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!

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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!

Let the travelling begin…again

So I have got the travel itinerary for the Grand Openings and Hockey Camp circuit for the Fall yesterday and let’s just say that my future has a lot of shooting in it. Looks like my potential destinations are Uxbridge, Bowemanville, Prince Albert, Montreal, Halifax or course the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and there has been talk about Vegas, but we’ll see. This all to happen between September and December this year, so, I am excited! I get to shoot video, travel and bank lieu time! What else can a guy ask for. Also, while doing the camps and Grand Openings I’ll get to interview celebrity personalities and hang with the press and be the master of my domain:) . Oh yeah, and did I mention that I’ll be attending NHL All-Star weekend?! The Canadian Tire Hockey Schools are being set up as Skills Camps this year with the most “skilled” at each camp advancing with the possibility of competing in a Jr. All Star/ Skills competition in Ottawa during the NHL’s weekend.

Perks of the job!

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.

Jumpstart

So I’m back at work today for a short work week,( holiday yesterday and I leave for Montreal on Friday to shoot Nascar for Canadian Tire).  My schedule has me editing a Canadian Tire Jumpstart video that I shot footage for last week called Fun in the Sun.  It was a day long event with 600 kids playing at different activity centers, making friends, eating food and basically just having an all out play-day.  They are, for the most, all kids from high risk environments and cannot afford to be involved in sports and activities.  I think it’s one of the coolest charitable foundations and am always happy to support them.

I shot with my two Canon 7Ds using 3 lenses…Canon 24-70mm f2.8, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II, and Tokina 11-16mm f2.8.  In addition I also had a GoPro Hero cam, Glidecam 4000, my Manfrotto support gear, Rode Video Mic Pro and my Zacuto EVF and Z-Finder.  This is my arsenal for gigs like this and they always do me well!  I spent the day running around after kids, getting soaked at the water play stations, mounting my GoPro in the bbq’s and having a blast doing it.  I always love shooting Jumpstart events, they’re always a load of fun and I always get to be as creative and use whatever gear I want when out.

So, this edit started with me reading over the Creative Brief to refresh myself on the edit parameters and clients direction, as well as a brief phone meeting.  Shortly after that I had another meeting with some of the stakeholder on this video and it was determined that i would be using the “Jumpstart song“…again… This is the 3rd time (in a row) that a Jumpstart edit by me is going to use the Jumpstart song.   Big exhale…Oh well, it’s all about the client right?!  A Prof that I had in College once told me that doing this kind of work isn’t a “Joe-ego trip”, it’s about the clients requests.  All we can do as professionals is offer our advice, look past our feelings and emotion and at the end of the day we just have to do what the client wants.  Words to live by I’d say, just get it all in writing!  (Especially the choice that go against every creative and technical fiber in your body).  And smile while doing it.

Anywho, here are the 1st two Jumpstart videos for your consideration.

This one is the SDE (Same Day Edit) done on Canadian Tire Jumpstart Day.  This was shot and edited by yours truly and played at the Canadian Tire Financial Services and Jumpstart Gala at Brock University in May 2011.

For the most part all this video was shot by someone else (not sure who).  I did most of the photography and I did the edit