All posts tagged stuff I use

  • 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.

  • Spot Secrets

    My first job out of college was working as an editor for a local TV station. Well, technically, my first official job was a short stint working the make up counter at Walgreens, but that’s another story for another time. I didn’t work at the TV station very long either. I quickly learned that the employee-employer model wasn’t my cup of tea and struck out on my own after a few months. But the experience was enlightening. I got to see how the station made TV commercials. Granted, the spots were quite awful. Picture your typical schlock pitching used cars, law firms, and furniture stores, but they were commercials none-the-less. And I got to see first hand that making a commercial is not really that complicated. Of course, making a good commercial is extremely hard, but you gotta start somewhere.

    So, in the spirit of demystification, I’d like to deconstruct my latest commercial spot for you. If you think you might have the stuff to produce commercial work but aren’t sure where to start, maybe this’ll help. Maybe not. Dammit, Jim! I’m a filmmaker not a career counselor!

    Have a look:

    This particular spot can be broken down into 4 main elements.
    1. The Copy – the words that are being said
    2. Voice Over – the recording, or performance of the copy
    3. Visuals – the stuff you see
    4. Music and Sound – music bed and sound effects

    If you’ve seen my portfolio you might correctly assume that I’ve worked with this client quite a bit. The message and branding have already been dialed in so I’m using those guidelines when developing the spot.

    Now here are my secret weapons for each of these categories.

    1. The Copy. I used to write all my own copy before I realized that there are much more talented people than I who actually LIKE writing scripts. After receiving the event details from the client, I wrote up some instructions and forwarded the details to my copy writer, Kallie. She’s worked with this client before and has the quirky Rolling Hills voice dialed in. By the way, Kallie is a pen-for-hire if you’re needing some deftly crafted prose or poetry for a project. You can find her on Twitter.

    2. Voice Over. Once the script was approved by the client, I emailed it to Marketing Mania ( I’ve had the pleasure of working with this company for a few years now. They’ve done 95% of the VO work in my portfolio. Since we’d already cast a voice over artist for this client, the turn around was right quick. In less than 24 hours I had an MP3 of the final voice over. Use them. Tell Christina I sent you.

    3. Visuals. No cameras were harmed, or even used, in the making of this commercial. This is all After Effects. Some artwork was provided by the client and the rest was created in software or sourced on iStockphoto. My goal was to create an interesting layout of content that illustrates the copy while leading the viewer’s eye through the spot in an engaging way. As you might imagine, this was the most laborious, time-consuming task of the process. The final visuals were assembled and timed in Final Cut Pro.

    4. Music and Sound. Right now my favorite production music sites are Pump Audio, Non Stop Music, and Dewolfe Music. You buy only the song you need and pay based on use and distribution – pretty simple. Sound effects were all sourced through Same search and purchase model.

    That’s pretty much it.

    Obviously, I’m simplifying the process a bit but these are the basic components used to create this particular commercial spot. Now you know (and knowing is half the battle). Feel free to use these resources on your own projects.

    One last note: some of the sound effects I needed for this spot were a little specific so we had to roll our own. Thanks for the vocal help, friends.

  • High-Output Beauty Dish

    The CEO

    Here are a few MadMen inspired shots of my friend Jim. Though I’d never seen Jim smoke a cigar before, this is how I always picture him in my head – a bit of daring, with a dash of dashing. Jim has a long resume that is full of acronyms like CEO and MBA. I don’t know what any of those mean but I do know that Jim is a nice guy and a good friend.

    Lyn and I set up a little photoshoot last week to test out the newly arrived backdrop (ordered it here: neutral gray), and the new high-output beauty dish. The lighting setup for these shots was pretty simple: beauty dish boomed over head (with AB1600), and two speedlights in small silver umbrellas as kickers (with the exception of one shot where they didn’t fire).

    Now how about that HOBD? If, like me, you’ve been on the fence on whether or not to pick up the new High-Output Beauty Dish from Paul C. Buff, let me save you the worry. Just get it. You will not be disappointed. Now, I’d used the old dish before and liked it. But the HOBD has been completely redesigned for efficiency and I really didn’t know what to expect. The light spread on the HOBD is about 45 degrees (old model dish was 140 degrees). That’s a pretty focused light. In order to get that kind of narrow beam on the older, less efficient dish, you needed to lug along a grid modifier. Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier (and more efficient) to *diffuse* hard light than it is to *focus* soft light. So far, I’m really liking the narrow focus of this dish. I figure if I need a softer look from the HOBD, I’ll just throw the sock on it and approximate the light spread of the old dish. Boom. Done. The HOBD is made of aluminum and is very light weight compared to the older, Webber-BBQ-inspired dish. My only complaint is the way the direct-light blocker mounts. It is not connected to the dish itself but runs through a hole and into the umbrella holder of the Alien Bee. It’s a clunky, and somewhat proprietary way to mount the blocker. I have no idea if the hole on the HOBD will match up on any other monoblocs.

    Overall I’m very happy with the dish. Next project is to test its efficiency by doing some daytime shots a 580 EX mounted to the dish.