Today we proudly release the third episode of SmugMug Films featuring YouTube superstar and extreme sports videographer Devin Graham. Watch it now and subscribe to see future installments as soon as they’re live.
Devin Graham has always loved adventure. From traveling with his father to snowboarding with his friends, he’s enjoyed experiencing all life has to offer. Even after two severe injuries, Devin didn’t lose his love for extreme sports; instead, he decided to keep experiencing them–only now from behind the lens, sharing through YouTube the unique, wild, and extreme adventures he discovers all over the world.
How did you get started in film?
I started making videos when I was a little kid. My dad had this huge camera that used VHS tapes that I would borrow, and he was always hesitant about letting me take it because it was the only one we had. I would break them from time to time, but it allowed me learn.
I used Legos to make little stop-motion movies essentially–I hit record really fast and took a picture of a couple things, then I’d stop tape, move the pieces, and take a couple more shots. I’d also make music videos with my siblings.
Once I got to Boy Scouts, I was able to get the cinematography merit badge. We learned how to edit on a turntable, which was very slow editing. Later I volunteered at a cable access studio. After that, my senior high school project required us to make a creative video, so I made a snowboarding video with my friends, and that’s where I learned linear editing, how it’s done today.
If you were filming snowboarding in high school, your interest in extreme and unique adventures must have started early!
Definitely. I got a lot of that from my dad, who was a big outdoors person. He loved camping. He loved hiking. And I’ve always loved extreme sports, especially snowboarding, which I did constantly. I’d go out with all my friends and film us all snowboarding together. Then I’d come home to edit on the computer, so I taught myself how to edit digitally that way–back when computers were really slow and it’d take weeks to put together a 30-second clip.
With your love of extreme sports, do you participate in any of the adventures you film today?
When I was filming my snowboarding videos, I actually broke my back and then my leg, and I was told I would never be able to do that kind of stuff again. But I loved it, and I was able to figure out how to stay involved through filming. I pretty much stay behind the camera now. Occasionally I’ll participate in something that won’t hurt my back. Generally, I come up with ideas and then let my friends, who are the professionals, handle the action so I don’t chance popping my back out of place.
Goodness! May we ask how you injured yourself?
I broke my back and leg in two different trips, a year apart. My back injury happened during a snowboarding jump on a tabletop I was trying to clear. It was 70- or 80-feet long, and I didn’t go fast enough. I spun and landed from high up–it would be like falling from a couple stories and landing on flat ground. My vertebrae squished in an L2 compression fracture.
My leg broke during snowboard camp. I was on a trampoline of all things, and I landed on a spring. It popped the bone out of my leg. They had to stick a rod down my leg, and I had to go through surgery, but it never stopped me. When I recovered, I went right back into filming extreme sports.
Wow. Seeing your behind-the-scenes videos you’d never know. You’re running and jumping along with these folks!
Yeah, my original goal was to tell feature film stories for Hollywood on the big screen. Then I made the decision to create wedding videos on the side to help with finances. When I started studying other wedding videos, I realized they all used static shots. I wanted my wedding videos to look like something out of a movie. And with movies, the camera is always moving.
I heard about Steadicams and things that allowed you to get those moving shots. After lots of research, I bought a GlideCam and started using it on everything I did, including the fun things I did with my friends. That led to using the GlideCam for the extreme sports videos, which require me to always keep moving!
You make it sound simple, going from weddings to extreme sports, but it sounds like quite a transition!
It definitely was a transition. I was filming weddings on the side while I was going to college for film. While I was working on my studies, I discovered the power of social media and YouTube. I was able to transition at the right time and find my niche with extreme sports, which people would share. Then companies around the world started asking to hire me to do bigger and better projects for television. YouTube opened the door to all these opportunities, and it’s been great ever since.
How do you handle lighting while you’re doing all this running around?
