Save Movie Madness


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A real, true movie fan knows – there is more to life than streaming.  It’s bad enough that our local video shops are dropping (correction: have dropped) like flies and that we are left to scavenge the frozen tundra and pillage across land and sea to finally score that hard to find classic for the weekend, or a staff recommended blu-ray in all of it’s pristine “oh yeah, wow, nothing beats putting it directly in the blu-ray player and I forgot how much better that looks” glory.  Video stores (and music stores, for that matter) still should have a place in society and our hearts, even if the alternatives are more convenient.

“Hard to find video!” Yet extremely easy to find reflections (where’s the lens polarizer when you need it…)

It’s hard to tell if the bloodletting is over or if more closures are coming.  I remember when the Blockbusters and Hollywood Videos closed down years ago (and still, to this day, nothing has filled the old Blockbuster space in my local neighborhood of St Johns).  Slowly but surely, the others followed.  I thought for sure the St Johns Videorama location would survive, what with it’s “get a movie after working out at our gym” business model that always seemed to have some partakers perusing the aisles.  Nope!  Eventually that corner of the space occupied by the video store shuttered.  Apparently it was occupying prime real estate better served by more treadmills and ellipticals.  And then the one further down on Lombard (near Interstate) closed.  I don’t even know where my current “regional” video store is right now – I think a few neighborhoods over in Alberta but they may have closed that one, too.  I can’t keep up.

We’re all in the same boat unless you happen to live down the street from one of the few/far between survivors.  But throughout, one light remained in this cavernous valley of darkness:  Movie Madness.  Part video store, part museum, 100% gold.

As with any video store worth it’s weight – you want it, they got it.  Shelves from floor to ceiling filled with all the good stuff, and most importantly sorted by how you choose a video.  Not just alphabetical – collected by actor, by director.  Curated.  Surrounded by a collection of movie artifacts from days of old.  I’m not telling anyone anything they didn’t know already.  If you’re a fan of film in PDX, ya been there.

The march of time has led owner Mike Clark to consider options heading into retirement.  The best path forward, by far, would see control of the store handed over to the brain trust at the Hollywood Theatre and assimilated into their unique non-profit structure.  “Unique” as a movie theater that operates for the greater good.  And now adding a like-minded video store?  It’s almost too perfect.

Non-profit status should cement and enshrine things nicely, and provide some interesting cross pollination with the rest of the Hollywood Theatre portfolio.  In ways we haven’t even realized yet!  If we could only get a glimpse of what the future holds in an upcoming Rick & Morty episode, I’m sure we will all be pleased and bathe in the proverbial Szechuan synergy sauce that this non-profit partnership will provide.  Dare I say, this idea might actually take something that was already amazing by any measure, and make it better.

If this doesn’t happen, I shudder to think of another owner being able to keep this delicate treasure above water.  And I can’t imagine a Portland without Movie Madness.  Rally around what Mike and the Hollywood Theatre are trying to do – head on over to the kickstarter page now and pledge your support for the future of the best video store on the planet*.

*to my knowledge.


Update:  Movie Madness  – saved!  Now comes the real fun and the adding of stretch goals.  Stay tuned.

Make+Think+Code Workshops at PNCA


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A few months back, PNCA started a maker space – but rather than restricting access to just students, they (they, in this case, being Exec Director Nandini Ranganathan) did something very smart…  and actually somewhat unprecedented.  They opened the doors to the entire community.

Yes, you heard right – anyone can apply for a swipe card that allows you to come in and use the space and tools available, day or night.  With the idea that you will then contribute to the offerings and the community that’s building there, as you work on your projects.  Osmosis in it’s most pure form!

It’s quite a tasty collection of gear, and it continues to get better.  Computer workstations decked out with maker software, the prerequisite awesome 3D printers, a laser cutter, a CNC mill, fun VR setups like HTC Vives, large format printers (paper plotters, that is).  I could go on…

Now, they are taking the next logical step and have launched a series of workshops aimed at bringing together the awesome makers, thinkers, and coders in our ranks.  Of all levels.  Modeling in Blender, tweaking Arduino circuits, collaging light, projection mapping, basics of Unity…   I could go on.  Sorry, I repeat myself more than a laser cutter.  (ba dum dum peeeesh)

If you want in on the fun, you need to check out the full menu here, now.  These workshops are starting up soon, many as soon as next week.

