Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vincent Cortez - Reel 2 - Steadicam and Music

Here is a reel that features Steadicam/Camera Operation as well as some of my work as a soundtrack/music composer. It's funny to make one reel that encompasses both of those skill-sets/jobs but I thought that the visuals and music went well together. Enjoy and contact me if you have any questions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

HomeMade Gear: Light Stand/Accessory Cart

Being organized on a set can help things run smoothly. If equipment is scattered everywhere, especially light stands, you can run into trouble: things can slow down, setups become searches for gear, people can get hurt, location's can get messed up, etc.

This Cart was built for nothing, but has been very useful in keeping things isolated and organized. My father was getting rid of an old shelf that had been sitting in a backroom for a while. The best thing is that it is made of real wood and it is sturdy. It was the ideal height for my light stands and had enough room to fit plenty; it also has a divider in the middle for other accessories.

I first modified the shelf by cutting squares at one end of the shelf (if it were sitting vertically) while keeping the support/structure intact. Then, I cut another piece of old shelving (from a pile of scrap wood) to create the middle and bottom brace. A few tough screws and a drill gun, and everything was done. For now, I have placed it on a furniture dolly (which I already own; though they are roughly $10 - $20 depending where you look) to maneuver it around easier.

The picture above shows four light stands (two bare and two with heads/arms) but it could fit about two more. Across the divider rests gel frames and a few rolls of gels.

I could still potentially add handles to the sides and even rubber "caster" styled, swivel wheels for off road and rougher terrain.But so far, so good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Hush - Soundtrack

So one of the ways I've been attempting to sustain myself as a filmmaker, has to do with some of the other things I do as an artist. Those who have followed The Hush and it's development have probably seen or heard me mention that I scored (composed and recorded) my own original soundtrack.

The Hush Soundtrack is now for sale on iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.com! Please feel free to take a listen to the samples, buy a song or two or the album if you dig it, and pass the word along.

Click HERE for a direct link to the CDBaby Artist Page.

Click THIS for an Amazon link.

Check out our page on the iTunes store HERE.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ROAMER - teaser poster + update

Here is the teaser poster for the sci-fi short film "Roamer". I will be releasing another poster along with the first trailer very soon. The post process has been relatively smooth and the film is shaping up to be a very strong piece. Thanks again to everyone involved. Enjoy and stay tuned as there are more exciting things to come.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Hush - surround sound

For those who have followed my progress with The Hush, you know or can see that I have pretty much tackled everything post production related with this film myself (in the comfort of my home Mitchell Street Pictures studio).

From the majority of my VFX needs to ADR and Foley in our home built soundbooth, I have been capable and driven enough to follow through with everything.

One thing I have been slowly working towards (even though the film was completed the beginning of this year) was doing a surround sound pass on the film itself, which would give some nice viewing/listening options.


With the accessibility of great image making tools (and tons of great images) the one thing that really sets indie movies apart now is the sound. Some people record with lavs and boom mics and call it a day when they are done; they gather dialog and various on set sounds in traditionally stereo or mono formats. Not this filmmaker; I treat my sound with as much thought and care as I approach my images.

Even when I boom my actors I know that certain sounds are best created or recreated in post. If you want to emphasize a certain effect or add something more engaging you will need to do lot's of recording, mixing and re-mixing in post.

My experience:

I spent loads of time doing research and I've realized that above all other things (you can find tons of info on casting, funding, cameras, FX programs, etc.), surround sound is one of the few "best kept secrets" that major powers still guard really well. I have not seen any real "free" in depth looks, articles and videos about 5.1 surround sound mixing.

The main thing I walked away from in my quest for knowledge was noting that most "pro" audio mixers say it's 30% technical and 70% creative. Hopefully this is true.

Soon, I decided that my strategy for this 5.1 mix would be to take the individual tracks (dialog, foley, ambient and music) into Soundtrack Pro to utilize their surround sound panners. Staying organized pays off once again, as does going the extra mile with all of my audio work in terms of original recording. So far things are going well.

initial tests in Soundtrack Pro using my 5.1 setup - image © Vincent Cortez

And rather than paying tons of money to a studio/technician, I have decided to build my own 5.1 real-time audio monitoring setup for less than $210 and wear a new hat: 5.1 engineer.

