Robot Wrangling
Street Photography 101 on Flickr.Via Flickr:
Take photo of people in cafe through glass.
IMG_2405

Street Photography 101 on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Take photo of people in cafe through glass.

IMG_2405

Sparks on Flickr.Via Flickr:
Using light and rain to create what looks like sparks.
Taken in Launceston, Tasmania
IMG_2376

Sparks on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Using light and rain to create what looks like sparks.

Taken in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2376

IMG_2357 on Flickr.Harlem
Photo take in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2357 on Flickr.

Harlem

Photo take in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2559 on Flickr.Oncoming. 
Photo taken in Launceston, Tasmania

IMG_2559 on Flickr.

Oncoming.

Photo taken in Launceston, Tasmania

The Dance Project
I was contacted about being the media director for a federally funded community dance project that spanned across Tasmania. I said yes and had to learn a lot quickly. This project is something like I have never done before. Filming dance is something totally new to me, add to that how abstract the descriptions where of the final product, the challenge was set. 
The big thing about this project is that is already underway. Stuff had been filmed before I came onboard and posted onto their website. My job was/is to film the next sections and edit them and deploy them onto the website but also have them in a board-cast format. Did I mention that I had less than 2 weeks from accepting to filming with a one week turn around time to have the filmed… 9 x 90 sec clips edited and deployed. 
The filming was a lesson on using every bit of equipment you have to make it interesting. We had 4 hours to shoot all 9 sequences with only three takes for each. On top of that, I didn’t get to see the dances before we shot. Then add the we only had one location for most of it and you get the pressure to shoot something that can be usable. I opted to used not 2 but 4 camera.
Equipment
2xSony HDV cameras
Canon 7D with Sigma 30mm F1.4
GoPro
CobraCrane Jib
Monfrotto Monopod
Miller DS20
Zacuto Striker
Zacuto EVF
KesslerCrane Pocket Dolley
Tripod Dolley Mount (attaches to the base for free movement)
3 x Daylight1200 Fluoro Lamp 4
Not all the cameras where used every time but some takes did see all 4 running at one. The GoPro was extensively used on the Jib as I didn’t have time to calibrate the weights of different cameras all the time.
We rushed through the shoot keeping to the strict time we where allocated for each sequence. At the end of the first 6 sequences we had to move to another room within the hall. These last 3 sequences where more awkward plus the last two where with different dancers than we had be working with all day.
Post-production
With technically only 7 days to edit, grade and upload the clips and somehow tell a story which I didn’t get at all, it was a little stressing to say the least. Working on something that has a clear defined goal and isn’t “artistically abstract” is much easier than this. I am more of a literal person, I work with logic and lateral thinking, makes this type of editing almost painful to start. So I reverted back to basics. Edit the sequences the best you can with the footage you have. Present that and ask for the next step which was to edit up audio clips from interviews done by someone else (I hate the audio quality, but not much I can do) to tell a story. So I ended up with roughly 5 minutes of audio. The next curveball was being asked to compose some music. This is sorta where I draw the line. I haven’t composed music in 12 years. I did my best using loops and stuff, but in reality I wasn’t happy with it or even being asked. Luckily it was dropped for something else when I sat down with the creative director and edited up the audio in something more useable. The footage we used for the interviews, Angie the creative director scrambled to get between having a sick child and getting ready to move house/city.
So I colour timed the footage to have a very warm feel to it. I wanted it to stand out from the other clips of the website and also make it a bit more visually interesting. Secondly, none of the clips apart from the interview sequence needed audio. The interview clip plays on page load and the audience get to hit play on other clips when and if they feel like it. That was the brief, not sure how effective it is though.
So with the first shoot done and dusted, I have two more to prepare for. Luckily I think I have a handle on it now and also got a LOT more pre-production, so fingers crossed I will be able to take what I have learnt from this and make something even better.
If you go over to www.thedanceproject.com.au and click on “North East” (see edit below) you will see my videos. Not my normal type of project and a lot of collaboration, but sometimes it is fun to learn when you are a director for hire.
EDIT: Ops, I published these clips as North East, but it was actually North West. So I have updated the website to put them into the correct category.

The Dance Project

I was contacted about being the media director for a federally funded community dance project that spanned across Tasmania. I said yes and had to learn a lot quickly. This project is something like I have never done before. Filming dance is something totally new to me, add to that how abstract the descriptions where of the final product, the challenge was set. 

