“From Talking to Playing” online for free on Friday!

Posted in Artist Profile, From Talking - To Playing, Mira Armij Gill, Uncategorized on September 16th, 2014 by Dave

I’m pleased to be able to offer my film, “From Talking to Playing” online for free beginning this coming Friday, September 19th.
The film, which was released in 2013, is a bio of the fabulous New York City pianist and teacher Mira Gill. Mira’s playing is truly electrifying, and she brings to this film, both in words and action, the passion and struggle of a life dedicated to music.

Ode to Vintage Lenses and a Gifted Microphone…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 8th, 2014 by Dave

I continue to be stunned, amazed and overflowing with gratitude towards Black Magic Designs, the company that makes the diminutive Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera or BMPCC for short. The above two photos were frames I pulled from video I shot of two interviewees for my current production on the theme of Friendship.  If you double click on them and wait a second you’ll see full size ,  1920×1080 stills of remarkable quality. Remember, these are frames from a video clip, not standalone photographs. The quality from the original footage looks even better than what’s onscreen here.

 

ann for blog

 

dave finck for blog

 

Film making, even no-budget film making like I practice, is still an expensive proposition. I have around 5k in camera and computer equipment at this point, but I’ve spent more than that on stuff that I purchased, didn’t like, and re-sold. It’s an evolutionary process finding gear that fits both your needs and aesthetics. I’ve come to conclusion while going cheap can work for some gear, (I’m thinking of inexpensive or DIY lighting cobbled together at Home Depot), one shouldn’t skimp on production quality when it comes to items like audio.

Early on, I used a $30.00 lavaliere mike for my first couple of productions and I regret it. I should have known better having come from a professional background in field production. The mikes worked, but they had a thin sound, were unbalanced, (meaning that they were more susceptible to interference), and were flimsy. Nowadays I rely on a mike gifted to me from a friend Matthew Olshan, a published novelist living in Baltimore. It’s a Rode Video Shotgun Mike. It must have set him back about $200.00. The sound is full, rich, noiseless and delivers VERY high quality audio. This is now my “go-to” mike used in interviews filmed on the BMPCC. My interviews look and sound wonderful. I think they look better because they sound better and they sound better because they look better. I keep this baby in it’s original box and carefully protect it from the vicissitudes of life…I also think of my buddy when I use it.

When I film an interview, (by myself), I set the Rode mike on a boom-stand a couple of feet from my interview subject. I have the mike above and pointing down towards the person’s mouth, just out of the camera’s frame. The mike is placed so that it’s 12 – 15 inches at the most from my subject.  It feeds a Digital Audio Recorder, (I use a Zoom H1), which ran about $100.00. I set audio levels on the Zoom with my subject talking normally, and monitor with headphones for a few moments. Then I hit “record”. I don’t turn off the recorder until the end of the interview. This setup works wonderfully for me. I no longer have to worry about clothing rubbing on lavalieres. I get excellent audio each and every time. Later on in post production I use software to synchronize the Zoom’s audio with the audio recorded by the camera. Works beautifully.

One area where I have been able to economize has been in lenses for my BMPCC. I buy what are called “vintage” lenses. These are lenses made for 35mm single lens reflex cameras from the 1970’s. I have a 50mm Canon FD and a 70-200mm Vivitar Series 1 zoom purchased on Ebay. I have a hundred dollars total tied up in these two amazing lenses. A couple of 10.00 adapters and they mount up nicely to the BMPCC.

It would be easy to spend between $500.00 and a $1000,00 per modern lens but they are not affordable to me. And frankly, I like the old school feel these lenses have – I have a connection to them from my early days as a photographer. The lenses have to be focused manually, and the lens opening, (f-stops), are also manually adjusted. But since I don’t trust auto-focus, and I like setting the exposure myself, I have no need for automation in these two areas.

