This Trend Crept Up On Us

Once again, photographers and especially photography teachers, have been caught napping as the world has shrugged and turned over underneath them.

Not all that long ago, as the century turned so did the photo world as the (to some) promise of digital technology started to come into its own.  Academia often seems, in so many disciplines, to be the last to understand that they have awakened into a new world with new paradigms and the old cliché about “grow or die” is now having an impact on their tidy and snug little domains. It is so much easier to teach with certainty what WAS than to risk dealing with a changing world and reality of what IS, and worse, what IS COMING.  And so it was with digital photography.

Analog, i.e. film and darkroom based photography, had, after all, remained relatively constant for 100 years.  The workflow was unchanged: 1. Developer, 2. Stop/Rinse, 3. Fix, had remained stable with changes only in brands, options for granularity and acutance, sometimes tone, but essentially a teacher in the early 1900s would have no trouble adjusting to the few new options in 2000.  In fact there were fewer in terms of common approaches.  Silver-based emulsions were it except for a few artists who worked in “historic” technologies, many of which were still common in 1900.  So it was not surprising that the very different digital world caught most of them napping.  And they still were napping even when most of the professional world, realizing the expanded artistic options embraced it out from under them.

They were also not prepared for the speed of technological progress.  They were artists not computer geeks and had never heard, for the most part, of a man named Gordon Moore, much less his famous “law” about the growth of computer power that turned out to actually be understated.  And they really didn’t understand that digital photography is ALL about computers.  The so-called camera, the body of which is simply a bone to photographers who could not deal with a keyboard ala the original Foveon Studio Camera – a Compac laptop with a Canon Lens hung on a yoke – is, in fact, a camera-shaped computer with a lens mounted on it.  Computer image files are processed on a computer.  Output is by computer or even a computer-driven printer.  What they all saw as a toy in 2000 totally surprised them when, following Moore’s Law, it morphed rapidly into an image-making tool ready to compete with their traditional gear and eventually surpass it on virtually every measurable characteristic less than 10 years later.  The pro shooters “got it” because competition demanded it, but, alas, the artists and educators were slower to loosen their grasps on older technology.  When Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, a pioneer photo artist and educator from the Bauhaus said it seemed “…indispensable that modern artists go to work with up-to-date tools” they thought it meant up to HIS date and no later.

Let me be clear here: we teach darkroom/film based photography at City because when taught as a foundation, the imposed deliberation involved in that process seems to consistently produce better photographers.  But we are an “applied” (meaning vocational though that term is in disfavor) program and to produce viable commercial photographers at the advanced or even intermediate levels, the world is digital.

So it should, I suppose be no surprise that other aspects of the computer age also slipped under their radar.  The incredibly expanding and ever more powerful internet – the world-wide web – has been a factor of immense power in the development of photography and its dissemination.  And it has been a major contributor to the next trend already underway and being equally ignored throughout photo academia.  That trend is motion capture and presentation.

Let me give you an example of the “then” versus “now” world that has underwritten this trend.  I started producing video, as an adjunct to my still work, in 1983 when a client agency told me (not “asked” me) that I was going to fly to Oklahoma from Denver in two weeks and produce a video for an engineering company for whom I had shot a brochure a few months prior.  I confess it was, looking back, terrible; it was a “slideshow on tape” because I did not understand motion.  But it hooked me as offering the chance to incorporate new and untried elements of motion, sound, time, etc. that are isolated out of a still shot.  I loved its storytelling power.  But there were major obstacles.

First of all it was stunningly expensive to get geared up.  In 1988 I swapped my ¾” U-Matic gear for a Sony Beta-SP camera.  The camera BODY listed for over $36,000.  The lens was a Fujinon 18:1 servo zoom with a build in 2x doubler and listed for about $8,750.00 and that was not, by far, the most expensive of available lenses!  Then there was audio gear equaling another few $Thousand, grip and rigging gear, lighting… on and on.  Pretty quickly we were talking real money.  I had rented gear until I had contracts in hand for jobs where the rental fee equaled the purchase price.  For its day that Beta-SP camera produced beautiful NTSC formatted video. In fact it was still a very useable piece of video kit when I “retired” in 2000 to come to San Diego to teach.

