Rad Vets To Premiere at DocUtah!

If you follow my blog you are probably sorta tired of hearing about Radioactive Veteran.  I SWEAR to you that I am working on lots of other fun projects as well.  But just too tired to write about them…because I am working on them instead of writing about them.

I just posted yesterday that Radioactive Veteran got fully funded…right?  I mean, that’s good news.

Well tonight the producer, Bradley Bethel, group messaged us that our doc got accepted into DocUtah.  Is that fricking off the charts cool…or what?

Hint..the answer isn’t “or what”.

DocUtah is an international film festival.  That’s classy.  But you know what is even better?  It is in St. George, Utah.  St. George Utah is one of the primary towns affected by the very kinds of tests that Radioactive Veteran highlights.

As one local resident put it back in the 1950’s…

“I remember thinking that it was normal to see piles of dead lambs …”

Claudia Peterson

stgeorge

What could be a more fitting location to kick off  this film’s public entree?  I can’t think of one.

We hope you’ll come out and see it.  More details to follow once we know them on precisely what time of day the film will premiere.

Radioactive Veterans Gets Fully Funded

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Bradley Bethel (Producer) and Mark Wampler (Director)

I have been very fortunate in my short life so far working in video.  My first professional foray into the field resulted in being an Associate Producer of Radioactive Veteran, a movie about…well…just read my previous posts.  In short, it’s fricking awesome. It also just got fully funded to the tune of 10K on Seed & Spark.

The two guys above were part of the team that it wouldn’t have happened without.  I first met Brad in the video biz when he screened his movie Unverified here in Chapel Hill.  I was really impressed with it.  I had worked with him in another capacity outside of the video realm for a while…and was always hampering with notions that perhaps someday we could work together.  Now we have and it was great.

I met Mark when I heard he was looking for help with turning a whole lot of great information and footage into a full fledged documentary.

We met for coffee and…well…now it is fully funded.  It’s been a great process for me to watch unfold and I learned a lot.  Mainly what I learned is that it takes a team.  Also I learned that though there are many times when you are up against a deadline…the fact is that nothing really happens quickly.  There will be so many revisions and so many late nights and “last minute changes” and “it’s good…but how about we change this…?”

I am hoping to be able to attend some of the film festivals where this movie will ideally (fingers crossed) be showing.  If it comes to a town near you, check it out.  Especially if you know of any vets from the WWII era…it’s really a riveting look into their lives.

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Mission: Recycling Matters

Recycling isn’t what you think it is.  It runs deep.  It is saving our planet.  And it is on the ropes.  Economically and politically we are in a losing battle with our excessive lifestyle.

For years I have wondered precisely what happens to a water bottle when it is recycled.  Where does it go?  Who takes it?  What is it turned into?

A few months ago I made a great connection with a local who, it turns out, is a high level expert on recycling of plastics…and waste management in general.  He mentioned that he is part of a group that is working hard to try to reinvigorate PET recycling here in the Carolinas.

 

I have teamed up with him and other associations to undertake capturing, in my own way, the story of plastics recycling.  The focus is here in the Carolinas but if one extrapolates the challenges happening here, as well as the successes, it is accurate to extend those conclusions nationwide, worldwide.

This kind of story is exactly why I got into video work.  I know that I say that about every project.  What can I say?  I love what I do.

Yesterday was spent travelling to South Carolina to film in three different facilities.  I am sort of at a loss for words to say what it was like.  The recycling industry, when taken as a whole is overwhelming.  The amount of good that it can do, is palpable, but the amount of work it takes is staggering really…commendable.

Only 30% of goods that can be recycled here in the Carolinas are currently being recycled.  Yep…7 of your 10 pals are throwing away perfectly recyclable plastic.  This project is an attempt to turn that number up a bit.  Why not have everyone recycle?

The first thing to know about recycling is that it is an incredibly dirty business.  It’s also filled with fantastic technologies, progressive thinkers, and a lot of really hard workers on the sorting floors.

