Putting the marketing construct to the test...Making photographs and video in the same session.

Equipped for fast moving work.

Things move fast when your intentions are linear and well defined. I've been working on a marketing message for hybrid creative content and I believe I know where most of my mid-tier corporate clients are sticking their feet in and testing the waters. They want video interviews and short programming for their websites and associated web marketing and they want still images to compliment or introduce the video. My message is very succinct and direct: I can help you get both halves of the equation with one set up and one appointment. We can set up lighting that works well for both video and still imaging. We can provide big, rich digital still images at very high resolution and we can turn right around, at the flick of dial and give you juicy, 1080p, 60fps video with great sound. We set up one set of lights and use them for everything. We set up one camera and get you the kind of stylistic and visual continuity that wasn't even possible just four or five years ago.

The still and video images can be intercut or dissolved between with none of the obvious technical disconnections (different depth of field, different color renderings, etc.) that come from using a big sensor still camera and a smaller sensor video camera. If we can capture it all on one sensor I just makes sense that the imagery will match up. And that's important when your message needs to be able to go back and forth from still to motion, seamlessly.

We are currently using large, fluorescent light banks, modified by cinema-style flags, diffusers and nets to create lighting that works well for either medium. By using weaker diffusers we can add additional snap to the video and by adding more diffusion we can create softer transitions for still imaging which can be more easily enhanced in post production.

matching impedance is a lovely thing.

So, how is all this working out? Well, we've done two hybrid shoots nearly back to back with the most recent one taking place yesterday morning. One of the large medical practices (think: over 100 physicians) is investigating an app which can scan an image on a print advertisement and then delivery a targeted video directly to your phone or other mobile device. Their idea? Click on the doctor in an ad and go straight to a video that dissolves from the still into a full on video of the doctor giving the positive talking points about the practice. Seems interesting since everyone has a smart phone now.  They asked me to come over and provide both halves of the equation for two different subjects. 

When I first arrived we were scheduled into a big meeting space but the air conditioning was so loud that it almost drowned out the noise from the ice machine! We steered the cart down the hall to a smaller, much quieter conference room and set up there. 

I like to be at a shooting location about an hour before our first subject is scheduled to walk in. It gives me time to set up lighting and backgrounds and test all the system. 

I lit the set up with two identical fluorescent lights (four bulbs each) as the main and fill lights. I used one with a two stop diffuser for the fill light and one with a 3/4 stop diffuser as the main light. Big, bright and soft. I lit the gray, seamless background with a small, two bulb, bank, and added a very subtle backlight with a Fiilex P360 LED fixture. We were shooting at ISO 160, f4 at 1/50th of a second (1080p at 24 fps). I set up a Rode NTG 2 microphone on a microphone stand and plugged it into my Beachtek mixer which acts as a transformer to match impedance between the microphone output and the camera's microphone input. I monitored the sound with closed back headphones and it was gorgeous.

This is the Rokinon Cinema style 35mm f1.5 lens. It's great. We used its big brother,
the 85mm 1.5 for yesterday's project.

I worked by getting my portrait done first. This allowed the art director and I to fine tune the image. Once we had a good portrait on the memory card I switched over to video mode and we worked to match the expression and placement of our subject as well as we could and we starting rolling on the first part of the scripted presentation. The idea was to be close so we could bring the video out of the still via a dissolve.

When I got back to the studio office I pulled the large, RAW still portraits off the memory card and processed them in Aperture. I tossed away about half the images for each subject so my client wouldn't have to wade through half closed eyes, weird grins and the typical stuff portrait subjects come up with as they struggle with the self-conscious selves in front of the camera. Once I edited and color corrected the "keepers" I exported the files as mid-sized jpegs and uploaded them to Smugmug, into a private web gallery so the client could browse through and select the keeper from each subject. I'll take each selected file and make all kinds of tonal corrections, and retouch blemishes and skin issues via either PhotoShop or Portrait Professional 11. Or both.

Once the gallery was sent off I got to work on the video footage. Now, I'm not the editor for this project but I do believe in providing good quality footage and, just as in still imaging, there's a lot you can do to fine tune a file in post production. I use the first clip for each subject to build a series of corrections which I can then stamp on all similar clips. I use Final Cut Pro X and I do scoped corrections for exposure, saturation and color. I want snappy and open but with a good, black base.

I turn over the corrected footage and the original camera files on a DVD to the client with notes about what I did for the corrected footage. It's delivered in Pro Res 422 and the files can be large.

I know we photographers get carried away in praising our tools from time to time but I really do want to share just how great the a99 is for shooting video. From the focus peaking to the real time audio level control just about everything on the a99 is optimized to help me create good, solid video products.

The client was very pleased with both halves of the project and we talked about doing one or two of these a month for the near future. Our previous project was for a high tech manufacturer's website video and, while there isn't ongoing work there they were very enthusiastic about the idea of only having to sit in front of the camera once in order to accomplish two very different (but very similar) tasks. 

I am continuing to promote this kind of hybrid approach to content creation. Once we've got it wired in I'll start on phase X, the writing of the scripts... but I'm having so much fun learning to do this stuff step by step.

(Note: We don't normally use a microphone on camera but did it here for the sake of the photograph. We'll use the photograph, taken with the new Samsung NX300, for some of our direct print marketing.)


Michael Ferron said...

Impressive rig to look at! You pros need it. Glad I am a hack shooter. I'd get a headache trying to make that stuff work. :)

Anonymous said...

Give us more test reports on mirrorless cameras. If you've run out of things to say and need some suggestions, how about: Nikon versus Canon? How about mirrorless versus dinosaur cameras? How about individual tests of your one hundred favorite lenses? Tell us which compact camera is the best performing. Which bridge camera should I use for BIF? Etc.

G Gudmundsson said...

Very interesting, thanks...

Richard Leacock said...

Another great article. Really appreciate and look forward to the "meat and potatoes" of the process you go through. Not just the stills but also the video. The technical aspects and the thought processes involved with the job, dealing with clients and their needs and reacting to the marketplace, this helps photographers and/or filmmakers. It illuminates what's happening on the ground. Helps immensely.

David I said...

Kirk, I find your comments about the changing marketplace and new client needs very interesting.

Dave said...

I (as always) find tremendous value in these posts. The hybrid world is here to stay and though its not easy blaze new trails that's what I think you are doing.

Guess I better copy all my favorite tips into PDF files in case you weed them out again! :)

Mark Farrelly said...

Hi kirk,
Thanks for your blog, it's great to see your positive approach to photography. Its great to read about how you deal with situations and running us through your equipment. I am going through the change in the market as we all are, to hybrid photography, after 20 years its a fun learning curve.
Thanks from Mark in Australia