How the KIRA Robotic Framed the Microsoft Surface Studio

If you’ve been following the lateest word on tech you may have seen the buzz around the new Microsoft Surface Studio:

Now just how did they produce that sleek spot? Well as with any piece of high end advertising, it’s a mix of CG renderings and real live practical shooting. To accomplish the elegant precision of movement in the live demos, Microsoft utilized Motorized Precision’s KIRA.


Simply put, camera systems like the KIRA are a dream for any camera movement enthusiast. Check out more details in the article below.

I wanted to know more about the development and production of this commercial, so I reached out to Sean Brown, the President of Motorized Precision. Here’s what I learned about the Microsoft Surface Studio spot.

The Microsoft Hardware Design Team reached out to Motorized Precision to create and execute the motion control shots for the launch video. Shot at Cinerent West in Portland, Oregon, the KIRA was equipped with a RED EPIC DRAGON and Canon 15.5-47 mm lens. 

Premium Beat | Read the Full Article

It’s Spooky How Long Since We’ve Posted Our Last Video

Many a hallowed eve has past since we last posted a video (well several moons no doubt) so we thought it might be time to dig up a corpses from our past.

If you need some time to kill inbetween the Trick-r-Treaters check out some of our explorations into the world of whore horror: The History of Horror, The Psychology of Scary Movies and The Cinematic History of Fake Blood.

Happy Halloween!!!

As a quick note – yes we are making new videos that will be released when we completely rehaul the site. It’s a million bits and pieces to get working together to do what we want it to do and yes, it’s taking longer than planned. But we haven’t gone anywhere  - the best is yet to come ;)


The Marvel Symphonic Universe and a Rebuttal with A Theory of Film Music

Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting released a video essay called “The Marvel Symphonic Universe” in which he criticizes the Marvel universe for missing a strong connecting musical theme.

His conclusion is the sound is overly reliant on the use of temp music. At the time of this posting, the video sits at 2.6 million views.

But is the answer that simple? Zhou’s video very prescriptive, but it misses a lot. Today he shared this rebuttal on his Facebook page from Dan Golding. Watch this for a different perspective.




What the First TV Ad Ever tells us about our Technological Complacency

After years of unpaid experiments, the FCC officially opened up the airwaves to commercial television broadcasting on July 1, 1941.  NBC’s experimental W2XBS in New York City received the first commercial license becoming WNBT. That very same day, at 2:30PM just before a broadcast of a Brooklyn Dodgers – Philadelphia Phillies baseball game, NBC aired the very first television commercial in the world.

That’s the story according to Ad Age, Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, Slate, Adweek, OpenCulture and many more. Even the official Emmy’s site has an image of this very commercial in their write up.

Only one problem - THAT’S NOT THE AD THAT AIRED!!

Here’s a picture of the ad as it was created:


We have corroboration on the design of the advertisement from a piece that ran in Broadcasting Magazine July 14 1941

First Watch Ad


Further corroboration comes from Jim Von Schilling’s book, “The Magic Window: American Television, 1939-1953

WNBT aired TV’s first commercial at 2:30PM; i was simply a picture test pattern that had been redesigned into a working clock, ticking off the seconds in front of the TV camera. The sponsor’s name, Bulova, appeared on the clock, which ticked for a full minute at 2:30 and later again that night. Bulova paid four dollars for the afternoon spot and eight dollars for the evening, and afterwards they signed up for thirteen weeks of similar commercials. (page 37)

Okay so a bunch of sites saw a YouTube video claiming to be the first TV ad ever produced and bought it? So what? People make mistakes. I certainly have.

But this mistake sheds light on a common cultural problem – our technological complacency. We live in a world of streaming media and camera phones in every pocket. Recording anything today is trivial.

But that wasn’t the case in 1941. Sure we have lots of films that look great from that era – recording an image onto celluloid film was well established. Recording an electronic television signal however… that was not quite there. The first solution was called Kinescope – and guess what it used? Film.



