Recovering the Past (to digital and beyond)

My parents recently embarked on a quest to transfer old home movies from the '90s and early 2000s onto our modern-day computers. With some brainstorming, we came up with a workflow that actually works:


Hi8 camcorder --> RCA cable --> MiniDV camcorder --> FireWire 400 --> old external hard drive w/ FireWire input --> USB 2.0 --> iMac


We were fortunate to still have all of these devices (and their manuals) on hand, because we first had to transfer the Hi8 tapes to new MiniDV tapes. Also, it's kind of amazing that an app like iMovie can control, transfer, and transcode DV footage (but not Hi8).

This process is only going to become more of an issue going forward, as we lose machines that are able to read these older formats. And then we have the preservation of digital formats themselves, which is a whole other issue.

videotape

For Your Birthday

The first four episodes a new web series I shot, For Your Birthday, have been released.

Each of them are only 5–7 minutes long, so the entire series is a quick watch. This was a fun shoot with an incredible cast and crew—headed by writer, producer, and actor Rachael Wotherspoon and director Molly Ratermann. We faced a few big challenges:

  1. Filming ~28 pages, split into four different episodes, over the course of two days.
  2. Creating a distinct look for each episode while maintaining consistency within them.
  3. Shooting 4–5 actors in a real location (Rachael's apartment).
  4. Working with equipment, budget, and scheduling constraints.

But somehow we managed to get everything we needed, on schedule. Every shoot is a learning experience, and this one is no different:

  1. Shoot with two cameras: I generally prefer a single-camera setup—they can be easier to light for, and they're better for when there's a small crew and I'm the operator—but there's a time and place for multiple cameras. In hindsight, having a second camera would have saved time, provided a greater variety of shots, and helped "save" actors' performances, without forcing them to do multiple takes.
  2. Spend more time focusing on camera prep: The crew and I spent a lot of prep time working out the schedule and determining how the changing sunlight would affect the order in which we film the episodes. I'm happy with most of the lighting we achieved, but I wish I'd spent more time researching a different camera package, particularly one with cinema lenses and a proper follow focus kit.
  3. Use less handheld / frenetic movement: Of course, the crew and I were working under certain aformentioned constraints. My professors in film school taught me that shooting handheld can complicate blocking, rather than save time. That's a lesson I occasionally need to be reminded of. And using a dolly would have added some "grounding," or solidity, to shots while allowing for natural-feeling camera movement.

The hardest scene to shoot was the fight among the siblings in Episode Two. It prompted a difficult but important on-set conversation among the key creatives about how best to portray the intensity of a multi-page-long, dialogue-heavy fight. Thanks to all of us coming together, we were able to figure out blocking that captured each actors' key moments, most of them within a single shot.

I particularly enjoy the first half of Episode Three, where the family members experience a reconciliation. The stationary closeups between the actors, particularly on Robert, really come together. It's a touching moment.

Anyway, thanks for checking out the project! Hopefully I'll have more news to share soon. ☺️