I'm getting ready to schedule 50 different people for portraits. They'll make individual appointments and will need to come to my studio. We (the client and I) don't want overlap between appointments so we can ensure that we're working safe during this flare up of Delta Variant Covid. We're letting everyone know that we can only have one person/subject/customer in the studio at a time. This kind of scheduling, across 50 people, creates some interesting logistics. (and yes, I will be masked the whole time!).
From a photography point of view it's a fun and straightforward job. We're following a style of lighting and background that I created for them about four years ago. The studio will be set up and ready so really the only difficult aspect is getting everyone to chime in, schedule up and follow directions. They are all bright professionals but it dawned on me the other day, as I was putting the schedule template together, that my usual practice of writing a long page of instructions, dates, times and other details might not be the optimum way for everyone to access the information. Not everyone enjoys reading the details and since we have the technology I thought it was high time to make a video which could be used interchangeably with the printed material to get all the important information out efficiently.
I wrote a quick script outline, taped some talking points to the legs of a tripod and got to work. I used the Panasonic S5 with the "kit" 20-60mm lens and an ancient, Olympus stereo microphone clipped to my shirt placket. I stood in front of a white background and made the video of myself. I introduced myself, then the project, then the way we were planning to handle appointments, then what the client's dress code is, a few tips about having portraits done, and a quick segment on locating my studio. At the end I thanked them for listening and told them I looked forward to working with them.
I used a bunch of photographs for b-roll. Some funny and some just straight forward. I used a bunch of type in the lower thirds of the frames to reinforce important things like due dates, my contact info, scheduling info and the like.
The video was created in 1080p and I was surprised when I pulled the footage into Final Cut Pro X and saw how detailed, sharp and perfectly color balanced it was. I didn't monitor the audio with headphones because it would have looked so dorky but I did a few tests, before starting, to find a good level setting that would not overload the meters. I sure don't think a video for this kind of project needs to be shot in 4, 6 or 8K and I sure wouldn't want to waste the bandwidth hosting it.
My intention with the video is to make sure everyone has the information they need to get scheduled and get here on time for their sittings. Some people like to read and some people like to watch so I'm trying to deliver content in both media to accommodate different information acquisition styles. And it was fun to play around with.
The video took only a few minutes to roughly script, about five minutes to shoot, 30-40 minutes to edit and I ended up with a tight program of about 4 minutes. I'm hosting it on a private link at Vimeo. I'm working with the marketing team at the client firm to broadcast all the information (text and video) out to their folks. My hope it to get everyone scheduled into the earlier (second and third) weeks of September so I have enough time to create individual web galleries for selection and the time to retouch the final choices.
It's a different approach for me but maybe it's long past time that I created a secondary method of client communication. Times they are a changing.
One note about the Panasonic S5: I've read reviews that still diss Panasonic for their C-AF performance in video. I had the camera set up for face recognition and during all five minutes of filming I didn't see a single "hunt", "wobble", "glitch" or other focus fault. The camera locked in on my face immediately and never let go. That's not to say that it will follow a runner wending his way at high speeds through a dense forest of thick trees but for the kinds of interview stuff most people use their hybrid cameras for I could not have asked for better performance. My guess is that some of the people writing these harping reviews are so lazy they'd love to hire someone to chew their food for them... Want absolutely perfect focus? Get a cinema lens and hire a focus puller. Or just use your S5 correctly.
My goal this week? Get the information to the customers in any media that works. And find out which one does work. It's an experiment. I'll try to circle back here to share the results.
Other notes: I bought a HEPA filter appliance for the studio. It came yesterday and was easy to set up. I ran it overnight in the studio at a low setting and when I came in this morning I noticed that the studio smelled better. Cleaner. This particular filter is supposed to filter out very, very small particles, down to and including possibly viruses. I bought it so I could run it on high whenever I have a client in the studio. It will exchanged the air in my space every thirty minutes. In conjunction with the air conditioning it should help keep me and my customers a bit safer.
I like it so much I'm buying another one for our bedroom.
Virus news: Austin's numbers have sky-rocketed and most of it is the Delta variant. A few days ago we members got an e-mail from the swim club that about half the staff had tested positive for Covid. We're still operating on a skeleton crew but we're re-instituting our mask up policy for the locker rooms and when checking in at the front desk. I just hope we don't run out of staff and have to close down again!!!
If you look at our Austin/Travis county dashboard you'll find we're currently at a higher level of positivity in Covid tests than at any time in the entire pandemic (Thank you! Asshole Governor Abbott...).
Since I'm not a risk taker when it comes to preventable illness I've canceled my client lunches for the foreseeable future. I had one tentatively booked for today and when I called to cancel my client was exactly on the same page. He sounded a bit relieved. We'll do lunch in late September or early October. Maybe when it's cool enough to sit outside again.
Some of my friends aren't taking the resurgent pandemic as seriously. They believe that being vaccinated confers on them all the immunity they need to go back to restaurants and get on airplanes. I think your chances of contracting symptomatic disease are directly related to the cumulative load of virus you are exposed to. The less, obviously, the better.
I wish my cavalier friends good luck but I think I'll depend on caution instead. The numbers will eventually subside. The variant seems so contagious that we'll soon hit a point where everyone will have either caught and recovered from the virus or have been fully vaccinated; or caught the virus and died. I'll watch the numbers and also the progress of distributing booster doses. When the dust settles we'll hop on a jumbo jet, head to some swanky locale and dance the night away at some ultra-packed disco. But not now.