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Over the past 15 years we have worked in all kinds of areas.  Big pharma, defense, bio-tech, aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, the list is pretty broad.   When I look back and try to tie it all together, reflect on what keeps me still interested, the thing that always jumps up first is cutting edge science.

Since 1999, I have been very fortunate to have an on-going relationship with MIT as well as professional relationships with many of the Institutions Principle Investigators.  It is a relationship that I hold very dear, and one that has allowed me to grow personally as well as artistically.

Last week, an old friend, Prof. Vladamir Bulovic, Dir. of MTL.  reached out with a particularly interesting proposition.  Could we help some of his group members produce, shoot, and edit a short film explaining their new technology… Oh, and can you do it in 5 days???

Of course the answer was yes, and we dove in head first.

Because there was such a short turn-around time, the production had to be very concise.  Pre-production, research, discovery and scripting was not an option… Too much fancy production value (big cameras, dollies, fancy lighting) would cause delays on set and translate into lack of time….  Multiple cameras and too much footage would cause extended logging and editing time… You get the picture.  This had to go quick, but still maintain the high level of quality that our customers have come to rely on.

Fortunately for us, (and as so many today know,) we are living in the golden age of film production.  With the new generation of cameras, the things that are possible today constantly blow my mind.  It has really changed the landscape, and allowed us to move in ways that even five years ago could not be possible.

I wouldn’t normally do so, but in order to meet our mandate, I chose to shoot all the location footage with the Nikon D4.  The interviews were still shot on the Sony F3 Super35, but using the Nikon in the labs allowed us a freedom of movement that translated into a much higher volume of footage.

  • First time saver:  All interviews were shot daylight exterior in one general location.  Yes there would be ambient noise to deal with, but since we could only afford to use a third of the shoot day doing interviews, compromises had to be made.  I also believe that when an interview is outside, the viewer gives much more leeway  as the reality is, life can be noisy!
  • Second time saver:  All footage shot in labs would also be with available light.  We always move pretty quickly, but without having to move lights around on set, you can get way more done in the shoot day.  Yes it might not look as good as if you took the time to light it, but with careful cinematography, you can still shoot pretty damn good images.  The lack of lights also eliminates a case or two along with a heavy stand bag.  This means mush less to carry and much less time setting up/tearing down.  Its amazing how you can still create beautiful imagery just by paying attention to camera placement in relation to an ambient light source.
  • Third time saver: Shoot hand held.  Obviously the interviews were shot on stix (tripod,) but almost this entire film was shot hand held.  I did bring the small Cinevate rails for one shot I wanted to get, but I primarily stayed off the crutch all day.  Again, this allows for a very fast shooting style.
  • Fourth time saver:  Stock music.  Normally we like to write our own music, but at the onset, we made the decision to go for stock.  Not only is this a big time saver, but is about half the cost to the client.
  • Fifth time saver:  No snazzy graphics or Motion work.  Traditionally in our MIT work, we have been know for some pretty cool funk.  This stuff looks great, but it translates into TONS of post production work.  By keeping a simple edit, we could move thru the process much faster.

After an 8hr day of shooting, we had what we needed and it was back to the studio to hit the edit bay.  With the close collaboration of the client, and a couple of wee hours editing sessions, we were able to finish and deliver the 4 min film with a day to spare.  The net net is a great short film that conveys the clients message, but yet was economically produced in record time.  Special thanks to Farnaz Niroui.  Couldn’t have done it without your collaboration!If your interested in viewing the Investigator Profile we did for Prof. Bulovic, you can view here:

 

For our other Investigator Profile series for MIT or any other work, click here:

Chris with Profoto Portable Strobes

Chris with Profoto Portable Strobes

Spring is here and its the season for Higher Ed Photography.  Now that the weather is booming, Chris and I have been flat out shooting as much as possible before the students leave for the summer.  April alone has had us out to five campuses!   Shooting higher ed is particularly fun because of the diversity of images.  Much like an annual report shoot, higher ed photography runs the gamut and encompasses every kind of genera including portraits, macro work, science/technology, sports/action, product photography, and general lifestyle.

