All posts in blog

  • Smart Phone PSA

    Smartphone PSA from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

    The Setup

    Sometimes you just need a quickie project to stay sharp. That’s what this was. A few weeks ago, my bud and long time Internet boyfriend Matt Jeppsen announced:

    “Hey, I’m coming to town and I’ll have these new Schneider Xenon lenses with me. Want to shoot something?”

    I said, “Sure!”

    And then proceeded to pitch an idea that involved 20 actors, a closed street, choreography, a 20-ft panda bear puppet, and an f14 flyover.

    Jeppsen replied, “How about something we can shoot in half a day? We’re on vacation after all.”

    I assume this response was due to his hatred of pandas (true, ask him), but I felt he had a point. I took the elaborate concept, boiled it down to the essential idea, and came up with this. PhoneGuy vs sidewalk.

    I must admit there have been times I’ve wanted to slap the phone out of someone’s hand while they meandered across my path on the sidewalk. Dude, just, duuuude, put it down for like, thirty seconds while you walk from the gym to your car. I bemoan these slow-walking iDolts and their enslavement to The Cloud, and then, without the faintest whiff of irony, I’m on my phone tweeting about it. So yeah, this guy is me. Consider this spot a note-to-self. Apparently, this is an actual public safety issue and distracted-pedestrian injuries are on the rise. Smart phones, dumb people.

    Director’s Commentary
    The great thing about slapstick is that even when you know it’s coming, it’s still kinda funny. When you see someone hurt themselves those little mirror neurons in your brain fire and scream, “OMG, THAT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU! TICKLE TICKLE!” Slapstick seemed like an easy way to make this point and fit within our requirement of being done shooting by lunch.
    We shot everything on steadicam. Well, a janky old Glidecam V8 actually. Camera movement was important for the “pole reveal” moment and was obvious for the other walking shots. For the pole I got some 1″ pipe insulator from Ace Hardware and spray painted it silver. This made it easier possible for our actor (Adam) to give the pole a good whack with his face. In his spare time, Adam drops massive waterfalls in his kayak so walking into a pole foamie was a no brainer for him (or maybe that’s the other way around, haha).
    We were shooting geurilla style and didn’t have resources to support the army that comes along with massive HMI lighting. So a few days before the shoot, I wandered around the city looking for places where the sun bounced off glass high-rises and made pools of light along the sidewalk. Found one. Bingo. 18k of beautiful, diffused-but-sharp key light. I’m seriously obsessed with this kind of city light now. It happens all throughout the day here in downtown Portland. Only challenge is you have to shoot your scene before sun moves on and drags your light with it. And it moves pretty fast in the summer.

    For the filmmaker, the moral of this story is: shoot MORE of the stuff you want to get hired for. I want to shoot more commercials like this and now instead of telling an agency what I can do, I can SHOW them. Show, don’t tell. The end. Thanks for watching/reading.

    (Also thanks to Isaac Koval, and Liam Gillies for helping out, Adam Chechire Edwards for face smashing, Matt Jeppsen the DP, and Andy Askren and Kallie Baker for their brainstorming. )

  • Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. - Jack Handey

    Clients! How to Give Better Critiques

    (My writery friend Kallie Markle and I co-wrote this note)

    Dear Clients,

    Let’s talk about FEEDBACK. No, not the kind you hear in a movie when someone taps a microphone, the kind that you, clients, give when reviewing your Creative’s work. We want to help you give more constructive critiques. Why? Because proper feedback leads to happy Creatives, and happy Creatives do better work, which makes you look good.

    Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Over the years we have received some truly terrible feedback from clients- critiques that sucked all passion out of the project and words that sent us into spirals of self-doubt and bitterness. Bad feedback isn’t from clients being malicious or moronic (at least not most of you), it’s just that when it comes to feedback … YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

    So here are some tips for keeping your Creatives fed and watered and your project on track!

    Yes, we Creatives are an odd bunch. We wear funny glasses, drink weird coffee and nano brews, and have heated conversations about music and fonts. But the truth of the matter is that underneath all the tattoos and scarves, we are vulnerable idealists trying to make a living on a BA in art, literature, or film studies. We’re much more fragile than we look.

    You see, if your Creative is any good at all, they’re pouring themselves into the work. They see your project as an opportunity for self-expression, a challenge to channel their best into your needs.

    You know the little kid that runs to show his parent his crayon drawing? Yep, that’s us. That’s exactly how your Creative feels when they send you a professionally-worded, business-y email titled, “first cut” or “rough draft.” They are actually saying, “Look I drawed you a picture!” So be gentle. You don’t want your Creative to become beat down, because then your project will suffer.

