Monday, October 9, 2017

Ask This Old House

That's the Ask This Old House trailer pulled into my
driveway in August
So I was just griping about how hard it is to set up a studio and get good film footage of me covering a casket.  Last time I did it, I flew my brother who has a degree in this out and we did it together in a week.  He isn't available for that at the moment, so I have to go it alone. 

Over the years, I have had experience with being on the camera or around productions for TV.  My son has been a regular for PBS kids programs starting with Curious George (I have a cameo there too).  It takes FOREVER to film a scene.  One day, he did two 5-minute episodes for PBS Design Squad Nation on location, it was 8-hours of filming.  We shot another two at my house, even longer as the location crew showed up earlier. 

We have filmed Shay Pendray's show, a film for the MET, and a documentary for LEGO.  It has been
A crew of eight needed for the sement - you can see me in the
background during a shot
fun, but not something I would want to do all the time.  But every time I do it, I learn a lot.  B-shots, how to cut sound together, etc.  Very useful when you are thinking of shooting how-to segments. 

So this summer I knew I would be working again on the videos for the caskets and so when an opportunity came up to do an episode of This Old House, I took it to recall how it goes.  I have loved that show since I was a kid and years ago I fell into the lucky opportunity to use the contractors on my homes.  Great and wonderful people and I can't say enough about the quality of the work.  So this summer, we were painting our house (Au Ver a Soie 4611 - I custom mixed the paint to the spool) and was
Well Rodger, I just don't know what to do about this rain problem!
having landscaping done.  Roger was doing the work and it was fun to work with him and the crew.  At one point we realized that an entrance to my house didn't have gutters and was spitting up dirt on the newly and now light painted section.  A solution was needed and I decided I wanted rain chains.

Trying to get the go-pro to work in the rain pot with the 'rain' ready on the
other side of the roof.
As I started talking to the Silva Brothers about putting up the structure for that, I mentioned that I had never seen it on their show - wouldn't that be a good episode.  And quick as a lick, the producers were in touch (they had wanted to film the inside of the house during the renovation for the regular show but we decided the crazy TOH fans who show up for 20 years asking for a tour isn't worth it).   A date was set in late August and the wheels were set in motion.

For me it was fascinating to see the behind the scenes of that production and to get to know the people.  I quickly got many tips (we will see if I can successfully use them!) about how-to filming as well as contacts for some ideas I have in the works for the future. 

So the episode of Ask This Old House will air in February with me and the rain chains.  It will be hilarious to watch as it is a bit modified for the format.  I didn't put up gutters and then go 'oh no, what will I do?  Call Rodger for help?'  But there is a format to do.  I think we must have done 15 takes of me walking out the door saying "Hi Rodger, thanks for coming".  "Hello Tricia, what a beautiful house you have..."  All the production crew hiding behind the trailer with the film footage
The producer protecting the cameras from the fake rain while
the splashing of the rain chain was being filmed close up.  They have so
much extra equipment on them at all times.  One young woman has two
messenger bags on her at all times with commonly needed stuff.
real-time wirelessly showing up on their screens.  We used Go-Pros in my gutters and the pot.  And a drone took footage overhead - Any tool to get cool shots.  Then some fake rain from a hose over the roof helped by a ladder.  All in all, it took five hours to film the segment.  And when you film outside, noise comes all the time to ruin a shot.  "Cut...lawn mower".  "Cut...truck".  "Airplane".  Hilariously, just as we were close to wrapping up the last shot - the bells in town started going off.  We all looked around... NEVER heard that before.  Seems Lexington had started a new thing, noon everyday they will have the church bells go off.  Really??? It was in a song too.  And an encore.  10 minutes of waiting until it was quiet again to yell 'Action!'

At one point Rodger was so tired of his lines that he gave some to me.  Apparently I sounded too knowledgeable about Vinca so after two more takes, the producer nixed that idea and gave them back to a grumpy Rodger who has more trouble remembering lines than I would have thought.  But then again - he has quite a lot of them!  I got to stand there and look very interested in a pile of rocks.  And they made me shovel! 

All in all it was a very fun day and worth it as now I know where to contract with film crews. 

But my son is still trying to convince me that I need an expensive film drone for my casket work....  I don't think so...


Friday, October 6, 2017

Casket Videos...Take 42...Action!

The Grip - or griping grip - helping set everything up.  He has
to crawl on the floor to get out of the space without hitting
head as tables are pulled out into the walking space.
Oh my gosh is this hard.  I have been 'working' on doing the casket videos I want to put up for months.  Well, what I should really say is that I have been working TOWARDS making the casket videos for months.  There is scant finished product.

For most of the summer there were too many people and boxes in my space with threads all over the place, shipments and teens helping me out.  That was good, but I couldn't find my workspace to film a video.  Plus to add embroidery to the casket, there needs to be embroidery!  So working hard on that most of the summer and thinking about how I would film.

