“SOLDIERS OF PAINT” NOW AVAILABLE

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Soldiers of Paint poster

For the past six years, in between working on client projects, I have been hard at work on my own documentary feature film. My colleague Mike DeChant and I produced, directed, and edited “Soldiers of Paint,” a film about D-Day recreated as a paintball game in Oklahoma. I also served as the film’s director of photography. The film was released by First Run Features the other week and is now available on DVD, Amazon, and iTunes.

 

The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. A sampling: “ I am no fan of documentaries. What I am a fan of is exceptional storytelling, and that’s exactly what is delivered with ‘Soldiers of Paint’. It’s relevant. It’s fun. It explores a lifestyle I never imagined nor knew anything about. If more features came down the pike like this—that celebrated a uniquely American event in a uniquely American way—I’d be hard-pressed NOT to fall in love with documentaries because this one, in particular, is a delight.” – Edward Lee

 

Canon C300 in the house

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Canon C300

This week I welcomed into my collection of gear the Canon C300 video camcorder. The C300 was released in the Fall of 2011 as an answer to Sony’s F3, released a year prior. Both cameras record on Super-35-sized sensors, which is a size previously available only via the Canon 5D and the Red One, both of which had their share of obstacles  — lack of basic functionality in the case of the 5D; price tag and overly complex backend structure in the case of the Red One.

 

Still, the F3 was not an immediate hit when it was released. My guess is that the price tag, after factoring the cost of lenses, made it not that much cheaper than a Red. But it was still much easier to use and the inclusion of existing SxS media cards made the media simple and inexpensive when compared with the Red.

 

As a director of photography it is part of my job to keep an eye on technology and position myself to own the cameras that my clients are asking for. Very few were asking for the F3, so I held off.

 

When the C300, which offered similar technology at a similar price point, was released I was not sure how it shake out with the F3. Would the market be split between the two? Or would it gravitate toward one over the other? Personally, I prefer the F3, But the final word is up to the market, not me. So again, I held off, waiting to see how things would play out.

 

This Spring, I began to get requests from my clients for the C300 at an increasing frequency. Some of clients have even bought a C300 for their productions. From my corner of the film business, it appears the dust has settled: the C300 it is. I’m guessing this is because of price point and familiarity. The 5D has popularized the Canon brand as one of quality and breath-taking images in the minds of many and being able to use existing EOS Canon still lenses, which many people bought during the 5D boom, makes the cost much more attractive than an F3.

 

As with most things, there are trade-offs, most notably the inability to ride the iris on the C300. Still lenses are not designed like video lenses, so changing the iris incurs a visible flick of exposure from one stop to another. I suspect this will become acceptable as we see it more and more. Meanwhile, I will enjoy having back all the familiar video trappings that were missing from the 5D. XLR inputs!

 

 

CANON 5D MARKIII IN ACTION AT THE SMITHSONIAN

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Roads of Arabia exhibit

I got a chance yesterday to use my newly acquired Canon 5D Mark III for the first time on a shoot and boy, wow! I will be the first person to complain about the practicality of using a DSLR for video shooting, but once you see how gorgeous the images it produces are, well, suddenly you’re willing to put up with a lot. The shoot was for an upcoming Smithsonian exhibit called “Roads of Arabia”. The exhibit brings together various artifacts created in Arabia more than 6,000 years ago. We shot the museum curators as they were literally opening the crates and pulling out the ancient items. Here a curator inspects Arabian jewelery.

THE PURPOSE OF THE UNIVERSE ON NATGEO

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

National Geographic's Evacuate Earth

I shot some interviews this week for a National Geographic show called “Evacuate Earth”, which is about what would happen if the human race suddenly had to abandon the planet because of an impending meteor impact or a collapsing star. All seemed to agree that evacuation in the future was inevitable, but the last interviewee of the day added something else that I found particularly interesting.

 “If I were to theorize on what the purpose of the universe is,” he said, “its purpose is to produce light.”

When asked if he thought the human race was worth saving, he said yes because we are part of the fabric of the universe. “If I were to theorize on what the purpose of the univerise is,” he said, “its purpose is to produce light.” The big bang, he added, produced a billion particles of light for every proton. And every event since has produced light. “When you look out into the sky, what do you see?”, he asked. “You see balls of matter putting out light — the stars.” Humans, he thinks, are part of this process.

 

We evolved to develop intelligence that allows us to free light from matter that otherwise would not have been freed on its own. Ensuring our continued existence, then, is important for maintaing the purpose of the universe. To borrow a word from Mr. Spock, “fascinating.”

CHOCOLATE COVERED CAMERAMAN

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

DC Cupcakes

A new “DC Cupcakes” special airs next week on the 8th on TLC at 10pm. The show is centered around two sisters and their mother (”Mommy”) who run a cupcake shop in Georgetown. We shot part of this episode on a Saturday in December at their facility in Virginia where the girls had set up a training session for new employees, including Mommy.

 A huge cloud of chocolate powder immediately burst from the mixing bowl, blanketing her face, two people standing near her, and me, holding a now chocolate covered camera and wearing a now brown colored outfit and shoes.

Mommy often serves as the comic relief in the show and didn’t disappoint when, while learning to mix batter with the other trainees, started her industrial mixer on “max”. A huge cloud of chocolate powder immediately burst from the mixing bowl, blanketing her face, two people standing near her, and me, holding a now chocolate covered camera and wearing a now brown colored outfit and shoes. I ordinarily enjoy getting dirty at the office, but on this day I was attending a holiday party directly after the shoot with no time to change. I went anyway, and ended up having a great conversation-starter.

