DVC 12 - The Chump - Robert Martens at DVinfo.net

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Old March 9th, 2008, 09:21 PM   #1
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DVC 12 - The Chump - Robert Martens

As is standard practice with me, I've got a laundry list of disclaimers to offer, but I'll hold back and just mention one. Yes, I kind of screwed up the cropping, and Youtube's encode added a pair of tiny black slivers to the video. It's late enough, though, and I'm not about to risk going through the upload process again.

Tough noogies if you don't like it.

Oh! Almost forgot: http://www.fincher.org/Misc/Pennies/

Last edited by Robert Martens; March 9th, 2008 at 10:41 PM.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 07:08 PM   #2
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Loved the idea! this is what a good short is all about! I'm still laughing! I think with the small scale production you went with, this was very well done!

Maybe try for the future getting away from a 2d background like a plain wall and maybe have his back facing an open room and try some shots from other angles? great job!

best of luck
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Old March 10th, 2008, 08:13 PM   #3
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Ooh, sneaking a peek at the films before the official announcement tomorrow? Tisk, tisk. And thank you, 'cause now I'm all excited.

Truth be told, the reason I have ready access to my parents as help for these movies is because I still live with them. Rent's ridiculous these days, I can't afford to live on my own.

Yeah, that's it.

Anyway, as such, I'm limited in terms of space, and the 'wall' you see is a king size bedsheet stapled to the drywall ceiling of my bedroom. Folded it in on one end to create the illusion of a corner, since the room's walls are bright red, the place is a mess, and I have no real place to go with all this crap.

The house, as dearest mother is--understandably--quick to point out, is also not in the most organized condition. My dad's a bit of a junk collector (a trait I've inherited), and between the three of us, every room in this house is stuffed full of crap. The garage is traversable, if you're a mountain climber, and the basement (with its seven foot ceiling height) is the kind of thing you'd find underneath an abandoned house in the ruins of an ancient city. It was an effort to clean up my room (enough) to arrange all the props and equipment, so I did the best with what I have.

I'm with you on the desire for other angles, but in the past I've neglected to shoot basic coverage of my scenes, and wanted to get myself set with that before moving on to more complicated setups. Grabbed a master from the dolly's resting position, two medium close ups for my face and the coins, then got some inserts. Getting the simple things down, and just generally going through the motions of 'production', if you can call it that, is important to me. If I don't do this kind of thing over and over and over, I never learn.

Thank you very much for the compliment, and look forward to some production stills sometime tomorrow. Grabbed one or two while everything was in place, they might give you a better idea of what I'm dealing with.
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Old March 11th, 2008, 02:24 PM   #4
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Yes! One of my favorite actors is finally back, starring in his own movie!

Oh Robert, the first time I watched this late Sunday night I started grinning the moment that great music started. It quickly turned into laughter that woke up all the sleeping creatures in the house.

“Oh that is so stupid.” Heh heh. Then the way you repeated the magic words (especially the third one) cracked me up. By the end I was practically cheering for you.

Timing on the whole piece couldn’t have been better. I just watched it again and laughed just as hard. Now, I know you appreciate criticism more than praise, but I am sorry: There is nothing I can criticize here. I LOVED IT.

Please do me a favor. Tell a little more about the production, such as, who constructed that masterpiece on the table, how your dad liked running a camera dolly, etc.
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Old March 11th, 2008, 05:27 PM   #5
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Come now, Lorinda, I do happen to hold the opinion that one learns more from negative comments (rather, comments about negative aspects of a film, not comments that themselves are negative in tone), but I appreciate the positive ones just fine. They put a big ol' smile on my face, and make me feel good. Who doesn't appreciate that? Particularly the "great music" bit; that's just me noodling around with Acid. The Sony software, not the drug. I just used some of the loops that came with it. The Horncraft, Discrete Drums II, and Sweet & Low Bass promo packages work fairly well together, it seems, and the result is what you hear. The Tascam control surface I got helped immensely, just being able to easily shuttle, play, stop, and fast forward/rewind, and though it's overkill, it's the least expensive thing I could find with motorized faders. I wanted motorized faders, I paid for 'em. Worth every penny! The MIDI keyboard saw no use for this project, but I still wanted to learn the piano, so it's not at all a loss.

Attached, please find some stills of the 'set'. It's still here, as a matter of fact, and the room that I cleaned up to shoot this is still a mess. Gotta love the vicious cycle of independent films, huh? The first two show the relationship between all my movie stuff and the rest of the room (the second one's kind of redundant, but you get to see what we did to the ceiling), and the third is the dolly my dad and I built as it was arranged when shooting. Excuse the flash; the lighting does look strange with it, but I don't know how to make this point and shoot Kodak do what I want it to in low light. Every shot I got without the flash is unusable.