The big thing about this project is that is already underway. Stuff had been filmed before I came onboard and posted onto their website. My job was/is to film the next sections and edit them and deploy them onto the website but also have them in a board-cast format. Did I mention that I had less than 2 weeks from accepting to filming with a one week turn around time to have the filmed… 9 x 90 sec clips edited and deployed. 

The filming was a lesson on using every bit of equipment you have to make it interesting. We had 4 hours to shoot all 9 sequences with only three takes for each. On top of that, I didn’t get to see the dances before we shot. Then add the we only had one location for most of it and you get the pressure to shoot something that can be usable. I opted to used not 2 but 4 camera.

Equipment

  • 2xSony HDV cameras
  • Canon 7D with Sigma 30mm F1.4
  • GoPro
  • CobraCrane Jib
  • Monfrotto Monopod
  • Miller DS20
  • Zacuto Striker
  • Zacuto EVF
  • KesslerCrane Pocket Dolley
  • Tripod Dolley Mount (attaches to the base for free movement)
  • 3 x Daylight1200 Fluoro Lamp 4

Not all the cameras where used every time but some takes did see all 4 running at one. The GoPro was extensively used on the Jib as I didn’t have time to calibrate the weights of different cameras all the time.

We rushed through the shoot keeping to the strict time we where allocated for each sequence. At the end of the first 6 sequences we had to move to another room within the hall. These last 3 sequences where more awkward plus the last two where with different dancers than we had be working with all day.

Post-production

With technically only 7 days to edit, grade and upload the clips and somehow tell a story which I didn’t get at all, it was a little stressing to say the least. Working on something that has a clear defined goal and isn’t “artistically abstract” is much easier than this. I am more of a literal person, I work with logic and lateral thinking, makes this type of editing almost painful to start. So I reverted back to basics. Edit the sequences the best you can with the footage you have. Present that and ask for the next step which was to edit up audio clips from interviews done by someone else (I hate the audio quality, but not much I can do) to tell a story. So I ended up with roughly 5 minutes of audio. The next curveball was being asked to compose some music. This is sorta where I draw the line. I haven’t composed music in 12 years. I did my best using loops and stuff, but in reality I wasn’t happy with it or even being asked. Luckily it was dropped for something else when I sat down with the creative director and edited up the audio in something more useable. The footage we used for the interviews, Angie the creative director scrambled to get between having a sick child and getting ready to move house/city.

So I colour timed the footage to have a very warm feel to it. I wanted it to stand out from the other clips of the website and also make it a bit more visually interesting. Secondly, none of the clips apart from the interview sequence needed audio. The interview clip plays on page load and the audience get to hit play on other clips when and if they feel like it. That was the brief, not sure how effective it is though.

So with the first shoot done and dusted, I have two more to prepare for. Luckily I think I have a handle on it now and also got a LOT more pre-production, so fingers crossed I will be able to take what I have learnt from this and make something even better.

If you go over to www.thedanceproject.com.au and click on “North East” (see edit below) you will see my videos. Not my normal type of project and a lot of collaboration, but sometimes it is fun to learn when you are a director for hire.

EDIT: Ops, I published these clips as North East, but it was actually North West. So I have updated the website to put them into the correct category.

POP YOUR ROLLER DERBY CHERRY

A while ago I shot a mini-doco on Roller Derby in Tasmania. It was a learning exercise and the final result people seem to really like. I got asked about cutting the footage for an advert but in the end I couldn’t do it. Basically I felt I would end up making a cheap looking locally produced tv commercial and I didn’t want that. 

When I got the draft artwork for the bout I was meant to be cutting my footage for, my head started to spin ideas of how to make the footage match the its look. Eventually I hestiantly emailed VDR and said I don’t want to edit my footage, but happy to do something new and then laid out the idea. 

Here is part of my email:

I want to shoot something new using 2 girls. 1 from infectious and 1 from jam tarts. 30 sec promo. I think it all can be done up in my brothers studio. Shouldn’t take more than an hour to shoot. The basic idea is lots of close up of the girls putting on their gear. Think head to head on a white background. Finally we shoot the girls coming up to some cherries on a table which they stomp with a pair of boots (or hands… not sure yet) which this jumps to the logo. Something fast and catchy. I know it doesn’t have bout style footage so this might not be what you want.

So that was the pitch and they jumped at it. What was conceived for a basic 1 hour shoot took 2.5 hours. I need to work on my estimates when it comes to production. 

