The orgiast: an interview with Joe Dante (part one)

Dante in 2009

  • Dante in 2009

This weekend director Joe Dante will be in town to introduce three of his films, each of which comes from a very different phase of his career. On Saturday Dante will host a screening of his first film, The Movie Orgy (1968), at the Nightingale. An epic found-film collage originally designed as a happening for college campuses, it represents Dante’s love of old movies and American kitsch in general in its purest state. On Friday he’ll be at the Music Box to introduce a midnight screening of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, made during the height of his success as a studio filmmaker, and a 9:30 PM screening of The Hole, a 2009 horror comedy that was produced independently. Last week I spoke with Dante—along with local programmer Gabe Klinger, who organized the screenings—about these three films. I knew it was going to be a good interview when Dante told me he’d been a fan of the Reader since the 1970s, and, sure enough, he proved an engaging and gracious subject. Following the jump is the first part of our conversation, which concerns The Hole, shooting in 3-D, and the challenges of working for Hollywood studios. I’ll post our discussion of The Movie Orgy (and Dante’s gratitude to Schlitz Beer) tomorrow.

Ben Sachs: How did this event come to be? What made you decide to show these three particular films?

Joe Dante: The event started out with just The Movie Orgy and Gremlins 2 because [Gremlins 2] is one of my favorite movies that I’ve done. Then I found out that The Hole, which has been on the shelf for a couple of years, is about to open theatrically in Atlanta and on Video on Demand in September. So I got the idea to call the company and ask if it was OK to run The Hole here in Chicago as the midwest premiere.

Why has The Hole been held up?

Dante: It’s really my fault. When I was engaged to shoot the movie, I convinced the producers to [let me] shoot it in digital 3-D. And they did their due diligence; they checked around to see what the competition was [for 3-D movies] and how many theaters could show it. But this was four years ago. A lot of theaters hadn’t converted [to digital projection] yet… We also didn’t realize when we were making the picture that this new fad of fake 3-D [movies shot in 2-D but retrofitted in post-production] would be coming down the pike. So now there were all these previously unannounced major movies that were suddenly in 3D. And they took up all the theaters, all the air in the room. And our little picture with no movie stars found itself standing at the gate with no screens available.

This sort of built up for a while. [The producers] tried to find a distributor and that fell through; and before you know it, people were, like, “That’s an old movie. We don’t want to show it.” So it just missed its chance—largely, because it was in 3-D. Now, ironically, the version that will be playing in Chicago is not in 3-D.

What do you think of the film in 2-D?

Dante: The only time I’ve seen it in that format was when I was editing it. I’ve never actually sat through an entire screening in 2-D. I think it will be fine, but it was really intended to be a 3-D movie—and you don’t make a 3D movie quite the same way you make a 2-D movie. Cutting is particularly different in 3-D, because you have to watch for a lot of optical issues.

Gabe Klinger: I heard that when you shot The Hole, you used 3-D screens to visualize [the finished product] as you were working.

From The Hole

  • From The Hole

Dante: Yes, we could see it in 3-D while we were shooting, so it was easier to make adjustments. You could do a certain amount of the stereopticon work right there on the set, placing objects either further away or closer to the camera.

Was that your first time working in 3-D?

Dante: No, I had made a film called The Haunted Lighthouse for Busch Gardens Entertainment, which is a theme park, and that was in 4-D. Now, 4-D is the same as 3-D, except that they also drop water on you, in the great William Castle tradition. It was shot in a 70-millimeter process—we shot it on two 70-millimeter cameras strapped together. That gives you a wonderful image, but, on the set, [the rig] is like a Buick. You need, like, eight grips to move it. And it’s also really loud, so you have to loop the whole picture. It’s a technology that I think is no longer in use today.

I take it that the Red allowed you to shoot more freely.

Dante: Digital 3-D is a huge leap forward from film 3-D—and I say this as a big fan of film 3-D. I saw those movies when I was a kid, and I’ve gone to all the 3-D festivals here in LA. But there are inherent problems with the technology. The film isn’t steady in the gate [of the camera]. It weaves when you’re shooting the movie and it weaves when you’re projecting the movie. So it’s difficult for your eyes to stabilize the images. With digital, everything is rock-steady; so the depth-of-field and the sharpness of the image are much more reliable. When used correctly, it’s the best we’ve ever had.

Do you have any favorite 3-D movies?

Dante: My absolute favorite is Dial M for Murder, because it’s essentially a photographed stage play. But its use of space is so much more sophisticated than the early attempts of throwing rocks at the camera. Ironically, by the time that picture was finished, 3-D was dying out—particularly among what was known as the “class trade.” So when that picture opened, the grosses were low until they got rid of the 3-D print and created a 2-D print; then the grosses went up. It sounded the death knell of a fad that people had, A, grown tired of, and, B, suffered from seeing in improper presentation.

As for my other favorites, there’s a movie called Inferno, which is about a guy who’s dropped into the desert to die by his wife and her lover; Robert Ryan’s in that. That makes tremendous use of the desert space. And, of course, The Creature From the Black Lagoon is a great 3-D movie because any 3-D movie with no horizon line means the filmmakers have the opportunity to take the contents of the screen and put them right in the third row.

The Creature From the Black Lagoon

  • The Creature From the Black Lagoon

You’ve been associated with special effects for a long time—pretty much since Gremlins in 1984. Do you find that the effects have shaped your working methods?

