Our life experiences, and resulting opinions and views, are pretty homogeneous. So while we strive to tell the stories of those who face systemic adversity, we often fall short in our ability to connect with them on a personal level. We'll do our best as journalists, listeners, interviewers, storytellers, but we won't pretend to have faced the same discrimination, insecurity, or injustices as many of the subjects of our stories.
It is my belief that strong research must exist alongside the production of goods and services. Filmmakers, especially, know that behind the pomp and circumstance of any productive shoot is a well-developed itinerary, and behind a successful rough cut is a team of driven editors. No different is what is lies behind the technology producers use in the field and in the studio; here lie the engineers, those who are willing to explore the problems of the hour, and look for answers.
From June 5, 2017 until July 27, 2017, I joined the team at Windy Films as an intern, under the supervision of Harvey Burrell. I took up the role as a developer, tackling a very specific problem that the Windy team had experienced over the last few months of shooting: their footage was too steady. Among car chase shoots, their material felt slow and bogged down, hindered by smooth camera movement. What they wanted was something that made the chase scenes feel faster, by adding action to not what was in the frame, but to the frame itself. Of course, these motions needed to be deliberate. With machinery, we had the ability to pinpoint the frame motion we desired, eliminating the human element – and likely the associated error.
I was tasked to design something functional, easy to operate, and flexible for the needs of the project. What slowly took shape was a hardware and software prototype, implemented using a basic Arduino microcontroller connected to a Freefly MōVI Pro camera stabilizer. Through written code and Freefly’s public API, we were able to take control the MOVI Pro’s gimbal motors, constantly changing their rotational velocity. This resulted in jerky pan and tilt, and visually something along the lines of a shaking camera frame.
Throughout the entire process, I found myself caught up in what it meant to do research for a small company like Windy Films, working on the development side of their team. One of the biggest problems I faced was the feeling of being so peripheral. It is hard to feel connected to the team’s core when Windy is so focused on the day the day, the what do we need right now, and how are we going to get it done. All the phone calls, all the meetings, and all the coffee cups make you wonder how you feel about being so future-focused. There is an unwavering desire to ask the question, “Where is this going? For if not today, and not tomorrow, when will this mechanism be the present, integral Windy’s day to day?”
Through my time at the studio, I have realized the importance of mindfulness when in the vicinity of these thoughts. The truth is that with research comes much failure, and a successful mechanism may not come into existence within the span of two months. As I learn to converse with failure, it becomes clearer that the success of development is ingrained within the process itself: to learn more about a piece of hardware, a programming language, to be able to communicate my thoughts more clearly, to have the means to problem solve, think critically, be creative, and work passionately. These are all successes, small and large, independent of the project’s usability, when all is said and done.
Even if this shake mechanism doesn’t make it off the tables of Studio 16, even if it proves to be unusable, research must go on. Day in, day out, we must build and break: it is this continual act that eventually takes us one step further to being a more self-sustainable company.
We are still in pursuit of the three main goals we had for the shake mechanism back in June that revolve around function, use, and flexibility. There is no doubt that accomplishing these three will take help from others. Integrating this prototype into an existing environment is our next step, making the hardware easier to interact with, and the software more direct. We want to see this motion feature in the community around us, useful to many. With any interest in the the project, we hope that you find the following links useful and informative.
For a highlight video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiPTbAjHiWw&
For documentation: https://github.com/glassb/shake-mechanism
It's all too easy for creatives to get caught on the hamster wheel, saying "yes" to too much or for the wrong reasons. As we navigate this process, we look to our friends at Oat for a model on how to determine success by our own measurements. They've taught us that in the long run, the most meaningful and effective way of creating value is actually by creating creativity. Setting time aside to focus on what's honest to yourself, creatively fulfilling and meaningful, not just what's profitable, will actually pay off in the long run.
This summer I’ve been interning with Windy Films, a small Boston-based documentary film studio. In the mornings, I fittingly take the train to the Maverick station, heading towards Wonderland, and a slew of possibilities. That’s about where the day-to-day regularity ends; I never quite know what I’ll find when I walk into Studio 16.
Hello there! Harvey here with another installment of all things gear related!
A few years ago, during the production of Endless Abilities, we purchased an underwater housing for the Canon 5D Mark II. The end of the film culminated in some very important surfing scenes and occasionally went up against some pretty serious waves as well.
It's been a lot of hard work over the past seven months.
But all of the floor grinding and repainting has paid off. Sometimes it can feel a bit demoralizing to demolish a wall, only to rebuild it again. But we're very proud of our headquarters now, and we want nothing more than to share the space with other like - minded creative professionals now. In the warmer months, the garage door is usually open, so feel free to swing by and we'll take you over to KO next door for a pie and a pint.
THANK YOU to all of our friends and family who had the patience to let us disappear for sleepless nights and weekends to make this possible.
We talk a big game about the economics of the trailer, but having only driven it as far as DC from Boston, we've yet to really put it to the test. Last time we shot in LA in October, we flew with ten tubs of equipment and rented a sprinter van, and by the time we rebuilt our gear, it was realistically a day and a half affair. So for the next shoot on the west coast, we asked ourselves, is driving anywhere really more efficient?
We get the question all the time: “What makes you different from other film production companies?” Our answer, though ever-changing as we learn from each project, always includes something that has been unique to us from the beginning- our 16’ production trailer dubbed the “Breeze Machine."
We recently decided to part ways with our beloved Canon C100 and upgraded to the C500. We found a good price on a used C500 and couldn't pass it up. I love(d) the C100. It was lightweight, simple, and just ran all day without protest. In my mind, the C100 and its younger sibling, the C100 Mark II, are some of the best value documentary cameras that money can buy.