Showing posts from 2015

It's ALIVE!! or "Motion Portrait Funtime Playness"

Two posts in one day! What's this world coming to?!?

There was a trend (that didn't last long, I might mention) on Instagram where artists were using the app Motion Portrait to 'animate' their drawings. I downloaded them and came up with these fun bits:

and this:

It was fun. I had an idea that you could animate some scenes in a sort of DIY cartoon using this app. I might as an experiment, but for right now it's nothing more than a novelty. An addictive novelty, though.

Ideas are ethereal

Ideas are ethereal. They’re out there. You may be lucky enough to catch it; when you do, it’s your obligation to do something with it. If not, it goes back out into the ether and someone else will catch it sooner or later.

A couple of years ago I had an idea about a near future where the human race was stretching into the solar system. People mostly lived in habitats on the moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and the Jovian moons. I even started a web comic titled “Tales of the Lost Skies” using this very blog’s name.

I also had a few stories that I wanted to integrate into it:
Mushroom Moonshine
Ceres Gambit

But, I lost interest. I didn’t develop it, and it slipped out of my fingers.

Today, I watched the online premiere of Syfy’s show “The Expanse”. I loved it. They did a better job with the story as well as the revenue to truly make it an enjoyable show. And, it made me realize that I let that idea slip back into the ether- whether it was even mine to begin with. I make no claim on what t…

Life goes on

Well, although we're not to Thanksgiving yet, I wanted to give a retrospective on 2015... it's been a wild ride.

Every year a "theme" presents itself that puts a stamp on it.

In 2011, it was Money- I had spent nearly the entire year chasing a client to pay me for some christmas illustrations I had done for them. Egos clashed and ethics were questioned. I was finally paid (in installments, no less), but the amount of effort it took to get what was owed to me was ridiculous.

2012 was about Career. I love my day job; we have a fantastic team and a solid strategy, but that wasn't the case three years ago. I was dealing with a few characters that made my year there less than ideal, and I dreaded going to work. I was also in a state of trying to decide what to do with my life- I needed direction.

2013 was about Family. It really tore me apart when I lost my dad in January of that year. Although I was his only son, we were polar opposites. He wanted the best for me, b…

Dusting off the art supplies...

More shifting around. I had thought to retire this blog since my interests skewed into celluloid filmmaking. I loved playing around with the cameras, but the costs involved finally caught up to me. It was unsustainable, as hobbies go (though, aren't most hobbies?).

I have been drawing quite a bit, though. Here are a couple of quick sketches:

I have a couple of small projects- one is to mock up a book cover for author David P. King, and the other is in development.
I really don't have much to say right now other than I'm busy drawing!
More to come.

48HFP SLC 2015 - 8mm - and a switch PDQ

It has been a severely busy week. I am now just sitting down and going through emails, FB posts, and blogs that I follow... Aside from work and all it's craziness, we shot a fun short film this weekend. The 48HFP came and went, and we premiered on Tuesday, June 16th. It went well, and I was inspired by some of the films shown. We drew “romance” and the name of our film is “The Gee Stop”… I’ll post it as soon as we get the all-clear. Big thank you to Rich Bonaduce, Valeri Merrell, Hailey Nebeker, Geoff Richards, and Albert Huerta! We had a blast!

Film studies goes on- I finally managed to order 4 rolls of Fomopan B&W Regular 8mm film. I should get it on Monday. I plan on practicing on my trusty little Revere 88… the process is similar to how I have to load and unload 16mm spools. I also picked up a really clean Super 8/Regular 8 projector from the thrift store for $20. It runs great and now I’ll be able to watch my films (even though the super 8 is all negative, I can still sho…

Countdown to the 48

It's been a long time since I've done the 48 Hour Film Project. Five years, as a matter of fact. I'm excited for it- nice to look forward to something and know I'll have a finished short at the end of this weekend. It's hard though- a true marathon and a lot of work. I made sure I did some house chores today when I got home from work because tomorrow I'm pretty much out.

I know we're ready. We have a small team- six people. Three AWESOME actors and equally AWESOME crew. We have equipment. We have some great, unique locations, and we have heart.

