Rushfit shoot at GSP autograph session…thanks Canadian Tire! huh?

Yep, you read it correctly!  The Canadian Tire Retail Events team (Erin in particular.  She worked on the Mark’s Fashion show, Grand Openings, Cesar Millan event and so on) alongside some peeps from my team produced the The UFC Welter weight champion of the world, Georges “Rush” ST-Pierre autograph session at Sportchek (I put the whole nick-name/ title thing in there because I happen to be a HUGE fan)!

Now, I’m sure I mentioned it before, but if not…Canadian Tire recently acquired Forzani Group out of Calgary, AB.  They own Sport Check, Atmosphere, Sports Experts, Nevada Bobs etc.  Upon doing this, my VP became a VP in FGL (Forzani) as well as CT and  Corporate Affairs (my department) assumed the responsibilities that we currently carry out for CT for FGL as well.  This is very exciting for me because everything that I’ve been doing for Canadian Tire, I am now going to be doing for FGL as well.  It also means growth in the company, the department, my team and potentially my role and position (maybe pay too!  Oh I could only be so lucky!).  But one way or another it’ll be great to see my team add a few people and see where we can take what we are doing now.

Any-who, talk about getting side-tracked, back to the GSP part of the story!  So, it was a standard type of autograph session…GSP arrived under heavy anticipation (or maybe that was just me), and when he did everyone tried to act cool, or at least I did.   But let’s not kid ourselves here.  Meeting GSP today is like meeting Tyson in his prime, but better.  So, as Georges was in the tiny back room signing the GSP paraphernalia that was left with sticky notes of the owners names on it, that’s when I did it.  I briefly came out of character and requested a photo, to which he obliged as any great champion would.  I had given Charles my iPhone and Brad had his 60D that he was shooting with, so I called them for the shot, and by the time GSP had finished his oatmeal I had already Tweeted the pic and uploaded it to my Facebook account (iPhones rule!).

Back into character.

GSP was here to promote his new DVD set, Rushfit.  It is a p90x type of video and it looks pretty hardcore.  There were 150 posters of GSP that he was signing to the first 150 people in line; a line that started at 6:30pm the night before.  There were a number (not sure of the actual number, so we’ll just say “a number”), there were a number of these posters with a sticker on the back of it.  If you ended up getting one of those posters you got a free Rushfit DVD set.  I must have watched 20 people win one of those.  No such luck for me.  So after interviewing the early arrivers, taking photos of the crowd, the setup, me with GSP and the autographed apparel it was time to go to the front of the store to meet the fans.

Armed with my perfectly balanced Glidecam HD 2000 (balanced the night before using 394 plate system for speed and consistency), my 7D with a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 (aperture at 5.0 for larger Depth of Field)  and an understanding of the path we’d take through the store, backrooms and isles…we were off.  As we walked down this one long corridor with racks of shoes 30 feet high on both sides of us, me in front of Georges, walking backwards as the Champ marched forward, you could hear the fans lined up waiting for their hero, cheering, chanting…”GSP! GSP!  And as I looked through the LCD screen on my camera at the Champ, GSP…on my camera, I felt like the steadycam operator at the UFC events that gives us that famous shot of the fighters walking to the Octagon from the changing room to start the fight.  I was in heaven!  My 2 favorite things had finally come together, a legitimate intersection of  MMA and video production!  Scratch one more thing off my bucket list!

GSP ended up staying at Sportchek for about 2 hours and I got to meet some pretty devout fans.  I’m also really glad to be doing some of the Forzani stuff now as well.  Keeps things changin up…like they haven’t been already.  This wasn’t a difficult shoot at all.  Nothing unexpected happened, it was just a smooth sailing day of work.  We had our plan, we executed and lived to do it again another day.

Shoot straight! And if you have to get a picture with a celebrity when you’re working…make sure whoever holds your iPhone does.

All packed up, ready to shoot…and skate! Jr. Skills Camp

So, it’s that time of year again. Hockey season for Canadian Tire. Last year was awesome because not only did I get to shoot the kids being trained by NHL alumni and of course Jonathan Toews, but I got to go to Calgary for the Heritage Classic Outdoor game. This year proves to be just as exciting, starting off with a shoot at the Powerade Center in Brampton Ontario (15 minutes from my house…which also makes for an easy commute). The idea this year is that instead of being trained by the pros, kids are competing for a chance to participate in the Jr. Skills weekend during the NHL All-Start weekend in Ottawa. And guess what?! Yeah! I’m going! Man I really dig this job!

