Creating Change in 2016

Two years ago, you guys made the trip of a lifetime happen for me a small team. We had the opportunity to document a war torn environment and capture a one of a kind story. Lost Generation of Sudan was the first multi camera documentary filmed in that region in the last decade, that happened because of you. Now, we’re doing it again.

Here’s how this time will be different, and even better than the last.

We aren’t just doing another short film, this one will be bigger than any film Operation Broken Silence has every released. It will be a timeless feature length documentary to last through the ages and shed light on a very dark spot in the world. This film has the opportunity to reach thousands of people just like yourself and give you the knowledge and power to do something about the tragic situation in Sudan.

We have talented team assembled that I truly believe will give us the advantage of not only bringing you a beautiful looking finished product, but a compelling story that will grip hearts all across the world and put the power in your hands to make something happen.

Like I mentioned before, you are the very reason we are able to document these stories that change lives. Since the last documentary released and we unveiled Project Endure, you have put teachers back to work, gave classrooms school supplies and helped grow our movement 100% just last year. You are more powerful than you think.

December 1st is #GivingTuesday, one of the best days to donate, there are no transaction fees so literally every penny you donate goes 100% to the cause. It’s the perfect opportunity to give us the push we need to get the ball rolling on the documentary. Please visit my fundraising page at stayclassy to give a donation, any amount helps no matter how big or small. If you don’t have the funds at the moment to donate but still feel compelled to help us with our cause, you can become a fundraiser on my team and raise funds yourself! GET STARTED HERE! While you're here check out Lost Generation of Sudan below:

Review: Aluras, Primes, and Super Speeds


On the last few shoots I've gotten my hands on a few different types of glass: Zeiss Mark I Super Speeds, Arri Ultra Primes, and a couple of Arri Aluras. I'm not going to waste anybody's time going into technical detail, but as a Camera Assistant, here are some things I noticed and preferred about some over the others.

Zeiss Mark I Super Speeds T/1.4

First off, no doubt that Carl Zeiss is a highly respectable name in the field. Hands down some of the best sets of glass out there. The last feature I AC'd was shot on a set of Zeiss Mk I Super Speeds, great lenses with an aperture that clocks in at T/1.4. Originally released close to 30 years ago, these might as well be one of the founding fathers of super speeds. Them being so old though you run into a few things, some good and some bad.

With age, comes wear. Unless "babied" there is going to be some natural wear and tear from being used for so many years. PL mounts being loose and needing to be reset and having some give in the focus ring were some things we ran into. This may not be for everybody though, I can only speak for the set we had in particular.

Beautiful filmic image. What I loved the most about these bad boys was the film-like appearance it gave our image. Of course we had to be careful with the aperture, opening wider than a T/2 would give sort of a "bloom" effect. This would cause issues with pulling focus, but other than that great image. 

Hold your breath. Those who are familiar with pulling focus or dealing with a variety of lenses, you've heard of a lens "breathing." Well these guys full on inhale, deep sigh, practically snore. What I mean by the lens breathing is this: when you rack focus either direction, if it's a drastic enough pull you can see a change in your frame. Almost looks like a minuscule zoom, but it's noticeable. The actual physical lens breathes with your focus change as well. This can cause some creativity with your matte box, because at the start of your focus it may be right up against the lens, but by the end of your pull you could have gap in between the lens and matte box. This can cause light leaks depending if you have ND filters in or not. Just something to keep in mind.

Arri Ultra Primes T/1.9

Also accompanied with the Carl Zeiss name stamped on the top, great quality lens and a great quality image. Here's how they broke down for me:

Nice and Crispy. No doubt a good look to these primes. Compared to the Mark I Super Speeds it had a little less of a film look for me, but I felt like I could really nail some of my focus points, even as they got closer to infinity. Whereas on the Mk I's I felt like they would almost skip over where I wanted to focus as the talent got further away. Good crisp focus.

Nice and Cozy. In regards to the image, I can't say I noticed any breathing while focusing on these. Physically, there was NO breathing when you focus, which was great. The front of the lens was nice and cozy with the matte box the whole time, right up against the ND's. Kept us from even thinking twice about the possibility of light leaks.

Arri Alura T/2.8

Specifically the two Aluras we had on set were the 15-45mm and the 45-250mm, both with an aperture of T/2.8.

I've worked with these two particular lenses many times and love the image, plus being zooms it's easy to just dial in what lens your DP wants. However when you do have to change lenses, it's a bit of an ordeal. 

Working with primes it's easy to get spoiled to just pop off the matte box, or swing it away depending on the brand you have, change lenses and you're good to go. Going from a 15-45mm to a 45-250mm is a bit more to do. Shown in the images above.

