Monday, September 8, 2014

FAN EXPO DOC: POST PRODUCTION ONE

It would be nice if you could shoot a bunch of footage and just dive into the editing

Well, sometimes you can. When Collette and I are at some festival and I want to cut the footage into a music video, I can do just that, pull the footage into Final Cut, lay down my music track and start cutting

That will not work for this new project. There is no script for this video, not formally. I have a pretty solid idea of where I want things to go but I have yet to finish shooting. I'm still waiting to do my final shoot with Nadia, where I will have her narrate her footage from our day at the Expo

Still, I want to start organizing things. Post production is a lot more than just editing and music and graphics.

Right now, while I'm waiting for my final shoot, I'm concerned with two areas: Logging footage and Legal.

I'll deal with Legal first. I have no intentions of the finished video ever going to broadcast. But I will be posting it on social media (and perhaps some unsocial media) and I will be sending it to whatever "film" festivals I can get away with. That is a different level of legal concern than broadcast but it's still a concern.

Film festivals, amateur or not, like everything neat and tidy. You have to prove rights to your footage, your music, locations and to all principles involved in the production.

I will of course have Nadia and Brandon (her Spiderman) sign a release form that I've worked up. They were not the only people that I have on cam. The interviews I did at the Ex break down into two categories: Fan streeters and Organization Interviews

The streeters were just fans I corralled and had give me a minute or two on cam. I am not terribly concerned with these. I made of point to record them as they gave me consent to film them and that should cover it.

Besides talking to fans, I talked to a few orgainizations/groups who were at the Expo to promote themselves. Groups like The Toronto Steampunk Society and Superheroes for Charity were at the Ex to raise awareness of their group and to raise money for charity. I also talked to a non profit LARP group (Live Action Role Playing) who where there to drum up new members

For these people I'm going to need release forms, not just for the person but for the group. And I'm going to want proper contact info so I can credit them. They of course gave me consent to film but because they represent a group of people, I want to make sure I'm covered and beyond that, I support their causes and want to credit them. No matter how organized they are, they are fans and they are not looking for a profit

The other legal concern is locations. Very often film fests want to make sure you have permission to shoot in any venues in your film. Fan Expo itself is very liberal in its allowances for video. It's really a fantastic thing. You see camera crews all over the Ex and not just from TV and online stations. I felt very comfortable shooting there and never had an issue from the event staff .. except when I was standing in the wrong place. Hey, welcome to my world

Still, I will probably send them an email, let them know what I'm doing and get a response. And, again, I definitely want to properly credit them. After all, the Expo itself may emerge as the "star" of the video

The other location concern is the venue that hosted the Expo, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This is just as important, perhaps more so, than the Expo. This is the physical venue in which I was shooting and what film festivals are concerned with. Again, I'm hoping I'm covered because of the event itself. And I also want to credit them

I want to start this process now. I am a long ways from a finished product but while I'm waiting for my shoot with Nadia and before I get lost in the editing, I want to make sure I have this covered.

Now we come to logging footage. I began this process when I took the shots off the cam and put them on my computer. My cam can shoot in a variety of formats. For this shoot I chose HD 1080p at 60 frames per second. This gives me the best possible quality and because most web hosting sites want to compress your video (usually to 720 sometimes 1080) I feel that shooting at double the normal frame rate of 30 frames per second gives me the best chance of keeping my footage as clean as possible Plus, the slo mo is awesome

My Sony records the footage to its own internal hard drive. It compresses, or wraps,  the footage to MTS files that can not be edited, not by Final Cut, not by any editing system. So I have to unwrap the files in order to be able to edit them. I use a program called Clirpwrap and unwrap the files to Apple's ProRes 422 standard, which keeps the files at their original resolution and makes for easy editing in Final Cut

After each day of shooting I downloaded the files to my computer, unwrapping them in the process. This cleared off the cam's hard drive and allowed me to do my initial orgainiztion: I targeted the unwrapped clips to a folder for each day of the Expo. Labelled them Thursday, Friday etc.

