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Chris and I headed down to Washington D.C. Today for the day.

Since we just have one film interview, we are traving light and carrying only the bare essentials. This includes the pre-built camera (hand carry,) lens case (also stuffed with batteries and audio gear,) and a tripod bag.

On tap for today: 3am call at the studio, 6am flight to BWI, 4pm interview, 9pm return, and a whole lot of Smithsonian in between…

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Shooting video interviews via Skype

This month we have been engaged in an interesting film project.

One of our legacy clients approached us to produce a film that will celebrate the achievements of one of their founders.  The time frame was incredibly short, the subject matter spanned four decades, and there were almost twenty individuals that wanted to provide testimony.  We were able to work most of the travel into the short time schedule, however there were three individuals (one in Georgia, and two in Palo Alto) that would just be impossible to get to within the time frame.

The question was how to get the interview without getting on another airplane?

To solve this problem, we set up a SKYPE video chat.  I knew that if we tried to capture the screen grab it would look crappy.  We had to create some context that would put the lesser quality Skype chat in context and make it “believable” to the viewer.

 

To do this, we set up a scene in the studio whereby we could shoot both the screen and the entire scene.  The “A” camera was set back and captured the entire scene, and the “B” camera focused in close on the subject.  I would sit just off camera with a web cam positioned such that it would shoot my face for the interview, but I could look right past and watch the subjects face.

It took some jiggering, but a 1/8″ mini cable was run out of the laptop into a splitter and then converted to XLR  to feed both cameras.  The subject would be fed my audio via the web cam and since the “A” and “B” cameras were getting their audio from the line source, any studio background noise would not be picked up.

I felt that we needed to show some audio source in the wide shot to give the illusion of sound, so we added some studio monitors (speakers) into the scene.  This  gave a concrete voice to go with the visual.  By breaking the fourth wall and showing the cameras, laptop, speakers and wires in the shot, we would be able to give a bit more legitimacy to the gimmick.

It took a bit of getting used to with respect to conducting the interview, but once we were rolling, we seemed to settle in and get some great stuff.  Stay tuned for the finished film to see what you think.

 

I shot some quick photos yesterday.  It wasn’t really a big job, just some quick shots that a client needed.  Resolution wasn’t an issue, so I grabbed whatever camera was close as I ran out of the studio which was the D800.  ISO, white balance, and then I set the cam on high-rez jpg and I blasted away.

This AM I am loading them in Photoshop so I can eMail them out when I realized the computer was taking an exceptionally long time.  Strange I thought.  This computer is very new and its a rocket ship.  Maxed out RAM, 12 core, blah blah blah.

Finally I looked down at the image pane and saw the size of the jpg.  103.4M.  WTF?  I have been shooting with this cam for almost 9 months now (always NEFs) and had no idea.

I guess we are in a new era….  Good on you Nikon!

 

I have been asked to give another talk at Rule Boston Camera’s Learning Lab and I am totally pumped.  This Sept 19th, I will be giving a presentation about the use of the blog and behind-the-scene videos in the photo/film biz.

To catch my last talk, click here:

If you are in the city then, make sure to stop by.

 

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Today I would have to categorize as a “surgical strike.”

Stumbled onto the 05:30 flight and are changing planes now in Philly on our way to DFW.

We have to finish the job and be back to the airport by 16:30 in order to make our flight home. With just under 7 hrs on the ground in TX, it will be crunch time as soon as we hit the runway.

These are the whacky days that make this job interesting. Gotta love the hustle and bustle!

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Sittin at MKE (Milwaukee) on the way home…

This is always my most favorite week of the year because for the past five years, I have had the opportunity to work with a media badge for a client out at Oshkosh for the EAA AirVenture Air show.

If you love airplanes, you should not miss this event as it is one of the premier events in the aviation community. No matter what catches your fancy, you can find it here!