Dante: Those [Gremlins] movies were both defined by the limitations of the technology at the time. There are things we would have loved to have [the Gremlins] do that we couldn’t have them do. By the time of the second movie, the technology had improved to the point where we could show Gizmo’s whole body—so we could have him walking and dancing—and we had a Gremlin who could talk. Those developments opened the door for a lot of new jokes.

I think the reason why there hasn’t been a third [Gremlins movie] is that now, with the advent of CGI, there’s really no structure to what you can do. Anything’s possible. But if anything’s possible, then everything’s possible.

Klinger: You did end up working with CGI on Small Soldiers and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Dante: In a way, Small Soldiers is like “Gremlins 3″ and Looney Tunes is like “Gremlins 4.”

Klinger: Looney Tunes seems to have a lot in common with Gremlins 2 . . .

Dante: Yes, it does. Because it’s a cartoon movie, it’s a gagfest. Not having a particularly strong story, it just goes from gag to gag and location to location. It’s not a particularly compelling narrative, but, of course, that’s not where the charm of the movie is supposed to lie.

Klinger: How was making those films different from making Gremlins 2? Effects technology changed a lot in the decade after you made that movie, as did studio filmmaking on the whole.

Dante: Well, the new technology actually makes things much easier. I mean, if Looney Tunes had been done at the same time as [Who Framed] Roger Rabbit, it would have been the same nightmare that Roger Rabbit was. All of those on-set things that had to be done and animated over, we didn’t have to do any of them. With the advent of CGI, you just shoot the background, and then the CGI people come in.

On Small Soldiers, we were planning to use a lot of Stan Winston’s puppets—he had made some very elaborate puppets that could do a lot of things. But in practice, we found it was much simpler and cheaper to let the CGI people do the work after we’d shot the scenes. So, I would say, it’s one-third puppetry and the rest CGI in Small Soldiers, even though the original idea was to do mostly puppetry.

From Looney Tunes: Back in Action

  • From Looney Tunes: Back in Action

By the time we got to Looney Tunes—because the characters are cel animated—we would shoot each scene three times. First we’d rehearse with a stand-in—a “stuffy,” we called it. Then, we’d shoot the scene without anything in it; then, we’d shoot the scene again with this mirror ball in the shot which shows the computers where the light sources are. Then the animators would go to work and put characters into the frame. The problem with that movie came when the studio [executives] started to get tired of our jokes and wanted us to change them. But, of course, the animation is done to the voices and not the other way around. It was difficult trying to convince them that you don’t just bring in 25 gag writers and try to write a joke that’s short enough to put in somebody’s mouth.

Did you really have 25 gag writers on Looney Tunes: Back in Action?

Dante: Yes, even though there’s only one credited writer.

What’s that like?

Dante: It’s not fun.

Ascendant Engineering Solutions to Present New Gimbal Technology at AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2012

AUSTIN, TX–(Marketwire -08/07/12)-
Ascendant Engineering Solutions (AES) is in Las Vegas this week exhibiting at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2012 Conference. Along with profiling AES’s contract engineering services to this key, target market, AES will be presenting multiple, recently developed ‘gimbal’ stabilized platforms for both defense and film industry applications.

While at AUVSI, AES is leveraging SBIR Phase II contract to develop MSGLPS (Miniature Stabilized Gimbal Laser Pointing Systems) prototype for small UAVs that was awarded on July 26, 2012. The target platform for this payload is hand tube launched UAVs used in military surveillance applications. AES is actively soliciting interest from Tier1 DoD contractors that are interested in supporting this Air Force program. This gimbal represents a leap in capabilities over existing small UAV payloads by including a 1.064µ Laser, a SWIR Imager, a EO/Visible Sensor, and a Target Tracker… all in a 3″ diameter X 4″ high stabilized platform. Similar, larger systems are used by the military across the globe, where image sensors, targeters, trackers are deployed in small to large manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.

AES will also be profiling in their booth a gimbal system that was developed for an AES client, Cineron, for use in the film industry. This gimbal provides the leading edge capability to carry Red Epic/Scarlet cameras on a stabilized platform underneath 6′ long remote control helicopters used in Hollywood and the film industry for capturing aerial footage.

The conference is produced by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (AUVSI), the world’s largest nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community. The AES team is positioned at Booth number 5128.

In 2011, AES ( was widely praised for its introduction of the Small Arms Weapon Shock Simulator (WSS), a product purchased by the U.S. Army as well as other branches of the military and government contractors.

Company officials are equally optimistic about the MSGLPS platform, which will profiled in front of more than 8,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors from more than 40 countries.

“AUVSI Unmanned Systems NA 2012 is a great stage as an entry point to further our reach into defense and commercial applications for our gimbal systems,” said Jon Noeth, co-founder and President of the company. “Given the fact that AES-developed gimbal systems have already been deployed in select situations and continue to exceed expectations, we anticipate to expand on our success moving into 2013.”

The WSS and the company have been featured in articles in Design World, the Austin American-Statesman, and KVUE, the local ABC affiliate in Austin.

About AES

AES was founded in 2004 by six partners, each bringing a different area of engineering expertise to the field. They believed that by integrating their diversity of knowledge, they could open up new avenues for collaboration and innovation. So they envisioned a new kind of engineering firm, one that embraced a culture of cross-disciplinary interaction and research. Drawing on 100 years of combined experience, the founding partners transformed that concept into a successful engineering firm, and AES was born.

