Category Archives: Video Production
Amazingly, since becoming a full-time freelancer, 2012 has been my most productive year, so far. I have worked on a total of 122 client video projects and 8 volunteer and personal creative projects. The client work ranged from ultra low-budget 1-hour shoot/2-hour edits to corporate and TV projects that took up weeks of production.
I have filmed small business promos, web infomercials, performing arts events, destination film festivals, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaign videos, corporate conferences, training and instructional videos, product demos and even a half-hour TV series pilot for Rocky Mountain PBS Network (look for more information on that in the coming months). I’ve worked on several ambitious independent short films and music videos. I also filmed and edited a few behind-the-scenes featurettes, which happens to be some of my favorite personal work.
I’ve met many amazing and creative people in the Denver arts and independent film scene and strengthened my relationships with the people I already knew. What an incredible year it’s been! I’m grateful for all of the fantastic opportunities that came my way and looking forward to many more in the coming year.
Here is a small sample of my video production work from 2012:
Speaking of the VFF, Vail Film Festival directors Sean and Scott Cross are unveiling their new venture this October – the Baja International Film Festival in Cabo, Mexico. Check out this video for more information, which also features some of the footage Michael and I had previously filmed at the VFF: http://www.bajainternationalfilmfestival.com/en/interviews/sean-y-scott-cross.html
Among the multitude of projects I’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks is a short film called Low Road, Baby, directed by Mark Roeder. I am camera-assisting David Quakenbush, who is the Director of Photography on this picture. So far, it has been an incredibly fun shoot that involved precision drivers, car stunts, a motorized jib arm (at one point mounted on top of a crane lift!), large set pieces such as an entire section of a highway overpass bridge, and a lot of green screen shots for digital compositing and special effects work. The cast and crew is amazing and it’s wonderful to work with a team of talented and dedicated people, many of whom I’ve worked with on other projects before. It certainly makes the 12-to-15 hour days more bearable!
Two weekends ago, we shot all day in a closed-off parking lot in 105-degree heat, which was probably the most challenging day on set that I have ever been on. Despite the heat, we got some amazing shots and it was still an exciting shoot. But I was certainly glad to be back in the studio last weekend. There is something to be said for a controlled environment, where you don’t have to worry about losing daylight or dealing with extreme weather conditions.
If I have some free time in the near future, which is something that seems to be harder and harder to come by, I’ll try to edit a short behind-the-scenes video with the material I have gathered. Meanwhile, here are some still shots I took with my Canon SD780IS point-and-shoot. To see the entire set, check out my Flickr album, or view the slideshow at the end of this post. More to come soon!
A couple of weeks ago, David Quakenbush invited me to participate in a short experimental film project, which he developed with local Denver artist Sophia Rose, performer Morgan Elizabeth Weaver and make-up artist Adrianna Veal. The project was filmed at Xcentricity Arts gallery in the Highlands.
I was one of the camera operators on this film, which was shot with several cameras (RED Epic, Canon T2i, Canon 7D and even a GoPro). The Epic, I believe, was running at 120 frames per second and HDSLRs were not too far behind at 60fps to produce the beautiful, smooth slow motion shots that you see in the finished film. Everyone did an amazing job with set decoration, lighting, music, camera work, and of course – Morgan’s performance was the key to the whole concept.
STRING THEORY premiered last night at the Bug Theatre as part of the monthly Emerging Filmmakers Project and was very well received.
It was a fun experience being on that set, both inspiring and rejuvenating to work with such creative local talent. My role on this project was pretty small, so I shot a little bit of behind-the-scenes stills and video footage between takes, which I edited into a short “Making Of” video below. Enjoy!
On The Set Of STRING THEORY – a behind the scenes look at the making of the short film:
Director David Quakenbush posted this short behind-the-scenes look at compositing and some of the special effects work in Automaton, which is currently in post-production. It’s fascinating to see how much work is going into a single shot that is only a few seconds long!
If you haven’t read my previous posts about Automaton, I was one of the extras in the film. If you squint, you can even spot me as Android #4 in this video below :) Enjoy!
In June, I was contacted by PETA to shoot a short video for their “Ink, Not Mink” PSA campaign, featuring a photo shoot with Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen of the Denver Nuggets. Excited for an opportunity to work on that project, I jumped on it without hesitation.
