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?!)

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!

5 camera shoot then Nas and Lauryn Hill. What a day!

I work with a guy named Cam who is one of the biggest advocates of DSLR’ing that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  From time-to-time we get an opportunity to work with each other on some of the series that he produces for Canadian Tire and I had such an opportunity a couple of days ago…I’m gonna tell you all about it!

So, Cam tells me that we are gonna be doing a 5 camera shoot for a show called Talkin Shop and we were going to shoot 8, 10 minute segments, and of course I was game.  It was a forum type of  setup that consisted of 5-6 panel members sitting around a round table.  The table was custom designed with a colour balanced, white finish that acts as a bounce for the 3k of diffused light  coming  down on an angle from over them.  This created a massive Clam Shell lighting setup that encompassed anyone that was at the table.  Clam Shell lighting involves using a top light or a light in front of your talent above their head level and a reflector or a bounce card underneath your talent to reflect the toplight under the chin, nose, eyes etc.  filling in all of the dark spots that the toplight doesn’t reach.  Let me just say, the talent glowed! It is very flattering lighting.

Those lights up top (the ones lighting the talent), were on a grid that Steve Lindsay built.  Steve is another amazingly talent guy that it is always a serious honor to work with.  Steve is a Camera Operator, a lighting guru and a Jib/ Crane master.  He does such amazing work and I learn from him every single time we work together.  It’s really an amazing experience.  Anyways, Steve created this lighting grid that hung from the ceiling of the garage that we were shooting in.  Attached to it were 3x 1k Fresnels, 4x 300w Arri Fresnels and 2x spot lights for the vehicles on set.  There were various other lights used as background and accent lights in addition, he used 2 Diva lights and other strategically placed Arri 300s.  And yes, I DID say the Steve made this lighting grid.   It is a temporary fixture.  Great what you can build out of necessity and with a small budget, huh?

Steve also did some cool accent lighting on the walls with floor LEDs and the entire back wall which was windows was covered with diffusion sheets to make the light coming in more useable.

This setup allowed the background to be quite a bit darker than the people at the table and really gave a polished look.  Amazing job!

Here’s the list of gear other thank lights that we used on set:

4 nikon d7000 (3x 70-200, 1x)
1 7d (70-200)
5 zacuto z-finders
1 zacuto evf
4 zacuto rail setups
1 Small hd monitor
1 cinivate pegasus
6 arri 300
2 divas
6 wireless sennheiser lavs
Zoom H4N
D|Focus Follow Focus System w/ D|Mount
Audio Mixer

I got to borrow a bunch of rigging by Zacuto on this shoot and I loved it.  Although expensive, the Zacuto line is very well thought out in design and functionality, is great quality and looks amazing.  I’ve been a Zacuto supporter for some time now, owning a Z-Finder Pro and EVF Flip myself, but it was great first hand experience using some of the rails and other mounting accessories.  I will definitely be investing in more Zacuto gear in the future.  I also really liked the Small HD monitor on our main safety camera.  So sharp and accurate.  Over lunch I was to comparing it to my EVF and there were some pros and cons for both.  For instance, my EVF has a smaller screen size.  This may be a problem in some studio environments where a larger on camera monitor can be used, however the EVF does have an HDMI loop-through to go out to larger monitors and the EVF is equally as sharp as the Small HD monitor.  In addition, the EVF Flip allows quick flip adaption of my Z-Finder so I can really get in there and focus well.  Another cool thing that I found was that there was no problems at all meshing my D|Focus gear with the Zacuto gear, like they were made for each other.  Good to know if you want to purchase the far less expensive D|Focus sytem to go with you 15mm Zacuto rails.

The view from Cams cam.

So, the shoot starts with an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, hasbrowns, fruit, toast, juice and coffee…I know!  I couldn’t believe it either!  Needless to say, that’s how you start a day off!  We had 8 segments to do that were each supposed to be 10 minutes each…yeah right.  Do you think any of them went to time?  Cam was calling cut for people sometime after they had gone  on talking for 22 minutes or so.  Now with DSLRs this is a problem because Canon has the 12 minute recording time limit and Nikon has a 20 minute limit.  To remedy this for post-production we just kept all the cameras rolling at the end of the segments and did a “Tail Slate“.  A Tail Slate is an upside down slate with a clap so that you can sync footage using that common shot of video (the tail slate) as the syncing point, just as you would with it at the beginning of the take.  Because cameras had to stop rolling part way through, the tail slate is the common marker for all cameras after the 12 or 20 minute recording limit has been reached and the recording has been resumed. Anyways, this obviously put us a bit behind schedule but the segments were good, so we went with it.  I was getting a bit nervous when I first realized this trend of the panel going over the time alotment because I was really hoping to leave the shoot on time.  That night was the night of the Rock The Bells concert featuring Nas and Lauryn Hill and I was hooking up with Claude (I’ve mentioned him in other postings) to go to the Molsen Amphitheater.  It was no surprise to me that we ended about an hour behind the planned wrap time but I still made it out in time to stick to my plan for the Rock the Bells concert!  Great day! Big thanks to Cam Jenkins, Steve Lindsay and the crew, Nas and Lauryn Hill for making this a great day.