    The ol’ compliment sandwich will go a long way in keeping your Creative on track, especially since Creatives love sandwiches. A compliment sandwich is a grass fed, humanely raised critique delivered between two whole grain compliments. (Here’s a better explanation).

    You chose your Creative based on work you liked in their portfolio, they will have used similar techniques for this project, and you will no doubt find something you like in this rough cut/crayon drawing of you with only three fingers, standing on a unicorn. Show your Creative that you appreciate the work they’ve done so far. Do this EVERY time you send feedback.


    Instead of “I don’t like it. I don’t get it. This is not at all what I was expecting. It’s creepy.” *ACF (*actual client feedback) Try: “Thanks for the review and thank you for putting so much hard work into this. Here are a few items to address…. It’s looking good so far.” Accentuate the positive and position yourself as a collaborator to be trusted, vs a grump to be feared. Be gracious and positive and your Creative will gladly jump through hoops for you, like the needy, crayon-wielding juveniles that we are.

    A note about egos: it may seem that Creatives are holding your project hostage, demanding you hover over us, stroking our hair and saying, “oh wow, everything you’re doing is brilliant.” Not at all. We’re very particular about our hair being touched, but also: the uniquely personal nature of our work is nearly impossible to ignore. We can’t put our hearts into the work without taking the critiques to heart. One of our betters had a term for splitting up the soul like that: she called it ‘making a horcrux’, and it was bad.

    Which color is better, green or blue?

    Art is something we experience; it’s subjective. What I think is the perfect music for an edit you might find dull. Maybe the photo is working for you, but it’s too ordinary to me. That’s OK! I’m OK and you’re OK! That’s the beauty of art, and that’s why it’s important to keep subjectivity in mind when phrasing feedback. Don’t make unequivocal statements like, “the music is bad”, “that unicorn isn’t believable” or “this effect evokes serial killers”* *ACF. When you speak in absolute, objective terms, you close the door to alternative approaches, and you imply that there is only one, “right” way to accomplish the goals: your way. Your Creative will wonder why you hired her/him at all. This is frustrating to Creatives and a surefire way to get Comic Sans on your next version.

    Instead, speak subjectively … say things like, “the music felt a little slow to me”, “I think the unicorn may be a stretch” or “I don’t understand this effect.” That this is your experience is indisputable, and reminding Creatives that you are “experiencing” their work will allow them to try seeing things from your perspective. Remember, preference does not equal correctness; no color is better than the next. Speak subjectively and your Creative won’t feel like you’re steamrolling over their vision. Plus, (some???) Creatives love explaining their processes, so inviting them to dialogue about their hows and whys will build rapport.

    When you say: “Their faces seemed dark. I lightened them in Photoshop and attached an update.”(*ACF) We hear: “Your work is so easy anyone can do it. Must be nice getting paid to sit around and play with software.”

    We know you’re excited to show that you have some editing chops, you’re handy with a DSLR, or that you write the company newsletter, but when you start doing work for us it makes us feel cheap. It implies that we’re just pixel pushers, font flippers, or glorified thesuari and that the art we pour into your project is nothing more than a cheap commodity that you could buy anywhere. This is related to the next point…

    Imagine if your Creative told you, “This annual report we’re animating seems too similar to last year’s. I’ve worked up some sales strategies to better source the overseas markets and spice things up for next year’s numbers.” You would laugh, screech, or roll your eyes. When you tell your Creative, “It’s trite, so I’ve written a few lines and you can work those in,” you are being screeched and laughed at- silently if it’s a teleconference or meeting, quite loudly if it’s over email.

    Creatives understand that projects are processes, and they are balancing many factors you probably don’t see. Let them filter those factors to find the best solution. After all, creative problem solving is not just our favorite pastime, it’s our job.

    Here’s a little secret that Creatives know and [usually] accept: the project will never turn out exactly like we’re picturing it in our heads and hearts. As hard as we strive to realize our visions, there are constraints to moving a vision from the ether of our imaginations onto the page, sound wave, or screen. Things get lost and left along the way. Keep in mind that what your Creative delivers to you is never going to exactly match what you’re picturing in your head. It can’t, because that’s impossible. If you are constantly measuring drafts against an arbitrary memory of a once dreamt vision, it doesn’t matter what the Creative turns in, you’ll never be satisfied.

    Your role is to identify a strategy (preferably before any creative work is done) and determine if your project is on strategy or not. We’re really sorry to break it to you but whether you personally like the creative direction ultimately doesn’t matter. Unless you are a wealthy landowner in the 15th century who has commissioned an artist to paint your likeness with oil on canvas, then you’re not the target audience. Stay big-picture with the project, make sure it’s on track, and make sure it’s capturing the brand’s voice. Don’t offer quibbling requests like “make the logo bigger” or “sound smiling but not too happy.” Insisting on minutia like this undermines your credibility as a collaborator and it’s simply not your job. That’s why you hired a Creative: they know this stuff better than you. Trust them!

    This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for a unified vision, but it does mean that, as a client, you should let go of the little details. Measure against the goals and strategy that you [hopefully] set and communicated before you started the project. Is the message of the piece loud and clear? If yes, then, congratulations, you master of unicorns! You and your adorable, weird Creative are on the road to a successful project that will send next year’s sales numbers through the stratosphere, ensuring you a promotion and your Creative more exposure on YouTube!

    — Your Creative wants to make money by making art. They can only make money when clients are happy, and they can only make art when they are happy. If you want your project to be a work of art, keep your Creative happy. Everyone wins, everyone gets a unicorn. Here, I drawed you a picture.


  • Pure Intensity Training

    Wow is this really my first post of 2013? For shame, Jesse. In my defense, I’ve been a bit busy – with projects like this! (OMG best segue ever)

    The snippet I’m sharing here is the opener to a longer video about a fitness class called Pure Intensity Training. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the decisions I made (lighting, framerates, editing, music) that lead to this particular look and feel.

    Overall Direction: The class is aptly named. Pure Intensity Training IS intense. While it can accommodate anyone from beginner to elite athlete, there’s no escaping the fact that this class will kick your butt. My goal was to capture that “intensity” with the opener. I wanted to create something high-energy, aggressive, dynamic, and sweaty (but not TOO gritty.)

    Content: So what am I going to shoot?  The class itself is chocked full of movement. It seemed like a no-brainer to showcase those moves with actual people from the class rather than try to illustrate “high-energy” with some other visual (ninjas? monster trucks? no.) And let’s be honest, budget and time is a huge factor here. We only had an hour to shoot this.

    Style/Art Direction: Another differentiating element of the PIT class is the way they use “pure” movements – there’s no special training or gym equipment required. This is why I chose to keep the frame clean and clear, pure and simple. No backwall, no mirrors, no slowly rotating gym fans. Just bodies and movement.

    photo-2(Red Epic with 24-70mm. Convenient and terrible lens)

    Lighting: There was no key light in this shoot, just two kickers in the back. Any front light came from the kickers reflecting off the gym floor and bouncing back into the talent’s face. This type of lighting served the piece in a few ways.

    1. This is a showcase of movement and sweat, not specific people. Lighting the edges meant the viewer’s eye is drawn more to the outline of the body rather than people’s faces.

    2. Using hard lights, and putting them at such an oblique angle created shadows and texture that really helped highlight muscles and lines. Wanna look extra buff? Take off your shirt in front of the bathroom mirror and use your iPhone to light yourself 90 degrees from one side (or above). Every little bump is now defined with a shadow. Now put your shirt back on, please. And maybe eat a salad.

    3. Lastly, don’t over estimate the “it looks cool” factor. Edge light is edgy, duh.

    I used two 400 watt jokers in the back, both at about 45˚ from the subject. I was shooting at 110fps with 180˚ shutter so needed a lot of light. Ultimately I would have preferred a couple of 800 watt jokers and a little more diffusion back there to help the light spread across the talent more evenly.

    photo-1(400 Watt Joker Pars in the back)

    Music and editing: Dub step seemed like a good mix between rock and dance. Fitness and fashion seems to lean more toward dance/house music. And when I think of “pumping iron” I think of aggressive rock music. This dubstep track sat right in the middle. As for editing, I try so hard to avoid speed-ramps but felt it was necessary with this edit. It seemed to “ramp” up the intensity and was a good transition between furious realtime and poetic slow-motion.

    Ok, thanks for reading. For the record, when approaching a new project I don’t necessarily start with categories like this. I start with “you know what might be cool” then work backwards to make sure the idea fits within the project goals.

    Jesse out.

  • Stella’s Xmas Adventure

    There was wine involved in the hatching of this idea. So it’s only fitting that this film was paired with a little bit of cheese. What can I say? I’m a softie for this dog. Here’s a picture from the wrap party with our enormous cast and crew. Looking forward to working with this talented actress again even if she is a little bitch.

    SXA Crew

  • Moto Euro 2012

    I spent last October zipping around Europe with my significantly lovely other on a pair of motorcycles. We did the Europe sampler: Germany, Switzerland, a corner of France, Northern Italy, and Austria. It was my first time in Europe and I was thrilled to do it on two wheels.

    I wanted to create something different with this video (in addition to not spending too much time shooting on vacation). My goal was to combine the inherent nostalgia of photographs with the storytelling power of motion and sound. The result is a unique look at our trip that might induce seizures.

    Technical details are boring. Nevertheless, this video is a little unique and probably deserves a little deconstruction.

