Monthly Archives: July 2013

6 ways to film a Princess

I’ve had the good fortune to film many princesses in my career…usually from the air.

There are a number of camera rigs to remove the bumps and wiggles from aerial camera shots. The Cineflex gyro-stabilized camera mount is awesome but it takes all the thrill out of hanging out the doorway over Istanbul to shoot handheld of the Grand Princess’ Inaugural Voyage.


(left) Yours truly enjoying the view of the Seven Hills of Istanbul. Do I look worried? Invigorated, yes. Worried? 

What’s to worry about? Stepping out on to the rails with nothing holding you but a climbing strap from taking a nice long dive into the Mediterranean. Hah! I spit in the face of fear !

Anyway, once you fly through the air getting great shots, it’s hard to go back to earth. You go a little insane.  The shots looks so pretty, you just can’t stop.




(above) That’s me in the Bell Long Ranger shooting in St. Thomas.  Rod Tinney, who could fly (and did) fly his helicopter between two buildings with a foot on either side) was my precision pilot. Best in the world.  He could push the envelope…but ALWAYS safely.

Or (below) hanging out the door to shoot a cruise liner. (Yes, we’re on a collision course.)

freewinds approachRod’s again the pilot. We are approaching the bow of the ship four feet off the water at 90 knots closing speed, then at the last second we’ll rise up and over the bow to see the crew on the flying bridge and over we’ll go looking down the smokestacks.

Then, we all throw up and try it again.  

We only hit the antenna once. I was glad after take 14 we had the shot, because I kept imagining the dent we’d make in the bow of the newly-painted ship and I wondered would they put a plaque up in our honor or just buff it out and paint it over.   I think the latter.

Much more preferable is the Tyler Major Mount which enabled me to get rock solid shots of the Kawasaki Jet Ski dashing across Meghan’s Bay at 50 mph (below).  With the Major Mount you can stay mostly inside the chopper which keeps the wind stream from buffeting the camera.



The camera was so well-balanced and steady I could almost take my hands off the hand grips and watch it float with the action, so I could keep the Jetski in almost perfect framing.  Nelson Tyler also makes nose mounts for high speed tracking shots or Middle Mounts for out the door shooting with lighter cameras. And Mini Gyro mounts for Canon 5D sized cameras for shooting off the back of motorcycles and boats and such.

The Cineflex mount is probably the most stable and most expensive.  But you are unhampered by wind (which pushes the tail boom around and makes aerials difficult). It’s great but can get confused with sudden chopper maneuvers.

pea bank


So, if you’re going for flat and smooth and level, this is the choice. Here’s a link to a sample of Cineflex work. It’s after the opening interviews with young pilots talking about their first solo flight.


HOVERCAM - And now walks on the stage the humble HoverCam, which takes just the camera up in the air while the flyer and camera person stay down below.  It’s all controlled remotely and can film not only outside but inside.  And these are the shots we’re planning for the Princess ships today, i.e. flights down the beautiful public spaces and soaring shots ascending through the Atrium on the new Royal Princess.j

HoverCam Tunnel(left)- the Robert Hogg’s HoverCam flying through the L.A. tunnel. That’s a shot you can’t get with a chopper-mounted camera.

(We’ll be woking with the HoverCam at our August 24 & 25 Cine Boot Camp, for any who are interested.)


So, pop quiz.

Q. What are the six ways to film a Princess?  

1) Out the door, hand-held (cheapest and most dangerous)

2) Nose Mount (rock steady, high speed, no wind buffeting but you can still get a bug on the lens)

3) Middle Mount (Lighter cameras, operate out of wind stream.)

4) Major Mount (Heavier cameras, operate out of wind stream.

5) Cineflex gyro stabilized ball (Have a beer while watching the Cineflex operator does all the work.)

6) HoverCam (flies lower than 300 feet over populated areas AND it can fly right through a hallway.)


Fletcher Murray is president of The Association and an overall great guy.  I know him personally.  He’s been spending his weekends training other camera people at the Cine Boot Camps for the last four years. He asked me to ask you if you’d like to read more of his self-serving, boring stories of his career, as long as he promises to keep them short and with lots of pictures.  So email and cast your vote.


