Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Choosing the right digital cinema camera.

I recently attended couple of Conferences at the CWW Expo held in New York during November 14 and 15, 2012. 
There I was one conference in particular that I didn't want to miss:

Digital Cinema - Past, Present and Future

With the amount of cameras hitting the market, I felt that I could use some pointers, and they had a couple of new digital cameras that I wanted to take a look at, the Bolex and the Black Magic. Yet two more alternatives to choose from the myriad out there.

I don't consider myself a DOP, but if I'm pushed I can do the cinematography of a project and, mostly I am obsessed with the image of my projects .

In the pre digital age, there were very few cameras to choose from. There were not a lot of of film emulsions but there were a lot of  lenses. and post production was expensive.
The possible combinations were really not too staggering.

But now….wow. Or should I say WO-rkflo-W? 

The workflow of the digital cinema is one of constant creativity and choices, from the acquisition of images all the way to the compressions and the enormous resources of post production within anybody's grasp. So now the amount of possible combinations for the handling of images is staggering, and they start with cameras that acquire those images.

So the question arose during the conference: Which is the best digital camera?

Many answers, almost as many as the number of cameras out there, and with new ones coming out every other day,  DOP’s, producers, and Directors could have a never ending discussion trying to answer which camera is the best.

The panel  all agreed that the decision of which camera should be used has to be made by the DOP.

Of course the DOP's would agree.

I did not agree.

To begin with, I think that  the question should be:

Which is the best camera for my project?

I do not really need an Alexa for something that is going viral on the internet.

And something that has changed the role of the DOP is the work flow of the digital era, in which post production now plays an even bigger role.

So the discussion went on and I think that in the end there was an consensus about the fact that the decision of which camera to use should be made, not by the DOP alone, but in conjunction with the DOP. And that the people involved in the decision should be educated as to the different stages of the work flow of the project.

For me the most important word was “educated”.

I am first and foremost a Director, but I have Production responsibilities because I am part owner and my background includes photography.

So I try to be as familiar as I can with the equipment and the work flow that could be involved in a particular project.  Without affecting the quality of the image.

This is one of the reasons I have written some blog posts about the equipment that I use, to share it with the people that might benefit from that experience.

So in the next few posts I will be sharing with you my experience with the AF100 from Panasonic.

Today I am going to share a recipe that my cousin Lucía Cueto (an excellent cook) sent me, it's as mexican as can be, and soooo good!

And yes, you might have to go to a mexican specialty market to get some of the ingredients. Specially "Epazote" and "Hoja Santa".


1/2 bunch Italian Parsley
1/2 bunch of cilantro
5 large Epazote leaves
1/2 a leaf of fresh Hoja Santa
1/2 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded 
1 large garlic clove
1/4 large onion
Serrano chile -optional-
Chicken bouillon (powder)
1 quart chicken stock
2 large  Hominy corn cans
Lettuce finely shredded
5 small radishes, minced
3/4 white onion, minced
Tortilla chips

Blend all the herbs along with the tomatillos, chile, garlic, onion, 2 cups of chicken broth and 1/3 cup of Hominy corn kernels. Bring it to a medium boil until it thickens lightly due to the blended corn. Use the powdered bouillon instead of salt. Add the shredded chicken together with the rest of the Hominy corn.

Serve it hot  and make it make it colorful and fresh adding spoonfuls of radishes, onion, lettuce and cracked tortilla chips. SOme drops of lime juice will make it perfect. 


You must be careful to balance the flavor of the different herbs so that not one dominates.

UNlike the traditional Red Pozole or White Pozole, I don't add oregano and instead, I use the mix of herbs that should "speak" for  themselves.

You can substitute the chicken with pork or shell fish.

It is next to impossible to get "Epazote" or "Hoja Santa" in the USA, so once you get a hold of some, dehydrate them up and treasure them.


Friday, August 10, 2012

A graphic legacy: Daniel Schwebel Part II

Daniel had great taste, and his design could have easily been used by the beauty and fashion industry.


The following series is based on the use of typeface:

Color explosions:

And last, but not least, the series based on explosion of color. I remember him telling me about the use of Phantom to achieve the effect.

