Sunday, September 30, 2007

Word on the Street

The Word on the Street balloon arch

I was invited to go to Word on the Street to meet up with Marta, the girl that hired me to shoot "Peace of Diversity". It was at this book festival that I was to give her the CD of photos of the band. The festival was pretty packed and I couldn't find her anywhere. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. To make matters slightly worse I had forgotten her cell phone number at home. That wasn't too bright on my part.

Since she had my phone number and I told her to call me if we didn't meet at the specified time of 6pm I ended up wandering around weaving through crowds of bargain hunter book buyers and looking at various books and magazines on sale. One book that stood out was "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. Why did it stand out you ask? Because it explores religion and spirituality? The book had cool art work or graphics on the cover (maybe a naked girl)? Was there a large FOR SALE sign over it? The answer to all these questions would be "No".

The only reason this book stood out for me was that I was watching an episode of Corner Gas a few nights before and the main characters were reading it as part of a book club. The brainwashing of TV really does work. But wait there's more...

Guess who I bumped into today?

In the end I actually impulse bought two books and really it was only to get one book. The price was three for $20 and I could only find one other person that wanted one book. I had to buy two to get the deal or buy the one book alone for $18.00 US. Did I have to buy the book? No. It was just on a whim. The book was a smallish sized soft cover detailing naval battles with sailing ships. "War at sea in the age of sail 1650-1850" by Andrew Lambert seemed kind of interesting and because the book was smallish didn't look too intimidating. I figured it'd be an interesting read on the trip home.

Just as I sat down on the curb to start reading the book my cell phone rang. It was Marta. We managed to meet up, do the CD exchange, and go our separate ways. Just as I was saying "good bye". I noticed two bikers zip by. They seemed familiar (see photo).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy Birthday at Work

Looking out the window during lunch.

I spent most of my birthday today working on the set of "Traitor". Earlier in the morning, just after midnight I got a call from Linda, Brigitte and Darryl. Darryl seemed disappointed that Linda had beat him to the punch and while I was blabbing to Darryl, Brigitte had left a happy birthday message on the machine. Compared to last year I was doing pretty good raking in the birthday wishes. Granted last year no one knew I was back from the UK. The only person that called was Leanna and that was because I snuck my birthday date into her day timer before I gave it to her as a present at the beginning of the year. Talk about planning stuff in advance.

This year I spent most of my birthday on set working. For lunch I managed to snag two cake items from the food table. A slice of blueberry cheese cake which was pretty amazing and a piece of pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie. I thanked craft service for bringing it in.

There's a group of people that don't get much praise. Just like an army that runs on it's stomach so does a film crew. Hurray for the people that work in craft service. One of the best things about working on set.

Leanna's house warming

After work I travelled over to Leanna's new apartment for her house warming. My gift was a giant family pack of bathroom tissue, the good stuff that's soft on your tush, not that hard cheap stuff with wood chips. Why is it that people being plants to a new home? Maybe not everyone but it's up there with buying a toaster for a newly wed couple.

Being a nomadic sort, after the days of post secondary education, I moved seven times in eight years, and during that time received many plants. From flowers to the odd cactus to beans in a jar to flora I couldn't identify. All of them dead within a month. The cactus was dead within the week. Three days actually. We're talking fully green and plump to a shrivelled up brown clump surrounded by needles on the ground. Thanks to the powers of my brown thumb I've never had any plants live that long, but really, three days? That's got to be a record somewhere.

What's with the "V" thing anyway?

After the house warming I got home to find a barrage of Facebook wall messages saying Happy Birthday. Heck I even got a message from the facebook team wishing me "Happy Birthday". Even my cell phone company sent me a "Happy Birthday" message saying I could use the phone for free. Woo Hoo! Too bad I got the message at the end of the day. Another birthday of free cell phone calling missed. D'oh!

Overall as far as my birthdays go I had a pretty good day.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Same Room, Different Day

The headquarters of the 24 frame playback department

Tucked away in an empty room somewhere behind all the camera activity, Peter, Mark and me use our laptops to download, test and control animation that plays on set. We're here in this room for most of the week. The set that all the animations are playing on is being shot for that amount of time.