Anyways…my trip to SC was fruitful.  I have one more day this upcoming week.  I can’t wait to put together the footage into a shiny new video…and down the road would love to see it spun into a documentary.  This trip was especially fun because my daughter went with me as an assistant.  I gave her my Nikon D300o to play with and my 1.8/50mm lens.  She put it in manual mode and never looked back, manually focused everything.  Over the years I have taught her a bit about composition.  I hope you like the shots she took here…there are some really lovely ones.

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50th Wedding Anniversary “Slide” Show

I recently had a married couple (full disclosure: MY parents) approach me with the idea of creating a video for their 50th Wedding Anniversary using old printed photos that they have had in memory books for decades…5 decades!  They wanted a short retrospective of sorts.  And there were a lot of photos to go through.

It was a lot of fun walking down memory lane while perusing through so  many images.  How to cover the last 50 years in pictures?  They have traveled widely, had two children, have two grandchildren…it’s been a full 50 years.

So we came up with the idea of starting the video at the beginning and an image of my mother’s parents, then starting on my parent’s actual wedding day.

My main concern in creating what ended up being an 8 minute long video was how to not get stuck in what most slideshow style retrospectives suffer from…they are boring as dirt to view.  Sure the images themselves can conjure up memories and those are enjoyable, but whenever I think of slideshows I have seen at weddings or memorials they all really look the same in terms of photo orientation and so forth.

I feel like there is life in the photo that gets flattened.  What is it like to hold a photo in your hands, vs looking at a flat 2D image on a screen?

With motion graphics we have created a way to give a sense of motion to a still image…so I first thought of just scanning in the images in a scanner and then working with them that way.  Then I began comparing clarity of scans vs. camera capturing the images (taking pictures of the old pictures with a high quality camera).  As I began to snap pictures, foregoing the lengthy and mixed results that can come with scanning, I bemoaned how un-alive the photos were going to look.  They just looked better while held in a real person’s hand…like someone was just about to hand you the pic…like we used to before the digital age!

So, I turned my Nikon’s video mode on and just started filming as I went through the sequence of photos.  I realized quickly that I was essentially doing what motion graphics are designed to do, but with actual motion instead of pretend motion.  I like the feeling of seeing that a photo was and can be a handheld and intimate piece of time.  And as always, there is a quality to printed photos that digital imagery will never be able to replicate.  There is a warmth and precision there that feels alive.

I would LOVE to do more retrospectives from actual printed stills if anyone ever has a need for it.  Anywhoo…here is the quick sample below.

Premiere Pro on Deadpool and Hail, Caesar!

I had no idea that Premiere Pro was being used for feature films such as Deadpool or Hail, Caesar.  In this video the lead editors and makers of these movies discuss some pretty fascinating workflow situations and so forth.  It’s about an hour long but really worth the watch.  I definitely have some new ideas moving forward after pondering their discussion.

Introducing Jennifer Curtis ~ Violin (and some lessons learned)

Recently I had the good fortune to run into a local hero of mine, who through a long and lovely conversation is now a new client.  Her violin doubles as a fiddle.  Her violin is a 1777 Vincenzo Panormo.  Jen attended Julliard and she her Vincenzo have played shows from Carnegie Hall, to Peru and Turkey-and so many other places.  I am not a huge violin guy.  I love classic music but still…not really a violin guy. But to see Jen play is not like watching anyone else.  There is something other worldly and unmistakably mysterious happening there. What I also love love love about Jen’s work with her music is that she isn’t playing within the boundaries of classical music that one would presume.  She’s classically trained and has played in grand theatres…but she is equally at home playing on the floor of huts in 3rd world countries.  She plays free local shows where she fiddles and jams with local musicians.  One youtube video shows her fiddling while simultaneously hammering the kick drum on a set.  She has participated in numerous humanitarian causes, using her violin to bring people together and create community.  I could go on and on.  But needless to say I am quite excited about generating some hopefully wonderful video for her upcoming performances and tours.

Recently TEDX contacted Jen for a shoot here in our area.  The video, to me, is stunning.  The lighting exquisite. The cuts and the flow that TEDX did on this piece are superb. I hope to one day be good enough to capture something as well as they did with my camera. But the music and the way Jen plays is the most amazing part.  I have posted the full video here…and then below it my treatment of it to specifically advertise for a local show that she is doing.  The full version below really is worth the watch.


