3.30.2014

A wish list for those wonderful folks at Panasonic, Olympus or some cool third party lens company.

photo: ©Alan Pogue.

I wish the systems I want to shoot with came with all the lenses I want to shoot with. But they don't. And here's what I want from the genius lens designers I know are out there somewhere. I'm tired of all the half-assed pancake lenses. I want some stuff we can sink our teeth into. And I want stuff we can use to make big money with our cameras. It's one thing to adapt lenses hither and yon but an entirely different thing to have perfect optics for the things we need. 

When I ask for lenses I am not asking for an adapter to use an existing other system lens on my micro four thirds camera, I am looking for lenses that are made for the joint system. I want the lenses to AF (where appropriate) and to meter in the automatic modes (where appropriate). And I want them all to just work...

Let's get started. 

First off I want a 10mm tilt shift lens that opens up to f4 and looks equally good at f11. Forget the laws of physics and the too often touted effects of diffraction. Use magic/science/firmware to give me what I want. This would be an all around lens for people who shoot small cameras but still want to keep doing architecture. This focal length is long enough for just about anything real and would be easier to make than a 17mm equivalent. Make this one sharp and elegant and watch the hordes of architectural shooters bail from the Canon system and rush to embrace. 

Then give me a 50mm tilt shift lens with a fast f2.0 aperture so I can do lots of fun product, table top and weirdly focused fashion stuff. Can't be that hard. Why isn't it here already?

I want a fast 10.5mm prime that starts at f 2.0 and has no rectilinear distortion whatsoever. I had an Olympus 11-22mm lens that was nearly flawless and if Olympus can do that in a zoom just think what they should be able to do with a single focal length...

Next up I want a long fast lens I can use for video projects. The 14-140 focal length is just fine but what's this chicken-poop changing (slow) aperture nonsense? Let's make this one an f2.5. I know it will be bigger and heavier but video is all about being on a tripod, being on a jib or being on some sort of support for dolly work. I don't really care if it's big and heavy as long as the focus doesn't change through the zoom range and the aperture doesn't shift either. Make this one in a PL mount and make it cover super35 in the video game and you'll have the world beating a door to your factory. Especially if it's affordable. Say.....under $5,000. 

Next up, bring back the Olympus 42mm f1.1.2 high speed optic that was made for the Pen system but upgrade it with sparkling new magic glass and make it diffraction limited (super sharp) at its wide open aperture. The PanaLeica is a good start. More like that!

I could also use a 25mm f2.0. I know this is the same focal length as the legendary 25mm Pana/Leica I already own but as a Panasonic shooter I want this one to have lots and lots of "bite" and I want it to include a new generation of in lens I.S. that's as good as the best I.S. on the market. I don't care if it's as big as the Pan/Leica or even bigger as long as it's shake free and full of aggressive sharpness. 

Moving on. Olympus went all sissy on us with the longer lens. Panasonic too for that matter. They assumed that people who were buying these smaller cameras would chaff at having to do a little lifting and straining. Screw that! Give me back my 35-100mm f2.0. I'm not interested in the milk toast version that Panasonic camera out with. I want the speed. We've seen that Olympus can to it now we need them to get their balls back and come out with an m4:3 version. Wanna make it lighter and more affordable? Make some of it out of industrial plastic instead of heavy metal. Wanna make it even more esoteric? Make most of the components out of carbon fiber. If you haven't shot with a 35-100mm f2.0 you need to borrow, rent or steal one. They are frightfully expensive (not really when compared to the lenses from Canon and Nikon) but they are wicked sharp at f2.0 and they stay at f2.0 all the way through the zoom range.  Come on boys! Suck it up and make some glass again that spanks the competition. It's not like you haven't already figured it out once.....

Along the same lines we need a really fabulous, powerhouse lens in the 12-60mm range. Something as sharp and contrasty as the Olympus 4/3rd system zoom but screw that lame shifting aperture. Get with the program and give us one that's f2.5 all the way through. Again, if the lens is sharp enough and draws beautifully enough to bring tears to your eyes I don't care if it weighs two pounds and it twice the size of the camera with a goofy grip on the bottom. I'd buy that. In fact, I did buy and use the Olympus 12-35mm f2.0 and it was an amazing lens. They can do this but Olympus is acting all skittish and cowardly because their market research shows them that delicate people want weightless lenses. Well, yes, that is one part of their market, but there are some of us who really want to rock the optics. Especially when we're using them to make videos. 