So what does a 24 frame playback operator do anyway?

To put simply a 24 frame playback operator is in charge of putting screens (televisions or LCD monitors) in front of cameras and syncing them properly while playing back given animation or video footage.

There's quite a bit more to it than that. Cabling, color correction, knowledge of computers, software, camera equipment, monitors, video hardware, electrical gear, and being able to take being yelled at for animations or footage that the director doesn't like. 24 frame operators frequently get asked and sometimes yelled at to alter animations or change footage because we can simply play them back.

It's kind of like telling your video rental store that a movie needs to be re-shot. They can rent you the movie or not. They might even be able to edit out some parts but they can't re-shoot footage with the actor to get that close up you wanted. It's the same with 24 frame playback operators. There are a few tricks we can do but we can't redesign an entire animation on the spot. I should say that there are some of us that can pull magically animations out of our butt but usually it upsets people that are actually doing the animations. We'd have to clear it through the art department anyway to make sure it matches the art director or production designers vision.

The problem generally stems from playback being thought of as an after thought by most art departments or directors. They have so many other things to worry about that it's easy to over look want might or might not be showing up on some small screen in the background. If the screen is featured (ie. it's a hero screen) then some flags might go off.

Despite the random stress given from people that don't know what we do on set the job is quite good. Fiddling with computers and video equipment all day, interacting with people and getting fed by craft service, and getting paid for it is pretty good in my books.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

24 frame playback operators

Peter, me, and Mark

This entire week I've been fortunate enough to work a job on the set of "Traitor" with two other 24 frame playback operators, Peter and Mark. It's rare having two playback operators on set let alone three. Then again I've been mainly working on TV shows or MOWs (movie of the week/TV movies) which have smaller budgets.

The photo was taken with my camera on a tripod using the delayed timer built into the D200.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What's that binging?

I went to see the movie "Shoot Em Up" today with Marc. Near the end of the movie a binging noise became audible. At first I thought it was part of the movie but then I realized it was the fire alarm. The time between bings shortened. The irritating noise was then followed up by a "movie team member" entering the theatre telling everyone to evacuate.

While this experience wasn't as bad as watching the subtitled film on a plane during turbulence it was still irritating not knowing how the last five minutes of the movie ended. The good news is that both Marc and I received two free passes each (with no expiry dates) to see movies at another time.

I'll probably end up buying 'Shoot Em Up' on DVD as it was filmed in Toronto and was an overall good no brainer action movie with a lot of guns blazing. In fact the movie was pretty much entirely guns blazing with very little dialogue or story for that matter. Approx 2 hours of action choreography. rating: half bagel

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Green Band Photos

"Peace of Diversity" plays ambient music in the corner

I was hired today to shoot a band called "Peace of Diversity". The interesting thing was that the band was playing at a Green party party. While I'm not politically active enough to go to these types of party gatherings on my own it was an interesting thing to see a relatively small party assemble a group of like minded people whose common goal is to look out for the environment.

Magnus McDermid, Frank deJong, and Marion Schaffer of the Green Party

The "Peace of Diversity" band members Nigel and R.J.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I drank coffee today.

Peter Gehmeling having "breakfast".

Beware the stack of milk and cream containers

My first coffee (in a long time)

If I recall correctly I've only had coffee three times. Not that I hate coffee or despise caffeine, I'm just not a coffee drinker. Coffee crisp (chocolate bar), chocolate covered coffee beans, coffee flavoured ice cream, they're all good. Coffee in a liquid form, no. Once while in kid form my parents gave me a cup to try out. It didn't take. Had they added sugar to it maybe, but drinking it black was way too bitter for those then youthful taste buds.

A second attempt was made while taking applied computer science. A bunch of us were studying in the E130 computer lab. We had a small radio playing 80s music, a bunch of assorted snacks, and someone had gone out and gotten a bunch of cups of coffee. There were extra so I thought I'd have one. I don't remember the taste but I do remember it keeping me awake until 11am the next day. With my night owl schedule back then that doesn't really say much. My brain was wired to be awake but I wasn't thinking clearly. I felt like a zombie.