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Keira Knightley: One of Hollywood’s epic beauties

Keira KnightleyKeira Knightley

As the trailer for Keira’s latest movie, Anna Karenina, splashes across the Internet, we are reminded of how flawless Knightley’s skin, hair, face, okay everything is. Though Keira has breathtaking looks, her teeth are not perfect, which we like about her. Of course when you have cheekbones like that, you could have a mouth full of Chiclet© teeth and few would notice. While Keira’s beauty is era-spanning, we suspect our foresisters were a big chubbier than Keira since they mostly ate, sat, ate, sat, ate, sewed, ate, played the piano and ate.

scarlett JohanssonScarlett Johansson

Her face is angular and delicious, as Sprockets from SNL would say. Her cheekbones look genetically engineered and it’s just not right that her lips, chest and her a** are voluptuous. Where’s the justice in that? There isn’t any. When you can put a checkmark by every beauty feature that women covet the world over, you can play any role, from any time period. In fact, you can sit in front of a movie camera for two hours, do nothing, and it would still be a blockbuster. Scarlett proved this in The Other Boleyn Girl when she made all of us wish that floor-length bodice-busters would come back in style. Oh well. Maybe she has a large, unsightly, hairy mole on her back or perhaps she has an extra toe. We can only hope.

gwyneth PaltrowGwyneth Paltrow

Guinevere, oh Guinevere. Even Gywneth’s name has a medieval royalty ring to it. With her lithe figure (how we love to hate her for that) and her natural, makeup-free beauty (yep, we love to hate her for that, too), she’s another effortless beauty who can play the girl next door or William Shakespeare’s love. “It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.” Whatever the hell that means. All we know is Gwyneth was meant for the big screen — yesterday, today and tomorrow.

kate winsletKate Winslet

We don’t know if it’s the British accent, the perfectly oval face, the porcelain skin or that romance-novel red ringlets she used to wear that gave Kate such a Victorian aura. Whatever it is, she looks like she should be ruling a kingdom of adoring subjects. We will forever love her for her sassy portrayal of Rose from The Titanic, especially when she popped off and said, “I see you had that undertaker of a manservant follow me,” and “Oh stop it, Mother. You’ll give yourself a nosebleed.” That’s our Kate — feisty and forever fabulous.

Cate BlanchettCate Blanchett

This Cate transcends time and place with her doe-eyed, highbrow loveliness. Long hair, short hair, blonde hair, red hair — it matters not what Cate does, she never loses her regal and supreme queenly countenance. Let’s hope casting directors for the next Phillipa Gregory movie remember Cate when it’s time to hire cinematic royalty.

Images courtesy of

Guillermo del Toro: ‘Pacific Rim’ Is NOT Japanese Monster Movie Homage; No 3D

guillermo del toro pacific rim

Many people who’ve been following development on Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim have pointed out the surface similarities to popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. Del Toro’s film pits building-sized robots called Jaegers (controlled by two soldiers who must form an intimate melding of minds, to work in unison) against gargantuan monsters known as Kaiju, who invade Earth through an inter-dimensional rift.

The original Pacific Rim script draft penned by Travis Beacham (a co-writer on Clash of the Titans) has been retooled to better fit del Toro’s interests, according to the fan-favorite filmmaker of Blade II, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth. Furthermore, del Toro announced at Comic-Con that Pacific Rim does not reuse archetypal monsters from mythology, anime, or Japanese monster cinema (Godzilla movies, being the obvious example).

We’ve nonetheless been operating under the assumption that Pacific Rim serves as a direct homage to those old-fashioned monster films, borrowing stylistic elements and rejuvenating tired tropes from the genre (similar to what Quentin Tarantino does). Del Toro informed Hero Complex that’s not the case, saying:

“I felt there was a chance to do something fresh, something new that at the same time was conscious of the heritage, but not a pastiche or an homage or a greatest hits of everything. One of the first things I did is make it a point to not check any old movies or any other references. Like start from scratch.”

Beacham’s intent, of course, remains open for interpretation, as it’s possible the screenwriter’s original artistic vision was that Pacific Rim would be closer to a live-action NGE movie. Del Toro is renowned for crafting some of the more memorably twisted and demented screen creatures in recent film history; with Pacific Rim, he hopes to maintain his originality while paying respect to the Kaiju sub-genre (and not just copying what’s been done before).

Spanish-language site Uruloki spoke recently with del Toro, where the director elaborated on his intention to produce Kaiju that only loosely imitate the traditional designs featured in Japanese pop culture (while also delivering a final film that’s very much its own beast):

“At [the table for ‘Pacific Rim’] were very clear ideas-for example, have the appearance of the Kaiju, admitted to some extent the idea of “man in disguise” or “man in suit” that is vital to the genre. Sticking to the “species” of Kaiju classic admitted in genealogy (the Kaiju flying the Krusty, the Bug, The Reptile, etc, etc) and try to get their textures and morphology were rooted in very real hipertexturas animals but combining textures, textures monumental, almost geological. In every movie I try to bring someone new. And in every project I bring a team member who is making his first big movie and his first feature film because it always brings a fresh perspective. What we do ask is that people do not derive ideas from films already made. I ask you to express what is theirs.”

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in ‘Pacific Rim’

Del Toro spoke at Comic-Con about some of the tricks he pulled with the camera lens while shooting Pacific Rim, in order to give the CGI-heavy proceedings a more grounded and realistic feel. The filmmaker relied on RED EPIC cameras during production (the same tech Peter Jackson’s using for the Hobbit trilogy), but explained to Collider why he never considered either native or post-converted 3D a viable option:

“Originally there was a discussion that took a long time to overcome that was to make the movie 3D. And I didn’t want to make the movie 3D because when you have things that big… the thing that happens naturally, you’re looking at two buildings lets say at 300 feet [away], if you move there is no parallax. They’re so big that, in 3D, you barely notice anything no matter how fast you move.  ”To force the 3D effects for robots and monsters that are supposed to be big you are making their [perspective] miniaturized, making them human scale.”