Again, lose the culottes, put on your big boy lens designer pants and get with the program. An ultra-fast, high performance, extended range normal lens that puts to rest all those stupid arguments about "equivalence" and how much light is hitting the sensor. Make the lenses faster and sharper and we'll make the full frame boys cry. Honestly.... How many fucking collapsible 14-42mm lenses will you make before you get a semblance of your pride back?

Moving on: I'd like a 90mm f1.4 for theatre work with the GH4. I don't care who makes it as long as it's good and delivers the images. Can't seem to shake the love I used to have for the 180mm lenses for my Leica R cameras. A lens like a 90mm f1.4 would go a long way toward making me forget...

One more....and it already exists in another related mount....Where the hell is the 150mm f2.0 lens from Olympus????? They made a great one for the 4:3 mount. Same sensor size!!!!! Just re-mount it and make it work with the AF in the new cameras. Use the carbon fiber idea to make it light and happy. But get the damn thing back on the market to compete with everyone else's FF 300mm 2.8's. 

Of course no one wants to shoot sports with your cameras; you haven't given them the OPTICS they need to make it all work. I don't really care if I have to manually focus the lens as long as someone keeps giving me focus peaking. It really works. 

Well, that's the list of stuff I want that isn't on the market in a non-adapter environment. If some of these camera guys want to stay in the market they'd better think of ratcheting up the excitement in the glass department. More new bodies are like farts in a hurricane. More new lenses. Real lenses. Now that would make people sit up and take notice.

3.29.2014

How good does "good" have to be?


This has been a month of contrasts and it makes me wonder at times just how good "good" has to be. What do I mean by that? We tend to carry around presumptions about professional photography that were true in the days of print delivery but may not be true in today's practice. I shot a job in the Fall that entailed shooting many interiors in a period ranch house outside of Fredericksburg, Texas for a magazine dedicated to historic homes and crafts.

When I first started working for this magazine in 1979 we aimed to make every shot a cover shot. The magazines were printed on the best paper the printers could find and no expenses were spared in the color separation stage either. In those days it would have been unthinkable to shoot the assignments with anything less than a 4x5 inch view camera. Partly for the quality of the image latent on the very large piece of film but just as importantly for the image controlled provided not only by tilts AND swings but also for the ability to do perfect double exposures (this comes in handy if you'll be doing one exposure for the interior and a second exposure for the exterior on the same piece of film---we call that smart man HDR).

Over the years the content and the production quality (not the design quality!!!) have undergone changes. Many pages in the magazine are no longer on a glossy stock. The printing has been economized in order to match budgets. The images are used smaller. And the new style is to ask for more images from a day's shoot on location which means there's no time to do the painstaking lighting set-ups we used to do as routine. The bottom line is that clients tasted the Kool Aide of no film costs and no Polaroid costs and no separation costs and they won't go back so they made a bargain with themselves that they would forgo the advantages of film and the flexible camera movements (plural) and all the other trappings that made our old way of working able to turn out such perfect images.

Once you abdicate full view camera flexibility with all focal lengths and once you bid big film goodbye you are already in no man's land. When we worked for the magazine in the early days of digital they were delighted to use the files we sent them from six megapixel Kodak DCS 760's (shot scrupulously at ISO 80) and then images from the Fuji S2 with its fake 12 megapixels and then they were happy with the 12 megapixel Nikon D2X images and finally, they were happy last fall with 16 megapixel images from a Panasonic GH3 and a 12mm lens.

But I hear from so many people that we must pursue perfection at any cost. Really? Even when we're being paid less for each working day than we were ten years ago? Even when the perfect images will end up on imperfect paper, on an imperfect press? Even when the usage size renders all files more or less equal? Interesting bargain we seem to be making. We maintain our part of the "ultimate equation" while the rest of the transaction mutates and flails to our disadvantage around us.

