Custom cabinet for Buchla Easel

Buchla Easel analogue synthesizer clone

I have been working on finishing my Buchla Easel analogue modular synth the last couple of months. That included designing a custom cabinet to house the modules. My “Easelesque” instrument contains 3 modules: the Buchla 208 Music Easel, the Buchla 216 Touch Controlled Voltage Source and the Buchla 277 Signal Delay Unit. All these modules are clones of the original Buchla 200 series of the 70’s. I still have to debug the 216 module as it doesn’t work correctly yet. The 277 might be replaced by some kind of joystick module in the future but I’m not sure about that. I first need to spend more time with the instrument. I do love the 208 though. It’s a complete instrument in itself and the 216 keyboard will only broaden the possibilities.

The finished Buchla Easel custom cabinet

The finished Buchla Easel custom cabinet

I wasn’t going for an exact 1:1 copy of the original configuration. I wanted the Buchla aesthetics and usability which I really like. The real Buchla Easel uses the 218 Touch Activated Voltage Source module but my version uses the simpler 216 Touch Controlled Voltage Source module. Same goes for the 208 Stored Program Source which is not a perfect copy of the original but uses modern components. I don’t see the added value of paying $100 or more for a vintage opamp to get “exactly” the same sound as the original. The modern components get close enough and the resulting sound still has the Buchla characteristics which is good enough for me. And as it is an 100% analogue synthesizer it will never sound the same twice anyway…

 

Custom cabinet design

Since I started building the 208 I was thinking about a wooden cabinet for the instrument. I like the Buchla suitcase version of the Easel and I really thought about going that route. The portability is excellent and that was something I was trying to incorporate in my own design. The Easel is a performance instrument and it should be easy to bring it along where ever you want to go. However, the thought of a wooden enclosure eventually won me over. I somehow prefer a nice wooden cabinet for housing analogue stuff. Especially with the light aluminium panels which are a nice contrast with a darker tint of wood.

I knew pretty fast I wanted the 208 angled in the cabinet with the 216 and accompanying panel mounted horizontally in front of it. After that it was just a matter of figuring out the minimum dimensions needed to be able to fit the modules.

Easel cabinet - first sketch

First sketch for the Easel cabinet

Having the basic structure of the cabinet figured out I had to come with a solution for securely mounting the modules. I decided to use Aluminium strips with threaded holes for use with standard M3 screws.

 

Building the cabinet

Looking through my pile of scrap wood I found a large enough piece of wood that would fit both side panels of the cabinet and the bottom panel. I have always used 18 mm Birch plywood for building my cabinets and this one was no exception.

Cutting the parts was pretty straightforward using a circular saw.

Easel cabinet in progress

Easel cabinet in progress

When I had all the pieces I needed I fitted everything together to see if all was OK.

Easel cabinet in progress - ready for glueing everything together

Easel cabinet in progress – ready for glueing everything together

I then routed slots in the 4 supporting wood pieces so the front panels would be flush with the surface of the cabinet when mounted to the Aluminium strips (see picture below).

Easel cabinet build in progress - Aluminium panel mounting  strips

Easel cabinet build in progress – Aluminium panel mounting strips

After a final test to see of all the intended modules would fit, I glued everything together and let it dry for a night.

Easel cabinet - glued together and ready for staining

Easel cabinet – glued together and ready for staining

After that I sanded the cabinet and applied 3 layers of Mahogany stain and 4 layers of protecting lacquer.

 

The electronics

The electronics part of the cabinet is pretty simple. A power distribution PCB with Cincon 12 to 15V DC-DC converters, an on/off switch and a 2.5 mm jack for connecting the external 12V DC power supply.

Easel cabinet - power distribution

Easel cabinet – power distribution

I did notice the DC-DC converters get pretty warm after a while. So I think I will use some sort of heat sink on the converters and drill a couple of small holes in the back of the cabinet to get a bit of ventilation going.

 

Conclusion

I played around with the instruments a couple of evenings and really enjoyed it. The cabinet is very portable and can easily be brought along when going somewhere. For safe transport however I do need some sort of flight case.

I’m very pleased with the end result and after I have debugged the 216 keyboard module I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this beautiful classic instrument.

Posted in Music, SDIY | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making videos with kids for a youth concert

Youth fanfare concert project

A friend asked if I could help him with a project he is working on with a youth fanfare he’s part of. They are planning a big concert next year playing brass arrangements of soundtracks of famous movies. The idea was to show a video with an own version of the movie while the soundtrack is performed. The performing kids (in age between 12 and 15) selected the movies they wanted to perform.

The first two (from a total of 10 videos that will have to be created) where “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Titanic”. The kids wanted to make fun videos loosely based on the movies.

We shot these first two videos last weekend during their yearly camping trip. The weather forecast looked great so there would be no problem shooting parts of the video outside.