The Gear

  1. Infinite white backdrop
  2. A couple photography lights (not sure of model)
  3. Canon 7D
  4. Lenses: Canon 50mm 1.4f, Sigma EX 30mm 1.4f & Nikon 16mm 2.8f
  5. Zacuto EVF
  6. Kessler Crane Philip Boom Pocket Dolly
  7. Miller DS20
  8. Beer & Dip
  9. Patient Roller Derby Gals.

The Production

This was my first time doing something planned in a studio setting video wise. While I have done sound on set before, never actually done everything from go to wow myself, so it was a little challenging. The biggest thing that became evident to me at the beginning was that my idea with movement of the camera didn’t work as well as expected. I didn’t think it through enough and realised that if the camera is moving on a white background then it does’t actually look like much (weird statement I know). So as the shoot progressed from Nikki to Sam, I opened up the distant between myself and the girls to get more of them in shot so when I moved the camera you really noticed it.

The second thing that was worrying me was the cherries. I was actually considering making up a squib of some kind to push red liquid through the girls hands if the cherries didn’t burst. I didn’t get time to make it up and luckily the cherries burst really well. 

During this and other shoots I have come to realise that I need to be more direct and confident in my direction. I think this will come with experience as I don’t get as nervous about asking people to do weird things on camera.

So two hours of filming made for some interesting and fun footage.

The Post

As I wasn’t using any audio from set, I jumped around a heap of royalty free music sites to find some tracks that I could cut to. Initially I was thinking big epic score sound, but in the end I op’ed for something more heavy rock. Epic is good, but the footage didn’t convey epic in the same way as I was feeling in the music.

With the track selected, I started from the end of the music and worked backwards in placing footage. The reason for this was I knew the end point but not the beginning. So dropping in clips and matching them to beat/edit timing marks got something rough and ready. Then it was a matter of rearranging and finding how I thought it fit together best (editing can be so subjective). Lastly I needed to get the look right.

The Look

When I first off-loaded to footage and transcoded it I grabbed one clip and dropped it into a test project. From there I went to town in Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks & Colorista II. I love those plugins. The big thing was to push the background to be completely white and grund up the frame without losing the girls or some of the primary colours. The big issue was the cherries at the end. When pushed to hard they looked like black blobs and lost most of the “cherry red” look to them. Finally I settled on something I liked and saved it.

Back to Post

So with my pre-built look, I graded each clip using Colorista II like normal to get them looking consistant then dropped in my custom look. Tweaked the look using Colorista and BAM, job done.

What I learnt.

  1. Need to get over my nervousness of asking people to do things in front of camera.
  2. Nikon lenses are fun on a Canon camera.
  3. A broadcast engineer will most likely kill me for what I have done to the footage but I don’t care (to much).
  4. I am happier making new things than revisiting old things.

Tasmanian Roller Derby

So this is my second real attempt at shooting short doco style video. You can read some of my thoughts about what I wanted to do in a previous post and the lessons learnt in from the shoot.

So this is my post-production breakdown and thoughts.

I transcoded all the footage from the Canon 7D using Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Grinder creating both ProRes LT and Proxy versions (with burn-in timecode) of the files. The amazing cool thing about this is that I can get reset all the timecode across all the files to be continuous. Amazingly handy for looking at my rushes which I put on my iPad using Elgato’s Turbo H.264 HD hardware encoder.

I am still looking for a good application for viewing rushes on the iPad. The Apple native video app is crap as it has no folders. So that is something I need to workout before next shoot.

I edited using Final Cut Pro and for once I decided that I would look up some of those pesky buttons and features in the user interface and see if I could use them. I have been using the app for years but that one thing about being self taught is that sometimes you miss the simplest things. This opened up a whole world of time saving efficiencies that I now wish I new about before. 

Things I did before I started editing:

  1. Sorted my proxy files into the Project into bins. Interview, Dolly, Slow-mo, B-Roll, etc.
  2. Went though will my notes from rushes and colour coded clips in the browser to give myself some visual quick reference for shots I liked and wanted to use more than others.
  3. Copied and conformed all my 50 fps shots to 25fps using Cinema Tools. So I had 2 playback versions of those files to use.
  4. Spent a heap of time with my iPod listening for tracks that may work with the video (I narrowed it down to 15).
  5. Made sure all my sequences used the same settings (Final Cut decided that I wanted to edit as if I was working on DV PAL last time, and try to do that again this time). This is a must check before getting really stuck into editing as it is painful needing to reconform your sequences by hand if you miss something here.
  6. I looked at The Foundary’s Rolling Shutter plugin but found it didn’t work as well on the style of footage I shot to use it. Maybe next time.