I did the little ring of coins on the table, according to instructions found in that link I posted up above; the first photo on the second page is more or less what I did, but with quarters instead of pennies. I had to rebuild it on Sunday, after knocking it over during the last shot, so I could get some pick ups (see how professionally I use industry lingo?). I did three or four rehearsals without actually dropping the book on Saturday night, then I went for it, it worked great, everything was fine. Until the next day, when I needed two shots to make the whole movie make some kind of sense. The first closeup, where you see the penny in the center, and the close up on the book jacket you see later, were shot after the fact. I'd left everything in place overnight, just in case, and sure enough, I needed it. This time it was inserts instead of reshoots, though, so I'm improving. Honestly, that little thing only took about ten minutes to throw together, and I didn't screw up too many times. Made one stack of eleven quarters when the rest were ten, and had to knock part of it over to fix that, but it was a small price to pay for a movie that makes sense, you know?

You also see, in that third photo, the 'bracket' we designed for my 35mm adapter. After adjusting the length to be optimal for my camera, the adapter is so long it would put a whole lot of stress on the threads. A piece of flat aluminum we had left over from a job we did a few months back (took a break from plumbing for a while to help a friend by cleaning out scrap metal from the old Sunnydale plant in Brooklyn) did the trick. Got a number seven drill bit, a quarter-twenty tap, and made a little mount for my camera. Another underneath takes the Beachtek, which itself takes the tripod's quick release plate. Concern was expressed on my dad's part about aluminum's ability to hold these threads under the strain of constantly connecting and disconnecting my accessories, but we didn't have a choice in this time frame, so there it is. A chunk of Styrofoam (that I never cut to width) supports the adapter just under the lens mount, and does a wonderful job of taking the weight off of my filter threads.

Then there's the dolly. Took the better part of my ten day limit, but I wanted a dolly move, and that's how I did it. After reading about roller blade wheels in "Killer Camera Rigs" and then seeing them in action on the set of "Two Guys", I was convinced they were the way to go, and we stopped at a local sporting goods place on the way back from work last week. Should have gotten the salesman's name for inclusion in the credits, but it slipped my mind. If you're ever in Rocky Point, New York, here on Long Island, and need sporting goods, stop by Plaza Sports on 25A. In the same shopping center as the Capital One bank. There, I feel better.

With that out of the way, my dad designed and built (I'm not as good with this kind of thing as he is; I can use a die grinder, but not very well) the triangular base you see for my tripod out of some spare angle iron--there's a special name for the kind we used, he couldn't remember it--then added the rails to hold the wheels. We tried a few different arrangements for the axles, ultimately going with something akin to what's found in KCR, and they worked best. Dropped some ten foot lengths of 3/4" copper into matching ten foot lengths of 3/4" Kindoff (Kindorf? I hear people say the name all the time, I just can't figure out if it's just a New York accent that drops the R, or if it's not actually there), and there we go! Stops the pipe from rolling, has holes for mounting to whatever you want, and the best part, if you stagger the joints, you don't need anything at all to join two or more lengths of track. Haven't tried it yet, but they should just butt up against one another.

As for operating it, Pops says--good naturedly--that there was a lot of pressure to get it right, and he didn't want to screw up. A man of few words for a change. Usually he never shuts up. If you ever meet him, don't look to start a conversation. Me, well, I don't speak much, but I type like a madman. I'd run a great conspiracy theory website, wouldn't I?
Attached Thumbnails
DVC 12 - The Chump - Robert Martens-chumpprod1.jpg   DVC 12 - The Chump - Robert Martens-chumpprod2.jpg  

DVC 12 - The Chump - Robert Martens-chumpprod3.jpg  
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Old March 11th, 2008, 10:43 PM   #6
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I smiled through this whole film as well as through your last post. I'm a bit of a "hardware hacking" guy myself in my spare time, though not as elaborate as your stuff here (yet). This film had an interesting look to it that I was going to ask you about, but I think I'll chalk it up to the 35mm adapter unless you correct me. I really liked the concept and the execution. Great job.
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Old March 11th, 2008, 11:11 PM   #7
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In most cases, if I have the money, I'm the type to just buy the real thing and be done with it. Certain things, though, push me to the point where I have to ask myself how I can justify it. Dollies, stabilizers, that kind of thing. I can appreciate the do it yourself spirit, though, and you've got to do what you've got to do. In this case I had to do, so there I did.

The "interesting" look could have to do with the adapter, more specifically the cheap macro I'm using in lieu of a real achromatic doublet for the time being, but it could also be the way I encoded. I actually just did a crop and resize in VirtualDub, then exported an XviD AVI, not being intimately familiar with the MPEG 4 format and desperately wanting to get something uploaded before the deadline. I didn't handle the deinterlacing the way I wanted to, and didn't really have as much control in general as I'd have liked, because when I do, I like what I can accomplish. Case in point, my entry from DVC 6 that I just uploaded: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATdRjPVl74c I had tested Flash encoding with ffmpeg a few months back, and found a version sitting on my render drive, so I uploaded the FLV directly to Youtube. Fifty three megabytes, compressed down to 7 by their pipeline (I was wrong with an assumption, as it turns out; they either stopped letting existing FLVs slip by their encoders or they never did that in the first place), and it did get squashed into a mono soundtrack, but it looks friggin' amazing. The shots starting at :32 and :41, in particular. I'm about to do the same for my DVC 5 entry. If I'd known better, I'd have done this for The Chump, but it's too late for all that now, I don't want to break any links.