In traditional edits, like for a drama, I would log all the shots, pen and paper or with a computer logging program, describing each shot and it's location so that later, in the edit suite, I can quickly assemble these shots to match the script. In this case, at this point, I don't have a script. Eventually I will write some narration and if Nadia does her VO, that will constitute the script. What I need to do now is figure out what I have to make that latter process easier. In a sense, logging the clips is like writing a rough draft of a script

Some of the how I want to organize is obvious; for instance I want to put all the interviews into one location. That way, not matter how the video goes, I can easily find those clips. Now, you can do this kind of organization right in Final Cut. I can bring in folders from the computer, like the folders of clips organized by day and then create new folders, what FC calls Bins. I would rather do this work in my Mac's Finder. I created a folder called Interviews and dragged all of those clips over from the Day folders. It's easier to do in the Finder because I can expand the clips in the graphic interface so that they are easily identifiable.

This will be a rinse and repeat process. I can sub-folder this (yes, I just made up a verb, deal with it) as much as I desire. Folders for all cosplay, a folder for all footage from the North Building, a folder for all footage from the South building, a folder each for Celebs, Comics, Horror, etc Hopefully this will make it easier later on as I'm assembling the video

OK, this was probably a boring post and it deals with some of the less exciting aspects of video creation but it's all essential stuff and honestly, I enjoy this process. It gives me a chance to review all the footage, I can organize it, mark it and in some cases just trash the clips that will never be used

In the meantime, I did cut a little music video/trailer video that can be viewed here on my other blog




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

FINAL FAN EXPO SHOOT

So Sunday was the last day of Toronto Fan Expo and thereby (duh) the last day of my shoot. It was the day I was supposed to meet up with Nadia and follow her through her Fan Expo experience

When I first envisioned this project I was thinking I would follow around some ardent fan as they interacted with the rest of Nerdom. Well, that is not what I got. Nadia is not a fan nor a nerd nor a geek. She came in costume as Black Cat but she is not really a cosplayer either. She is a roleplayer but not the sort you would find at a family friendly event.


Nadia showed up complete with her Spiderman, her own photographer and a couple of other superheroes. Not to mention a backback filled with handcuffs, riding crops and caution tape she later used to bind poor old Spidey up.

Yeh, not your average fan.

She was very much in "play" mode and was not very interested in stopping and talking to me. Some of that had to do with her entourage, they quickly became lost and disorganized without her. Most of the day was spent me following Nadia as she was stopped every four feet to have her picture taken, being asked for interviews etc

It did not take long for the play bag to get opened and soon Spidey was handcuffed, wrapped in caution tape, collared and led around by Nadia on a leash. I was curious to see what the reactions from the giant crowd would be and they were overwhelmingly positive. There were a lot of giggles, many "holy shit look at that" and from one little boy "Daddy, what did Spiderman do???"

It was interesting how some of the dedicated comic nerds seemed to totally disregard the fetish aspect of the scene and concentrate on the nuances of the costumes "That's the Black Cat from Issue 20" "Oh no, I would say it was from earlier than that" etc etc

Although mainstream comics probably do not dabble much in fetish it certainly is a large component in the fan scene. Nadia was attracted to some of the cosplay elements like corsets and waspies of course but there was also a lot of art on display that almost mirrored her play.

I know that that fan fiction, stories written purely by fans, often veer into the erotic and two of the most popular areas are LGBT and fetish. Fifty Shades of Grey, after all, started out as fan fiction based on the Twilight vampire books

An interesting moment happened when Spiderman (real name Brandon) asked Nadia to reverse the roles. So he collared her and led her on the leash. Miss Nadia was clearly unamused. More interestingly, there was very little reaction from the crowd. They seemed much more interested when Nadia was in control

As I followed them around I began to wonder how all of this would fit into my video. As I stated in an earlier post it's counter intuitive to shoot all the B roll before you do the principle shoot. How am I going to bring all this together; hours of convention footage and interviews with eager fans and Nadia playing our her fetish games on the convention floor

What I need is context.

