Shooting a movie? You only need TWO lenses

In a previous article I mentioned that the best cheap cinema camera you can get today is the Canon EOS M, that can be found for $150 on eBay. In that same article, I listed the hardware you’d need to pull off a believable spectacle. The lens I suggested was the 7Artisans 25mm f/1.8 ($70). You can shoot a whole movie with that lens. But sometimes, you just need something wider. That’s where the Opteka 12mm f/2.8 comes into play ($199).

I own five cinema-worthy cameras, but the ones that are most in my heart because of their ratio of features vs price, are the EOS M, and the BMPCC. The M has a more manageable codec at 45mbps, some basic autofocus, and support for picture profiles to expand its rather limited dynamic range (I’d suggest either Miller’s CLog3 ($25), Technicolor Cinestyle (free), or if you don’t like color grading much, the VisionColor CineTech ($20)).

The BMPCC on the other hand, while more of a pain to operate, particularly because of its poor battery life, it delivers the most pleasing film-like image, since it has a lot of dynamic range. I’d suggest you shoot at ProRES LT with it (84mbps), since RAW takes too much space, and its other ProRES variants don’t have much difference between them. The first feature-length (and serious) movie shot with the BMPCC, the sci-fi drama “Cosmos”, was shot just in ProRES LT and it looks amazing.

Now, regarding the lenses. You’d need one long/portrait, and one wide lens. Whole movies have been shot with just such a two-tier selection. The 7Artisans 25mm f/1.8 and the Opteka 12mm f/2.8 lenses can fit that bill nicely. If you do have an extra $150, go for the 12mm f/2.0 Rokinon “cine” lens instead of the Opteka, however, it’s not necessary. I suggest the Opteka 12mm f/2.8 ($199) instead of the very similar 7Artisans 12mm f/2.8 ($188), because of a slightly better design, and because of a smaller filter thread on the front of the lens — which is important for the reason that I’ll mention below.

Now, one thing you have to consider when choosing lenses is the crop factor. The EOS M is an APS-C sensor, which has a crop factor of 1.6 compared to full frame 35mm. It’s basically a smaller sensor than 35mm. The BMPCC is tiny, being a super16mm sensor, having a crop factor of 2.88. What this means is when we speak of a 12mm lens, and we may think that nobody needs such a crazy wide lens, you’ll have to take into account the crop factor. So on the EOS M, the 12mm becomes a 19mm in 35mm full frame equivalency (12 x 1.6 = 19). As for the BMPPC, the 12mm lens becomes nearly 35mm! Not so wide now, is it? You can barely see the head of your actor from a close distance!

EOS M:
7Artisans 25mm -> 40mm (35mm equivalent)
Opteka 12mm -> 19mm (35mm equivalent)

BMPCC:
7Artisans 25mm -> 72mm (35mm equivalent)
Opteka 12mm -> 35mm (35mm equivalent)

For the EOS M, these two lenses would be all you need. They’re wide enough to do the job. For the BMPCC though, you’ll need extra help. You can buy a “Speedbooster” accessory, that widens the field of view of your lens, but at $750, it’s a ridiculous purchase. Instead, a cheap $50 wide angle adapter (0.43x, with a 67mm thread) will help you fix the problem. These cheap wide angle adapters are quite fuzzy on the edges (low quality optics), however, since the BMPCC can’t see the edges of the lens (because of its massive crop factor), the quality that comes out of them is acceptable. In fact, the guys who shot ‘Cosmos’ also used such a cheap wide angle adapter without visual problems.

You will also need a 46mm to 67mm step up ring (to mount it to the 25mm lens), a 67mm to 72mm step up ring to mount it to the Opteka, and you will need to have a 72mm variable ND filter and an IR CUT filter when shooting outdoors (to mount it in front of the lens or the adapter when needed). You will also need a 46mm to 72mm step-up ring, in order to mount these filters in front of the bare 25mm lens.