Taking everything del Toro’s saying into consideration, Pacific Rim should easily feel like one of his films, above all else. That’s very much an encouraging (if not downright exciting) thought, given the quality of del Toro’s previous cinematic output

Pacific Rim opens in U.S. theaters on July 12th, 2013.


Source: LA Times, Uruloki [via JoBlo], Collider

NASA’s rover ‘Curiosity’ on key mission lands on Mars

NASA`s rover `Curiosity` on key mission lands on MarsZeenews Bureau

Pasadena, California: After 350 million miles of travel through interplanetary space, NASA’s Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ landed on the Red Planet shortly after 0531 GMT (11.01 am IST) on Monday.

Dubbed as the biggest scientific mission of the decade, it took an epic 8-1/2 months for the Curiosity to make the arduous journey from Earth to Mars.

Immediately after the Martian late afternoon landing inside a vast, ancient impact crater, the rover sent the first pictures. “It’s the wheel!” exclaimed one of the NASA scientists on seeing the picture of one of the wheels of the rover. Other scientists at Mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles were seen hugging each other for having achieved what seemed impossible.

Another picture arrived soon, a high resolution image showing the horizon and dust particles on the camera.

Also, a video camera aboard the rover will capture the most dramatic minutes for the first filming of a landing on another planet.

The signals from mars are being relayed via Odyssey satellite to earth as the red planet is on the far side of the Sun from Earth, 154 million miles (1.7 astronomical units) away.

The atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 1/100th that on Earth. It is made of carbon dioxide (95.3%), nitrogen (2.7%) and argon (1.6%). Surface winds are typically up to 20 miles per hour, with gusts up to 90mph.

NASA`s rover `Curiosity` on key mission lands on Mars

Seven minutes of terror

The complicated landing for the Curiosity rover was so risky that was been described as ‘seven minutes of terror’ — the time it took to go from 13,000 mph (20,920 kph) to a complete stop.

Curiosity During the entry, landing and descent phase, the nuclear powered rover was assisted by 76 pyrotechnic charges that were fired to release weights and the parachute.

The Curiosity shed twin 75kg tungsten weights near the surface to get aerodynamic lift – to glide to the surface rather than risking a hard landing.

The most sophisticated mobile science lab ever sent out of Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft, encased in a capsule-like shell, flew on auto pilot and was guided by a computer packed with pre-programmed instructions.

What’s Inside the Rover

The rover, formally called the Mars Science Lab, is equipped with an array of sophisticated chemistry and geology instruments capable of analyzing samples of soil, rocks and atmosphere on the spot and beaming results back to scientists on Earth.

One is a laser gun that can zap a rock from 23 feet (7 meters) away to create a spark whose spectral image is analyzed by a special telescope to discern the mineral’s chemical composition.

Mars is the chief component of NASA’s long-term deep space exploration plans. Curiosity, the space agency’s first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes, is designed primarily to search for evidence that the planet most similar to Earth may once have harboured the necessary building blocks for microbial life to evolve.

NASA`s rover `Curiosity` on key mission lands on Mars

NASA officials told reporters at a pre-landing news conference Sunday that the spacecraft was functioning properly as it sped toward its target.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance.

The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

The landing site was 154 million miles from home, enough distance that the spacecraft’s elaborate landing sequence had to be automated.

Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.

“Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars,” said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives.”

Over the first week, Curiosity is to deploy its main antenna, raise a mast containing cameras, a rock-vaporizing laser and other instruments, and take its first panoramic shot of its surroundings.

NASA will spend the first month checking out Curiosity. The first drive could occur early next month. The rover would not scoop its first sample of Martian soil until mid-September at the earliest, and the first drilling into rock would occur in October or November.

Because Curiosity is powered by electricity generated from the heat of a chunk of plutonium, it could continue operating for years, perhaps decades, in exploring the 96-mile-wide crater where it has landed.


Give me Red!

It’s here at last! Red Digital Cinema, makers of the famed Red One and the Red Epic cameras known for their low costs and high-quality outputs, officially announced the launch of its India operations on Tuesday.

Red’s move comes at a time when Tamil filmmakers have shown a preference for the cameras made by the company. In fact, several Tamil films, including the Prasanna-Sneha starrer Achchamundu Achchamundu and the Kamal Haasan-starrer Unnaipol Oruvan were made using Red One.

At the launch, Ted Shilowitz, expert on Red cameras, debunked myths propounded by critics of the camera, which many small time producers, cinematographers and filmmakers in India consider a boon.

“The biggest myth concerning the Red is that it is not suitable for places with high temperatures. The cameras perform exceptionally well in all weather conditions. They are professional tools and need to be treated with professional care. Just because the transition from film to digital has happened, it does not mean this is an amateur camera. There are 75 students who have been shooting with the Red Epic for the last two days in Chennai and they haven’t been having any problems.”

The expert used the opportunity to explain in detail the advantages the Red Epic had over the Red One, which would slowly be phased out.

Advanced version

“The Red One is amazing. But the Red Epic is more advanced. The Red One has a 4K sensor and its resolution is on a par with a 35-mm film. That is why when you shoot a film with Red One, it looks like a movie. The Epic actually exceeds the image of 35-mm film, which is why so many big filmmaking companies are now using it for their films, both in 2D and 3D,” Ted said.

