Monday, March 22, 2010

Playing with Text in Final Cut Pro

When I was still getting comfortable with the basics of Final Cut Pro, I didn't dare take the time to try to get creative or do much experimenting--it was hard enough trying to find all my clips and get them into the timeline in order.

I've gradually started playing around with various features. I think customizing the text is one of the easiest things you can do in FCP that really changes the feel of a video.

I wish I knew more about text design. I've never taken a typography class or really studied it on my own. I learned a bit about typefaces in the Visual Communication class I took at Portland Community College a couple years ago, and I recently watched Gary Hustwit's documentary Helvetica, which was really enlightening.

I've been aware for a long time that text has a significant impact in visual media, but there are so many options, I've always been a little overwhelmed by the idea of trying to do much with it.

As a teenager I was a big fan of Courier typeface, I think largely because I associated it with typewriters and DIY culture. I still have a fondness for it, but it's not appropriate everywhere.

It's hard not to love Helvetica. It's so modern and easy to read. But it's also EVERYWHERE.

In FCP the default font is Lucida Grand. It's a simple sans serif font and is quite readable, but something about it bothers me. It looks lifeless somehow: it's like Helvetica with less personality.

When I finally got around to using different fonts in FCP, I knew I wanted to make sure my text was easy to read, but I also wanted it to stand out a little. I didn't want something distracting, but I also wanted it to be a little more eye-catching than Lucida Grand, and less common than Helvetica.

After a little experimenting I settled on Stone Sans. I wanted a sans serif font that stood out a little. I think it's really easy on the eyes. It's very uniform and looks both bold and comforting at the same time.

According to, the Stone typeface family, designed by Sumner Stone "solves the problem of mixing different styles of type on the same page. Most combined type styles, because they aren’t designed to work together, often have radically different characteristics such as cap heights, stem weights, and proportions."

I guess I picked a good one to experiment with.

The more I look at it, however, the more I feel like I'm watching credits from a cartoon show. Maybe I've just been looking at it too long, or maybe it's time to try a different one.

Here, I use the Blogger default font Georgia in "small" size.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Film Blog

I just started a new blog: Oregon Film News. A variation of my UO Cinema Studies program news package is up!

Almost Spring

Finals week begins tomorrow. I, fortunately, only have one final left: my History of the Motion Picture Part 2 exam. I'm going to a study group with some other students from the class tomorrow night. The exam is Tuesday afternoon. I have a UFO meeting that night and we have a short shoot on Wednesday. Besides that, all I have to do is finish editing a video for my internship, and then I can head up to Portland for the break!

I'm really looking forward to spending time outside and being active after the ridiculous number of hours I've spent in the computer lab this term. Next term I'm taking a 10k training class. I think I'll feel a lot better with regular exercise scheduled in. I've been feeling really stressed out and lethargic for the last month or so. I'm going to need to run a lot over spring break to prepare!

I'm also taking History of the Motion Picture Part 3, TV Documentary Production, and 2 J408 workshops: Mobile Media Production and Lighting for Video.

In addition to classes, UFO, and WMTM, I'm also planning to participate in the Adrenaline Film Project in May. Brian and I are planning to work together, and are looking for a third person (hopefully someone with good Final Cut Pro skills). Someone is coming to talk to the UFO about it on Tuesday. I'm really excited about it.

I'll be really busy, but I don't think it could possibly be more stressful than this term has been.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Latin American Cinema

I have just begun my Latin American Cinema (J467) take-home final essay exam.

I've really enjoyed the class, but I think the subject is far too broad to adequately cover in a single term. The other two foreign film classes I've taken focused on much more specific topics: a single country (Germany) and a single genre within a continent (Asian Fantasy Cinema).

Gabriela Martinez, who teaches the class, is very knowledgeable and I think she does a great job of leading class discussions. I know far more about Latin American culture and history than I did a couple of months ago, and have been exposed to a lot of films I probably never would have seen otherwise. That said, I am really struggling with trying to keep all the details straight. It's difficult for me to remember what happened in which country. All of Latin America is a lot to cover in such a short time.

I think I have retained the most about Mexico and Argentina, both of which we covered early in the term. I remember a fair amount about Brazil, which we also spent more time on than the subsequent countries. Most of what we covered in the second half of the term (Chile, Bolivia, Cuba) is a blur.

I think we could easily have spent the entire term focusing on Argentina and the Dirty War, or documentaries from the continent, and it still would have been a lot to grapple with.

Writing these essays is going to require a lot of reading and reviewing of my notes. I hope that by the end of the week I will be able to say something intelligent about three of the six topics I have to choose from!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

the Oscars

I watched the Academy Awards tonight for the first time in many years, and while most of it seemed unnecessarily drawn out, it was worth it.

