I’m Working. It’s Not Easy Being Green.

working2.jpg

This week I directed a commercial for Biotene on a greenscreen stage. It’s awesome how blue the sky looks after you’ve been in a completely green stage for 10 hours.

I am getting DAMNED good at greenscreen work. No surprise, since my very first student film had visual effects in it. I’ve gained a lot of hard-won knowledge from my short films and other projects that I put into place on this shoot. Most people like to keep such knowledge to themselves. Not me. Here, for free, are the Patrick Ortman “Dos and Don’ts When Dealing With Greenscreen Projects”:

  • Do rent or buy a waveform monitor. Use it. Learn what a properly lit greenscreen should look like. Hint- it should look like a pretty, thin straight line.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the bestboy that the lighting isn’t even. If you don’t speak up now, you’ll have hell to pay in post.
  • Do place markers. In the photo above, my markers look like crosses. If you have any camera movement that has to match a background plate, you’ll thank yourself in post if you have these markers.
  • Don’t forget to shoot a take of a gray card. And a gray ball and mirror ball if you have them. This will help you recreate the on-set lighting in post if needed. And if you’re REALLY smart, you’ll shoot some footage of the screen with nothing in front of it before each camera angle change. Trust me.
  • Do light your subject completely separately from your background.
  • Even though your whole set is virtual, don’t forget that your actors often need something to interact with on set.
  • And finally, don’t believe this kind of work is easy. It isn’t easy to do well. Testing and preparation are key. Pun intended.

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The Pizza Dude Lives and Plays on Verizon

Verizon Star Trek

Last year SprintTV and Blip decided not to carry my series ‘Deliverance By The Slice’. It went on anyway to become the #1 video on MySpace and got featured all over the Internet. It’s been seen millions of times.

Still, I’d pretty much given up any hope for it being picked up by a mobile distributor. Even though the scripts weren’t anything naughtier than a typical Simpsons episode, the Blip person told me that their channel was for “family friendly” product only. Oh well.

But now Sprint’s competitor Verizon has decided to pick it up.

I’m on to much different things now, but it’s good to see that the Pizza Dude has finally found a home. A lot of people put their hearts into this show, and it deserves a venue.

Getting the show up on Verizon is definitely a good feeling for me, it’s a vindication of our little indie web series. We did it on a shoestring, and it turned out alright.

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I Met Chekhov from Star Trek

Walter Koenig from Star TrekA couple of weeks ago I was casting a new commercial that I’m shooting next week. It’d been a long day, and I was taking notes on the actors I’d seen. I felt a presence in my room, and looked up. Standing there was Walter Koenig, Checkhov from the original Star Trek series back in the 1960s.

Wow.

I mean, I don’t care much about people you’d read about in fashion magazines or the tabloids. I really don’t. But this was Chekhov from Star Trek! Anyway, he was very nice and asked me if the room next door had begun seeing people yet. They hadn’t. So we hung out a bit. I told him about my own Star Trek spoof that got all those views online last year, and I told him how I liked his work in the “Star Trek New Voyages” web series a lot. Then more actors showed up for me, and I got back to work. About 15 minutes into casting, I asked the actor I was reading to give me a moment.

I couldn’t help it. I had to get an autograph. This was Chekhov, man! Walter was very gracious.

I guess casting doesn’t have to suck.

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Shot, Chopped, Scored, and Written By…

mixer etcThat’s right, I’m in post right now. And production. And pre-production. I’m not even feeling very schizophrenic, pretty cool huh?

That’s my Mackie Control in the picture (foreground) and Logic Pro on the screen. This week I wrote, recorded, and mixed sound for a new series of commercials I’m directing. Well, directing is a pretty unsatisfying way to put it. It’s more like, my production company is producing this series of commercials and I’m doing a lot of the work. I like how Robert Rodriguez put it on his movies- his credits say something like “Shot, Chopped, and Scored by Robert Rodriguez”. That’s sort of how I am, too- except add “Visual Effects”, “Written by”, and more.

I think anyone who calls themselves a filmmaker should have to actually make films. And the more you know about all the parts that go into filmmaking the better you’ll be when you finally are “just” the director on a big project. At least that’s what I’m telling myself while I race to the September 1st deadline for this new group of spots.

Anyway, the work- the work is going well. I’m set to finish 4 spots in 4 weeks, including final deliverables. I’m doing them all in HD, of course. And no, I have never worked so hard in my life. But it’s worth it.

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Shot, Chopped, Scored, and Written By…

mixer etcThat’s right, I’m in post right now. And production. And pre-production. I’m not even feeling very schizophrenic, pretty cool huh?

That’s my Mackie Control in the picture (foreground) and Logic Pro on the screen. This week I wrote, recorded, and mixed sound for a new series of commercials I’m directing. Well, directing is a pretty unsatisfying way to put it. It’s more like, my production company is producing this series of commercials and I’m doing a lot of the work. I like how Robert Rodriguez put it on his movies- his credits say something like “Shot, Chopped, and Scored by Robert Rodriguez”. That’s sort of how I am, too- except add “Visual Effects”, “Written by”, and more.

