Overcome Fear

No one ever wants to admit they are afraid. The first thing someone hears when they admit their fear is, “Don’t be a scaredy cat.” Thank you person for comforting my fear as if we were on the playground.

Fears change over the years, something so small can become a monster that seems like a giant to kill. First I was afraid of high school, I had no choice but to overcome due to my mom forcing me out of the car almost every day. I’ve had to often overcome by “jumping off the clip” and see what happens.

As a creative professional, I was noticing I wasn’t calling out my fear. I was ignoring it and hope the challenges would go away. I kept putting off new areas of responsibility and in the end realized it was hurting my team. It was up to me to lead, and that meant go first.

I’ve always enjoyed and excelled in post production, its where I am most comfortable. When it comes to understanding how the video control room worked and the art of live production, thats another story. This past year I had to comfort my insecurities by admitting they were there. Not only to myself but to my team. That meant I needed to forget pride and admit I don’t have the answers to everything. 

Who ever thought overcoming fear would mean to take the time to do so. I had to become a student of the live production world. I had to take physical steps of faith to figure things out. That meant, making mistakes and if possible doing so in private.

One of my biggest fears was if a projector went out. I was more afraid of this then if end of the world took place (a projector going out is more like able.) The truth was, I didn’t know what to do! Finally, this week, I told my live production crew, lets prepare for Easter by changing out the light bulbs and dusting off the projectors, take care of what we can, and make some calls manufactures if we had any questions. -Right, I sound like I know what I’m doing. As we we went up to the cat walk, and began to change the bulbs, and dust the projectors. I started to see, this wasn’t so scary after all. When we completed the task I thought about the large monster I built up in my head and how foolish I was.

I came home that night to hear that my parents helped changed the projector bulbs of my uncle at his small church. I laughed to myself because my parents had no idea I had just did the same and this was me killing my giant. I praised them, knowing it wasn’t an easy task.

No fear is so stupid or small to overcome, the first step is to make a decision, you’re gonna overcome it.. the rest will follow.

The Dream Job Myth

My dream job was to work inside a very trendy creative building next to a window. As for what I did all day, I wasn’t sure. I did imagine working at a desk and at times walking around to make a copy. Blame my dream job on the WB network and the programming they had in the early 2000’s. I must have watched too much Smallville. 

As my working career progressed I started to see what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go in life. By my early twenties I realized I didn’t want to be that busy career woman with a man suit on, with no family to call her own like the 90’s portrayed.  I wanted to live a calling impacting the lives of others. When I traveled overseas I got a glimpse of the power of production it can have on a church, their community and the world. By now, every Christian or Justin Bieber fan has heard of Hillsong. The experience I had when I was a part of the church family, was how I could make a difference in the lives of people by creating videos. I could say what I wanted to say without having to get on a stage and talk! It was the perfert introvert job.

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When I moved into my perfect dream job, I realized I wanted more. The classic human experience, you get that you want and see its not really what you want. I was enjoying myself but I didn’t think I was really making the difference like I wanted to do. I felt like my life wasn’t counting. Plus, I was busy, with no family to call my own. I did manage to avoid the pant suit.

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It wasn’t until I had no job, traveling the world (my third dream) and was left in a cafe did God finally had my hearts attention. It was in psalms that the words might as well said, “Dear Monica.” The theology of “follow your dreams” broke off my life, for the first time I could see what I really wanted, was to follow God’s dream. This whole time I had been going about it all wrong. I wrote in my journal. “God, my dream is to follow you. Where you lead, I will go.”

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I went back to my job, but was given a new position. My boss said, “Make the video department yours.” Whoa. God was giving me a place of influence to be in charge of a very large church media department. There has been hard times when I think in my heart, I’m not the chosen one, someone else can do it better. I am reminded by the confidence of my leaders, and those who love me; I am the right person for the task. Its been three years, and I am growing, I am learning, and everyday I am challenged. In a strange way I enjoy the stress, the pressure, the challenge and even talking with people! The first year I was scared to do anything, the second I was starting to get a back bone, and the magic three, I am finally stepping out and owning what was given to me. There has been times where I wish to go back into my editing hole and closed the door, but then I remember my conversation with God. He wants to take his people somewhere better than we can dream. He was even kind enough to bless me with an amazing boyfriend who reminds me to not give up, take courage, and don’t get discourage if things don’t work out like I thought. Usually it works out better than I imagined.

