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Don Dohler: Uncontained Imagination « Baltimore Filmmakers

Baltimore Filmmakers posted a nice article about my friend, the late Don Dohler. Here's the link:  Don Dohle r: Uncontained Imagination...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blood, Boobs & Beast DVD Release

From John at videokitchen.tv:

We are proud to announce that videokitchen.tv has signed
with Troma Entertainment, Inc. to distribute Blood, Boobs & Beast on DVD.
The DVD is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will be
officially released on February 24, 2009. The DVD will come as a 2-disc Double
and will include Dohler’s 1983 masterpiece Nightbeast! Additionally,
the set will include special features for both films including audio
commentaries with the filmmakers, hilarious deleted scenes, trailers and tons
of tromatic extras!

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Import Blender Fluid Simulation into Lightwave

The latest Lightwave newsletter mentions a plugin that allows the import of Blender fluids. Blender's simulator is very cool, and Blender is completely free, of course. Once in Lightwave, you can texture using Lightwave's awesome surfacing system and render engine. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks great.

You can find the plugin and tutorial here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Sealed Fates's Cinematography

Since today's shoot was canceled due to hurricane Hanna sweeping through our area, it's a good time to post a bit about how we're shooting our latest feature.

There were several choices to make before the cameras rolled on the first day. Should we shoot in 24p or 30p? SD or HD? and what camera should we use? We already had 2 cameras available: the Canon XL1s and the Canon GL1. The XL1s is a solid choice, with manual control over every setting, but it shoots in SD and in 60i or 30p only. The GL1 is pretty much the same, but not nearly as versatile. I had also purchased the Canon HV20 last year. It shoots in HD, has a Cinema mode that can be converted to 24p in post, and a beautiful picture. But it doesn't have the manual control of the XL1s. Ultimately, I chose control over format and went with the XL1s.

Then there was one other decision: should I use Canon's Frame mode (30p) or shoot 60i and convert to 24p in post? I grabbed the trial of DV Filmmaker, a program that converts 60i to 24p, and did a few tests with both formats, using the same subjects1. While the 30p footage approximated the film look, the 24p conversion had softer light and appeared more film-like. So, I purchased DV Filmmaker and decided to shoot in 60i.

So, the first day of shooting came and after the 4th or 5th take of the second shot, we get the infamous "Remove Cassette" on the XL1s. Anyone who uses that camera will probably know what I'm talking about. The problem is, it wouldn't clear no matter what we did. The drive assembly was dead. Ugh! Luckily, we brought the GL1 as a backup.

But we soon discovered that had flaws of its own.

A few takes into the next shot, we discovered 2 bad pixels on the CCD chip--not on the LCD, but the CCD, so it recorded the bad pixels. Okay, it's an easy fix in After Effects, a minor inconvenience we decided to live with.

Fast forward to the second week of shooting, or, rather, the capture session after shooting the second week. I noticed a few sound drop-offs and, worse, digital breakup on the tape. Luckily, we generally run a lot of takes of each shot, so the glitches were easily avoided in the editing room.

Until week three.

The glitches were getting worse. I was now looking at masking and cloning out glitches. The sound, fortunately, was mostly okay.

Then I discovered, or remembered, a solution. Adobe Premiere CS3 (my editor of choice) comes with a program called OnLocation (OL), which allows you to connect the camera to a PC and capture the signal directly--bypassing the tape. Well, shit, let's try that.

Holy crap, OL was easy to set up! I had purchased a 500GB external capture drive and planned to use my laptop to run everything. The XL1s (yes, we went back to the better camera since we weren't using tape anymore) plugged right in and was instantly found by OL. OL's interface has a nice monitor for our director; it even shows the zebra lines. And, perhaps best of all, no capturing. Each take goes right to the capture drive, and can be labeled as needed.

We were rolling smoothly now. The only real--shall we say...inconvenience--is the camera's wired connection to the computer while shooting, which makes camera moves somewhat limited. Add to that the signal loss when the cable length is too long2, and you have to be really creative in how you shoot. But we use sticks more often than not, so we're managing. We've even established a rhythm when moving the whole rig (camera, laptop, drive, etc.) from one shot to the next.

