The Skylark

Broken Social Scene In Your Living Room by blakehamilton
January 18, 2011, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Music, New York, Skylark, Technology, Video

One of our favorite current bands, Broken Social Scene, is doing a show at Terminal 5 in NYC tonight and you can watch it live on youtube.

The band’s video for the track Forced To Love off their most recent album, Forgiveness Rock Record, was co-directed by none other than our good friend and soon-to-be Skylark Director of Photography, Alan Poon. The video employs cutting edge 3D rendering and looks like nothing you’ve seen before.

From Arts & Crafts’s video description:

“It’s an experimental 3D scanning technology that detects the displacement of a grid pattern of any object in front of it,” Poon explains. “The data is then used to rebuild the object in three dimensions. Each band member’s performance was scanned using this technique and manipulated in the computer to create the effect you see in the final video.”

Check it out here:

And here’s a little behind the scenes clip starring Alan, his collaborator on the project, Adam Makarenko, and the band.



by blakehamilton
December 8, 2010, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

Rock Lives in the Wolves and Bees by hamiltonbros
October 15, 2010, 8:24 am
Filed under: Music, Video

To those of you who think Psychedelic Rock and good old Blues Rock died in the sixties or seventies, I say phooey! These genres are making a big comeback. If you long to hear new music that reminds you of your favorite bands of old (e.g. Zeppelin, Cream, Jethro Tull, The Kinks, Pink Floyd), then may I introduce to you WOLF PEOPLE and THE BEES. Both bands are British, have new albums out this week, and kick some major ass.

I’ve been listening to The Bees for several years now (they have four albums, Sunhine Hit Me, Free the Bees, Octopus, and Every Step’s A Yes) and they continue to be one of my favorite bands. Wolf People, on the other hand, are a recent discovery. They just released their second album today entitled STEEPLE.

Here are some bios, videos, and live performances to whet your appetite:

“Wolf People are an English psychedelic rock band based in London, Bedford and North Yorkshire. They formed in 2006 around the release of a very limited CD EP on Sea Records as part of the Lifeboat Series. The EP was Stuart Maconie’s record of the week on his BBC6 show. They have since released two 7” singles on Battered Ornaments Records, they quickly sold out and are now becoming quite sought after. The band have been embraced by the psych community receiving great praise in Shindig magazine and amongst others. Influenced by Captain Beefheart, Can, Pentangle, Dungen, Amon Duul II and television, the music is largely blues rock based but incorporates elements of folk, jazz, kraut, and country. Wolf People signed to JAGJAGUWAR records in Autumn 2009 and are releasing their label debut TIDINGS, a collection of singles and EP tracks, on 22nd February 2010.”

“The Bees (known as “A Band of Bees” in America, owing to a rights conflict over their name) started out as the duo of Paul Butler and Aaron Fletcher, both of whom hailed from the Isle of Wight. They recorded their debut album, Sunshine Hit Me, in a home studio in a shed in Butler’s parents’ garden. Butler and Fletcher, both multi-instrumentalists and singers, were avid record collectors and, even more so, avid record listeners with interests that extend back to the roots of British rock and into American soul, as well as a multitude of other directions. Sunshine Hit Me, released by We Love You as a U.K.-only issue and credited to the Bees, reflected their interests and listening, melding ’60s freakbeat and psychedelic sensibilities with ’70s power pop, and got nominated for the coveted Mercury Music Prize in 2002.

The Mercury nomination and the album’s critical success led to the assembly of an actual band, and a couple of years of steady touring. When the smoke cleared, the Bees were officially a sextet with everyone writing songs and switching off on instruments (and Fletcher doing their lyrics). And instead of recording their second album in the Butler family garden shed, as they’d intended, Butler’s stint producing another act at EMI ended up with the group booking three weeks there. It took that long for the six members — Kris Birkin, Michael Clevitt, Tim Parkin, Warren Hampshire, Butler, and Fletcher (all of them except lead guitarist Birkin multi-instrumentalists) — to create Free the Bees. Released in the summer of 2004 on the Virgin imprint, the album got rave reviews in England and earned notice in the United States as well, working its way into better stores and eliciting positive reviews from critics who normally would never have known about it. The group’s work has been variously compared to that of the Small Faces (and the Faces), the Beatles, the Byrds, Donovan, the Kinks, the Temptations, and early Pink Floyd, with some other interesting permutations. Butler, for example, counts his own influences as Lee Perry, King Tubby, and Fela Kuti. They saw further commercial success when the tracks “Chicken Payback” and “Wash in the Rain,” off of Free the Bees, were both picked up for use in television commercials.