Have Some Pride

Pt. 2
The more I thought about no pride allowed, I realized I was only able to give my pride because I had some in the first place.
One of my first jobs as an editor was to create promo’s for Vegas. This was a job I wasn’t at all excited about. My personal goal was to work on videos that would influence people to do more with their lives not to party all weekend. I worked at this place for a week trying to give my pride up, but by Friday I couldn’t do it. I told the company the job wasn’t a good fit for me. I realized I needed to work somewhere I believed in. After all, every project requires some heart.
Leaving that place meant I no longer had a job but I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
A few interviews later and no return calls, it made me wonder if I should have sucked it up, but I knew the right job was out there somewhere. While I was in line to a Hillsong concert I met a girl who was leaving her position as a graphic designer to my local church and told me to apply. I was looking for a video position but I knew this job could be the open door I’ve been waiting for.
Fast forward 6 years, I am the media dept. director at The Rock Church. I’ve had my ups and downs as to where I belong but everyday I go to work knowing I’m making a difference. And for me, that’s what matters. Imaged if I didn’t leave the job I didn’t believe in, where would I be? Who would I be?
Sometimes we ignore what our pride is saying to us. The key is to listen to God’s direction and to be honest with yourself.
What matters to you when it comes to work?
What have you learned about pride over the years?

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.

Making a Video

Thank goodness we don’t live in the early 1900’s, other wise creating anything visual would be difficult. Making videos are easier than ever but you will still face some big obstacles. You won’t know how to make a video until you try, more than anything, you learn by doing and each video is different, with different challenges. You will get better after each one. The mistakes you learn in video #1, you will apply to video #2.

As I am teaching new people who are highly interested in creating videos at work, I often don’t know where to start, there is so much to learn.

Here are a few areas you should try to grow in.

-Graphic design
-Story telling
-Communication
-Marketing
-Editing Software
-Codec’s, Formats, Compression
-Files Organization
-How to work a Camera, tripod, etc.
-Lighting
-The history of the technology of TV, history of film

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The list looks a little like a school curriculum and if you can go to school to learn how to work in post-production, go. But like many of my co-workers, they learned by interning at church. Internships are great, if they allow you to be apart of the projects. Regardless on how you learn, you learn by investing time, focus, passion, and heart.

Here are some tips on how to create a video.

1. Know what kind of video you are making. (Commercial, comical, drama, short film, documentary, music, etc.)
2. Know what you want to say. (This product is the best, come to this awesome event, look how fun this event is, here is our history, etc)
3. Look to see how others have done it, and see how you can make it different.
4. Create the Script, know what needs to be said and what text has to be on screen.
5. Create story boards or thumb nails for animations. Layout your Graphic Design.
6. Gather your gear, and people who can help out with filming. Audio person is key if you need good audio.
7. Film – make sure your shots are steady and help tell the story. Watch your white balance, focus, whats in frame, exposure.
8. Edit – Capture your footage, (Make sure you know where your files are going; be organized!) know what format your will be editing in (h.264 or NTSC), what aspect ratio, widescreen or box TV screen (16×9 or 4×3),create your cut, lay down the story, put music to it. Have someone look at it to see if it makes sense. Ask for their input, even if they don’t know about videos.
9. Export your cut into a graphic software (After Effects), follow your animation thumbnails, if the animation doesn’t work out, try something else. Check out http://www.videocopilot.net/ for after effects tutorials. Avoid fancy fonts or colors that maybe hard to read.
10. Import back in to your editing software, fix any audio. Export.
11. Convert your file in to the correct format: .mp4 for web, .mov for DVD or to load up somewhere else.

Being organize will help you out so much in the end, never “Untitled” anything or save on the desktop! Some twitter friends gave a great suggestions to name the file with the date and what it is. At work we all do this now. Put the date on our file that it has to be played. ( 030913 Intro)

Hope this helps, feel free to ask questions if you have any.

The Art of Editing Film

I finally finished a book I’ve been reading for a few months now.

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film – Michael Ondaatje.
The thing about this book is that it gives such insight I never want it to end. I love carrying it around with pride, and can’t wait for someone to ask me about what I am reading so I could go in to great details of what I’m learning.
 Its a conversation between Film Editor, Walter Murch and Writer of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje. They discussed work, art, poetry, the language of film and so many other interesting things. I couldn’t help but be thankful for the fact writer, Michael Ondaatje took the time to create this book. I felt like it was a special gift to inspiring film editors everywhere.

