Lights, camera, blue screen

By Andrew Lee

Three student filmmakers work together to bring the World War I aerial battles to life. They use 15 foot tall blue screens, the world’s largest collection of World War I airplanes and a lofty $20,000 budget. It has taken months of script revisions, part auditions and visual planning before they have been able to begin filming. Over the course of the upcoming year, David Berry ’09, Justin Levine ’09, and Michael Stampler ’09 plan on filming their subjects on blue screen backgrounds and compositing it on computers to create animated scenarios and effects.

The student freelance video company CE Studios came together a year ago when the three students combined their individual skills and interests in film-making. Levine, who is in charge of 3D rendering and animation, brought together the audio handling skills of Berry and the cinematography skills of Stampler to create the studio.

“CE stands for common era, as in BCE,” said Stampler, who is also the main editor. “We’re all for the advancement of going digital and embracing new technologies.” The film group offers freelance video production for almost everything. They have produced television advertisements for jewelers across Los Angeles, including Wonderjewelers and Barakat Galleries in Beverly Hills. Other jobs include other video advertisements, music videos, and event videography.

“We’re actually in the process of editing an interesting hip-hop music video for an independent artist,” Levine said. 

 “We usually charge $50 for a post production and $100 per hour,” Berry said. “We’re all just trying to collect money right now so we can expand our studio size with more equipment.” They use up to five assistants, including grips, while filming on set. The production team plans on filming the majority of this film on blue screens so that they are able to add animated scenarios using the programs Maya, Shake, and Final Cut.

Levine also worked at Sony for the past two summers sculpting 3D props and character works in “Spiderman 3” and “I am Legend,” to be released this winter. Their short movie titled “Angel Bay” was a finalist in six national film festivals, including the Columbia University National Undergraduate Film Festival.  The film combines real actors with computer generated backgrounds and effects, giving it a unique graphic novel feel.

“Our success with ‘Angel Bay’ would not have been made possible without the support of the Upper School Head Harry Salamandra,” Stampler said. “He came in on the weekend and let us use the school’s studio to film.”

A distributing company called Pike Productions offered a contract with CE Studios to distribute their work on a compiled collection of DVDs.

“I’ve learned so much from my work. Every time I’m on set, I feel that I’m always learning something new,” Levine said. “I’m excited and anxious to learn new techniques and to tackle more challenging shots.”