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.

 

 

It’s curious when one becomes the subject of one’s academic endeavors. I became involved with the Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch when it was first created in the late 1980’s and did an internship experience in 1990. I was then in my 40’s and felt quite distant from the population I was studying.

Now, in my 70’s I have joined Pogo who said, “He is us.”

Aging does bring changes. Short term memory becomes an issue. Passing thoughts that used to stick in my mind, now slip away easily. It is necessary to focus on passing thoughts to attach them in my mind and I find the calendar and notepad apps on my phone to be essential tools. Strength and balance are other issues. My horse riding activities pointed up how long it took me to develop the strength and balance necessary to participate in dressage competitions.

I recently was asked to contribute an article for the Summer Horse Show Series Supplement in the Dripping Springs Century-News. In the article (click on the link below) I go deeper into the challenges presented by the passage of time.

Riding in Competition (May 2018)

Reference

Humor in America, The Morphology of a Humorous Phrase: “We have met the enemy and he is us”

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.

Texas Oncology has been exploring how their patients with cancer have kept life positive and growing.  They have produced a series of short films that focus on “… stories of the fighters, believers, and survivors who’ve inspired us with their determination and hopeful spirit.” Recently, yours truly was the subject of one of these stories.

Rodger (on right) and Dakota

I have been a patient at Texas Oncology for over 3 years and two years ago I took up horse riding. My physician, James Uyeki, thought my equestrian endeavors would ft into this series of short films. He was right.

The film is now part of the Texas Oncology website and has been featured in an ad in the January 2018 issue of San Antonio Magazine. Watch the film at Texas Oncology.

My riding began as a lark and over time I grew to find it both an intellectual and physical challenge. Dakota and I can trot and canter. We can jump small fences with a single bound. Currently, I am focusing on dressage. Dressage calls for an almost transparent bond between horse and rider and achieving that level of control and communication is a most difficult challenge. Riding has helped be to be stronger and more balanced and my bond with Dakota is quite amazing.

The film was shot at Bel Canto Farms on a hot August morning. There was quite a crew there and a behind the scenes pic is below.

Behind-the-Scenes

The people in the photo are: Amanda Cowherd (junior copywriter), Sarah Green (Texas Oncology client), Michele Evans (art director), Jim Webb (videographer), Michelle Wells (Texas Oncology client),  and James Hamilton (writer). Kim Bissell (Account Supervisor) took the photo. The film was made by HCB Health of Austin, Texas for Texas Oncology.

Texas Oncology gave me permission to include the film here as well.

 

 

Finally, a pic of the two camera shoot set-up.

 

More Behind-the-Scenes

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.

I’ve been wondering how to illustrate the title in a logo. The photo above, which is in-focus in the center and out-of-focus on front edge of the lens and the back of the camera, illustrates depth of field. Depth of focus applies to where the image is in focus, inside the camera, behind the lens. So, that illustration still eludes me. A final logo is still in the future.

The Bronica medium format camera will be used by Barbara in the film. In an early scene, Barbara and her sister, Maureen, talk about how the camera was converted from film to digital by replacing the film cartridge on the back with a big digital sensor. One concern of such a conversion is: Will the lens focus on the sensor? This is where depth of focus is important. Too geeky?

The film is about the ways in which people envision their lives through dreams and how those dreams often may not be in focus with reality. We explored that theme somewhat with the character of Rusty in Nudged. In the new film, every character will be examined both in their dreams and in what passes for reality.

The photograph was taken using the photo mode of my Sony digital cinema camera with a Zeiss Distagon ZF.2 28mm Lens (60th of a second, f2.0, and ISO 1000).