The ingredients are:
Image from: www.123macmini.com
Griffin FireWave
(a discontinued product that decodes and encodes Dolby Digital and Dolby Prologic)
price: used $25 - $100 (I found mine on eBay)

* The FireWave can be used on different Mac computers (including my wife's laptop). It is an older product but there is no longer anything like this on the market, or at least something that is bus powered and affordable.
Image from: www.revolutionpc.net/store
Logitech X540
(a very inexpensive but fairly 'decent' system)
price: new $70 - $110

*There are more expensive Logitech options, but none of them will ever be totally 'true' in terms of sound replication. Read ahead to find out more on how I dealt with this.


The Logitech system is a PC and Gaming setup that has a decent response range for the price and it also does not get incredibly loud (though it's loud enough for my editing room). As for accuracy (one major note) I have already mixed sounds on a better system months before .

My logic has been: if I can't yet afford to buy a Blue Sky Media Desk (5.1 or 7.1 system) I won't spend to much money on the system because it will never be 100% bullet proof and true.

This Logitech X540 5.1 system will 'color' my sound slightly but I am only using it to monitor placement and general affect.

I spent months mixing on a really solid and accurate 2.1 Blue Sky system (which again was the best bang for my buck). When I screened The Hush for Cast/Crew/Friends back in December of '09 I had already worked hard to get an accurate mix. And I was not disappointed when I heard it played back through the Dolby system they had in the theater: even though it was in 2.1 the volume, highs and lows on my mix where identical in the theater and at my desktop.

In order for my film to be taken as seriously as possible I must offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix along with my 2.1 mix. It's just the nature of the business side of what we do. Movies with shoot outs and creepy things are just begging for the immersive experience that 5.1 offers: and The Hush has those things to offer.

For a fairly low amount (when compared to rates of expensive audio houses/mixers and really expensive monitors and breakout boxes), I have developed a very nice 5.1 monitoring station.

I now have the ability to experiment with my 5.1 mix. I will be testing them on different sized systems to figure out which 'experience' I like best.

Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Hush - Videography Magazine article

The Hush is being featured in an article by Videography Magazine. The article (in print) is a summary with a bigger link to an online article I wrote. The article itself is based on the Blackmagic Design write up that was done for the film which studied the usage of an inexpensive capture card to get "priceless" results. However, with this article, I was able to incorporate a little more methodology and back-story while still touching on the technology.

Check out the article here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Roamer - progress update 1

I've been getting to work on the sci fi short Roamer since getting some time to focus on my personal projects once again. So far, I am very close to a locked cut. There are a few pickup shots needed to get here and there, and some serious VFX testing to get under way. We already started some ADR and foley work. So far so good; I am very pleased with what we have in our hands and I am grateful to all of those who made Roamer a reality. I will be grabbing some still frames for you to check out soon.

For now, check out some pre-viz work I recently re-encountered. We used these before production began and I figured I'd share them:

This is 072 (Zachary Gossett). A soldier living in his element, hunting and tracking; yearning for the day when he can return home.

This is Oz (Chuck Phelps). An infected, 'roaming' person with secrets to protect and little time remaining.

This is a test of a perspective from our Drone (a hunting machine). There will be more composite and motion graphics work done to the perspective: a militaristic HUD. I can't show you the Drone itself yet, but it was built in 3D space by Mark Jeschke at OogaMedia and it is very menacing.

Here are some storyboards as given life by Aaron Jasper (illustrator and writer). What's funny is that these are almost identical to the shots I used in editing (without even referencing my boards) even though we shot two cameras and got tons of coverage. All the shots were usable and great, but I guess internally I know and feel what I need to see next and it doesn't change.

There's plenty more to come so stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Foley Work - Gary Hecker

I've been slowly putting together loads of things for The Hush special features. A big part of the post process for us, was the foley and sound designing stages. They were fun and challenging; and there was always a need for time and patience. Layers must be built one at a time and then combined or filtered to get the right final sound.

