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about

BIO

Todd Sali founded thesandbox, a solar powered post & production company, a decade ago with an emphasis on eco and socially conscious projects, synthesizing anthropology and art. Todd wears many hats from Producing/Directing to Editing to Visual FX to Color Grading to Cinematography to music mixing. Todd consults on post-production and Canon DSLR production, including time-lapse, and writes articles and reviews for film and video magazines. 
Recent projects include FUEL (Sundance Winner 2008), The Spy Factory (NOVA), and The Woodmans (Tribeca Winner 2010), and numerous museum installations for The Natural History Museum of CA. All kinds of projects and clients come in here, including Porsche, Intel, Toyota, Nissan, Infiniti, NOVA, ONE, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Chateauville Foundation, and The Natural History Museum of CA.

 

WHAT AND WHY – thesandbox 2.0

We created this site for a few reasons. The previous sandbox site was lovely, but flash based and a pain to update, so it rarely was. In the past 6 years since thesandbox 1.0 website was born, I’ve been immersed in great projects, refining my skills and adding a plethora of new ones, none of which was reflected on the site or widely known since I often work behind the scenes, thus a refresh was needed to share thesandbox of today. I’m not a big self-promoter, and much of the work I’ve done in my career has come to me, though now I’ve become increasingly compelled to seek out projects and people with heart, art, and soul with greater intention than ever before. As with the original sandbox 1.0 site, this sandbox 2.0 refresh is conceived as a beacon sent out into the universe, though is now designed to connect more intentionally for business and life expansion – if it resonates with you, please make contact. Equally significant for sandbox 2.0 is the blog-based format. I am one of those curious people with many interests. Besides film work, I write articles and reviews and can get very tweaky/geeky with technology, always pushing to try new things. Integration and experimentation are standard practice for me – after more than 20 years of this approach, a solid tech foundation has emerged bringing me close to many gear manufacturers and inventors as I strive to dial in tech to facilitate beautiful images, sounds, and stories. I typically go to excess researching and experimenting for articles and often end up with enough for a book, but must cram it into the typical 1500-2000 word article. The blog and podcast explosion has brought tremendous information and joy to my life – I am so impressed with the quality of humans out there who share so freely and personally, a steady infusion of information and delight for me. A number of close friends and colleagues encouraged me to join the game as a natural progression. So thesandbox 2.0 is born – a platform to share what I have to offer – including experiments in cinema and technology, tutorials, reviews, gear recommendations, perspectives and techniques – much of which will appear in “the LAB” section. A long list of posts are in the cue, with lots of new experiments planned, so check back often or subscribe to be updated. I will also be sharing fragments of the wide world that rocks my world – linking to the kernels. I’ll try to keep this collection, which I call “seeds”, lean and tasty – just the essentials, including podcasts, blogs, books, links, videos, music, eco, etc., drawing on a range of influences and topics, but connected like spokes in a wheel, a rolling synthesis of inspiration, innovation, and solution.

downtownLA time-lapse shoot

 

MUSIC is the breath

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music.” —  Aldous Huxley

Music is essential to my life, and music is how I connect to the “mainframe”; music is the both fuel and the vehicle. The “music” of a film extends beyond the music tracks used, and includes every pause and every word – it is the shape, flow, intention and language of a film. When editing most of my projects, lots of upfront time is spent selecting, mixing, possibly creating sound and music elements, until a pallet emerges. Pallet in hand, I’ve got the tools to intimately and dynamically engage the story, interweaving dialogue and shaping the piece – this is where the theoretical transforms into the living – the breath of life for a film… inhale. As an example, imagine a story read to you in a monotone voice – now compare it to the same story masterfully told from the heart, igniting a full color spectrum of all the senses, carving images and visceral experiences out of each of the dimensions, including that of time, which both is capable of looking back… and projecting forward. One story you feel, live, and want to share, the other story is … just some story. That difference is everything. The difference can be measured in a story’s quality and quantity transmitted to a listener, how much it resonates, sustains and reverberates, clearly juxtaposed even with the solo human voice, sans the wider world of sound, as in this example. The voice is music. “Music”, as I am interpreting this word, takes the designed pattern and the clothes, and puts them on a body that lives and breathes – more than interpretation, and akin to the way Wallace Stevens described poetry – Good poetry does not simply describe something, it is that thing itself (at least that is how I like it paraphrased).