For me, there’s no science behind it. I just film what I feel looks good. Since we’re a one- or two-man team at most, we don’t have time to light things. That’s one of the reasons I shoot outside: you don’t need a whole crew to light things. But we do time all our shoots around the sunlight, filming during the golden hour when the sunlight’s looking its best.
With such a small team, do you use additional cameras, or are you just running around everywhere to get all those angles?
We’re literally just getting every shot we can think of, running from one thing to the next. Especially when we have only an hour of sunrise or sunset. In addition to the GlideCam shots, we’re also using GoPros now since the quality has gotten so amazing. With those we use a GoScope, which is basically a pole we can hook the GoPro on to. We’re all about making people feel like they’re part of the action, and the GoScope allows us to put the viewer in the position of the athlete.
Any other essential gear?
We use two cameras as our main cameras: a Canon 5D MkIII and a Canon EOS-1D C. Ninety-five percent of our shots are with those and 5% are from the GoPro cameras. For lenses, the majority of our shots are done with the Canon 16-35/f2.8 L series. The rest of the time we use a Canon 70-200/f2.8. With the 16-35, we can be everywhere. We’re always choosing epic or amazing locations, and the wide-angle shots make the viewer feel as if they’re there.
We’re curious about your settings since you’re moving around so much. Do you shoot any of this manually?
We’re working on new videos once a week, which doesn’t allow a lot of time to edit, so we try to do everything in camera. Generally we’re shooting everything at 2.8 with ISO around 100 and shutter speed around 4000. We also use a B+W polarizer, which makes the skies super blue and the greens super vibrant as well.
As far as focus goes, we do everything manually. When shooting video, you can’t do automatic focus because the focus will be pulled all over the place. So we set the focus and then try to keep our subjects the same distance from us. If we move in close, we just change the focus.
What are vital things you look for when framing a shot?
I try to have movement in the foreground as well as in the background because it gives the shot more life. If nothing is going on in the background, I’ll have someone run by or shoot a water gun so it feels like there’s as much action going on as possible. Then I’ll look for good lighting that makes the person or location pop the best.
How do you maintain your framing so well while you’re running along with the action?
Years of practice! When I started I wasn’t very good with the GlideCam, but now that I’ve done it so much I don’t have to look at the camera anymore. I can instead look where I’m going and get a good sense of what I’m filming.
What do you feel is important for telling a great story in film?
I always try to create mystery in the first 15 seconds of any video I do. This involves close-ups so we don’t reveal exactly what the viewer is going to see. For example, in the rope-swing video, you see someone walking in a close shot, then you see them setting up something, and it makes you wonder what they’re doing. Then, at that point, it’s all about making the viewer feel like they’re a part of the action and showing them something they’ve never seen before.
I feel so many people are stuck in their office space looking out the window, and they want to experience life, so we try to give people experiences they potentially would never have.
Could you walk us through your editing process after a shoot?
We’ll spend a day shooting and then it usually takes a week to edit the video with music and sound. The music I use is stuff my friends compose. And our sound design is done by a guy in England. It’s really just straight-up editing.
We always have an idea of how we want a video to play out, but once we start editing we get a better scope for it. We lay out everything on a timeline and go through every shot one by one–it’s a discovery process all over again. Then we’ll spend a couple of days fine-tuning and putting sound in.
Often we’re editing on the plane when we’re coming back from a shoot. The world is my office.
That sounds like it can be tiring. How do you keep going?
It is definitely tiring, which is why we’re super selective about our projects. We don’t do anything that we’re not going to be passionate about. And that’s the only reason we can do what we’re doing–when we travel it’s almost a vacation because we love it so much. We’re hanging out and making a video with friends, and we’re just having fun. We get to see the world doing that.
Any advice you’d give to someone who’s looking to get started with filmmaking?
Go out and constantly shoot and constantly learn. A lot of people wait to get accepted on projects, so they never end up shooting. But what I discovered is by doing a video once a week, we’re constantly growing as filmmakers. It’s okay to fail as a filmmaker. Make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. And content is more important than any gear you can or cannot afford.
