Filmmaking

Delving into the world of VR

Raw VR File

Every once in a while, we are introduced to an idea or technology that seems just a little more than a fad. I certainly believe this of VR or 360 video content that allows people to visually occupy an environment with a phone or VR goggles. To that end, I wanted to get a little taste of how to produce those videos, and so I got my hands on an entry-level camera, the PIXPRO SP360, and tried it out at a pond local to my apartment.

The two cameras are situated back-to-back in this VR rigging

The two cameras are situated back-to-back in this VR rigging

I made at least a feeble attempt to disguise the rigging holding the camera by suspending it over water with my audio boom pole. When a camera shoots in every direction, it's difficult to hide in your shot and I imagine you can only use practical lighting in a movie production environment. By and large my 'fishing rod' technique worked, but you can see the end of the XLR cable hanging above. Seeing as this duel-action camera setup is designed for thrill-seekers and consumer-level enthusiasts, the operation of the cameras is very simple. Basically, you turn on both cameras (situated back to back) and press record. You have limited control over settings. For instance, you can dictate the white balance, some color presets, and stabilization (which I didn't need or try). Definitely not at the level of a GoPro with Pro Tuning functions. It definitely should be mentioned that after only a few minutes of recording, the cameras were really hot. Not 'Oh that's kinda warm' but rather 'Ouch! That's hot!'. It was in the high 70's during shooting and the camera was in the sun for the last shot, but I believe this thermal output wasn't normal. In addition, the way the rig is situated, both camera's USB ports are blocked, preventing someone from bussing power in for indefinite shots. Major limitation. 

After shooting comes - of course - editing!

I used the free software provided with the camera Pixpro 360 Stitch. To say that this program is limited, is an understatement: You can sync the start points of both cameras and futz around with a thing here or there, but there aren't any finer adjustments to stitching or other variables in the free software. You are given the ability to increase and decrease the separation of the cameras, pitch, yaw, roll, and color correct with global brightness and contrast sliders. Every editable item is changed via a button/slider combo that makes a pretty experienced editor such as me feel as awkward as a surgeon wearing oven mitts. When all was said and done, some of the stitching is extremely obvious in the example video below, but ignoring the post processing, the image looks pretty great, especially viewing from a phone or other small device. Some of the charm of the novel, is that the newness can cover over the blemishes.

Overall, this limited foray into VR would be disappointing if under other circumstances, namely anything I'm used to, but creating video content so foreign to what I am used to and have it work - being able to have such a tangible experience - has been awesome and a lot of fun. I can't wait to see how this technology matures and is utilized. I know there are high-end VR rigs that, compared to this little video, trounce the quality and execution, but it is definitely something to wonder at!

Merry Christmas

Decorate

Cuteness + Gingerbread = Delightful Christmas Video High Jinks!

It's that time of the year, so it's time to break out the presents, eggnog, and treats for the family to share. "What should I make" you ask? Well how about some delectable gingerbread cookies! Kailey and Elise present their 'Yummy' video, a parody of the ubiquitous Tasty videos, to show you a great recipé they picked off of Pioneer Woman. Enjoy!

 

Moving a Tiny House

Photos by Jessica Sinatra

Photos by Jessica Sinatra

It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day in early May when I saw the tiny house for the first time in person. With the exception of a ball hitch and license plate, the trailer, that resembles a pirate's treasure chest on wheels, was ready to roll to its new home on the south shore. Owners Chloe & Brandon had called me in the weeks leading up to the big move to document the epic first journey of their tiny home.

Brandon Tiny House

Much had led up to this day, including the unbelievably harsh winter of '14-'15 and even TV crews from HGTV. All told, Chloe & Brandon spent a year and a half of planning and construction just to be able to get to a point where they could move the house. The house was built on a flat-bed trailer that the couple was able to get on the cheap, disassemble, and build up into its current form. To accommodate the weight, Brandon replaced both axles and bolted the house into the metal frame as well as install a customized light package to connect to the tow vehicle.

