FreshDV Directing Video Tutorials

January 8, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · Leave a Comment
Filed under: MicroBlogging 

FreshDV is sharing 15 video tutorials on filmmaking.

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A WordPress Index Page Template

January 7, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · 14 Comments
Filed under: Computing, Internet 

wordpress_logoAfter a few weeks of writing content for our blog, quite a bit of information has accumulated. Sometimes, we find it necessary to look at our pasts posts in order to get a piece of information. Browsing back in time has become more and more tedious as we have more content archived. On the very same day, Derrick and I both had the idea that we needed to create an Index page allowing instant access to any posts.

I worked on a template page for WordPress over the weekend in order to display such an index. Our main goal was to simply display a list of posts by date, but as I started to work on this I realized it could be a nice feature to also offer a list grouped by categories and tags. Since the list of posts was bound to grow, I decided to make each section title collapsable while still offering a view all link to display every posts title if so desired.

wwa_archives

Before going ahead with the code, I did a quick Google search to see if anyone had worked on this before. What I found was an impressive graphical view of a blog past developped by Vladimir Prevolac based on the default archive page of Tumblr called Snazzy Archives. I really liked Vladimir’s work and decided to integrate that option as well  in my Index page.

snazzy_archives

As I started working on this, I decided that I would make my work more valuable by making it generic enough to be used by other people. To do so, I knew that I had to make sure of the following:

  1. Use WordPress core functions
  2. Not rely on the pre existence of the Snazzy Archives plugin as not everyone would want to use i
  3. Test my index page with at least three different WordPress installations

It was the first time I tried to extend WordPress, and after a quick Google search I found this function reference page on the WordPress Codex. The documentation, though still being worked on by the community, is easy to read and understand and makes it quite enjoyable to work with the WordPress code. In the end, the only function I had to write was the one returning me the list of months during which at least one blog post had been written. Still, I found the code I needed within WordPress, I just had to adapt it to what I was doing.

Like I said, I really liked Snazzy and wanted to add it to our blog but my Index Template Page couldn’t rely on it to be installed as it might be temporarely disabled or some other user might not want to show it. I simply tested the existance of the plugin before placing the link to the Snazzy Archives in the page.

In order to test, I tried my template on three installations of WordPress. Two running WordPress 2.6 and one running 2.7. I also ran some tests enabling or not the permalinks options as it changes the url handling quite a bit. Regarding this question of URL, I decided not to use Ajax as WordPress front-end doesn’t use it, I decied to make my Index page match the rest of the blog engine on that aspect as well.

All in all, after a few hours of coding and experimenting with WordPress, I had completed my own template page. So far it has worked fine for us, but feel free to report any bug or share your comments with us on this page.

Live demo:

You can see the result in action by visiting our archive page. You can also see it running on my other blog World Gone Web.

Download:

You can download the template here.

Installation process:

  1. Download the template
  2. Upload the template archives.php to your theme directory (i.e. <wordpress>/wp-content/themes/<theme_name>
  3. Make sure your script file can be read
  4. Adapt the page structure of the template to match your blog theme structure (i.e. copy the beginning and th end of your blog theme index.php page like the content div and sidebar declaration)
  5. Enter your wordpress administration and write a new page
  6. Enter the title you wish to see in your menu (be carefull, “index” might generate problems, choose another name)
  7. Do not enter any content
  8. Find the page template menu and select “Index Page”
  9. Publish this new page
  10. You’re  done, go to your blog and test it

If you wish to use Snazzy Archives as well, you also need to:

  1. Download SnazzyArchives and upload it to your plugin directory
  2. Go to your administration page and enable the plugin
  3. Refresh your blog archive page, the link to snazzy archives should appear

We hope you like it!