In the meantime, while I put our The Hush version together, check out this video about Gary Hecker by Michael Coleman. Besides being insightful, it gives you a look into something that most movie goers take for granted, but this something brings the world movies take place in to life. Hecker is a seasoned professional who's worked on numerous high budget films, but it is an art form which he enjoys very much.

The funny thing is, when we did our foley passes on The Hush, we approached it in the same fashion (we had the same mindset and ideas for organizing ourselves and the executing the process). It seemed to come almost naturally. Granted our space was not as big, our equipment not as high-end and we don't nearly have as large a collection of sound making objects, we did spend the time and expelled our creativity in building our world with sound.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

HomeMade Gear: The Cortez SoftKick

 I was actually tweaking with a really old small light housing and harness for a few years now; the light itself seemed to be a 100W flood light that was for news studio production. For the longest time I could not get "News Light" to work properly. When we finally sliced and diced its power supply and got it up and running, we realized three things: (1) The light itself needed to be plugged in to some type of power grid, that (A) I wasn't willing to buy and (B) why the hell would I buy it. (2) The lamp is this thin 100W lamp that is not even made anymore nor is there a manufactured equivalent. (3) The only thing of real value in the "News Light" was the light housing assembly itself (shape of the housing, the reflective - textured aluminum inner housing, bracket for mounting to stands).

Fast forward a few years later, and here I am looking to add another light that I can have some decent control over to my collection. On a few projects recently I have been using standard clamp on lighting (can be found at Home Depot; uses standard screw-in bulbs of varying wattage) to add variation or 'kick' here or there on an object or person. I won't go into to much technical detail because I think Scott explains it really well HERE.

Store bought CLAMP ON LIGHT (socket, clamp and housing) reference:

The lights themselves are handy. But the drawbacks for me have been: the inner reflector, I feel is very harsh and the clamp mount assembly can occasionally be annoying and flimsy.

I basically took apart the clamp housing and reflector, took the bare socket and cable, did some very minor drilling and cutting on the New Light housing, then transferred the clamp-on harness and secured it into the News Light housing.

NEWS LIGHT HOUSING with high rated internal socket and cable from the CLAMP LIGHT referenced above:

I put in a Reveal 60W G&E bulb (fairly inexpensive with a 'cooler' color temperature) and I am very happy with the results. The aluminum textured inner coating creates a softened yet even light. It is perfect for a slightly off camera rim light or kicker and it can mount to my light stands and adjusts easily. It is secured and functions like I hoped; I'll use it in whatever I work on next. Stay tuned!

I've been using the 60W CFL light bulbs with a 5.5K color temperature and it works great as rim light and even a soft fill light.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Hush - Official Poster

Here is the final design for "The Hush" movie poster. As much as I enjoy the teaser poster, I wanted a solid and conventional movie poster that conveyed the atmosphere of the film, yet maintained the graphic novel feel of the teaser. Enjoy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Roamer - halfway through shooting

 Vincent Cortez working with Chuck Phelps and Zachary Gossett

I am happy to say that we finished about 60% of the filming for the project.

We ended up focusing on shooting all of the INT. scenes our first weekend of production. The shoot went well, though I was a little over zealous with the scheduling. So we will finish off the rest of the film in two coming shoot days.

I am working with a really solid team of people and I want to make sure that we give everything it's due time. From our cast to our sound team, through FX and Camera/Lighting, everyone brought so much creativity and energy to the project. I thank them for their commitment and time.

Here is some behind the scenes imagery from the film. Thanks to Jesse Dana (Director of Photography), Anthony Lucero (2nd Camera Op) and Phil Velasquez (Special FX Designer and Artist) for taking the photos.

Zachary Gossett is Soldier 072

Chuck Phelps is Oz (with FX Makeup by Phil Velasquez).

Stay tuned as there will be plenty to come.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sci Fi Short: Roamer

 Zachary Gossett and Chuck Phelps star in Roamer, a futuristic tale about survival and humanity.

Some time has passed since I took the full helm of a film project (the Hush was shot in the summer of '08) and while I was a co-Director on one film, a producer/DP on another and a writer/producer/2nd Unit Director on one more film, it feels good to be back in the driver's seat.

