Earth to Echo: What's your take on tech?

Earth to Echo Director Dave Green and I had a short chat about his upcoming (July 2) movie that takes us on a first-person look at first contact. The movie features an interesting film technique and some intriguing film technology.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

It's kind of funny to watch people of all ages mess with their personal technology devices in person, but it's really funny to see it on a movie screen. And it's even funnier when that technology backfires on people — in real life or in a movie. You'll have to go see Earth to Echo to fully understand what I'm talking about, but it's an adventure with contemporary technology mixed in.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is how the Director, Dave Green, and Producer, Andrew Panay, chose to film it in "first person." First person means that the actors film the movie, just as kids would do if they were chronicling their experiences. They use a camera and cell phones, of course, to document their adventures.

Because of the way it's filmed, the movie has sort of a retro feel to it — like those of our youth, such as E.T., The Goonies, and Stand By Me. Earth to Echo is a family movie that incorporates the old school low-tech kid adventure with modern day technology. It's an interesting mix that parents and kids both will enjoy.

But this isn't a movie review, it's a tech article that attempts to give you film buffs and film tech nerds an inside look into the making of the movie.


Being an amateur filmmaker myself, I'm always interested in knowing which hardware and software choices the "big guys" make.

Dave Green told me that he and his crew used the following camera hardware to film Earth to Echo:

Red Epic Camera
IndieCam GS2K
iPhone Camera

The CGI software is some in-house developed product that Dave didn't know the name of, but for sound editing, they used Avid Technology's Pro Tools.

I have an iPhone 5, but I certainly don't think that I'm "Hollywood ready" by any stretch. I'd take an IndieCam GS2K or any IndieCam model, if anyone wants to send one my way. Same goes for the Red Epic. And, while I'm asking, although they didn't use one in Earth to Echo, I'd happily take a Blackmagic Design Cinema camera too.

The camera choices that the crew made are easy to justify. The Red Epic is a very fine camera for cinema work. It features interchangeable lens mounts so that you can use Nikon, Canon, Leica-M, and PL lenses to get the exact look you want for every shot. The resolution is good too on Red cameras: 100fps at 6K.

If you don't need that resolution, but you have a need for more speed, drop your resolution and film at 150fps. And they're the perfect 3D camera too. You can also use an array of Redmag SSDs to capture your masterpiece on with capacities ranging from 48GB up to 512GB. From single shot photography to "epic" 3D blockbuster movies, the Red Epic is the one to watch.

The IndieCam GS2K is extremely small and lightweight (measuring only 40 x 40 x 100 mm, weighing just 170g and operating stand-alone without the need of a control-box). It's perfect for the first-person video style used in Earth to Echo. It features frames rates from 24fps up to 120fps and various modes of 720 and 1080 interlaced and progressive. You can also daisy chain them and control them from a single remote unit. 12-bit cinema in a small package — awesome.

If you're an iPhone user, you know that iPhone cameras are cool. The iPhone 5 features an 8MP camera that operates in very low light because of its wide aperture (f2.2). You can also purchase additional lenses for it, like I did for mine, at Photojojo for under $50 for the four-lens special (macro, wide, tele, fisheye), a boom mic, a panorama lens, and external flash units. I've reviewed some of these products on my Frugal Networker site.

Avid Technology's Pro Tools software is a professional suite of audio and music mixing tools that many high-end studios use. In fact, a good friend and professional videographer friend of mine told me that he used Pro Tools for video music, voiceovers, and soundtrack mixing. His words were, "It's the bomb and the industry standard." I guess he felt that he had to clarify his terminology. I got it, Joseph, thanks. Anyone who knows movies also knows that sound can make or break a film, so directors and sound techs don't trust this all-important aspect to just any old software.

More great project ideas

I enjoyed my few minutes with Dave Green and I wish him success in Earth to Echo and in his future endeavors. He was great to talk to and I hope to speak with him again in the future. Thanks, Dave.

I like movies that use extremely high tech but do it in such a way that it feels like I'm part of the movie. I think Green and company succeed in that goal in Earth to Echo. You get the feeling of being right there with the kids as they work, discover, and explore.

You have the feeling that you're working through it with them and I like that feeling — kind of like trying to solve a mystery along with Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes. It's that first person viewpoint that puts you into the action with the characters and it works. Earth to Echo opens in theaters July 2nd.

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