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That “Influencer” Lifestyle.

December 10, 2020

It feels weird to wake up, make breakfast, wish Ari a good day at work and then sit down to create YouTube content, plan videos and open emails from lens makers. My brain refuses to accept it as “work”, although it checks all the boxes (it’s endless, stressful, and generates income). I tend to laugh when someone calls me an “influencer”. I only jokingly refer to myself as an influencer, although I guess I am one.

When I started my channel, I didn’t want it to be my main source of income. I started because I needed to share information on anamorphic lenses. It was definitely a hobby. It consumed my time and money, but I enjoyed working on it. After a couple years I started to feel entitled to some compensation. I’d resent my audience for they’d pour money on lenses but give me nothing in exchange for all the information I provided. I thought “if I do this well enough, someone will come by and pay me for it”. The whole “American Dream” thing, free market and all. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work that way.

For several years I felt important, but not relevant. I felt I was popular among the folks without resources, but that people in the actual film industry, lens makers, and all sorts of technicians would laugh at how the videos looked and the information contained in them. I felt I was fighting the system. “Use a $300 lens instead of a $30k! You’ve been deceived!”. Very radical, or so I felt. But being popular with the people without money also means that no one is willing to pay.

Twice I burned out and almost quit. The second of those times I really thought I was done. On my “farewell party”, I ran into some people I thought were much cooler and relevant than I was (Corridor Digital), yet they recognized me in a crowd and had lots of praise for the content in my channel. That shuffled the idea I had about my audience and reach of the content. If these guys were watching enough to recognize me, who else was out there?

I got a little bolder (at least in my own standards). I hired an editor so I wouldn’t be constantly swamped, I still had lots of other work (YouTube was far from a good source of income), and I started to reach out to smaller brands for collaboration. Everything went pretty well, although I always had the feeling they were helping me out, and not the other way around. I still felt irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Then 2020 came around and everything was incredibly chaotic. I had lots of time, absolutely no outside work, and running very close to burnout again. I wanted all my content to be *perfect*. Full control, best performance, excellent visuals, unquestionable logic. I was failing, and this is where Blake comes in. I invited him to help me figure out livestreaming and from there we started creating more and more ideas together. Blake has a very different perspective on things being *perfect*. Perfection is to accept the flaws – or at least some of them – and doing so makes the videos better.

That was a trip. Accepting imperfection made the videos better. A lot better, actually. So I started accepting imperfections in my communications and reached out to people I considered HUGE and was blown away when they replied. This happened so many times I realized I was holding myself back on taking this step forward. I was stuck on the loop of “I’m better than this, yet no one wants to help me”. One of the toughest lessons was to accept I can be paid to do something I believe in. When I say it like this, it’s pretty obvious, but not six months ago, I’d feel I was compromising my ethics if I accepted money for something I was willing to do for free.

All of this has reached a point where I’m turning down outside work and taking the days at my own pace. I tackle lots of emails, edit some videos, do a little animation here and there, read a lot, research, pet my cat and play videogames. And I’m finding time to be there when people close to me need support. That never happened before. To help with all these changes, I’ve had weekly therapy sessions since 2015 and I’m taking anti-depressants for a month and a half now.

It’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to accept help. Hopefully this can influence someone to avoid burnout and find a healthier way to pursue their dreams.

Anamorphic

Living the dream takes nightmares too.

September 3, 2020

This post was inspired by something João Gabriel Rodrigues wrote a couple weeks back. Jota said he’s competitive to the point that he can’t have fun. If he’s set to do something, that something has to be the absolute best, otherwise, what’s the point? As I read his post I realized I have a lot of that too. And some more.

If you ask me what I’ve been up to, the answer is gonna be quite different than if you ask me how I’m doing.

Here’s what I’ve been up to: I turned 30 last year. I got somewhat of a steady job for the first time ever and switched from working on set to working in post. I thought I was done talking about anamorphics and it turned out I wasn’t. Last fall I taught a class for an entire semester in the college I graduated from.

I traveled through Europe and met a bunch of people I only knew from the internet. I (self) published two e-books after two years of drafts. I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects I never expected. Yesterday I wrapped shooting my first feature film as director of photography and next week I start teaching classes at Langara college. Today I’m posting a video and livestreaming about a camera I had before it was announced. The first big payoff of five years working on the YouTube channel.

If that’s all you know from me – because it’s the information I volunteer -, then it really sounds like I’m living the dream.

Here’s how I’m doing: since I rushed back from Brazil to Vancouver before the border closures in March, I’ve been afraid. I’ve been feeling weak, scared, and insecure. I’ve been sleeping four to five hours a night, and I hardly feel hungry. I’m also randomly sad and there are days I hate feeling like this.