Often I start editing a project as a radio cut – building the flow and mood with music, alternately honing the dialogue cut (if relevant), and as the shape and evolution is feeling solid, I’ll accent, punctuate, drawl, giggle, shout, enunciate, mumble, spit and grin  (metaphoric sonic roadsigns), further shaping with sound effects, design and ambiance until the hidden potential pokes through, the story lifting off the screen, as I’ve forgotten I’m sitting in a dark room late at night with a bunch of machines… weird. For a long time, I’ll just cut to title cards, outlining broad strokes of scenes, sections, montages, and transitions, and call out only the essential images, animations, and fx to strike a balance between the clear overview and enough confidence in the refined toolkit needed. This approach enables drastic restructuring where needed, yet is solidly built enough to justify the strategic fine brush sign-posting, and helps me “see” the story, and how it might flesh out, allowing subtle editorial story opportunities to present themselves.

I love working with composers and musicians whenever possible. While I yearn to find my future-self frequently composing music, for the past 15 years I’ve enjoyed mucking around with electronic sound making toys, like the luscious Native Instruments tools, and mixing beats and soundscapes… and a lot of listening. While I don’t DJ that much these days, I love it, and if yer out getting a grove on and hear the DJ goes by rasquachi, come say hi – that’s probably me : ) 
Much of my editing has been music driven short-form work, but I also love building sound for longer projects where the same attention to flow is crucial to carry, indicate, and evolve the story, characters, and themes, though with a greater arc.
 

STILLS

I love shooting stills, time-lapse, and bursts of frames and work them into projects whenever possible, thereby extending the pallet. The greater latitude and resolution of stills, especially when shooting RAW, brings the best quality digital cinema available with vast re-framing, post-animating, and color correction options available. I’ve often got things happening in After Effects, Lightroom, and Bridge prepping, processing, and animating files while I’m editing. Photography increasingly intrigues me and is something I turn to more and more every year, including a recent penchant for large format printing on fine art paper. Besides inclusion in film projects, I’ve had my prints included in museum installations and a book (link), and will be sharing many images on this site as it evolves. I tend to shoot more than process… a problem.
 

LOVE AFFAIR

I’ve got a thing for nature – a love affair you could call it.
I am in love with the life force that explodes from the natural world. My initial interest in film came from stories of people. I then became curious about time, and discovered beauty, and light. Eventually I developed a personal aesthetic and desire to capture a particular “something” often comprised of abstract shapes, tones, and light-play, which characters could be revealed through…  hard to put into words…
I’ve spent a lot of time in nature, and have had so many life-affirming moments that I feel a connection at my core now. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and trying to present that awesomeness so it translates. I tend not be concerned with the apparent reality of what I see or experience, but the essence of it – which can be more about the light passage, light interactions, and framing for mood, rather than accuracy of every detail. For me it is often more about limiting the pallet than expanding, which can include the very close and the very wide – two things we don’t often soak up enough. Tweaking the time has a curious potential to open moments too, and I’m often amazed when screening time-lapse and slow-motion footage, discovering beautiful interactions I was unaware of while shooting… seeing this world on another time-scale…
I think of the planet we live on as a self-contained organism which is awesomely complex and self-regulating, and plenty of work in subatomic physics confirms this. While I love technology, our tools that is, I’m seeing how we can be confused by it too, and think it all-powerful to reshape and tweak the system. Seems like a large dose of myopic hubris… the cult of overspecialization, the cult of progress, and the cult of not smelling the flowers enough. You’ll probably notice I am no luddite – if you poke around this site you’ll notice I also have a love affair with technology. I see these affairs with nature and technology as complimentary – my first DJ handle was technature – ok, actually it was troutboy – but that is another story. I think of the natural self-regulating system of this planet as an awesomely powerful technology we encounter every time we try to tweak it and suffer some kickback. It feels like we are working against a more complex and powerful player. But we are curious tinkerers, so this shortcoming is somehow understandable. But the way we lose connection to this system, and act shortsightedly with blinders on, pretending it is not all connected – that is another thing. I think we are a rare species in that, to put it bluntly, we shit where we eat. We knowingly add toxins to our air, ground, water, and body – and in what seems more like an act of greed… no… more of sloppiness, than survival. I’m hopeful that our ingenuity and quest for life will be seen in the coming generation as we leverage the kung-fu of the system around us, our system, to power and feed our culture/s.
Gardening, cooking, watching and photographing. I’ve learned a lot being around plants and observing what they want, and how they sprout, grow, die, and compost. I love tending my garden and seeing it return wildlife, fragrances, fresh air, revelations, and beauty. I tend for the more wilderness-ish approach. I did not grow up with this knowledge or interest – it came verrrry gradually. This garden in Venice is a large part of my “LAB” where experiments in cinema are done…. my sandbox. or one of them.

