RyanBalton.com - Blog

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Press Release: Local Milford, Pa. filmmaker co-produces 9/11 Flight 93 documentary

SOMERSET, Pa. — Eleven years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a local filmmaker has joined the production team of a documentary that uncovers a story from that day that most people don't know.

Ryan Balton, who grew up in Dingman Township and graduated from Delaware Valley in 2007, is supervising the post-production of “We Were Quiet Once,” a feature-length documentary film that tells the story of people on the ground in Somerset County, Pa. who witnessed the tragic crash of United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

“There are many people in our area who work or have lived in New York City, so the tragedy there affected many of our lives," said Balton, whose father was working several blocks north of the World Trade Center the morning of the attacks. "The terrible things that happened in the city are what first come to mind when thinking of Sept. 11."

“Yet we also can also relate to the people who live in Somerset County – a rural Pennsylvania area just like our Pike County," he said. "Their story, from the perspective of witnessing the crash of Flight 93 from the ground, has been left untold.”

"We Were Quiet Once" is currently featured on Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. The production team is hoping to raise $6,000 by the end of September to cover the costs of editing, finishing and distributing the film. If you are interested in contributing to the fundraising campaign and securing a copy, you can visit www.wewerequietonce.com for more information. 

Balton has teamed up with executive producer and director Laura Beachy, who grew up in Somerset and was one of Balton's classmates at Syracuse University. The last project they worked on together, a documentary short called "The Path Ahead," played at the Black Bear Film Festival in 2010. Balton and Beachy hope to screen "We Were Quiet Once" at a future Black Bear Film Festival and other events in the tri-state area.

The film follows the need of three people in particular to memorialize the tragedy: "Father Al," a former Catholic priest who found purpose by immediately opening a non-denominational, memorial chapel; "Terry," who was working in a junkyard next to the crash site that morning and saw the plane go down; and "Rick," a volunteer firefighter who responded to the call and now organizes an annual motorcycle ride among the three crash sites. The expected release is January 2013.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nikon D5100/Steadicam Merlin out-of-the-box demo

Here is a short reel I made with clips from my new Nikon D5100 flying on the original Steadicam Merlin with a Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 lens.

Full wide and full auto, except for focus. The camera is about a week old, so this is literally the first couple times I've played with it. The rig still isn't perfectly balanced, as you can tell from the slight side-to-side sway, but I still was happy with the results for the first time.

Anyway, my D5100 and Merlin are available to rent – with or without the operator! I hear it also takes nice photographs.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sony tests camera stitching equipment at the Dome

Sony R&D engineers tested out some brand new, prototype camera stitching and 3D technology at today's Syracuse University women's basketball game in the Carrier Dome. About a dozen students who are taking a 3D Production elective at the Newhouse School were among the first people in the world to see this technology.

The technology stitches multiple HD cameras together to create one large image. Within that large, panoramic image, the engineers can operate what they called a "virtual camera" using a joystick that provides pan/tilt/zoom control. In the photo below, you can see the full, stitched panoramic image at the top. The white rectangle represents what part of the image the virtual camera sees, and is displayed in full beneath the panoramic image.

By stitching together multiple stationary cameras, action on the entire court can be captured at every moment. By feeding those cameras say, back to ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, a "virtual camera" operator could control the game cam. Instant replays would be possible of any part of the court at any time. Additional "virtual cameras" could be added so, for instance, additional operators could get tight ISOs using the same feed.

Because the cameras are stationary, the Sony engineers said it would be possible to create a depth map by measuring the distance from the camera to the various reference points around the court. Using this depth map – a 3D wireframe of the court – it would be possible to achieve a potentially lower cost but still effective 3D image. They didn't have this set up at the demo but said it would be possible.

The system consisted of three cameras placed side by side on the main TV camera platform overlooking the court. The three cameras were precisely positioned and leveled so that among the three of them the entire court could be seen at all times. These little guys go for $50-60,000 each with a lens. Notice that the left and right cameras are getting cross shots instead of being positioned straight ahead. This made it easier for the geometry to match up.