To add to the production costs even a simple corporate video was shot with a crew of usually 3-5 people (not counting on-screen talent) each of whom was an expert in their particular jobs.  On a shoestring budget you might – MIGHT – try to pull it off with two people but you always regretted it and under no circumstances would you try to be a one-man-band; an approach doomed to failure.

Editing your original footage required some serious equipment (some editing houses had over a Million dollars (in 1980s dollars) invested in their edit bays) so usually you used an editing service that itself was quite expensive, often over $300.00 PER HOUR, and you typically budgeted an hour of editing time per finished running minute of programming.  Do the math…

But what could you DO with that video once you created it?  Unless, like me, you were producing for a client who would then disseminate copies to staff or clients or customers or whomever as needed, or unless you had the funding to produce a piece for a film festival (and then it needed to be ON FILM) all you could do is shoot something fun and invite people over to watch it.  If you were not shooting for pay the economics were tough especially when figured per viewer return where there WAS NO return.

Consequently, that field of work remained fairly exclusive unto itself and only a few of us worked in both stills and motion.  Boy has that changed and it is sweeping the world of professional photography along with it.  Formatting made possible by new TV technology has left standard NTSC 4:3 “academy” video in the dust with newer 16:9 wide screen in 1080p (Full High Definition or FHD) and even 4K (Ultra High Definition or UHD) and now even higher resolutions on special digital cinema cameras.  And to really stir the pot, with some limitations, video with that amazing resolution, can be captured on a medium to high-end DSLR costing around (and under) $2,000.00.  Even serious cinema capable video cameras can be purchased for under $10,000.00 and truthfully, you can match the best broadcast and cable TV production for around $5,000.00 for a camera while still using your high quality DSLR lenses.

High quality audio gear is equally less expensive.  And what was once the domain of extremely expensive editing houses with multiple tape format drives, duplication machines (working in real time), and very expensive DVE (Digital Video Effects) machines, can now ALL be done on a desktop for a few hundred dollars for the software.

And what can you do with it?  Why you can let the world see it for very low cost or even FREE over such web sites as Vimeo and YouTube.  Imbedding a video presentation into a web site or even a social media site, in the current world of common broadband internet, is easy.

And all of that has subtly but drastically changed the world of professional photography in ways that schools especially are not yet waking up to address.  What is a problem is that the clients of professional photographers across a wide spectrum of genres from weddings to events to serious commercial advertising HAVE taken notice.  Increasingly often clients, who seem to know that there is a video switch on the camera body, are asking the primary photographer to include a video component to a job, or worse yet, want to add it to an otherwise agreed to job “While you’re here…”

Statistics taken after Christmas of 2016 showed that nearly 60% of all online customer interaction was due to video, a number expected to jump to nearly 80% in as little as two years.  A survey of major company CEOS showed that over 75% of them now understood the value of video in customer marketing and service AND INTENDED TO IMPLEMENT IT and that number too was on the rise.

So what is the problem?  The problem is that we, the photo educators, are not addressing this new world and neither are the educators in fields like RTV or Mass Communication.  Those fields may be teaching students how to operate the gear but it is for ENG (electronic news gathering) approaches like news, events and even some wedding productions or their EFP (Electronic Field Production) is designed for experimental or short entertainment films or documentary projects.  They leave them with no knowledge of shooting and editing for the primary purpose of selling someone ELSE’S products or services.

If we do not quickly address this new world in the programs ostensibly dedicated to vocational photography, we are cheating our students and they will be left in the dust to competitors who have figured it out and learned how to operate in this new world.

At City we frankly, and to my dismay, failed in our first attempt to convince administration that the RTV program, good as it may be at teaching budding news shooters and film makers, did not address the needs of our graduating vocational photographers whose jobs were to produce content to help market a client’s goods or services or processes.  It is a situation we simply cannot allow to stand… more on it later as we continue to try to convince admin of this growing need.

