All posts by Frank Ramirez

Greetings all with the ability to see and especially to those who found this site without it. I am an aspiring filmmaker and all around geek. A filmmaker? That’s a broad term in this day and age. Anyone with an iPhone can call themselves that. I’ve taken it a step further in that I’ve made the horrible decision to actually go to school for it. In it I’ve taken multiple critical writing classes. Yes writing. Film school isn’t all productions and hanging out with Jennifer Lawrence. Actually I’ve never gotten to see her in real life. Sadly. Like most people I have loads of different interests and views besides cinema. Through this website I can finally let those views out and also share what I know. At last, I can put all that schooling to good use.

What to expect: October

October! Welcome back my friend. Just as people awaited your arrival due to the wonderful pumpkin spice-ness added to almost everything edible; I too await the exquisite treats that you have in store this month. Although, I must say that the treats of which I speak are not the food kind; they come in the form of new adventures and experiences. There are so many things happening this month that I want to share and I’ll add a small list below. I’ll also have a small summary explaining each. 
– Moving to a new apartment

– Vlogging

– Starting a production company with my friend and all that that entails 

– Photography (film/digital)
First, I am moving! It’s a bittersweet experience, although it is more sweet than bitter. After living three and a half years in my current home it is going to be hard leaving. The great thing about it is that I’ll be moving in with my girlfriend, which is exciting but I’m sure will present a few challenges for me given this is the first time I’m going to be living with someone. Regardless, I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like. 
Second, I’m going to begin vlogging and I suppose blogging more consistently. The main reason is that I found myself stuck creatively. I am someone who is comfortable behind the camera; that is after all what I want to do. However, I feel like vlogging will help me gain that confidence as well as open up more possibilities for me to be creative. The main point is that I want to be constantly creating new content. 
Okay here’s what I can tell you about the production company… It’s a production company focused on creating short form content for companies of all levels. The main reason for that is because a lot of visual content now a days is short in length making it easily digestible for the viewers. I can not go into too much detail about anything besides that. I’m really excited to be working on this with my partner. 
Finally, I will explain my photography adventures. I want to go out and Find new and interesting places to shoot. Mainly I want to just explore the area that I am moving to while bringing along my film and digital camera. Actually, I think this ties into my vlogging/blogging because every new adventure will either have a write up or video to go with it. Photography is a great hobby and it is the closest I can get to my work without it being work. When I say that I mean that you can better your videography by doing photography and keep it apart from each other so that you don’t take it too seriously. You have the ability to be free and experiment with new things before implementing them in your professional work. That’s not always the case and you might have a different opinion, but that is just my take on it. I’ve also been trying out more film photography which is going to be primarily what I will report on. I find that it’s been teaching me to be precise with what I include in my frame. 
So you can expect all that and more this month. I hope it turns out to be as great as I feel that it is going to be. Sit back, relax, and enjoy with your favorite pumpkin flavored beverage. 

From Rows of Strawberries to Traffic

“Well, what do I do no Way?” 

That was pretty much the first question I had the first day I officially moved down to Los Angeles. There was no clear path for me to follow. I was here for college, but I knew I had to do more than just that while I was down here in order for me to start my career. I had an idea in mind. Become a film director. Easier said than done, of course. I didn’t exactly know how to do that. I found myself feeling stuck in quicksand quickly sinking. Thinking back, I realize that I did have an idea but there were so many different ways to go about it that I became overwhelmed. I’ve never had so much available to me before while living back in Watsonville. 

Watsonville, a small town within Santa Cruz county, better known for Driscoll’s strawberries, Martinelli’s and where the popular hangout place is a Target shopping center. In short, it isn’t the most exciting place in the world. That being said it is worth a quick visit should you ever be driving through for some strange reason. There are nice parks and good food. I recommend going to get a pie (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream) at Gizdich, as well as a whole gallon of apple juice. Notice I don’t mention any kind of presence of the media industry. That’s because there isn’t any evidence of it. There are small artsy shops but nothing on the side that I was aiming to do. So, struggling with finding any kind of access in such a small county I decided to move to Los Angeles as soon as I graduated High School. 

So we made it to LA. As it so happens my car ended up getting totaled within hours of being parked outside my apartment building. Hit and run (not the best way to be welcomed). What was somewhat amusing was the fact that the individual literally ran away from the scene leaving his vehicle behind. Just the image of him panicking and fleeing is humorous to me. Left without a car, I was lucky enough to have gotten rides from my brother in law. Struggling with mobility and adapting to a new environment, my first year here was spent focusing on school as I was double majoring in Television/Film  and electrical engineering. I dropped the latter after coming to my senses. Sadly it was a lonely year. The next one was better.

 Luckily, I ended up getting another car which helped a lot. Frankly, I am almost completely useless in figuring out public transportation.  With a car came the ability to explore my surroundings as well as being suffering the consequences.TRAFFIC. When you think about LA or any major city for that matter, traffics will always come to mind. It’s true. The traffic is terrible. Where I used to be carefree about driving back in Watsonville now changed to where I plan my day according to when there will be the least amount of traffic. Is it raining outside? Forget it. I’m staying home. But all that wouldn’t dampen my spirits. My sophomore year was a lot more successful than my first.  I ended up finding small little projects to work on for school which led to meeting some great friends and further improved my videography skills. I also got to be a production assistant for Formula Drift (that story is going to be a future post). Overall it was a good year. 

