Category: photography


Producers work on projects that vary in size and scope. Great Films are made with great crews, equipment and tools to make great films, and one of my all time favourites is Goodfellas, a classic Hollywood film directed by and using a screenplay written by Martin Scorsese.

For many years I’ve been using Final Draft and Entertainment Partners software, which I rely on constantly and emphatically. Only recently, when discussing a project with an Indian producer was my attention drawn to Celtx, which comes with a whole lot of interesting stuff these days, including their celtxblog. It’s an interesting read with valuable insights, such as the article INTRODUCING INSIGHTS: 7 FAMOUS SCREENPLAYS BY THE NUMBERS written by Stephen Stanford.

Presently, I’m working on a number of feature film projects of varying size and scope, and the team members are spread across the globe. Assessment and due diligence takes time; there’s an old saying that goes something like “what you don’t do properly in development, you have to pay for during pre-production, and what you don’t do properly in pre-production, you have to pay for in production, and what you don’t do properly in production, you have to pay for in post-production.” and everything costs time + money.
Project Assessment Process
Planning is vitally important, and it is with respect that this wonderfully written blog article by Stephen Stanford is reproduced in this blog.
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PRODUCTION PRIMER: THE TRACKING SHOT

written by Stephen Stanford May 19, 2016
The tracking shot with Steadicam
No matter what kind of content you’re producing, there are cinematic hallmarks that everybody wants to see. Our new Production Primer series will cover the fundamentals of these techniques and show you what your team needs to consider when writing, planning, and shooting them.

The tracking shot or “oner” is perhaps the most iconic and captivating of all cinematic techniques. Generally speaking, it refers graceful, uninterrupted single-take shots where the camera follows the subject throughout either an extended portion or the entirety of a scene. Tracking shots are a showcase opportunity for the entire production team to demonstrate their technical expertise, but come with a price: they require extensive planning and rehearsal to execute properly. If all goes according to plan, however, the effect is mesmerizing (and you’ve successfully added a cinematic flourish to your project that captures the imagination and sticks to the memory). If you’re thinking about attempting a tracking shot in your next project, here are a few things to consider for each phase of production.

WRITING

One of the most celebrated tracking shots of all time is the famous Copacabana Sequence from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. The dazzling, impeccably staged journey of Henry Hill and his date from across the street, down the stairs, winding through the service corridors and kitchen, and finally out onto the floor of the iconic nightclub became an instant classic of American cinema. Every cue is fits together so flawlessly that it’s easy for one to assume that the some serious technical rigor was applied during the writing process. Surprisingly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Here’s how the Copacabana Sequence appeared on the page in a revised draft of Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese’s 1989 script. Compare it to the end result.

Click to Enlarge

As you can see, on paper this sequence is written like an unformatted montage. Virtually all of the asides and interactions that Henry has during his entrance are conspicuously absent, as are any specific shots or camera directions. According to Director of Photography Michael Ballhaus, Scorsese had fleshed out the entire sequence in his head, and the entire thing was blocked, rehearsed, and shot in less than a day. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t Martin Scorsese.

The more preparation and thought you put into the writing of the big scene, the greater footing your director and camera department will have when your team arrives at the planning phase. The Copacabana excerpt is a great example of how you should start: the telegraphic action suggests uninterrupted movement and the physical geography of the scene is explicated without being too specific. Moreover, the truncated and condensed formatting prevents the sequence from disrupting the flow of the script. If it were written exactly as it was shot, the sequence would have taken up multiple pages as opposed to roughly one half. In Celtx, however, there’s a novel solution that allows you to have it both ways.