The starting location was a residence in NH. A kind couple that Chloe & Brandon met through a Craig's List ad when the searched for places to build. The property and the couple turned out to be godsends for the tiny home's construction as they became fast friends, but it was time to move to a new parcel of land for the finishing touches and so Chloe & Brandon could be closer to their brick-and-mortar home. They often had to commute up to 4 hours a day to get up to NH and the new site, another benefactor off of Craig's List, would be only a 30 minute drive one way.

Truck and Tiny House

Once the Tiny House was ready to roll, Brandon needed to measure the weight of the house to keep the weight of future installations within the limit of the trailer's structural limits. Thankfully, there was a dump with a weigh station very close by the NH starting point. It turned out that the truck they rented to tow the house weighed much more than the house itself, coming in at about 7,500 pounds to the house's 6,600 pounds.

The ride was very smooth as Brandon eased the trailer forward for the first time. He was very hesitant at first, driving exceptionally slow, but the trailer could be towed safely on the highway at around 55 to 60 miles an hour. When he tried to exceed 60, the trailer started to sway and rock. Thankfully, there was no need for any complex maneuvers on the highway.

Chloe Tiny House

When we finally reached the destination after a frantic bathroom pull off and lunch, the next challenge became reaching the final resting place in the woods behind the house. Brandon, quite expertly, backed the trailer through a narrow gate and down a hill and hooked the trailer into its current home between few trees. Careful measurements were made to make sure that the sides and roof could be expanded in that position and once the home was jacked up and stabilized, Chloe and Brandon went to work pulling out the offices on the sides of the tiny house and hoisting the roof. Seeing this process in person in very incredible and dramatic. The house is actually bigger than it appears on TV once folded out and the interior seemed bloom into a beautiful space with a custom chandelier and spots for beds. The cubby for the rabbit was just too cool and the mini appliances were as adorable as they were functional.

Now Chloe & Brandon will set to work installing a rain water collection system, plumbing, electrical, and heat stove as well as several other features that will make the house livable. You can get updates about their work and their other cool projects at their new website.

Of course, here is the resulting video from the move! Enjoy!

The Wedding Videographer Stigma

Bride Groom Golfcart

Greetings users!

Over the years, I have made at least some of my living off of the shooting and editing of weddings. Sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, but especially now. Wedding videos are where I cut my teeth as an editor and grew to be a not-too-shabby videographer. I learned the hard lessons about the line between artistry and formula, working for an audience, and pushing the envelope of quality and execution. That sounds fantastic, right? Unfortunately, as a video professional, there are a few lines of work that will give you a bit of a bad rep: Porn is definitely a big one, then making photo slide shows, and finally wedding videography. As I navigate the professional film and video world, I always pause slightly before divulging my involvement in weddings, but thankfully the scene is changing and someday all of my peers will realize just how valuable the right wedding experience can be. Until then, here are three types of people I run into in the professional world and their thoughts on the wedding industry.

Move Along Junior!

The first person I meet usually is somebody who joined the industry in 80's or before. He (or she) has a plum job as a producer of Bank of America ads or is a major player in state or national production organizations. Basically, they rose to 'the top' where they make bank. When I introduce myself to them, I will always mention my comprehensive internship at Redtree Productions, a well established production firm in Boston, before anything else. After that, I have to explain what I'm doing now and what I'm doing now is making the majority of my money off of shooting and editing wedding films. A slight smile forms before me. "Good for you, Evan! Let me know when you want to be serious" they say in certain terms as they turn quickly to the next person in the room.

For most folks in that age bracket, they remember the weddings they attended in the 80's and 90's. There was a sniveling toad of a person lugging around a fat VHS camcorder, standing in the corner of the church, and usually mouth breathing as the toad's nose was clogged with an allergy to any real knowledge of composition, sound recording, or storytelling. This person usually spent Monday through Friday at a desk job and dreaming of making great movies like Star Wars, but settling on a consumer camera and a library book about mise-en-scène . . .