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Professional and Kind

I had been looking forward to taking this highly praised DSLR Bootcamp for a while. I have been a Filmmaker for 5 years (Short Films/Docs/Music videos) and had just purchased a Canon 5D Mark III and needed help with it. I travel all the time and The Association (Through highly capable and professional Celine) was able to schedule me on a one on one private class with Fletcher Murray their main instructor for day one and a week later the normal scheduled day for day two. They did not dissapoint. Mr. Murray is a filmmaker with decades of experience and a natural teacher his explanations were clear, informative and delivered promptly and good naturedly.Suddenly the 5D was no longer a stranger, but a trusted friend. On Day two we all applied our recently acquired technical knowledge filming a narrative short film with professional Actors and a bunch of “camera operators” (Students with their cameras) 4 Locations including mounting the camera on a car and and old Cemetery set…Throughout I and the rest were treated kindly, patiently and most importantly PROFESSIONALLY. I highly recommend this bootcamp for those like me who are new at DSLR filming or old hands in need of refreshing their shooting skills.

Name: Pablo Lewin
Company: Pablo Lewin Productions LLC
City: Glendora
State: California

Canon Boot Camp Guest Speaker: Dana Christiaansen

dana christiaansen, cinematographer/director

Hard working, fast, amiable, and smart are just a few of the adjectives Dana’s colleagues use to describe him. Director of photography on films such as Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1987) and Beasts of War (1988), Dana Christiaansen has been working in the business for eighteen years now. A cinematographer and director with quite a vision, Christiaansen is well known for doing car commercials for Nissan, Infinity, BMW, and many others.

Dana came to our Canon Boot Camp to talk to our students about what he does, what he’s learned from his extensive experience, and answered some of our students’ cine questions . He began by showing us “XXIT“, a short film he DP’d that demonstrates the quality of the Canon C300′s performance.

Shoot Like a Pro Even If You’re Not

I don’t consider myself a great photographer or cinematographer. My technical knowledge is very limited and my professional training is only one step away from zero. Still, I’ve made a living shooting films and videos and stills for a variety of clients, mostly travel related, for nearly thirty years. How have I done it? There is a secret to getting great location pictures that I learned from a real Pro at the very start of my career. This one tip let me shoot with confidence and make a career out of location photography. It was something I learned on my first professional shoot and never forgot.

My first shootMy First Professional Photo Shoot

In 1979 I became a salesman for a small production company which specialized in multi-projector slide shows. These were very popular back in the day to communicate a corporate message. Sometimes as many as 32 or 64 projectors would be used to display the shows on a large screen. Almost immediately I sold a job to American President Lines located in Oakland, California.

Part of the job was taking aerial photos of their loading docks on the east side of San Francisco Bay. One problem, we didn’t have enough money to hire a helicopter or even a proper plane. Somehow we convinced the owner of a yellow WWI biplane to take us up in exchange for pictures of his biplane that our company photographer would take from another plane this gentleman owned. We would then be able to take aerial photos of the docks from the biplane. But, we only had one photographer in the company and he had to get really good shots of the biplane to justify our free ride! To save money it was decided that I should be the second photographer and take the shots of the docks. I could use a camera, but I wasn’t sure I was up to such a pressure packed job with so much riding on it. That’s when the Pro from our company let me in on the secret that gave me the confidence to do the job.

The Secret

“There’s really nothing to it,” the Pro said. “Anyone can take professional looking pictures. There isn’t any particular talent involved or that much technical knowledge.”

Seeing as how this guy had made a living as a pro for many years, these were comforting words. I felt better immediately. Still, how could I make sure I came back with shots we could use? “Two words,” he said, “Blam Away!” “When you are up in the plane, film is cheap. Just shoot as many shots as you can with as many different angles and settings as possible. One or two are bound to be good!” We went up and, though the wind caused my eyes to tear so badly I could hardly see, I shot and shot and shot some more. Of the three rolls of film I used up, maybe six shots were really good. The rest were not so good to terrible. “Two good shots a roll,” the Pro said approvingly, “not bad at all.” Those six shots were all we needed. I was a hero! Moreover, I decided then and there that this was what I wanted to do for a living. It was so simple once you knew the secret.

You may not become a professional, but now you can shoot like one! With today’s digital equipment the same philosophy is even more true. When you’re in that special location or event, don’t be shy. Remember the words of the old Pro. “Blam Away”! You’ll love the results.