In the effort to pursue a perfection, most dubiously "required", many are rushing to buy the highest pixel count cameras they can get their hands on. Maseratis and Aston Martins for the daily commute on the over-crowded freeways. Nikon keeps selling D800s and Sony is making progress (but less than they'd like...) with the A7r. Both generate giant files. Files that will be reduced, converted to 8 bits, rendered into CMYK and then subject to the tender mercies of digital printing. Each step tossing up a lowest common denominator filter which makes all technically proficient files equal to each other; regardless of the cameras that spawned them.

I'm heading out this month to shoot another assignment for the magazine. I'll do it again with the GH3. I'll do most of it with a Panasonic 7-14mm lens. The client will most likely have warm and fuzzy feelings about the images for several reasons: 1. The camera and lens combination is head and shoulders better than the ones from the early days of digital. 2. The 7-14mm used at 5.6 and f 8.0 will yield a remarkable depth of field which will allow readers to see whole rooms in good focus, letting them make a detailed inspection of all the fun artifacts and nuances. 3. Much of the quality of the work depends on my point of view, my composition and my lighting skills and these have not diminished since 1979 but, in fact, have improved---- a lot. And finally, the client will like the take because they will get a great selection of images for the same budget which used to yield "only" 8-10 good images a day.

If the images exceed the threshold of my client's needs (by a good margin) when using an inexpensive camera that is fun and convenient to use then it's good to remind ourselves that there won't be more budget coming along if we choose to buy and use a more expensive camera. And, you never know, we might want to shoot some video content while we're there....and what better camera could you want than the GH3 for those multiple uses?

So, how good does good have to be? Does every assignment need to be a re-painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling? Even at house painter rates? Does every image have to have the potential to be printed 8 by 10 feet at 600 dpi to have value? Do we need to kill ourselves financially in order to assuage our egos and our need to present status to our peers?

I think not. Times have changed and it's good to know how the x/y axis of performance and return really work for our businesses. A case in point is the video project I recently completed. In my earlier career in advertising the shoot would have been done on 16mm file and necessitated a crew of six to ten people. It would have taken twice as long to produce. And the only place it could have played was in an auditorium with a projector or as a iteration on a VHS tape. And we all know it would have been disseminated on the VHS tape.... seen on a 20 inch CRT. With tinny little speakers....

Now the job was done with the assistance of one 18 year old person (with an exhaustive knowledge of film production) and an animator. Potentially viewable on millions of screens of various quality, certainly viewed by thousands on three 50 inch HD monitors at a trade show and all at much higher image quality standards. We did it with less than $10,000 worth of equipment= from camera to final edit. And we did it in less time too. Could we have done a better project with an Arriflex Alexa, a truck full of lights and crew of dozens? Maybe the production values of the final presentation on the big 50 inch screens would be marginally better but would the enormous increase in budget passed the client's assessment of the x/y axis curves of (marketing) performance versus financial spend? And if they won't pay for it we certainly won't show up and add gratuitous layers of "production quality" and complexity just for the heck of it.

Perhaps a new mantra for projects is to right size the tools to the job and not try to size the jobs for the tools. Invest in what you need to do the job. Disregard the gear's peer-to-peer blingization. 

3.28.2014

No accounting for taste.


This is one of my favorite photographs of the week...

We seem to think we just discovered "real" Art in our generation. What do we tell the really old guys?


Photographers tend to be a hardy and foolish breed who feel that technology, in part, imparts the magic in the art (if photography is even real Art...). In nearly every other artistic endeavor the participants go through a formal education that goes beyond the tremendously simplified, "Part A goes into part B and then push button C." Most of the workshops you see for photography are about a technique. It might be how to use only one light to light portraits. It might be how to process multiple files into HDR so that your images can look all screwed up and weirdly colorful. But the training is nearly always about the process.

Painters, sculptures, mosaic artists, film makers and musical composers tend to come from more formally educated backgrounds and have a certain historical grounding within their chosen fields. They study the works of current masters and they study the works that have survived through centuries of change and human drama. For them the medium is rarely separated from the idea and the style. But we hardy band of photographers seem to have come from the fast track aisle of art creation.

A quick peek at the owner's manual and a few videos on YouTube and we tumble off to make our art based on what we saw Chase Jarvis do last month or Trey Ratliff do the month before. They may have had an idea behind their shooting and they may also have had context but that seems to get lost in the race to get some stuff on the memory card.

How much more interesting photography might be if people would do some prep work before hanging out their art shingle?

