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?!)

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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

The Mark’s Fashion show at Yonge and Dundas Square

So, today I did some work for an arm of the company that I don’t get to do a lot of work for (but that’s about to change), Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse).  That’s right folks…Canadian Tire owns Mark’s.  And here’s some more interesting news that you might not all know, but Mark’s is a very fashion forward, men and women’s retail store with really nice clothes.  For real!  In fact, Mark’s just held a fashion show at Yong and Dundas Square in the heart of Downtown Toronto and I was there to capture the event for a Sizzler Video that I’ll be editing mid October.

Call time was 6:00am…I live in Brampton, which meant wake up time was 4:45…yeah…A.M!  So, I got out of bed and grabbed my PRE-packed (from the night before) video essentials and hit the road.  With me today…a single Canon 7D with the customary lens kit, Zacuto support, Tripod with Indislider Mini Delux and my Zoom h4n with Sennheizer audio kit.  I was given a Creative Brief for this shoot and was supposed to shoot video that would visually support some key metrics that are supposed to be used onscreen and as the direction of the messaging.  The fashion show as a whole presentation was being shot by Frishkorn (whom we also worked beside for the staging of this event), so I really could concentrate on getting good planned shots of the people attending, the Mark’s reps interacting with the general crowd as they gave out free socks (I’m wearing mine now), umbrellas, t-shirts and scan to win coupons as well as  behind the scenes stuff and my interviews.

So, let’s talk interviews for a sec…I have been playing with the Beachtek DXA-SLR, the Rode Video Mic Pro and the Zoomh4n for some time now and have finally come to a decision…here it is.

I like the Beachtek because it allows me to line xlr based audio devices into it and then out to my camera, allowing me to record “good” audio directly to the CF card with the video…cool!  It also has Auto Gain Override, which is important when dealing with the 7D, but, the monitoring capabilities suck!  All you have is a little light that blinks green when you are in a good range and receiving a signal, and blinks red when the auio is hot or too loud.  The Rode video mic is cool, the size is great and it is super light, but even when the input level is set to 0db (flat) it is too loud and noisy.  I always find myself shooting at -10db.  I almost had to forfeit an interview because of that.  Also, when u use that directly into the camera there is no monitoring option for you.  My fav now is the Zoomh4n.  Proper monitoring, multiple inputs (xlr, 1/4in and onboard mic). it is mountable like a shotgun mic with very nice mics built onto it and I can record ambient audio as well as directly into the recorder onto an SD card.  The only downfall is that I cannot go directly to the camera with it…ok, I can but I still have the Auto Gain issue with the 7D.  So…my point: Interviews are to be done with the Zoom h4n along some type of wireless mic’ing set up for optimal audio…and that’s just what I did here.

The host of the event was Lisa Rogers from City Line and she walked and talked us through 3 sessions of the runway show where models showed off clothes from Mark’s from underwear right through to jackets and accessories.  We owned the whole square for this event and it really was put together well.  I have attached a few pics of event…ok, me working at the event (lol), and I’ll upload the video as soon as it’s edited.  Make sure you check out Mark’s though, you’ll be surprised!

Shoot Straight

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The Story – Setting up the framework

So, this section of my blog is going to be (or at least attempt to be) an ongoing story of my journey to get to present day as it concerns my career, my experience, how it all played in with my family life and life in general.  This isn’t going to be technical or about the gear or anything like that, it’s basically my story.

I feel like the place that I’m at now still has room to grow and I have some of moving up to do, but I am currently 11 years in to doing something that I really love and have been able to make a freelance and corporate career out of it. I’m not saying that I’m an authority on anything…well, ok…I’m am pretty savvy behind the camera and in the edit room! 🙂 But seriously, I just want to share my story in the hopes that I can share info, and who knows…maybe someone will get inspired.
If you out there in blog world are reading this and have questions or comments I am more than happy to field any of them, so don’t be afraid to leave comments, share or like.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ll post regularly! At least a couple per week.

I hope you get something out of it!

The Grand Openings Sizzle video

So, this year has held a lot of travel for me…way more than I had anticipated!  It started with a 1 week stint in Calgary for the NHL Heritage Classic (the outdoor hockey game).  Canadian Tire was a sponsor for this amazing event and I was commissioned to go along and shoot.  More on that story later, this story is about the second project that included lots of traveling for the year…the Grand Openings Tour.  This tour would find me traveling around in the Canadian Tire Community Events vehicle as well as flying around courtesy of WestJet to a number of Canadian Tire Grand Openings and Grand Re-Openings.

Now, when I first started my corporate gig I was told that there would be about 15% travel…well, I hit 15% really early in the year, let me tell you!  The purpose of me traveling and shooting was to gather footage (video and photo) to create a Sizzle Reel that showed the excitement of the Grand Openings, what the Retail Events Team is capable of doing and how the involvement of this team, when a store is having an opening (or re-opening) does things like increase sales, improve customer awareness, etc…basically, the benefit to having the team do their thing.  So, my mission began in March and ended in May 2011.

Cool highlights of my multi-location project:

  • I got to hang out with NHL greats like Curtis Joseph, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower, Lanny MacDonald and Matt Carkner.  Drivers extraordinaire such as Scott Steckly and Ron Fellows, and chilled with TV personalities including Chef Corbin and Cesar Millan, not to mention city Mayors, and the cool Canadian Tire Executives that showed up to the various events.
  • I was shooting soooo much, both photo and video, and was really able to expand my creativity in both the photo and video realm.  Also got to play with all of my videography toys including the GoPro (see this link for my 1st GoPro video).
  • I rolled with dual 7Ds everywhere I went. (maybe not “cool” to the non-shooter but dual cam is big time in my world! ;))
  • Got to know the inside of hotel rooms and rental cars really fast…what I really mean is that I got to do a lot of traveling to places that I never knew existed…like Kemptville Ontario.
  • And I got to hang with a really cool team…The Retail Events folks.

Quick side-story: When we arrived in Kemptville, we pulled into the motel around 11pm and believe me when I say we were skeptical about the place.  However, we decided that since this was the only hotel in the city of 14000 that we would check in.  When we all got to the front desk and started checking in and being put into our rooms we thought he was joking when the owner said to one of the girls, “you’re room is the one on the left but there might be someone in it”.  We realized that he wasn’t kidding when he called in and said, “Hey (whatever the guys name was), you have to come out now, the guests are here”, and then someone emerged. What?!  We couldn’t believe it…then to top it all off, there was a floater in the toilet!  Yeah, that’s right! You all know what a floater is!  Glad that wasn’t my room!  Anyways, that aside, it did turn out to be a good 6 days in Kempville. And the owner of the motel ended up being really cool and even took us out for an evening on his boat.   It was probably the hardest one for me being away from my family for that much time but all the overtime was enough for Lex and I to take off to the Mayan Riviera for a week, so the payoff was good.

This week I have a meeting scheduled to discuss the schedule for this years Grand Opening Tour and as much work and travel as it was, I am looking forward to this years.  I really do love the run-n-gun style, guerrilla videography type of shooting…and the overtime isn’t bad either!  I’m already thinking about next years vacation! ;).  Some people may say, “Kemptville?!  That’s not a cool place to go!”, but I say that anything is what you make it.  That’s why I think that I am able to shoot anything and be excited about it…I’m shooting, and doing what I really love to do.  When asked “what’s up?”, some people answer back sarcastically, “living the dream bro”, but I truly believe that I am.  Living the dream and loving it! and I got lots more to talk about…ttyl!

Here’s the video, I’d love your opinions.

Shoot straight