What do you love most about what you do?
It gives me amazing opportunities to work with amazing people. I get e-mail from people around the world thanking me because it’s given them a reason to go outside and do things they’re passionate about. I once got a letter from someone who said they were going to commit suicide but then remembered my videos; he said the videos gave him a reason to be alive because these were all things he’d be missing out on. For me, more than anything, the reason I do what I do is it gives me an opportunity to give back to the world and show how amazing life really is.
Find Devin online:
All Smug, All the Time
Hey YouTubers! Did you know that we have our own little corner on your favorite video community site?
That’s right. For your viewing pleasure we’ve corralled all of our favorite SmugMug videos into one easy-to-follow spot on YouTube: how-to tutorials (lots!), promotional pretties, photographer spotlights, behind-the-scenes-Smuggy-HQ clips, archived Google+ hangouts and even educational webinars from our SMUGs.
Plus, we’re always adding more. So if you’ve ever had a question about how to use our features or want to learn how to get the most out of your camera, hop on over and check it out.
And be sure to Subscribe to the channel to guarantee you won’t miss a thing.
We get this question a lot, but the answer is pretty simple: We love it just as much as you do and think they’ve got a great setup for broadcasting useful and interesting videos to anyone looking for it.
See you there!
If you’ve ever held a DSLR in your hands, you’ve probably heard of Vincent Laforet.
He’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning mastermind behind some of the most incredible photos seen in National Geographic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Time and more.
Vincent earns his bread and butter using the industry’s most coveted photographic equipment. He is a Canon Explorer of Light who breaks down the barriers between Photo and Video. We’ve been behind him since his his first HDDSLR short film, Reverie, and now he’s written a book that everyone should read.
Visual Stories: Behind the Lens with Vincent Laforet
Whether you’re an avid photographer or just someone who seeks a better creative process, you’ll love taking the journey through Visual Stories.
In it, you’ll find over 200 pages of inspiring photos, personal reflection and informative technical details to help craft your unique vision. The DVD contains over 60 videos that get you up-close and personal with the photojournalist himself.
Because Laforet’s experience began in journalism, he shows you how the principles of this genre can be applied to tell powerful stories in a single image. You’ll learn how to craft this energy into any type of photograph, include landscapes, close-ups, portraits, action shots, aerials and more.
Plus, get tips on using light, shape and color to create rich photos that support your story and add intense beauty and emotion.
Vincent Makes his Mark for You
We’ve got five autographed copies of this beautiful book, ready to find their way into your hands. Here’s how to get one:
1. Like SmugMug’s Facebook page HERE.
2. Post a message on our Facebook wall telling us why you want this book.
We’ll pick five lucky winners from the list on Wednesday, December 28, 2011.
So what will it be? You can keep grasping in the dark and taking the same photos, or you can grab a copy of Visual Stories and learn how a master works his craft. Check it out now at Peachpit Press.
You Ask. We Deliver.
We made a sizzling change that we think you’ll like: Your videos can be up to 20 minutes long and 3 GB in size. Double the action, triple the fun.
20 Minutes and 3 GB of Video.
Since we made video sales available to Pros, we heard you ask: “Why can’t you make videos longer?”
While we still recommend you keep your clips short for the best bang for your buck, you can now sell your videos with tons of extra bonus content – 20 minutes and 3GB of it, right from your site.
How to Do It:
We highly recommend our HTML5 uploader in Chrome to upload your mightiest videos.
Finally, get your gear wishlist ready. With new 20-minute videos, we bet your Pro sales will go nuts.
Comments? Raves? As always, give it a try and drop us line if you need a hand.
Read up on these features:
Hey, Smuggers! Pros can now sell video downloads just like prints, cards and the whole shebang:
You’ve asked for this for a really long time and we were busting at the seams waiting to tell you about it. We hope you love this new feature (and all the cha-ching! it brings) as much as we loved building it for you.
While you’re soaking up the good news, let’s go over the basic deets about video on SmugMug.