I’m used to dealing with impostor syndrome for a single aspect of life at a time. Dealing with it on multiple fronts all at once was a new experience. The latest rush of accomplishments – feature film, secret new camera, teaching -, plus not faltering with the channel and pushing for some more still-secret projects got me reeling.

Right now I feel like playing video games for a week straight and not stepping out of the house. As much as I want it, I know that’s not what I’ll do. There are classes to be taught and videos to be made.

Feeling weaker now was different from previous times. On the feature I had a team I could be honest with and say “today I’m feeling like garbage and I need some extra help”, so they stepped up giving me time to recover. On the channel I’m not on my own anymore, Blake and Lila help me on different fronts and they help a lot. For teaching, Sara has always been an inspiration and endless source of support. Last, for absolutely everything I do, I got Ari. Ariana is a major source of inspiration and motivation. She pushes me forward and always helps me when things get out of hand. I’m super grateful for having these people around me.

I guess the idea is there’s always some sort of balance. While things are great, others are not so good. I take them as I go and I’m still learning to take breaks.

Anamorphic

Crafting the Anamorphic Look with Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine Lens

July 22, 2020

You want to achieve the anamorphic look, or make your footage more “cinematic”, but you’re not ready or you don’t have enough time to figure out anamorphic adapters. You also don’t have enough money for cine anamorphics (who has it?). Lucky for you, I spent the last three years breaking down what makes the anamorphic look into components that can be created separately without any anamorphic glass. That’s my Anamorfake It Until You Make It! guide. More about it later! In this post we’re creating the anamorphic look with the Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine Lens!

This 35mm is a very versatile lens. It has great minimum focus and features a fast aperture which boosts bokeh for the smart shooter. 35mm is a mandatory focal length in any set, acting as a normal lens on S35 cameras and a mild wide-angle on full frame. The one I’m using is in EF mount as it’s the most versatile budget mount on the market. In the following steps we’ll open up the lens, take out some elements and add an oval insert to the aperture mechanism.

Modifying a lens can feel like a daunting experience if you have never done it before. I still get shivers every time I’m opening a new lens. The secret to staying cool and safe is to take notes and film/photograph the process, paying close attention to what piece goes where, as well as its orientation. The mod we’re attempting today is a simple one.

In this video you can see me doing it all in just over ten minutes. I usually don’t share these in writing anymore, but I teamed up with Cinema5D to provide you with an illustrated guide here so you can do the process on your own pace!

For this mod we’re gonna need the lens (obviously), a lens wrench (not mandatory), scissors, a phillips screwdriver (#000), marking tape, a permanent black marker, and oval inserts you can get from me on eBay.

Before I even touch the lens I paint the oval insert black. The ovals come in thin transparent acrylic. Use the permanent marker for that. Paint both sides of the disc and do two coats. Set it aside.

Now get the lens and notice how the locking pin on the mount aligns with the line for the aperture mark. That is important for reassembling the lens later. Get the screwdriver and remove the three screws that hold the mount in place, putting them on a safe place.

Then take out the lens mount and set it aside too.

This gives us great access to the rear group of the lens. Time to check where the aperture line is again. Using it as a reference, cut a small triangle of marking tape and place it on the rear group, aligned with the aperture line.

You’ll notice two little grooves on the housing around the glass. You can use the lens wrench here to loosen the initial tension. If you don’t feel like getting a lens wrench just for this one mod, get a firm grip around the rear group (rubber gloves help) hands and twist it out. There’s a lot of turns on this one.

This gives you access to the aperture mechanism. You can open and close it, see how it works up close. You’ll also see that there’s not a lot of room in there for our oval insert. We’re going to have to attach it to the rear group itself.

Use the triangle mark to align the oval insert. Considering its narrowest diameter, the oval must be perpendicular to the triangle. This ensures that when you screw it back into the lens, the oval will be in the proper orientation – I learned this the hard way. The cheap option to stick the disc in place is using little loops of tape. The fancy way of doing it is using double-sided tape. Make sure you stick the tape to the metal housing around the element, not to the glass itself!

All that is left to do is screw this little guy back in place and reinstall the mount. Be prepared, though: there is a good chance that the oval will not be perfectly aligned. Here’s trick I learned after doing a dozen of these mods and adjusting the ovals to perfection: reinstall the lens mount using only one screw.

Make sure the notch in the mount is aligned with the aperture line as we observed early on, and install the screw closest to that point.