Would it be that onerous to crack a few compendiums about the history of photography? To see what those old timers were doing back in the 1890's or the 1920's or even as recently as the 1960's? I sat in my car waiting for my kid to get out of school and I'd brought along a little book of Josef Koudelka's Gypsy work and was reminded just how powerful his vision was and with what rudimentary tools he worked. And yet, his work is head and shoulders above nearly all the work I've seen in the digital age from anyone, anywhere.

Would it kill the erstwhile new arrivals to take a moment out of their busy lives as programmers, administrators and help desk operators to crack open one of the many great collections of Richard Avedon's work to see what a truly masterful and forward thinking artist really does?

Would it ruin lives to prod people into museums to see how far away the cultural boundaries are from the much more narrow, self inflicted boundaries?

I was photographing for the Texas State Museum several weeks ago and I walked across the street afterwards to look at the new shows at the Blanton Museum on the UT Austin campus. Eventually I made my way to the permanent painting collection on the 2nd floor to look at some details in painting made hundreds of years ago. I was looking at the way angels were lit and represented by several painters. It soaked in and made me think more about how we light people in our day to day work. The lighting in the paintings had a purpose. The purpose was to draw attention to the action and to separate the spiritual from the earthly. What a lovely workshop.

Too many people seem happy to be blissfully ignorant of what has come before. No wonder they are disappointed when they show off their work and find that it's been done (a million times) before.

I had one moment of despair in my adult life. It was when I stood in the Borghese Gallery. The Sculpture Museum in the Borghese Gardens and I stared at the Bernini sculpture of Daphnis and Apollo. And in an instant I knew that no one would ever be able to match Bernini's incredible skill at making marble come alive. There are leafs on branches sculpted out of marble that are so delicately crafted that light comes through the marble and the statue becomes truly alive. Hundreds of years later no one has been able to match Bernini's skill and vision. Sculpture didn't change and become more modern as a result of a cultural evolution but out of shame by comparison. And the realization that, in this instance, the final word had been delivered. What else was left to say?

But I cannot imagine a sculptor plying his art today without knowing about, understanding and somehow, even if it is unconscious, striving to do something even remotely as good as what has already been done by a master like Bernini.

I'm not saying that there's no future for photographic art but I am saying that to do good work requires that we have historical benchmarks for what really constitutes good. The style without the message is pointless and the message without style is just conceptual art.


3.27.2014

I was playing around with a Samsung NX30 this afternoon and found a lens I really like.

Inside the Austin Convention Center.
©2014 Kirk Tuck

I've done so much work in the last ten days that I needed a small break. I needed to put down the cameras I've been using and also step away from the computer and just go out for a walk. To mix things up a bit I unearthed my Samsung NX30 camera and the Samsung 50-200mm f4-5.6 zoom, checked the battery and headed out the door. 

I walked along my familiar path from Whole Foods flagship store to the Austin Convention Center (home to SXSW) and back again. When I made it back to WF I did stop in to buy a lovely Proseco, but that's another story...

I haven't spent much time with this particular zoom lens but it was just what I wanted this afternoon, and, after looking at the images, I have new respect for the lens.

It's small, light and image stabilized. It's sharp, contrasty and seems to handle flare well. The combination of the NX 30 and the 50-300 is pretty cool since it gives me the equivalent of a 75-300mm zoom in a small and easy to handle package. I'll be using it to shoot some theater with next week as a test of the camera's high ISO capabilities. I'll have more samples then but I did want to include one more because I was very happy with both the sharpness and the tonal balance in the image below:

Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. 
©2014 Kirk Tuck

Disclosure: I am a member of Samsung's Imagelogger program and I am testing the NX 30 and several lenses which were sent to me by Samsung. I am not required by the nature of my relationship with Samsung to post images or articles on my blog with images from their cameras. I chose to do so because the camera returned to me images that I like and with a tonality and structure that is different from what I get from other manufacturers' cameras. The difference is more than enough to keep me intrigued. that and the fact that I really like the camera and lens combination's rendering of color. It's a rich palette. Especially when I process the best quality jpegs exactly the way I want them.
Other than the camera and two lenses I am not being given any other consideration at this time by Samsung or their marketing associates. Do I hope they will send me buckets of money and send me off again to wonderful locations? You bet. And I'll let you know straight up if they do. 