Basically, with the wide angle adapter, it’s “like” you have four lenses instead of two, depending on the shot you need:

BMPCC:
7Artisans 25mm -> 72mm (35mm equivalent, bare lens)
7Artisans 25mm -> 60mm (35mm equivalent with wide angle adapter)

Opteka 12mm -> 35mm (35mm equivalent, bare lens)
Opteka 12mm -> 29mm (35mm equivalent with wide angle adapter)

To put it in perspective, the guys who shot Cosmos, after using both a speedbooster, and a wide angle adapter, their widest lens they used (28mm) was only about 40mm in 35mm equivalency. If they can do a whole movie with a 40mm lens, why can’t we do the same with more readily available and more flexible options? Let’s get to work!

The Rubbish of Ancient Aliens/Annunaki

Whoever believes that rubbish about the Annunaki being real, wanting gold for their spaceships, and enslaving humans, is an idiot who watches too much Ancient Aliens on TV, or Youtube.

First of all, if an alien race wanted gold, they could find it elsewhere in the cosmos. There are probably a gazillion asteroids and planets closer to their home-planet that could contain gold or other such elements. It would be easier and more cost-effective to create machines that mine these for you close to home, rather than traverse half a galaxy away, find and hybridize humans to use them as miners. Do you think they need Earth for any of that? Heck, these days, we can even mine water from the moon. The moon, people!

That does not mean that aliens haven’t been on Earth, or that some of the gods the ancient people worshiped might not have a basis on them being real entities. I believe that it’s more than possible. But that doesn’t mean that all these stories going around about bloodlines, gold, mining etc are true. It’s just fiction, because it makes no logical sense.

If a planet has life, there is only ONE thing you’re interested in that planet: its consciousness. You don’t care about its water, its rocks, or its metals. ALL that, you can find on asteroids on your own planetary backyard. But what you can’t find as easily, is life itself. And life, CAN BE used as energy source by a highly advanced race.

If they, or anyone else, were here to “mine” something, that would be consciousness, nothing else. We have nothing else of rare value on this planet. So, before you open your mouth again about that bullshit, about gold that power spaceships, think twice. Use common fucking sense. The only idiots who want gold, are the humans. Not the aliens.

Shoot a feature film with just $1000 worth of equipment

Here’s the absolute cheapest way to shoot a feature film, in a way that doesn’t suck. You will need a minimum of three people as crew: the director, cinematographer, and the sound guy. Work on the set would have to be divided between them, e.g. when the director and cinematographer might be blocking a scene, or… moving couches around, the sound guy can also do backups or charge the various devices used. Basically, few people will have to do the work of many. The actors can do hair & makeup amongst themselves. Don’t worry, they’ll manage. 😉

Camera

1. Canon EOS M, $170 on eBay, used. Shoots in manual mode, in 1080/24p at 45mbps (make sure you underexpose by 1/2 stop outdoors, its metering is not accurate).

2. 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 Lens, manual focus lens. You can shoot the whole movie with that lens.

3. 46mm-52mm Step-up Adapter Ring, $6

4. Variable fader ND 52mm filter. Almost always to be used outdoors during the day.

5. 52mm IR CUT filter. This is not the same as an IR filter btw. This is to be used only when you use the ND filter at its high strength. Without it, color reproduction gets thrown off.

6. 52mm Wide Angle adapter. To be used to convert the 25mm lens to about 20mm, since there are no cheap solutions for wide angles lenses for the APS-C sized sensors.

7. TWO SanDisk 64GB Ultra SDXC UHS-I Memory Cards.

8. 2 batteries and charger for the camera.

9. Video tripod with smooth head.

10. Shoulder rig, for on-the-go shots (video showcasing it, read the comment about additional bolts).

11. 52mm lens cap, to protect the lens and filters.

12. 52mm Sun shade for outdoor shots.

13. Grey card, to set white balance, particularly indoors.

14. Clapper board, helps with syncing audio in post, and to organize which shot is which.

15. Field Monitor, this one is lower resolution, but it comes with a battery and charger, and sun shade for $127. The Canon M’s HDMI output is 720p anyway, so you’re good with this one.

16. HDMI mini cable to connect the field monitor to the camera.

17. Picture Style: Either buy and install the C-Log3, or if you want a more “baked” cinematic look, as film would be, buy and install the VisionColor CineTech (settings: 2, -4, -2, +1).

