Nov 23

Lights, and more lights

Oh, sure, today, when I have to be inside, it can be 20 degrees warmer and sunny. Isn’t that just the way of it? Of course it started out cold, ’tis the season, somehow. But by the time midday rolled around, by the time we got to campus, we were assured a beautiful day. And I got to spend the rest of it under fluorescent light bulbs.

Which was usual, but also mildly amusing today: we talked exclusively about lighting for film and television today. Hard light, soft light. Three-point light systems, key lights, fill lights, back lights. Four-point light techniques. High-key lights, low-key lights, silhouettes. The inverse square law (Intensity = 1/Distance-squared). Reflectors, infusers. I had compiled 10 pages of good notes to share.

And then, I did it again in a second class.

After which, I met up with a few colleagues and we went out for dinner. Italian. We talked, among other things, about music, and nostalgia. It was delightful.

I had the opportunity in that conversation to talk about the Re-Listening project, but I did not bring it up. There was an almost natural spot for it to fit in, and while I could have wedged it in, I let the moment pass. I’d much rather tell you about it, dear reader.

As you recall, the Re-Listening project is where I am playing all of my old CDs, in the order of their acquisition, in my car. These aren’t music reviews, but a fun jaunt down memory lane, a good excuse to put some music here and, of course, a good way to pad the site. Today we’re back somewhere in 2004, listening to the debut album from Los Lonely Boys. You’ll remember “Heaven,” which went to the top of the Billboard AC charts. So they had good airplay. They appeared on Austin City Limits and who all knows where else that year. A lot of people bought this record, it went double-platinum in 11 months. Willie Nelson raved about them. (This was recorded at his Pedernales studio.) And that part, and that single, are why I bought the CD.

That song won a Grammy.

And, friends, of all the records you might purchase on the basis of one song getting airplay, this is one of the better ones. I haven’t listened to this in a while, but when it came up for the Re-Listening project I was struck, once again, by the musicianship, and the joyful nature of it all. Also, the harmonies are pretty tight. But, first, you have to hammered by that blues guitar.

Also, this band is not a one-trick pony.

Most prevailing memory of Los Lonely Boys, we were at a small dinner party the year after this record was released, and a few of the songs made the playlist. That night was the night when our little clutch of grad school friends started considering The Yankee and I a couple.

Mostly, this whole album demands a drink with a lot of condensation on the glass.

This album settled comfortably in the nine spot on the Billboard 200, and finished on the 2004 year-end chart at number 44. In a display of it’s staying power, it was on the year-ender for 2005, at 85. More albums followed in the next decade — some with big commercial success — and a ton of touring. They just wrapped up a national tour, in fact, but they’ll be back on the road in January. Check them out of if they come near you.

Nov 23

This is not a public service, but I did talk about PSAs today

This is how good I have it. I made us late today. So, while I was making us late, my lovely bride was making me lunch.

That might be the sort of approach that gets me moving on time. And it wasn’t that I was late-late. It’s just that there a lot of things to do in the morning and it piled up. Plus, there are the cats. Are they trapped in a closet or a bathroom? Do they have food and water? Can you keep them out of the laundry room, which is basically the airlock to the outside world and, like all laundry rooms, could be a few feet bigger, particularly when you have your arms full of backpacks and things.

We made it on time. I did not have to blame the cats. But I got two homemade PB&Js out of the deal!

Today in class we discussed public service announcements. And I broke up the students into production groups. They’ll be making their own PSAs in the coming weeks. This is a fun assignment and, having given them some time today to start their planning, it sounds like they will treat it in that spirit.

I had the students fill out a survey for their crew positions of choice and, happily, in two classes worth of people, it seems like it will work out that everyone will have a role they are interested in. I’m looking forward to watching them all work their way through the process. And, by the end of the semester, they should all have a nice video and some good experiences they can add to their LinkedIn accounts.

It’ll all be great, because, in the back of the room, this owl is overseeing things.

I choose to see him as a good classroom omen.

Since we talked about a state park yesterday, I wanted to show you this video from that trip. I rode my bike to the park, on the other end of the county, near the end of last month to find two historical markers. It was a splendid day, and the trees were bursting with color. I picked the right day to find this path.

It’s a nice park. Charming views in all of the parts I saw. I’ll have to find my way back down there next year.

We’re still padding things out with a few photos from our Sunday afternoon visit to the beach. And here’s the beach.

This is an old resort town. An 18th century resort town, if you can believe that. One of the oldest in the country, if not the oldest. And it predates the country. You never think about colonials taking beach trips. I wonder how many did.

It was sunny and cool on Sunday when we were there. Right here, in the sun, it felt great. But if you found yourself in some shade you’d want to find yourself back in the sun. It was that kind of lovely day.

