Film Tec

Ellie Adder, PI being a radio show has no images, thus we create images in the listeners mind with voices, music and sound effects. Most of the sound effects are created in a practical manner, by acting out the event. Some sound effects are difficult to create in person (A jet airplane crashing for example), so effects are purchased from specialty companies, usually Sound Dogs.

In Spies by the Sea, the spies are using a radio transmitter to send shipping information to submarines offshore. They have a hidden antenna. Ellie and her associates identify the location of the spies when they hear the antenna being raised. I needed the sound of a ratchet jacking up a long pole to represent the raising of the antenna. See the video below for how that sound was created.

The musical play, Little Shop of Horrors, just opened at the Wimberley Player’s Theater and runs until the end of July 2018. I was involved as the Video Designer. The musical is based on a low budget 1960 SciFi film of the same name and the director, Jason Kruger, wanted to capture that the feeling of old, funky, B&W movies in the play by beginning with clips from 1950’s SciFi and horror films. So I assembled a number of clips from old films that are out of copyright and that we could legally use.

All films released before 1923 and certain films released before 1963 are no longer copyrighted and fall into the public domain. These latter films, those between 1923 and 1963, are in the public domain if the copyright was not renewed. A lot of obscure films fall into this category. It was from these rich sources of over acting and model rockets on strings that I gathered 35 minutes of really classic clips. This runs as the pre-show while the audience finds their seats. On opening night the audience really got involved in the clips and they created low key version of a Rocky Horror Picture Show atmosphere (Wimberley is after all a low key sort of place).

Still from
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

At the end of the pre-show, there was a countdown clip while the public service announcement was read, then the last clip was the prologue to the play featuring a out-of-sync voiceover added to a talking head from an old SciFi film (See photo on right). It ended when the film broke and melted.

The film breaking and melting was the only part I created from scratch using some special effects and actually melting some film with a blowtorch. That little snippet is presented below.



Back in January, I wanted to see and photograph the Super Blue Blood Moon. In order to get a moon image as big as possible, I went hunting through my lenses for telephotos. I found that I had two 200mm telephoto lenses. One was the 18-to-200mm E-mount zoom lens that came with my Sony cinema camera and the other was one of my father’s ancient Auto-Topcor full-frame 35mm film lenses.

I set up a test to see how telephoto was a 200mm lens and if both lenses covered the same field.

A 200mm lens does give quite a close up image. Photo 1 is the tableau I set up as seen with an 18mm wide angle lens. Photo 2 is from the exact same spot. The camera was not moved. I just changed lenses. You can also note that the 50 year old Auto-Topcor provides a nice bright, sharp image.


Even though both are marked as 200mm, they were made for different cameras. Usually full-frame 35mm film lenses when adapted to a camera with an E-mount and a Super 35mm film size sensor provide a more close-up image than native E-mount lenses. I wanted to test that. It turns out that the difference was quite small. The Auto-Topcor provided a closer view but not significantly so. Below is the Auto-Topcor as mounted on the Sony camera. It is a pretty big lens.

So, equipped with a good long lens I duly got up at 3am and headed outside. I looked up and it was overcast! I looked for the moon and for a second the clouds parted, I saw the moon, and the clouds closed never to open again. So, much for Super Blue Blood Moons.

The most modern lenses are fully automatic. They focus and set the aperture all by themselves and they do it quickly and with pretty good accuracy. When making a movie, nothing is quick and there is time to carefully consider the lens choice, as well as, adjust the settings by hand. In the photo are five of the six lenses we have available.

Moving from left to right, the first lens is a Zeiss 28mm lens. It is sitting on an adapter that allows it to be attached to the E mount of the Sony camera. This lens is fully manual. Its lens design produces very sharp images, with a shallow depth of field and vivid colors. The gear ring is for the follow focus mechanism and this lens is best used on a tripod.

The next lens is a fully automatic Sony 35mm lens in the Sony camera’s native E mount. This lens also provides electronic image stabilization and is good for hand held and car mounted shots.

Lens three is a 19mm, fully automatic, E mount lens from Sigma. This is very wide angle and, even though not image stabilized, is good for fast moving, hand held shots.

Fourth is an very old 58mm Auto-Topcor lens from Topcon. It is sitting on an adapter and has a gear ring. It was one of the finest lenses available in the 1960’s. It produces lush images, has very shallow depth of field and is good for close-ups.

Lens five is another Auto-Topcor. This one is 25mm and it has a huge glass area that creates beautiful images. Both Auto-Topcors are fully manual lenses.

The sixth lens (not pictured) is the fully automatic, image stabilized, zoom lens that came with the Sony camera. It is best used for ENG shoots where convenience is paramount.

I have a 6 foot camera crane (or jib… not quite sure of which term to use here). The photo shows the crane with the Sony camera mounted at one end and a monitor and counter weights down at the other end. The lens was made by Topcor over 50 years ago. My father used it with his full frame, 35mm SLR still camera.  It’s mounted on the Sony camera via an adapter.

Topcon RE Auto-Topcor Lens, 25mm

I set up a small test still life and shot a few test shots. The best of the bunch is presented below. The camera was 21 inches from the subjects, the aperture was f5 and shutter speed 1/60th of a second. It appears that the camera is moving straight up and down. That’s the benefit of a crane; the camera is not still and panning but is actually following the subjects. At this close range there is an interesting circular swaying at the camera end of the crane. I could not eliminate it. I used the same crane for a few shots in Nudged and that swaying was not apparent.  Those shots were of objects farther away and entailed bigger movements of the crane, so the swaying was not obvious.