How to Upload Your Videos
You probably already know that you can upload an unlimited number of HD video to every Power or Pro SmugMug account in addition to unlimited photos. Since most cameras have video functions baked right in, you’ve probably got quite a collection already.
Put your videos into your SmugMug galleries exactly the same way you already do with your photos. You can upload a slew of photos and videos at the same time if you’d like. We always recommend our easy-to-use browser based uploaders, but you can use whatever works best for your workflow.
There’s lots of different video formats out there and we accept a huge range of codecs to make it simple. In the rare case that we don’t recognize the format, write to our Support Heroes for help or try converting it to a different one.
How to Sell Video Downloads
Price them just like you would price any other digital download. If you’re not sure, look here for full details. Open up your pricing settings, click on the Downloads tab and go nuts.
You can offer up to 5 different sizes of video downloads in both Personal and Commercial licenses. Here’s what they are:
- Web: up to 320 x 240
- iPod/DVD: up to 640 x 480
- Mid-Def: up to 960 x 540
- Hi-Def: up to 1280 x 720
- Full HD: up to 1920 x 1080
Your fans can then add the video to their cart and check out. Video downloads are available immediately. Instant gratification!
A note about that “Save Movie” link: If you’ve not priced any videos, your visitors will continue to see that link in the lightbox header. It’ll disappear when you start pricing videos in that gallery, or when you enable Right-Click Protection in your Gallery Settings.
Similarly, your fans can’t download video sizes that are equal to or larger than the video sizes you’ve priced. So, for example if you’ve priced the Mid-Def size in a gallery, they can only save the Web and iPod sizes from the mouseover photo bar.
One last FYI: Video files will be included in your Gallery Downloads zip files, so make sure you price them accordingly.
Be on TV, Your Computer or Your Phone
Did you know that visitors using an iPhone or iPad, AppleTV, PlayStation (or any device that can play industry-standard h.264 videos) can also play SmugMug videos? Being tied to a computer is so 2006. Just give your fans a link to the video in your SmugMug gallery and they can watch it from virtually anywhere.
Or, try embedding videos instead. We provide easy embed codes that you can drop into your blog, forum posts or any other external site. To get it, click on the Share button in any gallery (or Owner Share if you’ve disabled it to your viewers) and choose Get a Link. Video embed codes are under the “Embeddable Links” tab. Copy and paste that code into your site and prepare to blow them away:
Tip: WordPress bloggers have it even easier. Just copy the URL for the video from the gallery and drop it into your blog editor, like this:
We’ll automatically fit the video to size:
Anyone Can (and Should) Make Movies
Even if you don’t dream of Hollywood, you can shoot and share all kinds of video that make you smile. At SmugMug, we see videos for everything like weddings, birthday parties, product reviews, music videos, demos, real estate tours to just fun, everyday clips.
But if “keyframes” and “transcoding” don’t mean much to you, we have two friends in the video biz who can get you gorgeous movies in minutes: Animoto and ProShow Web. Log in and find them in your gallery’s Buy button, then choose the “Create a Video” option. They’ll slurp in your SmugMug photos and create beautiful, engaging slideshows set to your favorite music. You can customize them, too.
The Nitty Gritty Details
As you enjoy creating, making and sharing moving pictures, keep these few bits in mind:
- Videos can be embedded into pages in two sizes: 425×240 and 640×360. If you want your fans to see the full HD version, include a direct link to the video so they can view it in your SmugMug gallery.
- Please keep your videos family-safe and don’t post any copyrighted material that you don’t have the rights to. This includes background music.
Links you’ll love:
If you think “I can’t give my clients the video they want,” you’re wrong.
A beautiful, emotional video can make the difference between a satisfied client and an ecstatic client. You want the latter. Here’s why:
Get In Motion and Get Familiar with Your Tools
For all you’ve been hearing about DSLR video and “fusion” photography, video is just getting warmed up in the pro industry. And while motion and stills are two different sides of the same coin, you can already do a lot with what you’ve got. They’ll show you how.