So tomorrow I will be strapping back on the skates and performing the dangerous feat of “Skateography”. That’s right, yours truly will be risking life and limb to get the shots needed to make the “Sizzle Reel”, sizzle. I’m talking about forwards, backwards, fast and faster! On the ice with my glidecam, a cinematographic vision and the wind through my hair (which is actually all growing on my face for Movember…stopped growing head hair when I was 27). I’ve been waiting to do this again, and tomorrow is the day.

So, the bag is packed and I’m trying to travel light. I have my 3 lenses that I love, plus I am packing a Canon 50mm f1.4. i figure I’ll try it out for a change. I have always had the 50 in my arsenal but I just don’t use it in the run n’ gun scenarios that I find myself in. Great lens for interviews! Especially if you’re using a full frame camera like the 5DmkII. When using the 7D or other Crop Sensor cameras the actual viewable area of the frame appears to be less than on the full frame camera. The 7D actually sees the 50mm as 50mm x 1.6 giving you an actual 80mm frame, but one way or another the image itself looks amazing, regardless of your camera, 5DmkII or 7D. I’m rolling light on the audio today as well, just the Zoomh4n and the Rode Video Mic Pro. I can use the Zoom for handheld mic style interviews if I need to, but I was told that wouldn’t be the case tomorrow. The Zoom has the ability to be used as an on camera shotgun style mic, a hand mic, a table mic as well as a direct recorder for a line or attached mic. There are a million other things that the Zoom will do for you and I think every DSLR Guy should have one. I also think every DSLR Guy should have a Zacuto EVF or at the very least get a Z-Finder. Let’s face it, you can shoot straight, but it’s gotta be in focus. And when you get to using some really wide lenses where the subject is so small in the frame that you cant see his eyes, you need some assistance…Zacuto is that assistance (maybe the Zacuto internet ears will hear my “big-ups” and let me field test some of their cool rigging…do you hear me Zacuto???)

Enough about my gear, let’s talk about something a bit more practical… gloves! So it’s cold where there is ice, and when it’s cold you loose dexterity and can’t operate all of the features of the camera with the speed and accuracy that is needed, so I got these Canadian Tire MotoMaster gloves with the thumb, index and middle finger tips missing. The are perfect for a shooter! They are made of leather on the palm side and padded and a breathable material on the back hand side. This not only allows you to hold onto cold things and not freeze your hand, but you can also handle hot things like lights on set that have to be angles but and hot to the touch. I get a far better grip when moving stuff around and my hands can easily fit into pockets. And yes, I can still use my iPhone! For $25, these gloves are great for video guys and gals that need to shoot outside, especially DSLR shooters since we are always adjusting some setting on the camera.

Anyways, I have to finish editing, charging batteries, hopefully get a game of Halo in, eat some ice cream (small bowl…alright, it isn’t going to be small), kiss the kids crawl into bed beside my wife and get ready for another day in the life.

Shoot straight…and in focus (ZACUTO!!!, can you hear me?!)

Hi, remember me?!

Hey, how’s it going? Remember me? I’m the guy that used to post stuff to his blog at least semi-regularly! Man! Sometimes it feels like life has not only caught up with you, but passed you and kinda left you in the dust, doesn’t it?! I’m not gonna bore anyone with my “woe-is-me” stories about how busy life has gotten…instead, I will attempt to dazzle and amaze you with tales of wonder and video production adventures that I have been on since our last encounter. Interested yet? I’m trying!

So, many things have happened since almost 3 weeks ago when I posted last, one of which was the Bowmanville Canadian Tire Grand Opening. This was a big thing because it is a new design and it is very different to the Canadian Tire of times gone by. Now CT sell cell phones (iPhone and Galaxy Tab), has a totally enhanced auto section, large car electronics section and just about every currently existing department has been revamped (to say the least). I shot the video with the help of a team for the unveiling of the new design and was then commissioned again to go back to Bowmanville to shoot the Grand Opening events which was a 4 day extravaganza of sales, Canadian Tire Money Machines, Scott Steckly and his pit crew doing demos in the parking lot and Yada Bluetooth giveaways coupled with auto safety clinics. My good friends on the Retail Events team did an amazing job as usual and the store almost beat the all time sales record for a grand opening. I had a blast hanging with Scott Steckly and the crew as they put the crew into action, changing the tires of Scott’s #22 car in the parking lot and then tearing off down the parking lot leaving smouldering rubber on the pavement. This was probably the only time that I wasn’t thinking about the rest of my team in Vegas for Sema (that convention that I wrote about that I wasn’t going to).