Spotlight: Gary Cooper

January 5, 2009 by Derrick Faw · 3 Comments
Filed under: Cinephile 
Sergeant York (1941)

Sergeant York (1941)

This month TCM France (Turner Classic Movies) spotlights famed actor Frank James (Gary) Cooper. Each day will air a film from Cooper’s long and fruitful career. In nearly 40 years he played over 100 roles in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films. Though known for his dashing appearance, quite demeanor and restrained emotion, he was capable of powerful portrayals and a very unique sense of humor. He was born in 1901 in Helena, Montana, where he had a tough time making a living as a young man. After several failed attempts he would move to LA with his family in 1924, where he thought it was better to starve and be warm than to starve and freeze also. Eventually he would try his hand in the film industry and appeared as an extra in several films. Cooper, or Coop as his acquaintances called him, eventually broke through a major Hollywood star with The Virginian by Victor Fleming in 1929. Which coincidentally was his first talkie. Throughout the remainder of his career he would work with many of the great directors, such as: Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, Henry Hathaway, Cecil B. DeMille, William Wyler, Robert Aldrich, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Delmer Daves, Fritz Lang, Raoul Walsh, Anthony Mann, Michael Curtiz, William Wellman, and John Ford to name a few. He would portray such real life characters as Lou Gehrig, Marco Polo, Wild Bill Hickok. Famed World War I hero Alvin York would only allow a film of his life’s story provided that he would be portrayed by Cooper in Howard Hawk’s Sergeant York. I look forward to seeing some Cooper films absent from our collection. As a general rule, when we get one of his films it is always pushed to the front of list on the shelf of movies to watch. Thanks TCM.

One Sunday Afternoon (1933)

One Sunday Afternoon (1933)

the-virginian-1939

The Virginian (1939)

meet-john-doe-1941

Meet John Doe (1941)

high-noon-1952

High Noon (1952)

man-of-the-west-1958

Man Of The West (1958)

My Introduction to Cinema

January 1, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Cinephile, World Wide Angle 
The Godfather part III

The Godfather part III

For the past 15 years, my interests has been going back and forth between Cinema and Computers. My passion for cinema goes back to my high school days. I have always had a dislike for TV and rarely went to the movies, as it was not something my family would do much. On the other hand, I would read a lot, and around that time, I was mostly into theater. I had just read several plays, including the famous Shakespeare tragedies. One night, being alone at home, I turned the TV on while the Godfather part III was playing. It was like nothing I had seen on TV before (I only knew of children films and action flicks at that point). I was amazed by the story telling, through the acting, the filming, the soundtrack, the costumes and the setting. It was so theatrical, such a powerful tragedy, almost classical. This is when I realized that Cinema was probably the most powerful artform. After that night, I started looking around for other films of that kind.

godfatheriii

The Godfather part III

Back in 1996, I was also discovering the Internet. This immediate access, straight from my bedroom,  to such a wide knowledge was fascinating to me. I started browsing the Web for cinema information. Up to that point my computer had been nothing more than a game console, but with the Internet, this quickly changed. As DVDs came around,my computer also became my own personal movie theater. Suddenly several hundreds of movies, in their original language and with subtitles, became available.

martin_scorsese_plaisirs_cinephileStill, it was hard for me to know where to find more movies as inspiring as the Godfather part III. I tried going around and asking neighbors and friends to tell me (and lend me) their favorite movies. The results were strange. I got to see Pulp Fiction, 12 monkeys, Totall Recall and Casino. I got to see such movies as North by Northwest and Citizen Kane too. I started recording movies on TV and watching different genres of films from different countries and time periods. From all this, I started to find what I liked and disliked and followed my own path. I discovered Sergio Leone on “Cinema de Quartier” on Canal+ one night and Jean-Pierre Melville on LaCinquième. At some point Arte also broadcasted the complete filmography of John Cassavetes, it was a revelation. Around that time, I got hold of Martin Scorsese’s Pleasures as a Cinephile and started using the films he named as a hunting list:

  • The Searchers
  • Duel in the Sun
  • Force of Evil
  • Citizen Kane
  • Umberto D
  • The Red Shoes
  • On the Waterfront
  • Vertigo
  • Bad Lieutenant
  • Senso
  • movies by Bunuel and Kurosawa
  • french movies by Renoir, Tavernier and Téchiné
  • and a lot many more!