Last night or rather Thursday night I got a call to work a show doing playback. It was a bunch of pickup shots involving a family living room TV set and a clip of Woody Woodpecker. The set wrapped at 2am. By the time I had finished packing my gear, driving it back to the company I was working for on the other side of town, unloading the contents into the lock up room, parking the van, and taking the blue night transit (the 24 hour bus) back home, I had arrived home at 5am.

Normally I would crash or stay up a few more hours watching TV to decompress. But the next day, Friday, I was scheduled to work for the same company on a different show. I had to be back across town at 10:30. Having to leave at 9:00am to make it there on time would give me four hours to sleep.

On top of this I had gotten an email that night informing me that my new business cards were ready for pick up. I could pick up the cards on the way to work if I left earlier at 8:30 am. Three and a half hours didn't seem like much sleep. I stared at the ceiling for about an hour before making the decision to not go to sleep at all and have breakfast across the street.

Around 2:00 pm I was having lunch when the wave of drowsiness hit me. We stopped off at Starbucks, Peter's favorite coffee place, and I picked up a small coffee. This little cup kept me going until 8:00pm and on the way back home to the subway station fell asleep in the van.

The train ride home was a blur and when I got home managed to fire off some emails before saying "hello" to my pillow.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Andy's Birthday Party

The Rok Boutique (200 Bathurst)

Andy, a girl I've met only once before at Bill's birthday party a few years ago had her birthday tonight at the ROK boutique. For the readers that don't know, the ROK boutique is a three month old (or so) bar located on the west side of Bathurst just north of Queen street here in Toronto. The bar's musical ambiance contains hits from AC/DC, Slayer, Kiss, and other rock bands from the 80s.

Andy and Bill

At Bill's request and the twisting of a very rubber arm I showed up to photograph the event. Like many birthdays, there was a lot of drinking and socializing involved. What made this event a bit different was that a dance pole was installed in the main area of the bar.

For the last few years, at least here in Toronto, pole dancing has gone from being solely used by night club dancers to becoming part of being fit and exercise for "normal" women. There are fitness places that have been popping up that specialize in this. (ie. FlirtyGirl fitness).

Whatever the reason for having a pole for a birthday you could see people having fun with it. Think of it as the 2007 version of Twister. Although I stick to my opinion that guys on poles just look awkward or goofy.

The barkeeps

Good "friends".

Andy attempts the pole

Tracy and Lydia

Andy the birthday girl.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nothing Day with the Hyena Dog Robbery

Julie on the subway

The only work related thing I had on my agenda today was to drop off some photos of the boat cruise to Joel. Other than that no plans to do anything else. It's days like this that are usually a good time to meet up with friends you don't get to see on a regular basis provided you don't want to spend the time catching up on your sleep.

On my way to visit Thomas at the Bloor Future bakery I bumped into Julie. Julie is a person I had met (again) a few weeks after moving into my current apartment. It was at the local NoFrills grocery store in the yogurt section. I saw her out of the corner of my eye and blurted "Julie?". The name just popped into my head and out my mouth before I even knew if the name matched the face.

She kind of squinted at me. It was obvious she knew who I was but didn't remember my name. After a few long seconds "Derek?". It's pretty amazing how some people remain the same or recognizable to one another after so many years. The last time I saw her I was in grade six.

Thomas and his bike

After brunch and dropping off the photo CD for Joel I made my way back downtown on foot, stopping at whatever caught my eye. It was sad to see the Japanese restaurant with a closed sign in the door window. I have a very fond memory of eating there in a very quiet booth. The food was excellent.

The Japanese restaurant that was quite nice.

Curses! It's closed for good.

A sleeping puffed out pigeon.

The TTC trains.

Cloud observations.

Just before getting to Bloor street I stopped at a park and sat on a park bench looking around at people and things in general. Puffy clouds, joggers, woman with dog, a bunch of office people walking somewhere with sandwiches. People scurrying around in general with things to do.

