Category Archives: RETROfilm

Stop Motion Studio

Returning to my filmmaker roots well ahead of retirement age, Scenario RETROfilm’s little indie animation shop is progressing nicely with Olivia’s help and support. Here are our key technical investments:

Dragonframe 4 software and Bluetooth controller

Everything revolves around Dragonframe‘s amazing stop motion software and communication protocols. Compared to back when I did stop motion in the early 80s, the process is infinitely easier today. For example, Dragonframe has an “onionskin” feature which lets you superimpose the previous frame over the current frame in order to check your puppet moves. So you get immediate feedback instead of waiting a week to get your Super 8mm film back from a Kodak lab.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 bundle

Believe it or not, most stop motion is shot on DSLR cameras — not video (or film) cameras. This bundle was the best value which still meets all of Dragonframe’s requirements, as it communicates best with Canon EOS bodies. That includes the ability to display a live digital view on a Mac through the lens, and the ability to control every aspect of the exposure for every frame. This camera can produce 4K RAW images, which Dragonframe then strings together in sequence at whatever frame rate you want. That’s typically 24 fps, which means a 10-second scene is 240 frames and a 10-minute film is 14,400 frames.

The only modification I made was to swap out the Canon primary lens with a Nikon manual aperture lens. That way Dragonframe can take control of the aperture and eliminate any chance of flicker between frames. This is a known problem and a long-established solution among animators.

eMotimo ST4 Dragonframe Bundle

This is a 4-axis motion control rig sold by eMotimo in San Diego. It’s basically a robot that can smoothly repeat complex camera moves across a scene, producing the parallax shots that today’s short-attention-span-challenged audiences expect. The eMotimo Spectrum ST4 is the only head that talks directly to Dragonframe and can scrub through a shot in real time. That is a godsend to animators. That means if you screw something up in the middle of a scene that has taken hours to animate, you can simply undo those frames and the camera will move back to the precise position it was in. This rig is also great for time lapse shots and even live, unassisted interview shots. Not pictured is its remote control: An off-the-shelf PlayStation 4 DualShock controller. Simply brilliant. Kudos to eMotimo’s team, led by founder Brian Burling. He personally sold me this system.

VIVO Electric Stand Up Desk Frame w/Dual Motor and Cable Management Rack, Ergonomic Height Adjustable Standing DIY Workstation (DESK-V103E)

The slider will rest atop this adjustable platform made by VIVO (the same company that made the retractable TV ceiling mount in my RETROvan).

I’ll cut a rounded top myself out of 2’x8’x3/4″ cherry plywood. Then I can mount all kinds of equipment to it, like a power strip, drawer, keyboard shelf and even my iMac itself via a VESA bracket. This is much better than having one or two tripods sprawled out next to your set, as tripping hazards.

J.Lumi track lights

Overhead we have some cool studio track lights, fitted with LED bulbs (both daylight and warm). We’ll supplement these with other articulated desk lamps and in-set lighting as needed.

So yeah, we’ve been pretty busy writing scripts, acquiring props and building sets — inbetween our day jobs of course. I’ll post some photos of them later. Generally we’re working in 2x2x4-foot modules using 1/2″ plywood. Three such sets are currently under construction and they look amazing. Each set will simply move to a larger desktop (under those studio lights) for shooting, in production order.

My Next Toy

Despite all the naïve controversy stirred up by digital snobs, I’m getting pretty excited about Kodak’s new Super 8mm movie camera and film processing model.

This gadget will fit in nicely with my Scenario RETROfilm business plan, allowing me to integrate new interviews or other nostalgic footage into home movies that are 50 years old, preserving the same retro aesthetic without some cheap digital filter.

You can learn more about it on Kodak’s website. I love their processing model. You buy the film in 50-foot cartridges. It’s expensive, but that includes shipping, digital processing and hosting. That allows you to begin working with your footage before you get the physical film back from the lab.

The camera should roll out in October at between $2,500 and $3,000. There are four types of film cartridge, priced at $30. There are also interchangeable lens and lots of connectivity options. Super 8 Sound always sucked, but you can plug a digital microphone into this camera and capture audio on an SD card.

This is all a godsend for those of us who grew up living and breathing Super 8, turning our parents’ garages into studios.

RETROfilm Intro

Feeling polarized?

November is coming. That means elections and Thanksgiving dinner, which bring anxiety and stress for many Americans today.

You’ve probably asked yourself how we got here, facing our siblings and parents down across the social, political and cultural divides that only seem to widen with each news cycle, post and tweet.

Sociologists say we’re the products of our environment. Sure, everyone’s family dynamic was different growing up. You’re a baby boomer who fought in Vietnam and your brother is a pacifist. But you were also the same in many respects. You both still love country music and baseball, right? We have the power to redefine what it means to be family…

But we’ve all forgotten how much common ground we share.

Meanwhile, your old home movies are slowing disintegrating. Your amateur 8mm, Super 8mm and 16mm films may be dusty, moldy and scratched — but they still tell a compelling story. The story of us.

Let us help you tell that story before it gets lost to time.

At Scenario RETROfilm, we believe that when families, neighborhoods and cultures take the time to share their stories, through laughter and tears, we naturally become more human. We start to understand each other. We break down tribal barriers. We start to care again. We cooperate for the common good.

We heal as a family and a nation.

Scenario RETROfilm is gearing up to help you tell your stories through your own treasure trove of film. If you’re lucky — and old enough — you probably have a pile of film reels stashed away in some attic, basement or closet.

We will carefully transfer your old films to state-of-the-art digital videos. We’ll organize them, curate them, edit them lovingly, and find just the right music to accompany them. Sometimes funny, sometimes somber, but always avant-garde.

Then we’ll help you find a hosting plan or another easy way to share them with your friends and family.

Our rate for VIP-level service is only $1 per second of finished film. Yes, that’s $60 per minute or $3,600 per hour. And what you’ll get is not just a home movie — but a documentary.

We’ve done hundreds of RETROfilms, but here are some samples:

We at Scenario RETROfilm hereby declare each November to be #NationalHomeMovieMonth, and the weekend before each national election to be #NationalHomeMovieWeekend.

Share and share alike.