I challenged myself to keep my edit down to 30 seconds, to try to have the text punctuated by the music and focus on using the open spaces so they fit naturally into the viewers field of view without interfering with the enjoyment of the brief glimpse of Jen’s craftwomanship. Here is my treatment…nothing too fancy but here it is…

 

Anyway…

Choosing a Thumbnail for Your Screenshot…and other text!

See that text above that is underneath the video I made and uploaded to Vimeo?  What I learned is that the file name you give the file while saving on your hard drive is what will appear not only on Vimeo, but also in locations like…say…when you embed the video in a wordpress posting…or on FB.  My original title read “JenVideoRev4”.  And you know…that just doesn’t sound that as good or informational as “Jennifer Curtis Violin at Duke University 2/6/16”.  So, I used the file name to double as informational content for viewers…especially since the video is marketing that performance piece specifically.

Pay attention to screen shot thumbnails.  Vimeo allows you to choose any frame you wish to be what people see when the video is parked.  So again…if you are making a video that is promoting a show or a location, you can “set up the shot” to help do passive marketing to show viewers-who may not even watch the video-information that may still use.

My screen shot for this says “The Road From Transylvania Home”…because that is the title or the umbrella that most of her work is under at this time, as she focuses on the work of Giorgio Enescu…a Romanian composer.

Different Platforms=Different Displays

On FB, the blue lettering is at the bottom of the screen though…but here on WordPress it embeds differently and the blue lettering is obscuring my efforts.  Lack of standardization is something to ponder.  Will more views come forth on Youtube, or FB, or Vimeo?  When choosing a screenshot for parked video…if you have informational text, it’s worth pondering.

Quick Way to Change Embedded Video Screen Size On WordPress Blogs

When I embedded the codes from Youtube for video #1 and from Vimeo for video #2 they came with presets.  Initially the Youtube video loaded in with presets at

width=”640″ height=”360″

My Vimeo vid was way smaller and didn’t want it to be.  So, if you ever run into this…and you want your screen to be larger for the video just go into the HTML tab and find the width and height and change-o presto.  Mind the aspect ratio.  You can’t just make the numbers whatever you want.  But if you are brand new to this…at least you now know that width=”640″ height=”360″ gets you a pretty nice size.  When you click back to VISUAL it should be there in the new and improved size.  Don’t forget to check the Preview tab to make sure all is well before publishing.

 

Still Holds Up-City of Gold (1957)

When my kids and I watch an older movie or show that we haven’t seen for a decade and it still looks good in terms of special effects and watchability…the go to term is to say “still holds up”.  Sometimes it applies to a movie we’ve never seen…or perhaps even an older video.

Video.  It’s a strange thing to dive into the world of video creation.  What most people share on their FB wall and on twitter and vine and other places are things that were simply recorded.  The intent is to entertain, to exasperate, to shock.  What we mostly see are the visual equivalents of cheap candy.  Sometimes I too suffer from a sweet tooth.  I am not knocking it…too much.

But what I really love about video is the challenge of making it meaningful.  What is your story saying?  Will it hold up?  When we watch it a decade from now or more, will a viewer be captured by what you captured?

Anyone can “make” a video.  But can you tell a visual story?

Recently I have been increasingly drawn to how effective a well taken photograph holds up.  I have been poring through the Leslie Jones archives.  I have been studying MC Escher’s prints.  I have also been thinking a lot about how parallax 2.5D enhanced with 3D realism via dimensional mapping can bring photos and prints to life in new ways.

What can video do differently, to enhance  one’s ability to share a moment in time that will leave a lasting impression upon a viewer that informs, educates and inspires.  It’s that last descriptor that is missing from nearly all video that is shared in this day and age.  Inspires?  Who makes a video with the intent to inspire?  Not enough, in my opinion.

What can video do that we haven’t even considered yet, that inspires others?

