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!

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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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Shooting Canadian Tire Nascar in Kawartha

It feels like for ever since I last wrote for my blog…actually it has been about a week and a half or so and no, it’s not because I’ve been getting lazy :).  Actually I have been really busy with shooting and editing, so I have quite a bit more stuff to blab about over the next couple of days.  Today’s “blab” is about my exciting shoot on Saturday at the Kawartha Speedway where Scott Steckly took home the cup as this years Canadian Tire Nascar Series Champion driving the Canadian Tire #22 car.  Shooting Nascar is really cool…I should know, I’m on my 2nd one (I know, I’m just a Nascar rookie), but some of my camera carrying cohorts aren’t and I was fortunate enough to meet up with a couple guys that I shot my last Nascar event with out in St. Thomas earlier this year.  These guys know Nascar like I know weddings…inside and out!  So hanging around them got me the drop on when certain things were gonna happen and on which turn the most recent crash was so I could try to boogie over there as quickly as possible.

I brought my new Indislider Mini Delux with me to field test for the 1st time and it was pretty good I must say.  This slider is an inexpensive, small and lightweight slider that comes with a pistol grip mount.  It is a great slider for the price and the size is right for run-n-gun stuff but there were some issues with it and am starting to see where this is and isn’t a the tool for certain gigs, but all-in-all I liked it a lot.  I’ll write up about the slider in a bit after I’ve had a chance to use it a little more.  So, I started off my day with it as my tool of choice, slid in with some nice establishing shots of the track with a reveal from a CT Nascar sign…u know, standard stuff.  My plan was to travel light (1 camera today) and to really prove to Charles (my boss) why we need to invest in a slider for our production team’s ensemble of gear.  I also rolled with my 3 lenses of choice, the 11-16mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm (see my posting on my lenses of choice). and my Zacuto EVF Flip to get that sharp focus and to battle (and win) against bright daylight.

Being the Canadian Tire Corp camera operator, I was granted VIP and Pit access, so decked in my latest CT swag I was able to saunter anywhere I pleased and saunter I did!  Having track access allows such unique videography opportunities like drivers suiting up, getting their helmets on, doing up their racing gloves, the look in their eye before they shut the visor on their helmet to start the race and really nice shots with the slider.  And there is nothing more exciting than a media scrum when your guy (Steckly) wins the season.  What an awesome experience and what a great opportunity to shoot some really great footage.

Another cool thing about this event was that I got to bring my family along and the kids had a ball watching the race from VIP, eating junk til their hearts were content, getting autographs and seeing their dad in action…ok, maybe not the last part, but they still had a blast.  The day ended with a spray of champagne for Steckly, a bottle cork in my lens (see the clip below) and home in time to catch the UFC Pay-per-view.  I love this gig!

Til next time…if you see em, shoot em!

Busy times and a good find, slide on in!

So, I’ve been editing a Christmas in July video for Canadian Tire that features Debbie Travis, another on of Canadian Tires affiliate superstars!  It feels so weird to be listening to Christmas music in September and then seeing Christmas trees with the background being a brightly lit Toronto summer day…talk about throwing a guy off!  This one is a bit more top secret than some of the other CT stuff that I’ve done so I can’t show this one to you, but basically it is her hosting an open house in a penthouse in the SOHO Metropolitan Hotel for the press and magazine people.  Throughout the place, the decor is Christmas and it’s her line and other new innovative products that Canadian Tire will be featuring this year.  Believe me, CT has some pretty style forward and very classy stuff this year!

