Arrogant yet effective, Detective Lou Manteca deals with dames, crooks, and a new partner in this madcap noir comedy. Television pilot, winner of the Fall 2011 University Of Michigan Lightworks Film Festival Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best of Fest. Here’s an interview with University of Michigan senior Screen Arts & Culture major and creator of The Private Eyes of Lou Manteca Greg Smith. See the full video below.
The Private Eyes of Lou Manteca was made using ISS Media Center’s Canon 7D and support gear. ISS interviews shot on three different ISS media Center cameras, the wide shot was captured with the Panasonic AF-100, Greg filmed with the Canon 7D and Joe filmed with the Panasonic HPX170. Shot and edited by Alan Torres and Joseph Reed.
Joseph Reed sits down with University of Michigan Screen Arts & Culture senior Ian MacInnes and talks about how he found filmmaking, the process of making his new film Indian Village as an new Independent Study student and the value of a film degree.
Interview shot on ISS Media Center’s Panasonic AF100 cameras and an iPhone 4s (wide, black-and-white shot) by Alan Torres at the Screen Arts & Culture studios in North Quad. Edited by Alan Torres and Joseph Reed.
This past spring, my girlfriend introduced me to a photographic effect known as bokeh. After seeing some pretty cool images of this effect, I immediately wanted to learn how to recreate this blurred look. Bokeh, in layman’s terms, is the blurred, out-of-focus regions in photographs (or, as I soon discovered, video). This can be seen when, say, when a subject is in focus in the foreground, and the city lights behind them are blurred into large, out-of-focus distortions, making the background nearly indistinguishable.
As I read about the ways to create this effect, the method of creating these blurred regions seemed pretty straightforward: either creating an entire image of blurred lights –
- or, as described above, keeping an object in frame the focal point, then letting focus drop off behind the object. However, I soon started seeing images and video like this where the lights, rather than round circles, had a variety of shapes, including hearts and even the intricate fleur-de-lis.
Photo by Isabel Bloedwater
For this, I had to find a DIY guide online, and I eventually wound up at here. Essentially, the effect is created by placing a covering over the lens, with the desired shape cut into it as can be seen on the site.
The size of the opening will vary depending on the lens type, and it took me a few tries to make the effect work, but as the DIY guide says, the effect will be immediate in your camera’s viewfinder. In the end, I wound up making a heart and star-shaped covering for my Nikon D90 out of old cereal boxes and a little painter’s tape.
The final product of all this research was a video I shot in downtown Grand Rapids this past summer with my brother. Wandering around downtown, snapping pics and taking video let me play with the focus on my two lenses and with my two lens covers to create the round, heart, and star-shaped lights you see in the video. In the future, I’d want to test having more foreground focusing, and different video subjects while keeping the bokeh effect in the background, but for now I’m proud to share ‘De la Bokeh’ (top of page), a short video using a really interesting technique and a few household items.
Tree People is a short documentary portrait of a man and his nature preserve. ISS Media Center’s Joseph Reed sat down and talked with filmmaker Alan Torres about Tree People and his new documentary in-the-making Beer People. More on Alan at his website.
Both Joe and Alan are University of Michigan Screen Arts and Culture seniors and ISS Media Center employees… and they like to wear hats.
A brief documentary profiling artist David Chung’s project Pyongyang at the Institute for the Humanities at The University of Michigan. Video shot and edited by Sharad Patel and produced by Amanda Krugliak, using the ISS Media Center’s Panasonic HVX200 and support gear.
Benjamin Antonio is a recent addition to the Media Center staff. We first met during a HD camera workshop where I found out among other things he spent time as an editor of the Chinese version of The Amazing Race. Ben brings a wealth of production and post-production experience to the Media Center and a willingness to share his knowledge with others. The following video was produced in the Fall of 2010 utilizing the Media Center’s camera support gear, audio equipment, and editing facilities for the final audio mix.
Aint No Place That Far by Benjamin Antonio and Jon Fisher
Q: Is this piece inspired at all by other work, what made you decide to tell the story from a first-person point-of-view?
A: There wasn’t a piece that inspired my video, just a very personal feeling that I wanted to display. Both extended point-of-view and cuts on whip pans have been done before to create the first-person look (a certain scene from the terrible DOOM movie comes to mind), but the formal aspect I was really trying to run with was the ability to have a smooth and instant transition between two very distant places. That’s how I decided on the style.
Q: The film also has a very improvised feel to it, how much and what parts did you plan in advance and how much was created on the spot?
A: Obviously logistics between my co-creator, John Fisher, and I had to be planned out. The scenes in the alley were filmed at the Western High School in Detroit where I had a sociology class last year where I taught a film class, and after helping to film a student video there I knew the place was perfect for the feel (on that shoot we saw the house with all the pitbulls and a large black stain with some .45 shells about five feet away).