My first instinct was to gather some shots of Nadia as she encountered certain events on the floor, showing her the footage and getting her reaction on cam. Then I could cut that into the video, perhaps mostly as voice over. Then I could contrast that with the other interviews I have, showing the diversity of experiences people are seeking when they go to the expo

Or, I could further explore the fetish elements of fandom, from costplay and art (which is ripe with stilettos and corsets and chicks getting tied up) to the fan fiction to roleplaying. That would require more info, back ground research and really, more interviews with people into the fan-comic-fetish scene, not just Nadia's perspective. That sounds like a whole other video to me, and perhaps I will go there but that would be a larger project with much more work ahead

At this point I need to touch base with Nadia, get some interviews from her, try to get that context before I can even determine if I have an actual video here



Saturday, August 30, 2014

FAN EXPO SHOOT DAY THREE

Two full days shooting at the Fan Expo. Sore feet, massively sore ankle, sore back and I'm actually kind of tired of seeing nubile female bodies in Spandex. I'm sure I'll get over that last part

It's been going well. My equipment choices have worked out well. Unfortunately, right at the end of today's shoot, I had an issue with my Rode shotgun mic. The base plat that slides on to the camera's hotshoe snapped. Which means for the moment that I can't easily fit it to the camera. What is really odd is that I was warned about that very thing by a total stranger less than three hours before it happened.

It was a clean break down the middle, one half of the base plate is still on the cam so I hope I can fix it. In the meantime I can use the Sony's shotgun for the shoot tomorrow

Tomorrow, the last day of the Expo, I will be shooting with Nadia. Up to this point I've been shooting a tone of B Roll and doing interviews with fans and exhibitors alike. Pretty generic stuff, really. I sort of fell back on my  old habit of making a promo video .. it would be a really really go promo video but that isn't what I'm going for here

I'm hoping that by following Nadia the video will go in a different direction. What I am looking for here is focus or, if you will, a focal point. I have a feeling that following Nadia and recording her and the reactions she will likely receive will make the video anything but generic

I have been shooting my interviews in various locations around the Expo in natural light. Mostly that has been working with me. The Sony has a big image sensor for the size of the cam and the 1080p 60fps is really getting everything it can out of the light. Fleshtones is where you begin to have problem with ambient light, particularly the various kinds of indoor lights.

Tomorrow I may bring my Lumahawk, a battery powered multi LED light. It is dimmable and I can adjust the colour temp, that is adjusting it from blue and yellow. I intend to use it with a diffuser and set to not quite full, I want to use it as "fill" adding warmth and tone to the skin. Nadia is quite pale, with bleach blond hair and her Black Cat costume is ... well .. black. So I don't want her face to ghost out and I don't want to lose the detail in her black outfit. That's when you need a light. Normally I would prefer indirect lighting, bouncing the light off a wall for instance but that won't be possible tomorrow, I will have to camera mount it. It will be worth a try though. The light is very .... well .. light so if it doesn't work out I can just throw it back into my pack

I've been packing my GoPro, it's so small I almost always do. I have yet to use it but perhaps I will find a way tomorrow. I like to set it up with it's wide angle and shoot long shots for time lapses. In the chaos of the Fan Expo I was leery about setting it up but I'll have people with me tomorrow

The way I'm shooting right now is entirely opposite how I would shoot a promo video. If it was based on an interview or central subject I would shoot that first then go out to shoot B Roll to match the interview. B Roll is cutaways, used to illustrate what the subject was talk about. What I did this time was shoot the B Roll first then shoot the subject.

But then, what I'm doing with Nadia is not really an inteview. It is true cinema verite, just letting things happen as they happen and recording that. A lot of my B Roll will work, if nothing else, as establishing shots: Here is the Expo, here are people other than Nadia at the expo etc. The interviews I've done, I'm not sure how they will fit in. Complimenting Nadia's experience? Contrasting it?