One of the things that I was looking forward to seeing was the Kestrel Aircraft booth. I was really excited to see our film playing in their booth in its intended environment. The client was super happy with how everything turned out, and had nothing but positive things to say about our experience working together.

Im sad to see the week come to an end, but I’m ready to get home and relax for a few days…

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Well the 4th of July vacation is over and it’s time to get back to work.  Today we begin a string of video jobs for a couple of local bio-tech companies with a location video interview.

It goes without saying, but one of the most important things to do is make sure you don’t forget any gear back in the studio.  This is especially true after you have been unplugged for a couple of weeks.

Although it may seem silly, one of the best ways to do this is with a pictogram.  You quickly draw out the set with every piece of equipment you will need.  It’s a good way to double check you have everything you need lined up at the loading dock before you load the truck.

On the black board, I have drawn the cameras, video monitor, matte boxes, rails, batteries, camera cart, 5 stands, two tripods, lights, flags, wireless microphones, shotgun and boom mic, and seamless paper.

Sure, there are some little odds and ends that don’t make it to the board, but it is a good broad brush technique to keep you on track.

We had the Boston Globe in the studio the other day during a catalog shoot with our long time client Work N’ Gear for their Scrubology brand.  They brought a film crew to see what was going on…

Have been doing a lot of aerial work lately and its been awesome!  Perfect weather, perfect ambient temps, doors off the helicopter… What more can one ask for!

Thanks to Killian and Blue Hill Helicopters for keeping us safe!

 

Mark K. from the Sloan School for Management called the other day with a cool request.  Can you bring the doorway dolly and help shoot some “B” roll?  Of course!  The doorway dolly is really fun to work with in the right circumstance, and this job was perfect for it!

Hi Hat and the Doorway Dolly

Graeme gets to drive

Sloan already had some stock footage of other parts of the campus, and Mark had just finished up shooting some interviews.  All that was left was some cool “motion,” and that’s where the dolly came in.

Because the floors inside the buildings were exceptionally smooth, the doorway dolly was a perfect fit.  Graeme and I headed in with the Sony FS100, some wide primes, the doorway, the Magliner cart, some sandbags, and got to it.

Hi Hat

One of my favorite ways to use the doorway is with the Hi -Hat.  If you haven’t seen a Hi-Hat, then you should check it out.  In a nutshell, its just a mini platform for the camera that lets you get really low.  I bought a 100mm base at FilmTools in L.A., and then made my own base in the shop.  Keeping the camera low on the doorway and sandbagging the hell out of it gives a nice, steady platform for shooting.  Of course you are not going to want every shot so low, but it is a great place to start when doing some epic movement shots.

The best kind of art director is one who knows what he/she wants, gives good direction, and then eases back and lets you do your thing.  Mark is just this sort of AD, and what makes him particularly cool to work for is that he worked for a long time as a commercial photographer.  When a client really can speak the language, great stuff happens.  Thanks Mark!

 

 

We just delivered the assets for our shoot up at Kestrel Aircraft in Brunswick, ME and I thought this a good chance to talk about how we shot the interview.

Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier

First off, I should say that this was a really cool job for me personally as the principle protagonist of this film is Kestrel CEO  Alan Klapmeier.  For those of you aircraft nuts out there, you will recognize that name immediately as the founder of the Cirrus Aircraft Corporation.   Alan was an amazing guy and a pleasure to meet.

But I digress…

Giant hangar doors provide easy load-in

Anytime I begin to light a scene, there is always a bit of head scratching.  I think for some people, the solution to problems come very easy.  For me, there is a bit of noodling about before I get everything just perfect.

As with everything, the best place to start is at the beginning, and the best beginning is to choose a location.  Things to think about here are control, sound, light, power, acoustics, access, etc… You can pick the most beautiful location in the world, but if there is a construction crew on the other side of a wall driving piles, you ain’t gonna hear a word.