Quick Tip for Better Video: The 180 Rule
The quickest way to start shooting like a pro is to order yourself a pizza and learn the 180 Rule. What’s that? Image that your subjects are in the middle of that pizza and, without harming your subjects, saw the pie in half. You’re drawing an imaginary line down the center and you sit and shoot from one side of the crust. Simple as that:
Why does this rule exist? Simple perspective! The audience, or viewer, is not standing on the set with you so you have to tell them where the subjects are. You do that by keeping your subjects on the same side of the frame in every shot. As a viewer we see the screen and associate the framing with things we can’t see. We assume the position of your subjects, and sticking to the one side of your pizza helps make sure you don’t mix them up and confuse your audience.
Why Get In Motion?
Because the 180 Rule is just the beginning. Invest four hours of your time and you’ll walk away a changed pro. Learn how to create engaging stories, evoke emotion, use those switches and dials, how to pick the right lens and (of course) how to polish and present your final piece.
They’ll hit 40 great cities, so catch them near you and get $10 off the regular ticket price with our exclusive SmugMug code: ILSMUG
- 9/18 – Atlanta, GA
- 9/19 – Tampa, FL
- 9/20 – Orlando, FL
- 9/21 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- 9/25 – Philadelphia, PA
- 9/26 – Raleigh, NC
- 9/27 – Charlotte, NC
- 9/28 – Indianapolis, IN
- 10/02 – Minneapolis, MN
- 10/03 – Chicago, IL
- 10/04 – Detroit, MI
- 10/05 – Columbus, OH
- 10/09 – Nashville, TN
- 10/10- St. Louis, MO
- 10/11 – Kansas City, KS
- 10/12 – Omaha, NE
- 10/16 – Irvine, CA
- 10/17 – Burbank, CA
- 10/18 – San Diego, CA
- 10/20 – Phoenix, AZ
- 10/23 – Dallas, TX
- 10/24 – Austin, TX
- 10/25 – Houston, TX
- 10/27 – NYC, NY (Free)
- 10/30 – Washington, D.C.
- 11/1 – Baltimore, MD
- 11/2 – Denver, CO
- 11/3 – Salt Lake City, UT
- 11/4 – Calgary
- 11/5 – Vancouver
- 11/6 – Seattle, WA
- 11/8 – Portland, OR
- 11/9 – Sacramento, CA
- 11/10 – San Francisco, CA
- 11/13 – Boston, MA
- 11/14 – Newark, NJ
- 11/16 – Ottawa
- 11/17 – Toronto
- 11/30 – Honolulu, HI
It’s time to stop shooting b-roll and be ready to sell that award-winning tearjerker. Your new, empowered life starts nows.
SmugMug and ProShow Web have been integrated since March of 2011. ProShow Web automatically mixes photos, video clips and music together into polished video slideshows. With true 1080p HD capabilities, ProShow Web can create professional-grade videos for use on SmugMug, or for downloading to a computer. Today’s guest blogger is Amanda Eddy of Photodex, sharing expert advice on how to get the most out of your videos.
7 Steps to Memorable Stories
With graduation, Father’s Day and wedding season upon us, now is a great time to start turning your SmugMug images into custom video slideshows. But to make a slideshow truly stand out, it takes more than simply combining a series of static photos. Below are some tips on how to transform your images into memorable stories, and most importantly, how to have fun!
1) An Introduction – Think about how you want to begin your story. Taking close-up shots of symbolic memorabilia surrounding an event works great here, i.e. graduation cap or wedding ceremony program.
2) Getting the Right Shot – Identify the three major components to your story. Try to capture a few good shots of each major point of the event to give your slideshow a better-rounded, evenly documented feel.
3) Capture and Incorporate Video – Consider capturing a short video clip. Video can add additional visual interest to your slide show and almost all cameras now have the ability to easily capture short clips.
