The Grand Canyon #1

This past weekend, Kathryn, our friends Adam, Emily, and I drove out to a town called Williams in Arizona.  From there we took a train to the south ridge of the Grand Canyon.

Since I have ca 80 photos I want to post, I’ll have to do this in segments.

 

 

We began by driving out into the desert.  In my mind, the Mojave has always been a myth, yet there it was.  I imagined the setting of The Gunslinger (my favorite book) and this man trying to cross something of this scale with only his waterbags and his revolvers.

The tourguide on our train was named Morgan.  There should be a book about her.  Just before we got off at the park she said “Keep in mind that life is not about the number of breaths we take, but rather the moments that take our breath away.”

When we walked up to the rim, a little boy next to me said “It looks like a large photograph.”

A few moments later, Kathryn said it looks like a painting.

 

 

 

Session 9

A disappointment but worth the experience.

I came across Session 9 when I was researching the inspirations of Team Silent (the group who created the original Silent Hill games at Konami). Session 9 is a USA Films production written and directed by Brad Anderson. The film is set in the former Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, MA. The plot revolves around a small hasmat team hired to remove asbestos for the institution’s renovation as a community center.

Session 9 has got some great ideas, the most important one being the usage of the actual, real life Danvers Hospital. The complex itself is the central character and its natural allure, mystery, and disfigurement permeate the film so effectively, I could just watch a film touring the structures. Unfortunately, the setting is really where the virtues of the production stop. Session 9 could have been so much more, but really, what it comes down to is a lack of craft.

Directing. It’s obvious, from the first 5 minutes of the film, something is lacking in the character relationships. They just don’t feel connected. Some may say this is intentional, to show their familial dysfunction. If that was the case, it was too soon. My feeling is that so much more could have been brought out if the director focused on building the relationships before the first scene, like The Shining, and then letting the plot unravel the connections.  From the very beginning, I just don’t believe in the characters’ histories with each other. They feel stilted. If you can’t believe in the characters, you can’t believe in the film.

Cinematography. It doesn’t matter how gorgeous the set is, if the cameras don’t see properly, all that production value is lost. In the first few minutes of the film, I became skeptical. Two characters, Phil and Gordon are sitting in a van in daylight. The outside is blownout so badly it detracts from the van interior where dialogue is happening. Very often, depth of field is overlooked. There are many shots where it would have lent much more dramatic effect to focus on the foreground character elements and leave the background blurred and then rack focus to elements of interest as they enter the character’s attention. This would have better placed the audience in the film, allowing them to see things only when the characters themselves see them. Finally, a more realistic image would have been captured with a different selection of lenses. There were many close up shots (and I’m going back to the opening scenes in the van) where the lens was too wide and the shot was suffering from optic distortion.

Preproduction and Post. However the script was written, it felt too simple in the end. The resolution and meaning of “Session 9” just didn’t fulfill me as a viewer. I didn’t feel a build up in rising action or a real climax in the plot. There were disjointed events that should have been better brought together.  In watching the “alternative ending” and other deleted scenes on the DVD, I get the idea there were other possibilities as far as the film’s protagonist and climax. In a plot, these elements are the real cornerstones. If there were other possibilities being shot then I wonder if the script was really fully baked. I understand if there are elements left to improv and inspiration (David Lynch is my favorite director), but this film is really a ghost story, and as such you can’t afford to go in without a well defined map. Maybe these decisions were made in the edit room. In any respect, I was let down by the simplicity of the resolution. The significance of “Session 9” was little more than a voice over, which is a last ditch device to tell the audience the film’s meaning, as opposed to really allowing them to experience it.

Though I’m pointing out areas to improve, I’m glad I watched this film. There were moments when I was pulled in to the set, the lighting, and mood and my heart got moving. However, these moments of trance would be broken again by lack of attention to craft. Visually, there are some gems well worth seeing, but I think they are much more to the credit of the hospital than to the production. If you are a student of the genre, do watch this. It’s worth the experience and analysis. If you are looking for a good ghost story, though, Tale of Two Sisters is still in the top of my list.

Gate of Flesh

Last night I finally got to watch my latest NetFlix arrival, Gate of Flesh, by Seijun Suzuki.  Now, I can already hear the gasps among some of my friends who will read this and think I’ve descended into genres heretofore “taboo”.  Gate of Flesh is a 1964 film from the famous Nikkatsu studios of Japan.  The script was originally intended to be a low budget, semi-erotic flick (ok, I admit it) about a sisterhood of prostitutes surviving in postwar Tokyo and the drama ensuing when a former soldier joins their family.  The script was handed to contract director Seijun Suzuki who turned the script into a surreal drama with the visual and psychological aesthetics that have made him an undeniable rock and rebel in cinematic history.  (other notables I’ve commented on in the past are Branded to Kill – which got him fired from Nakkatsu and Tokyo Drifter)  [ Wikipedia does a much better job extolling the merits and history of Suzuki; his article is located here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seijun_Suzuki). ]