That’s a film camera taking a picture of a TV screen – yeah… the same way kids today record shows off the TV by pointing their phone at the screen. Video Tape as we know it didn’t come about until the early-mid 50s.

So the only way to watch television in 1941 when this first broadcast was made was to watch it live. No record of these early television days exist, at least not the video portion (they did record the audio). Certainly no YouTube video of the first ad exists.

But we’re so ready to believe because these miracles are so common place today that we expect them to have existed forever. There are so many ways technology makes and shapes our lives that we lose sight of where we are in history.

We lose perspective in our complacency.

The Importance and Not-So-Importance of Film Terminology

I start this article with a conviction to rail against the arrogance on display from Sticklers for Terminology. But as I work through the case in my head, I find that the truth with this topic, as with all topics, lies in the delicate balance between two extremes.

Terminology is not a game

Let’s back up… Film like all technical mediums has a very rich lexicon of terms – it is important that you as a filmmaker are familiar and understand these terms and the concepts behind them.

However we should not put all our faith in what sometimes can be arbitrary language differences. Furthermore we have to be careful about rushing to judgement on people for their use (or perceived improper use) of terminology. What results from this is verbal tribalism: “You’re not a filmmaker if you don’t call XYZ what I call it.”

As someone who produces film educational materials, I know this quagmire all too well. In a quick video I did a long time ago, I mistakenly said the phrase “pan down”. Panning describes the rotational movement of the camera from side to side – “Tilt Down” would have been the correct term. In the heat of the moment, I let the wrong term slip.

Pan Tilt

But would you argue with a superior on a set if he/she told you to “pan down”? I once worked for a filmmaker from Iran, he was well spoken in English for someone whose native tongue is Farsi – but when he called directions during a live multi-cam shoot, he always had a hard time explaining the what he wanted. On numerous occasions the instruction would simply be to move the camera so I would “get the guy”.

Which guy? ”

The guy, THE GUY!

If he ever told to “pan down a little” I would not start in with a terminology debate… I would just tilt the camera down a bit and never think of it again. So in the case of “pan down” – I was clearly in the wrong – But there have been several cases where I have been called wrong on much more arbitrary uses of the language.


One such example came from a channel that used a puppet to explain filmmaking – they insisted that the term for the line from the 180 degree rule was the “stage line” and I was wrong to use the term “action line”. Now my “action line” may be a bastardization of the term “line of action” and may confuse Google with the “action line” used in drawing - but I think it’s perfectly apt description of the concept – and actually far better than “stage line” because “stage line” conveys a grounding in the physical set when in fact the line of action can be mobile and fluid depending on the camera movement with no regards to the actual stage. Either way, the concept is easily conveyed. But in his “25 years of Hollywood Experience” he has never heard of “action line” so therefor everything I had to say on the subject was invalidated… oh well.

But the one big terminology debate I think will never leave me is the discussion I had about 3 years ago when I first released our video: “Hollywood’s History of Faking It: the Evolution of Greenscreen Compositing“. I received a message from someone that I had respected (but never met) telling me he thought it was a good video but I made a mistake by saying the term “keying” was now a blanket statement pretty much applied to all greenscreen composition. He added that he couldn’t share the video because he’d be laughed out of the industry by his friends who were real “legitimate” film special effects artists.

Okay, here’s some of the background on this subject: the technical name for greenscreen (or bluescreen) is “Traveling Matte” – but the problem is no one who would benefit from this video would know what a Traveling Matte is – which is why it doesn’t appear in the title.

This is a Traveling Matt

This is a Traveling Matt

The term “chromakey” originally came from analog video switchers and they were pretty horrendous. So my friend is correct… up to a certain point in history.