 

SOLAR POWER and beyond

My dream of solar power arrived when we built the new thesandbox studio in 2001, and ever since both thesandbox and our 1911 house have been powered by the sun from a total of 33 panels. I love watching the meter run backwards. I also love knowing that films like FUEL and Paper or Plastic were worked on using lots of machines chugging away, drawing their clean power from the sun. During the sunnier parts of the days, as the meter spins backwards, we are feeding our surplus green sustainable power back into the LA power grid for others to use…
Solar power is also a symbol for our entire operation and mindset. Our vehicle is powered by 100% veggie based bio-diesel derived from a sustainable source, getting around 45 MPG. The studio was built using lots of reclaimed materials, including wide oak planks and haft-timbered beams from an old barn built in 1790 – both solid and darn pretty. We capture rain water, and feed several trees with grey water. We increasingly plant native plants and trees. Our rocking compost generates black gold – the good kind – the best planting soil available – nourishing our vegetable garden and fruit trees. We cook most of our meals, enjoying mostly seasonal organic food, as local as we are able to find, and the food we are able to grow, which increases yearly as we learn. It is all a learning process – we start with the low hanging fruit and gradually move in a more sustainable path. It feels good. An article about Green Production and Post, featuring thesandbox, is called Green Productions – Hollywood is making a commitment to conservation - a link can be found in the articles section and here.

 

 

 
DESIGN

I am so in love with the amazing things coming out of the graphic designers these days. I’ve been lucky to work with some amazingly talents from super flat 2d limited pallets to deep, luscious 3d glimmering shimmering beauties, and then there is the gorgeous typography. One of my favorite roles is to interface with these artists, working on concepts and aesthetics, which can be daunting when one confronts the potential innumerable worlds springing from a blank white page… until we dive in, and find our own world, which we nurture until it is a new and critical story telling component of the project. I do some design myself, and love doing it, though have an extended team of great talents to call on for each need.

 

FINGERPRINT

There are often many players contributing to a project and it can be difficult to know what on-screen results reflect the credit given. For many of the works found on this site I’ve made notes about what role I played on the team and the project, but feel free to ask for greater clarity if curious. I’ve also credited other players and given links to their works or websites when I could. Please feel free to request more credit details and share any corrections or updates to credits or links.

 

A GREAT DANE

A huge thanks to Birgitte, my wife, mother of our two sparkling kids, and a fabulous photographer among other amazing talents. She has been the main architect of this site and it could not have happened without her. Among her talents, we can now add WordPress diva.

 

 

Resume can be found here.


 

 
 

Wonka

"we are the music-makers
and we are the
dreamers of dreams".