To cover as much ground in a day, we try to move light.   Typically we can shoot everything we need with:  Profoto Acute B (battery strobes,) One large stand, Profoto Octa, (2) D4’s, 14mm, 16mm, 17-35mm, 24-70mm, 60mm macro (w/ extension tubes)  70-200mm,  300mm 2.8, Gitzo carbon Fiber tripod, and plenty of cards.  This kit condenses down to two pelican cases and is perfect for Chris and I to get in and out with a small footprint.

Today was a pretty cool day.  I’m in Snowmass, CO where I just finished giving a lecture at the summer conference for the Wilderness Medical Society.  I was very honored when I was asked to speak, and felt a lot of responsibility for the quality of the presentation.

The topic of the lecture was “Communicating the Wilderness Through Photography” and went for about 2.5 hrs.

 

I started with the fundamentals like iso, f-stop and shutter speed, and then moved into lots of tricks that the docs and researchers could use in their day to day experience to make better images for use in abstracts, presentations, papers, etc…

We talked about technical challenges like electronics in the back country, power issues, environmental issues like wet, hot, dust, and cold, and photo topics like the use of  macro lenses, light tables, compression with long lenses, proper use of wide lenses, color theory, rules of thirds, natural light, strobes, etc, etc, etc…

The last 2o min of the lecture I think was the most profitable.  I showed a bunch of images created in the “wilderness context” and we spent the time dissecting the images trying to parse out the key points that made them interesting.  It was really cool.

explaining the inverse relationship between f-stop and shutter speed

If you’ve never heard of the society, the WMS is a pretty cool crowd and hosts some of the smartest leaders in wilderness medicine (a big passion of mine.)  It is certainly humbling to be at these conferences and listening to the crazy exploits of these nutty docs.  A very cool scene indeed.

describing the use of f stop and shutter speed

For my lecture, I had a really good turn out and feel that it went well.

The dirty little secret about teaching is that the teacher often walks away with more than the students.  Taking the time to sit down and prepare to teach really makes you re-examine what you know about a subject.  Forces you to look at things you had long discarded and approach the basics with a fresh perspective.  I truly enjoy teaching.

 

explaining that all light should be treated equally

Thanks so much to the WMS for having me.  I feel very grateful for the opportunity.

 

In June I was asked to give a lecture at Rule Boston Camera on the transition from stills to film (cinema.)  This is a long lecture, but I think there are some good salient points.  If you are interested, here is the link.

if you are viewing this post on an RSS feed and cant see the video link, click here:

I still am mystified that the most popular post of all time on my blog is “Camera Crane in Cambridge.”  It has been in the top three for over one year and its not even that exciting of a post…

In light of this fact, we cut a short “Behind the Scenes” after a day using the Porta-Jib last summer on the Holy Cross job.  It’s kind of fun…

Enjoy-

Last spring I began a really cool job with KOR.  The client was Holy Cross, and the scope was enormous!  The job was of course photography, but it also spanned three audio programs as well as four films.

We spent around 10 days on campus netting thousands of still images, lots of camera crane work, hours of time-lapse video, photo flights and enough video footage to fill one of the RAID’s.

I feel tremendously lucky to have gotten a chance to work with both KOR and Holy Cross, not only because we were able to have the creative freedom to impress the client, but have been pleasantly surprised by the widespread acclaim the work has netted.


Last month we found out that the work had earned a gold award at the CASE District I show for the view-book, and silver award for the entire suite of admissions publications.  Very cool news….

Today, I got an eMail from KOR letting me know that we also were awarded a merit (I guess this means “runner-up”) for the Holy Cross website, and a gold for the total recruitment package.

I am really proud of the work, and am overjoyed that the entire team was recognized by the effort.

Thanks to all those involved for helping put this project together!    (…especially to James Grady for putting up the photo of the work on the KOR blog for me to pilfer)

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