See What I’m Saying

See What I'm SayingSee What I’m Saying is the amazing feature length documentary directed by Hilari Scarl about 4 deaf entertainers. I am proud to have been the Director of Photography for this multi award-winning film.

Deaf people can do anything but hear. But an all deaf rock band? An international deaf comic famous around the world but unknown to hearing people? A modern day Buster Keaton who teaches at Juilliard but is currently homeless? A hard of hearing singer who is considered “not deaf enough?”

Hailed by The New York Times as “Complex, candid and all-but essential viewing for hearing audiences,  Hilari Scarl’s intrepid debut feature, ‘See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary,’  educates without lecturing and engages without effort.”

SEE WHAT I’M SAYING follows the journeys of four extraordinary deaf entertainers over the course of a single year as their stories intertwine and culminate in some of the most important events of their lives: You can find out more about Hilari and the film here.

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No Stone To Throw

Sierra - No Stone To ThrowMany years ago Rocket 88 Studios was primarily a post production house, and one of our young directors came to us with a problem: he had just gotten a contract from a small independent label in Nashville to produce a music video for a trio of singers named Sierra, but he had no experience in producing himself and had no crew. We took on the challenge and became the producing partner and post production facility for “No Stone To Throw”.

Rocket 88 Studios assembled the crew of very talented crafts people, arranged a transportation team to caravan our equipment, makeup trailer and picture vehicle up to Wrightwood, CA, and planned a 2-day shoot in the mountains outside of Los Angeles. Everybody had a lot of fun on the shoot and we came home with a half dozen cans of exposed 16mm film that was lensed by Jeff Gatesman, and our production company was officially born.

Here is the finished product.

Full Contact Scrabble

Scrabble-thumb-smIn the game of Scrabble the consequences of a challenge are, at worst, a lost turn. But our 3 players have come up with their own rules of play and you might want to think twice about joining in. This ain’t your mothers’ quaint board game– this is Full Contact Scrabble!

cast: Jennifer H. Cobb, Gregory Brazzel and Tracy Thomas.
co-written, directed, shot and edited by Jeff Gatesman.
Nancy Breaux: writer/producer
Gregory Brazzel: stunt coordinator
Ken Ballantine: gaffer
Scott, “Scooter” Hillman: Key Grip
Mary Beth O’Connor: set decorator
Kendrick Hudson: location coordinator
Ron King: location re-recording
Tracy Thomas: original music
Adam Johnston: sound design

Tampon Touchdown

It’s a girls against the guys tackle football game, how can that possibly go awry?

This is a little project written by Jenn Cobb (aka, the bubble gum girl who gets the upper hand in Full Contact Scrabble) who also plays the quarterback. I directed and shot the film. I also did the post. If you are interested in how we accomplished the big hit between Jenn and Aikman check out this blog post.

The Girls team were: Jennifer H Cobb
Laya Portillos
Deena Grassia
Michelle and

The Guys Teams were: Bobby Scott Schweitzer
Steven Rummenie
Samuel J Paul
Troy Remelski
Isaac C Singleton Jr

and the Stunt Coordinator was Marque Ohmes

Pedro Guimaraes was the Camera Operator and Steadicam operator
Jennifer Ann Henry and Allen Starnes were the Camera Assistants and Bret Carroll was our grip.

See What I’m Saying

SeeWhat-thumbSee What I’m Saying is a music video for the feature documentary film of the same name. The song which plays through the closing credits was written for the film by the rock band Powder.

This music video, filmed with deaf actors, is one of a kind as it is open captioned throughout, which makes it accessible to all audiences. It was directed by Hilari Scarl, co-produced, filmed and edited by Jeff Gatesman and was generously sponsored by Sprint Relay.