Later on in the evening I dropped by the Bovine to see the band the Hyena Dog Robbery with front man Daryl Purdy. Daryl is a boom operator that I met on set a while ago on various productions one of them being Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. Who knew he could sing and play guitar? Not me.

Daryl Purdy of the Hyena Dog Robbery

Daryl sings.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Case of the rattling garbage bag

The garbage bag with the skunk in the background

Around 4:30, maybe 5:00am I heard rattling outside my window. Being wide awake I went outside to poke my head around the corner. In the darkness two raccoons ran beside me, up a fence, and disappeared into the darkness. Down the alley one of the neighbours had left a garbage bag out and had not put it into a bin. The raccoons were getting at it tearing the bag to shreds.

Most people would have placed the bag into the bin and gone back inside to sleep. Me, on the other hand, decided it would be a great opportunity to try out my ML-3. The Nikon ML-3 is a wireless remote that plugs into the D200 (camera body). One of the nifty features is that you can set it as a trip wire. The hand held remote can be placed somewhere aimed at the receiver attached to the camera. An infrared beam is continuous. When something breaks the beam the camera takes a picture.

I had originally bought the remote to use as a wireless trigger only. To be able to press the button with my finger and take a picture. It was an important thing to have when trying to sync two camera bodies while doing my stereoscopy imagery. Having a trip wire option seemed excessive. Excessive until now.

I started setting up the camera on a tripod aimed and focused on the garbage bag. While fiddling with the camera I heard something and automatically fired the shutter (using the camera's shutter button). The result being the above picture. At the time I was expecting a raccoon. When my brain realized it was a skunk there was a whole different outlook on shooting the wild animal.

Raccoons can have rabies but skunks can make you stink for days. For some reason getting a needle in your gut for the rabies seemed okay compared to showing up at an event smelling like skunk. It's amazing how one's brain works in the wee hours of the morning.

Once the skunk was scared away by the flash I decided to pack up the gear, throw the bag of trash into the bin and call it a night.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Funny Ha Ha

Darryl Gold and Jane Luk laugh at a clip on YouTube.

While dropping off a UFO made of two pie plates stuck together at Darryl's office, I spent some time observing Darryl and Jane watch YouTube. At one point they were looking at a 10 minute clip of Wonder Women spinning. It was a montage of footage taken from different episodes. I couldn't believe someone had that much time on their hands to put together such a long repetitive piece of work.

The geek in me started checking out the lens flare element to see if it was the same in every transition. Although the production used the same flare a number of times, there were different flares throughout the number of spins. Now you know.

After feeling a bit dizzy from all the spinning Jane wanted to see something else. Preferably something funny. I showed them the funny Japanese TV show that I saw a while ago thanks to UncaringBear's blog. It's here as well on YouTube (click here).

While Jane and Darryl were rolling with laughter I clicked off a few snaps.

24 hour convenience

The closest 24 hour variety store that I know of.

Around 4:00am and wide awake with not even the thought of sleep in my brain I decided to get outside for a short walk to the local variety store. It was there that I picked up a 2 litre bottle of C-plus (orange soda).

Orange C-Plus is the official drink of dim sum when I was a kid. Actually any chinese food for that matter. Eventually C-Plus, my main source of vitamin C, was replaced with coke-a-cola which is now my main source of caffeine.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Beauty Pageant

I went off to shoot a beauty pageant today accompanying the main photographer, Dominic. It took place in a restaurant somewhere in north Toronto. The eight contestants were pretty young and performed various skills from magic, to breaking wooden boards, to singing. As a bonus we, the photographers, were fed copious amounts of food.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back Yard Fresh Air

My well cooked Dr. Oetker mushroom pizza

Being a tad under the weather still. I managed to force myself to get some fresh air outside by eating lunch in the back yard. There was a sale on Dr. Oetker pizzas this week and I picked up 10 of them. Once home I realized there was only enough room in the freezer for three, my freezer has other things in it, leaving seven in the non frozen section of the fridge. To make sure none of the pizzas would go bad I have been eating pizzas for the last few days.