 

Chris sits in for testing

 

With Kestrel, even before I got on site and took a tour of the location, I had a feeling that the best place to shoot the interview was going to be right in the hangar with the aircraft in the background.  The big concern with shooting in such a huge space like the Kestrel hangar was would we in fact be able to stop all the other work that was going on in the background?

After a quick meeting with the Kestrel team and a subsequent tour of the facility, it was made clear that we could have carte blanche and shoot anywhere we wished.  Perfect!  The hangar it was.

Door acts like a big soft box

We definitely didn’t bring enough light to fill a space this big, so we closed all the doors save one just enough to use as a background fill.  This worked perfectly and would make any Dutch painter proud!  We angled the plane to take advantage of its lines and catch the light streaming in from the side.  All that was left was to light the interview.

For this, we ended up using two Kino Flo Diva’s and one LED Light Panel.  The Divas we used for a key, and then winked in just enough Light Panel to fill in the dark side.  Below you can see a photo with and without the notes so you can get a better idea.

 

For the audio, we used two lavaliers(one wireless and one wired,) a boom mic (for safety and redundancy.)   We shot with three cameras, the Sony F3 Super 35 as “A” cam, the Sony FS100 for “B,” and the Nikon D4 for a “C” camera.   Both the “A” and “B” were fairly far away from the subject with a Nikon 180mm and 105mm prime.

In the end, it was a great shoot with a great bunch of folks.  Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to pull the day together, especially to Aaron for the opportunity to work on this film!  FYI… if you are a Kestrel fan, make sure to stop by their booth out at Oshkosh this summer.  This new aircraft is really going to be a game changer!

Chris jumps for joy in front of the original Kestrel prototype

 

We have been cranking pretty hard this past quarter, so it was nice to unplug our heads for a bit.

We pointed the “Pipeline Princess” south and headed for Valdez.  If you haven’t been, all I can say is you should go…  Very beautiful.  One night in Valdez, and then back towards Anchorage finding out-of-the way places to try to get the motor coach stuck.  Renting the RV was a brilliant move and was tons of fun.  Besides having a safe place to work out of, it was a riot to camp in… Wherever we went, there we were.  (only exception was fuel was outrageous.  At almost 1000mi of driving for the week, and $5.00/gal gas, we were in deep.)

iPhone pic from the seat of the RV

We got to Anchorage with about 12 hrs to spare, so we decided to head a bit down the Keni and take the train tunnel to Whittier.  Not much there but beer (which was fine.)  In the end, the tunnel drive and the fresh fish were worth it.

View from the bar in Whittier

Back to Anchorage, and onto the flight for home.  It is only May, but there are some long ass days already.  Below is the view from the airplane sitting at the gate at 11:15pm waiting to taxi.  I’m going to miss it!

Near daylight view at 11:15pm

(bit of a delay in posting… but worth it)  Out of the bush and safe and sound!  Thanks to everyone who made the trip successful, especially to Don and our pilot Rick for getting us in and out of the gravel bars w/out getting killed! I must say that I was pretty overwhelmed trying to land on the riverbank.  I will need much more practice before I am comfortable with off-airport landings!  This bush-pilot thing has certainly gotten under my skin… (and I know where this is going to end up)

Anyway,Talkeetna and Denali were a blast, (especially the 3 dollar taco bar and IPA.)  We will have to come back again.  After the Talkeetna, we took some personal time and headed south to Valdez (more later.)

Again, much thanks to Don and Rick.  We had a blast!

Greg, Rick, Don, Chris back at Talkeetna

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Thought I’d take a sec to share a pic of Chris showing off the production van or as we call it, “The Pipeline Princess.”

The best part of this thing, (besides the beer fridge,) is the heat. It was Pretty damn nippy last night!

We are in Talkeetna and a stones throw from Denali. The bar last night was packed with climbers all chomping to get to base camp. Pretty damn cool.

Weather is holding, which means we will be able to do some flying here pretty soon.

Gotta love Alaska!

I said it before, and I’ll say it again… I love this job!

