturing the images and sounds from those moments, extensively manipulating those images and sounds, and getting those manipulated images and sounds to dark rooms full of people. Somehow, after achieving all of these things, our real goal is to make those people in those dark rooms feel something. And that's what we do.

And you know what? We love doing it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hello World!

Welcome to the official blog of Lakeview Productions. If we keep this up-to-date as much as we're planning, you'll be able to get some insight on our latest projects, as well as get our thoughts on industry-related topics.

Instead of posting the standard boring "who we are" post, I thought I'd share some of our work instead!

Le Plâtre Rêveur from Lakeview Productions on Vimeo.