Anyways, I got to spend some quality time in Bowmanville…too close to pack a big bag and get homesick, but too far to travel back and forth every day. Far enough though, to order and expense some East Side Mario’s Seafood Linguine and then chill in the hot tub…and close enough to stream my Slingbox while doing it!

Here is a clip of Scott and his pit crew doing their thing. I’ll post the Grand Opening Sizzler video in a cpl of days, it’s still being edited right now and version 1 is due on Wednesday. Stay tuned, and shoot straight.

Oh yeah, one more thing…I just found out that I’ll be shooting Georges St. Pierre, the UFC champ!!! Stay tuned for sure!

The new face of the Tire

I can’t remember the last time that I had such a lack of free time…oh yeah I can, it was coming up to the last CT convention, which is what I am a couple of days away from right now.  It’s been a couple weeks of long days at work, working weekends and nights on some freelance gigs that I have been fortunate enough to have picked up and late nights editing either CT stuff that needs to meet deadlines or the freelance stuff that I shot earlier.  All this and I still found time to do a double night of movies with Lex.  The Thing and Paranormal Activity 3 were the flicks for the weekend…late show too! Well, one thing I know for sure, I haven’t been “corporatized” as many hardcore freelancers turned full-timer have in the past.  I can still pull the ridiculous hours while delivering a really high caliber of work all while juggling 5 or 6 projects at once and being a functional father/ husband.  Aside from the great work ethic displayed to me by my dad in his freelance career, I attest this attribute to the Digital Media Technical production program at Seneca College (more on that another time).

So, as my team gets ready to go to Las Vegas for the convention, I am preparing to go to Bowemanville Ontario with the Retail Events team for the grand opening of the new concept Canadian Tire store.  Now, I won’t spend the rest of the time talking about the differences between Bowemanville Ontario and Las Vegas, Nevada… if you place this city beside Las Vegas…pretty obvious that ANYONE would rather be in Vegas.  That’s a given, so I’ll move on (no, I’m not resentful…lol).  Anyways, Bowemanville has called, and I have answered…camera in hand.

In Bowemanville there is the newly built CT concept store with enhancements in every area.  I’m talking huge changes!  I visited there earlier this week to work with a crew to shoot the place (interviews, store tour, media, b-roll and cool crane footage) for a video needed for Vegas (like that isn’t a kick in the side…shoot a video in Bowemanville for Vegas, then stay in Bowemanville while the team goes south…nice).  …where was I…oh yeah, Bowemanville video…so, Steve Lindsay (the guy from the Talkin Shop shoots) brought his 30 foot jib and just blanketed the whole store with these really beautiful soaring shots that seem almost impossible…even with the crazy gear that he uses.  Cam (Talkin Shop Producer) was producing this video as well, I was the b-roll collector on this gig, armed with a slider, a glidecam and of course my dslr and the interviews were done with the Sony PMW-350, sound was recorded coutesy of our Sound Engineer, Brian.  I am now 3 days into this edit and I have just finished the 1st colour correction pass on the video.  Looks sweet! (not to be confused with Looks Suite by Magic Bullet…although that looks sweet too!)

So, the madness will end sometime over the weekend, hopefully with me watching UFC 137 and kicking my feet up at Blizz’s place…but who knows what’ll come up…I am after all, the non-corporatized freelancer turned full-time that still acts like a freelancer…so I’m ready for anything.  Video to follow.

Shoot straight!

It’s the busy time of year again…again!

So, as I am super busy this past week or two I haven’t really had a chance to be as frequent as I would have liked to be in posting.  So, this post is just a quick updates as to whats going on and a video that I did for Mark’s as a corporate “push” to bring their business in-house, to my department.

So, as SEMA comes near, I am finding myself with more and more projects mounting that need to be done for it.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I am still working on the Walk In Animations and VOG (Voice of God) animation videos with the 5:1 aspect Ratio screen.  These are coming along well and will be done on time (as usual).  I have been cutting some Christmas Strategy videos (yes, CT is thinking of Christmas and it’s mid-October, retail…what can I say), and I was fortunate enough to be asked out to the auto shop again to shoot more Talkin Shot with Cam, Steve and the crew.  In addition to that I have picked up some freelance work for Maritz doing a project for Ford (the edit to my shoot at Ontario Place this summer) and a gig for the Metroland Group that I’ll be doing this week.  All that along-side the regular weekly video announcements that I do for the church…and this is me.  I wont lie, I am TIRED these days, but, it would be way worse if I didn’t like my job, so…no complaints here.