4) Set the Mood with Music – Choose the perfect song to accompany your slide show. Whether it’s Dad’s favorite tune, the couple’s first dance song or even a subdued classical piece that will stand the test of time, a great soundtrack helps tell your story.
5) Photo Borders and Backgrounds – Framing your photos and using special slide backgrounds can make them really stand out. Get nostalgic with a Polaroid type border or add texture with an interesting slide background.
6) Create Movement – Use stylized motion effects to slowly zoom into a point of interest in your photo, namely the graduate, the couple or whatever else deserves a good zoom.
7) Share! – Posting the slideshow on Facebook is a great and instant way to share the video with clients, friends and family anywhere they may be. Tag everyone in the video; it will help get it seen by more of your friends and family. Or better yet, send it back to SmugMug into the gallery of your choice!
Here is a sample video slideshow of a wedding shot by one of our pro photographer customers that shows how these elements work together.
Try it Free and Save 20% on Premium Subscriptions
To get a better sense of the ProShow Web functionality, sign up for a free trial and play around all you want. If you like what you see, as a SmugMug user you can get 20% off your Premium ProShow Web subscription by entering the code P729GXGH during check out. This offer ends July 31, so sign up soon. Happy slideshowing!
“If It Moves, Shoot It!”
So sayeth the great Sandy Puc’ to pro photographers looking to gain an edge with their clients.
With the rise of DSLR HD video, you can’t afford to be fumbling with video when the competition is already rockin’ the keyframes. Many of us reckon ourselves still photographers, but it’s simple to use your camera’s built-in video functions to wow the client and bring in more money. Sandy and Jared will show you how to use the video that comes with your camera to create additional sellable products like slideshows and movies.
The Masters in Marketing… and Motion
Sandy’s teaming up with Hollywood cinematographer Jared Abrams to give you a crash course on what those buttons do and how to use ‘em. Even better, they’ll coach you on how to best leverage video clips and still photos in your marketing campaigns and presentations.
The fun starts this Tuesday, and you’ve got just two weeks and 15 cities to catch them before this opportunity’s gone.
All dates in May, 2011:
- 10 – Denver, CO
- 11 – Minneapolis, MN
- 12 – Chicago, IL
- 13 – Columbus, OH
- 15 – Philadelphia, PA
- 16 – Baltimore, MD
- 18 – Atlanta, GA
- 19 – Houston, TX
- 20 – Dallas, TX
- 22 – Phoenix, AZ
- 23 – Los Angeles, CA
- 24 – San Francisco, CA
- 26 – Sacramento, CA
- 27 – Portland, OR
- 29 – Seattle, WA
Or…. We’ll Send You For Free
We’re giving away one free ticket to one of the tour stops. Just comment on this blog post by Friday, May 6th, and we’ll pick a winner who gets to go on our dime.
Don’t miss out this incredible chance to better your business!
More Winners = More Fun.
Instead of giving away just ONE ticket to the video tour, we are giving away one free ticket to EACH city on the tour.
Here’s what you have to do to get another chance to win:
On Monday May 9, we’ll announce the winners for Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus, Philadelphia and Baltimore. On Wednesday May 11, we’ll announce the winners for the rest of the cities. If you’ve already commented on this blog post, following the steps above will give you another shot at winning.
Are you excited yet?
Ready for some winners? Here ya go. The lucky (and randomly selected) winners of FREE admission to the tour are…
- 10 – Denver, CO – Diana Griffin
- 11 – Minneapolis, MN – Sarah Kannenberg
- 12 – Chicago, IL – Sam Tang
- 13 – Columbus, OH – Kristan Dunlap
- 15 – Philadelphia, PA – Joe Ryan
- 16 – Baltimore, MD – Joe Richardson
- 18 – Atlanta, GA – Frank Tan
- 19 – Houston, TX – Kyler Rhorer
- 20 – Dallas, TX – Kayne Parrish
- 22 – Phoenix, AZ – Christina Lawrie
- 23 – Los Angeles, CA – Jeah Tan Avila
- 24 – San Francisco, CA – Stormy Maddux
- 26 – Sacramento, CA – Coree Firchau Keenan
- 27 – Portland, OR – Arnaud Douglas Ardans II
- 29 – Seattle, WA – Amanda Howse Butler
We’re really excited to announce a new friend of ours, ProShow Web:
They’ll take your SmugMug photos and video clips and turn them into gorgeous, tasteful, customizable slideshows. All you have to do is pick from their extensive library of themes, choose some music and they’ll build the rest.