It’s almost enough to turn this VFX “faker” into a maker, that’s for sure!  🙂

In Praise of Open Signal


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“You can’t stop the signal, Mal.”

I think it’s safe to say that the word is getting around…    if you do anything related to film, video, animation, or audio production and haven’t checked out the offerings over at Open Signal, you owe it to yourself to drop everything and chew on the website for a bit.  Like the legend of the phoenix, the short of it is that some of the fine folks who were involved in the community building and educational programs at the Hollywood Theatre (a gem in it’s own right) took over a great-but-dated Portland Community Media and made it cool again.  Rebranded as Open Signal, armed with a fresh paint job and an influx of top tier equipment, Portland has never been in a better position to create media of all kinds.  Having a voice!  Have an idea for a show?  A podcast?  Need access to a studio?  A greenscreen?  Animation tools?  A laptop decked out with software?  Just feel like getting out and filming something?  Whatever the case may be, they have you covered.

Highlights include shelves full of both Canon C100 mkII and Sony FS7 cameras, both of which can easily yield pro level results.  For we the VFX geeks, take note that the C100’s HDMI out can be tapped by the super portable Atomos Ninja Star recorder (about $199 new, even less used) to yield 10-bit Prores 4:2:2 HQ footage at ~200mbps.  That’s a significant jump from the camera’s built in 24mbps AVCHD 4:2:0 codec, essentially turning it into a C300 at half the cost. Most importantly, it nets you footage you can actually push around a bit in post!  Color grade your heart out!  (And note that Open Signal has Resolve classes to help you with that part, too)

The FS7 is no slouch, bumping the ante to 4k video with significant slo-mo capabilities.  Open Signal had the foresight to buy Sony’s 12bit RAW output film back, although again you’ll need your own Atomos Shogun recorder back to capture it.  Consider renting one from Pro Photo ($75/day, $225/week as I type this).  With the right lens, this tandem could (theoretically) give you an image on par with 95% of the  shows on any major network.  No joke.

I have to say, at the risk of sounding overdramatic, I do tend to sleep better at night just knowing Open Signal exists.  Make it a point to use and support this great resource;  it’s possible to gain access to both studio and field gear with a single class (Music Video Production is the one you want), and then you can further unlock access to an FS7 with a partial day workshop.

Content you create needs to be non-commercial enough to be shown on Open Signal’s public access cable channel (as in, you can’t be filming weddings for hire).  And to be clear, the classes are low cost and once you’re a certified producer, the gear is free to reserve and use.  For ref, a C100 mkII setup would cost you in upwards of $200/day at Pro Photo. An FS7?  $300/day.

So…   do it!  Stop all that noise and go make some signal.

Monthly Meetup on Tap – Pints & Pixels! Kicks off 9/14


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Many of us have expressed the urge to meet more frequently and casually to talk shop over a drink or two. Entirely thanks to a certain cat(alyst) named Dan Short, this is finally happening.  VFX/PDX’ers, we present to you Pints and Pixels!  A logo is in order here:

The community in Portland is incredibly varied and diverse in abilities, medium and experience, and this is a place where we can all meet to share skills, techniques and the current talk of the town. Come out and share a drink with us on the second Thursday of every month from 7:00PM – 10:00PM.  First meeting – September 14th at Bunk Bar (SE).  Mark your calendar.

Bunk Bar
1028 SE Water Ave
Portland, OR 97214
Thurs, Sept 14 – 7-10pm

Agenda?  Let’s keep it loose!  Networking, recent work, a hot new plugin – anything goes at this early stage.  The main thing here is stepping out and seeing all the talented folks from other studios and such here;  everyone is eternally busy and there was getting to be a bit too much time between user group events, so now we have this to count on.

To help with reminders and tracking expected numbers, please nab a free ticket over at Eventbrite:

See you there!

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