Sunday, January 17, 2016

Harry Weiss, silent film accompanist (1917-2016)

RIP Harry Weiss (1917-2016), an inspiration and a friend. He passed away peacefully January 7, two months shy of his 99th birthday, active right up to the end…playing piano every day and working on another CD. Harry was the Cinema Arts Centre​'s first silent film accompanist, playing for silents there in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He played his first silent – "Intolerance" – for a film club at his college CCNY. The photo below was taken at the Bangor Opera House in July 2009 when I went up to Maine to meet and play a show with him. I will cherish the phone chats we had over the last 9 years; he was always full of energy and good cheer, and kept up with my goings-on on Facebook(!), Talking with him was always a shot in the arm for me.

If you ever have the opportunity to connect with someone one or two generations older than you who does what you do…do it.

Ben Model (L) and Harry Weiss (R) at the Bangor Opera House, July 2009.
(photo by Kathy Tenga-Gonzalez)
Here's a video profile on Harry from 2013 by the Bangor Daily News. The article that accompanies the video is full of info about Harry's life and work.



Here's the poster for the show Harry and I did in 2009:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Making Silent Movies: proper-looking speed-up on an iPhone app

Both iMovie and Vintagio for the iPhone have speed-up options for silent filmmakers, but they both have the same drawback that maybe most people don't notice. The speed-up is achieved by dropping frames from the captured video, sort of the reverse of what step-printing is. So, what is it about this that looks "off" to me?

Film (yes, film) that's shot at 14 fps or 16 or 18 looks different than film shot at 24, if you look at each individual frame. The shutter speed changes for each frame rate and therefore the motion blur is different. The formula I remember from film school is that the shutter speed is basically double the fps rate. Dropping frames taken at 24fps, a shutter speed of 1/50 sec to achieve a speed-up through the persistence of vision, looks different than 24 frames per second shot at 1/32 sec of a consecutive action. Just ask Eddie Muybridge. It just looks a little skittish or slightly jerky. Anyway, it doesn't look right to me.

About a year or two a search for an app that would give me the effect I was looking for lead me to FiLMiC Pro, which did exactly what I wanted, plus the variable speed rates were frame by frame and not in increments. And then at the beginning of 2015 an update knocked the feature out. Oh well. I spent the rest of the year busy with silent film accompaniment work and with producing and releasing DVDs.

Well…it's ba-a-a-ack! Just downloaded the app and found that the variable-speed capture option has been reinstated. Here's what it looks like:



Tapping on the arrows to the left and right of the FPS settings increases or decreases the rate one frame at a time.

And so, I say thank you, developers at Cinegenix FiLMiC Pro, for reinstating this variable-speed capture option. At the beginning of the year, an update to the app removed it, and this was the main reason I was interested in this particular moving image capture app (I'm sorry, I just can't call it filmmaking unless there's film involved).

I may be the only person who'll use this feature for this specific purpose, and not to create cool slo-mo effects, and who knows why the developers thought it would be useful to make the speed-up option available this way. Now I just need to get back to silent film filmmaking…and use it.

See you at the silents!

Ben Model

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

episode 16: Norwegian edition - Too Much Johnson, Roald Amundsen, Chaplin's City Lights

episode 16: Norwegian edition - Too Much Johnson, Roald Amundsen, Chaplin's City Lights

Welcome
10th anual "Silent Film Days" festival in Tromsø, Norway
Shows for 6th grade school kids, childrens' show on Saturday
Recording: in performance at Verdensteatret cinema, Baby Peggy in "Carmen Jr."
October DVD release of Baby Peggy in "The Family Secret", restored by Library of Congress
Challenge of scoring workprint-rushes of "Too Much Johnson"
Recording: in performance at Verdensteatret cinema, accompanying Orson Welles' "Too Much Johnson"
Performing as part of Arctic Philharmonic accompanying Chaplin's "City Lights" conducted by Timonthy Brock
Recording: in performance at Verdensteatret cinema accompanying Roald Amundsen north pole expedition film
Upcoming performances at LoC, Cinema Arts Centre, Silent Clowns Film Series "Mark of Zorro"
Thanks, and closing

