Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to make a better Pinhole Part 2

Well it was one of my most popular posts, so I'm back with more advise for you crazy pinholers out there. Either to create images or view Solar events :)
In the last post talked about making a better pinhole and some basic ideas on how to make the box better. This time I'm going to go a little more into the mechanics of the camera. For simplicity's sake I'm pretty much going to focus on Pinholes using Black and white media, you can do it with Colour but it's much trickier to do and the result will vary much more.

The Pinhole: As noted last time you will get the best results the rounder the pinhole is, this means using a thicker material to create the lens plate. (see my last post) To stop refraction it is good to paint the plate black but if the interior of the box is light tight and painted black as well this is not always necessary. The plate should be slightly larger than the hole cut in the camera body (box or whatever) and afixed to the inside to prevent light leak. I have found black gaffer tape to be a pinhole camera builders best friend in this regard, it's black and will block most light.
The Pinhole should also be as small as is practicable, a smaller hole will extend exposure but give you a sharper image and greater depth of field. 

The Camera Body: This can be anything you want but it is best that the focal plane (the back of the box where the image projects) and the lens plate are on a flat surface parallel to one another. (You can do things with curved focal plains etc but I'm dealing with making the best image possible from the pinhole camera) As mentioned in my previous post; almost anything can be the Camera body so long as it's light proof. I Built a Pinhole Camera once that mounted the paper in a 4"x5" darkslide which I could take in and out of the back of the box, the entry way was suitably padded with gaffer tape to keep light out. This allowed me to effectively reload the camera in the field without using a dark bag or anything like that. (Each darkslide also held two plates so two shots per slide) I have also seen people make panoramic pinholes with multiple holes that they open at the same time...

The Shutter: The other important part of a Pinhole camera is the shutter. Traditionally this is just a light blocking piece of paper that is moved in front of the pinhole when it is not exposing. Depending on the exposures you are working with; Camera movement when opening and closing the shutter may or may not be an issue. I have found this is often more to do with the weight of the Camera body, lighter cameras tend to move more when you flip open the shutter. The most important thing is that your shutter needs to be securely closed when the Camera is loaded and not in use, even small amounts of light over time will fog paper or film and lead to a poor image.

The Light Sensitive Medium: You have a number of options here; Photographic paper is the most common as it is easy and quick to develop making it good for trial and error. It also is not very light sensitive so it is more forgiving with exposure length and fogging. It has some issues, long exposures are usually necessary for example. The biggest is conversion to a final image, remember that the image you will get on your Photographic paper will be a negative so you will need to "print" it to get a positive image. The only real way to do this with a paper negative gives quite low resolution images as you have to expose the print through another piece of paper. Film gives better results but requires you to be a little more careful handling and loading/unloading the camera. Film will give you a negative that can be enlarged and printed like any analogue image and it is also available in a variety of ISO speeds and generally will be more light sensitive than paper. (ie shorter exposures) By far the best results come from the larger film formats, 4"x5" or 8"x10" film can create glorious pin hole images with very high resolutions.

Next couple of times in this infrequent series will deal with Focal length and Pinhole cameras and calculating exposure. (Yes you can do it without trial and error!)
Oh and here is a great page about building a Pinhole, very easy and quite a good one

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Intellectual Rigor of the Right