I never storyboarded anything out, but we always knew the locations we wanted to use from the beginning. When we would get to a place we’d usually spend about an hour just walking around and figuring out what we wanted to capture in the scene, so I guess the general locations were planned but as for shot compositions and mise en scene that was all improvised on the spot.
The original plan for the beginning and ending shots were for the barrel to be in a lake. It was shot at a house 40 minutes north of Ann Arbor on Lake Fenton, and the first time John and I went there we realized that the barrel had holes in it so it wouldn’t work. We fixed it by adding a two inch layer of concrete to the bottom, but two weeks later when we came back to film the lake had frozen over and the wind was brutal. We improvised, and shot it behind a garage. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out but will probably always wonder what if…
Q: Of course the standard technical questions, what kind of camera, lenses, and gear did you use to make this?
A: We shot everything on two Canon T2i’s with shoulder mounts. Most of the shots were done with the stock 18-55mm IS Canon lens, though we had originally planned to use the 15-85mm IS Canon lens but the zoom wouldn’t stay put with all the movement. The only other lens we used was a, I think, Tokina 11mm fisheye for the shot with the bottle of liquor. The audio equipment we used was the Zoom H4n for general ambience and a sennheiser shotgun mic for foley sound.
Q: You shot this on a DSLR which can be problematic with focus, rolling shutter, and stabilizing handheld work, can you talk about how you addressed and overcame these limitations?
A: To get the feeling I had originally thought of turned out to be a lot harder because of all these problems. Focus generally wasn’t an issue because there was so much movement, we were using pretty wide angles and we always shot in daylight so our aperture was small. Before shooting anything useful we experimented a lot with shutter settings to find out what worked the best – and nothing really did. We settled on 30fps with a 1/60 sec shutter and if you look at the piece frame by frame you’ll definitely see a lot of rolling shutter (especially in the shot with the fisheye) but I think the pace of the piece makes these things hardly noticeable in full motion.
The other hardest part about the piece was the camera work. I wanted to present a realistic feeling of motion and anxiety but also knew the image couldn’t be too shaky. So during the pre-production phase I would rent out a shoulder mount and take it with me when I went jogging. You have to keep a really unnaturally straight posture to emulate sight as you’re running, and making this piece made my back sore for at least a week after production.
Q: To capture the feeling of paranoia the camera operator is essentially the actor. Were there any particular instances that you got strange looks?
A: There weren’t so many particular instances of strange looks as there were constant strange looks. People usually just glanced and then brushed us off as two off-their-rocker youtube wannabes, but the shot I did on a football Saturday was when people started to get in my face. Every time I stopped to look at the footage someone would come up and ask me what I was doing, but more than that one group of guys said it was a dumb idea. People also don’t like having a camera waved in their face and one guy tried to slap it out of my hand but I was too quick (or he was too drunk).
Q: Sound editing plays an important role in the film. How much time did you spend on video editing versus audio editing?
A: It’s hard to say because the processes are so different. We had to do a lot of color correction and rendering (especially of the first shot with the logo that tracks on the barrel) so that took some time, but generally matching the whip pans wasn’t too difficult. They’re just direct cuts on moments where the blurs have a similar color, shape, screen position or all three.
For the sound editing, the hardest part wasn’t sequencing it was mastering. We worked with a six track audio sequence, and me being a bit of a perfectionist in the editing room I had to make it perfect – especially the sequences where the ambient track would change or I would drop it out to emphasize the sound effects.
Q: How much of the sound was recorded in post?
A: Everything was done in post except for the ambient tracks. We found it way too hard to record the sound of feet actually running when we had the camera in our hands, so we went to a parking structure and ran in place and skateboarded in circles. The sound of breathing was also done in post, and it’s a really weird thing to breathe heavily when you’re not doing any work – I got so light headed once I thought I was going to pass out. I’m a big fan of method acting, and for the slightly shivering breathing I stripped down to my boxers and stood outside for five minutes as John recorded me and tried not to laugh.
Q: What current projects are you working on?
A: Right now I’m enrolled in SAC 300 and I’m the DP for a project about a man who loses his glasses. We’re trying to make it very abstract, using entirely kanted angles and POV out of focus work. For the second project in that class I’ve been writing out a treatment for a piece in the style of Chaplin’s Tramp character where a homeless, panhandling kid finds two hundred dollars in his hat and has a day on the town.
I’ve also been rushing to complete an honors thesis proposal based on the concept of blue notes in musical theory, as well as preparing to go to China in May with the University’s symphony orchestra and make a documentary with professor Chris McNamara about their 6 city tour.
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