But in the meantime, I will be giving a day long presentation through George’s Camera in San Diego specifically on “Video for Still Shooters” on January 28th.   And I’ve been asked to give presentations at the SD Fair and at a Fall Film Festival on the same topic.  If you want to explore this changing new world, sign up for the presentation at George’s on the 28th (its on EventBrite).  Their room is small so sign up now while there is still some room.

poster-banner-for-video-workshop-for-web

Shooting good video takes more than a switch on a camera.  It takes a new mindset that incorporates the potentials of the motion world.  These presentations will at least aim you down the right paths to entering this new visual world.  There is a link at the top of the page with more information on the workshop. Here is the direct link to Eventbrite’s listing.  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/video-for-still-photographers-tickets-29919652486?ref=ecal

 

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Thanksgiving Week 2016

Well, it is our one week Thanksgiving Day break.  Right…  But we are scrambling at school to make sure our Spring classes get the newly mandated number of students quickly or they will (not “might be” but WILL BE) canceled.  We have had courses canceled within two weeks of registration being opened and with over a month to go before the start of the semester when someone decided they would not have enough students. 

So, since registration just opened for Spring 2017 semester, we are already leaping into outreach and marketing mode.  I had intended to go visit my friends in Santa Fe and spend the time photographing there and along the way; but decided this effort really needed to take precedence.

To that end, Monday I scripted some short roughly 2-minute “commercials” (for lack of a better term) for my upcoming classes: Photo 143 Introduction to Digital Photography, Photo 125 Photo Business Operations, and Photo 200A Lighting Techniques.  Yesterday, with the help of my shooting partner, Cynthia, shot the footage for the piece on the Photo 200A course.  Then last night and this morning I hammered it together and prepared to upload it to Vimeo and YouTube so it can be available for potential students.

One down, two to go.   Here is the link for the Vimeo version of the 200A piece.

It has been a tradition for me for years to use the occasion of Thanksgiving to stop a moment and reflect on all of the things I have to be thankful for.  Wow, it is a very long list.  I was blessed with having a great childhood filled with loving relatives and endless encouragement to follow my passions and dreams and endless encouragement for my artistic endeavors.  It was made clear to me that the major obstacle I would face in life was… ME and my willingness to do the hard work necessary to achieve some level of skill and talent in whatever I chose to do.

Currently I am thankful for the opportunity to teach and help lead what I honestly believe is one of the best photo-educational programs there is… period.  Oh yeah, there are places around with bigger names and reputations, some with great “hero” faculty with major name recognition but at our facility at San Diego City College it would be hard to find a faculty more on board with our vision of trying to make it the best.

I’m especially thankful for my co-lead-faculty partner, Dave Eichinger.  We were thrown together, two strangers who, it turned out, shared a common vision to make our program the best.  I sometimes cannot believe our 30,000 square feet of space with darkrooms (yes we still teach film-based work), incredible studios (you can see part of one in the video above)  and well equipped classrooms, is real and offered by a school that charges under $50.00 per credit hour!  It is the deal of a lifetime for potential students.

Here is a district-produced video on our program.

I am also grateful for the incredible collection of friends I have managed, somehow, to entice into my life.  I rely on them to keep me on my toes, tell me (kindly) when I am straying into troubled waters, or getting a bit full of myself. 

Some of them go back to high school days or even earlier; some were clients first or colleagues or even competitors and all of them have taught me something, often something important for me at the time as if a higher power guided them onto my path when I most needed them.  Sometimes I fear it has been a very one-sided relationship with me getting all of the benefit; yet I am profoundly grateful to them and all they have meant in my life.

So here are my thoughts for all of you, whether or not you are in a location that celebrates a day of Thanksgiving as we here in the colonies do.  Take the time this week to reflect not on the craziness surrounding you, or the ugliness or problems; but on the good stuff.  It is easy to lose sight of all the good around us when we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by what we see as negative.  But don’t let that negative stuff define you, don’t let it blind you to the good people, friends, things of all sorts that filter through your lives.  There will, for sure, be plenty of time and opportunity to dwell on the negative, on the fears real or imagined to push us from our paths if you let it.  But for this week, let’s toast and embrace the good stuff and make a point to thank those good friends and people for being in your life.  Life is fragile and capricious; don’t let it slip away without embracing and reveling in the good stuff every chance you get.

