Monday, January 12, 2015

Keep it Moving

Motion can do a lot of things. One interesting thing it can do is "show" thinking. When a person is speaking, moving the camera just a little helps give a sense of an active mind. And it's a nice visual look as well.

This profile of John Heimbuch, a Perpich Arts High grad, incorporates a LOT of movement. Of course, the camera is moving during the interview, but I kept the camera moving throughout the piece.

For the establishment shot of the high school, I used a 12-foot jib. I like this shot a lot. I think it captures a lot of what you might want in an ideal jib shot: A sense of depth—there's distance conveyed between the sign and the building, motion tracking—the camera follows the students as they enter the school and a nice reveal—what does that sign say, anyway?

Schools can seem kind of static. Kids sitting in desks isn't that visually exciting. But Perpich Arts High IS exciting. I wanted to capture that excitement. Even if the students are physically static, they're super-engaged. The wheels are constantly turning in their heads.

The music was a hard choice. I sampled literally hundreds of songs before choosing Brandenberg Concerto No. 4 by Bach. It's complex and fast moving, which represents creativity. Yet at the same time, it's classic, so it's appropriate for a "serious" institution. Ultimately, it just "fit."

Monday, October 22, 2012

In Their Own Words

Sometimes the best thing to do is skip formal scripting and let the subject of your video tell their own story. That's what I did for this piece for the Perpich Foundation. After meeting with school and foundation staff, we came up with a set of questions that we felt would encourage the students to tell the story of the Perpich Arts High School. One question in particular that I thought was interesting was to ask about the school's culture. At most schools, I suspect the question would either evoke a blank stare or a diatribe about all the things the student didn't like about school. Not at Perpich.

While I'm proud of the production values, it's the students that really make this video work. You just can't script the confidence and passion they have for their school. Add some camera movement and an evocative musical score, and you've got a powerful video that can be used for fundraising, recruitment and a range of other uses. It was a fun video to make and a great school to support.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Go for the Rim

In Photographic Lighting 101, you're taught that the first light you worry about is the key light--the main light of your image. From there, you add lights to get the look you want. This usually includes a fill light and a rim light. Over the years, I've grown to prefer starting from the rim light in a lot of shots. The photo above demonstrates why that's the case. The highlights created by the rim light are what add all the interest. It highlights the fingers and the right side of the face (to the viewer's left). The hair and even the eyelashes get a little sparkle. We still used a key light for the face, but in this case, the "key" really acts more as a fill.

Pay attention to good quality movies and commercials. You'll find they often use a similar approach. If you have a good rim light to separate the subject from the background and provide some shape and depth, providing a lot of key light isn't always needed. Sometimes it's better to keep the subject a little bit in the shadows to add a sense of mystery or interest. With the rim light providing the shape and contrast, the fill only needs to be strong enough to show major details, not necessarily with extreme brightness. It's kind of like the idea that you can sometimes get more attention with a whisper rather than by shouting. The rim light says, "Hey, look over here." Once you've got the viewers attention, the key light only has to whisper.

The rim light came from a Canon 420EX Speedlite, positioned camera left and just over the shoulder of the subject. The key light came from a Yongnuo 580EX with a 60cm x 60cm soft box placed to the camera-right of the subject. Both were triggered by a Yongnuo ST-E2 wireless trigger. The camera was a Canon T2i with a standard kit lens. I could have used my fixed focal length 50mm f/1.4, but this shot was hand held and I wanted the extra insurance of image stabilization to maximize quality. As you can see, sharpness isn't an issue, even with this rather inexpensive lens.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Color Correction Demo

I've got a friend that's running for city council in Brooklyn Park. Strategically, we wanted to show the breadth of support he has. The best way to do that was with testimonials. Based on on locations, timing and budget, there wasn't much we could do with lighting beyond a reflector and diffuser. However, with the right color correction and a little camera movement, even a relatively static shot can be made to look interesting. The music bed helps, too. This video shows before and after color correction. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I had a lot of fun combining images shot during a transit tour of the proposed Botinneau Blvd. transit route with follow-up interviews from a representative of ACER, Wokie Freeman, as well as a PR representative, Yeamah Brewer, contracted by Hennepin County. While talking-head interviews can be a little dry, I tried to add a little visual interest by shooting them with the camera mounted on a track-dolly.

I chose the Bottineau Blvd. Park and Ride to shoot Wokie because it tied into the subject matter and I thought the physical structures would frame Wokie as she spoke. I think it worked pretty well! It was a cloudy day, so I didn't have to worry about harsh shadows. No external lighting was added, although I brought along a reflector just in case.

Yeamah Bewer was shot at an ACER event. We found a spot just off the main floor of an exhibition, but kept the activity behind her in view to keep things interesting. We used a telephoto lens to minimize the depth of field, keeping the background out of focus. Lighting Yeamah was done with two soft-boxes--one behind her and to camera left to provide some rim light to separate her from the background while adding some modeling to her face and highlights to her hair. We used another soft-box to the right of the camera as a key. There was enough daylight spill that we didn't feel the need for a fill light. We kept the lighting levels relatively balanced with the existing room light so that Yeamah would look natural. Audio was handled via lavalier mics recorded onto a Zoom H4n that was synched in post. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eidem Farm

I had a great time using a number of new tools for this promotional documentary of Brooklyn Park's historical farm, Eidem Homestead. The opening and closing shots were done with a dolly on 10-feet of PVC pipe track. For closer quarters, a small jib was used extensively. You'll see a lot of these shots in the farm kitchen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Follow Focus DIY dry-erase marker loop

This is a short little tutorial on a solution I came up with for a convenient and inexpensive way to mark focusing points on cinematic-type projects. The basic premise for the focusing came from a posting by Andrew Wilson at . I've added to that by adding a dry-erase method for placing focus points.