In 2007, reduced to a quintet with Clevitt’s departure, they released Octopus, a brilliant, wide-ranging pop/rock opus that had inventiveness and unexpected influences quietly oozing out from between every note and chorus. Its feet were planted in 2007, but its musical influences looked back to the Kinks of Village Green Preservation Society and the Small Faces of “The Universal.” As with much of their earlier work, the album seemed to demand attention as much as it elicited delight, like a book the reader can’t put down. For all of their seeming ’60s influences, the group comes off as startlingly contemporary, just willing to reach back to artists and styles they admire when it suits them and the music at hand.”

And finally, I Really Need Love – A song from the bees new album!


Stevie and Jimmie by blakehamilton
October 2, 2010, 9:53 am
Filed under: Music, Skylark, Video

I want to take a moment to share a beautiful clip that Alan sent us of Stevie Ray Vaughan performing with his brother Jimmie. Jimmie was three years older than Stevie and was his first big musical influence.

As you know, our film is about a musician who loses his older brother/bandmate in a tragic accident. Of course The Skylark is fiction, but the story of Stevie Ray Vaughan sadly is not. Jimmie’s younger brother overcame a drug and alcohol abuse problem only to die tragically in a helicopter crash in 1990. He was 35 years old.

Thanks for the clip, Alan.


Arcade Fire Meets Terry Gilliam by blakehamilton
August 5, 2010, 11:33 am
Filed under: Music, Video

Hi everyone, this is just a quick post to let you know that one of our favorite current bands, Arcade Fire, is performing their second show at Madison Square Garden tonight and the entire concert will be webcast live on youtube. What’s more is that the whole thing is directed by Terry Gilliam!

Check out this amazing ad for the show:

I was at the band’s gig last night, where I shot this short little video. They were amazing.

Tune in tonight and don’t forget to pick up Arcade Fire’s new album The Suburbs.


The HDSLR Revolution And Us (Megapost #3) by blakehamilton
July 11, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Canon 5d Mark ii, Photos, Sweet Nothing, Technology, Video

Last summer, as Keith and I were getting a little burnt out from rewriting our feature script, he had the idea of taking a small flashback and expanding it into a short film. Thus, our project SWEET NOTHING was born. Around that time, there were whisperings of an unexpected advancement in the HD camera world, unexpected because it started as a simple add-on to an “old technology” and evolved into a widely used tool in the industry.

This is a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera), specifically the Canon 5D. Like any other professional Canon or Nikon camera, it shoots beautiful pictures. This model came out in 2005:

In comes the Canon 5D Mark ii, which arrived in late 2008 and changed everything:

Although the two cameras look the same, there is one enormous difference. Canon had received many requests from photojournalists to add a simple video record option to their pro-line of photo cameras so that one could capture the odd video in the field and post it online. Canon’s photo department obliged, and without collaborating with their video department, virtually slapped in an HD video feature. Little did they know they had created a camera under $3,000 capable of shooting more cinematic images than most cameras five to ten times its price. The reason? The camera is based on full 35mm frame photography (like a motion picture camera) instead of small chip television/video camera technology.

I don’t want to get too technical, because there are already loads of information out there from many great bloggers (links at the bottom), but when the 5D Mark ii first came out it was lacking many vital manual controls. While Keith and I were prepping to shoot SWEET NOTHING, some of the key issues had just been resolved via a firmware update and so it seemed like the perfect time to give HDSLRs a go. So, I sold this:

And bought my beloved, tiny 5D Mark ii:

Me and mine

Like most of my friends, I’m a bit of gadget freak. It’s an addiction that both pushes my career forward and in many ways holds me back. I’m sure a lot of you know what I mean. For those of you that don’t, well, what I’m about to say may be the geekiest sentence I ever written, but I’ll write it anyway… The first gadget that changed my life was a PowerMac G4 with Final Cut Pro. It enabled me to be a one-man post-production team, and Apple’s user-interface just made sense. That was 2001. Cut to 2009, eight years later, and you have the Canon 5D Mark ii, the second gadget that changed my life.

