It’s The Idea

I’m often asked by people “What kind of video camera should I buy?”. I must confess that question drives me crazy. It’s kind of like someone asking me what kind of car they should buy. But at least with cars – the end result is pretty much the same – you need something to get you from here to there.

I think in this time of fast moving technology with even 10 year olds uploading videos to You Tube that they’ve created that we’ve all started to believe that if we just buy a camera – we too can be videographers. It’s “just” that easy.

But what we seem to be forgetting is – what are we trying to visually communicate? That message or idea is EVERYTHING. I think we’ve all seen enough big budget films that are flops because they’ve lacked a story.

I’ve always been a means to an end type person. I first think about what I’m interested in and what I want to communicate and share with others. Then I concentrate on what “tools” will get me there.

No matter how technologically advanced we are – we all need to remember – why did we shoot this video to begin with? What is it we are trying to say? Seems sublimely simple? It is – but without something to say – you may end up with a lot of “packaging and fizz” if you’re lucky or worse yet a really poorly executed video that no one cares to watch.


Colliding Worlds of Print and Video

The cover of Esquire Magazine’s June issue was shot with video! Now that’s convergence. Granted it was shot with THE RED camera, a high end HD video camera that shoots at 4K, but nevertheless it’s a sign of what’s to come.

When Canon and Nikon came out with their first generation of hybrid cameras the divide between stills and motion became much narrower. They still have a way to go to please filmmakers and high end video shooters but it sent a signal to where the camera manufacturers are heading. Some complaints from the Indie filmmakers have been that the camera shoots in 30p instead of the standard 24fps that filmmakers use. More importantly they don’t like the fact that you can’t shoot video in manual mode – only in auto mode. And audio is extremely limiting – but filmmakers capture their audio independently so that is only an issue for someone who shoots documentaries or a news shooter.

But back to THE RED. This is a high end HD camera that can be modified to meet many needs because of it’s an a la carte building process. But for around $25,000 you have a camera that shoots 4K and just 5 years ago, you couldn’t touch a camera like that for under $100,000. Because it’s a camera that you can build on – you can trick it out and easily spend that kind of money, but you don’t have to.

This has certainly changed how commercials are shot as well as some major TV shows. I’ve heard some art directors have taken frame grabs to satisfy their print needs. It’s not just “good enough” anymore – it’s just as good or better than an image from a still 35mm camera. Art directors are now scrolling through mov files to find just the right “moment”.

I remember years ago, 1982 to be exact when Lenny Skutnik dove into the frozen Potomac River to rescue people from the Air Florida crash. The news crews captured the moment on video and that moment won a Pulitzer prize in the still photography category. People questioned whether taking a “moment” from a running video camera was fair play to receive a Pulitzer for a “still image”. At the time, the quality was poor but nevertheless – it captured “the” moment.

And now magazine covers shot with video cameras – wow – what’s next?

Video is Catching

I just returned from giving a seminar to the ASMP chapter in Seattle entitled “Multimedia and Video – New Opportunities for the Still Photographer” . Paula Lerner and I take a tag team approach, Paula speaking about multimedia and I speak about video.

I was surprised to hear from quite a few attendees that they have gotten into video and see it as a growth area in their business. Others have been seriously thinking about buying equipment and getting more training because they hear from some of their clients that they have the need for video and multimedia. This is a perfect way for a photographer to expand into another medium and that is to collaborate with an existing client who to date has hired you for still photography, but has also been contemplating new media.

While I’m not advocating on the job training, I do recommend that after you’ve trained and made samples, that the first people you should market to are existing “still” clients. You may not think they have the need because they’ve never demonstrated it, but they probably realize that a medium with sound and movement will bring value to their company.

I was also happy to see quite a few students at the seminar. These are emerging photographers who see the potential in video and want to know more about it.

Every month, I see more sites that host video and more companies using it. I think it’s safe to say that video isn’t just a trend but another way to visually communicate.

Sharing and Collaboration

Still photographers for the most part are independent creatures – usually working as a solo act. One of the joys of working in both mediums – video and photography is working with other creatives each bringing their own expertise to the end product. I’ve worked with sound people and editors on projects who brought their skills to many projects I’ve produced – each time making the end result better and stronger.

With technology moving ahead like the speed of sound, collaboration and partnerships is one way to keep up. Better to bring in associates who have know how in areas that you don’t in order to get your project to the necessary platforms in a timely way.

Along with collaboration comes the notion of sharing – sharing information, skills etc. Before all the blogs and social networks, sharing was considered by some to be giving away their secrets. Perhaps that is true, but I have found time and time again that when I have been open with my ideas, good things have come my way. Not always in the immediate sense, but ultimately everytime I have “given” I have received a lot more in return.

A few years ago, I read a book on this topic called “Wikinomics” It opened my mind to the possibilities of thinking and working in this way.

So be open to the idea of working and sharing with your peers and I’m confident the returns will bring great rewards.

More on NAB

Just returned from the NAB show in Las Vegas. NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters and every year they put on a show where 100,000 plus attendees come together to share information, exhibit new products and network. Quite simply it is one of the biggest shows of its kind – it’s also an overwhelming experience.