So- I will definitely post the short after it premieres on Tuesday night at Broadway Cinemas in downtown Salt Lake at 7pm!

I found another great thrift store find- a Kodak 8mm Brownie! It was only $5. It runs great, just needed a cleaning. The view finder is cracked so I'm a little worried about it breaking, but other than that it's in great condition. It feels like it's an aluminum sardine can- it's…

Bell & Howell 240 EE (Electric Eye) 16mm Movie Camera

I’ve been looking at videos of footage captured by the Bell & Howell 240 16mm camera… and I am really excited to start using it for my cyberpunk short.

Here’s some of the better examples of BH240 footage that I could find:

I’ll be the first to say that great footage comes mostly from the cinematographer’s eye and camera skill. Still, Bell and Howell, which made the 240 for the amateur/hobbyist market back in the 50’s, created a solid piece of work.

This camera is Regular 16mm—not Super 16. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio and is noisy as hell while shooting film; don’t expect to get usable location sound while running this bad boy. It takes about 50 cranks on the wind-up motor to run the camera about 52 seconds at 24fps. It only carries 100ft spools, which gives you about 2m43s of film capture. Its heavy- it easily weighs more than 5 lbs. Personally I think the weight helps stabilize it. Reference sound can still be captured for ADR later (a common practice in Hollywood), and I rarel…

Crazy Week Ahead!

My work is sending me and my friend Rich Bonaduce to Park City for two days to videotape a number of workshops, interviews, and b-roll... and photography... and whatever they need, really. Then we will be working with some incredible actors next weekend for the 48 Hour Film Project in Salt Lake City. I haven't done one for five years, so this will be interesting. The last time was with my friend Todd McGowan and we shot "97 Days".]

97 Days from Juan Maestas on Vimeo.

I am saving up some money to buy some film stock. I have Regular 8, Super 8, and 16mm cameras... I'm waiting for the Fomopan 2x8mm stock to come into BHphotovideo- they've been waiting for some for a while. I'm also planning on getting some Kodak Vision 3 50D, 200T, and 500T Super 8 film, and some Kodak Tri-X 16mm film. I'm waiting for my bonus so I can buy directly from Kodak- and buy enough to make the shipping worth it—that means at least a case ($600).

The Cyberpunk Short seems to be evol…

So far, so good.

I got the Bell & Howell 240ee in the mail today. This camera is nearly immaculate- it looks like it was hardly used. It purrs very nicely, and the glass looks very clean. The case is near mint as well.

Now I need to buy some film to test it. The frustrating part- I wish there was someplace local that I could buy 16mm film from. I'll probably order from BHphotovideo first, than order directly from Kodak later.

Summer came blazing in this year- after a very wet spring it's hard to get used to the warm weather.

Obsessed, it seems.

Well... yeah. I am out of control.

I bought yet another camera off of Etsy- a 16mm Bell & Howell 240 Electric Eye (from 1957). I went back and forth on getting this particular model, but I figured it was inexpensive ($40) and I didn't think I would be changing out lenses. It has a 20mm (which is like a 40mm on a 35mm camera) and a battery operated aperture... though you can still use it manually. It is not a reflex camera, but I am getting used to the fact of actually having to measure my subject with a measuring tape.  The other thing is that the seller told me this thing is virtually unused. He's convinced it sat in a closet for decades. That could be good or bad, but either way, I'm committed.

Another reason I bought it (silly as it is, but nerdy cool at the same time) is that this particular model (but not this particular camera) was used by Orson Welles when he filmed the documentary "The Land of Don Quixote" in 1962. Welles' camera went to auction a…

Pleased as Punch

I got the Minolta XL401 as well as the Argus/Cosina 708 in the mail on the same day! I am pleased to report that both cameras are amazing- for different reasons.

The Minolta XL401 is fantastic. I want to shoot my first film short with this (noticed I said "film" then "short"? Yep- a short film made on FILM). While the highest frame rate is only 18fps, the 220 degree shutter and the f1.2 lens will make shooting at night possible- especially if I use Kodak Vision 500T film. I want to shoot in low available outdoor light at night. I think it has a unique look and it will suit the cyberpunk short perfectly.