In the future, of course, I intend to purchase an HD (probably HDV) camera that can shoot in true 24p, so we get the best cinematic look possible for our budget.

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes stories and pictures.

Photo provided by Robert Long II

1I used my daughter's Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, the battery-operated ones that move and talk, and staged a scene as if they were talking to each other. Silly? Yes, but it worked for the test.

2I've seen several references that say a firewire cable can be 14' without a signal loss, but I used a 10' cable and noticed some degradation in the image. It works, but should be use sparingly. I use it for hand-held shots that require a lot of movement.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finally Upgraded Wordpress

Thanks to my buddy Stewie, upgrading to 2.6 was a breeze. He suggested installing the automatic upgrade plugin, and it didn't disappoint. The process couldn't have been easier.  On the upgrade page, just click through each step, and after about 5 clicks (and two downloads--the site and database backups), you're done. Wow! :yay:

Oh, and Stewie, Custom Smilies has been updated. The new version is here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Timewarp at Horrorfind this weekend

Don't miss Horrorfind Weekend 10 Aug 15-17 at the UMUC Marriott Inn & Conference Center Adelphi, MD.

There are some cool, first-time guests: Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens), Chris Sarandon (Princess Bride, Fright Night), and William Forsythe (Devil's Rejects). Plus, many returning favorites like Tony Todd and, Tom Savini, and Ken Foree.

And stop by the Timewarp table and say hello!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Free 3D adds another contender: trueSpace

trueSpace was one of the first 3D applications I tried, way back in 2000. It was version 4 back then, and while its interface was a little different and it didn't have all of the state-of-the-art features, it was quite capable and got me through a few projects.

Now on version 7.6, trueSpace has quite a lot to offer, based on the features page. And to make that deal sweeter, it's completely free! Seems Microsoft purchased Caligari, the creators of trueSpace. I guess they want to compete with other free 3D apps, particularly Google SketchUp. Gee, I wonder why?

There's only a PC version, so Mac users are SOL in terms of trueSpace.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sealed Fates Begins Shooting

We've been chomping at the bit to film a new feature for over a year now. We're finally getting our chance this summer. The cast is set, the locations (sort of) secured -- any micro-budget company knows what I mean -- and the shooting schedule is done (for the next couple of weeks, anyway).

Now, we start rolling.

This is the first time I'll be behind the camera, other than for the Horrorfind commercial in March. So, I made a checklist for the set:

  • Charged battery...check.

  • Tape in, queued up...check.

  • White balance set...check.

  • XL1 set to interlaced mode...check (we're converting to 24p, but that's a whole, upcoming, post in itself).

  • Subject framed...check.

  • Lights set properly...check.

And, um, anything else?

Oh yeah,

  • Focused? ...check. Whew!

Friday, June 27, 2008

If Adobe Products Have a Twitchy Interface, Remove Intellipoint 6

For months I've been trying to figure out why all of my state-of-the-art Adobe products -- Premiere, After Effects, Encore, and Photoshop -- have been, for lack of a better term, twitching. The screen would shake and redraw, menus would disappear, and only show when I moused over them. It was maddening! Sure, the programs would work, but productivity was at a crawl.

I tried everything I could think of: uninstalling old programs, cleaning the registry, updating video drivers (I was convinced it was a video thing), and I scoured the internet. Nothing.

Finally, after using every search combination I could think of, I found the answer on the Adobe Forums (duh). Here's the link.

Quote from user tl_woods:
This is what I did to fix this.

Uninstall all microsoft intellimouse driver versions. Export your registry settings and then search in registry for intellimouse and delete all references.
I dont think this is necessary but thats what I did.

Reinstall with IntelliPoint 5.5...


Its as easy as that.

The problem solved, at last.

And here's the 32-bit version of the driver:


Friday, June 20, 2008

Cast Set for Sealed Fates

Photo provided by Robert Long II

We finished auditions for our next feature last weekend. We didn't get as large a turnout as we expected, but the quality of those that did show up was surprisingly high. Usually, about 5-10% are really good, another 10% we can work with, and the rest should look for a new career, but this time we must have gotten at least 15% that were excellent, and another 20% that were workable. I'll take that kind of quality over quantity any day.