Great talent, great friend. Nothing more I could say about Daniel except....we miss you. May you rest in peace.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A graphic legacy: Daniel Schwebel Part I

I met Daniel when I directed 3 Sprite TV commercials for him.
He was the Art Director in charge of the account at the agency.

I didn’t know at the time that we would become friends. 
And I didn’t realize he had so much talent. 

But I soon learned to appreciate both his friendship and his talent.

The creative legacy he has left should not go unnoticed and so, I have decided to dedicate this posts to share with you some of that talent.

I have arbitrarily chosen pieces I like. But I have to say that his body of work as a whole deserves praise, as it did, through the years and the awards.

The pieces I have chosen share one thing in common: 
a graphic style that in many cases deserves to be in a museum of contemporary art.

But that is only my opinion.

You be the judge:

I have divided the examples of Daniel's work into arbitrary categories, the first two are mechanical and Urban Oriented.

This is a series of prompts for the TV station, based on the use of mechanical contraptions.

In this series, the city (Mexico) was captured in a contemporary, documentary style. Informal, strong and fresh.
In this piece, the urban setting helps bring extreme sports into a more reachable reality.
The subway is part of the life of every major city, but the contemporary film style is what I like about this piece.
You have to live in a megalopolis to relate to this. Breathing.

This is only part of the body of work supervised by Daniel in his role as Image Director for Canal 11.

In our next posting we will feature other pieces that will show you the creative range that was so much admired.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What I like about Panasonic Cameras Part II. AGHPX500P

I have used this camera extensively, in all sorts of situations, from covering soccer games to interviews, and landscapes, and I really like it.
I like the texture, the color and the range.

You have to understand that I was brought up with film and thus, I like the texture and the range of film. So when I moved to digital, I was looking for that.

But he thing about digital is that it is not film.

However, you can develop a look that is not your usual digital harsh texture.

A look with its own personality. And this is what I found in the AGHPX500P.

Hudson RIver Sunset

For starters, I shoot everything at 24PN and I like the CineLike V matrix... and other settings that I have discovered through trial and error.

Menus are very, very important !

The base of your image starts with the camera and the way you set it up is through the menus. The rest is done in the workflow.

Here are some samples of the images I have gotten with the AGHPX500P .
I apologize for the water mark, but nowadays you have to protect images that actually have not  been seen.



I used the AGHPX500P to shoot at least 90 % of the documentary of Rafa Marquez. 
That documentary took us to 9 cities, including Barcelona, Pamplona, New York and Stuttgart.

Camp Nou

Hudson River

This still is from a time lapse we did one of the nights FC Barcelona was playing.


One of my favorite characters in Barcelona. 
A true fan of  FC Barcelona, he talked to us about Rafa Márquez in a bar where they got together to see the game.

We interviewed Pavel Pardo In Stuttgart , he had just won the German Championship with the club.

Pavel turned out to be great on camera and he gave us some of the most valuable interviews.

Live action:

We shot most of the soccer matches on high speed.

Here we see Pavel during a training session with Stuttgart.

Friendly Mexico v USA in Houston.

When we were in the Soccer Academy where Rafa began his career in Zamora, we couldn't help  grabbing this great face.


When we talked about the AG-HVX200 in our previous post, we showed you some of the shots we got with the AGHPX500P, here are a couple more from that same project, done with natural light.

As you have seen through all the examples, the conditions of light vary considerably.
All in all. I think this has been one of the best investments we made. It has more than paid for itself and we plan to keep using it for a while longer, specially for documentaries and web content.

And now on a more serious note:

It is not easy to find half bottles of wine, and I hate opening a bottle that I will never finish. And I'm sorry, but once opened, that's it, you have to drink it.

Therefore, half bottles are ideal for me because I don't have to feel guilty by throwing away good wine.

Chateau Recougne is a nice Bordeaux. Strong and a bit earthy with god aftertaste. Great with chicken or duck.


Monday, February 13, 2012

What I like about Panasonic cameras. Part I The AG-HVX200.

I grew up with film. I thought film was magic.

And learning to shoot film was somewhat akin to being a wizard.

