Yawp. Yarp. Test.

Nothing to see here. Just working out kinks.

As threatened, we’ve gone old school and started this blog to get a foothold on escaping the diminishing returns of the social media soulcrush timesuck. But not to cut off our nose entirely, we’re keeping our presence on the platforms and trying out a social media manager program to centralize and streamline dealing with our Facebook page, Instagram feed, and our new Twitter account. Why did we suddenly open a Twitter account?! Never said we were smart.

Rando image for testing purposes:

Equal parts itchy and antsy

We’re getting pretty close to nervously pulling the trigger on a new camera setup… hopefully the first of three matching ones. But there’s only enough dough for one right now.

We’ve had our eye on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K for a while. There were good prices on used bodies for a short time after the new 6K model was introduced, but that’s over. Used ones lately have held almost 100% of the sticker… so it makes sense to pony up just a little more for new and avoid the risk of adopting somebody else’s hidden neglect or abuse.

One reason for not waiting is that these cameras come with a license for DaVinci Resolve, which many of the biggest movies and TV shows also lean on. We’ve been using a crippled evaluation version for color grading, and it makes an astonishing difference. But without a full license, we can’t effectively use it for the actual editing. Resolve will also make more intelligent use of VRAM to speed up the workflow. Since there’s still plenty of old-footage catch-up on deck, this is perhaps the most compelling reason to go forward now.

Furthermore, Resolve can work directly with the uncompressed, unmolested stuff directly from the sensor. None of the cameras we’re using now even offer RAW output as an option. RAW makes for some bigass files though. It turns out that a 2TB SSD drive has way more storage and is actually cheaper than the Cfast cards we’d been considering… and the camera can write to the drive in real time through USB3. Much better for us than a card.

Besides data storage, another mission-critical thing the cameras don’t come with is a lens. We’ve pretty much settled on the Rokinon Cine CV85M-MFT 85mm T1.5, on the low end of lens food chain but still respectable. And it’s a prime lens, which will do better in lower light. We don’t need zoom, bokeh’s not a biggie, and flatter is more prized than wider.

Since we’re not going to be shooting handheld with these, there’s no reason to look at gimbals… but we will want to get them cages — like a protective exoskeleton that, in addition to cheap insurance against accidental bonking, is also a base to attach extra bits (like a clip to hold the SSD drive).

We’re still working out the best way to improve the security of how we mount the cameras. While tripods (or, better, pedestals) at first glance seem like the obvious choice, they’re just begging for somebody to trip on ’em — not only putting the gear in jeopardy, but messing up the framing. We’ve been flying the cameras off of structural elements which so far has been working brilliantly, but the thought of somebody accidentally hitting one of these new ones with an umbrella or something and having it crash to the floor makes our knees weak. The four-dollar bar clamps from Job Lot have never been particularly confidence-inspiring.

Also, please vote today.

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Whew! It was only a dream.

Sat bolt upright in a panic from a nightmare. All of Stage 33 Live’s gear had been stolen… while unattended and out in the open in a parking lot overnight.

Those things would ever happen though — the gear being left out unsupervised, and being in a parking lot at all. The stuff lives under lock and key, and when it comes out on show days there’s always somebody there with it. We take the stewardship of the interests and assets of the nonprofit organization Stage 33 Live LTD awfully seriously.

Some people think dreams mean things (except when they don’t), and aren’t literal (except when they are).

Somehow, though, it’s just gotta have something to do with this dang pandemic.

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Excellent news!

Got another Dear John letter yesterday — “The proposal pool was highly competitive”… ending our grant year with whimper.

This year’s tally from:

  • Vermont-based arts foundations, $0.
  • Other arts foundations, $0.
  • COVID pivot funds, $0.

The news gets better though!

  • Vermont community foundations, $1,500.
  • Local individual and corporate donations, $4,300.

This will go entirely toward the much-needed camera upgrades.

Our gratitude far outweighs any disappointment — and what feels really, really good is that nearly all of our support continues to come directly from the communities we serve… people who recognize the importance of our mission and our efforts to make it happen. How we’re giving our performing creatives and academics a shot at something they won’t get anywhere else; contributing to lifting up the reputation and recognition of our largely overlooked part of the Connecticut River valley; providing entertainment and infotainment options in our low-income village; and similar layers upon layers.

It’s hard to blame the big grantmaking organizations for their lack of “getting it” — they’re in their own bubbles, far removed from our boots-on-the-ground reality. They’re doing good work, we’re just not in that rarified echelon of entrenched big dogs.

Next year we try again!

The unpaid work continues in excess of full-time hours even during COVID as we chip away at the documentation backlog. Yes, this makes us incredibly dull people. The intent, you may recall, is to eventually land produced programming on broadcast stations (hence the importance of upgrading the cameras), at which point we’ll be a lot more attractive for foundation and corporate underwriting. Come that day, are we likely to forget who helped us get there? No, we are absolutely not.

We’ve been waiting to invest in the upgrades until all the grant proposals had been determined yea or nay, and now they have been. There’s enough in hand — with a little left over — for half of the four setups we’re still hoping to get. Totally terrific!

We won’t be retiring the $50 “kiddie cameras” that the getting-started budget accommodated just to get the wheels turning, nope. They’ll still be supporting the work with artsy angles and glitchy goodness. We just won’t have to lean on them to try to do things that they can’t possibly do… like provide professional picture quality good enough to produce broadcastable programming. (We can and positively will use the accumulated lower-quality stuff in copious “from the vault” segments.)

If you want to get your geek on: We’ve settled on Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K bodies, most likely with Rokinon Cine CV85M-MFT 85mm T1.5 lenses (85mm would have been a mistake! — MFT’s big crop factor and a dozen feet from subject… we’re looking at 25mm instead), each with an outboard SSD (having to change cards in the middle of a set interrupts the documentation, the performer, and the audience) and a small onboard monitor (to aid focus, and for ongoing confirmation from a distance during filming that things are still on track — since centralized monitoring just ain’t in the money cards). The cameras will be protected with a Smallrig cage that will also provide secure attachment points for the add-ons.

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Run and done by volunteers, stem to stern.
Donations are what keep this thing going.
We squeeze every penny,
and we'd be so happy to squeeze yours.
Or drop off cash / checks at any event.
You can surface-mail checks to:
Stage 33 Live (admin)
8-A Atkinson St
Bellows Falls VT 05101

Donated equipment or services are welcome!
Tax deductible to the fullest extent.
Stage 33 Live LTD is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, EIN 82-2349941.

Stage 33 Live
voice/text (802) 289-0148
We don't have actual staff to answer.

33 Bridge Street
Bellows Falls VT

8A Atkinson St
Bellows Falls VT 05101