After finding himself out of work when the studio he was at downsized, Petro Vlahos, the man who perfected blue screen Travelling Matte – turned his attention to video – eventually changing the television world with what would be called the Ultimatte. Notice how Vlahos stayed away from the word “Keyer” because of it’s implication with that crappy old technology… but that didn’t stop the rest of the industry. Ultimatte did what a Keyer does but better – so eventually the process of getting rid of a greenscreen and replacing it with something else took on the word “Chromakey” EVEN though originally it was ONLY applied to a blunt tool on an analog switcher.

One of dozens of modern products labeled as "Keyers"

One of dozens of modern products labeled as “Keyers”

I tried to argue with industry examples like the plugins “Keylight” that come bundled with After Effects, “Ultra Key” – the loads of industry material that utilize the term “chromakeying” as part of the modern lexicon of filmmaking… but my friend was sure I was making a fatal career mistake by saying the term “chromakey” had blossomed to mean more than it originally did.

Well now the video has been seen 2.2 million times with over 1,000 comments and I have yet had ANYONE take issue with that terminology (although that might change if some people read this article and decide to mess up my record).

So those a few examples of I’ve been slapped around for using the wrong terminology – seems pedantic looking back at it, but people still want to put the armor on and go to battle. That’s the one extreme I wanted to talk about… But if we have vastly different definitions on basic terms, then we have a problem.

For some reason, talking lenses always brings up experts in the field that don’t have a clue. I had one guy who needed to correct me by saying that Field of View is not the viewing  angle but the area covered with the lens when focused at it’s nearest focusable point. This value was always listed on Zeiss’s website. Okay… a quick look at Zeiss’s page and I did find “coverage at close range” but that is not field of view.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, terminology is important. We need a common set of words to express what we want to do. But on flip side, let’s recognize the fluidity of language and not use words as dividers to separate artist from artist. Instead, let’s use terms to educate and share our filmmaking culture, knowledge and history.

And forgive me if I should ever tell you to “pan down”


Wanna Go on an Adventure? World Nomads Puts You on Assignment in Vietnam

Wanna go on an adventure?

For nearly ten years, World Nomads has been sponsoring photographers, writers and filmmakers to go on a once-in-a-lifetime assignment to capture the stories from around the globe.

This year, one aspiring filmmaker will get a chance to make a travel film in Vietnam!

TFS- facebook cover photo

If selected you’ll get:

  • A free flight from wherever you’re at to Vietnam.
  • 10 days all-expenses paid professional mentorship with filmmaker and director Brian Rapsey in Vietnam
  • A 3-day post production workshop
  • Video Mic Pro with XLR Adapter, Smart Lav, Lavalier Mic and accessories from RØDE Microphones
  • A state-of-the-art travel camera bag from Crumpler
  • A copy of Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Video Tips.
  • And, of course, Travel Insurance from World Nomads for the duration of the trip!

So what do you have to get this awesome opportunity?

Head over to the World Nomads Site and apply. You’ll need to make a 3-minute film about an inspirational travel story – try going out there and interviewing an adventurer and bring their compelling travel story to life. This could be anything from a story of immigration to a close wildlife encounter to a triumph of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Upload that video and YouTube or Vimeo and complete your application form by writing about what winning the scholarship would mean to you and why you should be selected.

But you better hurry because the application deadline is September 28, 2016. Winners will be announced October 14th and the adventure starts on February 27, 2017.

Think you have what it takes to be a winner? Check out last year’s shortlisted travel films here and watch winner Coleman Lowndes film here:

Are Films Worse Now Than They Were in 1972?

Every film buff ought to know that 1972 gave the world what many consider the best film ever made: The Godfather



We also got a some pretty great films that are still discussed today:




Last Tango in Paris


So 1972 must have been a knock out year for cinema – way better than the crap that’s coming out in 2016.

Well… let’s go through a few “not so classic films” all which hit the public in 1972:

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

When Santa’s sleigh gets stuck in Florida, he tells a group of kids the story of Thumbelina.

Curse of the Headless Horseman

A phantom horseman who appears every night with a human head tucked under his arm lets it be known that he is searching for eight gunfighters.

