Monday, February 27, 2006

"Day:11" and "Shadow Falls" Photo Archive

Oscar Rodriguez, our resident set photographer, has graciously posted an Online archive of photos he's taken during the shoots for DAY:11 and SHADOW FALLS.

The DAY:11 photo archive can be found here.

The SHADOW FALLS photo archive can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Oscar R. Photos - Los Angeles

In the spirit of the upcoming shoot for THE TWENTY-THIRD LETTER trailer, our resident photographer Oscar Rodriguez took these amazing photos of Los Angeles. I love these photos because they represent the film noir nature of the movie we're about to shoot. The diversity of colors represented in the cityscape photo and the photos we took on our location scout (below) are exciting and vibrant.

I can't wait to go to all of Oscar's cool photography locations with the Canon H1 and shoot some cityscape shots.

For more of Oscar's photography, visit his gallery.

Starway Website Refresh

The Starway Pictures Website has been refreshed and updated with links to this blog. A new SHADOW FALLS mini-site has also been put up, complete with filmmaker bios and Quicktime trailers (the HD versions will be updated shortly).


Thursday, February 16, 2006

"The Twenty-Third Letter" - Location Scout

We'd really like to give a big thank you to Michael and Barbi for their huge generosity and superb hospitality. We went into downtown Los Angeles last night to scout some potential shooting locations for the TWENTY-THIRD LETTER trailer. And wow -- were we surprised and delighted!

First stop was their very cool and hip loft. While I'm still not sure which scenes would be best for the loft, I know we'll definitely be shooting here.

Michael and Barbi gave us the whole tour of their building and another building across the street. The rooftop of their building is a great location with great views. I could definitely see shooting some of the confrontation scenes between Drake and Seth up there, as well as additional stuff.

We also checked out the basement of the building. The place definitely has that "Fight Club" vibe. Very spacious and not a ton of crap lying around, but tons of texture, history and grit. Plus I was surprised at how well the lighting was. You could almost shoot it with available light. A definite bonus when you're trying to keep the production lean.

Then we went across the street to another building Michael had access to. What a great building. They have a killer art decco lobby that just begs to be shot inside of.

Plus they have a killer looking elevator maintenance room. We HAVE to shoot something in there.

But I have to say the real treat of the evening was getting on the building's roof. Wow! What a view! I've have always wanted to get on top of one of these buildings and shoot something. And I was not disappointed. It was a bitch getting up there and I don't do so well with heights, but it was worth it.

Outside of Michael and Barbi's building is the ideal alley. It's not very long, but it definitely has the perfect look for our film. I can't wait to shoot some of the Devi scenes there.

All I can say is, "This project is going to rock!"

A Quiet Revolution

I knew that things were changing when Canon, JVC and Panasonic announced their recent crop of HD cameras. And I've known for a while now that HDV and DVCProHD are the two predominent codecs that are here to stay. But I've also known that if you're doing serious, high quality, HD cinematography the only real choices are the Sony F900 and 950, the Viper, Panavision's Genesis and Arri's D20.

But what I didn't realize was how much these cameras, particularly the Canon XL-H1, was going to be a huge paradigm shift.

Mark Ross and I visited Birns & Sawyer today to review the Canon XL-H1 and also to get some pricing on a rigged out H1. And boy were we in for a surprise.

First, if you're into HD and digital cinematography then you've no doubt heard of Scott Billups. Apparently he's been conducting a full on comparison test of the H1 versus the F900. And he's come to some very surprising results...the H1 is within 90-95% of the F900's quality. Let me state that again -- the Canon H1 will give you 95% of the same picture quality as the F900!

That's a big deal.

A fully rigged F900 with lenses and accessories will run you approximately $150,000. A fully rigged H1 will run you $18,000.

Additionally, Scott Billups also mentioned that the H1 actually keys green and bluescreen plates BETTER than the F900. Wow! That's quite a statement. And considering that the upcoming shoot for THE TWENTY-THIRD LETTER trailer will require some bluescreen work, that's exciting news for us.

Jim over at Birns said that his technical team is surprised that the H1 (stock) doesn't cost at least $13,000. In their estimation the HD-SDI and Genlock output is a $2000 feature. Not to mention the costs association with a full resolution 1080i CCD block.

So to make a long story short (ha!), I think Sony and Panasonic are probably going to be forced to take very drastic measures to protect their "pro" line of cameras and start seriously considering massive price reductions.

Not only are we this impressed with the H1 and wowed by the paradigm shift taking place right now, but we're seriously considering this rig as the A-camera for the SHADOW FALLS feature film. Now that's saying something!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"Shadow Falls" Website

We will be building a new "Shadow Falls" Website soon. And yes we will be hosting and serving up both of the trailers. We will also offer super high-quality Hi-Def Quicktime versions of the trailer as well.

