shutterbug: A Short Experimental Film

A few years ago in film school, I had an assignment to make a movie using an old 16mm wind-up Bolex camera. I didn’t feel like making a normal narrative; instead, I lugged that clunky camera and a tripod around San Francisco and shot some timelapse footage. Mind you, I didn’t have any sort of automatic timer to control the old camera, so I literally stood in place while manually progressing the film, frame by frame. Most shots are about 15-20 minutes compressed into 15-20 seconds.

With one roll of film left, I needed to create a unifying theme for all the timelapse footage, so I asked a girl to walk around pretending to take pictures. She’s using a magic camera, I guess; I wasn’t too concerned with the story. She was an actress that I had directed before in a more traditional film project.

All of the film was pretty glitchy so of course I used glitchy music. Unfortunately the footage is literally just a mini-dv camera recording a projection of the film because professional telecine scans can be quite expensive. A lot of work for a small pay-off — my silent peers in the class were indifferent — but I like it.

Designing a 3D-Printed Phone Camera Lens Mount

I’ve long wanted to order a 3D print from Shapeways or Sculpteo, but wasn’t interested in buying a meaningless trinket designed by a stranger. The novelty of 3D printing lies in the physical manifestation your own idea.

So before I had an idea, I needed a problem to solve. Luckily I have a lot of those. I have a small, cheap fisheye lens that’s designed for smartphone cameras, but it’s suggested method of mounting the lens to the camera is decidedly less than smart. The kit came with a small metal ring, like a washer, that you are supposed to glue to your phone, and the lens itself has a magnet that holds it to the ring. I actually did stick the ring to my iPhone 4 with its provided sticky goop, but then the phone had a slight protuberance and thus wouldn’t sit flat on a table (which really doesn’t matter, but annoyed me). Soon the ring fell off the glass-backed iPhone, so I just used the lens by holding it up to the camera. That works but it’s pretty cumbersome.

More expensive kits come with a nice mount that slides onto the corner of the phone, holding the wide angle lens in place. They also cost over fifty bucks while the lens itself only costs around eight bucks. So I decided to invent a solution. Or rather, to make my own knockoff of the expensive solution.

I’m already a bit familiar with modeling and design software as I’ve always had a cursory interest in 3D modeling and animation, and I was lucky enough to take a brief AutoCAD course in high school. For the most part I taught myself when I was a teenager by pirating high-end software. I didn’t really want to sail the high seas of The Pirate Bay anymore, so after a quick googlin’ I found that Autodesk has a suite of cool, free design apps that are oriented towards amateurs.

And so I measured my phone with a ruler, sketched my design on a post-it note, and went to work. Ninety percent of modelling in 3D is simply trying to figure out how to get the software to do what you want it to do and 123D has a very approachable interface. I do wish it allowed for a multiple window view to see top/side/front elevations of your object simultaneously.
Anywho, I designed my widget to the best of my abilities, uploaded it to Shapeways, and ordered. Tada!


It took about a week to manufacture for about $9 bucks before it shipped. And it fits!


The mount snugly slides onto the iPhone and holds the lens without any glue or magnets. It’s a hair too tight on the phone itself, as I made the gap exactly the same thickness as the phone at 9.3mm without any leeway, but it has a strong grip. I’m a little concerned it’ll scratch the camera’s lens when sliding on and off. Then again, it’s already scratched up from riding around in my pocket for a couple years.

What no one tells you is that 3D printing is addictive, and designing practical solutions like this are a gateway drug towards making inane silly things.


While looking around for free modelling software I found that Pixologic has a free version of its Zbrush software called Sculptris. Zbrush is different from most modelers in that it emulates sculpting in clay.  The resulting high-polygon meshes are very messy and complicated, which is problematic for animation and video games, but not for stationary figures. And Shapeways’ algorithms when you send them a 3D model are surprisingly forgiving when it comes to messy meshes.

That matters, because polygons by themselves are impossible objects; they are 2D objects suspended in 3D space.  Polygons have no thickness unto themselves (think papercraft but the paper is infinitely thin), so the 3D object only makes sense to the printers if the figure is completely closed, or “watertight,” thus simulating a solid object. Some of the models I uploaded to Shapeways were messy, but their robots are evidently smart enough to ignore and fix minor problems. Anyway, Sculptris is a lot of fun to tinker around with even if you have no background in modeling. It’s just digital Play-Doh.

The ultimate goal for me? An original, 3D printed tiki mug. So far I’m just experimenting and learning, but I’ll get there.

Comic-Con 2011

I didn’t have tickets.


Side effects of the Subway diet come to light.


FORGET all that is dear to your heart, all that is holy and sacred, for THEY have risen above any god by shedding unto the masses FREE T-SHIRTS!

DSC_3185aDSC_3188aTHE CHOSEN ONE experiences the tragic ecstasy of pure cotton rapture.

And so he clutches his t-shirt as the throngs still reach for everything that can’t be had, the silk-screened tees passing like a night train in the distance that enters your dream with its horn, the brass ring at the carnival you will never be able to grasp, the shooting star in the corner of your eye that may or may not be there. “My precious”, he says, “Precious, we wept to be so alone. My Precious Free Tee Shirt.” Hopefully it fits.

Autodesk Photofly

Autodesk’s Project Photofly, or Photo Scene Editor, allows anyone with a digital camera to create a 3D model of an object simply by taking a series of photographs from multiple angles. This sort of interpolation has been around for a while; in fact, when you see people wearing those spandex suits covered in ping pong balls, their 3D motion is recorded by having multiple cameras track the data points. That’s essentially the same way we have depth perception, by using two mushy eyeballs.

This isn’t about motion, though. The significance of this Autodesk project is that it allows anyone with a camera to capture 3D models, and it’s free until the end of 2012.

Myself, I’m trying to make a good quality 3D coconut:

If I had a clean enough mesh, I could order 3D printed coconut from Shapeways. They could even make a sterling silver coconut, or perhaps steel, with bronze finish.

UPDATE: Behold, an interactive 3D coconut viewer courtesy of Sculpteo.

And here’s a quick attempt to capture Buzz Lightyear. Of course the layers of irony of creating a 3D model by photographing a toy based on a 3D model are delicious.

Or perhaps I should work on this:

SF Pride Parade

First some music:

It was tough to be an amateur photographer at the LBGTQWERTYLOLXOXO gay pride parade in San Francisco. Big crowds, hot sun. But I had a good time. Almost all of the pictures I took were taken while I held my camera above my head. Sometimes the autofocus gods were generous and sometimes they weren’t.





I like when I discover someone is looking at the camera and me:


This is Sara with the red plume. I was happy she found the picture I had taken online and sent me a message.


The Dyke March was on Saturday in the mission, my neighborhood, prior to the Sunday parade.



See the whole 87 picture set. Altogether I took a little under a thousand photos! Pardon the violent metaphor, but shooting digital is like shooting with a machine gun, whereas shooting film is like a sniper rifle.

I know, that’s kind of a horrible metaphoric thing to say, but I couldn’t think of another way to put it.

Haight Street Fair

Que the music:

I had fun taking pictures at the Haight Street Fair and heavily processing them in Photoshop. I figure anyone can learn to be technically proficient, so it’s fun to try something else.

I don’t like having people pose for pictures because they end up being phony (in addition to the awkwardness of a stranger asking to take your picture), but I had to ask her for a close up. You can see the rest on Flickr.

PS. If you’re curious, here’s a comparison before/after playing with the colors, and some are more drastic than this: