Monday, September 1, 2014

BREATHE DEEPLY

   Well, the summer is almost over and the traffic is returning to it's points of origin. I haven't been very good company here since my lungs haven't been cooperating very well. And if you don't believe me then take a look:


Actually, this was taken in 2013 but the current x-ray shows more darkening of the lungs that would indicate more trouble. The corresponding lack of energy and additional difficulty doing simple chores has made keeping up the blog a low priority for me right now. I'll be going in for more tests during the month but I could probably use a Roto-Rooter job on the lungs real soon. Check back for the latest developments.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

STAR TRIX: THE FLICK Returns To YouTube

Although I completed the upload early Wednesday morning, I'm just getting around to blithering about it now. Star Trix: The Flick is now available for viewing on YouTube. Part 1 starts here: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM1Cktb94GM
It's not the full remaster job I wanted to do but the picture is vastly improved from the copy used back in 2007. I used the Kodachrome original from a Hi8 transfer done around 1997. Not exactly digital sharpness but there are a lot of details visible that were a bit blurry before. Of course, the Kodachrome color is better too.
I tried to choose scene breaks at natural transition points and inserted some closing titles to each segment to point the way to the next "episode". To me, the film actually benefits from being watched in short segments than all at one time. Something I noticed as soon as the film was finished was that in trying to follow the original feature closely, I inadvertently duplicated the slow, sluggish pace too. Unfortunately, once the print was made and the soundtrack mixed, I didn't have the cash to revise it. So watching ST:TF in short segments helps lessen the feeling of sleepiness (I hope).


                                                                                           Photo by GRANT HIESTAND
Pulling a knife on the admiral.


Monday, April 28, 2014

TRIX TREAT

   In preparation for reposting STAR TRIX: THE FLICK, I pulled out a Hi8 edit I did in the late 1990's with Grant Hiestand's video editing set-up. I used the soundtrack from that and assembled footage from video shot from the Super 8 camera original. It looks a whole lot clearer now and the colors better than before (I loves Kodachrome!). Here's the YouTube link since posting the video, which is not compressed, will take too long to put here.








Sunday, April 13, 2014

CON-TRIBULATION: SAN DIEGO 1994

   I've been rummaging around through the Hi8 videos I shot in the 1990's and found a load of footage from the 1994 San Diego Comic Con. I didn't realize how much I shot aboard the Amtrak train on the way down and trimmed it quite a bit after first posting it to YouTube. There's still shots of some of the station stops along way but greatly reduced from the first post.
   There's a lot of footage of the long wait for our room at the Hotel San Diego. It turns out that the staff were doing a speed makeover while we were hanging out in the lobby. We even get a "before" shot of another room that was in similar shape to ours pre-fix-up. The venerable old hotel was imploded in 2006.
   We finally get to the convention itself and we see cartoonist Phil Yeh holding forth at his booth. When we hit the floor, we get a glimpse of Matt Groening hawking Simpsons paraphernalia. And what would Comic Con be without people in costume roaming the floors? There's some superheroes with padded muscle costumes which also included padded butts.
    Even back then, seasoned convention-goers complained that the event had gotten too big and the comic theme was being crowded out by Hollywood. Oh, if they could only see what was coming there in the 21st century!

*I decided to reload the Comic Con video on YouTube in the higher quality format (an all-night process, I discovered) but it looks a lot better. Check it out here:




video

This is the low-quality version. I wasn't going to pull another all-nighter getting the big file here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Is Michael Jackson Doing In My Camcorder?

   I've been meaning to post this for a while so here it is. I've been a thrift store junkie since the late 1970's. I've picked up some useful stuff that was no longer available at regular stores and, admittedly, junk best left in the thrift store. Around 2003 or 2004, I found a Sharp VL-E630 8mm camcorder in a Santa Maria shop for $69. I was suspicious that there was some major defect in it but checked it out and it seemed to be alright. Better still, it had a tape already in it. I brought it home and found what appeared to be just random, shaky footage at the beginning of the tape so I used it during my upcoming visit to New York. Upon returning home, I reviewed the video I had and let the tape run into what had been previously recorded on it. I recognized the Santa Maria courthouse and noticed a lot of police officers and people milling around. Then the real surprise, Michael Jackson being escorted out, mixing with the crowd and finally riding off.