Lights

18. Light meter, to make sure shots match.

16. 3-Point lighting kit

17. Reflector, also to be used outdoors.

Sound

18. Digital recorder with Line-In. Record in WAV and set your meters to between -8 and -12.

19. SGC-598 Shotgun mic, with phantom power.

20. Deadcat, for outdoor shots.

21. Headphones for monitoring.

22. Monopod to be used as a boom mic (it’s cheaper than an actual boom pole).

23. 10-20 ft audio cable.

24. Cold shoe adapter, to mount the mic on the monopod.

25. [Optional] Swivel extension, which lets you turn the mic at different directions on the monopod.

Backup

26. TWO USB drives from a reputable manufacturer. After each session, you save the recorded files in each of these, so you have two backups. Don’t skimp on backups. You’ll regret it.

Editing

Free versions of DaVinci Resolve for editing, Fusion for any needed compositing, Blender for 3D, Audacity for audio editing, The Gimp for stills editing. The free version of Resolve doesn’t have noise reduction, but by using the Lum Vs Sat color grading panel, you can make it less visible (it makes it look like film grain instead of digital noise).

Other (prices not included in this estimation)

Extra batteries, gaffer tape, USB charger, laptop, music licensing, sound effects, legal, insurance, coffee.

The Deconstruction of the United States

Donald Trump is becoming the Great Deconstructor. By pulling out of international politics in many ways, the US loses influence. And while doing so, it alienates the beach-front liberal states, making them push ahead alone too. Basically, not only he pulls out of the international scene, but he weakens the federal government inside the US as well. Some might think that this is what Republicans wanted anyway, however, I think The Donald is doing so by mistake, without realizing that he’s doing it. Because that definitely doesn’t make America “great again”, unless they’re referring to the America of 1830.

So what’s to happen in the global future? Probably some international chaos for a while, or, another country stepping in to fill the US shoes. Most say it’d be China, but my money is on Brazil. The EU won’t accept China, so since they can’t fill up these shoes themselves due to be drowning in bureaucracy, they will probably pick a rather big, but neutral power. Brazil fits that bill.

The Polluter - Art by Eugenia Loli

Regarding honor killings

“Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death after marrying for love. ‘Honour killing’ in broad daylight outside Lahore high court involved father and brothers,” says The Guardian.

A terrible thing, of course. But the also disturbing thing is that the commentators at the Guardian continue to get it wrong. They place “religion” and “non-education” as the reasons why these honor killings happen. I’m sorry, but these people, these supposedly progressive and smart readers of The Guardian, think only skin-deep.

YES, religion is often the vehicle where this terrible action materializes. But it’s not the reason why it happens. As someone who was beaten rather regularly by my traditional Greek father for having my engagement break apart in the early ’90s, I can tell you, there was no religion behind it. And education has often little to do with all this too.

It was primarily social pressure.

You see, when you live in tribal-like communities (like most non-Westerners do), where everybody kind of knows everybody else in the vicinity at large, there’s extreme social pressure to maintain status and control within both the group, and within the family. My father constantly used to tell me that “we live with others”, hence, in his mind, he was supposed to maintain an IMAGE. The image of a strong family man. A man who had everything under control. A man where you could TRUST to give him a job (my father was a house builder, a profession that requires trust).

As such, having a daughter breaking up her engagement to a man from the same village, it was a social disaster for him (in his own mind at least). The gossip that ensued was unbearable for my family. So he acted out any way he knew how to maintain his illusion of control.

I have forgiven my dad, I hold no grudges whatsoever. In fact, there is nothing to forgive, because I know where he’s coming from. Exactly because I can understand his limited point of view, and even if I don’t agree with it, it’s enough for me to not hold grudges.

Besides, the people who carry out these acts are victims themselves. Victims of their own inability to escape cultural programming, and victims of the closed society they’re in. Close societies like that do have their advantages (they never let one of their own go hungry, for example), but you gotta play with their unwritten, irrational rules to gain their support. Societies are exactly as twisted as humans can be, because they’re made out of humans.