The spinach pizza is my favourite followed by the triple cheese pizza.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Relocation Imminent

Darryl takes some last pictures of the veggie restaurant

One of our favourite vegetarian restaurants Bo De Duyen is moving to the Dundas and Landsdowne area making room for a new steak house (so the rumour has it).

Monday, September 03, 2007

Aliens in High Park

An alien couple on their honeymoon

I had got roped into helping Jill and Darryl shoot a 3D film in high park today. I was feeling a bit under the weather and crabby. Most likely due to the lack of sleep over the last few days. I sat waiting for about 20 minutes at an entrance to High Park to find no one had shown up.

Just when I was about to leave I saw Darryl whiz by on his bike and fly up the Bloor street hill. I tried shouting but my voice was still a bit screwy from the laryngitis. I came to the realization that I might have gotten the wrong directions. I left a message on Jill's cell phone and was waiting for someone to call me back.

I really have to get a cart or something with wheels to carry all my stuff. The two suitcases of camera lenses with the 3D gear, the remotes, the light stands and my cameras were feeling a lot heavier today. I carried them up the hill to the other entrance. They they were.

Trudging through the park after finding them to look for a location to shoot put me in a foul mood. The lack of organization was rubbing me the wrong way. Like I said before I was tired and irritable. On top of that I thought I was going to throttle Darryl when he started suggesting last minute adjustments to the cameras and the direction to shoot. As a note to myself, I should always trust my instincts when it comes to photography, we ended up shooting into the sun.

Over the course of spending nine hours in the bush a calm eventually washed over me. The realization that I was going to give all the photos to Darryl to deal with all the post work made me a bit happier. It was also nice to see the people from Jill's previous shoot.

Being behind the camera and using new technology that I've configured is always a good thing in the end. By the end of the day I was feeling much better.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

It's all about the corn dogs

The air show...

Instead of going to the weekly dim sum food extravaganza at the New Treasure restaurant I ended up at the CNE for round two of corn dog ingesting (along with other CNE food). It all started with Marc expressing disappointment that I had gone to the CNE yesterday with Linda.

Who would go see the air show with him? After all no one is crazy enough to spend $14 twice in one year to go to the CNE let alone twice in one week? It was the second last day the CNE would be open. Marc's window of opportunity was closing fast. For me, the thought of having another corn dog prompted me to say "Let's go to the Ex!". . In the car I could imagine the burning rubber of the rear tires and the puff of smoke as Marc accelerated the car making a bee line for the CNE. (Note to readers: Marc doesn't really drive that aggressively, I was embellishing a bit there).

We arrived at the CNE in time to wait in line for about 40 minutes. The line up to get in was long, winding it's way around a few buildings. We passed through the gates just in time for the air show and a demonstration of one of the new US fighter jets. The Raptor, or as the announcer over the PA described it, "Freedom's Thunder" roared across the sky and did a pull up right into the sun. Why is it that planes at air shows always have to pull up into the sun? Why can't they have air shows a bit later on in the day when the sun isn't right over our heads?

...complete with helicopter rescue.

Without sun screen Marc started burning and turning into a lobster before my eyes. He inched toward the shadows of the nearby trees while I took photos of the passing aircraft. My goal was to shoot the helicopter. There's always a helicopter of some kind at the CNE air show. This year, a rescue copter. After the helicopter "rescued" a person from Lake Ontario we retreated out from under the sun and into the food building.

Inside the food building.

Over the years the CNE has fizzled out from what it used to be. As a kid, wow I'm saying that a lot these days, the CNE's food building actually had bargains on food. Free stuff or cheap stuff. From the seven cent, yes seven that's not a typo, cup of Pepsi, to the 10 cent Lola, to the bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce for 25 cents, the food building has gone from bargain good food to average priced food court.

I remember getting a pack of double bubble bubble gum every year really cheaply. I only really bought all those packs for the PUD comic strips. I thought the gum tasted like crap. Today I ended up getting a roti from Island Foods. Food that you don't have to go to the CNE to get now a days.