I was thrilled to witness the first woman ever to win the award for best director and then immediately afterwards to see Kathryn Bigelow return to the stage to accept another for best picture! I, sadly, have not seen the Hurt Locker yet, but may go see it tomorrow at the David Minor Theatre.

I was really happy that Christoph Waltz won for best supporting actor. I was really impressed by Inglorious Basters, and thought Waltz' performance was amazing.

I haven't seen Crazy Heart yet, but was happy to Jeff Bridges win for best actor. I really enjoyed his acceptance speech, too. He apparently wasn't acting in the Big Lebowski!

I was dumbfounded when the show ended and Barbara Walters came on the screen saying that this would be her last Oscars special. I guess it's not shocking that she's retiring now, and I watch TV so rarely I would never know the difference, but it's certainly hard to imagine the medium without her!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Men in Film

It may seem ridiculous to discuss "men in film." Isn't it obvious that men make films? Aren't most filmmakers men? Why would we need to use the qualifier?

We assume that filmmakers are men unless we are told otherwise, and most of the time it is, unfortunately, true.

I like to think that we are making progress. Maybe Kathryn Bigelow will win an Academy Award this year. Maybe people will start thinking of filmmaking as something that people can do regardless of gender.

When I go to University Film Organization meetings or take film-related classes, I see that at least half the people present are women. Women clearly do not a lack an interest in filmmaking. Women have the desire and they are making the effort to learn the skills.

So why are "women filmmakers" such a rarity?

Certainly in the past there have been a lot of barriers. My grandmother wrote in her diaries about her love of film. She went to the movies multiple times a week in the 30s and 40s. When I was growing up everyone in the family went to her to ask whether a film was worth seeing. Years after her death, we go to movies together in her memory.

Early in her life she wrote of her desire to act, but eventually decided she was too shy and gave up on the idea. She was a talented writer, but never in her diary did she write of a desire to write a screenplay. The notion probably would have been laughable. She also loved photography. She kept a huge collection of family photos and always had a camera ready at family get-togethers. Would she ever have had the audacity to dream of being a cinematographer?

My grandmother worked tedious secretary jobs until she married my grandfather and spent the rest of her life raising their five children. That's what women of her generation did.

Today most women work. Too many women are still stuck in pink collar jobs, but many women have positions that they wouldn't have dreamed of holding a few decades ago.

Why have so few women made it as filmmakers?

A few months ago I attended What is Film? in Portland. It was a really interesting and informative conference, but I was really struck by how few women speakers were present. All three of the keynote speakers were men and most of the panelists who work in the film industry were men. Many women were in the academic panels on the second day. This suggests that women can find their way into positions where they get to talk and write about films, but most of the films are still made by men.

Lately I've spent a lot of time looking for production jobs and internships on Craig's List, both in Portland and Eugene and I've been shocked by the number of listings that use male gender pronouns such as "cameraman" and "sound guy." The people (presumably men) posting these ads may not be deliberately excluding women, but their oversight has an impact.

I am certainly hesitant to apply for any such position.

Will a woman be considered based on her experience and abilities or will these producers automatically assume that she's not what they had in mind?

If a woman is hired by someone who thinks of a position as something a man does, will she be scrutinized? Will he assume that any mistake or shortcoming is the result of her gender? Will she have to work twice as hard to prove herself?

If these filmmakers assume that people with production skills are men, what other areas does their sexism permeate? If they do hire a woman, how will she be treated? Will she be seen as a novelty? Will she be sexually harassed? Will she be given "pink collar" duties like making coffee for the men? Will her input be taken seriously?

If a woman feels men on the set are being sexist will anyone take her complaints seriously? Will anyone back her up?

I wonder if the men who post these ads ever think about these things or if they care. I wonder if they know that they may be the gatekeepers preventing another generation of women from becoming filmmakers.

WMTM Update

On Monday night the We Make the Media non-profit group held another meeting. This time some members of a smaller group focused on investigative journalism, also from WMTM, joined us. This group headed by OPB's Emily Harris came to find out whether our groups shared enough goals to merge. Last night she sent out an email announcing that they have, in fact, decided to merge with us. Exciting news!

As usual, we had a lot to cover and it was a struggle trying to keep things on track. Twenty-two of us attended the meeting, and most had a lot to say. Colin Lovett, our chair, did a remarkable job of keeping us on schedule, which I really appreciated, because I had to leave right at 9 to get back to Eugene to finish a project.

A non-profit lawyer came to the meeting to briefly introduce himself and tell us some basic things we need to consider. He's going to come to our next meeting to answer more questions.

We still have a lot of research and planning to do, but we've certainly made a lot of progress.