Once I had done the above, I started dropping in some clips and testing out what music worked. The first lot of tracks I wanted to use didn’t fit as I realised that I didn’t want to use a lot of the setup footage from my B-Roll and just get straight into it. This meant I needed something that got into it fast, but nothing too pumping straight out of the gate. 

The rest of the editing was just dropping in the interviews around each other, covering gaps with B-Roll and then tightening. I actually cut a lot of the interview footage and mixed parts together. If you listen to one of the guys in the video I actually use some audio twice as the intonation from the a sentence didn’t fit to my edit (the magic of sound and video working hand in hand). The songs are both cut down versions which I edited to give me the length I wanted and take some of the lulls out.

Once the assembly edit was done, I then went in and did a second pass and tightened the cuts to the beat of the music. While some of the interview audio isn’t greatly in time (I could have been more strict on removing Umm’s, etc), the video itself needed to move with the music.

Once the edit was done, I moved into Colour Timing (aka Grading) and relied almost exclusively on Red Giant’s Coloristra II and Magic Bullet Looks. I have been reading The Color Correction Handbook by Alexis Van Hurkman and finally being albe to read the scopes and understand the basics help me move a lot faster in my grade. That being said, I am still a beginner and this being my second attempt at grading there are still lots of flaws in my approach and the grade is still very inconsistant. There are some shots I just couldn’t get to work for me as well as others and I think it’s just experience and a good setup that make the difference. I might post a side by side comparison sometime soon to show how much I changed the video (a lot in some places).

Once I had the majority of the video done (I still needed to do title plate and credits), I then moved into audio proper. I used the “Send to Soundtrack Pro” multi track option and found quickly that I really hate that program. I am an audio guy, I know DAWs fairly well and doing the whole run trip that Apple decrees in the Studio literature would be great if the bloody DAW was up to scratch. Maybe I was just me and not understanding the send system properly, but I had to do a lot of irritating re-setup in Soundtrack that should have just copied over on the export. Even an effect that was using one of Apple’s own plugins from Studio, I could key frame the change in one (Final Cut) but not the other… and it was a BLOODY audio plugin. So one of my biggest lessons learnt is either I need to research Soundtrack Pro more or bite the bullet and just use ProTools or Nuendo. 

Once I got my tracks sorted, then I cleaned up the dialogue from the interviews. Dutchess’ audio was particularly messy due to all the girls in the background. While there was more I could do to make all more consistant, the amount of frustration I was having in Soundtrack got me to “that will do” mentality.

So Editing Done, Sound Done, just needed a nice title plate. So into After Effects and Illustrator we go. I recreated the Van Diemen Roller’s logo from the EPS version I was given to separate the girl from the background and the text to animate separately. A quick jump into After Effects and no real thought as I made something up, dropped it into Final Cut and then added the Joffre Street Title Card and Credit on the end. Render and post and hope people watch it.

I think it came out good, but I can see lots of flaws, but as a learning experience the whole thing gave me lots more in value than the end product actually shows.

So where to next? I have a few ideas, but first I need to catch up on some other work.

If you want to keep up to date with what I am doing then jump over the my facebook company page facebook.com/joffrest

In the creation of this video I learnt a heap of things.

  1. Vari ND Filter is great but in direct sunlight without a lens hood causes blooming.
  2. Really make sure that your ISO is correct (I was set way to high at the beginning of the day making it really easy to see noise).
  3. Trim, export and then re-import before using Smooth Cam to save a heap of time and get better results.
  4. Teach the Intern (my audio guy) about the importance of good levels before the next job.
  5. That colour grading takes more time than the edit itself.

Overall I am happy with this video, I do have some issues with the shots with Vader and Shadow Trooper in makeup as it was impossible to get definition with the bright background without a lot of noise being introduced into the picture. I also need to work on my depth of field a bit better on interviews. Nick’s interview is way to soft on the eyes (just a bad judgement on critic focus).

Tell me what you think?

Salamanca Markets in Hobart 2011.

First time using Magic Bullet Looks & Colorvista II

Slowly getting better that this.