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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:

We’ve been on the road much of Feb shooting photography, but finally had some time to get back in the editing room and finish another film in our Investigator Profiles for MIT RLE.

This one is probably one of my favorites so far.  This Investigator deals with mostly theory, so the big challenge for us was how to illustrate thought.   To do this, we used a bunch of time lapse and motion graphic work.  It was a lot of fun to work with the scientists on the shot where their mathematical computations appear in thin air and then float into the ether.

We also continued our tradition of creating a custom music track for the film.  I hope you enjoy!

Just finished the latest Investigator Profile for MIT RLE.  This film was cut for MIT RLE using interview and “B” roll footage left over from the Carl Zeiss Research Award film we did for a PR firm in Germany in conjunction with the The Carl Zeiss Company.

We were contacted by a PR firm in Germany to help them with a unique event.

The Carl Zeiss Research Award is given every two years for special achievements in the field of glass research.  This award is often the precursor to the Nobel Prize.

As we have a close relationship with the Research Lab of Electronics where Professor Fujimoto (this years recipient) is affiliated, we were a natural partner in order to create a film to be screened at the award ceremony.

This opportunity was a win win for RLE as we would then be able to use any additional footage shot to create an “Investigator Profile” for Jim.

Stay tuned for that film…

Seems like we have been shooting and editing non-stop for the past two years.  Just cranking these films out one after another…  We are so fortunate to be able to keep cranking along with this “Investigator Profile” series.

Anyway… here is the latest iteration focusing on Al Oppenheim.  Al is a fellow pilot, and a really interesting guy.  His lab was exclusively theory, which is always a bit difficult to illustrate on film.

If you have been following our posts, you will have read that Final Cut Pro is dead… This film is the first film of ours cut exclusively with Premier.   So far, we are loving it.  I will try to write a post on the experience when I get a free second…

Here is our latest IP film.  If your reading this in an RSS feed, click here to watch the film.

These films are now becoming ubiquitous on our filmography blog and commercial portfolio.

The RLE “Investigator Profile”  or “IP Series,” has been an amazing long term project now.  I will have to go back and count, but we are in the 24-27 number of films now.

The challenge has always been to keep them fresh and new, while still keeping to the mandate set forth almost four years ago.

Since that first IP film, technology has moved light years.  Our first films were shot on first gen Cannon XL1’s and cut on FCP 1 with the most basic of production value.

These days, we are working hard to innovate using the newest in state of the art HD cameras, exploring motion graphics, and pushing the boundaries of institutional films with high end cinema tools like cranes, dollies, and helicopter work.

I have written about it before, but working on these films provides some of the most interesting and rewarding work we do.   There is nothing like sitting down with an amazing individual and spending an hour chipping away at just what makes them tick.

This latest IP film features Greg Wornell.  This film was a bit of a challenge at the onset because the work Greg does is mostly theoretical, and the big challenge with theory, is how to illustrate it.

To meet this challenge, we shot a lot of collaborative footage to try to show how Greg’s group had great cohesion.  We also experimented with shooting lots of screenshots of group members coding, then manipulating it to create cool transitions.

I think this is one of our better films, and is worth watching.  If you have the six min, give it a click.  I’d like to know your thoughts.

Thanks for your time.

If you are viewing this post in an RSS feed and want to watch the video, click HERE

Exciting news…

In February, we were hired by the Center for Excitioncs to shoot and produce a film for the “Life at the Frontiers of Energy” film contest.  This film was particularly interesting for us as it encompassed everything we love about this genre of film making:  High tech/cutting edge science, dynamic researchers, interviews, time lapse, travel… it had it all.

The film was principally shot on location in Cambridge, but incorporated film we shot 0n high desert of Arizona at one of the largest Solar fields in the US, as well as New Zealand with it’s epic panoramic landscapes.

This morning, we got word that the film has been selected as a winner, and will be screened in Washington D.C. on May 25th.

Congrats to everyone involved!  We couldn’t have put it together without all your hard work.

 

This is the latest film in our series covering Principle Investigators at the Research Lab of Electronics at MIT.  The film covers Jongyoon Han and explores his research. This is one of my favorites thus far…

To see our other Investigator Profiles, click here:

I recently realized that the videos do not embed in RSS feeds.  To view this video, click here:

Here is another Investigator Profile film produced for MIT’s RLE

Another film in our series profiling the Principle Investigators over at MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics

This film was actually completed over the winter, but we forgot to upload it…  It is for TOPS, “Teaching Opportunities in the Physical Sciences.”

This is a short film we made to help the Investigators over at the Research Lab of Electronics at MIT learn just what to expect when it is their turn to be profiled in our series for MIT called Investigator Profiles.

To see all of the films we have made for RLE, check the RLE at MIT page on YouTube.

Thought you’d like to check out the latest Investigator Profile or “IP” film we have finished for the Research Lab of Electronics at MIT.