After viewing the tape and mulling over the choices, we decided--with very little disagreement--on our cast of choice. It was comforting to see that most of the parts had solid backups in case the first choice didn't work out.

This week we called the actors and made the offers. Nearly everyone accepted-- excitedly. While we had to go for a couple of backups, we don't feel like we settled in the least.

Now we're gearing up for production, which should begin in July. There's a lot left to do before then. Final script tweaking, prop gathering/crafting, scheduling, scouting a few more locations, purchasing equipment, and drafting all kinds of lists.

Whew, that's a lot. And I wouldn't miss it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Celtx 1.0 Now Available

I've been following the Celtx software for some time. I currently use Final Draft for screenwriting, but I have a soft spot for free/open source projects.

Celtx has now released their version 1.0, which usually means it's ready for prime time. I can't say for certain that is true, but they have tweaked a lot of their features and added some new ones. I'm personally interested in the production tools: call sheets, prop lists, storyboard organization, etc.  I plan to try out the production features on our upcoming project. I'll post my results.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Character Breakdowns for Timewarp's Auditions

As I mentioned in my last post, we'll be holding auditions for our latest feature on June 8th and June 14th at The Days Hotel Timonium - 9615 Deerco Road, Timonium, Maryland, 21093.

Here is the list of major roles available (other smaller speaking and non-speaking roles are also available).

"Deborah Mason"
(Female, 25-40)

She dresses for success and takes her career seriously. She's new to management and hasn't dealt with difficult employees before; though she's confident she can handle whatever comes her way.

"Charles Vanderhaven"
(Male, 30-60)

Extremely detail oriented and paranoid, Charles is a textbook example of obsessive compulsive disorder. His only friend in the world is his dog, Pixie. He would do anything, ANYTHING, to ensure her safety. Other humans just inconvenience him; he wants nothing to do with them.

"Harold Becker"
(Male, 28-40)

A blue-collar man through and through. He has no patience for intellectuals who think they're better than he is. He's old fashioned, and will go to great lengths to protect his family.

(Female, 21-60)

Deborah's assistant. She's overworked because of her own desire to get ahead, but lacks the skills to get much further than assistant. And her passive-aggressive, sarcastic nature doesn't help.

"Shane Foster"
(Male, 30-50)

Foster is a mafia "Hitman," who's been contracted for one last assignment for his boss. He had been previously promised that he would never have to do anything like this again, but his loyalty is so great that he accepts the offer. Foster has ice in his veins, but this latest assignment has limitations that he must follow, which compounds his frustration.

"Eric Litchfield"
(Male, 45-65)

Litchfield is a corporate America man, been a business man all his life. He hasn't let his career get to him, though. He's very friendly, conversational and outgoing. He's one of three men trapped in an elevator, but even so, this doesn't rattle him, and he can find humor in virtually any situation. He's the kind of guy almost anyone can like.

"Ravi Sinjaad"
(Male, 25-45)

Sinjaad's family is originally from India, but he came to America at a very young age. He is hard working, but somewhat timid, and does not like enclosed spaces. He gets nervous easily, and every once in awhile comes up with funny quips…that he doesn't realize are funny.

"Don Buccini"
(Male, 55-75)

A mafia powerhouse, Don Buccini is THE major player in the area he controls. He is ruthless, vengeful, and yet has a soft side for those who have supported his rise to power. He looks upon "Shane Foster" as his second son.

"Dominick Buccini"
(Male, 23-30)

Spoiled, angry and incredibly vicious, Dominick is the typical psychopath that would kill someone just to watch them die…and then will run and hide behind his father's mafia empire. He can't wait for his father to be gone, however, because he has plans…BIG plans…for the role that he will assume. He hates "Shane Foster."

"Darlene Spencer"
(Female, 18-25)

She is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, taunted by the ghostly image of a woman that haunts her dreams. She also hears voices that are beginning to influence her -- leading her to contemplate suicide.

"Lindsay Campbell"
(Female, 21-35)

Impressionable, and a bit of a drama queen, she's happily married, but always worried her husband will leave her, because she feels she's not good enough. She currently takes antidepressants, and looks at her new home as a fresh start on her life.