So, Primary reasons of honor killings/beatings:

– Re-assuring of one’s social status by doing what others expects you to do according to the local societal rules.
– Power and control within the immediate and extended family (ego and super-ego at play).
– Illusion that this way they save the rest of the family (by taking out the bad apples, the family is again pure enough for the society’s expectations).

Secondary reasons that act as permission, rather than as the main reasons:
– Cultural traditions masquerading as religious laws
– Low educational status
– Dowry and other such financial assets getting lost

So there you have it.

The Six Pillars of Health

After many years of research on the subject, I found that these are the six most important points for one’s health. In no particular order, but sunlight is probably the most important of them all.

– Exposure to Sunlight

Two hours of early AM sunlight, as minimum. Without sunlight, our mitochondria don’t work.

– Exposure to Clean Air

Extra oxygenation via walking, breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi and meditation. Vigorous exercise is not needed, and especially if you’re already sick, it must not be pursued. Sitting too much or not knowing how to breath deeply, creates lactate acidosis in the body, which is the beginning of the end for health. This is what Chinese also call “Qi liver stagnation”.

– Exposure to Clean Water

Spring water, non-fluoridated, alkaline if possible. And LOTS of it! The water, along with some salt and DHA, will act as the electricity in your body, to carry out the needed functions of what some people call “detoxification” (although that’s not the right word for what’s going on).

– Exposure to the Right Diet

Plant-based Paleo, also known as Pegan (some offal, some wild fish and eggs, but mostly plants/fruits). Removing grains and sugars from the diet, we assure that the liver will have enough B vitamins to do its job: releasing away or converting the lactic acid. Otherwise, you end up with a non-alcoholic fatty liver, and everything starts breaking down in the body. More explanation of the Pegan diet here.

– Exposure to the Right Sleep

No sleep, no bueno. Circadian rhythms is our clock, and without that clock, things fall apart. Sleep when the sun goes down, or at the very least use blue-blocker glasses at night.

– Exposure to the Right Frequencies

This might be seen as quackery, but it’s not. Non-native EMF signals, are detrimental to our health. Avoid wifi, cellphones as much as you can, and anything of the like. Walk barefoot on the bare Earth to get the right frequency to heal your body.

The Ban of Religious & Political Symbols in Europe

I’m personally against the recent European ban on wearing religious or political symbols at work (or in public). To truly be a well-functioning multi-cultural race, we must accept other people’s freedom to dress as they like. What this law is doing, is simply trying to equalize people by saying that “in work, or in public, you’re just one, bland, neutral culture”. But that’s wishful thinking, an illusion.

This is bound to create resentment, and in my view, it’s simply evil. As long as the job is not required to have very specific requirements (e.g. teachers having eye-contact, or special uniforms in chem labs etc), then people should be free to wear anything they want, at any time. Or wear nothing at all. Anything else, is tyranny, and not worthy of a progressive ideology.

True progressiveness gives freedom to the people to express themselves any way they like and at all times, not in time slots of 9-5, Mon-Fri. If anything, the enlightenment and individualism wave dictates as much! True progressives don’t hide behind the lame and hypocritical “your religion is a fairy tale, so I don’t want to be reminded of it”. Either you’re a true progressive on this, or you’re a closeted conservative.

What’s next? If there were aliens from another planet landing, that happened to be “spiritual” in some definition, to dictate to them what to wear and how to behave just so you can feel “European”? You know very well that the answer to that would be “no”. So why treat humans differently?

Star Trek: The Next Generation would be ashamed of you.

Reactions of aliens landing

If extraterrestrials were to land on Earth, here is how five types of people, based on their soul evolution, would react:

Infant souls: “Ugly m0therf/ers. Kill ’em and steal their tech.”

Baby souls: “They’re demons! Pray, pray to be saved! Oh Lord!”

Young souls: “Gentlemen, let’s do business! Coffee?”

Mature souls: “They’re different than us, but we accept diversity.”

Old souls: “Aliens? What aliens?”

What Midnight Special is, and why many viewers didn’t get it

Contrary to popular belief, “Midnight Special” is a spiritual movie, turned sci-fi, turned spiritual again.