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Moonlight Sonata

This weekend saw the astonomical event that sent a gazillion photographers hunting for the perfect vantage point.  It the last “Supermoon” for 30+ years and it was spectacular to say the least.

I was supposed to join Lee (Peterson) and some of our photographers’ lunch group Sunday evening at the Coronado Ferry Landing to try to catch it coming up over the city.  But alas I was buried with stuff for school and decided that was more important; besides I had some nice shots from the last supermoon (though it was a little less “super” than this one was supposed to be.)  You can see his shots on his blog listed in the right hand column.

Monday however, I had lunch with Cynthia and she wanted to catch the moon coming up over one of the Yacht Clubs so we hustled out to check out a possible location.  It occurred to me that the moon rising through the sailboat masts would be cool so about an hour before moonrise we were back at the location (another yacht club’s parking lot and docks) and setting up to shoot.  I had just recently lectured on using long focal length lenses for compressed perspective and making background images appear larger.  Too bad I did not have this image completed for that lecture.

Monday evening the moon rose later, at 5:37 so it was already getting dark.  On Sunday it rose about an hour earlier and blending ambient light and moonlight would have been a lot easier.  But when the moon appeared, at a bearing of 72 degrees as predicted, it was truly breathtaking.  Unfortunately I had left the graduated density filters in the car and didn’t really comprehend how bright this moon would be until it started rising and then it was too late to go get the filters.

Holy Cow it was REALLY bright.  So the shots were bracketed widely and then I picked two for an exposure blend.  HDR was a problem as the moon was moving at a pretty respectable speed during the short time between exposures so it seemed like it would be  easier to blend things manually.

Ummmmm…. no.  It was not.  but here is the result anyway.

 

supermoon-and-sdyc-web

“Supermoon” rising over San Diego Yacht Club, 11/14/2016.  Shot with Canon 5DSr and Sigma 50-500mm lens with Canon 2X Teleconverter.

 

There was a good four f-stops difference between the moon exposure and the foreground exposure so blending was a touch problematical.  In the foreground exposure the moon was so totally blown out it was “blooming” and appeared even bigger in the sky, also wiping out detail in the masts and rigging in front of it.  Fortunately in the exposure for the moon, that detail was sort-of there.  In a mid-range exposure it was better, so some of the mast tops were taken from a third exposure.  Fortunately there was no wind and the boats were not rocking in the water or it would really have been a problem.

Anyway here it is.  So far all the folks asking me if I shot this supermoon, the answer is yes.  BTW the light in the cabin cruiser to left of center was apparently a tungsten light so that yellowish color is not from the moon.  Same for the cupola of the Yacht Club building.  But it did go nicely with the color pallet of the shot as it was developed.

Enjoy,

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The Good, The Bad, and the Foggy

It has been a discouraging week at school.  The State and district have abandoned all desire for covert destruction of non-academic programs and now simply and openly have laid down rules that, if we follow them, will force us to break the State mandated outcomes for our “Applied,” i.e. “vocational” (although ‘vocational’ is a term way out of favor) program.  The ultimate ‘Catch 22’,  They want us to drop our required credits in the discipline for a degree to 18 – we’re now at 42.  Yet we are supposed to graduate students who have all of the skills necessary to work successfully and competitively in the field.  Those goals are mutually exclusive and utterly incompatible.

Then, to top it off, we had to give up our “Video for Still Shooters” course to RTV whose goals and approaches for their students are very different from ours.  Even though some of the topics in the outline sound the same on the surface, the direction from which they are taught and needed by our various students is quite different.  No matter to admin; I guess you cannot care very much about topics over which you are nearly terminally ignorant.

However, last week’s workshop on video for still photographers for the Adobe “Digital Artistry Workshop” we held at City College has led to a request for me to give the material as a 5-hour workshop in January at one of the local camera shops… and it is a paying gig!  As complete details are hammered out I’ll post them here so if you are local and wish to sign up you can.