Many of us who pay attention to such things already know this, but for over two decades the mainstream right wing of politics as an international movement has been cruising along whilst being intellectually bankrupt. The old culture warrior meme from the 90s and early 00s is oft exposed as rank hypocrisy at best, and knowing deceit of a low information voter base at worst. The Todd Akin drama in the US has started to make headlines all over the world and is (with luck) exposing this to the light of day.
As of this writing Akin is being encouraged to not run in the Missouri senate race he won a primary to participate in; why? He has not exposed any new or shocking idea that wasn't already floating around the echo chamber already, denial of Rape as a serious crime, demotion of women to baby incubators with little to no say as to their fate or health, and a total cluelessness as to the realities face by most people in his electorate. He has come out and said out and aloud what the right to lifers have said for years in between the lines of their rantings; everytime someone refers to the fate of a Raped woman as "God's will" they are saying the same thing as Akin.
We all know this, what makes this a demonstration of the Intellectual wasteland that these people operate is how fast those who would normally parrot this position when it is stated in other terms run from it when it becomes politically toxic. If they had the courage of their ridiculous convictions they would back him all the way but flee because he has been less articulate in telling women they deserve no control over their bodies than they.
Oh did I mention that this guy talked about taking free school lunches away from poor kids last week? Or that Paul Ryan (the current R Vice presidential nominee) has agreed with Aiken in the house and even co-sponsored anti choice legislation with him?
A Straw house built on shit falls over...
I'll finish with the Great Sam Seder's brillant takedown of Akin,

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's a Headache, It's not a Tumor

Well that is what many are still saying as the Olympics fades from view; the world's banking systems are dealing with a headache. It's not systemic, it's not "a tumor" within the capitalist system. More critical writers use the words "Liquidity crisis" or "Solvency crisis" while the idiot Media and Political spin tell us that it is a "Debt Crisis" This is the world we are in, England will come off it's sporting high to a double dip recession, the US's economy is slow and Europe isn't much better. Despite having the strongest western economy, we are told constantly in Australia about how our economy is going down the toilet.

But it's not any of these things, not really... All evidence this reporter (note to all, I'm not a reporter) can source seems to indicate that the financial ho-haw of the last four years are a fraud crisis, nothing more nothing less. You see, it now seems to be ok to commit fraud if you are the right person in the right position; in fact it seems to be encouraged. I'll leave you all with a short timeline of the fraud we are all now paying for...

Rating Agencies Fraud

Mortgage Securitisation Fraud

Enforcement Fraud

Fraud in the Greek crisis


So the nexttime you get told it's all about debt or the US reserve or gold or the Illuminati... It's really all about one of the oldest human instincts; lying to gain advantage over another.

Till next we meet...

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Edition (Kind of a review for Prometheus)

Steven Spielberg is a director I have some degree of respect for; I dislike many of his films but I have respect for his accomplishments. One thing that earned a little more respect from me was last month when he said he was going to give fans the Theatrical release of ET on Blu-Ray rather than the edited 20th anniversary edition. The reception to the 20th Anniversary edit of ET, mostly negative, seems to have made Spielberg reassess the seeming obsession with directors revisiting old works. Spielberg has revisited old work before, most notably 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" which to date has had three cuts released. Due to studio issues rushing the film into release the theatrical cut was not to the director's liking, as it was success he was able to re-release the film in 1980 as a "special edition" which included several sequences that were not finished in time to make the 1977 cut. I'll get back to Spielberg and "Close encounters" in a moment.
The Internet has already been abuzz about Ridley Scott's "Prometheus", his return to Science fiction and his revisit to 1979's Alien. His talk about a sequel to "Blade Runner" as well as the reissue of Star Wars on Blu-Ray and the assorted manglings by its creator have gotten me thinking a lot about the idea of the auteur director and their classic works...

Prometheus is a mess of a film frankly, and a very distinct example of a movie not being equal to the sum of it's parts. One thing many of us forget when watching a film is that they are in reality an assemblage of multiple components; Direction, Sound, Cinematography, Script etc. Prometheus is an example of a film where these elements fail to mesh in a consistant way; the design and visual appeal of the film is stunning for example, but the script in many places sucks balls... big alien balls. Red Letter Media point out very well in their latest comentary track to Star Wars how the opening is so effective as it shows rather than tells. Alien is also very much like that, at no point do we see the intrepid crew of the Nostromo exclame how big or weird or like flesh the Space Jocky's ship is. No we get matter of fact statements about not about the bleeding obvious but what our characters are thinking about. Alien almost appears unscripted in parts as the interactions between the characters seem so natural. This was one of the two most jarring elements in Prometheus; the script is quite bad for the most part with the majority of characters seeming unformed and flat. Now why is that? Characters actually speak more dialogue in Prometheus than in Alien, in fact we know more about our Heroine's background than we do about Elen Ripley's. It's not an acting issue, as the majority of the performances are fine, Noomy Rapace is an excellent actress, Fasbender is Awesome as the Android David, even Guy Pierce is good under a stupid amount of very silly looking age makeup. The one answer is the script. Genre Scriptwriters these days seem to need to pack more clumsy exposition into thier scripts than the average episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Star Trek the exposition was almost always about things not apparent to the Audience (the audience not being trained Star Fleet Engineers for the most part) , in most Sci Fi movies these days character exposit about the visually obvious. This is why Prometheus has a script problem. Characters shouldn't have to vocally explain their feelings constantly, the character's actions and the actor should allows us to connect and feel with them. (In a good movie anyway)

