When I was primarily a photographer (2008 – 2014) summer clouds were my favorite subjects. I was always in pursuit of the best formations. Summer around here in NC is the best time to capture dramatic cloud interactions. Here are some of my old favorites from the good old days. Feel free to click to enlarge.
Now I am pretty excited about seeing what video can do to capture these same moments. To be able to see up close what the cloud is doing, how it is unfolding or building is something that can’t be captured or seen unless it is timelapsed and accelerated. I find that it takes about 6 minutes minimum to create anything worth watching…due to how much you must compress the timeline.
On a recent night out, I was hoping to capture a lightning storm with driving rain curtains, but the rain abated, the lightning stopped and what I ended up with was lovely fast stacking and falling clouds right in front of the setting twilight.
One thing that was quite challenging on this night of shooting was that I saw the clouds forming up as I left a restaurant in town. I raced home to get my camera stuff from inside of my air conditioned house. The outside humidity was probably around 95% and the air temp was close to the same. It took nearly 30 minutes for the cold camera body and mirrors, and lenses – to stop sweating and heat up to match the surrounding temps. I should have foreseen this. I used to shoot all the time at the Butterfly House at the Museum of Life and Science and the air in there is set to match weather in the tropics. The first thing you do when you get into those kinds of places is let your camera breathe and adjust…you just don’t even bother shooting for the first 20-30 minutes. Everything will be fogged up. This was the longest I ever had to wait though. I had to detach everything and let it air out for a solid 30. I missed what I came to get…but got something I still really like and would have overlooked had my camera been working from the start.
Anyway…here is my latest…and don’t forget when viewing that Vimeo defaults the viewing res to the lowest standard. To see the HD version click on the HD button and adjust as needed.
I don’t get the chance often to create from a totally creative perspective. You know…just something to mess around with for fun. When you are paying bills with video work you do end up surrendering a lot to what makes the client happy, it’s inevitable. Also, after you start doing paid work it’s hard to find the time and motivation to work on something purely for enjoyment. Also there is the risk of creating something that isn’t shiny, perfected and may seem amateurish to others.
But tonight I FINALLY put aside some time and put together some fun footage that I had on hand.
Here it is…then more story to follow below after the video.
I first recorded the lighting night shots perhaps…last summer? I was at home, and already a fan of night photography so thought I could capture some lightning if I just set up my camera for an extended period of time…and then slowed down the footage to grab stills of lightning in action. Instead though I have been at work scrubbing through the 30 minutes of footage for nearly a year…pulling out blackness to only leave the lightning portions remaining. Right away I realized that if I just pulled out all the blackness, there would be no lightning. If it was all light, there would be no way to tell when the flashes were, it would just be like some sort of crazy daylight. I ended up trying to balance it out with equal dark and light…then I time compressed it.
Focus was also an issue. It’s hard to focus when there is only lightning flashing. So, it’s a bit off.
For the daylight video, it was just taken 4 days ago, when there was a HUGE storm here in my area. My daughter and I were out at this perfect sunset watching/stormcloud watching spot…a local secret spot for photographers (and I am still not going to name it!) Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me that day…as we had no idea such a wild storm was brewing. I have to say that when we got there it was just in time to witness the most intense real life cloud movements I have ever seen. Even though the footage you saw in the video was time compressed…about 8 minutes down to 40 seconds or so…the video feels the way it felt in real life. The clouds were moving so fast and the colors were so intense. I have never seen anything like it.
Back to cameras…all we had on us was my daughters’s iPhone 5. I set it down propped up against my sandals on the side of the road, from two different angles.
About 5 minutes after the footage ends, the daylight stuff, it was storming so hard that people had to stay inside the building nearby for nearly 45 minutes due to lightning and rain. It was awesome.
It only occurred to me later to tack on my beloved night lightning footage to the piece.
When the editing was done I wondered about music. Add in someone else’s audio from storms? Wind sounds? U2’s Bullet the Blue Sky? I am very careful about copyright stuff though so searched for something else. My son mentions these guys who make Youtube videos/musical compositions named Derek and Brandon Fiechter. So I looked them up and found this video.
I liked it…dropped it in and that magical thing happened where, with no editing at all…it somehow appeared synched to my footage. I emailed Brandon and Derek to ask them their permission to use the song and within 10 minutes they graciously agreed.
Then I read to the bottom of the home page (as you may have just done as well) and saw the following:
“In a past life, Phil was a musician for Baobab and Crowdsource. One song ended up on a GoPro commercial (here).”
I click on the link to watch the following video:
First of all…what a fricking gorgeous video. Secondly…my buddy Phil made the awesome music and though I knew he did more than talk about the end of the world…I didn’t realize that he was on that kind of level as a musician. Well done Phil! What a (humble) guy. When I ask him about his musical past he only says “I used to play music”.
The reason my posting here is titled “Small World” is because in my other, non- video, life I have a part time job in an outdoor retail shop where we sell GoPro cameras. We have a kiosk for GoPro with a screen that plays GoPro vids on a loop. The video I have been watching now for over 2 years has this pelican in it! All this time I have been watching a video that Phil helped make and I never even knew it.