On the belief that post-production costs would shoot up if one opted for digital cameras such as the Red, he said: “Nothing could be further from the truth. The Red (Red One, Epic and Scarlett) cameras have efficient, logical, cost-effective post-production work flow. It is better than film and is much quicker. No expensive machines are required to open files, work on them and deliver them to the big screen,” Ted claimed.

The company, which has entered into an agreement with the LV Prasad Film and TV Academy, also held a workshop on digital cinema. Both intend to conduct such workshops it the future.

Powerband Films Pushes Extreme Sports Cinematography to the Limit with Fujinon Pl Lenses

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Powerband Films Pushes Extreme Sports Cinematography to the Limit with Fujinon Pl Lenses

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FUJIFILM Optical Devices U.S.A., Inc.,
10 High Point Drive
Wayne, NJ, 07470

Press release date: May 29, 2012

Wayne, N.J. – On a given shoot they may be capturing the grueling tension of a 24-hour car race or the adrenaline excitement of a 400-foot motorcycle jump. But veteran extreme action sports cinematographers Mike “Mack Dawg” McEntire of Mack Dawg Productions and Jay Schweitzer of Powerband Films know one constant: the rock solid performance of lenses from the Optical Devices Division of FUJIFILM North America Corporation.

McEntire and Schweitzer recently put FUJINON’s Premier PL mount zoom lenses, the 75-400mm/T2.8 – T3.8 (HK5.3×75) and the FUJINON 24-180 mm/T2.6 (HK7.5×24) to an extreme test, shooting “Red Bull: New Year. No Limits” jump event for their independent feature documentary on daredevil distance jumps. Both lenses were mounted to Red Epic cameras in this extremely challenging environment. The shoot occurred at night with dense fog. For the event, a snowmobile and a dirt bike jumped in tandem over a section of the San Diego Bay. The snowmobile jumped over 400 feet, and the dirt bike soared just shy of 400 feet. In order to capture the jumps in their entirety, the two cinematographers needed lenses that were sharp, wide open with a long range on the zoom. They found the ideal fit with the Fujinon Premiere PL glass.

McEntire is the owner of Mack Dawg Productions, a company known globally as one of the top action sports film companies. Mack Dawg has been producing extreme sports films since 1988. McEntire and fellow extreme sports cinematographer Jay Schweitzer started Powerband Films to collaborate on the “On the Pipe” series of freestyle motorcycle films 10 years ago. The “On the Pipe” films have been the definitive films on dirt biking since their collaboration began.

McEntire relied on the versatile 75-400mm again on a RED Epic camera to shoot the Rolex 24 GRAND-AM car race in Daytona Beach for Continental Tires. McEntire explained, “Both events required varied focal lengths. I found the 75 to 400mm range to be incredibly useful. It’s the longest range PL mount zoom lens available and with unbelievable 4K performance. Even shooting at a wide open T2.8 aperture for the Red Bull event, staged at night with serious fog to contend with, images were razor sharp edge to edge. It provided great-looking, slow motion footage that we like to use a lot.”

For the Rolex race, Continental wanted artsy footage for a one-hour television feature. “I was able to shoot all night in marginal light and produce amazing results,” McEntire described. “In the daytime, I captured high-speed action employing ND filtration to shoot wide open without any flare problems. My goal was to capture beautiful shallow depth of field material that you don’t normally see in a car race. I would’ve had a very hard time trying to do this with any other lens. Having a long zoom that performs like the FUJINON 75-400 in all types of light was a dream come true. This lens made a real difference in my images – at both events.”

Many of the events that McEntire and Schweitzer shoot are daredevil jumps, stunts and professional sports where the athlete has just one attempt to get it right. They have to nail a perfect shot every time. McEntire said, “The FUJINON 75-400 mm is absolutely the best lens I’ve ever come across for this type of work. The build quality is fantastic, with buttery smooth gearing that makes pulling focus a treat. It delivers a punchy, crisp image with black blacks and colors that pop. After such a great experience on these very demanding shoots, I’m looking forward to trying out the other two zoom lenses in the Premier series with upcoming productions.”

To view footage cinematographer Jay Schweitzer shot for the “Red Bull:New Year. No Limits.” event with the 24-180 mm Premier Series PL Mount lens, please click on the link above.

About MackDawg Productions
MackDawg Productions was formed in 1988 and has been at the forefront producing action sports content since that day. To date, Mack Dawg Productions has released over 40 films encompassing skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, dirtbiking, as well working on motion pictures, national commercial spots and TV programs. Today MDP is alive and well, focused on several documentary projects as well as continued work on high-end commercial, viral marketing and TV programming.

About Powerband Films
With more than 30 years experience capturing the full-throttle excitement of athletic competition, Powerband Films boasts a crew of some of the top action sports cinematographers in the world. Whether shooting landscape scenics, time-lapses, or high-speed competition. On the water, in the mountains or off the road, Powerband strives to deliver a masterpiece of art and wonder using motion picture images.. Visit

About Fujifilm
FUJIFILM North America Corporation, a marketing subsidiary of FUJIFILM Holdings America Corporation consists of five operating divisions and one subsidiary company. The Imaging Division sells consumer and commercial photographic products and services including film, one-time-use cameras, online photo services and fulfillment, digital printing equipment and service. The Electronic Imaging Division markets consumer digital cameras. The Motion Picture Division provides motion picture film, and the Graphic Systems Division supplies products and services to the printing industry. The Optical Devices Division provides binoculars, and optical lenses for closed circuit television, videography, cinematography, broadcast and industrial markets. FUJIFILM Canada Inc. markets a range of Fujifilm products and services. For more information, please visit, or go to to follow Fujifilm on Twitter. To receive news and information direct from Fujifilm via RSS, subscribe at