The photo shoot took place in a spacious aircraft hangar at the Centennial Airport in Denver, with most of the crew flown in from Los Angeles. It was a pretty spectacular location, even though you only get a small glimpse of it in the finished video.
My job was to get b-roll and behind-the-scenes footage of the photo shoot and then film a sit-down interview with the Birdman himself. It was a great experience to observe an amazing photographer at work (Robert Sebree) and also to meet Chris Andersen, even though I’m not a huge basketball fan myself (shh, don’t tell anyone – I don’t even like sports). However, it was especially rewarding to play a part in supporting such a good cause and I’m thankful for the opportunity. The ads and the video were finally released last week I think they turned out pretty great!
WARNING: Some of the footage in the video below (the parts not shot by me) features unforgivable animal cruelty and is quite disturbing, so viewer discretion is advised.
My very first real experience in the film industry was being an extra in a small independent feature called West of Here, which was shot in Boulder around 11 years ago (if you look closely, you can briefly see me in the audience during the concert scene where Mary Stuart Masterson plays guitar and sings). At that time, I had just recently started film school and was thrilled to have an opportunity to be involved in a real film production, even if on a small scale. It was a long night of shooting with a lot of waiting around between shots, but I remember having a blast and being fascinated with all the things that went on behind the scenes. The ADs running around with walkie-talkies and wrangling people, the make-up and wardrobe area, the lights and all the equipment being carried to the set from the big trucks outside. It was a scene of organized chaos, and being there reinforced my feelings that filmmaking really was what I wanted to do.
Since that day, through my graduation from film school and beyond, I have worked on numerous film and video shoots as a grip, production assistant and camera assistant. One of the more memorable shoots was Suicide Run, a low-budget feature-length independent horror film that was shot in Westcliffe, Colorado. The film itself was never picked up for distribution, but working on that set for 3 weeks, I learned so much and have met so many great people, some of which I’m still good friends with to this day. It was an incredible experience that had even led me to some paid production gigs later on.
However, eventually I had to get a “real” job to start paying off all those student loans I have accumulated. Shortly after college, I got a master control position at a big cable TV broadcasting facility and ended up staying there for almost 8 years. I continued pursuing freelance videography and photography projects on the side, but for the most part, I stopped working on creative film shoots due to lack of time I could dedicate to them. My motivation was also growing a little bit thin – after spending all day in a dark windowless room staring at TV monitors and computer screens, the last thing I wanted to do is more of that when I got home.
Finally, last year I made the decision to take a risk and leave my comfortable but soul-sucking job in order to continue pursuing my dreams. I dived into freelance video production and photography full-time, shooting anything from nightlife to small business promos, corporate videos and events. And while I admit, it has been a somewhat scary and uncertain time financially, I have been feeling exponentially more happy, relaxed and fulfilled in life this past year than I have in almost a decade. I’ve only been missing one thing – being involved in narrative filmmaking and feeling that movie magic vibe; something that I haven’t experienced in many years.
This past weekend, I feel like I have come full-circle. I got an opportunity to be involved in an ambitious independent science fiction film project, a brainchild of the local director David Quakenbush. I’ve been following the development of Automaton on Facebook for months, and when I asked David if there was anything I could help out with, he mentioned that they already had a full crew, but that they needed more male extras. I thought to myself – why not?
Coming to a real film set for the first time in many years and seeing all those lights, green screens, camera equipment and all the usual commotion that happens on any serious production, I admit – I got a little giddy. Once again, I felt a sense of complete belonging and a bonding that I haven’t experienced since my film-school days. Being on the other side of the camera was a little weird, since I am not used to that, but still really, really fun. And once again, I met a lot of really cool people.
Automaton is a twisted love story set in the distant future where much of the human population has been displaced by robot servants. Being a fan of serious, thought-provoking sci-fi, this concept appealed to me from the beginning. David, the film’s director, has a vision of the future inspired by such iconic films as Blade Runner, as well as the Grimm Brothers tales and Greek tragedy. Much of the film is shot against green-screen backgrounds and will involve a lot of visual effects and intensive post-production. I really can’t wait to see how it turns out!
I took some snaps and a little bit of behind-the-scenes video with my little Canon SD780 between takes, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post any of that material until the film is done (which probably won’t be until sometime next year). So, here are just a few snapshots from the set of Automaton.
