Angry Robot

Windsor-related Update

Day Zero was some shooting, some cleaning. I figured I only needed so many minutes of footage of people cleaning or painting so I jumped in there too to speed things along. The BCL peeps are quite impressive. I mean I knew this before but their organization and willingness to perform unglamorous gruntwork were on full display and are certainly rare traits amongst the creative types I’m familiar with.

The three vacant storefronts were a Canadiana shop, a hairdresser and a tattoo parlour. The first two were in pretty good shape, but the latter suffered from a heinous failed paint scheme, a predeliction towards demon-based decoration, and a surfeit of garbage and broken glass. Naturally, this was the lair I chose to call my temporary home. My room has the best demon face which we have hidden behind a storage unit, as one should with all wall-borne demon faces. I also have a water-damaged copy of this awesome motivational poster

which was left behind by our skin-scorching friends.

So yeah. On Day One the artists started to move in. For the full writeup with pics you should check out BCL’s updates I’ll stick to my narrow point of view. I am from an editing background, and am not an experienced shooter by any means. I’m getting decent with stills, and I’ve shot some doc stuff over the years, but I’m no camera pro. So I had stuck to some pretty lazy auto-exposure settings with the ol’ GH1 on Day Zero. I wasn’t thrilled with the results, so I rolled full manual on Day One. I probably lost a few seconds of gold here and there as I cranked the aperture between the sun-drenched store fronts and the dim, surly store backs, but generally things worked out better. Next step will be going full manual focus, too. Oddly enough I’m much better at this with certain lenses than others, and not that hot with my most versatile lens, but we’ll see what happens.

The artists – Eric, Jolie, Julie & Jefferson – were really excitig to talk to and watch work. I was concentrating on getting some moving-in shots, and I got those. I hope to talk with them more; it seems to me better to get an interview where the artist is showing what she has done rather than talking about what she will do, so I’m aiming to get most of these later.

I had my first documentary moral crisis. Jolie and Mike were unloading a huge couch from their truck, and were having problems. As I said, I was looking for moving in footage, and this was prime gold, but I wanted to drop the camera and go help. But I stood there. It turned out okay; some absolute strangers came by and not only helped carry the couch, but navigated it through a narrow doorway adeptly.

I’m glad I’m not a war photographer.

I started logging by the end of Day One, but Day Two was a real post-production day. Not a great one. Editors know the sort of day you have where you spend way too long sorting niggling technical problems. Well, it was one of those. The GH1 pulls in 24p from the sensor, but wraps it in 30i pulldown, and I tend to process these to get rid of the pulldown because I FUCKING HATE INTERLACING. But normally, I leave these to run as a batch overnight. Doing them in the middle of the day I realized how long they take. Also, there were errors and I had to do some shots over and over again. So it set me back something fierce.

While it was going on, however, I had the time and motivation to hack my camera’s firmware. As I linked to before, a hacker named tester13 has released a tool that lets you modify the GH1’s firmware. The biggest knocks against the GH1 were that its AVCHD implementation is poor – it records at a low bitrate that can break up into a slurry of pixels when faced with fast pans or high detail scenes, like, say, nature. Tester13’s tool lets you up the bitrate to something that does justice to the camera’s quality optics and sensor. It also lets you record in real 24p and get rid of the pulldown, so that was my major motivation.

In the morning of Day Three, I actually started cutting footage together and got about 5 minutes of rough cut. Then I went out to follow Andrea and Simon on a little project of theirs. On a bike ride they had discovered an abandoned neighbourhood, and found that the houses had gardens that were still growing, and were growing interesting things like cacti and asparagus. So they went there to dig up some of the plants, with the aim of replanting them in vacant lots downtown, so more people might see them. It was quite a scene – the tall grass, the collapsing roofs, the amplified hum of wild nature. I have some photos that I will post shortly (yeah like you trust me now).

Now I’m back in the T-dot for a few days, and then back to Windsor. It’s a busy-ass month, that’s for sure, but it’s been amazing so far.