The Argus/Cosina is also in great shape, it does shoot 24fps. I was a little worried about the auto exposure... it doesn't seem like it's working with a new Wein Cell Zinc photocell battery- but I am able to change the exposure manually. It's a little feisty, but it is possible. The difference in ergonomics is very apparent in the seven year difference …

Rolling along

The Revere Ranger 8mm camera came today. It works perfectly, but smells musty. I believe it was stored in a very wet environment. I think it will dry out here in our Utah dry air, but still, not the most pleasant smell. The lens is also dirty- just waiting to find something good to clean it with.  Other than that it runs great.

The Bell & Howell Microstar Z XL came yesterday. It is in mint condition- looks like it has never been used or is dusty. And to be honest, this was probably a cheap camera back in the day. Very few controls- or indicators. The exposure is fully automatic. It has an auto/manual zoom that works when the film motor trigger is working. And the crazy part- it takes 4 AAA batteries! Also, it has a fast lens (which is what attracted me to it) at f1.2. I'm not sure how sharp of a focus I can get with it, but I think it would make a good backup/casual camera.

After one month, I have finally worked out a deal with that seller on Etsy. I am going to get a Minolta…

One Ring to Fix the Zoom

I was a little disappointed when I got my Minolta Autopak-8 k11 a couple of weeks ago. It worked, but marginally. Cosmetically it looked good, but there was a ring at the base of the lens that seemed to jam the auto zoom mechanism and the zoom lever was missing. It took a bit of brute strength to change the lens angle... which all but made the camera useless.

I got to fiddling with the dang thing yesterday. I popped the ring off with a small screwdriver and managed to re-mount it on the lens base correctly. It took care of the jam—now the auto zoom and zoom lever work freely and the camera functions exactly like it should. I shot some footage with it on some Kodak Tri-X. I'm waiting to expose the other roll with the BH Microstar Z I'm getting later this week, and then I'll send them in together and compare. Hopefully all will work great.

After fixing the zoom, I detailed it. The camera was dirty with finger smudges and some old grime. It's a solid piece of work- made …

lo-fi mofo

Man, I've got to tell you... I'm having a hell of a time trying to find something decent when it comes to this old format. I've had nothing but problems with marginally working or broken cameras. On top of that, I still haven't seen the items from the Leicina seller. I even cut $50 off my order to accommodate him. It's frustrating. Luckily he's been patient with me, and he told me that he has a lot of cameras. I gave him a list of what I'm looking for, hopefully he has something!

I should be getting the Revere Ranger very soon. I almost cancelled the order, but luckily everything was in the order and if anything they're good, solid cameras. Whether or not I am ever able to shoot with anything is up in the air. I'm just waiting for BHphotovideo to get more Fomapan 8mm film.

I have been asking lots of questions with many of the Etsy sellers. I'm finding that most of which are severely marked up on that site. So, I did what so many people have done…


It seems as if the replacement Leicina isn't panning out. I decided just to use my credit to get some smaller items that add up to what I spent to begin with. It's fine. I'll get a nice little Kodak Automatic 8 which looks to be in good condition and might come in handy. I'll also get some good d-mount lenses to use on the Revere 88 and Ranger, and a flash for my 35mm slr.

It's not a let down. I was also worried about the other Leicina especially when I had read that many people seem to have problems with them. They have beautiful glass, but can have a tendency not to be very sturdy.

In any case, and in the end, I want to try to get some filming done and I want better control of the image- the same sort of control I am used to with an SLR- exposure and focus. I also don't want to be relying on batteries. Crazy, right? But I love the idea of wind-up cameras. No worries about batteries dying. The trade off is limiting a shot to about 15-20 seconds at 24fps.

Clockwork: Camera

Regular 8, Standard 8, Dual 8, 2x8mm... they're all the same thing. I'm not going to rehash Wikipedia's entry on Standard 8mm film- you can read about it there if you want to know exactly what it is.

There is a plethora of Super 8 cameras and stock out there. That's great- I love Super 8. In my experience, it's harder to find a functioning camera- there's so much that can go wrong and often times the little DC Micromotors bite the dust rather easily.