For now the NX 30 is a nice change. Almost a busman's holiday camera for me....


17,034,000. And counting.

I was too busy to notice but several days ago the blog (Visual Science Lab: Kirk Tuck) crested the seventeen million page view mark. Much writing but even more reading. I'd love to hear you check in and tell me if I'm still doing a good job. 

I'll take some criticism too but don't cross that line.......

Seriously, thanks for reading.

Experimentation is the spice of something. Adventures in narrow depth of field with m4:3 cameras.


I've had such good luck with the Panasonic GH3 in the video realm that I am now trying out zany lenses to shoot with and I've come to like shooting with some of the same lenses for my conventional photography. On Monday this week I was making portraits of architects and while I wanted images with defocused backgrounds I just wasn't into carry around the bag of full frame Sonys and all the lenses. We weren't shooting studio style, I was shooting environmental portrait style. That means that I didn't mind supplementing the existing light but I wasn't going to set up backgrounds and soft boxes and flashes either.

I've had good luck using adapters to mine the rich vein of the manual focus Olympus Pen FT lenses such as the 60mm 1.5 and the 40mm 1.4 but I wanted something just a bit short and equally fast. My other option in the Olympus drawer was the Pen 38mm 1.8 but that lens is a bit flat and flare-y and really on gets acceptably sharp from 3.5 on down. Not what I was looking for in this instance.

I looked around the studio and decided to try the behemoth Rokinon 35mm 1.5 Cine lens. I had a Sony Alpha to m4:3 adapter just sitting there looking pretty on my (actual) desktop so I put it all together and attached it to the front of a waiting camera. Do the quick math and what you end up with is a 70mm equivalent that opens up to t-stop 1.5. Nice----if it's sharp enough.

I shot a number of wider, environmental portraits with it and I like what it does to the backgrounds and the tonalities in general. While it's sharp enough wide open it does better at f2 and better still at 2.8 where it is just about perfect.  Of course, by then you're starting to give up some of the benefit of the narrow depth of field. But overall, wide open it is sharper than the Pens.

The portraits look pretty darn cool. I also tried the Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens on the adapter and then I was really happy. The center part of the lens (the part I really care about) gets sharp really quickly and the equivalent of 100mm is just exactly in the sweet spot of my portrait lens taste profile.

Long enough to get close but not so long as to exclude all detail. It's a well done lens. Even (or especially) for micro four thirds. I can only imagine that the new version is that much better.

I am interested in hearing from m4:3 shooters about their favorite lenses for doing narrow depth of field. I presume everyone has a "go to" portrait lens but I'm especially interesting in reading about adaptations of older (and newer) lenses that are being re-purposed away from their original format targets. Whaddaya Got?

Mystified by it all.

If it's true that everyone wants everything for free and that everyone can 
do everything themselves then why do some people still pay to have 
someone else park their cars?


So. The Getty's new business model is to give the public whatever they want for free in return for creating a web site that's deemed worthy of advertising dollars. I guess that's the gist of it. They've capitulated to the larceny of the masses and they are going to put a best face on the reality of it all and drive as many eyeballs to their site as humanly possible, using photographs provided by photographers (free content for Getty no matter how you slice it) and they are going to turn around to ad agencies and clients and monetize the crap out of their site by selling consumer eyeballs to the advertising clients who can exactly target their potential markets. And buy advertising space.

No Getty photographer will make a single cent on the billions of free images that will be given away, over-used and quickly devalued for all time. Not a cent. Nothing. You can argue that the exposure will help their business but what does exposure really mean for a commodity product? Nothing at all.
Will the cream rise to the top? Sure. Maybe. Probably not. It's being crowdsourced by consumers whose overriding concern is price----or the lack of it. Understand that this is not a marketing ploy to sell more of the images that photographers are basically throwing over the transom to Getty. They (Getty) have no sustained interest in selling those images. The stream is the content in the same way that endless episodes of Honey Boo-Boo and endless re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies exist only as  wrappers for commercials. You watch the stream. You ingest the ads. You never buy the stream. And Getty never sells the stream. They sell your eyeballs. They sell billboards next to your camera content. Content created and willingly given away.

If valet parking were free we'd never have to circle the block again.