Some Q&A, and ***SPOILERS***:

1. Where did Alton come from?

– Alton was conceived & born normally by his parents, as any human has. The fact that he could reach to other dimensions was a product of evolution. His father exhibits the same abilities (as shown at the very end when his eyes shine), but to a much smaller degree. The evolution of human kind to another state of being is teased.

2. Where did the alien structures come from?

– They were not “alien” in the traditional meaning. They were on a parallel Earth (or another dimension), an Earth that had a different evolutionary path than ours. Parallel dimensions are hidden from our awareness under normal circumstances, but the biological evolutionary step mentioned above made it possible for Alton.

3. What were these beings?

– These were light beings. That’s where the spiritual part comes in: “light beings” are considered in spiritual circles to be very advanced entities. It’s been teased by the movie that that’s where humanity’s future lies too. Also telling is that Alton is reborn by the sun (the light that gives life to everything in our planet).

4. What was the point of the movie?

– Alton is a messianic figure, just not in the traditional terms. The cult thought that he was literally a religious figure, while Alton is messianic in a more subtle way: he reluctantly gives a preview to humanity of what lies ahead for them. The movie is about humanity’s “first glimpse” of how expansive the Cosmos is. Not just in terms of aliens travelling from planet A to planet B (in the same universe) as all traditional sci-fi movies have been for so long, but also in parallel, and also up and down and inner and outer (in other words, the Cosmos is a web in all directions of different universes and dimensional existences). That’s next-level sci-fi. That’s the border between sci-fi and New Age spirituality (without the negative baggage that usually accompanies it in the minds of most people).

5. Ugh, so New Age hogwash was the point of the movie?

– No. What people today call “spirituality” is really science that hasn’t been understood yet. And since science can’t explain it yet, some “faith” might be required in the meantime for those who had direct experience with it. This is why it was so important for Lucas to say “I believe”, because after he had his direct experiences with Alton, he made the leap to faith. But belief is to be transcended by hard data, otherwise it becomes dogma, which keeps humanity down. This is what the movie is going for too: the leap from unbelief, to belief, to hard data, and not to dogma (that the organized religion/cult had fallen victim of).

The most telling scene on this interpretation, is at the very end, when Durst is cutting her hair. You can interpret that scene as simply trying to get away from FBI, so she needs to change her appearance. Another, deeper explanation would be though, that Durst’s character now is free from religion and dogma. You see, her braids were the same as the women in the cult. Even if she had left the cult, she was still bound by their beliefs for years after. By cutting down the braids, she’s now free from such beliefs and dogma, she understands that the cosmos is more expansive, and that said expansiveness is not necessarily “religious” in nature, but rather, “just is”.

This was for me the best movie of 2016. The most forward-looking, and the most “edgy” sci-fi movie of them all, by literally moving the needle of sci-fi from caricature super-heroes, monsters, and A-to-B aliens, to a more expansive terrain that’s more rich in potential. As an ex-filmmaker myself, that’s the kind of sci-fi I always wanted to make too (I’m a meta-psychedelic visual artist now).

6. So why didn’t so many people get it?

– It’s because most people aren’t indoctrinated in such cosmological ideas. Even if Alton did explain it at some point, about a “world on top of ours”, that still didn’t register with most people. Most viewers needed a way more spoon-fed explanation to get it (and maybe they should have received it, that’s a failure of the movie production companies involved to not insist that the director gives it to them).

Additionally, the press’ comparison of this movie to the ’80s Spielberg movies didn’t help at all, because this movie had absolutely nothing to do with these older movies (people went to the cinema expecting something specific and recognizable, and they got something completely different instead). So they found the movie a boring dud, as if without significance, and with a WTF ending. But there is significance in the movie, it tells of a larger world that we will eventually reach one way or another, but that we must have faith until that day comes, when that faith transforms from belief to hard scientific data.

This is not different than if the year was 1870, Jules Verne trying to convince people that one day we will have technology to reach for the stars, or the deeps of the sea, and instead, he gets people thinking he was crazy, or just a “fantasy story without significance”. All it needed was some faith in the natural process of technological and/or biological evolution. That’s what the filmmaker is asking of you today too.