The second bugbear for Prometheus is tone. From sound track to themes dealt with, Prometheus's tone is a mess. It has the same "new discovery" sound track for landing on a new planet as it does for exploring the very disturbing Gieger designed alien pyramid. Sound is important as a cypher for the audience, and Prometheus's score saps any horror from what could be a very effective body horror films. I have heard and read a lot of people talk about how the various plot hole and unexplained elements are so the viewer can "add their own interpretation" to the plot. I honestly despise this Post Modernist Canard used as an excuse for poor film making. While the interpretation of a film should be up the the audience , and it's fine when the audience needs to do some work to get there; the film has to function as a film as well. A film cannot just be a cypher for the audience to throw meaning at, it needs to do some work of its own as well. Prometheus is not "trying to leave it up to the Audience" in the way a film like "Eraserhead" do as it has a clear narrative structure which you can't really get around. The ambiguity is just the result of poorly expressed themes.

Now I'm bookending my thoughts on this film due to the ending, it is a prequel or reimagining of Alien. Now if that was Scott's idea or the studio's that is irrelevant as its in the cut of the film and we can't really ignore it. So it sits in well with the idea of directors revisiting old ideas. What works in Prometheus works very well, the "Space Jockey" from Alien really being a space suit for humanoid giants is a great swerve. HR Gieger's designs have never looked better on screen imho; his style of work really gains alot from HD filmmaking as it is all about the visual intricacies of darkness and surrealist double images. (One thing that appears and two things) The theme of "daddy issues" is also strong (can you be surprised as the writer is from LOST?) but it's the combination of these elements that is weak.

The 1980 cut of Close encounters added a bunch of new scenes and drastically shortened several others, it added a couple of new effects sequences including the controversial Mothership interior scene while shortening or removing some of the more mundane scenes of Roy's life. Both versions feel a little disjointed emotionally and narrativly; factors that prevented the film from really becoming one of Spielberg's classics. In 1998 it was re cut again as the "collector's edition" which combined elements of both versions, omitting the added mothership interior. I am actually a big fan of Close Encounters, it was a film I saw in childhood and even today I think it is one of Spielberg's most articulate. It features some very dynamic camera work, music and effects that mostly stand up today. It makes amazing use of nighttime and artificial lighting as well as found sounds to create mood and is able to be hopeful and full of wonder without getting too schmaltzy. The 1998 cut made me interested in the film once again after I saw it last year on TV, it is a much more complete work reassembled by a more experienced filmmaker. The editing is better, the narrative flows much better and the stories of the secondary characters seem fuller. (The re-adding of the scene with Gillian and the media for example stops her going from loosing her son to drawing pics of the Devil's Tower and makes her pain feel a little more real.)
It feels like remakes, re-editions and revisits are all part of cinema's extended middle age; and not always a bad thing. Prometheus and Alien are two separate films, and the former is an unsuccessful attempt to revisit the mood of the later. Scott can still ride high has having two legendary genre films under his belt, but I feel unlike Spielberg he has not become a more mature film maker just a more ambitious one. Unfortunately in Prometheus his ambition seems to outstrip his skill as a storyteller.