    The footage leading up to this segment was mainly the unknown photographer waiting in the crowd and being jostled about when Jackson appeared. Whoever it was made a game attempt at keeping Michael in frame, what with the police closing in on Jackson (and some getting autographs).
    What intrigues me is who shot this video and why was it allowed to stay in the camera when it was donated to the thrift store? Perhaps this post may be seen by someone who has the answers.
    The actual tape runs about 30 minutes (it may have been longer had a certain someone not used it for vacation flicks) but I condensed the actual Michael footage to these few minutes.
    I guess finds like this are what keeps packrats like me going.

video








 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Way Back With TOM VS. JOE LARITA

   Since it looks like it will a while before I can transfer films not already saved on videotape, I thought I'd put up some really old stuff going back to high school. In this technologically sophisticated world, it may seem hard for the young folks to imagine a time when we couldn't fit a movie camera in our pocket and had to content ourselves with a mere four minutes of silent film that could take a week or more to come back from the processing lab. There were no tutorials to consult and whatever film books were in the library were usually of the historical variety or collected criticisms of newspaper or magazine critics. There were one or two books about Disney, one of them an expensive, lavish hardcover. My paper route money couldn't handle that but I scraped together enough during the Christmas season of 1969 to get my first Ansco movie camera on January 3, 1970.
    I spent the first year pretty much trying to work around the limitations of the camera and especially the finicky Bell & Howell projector. It didn't much like splices so many of my early films were shot in sequence. Since the Joe LaRita films usually involved a cast of one, playing the part of two, shooting between them generally involved changing the shirt for each character.
    Obviously, we drew our inspiration from reruns of MY FAVORITE MARTIAN on WNEW-5 in New York. The details were modified to our situation with brother Tom playing Tom the earth kid and Martian kid Joe LaRita (a fracturing of Curly Joe DeRita from the Three Stooges. Why we chose that name is a bit vague now, even to us). We tried to mimic the special effects from the TV series and were always on the lookout for a better way of suspending items for levitation tricks but never quite finding anything we were thrilled with.
    We would have loved being able to produce a split screen effect to show both characters in the same shot but we couldn't do the backwinding with the Super 8 cartridge at that time. We tried to fudge it using a mirror and later shot several scenes with Tom dressed in the different shirts which I hoped to composite and insert in the films some day. I eventually did in the late 1970's when I worked at a commercial film lab in Los Angeles.
    Although this film is the opening episode in the series, it was actually pierced together from sequences shot in 1970 and 1971. This is pretty obvious when my cousin Peter (who played The Guy) was clean shaven before the opening title and had a moustache and sideburns afterward. His bits were shot across the street from his parents' home in Saratoga Springs, New York and the following year at their home in Gansevoort, N.Y. The rest of the film was done at my parents' house in Stony Brook, Long Island.
    During the early 1970's, I planned on having prints made of the entire series and adding soundtracks with effects and narration to them but after going into the Air Force and being stationed at Vandenberg AFB, I moved on to newer projects and felt these old films were best left behind. Besides, as I got better equipment, the urge to tamper with the old footage, to smooth out the rough scenes and juice up the effects would have taken my time away from new projects. Sometimes it's best to let sleeping Martians lie.








Monday, January 20, 2014

PUSHING 60 INSTEAD OF DAISIES

   Now that we've reached 2014 and the Y2K Bug hasn't bit us, I'm hoping to finally get things together around here to start transferring the non-Star Trix films to video for uploading. There are many of them and they are a ragged lot considering what can be done today. When I got my first movie camera after Christmas in 1970, there was no class in filmmaking at my school and probably not in the surrounding area on Long Island. My art teachers attempted to co-opt movies in with their existing photography classes but I seemed to learn more by imitating the methods of old sitcoms.
   Filmmaking was mainly about fun for me and the friends and family I roped in to play along with me. A lot of that fun was sucked out of it when I tried to get into the Industry years later and eventually drifted away from both personal films and the Industry. As my 60th birthday approaches in June, I can look back and enjoy my filmmaking experiences again and hope to share this motley collection here and on YouTube.
   Below are a couple of frame grabs of films from the 1970's that I hope to post here this year.

The bar scene from THE LARDY BOYS: THE PRESIDENT'S DUMMY IS MISSING (1974). Mindy Kass (now Kronenberg) pens a note to the Lardy Boys, Fenton and Hobart, in the makeshift restaurant set in my mother's family room in the steamy summer on Long Island.

Yours truly and Martin Baumgarten in a tender moment from THE ART BINNINGER CLEAN AND DECENT SHOW (1979). No, that's not a drug flashback you're seeing, that's a shirt Martin has on. Martin had a Chinon sound Super 8 camera that we shot some vulgar skits with since we could. That's a microphone near my mouth, by the way.