No Ordinary Hero

I am thrilled to announce that NO ORDINARY HERO starring John Maucere with Oscar winner Marlee Matlin is having its world première at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis! I am the cinematographer for this feature film which was directed by Troy Kotsur who is also deaf. We  made the film under an extremely challenging budget, in a very short timeframe, and with cast and crew working through language barriers, but it all came together very smoothly and we created a very beautiful film that will première in Indianapolis Oct 19.

NOH-posterNO ORDINARY HERO: THE SUPERDEAFY MOVIE is a family drama about a deaf actor who plays a superhero on a TV show but must look beyond his own struggles to inspire a deaf boy to believe in himself. Based on the real internationally known SuperDeafy character created by John Maucere, NO ORDINARY HERO is a story about being different and finding the one thing that makes the ordinary, Super.

Crossing Language Barriers to Produce a Film

No Ordinary Hero was conceived by the film’s star John Maucere and Director Troy Kotsur who are both deaf. Executive Producers Liz Tannenbaum and Paul Maucere are deaf, as are about half of the cast. The relationship between DP and Director is normally a close one with a lot of collaboration, and going into this project, I have to admit I was a bit concerned about communicating with Troy. But as it turned out, my concern was unfounded. Continue reading “No Ordinary Hero”

Shooting “No Ordinary Hero” on the Canon 5D MkIII and Atomos Ninja 2

by Jeff Gatesman
I have shot a feature film called No Ordinary Hero with the new Canon 5D Mk III using the clean video output to an Atomos Ninja 2 and recording to ProRes 422 Hq. This was a conscious choice for several reasons, the main one being that we have a dozen or so FX shots, mostly green screen composites and we needed the fattest “negative” our low-budget film could afford.

I will get to the meat of the subject with camera setup and recorder settings in a moment but first let me start by addressing the fat “negative” statement (and unless you are going straight from your camera output to a finished product you need to be thinking of the files as a camera negative, or at least a starting point for your final look) because when Canon came out with the firmware update on April 30 that allowed for clean video out via HDMI on the 5D Mk III, I read a few posts where people visually compared the h.264 video from the camera to the 422 video recorded by the Ninja. The conclusion that there was no discernible difference visually between the files is as expected–the codecs were doing their job, compressing and decompressing the file so that in the end they look like HD video. This is not the point of recording 422 Hq over h.264. The reason for recording the raw video to 422 Hq is to get as much information as possible for the post workflow in order to be able to cut keys easily, and color time the final film without the degradation that begins with a lossy codec like h.264.

If you compare the two codecs you can easily see the difference: h.264 is an 8-bit codec using 4:2:0 chroma subsampling, and the Ninja 2 records Pro Res 422 Hq at 10 bits using 4:2:2 chroma subsampling. A simplified comparison is that the identical files as recorded from the 5D Mk III on cf card vs the Ninja 2 weigh in at 129 MB vs 863 MB respectively. That is almost 7 times as much information in the Pro Res files. In order to make the files so miniscule, the h.264 codec has to throw away valuable information during the compression process and rely on interpolation to recreate it during decompression. You can see the effects of a lossy codec by viewing the frame grabs below, taken from the actual footage from No Ordinary Hero and cropped at 100%.

h.264 frame grab from cf card
Frame from the h.264 file recorded onto cf card Canon 5D Mk III


Pro Res 422Hq frame grab from Ninja 2
Frame from the Pro Res 422Hq file recorded onto SSD drive Atomos Ninja 2

Notice how much sharper and higher contrast the image from Pro Res looks. Continue reading “Shooting “No Ordinary Hero” on the Canon 5D MkIII and Atomos Ninja 2″

Gatesman DP For New Comedy Short

Jewtholic Teaser from Jeff Gatesman on Vimeo.

Marie sees Saints. Not Jesus in a slice of toast or a cloud formation of the Three Wise men; no,in Marie’s case Moses brings his stone tablet to her dinner party, St. John blows leaves in her back yard, she even has a full conversation with the Virgin Mary and her newly born, yet fully grown, baby Jesus. This may all seem odd for some people, but Marie has been on a path of devoted Christian Faith since childhood, until one catastrophic moment, one devastating turn in her life, reveals her to not be the person she had thought herself to be.

Mazel Tov!  Continue reading “Gatesman DP For New Comedy Short”

The One About Michael Richards

Michael Richards chasing us out of his house
Michael Richards chasing us out of his house

Have I told you my story about Michael Richards?

In 2001, the British Comedy Awards gave the Seinfeld show their award for best International comedy. The show was scheduled to air in December, 2001, tragically just months after the Terror attacks in New York, D.C and Pennsylvania, so naturally people were still a little shaky about flying, and so in lieu of traveling halfway around the globe, Michael Richards decided to send a short film, which I was asked to make, and in the process found out the naked truth: that life truly can be stranger (and funnier) than fiction. Continue reading “The One About Michael Richards”

Keep It For Your Own by POP Etc

I was recently contacted by their record company to make a promo video for POP Etc, formerly known as The Morning Benders. “Keep It For Your Own” is one of the songs coming out on their newest album and was produced by Danger Mouse.