FUJIFILM Holdings Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, brings continuous innovation and leading-edge products to a broad spectrum of industries, including electronic imaging, digital printing equipment, medical systems, life sciences, graphic arts, flat panel display materials and office products, based on a vast portfolio of digital, optical, fine chemical and thin film coating technologies. The company was among the top 16 companies around the world granted U.S. patents in 2010, and in the year ended March 31, 2011, had global revenues of $25.8 billion*. Fujifilm is committed to environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship. For more information, please visit

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At 4x HD, This Is Probably the Most Epic Time-Lapse Nature Video Ever

There are a lot of time-lapse videos floating around the Internet but Tom Lowe’s TimeScapes is the one to see before you die. The film, an hour-long tribute to the beauty of the American Southwest, is the culmination of two years of shooting and the first video to be sold directly to viewers a 4K resolutionvia Lowe’s website. The trailer below is just boring old HD (1280 x 720 pixels) — and it’s still pretty impressive — but you can get a sense of the scale of 4K resolution (4096 x 2304 pixels) from the graphic below and the version on YouTube. To own the special 4K edition of the film in all its 140-gigabyte glory, download it here for just $299.95. The HD download is a little more affordable at $15.95. Lowe discusses the making of the film and his distribution strategy in an interview below. 

The Atlantic: What was the genesis of TimeScapes?

Tom Lowe: I started shooting time lapse as a hobby back in late 2006. Over the years, I started to get positive feedback online, at places like Vimeo, which led me to continue developing my skills as a time-lapse shooter, which in turn led to more positive feedback online. Eventually, I moved into shooting time lapse full time, when a wealthy backer from New Zealand sent me $100,000 and a Red MX digital cinema camera so I could spend a year and a half making my debut film, TimeScapes.

How did you get into time-lapse photography?

Like all good things, I sort of drifted into time lapse by accident. I had been camping out at Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California, and notice how amazing the rocks looked in the moonlight, backdropped by the stars and the Milky Way. I asked all my friends in the film business how I could shoot the rocks and stars at night, but none of them really knew. A well-established cinematographer named Francis Kenny, ASC, eventually saw a post I made at the forum and sent me a private message telling me that I could use a Canon DSLR still camera to shoot time lapse at night. The next day, I ordered a Canon 350D DSLR, and the rest is history.

[optional image description]Production photos (TimeScapes)

What drove your decision to distribute the film yourself online? Could you describe your distribution strategy?

I shot the film over two years on a budget for only $200,000, with a lot of help from sponsors like Canon USA and Kessler Crane. I edited the film myself, at home, in my living room, at 4K (4096 x 2304) resolution, on a tricked-out gaming PC. This whole thing was done on almost no budget, so right now, just selling Blurays and high-definition downloads from our own website, we are nearly profitable. We should be turning a profit within the next month or so, I think. We screened the film for IMAX in Los Angeles a couple days ago, and are still waiting to hear back from them. Plus, we have not even sold the domestic TV or foreign TV rights or anything. So we are extremely optimistic about making a good return on our time and investment. If any distributors or sales agents are reading this, give us a call!

[optional image description]4K resolution compared to normal high definition resolution (Wikipedia)
What do you want people to take away from the film?

Among other things I hope to inspire people to go out into the outdoors and enjoy these amazing places. I also hope the film connects with people on an emotional and spiritual level, and that it means something unique and personal to each person.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully a big, proper IMAX film, then I want to pursue a career as a feature film director, along the lines of my heroes Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick.

For more information about TimeScapes, visit

Avicii Totally “Le7els” Miami at American Airlines Arena, June 8

AviciiConcertReviewMiami1.jpgPhoto by George MartinezSee the full 39-photo slideshow of Avicii at the American Airlines Arena.

Avicii’s Le7els Tour
American Airlines Arena, Miami
Friday, June 8, 2012

Better Than: It being past 11 p.m. and not knowing your kids’ whereabouts.

Avicii is taking over.

He’s captured the hearts and minds of America’s neon-painted youth as if he were some kind of Swedish one-man boy band. And last night, the American Airlines Arena was full of screaming, wide-eyed fans who weren’t ashamed to scream along to “Le7els,” both times around.

They even sang along to his other songs, and that’s how you know he’s got them.

Because of the venue, and because the crowd was 16 and up, the 21-year-old superstar hit the stage at about 9:30 p.m., much earlier than
his headlining spot at Ultra Music Festival a few months ago.

AviciiConcertReviewMiami2.jpgPhoto by George Martinez
Of course, in no surprising manner at all, he opened his set with his biggest hit, “Le7els.” Some more cultivated and mature fans might have found this to be a bit too obvious, but the general response was more than positive.

Of course, there was also the insane stage presentation to make up for it. On this tour, Avicii has spared no expense to provide one killer visual performance. He stands in what would be the brain of a giant face, flanked on either side by big leafy shaped screens. The whole thing is 3D-mapped and covered in lasers, so as to transform into any sort of image, video, or color scheme imaginable.

AviciiConcertReviewMiami3.jpgPhoto by George Martinez
The tour is billed as something unlike anything dance music has seen before, and that’s partially true. Granted, epic light shows with massive presentation aren’t new. Daft Punk, anyone? But Avicii is blazing a trail as the first DJ to headline a national all-arena tour.