I'm letting Fate write this script. God, I better go talk to her agent






Friday, August 29, 2014

FAN EXPO SHOOT DAY ONE

Yesterday, Thurs Aug 28 was my first day at Fan Expo. It was the opening day, a half day really, from 4 pm to 8 pm

It's always big but this year it's even bigger, taking up both halls of the Metro Convention Centre. I have two purposes for attending the Expo, making my documentary and attending panels and networking to promote my graphic novel concept, The Howl. There were no panels in which I was interested yesterday so I went with film making in mind

I had to put some thought into what gear I would taking. I'm a one man band as it were (and we are glad that that is only a euphemism, me in any kind of band would be beyond nightmare) so I have to bring gear that will get me what I want but that will also allow me to travel light.

There was not doubt that I was going to bring my Soney NX cam. It is tiny, it is tough and I love the image quality. It allows me to shoot in a variety of HD formats, from 20 fps (frames per second) to 14 to 60. I knew I wasn't going to shoot in 24 fps, the oh so beloved "film look". The quality of that speed on the Sony is pretty good but it is most suited to exterior shots, particularly night or fall type lighting. Inside, in artificial lighting I actually prefer to shoot at 60 fps 1080p.

It does not look like a film. Well I am not shooting a film, I am shooting a video. The images are bright, clean, sharp and vibrant. The film look has its place but I like shooting video. And I think for this project, this clear sharp video is exactly what I want.

The NX is a remarkably stable little cam. It has a floating lens and very good image stabilization but nothing replaces a tripod for steadiness, especially if you plan to do interviews and "streeters" which I certainly wanted to do. There are many stabilization options out there. I have several of them.

Fan Expo attracts a lot of video crews, both official and unofficial. The trend these days is to use a DSLR just so you can get that film look. I like the image quality of these cameras but for me, they are not EFP (electronic field production) cameras, that is cameras that you can use on the fly, on the run, in fluid situations

DSLRs are, after all, still cameras. And although most of them have image stabilization is a common feature it is stabilization for still photography. The rigs that these DSLR shooters use make me giggle, not only is the cam in a big cage (with a video return monitor, mics) it seems the operator is as well

For yesterday's shoot I decided to bring my trusty Monfrotto monopod. This thing is old. At least twenty five years. It's a bit bit up but it's a beast, you may be able to kill it but you can't wound it. It is made from high quality aluminum, it is light but tough as hell, I have put some very heavy cameras on it without hesitation. It has three sections with quick release tabs so I can extend it and retract it very quickly. It does not have a quick release head, which sometimes is a problem, but generally I screw it on to the cam and leave it there; fully retracted it's a little under two feet long and makes a nice handle.

The one thing the Monfrotto lacks that I would love to have is a pan and tilt head but I'm working on that.

My next concern was audio. Like all camcorders the Sony has a built in cam and it's not bad. Far better than any built in cam of any DSLR. But I wanted to do interviews and in a big noisy environment of the Expo, the little condensor mic would not cut it. My old Sony handycam was a consumer cam and id not have mic inputs. The NX, for all it's diminutive size, is a pro cam. It comes with an audio deck with XLR (big boy audio) inputs and a shotgun mic. It's a good shotgun mic but I have a Rode mic that really is full on pro and and I can clamp that to the Sony.

I shot a couple of interviews last night in very noisy areas were I could barely hear the person but the mic did a remarkable job, overall very clear and with a bit of filtering in post, I will be very happy with the results.

One of the days of the Expo I will probably bring my new stabilizer, a wierd looking thing with counterbalances that allows graceful, smooth tracking shots. It's a bit cumbersome to pack but the monopod works well in its retracted position, giving me extra stability.

I'm off to the Expo today. I will take my gear of course and shoot as much as I can (the Sony has a 90 gig HD that allows for, at highest quality, about 9 straight hrs of shooting which should do very well) but today will be more about panels and networking and trying to sell the graphic novel script.