But lest another week go by without at least one shot, this morning (Sunday) I had forgotten to set my clocks back for the end of Daylight Savings time so was up an hour early.  And I was greeted by a gorgeous fog bank of my back yard.  I love those thick fogs visually; on one hand it is right out of a Jack-The-Ripper frightmare and on the other it so alters our perceptions of the world around us as to create an alternate reality happening right before our eyes.  I was watching the fog consume the world in the canyon behind my house when the sun just started to light up the eastern sky.  And then the color started… 

My “real” cameras were still in the car since I had not unloaded them from the last shoot, so I grabbed my little point and shoot Canon and ran out in my skivvies and slippers before I lost the light just as the sun crested the mountains to the east.

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Dawn fog from my back yard.  Shot with Canon 120S P/S camera

When we got to Ocean Beach for our Sunday breakfast we were running a little early so I swung by the pier to see if it too was socked in with fog… and it was.  So I produced this tritoned shot if it.  The little café on the pier is completely obscured in the fog.  Amazingly enough there were lots of people out to see the sights that morning and the parking lot was almost full.  I mostly shot some video B-Roll but also grabbed this still, again with the little point and shoot.

foggy-ob-pier-toned-for-blog

Ocean Beach Pier in dense fog; tritoned in Photoshop CC 2017.  Shot with Canon 120S P/S camera.  Here the sun was not piercing the heavy marine layer so the world was reduced to a dreary blue-gray monochrome.  The little point and shoot rendered it accurately but it was boring.  The real view had a sort of dread-filled life to it so in the image above I added a hint of split toning. 

The admin nonsense has, I confess, taken a huge hit on my enthusiasm and I simply had little interest in doing much over the weekend.  But now I need to get with it and ready for next week’s classes.  It is hard to feel enthusiastic when your bosses make it clear that your efforts to make the best program there is are, to them, irrelevant and not particularly valuable.

Oh well….. I think it is time to apply for a sabbatical…

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Rethinking a Workshop Presentation

This past weekend I gave a presentation at The Digital Artistry Workshop, held at our facilities at San Diego City College to coincide with Adobe MAX, an Adobe event being held this year in San Diego.  My presentation, a 2-hour 2-part seminar was on shooting video for still shooters.  In it I attempted to cover the world of serious video production as I had known and worked in it for over 20 years before coming here to teach photography.     

Following the workshop presentation, I’ve spent the weekend wrestling with a vague unease that although I know the material I presented was good (apart from whether or not it was presented well) I had a growing sense that it was not, in fact, what many of the participants, perhaps most of them, actually wanted or needed from that sort of venue.  I still think it is a viable topical outline for a full-on class, but for a short form presentation it was, I am coming to think, massive overkill.

So I re-contacted several video producers I have known, competed with, sometimes worked for, over the years and whom I still respect.  I had done that from the first and they dutifully answered my questions relative to the accuracy of the information.  But this time I changed the question to what I should have asked in the first place: what about the material’s relevancy to today’s crop of would-be filmmakers and video shooters. Whoa… different answers. Only a week ago their revised answers would have surprised me; this time they did not.  They saddened me for a loss to the industry but reality is reality despite our closely held delusions to the contrary.

While there may still remain some few who do have an interest in high quality serious filmmaking with all that still entails, the consensus was that due to the evolving technology (just as it has in the still world) the new digital video world is populated by people who perhaps started out wanting to make good stills professionally, or who were not even into photography but into design and web creation, but who have been asked by clients to provide video material.  On the web that is now the new gold standard for illustration for sales sites, service sites, for even agenda laden “documentary” sites.  But they are not being asked for what we old timers were required to produce.

We were: serious professional creators of high quality motion production on film or tape for a discriminating audience of clients whose major points of reference were the movies or broadcast TV. We were expected to produce even industrial and corporate programming to emulate that quality.  And we had the budgets that would allow us to do that.  Typically, in the Denver market which served clients from Canada to Mexico and from Kansas City to Salt Lake or even LA, our production budgets would START, for a low end video, at $1,000 per FRM (Finished Running Minute) with a minimum charge of about $5,000 to $6,000. 