It definitely changes up the atmosphere. It feels less like a rave and more like a concert. Yet you still see all the usual signs of a rave — glow sticks, pacifiers, girls crying at their boyfriends in the hallway.

Singing along with your best friends in the crowd is a nice way to get a good view. But you still kind of wish that everyone was in one giant pit together on the floor. Still, now that Avicii has opened the doors, there will definitely be more DJs following in his footsteps.

AviciiConcertReviewMiami5.jpgPhoto by George Martinez
Throughout the show, these die-hard fans were going bonkers. With almost every drop, it seemed like Avicii had just played their favorite song, and these kids seemed to know all the words. They sang along emphatically to his remix of “Sweet Dreams” and recent single “Silhouettes.”

About an hour into his set, the stage setup got even more impressive as he dropped a remix of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside.” Turns out, the forehead of the giant face that serves as Avicii’s DJ booth can be raised even higher. And adding to the epic effect, smoke and lasers shot out from underneath it.

Avicii hung in the air under a spotlight and a camera captured and broadcasted his face in real time via the stage’s LED screens. Then it all went another step further … The lit-up, smokey DJ booth came flying out over the crowd, flashing red and white lights like some kind of flying saucer.

AviciiConcertReviewMiami4.jpgPhoto by George Martinez
There must have been a camera mounted to the bottom of the flying DJ booth, because live images of the crowd flashed on the LED screens. And as Avicii hovered above our heads, he dropped big hits from Tiësto and Swedish House Mafia vs. Knife Party before his spaceship returned to dock atop the head. It all looked very Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

By now, the set was winding down. So it was time for a second-round of “Le7els” madness. But this time, Avicii mixed it with vocals from Gotye’s number-one single “Somebody I Used To Know.” The crowd went nuts as the screens flashed ultra-bright ribbons and bands of color. And when Etta James’s vocal sample kicked in, the face grew some glittery lips and sang along, again.

A highpoint near the end was his remix of Robyn’s “Hang With Me.” Backed up with images of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, roller coaster rides and wooded roads, the euphoric melody set a chill and building ambiance.

AviciiConcertReviewMiami6.jpgPhoto by George Martinez
Avicii played a couple more tracks. But soon the lights faded and he stood in silence. Well, besides the thousands of screaming voices.

“Avicii, Avicii, Avicii,” they chanted as he made the shape of a heart with his hands. They continued chanting. And they would get their one more song.

Closing out in old-school style, Avicii unleashed a drop of Zombie Nation’s classic “Kernkraft 400,” and everyone sang along to the track’s iconic hook. A minute later, he gave the crowd heart-hands one more time before disappearing into the smokey abyss.

AviciiConcertReviewMiami7.jpgPhoto by George Martinez

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Avicii fans can’t clap on beat

The Crowd: Neon house freaks in their late teens and early 20s, not giving a fuck.

Best Auxiliary Characters: The couple that tried to sneak into the General Admission pit by jumping over from a railing almost 10 feet above the ground. It was a good try. You should have run faster.

Avicii’s Setlist Highlights:
-“My Feelings For You”
-“You’ve Got The Love”
-“Fade Into Darkness”
-“Sweet Dreams”
-“Save the World Tonight”
“In My Mind”
-“Le7els/Somebody I Used to Know”
-“Hang With Me”
-“Kernkraft 400″

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Location Info


American Airlines Arena


American Airlines Arena

601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music

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Galaxy S III First Impressions

I keep returning to the same train of thought: with the Galaxy S III, Samsung has been successful in completely consumerizing Android.  And they have a powerful brand platform.  The Galaxy S III is a huge marketing win for Samsung, as it provides a consistent branding message across the world, and across the five largest wireless carriers in the US.  Gone for now are carrier-cultivated names like the Samsung Galaxy S II, Epic 4G Touch.  Verizon, ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular customers will know the flagship device as the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Yes, the overarching theme that I come away with after working with the Samsung Galaxy S III for a couple of days is the very thing that Android purists and fans will hate most: this is the first Android device that I can say without a doubt is ready for the mainstream user.  I’m referring solely to the other 99 percent of us; those that want a consistent, fluid experience with some great features that can be accessed without rooting or tweaking the phone.  Thanks to a solid combination of specs and ease-of-use, I could safely recommend this phone to the power user, the social media buff, the media junkie, and the first-time smartphone buyer.  And at the end of the day, most of them would be very pleased with the package.

I’ve been working with the international Galaxy S III, which offers a 1.4 GHz quad-core Exynos processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording, a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, 2,100 mAh battery, Android 4.0 with a new build of TouchWiz, and HSPA+ 21 Mbps connectivity that’ll work on ATT in the US.  It directly competes with other Android flagships like HTC’s One X and EVO 4G LTE, and is coming to five carriers in the US beginning on June 21st.  The US build will swap out the Exynos chip for a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, and will be bundled with 2 GB of RAM and 4G connectivity (LTE or HSPA+, depending on your carrier).