 

Preparing for the shoot

Based on the input of the children I wrote two short scripts to have a more solid idea of the scenes we would have to shoot. As I had no time to visit the location before the shoot and the shoot itself would be a lot of improvisation, I did not make a storyboard. Instead I made a general shot list that I could use as a guideline and check list during the shoot. That way I made sure we shot enough footage to be able to edit everything together in a coherent way.

The Pirates of the Caribbean arrangement was a hefty 7 minutes and 45 seconds long so we would have to shoot quite a bit of footage that day. The Titanic theme, an arrangement of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, was quite a bit shorter at 3 minutes and 10 seconds.

Head in a jar - an appropriate prop for a rowdy pirates bar

Head in a jar – an appropriate prop for a rowdy pirate bar

Based on the script I prepared the necessary gear. Fortunately things were less complex for this shoot as there was no need for recording audio. I would basically be a one man band during the shoot but would have some help of a couple of friends who were accompanying the youth.

A very cool last minute thing was the making of a head in a jar prop. I read an article about that a few days before the shoot and we were able to pull it off and use it as a prop in the “Pirates” video.

 

Working with kids

It was really fun working with the kids. They were really enthusiastic about the shoot and I think we really enjoyed ourselves. As it was no high-end production the only pressure was to capture all needed footage in one day. None of the kids had any acting experience and I didn’t push them very far to get exactly the performance I would like to have as I think that would have worked counter productive. For me it was important that the kids had fun and did not get the impression they were doing something “wrong”. When we really had to do a retake I explained what I was going for and where their performance could be changed. That worked just fine.

On Saturday we started with “Pirates of the Caribbean” which had interior and exterior scenes. The weather was excellent that day so I started with the interior scenes hoping to make good use of the nice afternoon sunlight later on.

After a couple of hours of running around the kids are getting tired...

After a couple of hours of running in front of the camera the kids are getting tired. But we’re not done yet…

The interior scenes went pretty smooth without any problems and after a short lunch break we went outside for the exterior shots. There were a lot of chase sequences so the kids had to run a lot. That started out just fin but as the day progressed I noticed some of the kids were getting tired and that impacted their performance and the willingness to do stuff. I couldn’t do very much about that and tried to work around it but some scenes didn’t worked out as good as they could have been because of that.

We shot the “Titanic” sequence on Sunday. This was an interior green screen shoot. The kids wanted to make fun of the famous Titanic scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the front of the ship. The live action will be combined with animation elements to emphasize the comic element. While I was setting up and lighting the green screen, the kids were dressing up. The shoot went very well and we had all scenes done in about 2 hours.

 

Keep it simple

As I was working with kids I really didn’t want to spent hours adjusting lights and/or sets. I tried to keep the technical stuff as simple as possible without compromising too much on image quality.

For the “Pirates” interior scenes I set up one 650W fresnel which lit the table were the pirates were playing a game of dice. The camera was on a Kessler Pocket Jib for ease of movement and to be able to quickly change camera perspective. I used small LED lights to add some fill light in a couple of scenes.

Setting up the Kessler Crane Pocket Jib for the interior shots

Setting up the Kessler Crane Pocket Jib for the interior shots (the beer bottles were empty of course!)

For the exterior scenes I used the Canon HF-G25 camera on a simple home made stabilzer for scenes where I was running with the actor(s). For all other scenes I used my Panasonic AF101 on a monopod which worked out just fine but allowed me to move quickly from one location to the next.

action-scene

Taking the camera as low as possible for an action shot.

For the “Titanic” sequence I set up the green screen and lit it with two soft boxes on each side with 300W fluorscent daylight bulbs. I used the waveform monitor on the AF101 to dial in the green screen and the result was a very evenly lit screen. Perfect! The key light for the actors was a diffused ARRIlite 750 Plus and a LED light as fill light. The camera was on a tripod for all scenes. No dolly or jib moves for this video to keep post production as simple as possible.

Setting up the green screen for the Titanic sequence

Setting up the green screen for the Titanic sequence

A fun weekend

The kids enjoyed themselves and really loved the rough cut of the Pirates video I showed them. I think during the shoot they couldn’t really visualize how it all would be coming together and it was great watching them laugh at their own video when they were watching the rough cut. I also had a lot of fun and learned a few things along the way. Working quick and getting an as good as possible image while working within the given constraints.

All in all a fun weekend!

Posted in Filmmaking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Want To Believe” official selection of Zedfest

Zedfest 2014 laurelsMy short film “I Want To Believe” is part of the official selection for the Zedfest Film Festival 2014!

Zed Fest is a Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival held from 7-9 November 2014 in Theater Banshee in Burbank, CA, USA.

Zed Fest Film Festival Poster 2014 SmallestIn their own words:

Zed Fest Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival was founded in 2010 to honor and acknowledge filmmakers and screenwriters who persevere against all odds to get their films made and tell their stories. In our competition we search for the Filmmakers and Screenwriters that embody the spirit of passionate movie making itself.

 

 

The official selection exists of 16 features, 17 featurettes, 39 short films, 4 super shorts and 4 music videos.

You can read more about the film on the I Want To Believe website. The teaser/trailer is shown below.

