Monday, March 26, 2012

Thought the day was going well...

...and then it snowed

For those of you who know me well, this simple weather event is quite possibly the single most exciting thing that can occur in my day.

Unless of course the rest of the day focuses on learning steadicam techniques from the inventor, co-author of “the book” and various other legends in the field.

Yup, today was a bloody ripper

Lets back track for a moment.


I focused on purchasing some gloves, knowing in advance that it'd be cold up the mountains where our steadicam workshop is taking place.

Any time left would be spent somewhere touristy.

Tried two “adventure sports stores” (hiking supplies), with over-priced and not-quite-right gloves.

On the advice of a salesperson, tried an army surplus store and found a really nice pair of finger-tip-less gloves for around $15inc tax.

Awesome car pulls up as I'm leaving, bass pumping and “spinners?” spinning. (bass was so heavy that my insides were rattling while I was sitting in MY car, 50m away...)

Ok, part one done, on to part 2.

thought it'd be nice to head to the coast

random burger enthusiasts

battling the saturday traffic (not really any different to regular week-day traffic, it's fairly relentless all the time), I found a parking station and walked to the cliffs.

This is what I saw.

Santa Monica Beach

and pier



end of route 66 (or the start, depends on your viewpoint)

life really IS like a box of chocolates


another angle on the beach

after my stroll along the sand (too cold for a dip) and the pier, I made my way back to the shopping district (3rd st prominade, with it's hundreds of buskers) for some food = burrito

for Leon

In an attempt to buy local cellphone Data access, (global data roaming package has been completely gobbled up in less than 2 days of using google maps on the iphone), I tried 4 stores (4 different cell phone companies) before T-mobile were willing to sign me up for a month. Unlimited national calls/text/2G data = $50, it'll have to do.

Having succeeded in setting up a new number, I headed back to the accommodation and attempted to get in contact with a few of the steadicam students to see who wanted a lift on sunday.

heading downtown saturday evening

Caught up with Miguel (from Brazil) for a beer at the local downtown Jazz club “the Blue Whale”.

Pretty cool stuff. Great to be sitting so close to the musicians that you can see every detail of their playing, nice vibe, ok drinks.


Up early to pack, pick-up Miguel, and head NE to the hills.

Took a little less time than expected, and had an awesome surprise on the way up – Icy remnants of snow... about 3 deg C.

one of the first to arrive, we checked into our rooms; just in time for all the equipment and instructors to arrive.

Human conveyor belt to empty the van, and it's time for lunch/introductions.

precious cargo

Thought we'd just be talking about the upcoming 5 days, and doing some book work.

How wrong was I

after a little speech, it's STRAIGHT into the rigs for a “basic” shot that involves panning/booming/walking/switching/framing/etc...

Excellent. Less than two hours in and I've already got my money's worth.

All the instructors seem to complement each other nicely (focussing on different sections of technique) and the group is split into 5 groups of 4 giving us a huge amount of time flying the steadi-rigs.

Late afternoon and the rain starts... it gets a little heavier... a little more sleet-y... then a little quieter... and yes folks – it's SNOWING!


more snow

some frozen rain

Finish the 1st days lessons with a fantastic meal, some post dinner-drinks, and it's off to bed for some rest before day 2.

can't believe how good the day went.

Happy dreams.

Friday, March 23, 2012

As I sit here...

...sipping a coffee, attempting to bash any thoughts of jet-lag into submission; it occurs to me that all things considered, I had a pretty-good day.

for those of you who aren't in "the-loop" (not that there's actually a "loop" as such, but I thought it a nice turn of phrase - which funnily enough is itself a "nice-turn-of-phrase")... I'm in Los Angeles, USA.

too little sleep and too much coffee = weird postings (be fore-warned: accept the challenge of decipherer-ing the musings below at your own risk... or skip to the photos if you like; they're pretty)

I've come halfway around the world to start learning the dark-arts of flying a camera stabilization system... (Steadicam TM)

there's a 6-day workshop up in the mountains to the east of LA, and I'm over here on a hunch that I may actually be halfway decent at it... or at least have an awesome time discovering I'm really crap.

So... flying into LAX. I've heard lots of stories, none of which have had what could be called a happy ending...

departed Brisbane on an earlier flight than booked, allowing me to comfortably collect my bags in Sydney; so I could show a customs officer that I own the gear I'm taking with me (why yes, I AM paranoid about having to pay duties and tax on equipment that I already own...).

to be honest, it's all a little bit of over-kill, since the customs officer barely mustered up the energy to move from his desk, and look at my gear. he was pretty happy to see that I had some bags, and stamp the form - which I assume will help me on the return journey.

almost bought an ipad 2 at the duty free store, as it was darn cheap (and I couldn't see the benefit in a heavier/prettier "new" one), but I decided on a long-sleeve merino shirt instead.

flight from Sydney to LA was pretty standard. Well, aside from the toddler smacking my chair-back every 5 -10 seconds, and the headphone jack on my seat being busted - though I did still manage to watch the dodgey film "Captain America" and an awesome episode of the simpsons, where homer changes his name to Max Power)

we land in LA after around 12+1/2hrs of flight (plus my 2hr flight from brisbane, and the 3+1/2hr lay-over in sydney - but minus 1hr Daylight savings = I'm lost, but I do know that I'm tired and cranky - just the way you want to feel when arriving in a new country at the "start" of their day)

having never actually flown into mainland USA before, the TSA and US customs/border patrol had a perfect opportunity to gain a new ally... and they blew it big-time...

