Mark Vargo, ASC

Unleash Your Creative Potential!

Welcome! My website is filled with valuable tips, anecdotes, and tons of useful information not found in any textbook. I’m dedicated to sharing what I know with up and coming filmmakers.

"TIME LAPSE TIPS" is now available to watch! Check it out in the video section of the site.

HONG KONG!

Just got back from an amazing assignment in Hong Kong and mainland China. The job was to film NBA legend Kevin Garnett visiting China.

KG at a press conference.

We shot ENG style with a C-300 a GH4 and my old XA-10. It was lots of fun chasing him around Hong Kong.

Fabulous Hong Kong as seen from Kowloon. I was a bit surprised at how hot and sticky it was everyday. Had some problems with lens fogging but no out right camera failures due to the heat. We did some shooting from the 106th floor of the incredible Ritz Carlton, the latest "tallest" building in town.

This picture is shot from the 116th floor of the Ritz. This is one busy place on land and at sea. Ships, ferries, patrol boats, you name it. I did not see one private vessel of any kind.

As always, I kick myself for not shooting more stills. China is an astonishing place and my expectations were exceeded many times over on every level. Try to visit it one day if you can.

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Family History Comes Alive!

My 90 year old Mom has a number of old trunks that contain years and years of family memorabilia. Recently, one of my sisters came across what looked like an old leather billfold. In it was not money, but about 100 old black and white negatives. She sent them out to me to scan and print. The above photo is of my Grandfather T.E. McCready on an unknown vessel in the northern latitudes sometime in the late twenties. Why the lack of specificity? Easy. This is the first time my Mother has seen the photo! He was born in 1898 and she says he looks about 30 in this photo and knew that he sailed in the North Atlantic early in his Coast Guard career. He served in WWI and WWII and retired as a Commander and Chief Engineer the year I was born in 1954.

 

I copied the negative, backlit on a lightbox with a GH4 Lumix using a 12-35mm lens. Imported the marginally over exposed digital "negative" into photoshop and inverted it to a positve image The neg is surprisingly clean and of decent relative sharpness for the day. I'll take it to our local camera store and have it scanned on a high end scanner to see how much more detail the negative contains.

 

Whats of interest to me is the dimension of the negative: 2.5" X 4" and it's modern 1:66:1 aspect ratio. Still trying to figure out what camera took this photo.

The Tech Scout

The “tech scout” is a one of the last big group outings before principal photography begins.  In attendance are all department heads, the cinematographer, the key grip, gaffer and their best boys. To some, this will be the first time they have seen  actual locations connected with the shooting plan developed in prep. The best boys are probably freshly hired, so they’ll be the ones scribbling madly and asking as many questions as time allows.  In addition to be being a very important last chance get together to review and report the progress of everyone during prep – now concepts are actually finally finalized. Such as: placement of base camp, crew parking  and the working trucks. Generator placement and power distribution will be plotted and if there is any night work, grip and electric will have a good idea where the lighting lifts will be set up. The cinematographer will now know in which direction the first shot is and where the cameras will be placed. At this point, everyone is working on Plan A and it’s anyone’s guess how long Plan A will last.

 

“Best Boy”: a crew person charged with the everyday administration of the grip or electrical departments. They closely monitor the schedule and arrange for any special equipment and additional manpower needs required on any given day. They also are responsible for ordering and maintaining the inventory of expendable items such as rope, tape, foil, markers bulbs, in other words, everything required to make the project. Usually best boys are experienced in the craft and can assist on set if necessary. The “Best Boy” is a term that has been around since the beginning of the industry. Nowadays, women can be “Best Boys” - and I know several very good ones.

 

The tech scout fills in many blanks and without it, it is near impossible to arrange for all the equipment and manpower required to accomplish the scene.

 

You’ll see clip boards, set plans, schedules, storyboards, measuring tapes and lots of pictures being taken. Typically, the director won’t attend the tech scout because it is logistically intensive and is critical time specifically set side aside for the benefit of the crew. If a director does attend, he’ll need to be reminded of this, maybe even more than once.

 

Any new equipment or manpower requirements discovered during tech scouting will be added to the “shooting” schedule,  the bible for all scene specific additional special requirements.

 

On larger projects, the tech scout might take several days and involve forty to sixty crew people.

 

Next: The “Production Meeting”.


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