The trade show in and of itself is 5 buildings of everything from cameras, to software to satellite dish equipped hummers for network news teams to embed themselves in war zones. While an amazing display of toys and tools, if you don’t have a plan or a mission with what you want to check out – you’ll be lost.

But the draw for me is that it is the gathering of some of the biggest and brightest minds in the communications business. There’s a host of training sessions and niche sessions for engineers, animators, DP’s, editors etc. And then there are the Super Sessions which I like to attend. These sessions are basically discussions and interviews with some of the movers and the shakers in the biz. One session had a back and forth dialog with the CEO of Adobe and the CTO (chief technology officer) of Disney about a new partnership venture. Another session was with Indie filmmakers, another with the DP of the TV show 24 and another session was with Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point”. It’s an interactive experience with the panelists, the moderators and the audience and a clear example of the benefits of sharing and disseminating knowledge.

And then there’s the random conversations that I found myself having with Hollywood producers and heads of major manufacturing companies when sharing a table in the cafeteria.

But at the end of the day, what resonated most and surfaced amongst all the packaging and fizz was that everyone was fixed on ideas, content and the story. Essentially beyond the trends and the hype – all agree that storytelling is still key and paramount to the success of any content created.

It’s easy to get sidetracked and distracted by all the toys and lose focus on the message. As a “means to an end” type of person I try to keep in mind what it is I am trying to communicate and pick the tool that does that best.

NAB thoughts

I’m at the NAB show now and there is so much to see and learn that I’m quite overloaded right now. However, I just sat in on a panel of indie filmmakers and they were all completely in love with the new Canon hybrid camera – 5DMarkII. What they liked was the ability to shoot with very shallow depth of field. Of course this is no surprise because they are coming from a film background – just as many still photographers. What they didn’t like – not being able to shoot at 24P and not being able to shoot in manual mode. Other complaints were that it was not a great tool for motion – and you had to use fast cards or you’d get drop outs.
With all that said – there is a tool for every need. This would never be a tool for a corporate shooter or a video journalist because of the limitations in audio.
Another very interesting topic came up as to ethics. Many people use this camera where video cameras are not allowed, but still camera are. Basically, they are ramboing it. One made an interesting point that at the NFL games which are shot by union video guys as well as a battery of still photographers – the have banned the canon 5dMarkII because they were afraid that still shooters would be shooting video.
We live in interesting times and more to come. Gotta run and fill my head with more info.

A new website

Just completed our new website. It was a long process from thought to reality. Our mission was to update our website as well as rebrand ourselves as a new entity – a hybrid. Over the last 10 years we have been working in multimedia and video in addition to still photography. Many times clients ask our company to meet their needs in all these areas in keeping current with new media platforms. So in a sense – just like some of these new “hybrid” cameras – we too have become hybrids.

Technology has led us on some amazing journeys with endless possibilities. We’ll share some of these journeys in this blog. There are new opportunities everywhere and we are excited about what the future will bring.

Please take a minute and check out a “tease” for a recently completed video. – you’ll find it under Motion > More Videos > Freedom’s Ride

How I got to be a hybrid

I’m headed out to NAB next week. Every year the National Association of Broadcasters holds it’s conference in Las Vegas – one of the largest conferences in Las Vegas. It’s a great place to find out about new toys and polish your skills through some of the seminars.
I’ve always been a “means to an end” type of person. So when I go to a show like the NAB, I’m not attracted to the new gear as much as I am to new ideas and opportunities in the way of video.

I’ve often been asked by my peers (fellow photographers) how and why did I get started in multimedia and video. The short answer is – I had a story to tell that needed sound and motion. About 10 years ago I was shooting a story that I pitched for Smithsonian Magazine about swing dancing. You can imagine the challenge of illustrating this story with a still camera. I got through it dragging the shutter and other “motion” techniques”. Shortly after that assignment, I read an article in Time Magazine about how technology was enabling people to create “films” without Hollywood size crews and budgets. In the article, a mention was made about an upcoming DV symposium to be held at the American Film Institute in LA. I followed the lead and headed out to LA for the conference. Those 4 days rocked my world and filled my head with the possibilities that new technology was creating in the visual world.
I am a storyteller and I use the tools that allow me to tell the story in the best way I can. For a long time, I had in my head an idea that just wouldn’t go away. I was very interested in doing a story on the Delta blues musicians. A lot of stories had been done about their music, but I was interested more in where these musicians came from, culturally and geographically speaking. I knew that I had to add the dimension of sound to communicate the message – let’s face it – it’s a story about musicians. So, my foray into video officially began.

I’ve learned a lot since then and am still learning. Technology pretty much mandates that we keep learning because nothing is static. I have taken numerous courses along the way, but perhaps the best was The Platypus Workshop given by Dirck Halstead and PF Bentley. I would recommend this to anyone thinking of moving into video.

We live in an amazing time. While some people lament the past and fret the future, I welcome new opportunities and new ways to do what I do – tell the story.

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