Gate of Flesh plays the hands of innocence vs experience, love vs. lust, sacred vs sacrilage, and freedom vs occupation by the United States.  Suzuki evokes these ideas within a simple plot of a young woman named Maya who becomes a street worker.  As she descends (quite literally) into the ruins of Tokyo and into the dark underpinnings of her own desperation, she assumes a family of like women.  It becomes quickly apparent that the big sisters who should be her supports are more childlike than herself, and when a man named Shin joins their world, already tenuous relationships break and Maya falls further into her descent.  The outcome and the meaning I think are best left for you to experience first hand, but needless to say, the best parts of the film will be left untold here.

Having read that, you’re probably thinking this isn’t the feel-good movie of the season.  It’s not.  It is gorgeous.  It is moving in its sheer brilliance and depth.  The cinematography and the sets are so well married it is astounding to realize Suzuki had only 10 days to preproduce and 25 days to shoot (according to interviews with the director himself on the Criterion Collection DVD).  The performances are each individual and supberb.  Suzuki’s production designer Takeo Kimura comments in the interviews that Suzuki did not direct for reality but his own surrealistic vision of the characters.  

If you have a penchant for artfilms, the time and an open mind, you should really sit down and watch this film.

 

Pro Scores and Designer Sound FX from VideoCopilot.net

Hi All,

Late last week, a pair of DVDs arrived at my office.  I ordered the “Pro Scores” and “Designer Sound FX” package from VideoCopilot.net.  If you haven’t given the ads a look, do check them out.  I finally got through all the mixed tracks this weekend and they’re incredible!  It’s all royalty free music and sound which can be used in your projects and compositions.  I have not found anything to rival it in quality or price.

Fires in Los Angeles

I was a bit surprised by the Montecito fires only to find out shortly thereafter that Los Angeles County had fires of its own to deal with.

I was no where near the flames, but, like most people around me, it was the topic of discussion and the reason the TV was on.  I wasn’t effected but I know people who were.  (No doubt some of you reading this fall in that category in which case I hope things turned out all right in the end.)

I’m on travel in Minneapolis right now, however, here are a few quick shots I was able to cobble together remotely.

It got dark a little early with the smoke blocking out the setting sun.  Two shots were taken Saturday ca. sunset while the other shot was taken Sunday morning on the main drag in Marina Del Rey. 

Marina Del Rey during Los Angeles Fires, SethPerkins.com

 

 Sun Reflection in Side View - Marina Del Rey - SethPerkins.com

 

Couple walks in Marina Del Rey Ash - SethPerkins.com

 

 

 

 

Neighborhood Shots – The Burning Tree

The past few weeks, I’ve been trying to go out at night, when the streets are wet, to take photos around my neighborhood (see the “photos” link under the Main Menu).  The past few nights I’ve been particularly anxious to get some shots as the leaves have passed their peak and are falling quick, making some really interesting splashes of color.

I spent last evening with my friends, the Daures, down in Stamford.  When we took a walk, I seriously regretted not bring my tripod as their neighborhood has some interesting turns and windy paths.  Needless to say, when I got home (ca 1:00) I was too psyched to go to sleep.  I grabbed my tripod and walked the neighborhood until 3 or so.  Here are some of the shots I’ve pulled off the cards so far.  More are on the way.

Norwalk, CT - Burning Tree - by Seth Perkins

Rainy Streets – look at the pic for a few seocnds

 

 

Last night, I was walking with my brother to his car, and saw this light refllecting off the pavement around me.  After he took off, I grabbed my cam and tripod, and began a short adventure around my neighborhood. I got a few looks (some amused).  I think I’m going to turn this into a series.  I need to do a little technical thinking about how to present these.  More to come.

IBC – Last Day – Red Scarlett

I first saw this cam at NAB 2008 a few months ago.  Supposedly you are looking at a camera with 3k lines of resolution for $3k!!!

My brother and I currently shoot on his Canon XL-2.  That rig cost more than this thing will.  I watched a demo of the Red integration with Adobe.  Pretty amazing: got me to go back to the Red booth and stare some more.

IBC Red Scarlett

IBC – Day 3 – Jeffrey Katzenberg – World’s First Live 3D HD Broadcast

Ok.  This is going to go under the “geek list” I know, but my day at IBC rounded off with a really cool event: the world’s first live broadcast of 3D in HighDef!  The content was an interview conducted by Elizabeth Daley (dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts).  The subject was Jeffrey Katzenberg and his viewpoints on 3D in cinema and the film industry’s ability to drive this technology.  For those of you who don’t know, Jeffrey Katzenberg is CEO of Dreamworks Animation. 

