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    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
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    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
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  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Tuesday
Aug062013

Cinefex Classic on Kickstarter

Cinefex needs your help to make something great.

The first issue of Cinefex I bought had Robocop on the cover. It was bagged and boarded at Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis, and I remember thinking it was expensive, and really fancy. I read it cover-to-cover, not understanding much of anything I was reading. When I got to the end, I read it again.

The Robocop article still stands out as one of my favorites. I went back and read it several more times, and with subsequent issues providing context, each new reading brought new understandings. It’s not only where I learned about zirc hits and methylcellulose, but also where I learned about Paul Verhoeven’s philosophy about violence in movies, and how an MPAA-ordered cut-down of the film’s more violent scenes had the unintended effect of transforming satirical, intentionally over-the-top violence into just plain violence. This wasn’t just an article about how some visual effects were accomplished. This was a juicy, practical essay on the filmmaking process.

Cinefex is still great, but nothing they’ve printed in recent years matches the infectious, inspirational glory of the back catalog. Here are some tidbits I remember to this day:

  • The elevator shaft that McClane throws the explosives down in Die Hard is a miniature, built in forced-perspective. This was, in part, to allow the model to be smaller—but the real, ingenious reason for the perspective trick was to make the explosion seem to accelerate up toward the camera.
  • When filming the motion-control miniature of the flying Delorean landing in the rain for Back to the Future II, the model was covered in vaseline, which was smoothed and re-stippled with a toothbrush on every frame, to simulate the wet car being pelted by raindrops.
  • Speaking of crazy stop-motion, in Robocop, ED–209’s machine-gun fire was animated by hand, as an in-camera effect. On each frame with gunfire, Tippet’s crew would shut off the set lighting and the rear projection, insert a tiny light bulb into the miniature gun barrel, hand-sculpt a cotton muzzle flash over the bulb, and re-expose the frame.

The deceptively minimal writing in these articles made these ideas and techniques seem not only understandable, but downright doable. Every issue would light a fire in my brain that could only be doused in my backyard, with a Super 8 camera, a cable release, and probably some unsafe household chemicals.

This was my education in visual effects. Cinefex is the reason I didn’t sound like an idiot when applying for film school, and for my first job.

When I landed my dream job at ILM, I thought maybe I’d “made it.” It was when I was first interviewed for a Cinefex article that I knew it was true.

Cinefex launched a great iPad version of their magazine last year, and each time I launch it, I see that floating wall of covers, and wish that I could have my dog-eared, worn-away back issues in this searchable, slick format.

And that’s exactly what they’re going to do—but they need our help.

Cinefex Classic is a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Cinefex back catalog to the iPad. There are ten days to go in the campaign, and they are close. Let’s get them to their goal so we can all have access to this amazing archive.

Reader Comments (3)

Stu,

Thanks so much for honoring our efforts, and the legend that is Cinefex! As has been the case *many* times in the past, you were truly one of the main influencers that reinforced what was otherwise just a notion, in this case the value of Cinefex to filmmaking. For example I vividly remember you exclaiming (back in the ILM days) that the formula for the Predator effect was right there in that article - "right there!"

As is so often the case we vastly underestimated the effort that would be required to undertake this "simple" venture, and we're grateful that Kickstarter offers the potential of a simple up or down vote, and the means to complete it if it is something that people want.

The post adds to the hipster credibility that early Cinefex has long had with the nerds, while offering those trademark solid observations and insight of yours that give that aura some welcome grounding. We want people to think of this material not as dry boring film history but as inspiration along the lines of the best stuff you can read to learn your craft, and you draw that out really nicely here.

Mark

August 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterMark Christiansen

Thanks for pointing me to their kickstarter. I would have missed it otherwise!

I remember stumbling upon my first issue in a comic book store in Rotterdam, buried underneath a snowspeeder miniature. After flipping through it, I felt like I'd just dug up gold. Each page containing tons of dazzlingly specific information about the stuff that most interested my teenage mind the most. I had just switched hobbies from model building to 3D animation (because of Jurassic Park), and Cinefex was great fuel for those countless nights, weekends, and summer vacations spent behind a computer screen. Like you, I feel like my teenage years were spent in visual effects school. After a few detours I now find myself drawing upon that knowledge again in my photography and in more recent years as an aspiring filmmaker (an adventure inspired by a certain rebel's guide).

I'm considering getting the whole back catalog from their kickstarter. It's a pretty great deal, actually!

August 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterRonald Vonk

i donated to get the whole back catalogue. What a great value and searchable no less. Stu you went to work for a company i could have only dreamed of working for, your endorsement of this project and my love for the print versions of this mag made this an easy decision.

thanks for the post!

August 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterChuck Wheeler
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