Bad Voice Files Cause Accidents

Recent accidents blamed on bad voice files in the GPS system, have made car manufacturers and their vendors realize that these defective files can cost them millions of dollars in lawsuits, recalls, and worst of all, driver fatalities.  Here are some recent accidents ‘s due to bad GPS systems.

Bad GPS voice files are dangerous

“New Jersey Driver Follows GPS, Causes Four-Car Pileup,”

“Woman Follows GPS, Drives Straight Into Swamp,”

“Japanese Tourists Follow GPS Directions, Wind Up in Bay,”

“UK Woman Follows GPS, Drives Mercedes Into River,”

“Trucker Follows GPS Directions, Winds Up in Tree.”


What’s a Voice File? A GPS navigation system has thousands of them.  For example, a GPS computer may playback three voice files in the following command, “In a 500 yards, exit left, onto 405 North.”

And what makes that voice file “bad”?  Well, when the voice file that should have said, “Exit Right…” was mislabelled and the computer says, “Exit left” instead of “Exit Right,” things can get dangerous for a woman trying to exit the freeway on the left on a rainy night and there’s no exit ramp there.

Or let’s say the navigation system takes her into a very rough part of town.

That’s why we put such emphasis on delivering zero defect voice files to all of our clients.  We’ve been providing error-free, zero-defect voice files for 14 years, virtually since the beginning of the industry, for Clarion, Microsoft, Alpine, Johnson Controls, IBM and deCarta in multiple languages.

As we approach 100,000 error-free voice files we are proud of the fact that none of the voice files we’ve produced have been involved in an accident, nor cost our clients a penny in damages or product recalls.  But most important, as I am a grandfather now,  I know that the voice files we produce help millions travel safely on their way to their destinations.


Fletcher Murray is the President of The Association, which has been providing voice files for in-vehicle navigation systems the longest of any vendor, beginning with the Clarion/Microsoft Auto PC project in 1999, The Association has the most successful production workflow which has provided over 64,000 error-free voice files to Alpine, Johnson Controls, IBM, deCarta, Boeing, Raytheon and others.  In June, we completed a 22,400 voice file project recording “ordinary people” reading lines in eight languages to train computers to improve voice recognition scores.

Please call us at 818 841-9660 or 818 606-3538 to discuss how we can provide solutions for your voice file projects.


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NHTSA Raises the Bar on Distracted Driver Guidelines as Attorneys Lower the Boom

  distracted driver
Attorneys* are lining up for million dollar settlements as in-car application engineers race to work out the bugs in speech recognition systems in cars which lead to distracted driver lawsuits.

It Doesn’t Take Much Distraction to Cause a Fatal Accident

A car going 35 miles per hour travels 51 feet in one second as exemplified in this dramatic video, ‘Just a Second’.
Keeping the driver’s hands on the wheel and eyes on the road reduces accidents.   If a computer can’t understand you (a “comprehension disconnect”),  it aggravates the driver and creates an even more dangerous environment.
These “comprehension disconnects” happening between the driver and the computer is the second most aggravating occurence according to David Strayer, Ph.D., professor of cognition and neural sciences at the University of Utah. In his study ‘Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile’ which was reported in the July/August 2013 issue of Westways magazine, Dr. Strayer ranks driver distractions on a one to five scale (full article here).
1.00 Single Task Condition
1.21 Listening to the Radio
1.75 Listening to an Audiobook
2.27 Conversing on a hands-free Mobile Phone
2.45 Conversing on a handheld Mobile Phone
3.01 Interacting with a Speech-to-Text Device
5.00 OSPAN task (students’ “max out” point)


Speechtek magazine quotes Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of Global Automotive Research, J.D. Power, outlining the source of the consumer’s frustartions,

“As a consumer” he explains, “‘I may have to remember a set of commands and so I’m limited to those commands, but I’m also frustrated that I have to follow a different pattern of speech, things I’ve had to learn. People don’t want to do that. They want to speak naturally in their own way and have the software recognize them and then execute the commands based on what is it told to do. The consumers feel that the offerings today don’t do that; they don’t work. Consumers are clamoring for that technology to hit that level of achievement and it’s not there yet.”

To help computers understand “ordinary” humans better, The Association just finished a project recording over 22,000+ voice files of normal people from eight countries speaking 330 lines each.  They were to use their “normal” speech, so we hired no professionals.  But we did require they were no more than two generations from their native country.  Luckily, we are headquartered in Hollywood, which has attracted a vast pool of foreign nationalities, so finding an ample supply of qualified voice speakers was not difficult.

So, now we’re helping both sides of the in-car conversation.  
For over fourteen years we’ve been supplying professional voice over artists to be
pleasant voices for the computers in the car.  
Now we’re helping our clients train the computers to be better listeners.  We’re all for a safer road.  
Our forward-looking client, whom we can’t mention at this time, is staying ahead of the anticipated NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Phase III guidelines, which will most likely address voice-activated controls to further minimize distractions.  When Phase III rolls out, they want their computers “smart” enough to pass their comprehension guidelines.
*A ‘Driver Distraction Accidents‘ report by Attorney Eric Hageman of PritzgerOlsen outlines the NHTSA’ Phase I and II guidelines and predicts the content of Phase III guidelines.
The Association has been providing voice files for in-vehicle navigation systems the longest of any vendor, beginning with the Clarion/Microsoft Auto PC project in 1999, The Association has the most successful production workflow which has provided over 64,000 error-free voice files to Alpine, Johnson Controls, IBM, deCarta, Boeing, Raytheon and others.  In June, we completed a 22,400 voice file project recording “ordinary people” reading lines in eight languages to train computers to improve voice recognition scores.

Please call us at 818 841-9660 or 818 606-3538 to discuss how we can provide solutions for your voice file projects.


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Never Lost a Battle (in Voice Technologies)

On a recent visit to Prague I was haunted by an immense statue on Vitkov Hill which overlooks the city.


General ZizkaIt is of Jan Zizka, a Czech general and Hussite leader, who fought in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, with a Polish-Lithuanian army in defeating the Teutonic Order.

General Zizka is one of six commanders in history who were never defeated. The others, according to Wikipedia, were Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, Genghis Khan, Alexander Suvorov, and Khalid ibn al-Walid (although they are not counting arguments they had with their wives).

Today, the battles we fight are not on such a grand scale.  We don’t get a chance to fight the Teutonic Order but we’re still in a fight for our lives in the corporate world.  They’re not big battles against massed troops. Today our enemies are the little mistakes that slip through the cracks.  These errors that accumulate in our personnel folder and eventually determine our fate.

We at The Association prefer to believe that we are your strong ally as you wage your corporate battles by providing solutions to your challenges.  We take full responsibility for projects and implement quality control measures to make sure the project’s a success over time.

It all adds up to quality and sustainability.


OUR ATTITUDE - We take the attitude of General Žižka into every project.

When we’re recording voice files, we don’t have to pull out the battleaxe to ward of the Teutonic Order.  The enemies of today are much smaller but just as lethal. We have to guard against errors creeping into the voice file set  like:

Czech general

  • incorrect vocabulary tree syntax
  • disjointed phrase lists
  • improper parsing of english phrases causing difficulty in other languages
  • incorrect grammar
  • scripts not localized
  • words skipped by voice talent
  • excessive mouth clicks etc.
  • inconsistent volume, tonality, cadence, diction, warmth, inflection
  • deviations from the script
  • mislabelled voice files
  • missing voice files



When we began this work fourteen years ago as GPS systems were introduced to vehicles, we studied where errors creep in.  We derived a checklist and workflow to detect and correct these errors.  Richard Robinson, who produced voice files used in Great Britain’s mass transit systems, was the primary architect of our production line.  To augment his efforts, we introduced Quality Control checkpoints before, during and after the recording process.

And the last step on the checklist is for three of our QC people listen to all the voice files independently to make sure all files are recorded correctly, labelled as scripted and that they fit seamlessly with the files we’ve already produced.


As a result, we have maintained a 100% error free record since the beginning. We have never had to re-record a single voice file. Our clients have won the J.D. Power award for Excellence.


Here’s an example of the seamless voice files we produce (short files combining to make a smooth sentence) versus disjointed files others produce.

Click HERE for DISJOINTED voice files.

Click HERE for SEAMLESS*, natural sounding voice files.
*Seamless Voice Files. The phrases we record combine seamlessly into a coherent pleasant sentence that sounds like it was recorded all at once.