Anyways, export to ProRes422 HQ for the big screen is done, back to work I go.  Check out the 30 and 60 second versions of this Mark’s Dri-Wear spots done earlier this year.  If you don’t know what Dri-Wear is you’ve gotta check out Mark’s…especially if you are an athlete or workout, this stuff is great!

Thanks for reading.  Shoot straight

60 Second Spot

30 Second Spot

Retail city…kinda like The Trueman Show for Canadian Tire

Retail City, the Truman Show set of Canadian Tire Corp.  In this warehouse in East York (Toronto) you will find the most incredible find ever found…if you can find it.  Retail City.  The first time that I went to Retail City I was blown away!  Imagine this…you walk into the building, a normal looking warehouse building just like any other and after being buzzed in by the receptionist you proceed to walk down a lengthy hallway.  The hallway is like any other hallway that you might have walked down before, walls, ceiling, well-lit, you know…pretty hallway-ish.  As you walk down this hall, on the right-hand side wall you see this “thing”, and as you draw nearer to the end of the hallway you realize that the “thing” is a large square button.  A sign beside the button reads “Press the Magic Button”, and as any naturally curious human being would, you push the button.  The large double door slides open when you press it and the parting of the wood and metal with a sound that can only be described as the Magic Button sound reveals…a Canadian Tire store.  I’m talking about a full sized front of a store.. inside this warehouse.  And that’s not all!  As you walk through the front doors of this inside-the-warehouse Canadian Tire you emerge into a fully stocked, current flyer offerings and sale items displayed, up to date with seasonal stock Canadian Tire store.  There are cash registers, displays, isles, auto dept, sports, housewares…everything that you’d find in a regular CT store, except the people.  It’s a “lab” or testing environment for CT to set up displays for dealers to see how they are supposed to dress their store, for Executives to come by to see how the latest CT products will be displayed and sold, to train, to experiment and the best part…to shoot video!  Imagine a CT store with no people, looks just like a CT store, and is current with seasonal offerings as my set for shooting video.

I was introduced to Retail City in my first month at CT and have had the opportunity to shoot there many, many times.  You’ve probably seen CT commercials that have been shot there and not even known it.  I had that opportunity again last week as Brad, Charles and I set out to shoot a Christmas Strategy video for one of the top Executive at CT to kick off the Christmas season.

We scouted the location the week before and decided that we were going to do a 3 camera shoot (the Sony PWM-350 and two Canon 7D) and we hired our regular audio guy, Brian, to help us out with the 2 person audio recording.  We had Brian send audio to the Sony camera since it doesn’t suffer from the 12 minute recording limit that the Canon 7D’s do, and we also recorded separate audio to an Olympus recorder (not sure of the model but it is a device similar to the Zoom h4n).  It was a simple enough shoot…until the entire script was changed last-minute.  I wanted to make sure that this thing was easy to edit so I quickly jumped in with a couple of suggestions on how to make this an easy process.  The key thing for me this day was to ensure that each scene consisted of 1 question and the answer to that question only, allowing us to do retakes easily as well as making it easy to log good takes.  Being that I needed to edit this the next day (today), I really wanted it to be easy in the edit room, and sice it was a 3 camera shoot, cutting to another camera to fake that everthing was one seamless conversation wouldn’t be hard at all.  Another thing that we did to ensure ease in post-production was using the slate or the clapper.  By using a slate (to indicate the scene number and take) and actually clapping it (to create a visual and audible sync point that all cameras can see and hear) I was able to very easily use the Multicam feature of FCP7 (this feature does not yet exist in FCPX…but hopefully it will soon).

The shoot was a 2 person interview with a nice Christmas display for the backdrop.  The main cam (Sony PMW-350) was the 2 shot and each of the Canon DSLRs shot a single of each person, giving me plenty of footage to be able to cut between.  We lit the set with two large softboxes with 650watt tungsten bulbs and used two 500watt Tota bulbs as backlights.  As usual, I was equipped with my Zacuto EVF which proved to be very valuable on this shoot because I had to man 2 cameras and viewing them both at the same time would have been very difficult without the EVF, so thanks again Zacuto!  Brad was styling out with a Jag35 Field Runner kitted out with the D|Focus from D|Focus Systems (Good look Brad), and we were both outfitted with a medium range zoom lens on our cams.

