Filming for Catalyst

This week I was a camera person for a large Christian leadership conference called Catalyst. They gather best selling authors, creatives, business people, artist, musicians and well known pastors from large churches to talk about what makes a leader.

I am always blown away at the creativity at Catalyst. Everything to the stage, lighting, videos, and speakers all tie in together to carry one message, this year it was, “Be Present.” Which I really loved learning about. I’ve always challenge myself to, “Be all there.”

I really enjoyed hearing Tony Hawk talk about how he transition to a team when he started his own company. He talked about taking risk, over coming fear, doing what you love and the importance of who is apart of your team.

One of the last sessions had very successful TV producer, Charlie Parsons. He talk about his new series about stories from the Bible. He told us many people in his field told him not to do it, to stay out of religion. He decided to stand his ground and believed in this project. He gathered some of the best film makers in Hollywood and traveled to Morocco for filming.

The conference had so many things going on, every moment was filed with something creative, entertaining, inspiring, funny, and impacting. It was my job to run around with a 5D and capture it all. The production team had rented these beautiful lens. When I looked at the glass I could see how beautiful it was and the focus rings was so easy to roll. I shot with another shooter who actually has his own steady cam. We collaborated together and decided he would get the wides, and I would get the close-ups.

When the steady cam operator and I talked to each other,  I told him, “I feel like I’m not getting anything awesome.” He said he felt the same thing but added, “You know what it is, it’s because we are both editors, and we shoot to edit. We get the shot and move on. We aren’t have to continually film because we have become better shooters. Everything we are shooting is useable. Now it’s up to the editor to tie it all in.”

He was right. I use to have to shoot all day and then look for something to use but over the years I figured out what works and what doesn’t. Now I don’t bother filming for the sake of filming but instead I stop, look around, see something or someone, then shoot. I am no longer a random shooter but a strategic one. That feeling that I was looking for, of capturing something awesome, comes from shooting all day and then finally getting the one shot. Now that everything was useable I no longer got that one high of feeling proud but instead can leave with a job well done.

Next month I’ll be traveling with the team to Dallas. Glad I was asked back! 🙂

A Video Critique

The best part of having a blog is meeting people. I love getting email from dreamers, editors, visionaries and artist. Mandy emailed me with a few questions about editing. The cool thing is that she took my advice and reworked her video. Her second version looked like a whole different event.

After watching her first version, I emailed her back with a few tips:

The thing to learn is your equipment, the better you know what it does the better your footage will be. Remember focus is important on your shots and try to keep your motion smooth if you are going handheld and moving one place to another.
Know what you want to focus on in your framing.
Also don’t be shy about getting in to people’s faces and asking them to smile. What is happening on stage is just half of what is taking place, the crowd’s reaction will make great cut-aways when you are going to the next shot. You are making your viewer a part of the experiences.
Use the higher number of lens (70-200mm) on a tripod to get some close-ups.
As for sound, if you are filming for a church or venue, see if the sound guy can give you a copy of the mix they are recording, sometimes you can get the clean mix and then sync it up later.
The length of a video is everything. Keep the rhythm and story flowing. Captivate the viewer. You need what is called “a ramp”: For your recap video you can build up to the concert, people saying, “I can’t wait…” “I’m excited…”, then transition to the stage, the crowd going crazy, you can add a clip of someone saying something inspiring, pick up the pace at the end either with the soundtrack or editing to end with a bang. The over all point: People’s lives are being changed, they are connecting with God.
As the editor you are taking the viewer on the same journey that would have happened if they were there in the crowd. The excitement, the experience and the impact.
Your video is full of great footage but now make it in to a story that will change lives!

Here are a few questions she asked me:

1. Do you create a timeline/storyboard for every project you do..or is it more experimenting with clips and seeing what comes of it?

I create a timeline for videos that require me to hit certain points. It keeps the video on track. I create scripts when important information has to be given and a story board for animation. If you are the only one working on the video then its your job to be very strategic. Know the purpose of the project. Close your eyes and play the video in your mind.

2. Do you choose the song first and work around it, or do you work out some footage, then choose a song?

Sometimes a song inspires a video and you know exactly what you want. Most of the time finding the right soundtrack can take time. Music is powerful. It carries emotions and feelings, knowing what vibe you want to give will help bring out your vision.
Before I start editing I like to find the type of song I want, if I am getting a song created then I show the composer what I am looking for. When the track is finished I swap the soundtrack and re-edit the sequence to match better.

3. Is there such a thing as recording too much footage? or the more the better?

Yes and no. Too much footage can waste time looking through it, but not having enough can leave the editor in need of more. The key is quality. You can have hours of footage but if there isn’t one single shot that could be used then its useless. As an editor I prefer to shoot my footage only because I know what I want. But if someone else is shooting then I have a conversation with them and tell them what I want. I also remind them to hold their shots three seconds before and after. Having a shot list is handy. Sometimes the hype of shooting can cause a person to forget what they need to get. I like to mark things off as I go. Then once I have everything, I shot random stuff or give the footage to the editor or capture it.

4. If you don’t have footage you need, how do you work around it?

If I don’t have footage that I need then I look for stock footage, photos, film something abstract or plan to create some motion graphics.

5. I saw in an interview where you said that when you worked with Hillsong Australia…if there was one uninteresting shot, you had to start all over again. Is that a good rule of thumb?..to start over from scratch if the video’s not working?

When I was at Hillsong they taught me the value of a frame. Each frame matters, each frame is with full intent, nothing is random. If a video isn’t working then starting over helps but it probably just needs to be re-worked. There are some videos where I have different version. The great thing about editing digital is that you can try out many things but beware of wasting time or over working a project.

Well that was a video critique. Know that more than anything be yourself, edit, have fun, learn, ask questions, if you make mistakes, learn from them, and stay humble. One thing I do know is that I don’t know everything. 🙂

Catalyst Conference

I was invited to do camera at West Cost Catalyst Conference in the OC. Its a conference for church leaders.

When I checked in with the production team leader, he asked if I had ever worked with a DSLR. Little did he know, my best friend is my 7D. (I know I’m a nerd). He then handed me the 5D with the choice of three different L series lens. He also showed me the dolly tripod that I could use, the steady rig, and the shoulder mount. I was in heaven. I had unlimited SD cards and about twenty batteries.

I went to work right away. I discovered that I really like the 70-200mm lens. This may be the lens I decide to buy. I was able to stand far enough from people and still having depth to field. My production team leader said I had an all access pass to go anywhere I like. With that permission I was about to capture the shots having no limits.

The theme this year for the conference is Courage. While I was getting shots I was able to listen to the messages, it seemed as they were talking to me. One of my favorite parts was when I visited the chapel to get some footage of people praying. I was taken when I saw this wall with confessions to God on it. I stood there reading all of them. I got teary when I read some of the prayers..they were prayers that I’ve prayed before. There was one that read, “I don’t trust where you are taking me”, another “I’m to scared to take a risk cause I don’t know if You can fix if I fail.”

One nice surprise was the performance of John Mark Mcmillan. A friend gave me his music a while back and I totally became a fan. I love his lyrics and even his voice. While taking video I was able to take a few snap shots.

The Catalyst Conference was a pleasant surprise. I think it might just change my life. 🙂