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"Choke, California"


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#1 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 01:27 PM

Just returned from a 3 day trip to LA and the Mojave Desert to shoot a long format music video / short film with the lead singer of Jacks Mannequin, Andrew McMahon. The film was directed by James Minchin III with myself as Cinematographer.

We shot over the course of two days, on a location just south of downtown Los Angeles and then 60 miles east of Barstow on Highway 40 in two towns, Ludlow and Amboy.

The whole piece was shot in SD on two DVX100's, ALL natural lighting, save some diffusion in a window at some point. When we set out we had some Kinos on standby but the speed with which we needed to shoot didn't allow us to play with any of those toys. I employed a micro dolly for some shots like the gas station and old diner shots. Chose the micro dolly merely again because of timing and the ease with which we could set it up. The car tracking shots were shot out a window with a Single Gyro assist, KS-6, but we also shot everything without as sometimes it over compensated. The budget dictated SD but it would have been nice to shoot some HD as some of the color correction is going to be hard to accomplish without a lot of digital information.

It was between 112 and 119 in the desert and I honestly thought my cameras were going to melt. To save them we wrapped them in white t-shirts. The soles of our sneakers at times started to get mushy if you stood in one spot on the rocks for too long. Our producer made sure we drank a bottle of water and hour and fed us bio-plasma pills frequently.

I went through and grabbed a bunch of stills from the video. The film is coming out in a special edition release of the band's next record.

This video is a testament to keeping things simple and just using beautiful photography.

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#2 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 01:59 PM

I forgot to add in my posting above that this piece was directly inspired in visual look and obviously titling by Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas". The title came from a sticker inside the prop car which said that the car started by using the California Choke system (it took us a solid 15 minutes to find the choke). The 1965 Olds held up in the desert heat, although it only went about 65 max, got great gas mileage but had no AC. Riding in it 200 miles from downtown LA was tedious but necessary.
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#3 Tyler Leisher

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 06:58 PM

Looks awesome, how did you get the DoF look with the steering wheel on a DVX100?
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#4 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:17 PM

I was sitting in the front seat of the car shooting so I'm guessing I was about a foot or two away and pushed in pretty tight. Also was shooting mid day so I had a lot of ND on which certainly didn't hurt the DoF quest. After having shot a DVX for so many years it has honestly become like a third arm in "gripping and ripping" situations.
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#5 Tom Banks

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:47 PM

Hey Rod,
The stills look great, I'm sure that was a fun ride despite the conditions. Paris, TX is a great piece. I was lucky enough to be introduced to it by the 20th anniversary screening in Houston, TX. The actor who played the kid spoke at the screening, by that time about he was probably 30 yrs old! But there are definitely some beautiful visuals and moods created that have stuck with me. The DVX looks like it performed well, all the shots appear very crisp. Please post a link when its completed.
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#6 Rod Blackhurst

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 07:31 PM

Tom,

Thanks for the nice comments. I'm very happy with the way the DVX footage came out, of course it would have been nice to shoot something with some nicer glass but given the "run + gun" nature of the project it did a great job. The finished product does look great...wish I had a link, there's a temp trailer on my website (working on a real one for myself) and then all I know is that when the Jack's Mannequin disc comes out in a month it'll be on there Jacks Mannequin. I think the record label edited a little trailer too on that site (wish they'd asked the director and I before putting in the cheesy "bad tv" final cut pro filter. ugh).

Anyway, I was checking out your site, wondering what compressions and coding/hosting you use for the videos on your page?

Cheers,

Rod
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