Enter Regular 8mm. Most of these were made between the 30s to mid 60s. That's 30 years of consumer dominance. Ebay and Etsy are a testament to that- you can find hundred, if not thousands of old spool loading, wind-up clockwork driven cast iron or aluminum cameras.

Many of them had d-mount lenses which allowed manual exposure but were mostly fixed focus. Some of the more deluxe models allowed focusing- which required using a measuring tape (or guesswork!) to the subject and a corresponding dialing of the lens. …

Getting Set Up

ANOTHER thrift store find- this one I am extremely excited about! It's a Keystone Automatic 98 projector in near mint condition. It's a little dusty but it fired up like a charm. It even has the original take-up reel which stores on the bottom. And the best part? It was only $15.

This projector is for Regular 8mm film. That's fine as I have my trusty old Revere 88 and I'll soon be getting the replacement camera from the non-working Leicina Super I sent back. I'll be getting another Leicina, the 8sv.

It's a Regular 8mm, the only power functions are the motor. Focus and zoom are manual. Hopefully this will cut down on the amount of problems I found with the Super.

The thing that most excites me about this is the Leitz Wetzlar Leicina Vario 7.5-35 mm f/1.8 Wide Angle to Telephoto zoom lens. I'm counting on a sharp picture with this.

So, my only concern now is trying to find stock. There are a few places that sell it— though it feels like at a premium. It'…

Making lemonade

I got the Minolta Autopak-8 K11 in the mail today, and I'm a little underwhelmed. The camera is in okay shape; it runs—which is a major plus considering all the lemons I've sampled lately. I think it's been dropped or bumped. The optics seem just a tad off—mostly noticeable in low-light areas, but it appears to be okay in daylight. The automatic zoom is busted (the motor whirrs, but I suspect the lens housing is bent), and it's missing the manual focus lever.

At this point, I need to start shooting film, otherwise my wife will shoot me for wasting money on junk! Thrift stores are always an option—but like I said: needle/haystack.

I've just purchased two cartridges of Kodak Tri-X Black & White Reversal super-8 film from BHphotovideo for $22/roll. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until Wednesday of next week to test some footage, and then it will take a week or so to process it. This is going to take some time, but it will be worth it.

In the meantime, I'…

Kissing Many Frogs

As I continue on my journey with super 8, and trying to acquire a decent camera to do the job, I am kissing more than my fair share of frogs.

My dad’s old Kodak Instamatic M12 is busted. Has been for years. I keep it more for sentimental reasons, but obviously there’s not much I can do about that.

I dug out my old Revere Model 88 but remembered that it takes Regular 8 film… which is fine, but most stocks have been discontinued. The only one available through BH Photo Video, FOMA, is backordered until May. The price is reasonable, but trying to find a processor that a) handles black/white reversal film and b) won’t cost an arm and a leg makes it a little difficult.

I first found an Argus 804 at a local thrift store for $20. When I first got it, the battery compartment was severely corroded, but I managed to clean it out with q-tips and white distilled vinegar and replace the contacts with tin foil... and it ran! I threw in the one test cartridge that I have and it chattered away like m…

Buyer Beware

I've always loved film... and by film, I mean the actual physical medium of celluloid. I own a couple of Super 8mm cameras (a recently acquired Argus 804 which I've restored, and a Kodak Instamatic m12 that belonged to my dad, and an old Double 8mm Revere Model 88 pictured above). I haven't used them since I was a teenager. When I started creating movies, I had considered shooting film but the cost always seemed prohibitive.

Then I got to thinking- high end cameras quickly become obsolete within two years, and those that are new are trying to emulate film. The video-enthusiast would argue that "film stock is expensive; digital can reuse the same cards over and over". This is true, but the costs are far more hidden with video. How are you going to archive it? Lots of external drives. Drives fail. Multiple copies? Okay, but upkeep to transfer to the newest stable drive means additional costs. Keep it on the cloud? Power outage or worse- hacked servers, or your in …

Humble Pie

Being humbled is never easy.

It’s great to know that I write compelling stories, but it’s better to know I need to work on story structure, character arcs, and, well, putting a sentence together.