The Cremators

An alien life form that is a huge ball of living matter invades earth, and replenishes itself by absorbing people.

Hot Summer Week

Two girls on their way to a hippie encounter session pick up a crazed Vietnam veteran, who might just be the serial killer who is murdering hippies in the area.

Angels’ Wild Women

Rowdy biker women get more than they bargained for after joining a commune.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers

Somewhere in upstate New York, a young woman is terrorized by a group of rural farmers primarily interested in a harvest of blood.

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

The daughter in a family of werewolves decides to put an end to the family curse.

The Night of a Thousand Cats

Millionaire playboy Hugo (whose lack of facial expressions give him the appearance of a Thundercat marionette) flies around Acapulco in his private helicopter to pick up sexy young women.

Blood Freak

A biker comes upon a girl with a flat tire and offers her a ride home. He winds up at a drug party with the girl’s sister, then follows her to a turkey farm owned by her father.

The Magnificent Seven Ride! 

Marshal Chris Adams turns down a friend’s request to help stop the depredations of a gang of Mexican bandits.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

With Peter Sellers, Dudely Moore and Michael Crawford.

Terror at Orgy Castle

A young couple on a European vacation get mixed up with a countess and a hunchbacked servant at a castle where black masses are held.

Night of the Lepus

Giant mutant rabbits terrorize the southwest!!

Night of the Cobra Woman

Horror story of a beautiful girl turns into a man-eating cobra.

When Women Lost Their Tails

Two tribes of dimwitted cavemen prepare for war against each other.

The Thing with Two Heads

A rich but racist man is dying and hatches an elaborate scheme for transplanting his head onto another man’s body. His health deteriorates rapidly, and doctors are forced to transplant his head onto the only available candidate: a black man from death row.

… and then there’s a bunch of mainstream porno films like Prison GirlsRed Hot Zorro, Night Call Nurses, and Schoolgirl Report Part 4: What Drives Parents to Despair

* * * * *

 Now that’s certainly not an exhaustive list but I’m exhausted already going through it. The hair styles might be different, the budgets might be smaller, but there’s a whole lot of crap up there. The point is, every year there’s going to be a ton of shitty films. Every generation will remember the best and toss out the garbage in the dust bin of history.

Chill out – watch the films you want to watch, don’t watch the films you don’t want to watch. Film will always be film – an evolving human institution of both high and low brow. Things change, but they always stay the same, just enjoy the ride.

Watch The Title Sequence for “Empire Strikes Back” done James Bond Style

Designed, directed, and produced by Kurt Rauffer
Instructor: Daniel Oeffinger
Music: Spectre by Radiohead

Star Wars is one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises to date, containing one of the most unique universes in sci-fi fiction. Not only is the universe incredibly iconic, so is it’s title sequence (the famous title crawl). Designed by Dan Perri, the title sequence is one of the most recognizable introductions in the history of film.

Growing up in the 90s where Star Wars was released on VHS, the franchise really sparked my imagination as a child. It not only let me exercise my imagination but also supplied me with some of the happiest memories as I watched it with my family. After re-watching “The Empire Strikes Back,” I decided to use this as a chance to create a homage in the form of a title sequence. This would also serve as my senior “thesis” at SVA and took me the whole semester to complete.

The style and tone of the animation was inspired by the James Bond title sequences. The music was a rejected song from the newest Bond film, Spectre, sung by Radiohead. I really wanted to play on the concept of Luke trying to find himself and true purpose, so the music and inspiration felt fitting.


Is Captain America Truly An American Hero?

What Makes a Hero? Today Kyle is asking what makes cinematic heroes – at least American cinematic heroes. And to answer that he’s digging into some classics such as Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne. But what about Captain America? Does Cap fit the bill of what an American Hero should be? Don’t worry he dives into that as well, to find out if we should be rooting for Captain American in Civil War, or if we’re on the wrong side of the conflict.

Captain America2

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