Sophie and the Glory of independant Film Making

A couple of Months before Sophie started to become a reality; I remember having a very interesting conversation with Phil Arntz, the film’s director, on our way to the Center of Manchester about the script of the film. 

Phil has this unique angle from the War seeing that he is from German descent. It was so inspiring to hear someone that was born generations after the war understand what it meant and its impact in every Human Being's destiny from that point forward. 

In those times, Wars meant something, the people that fought them actually believed they were fighting for something, greater than just Money, oil, or power. Wars were personal, they were not fought to indulge the press´s appetite for fear or shock, they were not fought behind computer systems and computerized flying drones. People fought wars, they died in them.

Sophie reflects this feeling of solitude and separation from everything that is familiar and safe. As we follow this abandoned soldier’s ordeal through the cold and abrasive trenches, we can’t help it but feel a sense of inevitability In how this journey is going to end. There is beauty to this inevitable predicament that is captured to perfection in the film.

It’s hard to believe the film was shot under £3k, and the only way someone would be able to pull this off is to build an exceptional team emotionally committed to the project. Robin Varley’s performance is well beyond anything I have seen this year in a short film. Its engaging, intense, he surrenders himself completely to the character.

Technically, Phil Arntz work is very easy to single out. There is just something about the way he frames shots that is very particular to him. It is a cinematic look that is not something that a lens or an expensive camera will necessarily give. Its part of the DNA of a great Cinematographer.

Proaim 3 feet linear slider Review

I was looking for a really simple non-motorized slider for a shot that would require the camera to move three feet in a horizontal steady movement, after looking around I came a across Proaim’s three feet Linear slider.

ProAim isn’t exactly a high end brand, and doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability and built quality. While I tend to naturally go for more reliable and trusted brands, but I have absolutely no problem trying out new things as long as the purpose is served, in this case all I needed was to get the camera from one end to the other in a steady motion. 

The packaging was perfect; the slider came properly protected with a double layered padding and a plastic cover that covered the entire slider. 

I was very surprised at how heavy the slider was, and immediately understood the reason why it’s recommended the use of two tripods to balance the weight. 

The built feels very robust and professional, the only plastic elements of the slider are the two support pieces that are attached at the end of the rails, and it’s proper plastic, they don’t feel fragile at all.

The platform looks like it’s made of aluminum, and it has the perfect weight to balance out the weight of the camera and lens against the rails. I have not tried to use a Fluid Head on the platform, but it shouldn’t be a problem.

The big issue that I have with this rail system is the four plastic pieces that serve as a connected between the camera platform and the rails. They are very fragile, don’t seem to fit properly in its place holder, and do seem to wear down very quickly. It’s beyond me why a company would go through the trouble of engineering a robust heavy duty slider and then disregard one of the main parts of the unit. 

This also explains why you are given spare plastic connectors, as using the slider for a day with a reasonable load on top of the platform created an obvious wear on the plastic. 

The assembly couldn’t be more straight forward; screw the camera on the platform, assemble it on top of the rails, connect the two plastic supports to the end of the rails and you are done.

The rails and platform provide a smooth and linear movement, but making a steady shot isn’t easy, and it takes time to master a steady consistent camera movement. Unfortunately it’s the case for all manual sliders, moving the camera without dramatic changes in speed takes practice, a lot of it. 

Shifting the lens position to a straight camera movement is simple, but a three feet slider requires a camera elevation so that the rails are not in the field of view. Placing a tripod head on top of the platform should provide enough height to make a shot like this work. 

The unit will set you back 280 USD plus the shipping charges, comparatively with the other sliders out there it’s a giveaway, the build quality is more than reasonable and it does its job properly, so if you’re looking for an affordable slider with very long rails this is definitely a good choice. 

Zacuto just gets it

The dream of any company is to be perceived as more than a business, to become recognized as something beyond an intangible brand, not just commence….something more, very few companies achieve this.

I first purchased a Zacuto product back in 2009, it was the Z-Finder Pro 2.5x, the built of the product was superb and it served its purpose, other than that I didn’t think much of it. At the time I found it to be extremely pricey, and despite the quality being on par with the price I didn’t plan in making any future purchases. This meant that while Zacuto left me with a positive impression, it had no impact at an emotional level.

A couple of years later I came across two web series called Filmed Fellas and it Film Critics, both produced by Zacuto.

The series were addictive to say the least, there was such a unique chemistry between the presenters that made the show extremely compelling and exciting to watch, but there was one episode of critics in particular that stuck with me and for some reason had a really strong impact on me.

It’s not that there was anything transcendent about the episode itself, but the way Steve Weiss reacted to a short film really impressed me, it was so honest, visceral and emotional (in a manly way of course), it showed so much respect for the film maker. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it doesn’t matter, it really made an impression on me and for some reason started changing the way I looked at Zacuto.

At first glance it doesn’t make much sense, why would it affect the way I felt about a brand? Well, Steve Weiss is not just any film critic; he is one of Zacuto’s founders. The way he gets out there and carries himself with that no BS attitude is a breath of fresh air, he understands that good business is more than selling a good product, it’s about people, it’s about going far beyond what is expected, but most importantly, it’s about becoming everything that a company isn’t supposed to be.

Maybe I’m an easy sell, doesn’t matter, give me a company that delivers a product that is a result of perfect craftsmanship and that at the same time is able to touch me at a deeper  emotional level and I’m sold.