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

episode 15: Laurel & Hardy, orchestral Chaplin gig, scoring Technicolor at MoMA

episode 15: Laurel and Hardy, orchestral Chaplin gig, scoring Technicolor at MoMA

Welcome
Silent Film Sound and Music Archive
Recap of June shows: Clara Bow in "Mantrap" in Lake Placid, Mostly Lost 4 at Library of Congress, a special L&H program concept from Bruce Lawton at Silent Clowns
Recording: in performance at Silent Clowns Film Series, Laurel and Hardy in "Duck Soup"
Returning to Tromsø, Norway for "Silent Film Days", and special Chaplin accomp assignment
Recording: in performance at MoMI, accompanying Chaplin's "The Immigrant" for 5th graders
Upcoming shows: Silent Clowns' "Men In Trouble", Cinema Arts Centre shows of Ernie Kovacs plus restored Baby Peggy
Recording: in performance at MoMA for "Toll of the Sea" from Technicolor series
The importance of participating in audience preservation
Thanks, and closing

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

episode 14: silence in the theater, Docks of NY, playing into the film, an orchestral organ

episode 14: silence in the theater, Docks of NY, playing into the film, an orchestral organ

Welcome
Silent Film Sound and Music Archive
Recap of May shows: Mary Astor in "Heart to Heart", Buster Keaton in "Battling Butler", plus "Docks of New York" and a faster fps
Recording: in performance at MoMA, from 2008, playing the audience into the beginning of Douglas Fairbanks in "A Modern Musketeer"
Rules of the Game: playing an audience into a film, keeping the show momentum going
Recording: in performance at MoMA, from 2009, accompanying, "Poil de Carotte, a French film with live translation of intertitles
Upcoming shows: Lake Placid Film Forum, Silent Clowns' Laurel & Hardy, Mostly Lost 4 at Library of Congress Packard Campus Theatre
Recording: in performance at Baptist Temple in Brooklyn NY, from 2010, on Steere & Sons orchestral organ, accompanying "The Ten Commandments"
The importance of participating in audience preservation
Thanks, and closing

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

episode 13: programming vs. what I like to play for, staying inside a character's head, legacy piano at NYU

episode 13: programming vs. what I like to play for, staying inside a character's head, legacy piano at NYU

Welcome
Silent Film Sound and Music Archive
Recap of April shows, playing for 5th graders at the Museum of the Moving Image
playing and presenting at the Toronto Silent Film Festival
(correction: Toronto SFF shorts curator is Chris Seguin, not Paul)
Recording: in performance at Toronto Silent Film Festival, Stan and Ollie discuss rich people doing things "just the reverse" in WRONG AGAIN
Rules of the Game: staying inside a character's head, regardless of the physical action of the scene when it doesn't match
Recording: in performance at the Alden Theatre in McLean VA, Raymond Griffith takes in the end of the Civil War in "Hands Up!"
Upcoming shows: Silent Clowns' series season of Hal Roach comedies, Library of Congress Packard Campus Theatre, High School band in Connecticut, Mostly Lost 4
Returning to the scene of the crime: playing annually at a silent film class at NYU on the piano I picked out in 1983
Recording: in performance at NYU Cinema Studies, sequence from Mikio Naruse's "No Blood Relation"
Closing

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

episode 12: cineconventions, music from out-of-print DVDS, being easy to work with, Marcel Perez review

episode 12: cineconventions, music from out-of-print DVDS, being easy to work with, Marcel Perez review

Welcome
Silent Film Sound and Music Archive
35th annual/final Cinefest, the future of cineconventions
silent film in a church and at Columbia U. film school
Recording: from out-of-print DVD from Unknown Video "Flaming Flappers", performed on Miditzer organ
Jim Henry, creator of Miditzer virtual organ program; the TCM Film Festival
Rules of the Game: show prep that goes beyond the music; plus being versatile and being easy to work with
Recording: review of Musty Suffer and Marcel Perez DVDs from Sergio Mims of WHPK Chicago
upcoming shows: Marcel Perez show at NYPL, Clara Bow in "It", Raymond Griffith in 35mm
the birth and demise of altscore.com, a great idea that didn't take off
Recording: excerpt from formerly-downloadable alternate score for "Heart O' the Hills" with Mary Pickford
Audience preservation tips.
Closing

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