The front of the lenses are differently sized so that'll change the donut/hard matte you have in your matte box. It requires a rod change/extension depending which lens you're switching to. Changing rods causes for pulling the Follow Focus and reattaching it, and if going to the 45-250mm a lens support is needed. Not exactly as quick of a change as the primes.

If that's kept in mind when changing lenses though and you have things organized in a fashion that you can get to what you need quickly it shouldn't take too long.

My Favorite?

Our of these three, I'd choose the Arri Ultra Primes. Quick to change, crisp to focus, and unless you're in super low light the T/1.9 is more than enough speed to get that nice depth of field you want in your shots. #DatBokeh

Beating an undead horse

Mild Spoiler Alert

If there's one thing everyone and their mom can agree on it's that it is a post-apocalyptical obsessed generation. Not just in the aspect that everyone is prepared for the zombie apocalypse, but it has flooded our shows and movies with the foot-dragging, flesh-hungry undead.   I fall right into that target audience. There is something fascinating about the idea that civilization as a whole falls apart with a matter of minutes to months, and humanity is left to survive with nothing but primal instincts and a shred of luck.

I'm not going to point fingers at the bad shows (maybe I'll do that later in another post) but I would like to commend one specific series for how they're doing it, and doing it well: AMC's Fear The Walking Dead. Take a walk with me and let's break the first two episodes down as a whole from story composition to technical aspects and see why this show is killing it, and doing it differently than every other zombie infused network show.

Audiences this day in age have a short attention span, it's not a secret, although I do believe it's getting better and people are starting to look for a more story driven dynamic in what they watch. FTWD does a great job of opening up and basically cutting the crap. Opens up beautifully with a drugged up junkie finding the first infected person eating someone. There is no explanation who this character is, where he's located, or if he's important or not. The opening sequence has just enough "wow factor" and mystery so that by the time the opening titles come up it's a hook, line, and sinker. No one is turning the show off at that point.

A lot of times shows like this are started after the infection has spread to worldwide pandemic, or at least that the governments of the world already know what's going down and they are underway to stop it. Sometimes they start up after the world is destroyed and characters are left trying to rebuild a life or merely just survive. The Walking Dead is a good example of this type of show and again, they kill it. Absolutely love that show but I'm going to stay on topic here and keep talking about the Spinoff Series of that show, Fear The Walking Dead.

Here's why it's different:

FTWD starts with the city of LA thinking that there's just a bad flu virus that's going down. Kids are calling in sick for school and life as they know it is continuing on. Within these first two episodes you see the chaos that starts to ensue as an unaware city witnesses police having to gun "innocent" people down in the streets that are just "sick". Riots start, fires and protests in the street, and the question in the majority of the city "Why are they doing this?" Police at this point don't even know what's happening, they just see sick people walking towards them to attack and are having to load them full of bullets to take one down. It's an extremely realistic representation of how actual people would react if this was happening. Some would start hoarding water and canned goods, some would need a finger to point blame, some would turn violent at protest just demanding answers. We all know the government wouldn't be keen on cluing us in, mainly because they themselves wouldn't know what's going on, but also would want to keep widespread panic from happening.

One thing that shines in The Walking Dead is character development, and I expect nothing less in Fear The Walking Dead. The story centers around a cliche television family with specific roles. The stepfather/teacher who is trying to gain respect of his step children, the wise one from the beginning seeing that something is off with the sickness and shootings. He suspects there's something linking the two. The mother of those children who is guidance counselor at the same school the stepfather teaches at, she also suspects something's off but wants to have faith that everything will be fine and the government will give fair warning if something is wrong. The teenage daughter who rolls her eyes at everything, but still does the right thing when it comes down to it. Lastly, the college age son who has thrown his life away and become a drugged up junkie. All these characters have open doors to grow as far as their development goes, and I can't wait to see where the show takes them.

From a technical aspect, beautiful at every angle.

Shot on a few different cameras but the one I'd like to point out is the Arri Alexa XT Plus. Allowing the base format to be shot 2K and giving the editors and colorists the ability to make these episodes as beautiful as they are.

Scenes are lit and shot based off the mood, giving subtle representation of how you should feel about what's happening. Overall the show starts with things for the most part fully lit, bright and normal, representing all is fine in the world. Then as time goes on, things are revealed that this sickness going around could be something more, scenes become more and more backlit. This causes the foreground to be darker and more ominous. This causes beautiful silhouettes and glowing edges around our characters and scenes, all the while not taking away from the information presented in the scene. The camera moves are tastefully designed and used. Handheld when necessary but not overplayed. Also props to the steadicam operator, smooth and perfect horizon normally, but if it's a high tension moment horizon is broken just a bit. To the viewer this allows the feeling that something isn't right, and that's exactly how they want you to feel. In a nutshell the soundtrack is on point. The opening title and the sound behind it is beautifully terrifying, and throughout the show it's never overplayed but fits the scenes perfectly. Below are some examples:

To sum up, this show is awesome. I love it. AMC sure knows what it's doing with their series lately, and FTWD has all the pieces of a puzzle to create an epic series that will keep viewers crawling back just like The Walking Dead has. Selfishly when it does end I would love for it to lead up to the point that Rick Grimes wakes up in the Pilot of The Walking, I just think that would be the perfect way to end this series as a prequel. But hey, we'll see where it goes from here, can't wait.