"Jason Campbell"
(Male, 21-35)

Geeky computer guy, always upbeat. Husband of Lindsay, he no doubt loves his wife, but gets frustrated by her almost constant need for attention. Even so, he will step up and protect her when she needs it.

"Bonnie Hanson"
(Female, 28-40)

A polite and friendly -- though noticeably phony -- real estate agent, she treats her clients with respect, but never strays from her goal: selling the house and making lots of money.

"Maddy Hatfield"
(Female, 30-50)

An old-fashioned, devoted wife. Maddy is painfully aware of her husband's contempt for her. She longs for his affection, but constant failure is wearing her down.

"George Hatfield"
(Male, 30-50)

Ignorant, abusive and controlling, he hates all women, including his wife, Maddy, and only interacts with them when he wants food or sex -- and sometimes he doesn't ask. He takes.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Timewarp to Hold Auditions in June

Timewarp Films

From Director Joe Ripple:

After seeing both national and world-wide distribution on four of their first five features, Timewarp Films, LLC will be holding open auditions for its sixth project, tentatively entitled "Sealed Fates." This horror anthology project is slated to begin filming in late June. Several roles are available for both men and women, all races are welcome. Respectfully, no roles for children are available at this time. This is a non-union production, shooting on weekends with deferred pay, but meals will be provided. A DVD copy of the completed project will also be provided to each actor.

We will be holding auditions at "The Days Hotel Timonium," 9615 Deerco Road, Timonium, Maryland, 21093. The audition dates will be Sunday, June 8th and then the following Saturday, June 14th from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. both days. The audition will be a cold read. Please bring a headshot and resume; however you MUST audition to be considered for a role.

Please do not call the hotel with any questions. All questions can be answered by Director Joe Ripple, via email at timewarpfilms@comcast.net

For more information about our company, please visit www.timewarpfilms.com

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tales from the Cellar gets its own domain

Welcome to talesfromthecellar.com.

The old domain will remain active for a while, and will resolve to the new one.  So it will mostly be invisible. But it's a lot easier to say, "go to talesfromthecellar.com." Don't cha think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Camera Mapping in Blender, for Charity.

I read a post on Blendernation, a cornerstone of the Blender 3D community, that I felt bared repeating--for two reasons.

First, Colin Levy (Peerless Productions), created a 30 second public service announcement (PSA) as an entry for PSAId, a contest sponsored by the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). It's very impressive and has a strong message; no wonder it was a finalist. You can view his entry here.

Second, because he uploaded a video on how he used Blender 3D for camera mapping in order to create the proper setting for the scene. He also has a full camera mapping tutorial on his Web site.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Projects from the Cellar


I started a section for showcasing the projects I've worked on. Projects from the Cellar will have stills galleries of FX and videos, with some behind the scenes commentary, and how-tos.

I've already added sections for Amateur Short Films, a Stakes FX gallery, a Monster Planet FX gallery, and a video on how to create a quick and dirty vampire death. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Horrorfind March 2008

Last weekend was Horrorfind Weekend.

As always, Timewarp Films had a table and we were hawking our films. It was nice to actually have a new one to offer. We weren't able to get copies of Dead Hunt for last August's show.

We shared space with our sister organization, Scares that Care (also run by Joe Ripple, our director). It really stole the show. We raffled off Ichabod, a creepy looking head on a stick, and conducted a silent auction--all for charity. It was a great success! We took in over $2000.

I spent most of the weekend hiding behind my laptop. I was updating a script for submission to the Bluecat Screenplay Competition. But I did pop my head up every once in a while to chat with fellow filmmakers, fans of Don Dohler and Timewarp Films (always a pleasure to speak with people that like your stuff), and, of course, the other Timewarpers helping out: Stewie, Rob (pictured; right), Zig, Colleen, Leanna (pictured; center), Eric, and the man himself, Joe Ripple.

Overall it was great fun. Unfortunately, the turnout wasn't what they hoped for. But this was the first time in a new location, and March doesn't bring out the fans like August does.

