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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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!

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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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

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!