Making the Paranormal Look Extraordinary with the BMPCC
“Take risks” and “go out and shoot something” have long been the core tenets of independent filmmaking, and few embody that spirit of adventure better than Eric Mintel and his team at Eric Mintel Investigates.
A self-taught professional jazz musician and protegee of Dave Brubeck, Eric used those same principles of dedication, practice, and not being afraid to fail to teach himself filmmaking and editing. All in service of exploring his passion for the paranormal.
Eric was fascinated by the paranormal for as long as he can remember. A resident of Bucks County, PA, known for its rich paranormal history, Eric always thought of himself as merely an enthusiast. Travel is a huge part of his jazz career and on the road, in between playing gigs at the White House for Clinton and Obama (among many others), he found himself staying in various hotels and cities, all of which had stories of ghosts, poltergeists, or other strange phenomena.
So, finally, Eric decided that he wouldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer, but instead would actually go out and shoot something!
He gathered a team around him, including spirit mediums Dominic Sittele and Karen T. Hluchan, got a camera, an audio recorder, and a magnetometer, and began to document the stories and phenomena that he’d been hearing so much about.
Initial videos from Eric Mintel Investigates immediately gained traction on YouTube, but both their popularity and production value really kicked into high gear once they upped their equipment game.
They got their hands on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and found that the images of the creepy environments, odd phenomena, and especially those people affected instantly had more depth, clarity, and cinematic feel.
For Eric and the team, a small kit is important when out in the field doing docu-style work. But they still need to be able to capture more composed sit-down interviews or cinematic B-roll footage that can make you feel like you’re there.
Eric’s camera operator has a small kit that includes the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K body as well as a relatively lightweight Rokinon 14mm prime lens and a larger Panasonic/Leica 12-60mm zoom. Because the BMPCC4K has a 4/3 sensor and MFT lens mount, they’re able to use high-quality lenses that cost much less than those made for full-frame cine-cameras or DSLRs.
Admittedly, there was a slight learning curve. On their first shoot with the BMPCC4K, they accidentally shot entirely in RAW, which meant that while they had incredible latitude with their images, they had to process hours of footage through DaVinci Resolve to even create files that were possible to edit.
Also, with the marked increase in image quality, the storage they were using earlier no longer cut it, and they had to add a lot of necessary new hard drives to the kit to handle their upgraded file sizes.
One other element that streamlines their process is that Eric does all the editing for the shows himself in Final Cut Pro X. It’s this DIY attitude that has given them the ability to shoot all over the country and put out a broadcast-worthy production on a modest budget. Eric has used his other art to inform this one and describes editing as being similar to jazz.
“It’s like putting a piece of music together. It’s all about tension and release.”
He wants to edit in a way that balances clarity with visual interest so that he’s keeping the viewer’s attention as they search the frame for the glowing eyes of the Beast of Bray Road.
And it’s a formula that works. Even with this small team, Eric Mintel Investigates has garnered a dedicated following, sponsors for their YouTube videos, and via Roku, they are now available to watch in over 100 million homes.
With hard work, enthusiasm, and the right people and equipment, Eric Mintel has taken a passion and turned it into a profession. He isn’t intimidated by either the strange phenomena or by the production challenges inherent in location shooting and uncooperative ghosts. He just goes out and does it. And it’s paying dividends.
He and his team are a shining model of the ethos, “Go shoot your thing.”