 

This is the final episode of the third season. We just started shooting the fourth season this week, for which I am serving as director of photography for part of it. That’s me above shooting Sophie, one of the sisters, at the shop in Georgetown.

SOMETIMES I REALLY LOVE MY JOB

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

USA NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM

Ok, I actually love my job most of the time, but sometimes I really love my job. This weekend was one of those times. The US men’s national soccer team is in town for their friendly match against Brazil Wednesday. One of my clients is US Youth Soccer, who called to ask me if I was available to shoot some interviews with a few of the players last night at the W Hotel. I’m a big soccer fan and play often so the fact that someone wanted me to go meet our World Cup team and get paid for it was too good to be true. And in many ways it seemed like it was.

 

I ended up sitting in on a team meeting and was privy to hearing such information as to what the pay scale is for various matches, see the guys razz Donovan for being on the cover of a video game, and watch as Bocanegra showed off his baby girl to all his teammates. You do this job long enough and you end up meeting your fair share of   celebrities and important people (presidents, senators, Marisa Tomei …) but I have never been more dumbstruck than I was last night, so much so that when I was on my way to the bathroom I spotted Klinsmann chit-chatting in the lobby and then found myself in the women’s room searching for a urinal.

 

Otherwise, I managed to keep my eyeballs in their sockets long enough to finish the shoot. They were all very nice and very patient with helping me get what my client needed. Thanks guys and good luck Wednesday!

FLIPPING THE WHITE HOUSE

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Karl Rove

The last couple months I have been working as director of photography on a Discovery Channel special about White House transitions, called “Flipping the White House“. You know, finding out just what goes down when one administration exits and another one enters (such as the story about the “W” keys being removed from keyboards by outgoing Clinton staffers).

But my favorite interview so far has to be with the White House pastry chef, who had the pleasure of serving every president from Carter to George W. Bush. In each of those administrations he never served the same dessert twice.

We’ve had the opportunity to interview several people from previous administrations, which today included Karl Rove (a very funny and affable guy). We also toured the facility where all the inauguration floats are made. It’s run by Mr. Hargrove who has been at it since the Truman Administration. His warehouse of White House artifacts resembles that of the last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (we saw the giant cowboy boot used in H.W.’s inauguration, and the crates storing the White House Christmas tree train).

 

But my favorite interview so far has to be with the White House pastry chef, who had the pleasure of serving every president from Carter to George W. Bush. In each of those administrations he never served the same dessert twice. “They can’t go out like you or I,” he said in his thick French accent. “So you have to keep them in-ter-ested.”

AREA 51

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Area 51

I think we can all agree there are a lot of talking heads in this town and that means shooting interviews is a big chunk of the Washington, DC, cameraman’s work. I am no exception.

 

Most interviews are usually the same lighting set-up: key light here, back light there, fill over there … after a while you begin to feel like you could set them up with your eyes closed. But yesterday I got to shoot an interview that very much required my eyes be open. It was for a Discovery Channel show on Area 51 and the producers had been shooting their interviews in a much more stylized fashion that was much different from “the usual”.

 

They showed me a screen grab of a Vladimir Putin interview they used to inspire their look. It looked like an illustration — beautiful, different, and cool. There was no backlight and the background was only subtlety lit. The subject (Putin) was illuminated with a very toppy (”toppy” being a highly technical term) light, heavily flagged off to prevent spill. My task was to try and do something similar for an interview with a lawyer who had sued the government for damages against Area 51 workers. The location was at GW campus and naturally we were given a tiny room with which to work, but I think we still got something pretty close. Either way, I think it looks dang cool and I had a lot of fun lighting it. Shot on an F3 with a Zeiss ZF 50mm prime.

“WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU SHOOT?”

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

library of congress

This is a question I get asked on nearly every shoot I do. My answer is always the same: “A little bit of everything.” This past week was a perfect example: Mon-Wed I directed and shot a panel show with Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Pat Buchanan (who remarked at the end of the panel, after seeing the seven or so crew members in the room, “Wow, there’s a lot of people working here. This must be union.”); Thursday I shot interviews for an environmental technology company; and yesterday I worked on maybe my oddest job yet — shooting blimps flying around the Library of Congress. Yes, blimps. In the Library of Congress.

I worked on maybe my oddest job yet — shooting blimps flying around the Library of Congress. Yes, blimps. In the Library of Congress.

They were brought by English artist Isabella Streffen who traveled here from England for the shoot and found me through this website. The word “Hawk” was stamped on of the blimps, and “Dove” was stam- ped on the other. Isabella travels back to England today and will quickly edit the clips into a video installation piece so she can return in a couple weeks to screen it as part of DC’s 5×5 art project, which takes places later this month in conjuncton with Cherry Blossom Festival.

 

Isabella’s film will be projected onto the side of the MLK library in Chinatown. The 5×5 project is meant to “enliven publicly accessible spaces and add a layer of creativity and artistic expression.”

“MLK: MORE THAN A DREAM” AIRS TOMORROW

By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Director of Photography & Cinematographer

Colin Powell

 

A new documentary produced and edited by friend and colleague Kirk Mangles airs on DirectTV’s Audience Network. Kirk had hired me a couple months ago to shoot some last minute interviews for the piece, including Colin Powell (below), Congressman John Lewis (who marched with Dr. King) and football broadcaster James Brown. It was a pleasure meeting these admirable men. The documentary features first-hand accounts from civil rights leaders who worked alongside Dr. King and provides a never-before-seen look at the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.