My third year was more fast paced. I ended up picking up regular gigs that kept me busy. Mostly they were live event gigs where I worked as a camera operator. I also ended up becoming a Technical Director for a small Christian ministry which I am happy to have gotten. Personally I am not Christian but the people I work with always make working there very enjoyable. Also a big thing is that I got the opportunity to travel across the country with Formula Drift while working as a graphics operator for their livestream broadcast. That was a crazy and exciting experience. Balancing traveling and school was a challenge. Fortunately I had a lot of support from my loved ones. 

Now my last year in college has come. Four years to get my degree. Very difficult years, each with new challenges to face. I worked on a few projects here and there. Thankfully continuing to travel. Sadly the realization of graduation seems to almost dull the excitement of all that I’ve been doing and gives way to a feeling of uncertainty. The unknown. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling. I feel more prepared. I’ll keep pushing forward like I have been. It’s not a terrifying anymore. I’ve come all this way. Now I ask something more optimistic.

“What’s next?”

The Meaning of Us

The second installment to my 30 day challenge.

I’ve been asked a few times before what the meaning behind Luminance Films is and to be honest there are two meanings that come to mind. I think it’s important to have meaning behind the name that you use. Having a cool name is pointless without some meaning behind it’s use.

The following are the two meanings behind our name:

  1. For the longest time it was very difficult for me to open up to others. I kept many things in that I should have talked to others about. To this day I have difficulties communicating what is going on with those that I am close with. It isn’t due to lack of effort. Without sounding pretentious or poetic I figured that after so long in the dark, it was time to let the light shine in. Because it was a major change in my life it’s no wonder it also influenced our name.
  2. Growing up, my family was neither well off nor barely scraping through. We had enough to get by, but like other families we struggled at times. Through it all we learned to appreciate what we had and help others whenever possible. We took semi-regular visits to Mexico to visit family and enjoy ourselves. While there I saw many families that were much less fortunate than us. Being around that had a major impact on who I grew up to be and the way I think. I still care and help others when I can. I’m not telling you this to boast about how good I am. It’s because I think we spend a lot of our time worrying about the latest trends and material wants that we forget that others out there are suffering. I am guilty of this too. There is a need to remind ourselves of the difficulties others face and spread the word that they need help. Our name is a way of bringing those issues into the light and to remind ourselves to step back, appreciate life, and help each other. This by far is the main meaning behind our name

Although we may be diverse in the work that we do and will continue to do in the future, the main core of who we are will stay the same. From that we will succeed. The largest redwood tree grew from a tiny acorn. The greatest things grow from the simplest of roots.

Mini Ursa 4k vs Fs5 4k

vs-post

Alrighty then! Before we get started let me make things clear. This isn’t a comparison between their performance out in the field or how their images compare in and after post-production. There are many comparisons out there that go in depth about that kind of stuff.

My friend, let’s call him Marcus, and I usually debate different cameras that we are interested in. We don’t usually see eye to eye which leads to fun arguments. These two cameras are among the two that we have talked about recently. I hope this argument helps you in some way if you are in the market for a new piece of gear. Don’t worry, at the end of this you’ll be able to give us your own opinion.

So let’s do this!
Here we have the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4k vs the Sony PXW-FS5. I do not want to get into the small details of each (that’s why I embedded the links to their specs) but, in order to continue I have to at least list some highlights of each.

sony_pxw_fs5_xdcam_super_35_1444927020000_1185424

Sony FS5:

  • 4k Super 35mm Sensor 3840 x 2160
  • 14 stops of Dynamic Range
  • E mount (adaptable to various lens mounts)
  • Various outputs including HDMI and SDI connections
  • 2 XLR input connections
  • Variable Neutral Density filters built in
  • Super slow motion up to 960 fps

blackmagic_design_cinecamursam40k_ef_ursa_4k_digital_cinema_1428970566000_1137314

Mini Ursa:

  • 4k super 35mm sensor 3840 x 2160
  • 12 stops of Dynamic Range
  • Canon EF-mount and PL-mount options
  • XLR and SDI connections
  • Raw Capabilities
  • Magnesium body construction

Now, depending on the kind of work that you are interested in doing might lead you to choose one camera over the other. In my case, adaptability and functionality are the two points I look for in gear since I do various types of work. Marcus is mainly focused on suspensive minimalist narrative cinema.

The Sony FS5 would be my tool of choice. With a 4k super 35mm sensor and 14 stops of Dynamic Range, it lends itself to very impressive images that hold up to higher end cameras while costing a fraction of the price to run. I think it is important to go into a project with the ability to get the best image you can while staying under budget and this camera fits that. I’m pretty finicky when it comes to lens choice and I like having the ability to switch between different lenses depending on the project if I am able to. Like anyone will tell you, there is no master lens. Each lens serves a purpose and lends its specific lens qualities to what you film. The E-mount is a joy to have. The mount allows for various lens adapters not only to increase lens choice, but also to allow you to grow without having to upgrade you camera so that you can use higher quality glass. The other highlights are just icing on the independent filmmaker cake. With so much competition in the industry, it is important to be able to adapt and be a jack of all trades at times.