Focus-ing at Ontario Place: The Self Parking Cars

This weekend I did some freelance work for Maritz Canada, one of my favorite accounts from “back in the freelance days” (like I mentioned before…I still work with some of my cooler accounts even though I’ve turned Full Time). Anyways, this shoot was at Ontario Place in Toronto and it happened on one of the 3 days of the Air Show, so in addition to shooting video, I got to check out the low and very fast flying planes!
This shoot was of a couple of different “activations” where the new Ford Focus features were being showcased in an interactive environment. The 1st was the MyFordTouch competition where you race through a series of technology related requirements using the new voice activated system in the 2012 Focus. This focused on the ease of finding food, getting directions, and basically having your own version of K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider. The 2nd was the self parking feature which is really nice. This car will park itself, all you have to do is worry about the accelerator and brakes, all of the steering is done by the car…and it’s extremely accurate. 6 inches from the curb every time. One of my main objectives for the shoot was to capture the expressions and reactions of participants when they were behind the wheel of the self parking car. I figured the best way to do this was to buy a GoPro and mount it in various ways in the car and of course, on the dashboard and just in front of the speedometer were ideal places. Finally, the 3rd was the synchro-park or the “Stunt” as it has been called. This was where they had 3 cars all parallel park themselves, synchronized! All of this to engage the customer and educate them about the new features of this upcoming years model of the Focus, Edge and Explorer.
I shot this whole thing with the Canon 7D, GoPro, 11-16mm f2.8 Tokiina and 24-70 Canon f2.8. Circular Polarizing filters on all my lenses allowed me to shoot through the windshields with no reflections (great for the shot of the guy lying down, seat reclined while parallel parking, and also let me get those really nice deep blue shies while maintaining the saturation of colour in the cars and peoples faces. A great tool for outdoor shooting. I also used my Glidecam HD2000 and Zacuto EVF. The EVF is amazing! Not just the build and design of it, but the ability to see even in direct sunlight is unsurpassed. I have rigged a mount up to my Glidecam that allows me to attach the EVF to it, giving me more flexibility in how I use the Glidecam and makes me look more high-tec as well!
I realized when I got home that one of my favorite shots (the guy lying down while parking taken with the GoPro) had me with my glidecam shooting from the opposite angle (Whoops), so I returned the next day to reshoot that single shot. That’s right! All the way back for one shot…well, ok…maybe not just for that one shot. As coincidence would have it, I was going to the CNE on Sunday, which for those of you who don’t know, is right across the street from Ontario Place…so it wasn’t a big deal at all. And the bonus…I got free parking! Perks of the job.

Shoot em straight!

Music Video Shoot – Mick Swagga

A good friend of mine who is also a shooter/ editor called me up and asked me if I wanted to work on this music video with him, so I said yes.  We had done a couple of music videos and some corporate stuff together before so I was eager to do another project with Quammie.  Quammie was the Director and content editor for this shoot and he asked me to come on as a camera operator and to work on the edit and Motion stuff with him…my favorite stuff!  The artist was Jaydahman from Tdot, Toronto, GTA and the track was called Mick Swagga both of which I had heard before and was really happy to be working on a song that I really liked.  My kids really liked the song too and would ask me to play it on my ipod every time we got into the car.

We shot this video with 3 Canon 7Ds in a warehouse against a backdrop setup that consisted of 2 backdrop stands side by side supporting 2 12ft rolls of backdrop paper taped together (talk about shooting on a budget!).  We had a setup with the black paper backdrop and a setup with white.  By blasting a lot of light at the white background we were able to over expose the white and the tapped seam where we attached the 2 backdrop rolls was eliminated.  By lighting up the talent well and stopping down on the cameras aperture we did the same thing for the black background.  An additional thing that we did to allow us the most control over exposure and dynamic range was that all of the cameras used a Super Flat Colour Profile.  It works great for allowing the most amount of control in post production when dealing with bumping up or down brightness while maintaining detail in light sensitive areas of the frame.  Check out this link from Prolost and check out this video on increasing the 7Ds dynamic range. We also had the talent bring a wardrobe change so that when we shot on the black, they wore white clothes and vice-verse…nice contrast.  For each scene we rolled 3 cameras, 1 recording at 60 frames for slow-mo and the other 2 at varying focal lengths so that we had 3 versions of every take…worked well for the final edit!

So we got the video shot after 1 LONG day, but 1 day never-the-less and if you fast-forward about 4 weeks we arrive at edit time.  Quammie had made his selects and put stuff on the timeline in the sequence that he wanted it and then passed it off to me to “sprinkle some niceness” on it.  It was a nice way of editing; having someone else select all the clips and arrange them , leaving only the “creative” part of the edit to do.  Anyways, the artist is Jaydahman, the song is Mick Swagga, the Director is Claude Quammie…enjoy

Back-to-back weddings

So, this weekend I have 2 weddings to shoot and despite the wedding schedule norm, both of these weddings are short and sweet.  Typically a wedding shoot lasts from around 7 or 8 in the morning at the Bride and Groom’s places while they get ready, until around 11:00pm after the garter is thrown and the cake is cut and the party has begun.  This weekend I am starting at 4:00pm and going til 11:00pm on Friday and 2:30-8:30 on Saturday.  Cool!  I am especially excited about tomorrow (Saturday) because I will be home in time to watch UFC 134!  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but I am a huge UFC fan…so, tomorrow works out perfectly!

Today I am shooting with a friend of mine who has a friend that’s getting married and tomorrow I am shooting with The Photo Studio out of Toronto Ontario.  I’ve been shooting with The Photo Studio for many years now and have met some really top notch photographers through this company.  Check out their blog!

Anyways, more later.  Don’t forget to watch UFC tomorrow on PPV!  I will be.

 

Til then, shoot straight…and stay focused.