Don’t Let’s Forget the Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer

A former wife of a friend of mine was visiting my place a couple of years back, and surprised me in that only did she see nothing unusual to find a gynecological exam table in my living room, but hopped right up, longing (there being not enough chairs for everyone) and continued with a conversation she’d been having up the walk, onto the porch, and right inside. Later it was revealed to me that she had been struck by the fact that everything in my place was film-related: light stands, tripods, mix boards, cameras, and props (of which the examination table was). My film nerd credentials were further driven home tonight. I’d just come back from the grocery store. As is my custom, I place all the bags in the bed of my pick-up, and hope they don’t roll around too much. Tonight, I was dismayed to see that a bag holding two big cans of Foster’s were in the dead center of the truck bed. Just out of reach. It was like that dog who just can’t reach that flea feasting away in the small of his back–he twists and snaps and wriggles and scratches to no avail. Sure, I could have climbed up into the bed, but, without giving it a second thought, I walked inside, grabbed up my telescoping boom pole and used that to snag Australia’s greatest contribution to the global good somewhere betwixt Jim Thirlwell and the Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (RIP, Sir Alan Walsh).

Speaking of video nerdery, last week I used my sister’s Christmas money to buy the only I thing I remembering asking Santa. She wisely decided to give me cash so I could get the item. It’s a lens adapter so I can put my old Nikon lenses onto my Panasonic Lumix GH1 (a fantastic and moderately priced examples of these new DSLR hybrid cameras–hybrid, because they do an excellent job capturing video). The GH1, strictly speaking, isn’t a true digital single lens reflex camera. It’s uses a micro 4/3 system. This allows the camera to be smaller and lighter than a regular DSLR. It doesn’t have a mirror. And so, like a video camera, you’re seeing an electronic image from the camera’s CCD chip. This allows for a placement of the CCD closer to the front of the camera. Because of this placement, you can’t just pit on any old DSLR or old SLR lens. It needs a device that acts not only as a mount adapter, but also as a spacer so that the newly introduced lens’ optics can properly focus.

I barely understand hat I just wrote. There’s no way I wanted to ask my sister to find the best one of, you know, those things, and go on my merry way, secure in my notion that my holiday gift request would find its way to me.

These sorts of devices are all over the place. I found half a dozen companies (most in Hong Kong) making something that would work for me. I tried B&H, but the only vendors they were working with were the top dollar guys. I turned to Amazon and found a variety of sensibly priced couplers. I decided on one carried by some outfit whose Amazon handle is Rainbowimaging.

I ordered it Thursday, I believe. And it came today, a Wednesday. They ship USPS, first class. They’re not in Hong Kong–the return address was Brooklyn. This seems a bit slow. Might be I could blame the post office. I won’t give them a hard time. The thing works perfectly. It came wrapped well. And they threw in a free retractable lens dust brush!

Here’s the thing that was driving me crazy. I put the adapter onto my camera, and, with some difficulty, got my Nikon 50mm lens attached (the trick is to be firm in twisting the lens on. But then, fuck, I got this warning: “please check that the lens is attached correctly.” Well, shit, that didn’t sound good at all. The manuel was no help (imagine that). I wish I could remember what website helped me out, but I forgot. So, let me add to the hive mind. Here’s how you fix it. Get into the main menu. Click down to “My” (aka “My Menu”). At the bottom you’ll see an option: “shoot w/o lens.” Your choices are “off” and “on.” Most likely you Lumix was set at the default “on” position. Change it to off. Problems solved. Should be the first thing in any article about swapping out lenses on this camera. The problem is that when you add these old lenses they lack all of the electronic connects that modern automatic lenses have, thus the camera is absolutely positive you’re a moron and are operating it without a lens at all. So you have to tell it that this is okay.

This marriage between SLR 35mm lens and this funky micro 4/3 format creates an optical anomaly I was glad I had already learned about, otherwise I’d been pissed. Because the lens needs to be pulled away a bit from the CCD chip, any lens added with have it’s magnification drastically increased. Basically doubled. So, my old Nikon 50mm lens now performs like a short telephoto 100mm. The upside? It’s fucking fast. I can open it up three stops–it’s an f 1.8. And, of course, this means I can now shoot under much lower light conditions, but it also gives me an insanely shallow depth of field–I can now do a sweet rack-focus on a close-up of a face from eye to nose…if needed.

What a great new toy! That’s Paula, for the Christmas present!

But, in an attempt to balance the wheel of karma, as I was frolicking about the neighborhood shooting hither and yon with my camera and a “new” lens (and braving the nasty weather), my trusty Panasonic Lumix GH1 let me down. One of the strap anchors came off. Thankfully this didn’t happen while I had it around my neck. Actually, I don’t know when it happened. I just picked it up, and, fuck! I like the security of having a strap on my camera, dammit. But I don’t want to ship it off–I’ll now see it for weeks, or longer. I remember when Carlos sent off a camera. I’ll try some place locally. Screw the warrantee.

Here are two quick snaps of a damn shallow DOF with my GH1 now augmented with a badass old-school Nikon manual F-mount lens. One fast lens, I’d say.




Ever since I met with Seme Jatib last week I’ve been thinking about live video performances. It’s an intriguing way to present a time-based visual work. But in the past, all my research to find an interesting piece of software came up short. There is such of mountain of VJ and associated presentation software out there that I’ve given up in my past cursory searches. But the other week I came across two that I find intriguing: GrandVJ by ArKaos; and Avenue by Resolume. Resolume handles audio and video clips perfectly. I can do everything I want such a program to do. The problem is that the interface is stodgy and counter-intuitive. It’s the glitzier of the two, but I’m leaning towards GrandVJ. It seems like a water buffalo when compared to Resolume, but my hand-eye coordination has never been stellar, and I’m confidant GrandVJ is the program I could use with the greater speed and facility.

Last night I was hanging out by myself at C4 Workspace. I pulled down the movie screen and hooked Todd and Debbie’s projector to my laptop. I placed my DVX on a tripod and plugged it into my laptop via it’s firewire cable. Pretty cool. GrandVJ recognized the camcorder as an incoming source. It also alerted me to my laptop’s onboard camera–another incoming video source. GrandVJ lets you work with as many as eight video channels: you can break them into grids, layer them as transparencies, assign them to signal A or signal B (which helps to control the images as they may be manipulated via cross fades or layering). You can preload over 250 onto the interface. It had no problem handling several video codecs, formats, and could give a rats ass about SD or HD. You can create animation, text, and I’ve seen the cool site of a guy who provides a tutorial on making flash-driven files (using the software) that respond to an audio in-put.

Also, last night, I realized I’m tired of begging people to borrow video projectors. Let me do a quick inventory…. Um, I’ve groveled and “aw-shucks” my way into the good graces of nine individuals or groups for use of video projectors. And I’m probably missing a few. Time to get my own. I checked out B&H for their used and refurbished equipment. And so today I took the plunge and ordered an NEC brand 3000 lumens LCD projector.

I try and procure a new toy/tool with every stint at the Dallas auction house where I’ve ben so lucky to work. This time around it’s something that all of us who work making films constantly need, yet almost never purchase–the fuckers are expensive!

The more I find myself working with dancers, the more I find myself becoming beguiled with the idea of filmmaking not just as a static creation (with the content frozen at the ass-end of the post-production period), but an open ended, potentially evolving form of performing art.

Well, we’ll see how this plays out….


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