I took this photo, without adjusting any of the settings. It’s overexposed, of course, but it’s perfect.

I thought it might be the best one of the day, but before I got around to adjusting the aperture, I took this photo, and it might actually be perfectly perfect.

We’ll wrap up the week tomorrow with four more photos from that trip, plus whatever else comes to pass between now and then.

Nov 23

I’m pining for the moon

Oh I had the best of intentions of what to do with my morning. Get up! Do some work! Get in a quick bike ride! Iron clothes for class. Leave by 11:30! But you know what they say about the best of intentions … they are so often impacted by what you do the night before.

What I did the night before was to sit at my computer until quite early this morning — but still not so ridiculous as has been my habit of late — and then sleep in a bit.

Just about one of my least favorite things to do is go to bed and then stare at the ceiling. So I will roll over and then stare at the wall. But that’s not very exciting either, so back to the ceiling. It’s all so very productive. Not that I am a peak exemplar of constant productivity, mind you, far from it. But I am never more aware of that I am not doing anything until I am doing the least of it. So I go to bed when I am finally dragging around, nodding off, and so on. Which means I watch a lot of movies on Hulu, or edit a lot of photos late at night, or both. And so there I was, last night, this morning, crawling into bed well after midnight. But you know what? I fell right to sleep.

So, this morning, I did a little work, but not as much as I would have liked. Well, there’s always tomorrow morning. I did not get in a bike ride. I did iron clothes. And we left for campus on time. So what, I ask you, really suffered? Aside from my circadian rhythm, I mean.

In my classes today we went into the television studio. (Boy, where have I heard that before?) I am teaching two intro to production classes this term and today was the day that several of them were looking forward to, a few were dreading and three or four could treat it like another day in the big tall room with the glowing lights, and the smaller room with glowing lights and buttons.

The assignment was this: they had to shoot a breaking news segment, something that has already been produced by the talented people within the college. It’s a three-camera, two anchor shoot. The story is scientists have uncovered a egg at the nearby dinosaur park and, apparently, its recovery has re-started the millions-year-old gestation process.

The story itself is silly, of course. And whoever recorded the package did it in a voice that was aimed at humor and plausible deniability. He hit most of the puns and used some great B-roll. There’s even a quote from an archeologist, Dr. Amber Stone. Best I can tell, this is a fake person. Great name for that field though, right?

The segment starts with bars and tone, a slate, the opening graphic and a shot of both anchors at the desk. Each anchor has single shots and script to read. And then one anchor pitches to this package, which is nicely done and funny the first two three times you hear it. After 769 seconds of dinosaurs and absolutely no Jeff Goldblum, the shot comes back to the studio where one of our anchors returns you to regular programming, terrified that we may soon be stomped on by a giant monster from another time.

And while five or six students are doing things in the studio, the rest are working in the control, making sure all of that happens. It’s an easy enough segment, but if you’ve never done anything like this before, there is a lot going on. The production itself has been streamlined and, really, only the student who is working as the director is sweating real bullets.

Between the two classes we ran that exercise maybe 12 or 13 times. Someone did their read in a fake Southern accent. I’m not sure if that was aimed at me or not, but it sounded western Kentucky and I’m not from there, so I did not take offense.

Overall, it was fun, it was scary. It was full of mistakes, and then it got better. Then we made more mistakes. It’s a hands on exercise and it accomplished its goals. And, as I so often find myself saying, “We’re all here to learn.” I’ve been in that particular control room twice now, counting today, and today was the first time I walked into that studio. I learned a lot, too.

It was dark by the time I was done. Dark and in the 60s. So when we got back home I took off the coat and tie and put on some bike kit and set out. I rode several loops around our neighborhood, and four or five around the next one up the hill, and got in 12 miles, enough to make it feel real.

Here’s my view.

Tomorrow I’ll tie my personal best for consecutive days of riding. That streak, be it ever so surprisingly humble, couldn’t end on a technicality of class and darkness. Fortunately, I have that One80 light. I shot that on a dark road in the next neighborhood. Houses everywhere, no street lights. It’s dark. And I was doing about 17 miles per hour there, having just recorded a demo video of the light for a friend.

A little bit later I was on a road in the back part of our neighborhood, a road I’ve been on twice, I think, and it has a little downhill. I was freewheeling down that at 24 miles per hour, and happy with the light’s throw. I don’t think I would try to do much beyond that, for fear of outrunning the light, but I’m not sprinting much in the darkness and I’m otherwise only doing that kind of speed downhill. I wish it cast a bit more light to the sides for a clearer look at any critters that might be tempted to run in front of you, but that’s my only complaint about the thing.