I already want to read it over. Here are some things I learned from the book.. and believe me so much more!

“What the world thinks is a success, what it rewards, has sometimes very little do to with the essential content of the work and how it relates to the author and his own development.” Walter was talking about his film Returned to Oz, it didn’t do well at the box office because it was dark and more life like. I remember watching this film as a little girl and when I got older I thought I had dreamt it. He stayed true to the version of the Return to Oz books. He was very proud of the outcome as many where but the general public didn’t like the fact it was dark. Which the books themselves were rejected in children’s libraries because it has witches in it. He quotes Rilke’s, “The point of life is to fail at greater and greater things.” He continues, “Every film has lessons to teach us- if we receive those lessons in the right way. That’s the trick..”

He also gives great insight on the art of film making -
”The task of the camera in his [Sidney Lumet, 12 Angry Men] films is not only to record but to reveal the hidden agenda, the hidden psychology-psychology that may even be hidden from the characters themselves, but which he’s revealing to us.”

“I’m taking into consideration, at the point of the cut, where the audience’s eye is and in what direction it’s moving, and with what speed. The editor has to imagine the audience’s point of attention when the film is projected, and has to be able to predict where ninety-nine percent of the audience is looking at any moment.”

“Every shot is a thought or a series of thoughts, expressed visually. When a thought begins to run out of steam, that the point at which you cut.”

How the story is told is essential to the story, the chemistry between sound and picture. He discuss that even the Prelude (beginning credits) is impotent to the movie. It sets up the audience for that is coming next.

The danger in breaking the rules to film, like introducing an important character to late in the movie. It can not only seem awkward but the audience has no investment in this person or no emotional connection.

Divergent – when you start with all the characters in the same time and space. (American Graffiti)
Convergent – two or three stories that start separately and then flow together. (Like the English Patient)

“There are two different kinds of film making; The Hitchcock idea that a film is already completed in the creator’s head or the Coppola concept that thrives on process..It has to be said-both system have their risks.”

“One of the reasons I lobby for the increased collaboration of everyone who can have a voice on a film is that through collaboration you add facets to the work. The work is going to be seen by millions of people, over many decades and under very many different circumstances, and even though the film is a fixed thing, you want it to be multifaceted so that different people will see different things in it and come away rewarded.”

I love reading and listening to Walter talk about the art of editing. He says its much like writing poetry, “The decision where to cut film is very similar to the decision, in writing poetry, of where to end each line..We do very much the same in film: the end of a shot gives the image of the last frame an added significance, which we exploit.” I always walk away enlightened and encouraged to keep on moving forward with my dream of being a film editor one day.

Audio Interview with a Cinematographer

One of the cool things about twitter is when I get to meet someone I follow in person. I asked Cinematographer Julia Swain if she would like to meet up for an interview. I was excited when she was more than willing.
We had a cup of coffee and talked about what we are passionate about: creativity and movie making.

A big thank you to Julia for taking the time to chat with me. You can see more of her work at www.juliaswain.com and be sure to add her on twitter. 🙂

Camera girl for Hillsong United

Ever since I graduated college from Hillsong in 2005 I’ve gotten the opportunity to do cameras when the team comes to Los Angeles. Last night the youth worship band, Hillsong United sold out the Staples Center.

It was exciting to work with some of the most creative bunch of people I know again. During one of the songs, the director asked me to fix my framing according to the middle screen, when I looked to fix it, my mind got confused as their was a duplicate on the left of the screen with the image upside down. It was a funny moment that made me say, “Oh yes, it’s United.”

Something that worship leader Joel Houston said is that it’s not about the lights and stage but about Jesus, the one who paid the cost for our sins. As a person who loves God and production this is something I tell myself often. I have to remind myself of the Cause.  He also said how they were once a small worship band for their youth group in a little suburb in Australia and here they are in Los Angeles at the Staple Center with a sold out concert worshiping God with thousands of people.

During one of the song transition, we faded everything to black and at that moment the crowd of 20,000 people started to sing all by themselves the next song, “With Everything”. The sound echoed though the Staple Center. It’s kinda neat to think of all the events that have taken place at the Staples Center but I’m pretty sure nothing out beats that moment.

Congratulations to Hillsong United for a sold out concert at  one of Los Angeles largest venue.

Here is one of their videos on youtube so you see for yourself.

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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