I have been reading a lot about Ken Burns, the famous documentarian, who is also apparently a self described Luddite.  If there is any style of storytelling I am drawn to most, it is his.  Long fascinated by his use of panning, scrolling and bringing history alive with various animation effects,  I read last night that he was first inspired to appropriate this style by watching City of Gold (1957).  I just woke up early today before work to watch it.  There it was, in the credits…Animation Photography-Douglas Roberts.

It’s over 50 years old.  Still holds up.


 

 

Artisans Kick Ass (or)…my latest video: Jeff Chelf-Woodworking

First…the video…

Jeff Chelf: Woodworking from Charles Morris on Vimeo.

 

I used to daydream in photographs.  All day long my Nikon D200 was imagined in my hands.  I would see something and imagine just how to capture it.  I’d dream about trips I could take, with my camera riding shotgun like a best friend in the seat next to me.  I kept an eye on the sun’s progression at all times, noting when the washout hours were.  For those that don’t know…during the apex hours of the sun’s path across the sky, colors are washed out to a large degree. What many consider “well lit”, to a photographer is “washed out”.

But somewhere along the way I just began daydreaming in video.  I don’t know why or how it happened.  For years I had made throw away videos for my various small businesses I always seemed to have simmering on the backburners.  Art was definitely not part of the equation.  It was informational only.  I definitely wasn’t daydreaming then.

I just began to notice that I was spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about how I would film something.  What angles?  What location?  What’s the message?  And that’s what caught me the most.  Beyond how a video I might create may look…what would I want it to say?  I have been a poet for years…and a writer as well.  Both of my kids are writers.  There are a lot of words flying around in my house…

I realized that just as I strove to say something well with written words, I wanted to help people say something well with video.  Today video is mostly used to display something that happened.  What’s being missed is what a video CAN say.  That is what matters to me the most.  Second is how it visually appeals or looks.  What use is something that is visually stunning but says nothing?  And in this day and age, someone with something valuable to share will unfortunately be ignored if the context in which it is presented isn’t visually appealing.

I realized I wanted to help people out with both.  I wanted to work with people who did things that I felt offered a true value proposition…and help them present it in a way that would allow that valuable thing to be noticed and heard.

What I want more of in the world is the natural….the non machine made.  I am not all anti tech. After all, I can’t make a video without a computer.  But why are we making so much crap by machine when the people…the Artisans-around us, can make it more beautifully and with more meaning to it?  So, I decided I wanted to represent artisans.  So, that brings me to Jeff.  Jeff is an artisan.  I knew him from before, when we worked together in retail.  I ran into him after my whole “artisan” epiphany and asked him if he’d like to work on a video together to help promote his work.

It was a fantastic shoot.  I couldn’t list all of the great things that I learned through the process of working with Jeff.  Too many.  Mostly though what stands forth is that I fricking love working with artisans.

Artisans kick ass.

They help us not forget the values that make us human.  Hand made objects.  Things that people spend hours making matter to us…and change our lives when we interact with them.  By extension, owning things made by or hiring an artisan  to make something for you connects you to that person and their lineage of craftmanship.  Imagine if everything we owned was made by machines…if everything we touched or viewed was machined by robot or assembly line.

I want my video work to promote a world that is the opposite of that.

Musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, woodworkers…feel free to write to me any time.

Here is what Jeff has to say about it on his site…
“My work stands in sharp contrast to the endless cycles of modern consumerism, purposely reaching back into our most rooted traditions to make furniture that is both pleasing to the modern aesthetic and lasting. Having ventured into the ancient worlds of maritime construction and blacksmithing my work now reflects these varied traditions and takes from them the elements most lacking in our modern lives.”

People like Jeff are exactly who I want to make videos and stories about.  They keep us more real, and should have our support.  And honestly, many of these artsy folks are off the grid, not internet savvy, camera shy and not the best promoters of their work.  Video editing is NOT their strong suit.  I hope to work with many more to help them get their art out into the open.

Anyway…I hope you enjoy the video about Jeff that I made.  It was a very positive collaboration and needless to say…if you need something done with video, let me know, but refer all woodworking questions to JeffChelf.com.