Turkey Bowl (The Documentary)

Turkey Bowl

There’s this annual tradition members of my family take part in each Thanksgiving. It involves a bunch of the guys getting up early and playing football at an elementary school in Milwaukee. I didn’t know a lot about it other than they do it every year. It’s called the Turkey Bowl.

Back in 2012 my wife suggested I take part in the Turkey Bowl. As someone who doesn’t like to play football, or watch football, I remained unconvinced. Instead, I offered to come and film the game. Unfortunately, I somehow forgot to go, and did not film the game. So this year, I made up for it.

The kids and I headed out, stopped for hot drinks, and got to the school just in time to capture about 15 minutes of action at the end. (Oops! Based on televised sports, I thought football games lasted about 4 hours.) Well, I did manage to get some good group photos when they were done, which was much appreciated. I then told them that I needed interview footage, but they were all headed to a bar (it is Wisconsin) to watch football and drink beer. (Again, I don’t do either of those things.) So I made a plan to take my gear to the Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house, and after the meal, I did a bunch of interviews.

I then declared it would be ready to watch by Christmas. I then did a bit of editing the next week, and a little more the next week, and then I just pulled an all-nighter Christmas Eve and stayed up past 4am to finish it for Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!

The quality is not quite to the level I’d like, but it doesn’t matter. They loved it. It does a pretty good job of documenting the game and what it means to them. The audio is rough, the lighting and camerawork is not top notch, but that’s not what matters. Nobody paid me to do this, and I really enjoyed doing it.

What, you want to watch Turkey Bowl? Please do…


Static in the Video Age

Xmas means many things, and one of the things it means is that we watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and for years it meant we put in the old VHS tape that the wife has and let it roll. Last year I ended up getting a VCR out of the closet on Christmas Day and connecting it to the old HDTV and watching it in all its glory.

This year I got as far as getting out the VCR, and before finding all the right cables, I figure I’d check if there was another option.


The first thing I did was turn on the Wii and checked Netflix. It’s a Wonderful Life is not available for streaming, so that was a dead end.

I should also note that as much as I’m a technology nerd, I’m not a digital video consumption nerd. In the last few months I’ve watched about 200 episodes of Star Trek on my MacBook (usually while working in the office) but we don’t have a Blu-ray player or an Apple TV, and I’m the furthest thing from a home theater snob. I’d rather buy a DVD I can rip than rent videos online with limited usage and silly restrictions. I’m not a pirate, but I like to choose how I can use the media I buy. (All the music I ever bought from the iTunes store had the DRM stripped from it before I added it to my library.)


Netflix would have been the easy option, since I’ve already got a streaming account, but since it wasn’t available, I moved on to iTunes. It’s a Wonderful Life is available on iTunes, but the last time I checked on iTunes video rental, there were all sorts of crazy restrictions I didn’t want to deal with, so I never seriously looked at it.

I probably would have paid $2.99 to rent it so we could watch it immediately, but the options seemed to be $17.99 to buy the “HD” version, or $9.99 to buy the “non-HD” version. (It wasn’t filmed in HD, so HD, bah, whatever.) I thought about the lock-in to the Apple/iTunes ecosystem and figured it might be worth checking if Amazon had a better option…


Well, I don’t know if the Amazon option was better, but the film was available for $9.99, the same price as the “non-HD” version on iTunes. At this point I didn’t feel like doing a comparative analysis of the various online video rental systems and just went with Amazon, assuming it would be more open than Apple. There was a link or two about downloading, so I figured that was a good thing, and with one click, I bought it.

I ended up streaming it so we could just watch is ASAP, and we did, and the quality was good (well, better than an old VHS tape anyway!) and it all just worked.

After the movie I wanted to check on the downloadability, and discovered that Amazon has a player that is only available on Windows. Bloody Hell, what is this, 1999?

They also have a list of 350+ Amazon Instant Video Compatible Devices… none of which I own. The Roku player is on the list, and I considered getting one a few years ago, but after Netflix became available for the Wii, I forgot about it. I tend to use the Wii or my MacBook for most of the video streaming we do, so I never thought I needed a dedicated device.

So now I’ve got a video I own through Amazon, that I can’t download, but can stream. I’ve probably been an Amazon customer for 15 years, so I guess I should trust them, but It’s a Wonderful Life is over 60 years old. Will I be able to watch it 30 years from now? Should I even worry about such things? While buying music online went from a DRM mess to a more open world, I don’t know that video will go the same way… And yes, there is the pirating option, but personally I’m not a fan of that approach. Blame it on my desire to see things move towards openness.


Crackerjack on Kickstarter


Over on Kickstarter is a project called Crackerjack, which happens to be a comedy that will (possibly) be shot here in southern Wisconsin.

I should have mentioned it a few weeks back, because now there are only 19 days left to fund it.

They’ve raised only a small portion of their goal, and if they don’t reach it, the fallback is to fund the film on credit cards and go into debt, which is pretty common with low-budget films…

The most interesting thing to me has been the approach they’ve taken in their campaign, as well as the management of it. I’ve looked at a lot of Kickstarter campaigns in the last year. Some I’ve funded, and many I haven’t. It’s interesting to see which succeed and which fail, and try to come up with a formula that will work… if such a thing exists.

(Disclaimer: While I do know one person involved in this project, I had nothing to do with this campaign. I was told that they may want me to do some “technical consulting” though, which will probably just involve talking about the RED DIT workflow.)


Analog Photography!?


It’s been a while since I thought about my film days, and honestly, I don’t know the last time I’ve use the term “digital photography” when describing “photograpy” but there are still people who shoot film, RachelK is one of them, and another is Troy Freund.

Troy wanted to let me know that he’s involved with an Analog Photo Seminar at Cardinal Stritch University on October 9, 2011. Here’s the details:

This seminar will feature presentations and demos by Wisconsin film-based fine-art photographers. Nick Olson, Dr. Yong-ran Zhu and Mark Brautigam will present on their experiences in large-format photography. Over the lunch-break, I will talk about the experience of working with Leica rangefinder cameras.

Each photographer will give a 30-40 minute presentation of their work, followed by a short Q&A session. The afternoon will be spent with each photographer giving a hands-on demonstration of their working methods.

See Troy’s blog post for all the details.

If you’ve got any questions, I’m sure you can hit up @midwestphoto on Twitter and he’d be happy to answer them…


Production Assistant Needed

Team Z2

Are you interested in the exciting world of filming things? Pointing cameras at people while they do things? Lighting? Sound? Well, have I got an offer for you!

I’m filming two days next month where I could use a Production Assistant. Ah yes, a Production Assistant… Sometimes considered the lowest of the low jobs on set, but not our sets! If you’re interested in how all this filming stuff works, you can hang out with us for a day and see what we do. It should be a pretty laid-back shoot, but we could still use one more person who is willing to help out, and willing to learn.

So what will you get?

What an offer! Now don’t all come running at once… Seriously though, If you’re interested, get in touch with me.