Monday 25 May 2020


Ture Gustafson
When COVID 19 changed the way we live, our psyches took a plunge into the... Mental health is front-page news. But a bunch of my pals came up with terrific ideas to keep the bogeyman at bay.

EKI built a studio in his apartment. He installed a green screen and is working on a program where he coordinates the action on the screen with the action on his computer. When I catch him on the phone and he's working on this project he sounds totally into it. He's making a video so that us non-nerds can get the picture.

ELIZABETH NELSON (Ft. Collins, Co) My sister is going through chemotherapy. She's an artist and came up with the idea to make a paper-doll journal book: DRUNK on CHEMO.  She wears a different outfit to every session, makes up, and takes selfies. Then copies them in water-colors for the book. When we talk she tells me it's made the sessions (18) go faster. DoC sounds like a best seller.

SHARON  PETTUS (St. Louis, Mo) created an aviary in her garden. She bought 12 different kinds of bird seeds for different species. Layers them in the feeders (12). And installed a solar-powered birdbath. It's a non-stop show as birds fly in and out. For Mother's day she received a special camera that hangs in a tree to photograph the lucky birds who found this luxury spa. Hummingbirds and cardinals are regular guests. A giant woodpecker also stops by.

VANAMO family (Helsinki, Finland) had a virtual family get-together on zoom. It was fun but they wanted to do something. So now they have a one a week cake-a-thon. The first week was a  marble cake. The whole family likes to cook so there were five yummy examples. But the favorite was Larissa Vanamos's tiger cake.

JONI HERTELL (Hanko, Finland) spends most of his time now at his summer house. He misses his family but they stay in touch on zoom. And he read stories to his four grand-daughters – Amanda, Isabella, Miena and Nelly. Their favorites are the MOOMIN stories, written in 1952, but still fresh. The parents get a break. And the kids and Joni have a good time on their own..

SHARON HELLER (Palisade, Co) is a gourmet cook. Her husband, Bill, hunts so they have great raw material. Sharon emails menus and recipes that make me want to lick the screen. Her lentil stew recipe looked do-able and delicious. I used Spanish sausage. Cooked lentils. Fried garlic, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and added half glass of red wine to the lentil mix Topped  it off with fresh cilantro. Delicious with a glass of red.

TURE GUSTAFSON (Machinpango, VA) and his mother, Airlia*, noticed a large knocked down metal sign on the side of the road to their house. They decided to prop it up and do a daily art exhibition. They have a rolling cart full of spray paint.  Ture designs the work at night and paints it the next day. His mother also takes a turn. The Road Sign art is a shot in the arm during Social Isolation.

The SHARK has been working from home, separated but in touch with the team. They got bored they started talking about their annual Sports Day. Usually, they go orienteering in the forest. But one guy piped up and said what he missed most about Social Isolation was going to the mall. Everyone perked up. They're making a list of stuff in stores to photograph. The first one finished and in the bat wings. Cheers.

*Airlia Pettus was two years old when I met her in 1969. She introduced  me to her parents,  Sharon and Robert Pettus.

Next week: I (red heart) the LINCOLN PROJECT:  never-Trump Republicans who aim to defeat him


First of all, sorry for the long delay with publishing this. Despite these Corona-infused times, i've been extremely busy. I guess a lot of the work that would have been done out there actually shooting is done at the desktop now, and falls into my lap.

In addition to normal work, our studio is moving. The landlord sold the whole house we were located in, and the new owner told us to hit the road. They had other needs for the space. So, we launched in a fervent search mode, and lo and behold, found a great new place - we're going back to the Hedengren building (Lauttasaarentie 50) from which we had to leave almost a decade ago, as it was being renovated from ground up at the time.

The new premises are at the 2nd floor, a little over 200 m² (roughly 2200 square feet), divided in two large rooms or halls or whatever you wanna call them. The building is in a nice condition, and has modern amenities - we're used to residing in rather awful shacks, so this is a definite step up. We even have separate bathrooms for boys and girls.

Moving and building the studio is quite a lot of work. So far, we have moved three glass-walled open office rooms from one hall to the other. Now we have three nice editing rooms in the smaller hall, and room for building the greenscreen and music "stage" in the larger one. It's still very much a work in progress and will be some time into the summer.

The work includes setting up a real-time virtual production environment, which i have been prototyping at home, at my impromptu social distancing mini version of a greenscreen studio. The system is based on the same technology as virtual reality headsets, in fact, i use consumer-grade trackers from Vive's VR setup, which are not nearly as cost-prohibitive as the truly professional stuff is. We're talking about an order of magnitude of difference in price. Or two.

The VR trackers are bolted to video cameras. They tell the computer the exact location and rotation of the real cameras so that a virtual, matching camera can be used in a 3D animated world in Unreal Engine. By combining these two, we can shoot the talent on the greenscreen, and have him/her completely immersed in a virtual world. Essentially, we're putting actors into a video game, in real time.

Exciting times.