I'm not a huge fan of all the BS you need to go through when traveling via air; but I understand that some people might feel safer with all the stuff that's in place. so I suck it up and participate to the best of my ability.

even when all I see is inefficiency, bureaucracy, tripple-handling and a massive time-waste.

we landed at 0900 local time. I was almost ready to be seen by an immigrations officer at 1000 after walking for 10 mins, and waiting in line another 30.

he checked my passport, application for tourist visa status (completed online at least 3 days in advance), and took a copy of all my fingerprints and a photo for good measure.

while waiting to be "processed" I had horrible visions of someone grabbing my bags and exiting the terminal with a brand-new 2nd hand steadicam flyer LE, and all my clothing.

Turns out I shouldn't have been worried at all.

the baggage carousal had broken down, and ALL the 300-ish passengers bags were piled-up and scattered around (seriously, it was so funny that one of the baggage handlers took photos - I'm prevented from taking my own ones by federal law, so no pretty pictures of the carnage for y'all)

once I "dug out" my two bags (one of which I'd been promised was traveling as oversized and shouldn't have even been on the carousal in the first place), I joined the line-up to exit the baggage area and clear customs.

The line looped around the entire baggage area.

what I mean is: people were collecting their bags, then walking to the other side of the room, to do a lap, before passing where they picked-up their bags, so they could move into the actual "waiting area" (ropes you normally have to wait at.)

the solution is to ask everyone to squeeze up closer together... repeatedly... (sorry hon, but asking us to stand closer together does absolutely NOTHING towards clearing the area, it just makes it LESS comfortable and trickier to navigate...)

the actual Customs process (and the initial immigrations phase) was ridiculously easy, certainly didn't feel like it was "heightened alerts' or anything... just poorly designed waiting areas for way too many people.

ok; it's 1130, and time to catch a transfer bus to collect my hire car... the company I've chosen only has one bus, and it's on a 30min loop... time to twiddle the thumbs again...

deal with all the usual BS (additional Damage waivers/breakdown assistance always gets tagged on, and it pisses me off that they won't just quote it up front. when pressed for details, the counter-staff can't even tell me the benefit, so seeing as I've already pre-paid for a comprehensive insurance and have that listed on my customer "file"- I consider it a good $100 saved)

1240-ish and I'm actually hitting the streets of LA. Woo Hoo, I can remember how to drive on the "wrong-side" without incident; time to find a map...

I've driven in sydney and vancouver traffic before; thought I'd be prepared for the chaos that is the LA freeway system, and its drivers... yeah it sucks, and everyone is tailgating at 20 MPH over the posted "limit", but it's not psycho crazy, just busy...

took the 405 onto the 5, and then the 110, but missed my exit for the 101 (to hollywood), so I ended up heading out to pasedena apparently... way north-east of where I wanted to be

abandoning all reason, I chose to get myself as lost as possible up some ultra-narrow hilly streets, then self navigate down to a major road, and see what was what.

turns-out I'm about 10 mins away from the steadicam factory in Glendale, so I stop into a mall to get some lunch, place a "pay-phone" call (roaming charges are a rort) and see if it's ok to drop by to say hi.

it is, and I do.

the factory is pretty small (then again, we are talking about insanely expensive, specialised equipment assembly and manufacturing) and it's a little chaotic, with all the preparations for our workshop on sunday, and the NAB trade-show in mid april; but the staff are ultra-friendly and happy to take me on a little tour of the facilities before accepting my sled to get a gimbal adjustment.

it's getting later in the day, and I want to do something touristy.

turns out Glendale is just to the north of the Griffith park observatory... and the Hollywoodland sign.

clichéd, but necessary.

looks like some really good running trails up there too (I'll have to test them out in a weeks time after the workshop)

next-up is navigating down the city-side of the hill, to find my accommodation for the next 2 nights.

my internal compass keeps defaulting to the "down-under" setting; and, like some kind of retarded homing pigeon, I keep heading North when I want to go south...

after a few loopy laps of the general area, I finally find somewhere to park - and thanks to the detailed instructions from my host, gain access to the place I'm staying - have a shower and download my photos from the day.

which are presented below.

I know that most of this post was a bit of a bitch-session, guess I just need to get it out of my system... to be honest, the last 1/2 hr or so - up at the observatory, looking at the hollywood sign, and downtown; interacting with tourists (instead of faceless bullies in cars) has started to restore my happy setting in preparation for what is sure to be an awesome week of learning how to "fly" a camera.

departure BNE - way back in the past

Virgin give you the option of getting wet before boarding

flying south

our 737-800 to LAX


red goes faster... right?

my first moment of happiness for the day


ahhh... it's like walking through a reallllllly familiar place (due to the frequency of its use in film/tv)

did he die here? what's the connection?

crows flying on the up-drafts - pretty cool to watch

ditto, but closer

looks like wedding photographers are similar the whole world over

awesome old telescope (that is still in use on clear nights, according to one of the tourists I spoke with)

low-flying plane = automatic trigger-response

another shot of the crows surfing the up-drafts

well it's just turned 1445 on saturday (brisbane time), which is 2145 on friday evening (Los Angeles), yet in my personal time-space I've been up (or had VERY little, horrible-quality sleep) for over 40hrs straight...

time to flop into a comfy bed for some shut-eye.

more adventures await.