The production side, that is the “principle photography,” was done pretty much the same for all levels: professional grade shooting and sound recording on professional grade equipment, made possible by a good experienced crew of at least 4 people.  Where things started adding to the cost were when we needed professional talent in front of the camera, careful scripting, special equipment such as a crane or Steadicam™, professional grade editing and sound design, additional animation or special graphics, etc..  Those additional elements put some major new pressure and requirements on the production itself but mostly on post production and had sometimes an enormous influence on the budget.

But that is NOT today’s world.  Too bad; we produced some stunningly beautiful programming even for the most banal and mundane of topics.  Even our corporate training productions looked like they were done by film crews out of LA.  We had good, experienced producers and directors, cinematographers, gaffers and grips all who understood the vision for the program being done and gave all of their talent to see it completed as well as it could possibly be.  For the most part, any mid-range corporate video could stand proudly next to the day’s TV shows in terms of quality.

Alas, in the immortal words of Roberto Duran… “No mas, no mas.”

To a degree that shocked me out of my delusional stupor, I have learned virtually overnight that a growing majority of video production is being requested by clients not of high level production companies, but from still photographers and even from graphic designers and website designers.  Increasingly business web sites are wanting video content to show off their products or services.  But they apparently have never seen a good, well produced industrial video; they’ve seen only the work produced by someone who thinks the “movie” button on their DSLR magically turns them into a filmmaker and that has become, sad to say, their point of reference. 

And because the results are not worth very much, those lowered expectations result in lowered budgets and clients are demanding video production for costs that we, in our day, would not have taken seriously much less been willing to work for. Our out-of-pocket production costs were considerably higher than the final charges are for much modern production being done here in the San Diego area.

That is not the entire world of video production, to be sure.  But just as the still photography world has dramatically changed in the age of digital acquisition, so has the technology changed the video world.  And it is not just that the production values have fallen, the “Fulfillment/Distribution” aspect has changed and with it the expected quality.  In the pre-2000 era, if you did not have a client who wanted your programming, you had no reasonable way of getting it seen.  If you wanted to do a movie, even a short feature, without some way to distribute it at least to appropriate festivals, again you had no reasonable way of getting it seen. You could make popcorn and show it to your awestruck friends in your man cave but that was about it…  

But today we have YouTube and Vimeo and other social media where you suddenly have a film festival consisting of a world wide audience available not just annually at some venue, but every hour of every day.  And you can get your work in front of them FOR FREE!!!  The Web master for a company can insert the video into the website and instantly it is viewable by the entire world: no more having to make and send out copies to sales personnel and special clients. And the resolution has only to be good for computer display, not for a 30 feet wide screen.

From concept to completion today’s world is a very different one with very lowered standards than the world in which I and most of my industry friends worked.  But it is the world from which the participants and audience for seminars and workshops on shooting video is drawn.  My presentation exhorting them toward the creation of high quality serious production might have been well made and presented, it might have been of intellectual interest to the audience, but it was not why they were there.  They were there, as my friend Jack Dinkmeyer, one of the best of the old school producer/directors noted, to hear how to make “simple videos” for minimal budgets for website or internet viewing.  Period.

They wanted, Jack noted, only to know what equipment they needed and where to get it.  Learning what cameras, tripods, microphones (and for the really serious ones, maybe lighting equipment), would suffice was their goal.  They wanted to know what it would take to create acceptable and useable footage, to record acceptable production and post production sound (e.g. for voice over narration), how to make any needed graphics, and where to find music they could use. The operative word was “acceptable.”  And finally they wanted to know how to do a simple edit of those pieces together and output it for their clients.  Our old-school questions were about what was going to give us the highest quality results.  Their current questions are limited to what is going to just get it done.

OK, to be fair, that may not have been true for ALL of them.  But in large measure that is what many of them wanted answered from me.  And to my discredit I didn’t do that.  It would never have occurred to me to do that as I had no experience with that level of production need.  I should have done more homework… I committed the too common sin of antiquated old fogies like me, I assumed today’s needs and wants would be the same as they were for me.  I knew that was not true in the still photo world but I did not understand it to be true in the film and video world as well.