It’s the opportunity to look at my previous work with a more critical eye. It’s easy to become complacent in anything you do- whether it be writing, drawing, or keeping up the yard. We tend to look for the easy way out, and to look for things we find familiar. When the familiar draws us, we get stuck into patterns and years pass by without anything of value to show.

I am planning some major changes in my life... some pretty severe ones. As you know, I’m trying to get back into filmmaking, but talking and dreaming isn't enough. There are no excuses to NOT PICK UP THE CAMERA AND BEGIN SOMETHING.

I came across a few ideas online, and the one that really lit the long idle tinder was a site devoted to one-minute short films called Filminute. What can you do in a minute? Well, look at any comme…

Time to get busy

I was consistent there for a little while. Winter was a little hard for me- I came down with a nasty case of the flu and then had a few everyday-life sort of challenges I had to get through that required my time (my daytime job, mostly).

One of the things that had really struck me was finding out about a little film that made it to Sundance called Tangerine that was shot on the iPhone5. I've always been of the mind that it doesn't matter what tools you use to make your art, art is only great because of the artist; Tangerine is a fine example of that. There are many other films with a hardcore DIY cinema verite mentality that really busts through many people's expectations. Like Buzzard. It's funny for me to read comments about differing opinions between production purists and rebels- almost to a religious ferocity.

In the end, I realized that I have no excuses for not creating a film. I have the equipment. I have the know how. I have friends that are actors. I have exc…

Production Week Two: A day at the Crowfoot's

Wow. All I can say is wow. I will get to why in a minute.

We covered quite a bit of unusual set ups today. Crowfoot is a widower, so we needed to generate memories today through home video. The actors improv-ed all the home video footage and actually handled the camera themselves.

With that, we had 2 set ups at the park with Allison McGowan (Nadine Crowfoot) and Laron Wilson (Joseph Crowfoot), and 2 at “Frank & Rosie’s” house. Here we see (from the left) Kayla Maestas (Kayla Crowfoot), Niki Pace (Rosie Crowfoot) and Allison McGowan enjoying a break during set prep for the upcoming night scenes.

After lunch, two of the scenes were night scenes, so we draped off the windows. The scenes were far more formal since they were scripted. As you can see by the pictures, no easy feat! Brian Gerber, from One World Media Productions played spider-man by draping off this kitchen window which is a good 15 feet up. Helping him was our 1st AD Todd McGowan, making sure he didn’t fall (folks, don’t…

Writing Prompt #19: Unexpected Reunion

The GTO started sputtering when Jack was ten miles out from Bakersfield. At five miles, it died. After he pushed it to the side of the road he lit a cigarette and looked around. Up ahead he saw an old Vanagon. Curious, he grabbed his empty gas can and a short rubber hose, and started hiking.
No cars. Figures. Not that he’d want to deal with anyone right now. Probably for the best.
He checked the Vanagon doors. Locked. He pulled out his trusty sparkplug and shattered the driver’s side window- and quickly tried to force the stench of beer and sweat out of his nose. Great, some homeless guy’s shelter, he thought. He looked around, no keys, so he stripped the steering column and hotwired it. The Vanagon refused to turn over. Jack coughed a laugh—the idiot seized the engine. But, the battery worked and it looked like he had a decent amount of gas. He decided he’ll top off the gallon and bring the car back and finish tapping this thing.
Jack hates sucking out gas. He’s good at it, but the…

Writing Prompt #18: Haystack Landing

Carver’s head throbbed as if an entire stampede had run over it. No more drinking. Ever. He then reached for his flask and finished off his Jim Beam.
As he sat up with a juicy belch, he rubbed his jaw and wiped the sleep from his eyes. The sheep called in the distance, and a few hens clucked around his feet. At least he landed in a haystack… but he had no clue where the haystack was. He looked around and spotted his motored bi-glider. P.B.'s not going to be happy, but everything seemed to be in order.
“’Bout time you woke up, Mister.” A young woman’s voice called behind him. Carver turned around to see blonde curls framing the most watery blue eyes he had ever seen. The rest of her weren’t bad, neither—except for the shotgun she pointed at him.
“Look, I’m sorry, Miss…?” No response. “I’m sorry, ma’am. If there’s any damage, I’ll pay for it.” “Oh, you’ll pay! You’ll pay alright!” The woman screeched as she took aim and cocked the shotgun.