 

P1020553

P1020554

 

My vivitar zoom. Weighs about the same as a brick. Gives me excellent, (and extreme telephoto results), on my BMPCC. I used a pipe adapter, (2nd picture), from Home Depot, to create a lens holder that screws to my tripod head, (the lens is so heavy it would damage the camera’s mount if I attached it directly to the camera!)

 

P1020550

My Canon FD 50mm 1.8. Fast, cheap, and definitely in control….When placed on my BMPCC, it gives me about a 140mm equivalent focal length that a  35mm SLR camera would have. If I have plenty of room in an interview setting and can back up 12 feet or so, I use this lens. It produces a gorgeous picture.

P1020547

 Finally, the little 25mm lens above, which new cost 24.00 plus a couple of bucks to ship, is the lens I used to film the two interview subjects at the beginning of this article. It’s a lens originally used in security cameras! Can you beat that?

 

“School for Jazz”, now online…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20th, 2014 by Dave

My latest film is a shorty – only 14 minutes long, but I tried to cram a lot into it. It was fun and relatively quick to make, and I got to work with some great people during the production. I felt revved up by the spirit and mission of the station and its’ staff, and, special bonus for me, got introduced to the gorgeous singing voice of Perry Como!

The film is now on the front page of the Jazz 90.1 FM website, www.jazz901.org , or you can watch it here on my site for free. Hope you like it!

“School For Jazz” to be released next week…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13th, 2014 by Dave

My latest film is to be released next week. School For Jazz is a profile of Jazz 90.1 FM, Rochester’s mostly volunteer-run, and one and only full-time jazz station, which operates out of the Greece School District. School for JazzThe station has operated on a shoestring for the last 40 years and although its offices are located in one of the district’s high schools, it receives no taxpayer support – it’s entirely run on donations from the community.

The film will be released on the Jazz 90.1 website, next Wednesday. My hope is that it will connect the station’s listeners with the personalities and passion that keep the station going.

It was a lot of fun to make! Excellent cooperation from station manager Rob Linton and the volunteers I profiled. An added bonus: I have a new appreciation for Frank Sinatra and Perry Como in particular as a result of having made the film!

I’ll be interviewed about the film on air at Jazz 90.1 next Wednesday, June 18th, at 4:25pm. The film will go live on the website immediately after the interview. Tune in if you can, watch the film, and if you can, donate a few bucks to the station!

Upcoming Screenings of “From Talking To Playing”, a film about Concert Pianist Mira Armij Gill

Posted in Uncategorized on August 11th, 2013 by Dave

Agricola Media is pleased to announce two screenings of its’ latest film From Talking To Playing. The film will be shown at the  Lubec Memorial Library, at 55 Water St, Lubec,  ME on August 16, at 6:30pm and at the Eastport Fine Arts Center located at 36 Washington St, Eastport, ME  on August 19th at 7:30 pm. The screenings are free to the public.

 

From Talking To Playing is a 25 minute film profile of performing artist Mira Armij Gill.  Ms. Gill has performed each summer for the past six years in Lubec,  Eastport,  and Saint Andrews in addition to her regular concertizing in New York City and elsewhere. With incredible drive and a passion for excellence both as a pianist and as a teacher, this New York City-based artist  has won the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere she’s performed. As one critic put it, “She’s small, but her music stands tall!”

The film provides a  glimpse  of what it takes to be a concert pianist at the highest level and celebrates the passion and determination of the artist.

 A Question & Answer session  with Ms. Gill and filmmaker Dave Espositowill follow the screening.

 

http://www.agricolamedia.com

8mm Vintage – Oh what a feelin!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 10th, 2013 by Dave

Maybe it’s because I’m a relic from the 60’s but I’ve totally fallen in love with a little piece of software that runs on my Ipod 4. It’s called 8mm Vintage and I learned about it when I was reading about the documentary “Searching for Sugarland” Seems that the filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, shot this Oscar winning documentary, which I can’t wait to see, using an actual super 8mm camera to give the film a gritty, retro look, then ran out of money with a couple of shots to go in the production. He found the app mentioned above, loaded it onto his iphone and finished the shooting for the film. Supposedly the shots cut together beautifully with the actually super 8 footage – the director said that audiences could not tell the difference. The app costs $1.99. Can you imagine having shot all that film, having it processed and then realizing that you could have had it all for $1.99?