There’s no question that Canon DSLR cameras such as EOS 5D MkII and 7D created a revolution in the modern video production world. They literally changed the game. With great low-light capabilities, film-like aesthetics, interchangeable lenses and shallow depth-of-field, in the right hands these cameras are capable of producing beautiful images that can rival Hollywood big boys. However, even though I own a Canon EOS 7D, I’ve only used it for two video projects so far (not counting various test footage and home videos). I use it extensively for stills, but I still shoot the vast majority of my client-commissioned video work on the Panasonic AG-HMC150, a 3-CCD AVCHD camcorder. Why, you may ask?
There are many reasons for this, but it all boils down to the types of videos I shoot. You see, DSLRs are meant to be treated in a fashion very similar to how you would shoot with a traditional film camera. Ergonomics, full-time manual focusing and exposure controls, lack of convenient sync-sound options and a 12-minute maximum clip limit make these cameras far from ideal for spontaneous, on-the-fly shooting, especially when it comes to events. When you have time to carefully set up and plan every shot, they work great. There is no question that HDSLRs are amazing tools for the job if you are making a short film, a music video or even an independent feature. However, for projects such as the business promos that I’ve been producing recently, I need to be able to quickly set up a shot and move to the next one; I need to not have to worry about checking to see if my subject is in focus every thirty seconds, or if the sound is being properly recorded to a separate device. Also, this may offend some old-school shooters, but I use the motorized zoom quite a bit in my videos. I know that in traditional cinema, the zoom shot is virtually non-existant (with very few notable exceptions, such as those famous shots in Jaws and Vertigo, as well as some 1970′s genre films). However, for corporate, small business and event videos, a smooth zoom push-in or pull-out can be a pretty valuable instrument of the visual language. That kind of a shot is pretty much impossible to execute properly with a DSLR.
With that said, however, I’m definitely planning on getting much more use out of my 7D this summer. I have several projects in mind that will benefit from the aesthetics it can provide, and I would also like to play with time-lapses soon.
I guess, the point of this post is – pick the right tool for the job, as there is no magic all-in-one camera package that can do everything. It made me laugh when Philip Bloom mentioned at the Canon Filmmakers workshop in Denver last month that he had seen some terrible car dealership commercials shot with DSLRs that had a shallow depth of field. To me, that’s a complete and utter waste of technology and aesthetics on something that not only doesn’t need it, but actually cheapens it. It’s overkill, kind of like trying to hit a fly with a cannon ball. So, at least for now, I will continue to shoot cheesy car dealership commercials and other business ads with my trusty old HMC150, and save my 7D for the more artistic, personal projects, or client-commissioned videos where it would be appropriate.
I know that there are some people out there who shoot beautiful wedding videos and even news reportage with DSLRs, so I know it’s possible to use them in quickly-changing conditions and a wide variety of situations. There are certainly workarounds for most of their shortcomings, but these workarounds oftentimes require purchasing additional and pricey accessories and add-ons.
What about you, how do you feel about the whole DSLR video revolution? Do you shoot all of your videos on DSLRs just because you can, or do you still use other cameras for certain projects?
This was my 5th year covering the Vail Film Festival with my buddy Michael Howard and our mutual friend and festival host, the awesome Bill LeVasseur. It has become something of an annual tradition, working and hanging out with the same great group of people year after year – people who work hard behind the scenes of the festival and make the magic happen. It’s always a blast, and we’ve all become something of a weird surrogate family, drawn together from different parts of the country; a close group of friends and acquaintances that only meets for a few days every year, with the film and music entertainment event in the backdrop.
Some of the highlights of this year’s festival included guests such as filmmaker and actor Michael Imperioli (Sopranos, Goodfellas, The Lovely Bones), who received the Renegade Award; Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, American Psycho, Red Dog), recipient of the Vanguard Award, Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, Superman Returns), recipient of the Excellence in Acting Award, and appearances by Oscar Nunez (The Office), Greg Pitts (Office Space), Lindsey Vonn and of course, our favorite Hotel Cafe musicians Cary Brothers, Meiko, Holly Conlan, Jay Nash, Joey Ryan and Jake Newton. There was also a 48-hour film shootout sponsored by Olympus and the usual assortiment of great parties, food, filmmaker panels, screenplay readings, Q&A sessions and other shenanigans.