But yeh, I will definitely still be in my annoying-old-guy-with-a-cam mode. Beware, nerds, beware



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THE NEW PROJECT: THE FAN EXPO DOC

I've been lucky in my video career to have worked in a variety of environments.

I worked as part of a production crew for Seneca College Media Productions where we produced video training tapes (yes, tape as in video tape Google it) and promotional material for the college. It was a great first job; my principle duties were as a VTR op doing everything from logging tapes to operating the decks in the A/B Roll edit bay .. don't google that, I suspect you won't find out what the hell that means. But I was also able to go on shoots, getting valuable hands on experience in lighting, audio and some camera work

I have had brief forays into TV .. and we should all be glad they were brief. I worked for YTV as a VTR op and quickly learned that the control room of a TV enterprise was not for me.

My other TV gig was as the on-air promotions writer at the Shopping Channel. This suited me much better, drawing on my skills as a writer and my background in Promotions. Alas, all good things come to an end as it did one Black Friday for about 40 of us

For a year I ran a training program sponsored by the Bramption Youth Initiative and the John Howard Society .. don't ask me why, it just was. I loved that job, spreading my bullshit .. er .. knowledge to people learning the basics of video production and creating some very good videos for community public service organizations

Then I entered the longest phase of my career, working as an editor and writer for Videopulse Productions, creating a wide variety of non broadcast video: Promo, corporate, training and live event. Lots and lots and lots of live event, principally weddings.

After about 10 yrs that company folded and I went freelance. Mostly I earned my living as a live event editor with the odd promo video  thrown in. For these videos I was able to do everything, writing, camera as well as the post production.

Add to that my college "movies" I consider myself very lucky to have worked in and create a wide variety of videos. I have also created several videos for film festivals, some of which brought me some success. The video below won third place at the Amplify Me Video Festival in Florida



Are You There from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.
The one area in which I have no experience is the documentary/reality field. Well, let's change that.

I have been attending comic cons and the massive Fan Expo in Toronto for many years now. I usually go for a day, buy some comics, some games, some art and shoot video which I turn into music style videos for my own amusement

Here's one that I did for Comic Con last year


Toronto Comic Con 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

This year, the 20th anniversary of the Fan Expo, I decided to change things up a bit. I'm going for all four days of the Expo (well three and a half) with the intent of shooting not a promo/trailer style vid but a documentary

My new Sony NX handycam is proving to be a pretty amazing cam for such a small package, I have some solid audio and stabilizing gear and I think this will be a great opportunity to really see what the package can do

Documentaries tend to be made as they are made, that is as you shoot and collect footage, the story is written. But I still like to have a direction.  I will have a lot of access, with this time available to me, so I can shoot stuff I never have before, telling the story of the expo in a general sense. I hope to encounter people who may be willing to quickly jump on cam and talk to me, what we call "streeters" or "man on the street"

But as Oliver said: "But I want more" And that is Oliver Twist, by the way, but it could equally be Oliver North

I wanted to go beyond the sound bites you get from streeters. I wanted to find someone who was coming to the Expo, get their permission to "follow" them and document their experience. I would mix it in with interview footage that would give some background on the person, why they went there, what their interests are etc

But where would I find someone who would agree to this? Hello Craigslist my old friend. I put an ad on the site basically outlining what I was looking for. I guess I was envisioning some young person, an avid fan of comics/anime/sci fi/cosplay who was going to the expo to show off their costume and hang out with their friends

What I got, was Nadia

She is a young woman attending the expo for the first time. She is going with a guy who has been around the comicon scene for a while, she will be Black Cat to his Spiderman. Nadia has very little background in comics or fandom but comes from the fetish cosplay world.
We met and I found a very bright, very excited, very cute girl who was happy to enter into what, for her, is a new world and was very happy to have me follow her and record her reactions, her thoughts etc.
Not what I expected but I think it may give me a new perspective on the situation. So we are going to meet up Sunday and spend the day at the Expo together. I predict that it will not be dull.
One thing I know about documentaries, the post is important and it can take a while. I do intend to shoot a lot of footage (really Vic? No shit) so the process will take a while. But I intend to document, as much as I can, on this blog.
So, stay tuned, same Bat time, same Black Cat With a Whip channel


Saturday, January 18, 2014

A VISION OF CAMERAS GONE BY

There are guys who are car guys. Car guys may make their living off or with their cars or they are just guys who love cars. These kinds of guys will go through cars in their life, sometimes lots of cars. Sometimes they may have multiple cars at the same time. Other times, they may have cars that no longer run but they can't bear to be parted from them.

