Friday, November 20, 2015

Mystery Date

This video sketch was made at the CMAC studios in downtown Fresno CA. The premise is that of a "Blind Date."
But then things move to a surprising conclusion.

I really enjoyed thissketch. I think that I have met several young men like the one in this sketch. 

I haven't personally worked with this group at CMAC but I am thinking that I might like to collaborate with them on a few sketches for my show. I'll have to put out some feelers for that  among the Executive Production folks.

I hope you will enjoy this. Blindness itself is not the joke, the sighted reaction to blindness is.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Braille and Other Updates

About six months ago I wrote to tell you that I was going to learn Braille.

I recently completed my grade one Braille lessons, so I now know all of my Braille letters. But that is as far as I will get.

Over the Summer practicing Braille became more and more difficult as the fingers of my left hand in particular showed they were less sensitive than is required to learn Braille at more than the basic level.

Three years ago, I had a stroke the affects of which were, I thought, mostly gone. I do have a slight tremor in my left hand but nothing else noticeable. Well it seems that the feeling in my fingers is not up to scratch.  As the Braille print got more and more densely packed on the page at higher levels my fingers could not cope.

So disappointingly, my teacher and I had to agree that Grade one was my limit. The good news is that now I can read the numbers on an elevator keypad and find an hotel room number and read it. So two of my original goals were achieved.

A few years ago I also set up a store on called Bretsuki's  The store has been added to over the years, I now have hundreds of designs available on everything from T-Shirts to greetings cards and mugs. The store generates a reasonable income and I have moved up the ladder in terms of selling beyond the level of a basic seller.

My Amazon projects have also terned out pretty well. I am an affilliate and receive some residual income from sales from links on this page. Also my used book store has done pretty well over the two years that it has been in business. The most difficult part of that job is actually finding enough inventory to maintain good stock levels. One thing that has helped me there is moving to a new city where there are lots of good quality thrift stores.

My plans for a Master's degree were placed on hold at the same time that I had my stroke. At present I am interested in returning to school, especially now I live near a good school in the California State University system. But  with only about a ten year working life left, I wonder at the cost effectiveness of a Master's degree now. We'll see.

As you can see. Some of my hopes and plans have not worked out so well, but some have worked out very well. We never know which way things will turn out. So I am glad that I have seized some of the opportunities that have come my way.

Blindness is not a reason not to try things. It can hinder some progress, but blindness is only a problem to be solved, not a reason to give up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Television Production Classes: In the Field

Monday and Tuesday saw me in the classroom and out in the field, well downtown Fresno, CA.

Why?    Because this was the week of the Field Production class, at CMAC studios.

My classmates and I all enjoyed getting to grips with the Sony video cameras used at CMAC.

William Elliott stands beside tripod on location shoot in downtown Fresno as part of the Field class at CMAC. Photo taken by Kevin Hobson
Holding the Camera on location Photo: Kevin Hobson

Though you might consider having very low vision might be an obstacle to camera work, I am having a great deal of fun behind the camera. In fact I think my low vision actually gives me an idea about light and the basic tool of photography in all forms is an understanding of light.

As my vision changes dramatically as I move from light to shadow, or exterior to interior, I can I believe think more like a camera operator. I think in terms of aperture, source of light, brightness and contrast.

I don't know if I am right in this. But we will certainly see in the future.

Knowing what will be in the picture is important for the camera operator. Here William Elliott uses the view finder to frame a few shots while on location photo shoot in downtown Fresno CA. Photo Kevin Hobson.
William Elliott Checking the view finder on Location shoot. Photo Kevin Hobson
During the two day course we  learned that filming out of the studio is no easy thing. For instance all of us found the low late Fall sun was more an hinderance when lining up our shots. As so often the sun was just in the line of shots, causing our cameras to blow out the shot of the road signs and buildings which we were supposed to capture as our field training videos.

Of course only a bad camera operator can blame the sun for ALL their bad shots.

Also as part of the class we learned about interior lighting for those times when we will need to take out a camera and lighting rig for location interviews.

Playing with lighting can be very productive. For instance do you want to make an interviewee look good then light them from the front and side. If you want them to look villainous light them from the side alone in order to create shadow on their face.  To make someone look older, light them from below this causes wrinkles to pop out of the face.

Also during the class I got to talk to the station about my ideas for production.

I need to work on items such as timings, the amount of time devoted to interview in a programme. I also need to work on finding content. My initial idea is a series of possibly monthly, maybe bi-weekly magazine programmes. Shows will contain ideas on health, causes of blindness, maybe a skit or comedy sketch to relieve the perceived heavy subject and a news or technology tutorial section.

The program name is not decided as yet but having asked a few people then "Blind Side of  Fresno" seems pretty popular.

As for airtime, that is uncertain at the moment but I am thinking Early Spring 2016, possibly as early as March.

Please share, Like  or Tweet this post.

To see the first post of this series go to  My Week in the Television Studio

Or take a look at my new Photography Store on  Fresno Camera and Video

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Week in the Television Studio

This week has been a pretty busy one for me. I was trying something new.

As you might come to expect from me, it was not where you would expect to find a blind man.

I have spent this week learning to be  a television camera operator.

William Elliott in headphones behind his camera as the crew prepare to record the 9th episode of "Members Only" for CMAC Television in downtown Fresno CA.
On Set as the show  prepares

When we began on Tuesday, we, myself and eleven other television production newbies were promised that by the end of Thursday we would have our first TV programme recorded and in post production. That was scary stuff to hear as non of us knew our fades from our takes.