Then mount the lens on your camera and check how the ovals are looking. For me, they were a bit off to the left. To fix that I need to reopen the lens, get to the oval again, and twist it a little bit in the opposite direction.

This is the only challenging part of this mod. Sometimes it takes me up to three tries until I get it perfect. Take your time, think it through and make the adjustments.

Once you are happy with alignment, install the rest of the screws, locking the mount in its original position!

This concludes the modding process for the Rokinon 35mm. Go out and shoot some good-looking oval bokeh! Notice that the aperture mechanism still works perfectly, allowing you to stop down the lens. The downside of doing so is that the oval shape will start to get cut off until it disappears completely. After installing one of these mods, I also throw a variable ND on the lens and use that to control exposure, instead of the aperture ring.

In terms of crafting the anamorphic look, this mod won’t make your lens squeeze the footage or produce streak flares. This is the cleanest style of modification. The Anamorfake It! guide includes several other aspects of creating the anamorphic look such as distortion, lens flares, detailed instructions for modifying over fifteen lenses, how to make your own mods plus video tutorials and a ton of resource material that you can use in your projects. This is all without actually changing the way you shoot – if you ever used adapters, you know they require a lot of compromises. To inspire you a little more, use the code C5D at checkout for a 10% discount!

Anamorphic

LOMO Foton-A Anamorphic 37-140mm f/3.5 Review

March 15, 2020

This is my first time talking about actual cinema anamorphics. I decided to start with LOMOs because Russian glass has a special place in my heart, and the LOMO Foton-A is one of the rare lenses I’m never letting go.

USEFUL LINKS:

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network. If you purchase anything through them you’re helping this project.

Anamorphic Day-to-Day

How I Almost Missed NAB Show 2019

February 26, 2020

I started writing this shortly after we came back from the NAB show in 2019. The gears got stuck and I just managed to push them back in motion now as we approach NAB 2020.

The Setup

At some point in late February I realized I had a shot at going to the NAB Show 2019. It was something I wanted for at least a few years – plus Las Vegas isn’t that far from Vancouver. I had stopped making videos for the channel in September and I left Facebook by Christmas. It felt like I was done with all of this anamorphic and youtube stuff, so going to NAB was a sort of farewell.

facebook header - I'm not here

My contract ended the week prior to the event so I asked Ari if she wanted to come (it’s a gear thing, she could be bored). She was excited for Vegas. We got tickets. It was too late to get a good price on a hotel but we got an airbnb. The NAB website said from April 6-11, but that’s too much time to feed G.A.S. so I thought of staying the weekend to check out the showroom and be done.

The plan was to arrive early on the week to explore the city and surrounding areas for a couple days, then NAB on the weekend, then back home early on the following Monday to start working on new things. If you’re a seasoned NAB visitor, my mistake might be apparent already. So we go, we explore, we drive, we eat – oh, the food!

The Disappointment

Saturday comes around and we head to the convention center to get our NAB passes and drool over gear. We get there and there’s only contractors going in and out, putting the showroom together. We go to the information booth in the lobby and that’s when we learn that the showroom is opening on Monday at 9am – two hours after we’re scheduled to board our plane. I feel somehow I should’ve known that schedule from the start although the website wasn’t at all clear about it.

air canada flight info

It devastates me. “This-was-all-for-nothing” style. “What-a-waste-of-money-and-time” style. In a mix of anger, disappointment and sadness I storm out of the lobby and Ari catches up. By the time I sit down outside I’m set on trying to enjoy the two days we have left and miss out on what I came to see. It’s a crappy plan and it doesn’t really make me happy, but it definitely cuts my losses.

We take a car back to the airbnb. I’m done with the day and Ari is telling me this is all too stupid. I’m not taking it too well. We talk some more, call the airlines. Changing the flight is more expensive than getting a new one. My best shot at getting a refund for missing the flight is getting my airport fees and taxes back. I file for that anyway. It comes to $15.

air canada refund email

Ariana says we’re not leaving without seeing the showroom. She says I can argue and fight all I want but she’s getting us new tickets home for late Tuesday instead of Monday morning. If I wanna go back by myself, I can, but she’s gonna see the showroom. That makes me recover a bit and I start looking for a place we can stay.