We've been hard at work putting this film together. I am working with some very talented and familiar people. We've spent loads of time crafting and designing the world and are very close to shooting. Stay tuned as there is much more to come!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Featured in Black Magic Design's website

The Hush and I have been featured in a case study online at the Black Magic Design 'User Story' section. They had a lot of great things to say and I am honored by their interest; thanks to Black Magic Design for making this possible. You can check it out here: CLICK.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Location Scouting for a new Sci Fi short

I spent a large portion of the day with Zachary (the 'Hush') Gossett doing some location scouting for a short we are working on. We were in my 'backyard' doing some exploration for a story about a futuristic soldier who patrols the borders of an infected shantytown.

If everything goes well, we'll be in for quite the adventurous shoot, braving the elements an tackling a very interesting story. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Declaration of Sovereignty

SOVEREIGN - autonomous: not controlled by outside forces; "an autonomous judiciary"; "a sovereign state" - from wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Today I officially declare myself publicly, though it's taken shape for a while,  as a sovereign filmmaker. Major film powers seek certain things: big names (from actors to producers), familiar people (many of the same "in" crowd), marketability and money. I need none of those things to tell entertaining and intellectual stories for an audience of people. As the film world changes we've gone from exclusivity as one system (Hollywood) to adding Independent film, and now I feel a third division of filmmaking coming in to existence. It is not exactly free media but it is more independent than independent film.

In an environment where major festivals are now only concerned with what films attract and draw in audiences to their 'products' and not the art of filmmaking. We are currently in a world where many independent film festivals claim to seek new voices and visions, only to seek out a specific voice (a friendly and trendy one) that caters to certain demographics. Their claims are false. Independent film has changed with the onset of digital technology: big names are able to step away from their day jobs and for 1/2 million dollars they are able to make an 'independent' film (assuming we use the textbook definition as a movie without major studio backing). The money is still coming from the same place, and their names are bound to draw attention.

Some people who doubt have said "it can't be..." but when you really step back, you can see it. Even if a movie with no names and no real large budget can stand toe-to-toe, pound-for-pound with some big time "independent" film in terms of story, acting, editing, sound etc. that does not mean it will be programmed or received in the same way. Even the old: "if it was really that amazing then people would see it" OR "they would have to program it" are FALSE. If it doesn't meet their criteria of 'indie' film they won't go for it.

I have been making films and storytelling since my youth and I have never needed any aide from any outside entity. As I developed as a filmmaker I both learned to create my own voice but I also learned the skills and craft to create my own piece from conceiving to mastering (and I mean almost everything: just check out the Hush's credits). The Hush itself was made with the contributions of many "no-named" talents who I feel really excelled in their craft; they were driven by creativity and a passion for their art not the draw or market to sell a product. We never once felt the need to change what we do in order to cater to anyone. The money spent came directly from my pocket to make sure that the essentials were there. The most inspiring part of it all was that our creativity was never hindered by our lack of resources, budget or star power, even when making an epic supernatural film noir. I have my own studio and resources that I have either built or collected to be a self sufficient film entity. My films and stories can be told with or without any other entities influence and resources.

The field to catch an audience (in a festival and industry sense), is not even. For as many bad films that get their shot in the limelight, there are many more that are exceptional that never get to see the light of day. Thankfully enough the internet and it's media capabilities are in their infancy, and things are shifting for better or worse.

I am a sovereign filmmaker because I can function autonomously within a system that is around and outside of my existence and not rely, be influenced or have to report to that system. Anyone who relies on certain elements of that outside force are 'independent'.

Stay tuned for updates and don't be afraid to stop being a dependently independent filmmaker.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Hush - LA Reel Film Festival

The Hush was able to participate in a virtual festival. I was not entirely familiar with a virtual fest outside of the concept that the films are viewed by judges in a venue that is more geared towards awarding and recognizing achievements rather than public viewing.

Now as much as I am looking forward to an official public premier (this fest technically maintains that world premier status), it was great to get recognition for all of the cast and crews hard work.

The Hush received an "Honorable Mention" award in competition which is nice considering our budget was probably a very microscopic fraction of what our competition had. It feels good to have industry people acknowledge our hard work. Stay tuned...