The first day was spent learning just how to pull out the cameras, we used three, large bulky TV studio cameras.  Just positioning them is an art in itself. Then we learned to focus them on what the director wanted, learned to pan and tilt as well as how to zoom without leaving the viewer seasick. That is not easy you know.

Then we learned how to put everything away. Did you know there is a right way to coil a camera cable, and a wrong way too? Well we learned the right way to coil our cables for certain.

Yesterday was spent learning all the various positions from Talent, the person in front of the camera, to Director, the person who calls the shots. "Ready Camera two", "roll sound" "fade up sound", "open  mikes." "Take camera two."  We each took a turn at every place, I was excused Talent as I could not see the autocue ( the electronic display which talent use to read their lines.) I just could not see the autocue in all the bright lights.

I did thoughget to try everything else. I enjoyed being a camera operator most, also being the director, it did give me a bit of a power trip. Issuing orders.

Then at the end of the day we were issued with our script for today. A regular show on CMAC Fresno called "Members Only" A thirty minute show talking about other CMAC Fresno productions.

My place in the show was to operate camera two.

We began about ninety  minutes  before the show. The director and non floor crew made their plans for shots. Camera crews on all three cameras made the set up, then positioned our cameras, set up focus  and locked our cameras down to make sure we didn't accidently moved our cameras out of position or focus. Then mostly waited for the Host and guests to arrive at about 3:15pm. They did their mike checks, our floor director called us  to stand by. The music and video rolled and we were recording.

Through my headset I listened to the director and his crew outside the set calling time and shots while monitoring my camera and watching the programme unveil on a large monitor in the studio. At the half way point some of the crew swapped out to go outside to see the production crew. I was one who swapped out.

I had expected to find the director and his crew frantic with activity, but they were calmly  switching camera shot, bringing in music, calling up graphics. I was impressed with my colleagues. Hard to believe that three days ago they were newbies just like me. Here they looked like seasoned proffesionals.

At the end of thirty minutes the call went out to "Fade to black/ Close mikes. Stop recording and Clear."

The show was over. After we all went back to clean the set. Put away the equipment and settle down. We were told. We had done a great job. The show was timed perfectly, there were no errors and we had created a great show.

Our first show is now definitely under our belt. We were signed off to be able to enter proposals for our own shows, we can do studio work for others within CMAC and we can also move on to take up other challenges.

The link below is the CMAC YouTube link to see the "Members Only" program which we produced in our Stage Production Class. I hoe that you will enjoy watching it.

I will be back in the TV station next week for two classes. A Field Production class for two days and a Feature Film Boot Camp.

During the Boot Camp the crew meet for a script reading on Friday. Are told locations and taken through  a story board. Then on Saturday in the space of five hours they film, edit and present for broadcast a complete short five minute movie. That will be a challenge for yours truly but if this week is anything to go by it will be fun too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Low Vision Kitchen: Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Recently I took a step back into the kitchen. It can be scarey for a blind person to step back into the kitchen with all the sharp objects and hot surfaces. But in returning to the kitchen, I have regained some independence and self esteem.

Here is my first cooking video. : The Low Vision Kitchen: Breakfast Sausage Casserole

The Ingredients

Your Favorite Sausage, cooked and sliced into bite size pieces, you may also use Spam or Burgers or Sausage Patties

Your Favorite Cheese for topping

Six Eggs

Cup of Milk

Unbaked Biscuits.

Salt and Pepper for seasoning.

The casserole is quick  to prepare. The video is about 18 minutes long and so I would say there is a 15 minute preparation time plus 30 minute cooking time.

I used this Pyrex Baking dish in the video.Pyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish, Clear 8.9 Inch X 13.2 Inch - 3 Qt


If you are uncertain about using a hot oven. Then try these cool oven rack guards. They are easy to clean and prevent you burning your hands or arms on the edge of a hot oven rack. I use them all the time in my oven.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

Blind Sports: Fencing

William at Fresno Fencing Academy in fencing jacket holding a competition epee sword and a fencing face mask.
William in Fencing Jacket

Many years ago. Believe me it was hard not to write, "Long, Long  ago in a country far, far away." See I couldn't help myself. Well I once tried fencing.

No, I did not build fences in yards and gardens, this fencing is an Olympic sport and has some history in the art of single combat and duelling. It is the European styles of sword fighting raised to a sport.

In the early 1990's I used to visit a club about 20 miles from my home in Cheshire, England. It was fun and I got to keep pretty fit and had fun, but work and life made it difficult to keep up the sport.

In January 2015, I was returning home from my local California Council of the Blind meeting, with my wife. She decided to stop for ice-cream at Baskin Robbins. Next door happened to be a fencing school.

Inspired by my youthful experience I took a chance, went in, was welcomed and after talking about my needs for lessons and possible accommodations. I had a lesson booked and was on my way.

My main weapon is the Foil, a light and flexible sword used by beginners. Then after time a novice might move on to a Epee, a heavier sword similar to the foil but with different target areas or maybe the Sabre (Saber) a heavy slashing sword based on the old cavalry weapon. The three swords are represented in Olympic competition.

My personal aim, is merely to improve my balance, keep fit and have fun. Fencing can be enjoyed at all ages, even I at 54 years have lots of fun.

In September my coach, Vladimir, at the Fresno Fencing Academy offered me the chance to try a real opponent. The video below is part of the bout we fought.

We are competing with competition Epee, competitors score one point for a touch on the upper body , not the face mask or legs. First competitor to five points wins. I am fighting from left to right. We join the bout at the end of the first touch. I lead by 1 point to zero.

To make things a little more even. We are blindfolded too.