I start seeing past my anger and self-doubt from the misunderstanding by the time we book a room at Circus Circus – the creepiest and most bizarre place I’ve ever paid to sleep at. It’s gonna be good and it’s gonna be fun. We have the weekend to enjoy the city so we find some comedy, a little knife-throwing, and more delicious food – now with NAB discounts. It’s not like Vegas has little to offer.

knife throwing in las vegas

The NAB Show 2019

Monday rolls around and we hit the showroom. It’s a lot of fun. Ari is a compositor and there’s a lot of post-production tech that she’s interested in. In the first day I just wander around in awe. We stop at Boris FX’s booth for a Mocha demo and sign up for some random prize raffle. I talk to a bunch of people, ask questions to brand representatives, hang out at the Atlas booth with Forrest Schultz, some folks recognize me from the channel – Tom Antos and Raafi Rivero right at the start, and more through the day. My backpack is stuffed with free samples and gifts. I don’t have a goal and I feel pretty accomplished by now.

forrest schultz and tito ferradans at atlas booth in NAB Show 2019

The last thing I do is to attend Adobe’s talk on “Editing for Youtube: Keeping Pace with Rapid Change” because, well, I relate to all of the words in that sentence: I use Premiere and After Effects for work. The guys from Corridor Digital were at the talk and I’ve been a fan for a while, so I went for it.

I sat there and watched. Ariana joined me halfway and by the time the panel was over she bolted from her seat to the front of the stage (if you watch the video, on the very last seconds she’s the girl in yellow coming from the bottom right of frame).

adobe and corridor digital presentation at NAB Show 2019

Before I catch up to her she’s taking photos of the panelists at the request of the mediator. I just hover over there waiting for her to finish up so we can head out. That’s when Sam Gorski, from Corridor Digital, points very directly at me and says “man, I love your channel”. My mind goes “Haha, me? this guy here? Tito? Nah, he must be thinking of someone else, I don’t even look like in the videos for a while”. So I react in the most natural way I can: I point at myself and mouth back “Me?” with a mildly concerned face. To that he goes “Yeah, man, you, with the anamorphic stuff”. I’m pretty sure there’s no one there with an “anamorphic stuff” channel, so it can only be me.

I come closer, we chat for a bit, talk about anamorfaking and how cheap and effective it is, especially for VFX and post-production – this conversation was a huge encouragement to the Anamorfake It guide. Sam emphasizes a bunch of things about my videos that I thought no one cared or that held me back in the sense of generating income. The showroom is closing so we wrap up the chat. At this point I’m shifting my perspective about the channel and how much of its impact is unknown to me. I also have it very clear that Ari is a big catalyst for the things I want to do but I’m afraid to take the shot and I’m very thankful to be with her.

sam gorski, tito ferradans and niko pueringer at NAB 2019

The second day is much shorter than the first since we have to finally catch our flight mid-afternoon. On the bus from the hotel to the showroom the guy sitting next to me recognizes me and we chat about his experiments with shooting scope and anamorfaking.

At this point I have already decided that I’m not letting the channel die just yet and that my work has value and importance. The conversations all point to what I set out to do from the channel’s start: to provide information that allows anyone wanting to experiment with the anamorphic look to do so without breaking the bank. I don’t know yet what I’ll do to start making videos again, or what to cover in them, but I know that on this second day I’m making connections.

nab 2019 cards and connections

On a mission

While on the lobby outside the showroom I study the floor map to mark the booths I wanna hit to try and create connections that could benefit the anamorphic chat (Cooke, Scorpio, P+S Technik, TLS, LumaFusion, FiLMiC Pro, some more Atlas, etc). In the middle of that we get an email from Boris FX. Remember we signed up for some random raffle prizes? It turns out Ariana won a full pass for 2020’s NAB Show.

The second day is much less overwhelming than the first, we see a bunch more demos. I talk to a lot more people than I did in the first day and we head out around noon for the airport. By the time we leave the ground we already know we’re coming back for 2020. This time I’ll be there for my birthday!

nab 2019 show pass

This experience was key for resurrecting the channel and changing my take on it. I don’t have expectations of it making up all my income – as I expected before -, I just find it important to put the content out there and hope that it helps someone in need of it. I’m also set on putting out different options for people that want to support my work through the sales of merchandise, guides, mods and whatever else I can come up with. I helped you and you wanna help me back? Buy something! :)

I started to write this post the day after we got home (April 10, 2019), but it took me forever to finish it because I’m worried about stupid things. First I don’t wanna sound like I’m tooting my own horn for the Corridor Digital part, although I am super proud of it. Second, I find it hard to reveal my mistakes online for anyone to see. I messed up with the schedule and I didn’t wanna show I messed up.

It took me a while to realize that not revealing where I go wrong makes for a too-perfect-life and that’s one of the biggest problems with the internet right now. I don’t wanna add to it: I make mistakes. I mess up almost as much as I get things right, sometimes more. Plus mistakes make good stories and that’s something definitely worth sharing.