When I admit to being a wedding videographer, for some folks I become the inexperienced toad that stands in a corner, scratching my ass, and creating a in-camera edit that I will copy, but not really look at or review. That's profiling! That's not fair! . . . but that's the way the wedding video industry was then. It was mostly beneath a skilled professional to film a wedding for many years. It's just a stupid home movie after all. It's not something marketable to a larger audience. Wrong.

Why You Slumming It?

The next person I encounter may or may not be a little more contemporary. They also have a great job on the crew of an on-going TV show or have critical acclaim for some documentary they made as a young twenty-something. They claim to be artists in their field. When I tell them about being a wedding videographer, their eyes blink a couple times as the words settle in, they lay a hand on my shoulder, and say something like this: "Well at least you have your feet on the ground, Evan. That's the important thing. I'm sure something better will come up soon."

For these highly-touted individuals, they see wedding videos on the web and they know how complex and awesome the industry has become, but they always feel the gig to be far beneath them. After all, there are awards for wedding videography, but they are largely ceremonial or based on client reviews. A great documentary on the other hand . . . They also feel as though they could (Should they feel the need to stoop to such a worm's eye view) outdo any wedding videographer with their acclaimed filmmaking skills. For them, weddings are a gig you take out of desperation or if you just aren't good enough for a 'real' industry job. Now, there is some truth to that sentiment in some cases, but one thing is for sure: The skill set required to do a high-end wedding video today is NOT something you can just jump into and camera experience in the documentary, television, or narrative world doesn't translate to the running around and stress of a wedding videographer's day. Maybe they should do an award-winning doc on my typical wedding day and the edit after. Then they might understand.

I'm Hungry!

That leads me to the third person I meet: The do all, know all. This person actually embraces my choice of concentration in word if not thought and may even have filmed a couple weddings (or so they say). They are grips, set designers, production assistants and other below-the-line folks. They will hurriedly spout off everything they know about wedding videos. It goes something like this: "Sweet man! I shot a couple weddings back in the day too. You shooting on DSLRs? I hear that is the way to go. You know, I've used DSLRs and I'll shoot the wedding with you tomorrow if you want. I can also edit it too."

This person is a dangerous person. They do many things. They're usually good at some of them. They want to fill their schedule. Yes, they might have shot a wedding before and might even have the skills, but they haven't shot a wedding with me. Before I hire anybody to shoot with me, I not only have to vet their talent, but make sure that they shoot for the kind of edit I want and completely match my style. They may seem to value the work, but they are hitting the record button for the 8-hour day and handing in the footage at the end like a timecard. If someone doesn't understand these things, then they don't value the wedding gig the way I do.

So the problem I'll face in the foreseeable future with being a wedding videographer is this idea of value. Of course, I have to sell the value of my work to brides and grooms all the time, but I also have to sell myself to my peers as well. The way I strive to shoot and edit a wedding takes a pant load of commitment, time, energy, caring . . . And I will make money, and I will build a good reputation, and someday I'll look an Oscar winner in the eye and they might understand that my goal and line of work is a choice that may not be widely praised, but for at least 2 people, newly-wed, it will be the highlight of their entire lives. For me, that's all the reward I need.

The Digital Bolex - A Brief Review

The Digital Bolex - A Brief Review

It was December 2013 and it happened: The first iteration of the Digital Bolex, the D16, went on pre-sale. This was a camera that started with a Kickstarter campaign, of all things, that had finally, finally come to fruition. Now when the Kickstarter started, I didn't have the money to shell out, so the Pre-Order was the next best thing. Part of the way into 2014, I had my camera (Number 107) and before I even tried to turn it on, I knew this thing was a great purchase. It felt great in my hand with its molded pistol grip and dense, well-made body. Just solid. Feels like it could take a beating.