The perils of divided attention. Or...why audio stuff is always the video component that bites you on the ass.


On a side street in Rome. Taken with permission. Mamiya 6 and 75mm lens.

You never know when but you know you're going to screw up something at some point. 

I worked all afternoon on a video project with a good friend yesterday. We did our filming at a location about 20 miles from our respective home bases. I was working as a one person crew and every was going very smoothly. When I got up this morning I swam, had breakfast and then headed into the studio to scrub through my footage and make sure everything was good. I also wanted to get the files imported into a Final Cut Pro X library and also back it up on a second drive. When I spot checked each clip they all looked great. Same exposures, same colors and very good focus throughout. I was happy. 

After lunch I circled back to check out the audio we did for the "opener" and the "goodbye" sequences but I wasn't too concerned as we were having Kenny lip sync the two (important content) songs from recordings he made in the studio --- which also sound fantastic. 

I checked the audio in all the opening sequences and it was right on the money. I remember setting the levels and also monitoring the audio with a pair of earbuds. It sounded great. I was elated. We shot some other stuff in between and then took the camera off the gimbal, added the same audio interface I used for the "hello/welcome" speech and placed the microphone exactly. I must have been tired/distracted/stupid or concentrating too much on the visual side of things but at some point the phantom power button on the audio interface got turned off and no power flowed to the microphone. I carefully watched Kenny's performance to make sure we nailed focus and I guess I just assumed that we were getting the same good audio I'd monitored on the earlier shot. 

The sad thing is that I know better and I got sloppy. I should have had a set of headphones on and been monitoring everything in the "intro" and "outro" speeches. I should have been paying more attention to the audio levels. I would have caught the mistake immediately. But I got overly confident in my "one man band" abilities and now I get to fix my mistake. 

Our options are to re-shoot at the same location (more difficult) or to have Kenny come in to the studio and try to ADR to his original speech by watching his own lips (still difficult). We'll try recording in the studio first and if we can't make it work we'll default to plan "B" and reshoot that precious (and needed) 8 seconds of audio, along with its matching video, on Tuesday evening. Thank goodness we don't have an immediate deadline to deal with. 

So, I make mistakes. I'd almost forgotten that. It sure hit me in the face this time. 

I'm putting myself back in remedial studies. For the next ten shoots I'll pull out the laminated check list and do every step by the numbers. Thank goodness I'm not a brain surgeon.

I just remembered why big productions have a sound engineer and a different guy on the camera and another guy on lighting and another......

The best way to deal with screw-ups is to figure out where you fell down and how to fix it and to own up to your mistake as soon as possible. Procrastinating can limit your client's options and make things worse. A timely "mea culpa" followed by a good fix is always the best way. 

Jeez. And here I thought I had it all going on.

Gone Fishing. Well, not me. But a doctor who fly-fishes. And we only went fishing to make a print ad.

I don't fish. I really never warmed up to the whole idea of fishing although I can see the appeal of getting out of town, standing thigh deep in cool water and taking a break from the real world. But just like golf there are activities I know I'll never have an inclination to take up. 

My photographer friend, Paul, loves fly-fishing and has gone on adventures in far off places like Patagonia armed with just a (nice) point and shoot camera and his fishing gear. He's gone for weeks and always seems to come back with a smile on his face and stories to tell. Oddly, the stories are hardly ever about fishing and much more often about great meals he had in places like Argentina, where he stopped along the way. 

Like photography fly-fishing seems replete with opportunities to impoverish oneself. There is costume (waders, vests, special shirts, and trendy hats) and there is gear. Rods, reels, flies and special lines. But a lot of the cost is that you need a nice river in which fish and those are hard to find right next to hot and dusty Texas towns. 

If I were to take up the hobby I'd want to practice it somewhere delightful. Like in a nearly frozen stream in Iceland or someplace picturesque like Scotland. 

So, how did I get on the topic of fly fishing? Well, we do a bunch of imaging for a cool group of Oral Surgeons here in Austin. Each time they add a new associate they "introduce" him to the community with a run of print ads in community newspapers and general interest magazines. Each doctor is presented doing something they love. One of the ads featured a competitive water skier, another surrounded by his carpentry projects, and still another on a nice road bike. 

The practice's latest addition, Dr. Szalay, is an avid fly-fisher. Since he grew up around Austin he knows all the local (within 50 miles?) places to go out for a day and cast a line. When I was hired to take his photo he knew just the right place. We met there just before labor day, parked near a crowded park and walked for a while to get to this secluded spot. It was a hot day and the sun was blazing but every once in a while we were blessed with a little cluster of high, puffy clouds marching their way through a clear blue sky. 

I positioned the doctor for just the right composition and we talked about how we both wanted the image to look. Almost on command a small herd of fluffy clouds performed their duty as soft diffusers, floating their way between the sun and my subject, and we shot 25 or 30 frames of him casting out his line. Looking through the photos it was the 10th image that contained everything the art director had asked for. 

We walked back to our cars and chatted mostly about how much Austin has changed since I moved here and since his childhood. We also talked about fishing. I'm still not a convert. It's a messy hobby. 

The art director and the marketing director were happy with the shots and we did the post production on the selected raw file on the same day. They had a deadline to hit on the next day. 

The trip down to our location took an hour. The trip back was a bit longer. I drove back the long way so I could luxuriate in the rolling hills out to the west. Anything to stay off the north/south highway from hell we call I-35. The actual photography took just ten minutes or so. 

It was one of those jobs that just rolls through the camera almost un-propelled by conscious thought. I used a Lumix S1R and the S-Pro 70-200mm but honestly, I could have used just about any camera with a reasonably long lens. The S1R does a great job holding on to the highlights, and since the files are so large and detailed I had no fears about the effects of a big crop. 

Sometimes things just fall into place. Either that or practicing this kind of work thousands and thousands of times actually pays off. 

Nice afternoon. Good subject. Great client. 

That's my fishing story. Now I have to start editing my latest "music video."