As I would discover a new movie, I would look it up and try to find related titles. It could lead me to watch movies by the same director or starring the same actor. It could also bring me to discover another director who had dealt with the same genre or subject. Little by little, I learned to recognize genre and styles and got a perception of cinema’s history and – as it is related to me – of History, especially History of the twentieth` century.

ati_rage_128Addicted to Cinema and attracted to the Internet, I created my first website in 1998. It was dedicated to Martin Scorsese and John Cassavetes (actually, this is still online at http://samcinema.free.fr/ though it’s not been updated in several years). But the real merger between Cinema and Computing took place when I decided I could do my own videos. My father bought me an Ati Rage 128 all in wonder card which allowed me to capture images from a VCR. Using Premiere 4.2, I edited my first videos which were all short TV shows about cinema. I would splice together trailers and photos with a few voice overs.

Eventually, I wanted to film my own images. I got my first DV Camera in 2000, I used it to film my family’s trip across the Southwest of the USA. The resulting movie was an hour and forty minutes long! My only knowledge about filming or editing came from experimenting with my camera and watching movies, a lot of movies. I have often heard that reading is a good way to improve one’s writing. I believe this is also true with images. Watching photos, paying attention to the images around us teaches us how to frame and compose and watching movies teaches us how to film and edit in order to tell a story. Some of us remember the family photos or 8mm films that could be  painful to go through. I’ve even seen photos with cut off heads before! Recently, everybody has become a photographer and videomaker by uploading images on Facebook and videos to youTube. It seems everyone has become more aware of images. Amateur photographers skills have increaed significantly in the digital age. I believe this is what happened to me. I didn’t learn to film in school or from a book, I learned framed and filmed trying by imitating what I had seen.

After filming in the American West, I decided to build a mini set inside a cardboard box I had painted to look like a Western set. I used it to film toy figures reinventing (without knowing it) the stop-motion films. I wanted to practice framing and try my hand at camera moves. None of these expirements lead to any complete project but it was a lot of fun to try and reproduce some camera moves I liked in so many movies I had seen.

bazin_what_is_cinema

André Bazin: Qu'est-ce que le Cinéma

After two years of watching 7 or 8 movies a week I was seriously adicted. At that point, I started reading about movies. I read Andre Bazin’s “Qu’est-ce que le Cinema” and the History of Cinema by Georges Sadoul. I also started reading theorical books about film editing and film lighting. As I was coming close to graduation, I started thinking about going into a film school. I decided I wanted to enter one of the two public film schools in France: either la Fémis or Louis Lumière. After pasing the first step of the Louis Lumiere entrance exam (maths, physics, chemistry and cinema culture), I failed at the second step: film analysis. Having followed an all scientific school path, I was totally unprepared for such an exercice.

This was a tough break but I didn’t give up. Having been an early adopter of the Internet, it seemed obvious that Multimedia would be more and more important. I knew that as time went by, there would be more and more images, sounds and videos on the Web. I felt by combining computing and films I could do interesting things. I went to computing school and used every opportunity to pick courses related to multimedia. I took classes in photo, video, 3D animation and web design.

Ten years later, videos are everywhere on the Internet. Of course, professionaly produced content found its way online. Either as paid on demand broadcast or as a commercial broadcast. Most impressively, self produced videos are everywhere on the Net. People share their videos on youTube, they also share how to videos on several other websites. Some people use videos to record their resume and send it to rectruiters. As the numbers indicate, people use the Internet to watch video content and are starting to leave their TVs behind. The demand for video online is increasing. We are witnessing a revolution in communication, information and entertainment. Cultural Labs, among others, claim that the trend for video watching online will increase and that new artforms will appear with the arrival of low budget and creative video productions. There are opportunities for people like us, filmmakers and computer oriented, to make the films we want, the way we want and find our audience.

tumblr_movielist

Our film watching Tumblr

I still believe that the best way to learn about movie making, second to experimenting, is to watch movies. We try to watch between 5 and 8 movies a week, from different time periods and genres. We learn from the best. Since September, we also keep a list f the movies we watched together. Just like I take notes when I read books about Cinema, Derrick is taking notes when we watch movies in order to remember the shots we like and would love to mimic in our own videos. By watching movies and talking about them, we try to understand the art of story telling and get an opinion about what does and does not work in filming and in editing. Everytime we get a chance, we go out there to film and edit and see what we get. The next step for us is going to be to complete a screenplay and go ahead with it.

Happy New Year

January 1, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · 2 Comments
Filed under: World Wide Angle 

We wish you all the best for 2009. Happy New Year!

new_year

World Wide Angle wishes you a Happy New Year