Keith and I were very lucky when we went into production on SWEET NOTHING because our good friend and cinematographer, Alan Poon, was living in NYC at the time and agreed to experiment with my new camera. He had his own set of Canon lenses, which we were planning to shoot with, but since we couldn’t find a follow-focus to rent, we were forced to rent a Nikon lens package with its own follow-focus. (A follow-focus is a necessity when shooting a narrative film. It enables someone other than the camera operator to make sure the actors are in focus as they move around.) One of the wonderful things about the Canon DSLRs is that they have a lens mount that allows you to put pretty much any old lens on it with an adapter. The old manual Nikons wound up being a great choice because they have a sharper, lower-contrast look than the Canons.

Looking back, the interesting thing about our first shoot with the 5D Mark ii is that Alan and I were not yet ready to ditch our years of film training/brainwashing, and so we treated the camera like every old mammoth we were used to, thus erasing one of the great aspects of the 5D, its minimal size. We virtually never took it off the tripod or detached it from our two external monitors. Still, the camera performed amazingly well and we were ecstatic when we finally saw the footage on a big screen.

Alan with the 5D Mark ii on the set of SWEET NOTHING

Here is a little teaser I cut to give you an idea of the vibe and look of SWEET NOTHING:

Since that project, I’ve shot almost exclusively with the 5D Mark ii, and already a lot has changed. Canon has released three new HDSLRs, all of which have their positives and negatives and range in price from $800 to $5000. That’s right; you can buy a camera, the Canon Rebel t2i, for $800 capable of shooting video similar to the  5D Mark ii! And the body is even smaller! Professionals are using these cameras to shoot television shows, commercials, music videos, and feature films. When I shoot with mine now, I try to keep it as stripped down as possible – truly guerilla! And I’m not the only one. Many projects are being shot with several HDSLRs at a time since they can be had so cheaply. How you use it is up to you. Some people still attach every gadget imaginable to their HDSLR, some attach nothing, some mix and match.

Here you can see director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids, Sin City) on the set of a music video with a souped up 5D Mark ii and then on the same set with a stripped down B-camera.

(images via

For my kit, after doing a bunch of research, I decided to invest in some old lenses instead of buying the far more expensive Canon pro-line L series lenses. Much of the old glass produces as good or better images and can be purchased cheaper. I decided to go with Contax Zeiss lenses, and managed to wing the deal of the century. I found someone selling a 28mm, 55mm macro (vivitar), 35-70mm macro, and a 135mm on craigslit for $600! Be jealous; I’ll probably never find a deal like that again… The Zeiss glass is amazing – a little cooler in tone, but tack sharp and with amazing bokeh (aesthetic quality of the blur). I bought an adapter to use these lenses from adorama for $28.

Two features sorely lacking from the 5D are a true viewfinder and professional audio controls/inputs. So I completed my kit with an LCDVF and a Zoom H4N. I recommend both of these devices without hesitation, but there are many other options out there. Putting your kit together is a very personal and, once again, addictive thing. Just keep in mind that if you go overboard, you’ll prevent yourself from enjoying the freedom of having such a small and simple device.

I carry my 5D Mark ii everywhere. It’s my photo camera, my home video camera, and my movie camera of choice. And now, I’m very happy to announce that Keith, Derrick, Alan, and I plan to shoot our first feature film THE SKYLARK with HDSLRs!

Feel free to ask me any questions. I could write a novel about my beloved Canon, but that would take time away from actually using it…


PS. My top 4 blogs on the subject:

Planet 5D

Cinema 5D

Philip Bloom

Hurlbut Visuals

She Keeps Bees by hamiltonbros
June 22, 2010, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Music, Video

In my last post I listed my favorite New York based bands. Well, I need to add a name to that list. The band is She Keeps Bees and man do they rock! Jessica Larrabee sings and plays guitar and Andy LaPlant accompanies her on drums. That’s right, they’re only a two piece! Their music is intense and raw; think The White Stripes or The Black Keys but with a female singer who gets compared to artists like Cat Power and PJ Harvey. Take a look for yourself:

Was I lying?! If you like what you see, the band is playing two gigs in Brooklyn this weekend before touring the country (Dates: Friday, June 25th, 7pm at Littlefield Performance and Art Space, & Saturday, June 26th, 4pm at Bar Matchless). They also have two bad-ass albums, MINISINK HOTEL, released in 2006, and NESTS released in 2008. I’ll be at the show on Saturday, so come and join me for a beer and some fantastic music!