Today, Chris and I are blasting up to Alaska for the best kind of job: High action/adventure. We have a short layover here in Chi-town, so it’s a perfect time for a blog post…

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We will be landing in Anchorage, picking up a large RV, then heading north to Talkeetna for some bush plane work. After finishing there, we head down to Valdez for two days, and then back to Anchorage.

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God willing and the creek don’t rise, we will arrive alive back in Boston early next week with some awesome images!

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Well it’s spring again here in Boston, and this usually means the aerial season has begun.  Last Thursday we launched for a late afternoon photo flight over the City of Boston.  If you are familiar with the blog, you will know that it involves some kind of air vehicle, you will have a damn hard time keeping us out of it.

As usual, we flew with Blue Hill Helicopters out of Norwood Airport.  Because the shoot was a fairly simple shoot (just photography and no cinema work) and I did not need to have the client along, I chose to fly the Schweizer 300C.  This is a small two place piston driven helicopter with a great safety record.  Besides being a nice platform for aerial work, the operational cost is very reasonable compared to something like a Bell Jet Ranger, or a Europcopter A Star which is very attractive to clients.  It’s a great way to provide aerial work without breaking the budget.

 

The photo mission took us inbound on the “Quarry” route, around the city counter clock-wise, and then out on the “Fenway” route(click here to see a cool map of the Boston helicopter routes)

Landmarks on the list included the harbor, Fenway Park, the Zakim Bridge, and the Charles River skyline.

Boston Logan was landing on Rwy 4, which made it a bit tricky as we had to stay under 300′ for a bunch of the shooting.  (In a nutshell this means that we had to fly under the commercial airliners that were landing.)

In the end, we spent about 45 min on station and got some great images.

Here is our latest Behind the Scenes film.  The job was to create 10 “How To” films for WMA or Wilderness Medical Associates.  We shot all the footage in a sound studio up in Portland, ME in one very long day.

Holding Nikon's new D4, Barajas Airport, Madrid

On our way back tonight from Spain and I wanted to get this quick post out before we flew back.

Although there was a small component of strobe work, this job was primarily shot with ambient light.  The big worry was with all the inside shooting, was I going to have enough light?

As luck would have it, we were able to take delivery of our new Nikon D4’s and the D800 just prior to leaving.  Although the Nikon D3s would have performed OK, the D4 was just beyond amazing.

After some testing, I was able to confidently shoot 46+ meg jpgs at 4928×3280 pixels at 4000 ISO.   The camera was solid, the color was great, I used only one battery per Nikon D4 body over three and a half days of shooting, and above all, the lack of noise was mind boggling.

And for what it’s worth… the above image was shot with the D800 at 6400 ISO.

Thanks Nikon for changing the game (again!)

Lunch at a street cafe

One of the things that makes the long days, short nights, and a heavy workload palatable when on the road is the company.  When you have a really good client, anything is doable.

Today Eric N. and I got to sneak away for a quick 30 min outdoor lunch.  (just enough time for Eric to discuss his plans for world domination…)

 

Here is a behind the scenes film we shot whilst on location during the Fullbridge Business Communication Workshop talking about the new Sony PMW-F3 Super 35.

Profoto Octabank hanging on a Pelican handle w/ a Superclamp

Here’s a good tip that I’ve been thinking might be useful…

Lots of times as location photographers we struggle with the balance of the gear we can travel with vs/ the gear we really need to shoot the photo.  Today’s travel landscape brings all sorts of new challenges that can really be a pain in the ass.

Years ago (pre 911,) all it took was your good old friend “uncle Andrew Jackson” in the palm of the right sky cap and all your bags made it trouble (and fee) free onto the airplane.  Now days, it’s $100+ for each bag while being even more nutty when traveling internationally.   Several times in the past 6 months I have not only had to pay an additional bag fee, but then have had to pay an overweight fee on top of it.  The client really doesn’t appreciate it when you add on $150 charge for your stand bag each way!