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 …”
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.
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.
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.
Though my role in Radioactive Veteran is somewhat peripheral…I am very proud to be a part at all of a movie that is telling a story that informs others and can make a difference.
Tomorrow I head out to film the director for a spot related to a promo piece. But today I got the news that I am excited to share. A USA Today affiliate, The Spectrum, released an article covering our doc!
When I started The Video Slab part of my commitment was to be involved with projects that spoke to social movements, environmental concerns, and stories that would make the world a better place. Radioactive Veteran was the first real story that I have been able to be a part of in this vein and wow…what a great story to be connected to. The team I get to work with on this is fantastic.
We all live under a form of government and we all want to be able to trust that said government has our best interests at heart. What happens when they don’t? What happens when a soldier who believes in protecting his country is not protected by his own government? I won’t give much more away at this point, because the article I am copying and pasting here tells the tale much better than I can.
First…here is the trailer for the documentary: Radioactive Veteran.
An East Coast university crew that interviewed Southern Utahns caught up in the military’s legacy of radioactive bomb tests it claimed were harmless is putting the final touches on a documentary film and seeking assistance through public crowdfunding.
“Radioactive Veteran” tells the story of Cold War-era testing conducted in the Southern Nevada desert and its effects on military personnel involved in the testing as well as civilians who lived “downwind” where radioactive fallout has been blamed for a host of illnesses in the decades since.
A movie trailer posted online includes interview snippets with Southern Utah historian and former Dixie State University President Douglas Alder and retired DSU professor Andrew Barnum, as well as dramatic archival footage of soldiers crossing the desert from their trenches toward a mushroom cloud billowing up over the desert.
The primary focus of the approximately 15-minute clip will be the life and death of Marine Donald Guy, who was sent from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to the Nevada Test Sitefor what would be dubbed “Operation Upshot Knothole — Shot Badger” in 1953.
“Along with thousands of other Marines and soldiers, Donald was assured he was safe as he gazed at the billowing mushroom cloud and marched through the desert toward the atomic blast,” an overview of the film states. “Within only a few years, however, Donald began experiencing serious medical issues resulting from radiation exposure and soon became disabled. For the rest of his life, he fought for disability benefits with Veterans Affairs, but in 2009 he died before receiving his due compensation.”
North Carolina Central University Professor Craig Kabatchnick, a former Veterans Affairs attorney who founded the university’s Veterans Law Clinic in 2007, became interested in the plight of Guy and his widow and began assembling a film team in 2013 to tell the story of the Downwinder battles for compensation.
“He was repelled four times (by the shock wave),” Kabatchnick said last year. “They were guinea pigs. Everybody was.”
Kabatchnick claims the government applied artificially low standards for the Nevada test subjects when performing radiation dose reconstruction work to establish whether people were exposed to enough radiation to make them ill, something that continues to be disputed by officials, he said.
Bradley Bethel, the film’s producer, said Thursday that the crew decided to create a short documentary film and release it online, then try to pull together grant funding for a feature-length film that could enjoy wider distribution in theaters.
That would involve returning to St. George to add to the 12 interviews the crew initially filmed in 2014, he said.
“We think it’s a really powerful story focusing on the one veteran and his widow … and their fight for justice and compensation,” Bethel said. “There’s still plenty of material (the film crew) did get that we won’t be able to fit into the short. But you have to find your story and then stay focused on it.”
Bethel said the crowdfunding campaign will probably launch Friday and although the outlet has not been decided, he is hoping to use seedandspark.com, which fosters documentary filmmaking and provides additional package benefits based on the campaign’s success.
The crew is aiming for $10,000 to complete post-production but even if at least 500 people sign up for updates without contributing, that will be enough to help the film get marketing-related services that “would be a huge, huge help with spreading the word,” Bethel said.
If Seed and Spark doesn’t work for the campaign launch, the crew could move to website IndieGoGo, he said.
“Because the film is sponsored by the not-for-profit American Hero Legal Defense Fund, contributions are tax-deductible,” he added.
Bethel reaffirmed the crew’s hopes to debut the film at DSU’s DOCUTAH film festival. He said the online premiere is planned for Veterans Day in November, possibly on the popular website Short of the Week, after some additional film festivals in September and October.
“It’s been a cool process,” he said.
Follow Kevin Jenkins, @SpectrumJenkins. Call him at 435-674-6253.
‘Radioactive Veteran’ trailer
Utah documentary interviews
Douglas Alder: Former president of Dixie State University, historian
Lolly Seal: Daughter of Downwinder activist.
Daniel Miles: Historian, scientist, author of Radioactive Clouds of Death.
Bruce Church: Scientist for Atomic Energy Commission during testing.
Heber Jones: Schoolteacher in St. George during testing.
Andrew Barnum: Scientist at the Nevada Test Site.
Edward Liman: Utah historian.
Nancy Williams: St. George citizen, thyroid cancer patient.
Carl Wadsworth: Extra during John Wayne movie “The Conqueror” filmed at Harrisburg.
Tamra Begay: Dixie State student studying Downwinders.