During my crazy edit week, I came across a Craigslist posting for an Indieslider Mini Delux.  I called the guy up and i was really happy  to hear that he still had it.  I had an old Tota Light that I was only using occasionally and he was willing to do a swap, so I landed a very nice, short, compact slider.  My 1st concern with it was the pistol grip sytle head on it and how it wasn’t going to fit my Manfrotto 394 mounting system that I use with EVERYTHING.  I still haven’t found a perfect way to incorporate the 394 system into the Indie Slider use, but the QR that it comes with isn’t totally bad and the Pistol Grip actual works quite nicely.  I really love the length though, it is so small and short, that if you’re using the right lens you can get what looks like BIG movement out of this ol boy.  And because of the lengthe (24″), it had 0, I said Zero bending when you get to the end of the slider.  The feet are also very small compared to some larger sliders, so again…another big plus.  I will be breaking it in this weekend at Kawartha Speedway for Nascar when Scott Steckley wins the final race putting him in !st place for this tour (fingers crossed), and again on Tuesday I’ll be using it at a Mark’s Work Warehouse Fashion Show at Yonge and Dundas in the Square.  If anyone is interested, Mark’s will be giving away 10-25% off coupons for sales starting at $20…that’s pretty good (the 25% one anyways).

I wanted to leave you with a video to watch that has examples of what a slider does (for those of you that don’t know what a Slider is).  This is a Same Day Edit (SDE) from a wedding that I shot last year with Anthony.  There are quite a few slider shots in this one, watch and see if you can pick them out.  Here is Pam and Dave…enjoy

Oh yeah, before I sign out, I want to wish my good friend Claude good luck with the music video shoot that he’s about to do today.  Break a leg my brother…and shoot straight!

Til the next one

Life on Blackberry Apps

I’ve mentioned before, a company that I have worked with in the past called Maritz Canada (see Focus-ing at Ontario Place post).  Anyways, this posting is about another job that I did for them last year.  This job came after I went on an interview for an Art Director position, one that I clearly had no business applying for, but I really wanted to be involved with the company so I went for it.  I was pleasantly surprised to get an interview, but by the time it ended the lady interviewing me said, “you sound way more like a video Producer than an Art Director, why did you apply for this job?”  Well, to make a long story short I then discussed a Producer role and met with the VP of Marketing who between the two of them connected me with a team that was under the gun and in need of someone to produce a spot for one of their accounts…Blackberry.

When I met with the team, Matthew and Dana they told me about a project that they had an idea for but needed someone to pull together.  We discussed the project in detail and they asked me if I could do it.  I told them that I could and immediately jumped into the pre-production with them planning the creative and getting clarity on the messaging.  ~aside… one of the things I really believe is that there is a message in every video, or at least there should be.  Every shot should tell its own little version of a story and contribute to the larger message.  Video without a message is pointless! ~  After our meeting was over I went home feeling really excited to be able to Produce this spot and eager to get started.

The team shortly after sent me a Creative Brief and asked how much it would cost to do so I got started crunching numbers, putting in calls for vendors, gear, locations etc.  when I had all of that info on paper and had done my “Pre-production” I got back to them with a number and they approved it.  Now, this was not a small budget as far as things go.  I had people to hire, equipment to rent, locations to secure, insurance coverage to attain…shoot…I even rented a TTC bus (Toronto Transit for all those non-Torontonians reading).  I didn’t even know that you could rent a TTC until I needed one…then it dawned on me…you can rent anything!

The shoot has 6 locations which included a nice room at the Westin Harbour Castle, A Toronto Raptors game at the ACC, a TTC Bus/ street, a bar, a cafeteria and an office.  I hired 8 actors, a lighting tech, a steadicam operator, a Production Manager, makeup, storyboard artist, voice talent, photographer and I shot Main camera plus edited.  There was food each of the 2 days of shooting and a seriously tight timeline to maintain, and thanks to my good friend Claude (whom I have mentioned before), we stayed on schedule.

This project was executed in 2 days, edited in 6 days and delivered just under budget! (big plus for the client), and the feedback was that it far exceeded their expectations.  Yeah!

This project was a serious test of my skills on the Production front because within 1 day I had to get pricing and logistics basically locked down to commence a daunting timeline and deliver an above average project…I did it, and this is one of the pieces that ended up getting me a lot of work with other companies as a Producer, not just a shooter/ editor.

So here it is, for your consideration…my first production for Maritz Canada…Life on Blackberry apps

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