So the question is… What do you do?

All professionals like to appear as if we are fancy and have all the proper gear, but sometimes we have to chuck the style points in favor of real-world, pragmatic innovation.

In this vein, here are two quick examples of doing just this.

In the above photo, the problem was not the gear so much as the space.  The client wanted portraits on seamless so the subject could be silo’d.  Although we had our normal cameras, stands and strobes, we didnt have the space.  There was no other real place to shoot the image, and because the conference room table was just too damn heavy to move, we had no real place to put the light stand.

Since every case of ours carries at least one Superclamp, it was an easy fix.  Up went the handle on Pelican 1514 case, on went the clamp, and the light was hung in the center of the table.

In the photo below, the problem was not that of the lack space in the room, but the limited ability of stuff I could carry.

This was a European shoot with lots of travel.  Although most of the shoot was going to be daylight exterior which required only my camera case, there was a small portrait component which was going to need strobes and a bit of grip gear.

The budget was small on this job, and there was only room for myself (no assistant,)  and in order to keep a handle on the budget, I didnt want to have too many extra bags to check.

Normally on a shoot like this we would bring about 5 bags.  Camera case, computer bag, large stand bag, strobe case, and a personal bag.   But since I was going to be alone, there was no way I was going to hump all 5 bags around the countryside not to mention try to pass all those extra bag fees along to the client.

What I ended up doing was leaving the stand bag at home entirely.  The strobe case was stripped down to just one ProAcute 600b with 2 heads, gaff tape, black velvet, superclamp, pony clamps, soft box, and the tripod was strapped to the outside of my small personal bag.

When it came time for the portraits, I removed the Gitzo head, fitted a stud to the tripod, hung the profoto head on the top of the tripod, slung the profoto 600b to the underside of the tripod for ballast, found something to hang the velvet on for the background, found some sort of white for a fill (in this case there was an easel kicking around) and i was off to the races.

Profoto 600B as ballast

Definitely not pretty, but it saved the client a bunch of added travel expense while making it easier for me to get around with one less bag to carry.

If you wish to read more of the Photo Tip Series, click HERE.

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As if a 4 hour layover at JFK isn’t enough… This is a window seat?

Thanks American Airlines…

Paul and Andrew of Newtonville Camera

Well, we are off to Europe again for another week of photography.  I’d love to say work sucks and I hate the Man, but I really do love my job.

The very best part of this job I have to say is not the travel though.  The best part of this job is the client.  It’s not  often that a photographer gets to opportunity to work for a client that gives you the freedom to explore as an artist and to really push the boundaries of the relationship.

With that, I say thanks.

Now on to the photo above…  This AM I got a text from Andrew our sales guy at Newtonville Camera (our local and most favorite camera shop.)  He wanted me to know that our new NPS Priority Purchase D800s were in and if we wanted to bring them along to Europe.  Well of course!  The D80o will be replacing the D700 as the “blog camera” as well as being a tertiary back-up body.  Before we headed to Boston Logan, we made a quick detour out to Newton and grabbed the camera.  Like spoiled children we will be testing out the D4 AND the D800 on this trip.

BTW… (shameless plug, but not really)  I like to push Newtonville Camera a lot for no other reason that they have always taken amazing care of me since the beginning of my career.  They are about 35 miles away from my studio and in traffic, a 45 min drive….  I say this cuz I fight the traffic to shop there.   The next time you need any equipment, pick up the phone and try them before you hit the B&H button.  Mention what I said and the posting and I think you will be surprised at what Paul or Andrew can do for you.

Here is a behind the scenes film from a job for we did for Fullbridge.  We were hired to create 20 individual shorts and almost 30 audio programs for use in their Business Communication Workshop.

This project took two months to prepare, and was shot in just two weekends.  This film project was our largest to date with over twenty people in the crew.

Thanks to everyone for working so hard on those long 18 hr days!

If you are reading this in an RSS feed and want to see the film, please click HERE:

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