The site will include a story synopsis, a biography page of the creative team, and basic contact information for prospective investors and distributors.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Which HD Camera?

We're seriously considering the purchase of a new in-house high-definition camera system. There are three cameras new to market that we can choose from.

Canon XL-H1
Panasonic HVX-200

All three cameras have strengths and weaknesses. As it stands right now we're leaning toward the Canon XL-H1. We like that the form factor is nearly identical to it's sister camera, the XL2 (which we shot DAY:11 with).

[Note: Now I will go on record to say that we absolutely did not like our experiences with the XL1 (which we shot FETWICK with). Not only did we have serious problems with track errors on two of our master tapes, but we were not impressed with picture quality and dynamic range. However, my concerns with Canon were quickly eliminated by the wonderful performance of the XL2. Everything we hated about the XL1 was fixed with the XL2. In fact, we will go as far as to say that it made us a Canon convert.]

I believe it was a brilliant stroke for Canon to not change the form factor of the H1 and stick with the basic XL2 body. This means there's literally hundreds of accessories in the market that will bolt right onto the H1 like matte boxes, follow focus units, viewfinders, batteries, hard disc recorders, etc. Additionally, there are several lens options from Canon. Most notably the professional manual 14x and 16x lenses. We're also a fan of the wide angle 3x lens.

Speaking of lenses, there's been some debate about whether or not Canon's SD (standard definition) lenses are good enough for HD acquisition. Thankfully, there have been a handful of tests conducted by XL2/H1 owners using the SD lenses on the H1 and the reports are both surprising and pleasing. Apparently the SD lenses are resolving enough resolution for the H1. Great news. This does make us question Canon's aggressive marketing for the new 20x HD lens that comes standard with the H1.

There is a very large base of devout DVX100 user's who adore Panasonic's offerings. And we have to admit that we're a very big fan of Panasonic's compression codecs (DVCPro, DVCPro50 and DVCPro100/HD).

[Note: I recently finished post-production of the SHADOW FALLS trailers using the customized DVCPro100 codec from Blackmagic Design. Simply amazing how well it handled a 1080P post-production workflow.]

The new Panasonic HVX-200 is unique among the three cameras because it is not an HDV camera, but a DVCPro camera. This is the single biggest attraction for me. Additionally, Panasonic has taken the multi-frame rate features from the Varicam and shoehorned them into the HVX. So what's the problem? The fixed lens. I'm sorry, but I'm a firm believer in having the best possible glass in front of the camera. With the HVX I'm stuck. And when you add the costs of the camera and the P2 cards you're approaching H1 territory.

In a recent camera shoot-out everyone was surprised at how well the new JVC GY-HD100 performed in its "film look". There were a lot of concerns about JVC's initial build quality. Plus there were some problems with the CCDs. But it appears JVC has rectified some of these problems and there are many happy owners/operators out there. My biggest concern is that it's only a 720P camera. We'd prefer 1080.

We're heading to Birns & Sawyer next week to talk packages and pricing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Congratulations Johnny Simmons

Everyone at Starway would like to give a big congratulations to "Shadow Falls" cast member, Johnny Simmons (Casey,) for landing a lead role in "Evan Almighty," the sequel to "Bruce Almighty," playing Steve Carell's son. The film will also star Morgan Freeman, reprising his role as God. Tom Shadyac will also helm the sequel.

This is a HUGE break for Johnny and we couldn't prouder of him!

"Shadow Falls" Screening Party

Wow! What a party! We'd like to thank everyone in the cast and crew who attended the "Shadow Falls" Trailer screening party last Saturday night. It was fantastic to see everyone again.

Based on everyone's feedback the screening was a rousing success. Everyone was very pleased with how well the trailer(s) turned out. Many were surprised that they were as good as they were. We got a lot of compliments about the overall quality of the production.

I was very happy to be able to present the trailers in all their HD glory on the 50" plasma. The resolution and color looked amazing. We even won over a couple HD skeptics.

The party ended around 3:00AM. Probably because all the booze and food was gone! Ha!

Welcome to the Starway Pictures Blog

Well, we finally broke down and decided to add a blog to the Starway Pictures website. In here, you'll find information and commentary about current and future Starway projects. We'll try to post our thoughts and feelings about "the process" of filmmaking and the industry. For the hard-core gear heads and geeks, we'll also discuss digital filmmaking technology and our philosophies about digital cinema. And maybe a rant or two.

What you won't find here are politics, personal issues or topics like why we like trees. It will be all things filmmaking, movies and production.