50 Shades of False Color

It's been awhile since I've done a blog post, and being completely honest, looking back at my other posts this may very well be my first real one. I've been very blessed to be busy the past few months with various projects, the latest of which is a feature film entitled Remember the Goal.

We are still in production on this feature so I won't be able to dive into any and all details and spoilers, but I want to walk through some of my experiences on this with you as a Camera Assist/DIT Swing.

If someone is being budget aware when planning a project one of the first merges that happens is DIT/Data Wrangling falling onto the Camera Department. Along with nixing VTR and a Video Village. Taking on both of these responsibilities is certainly doable even if it isn't ideal, and it blows me away how often it happens.

Right off the bat, do not discount what a true DIT (Digital Image Technician) does. Sometimes it's automatically assumed they are a "copy and paster." Not true, they are doing exposure checks constantly while shooting to make sure there is no loss of data in your whites and blacks, as well as looking through your previous footage to make sure there doesn't need to be any reshoots for whatever reason. Frame Rates, Project Timebases, RedCode, resolution to shoot at and why (which we had to decide) and ensuring that everything you've shot looks tip top once it leaves the camera, falls on the DIT's plate. In a nutshell they are invaluable. I believe that every position is invaluable on set, production is a team that comes together to make things run smoothly. 

Another invaluable position is a DP that understands false color and can check it himself if he/she needs to, if DIT falls onto the AC and they aren't looking at every single shot, it's good to have a second set of eyes.  Our Director of Photography Mark Mitchell does extremely well with this, taking it a step further, he checks false color on REC 709 and then will switch to RAW and check it again. For those who don't know, REC 709 is a basic contrast thrown onto a RAW image, RAW is a very flat image to ensure you have a greater range in post production when you want to establish a look.

When looking at the RAW image and you do a false color check, it is best to see 50 Shades of False Grey. 

False color obviously isn't the only way to check your exposure, Histograms are very popular as well. I personally prefer the Histogram and Waveforms, however depending on the monitor it may not be the clearest form of checking. If you have a 720p monitor that throws the waveform real small in the corner, it isn't as easy to see your whole image for "peaks and valleys" (pure whites and blacks).

As much as it seems, this post isn't all about Exposure and the importance of a DIT, Remember the Goal has been a blast to work on and I look forward to continuing the production. We have a great crew with great attitudes which brings me to my next point. 

This is a mostly exterior feature, shot in the middle of the summer, in the south. It is the hottest time of the year and the sun beats down hard. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. It is so easy to let these things get to you when you aren't in the most ideal settings and locations, but having a great attitude on set will allow everyone else to have one too. It takes one Debbie Downer to put a downer on the whole crew, don't be that person! 

Also if you're on a low budget feature, FILL IN THE BLANK. The worst thing you can do is have a "that's not my department" mentality. If the Key Grip is needing to move a 12x12 Silk and his other grips are tied up, give them a hand. Just ask first to make sure you help in a safe way. If it looks like someone is dying of thirst and PA Nation is busy, get that person a water.

Lastly, be safe. Like I said this is mostly exterior in the hottest time of the year, the most important thing on every single set regardless of what anyone says is SAFETY. No matter your conditions, stay hydrated and be as prepared as you can for unsafe conditions. If you see something that doesn't seem safe, speak up.

No shot is worth the safety of an individual, no production is worth a life. We all have a passion for what we do, it's why we put up with the long hours and physical labor with a smile on our face. But at the end of the day, be smart and be safe, don't let a shot/scene/movie/show take priority over the safety of the crew and talent.

All this safety talk does come back around to Remember the Goal and the awesome crew we have on it. Everyone is very safety conscious and that is highly respectable and worth the mention. I've been on set where I've seen people pass out due to heat, and it's just not worth it, we are lucky to have the crew we do and I'm glad to be a part of it.


Good People | Good Beer 2015

If you're in Memphis, TN and you love good beer, check this out.  Operation Broken Silence is hosting their annual beer tasting event this summer to raise money for their nonprofit work in Sudan. We just finished the ad a couple days ago which you can check out below. For more info on the event visit