One highlight for me was getting to meet George Romero (pictured below). As a low-budget filmmaker, getting to meet a legend in the field is a real treat. He was taller than I expected, and a great guy to talk to. We shared our opinions on filmmaking, and he told me his favorite of his own films is Martin, a film I've wanted to see since watching Document of the Dead. Needless to say, I jumped on Amazon when I got home and ordered a copy.

Here's a pic of the table. The barely visible Zig is behind the TV, Stewie is filming Rob taking the picture -- exciting footage, it must be -- and that's me in the center, face buried.

Colleen, Leanna, and Eric pose to promote Dead Hunt.
Hawking Dead Hunt

And finally, a bunch of us went to the local Outback on Saturday to celebrate my wife's birthday.

A very busy and tiring weekend, but a fun one.
Thanks to Rob and Stewie for the pictures.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Timewarp Films at Horrorfind Weekend March 28-30

Horror, Halloween and Supernatural - The Spookiest Show on Earth

If you're a fan of George Romero, or just love zombie movies, you don't want to miss the March Horrorfind Weekend. It features reunions of Night, Dawn, Day, and Land of the Dead. Click here for details.

And don't forget to visit us at the Timewarp table any time during the weekend. We'll be selling copies of our films, and will have some of the actors available for autographs.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is it a Smash, or is it Trash?

Friend and fellow filmmaker Robert Long II has just started a Web site for indie filmmakers called smashortrashindiefilmmaking.com. He's just starting out, but plans to have interviews with other filmmakers, articles, resources, reviews, and lots more. He's already posted an in-depth interview with filmmaker Don Glüt. Check it out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Horrorfind March 2008 Commercial - Extended Cut

Here's the extended version of the Horrorfind commercial we filmed last month. It's over 3 minutes, with lots of zombie goodness and eerie music. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Horrorfind March 2008 Commercial

Today Mike, the head honcho of Horrorfind, approved our cut of the commercial. So, here it is:

Monday, Joe will pick up the DV tape and get a digital beta (I think that's what it's called)  made. He will then send  it to...wherever you send commercials, I guess. I know nothing about that end of the business. I'm just ecstatic that something I shot and edited will be on local and cable TV.

Stay tuned for an extended version later in February.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Zombies, zombies everywhere!

Saturday we shot a commercial for the March Horrorfind convention in College Park, MD. Since George Romero is one of the guests (along with cast members of the Dead movies) we wanted to do a zombie- themed commercial. One with some zip.

Joe, our director, came up with a great idea: a hip granny reminisces about Romero movies and then kicks some zombie ass. And there was a lot of ass to kick. We were expecting 10 extras at the most, but wound up with at least 25--plenty to pull off a Romero-esque horde. Of course, we only have 30 seconds to work with--it's amazing how short that really is--so we couldn't do all that we wanted.

Overall, the shoot went very well. The weather was cold but clear, and not too sunny; too much sun wreaks havoc with digital video. And the setting was awesome. We have to shoot there again.

To be honest, I was a little nervous going into the shoot. This was my first time behind the camera for Timewarp. That role was always reserved for Don Dohler, our mentor--and this was the first shoot since he passed away in 2006. I was fully aware of the large shoes I was filling. But just kept thinking about making him proud.

Many thanks to Joe for keeping the zombies under control, and for checking to see if I focused the lens :lol: , and thanks to Stewie and Zig, our faithful crew, for helping out. Zig actually reminded me about the ND (neutral density) filter on the XL1. It helps with overexposure so you don't have to stop down too far. That was a big duh.

The crew

I mentioned earlier that 30 seconds is a very short time. Well, I did my first pass cutting the commercial, and it came in at 45 seconds, an eternity in editing. After a couple more passes, I'm down to 34 seconds. I've had to chop some lines, and make some shots shorter, and generally be creative. But it's not over yet. I guess I need a chainsaw. Luckily, we plan to make an extended version so we can put the rest in. We filmed a ton of zombie footage. No way we waste that.

And, by the way, everything was in focus. :D

I'll post the final version of the commercial when I'm done.

A Romero Tradition

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Murder Unscripted

This has to be the best strike video yet. Some of the best actors on TV, from Law & Order and Homicide, try and figure out what happened to a dead woman in a library--but they don't have a script. It's hilarious! Big thumbs up to the famous faces that are standing by the writers.

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