If there’s a scene in your script that you think would make for the perfect tracking shot, Celtx allows you to develop it in detail outside of the script but within the same project. By adding an additional A/V Script to your project specifically for your tracking shot, you can create an in-depth, tailored shooting script describing every action point in your sequence. It also has multiple output formats, one for your actors to work on their cues, and another for your camera department to start mapping out the shot plan. Here’s what the Copacabana sequence looks like when written in A/V format:

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PLANNING

A stabilization system is essential to executing a tracking shot. There are two standard options: a dolly, or a steadicam. A dolly is a heavy, wheeled multi-operator camera platform designed to move along the horizontal axis, either on tracks  or on an appropriately smooth surface. A steadicam utilizes a mechanical system of gimbals and counterweights to allow a single operator to smoothly move and manipulate a camera with considerable deftness and speed. Where a dolly offers extremely stable and precise shots, steadicams allow for much greater mobility and a dreamy ‘floating’ effect. Both systems are fairly expensive and require skilled operators, although various ‘lighter’ or DIY solutions do exist. When choosing your stabilization system, two factors are key: the location in which you’ll be shooting, and the kind of action you need the camera to capture.  For example, in the Copacabana sequence, the camera was required to closely follow the subjects up and down stairs, down narrow hallways, around sharp corners, and through crowds of background actors with several sidesteps and sudden stops. In this case, the steadicam was the ideal solution.

When you have a suitable location secured, take a walkthrough with your team and make note of obstacles, staging areas, and wiggle room for maneuvering crew and setting up equipment. Determine which stabilization system would best fit your needs, and then perform the initial blocking of your sequence and determine the best positions for each action point to take place. Celtx provides a useful tool for this stage in the form of the Shot Blocker.  You can use the Shot Blocker to sketch out your location and specify where you want your action points to happen while plotting the path of the camera. You can also use it to set positions for equipment, props, set dressing, and extras using a built-in clipart library. Here’s what a shot plan for the Copacabana sequence might look like:

celtx shot blocker

SHOOTING

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Have your director move through your existing shot plan with your actors and let them get a feel for the space. Talk to them, and be open to improvisation. Long tracking sequences are akin to live theater, and its very easy for them to be overcome by a sense of staginess. Giving your actors a chance to explore, ad lib, and make mistakes can provide additional material that will imbue your sequence with a greater sense of reality.

You might also consider doing this initial blocking pass in reverse, starting at your last action point and working backwards. Ensuring that your actors know exactly where they need to end up is crucial to getting the perfect take, and starting your rehearsal from the final blocking position makes it easier for your actors to judge both distance and timings throughout the rest of the sequence: the finishing point is far more important than the starting point.

Your next rehearsal run should include any background actors, as well as dry runs for any background action that may be scripted to occur. It’d be best to include your camera team on this run as well – safety is paramount, and any background action with the potential to affect the camera needs to be heavily drilled.

Depending on the length of your shot (and if your schedule can accommodate it), you might want to consider blocking an entire day for setup and rehearsals. Either way, something is bound to deviate from your plan. Multiple takes are a given (it almost never goes right on the first try), but remember to be conscientious of the physical limitations of your cast and crew. If you push them too hard, you might start to undo the progress you’ve made in rehearsal.

In conclusion, be deliberate in your writing, thoughtful and thorough in your planning, and ready to drill when the shoot day arrives. To take advantage of the tools described in this primer, head over to Celtx and set up your team with a free trial. You’ll find that it makes keeping everyone informed and engaged during both the pre-production process and on set that much easier.

AYI JIHU – Fear Chaser Star Fights Fear, Trafficking & Exploitation!

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hollywood it guy Eric Zuley
Chinese star Ayi Jihu a face that reaches a billion people

The long awaited Ayi Jihu single has finally arrived. The artist referred to as ‘The Chinese Madonna’ has not released a new track for almost a year concentrating and her philanthropic endeavors and her FearChaser® film. Ayi fans have been waiting a long time to see what this trailblazing artist would do next.

It just would not be Ayi Jihu or Shlepp Entertainment if they did anything anyone expected them to do now would it, and once again they stay true to their history and surprise as all again. Not that we should be surprised from a Chinese artist that coins a sentence no other international Chinese artist can right now, ‘Independent, Real Chinese and crossing over’. An artist that has broken the rules and made her own path from day one.

