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Shooter’s Choice: Production and Post on ‘Mind’s Eye’

By John Tulin

One of my most intense projects of 2008 was working on the independent full-length motion picture Mind’s Eye, produced by Desert Sky Pictures in Los Angeles. I was really excited to work director Alex Vigano as director of photography, camera operator, editor and color grader on this thrilling motion picture.

Tulin (above) operates his Panasonic HVX200 during the desert shoot for Mind’s Eye.

Featuring locations in the gritty, industrial area of Long Beach, along with the desolate beauty of the Mojave desert,

Mind’s Eye

is an examination of how people deal with the unknown, and how interconnected our fragile lives really are. Red (Ron Elwell) and his brother, Tim (Chris Batstone), live in Long Beach and, when his normally dependable nature becomes compromised by a series of intense visions, his erratic decision-making threatens to undermine the brothers’ relationship. Red tries to comprehend the meaning of his most prominent vision — seeing through the eyes of a killer methodically stalking his prey — by searching for the murderer.

Principal photography for Mind’s Eye was completed in spring of 2008, after shooting in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Las Vegas, and the Mojave Desert, using a Panasonic AG-HVX200. Because we were shooting on Panasonic cameras, we didn’t use HDV at all — only DVCPRO HD and other Panasonic codecs. I know there are a lot of positives for HDV users with the Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro, but it’s a very versatile card for a multitude of codecs. Panasonic and Canon are “big dogs” in the independent filmmakers’ world and we shot primarily with a Panasonic camera using P2 cards as I wanted to remain tapeless to facilitate ingestion into Final Cut.

Tulin in the field and in the studio.

Working on

Mind’s Eye,

I used a similar workflow to the one I’d  used for a promotional commercial video I had just completed prior to beginning the feature. For the commercial, we selected the Intensity Pro because it enabled us to send out an HD signal via HDMI/DVI to a JVC professional broadcast monitor for final color correction. This was critical for delivering an accurate signal to a calibrated external monitor. It was also the best solution for the best price  — unbelievably economical.

When we began cutting Mind’s Eye, it was a natural decision to use the Intensity Pro card in my Mac Pro (with Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors) to drive the JVC HD broadcast monitor (DVI connection) for calibrated playback of Final Cut sequences. The card connected to the monitor was the benchmark that we used for all editing and color correction. In addition, I output sound from the Intensity Pro to a Tascam FW-1082 board and a pair of M-Audio Studiophile BX5a speakers.

Using the HDMI/audio outputs of the Intensity Pro card, I was able to connect the Mac Pro directly to my screening room (1080p LCD projector, 108″ screen, and 7.1 surround system) so we could view the film on a much larger scale to assess what happens when we scale up the image and sound. This is just an awesome feature. No burning Blu-ray discs or DVDs to see the footage. It just goes straight from Final Cut to the big screen at full-HD resolution.

The Intensity Pro was a terrific and affordable solution, especially since I don’t need 10-bit SDI capability as of yet. Also, the Intensity Pro enables quick and easy installation with no aggravation. Editing is a time-critical activity, and I can’t spend hours fussing with drivers and connection problems. The Blackmagic Design drivers and support for the card made installation quick and painless. If I’m editing a film and I need help, I have to get it immediately, and I did with Blackmagic Design. I can’t spend a lot of time tweaking the gear to make it work. I simply won’t buy products from vendors that don’t support their customers in a timely manner. Also, Blackmagic supplies a ton of playback options for FCP for just about every codec that I would ever need. That’s great support!    

Mind’s Eye

executive producer, director and screenplay writer Alex Vigano and I worked in my edit room in the Bay Area for about eight weeks in the summer of 2008. I used “the hell” out of my little Intensity Pro card to get the project done more quickly and more efficiently than would otherwise have been possible.

To finish the show, titles and special effects were created by Cat (Le Nguyen-Cat) using Adobe After Effects, and foley, sound fields and original score were added with Digidesign Pro Tools by John Blatchford.

The Intensity Pro card has worked great, and I feel it’s an unbelievable bargain, especially considering what I can do with it. It seamlessly integrated into FCP, a huge but invisible benefit not to be ignored. The ability to output video and sound both to the JVC and screening room at the same time is invaluable.

John Tulin, founder and owner of JT Digital, has for the last 10 years worked as a specialist professional video editor and camera operator. A graduate of the University of California, majoring in graphics and fine arts, Tulin has dedicated his career to digital cinematography and digital editing based on Apple’s FCP.