These kinds of guys may write posts about their cars, old and new

Well, I once posted about my new car but I am not a car guy. I am, however, a camera guy, a video camera guy. I used them to make a living and I use em just for fun. And over the years I have owned several of them

This past week I began to own a new one

The first camera I owned was a Hitachi VHS camcorder. You remember VHS don't you, video tapes that produced an image that was oversaturated, fuzzy and carried the audio mixed in with the video .. wait, you don't even know what "tape" is  .. Um, move on. That cam was a huge clunky thing that recorded to tapes the size of a dictionary but at least it used CCDs (chips) instead of tubes, as did the cameras that learned to shoot with.

I went a lot of places with that big old camera, including Collette and mine's first vacation together, to Quebec City

Quebec City 1992 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.
VHS was a consumer format, both to watch and to record on. Pros in those days where using 1" tape for broadcast and cams that shot on 3/4" tapes for field recording. The first "prosumer" format was probably S-VHS. This was a format used by wedding guys, corporate producers, even cable stations and some smaller TV stations. My second cam was a Panasonic SVHS-C cam. It was considerably smaller than the Hitachi, not quite a palmcorder but very manageable. It had a great lens on it and three CCDs to the Hitachi's one. It also had a superior mic

I liked that Panasonic but the problem was with the format. SVHS-C was a smaller tape which led to that smaller cam. A full size SVHS tape was capable of recording two hours .. the SVHS-C tapes were around 30 minutes. And the image, although better than VHS could produce a decent image in well lighted exterior conditions but pretty much sucked everywhere else. Still, the smaller size of thing opened up a lot of possibilities. I took that cam on our trip to Belize.

Mayan Cities of Belize from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

That camera eventually went the way of the dinosaurs as did its format. Mini-DV would my next flavour in video formats. These were little tapes that could hold up to an hour of footage and although still compressed, were definitely superior to S VHS

I bought a little consumer mini DV Sanyo from a local guy off of eBay. This was a true palmcorder, much smaller than the Panasonic, and I could literally carry it in my pocket. I began to take that cam everywhere with me, including out with the dogs. This was never a camera with professional ambitions but it had a wicked long optical zoom, a flip out LCD monitor and was surprisingly rugged. It was this cam that got me into the habit of chronicling everything .. er .. blame that guy from eBay


The Nautical Festival from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

That little cam was fun but it was far from being professional. Mini DV was a decent tape format but the little Sanyo could not use it to its full potential. Enter my next eBay purchase: The Canon XL1. This was another large camera, almost the size of that hold VHS. But it was a true professional camera: A great lens (that was interchangeable), a solid shotgun mic, the ability to input audio on two channels, XLR audio jacks and a full range of manual options. I loved that cam, I still have it, this format has passed us by but I hung on to the cam because it was a truly pro camera .. maybe not broadcast (though it was certainly used for that) but pro.

I shot a lot of video with that camera, there are a lot to choose from so I pretty much picked this one at random


Nuit Blanche Toronto from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

When Collette and I were planning our trip to Iceland I was thinking of taking the XL1 with me. But the thing is damn big and I knew lugging it around lava fields and glacial run offs may not be practical. The Sanyo handycam showed me the advantage of something small that you can take anywhere, but I was spoiled by the Canon's image quality and its pro features.

Collette knew she wanted to buy some camera gear for the trip so I accompanied her to Henry's and I met the Sony HDR, a palm sized cam that boasted two important features that I had never before used: HD video and an internal hard drive. In fact, the HDR has a massive hard drive, 120 gigs, you can fit around 15 hrs of full quality footage on it, and I've never come close to filling it up.