Before we get to the music we wanted to catch up with Ayi about what she has being…

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To read the latest posts and updates on James With please go to “James With”

TRI-US Universal Logo

TRI-US ENTERTAINMENT - "Going beyond the frontier of time"

Our Earth in the Universe… is in a state of evolving flux… and now more than ever we are being shaken and rattled … but will we human beings really take the present signs and utilize them to full potential?

H.G. Wells has some wonderful quotes, and as I begin this new article, I think of him and quote some beauties…

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” and “Civilization is a race between disaster and education.”

“It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening.”

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
— H.G. Wells (The War of the Worlds)

Nowadays, we have better instruments and more powerful cameras able to capture activities going vast distances away… such as the a 1,400 megapixel digital camera used by the Pan-STARRS Team at the University of Hawaii that recently discovered a New Comet that may Be Visible From Earth in 2013. While there is no danger of collision with Earth, preliminary calculations of the comet’s orbit show that this may be its first and final trip through the solar system. “It may be coming around the sun for the first and only time, only to be ejected from the solar system, never to return,” says Richard Wainscoat, co-discoverer of the comet and an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. “Since we don’t have a lot of data on it, we really don’t know the orbit well enough right now, and it will take up to two months of observations to find out.” he goes on to say. Astronomers believe the new comet, named C/2011 L4 may be a runaway from the Oort cloud, a reservoir of billions of hibernating comets that orbits about 100,000 times farther than the distance between Earth and the sun.

Our Cosmic Neighborhood As the article mentions, “from our small world we have gazed upon the cosmic ocean for thousands of years. Ancient astronomers observed points of light that appeared to move among the stars. They called these objects “planets,” meaning wanderers, and named them after Roman deities—Jupiter, king of the gods; Mars, the god of war; Mercury, messenger of the gods; Venus, the goddes of love and beauty, and Saturn, father of Jupiter and god of agriculture. The stargazers also observed comets with sparkling tails, and meteors or shooting stars apparently falling from the sky.

Since the invention of the telescope, three more planets have been discovered in our solar system: Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846), and, now downgraded to a dwarf planet, Pluto (1930). In addition, there are thousands of small bodies such as asteroids and comets. Most of the asteroids orbit in a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, while the home of comets lies far beyond the orbit of Pluto, in the Oort Cloud.”

A wonderful array of picture can be found at a PPhoto Gallery: Solar System and Space Pictures This Week: Lunar Eclipse, Sun Spurts, and More.

If you’re reading the signs, newly discovered comets such as C/2011 L4, Nibiru (Planet X) and other movements affecting our weather and our Earth’s magnetic field, all combined certainly lead us to the conclusion that we are in for some very interesting times…

But despite all this, as long as we acknowledge and take heed of the signs, control of our destiny through our ability to focus energy on the positives will ensure humanity maintains a balance with our universal truths…

James With RAMBO

RAMBO - James With Sylvester Stallone


As RAMBO opens on atrocities of exploitation… introductory text fills the screen… “THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE KAREN FREEDOM FIGHTERS AND THE RULING BURMESE ARMY IS THE LONGEST RUNNING CIVIL WAR IN HISTORY“… and as I write this today it is still on-going

This is a struggle that is very real… Living and working in Asia, I see the constant persecution and exploitation that goes on … We must continue to fight against human trafficking and exploitation … the intensity that Sylvester Stallone puts into his RAMBO character, and in making every effort to draw awareness to this very real plight is something we must take on board… we must put our energy into the things that matter… the issues that need focus… and in doing so create a better world for all … this is precisely the meaning behind the RAMBO franchise of movies.

Although the Preacher Missionary character I played in RAMBO gets blown up at a pivotal point when the Burmese Army attacks innocent Karen Hill Tribe villagers, the words of the Preacher taken from Ephesians 3:16-19 resound eternally…

“…Out of the glorious riches he may
strengthen you with power through his
spirit in your inner being, so that
Christ may dwell in your hearts through
faith, and I pray that you, may have
power together with all the saints…”

Producing any media product requires investment funding. Merchandising is vitally important in the funding model of any celebrity or media project. Sylvester Stallone recently launched RAMBO inspired clothing and there is no doubt in my mind that this fashion line will enable Sly to continue to put his best foot forward… his long career presents a man of passion, sincerity and belief in doing the right thing for the right reasons.