I can dig that it’s not all about money though. Shooting super 8mm is very different than shooting with an iphone. And the director chose a certain aesthetic and then picked the tool which reflected the time and place of his subject. Very neat and true to the story he was trying to tell; I totally respect that.

I Immediately purchased the app which took approximately one minute. It was snowing outside. I fired up the app and I shot some test clips. Oh my God, they were beautiful. The 8mm look with it’s jitter and strobing and sepia look, which the app defaults to, were gorgeous. Here are a couple of quick clips:

I had the option of shooting in 4:3 aspect ratio or full 1920 x 1080. I went with the 4:3 – I just like that boxy old look, no, the classic proportions, that just put me in the old single, non-multiplexed cinemas I frequented in my youth. It seemed to me that everything I shot with this app felt more like a memory, a feeling, or an evocation of a time or place than what it was objectively. I’m not sure that my reaction wasn’t entirely due to the fact that I grew up with film, and that video was such a horror visually in its early days. I’d like to see what someone in their teens would think. Would they even relate it to the past, or would they just view it as a modern special effect or “theme”.

I found myself wanting to make a film with the starting point being that it had to be made with this app. That a 1.99 cent app would be the muse for a film to me is astonishing…but it could happen. In the meantime, I tried something with the film I’m now editing, “From Talking To Playing”, about the brilliant pianist Mira Gill, (or “Miracle” as I like to think of her!). I had put together titles in Vegas Pro using with just white print on a black background. I also layered in some animated snow flakes. Then I rendered out this section, played it back and recorded the screen playback with my ipod and 8mm Vintage. Here’s what it looks like:

I like it and it’s now the opening to my film…

Follow-up on my recent editing post…why I hate dissolves

Posted in Editing, Filmmaking, Uncategorized on March 28th, 2013 by Dave

I try not to use a lot of special effects in my work. I don’t need to generally, because most of what I do is narrative in nature and I find that effects just tend to be distracting to the subject matter. In my younger days yes, I relied on effects to jazz things up, but not so much anymore. Nowadays I prefer lots of cuts in my work even to the point of cutting from black to titles and from titles to black and then cutting to actual video. I like, when I can, to cut out of a sequence, go to black then cut back into the next sequence, which is generally a new thought or transition in content. I like the energy you get when cuts are used…not real fast cutting necessarily, but one image changing to another, to another…

If I’m picking and trimming the clips that I’m editing together just so, the whole sequence moves along with the narrative aiding and abetting the audio part of the production. If the cuts aren’t working, then it almost always comes down to I need to shoot more material, so I schedule another shoot. For me, it seems to work out that I never shoot exactly what I need the first time out. That’s because during editing, when I’m actually creating the story, I start having ideas for shots – and I don’t deny myself when it comes to shooting more and not settling for less, meaning what I have on hand. That’s why I’m returning to New York City in a couple of weeks to pick up shots I’ve been adding to my list while editing my new film, “From Talking To Playing”. I’m not wild about a 7 hour bus ride and the whole lot of gear I’ll need to manhandle and drag around once I get there, but it’s got to be done. I don’t even carry a clothes bag on these trips. My clothes are packed in spaces between my microphones, lights, etc.

I’m digressing.