As Marcus is not present, I will try my best to argue his side with as little bias as possible. The Ursa Mini is definitely a strong camera capable of producing strong work and for that reason it is a steal. A real bang for you buck camera. Like the Sony, the Ursa is equipped with a 4k super 35mm sensor that gives you that oh so special cinematic-look. It should be noted that there is also a 4.6k model available. Although it doesn’t give as much latitude as the Sony, at 12 stops, it is nothing to be frowned upon. The ability to shoot RAW definitely makes up for the lack of 2 stops. Luckily, it does give you the option to choose between an EF and PL mount. In reality, what other lens mounts do you really need? Whether your main intention is cinema or not, this camera is able to go from one type of project to the next without much effort. The magnesium body gives you that strong durable feel that comes with high end cinema cameras. On set, it is important to have high quality and strong gear. Unfortunately accidents do happen and you don’t want to have to worry about your gear falling apart on you in the middle of a shoot.

So what it boils down to is: What qualities and intentions do you have? We can sit here all day arguing over pros and cons, but it’s pointless when there are no right or wrong answers. In the end I guess this was a waste of time. Sorry. There is no winner…or maybe the winner is you. If this was helpful in choosing your next camera and keeps you working on your craft, you’re welcome. I accept thank you’s in the form of crudely drawn pictures of Rob Schneider.

Now vote and don’t forget to leave us a comment on what camera you’d prefer working with. We look forward to the results.

 

It’s not all nitrous and motor oil.

This past weekend I got the chance to experience Furious 7 in theaters. This, as you can no doubt tell from the title, is the seventh installment of The Fast and The Furious franchise. As such you can expect loads of loud noises, grungy textures and of course fast cars. Along with that and how the franchise has evolved since the first film, there is a shift away from the importance of the cars and how they drive the story in order to make room for a more character driven story with family as the constant undertone.

As Vin Diesel says, “This time it ain’t just about being fast.” It’s true in this film. If you are looking for film focusing on cars then go to Disney. Although there are awesome and entertaining scenes, the real story lies on the foundation of brotherhood. Even if cars aren’t the main focus point, it does a great job expressing car culture in that it is tightly knit community. Being a huge car fan I was in a way disappointed in not seeing cars going particularly fast at all, but as a filmmaker I enjoyed the roles they played in helping tell the real story.

That being said there are things I liked and disliked about it. The character development is almost nonexistent. The only way I can truthfully say that there is a decent change is if I put all of the films together from the first film to the last. By itself there is not much to say. Dialogue was not completely there. Mostly it consisted of cliché one-liners. If I’m honest, they are cool while watching the film. There were also camera shots that took me out of some of the action scenes. There was a lot of spinning movements, which made me feel disoriented as if I was rolling down a hill. There were a few other things but going on will only lead to me nitpicking. In short, if you are looking for an Oscar winning experience then this might not be the film for you.

On the other side of the spectrum there are a lot of things this film does well. Like I said before, it has a great way of reaching out to many people besides those interested in cars. I’m sure many girls and even guys that went to watch the film in the theater I was in only went because they were dragged along on a date or with friends. Even so, I’m sure they without a doubt enjoyed it just as much as I did. Locations were picked out well. The filmmakers did a great job incorporating new locations such as Abu Dhabi and then also bringing it back to the past with Los Angeles. The sense of “home” is a huge bullet point helping tie everything together. I also thought the film did a great job at being a mixture of different genres and emotions. It’s an action-packed drama that will leave you feeling as if you nitrous running through your veins while also breaking even the strongest heart of any chassis.

Following that, we now arrive on what I enjoyed most about this film. Since the death of the dear Paul Walker, every fanatic and curious film watcher has wondered how the film was going to end up. Personally I thought they were going to scrap the film because they couldn’t complete this without a huge member missing and even if they did it wouldn’t reach its potential. I could not have been more wrong. This entire film was a tribute to Paul. The way they handled the story from beginning to end did a great honor to his memory. Every scene with him had me on the verge of tears knowing that he was no longer with us. By the end I was almost completely bawling my eyes out. The last couple of scenes are heart-wrenching goodbyes to a great man. I don’t want to give away too much, but the metaphorical references along with a touching montage really make this film for me.

For many, this film is going to be passed off as an action film with little storyline and they might be right. This isn’t a film for everyone. It fails in a couple categories. What it does do very well is exemplify how action and drama can blend completely well together. It incorporates metaphors, thrilling action scenes, comedic elements, and stimulating images into a film that is proving to be a hit with audiences everywhere. With incredible box office numbers proving the popularity, Furious 7 is no longer a guilty pleasure. No, this is probably not going to win an Oscar. It will, however, win a place in our hearts where it will stay forever.