When I bought the cam I envisioned taking it as a backup to the XL1. Luckily I bought the cam advance enough of the trip that I had a lot of time to shoot with it. I was blown away. The Zeiss lens, the CMoss image sensor and the HD format produced images much better than I expected. It did not have the features of the Canon; I can't plug a mic into it, the manual controls are very limited but the image quality is superior the mini DV format in most ways

Needless to say, that little Sony was the one only camcorder I took to Iceland


ICELAND EDITED: DAY THREE from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

That cam has come with us on many trips and many adventures. As I said, over the last two years the HDR has shot most of the the videos on this blog, including those I've entered into film festivals. I love the image quality but it is a consumer cam. I've been planning projects where this cam may not be enough. I miss the pro features of my Canon.

DSLRs have come into the video way in a big way. It's not surprising. Their high quality lenses and huge image sensors and full range of manual and automatic controls allows these "still" cams to shoot very high quality HD video images. The lenses and the image sensors allow DSLRs to give you more control over your depth of field, creating sharp foreground images and soft background images, even inside in tight confines, giving a normally flat video image a sense of depth

Collette bought a Nikon D7000 for its improved photographic capabilities but it also shoots video. I do like the quality of the video but for me, it's not a video camera. For one thing, we don't have what Nikon terms VR lenses, or vibration reduction lenses, handholding the thing is a nightmare. I've noticed guys shooting with VR lenses though and they have to use steadicams or huge elaborate rigs just to get a clean shot. That does not suit my cam-in-pocket run n gun style of shooting. And although you can plug a decent mic into the Nikon, the audio capabilities fail in comparison to my Canon.

DSLRs are used by people making TV commercials, even series and small movies, situations where you have lots of time and lots of control over your shots. DSLRS can shoot at 24 frames per second (opposed to the TV standard of 30) and it gives the video a rich, dynamic range that people thinks approximates film. This footage is heavily processed in post. Some day I may make a little movie but I don't stay up at night worrying about it. The Nikon is Collette's cam, she has no problem with letting me use it but I have not been inspired to buy one for myself


St Lawrence Market Neighbourhood from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

So what's a boy to do? I wanted more pro features, I wanted the ability to shoot in other formats but I need something small and steady and easy to use on the move .. well a boy finds a deal on a new cam and he goes and snares it.

Last week I bought myself another Sony palmcorder. The HVR-NX30U is a small HD cam with a hard drive but unlike the HVR it is not a consumer cam.


As you can see from the pic above, the NX is not your average consumer palmcorder. Much like my old Canon it has an audio deck that allows you to record on each channel and set the recording level on each channel. It also used XLR jacks which allows you to use very high end mics and other audio gear. The whole deck, along with the shotgun mic can be removed if weight and space is a concern. Under that deck is another mic, the built in zoom mic, which is pretty good and you can plug in a mic that uses a mini plug, like the nice Rode shotgun I bought for the Nikon

This cam can record a variety of HD video formats, including at 24 fps. One of the things I'm most interested in is the stability you can get with this cam. Besides electronic image stabilization, the Sony features a floating lens; it should give you the ability to shoot very steady shots even when hand held

It has a lot of manual settings. Like the HDR most of its options are electronic and accessed through the touch screen, the problem I found with that cam was going through the long and somewhat clunky menus. The NX allows you to assign three functions (for instance exposure, iris and shutter) to three buttons that live right on the LCD screen, making them easy to access. Even better you can assign another function, like focus, to a physical knob on the body of the cam; I'm an old video guy and I love the feel or an actual dial you can actually turn to bring things in and out of focus .. or whatever you need

It has all the other pro functions that I was trained on: Color bars, audio levels, zebra stripes (to indicate "hot" spots in the shot), time code and much more. Very much like the XLR but in a tiny package and with the advantage of HD and digital recording

I can definitely do pro work with this cam, promo vids to web for instance and more film festival work. It's also small and light and steady and great for taking on trips with Collette .. or rambles in the park with Terra

So here is the first of many adventures to come

G Ross Lord Park: Sony HXR-NX30U First Shoot from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

THE LAZY PERSON'S GUIDE TO SUBMITTING TO FILM FESTIVALS

Film festival season is once again upon us. All over the world wannabe movie makers are grabbing their DSLRs and homemade steadicam rigs and shooting oblique angles of their friends with lots of focus pulls .. you have to have focus pulls.