I won’t go all over the place in the dark, like I would in the daytime. It makes me want to come up with reasons to have to ride into town in the evening, just for the experience. Night riding For some neighborhood riding, this light works great. I said, over dinner, I just need one or two more little side road neighborhoods nearby that I could mix in for variety …

She pulled up another one that I hadn’t considered, hadn’t even noticed, really. Altogether and if I did it right, I could get about 8 miles out of these quiet little subdivisions. I’ll have to check out that new road tomorrow, so I can add it into a future night ride.

Oct 23

Enjoy the photos

On the way in to campus at midday I noticed we are at a particularly dynamic moment in the leaf turn. There are three photos below. All taken on the same road. All of them were also taken with the same time stamp. But look at these many different beautiful colors.

Slowly and then suddenly around here. And 72 degrees today, too, and even warmer this weekend. (The first sunny weather weekend we’ve had in quite some time.) It’ll be a good time to get out and enjoy all of the beautiful, colorful scenery.

There are a lot of quotes about the glories of autumn. A lot of them. And all of them are accurate, in their own ways. But there’s still at least one quote about autumn yet to be uttered …

“Why can’t this magical season stay until March?”

In class today, we watched commercials the students produced. The products varied. Some were real things, others were made up. Some were a bit spur-of-the-moment, which didn’t necessarily take away from the quality. Many of them were funny. A few were quite spectacular. Students, of an anti-commercial generation, applauded one another’s work. That was quite charming.

And then we talked about Adobe Audition for a good long while. This is the sound editing program, the Digital Audio Workstation.

I think, having watched them through the demonstration, that most of them don’t appreciate sound to the same extent that I do. They’ll come around.

Yesterday, I rode by the mysterious building with the uplifting quotes painted on the wall facing the road. I’d never notice this in my car. I probably wouldn’t be on that road in my car, actually. And I certainly would be going to fast to read them.

On my bike, though … well I go fast enough on my bike that i had to see them three or four times before I could read them all. But I ride my bike on that road from time to time, and I wanted to take these photos. And today’s as good a day as any to share them.

I think there is one or two quotes missing from this mini-collection, but these are the best ones.

The building belongs to an agricultural concern. They sell seed and seed treatments, fertilizer and application services, crop protectants and such. It’s not a local company, but a nationwide business headquartered in Tennessee. I can’t say for certain, but I assume the quotes predate the current company.

Either way, the business has quotes like this on their buildings nationwide, or the local/regional management saw this and thought, This absolutely needs to stay.

Whoever made that call, they were correct.

Main Street should maintain all of the old charm and character a town has to offer, and this little town figured that out long ago. It’s a charming thing.

Oct 23

Bringing sound in sight; breaking down stories in commercials

What a beautiful day today! Gloriously warm in the sunshine. Nice and mild in the shade. Everything you want in a day you weren’t expecting.

I don’t think I even looked at the forecast yesterday. Too busy doing other things. After getting set a new driver’s license I had to take the garbage to the inconvenience center, a trip so unremarkable that I spent the rest of the evening, and today, trying to convince myself that I had, in fact, taken a garbage can, a giant bin of recyclables and three big bags of weeds to the drop off spot.

Yes, I did that yesterday. And it was a lovely afternoon, too. That’s two days in a row! I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon, though, doing class prep.

Thursdays I’m on campus all day. Today, all day meant six hours or so. In class we started talking about audio, which was fun for me. Easy prep, and a good two weeks of complexities. Luckily for the students, or unluckily, I happen to know a thing or two about sound.

We’ve also been talking about commercials, since they are working on spots of their own as an assignment. This let me do my Bud spot exercise. I show the class this 2014 Super Bowl ad.

Then I do a 7:52 second breakdown of all of the shots and angles. Made a special, timed, edit and everything. Matching text and shots. The first year I did this the class applauded, which only encouraged me. When I did it for the second class today they took an entirely different approach, making me think I should rethink the spot I use for this exercise.

They found the commercial … lacking. Emotionally exploitive. Without purpose. I asked them why they thought so, and they explained it somewhat, making some good points along the way. It is some of those things. Curious, as this was one of the best received ads of that particular Super Bowl. It made wonder if commercial tastes are changing, and could they change in just a decade. Either way, they’re thinking critically, those students, and that’s a great thing.

Just outside my class there’s a large hydrangea busily giving up the ghost. Even in this vulnerable moment, it has a deep, handsome beauty to it.

Our drive home was at the perfect time of the evening. There seems to be something special about the autumnal sunsets here. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen a lot of them in the last several years, or at least it seems that way. But, as I showed you yesterday, my home office windows face west, and there’s just one house and trees across the way. It gives me a nice view. If, however, you can catch the sunset out in the open, it’s a spectacular time of year for these lovely views.

Looks like I should turn this one into a painting, or something.

But not tonight. It’s been a full day, and there’s baseball and football on, but no notable commercials.