    I took three cameras with me on this trip: GoPro Hero2, Fuji x100, and, as always, the iPhone. The motion sections of this vid where shot with the GoPro in 0.5 time lapse mode. That’s one picture every half second. Most of the B&W snaps where from the other two cams.

    Not every shot worked at 2fps. I had to take special care to move slow and smooth, always leaving something consistent in frame for the eye to follow. I think the jumpiness worked stylistically and I tried to match that feel with the way I edited the piece. There were a few shots that I really liked but were just too jittery so I stabilized them with the old-school motion tracker in After Effects. Warp Stabilizer didn’t work. It had seizures.

    Speaking of post, the nice thing about shooting 11mp stills (I opted for 5mp to save space) is that my footage was essentially 4k. Not a bad output from such a little camera. I used After Effects to assemble the stills into 12fps video clips. I left the assembled video clips at their native resolution and aspect ratio of 4:3. This gave me the flexibility to zoom and reframe shots as necessary.

    I think that about covers it? Hit me in the comments (or on Twitter) if you have more questions.

  • Teach Me How To Brushy

    Hi. Watch this fun lil’ PSA I directed for Oregon Dental Association. It’s got hip-hop, dancing kids, and oversized toothbrushes. What more could you ask for? I know, right!? Honored to work with the mos deft Grady Britton to produce this. Brush yo’ TEEFS!


  • TinyTüts

    Screen Shot 2012-07-10 at 9.54.40 AM

    Every New Year’s Eve my friends and I try to predict the future. We speculate on who will get married or pregnant, who will win the super bowl, whose Hollywood career will implode. We write it all down, read last year’s predictions, and eat lots of soup. Its fun.

    One of my NYs rezzies was to blog more. Clearly, I have been shirking the task – only two posts thus far. But I have a plan to catch up on my sharing shenanigans. I started another site called TinyTüts (short for tiny tutorials). Over the next few months I’m going to attempt to empty my brain into bite sized video morsels showing you how I do some of what I do.

    I have no goal other than to share. If there’s something you’ve been dying to know… CALL A DOCTOR! YOU’RE DYING! Then send me a message thru Twitter or Tumblr.


  • ‘Building Houses’ Music Video

    The thought of dying scares me to death. So I made this video hoping to convince myself it won’t be that bad. Turn it up, watch it full screen.

    Building Houses by Wesley Jensen (from Battles EP)
    Directed/Edited by Jesse Rosten


    A Few Details:
    It’s hard to remember where I met Wes. We’re both from the same small town where everyone seems to know everybody. I remember seeing Wes in concert a few years ago and they played “Building Houses” as an encore. A shower of confetti accompanied the song. It was very moving. I suppose that’s where the confetti idea came from. I came up with the rest of the concept a little while later and, after about a year and a half, finally had the time and resources to get this one done.

    I’m indebted to Rick Barram who was my goto guy for everything Civil War. Rick, along with the 72 New York Volunteer Infantry reenactors are the reason this video looks period correct. Thank you so much guys for helping make this. Also, huge thanks to Trevor Meier who flew down from Vancouver to be my right hand man during the shoot. He was an “Epic” help. Big ups to Tyler Faires, Lyn Rosten, Raul Gonzo, Anna Brown, and Josh Fulton, too. And, can’t forget my dad, who helped me make the confetti cannons we used during the battle scene.

    Wouldn’t be a proper post without some goofy behind-the-scenes clips. This is probably less about the camera and lighting and more of a string of one-liners from my crew. They seriously crack me up.

  • Fotoshop by Adobé

    I was watching TV one sleepless night and stumbled upon an infomercial for some beauty product. The commercial showed before and after portraits, that to my eye, looked like the same photo just photoshopped. I laughed to myself. Then I made this video.

    This commercial isn’t real, and neither are society’s standards of beauty.

    Click here to watch the behind the scenes vid!

    Willow Brook
    Carrie Salmon
    Ashley Hermsmeier

    Awesome Possums:
    Script Consultant – Kallie Markle
    3D Renders – Paul Conigliaro
    Make Up – Anna Brown, Michelle Gallagher
    Hair – Joanna Shea
    Production Coordinator – Lyn Rosten
    1st Cam – Tyler Faires
    Gear Guru – Derek Sine
    Voice Artist – Molly Jenson

  • 2011 As Seen By My iPhone

    Here’s what 2011 looked like from my iPhone.

    A few easter eggs to watch for.
    An orangutan
    Richard Simmons
    The Canadian Rockies
    Texas litter
    Tangerine Wheat
    My Fair Ladybug
    Baberaham Lincoln
    Me at age 6
    And of course, lots and lots of Stella. If you’ve met her, you know why.

    Thank you friends old and new for making this a year to remember. Let’s make 2012 just as magical!

    Yours Truly