The Association has been providing voice files for in-vehicle navigation systems the longest of any vendor, beginning with the Clarion/Microsoft Auto PC project in 1999, The Association has the most successful production workflow which has provided over 64,000 error-free voice files to Alpine, Johnson Controls, IBM, deCarta, Boeing, Raytheon and others.  In June, we completed a 22,400 voice file project recording “ordinary people” reading lines in eight languages to train computers to improve voice recognition scores.

Please call us at 818 841-9660 or 818 606-3538 to discuss how we can provide solutions for your voice file projects.


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Killer 3 — Coming soon

If you’ve been keeping up with the short films produced by the Cine Boot Camp, you may have already seen “Killer” and “Killer 2″. This weekend will round out the Killer Trilogy written by Fletcher Murray. We will be shooting the final installment, “Killer 3″, at the June 29/30 Canon HDSLR workshop. We’ll be using a HoverCam to shoot car shots and numerous other dynamic shots. As you may have guessed from our unoriginal title, this is a short film about a killer and the consequences he or she will face. A killer’s killer is going to get killed (maybe). Is that confusing enough for you?

Our participants are going to be using cameras such as 5D Mark IIIs, 5D Mark IIs, 7Ds and the Rebel series. Before the day of the shoot, which takes place on Sunday, they will go through an intense first day of technical details on how to best operate the cameras. Because these cameras were invented primarily as a stills camera, knowing how to manipulate it to get the best video look is one of the best things students walk away with. When they shoot “Killer 3″, they will be tested to see how much information they have retained. By the end of the shoot, thanks to the assistance they will be receiving, they will become very familiar with the camera. At the end of the two-day workshop, they will be confident enough to go out and shoot their own film with their DSLRs. To be part of the action, join us at our next boot camp, at



Behind the scenes of one of our “Killer” shoots.


Below are the first two “Killer” shorts:


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10 Most Frequently Asked Questions at the Cine Boot Camp

These are common questions that I have received many times while teaching the Cine Boot Camp. These are not your standard generic questions that you can find anywhere on the web, but very specific questions that I have answered.


On a 7D specifically

1. How do I see my histogram?

The histogram can not be seen live in the video mode, but can be seen live in the stills mode. So, switch to the stills side of the camera, press the live view button to see your screen on your LCD and press info until your histogram shows up.

On a 5D Mark II specifically:

2. I keep pressing the Info button but the histogram isn’t showing up. Why?

You need to set your camera up so that your histogram will show up. Go to your menu. Under Live View/Movie func. set. Go to LV func. setting and set your display as movie display.

3. Why can’t I see my videos in playback?

Go to your menu. Select Live View/Movie func. set. Go to “LV func. setting” and select “stills+movie”, next select Movie Display under “Screen Settings”


All Canon HDSLRs

4. Why can’t I change my ISO?

You are probably not in Manual mode. Make sure your dial is set at “M”


5. Why can’t I change my exposure?

You are probably not in Manual mode. Make sure your dial is set at “M”


6. What happened to all my settings? I don’t recognize my settings!

You probably accidentally shifted to your dial to something besides “M”.  One of the most common things that happens, especially on the 7D and 5D Mark II, is that the dial accidentally gets bumped.


7. Why is the movement of the video stuttering?

You may have accidentally put your shutter speed really high. The shutter speed is changed with the little wheel at the top right of you camera. You may have dialed it up while you were trying to change something else, such as your f-stop.


8. Why is my video so dark or very bright even though my ISO and f-stop are the proper setting?

You probably changed your shutter speed by accident. The shutter speed is changed with the little wheel at the top right of you camera. You may have dialed it up while you were trying to change something else, such as your f-stop.


9. Why can’t I take a picture of the white card for my custom white balance?

Your lens is probably on Auto Focus so it is looking for something to focus on, but can’t because there is nothing to focus on. Set you lens to Manual Focus and you’ll be able to take the still. Make sure you are properly exposed to achieve the correct custom white balance!


10. Why does my image exposure change when I move my camera from a dark environment to a lit environment and vice versa?

Your Auto Lighting Optimizer is on and needs to be disabled. Look under your menu settings to make the change.


Hopefully, this will help you solve some of the peskiest problems that you were not able to figure out!

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