The principle investigator is Seth Lloyd.  This project was especially cool to work on because Seth was such a riveting interview.

To view more MIT or other video content we have produced, check out our YouTube channel.

Here is the latest in our series on Investigator Profiles for the Research Lab of Electronics.

Rabbit sets up for the interview

Rabbit sets up for the interview

Started on another film on our RLE Investigator Profile series last Friday.

The workflow process for these films are as follows:  Two camera video interview on either black or white seamless.  B-roll of the subject teaching, in their lab, as well as their students.  Possibly some more B-roll around campus, then into the editing room.

camera

These films roughly take 110-150hrs of post production before they are finished, which takes roughly 8-12 days to finish.  I’ll post it when we finish.

To see some other RLE films, you can find them on YouTube.

Here are some of the rushes that go along with the post Movie Tools.

The footage was all shot using the Eazy-Jib.

Enjoy!

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Phil holding the preview monitor as I operate the crane

This has been the month of movie tools!  First we were using the Steadicam, and over the weekend, we wrapped up with two days of shooting with the Eazyjib crane.

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Rabbit and Phil the Intern dial in the counter weights

Fridays shoot day was focused on shooting “B” roll for our on going film series Called Investigator Profiles for our client The Research Lab of Electronics.

Investigator Profile Series for RLE

Investigator Profile Series for RLE

We were using the Eazyjib, which is a simple counter weighted light duty film crane.  The crane is split into three basic parts.  The head, the arm, and the tripod.   This system is fairly easy to break down and move around from scene to scene with two or three people.

Read the rest of this entry »

We just finished the latest film in our Investigator Profile series on professors over at the Research Lab of Electronics at MIT.

This film was a lot of fun because Prof Sarpeshkar gave a great interview… Which made the edit go very smoothly.  It was also the first IP film where we added the use of the Steadicam, as well as incorporated aerial photography.

I hope you enjoy!

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I have to say that Monday was just one of those days.  It was one of those days where I couldn’t believe that I actually have the job that I do….

Monday was spent back over at MIT shooting B roll for our on going movie series featuring professors from the Research Lab of Electronics.

Rabbit building the Steadycam rig

Most of the day we were shooting with Steadicam Pilot.  For those unfamiliar with the Steadicam system, it is basically a platform that uses gimbals and springs to mitigate camera shake from a traditionally hand held camera position….  See Wikipedia for a better explanation.

The technique is pretty stylized, and shouldn’t be used all the time, but for certain shots, it is unparalleled and very cool.
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Last Wed was spent over at MIT at Franz Kaertner’s lab.  The professor had requested a simple video tour so he could show prospective new students what his lab looked like.  We cut the film over the weekend, and will be posted on his groups web site.

We shot the tour down and dirty using available light, and a wireless mic.  This new footage will be inter cut with more graphic photos and video captured the last time we shot in his lab.

You can watch the Investigator Profile film we produced previously here:

I will post the film when we finish final revisions.

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Day two of our student portrait series for the Research Lab of Electronics.  We are shooting photos of personnel from the Center for Ultra Cold Atoms.  Although the client is MIT, the center is also affiliated with Harvard University, so one of the three days we are shooting is here at Harvard.

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The luckiest thing that can happen to you over a career is being blessed with long term clients.  For us, our longest term client is the Resaerch Lab of Electronics over at MIT.  This week, we are continuing with an on-going project to photograph students and post docs.

What makes working with The Lab as well as their staff so great, is their overall tenor.  The greatest gift that the Lab has given us is the allowance to be ourselves.  We are constantly being encouraged and supported by their staff, especially folks like Bill Smith, Krista Van Guilder, and Dave Foss to dig deep and push our creativity.

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It is because of this partnership and support that we have been able to constantly reinvent ourselves and consistently produce A level work including over 100,000 cataloged images, and 11 films.

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Rabbit in the role of "The French Revolutionary"

We have been shooting these photos for over eight years now and we basically follow a simple formula:  Soft box over to one side… black velvet in the back… and the assistant sits to the camera side of the light and interfaces with the subject.

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Shukru the Crazy

Sukru the Crazy

One of the most important aspects of a successful photography career is good humor.

Although often times we are hired to tackle serious issues and solve complex problems for our clients, it is imperative that as professionals, we are able to keep this focus whilst still fostering an atmosphere of fun.

To achieve this, we often involve our clients in good natured fun during down time. This keeps everyone’s spirits up, and includes them in what can often be a long and focused day.

The series of photos above features our friend Shukru over at the Research Lab of Electronics at MIT. Sukru is a ham, and loves to get involved when we are goofing around. We shot these photos while waiting for a subject to arrive to be photographed. We had 24×24 prints made, and gave them out to his office mates. Everyone got a nice laugh.

Just finished another film.

This one was to showcase CIPS or the Center for Integrated Photonic Systems.  The film follows basically the same format that we have been using for all the films done for RLE at MIT.

Enjoy!

To watch our other films, click here.

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