But times change.

And if you want to survive in this business, you know you have to keep yourself up to date.

It’s something like “change or die”.

And my, how fast do times change!

It's like the world is on speed..

The change is great actually. It has allowed us to have our own equipment, and the freedom that comes with it.

We started with a couple of Panasonic P2 cameras: the  AGHPX500P and the AG-HVX200.

The two main reasons for our choice were:

1. The look.

2. The work flow based on P2 cards.

However, you must understand that the images you get depend on many factors along the way, from image capture to image rendering and release. In other words: Work flow. So, having this in mind,  I will tell you about my experience with the AG-HVX200.


 A guerrilla camera.

A great close-quarters tool.

Some people might think that this is a camera that borders on amateur or semi-pro. And there are great advantages to that.

You can put in your backpack with a monopod and go through customs anywhere, claiming it as a personal camera. Trust me, this is a great advantage when you’re shooting in other countries.

It is great for documentaries, interviews and news.

It is great as a second camera to the AGHPX500P.

I have used them both and they intercut great, even though there is difference in texture, it works.





These images were shot at 24PN and then they were converted to 1080 for theatrical release.
But the AG-HVX200 can give you great images fast and in very different conditions.

It is very fast to use with its automatic focus and automatic iris controls. It’s almost like a point and shoot kind of camera.

All is not perfect.

The ergonomics are not great. The viewfinder sucks because it’s flimsy, and you need some sort of device to make it a real handheld camera. In my case I have found a telescopic monopod to work great.

The Leica zoom has great quality but it’s too short. And this is why I think it’s basically a close-quarters camera.

It has variable speed and variable shutter, very convenient for sports.

We use this camera extensively as a second camera in documentaries and also during tech scouts and “behind the scenes”.

You can see some examples in the Making of Golazo


Roasted chicken with cilantro & garlic

This is a first, as I am posting a recipe from a guest contributor: Victor Zeiris.

I saw photos of his dish on Face Book and asked him for the recipe, which he graciously sent me.

Marinate a whole organic chicken in a mixture of fresh cilantro, garlic, olive oil and white wine for about three hours. 

Add salt and pepper just before placing it in the roasting pan.

Chop some carrots, onions and parsnips and put them at the bottom of the roasting pan.

Add half a bottle of white wine (try not to wet the chicken, pour it on the side).

Roast at 450 F for about an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes. In the meantime you can chill, have a Negroni (or two).

Take it out of the oven. Let it rest for ten minutes. Cut it in four pieces on a carving board.

Serve with the yummy juices

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ronaldihno and Rafa Márquez: paths that cross and intertwine.

I interviewed Ronaldihno in Barcelona.

The Club had been great about asking Ronaldinho for the interview, but, as in any case, the player has the privilege to grant or not the interview.

Up to this point we had found that everybody we asked for an interview gladly accepted because it was for the documentary on Rafa Márquez

Ronaldihno was no exception, and this was at a time when he was not talking to the press.

He gave us five minutes.

He told us that for him: "Rafa, in the position he plays, is the best in the world".
And he should know because, as he told us, his career and Rafa"s have been interlaced for a long time.

They have played against each other in many games between Mexico and Brazil, the most memorable one being when Mexico beat Brazil  in the Final of the Confederation Cup played in Mexico in 1999.

After that game Rafa went on to play for Monaco and Ronaldihno went to Paris Saint German. And they faced each other again. In fact, they both scored during the same game one of the times PSG visited Monaco.

During their time in France, Rafa won the Championship of France and the Cup with Monaco. PSG, where Ronaldihno played, only reached the semifinal when they lost to Bordeaux.

Courtesy OEM
And then they became team mates and friends, sharing the beginning of the “Golden Era” of Barcelona FC where they shared the League Championship in 2004-05 and 2005-06, as well as two Super Copa in 2005 and 2006.


Their best result together was of course, winning the UEFA Champions League 2005- 06 in Paris.

In 2008, Ronaldihno was tranfered to AC Milan while Rafa stayed on in Barcelona through 2010 becoming the most successful Mexican to play in Europe in the last 10 years.