Well I know now so it is back to the drawing board for an upcoming presentation on the same topic at The San Diego County Fair.  But this time I can hopefully give the audience what they need for the world in which they work today. 

I’ll save the serious stuff for the full class which we should be able to run next Fall at City College.  I still think it has major value for serious entrants expanding their (I hope) high end still work into the world of video production.  Technology has made that world available for incredibly reduced prices.  That should not be an excuse for reducing quality as well.  Compared to “our” day, colleagues like Jack Dinkmeyer, Jim Katzel, Jim Furrer, Paige Evans, Sheri Kaz, could now produce our quality of program for far less out of pocket costs.  They could be more efficient economically but not at the cost of reducing quality.

For example, my broadcast quality camera sold new for over $30,000 in the mid 1980s and the lens was just short of $9,000 with another few thousand going to batteries, tripods, cases, etc.  just to make it work.  Camera with lens was 26 pounds and the battery brick was another four pounds.  Today for well under $10,000 I can outshoot it frame for frame and do so with a less than 10 pound rig.  I no longer need a $2,000 tripod and head to carry and balance that sort of weight, plus I can buy a mini-jib/crane for well under $1,000 and even a workable substitute for a Steadicam for about the same price. In fact, used correctly, a good high-end DSLR such as the Canon 5D MK III or Mark IV can outshoot it and they are not even dedicated video cameras.

Professional grade video and sound editing applications are now available for desktop/laptop computers for astonishingly low prices compared to the major AVID(tm) and ADO(tm) systems I learned on (and are still around, by the way). The edit bay I used cost several hundred thousand dollars to create and editing was between $300 and $500 per hour.  We used to estimate that we would need an hour of editing for every finished minute of program… do the math.  But today, for really simple “slam together” needs, there are even a number of viable FREE editing programs available online.

It truly is a new world for motion capture and production.  My contention is that there is no reason to drop quality standards if – IF – you really know the processes involved and are willing to put ego aside and seek help.  Learn how to properly handle motion capture, learn the well established language and protocols of camera movements, learn that one-man-band operations are dangerous to final quality and budgets because who is going to tell you “No” when someone needs to.  I found that the collaborative process in motion production ALWAYS resulted in a better final product.  No one person can truly excel at ALL of the parts and besides, no one individual can physically perform all of the tasks required to be happening, often at the same time, without something falling through the cracks.

As Spock was fond of saying… “Fascinating.”

So now it is off to rethink and rewrite that presentation.

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Quicky…

Very quickly…

I just added a page on a seminar happening THIS WEEKEND: THe Digital Artistry Workshop.  Its in conjunction with the upcoming Adobe Max Event in San Diego and features some great Adobe gurus talking about various Adobe applications.

I’ll be giving a 2 part presentation on video production for still shooters so if that interests you, check out the page linked in the banner above.

OK, got to fly…

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Another Long Dry Spell…

Well, I know, I know, it’s been another long dry spell. From early summer until now I’ve had no new posts. That’s not because stuff wasn’t happening, but it was stuff that took me completely off the rails.

First, as you may recall, I had a total knee replacement. Finally my right knee gave out completely and I could barely walk even with a cane. But unlike normal folks, in my case the initial damage was July 27, 1967 when I was blown up. The impact and joint trauma seems to have initiated severe osteoarthritis in most of my major joints and as that has progressed and my movement and flexibility have decreased steadily over the ensuing years, so has the quality of the soft tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and supporting muscle tissue involved with those joints.

Replacing the knee was pretty standard procedure these days. But the soft tissue was so atrophied and damaged trying to get back any even semi normal range of movement has proven much more difficult than I imagined even though the doctor did forewarn me.

An incredibly good friend from back in the New England days flew out to help and only that help made it possible for me. I’m a terrible patient; I do not do “helpless” with any degree of patience or acceptance so care-givers for me need to be extraordinarily long suffering and thick skinned. I hated every moment of it. But I could not have gotten through it without Don’s help even though it was a terrible time for him to be away from his family. I will be forever grateful.