Or, you could be like me, old and cranky and lazy. And go through footage you shot a year ago and pull that into something that closely resembles the brief of the festival. Or be even lazier and just re-edit an existing video

Case in point, two videos I've recently submitted to two different festivals. These are 69 second film festivals, which is fairly self explainatory. I like the 60 second format, I actually like anything that puts restrictions on my film making, my professional career made me deadline oriented and I tend to work better when someone provides me with parameter to work within.

Freedom .. scary.

The 60 Second or Less Film Festival comes out of Washington College in the US and was open to both students and non students. By the time I found the festival, the entry deadline was just a few days away,  so to wiggle myself off the hook, there really wasn't time to create a new video. There is a special award in the festival for films with some kind of social awareness. I decided to recycle the video I made last year for the Amplify Me festival in Florida, that festival's brief was to create a video that addressed interpersonal communications in modern society. My original video won third place at that festival so I thought, what the hell, let's see what I could do.

The original video had a running length of two minutes and forty three seconds, a short video but still far too long for a 60 second film fest. So it had to be recut. Yay. I like editing things. Comes with being an editor. I especially like to edit my own stuff, I am definitely a less is more kind of guy.

Are You There, the name of the original film, was a lot of shots of people on the street, original music, information screens, layers of sound effects and voice over segments. I built the video step by step, and as is my way, worked very hard to pare off any "fat" but now I would have to just hack the thing to pieces. Here's the original video


My original thought was to was to cut out a lot of the people shots and maintain the data screens. As I worked, it was clear that that would not be possible. So then I had to decide which info screens had to go in order for the film still to work. I had to go through them and decide: Which of these screens point the viewer to the message I'm trying to convey; in this case, which screens (and which shots for that matter) told the story of how cell phone technology may actually be pulling us apart rather than bringing us together. Here's the 60 version that I submitted, I think  it was successful


The second film festival that I cannibalized a video for was one that I had entered before. Matt Lawrence runs an annual film festival out in Vashon Washington. I submitted a film to the festival last year and Matt invited me to do another one.

The deadline for this one was tight but not impossible. Last year I had submitted a kind of creepy little video and I wanted to do something different this year, something more fun. I had just thrown together a little video for fun, just for the heck of it and I thought it may fit the bill. It was, of course, too long for the festival.


So once again I had to go through the video and cut out the fat. Not from Terra, she's lean and mean .. but you know what I mean. Again, I had a video with images and info screens .. are we getting the hint that I perhaps disdain dialogue or voice over? Anyway, the challenge was to take this 3 minute video, cut it down to one minute and still get my point across. First step was to cut out some of the pics for each "section", so instead of having three shots of Terra for each info screen have one or two.

That still left me way over the target length. After some time of wasting my time (and let's be honest, if you're going to waste your time, you'd rather do it yourself) a lightbulb flickered on over my head. OK it's a dim light bulb, coated in dust but it still goes on .. for a while. It became obvious: Instead of having the "dialogue" screens on black, as separate shots, super them over the pics. And of course just tighten up the pics, trimming a couple seconds off each. This pretty easily got me to my target length; each one of this white on black screens was 3 to 4 seconds, but superimposing them, I cut out a lot of time without much altering the nature of the video. Here is the final product.


There is another 60 film festival on the horizon but for this one, I may actually have to get off my lazy ass and create something original.

No wait, by re editing or recycling existing videos I'm not being lazy, I'm being environmentally aware.