My instructions were simple: “There is a guy going to hang one of our billboards in Silver Lake. Shoot him doing that, and cut it to the song.”

Well, there always has to a be a story for me, so I wanted to add a bit of mystique to the project. I focused on Chris, the guy hanging the billboard, and cut it so as to not reveal the sign entirely until the end. The best part for me though was hearing the song on the radio for the first time this past week.

Shot and edited by Jeff Gatesman
2nd Camera and assistant, Alexander Brennan

The Most Talented People In The World

I am honored to have been interviewed recently for the blog, The Most Talented People In The World. The blog, which is run by Jennifer Stoots, dares to ask, in a fast-paced, digitally dependent world, is there still a need for classic, analog ideas and education?

Few professions are dependent on a single concept or tool; while it is important to be able to work with and incorporate new technology, success in many areas still relies on a working knowledge of historical precedents, creativity and, above all, hands-on experience.

In her blog, Stoots seeks out and interviews various professionals in the arts and sciences who all have one similar and undeniable trait. They all exist and work in the digital world, but began their careers and have experience doing their same job under a completely different set of circumstances–before the job was dependent on microprocessors, digital chips and sensors. Before social networks, when you had to rely on experience and abilities over apps and computer programs. I am proud to be a small part of this project because I believe in Stoots’ mission, that you need to be educated in what you are doing, not just how to use a program that accomplishes a task. Because ultimately any knowledge base is built on generations of people before us, but an app is only as good as the programmer behind it.

Drum Head composite
Drum Head

For me, todays real-world example in photography of this phenomenon is truly apparent in the multitudes of plugins and actions that are readily available for Photoshop. Some of them are true additions to a program that has been around for a very long time, but as I’ve been working with the program since version 3 (that would be 1994!), I notice that most of the bundles available today, do things that are easily accomplished within Photoshop itself. All the hard-earned money you pay for those shortcuts doesn’t get you anything more than you already have and in some cases, limits the control you need to make the end product truly your own.

Will Power Wins 2012 Grand Prix of Long Beach

This year’s Long Beach Grand Prix has been one of the most exciting I’ve witnessed: there were new cars, the Dallara DW12, a controversial 10-position penalty for every team powered by Chevy, lot’s of passing, nail-biting fuel consumption strategies, and a pile-up on the hair pin turn 11, on the last lap, after Will Power had taken the checkered flag, which prevented him from taking his victory lap. Above is the video I took from my vantage point.

An obviously exhausted, yet elated Power just gets out of his car in the middle of the turn, climbs on top of it and claims his victory. One he fought his way up from the 12th starting position to achieve.

360 degrees of Slash

I recently had the opportunity to work on a project with one of the top Rock guitarists in the music industry, and it was both very exciting to be working with Slash from Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver fame, as well as to be working on a project that was paving a new road through digital photography, capturing 360° images to be processed into user-interactive camera angles.

Slash has just finished recording an album of new songs with singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy, drummer Brent Fitz and bassist Todd Kerns and part of the release will be an interactive video of the band playing the album complete, and recorded on 6  – 360° cameras. The user will be able to choose which camera to watch and have the ability to control pan and tilt. The camera technology that makes this possible comes from a couple of really smart guys at MATIvision. The album is great, and it is just an added bonus to have a front row seat to the recording of it.

UPDATE June 17, 2012

The album Apocalyptic Love has officially been released, as has an iPhone and iPad app from Mativision containing the 360 degree video.

Here are some photos I took during the process.


Day For Night shooting

Day For Night shooting from Jeff Gatesman on Vimeo.

Day for night is a classic way of shooting a night scene without expensive and huge lighting setups. Instead you shoot during the day and use various techniques to create night in post. I made this image as a test for a short film I am planning to shoot soon. It is best viewed in full frame mode.

Still from original footage

Here is a still of what the original footage looked like before processing. The cool thing about using post techniques to create night is the virtually limitless palette you have to play with: you can create any kind of night look you want, from zombie apocalypse to warm and romantic.

Baby Shower – The Doritos Spot

Baby Shower from Jeff Gatesman on Vimeo.

This is the 30-second spot I made for Doritos’ Crash The Super Bowl competition. It did not make it into the top 5.

Now, I’m not going to say that whoever makes the choices over at Doritos has no sense of humor, or that they lack taste or vision, or that they are just down right terrible at making decisions. No, I’m not going to say any those things. I’m going to take the high road, and just say congratulations to the well-deserving filmmakers who produced the five spots chosen by those “decidors” over at Doritos.

I would also like to mention Jennifer Cobb and Laya Portillos who came up with the concept and wrote “Baby Shower”, and who are the two lovely stars of the spot. Without them I would probably have just done something with dogs.

Even if you’ve seen this on the Doritos site–it was highly compressed and the audio suffered from it. Here it is in High Def with a better sounding mix.