Then I get back from vacation and I plan it out.  I start trying to set up a 'studio' now that the house is quiet and I find that my ceiling is sloped and I will have to move my work surface out from the wall four feet to get it centered so I can put up a backdrop (bought a nice grey screen with stand).  Well, there are too many boxes of finished cut threads for several kits to move the work surfaces and set up the tripod far enough back while having the huge stand up with the screen.  So in the last two weeks, I pack kits like mad as some missing threads come in.  FINALLY - I can move the tables as there is room!

And so I get the grey screen up and I go looking for the video camera and microphone system I let
We decided this classic cooking show view was just too
difficult to turn on and a bit risky when I bent forward in a
V-neck shirt.  Note the special
clamp for an iPad to film with in front of me, we had
everything out at our disposal and kept taking shots to see
what would work the best.  Don't want a hand in the way of
what you want to see.
the kids buy for their robot videos.  Found them.  No battery charge.  Where is the darn charger??  Ok - that took DAYS.   Then I realized that I needed a second camera for close ups and that charger was missing too (doesn't anyone around here mark the darn things and put them back??? A search of every darn outlet on four floors recovers said charger).  Finally, two full batteries and a day full of school meetings (are you kidding me?).

I get home and I fire up the video camera to find out that the grey screen is SD sized and the cameras all shoot in HD aspect so you can see me on a grey screen with a super messy office on both edges of the shot.  Hmmmm, didn't think that through!  How about hooks in the ceiling to hang it horizontally so it becomes HD aspect to hide the room?  Don't want hooks in my ceiling.  So when I discover husband is off to hardware store, I tell him to get those removable hooks for the ceiling.  He took it too literally and didn't get any.  "They are for the wall", he says.  UGH.  Several days of other stuff and I finally get a chance to run to the hardware store.  Success, but need 6 foot tall teen to install with me.

Just a few of the crowded cameras
So yesterday was a good day, the teen was in a good mood and got interested in helping me set up the 'studio', realizing that he was going to record robot videos this weekend and they might as well use my office for that.  Phew, some expert help.

So for those who have never done stuff like this, there is tons of sitting there as 'the talent' with objects you intend to use.  The 'Griping Grip' moves the cameras and toys with the settings trying to find a way to have three cameras and a microphone to record the session (that can't be done over for some of the gluing) recording without seeing each other or cutting your head off in the shot.  Lots of gaffer tape goes on the tables and floor to mark the places where the tripods
Notice the microphone NOT plugged in.
need to stand.  Writing down of parameters so we know what zoom to use (I kid you, we forgot this step to my chagrin today when filming alone).

When everything is almost ready, off to find the talent's shirt.  You have to wear one shirt for all the videos so if you need to re-film to cut in or do it over days, the clothes don't change.  It was still damp in the dryer.  Oh well, the show must go on!  Damp shirt and all.

So we started with the mixing of the wheat paste as a test video as I could just make more if it went bad and I had no head in the shot.  Went pretty well.  The kid started all the camera equipment and then ran out of the room.  Was going well until the hamster in my office woke up and decided to get active.  We had actually talked about taking her out - but nooooo.... she sleeps all day.  So I had to cut out two minutes of her drinking and making a weird metallic noise in the background.

Don't you SLEEP in the daytime you loud
I cut the video last night and was pretty happy with the result.  Emboldened to start again on my own, I got to work today.  I now am the proud owner of 40 minutes of 3-camera garbage.  First set of takes... forgot the casket.  Now you got to understand that to turn on one of the cameras, I have to climb onto a table and not knock off the other two cameras at lower vantage points.  So to turn it on and off is a big deal with real bodily danger involved.  Decided to leave it on while I ran downstairs to get one of the 'models'.  Ran out of space on the memory card midway.  Crud.

Start again.  Got 10 minutes into it, done.  Phew.  Review the footage.  Crap...the grey screen is caught on the back of my chair revealing everything behind it.  Ok.  Start again.  Another 'beautiful take' as I turned the viewfinder upside down so I could make sure the grey screen was in place.... but then when I felt totally victorious and was removing the memory cards to download and review it... that was when I discovered that I forgot to re-plug in the microphone system.  So that take of three cameras has no audio, just some dork pointing to things.

Ok.  Only an hour before the robot kids show up for the holiday weekend and the batteries need to be recharged.  So I blog and realize that I have spent the day filming and have no film.

This is going to take awhile!  And right now, that hamster has decided to wear her teeth down on something and it sounds like a beaver going at it in my office.  Mental note...she goes elsewhere while I film and put the darn phone on silent!!

Hopefully someone in the family will take pity on me tomorrow morning and set the cameras rolling and be sure it all looks good while I speak.