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James With presented a seminar of “3D” (stereographic) film making in Bangkok, at the inaugural TEDx conference in Thailand.
“PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF” Liberty Bell

More about TED: Ideas worth spreading


@TED Hans Rosling: Asia’s rise – how and when
Wikipedia reference: TED (Technology Entertainment and Design)


@TED Clifford Stoll: 18 minutes with an agile mind

Present EARTH WARS, whether economic, social, or spiritual threaten the planet, our humanity, our very existence … Technology, if harnessed properly will provide sustainable existence… and humanity will progress and peace and happiness will be the basis of our existence…
Weather control requires human beings to have attained a level of consciousness that respects all life on our planet and our planet as interconnected and interactive.
Weather warfare conflicts with our planet and humanity.

Information Technology, if controlled for the purposes of profit or motives ulterior to the preservation of humanity and human life, will cause apocalyptic catastrophe.

A Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) known informally as the “Biodiversity Convention”, is an international legally binding treaty. The Convention has three main goals:
1. conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);
2. sustainable use of its components; and
3. fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources

The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the “Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques” is an international treaty prohibiting the military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques. It opened for signature on 18 May 1977 in Geneva and entered into force on 5 October 1978.

It is apparent that these conventions are not being respected … All Human Beings just don’t get it!

Available technology allows for the exponential expansion of existentialism…. the interwoven fabric of communications are vital to shared existence… interactive communities, online social networks… such as Facebook, reaching across the globe connecting hundreds of millions of humans have a social responsibility to connect people; devastation and destruction can be implemented by uncaring, ruthless and ignorant individuals at the mere click of keyboard button, a mouse or voice command … if left unchecked the world as we know it disappears…

UNGA RES. 31/72, TIAS 9614
CONVENTION ON THE PROHIBITION OF MILITARY OR ANY OTHER HOSTILE USE OF ENVIRONMENTAL MODIFICATION TECHNIQUES
Adopted by Resolution 31/72 of the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1976. The Convention was opened for signature at Geneva on 18 May 1977. TEXT PUBLISHED IN: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/72, Annex; see Official Records of the General Assembly, Thirty-first Session, Supplement No. 39 (A/31/39), pp. 37-38. International Legal Materials, Vol. XVI, No. 1, January 1977, pp. 88-94 (Engl.); World Armaments and Disarmament, SIPRI Yearbook 1978, London 1978, pp. 392-397 (Engl.); Shindler & Toman, eds., “The Laws of Armed Conflicts.” …

The wiping out of humanity as we know it …it could happen instantly… or it could be a slow, protracted painful removal of everything we base our perception of the world we live in on…

2010 : The International Year of Biodiversity with an emphasis on 2010 Biodiversity Target initiated in 2001. In 2003, Environment Ministers and Heads of delegation from 51 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region adopted the Kiev Resolution on Biodiversity at the fifth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” and decided to “reinforce our objective to halt the loss of biological diversity at all levels by the year 2010”.

What has happened?

Is this what human beings, and especially those in positions of great power are viewing as reinforcing and halting the loss of biological diversity? Parties to these conventions committed themselves to a more effective and coherent implementation of the three objectives of the Convention, to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.

The main goals of the International Year of Biodiversity were to:
Enhance public awareness of the importance of conserving biodiversity and of the underlying threats to biodiversity
Raise awareness of the accomplishments to save biodiversity that have already been realized by communities and governments
Promote innovative solutions to reduce the threats to biodiversity
Encourage individuals, organizations and governments to take immediate steps to halt biodiversity loss
Start dialog between stakeholders for the steps to be taken in the post-2010 period.
… Was this achieved? I think not!

Biodiversity is life.
Biodiversity is our life…

We are witnessing great trauma, cataclysmic catastrophe on a level that is posing a real threat to humanity right now… I urge you to action… read, learn and explore the existence and meaning of life and to become involved… Humanity needs YOU!

There’s more to come…