Thank you very much for the comment, and specific mention of a smile really made my day!
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Old March 12th, 2008, 04:43 AM   #8
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One of my favorites so far due to the play on the words. Very nice, short and to the point. Nice set as well Robert :P
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Old March 13th, 2008, 01:09 PM   #9
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Haha... loved the concept! I looked at your original link with the coins, and wondered, "How is this related?" It's great to see the outcome. Beautiful dolly shot... kudos to your dad.

I did have to go back and make sure that I actually saw the penny -- the change is subtle. Plus, the coins are highly reflective, and a lot of the light reflects directly back into the camera. It makes the copper/silver colors less distinguishable. Perhaps step down the camera another step, or move the light source so it's not right on top of the coins? Oooh, oooh... what if the entire circle of quarters changed into pennies as well?

I'd have to agree -- this is one of my favorites. Thanks for such an entertaining piece.

Cheers!
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Old March 13th, 2008, 01:24 PM   #10
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You're very welcome for it, Joseph; high praise coming from you, your film really was something special.

I see what you mean about the coins, and it does concern me. I was so worried about everything matching from shot to shot that I didn't want to change or move anything when I switched camera angles, including the lighting (the practical lamp on the table and a set of track lights overhead, unseen in the photos). Turns out I get washed out coins that are practically impossible to distinguish from one another. I did change the exposure for one of the shots, actually. You'll note the two closeups of the ring of quarters don't quite match. The earlier one with the penny was one of the extra shots I got the day after shooting most of the movie, and I forgot to match the smaller aperture I had the previous night. Which in and of itself was probably too bright, and should have been adjusted. But hey, that's why I'm in these contests, to make these mistakes and learn something.

You have a great idea with the ring turning into pennies, I admit it never occurred to me. I was thinking of this little coin structure as being solely a ceremonial piece, designed to work in conjunction with the chant to alter whatever is placed inside of it, but the visible change of color from shiny silver to dark copper would have been more striking, and could have looked very cool.

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old March 13th, 2008, 04:17 PM   #11
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Okay Robert. This opening was great. Smooth track dolly, excellent music which, by the way, I love even more now that I know you worked hard to achieve it, and the acting is superb. You have a future as a real character actor. No bull. Get yourself a portofilio, various head shots and secure an agent. You're the future. Your movie's flow is a testament to your talent. I hope the other DVINFOers are mopping the sweat from their brows. I certainly am!

Jolly good!
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Old March 13th, 2008, 04:45 PM   #12
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Oh, p'shaw and pish. Hugh, your posts make me happy. I'm blown away that Sony (or Sonic Foundry, whoever they were when ACID first showed up) has developed software that allows someone with no musical background to make something people actually kind of like. It's great stuff, they have a free version on their website, everyone should give it a try.

I have a goofy smile on my face to hear that someone liked my acting, and I'm letting that go straight to my head. I do have headshots, actually; uploaded one as my Youtube profile pic yesterday. Got them back in October of 2006 for a commercial acting seminar, never really pursued it. Maybe one of these days, who knows? Your encouragement is welcome relief from constant self-doubt, and I thank you.
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Old March 14th, 2008, 04:05 AM   #13
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Great film!
Good acting... Technically very professional... I can't find one single thing to complain about... the only thing must be that I wish there was a little more colors in the set ;-)
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Old March 14th, 2008, 11:18 AM   #14
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Well thank you, sir, but it's funny you should say that...using the 35mm lens adapter for only the second project (the first was my terrible, unsubmitted entry for DVC9), I wasn't paying quite enough attention. I made sure my tripod head was level, I double checked the focus (which, by the way, is easier than everyone makes it out to be on the camera's LCD--the VX2000's is 880x228 according to the specs), I made sure most of my face hit the 70 IRE zebras, and I performed several rehearsals of each line. By all accounts I was being very careful.

Except I forgot to clean the adapter. Every single surface involved, excluding the 35mm lens itself, had collected dust, and I told myself I'd clean it. I even ordered a hundred pack of Pec Pads from B&H just for that purpose. Unfortunately, I got wrapped up in everything else, and it totally slipped my mind. You might be able to see, in the current version of the film, a couple of dark spots on the footage, that are particularly objectionable bits of dirt I neglected to eliminate.

The lack of color in the set is a good point, and was exacerbated by the lens I used. It's one of my grandfather's collection, an M42 Asahi Super Takumar 50mm 1.4 from the late 60s/early 70s (we still have the original Spotmatic to which it was attached), and has the signature Thorium yellowing many lenses of that era do. Did I mention I forgot to white balance? In fact, just checking my camera's settings now, I realize I had it in auto white balance the whole time.

So much for "professional".
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Old March 15th, 2008, 01:08 AM   #15
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Gotta love that piece of styro under the lens :)
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