Hi there. I’m a camera nerd turned engineer. I grew up getting my hands dirty in the shop and taking photos of my friends skateboarding. Now I write software and build other speciality filmmaking tools at LAIKA. We just released the first film I’ve worked on there, Missing Link. Before that, I worked as a documentarian for PBS and various grant projects while earning my Computer Science degree. I’m a swiss-army knife problem solver and I like taking notes and learning new things.

Contact me here. See a documentary I made here. See my project log below.


Missing Link, behind the scenes!

I just received my approved portfolio materials, so I’m pleased to be able to show off some of my work on the film Missing Link.

Going slow to go fast

This year I realized a longtime dream of mine to learn about high performance driving, as much as I can, without going broke. Early in the year I had an instructor named Dan (in the photo above) who could probably start a meditation tape series talking about vehicle dynamics. He had an interesting knack for knowing where I was looking without actually looking at me and saying “look up”. It’s obvious when someone is looking at you when they’re wearing a full face helmet. When I put this together, I asked him what was cueing him in. He explained that you can feel the difference in the car – a driver tends to make smaller corrections when you look further ahead, connecting large arcs instead of making fidgety adjustments. Here are some of my other notes from that day:

+ There are a lot of slow things about going fast.

+ Your eyes are the window to your brain. Where you look determines which information you can process. So if you don’t look far enough ahead, everything moves too quickly.

+ Look up and through the corners.

+ High performance driving is all about balancing weight distribution – put the weight at the right place at the right time.

+ Looking ahead slows things down.

+ Give up speed to hit the apex if you need. Be disciplined and hit every apex. Slow in, fast out.

Notes from other instructors and myself:

+ Run your street tires for the first year. They talk to you – squealing means they’re on the edge of grip, squalling means they’re actually losing grip – and don’t forgive you for making mistakes. Stickier tires give you more grip but they also can hide mistakes.

+ As with most of my hobbies, gear is a super fun part of the process. But it generally does NOT teach you the craft. Get good tires and brakes and leave the rest alone (outside of any safety concerns).

Now I’m addicted and it’s almost winter… time to ramp up some other hobbies.

Honda CRX custom radiator support

I bought a Honda CRX last year as my daily and track day / autocross toy. My first car was a CRX and a big chunk of my website when I was a teenager was devoted to my Honda projects and general nerdery. I’m working on a larger page about this resurgence of a car obsession in my life, but for now, here’s a bit of fab work that I did for it.

This year I upgraded my radiator to keep the engine cool at the track. While this all-aluminum Mishimoto radiator is awesome and almost overkill for my little motor, it didn’t have ideal fitment and almost prevented the hood from closing. So I designed and made these radiator supports to allow the radiator to tilt back slightly, and replace yet another 30 year old rubber bushing on my Honda. I used calipers and a couple iterations of cardboard mockups to get the hole pattern and bends figured out, then used some scrap anodized aluminum to actually make the parts. Then I added some speed holes, because race car.

Broken light prototype

I realized a basic prototype of a light I’ve been wanting to make for a while. My concept was to emulate accidental industrial lighting effects that I photograph. Examples of those effects are mixed color temperatures, broken diffusion elements, and multiple point sources. It’s rough but the results are interesting.

Missing Link

‘Missing Link’ is out today, April 12th! This is the film I’ve been working on at LAIKA for the past (almost) 3 years and my first credit in a feature film as Camera and Motion Control Engineer. I’m seriously overwhelmed by the amount of talent, sweat, and blood that went into this beauty. Go check it out! UPDATE check out my portfolio for this film here.

Orange glasses

I designed and 3D printed new temples for my glasses. Being a camera guy, I wear a lot of black. So, I guess I’ve got to work in some pops of color somewhere. Print your own with my files on Thingiverse here.

Tampy tamp tamp

I bought a broken Nuova Simonelli espresso machine on eBay and fixed it up. Okay, it wasn’t really “broken.” I think the guy who sold it just didn’t care to fix it or understand how the water sensing mechanism worked. It’s caveman stuff (or ultra clever. or both. i can’t decide). There are two terminals on either side of the water spout. If there’s a conductive fluid like non-distilled water between them, the circuit will complete. But the terminals were a bit loose and corroded… so it took a whole 5 minutes to fix.

In the past year, I’ve leveled up my machining skills but I haven’t done much knurling. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to practice by making my own 58mm espresso tamper.

Beach Radio

I found a neat old National AB-235 solid state radio at a swap meet this spring for $5. Since it wasn’t working anymore, I thought it’d make a great bluetooth radio for the beach.

To keep the original speaker and all of its tinny charm, I needed more depth for electronics. My solution was to create a new back piece with my 3D printer that was about .325″ deeper. I added through holes for the electronics, a 9V battery holder, and an opening for a switch.

See the project and get the files on Radio project on Thingiverse.

3D printer

I bought my first 3D printer! It’s an Anet A8 (Prusa i3 clone). After assembly, adding belt tensioners, and installing a MOSFET so the board didn’t melt and burn my place down, I’ve been making small prints and dialing in my bed leveling technique. My first larger project is converting a vintage radio into a Bluetooth one.

Marking Soundbites

Last year, I came up a trick to mark soundbites as you record video interviews. Basically, you record a dummy tone into an unused audio channel anytime you hear a good clip to generate a form of metadata you can reference later in your edit suite. This tone can be made with a number of free apps for your phone or with any device that can input a tone into your camera. And best of all, this trick isn’t dependent on proprietary software.

It still surprises me that a basic marker feature (perhaps included as a sidecar XML file) isn’t a feature of most professional cameras marketed to documentary filmmakers. So often, as you’re hearing the interview you already know many of the soundbites you’ll use later. And while the Lumberjack System, for example, is a great alternative, I wanted a quick and dirty way to make this happen.