Writing Prompt #17: Desert Dead

Lt. Montano wasn’t in the mood for games. Thirty-three hours of coffee and a gas station hot dog has barely been his fill. He would have give up his pension for a cot and two years of sleep. That wasn’t going to happen, not today at least. Good thing Oliver was driving out to the scene… maybe he could just rest his eyes for a minute.
“Lieutenant!” Oliver was standing outside the passenger door. Montano’s eyes snapped open and looked over at the rookie. “We’re here, sir.”
“Good.” He gets out and stretches, and puts on his sunglasses. The desert sun was especially bright today, only 7:30am and it would soon be soaring into triple digits. As he walked over, stepping over the scrub and a rattler that surprised him, he approached the crime scene. He ducked under the police tape and walked up to the victim’s half eaten corpse. He’d seen worse out here, but the fact that she was so young made his blood run cold.
The medical examiner pulled out the needle from the cavity by her liver. He jot…

Writing Prompt #16: Double Double Cross

Ice-cold water woke me, allowing me the pleasure of feeling the axe that pierced my brain. Oh, it’s not an axe? Just where that bastard managed to have me hit the corner of the Goose’s radio when he rolled the plane, you say? That’s right… ouch. A musky blindfold blocked out most of what I could see, but I could feel my chest was strapped to a chair with a thick belt and wrists were bound behind my back. I was surprised that my legs weren’t secured, All in all, it felt like a hasty job.
Another bucket of the Himalaya’s finest ice cold spring hit me full on in the face. This time I shivered and was wide awake. “Where am I?!” I coughed. I started working at my bonds immediately.
A fist grabbed my hair and yanked my head back. It was Meang. “You've become a thorn in my side, Yankee! I should have slit your throat when I had the chance!” I coughed and spat. “If there’s mouthwash is in those crates, help yourself to it.” I could see Meang’s silhouette raise a hand to backhand me whe…

Writing Prompt #15: Ceres Gambit

Sweat, spice, and cold damp rock assaulted Tula’a nose when she and her boss, Brock, stepped out of the Ravenclaw’s airlock. A low hum of voices came from below, Tula’a peered down over the walk way onto the merchants who swarmed like ants around ramshackle stands, desperately trying to hawk their wares.  Brock pointed at them, “It’s mid-wake down in the Bazaar. Everybody’s scramblin’ to sell. More are scramblin’ to lift—so keep a feel on your belt items.”
The buzz and flashing colors of the Bazaar was dizzying. “You sure know how to pick them, Brock.” Tula’a gagged as she put her nose into the crook of her elbow. “The juicy warrants are in maggot-holes like this one. I’m certain they passed this way.” Brock’s confidence waned, “But first thing’s first—let’s get to the dock master and see if Zeb’s ship is still here.”
After a quick discussion with Ceres’ dock master, primed by a handful of rupees, they headed down to the quiet lower docks. They managed to find Zeb’s ship in the da…

Writing Prompt #14: Soul Toll

Warning: Strong Language Tens of thousands of fans hopped in unison like the waves of a boiling ocean. The roar of their screams was deafening, the worship these four received would have made many kings and prophets writhe with jealousy.
The lights went low, and a lone spotlight shown down onto a lone figure. His voice was mesmerizing- an outstretched hand landed on the chorus, he knew he had them- his fans, his adoring fans. He could have any one of them, all he had to do was pick them out of the crowd.
His eyes brushed the crowd as he crooned with Izzy’s riff. The tempo fired up and he was whipping them up into a frenzy. Sweat and pheromones frothed at his orgiastic thumping and moaning- again, he looked out at the crowd, squealing girls, screaming guys. They were all in love with him. Except one. She stood there, staring with a dead look in her eyes.
He couldn’t blame her. Maybe he was too much. But her stare was a little unnerving.
He went across the stage but all he could do was…