Forced Perspective

forced perspective
I shot this in-camera forced perspective image as a test

Can you teach new dogs, old tricks? It seems these days if you want to show something out of the ordinary in your film or video project, the default option is to composite, green screen, photoshop, or fix and create images in post, on a computer, in a digital realm. But before the days of instant-gratification cameras and super fast, powerful and affordable computers, a lot of special effects had to be created “in-camera”, meaning they were accomplished with lighting, optics and physics, which are the key elements in creating forced perspective images. In this article I’ll go over some history of the technique and show you how I used it recently.

Forced perspective is the effect of making images look smaller, larger, closer or farther away in comparision to another object in the frame. The most recognizable example of this is a photo of someone who appears to be holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A more cinematic example of forced perspective would be making a full sized actor look much smaller, ie, like a Hobbit in Lord of The Rings. Steven Spielberg even employed the technique in Close Encounters.

Close Encounters forced perspective
Spielberg placed a toy ship next to the camera to create this forced perspective shot in Close Encounters

So why bother if we can just do it in post? There are arguably many reasons for and against, but the most overwhelming reason to create forced perspective shots in-camera is simply that they look better. Case in point: Peter Jackson had a sizable budget and the digital magicians from WETA at his disposal and still chose to employ forced perspective shots in LOTR to make hobbits and dwarves look smaller than their human companions. From a producers’ standpoint, forced perspective may end up saving production money in the long run by cutting down on production and post-production time and teams of compositing artists. Image how much the shot of the ship in Close Encounters would have cost if it were a real ship transported to the desert, or something composited in post, as opposed to just placing a small model in front of the camera. Continue reading “Forced Perspective”

Johnny Rocket

Rocket 88 Studios: Live Acti-mation campaign and promo film

Rocket88 Studio: Los Angeles, Calif.
Jeff Gatesman, Writer/Director
Judith Gatesman, Executive Producer/Head of Production

Alexander Scholz played Johnny
Sam Whitehead played his Dad

Ron Turowski, Assistant Director
Pedja Radenkovic, Director of Photography
Original music written and performed by Keith Waggoner and Josh Caldwell
Jill Black, Wardrobe
Andrea Burish, Hair and Makeup
Lisa Gillespie. Sound Recordist
Greg Andrejko, Production Assistant

Special Thanks to Jim Maloney for allowing us to use his vintage Rocket 88

Concept, Script, HD Live Action, Stop Motion and 3-D Animation, Motion Graphics, Sound Editing, Title and Design.

Media Type: Commercial, Television/Internet
Genre: Visual
Content Type: Action/Adventure
Release Date: October 15, 2008
Duration: 02:45

Live Action and CG from Rocket 88 Studios, Los Angeles, CA. This self-promotion piece takes us to the imaginary world of 10 year old Johnny. Searching for an adventure, our hero wanders through his father’s garage where he finds, among other things, a captive fairy. The sound of a car horn grabs his attention as Dad rolls into the garage in his classic Rocket 88 Oldsmobile and as Johnny takes over the driver’s seat of the car, his imagination takes him on an animated mission aboard his 3-D rocket ship throughout Garage Space.

Wire Removal with After Effects

Wire removal can be useful for a variety of reasons: sometimes it is for aesthetics, such as getting rid of unsightly power lines, but if you work with stunt people, wire removal will become essential. Unfortunately, wires left behind by stunts tend to be more difficult to remove due to all of the action, moving backgrounds, etc. I recently had to remove a wire from what initially seemed to be an easy clip, but it turned out to be a little more complex and none of the “easy plug-in” methods were going to work, so I had to come up with another, more time consuming method.

Here are a couple of still frames from the before and after clips.

before wire removal
before wire removal

After wire removal process
after wire removal

The problems start with the fact that, rather than a lock-off shot, this one was made on a steadicam, so the background is in constant motion. This is an issue because I want to replace the wire with a piece of background from another frame in this clip, but because of the motion in the background, the pieces have to match in color, texture, light and motion or the fix is as apparent as the wire itself. Also the wire is fairly thick and moves vertically through the frame, so filters such as CC Simple Wire Remover, which cover the wire by extrapolating surrounding pixels, were also ineffective. Continue reading “Wire Removal with After Effects”