So my plan for getting completely ready for the new world of online courses ran headlong into an unexpected (for me) reality. I planned on digging out my video gear and shooting some pro-level intros for the various modules because I am appalled at the “talking head” and terminally boring videos I watched from other instructors. Those would have me, as a student, asleep in my chair in mere seconds. But due to the slower than expected (by me) knee recovery, the new semester was virtually ready to start before I could seriously plan some location shoots at all.

A couple of opportunities had arisen, such as during a workshop, but that help fell through and I do know one cannot do pro-quality as a one-man band especially if that one person is also the on-camera talent as is mandated by the State who wants students to be able to feel more connected with the actual instructor and so wants us to use video to help in that connection. I so desperately wanted to use a “spokesperson” for the class instead of myself. I’m very comfortable producing the videos but I have zero interest in being on camera and am most uncomfortable at it.

But there was no help for it. Then the second slap in the face by reality came when my plan to use student help fell through with no one interested in spending the time and effort. Finally my shooting partner, Cynthia was free and we did the first ones. But, I was unable to walk well and so ended up doing what I hate, being a talking head except at least I was out on location and not in my office using the pathetic little computer camera and built-in microphone.

Finally by the 3rd module I was walking a bit more steadily. Cynthia was busy but Steve Burns agreed to help and we shot an intro for the first editing module that was closer to what I wanted. By the end of the day my leg was totally shot but at least we had one done. The next week Steve was busy but Cynthia was free so we did the intro to the module on depth of field and my walking was much improved. But now I am literally trying to create content and do the videos the week before they “air.” The mandatory captioning is a major pain and YouTube’s auto caption function (the district OLS, “Blackboard,” has some tie-in with YouTube so we are supposed to use them to host the videos) is essentially worthless. Oh well. Since, as was always my habit, I work from a script, I also have something to copy and paste as a start unless I flub some line.

The good news is that once done, I have made sure they are timeless and can be reused though I do want to completely re-do the first ones over the long holiday break.

Anyway, for your amusement, here are some of the intro/welcoming videos. They are about 2 minutes each. I think of them as a combination commercial and trailer for the modules they introduce, and as a way for the students to have some virtual “face time” with their instructor. I’ve also had fun trying to pick locations where the viewer had to think about the possible connections between location and topic. Creativity is very largely a unique juxtaposing of otherwise disparate things (words, picture elements, etc.) so this lets me have some fun with their minds as well.

Here is the dirct YouTube URL for the intro on motion rendering:

And here is the welcoming video for working with Grayscale.  (In the preview it looks like the sound synch is off but I’m not sure how that is possible…)

I did get some still shooting completed on the Bristlecone Pines trip but that too turned chaotic when on Thursday, as we were driving to our first rendezvous, I got a call from the Research Station where we were staying that they had to close because of a tick infestation. Wow, it was a panic filled moment. Then on Friday as we were leaving to go up for a night shoot I got a message from school saying we had to immediately get a revised schedule in due to cancelled classes or the admin would just decide on more cuts themselves. So while my friend Lee Peterson, who knew the area well, led the students up the hill, I stayed behind on my computer and emailer to help resolve that issue.

We did get to spend some time at the Laws Train Museum (slightly north of Bishop, CA) and that was very cool. Here is a shot from there.

 

boxcar-ladder-01

Side of an old boxcar showing the extreme weathering of the painted wood.  I liked how the smoother rungs contrasted in both texture and direction.  Canon 5DSr

 

But since I’ve been back (that was early August) I’ve not had a chance to do any more than to download those images and think, frustratingly, about them. This is the only one worked on.

So that brings my terribly busy but horribly unproductive last few months more or less up to date so you all know I’m still alive. It looks like there will be no let up any time soon. Over the Thanksgiving Break I plan to go see my friend Jim in Santa Fe for a very seriously needed few days “off” but would also like to be able to do some work on that trip. Hopefully over the long winter break I can return to a more or less normal routine.

Meantime I promise to try to do a little better. We’ll see…

 

 

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