How does all this effect real working photographers? I think it's a wash. People still need custom images of their people, their products and their processes. That's a basic. And in those markets it's always been a matter of taste intersecting the graph of cost. Some companies understand the value of really good work while others have always been in the camp of : "Good enough for government work."

The binge trough of free images does damage our ability to help clients understand usage rights and copyright but that's a whole different battle. One we're losing on our own through inertia, cowardice and ignorance.

The bottom line is that the world is awash with images and most of them are de facto free. The world of profitable commercial photography is changing and many of the niches that used to provide profitable incomes have morphed into crowd sourcing and lowest common denominator pricing.

How it will all turn out is a mystery. I think there's a huge bubble comprised of on line companies whose products attract hundreds of millions of users and their strategy is to capture the most attention and the most use by people in demographic that appeal to marketers and international suppliers of consumer goods like cellphones, cameras, cars, branded food products and techno-toys. They are delivering------AD SPACE. And they are brilliant because unlike the television networks who had to buy their content to wrap commercials around----or radio stations that have to buy the rights to air music or pay the salaries of on air entertainers---the new wave of media AD SPACE providers are crowdsourcing their content absolutely free. That's how Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and now Getty work.

But just as in the newspaper business the market can only provide revenue for a small number of providers. Think back. It's rare even in the heyday of newspaper publishing that even a major city had more than two big newspapers. The web market is much more diluted and granular. Advertisers can more effectively pick and choose markets. The markets change more fluidly and quickly now. The Facebook and Getty of today will eventually become the AOLOnlines and MySpaces of tomorrow. It's not a tech bubble, it's really an advertising inventory bubble and every tech company is racing to be part of it.

But when consumers have no real sense of community or loyalty to a site or a concept the bubble is much more fragile than before. On the other hand there's really no infrastructure to most of the companies so the downside of a bubble bursting for most of the new starts is that 20 or 30 start up specialists move on to something else and the people who held the newly created equity have their generation's own Enron stories to tell...

Photography is morphing but done correctly and used correctly it still has real power and value for clients. I'm putting on my poncho so I don't get spattered by the explosion of free images when the AD SPACE TECH BUBBLE pops and creates a mess.

The free food at the buffet for a mass market promotional event is almost as good as real food....

3.26.2014

Photographer leaps across the great chasm to produce profitable video projects.

This is an image of my friend, Suzi W. It has nothing to 
do with this particular post other than to point out 
that I love taking portraits. Whether they move or are moving. 
Or Both. 

I've been shooting video for a while but it's only in the past year that it's become more captivating for me as a part of my business. Still photography, as a business, can be a perilous undertaking (financially) and it's nice to spread out the risk by doing different, but related, types of work. I find that I love doing video projects because they speak to so many facets of my experience base. The frame work of videos for commercial clients is the marketing and branding message. All the pretty footage in the world doesn't matter if someone isn't taking time to bore down and understand what the basic selling proposition the client is trying to communicate.

My process in the video world is different from that followed by many in the industry who are, in a sense, just trying to trade their still cameras for a camera that does motion. There are legions of people who "just want to show up and shoot." In the parlance of the video production industry these people are referred to as "camera operators" and they are part of a crew that all works together to follow the orders of a director. The director may be working from a script written by someone he or she has never met.  For the camera operator the generic position is a day job. 

I recently put together and completed a job done just the way I wanted to do it. The client was a technology company with a bundled hardware/software product that has compelling features for a number of commercial and retail markets. They needed a video to show at trade shows and to put on their website that would speak about the features and benefits of the product and do so in a voice that would target a specific set of industry professionals. 

My first job was to immerse myself in the company and the product. Of course I researched on their website and read every scrap of marketing information the company had ever produced. I talked to the tech people, the salespeople and the company marketing people. I wanted to know what the product really did and I needed to understand a number of real world applications. The second most important piece of research was to find out exactly who the decision makers who trigger a purchase of the product would be. 

When I felt like I had a comfortable grasp of the product and the market, the problem the product solved and how the solution actually worked I was ready to plan and present a budget. We would use guided interviews as the framework for the story. As luck would have it one of the biggest customers for the software, in the retail space, was thrilled to go on camera and give and interview/testimonial. 

I also got lucky in that the client's product strategy director had a great voice and was a very good interview subject. Together, their interviews formed the backbone of the story we were telling. 