So what does this have to do with hating dissolves? Well, if I were to rationalize and say, well I can probably use this OK shot if I blend (dissolve) from it to another OK shot, maybe bring up the music and just stretch the footage as much as I can, maybe even freeze the last frame of a clip to stretch it out more, well, yeah, I’ve covered my audio but it’s dull, dull, dull. And any god fearing fellow filmmaker would laugh at the hack moves I was laying on them. They’d know it was just illustrating. So for me, using dissolves this way is the way of the lazy, maybe even the way of the coward… It’s so easy to be swayed by the siren call of dissolves to smooth out the bad cutting. And even worse, I’ve found that once you start dissolving from clip to clip in a sequence, it becomes difficult to return to cuts. So now you’re stuck in the gauzy visual equivalent of elevator music. Lotus eaters.

I don’t really hate dissolves. I just think they can be overused or used inappropriately. If there’s a strong reason to use them, one that amplifies the narrative great. Or to signal a sense that time has passed, well double-great. But if all you’re doing is smearing video together to “cover” your audio, grab your camera and head out for some fresh air, and fresh ideas.

Single-handed film-making: Not without my producer!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6th, 2012 by Dave


Although I do all my own shooting, lighting, sound, and editing, I am very fortunate and thankful for all the feedback, counsel, and support I receive from Agricola Media’s co-producer Ann Pennella. Ann is great at listening to my ideas and then commenting on them with objectivity, offering positive alternatives to what are often initial thoughts on my part. She is very good at taking, say a marketing idea, and seeing additional opportunities that flow naturally from it. Her producing skills are more valuable to me as a filmmaker than anything else I can think of and I’ve learned to really listen carefully to her thoughts…

Trailer for “Captain”

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27th, 2012 by Dave

I’ve posted a trailer for my upcoming documentary Captain. Comments are welcome!

 

Production near complete for “Captain”

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11th, 2012 by Dave

April 9th was a busy day of filming for myself and Captain Richard Updaw, USMC, Ret., who is  my film subject for an upcoming documentary entitled Captain. With the film about 80 percent edited, I’ve been able to identify areas in need of additional filming and so, with list in hand, Dick and I set out.

 

 

First stop was the Rush Public Library where we filmed Dick doing research in his quest to memorialize Cpl. Robert Hodes, who died at the Battle Of Iwo Jima in 1945 at the age of 19.

 

 

We had great cooperation from Linda Repka, Library Clerk, standing to the left of Dick,  and  Library Director Kirsten Flass. They asked how they could be of help, cleared tables for us, and showed a real interest and enthusiasm for the project. Thank you Linda and Kirsten!

 

 

 

 

We left the library and headed over to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial off of South Avenue in Rochester. I  wanted a shot of Dick approaching the site and then looking at the granite memorial with the names of those soldiers from the Rochester area who were killed in the war. It is a beautiful memorial, (my first time there), and it reminds one of the courage and sacrifice of the those who gave their lives.

Then we pressed north to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester where Cpl. Hodes is buried. I have been to this cemetery half a dozen times now to try and create images that will cause viewers of the film to reflect on the theme of remembrance that is at the core of Dick Updaw’s quest . In some ways I feel this graveside is the main character in this film…So easy to walk right past and to overlook,  but unforgettable once its story is known.  Of course,hundreds of  veterans are buried at Holy Sepulchre – as are tens of thousands elsewhere. For me, Robert Hodes is their representative .

Finally we arrived at a blustery Lake Ontario where I filmed Dick walking along the beach with a backpack filled with about 80 pounds of sand.  To explain: I was hoping to evoke Dick’s trip to Iwo Jima in 2004, where  he  filled his backpack with black, volcanic sand, and walked the entire route that Cpl. Hodes would have walked  from the beach where he landed, to a ridge on  the northern part of the island where he was killed. I’m not trying to fool anyone into believing that this footage was shot on Iwo Jima, (for one thing, the sand is white here!), but rather to evoke a memory – and the sense of brotherhood that this walk suggests…

And finally, a little bit of filming back at Dick’s farm on West Henrietta Rd. These shots may appear in the film’s opening – and I’m hoping will set the stage for what I hope is a very interesting story to follow…I’m aiming for a Memorial Day, 2012 release for this film.