The cameras sat on a rudimentary plywood rig on a tripod: a true prototype. Sony and SU Athletics chose the women's basketball game as opposed to a men's game because there is much less commotion and more room on the camera platform.

The signal from the cameras ran underneath the bleachers to a table with CCUs and their remote controllers, a couple flatscreen displays driven by a Leitch multiviewer, a high-end $35,000 broadcast reference monitor, a Vaio laptop with a USB joystick, and three HDCAM tape decks to record the three cameras. The engineers spent a day and a half setting up the equipment.

The business appeal for this type of research is cutting costs. ESPNU, for instance, plans on adding hundreds of more events in the coming years. By installing a few of these rigs in an arena, all of the camera control, switching and replays could happen in Charlotte (home of ESPN Regional TV) or Bristol and save having a full crew at an arena all day.

In theory, this technology could also allow the viewer back home to have complete control of their game watching experience.

Looking forward, the use of 4K cameras could provide more flexibility with zooming in and not losing pixels in a HD frame. Sony will use the footage they recorded today at NAB and for other demonstrations.

The Sony guys also had a 3D TV and a box of those goofy glasses to show off their 3D reel. Aside from sports, it included a music video, animated movies, and video games. The seemingly unanimous best-looking 3D programming is golf. They covered a few holes at the Masters tournament last year with 3D cameras, and this coming year the plan is to cover every hole with a 2D and 3D camera crew – in other words, around 200 cameras in all.

Neal Coffey, who will teach the 3D Production elective this semester and is head of the university's Video Production Unit, arranged the visit with Roger Springfield, who oversees the athletics department's media.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Previewing the nation's best college lacrosse team

10: the number of NCAA championships that the Syracuse men's lacrosse team has – and the number of years that CitrusTV has produced its Lacrosse Preview Show.

Just like everything at CitrusTV, students are in charge of all aspects of the production of the annual half-hour show that takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season. Almost all of the show is shot at the athletic department's lacrosse media day, which happens the week before classes start each spring.

CitrusTV members cut their winter breaks short and trek back to Syracuse to shoot a press conference, interviews and players practicing. While traditionally lacrosse media day has been held in the Carrier Dome – where the team plays – this year it was held in Manley Field House, which was renovated over the summer from a basketball court surrounded by bleachers into a football/lacrosse field. Guess they wanted to show off the new digs.

The production consisted of two sets. The primary set, pictured above, was in a balcony that overlooks the field. This is where we shot all of the on-camera elements with the hosts, Scott Grodsky (former CitrusTV sports director) and Dan Moscaritolo. We shot all of the teases, tosses, readers and the show's open and close at this location. This was where I spent almost all of my time, taking care of the lighting and camera setup and operation.

We used a pair of Sony Z7U's on sticks – still in standard def as all of the archived footage we have is in SD and Time Warner Cable Sports isn't HD yet. You can also see a few Arri's and the portable prompter we used in the photo below.

This location gained a third chair in the afternoon for an on-set interview with John Galloway - one of the players - and John Desko, the head coach. Coach Desko is in the picture below.

The secondary set consisted of one camera to capture featurey shots of the players. The shots will be used in the show's open and various elements throughout the show. The players were miked up at this location so they could say their name and year, and repeat some lines that we fed them.

A couple ENG teams consisting of reporters and videographers also were walking around on the field to interview players and tape them practicing. A podium and backdrop were set up on the sidelines where Coach Desko spoke in a press conference.

The show, produced by CitrusTV's new sports director Ryan Koletty, will air on Time Warner Cable Sports, channel 13 for TWC customers in upstate New York, and on the Orange Television Network, channel 2 on campus. It will also appear on CitrusTV.net.

(Still photos all shot on a Canon 40D, and the 360 panoramas shot on my iPhone 3GS using the world's most amazing 99 cent app – 360 Panorama)

Published by