So, the interview was smooth, b-roll was shot, the set was striked and we left to head back to CT in the Community Events Vehicle to backup and start to transcode the footage (turn it into a format that my editing system likes…not necessarily what the camera spits out).  I love shooting with this team (Charles, Brad and Myself), we work like a well oiled machine from packing, to setup, to communicating our thoughts on shooting right through to the actual shoot, striking (teardown), backing up footage and getting ready for post-production. So, all-in-all, a great shoot day, great team, a fake/ real CT store to shoot in and the talent did it all in about 45 minutes…maybe this really is CT’s version of the Trueman Show.

Shoot Straight!

Back to the super-widescreen drawing board…again.

So it’s convention time again at Canadian Tire and since we are so accustomed to “going big”, we are headed to Vegas this time.  Last year we were at the Toronto Convention Center and it was a really huge, really cool, 5 day convention for all of the Canadian Tire Dealers (the guys that own the stores) and their managers, auto guys, seasonal people etc.  There were business sessions, a huge product exhibition, parties, galas, awards banquets and a show featuring Randy Bachman!   There were celeb athletes and personalities there like Cesar Millan, Ron Fellows, Scott Steckly and Lanny MacDonald and of course I can’t forget the cameo appearances by the Stanley Cup and the Nascar Sprint Cup. It was great!  Our main hall for seminars etc. had 3 screens in it, 1 super-wide screen for the “Spyder System” projection and 2 regular 16:9 screens flanking it.  The main screen was the backdrop for the stage which had either a Nascar or Ferrari on it depending on the day that it was.  I got the distinct honor and pleasure of being the designer for the main graphics that were used on that super wide screen!  (see pic below). In designing for it, I had a bunch of considerations; Designing in the 16:9 center portion of the screen so that the video could be projected on the “regular” screens as well as the center screen without cutting off content, design resolution and the ability to update and change screen info on the fly were some of the biggies.

This year the screen resolution is even wider than last years was…a 5:1 aspect ratio with a full resolution of 3840×768!  HUGE!  And again, I am having concerns about the design resolution because it is so big.  Not just the size that’s concerning me though, I am dealing with motion graphics, so I want the best quality that I can get, so I am creating in a “draft mode”, but will be exporting at full res, 16bit, Field Rendering, Motion Blurring, Depth of Field on my flying camera and Frame Blending…and I have to create 30 of these things.  “Hey Joe…what in the world did you just say?” (you might ask)…  In a nutshell, you need a pretty beefy comp to export this size and quality (I might respond).  Lucky I have one, but it’s always a concern.  I just have to be extra technical when designing this to ensure efficiency with my data rates. “NERD” (you might say…)I guess so, I might respond. 🙂

Like last years animation, I have had to go back to the drawing board after showing preliminary drafts to the team and managers but unlike last year, I didn’t find going back to the drawing board as hard.  I was trained and taught that a lot of the time I am the outlet through which people (clients) fulfill their thoughts and ideas about video and messaging.  All I can do is advise, suggest and do…and this is sometimes way harder than you’d think, trust me!  Last year, when I had to reign back on the creative, I felt like my vision wasn’t being appreciated, like the company was playing it too safe, like we could do so much more but at the same time I understood why we had to take a step back.  This year, when the same thing was happening…”let’s reel it in a bit and play it safe“, I found myself thinking, “Joe, have thick skin and don’t take offense“. And I didn’t!  I really didn’t have any emotional feelings attached to the work at all.  Even though I had just spent the last day working on the animation, it didn’t bother me to return to the animation and start to change things up.  Imaging how much easier it is starting over with no bad feelings…FREEDOM!  And, growth.  I definitely didn’t start off this way almost 12 years ago.

Why are you telling me this” (you might ask)… “Because… (I would say back to you), in this line of work you rarely work for yourself”.  That being the case, the logical other side of the coin is that we work for others.  Others ideas, others messaging, others visions and sometimes even others mistakes…but it is “others”.  All I can do is suggest, advise and recommend based on my experience; creative and technical and then do what the client asks.  It used to kill me to think someone wanted me to change hours or days worth of work that I had put it.  “How dare they ask me to change that, don’t they know that was my favorite part of the video?!” Now, I try to let it roll off the shoulder.  Sometimes it is harder than others, but I guess it’s like practicing anything else in life, it gets easier and we learn how to do it better.

Shoot Straight.

Last Years Animation BEFORE the revamp

Last Years Animation AFTER the revamp