  • The Galaxy S III launches amidst some tough competition; most notably, HTC’s One X.  HTC’s flagship comes very close and offers a great (albeit different) user experience, but from a software standpoint, it still needs some polish around the edges.  I get the vibe that HTC is trying to double dip between the tech and mainstream consumer crowds with Sense 4, whereas Samsung is gunning for the mainstream crowd, territory that Apple has long dominated.  HTC’s approach is great for those of us that enjoy tinkering with our smartphones, and I give the company credit for creating a less polarizing UI that will appeal to both mainstream users and tech geeks (a historically strong demographic for the company).  As for HTC’s “appeal to everyone” versus Samsung’s “appeal to the mainstream” strategy, it’s anyone’s guess as to which is more successful long-term, but I’d wager that Samsung’s distribution agreements with the five US carriers will place it in a very lucrative position that HTC hasn’t (yet) been able to enjoy with their flagship.
  • The international Samsung Galaxy S III is available in 16, 32, and 64 GB variants and can be purchased in pebble blue or marble white.  If you can’t wait for the US variants, it’s available now for a lot of money at online retailers like Negri Electronics.  I’ve been working with the marble white model, though I think I’m partial to the pebble blue.  ATT’s exclusive red model sounds really appealing, provided it’s a dark red.  Both phones come in at 8.6mm thin and weigh 5.6 ounces.

  • The design language is typical Samsung, as you’d expect; all variants are glossy and made of plastic.  The volume rocker is on the left side; power button is on the right; 3.5mm headphone jack is up top; and the microUSB charging port is on the bottom.  Those against non-removable batteries will find the Galaxy S III to be appealing; the phone’s 2,100 mAh battery and microSD card slot can easily be accessed by removing the back cover.
  • More on the design.  Rewind back to the global announcement day, and I was on a plane, headed from San Francisco to London.  Thanks to a series of meetings and events that I needed to attend earlier in the week, I hadn’t had the time to follow-up on every news article.  So as such, I missed most of the final rumor posts about the Galaxy S III.  The Galaxy S III was placed in my hand at a meeting that morning, prior to the circulation of press releases and associated images.  So unlike many of the people reading this, I held the actual phone before I saw the press images, and as such, my opinions of the design were formulated in a different manner.  I see a lot of criticism about the Galaxy S III’s look on the web, and while some of it can be chalked up to Samsung’s plastic design language, I’m seeing a number of comments against the design in itself.  Design preferences are obviously subjective, but if you’re at all on the fence, I’d strongly advise checking it out in a retail store.  The press images don’t do an adequate job of conveying the overall design and feel of the smartphone in the hand.
  • Connectivity has been strong thus far.  With the international version, you lose 4G LTE connectivity in place of HSPA+ 21 Mbps (which works well on ATT), but gain slightly better battery life as a result.  Working with a non-ATT branded device (read: no always-on-regardless-of-speed “4G” indicator) is testament to how often the network switches between HSPA+ and other 3G variants, but when ATT’s HSPA+ network is in action, speeds are zippy.  In testing in Charlotte, San Francisco, and Phoenix, I noticed download speeds between 3 and 6 Mbps, with bursts as high as 7.1 Mbps.

  • So far, battery life has been exceptional.  Despite powering a 4.8-inch HD display, I’ve been able to easily make it through the day, even while throwing it some tough curveballs.  Yesterday, I removed the phone from the charger at 4:00 AM EST for a full day of travel and meetings in San Francisco.  With two hours of calls; an estimated 200 text messages; reading several emails and responding to approximately 25 from the phone; light web browsing; roughly two hours of music playback while traveling; and downloading a few apps; I was able to make it until just after 7:00 PM PST.  Your mileage may vary depending on the level of customization you apply to the phone (obviously, things like live wallpapers, news, and weather all take a toll on the battery), but it’s a strong contender in the battery life department.  While I’m still running final tests, it easily goes against the international Samsung Galaxy Note and appears to best the international HTC One X.
  • The level of customization and things you can do with the Galaxy S III is impressive.  Instead of making it “just another Android phone,” the Galaxy S III offers a ton nifty customizations to the software that are intended to make the device easier to use.  Some of my favorites:
    • Integrated battery percentage indicator
      Something I’ve been waiting for on Android for years.  Without rooting, you have the option of a battery percentage indicator at the top of the display.  This is a feature I use on every single one of my smartphones (and get irritated when I don’t have the option – ahem, Windows Phone), so the ability to access it without downloading a separate widget is incredibly useful.
    • Tap to return to the top of a list
      While viewing a list (I use it most often in Contacts), you can tap two of your fingers on the top of the phone, and the Galaxy S III will scroll to the top.
    • Missed call and text vibrate notification
      I chalk this up to receiving 200-300 emails a day and to a lesser extent, my desire to always make sure my email and text message folders are clear.  But this is an incredibly useful feature.  When enabled, you can pick up the phone and it will emit a quick vibration if you have any missed calls or text messages.  Sure, there’s the notification light, but the vibrate offers an extra touch and saves that half a second between waiting for the light to illuminate.  And a bunch of half-seconds equate to at least 30 more seconds I have throughout the day.  Yep, that would be my 24-hour media mindset talking.
    • Voice features
      You’ll see this one on full display in the review, but it’s a cool little feature that I’ve really been enjoying.  You can assign the phone to recognize a specific voice command at the unlock screen and perform certain tasks.  For example, I press the power button to access the unlock screen, say “play music,” and it automatically starts up my music.  I also use “check text messages” quite a bit, which as you would expect, is programmed to take me directly to my Messages app.  It’s important to note that you can make the voice command your own; if you want to direct Galaxy S III to show you missed calls when you say “Aaron Baker rocks my socks,” you can program it appropriately.

Small software features and tweaks along with powerful specifications make this device a fantastic upgrade to the Galaxy series, and prove that Samsung is thinking outside of the Android box.  This is the kind of Android experience that I’ve hoped to see for years: powerful technology with the flexibility of Android and iOS-like fluidity.

  • Samsung Galaxy S III