Posted in Filmmaking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting Cinestrange Film Festival

Last weekend I visited the Cinestrange Film Festival in Braunschweig, Germany, together with my wife. My short film “I Want To Believe” was part of the short film selection. It was the first “real” festival where my film was selected after the internet based Viewster Online Film Fest. Braunschweig is a 4 hour drive for me so this was a good opportunity to visit the festival. These 4 hours however became quite a bit longer as we encountered lots of traffic jams on our path.

Check out the trailer of the festival below and spot a scene from my film at 00:26!

 

The Cinestrange festival

cinestrange2014-1a

Me on the red carpet at Cinestrange

The Cinestrange Festival was the first film festival I attended as a guest. Cinestrange is not a big festival and most visitors where locals. However, the festival invited American director John Badham (“Saturday Night Fever”, “Blue Thunder”, “War Games”, “Short Circuit”, etc.) as a special guest and about half of the feature films programmed were from his hand, the other half were features specifically selected for the festival.

Although I have no problem understanding German, I prefer to see the original version of a film (in Germany all foreign films are generally dubbed in German). That’s why I didn’t see any of Badham’s films although I would have liked to have seen War Games again.

 

The short films

Cinestrange programmed 7 short films, including my film. The first block of 4 short films screened at 5 pm on Friday. We arrived just in time due to the traffic jams on the way to the festival. I was quite disappointed with the number of people attending this screening. No more than 10 people, including ourselves, where in the theatre… The quality of the films was pretty high. I enjoyed watching them all. I liked “The Visitant” by Nick Peterson and “On/Off” by Thierry Lorenzi best.

At 5pm on Saturday the second block of short films was programmed. Three films were screened: “Uberstein – Operation Wunderwaffe” by Manual Vogel, “In The Deathroom” by Milos Savic and the European première of my own film “I Want To Believe”. While watching “In The Deathroom” it was clear to me it should win the award for best film. The cinematography, story and acting where top notch. Great film making.

cinestrange2014-2

“I Want To Believe” on the big screen of C1 Cinema in Braunschweig

Seeing my own film on the big screen in a real cinema was amazing. It looked and sounded great but at the same time it was very weird to see my film in that setting for the first time with a real audience. It was also weird realizing that my film was screened alongside all these great films. Something I had hoped for but never really expected.

All film makers were present during the screening of the last 3 short films and we were called to the stage afterwards to do a little Q&A with the public. It was good to see that this time there were significant more visitors than during the first screening!

cinestrange2014-3

Q&A with the audience after the screening. I’m on the far right.

I couldn’t attend the award ceremony on Sunday evening but it was good to hear that “In The Deathroom” had indeed won the Cinestrange best short film award 2014! If you have the opportunity to watch the complete film, do so. You can watch the trailer below.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Conclusion

I had a great time at Cinestrange. The festival had a very friendly atmosphere although I would have liked more involvement of the festival organisation with the attending film makers. I enjoyed the films and the panels I attended. Seeing my film on the big screen for the first time was an amazing experience I would not have liked to miss.

Posted in Filmmaking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galactic Film Fest selects “I Want To Believe”

My short film “I Want To Believe” has been selected for the Galactic Film Fest which will be held from August 9 -10 in Santa Ana, California (USA).

I will post more info when it’s available.

i-want-to-believe-galactic-film-festival-promo

Posted in Filmmaking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Want To Believe” #38 in Viewster Online Film Fest!

My first short film, “I Want To Believe”, ended at #38 (out of 566 entries) in the Viewster Online Film Fest. I am very pleased with that result.

viewster-final-screenshot-nr38

The I Want To Believe campaign on Viewster

The final ranking of the film was based on audience interaction: views, likes and comments on the Viewster page of the film and interaction on social media (shares, retweets, likes on Facebook or Google+) . Details about the algorithm used to determine the ranking of the films was not disclosed. So I asked everyone who helped making the film to share the link with their friends, retweet my tweets and share the info on Facebook. Considering the fairly small circle of people who initially spread the word I was surprised that, after a dramatic drop in ranking a couple of days ago, the film somehow regained momentum and ended up in the top 40. Viewster did not offer any detailed statistics about how my film was doing, for example how many likes the film received on a given day, so I have no clue what caused the sudden fall and rise in the ranking.

The Viewster Film Fest is different from other festival in that you, as a filmmaker, can influence the public voting/ranking. I saw some people almost constantly twitter the link to their film, often targeting specific twitter accounts. As I hate getting spam I do not want to send out hundreds of tweets per day “promoting” my film. I kept it to about 3 tweets per day and tried to use different content for all of them.

Most of the time I included a picture in the tweet. The film poster, a behind the scenes picture or a production still from the film itself. I did send out two specifically targeted tweets. One to Shotlister app and one to Cinevate, two companies who I know well and who’s products I use a lot. This resulted in retweets and a share on Facebook. I think this resulted in a lot more people reading about my film than I could have reached just by myself.

All in all a very interesting experience!

Posted in Filmmaking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment