Day dreaming

One of my favorite things to do in grade school was to day dream. I enjoyed looking out the window, hearing the kids playing outside, while I made up movies in my head. I would usually get interrupted by the teacher before I could make it to the end of the plot.

As an eight year old girl, I was brainstorming screenplays, there was no budget to consider or any other limitations.

One of my favorite directors and filmmakers is Wes Anderson. I know he’s a popular director with a cult following, but for me he has always had this way of capturing how a child would see and understand the world. Each frame is full of color, interesting details, and camera movement to envy. I recently came across Wes Anderson’s book at the bookstore about how he developed and made his films. It’s full of beautiful behind the scene photos and interviews. It’s an expensive book so I keep going back to revisit and read it. His films have always had an effect on me that it’s possible to make a movie in my own style, he makes it look fun, creative and visually interesting. For the first time in years, I day dreamt a movie in my head. I am allowing myself to play movies directed by me in my head again. I thought of one today that I figured, why not write. As we get older the motivation to do anything is money, but when we were kids our motivation was fun.

Creating a story, drawing the thumbnails, day dreaming.. I don’t need a budget to do that, just pen and paper and a really good idea to play out.

Things I regret buying for video

I can be a sucker when it comes to video equipment. The new product sounds like its going to bridge the gap between me and the next big opportunity. Many times video equipment can be over promising, taking your money and leaving you with useless junk.

1. Camera packages with accessories – they’re flashy and it seems easier to just buy everything all at once but instead it comes with a lot of useless accessories

2. Camera stabilizer – I found they are uncomfortable and not so fast to set up to use. I didn’t notice a difference with my camera stabilization enough to use it.

3. Portable Jib – The cheap plastic it’s made out of couldn’t take the weight of my camera even with counterweights.

4. Difficult lighting set up – the difficult soft boxes to put together made me permanently leave them up which took up a lot of room.

5. Cheap plastic lenses – your photos will never look sharp and professional until you invest in a glass lens.

6. Difficult to use Stock Library – having to download third-party apps and constantly login didn’t make it worth using the stock library.

7. Cheap headphones – being able to hear your audio clearly will help your videos be more professional. I’ve wasted money on cheap headphones and was sick of having audio problems so I invested in a good pair of headphones

Before you buy any more video / photography equipment, be sure to avoid the cheap path, it’s often said, “The poor man pays twice.”

How Jerry Seinfeld Taught Me How to Find the Moment

Something I enjoy doing is going through old stuff at a thrift store and discovering something I would’ve never thought to have bought anywhere else. I found Jerry Seinfeld book called SeinLanguage. Of course I already heard all his jokes from the 90’s from his show but I knew it would be a fun read.

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It was when I read this passage did the light bulb click for me on how to find the moment for filming and photography.

“The movies will always be one of my top all-time out activities. But to be honest, the peak moment for me is always being on the way to the movies. I love being on the way to the movies.
We’re in the car, trying to get there in time. Maybe you’ll have good seats. Maybe it’ll be a good movie. Maybe everything will be good. You don’t know, and when you’re on the way it’s still possible. I love that I’m definitely doing something and I haven’t done it yet. That’s a pure life moment. After you get a job and before you have to do it. Nothing beats that. It’s the spaces between life that I like the most.”

He painted perfectly where the true story is. I took his words to heart as I film this weekend for our Man Day. I knew what I was looking for as I filmed. I found these moments as they where about to happened. Usually the frustrating part when filming live events is trying to make my shots happen. Instead I saw something might happen, press recorded, and captured it. I started to see things that where happening that would allowed the viewer to feel and remember.
Who knew Jerry Seinfeld would help me be a better filmer and photographer.

Making your Shots Matter

I think we can all admit that no one is born with awesome camera skills. Most of my wisdom comes from times where I’ve failed horribly. I made a list for my team and would like to share it with all of you who are into production. Hope you can apply this knowledge to make every shot you film matter.

First things first –

Exposure – Before you take off and start shooting, you will need to pay attention to your exposure on your camera. You will notice there are two names, this is because the DSLR and Pro cameras use different terms. You will have to learn how to adjust your exposure to give you the right exposure to archive a shot that can be seen and also allow you to control the look and feel you want.

Iso / Gain – This will add noise to your footage but also will allow more light into your camera. I avoid high iso and high gain. If you are aren’t careful it can make your footage look like mud.

Aperture / Iris – You can control the look of your shots with a low aperture number. This also allows more light.  On a pro camera a low iris will make your shots really dark, so you will have to adjust your other settings to accommodate a low Iris number. For those who are new, a low aperture number will make the background blurry. Avoid changing your aperture while filming.
-a low aperture affects the focus, if you are filming with a DSLR and having trouble focusing, bring up that aperture and adjust your settings.

Shutter Speed – I adjust my shutter speed the most when it comes to getting my exposure. The goal is to keep this number 30, to give you a smooth film look but sometimes in order to get the exposure you want, you have to use a higher number. A shutter speed of 30 brings in a lot of light.

ND filter – A pro camera will have this on the side by the lens. You can turn this on when you are outside. You can buy a filter to put on a DSLR camera. This is like putting on sunglasses for your camera. One thing to remember, when filming inside make sure this is OFF!

White Balance – Your footage should never look blue or orange. It should look like what you are filming. You can leave the stylish tone to your editor to pick. Once you have your exposure correct, white balance on something white. Check your filming often to make sure the white balance doesn’t look strange. On the DLSR, it gives you presets of white balance, you can pick the best one that looks right for that moment. Sometimes putting on the sun preset looks better than a cloudy day preset even if its cloudy. Use your good judgement.

Remember, your exposure affects the amount of light that is going into the camera.

Exterior shooting – It took me years to finally realize how to film with the sun as my light source. I seemed to always return with footage I hated.

Lighting with the Sun – Look for a nice shaded away. Place the sun behind you, and in front of the subject. Avoid filming at noon because of harsh sunlight. You will find it will create shadows on the face, and even leave your talent making ugly faces trying to avoid the sun.

Sunrise or Sunset – Place it behind your subject to capture a glow on their shoulders.

Avoid a background that blows out your image. You don’t want the background to compete with the subject.

Interior shooting – If you don’t have a light on your camera, then you will be at the mercy of your camera settings to allow light into your shot.
– No ND filter
– low shutter speed
– low aperture
– high iso / gain (avoid gain due to lots of noise but sometimes you gotta use it)
– correct white balance

Movement – Adding movement to your shots is not only camera movement but also what is happening inside the frame.

Stabilizer – Always try to use a tripod, a monopod, or slider for your shots. If you are going handheld, you must know how to stand correct to avoid shaky shots. Make your body a human tripod. Place your feet apart form each other, bend your knees a little and tuck your shooting arm close to your body.

Point A to B – Start your shooting at one item then move to another. This will require knowing what you are going. If I am filming a kid playing pool, I would make point A the pool and point B the person playing.

Panning shot – Take a deep breath, point your foot to the direction you are headed towards.

Location – If you are filming a shot and it’s just not working, move your location to find a new perspective and angel.

Hold – If you are out shooting and find a beautiful shot, hold the shot for 30 seconds. This will give the editor time to pick which moment to pick from and how long we wants it on screen. Let the shot come alive, give it time for the subject to smile, laugh, think, wonder, move, embrace another person. etc.

Camera person – Don’t get nervous if the person you are filming looks at you, just hold your position. If you are allowed to be there, then don’t worry about being seen.

Interacting – Saying hi to people you are filming can help them feel more comfortable with being filmed. Interaction shots are great, having them smile or wave at the camera, if they are having fun ask them to do it again for the camera.

Avoid tunnel vision – Avoid moving your camera looking for what to capture, stick your head out instead and move to what is interesting. Your camera movement to one item to another can be called a reset. Those reset shots can be used.

Pull focus – Attempt to find layers of action to film, focus on one item then move it to another thats in the distance. Attempt this three times to give the editor the best pull focus shot.

Tilt zooms – Give your editor an option to add some fun energetic shots of tilt zooms.

What to look for – It all depends what you are shooting and who you are shooting for. For an event I look for people having fun, smiles, laughing, talking with friends, anything of action, people engaging in the event, people listening if its a church event, the main speakers, avoid shots of too many babies or kids if its not a children’s event. Also avoid capturing people bending down. I don’t know why but it seems to happen a lot. haha.
If you are filming an interview always make sure to get some cutaways to cover up those jump cuts.

Terms
– Wide shots – head to toe
– Medium wide – knees and waist
– Medium shots – waist up
– Close ups – Chest up
– extreme close up – cutting off parts of the face

Questions to Answer when shooting –
Who – Shots of the person or people
Where – Shots of the location
What is happening – What action is taking place

Always review your footage and see what you can do better next time. If you took the time to read this, your footage the next time you shoot is going to look so good! 🙂 Feel free to add to the list.

Photos: Capturing the Everydays

My favorite pictures to take are of my nephews. I love watching them play and interact with each other. They remind me of life’s greatest joy, having each other. When I arrived at my sister’s house I told David I was there to play and visit with him and Jacob (instead of using the babysitting term.) They welcomed me with open arms and allowed me in their world.

Its amazing when I think about the days when my sisters and I use to play together.  Time passes by so fast, if we don’t take the time to stop and notice, soon, the years would have passed by. Good thing for photos and video, they help us remember what we’ll probably forget. They capture the everydays.

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. 🙂

Creating a Video // Start to Finish

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Mens Conference

Here is the process of creating a video here at church.

Count Down//

Men's Conference Count Down
Men's Conference Count Down

Fingering out how many days I have to create the video. It helps me better plan out what is possible in the time given. With more time comes more creativity. More time can also hurt, it gives me time to change my mind which can lead to wasted time to create. Three 8 hours days is a fair amount of time to create a video that has thought, creativity, boom and wow. A video created in three hours won’t have a very long life time of play or airing. This Men’s Conference video took me 7 hours, start to finish.
The Scheduling //

Men's Conference Schedule
Men's Conference Schedule

Everything that needs to be done and by when. Having all the information of dates, times,locations, etc.   in front of me helps save time double checking. The goal is to do all the thinking at once, so you have time to put everything together and not waste time still trying to plan while you are editing.

The Thumb Nails //

Men's Conference Thumb Nails
Men's Conference Thumb Nails

I write down what’s going to take place. Some do sketches, but I do words. Once I take the time to think everything out, I write out the flow, what text is being used,  every action that is taking place. If I don’t write it down then time is taken up trying to think of what is coming up next.
Production and Filming //

Men's Conference Production
Men's Conference Production

Now that all of the ideas are down on paper, its time to go and capture what is needed. I call the people needed and arrange things. Once we get together we can get right to it. I know what I want and how I want it which makes it easier on the actor or who ever is involved. Over the years, working with great equipment, basic, and even just a camcorder I’ve learnt to use whatever I have and make it look good by keeping shots steady, not using too much of the zoom unless that is the style you want, and having shots with thought. Photography has helped me develop this skill.

Editing //

Men's Conference Edit: Cut
Men's Conference Edit: Cut

Once I have all the parts needed to tell my story, I captured my footage in Final Cut. I exported all my cuts to bring in to After Effects.

Effects //

After Effects: Motion Effects
After Effects: Motion Effects

After Effects is an advance motion graphic program that could be learned with focus and dedication. Once you know the basic tools, it will transform your videos and your story will come alive. I can spend all day in this program, but since I wanted to add color effects, text flying in, camera motion and lighting, once I created one project I was able to duplicate the comps for the different text and clips. Which helps work flow go fast.
Composite //

Edit: Composite
Edit: Composite

After I set everything to render, titles and clips, I replace all the edits with my renders on the time line. I line it up with music and sound effects.
Approval and Changes//

Approval and Changes
Approval and Changes

A project isn’t finished until the person who is paying you says it is. Leave room on your production timeline for any possible changes that may need to be made.

Final //

Final
Final

The greatest part in creating a video is seeing it come together. What is even greater is watching others reactions. My idea on paper is now alive. Know where your final video will be shown, and export your file accordingly.

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