I think the CNE is getting smaller as more and more shows that cater to specific items pop up. It used to be that the CNE was the premiere exhibition for seeing new washing machines, pianos, home improvement, gadgets, and other neat stuff. Now there's a variety of home shows, wedding shows, car shows, comic book conventions, and other specific shows that cater to specific demographics.

Even the rides have been eclipsed by Canada's Wonderland and Marine land to name a few. So in order to give the CNE some appeal the organizers have gotten a human cannon ball, some farm animals, a tiny mardi gras like parade and a tower of Lego bricks. Interesting to see once but hardly enough enticement to return to the CNE a number of times.

The human canonball

While wandering around the "World" section of the CNE looking for the crystallized ginger I buy every year from the Australian booth Marc started getting tired asking "what are we doing?". On our way out we bumped into Steve and his mom. Steve had run out of memory on his camera. He was in luck as I had two 2 gigabyte compact flash cards I wasn't using. I lent him one. That seemed to make his day and it cheered me up a bit for not finding the ginger.

Steve and his mom Agnes.

The Whack-a-mole

Marc with some color.

We ended up leaving the grounds shortly after that to see the "Balls of Fury" movie. On the way out I kept thinking "Should I get another corn dog to go?".

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bad Food is Good

Linda and me as Schneiders employees.

Today's adventure took place at the Canadian National Exhibition with Linda. The fun started right when we got in at the front gates. Just a few feet away from the ticket booth and entrance there was a mobile museum for Schneiders. Basically a tent with framed photographs and blurbs. Standing in front of the photographs was one of the curators who was an actual employee for over 30 years. We talked to him for a few minutes then looked around reading about the history of the company.

Outside the tent was a green screen and some lab coats. With the help of some photo magic, poof, both Linda and I became meat inspectors or maybe butchers standing in front of an old Scheiders moblie. Some kind of Schneiders employees maybe? How cool is that?

Waiting for the tribute to Broadway... on ICE!!!

At the Ricoh building there was a "Tribute to Broadway". We got some pretty good seats that were facing down the center of the ice rink. While waiting for the show to start Linda was freezing. Is it me or are shows on ice a bit non-glamorous. Thoughts of people who skate that couldn't make the Olympics end up? Or where people that used to be in the Olympics end up? It seems so sad.

As a small kid seeing the Ice Capades were fun and even cool. But then as a small kid how many times did you get to go out with your parents on outings of any sort? The odd Christmas party, maybe a hockey game at Maple Leaf Gardens, a baseball game. This is before recordable TV technology and internet by the way. Like sharpening Popsicle sticks on the sidewalk things were a lot simpler then. I seem to remember going to the Ice Capades with my cousin who at that time thought she wanted to be an ice skater. She had this thing for the movie Ice Castles.

The Phantom of the Opera... on ICE!!!!

Some where over time as an adult, shows on ice seem to rank somewhere between watching Sesame Street and West Side Story. It's not like they have action dramas on skates on TV. Although it might be funny. It would be hard to pull off something serious with a cast of skaters. Probably end up with a hockey musical or something better left to ballet.

The Tribute to Broadway was pretty entertaining with catchy music (including music from ABBA and Grease) and some pretty good skating. It was long enough to feel like your free admission was worth it. A thing to note was that the lighting was pretty incredible.

Balancing rocks.

Linda and I spent a lot of time walking around to the different food booths. We ate everything from corns dogs, greek food, and the coveted deep fried mars bars (DFMBs). How can something so bad for you be so good tasting? I would buy a mini deep fryer just for making DFMBs and corn dogs if the thought of eating them on a regular basis didn't end up with me clutching my chest and dying. Still if you can't eat what you want why bother living.

To paraphrase a quote from "Strictly Ballroom", "A life lived in fear of food, is a life half lived.". Okay I added the food part, but really....

A butter sculpture of the Statue of Liberty.

baby pig... or piglet.

Like looking into the eyes of a chicken.

A sheep enjoying the cool breeze.

Linda with the prize from Whack-A-Mole

Some of this year's stuffed prizes.

Deep fried Mars bars... only 1000 calories per bar.

Just to clarify... The "Bad Food" in the title refers to the deep fried foods mentioned in this entry.