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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Radioactive Veteran Update and Article!

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.

Second…Here is the SOURCE for the article below.

Finally…Here is the article:

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

radioactiveveteran.com/

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.

Terry Bell: Affected by tests in St George.

Shabran Bashir: Dixie State historian.

Joel Symes: Radioactive veteran, Shot Smoke

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.

 

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.

The Asheville Wedding

If you remember nothing else from this posting, remember this: Premiere Pro isn’t backwards compatible.

I was asked to assist with a wedding video on the editing side of things.  All content was shot with handheld cams, not a tripod in sight.  The family had rented out a pretty fancy place for the bridesmaids and bride to hang out and get ready for the big event.  There were three cams roving around and were all shot by staff of Sidewalk Digital Media.  I know the owner there, which is how we made the connect and ended up chatting about me helping out.  He was busy doing the Reception…the Second Reception (yep, there were two!) and the Ceremony.

My task was to take 53 minutes of some pretty shaky footage from the pre ceremony preparations and turn it into something pretty to watch.  It was actually a lot of fun to do.  I noted that the colors are heavy in the reds and yellows in some scenes but try as I might, they just wouldn’t wash out.  It was also interesting to see how the footage from each camera varied in terms of “feel”.

The only real snag we hit was that I am on P Pro CC.  The guys at Sidewalk Digital are on P Pro 6.  He is also on a Mac and I am on a PC.  Have you ever tried to read Japanese when you can’t actually read Japanese?  Did it work?  So that’s the take home message here.  No matter how many articles you might read about how you can save files in a certain way or export them as whatevers…just for goodness sakes, stop right there.  Get on the same page or hire people who are on your same version of software.  Or…give the person who doesn’t have the same version a chunk to edit that can stand alone and be shared as is…and doesn’t need to go into a sequence anywhere along the way to join other footage.

And from a video editing perspective…it’s tricky when you also love shooting.  Because when you get footage that you never would have stylistically shot, it’s hard to glean how to edit it.  My ideal is definitely to shoot what I edit.  But that definitely isn’t always going to happen.  I personally do not enjoy handheld looking footage.  Not ever.

My motto is: Have the subject move, not the camera.

But hey, we all have our own ways of doing things.  Overall though I have to say that style not withstanding, I enjoyed what Sidewalk Digital captured.  Some of the footage is really gorgeous and striking.

The Asheville Wedding from Charles Morris on Vimeo.

 

The Friendly World of Video Editing?

I had the chance to recently speak at length with Christopher Meurer.  He is a photography director and…well just check out his site HERE.  He’s been doing this for a while.  The conversation brought me to many realizations about the world of video creation.

Namely that knowing people is key.  Networking and bouncing ideas around are so much better than working alone in a vacuum.  Since speaking with Chris I have been networking a lot and asking people with a lot of years under their belt how they got their start…or why they edited a certain scene a certain way.

There is so much specialization out there that it is sort of staggering really.   There are a lot of metaphors that I keep coming up with.  One that comes to mind is of homeschooling.  I was a stay at home, homeschooling father for my two children for many years.  But when meeting other “homeschoolers” I would quickly discover that just because they called themselves, what I called myself…did not mean we were doing the same thing.  Some schooled at home for religious reasons.  Some let their kids swing from the rafters like wild monkeys, while others did “school-at-home”, adhering strictly to a curriculum.  Schooling at home develops as unique within each home.  No two were the same.

It’s taken me a while to realize how video creating and editing is exactly the same.  You can’t just say “I make video” and have it mean that you do the same as another editor.  Just like you can’t say “I am a photographer” and expect that your photos will have the same aesthetic as another photographer’s pics.

So basically it’s fascinating as hell out here.  I find that what I am good at is storytelling.  Taking video and turning it into a visual context that people will enjoy watching is what I love to do.  I have seen that someone can be very skilled at how to use the software, and that person can be paid well.  Technically speaking…it’s accurate and presentable.  But you might fall asleep while watching it.

It’s like academic poetry.  I am a poet and have been writing poetry for close to a decade.  Yet, I can’t even read academic poetry.  The structures that it clings to literally put me to sleep.  And the point is that to academics, my poetry will come dangerously close to looking like junk to them.

What I love about video editing is to think from the perspective of the viewer.  Is it an aesthetic that they appreciate?  Is it what they will want to watch over and over?  Can you tell a story that they will want to share with others?  Most can edit in a technically accurate fashion…but can their edits express the idea that you need it to express?

Chris has moved on from editing to mastering being a lighting expert.  He talked a lot about working in a team. Which is honestly something I had not considered.  A guy  just for audio?  Hmmm…never occurred to me.  I think that is because a lot of what I dream of shooting is of footage where spoken audio isn’t a part of the equation.   See?  Specialization.  I don’t know how to capture great audio yet, especially in an outdoor setting, like kayaking.  What Chris encouraged me to do was to find an audio guy…and a lighting guy..etc.  Again…hmmm…never thought about that.  I just imagined getting content sent my way that I’d mostly just sit and edit alone, in my den, while still wearing pj’s.  The team approach sounds way more interesting.

Mostly though he impressed upon me how friendly the world of video can be.  Find like minded people who do what drives your art and connect with them.  So, today I met up with a guy who is making a documentary that is right up my alley.  He is seeking a video editor.  I don’t know if I’ll be THE guy or just one of the guys, but it is nice to finally be in a place where know I can do the job, artistically speaking.

For the holidays Chris put out this pretty darn funny video, showing off some of his color grading skills and sense of humor.  If you ever need a lighting guy or colorist, definitely look this guy up.  He knows his biz and he’s a great guy.

Christmas Card 2015 from Christopher Meurer on Vimeo.