How to make money from art

Well, to make money from art you gotta sell. There are three steps to making money online with art (and not via the old way of galleries and shows):

1. You must create easily-digestible “pop” art. More on this here.

2. You must market yourself. And you do that by getting A LOT of Instagram followers. Instagram has 10x the purchasing power than any other social media. Back in the day, Tumblr was big, and later was Facebook. Today, only Instagram is worth your time. So, make sure your instagram posts are very tidy, you use the right tags each time, and when you get blog articles about your art, ask them to also link to your instagram account. From there, each time you want to mention your shop or a sale you have, an instagram post will do you wonders.

3. You must sell at the right shops, using the right products on each. Don’t try uploading everything on all your shops. You have to be selective, depending on the profit provided. The last thing you want, is to start selling your most popular artwork for a profit of $1.20, that is stationary cards. Be smart. And here’s how to be smart:

A. Sell your own prints. That’s where you will make as much as 80% profit. I wrote a blog post about how to do that here. Use TicTail the way I do: you sell your own prints there, but you also link to products on third party shops. Consider your own signed prints shop your studio & gallery.

B. On Society6 you must have a three-tier system: your most popular artworks gets uploaded ONLY as art prints, framed prints, canvas, and metal prints. These are the only products that allow you to set your own profit. Set a high enough profit that is both accessible for consumers, but also gets you some good earnings. For the second tier artworks, also export and enable other products too, just make sure they’re of the expensive kind (e.g. shower curtains). This way, these products do exist for those who want them, but they don’t compete with your prints in terms of pricing (because they’d be in equal footing price-wise). And the third tier, the least popular artworks (don’t upload at all the ones that aren’t at least a bit popular btw), you export for everything. Personally, I still avoid some products completely due to their too low price that only makes artists a dollar-something: stationary cards, ipod skins, hand towels, and also apparel (I only use all-over-prints, which look way better). Consider Society6 your mall shop. PROS: lots of shoppers CONS: crippled by software bugs, doesn’t allow custom pricing for everything.

C. RedBubble allows you to set your own prices for all products, which is a huge advantage. Set a good profit for all products in your settings. The problem with RedBubble is that not as many people use it for art as they are for Society6. Therefore, at RedBubble upload only the artworks that look good on products, e.g. apparel, or clocks. Make sure you have a very high profit margin for photo-prints and posters, because these will eat away your art prints if they’re too cheap. I also always disable stationary cards and stickers there. Consider RedBubble your retail shop around the corner. PROS: custom pricing for everything. CONS: a bit more difficult to be found there.

D. Curioos is a beautiful shop (the most beautiful of all), but you only make a 10% there for art prints/canvas and metal prints. You can make there a 16% if you upload an artwork ONLY there (not a great idea). However, there is a trick, to get that 16%, by only enabling acrylic and disk prints (and die-cuts, if some of your artworks are eligible). You don’t enable prints/frames/canvas/metals at all. Because no other shop carries these three kinds of prints (acrylic, disk, die-cuts), you can select the 16% exclusive edition option. Even with 16% though, you won’t make much money there (I recently sold 16 acrylic and disk prints there and made only $200, while for the same prints on paper I’d make $900 at my own Tictail shop). That’s why it’s best to only upload on Curioos your second half of your artworks in terms of popularity. You don’t want these exotic types of prints to cannibalize your own print sales. Consider Curioos your boutique. PROS: Beautiful, functional. CONS: low profit.

E. Zazzle, LiveHeroes, DesignedbyHumans, Fab.com, Fancy.com and a few others: this is up to you if you want shops there too or not. If you are going to open shops there, again, don’t upload your most popular artworks there, because you won’t make much. For example, fab.com only pays 6%, fancy.com is a pain in the butt to upload new artworks up, liveheroes and DesignedbyHumans don’t pay much at all, and zazzle.com is ok (allows up to 99% custom profit over the base price), but it’s a really messy web site. Consider these shops like a remote gas station shop where you mostly enter just to take a piss after a long drive, but sometimes you feel obligated to buy a bag of beef jerky because the cashier is looking at you funny.