I created a secondary story with actors. The product is all about security and loss prevention so I hired two talented actors and secured a great retail location where we could act out some petty transaction theft. One actor was a "store clerk" the other his "customer" and accomplice. I would use their interactions, shot from six different angles and magnifications to create a visual narrative that would be like shorthand to professionals in the theft prevention business.

We started the project with our product strategist's interview. I shot the "A" camera and my assistant shot a different angle so we had visual variety to use in the edit. We shot lots of B-roll of people working with the technology and we shot B-roll of random stuff that inferred a corporate setting. 

While I was engaged in the shooting I had a graphic artist hard at work giving me variations of graphic transitions to use to accentuate primary information and also to animate both the company logo and the product logo. She was able to give me a number of options. 

After the first round of interviews and B-roll shooting I had to spend two long days in the studio reviewing the footage, marking the best takes and trying to figure out where the holes might be in my program. The back end of multi-camera shoots can be daunting. It's important to match up the footage from two camera angles on the set and to match up the sound tracks. 

We traveled to Chicago last week to film our client's customer interview and I was prepared with my list of leading questions to help guide the interviewee into filling the holes in my content. He was incredibly good and thankfully the client was flexible enough to let us rearrange the program to make more room for his interview.

I finally sat down last Saturday morning to start putting together the jigsaw puzzle from the "box" of pieces I had in front of me. I cut back and forth between my interview footage and my secondary narrative to constantly reinforce visually what the experts were delivering via spoken word. 

I spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday editing into the wee hours of the night. I had intended this round to be a "rough cut" but I had the vision in my head for exactly how I wanted everything to cut together and I just kept fine tuning and fine tuning until I had a fairly polished program.

I had to put everything aside on Monday to shoot a still job for a different client and I walked into a meeting with my video client Tues. morning with the same trepidation I always experience when delivering a creative product: Dread mixed with hope....

Worst case is the client looking silently at the three minutes you've put on the screen and then turning and saying, "Well, it's a good first start but........"  And the response you pray for is: "Rough cut? You're kidding, right?" Followed by, "We love it just the way it is. Can you give it to me right now on a memory stick?"  While the second response is rare it does happen. 

My client had one change at the approval meeting. I held my breath....  She wanted to add the company's website URL at the very end of the program. Just a quick build of white type on black.
That was it. Everything else was approved. I went back to the office to polish the project; tighten up the sound and the music bed, fix any inconsistencies and generally make it as perfect as I could. I delivered the final today. Three days ahead of schedule. 

And that was a great benefit to my client who would be taking the program to a trade show on Monday and was dreading having to approve a project right under the wire. 

I got to use my marketing skills, my 58 year old life skills, my interviewing skills, my camera operation skills, my sound engineering skills, my editing skills, my job management skills and my writing skills to put together a project that I'm proud of and with which my client is very happy. And I'll be well paid for every skill set. A much better proposition than being an interchangeable camera operator. And a wonderful adjunct to my traditional photography business. 

Tech nuts and bolts: 

Cameras: I used Panasonic GH3 cameras for all the video production. I made the most use of my Olympus Pen FT 60mm 1.5 lens and my Olympus Pen FT 40mm 1.4 lens. Wicked sharp with beautiful drawing. I also used the Olympus 12-50mm 3.5 to 5.6 zoom and it worked well in video. 

I used a Benro S6 fluid head on a Berlebach wooden tripod for my Austin work and a smaller Gitzo tripod with a Manfrotto fluid head for my work requiring travel. We used a Manfrotto micro fluid head on an Igus rail as a home made (and very effective) slider to do lateral camera moves and push ins. 

Lighting: All of the interviews in Austin were lit with multiple Fotodiox DayPro fluorescent light banks. In Chicago we used four Fotodiox 312AS LED panels which survived airline baggage handlers and worked flawlessly.

Editing: I used Final Cut Pro X (version 10.1.1) to do all of the storyline editing, sound sweetening and lower third title effects. My designer used Apple's Motion to animate titles and transition slides. 

Consulting: Ben came back from a college trip just in time to look at the project and suggest three valuable changes. Which were made. And which improved the final product. 

More video projects, please!

(project currently embargo-ed until client's first public use. Then we'll share.)