First off, I have to tell you, as the clock was counting down, I was a bit nervous for all the techs and companies involved in this feat.  This was by no means “trivial”.  But, let me tell you, when the signal switched over to LA it was GORGEOUS!  I mean, it was there, it was 3D, it was real.  

Basically, what was discussed was 3D as an eventuality.  Katzenberg put 3D on the same plain as the advent of “talkies” and the adoption of color.  3D, he said, is only another innovation bringing the experience of the sense of sight closer to our own perception of the real world.  

I’m a believer.

He went into discussion of Dreamworks Animation and how he’s pushing to bring 3D into reality by making it part of the production workflow.  Emphasizing that point, he showed a test clip of a scene from Kung-Fu Panda (which I finally got to watch on the plane over).  In this test clip, his team revamped the renders and edits during the escape-from-prison scene.  It was just: perfect.  This was followed by something even better : a 3D clip from Monsters Versus Aliens.  Oh, MAN!  Does it stop?!  It was hilarious and beautiful and just: incredible!  

Anyway.  I’ve got a lot of stuff to jot down here, but it’s late.  It’s 2 AM in Amsterdam and my clock is still off.  Frankly, I think it’s better to let it be off.  It will make coming home that much easier:)

Videogame Design

Well, most people who know me post undergrad believe my time for videogames is non-existent: it is, except when it comes to something that’s really good.  There are some games out there many of us will just play for fun or as part of the social atmosphere, but there are a handful of games that I play just because I really really need to see them through: beginning to end like a good book.  What makes the Best Video Game in my mind?  Well, graphics, gameplay, music, sound all have to be well crafted, but before any of this stuff can come to fruition, what I want first is story.  What kind of stories grab me?  Anything involving zombies, mystery, and adventure.  It’s got to have solid characters and a plot that pulls you.

What fits that criteria?

The Silent Hill Series (Playstation 1 – 2)

Hands down one of the best pieces of video game “art” out there.  

I’ve got a screenshot to the left from Silent Hill 2 and one of its famous cinematics.  This game has it all : characters you believe in, a plot that grabs your attention, antongonists who make you jump (not laugh).  Moreover, the crafting of this game was just as finely and completely executed as some of the best movie directors yielding a complete, unbroken dream in which the player can lose his or herself for hours.

 

The Fear Effect Series (Playstation 1)

I was upset when this series was discontinued.  It had those classic elements of story, and moreover, it had some flairs that just made Fear Effect something unto itself.  The creators drew on chinese mythology and aesthetics in their settings.  Kronos coupled this with their own brand of technology for creating immersive environments called Motion FX.  The results were gorgeous.  The distinct feel merged so tightly with the plot, music and overall experience that one can look at a screeshot and easily identify, just from the cell shading and colors, that it’s a Fear Effect screenshot.

 

 

Resident Evil Series (Playstation 1 – 2)

 Everyone who plays video games knows the “Resident Evil” name, and even those who don’t play know the Resident Evil movies.  I was in highschool when my little brother and I saw the cover of this game with the crazed charicature of some guy, a gun, and a spider.  It just looked nuts!  For all intents and purposes, at the time, the first Resident Evil was nuts!  It was something new and, as most authorities tend to agree : the real beginning of a genre (alongside Silent Hill) of what’s become known as “Survival Horror”.  

Resident Evil has that plot which just latches on.  As time has progressed the environments, graphics and gameplay (Resident Evil 4) have evolved immensley, and underneath all that is still the continuation of plots that I, as a player, really want to see unraveled.

 


Haunting Ground (Playstation 2)

 My brother got me this game for Christmas.  I’m embarrassed to say, I hadn’t even heard of it until I played for the first time.  Reviews on this game  are fairly polarized.  I’m among the group that considers this an incredible play and a great piece of work.  The story has a similar element to Silent Hill 2 in that it revolves around revealing the forgotten history of the main character.  Sometimes selective amnesia can be a cliche, but in this case, it just works well.  The quantity of antagonists is significantly less than Silent Hill or Resident Evil, so the focus is more on the quality of the individual characters and the dramatics inherent.  

 

 

 

 

 

 Phantasmagoria (PC)

This was the game in my library for a long time.  I had a 486SX, upgraded it to a DX4-100 and tacked on a whole 8 Megs of RAM to run this!  7 CDs!!  It was amazing.  Live actors in a gorgeously rendered 3D setting.  The story was incredible.  In retrospect, the acting might’ve been “B” but it WORKED!  It scared the heck out of me!  I just couldn’t stop playing.  I think I flew through this in two days or so of nonstop enjoyment.  That’s how I often like a game : being sucked in and not being let go until I’ve seen it through, saved the day, turned the last page.  This game is a classic and Roberta Williams is one of my favorite game designers.  By the way, she is also known for her King’s Quest Series which was another jewel of the adventure games genre.  

Reach out and make a friend