Early September Update!

What I have cooking right now…

  1. A long awaited short doc that highlights the non profit work of Ears, Eyes, Nose and Paws (EENP).  This group teams inmate trainers at a medium security prison with puppies…and what happens then?  You’ll have to watch to find out.  Coming soon!  Audio and original soundtrack nearly complete.
  2. Live Your Dream Challenge Grant.  A climber receives the Live Your Dream grant from the American Alpine Club and heads off into the Bugaboos.  This short movie is about the AAC’s grant, the climber’s aspirations before the climb…and then what happens when dreams meet with the mountains.
  3. Your Bottle Means Jobs Campaign ad.  I am still in process with various groups to finalize a short commercial showing the process of what happens when you recycle a PET bottle here in NC, how many jobs it creates, and what is created from those bottles as well…where they go…the whole thing!

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Summer Clouds Timelapse and some old pics

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.

 

Summer Storm

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.

Summer Storm from Charles Morris on Vimeo.

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.

Anywhoo…that’s the story.

Small World!

So…today I am editing some photos for a client’s website.  Like this one…

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He needs some new headshots and when we made the video below…he asked me to snap a few shots.

He has just put his new site together and after I emailed him to confirm that they were waiting for him there in the Dropbox folder…I think “hey, I should drop by his site and take a look around.”

So I drop by to take a look.  Here…you take a look too.

http://www.risksandreligion.org/

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.

That’s a small world!

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.

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.