Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Magic!

Last week Coccinelle got her first taste of behind-the-scenes Hollywood when I worked on a couple of commercials.  The first one is for what's called a test market and will be shown in a very limited area of the US so you most likely will never see it (it's for a new internet-based mobile device insurance company).  The spot features a spokesman walking through a variety of humorously exaggerated situations causing damage or loss of a cell phone such as: he's holding a phone which first bursts into flame and then he and the phone are drenched by a fire fighter; a "ninja pickpocket" steals the phone; a giant strongman crushes the phone with one hand.  But the most spectacular thing we shot was a piano dropping onto a pedestal displaying the cell phone.  Here Coccinelle watches as the first of the two pianos we dropped is getting ready to be hoisted by a crane:

We shot everything with two cameras, one getting a wider shot, the other closer.  On these monitors you can see what they captured, first before the piano dropping, and then once it had landed:

  B.P. (Before Piano)

           A.P. (After Piano)

In the commercial, the spokesman will be seen walking past the pedestal as the piano falls from the sky, but because anything like this is done with great consideration for the safety of the crew and cast, the actor/spokesman shot his dialogue separately on the same set, and then the editor will combine the two different pieces of footage so it appears that he was there as the piano smashed to the ground behind him.

Even on a small shoot like this was, there are always lots of people and equipment (in the background on the right you can get a glimpse of the ninja and the strongman):

A few days later I worked on what will be an internet spot for Jell-O.  This was another fun project with some good examples of "the magic of the movies".  The action takes place in the jungles of Mexico...which we shot in a local botanical garden, both among the foliage and in a large parking area with blue screens and platforms that will be cinematically transformed into the top of an Aztec pyramid.

Traipsing through the "jungle" (the blue screen in the background is where the visual effects editor will make it look like there's an Aztec pyramid in the distance):

Our trekkers are hauling a crate with them, and at one point get stuck at a waterfall.  In the photo below, the two guys in the water won't be in the final shot, they're rigging the crate so the local "guides" can appear to be hauling it up out of the water; the picture of the monitor shows what the camera would shoot once the riggers were out of the way:

Later in the day, in a large, open, paved area, we filmed our trekkers climbing to the top of the pyramid, pulling the crate up with them:

This is what it looked like in real life:

In order to make sure that everything we shot would properly integrate with the image that will replace the blue screen, they had the capability of adding the background to the image on the monitor -- this is basically what it will look like once the visual effects wizard has finished his work:

While we were working on this sequence, it started to rain...and it kept raining until after we 9 PM.  So the grips (they move equipment around, put together things like the platform, generally make sure we have everything we need in the way of a physical foundation) built a couple of large canopies to cover the "set" and to protect the camera, and we continued to shoot into the dark of night what will eventually look like a bright sunrise morning on top of an Aztec pyramid.

Like I said, the magic of the movies....

Because of the weather Coccinelle stayed tucked away safe and dry.  Even before the downpour, when we were out among the greenery, there really wasn't time to do anything but move from one shooting location to another, so Coccinelle and I will return one day soon and spend some quality time exploring beautiful Descanso Gardens.

And I was told that the spots we filmed that day will be on the Jell-O Facebook page, so if you're an FB-er, be sure to be on the lookout for them!

Monday, November 5, 2012


Coccinelle's first Halloween in America was very quiet, but we do have a few pictures to share.

This year for my office job's decorate-a-pumpkin-using-things-you-have-at-your-desk contest, I made "Bob Brings the Zombpocalypse to the Company =or= How We Really Recruit Our Staff":

Coccinelle was quite amused, and I won second place (out of about a dozen entries).

She also made friends with La Llorona, aka Linda, one of only two people who came in costume to work this year.  La Llorona ("la yo-ro-na"), or The Weeping Woman, is a Mexican legend which tells of a woman who drowned her children in order to be with a man she loved who then rejected her, and she drowned herself.  She wasn't allowed to enter into eternity until she found her children, so now she wanders the earth, weeping constantly as she searches for them.  Linda always does a good job with her costumes, and this year was no exception (you can't see it with the shawl covering her, but she's wearing a very long white wig, a black blouse, and a floor-length black skirt):

Coccinelle is very brave to sit on La Llorona's shoulder!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Larchmont Family Fair!

Every year in my neighborhood there is a "Family Fair", held (usually) on the last Sunday before Halloween.  Lots of fun activities (pony rides, petting zoo, climbing wall, crafts, dunk tank, and much more) and of course plenty of food, all provided by a wide range of social, cultural, and civic organizations (such as Boy Scouts, churches and synagogues, Police and Fire, realtors, local restaurants, etc.).  Since becoming a member of the Board of our Neighborhood Association a few years ago, I spend those afternoon helping hand out informational flyers and brochures about neighborhood issues in general and safety and security issues in particular.  More importantly (and much more fun), we have also give out homemade cookies and, for the second year in a row, cute Halloween temporary tattoos.

Coccinelle and I stayed up very late the night before making three different kinds of cookies -- ginger, chocolate chip, and pumpkin oatmeal.  Here, Coccinelle is helping make dough for the latter:

And here she admires the results:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Next day we hung out a lot at the booth...

...but we also walked around so Coccinelle could take in the fun of the fair  One of the first things she did, of course, was make some new friends:

 They looked so cute with their painted faces, we just had to get a picture with them!

Another new friend was Daniella, who was at a booth where people were decorating trick or treat bags.  Here she is with Coccinelle, showing off one side of the bag we made:

There was a very hip looking little llama at the petting zoo...

...while down at the other end of the fair there were camel rides!!!

However, our very favorite of all was:

Unfortunately, the line was never less than 45 minutes long and we had to get back to the booth, but...DOESN'T THAT LOOK LIKE SO MUCH FUN?!?!