I think anyone who calls themselves a filmmaker should have to actually make films. And the more you know about all the parts that go into filmmaking the better you’ll be when you finally are “just” the director on a big project. At least that’s what I’m telling myself while I race to the September 1st deadline for this new group of spots.

Anyway, the work- the work is going well. I’m set to finish 4 spots in 4 weeks, including final deliverables. I’m doing them all in HD, of course. And no, I have never worked so hard in my life. But it’s worth it.

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Cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs dies at 74

On Yahoo! News

He was truly one of the greats of cinematography. I feel honored to have worked with Lazlo, doing post work in Apple’s Shake for the Pain PSA he shot with the Balins last year.

Update: Brandon told me today that in fact I had the honor of working with Lazlo on his last major project. So, thank you Filmmaking Gods for allowing me to get to commingle my digital hands with a legendary filmmaker’s genius flow.

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Crackle – The Pizza Dude

The Pizza Dude episodes are now up on Crackle. One of the things I like about this site is it’s pretty well-designed and the mission isn’t to post millions of silly homemade videos of people getting hit in the nuts with footballs, or any of the stupid 15 second videos of the day.

Supposedly, the emphasis is on good content. Entertaining content, even. And mostly pretty well produced content. What I also like about Crackle- my series has a shot at being picked up by Sony and funded so I can make more Pizza Dude episodes. That’s pretty cool. So, check it out:


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Steadicam Interview for College Tour Completed

Shannon Tour


This is a 15 minute high def video I made for Marymount College in California. The idea was to recreate the experience a prospective student has when he/she goes on a campus tour.

These tours are run by student volunteers, so nothing is scripted. Just about all of this footage was single take, and all of it was done with a steadicam- no locked down shots. The client wanted a look that was a lot more “Reality TV” than “Feature Film”, so that worked out well. The idea was to create something that was an honest, unscripted look at the College for students who may not be able to physically travel to Marymount and get a real life tour. And I had a blast, because I got to work with a great long time client on something new, plus I got a lot of much-needed practice with my steadicam and HVX200.

Besides the lack of tripod, dolly, etc I also did this project thinking that I’d only be miking one person- our tour guide. However, as we went from place to place we ran into all kinds of interesting interview subjects. We only had the one lav- so I had to do a lot of audio work in post to bring the interviewee levels up to where they were acceptable.

All that said, I had a lot of fun with this project and it turned out pretty darn good. Shannon, the tour guide, was excellent at her job and I think students watching this will definitely relate. Most importantly, the client loves it. That means I love it, too.

Click to watch on Veoh
Click to watch better quality QuickTime version (big file alert!)

Oh yeah, I did the motion graphics and music on it too. The motion graphics began as a template in Apple’s Motion, and I tweaked that to give the College an appropriate look.

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New Commercial

screen

This week was a mad dash to finish up a commercial for a client. It was a challenging project- all After Effects, and the only content they had was a product photo. I wrote the spot, did the storyboards, hired and recorded the voiceover artist, recorded the soundtrack, mixed, turned that product shot into part of a convincing 3D environment, and did a ton of multiplane compositing in the new After Effects CS3. And I did it all in glorious 720P High Def. Did I mention that I only got my copy of After Effects on Monday? I love CS3.

Turned out that my little laptop wasn’t up to the task of all this work, so on July 4th I went to the Apple Store and brought home a new Mac Pro and 30 inch display. I call him “Indy”. For a few reasons, natch. More about Indy later, but that machine screams! There’s no way I could have finished the spot in time without him.

I ftp’d HD and SD versions of the spot on Friday at 4pm. By 4:30 PM the client had already screened it in their high def conference room for the company president and head of marketing. I love the immediacy of the Internet.

By 4:45 they’d already given me notes on changes. Oh yeah, and hired me to do several more commercials for them. They loved it! What a great time. And don’t worry- I did get to watch fireworks on the night of the 4th from my roof with the woman I love. Best 4th of July, ever.

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Aaron Rainwater’s Shots of Me on Set

Patrick Ortman and Vinny Fatato on the set of “The Visit”Here’s a link to some pictures taken by Aaron Rainwater on the set of Erica Gabrielle’s film “The Visit”.

The film is currently being edited by Dave Craig, and should be at festivals near you sometime in the next year or so (there’s usually a pretty hefty lag between shooting a film and seeing it on the screen, so that’s not a dig on Dave for his editing speed).

Dave’s shown us a rough cut, and it looks pretty darn good so far. I used my Panasonic HVX200 with a Brevis 35mm lens adapter to shoot the project. My only complaint with the rig was my lack of P2 cards- I only had 3 at the time, the rentals fell through- so we had to be very careful about what we shot.

Of course, we shot this back in the Spring of this year. I’m on to other projects now. Still, thank you to Aaron for the awesome stills photography- it’s good to see that those late nights did, in fact, exist. Thanks!

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About PatrickOrtman, Inc.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is one of the top-rated video production companies in Los Angeles and New York City. We make high-end corporate videos, and commercials for TV and digital for clients that include 11 Fortune 500s.