Best of all, you can always go back and tweak the settings until you get exactly what you want: write text, amp up the energy and add all kinds of à la carte effects to your show.
Once your movie is complete, ProShow makes it super simple to download in a variety of formats and sizes. Or better yet, send it back to SmugMug into the gallery of your choice:
Check them out and get started now! Or you can log in at SmugMug and look under your gallery’s Buy button, under Create a Video.
You can make a 15-image movie right away, for free. Take a look at their Plus ($30/year) and Pro ($150/year) accounts for additional options like watermarking, commercial-use licenses and more.
Stephanie Theune (known here as just “Schmoo”) writes for SmugMug. Write what? If you don’t know, she’s done a good job. Recently, she emailed some guy on the internet to take her to Chernobyl and came back with suppressed facial expressions and an intense craving for kale. The following movie was birthed from that amazing trip. We asked her to tell us how she came up with it, since video remains uncharted territory for many digital photographers.
I am not a videographer. I’m a writer who likes to take pics.
That said, the allure of video is a siren call that’s too strong to resist. Like a selkie to the sea I’m drawn to attempt something pretty in this new, now-widely available format. (Shiny!)
You’ve probably thought: “I have a 5D!! Why can’t I do that?” Yeah, me too. Fear not, gentle reader. Joe Photographer can make a simple movie, you’ll see.
Most photographers serious enough to invest in a video-equipped DSLR already have enough software to edit video clips. (It’s like what they say about those metal steamer baskets. Check your kitchens, folks, I guarantee you have one of your own.) I’ve canoodled with iMovie, I’ve canoodled with Final Cut Express. And I am sure that you can stick clips together and add a music track using one of many other programs, too, so get Googling!
Like all my projects, the song was the key. I had a trip to Ukraine planned out but the moment I heard this track by Unheilig I knew it was perfect. Over the next few months I brainstormed what I wanted the movie to look like, mostly jotting down words that I thought would help my headspace, like:
- walking away
… and so on. These were just ideas, but I needed to know what to shoot.
During the four days in Chernobyl, things got hairy. My “actors” were my buddies and they were – understandably – not there to be shot, but to take photos themselves. So filming them doing the things I had planned in my head was trickier than catching a Sasquatch. Try, try, try again.
I primarily used the 16-35L and 70-200L lenses for all my clips, due to the shallow depth of field. It’s a neat trick, using the focal point to navigate your way through the picture. After all, Pripyat’s kind of a dead zone. And in the throes of autumn there isn’t much going on besides freezing rain, chopped beets and a few sad leaves waving ‘bye.
I shot and shot until my CF cards cried uncle. On past projects I would run out of clips and ended up scraping the bottom of the barrel, so I learned that lesson fast: Shoot early, shoot often. (Sound familiar?) Nothing ever goes to waste… especially because the “unusable” ones where your friends are making faces and being goofballs are useful as blackmail.
When I got home and finally dumped my files, I was overwhelmed for a week. I let them, um, cure a bit on my hard drive before I sat down to organize it all. Hey, sometimes you need to grab a brewski and Become One with your digital pile.
Step one: Give each file a useful, identifiable name. “MVI_9473.MOV” became “leaves-rain-chair.MOV” This way I was able to get an idea what the clip was about at a glance.
Step two: I then created bins (normal folks call them “folders”) in Final Cut Express to sort the clips by type: Landscapes, People, Animals (wasn’t much in that one), and Chernobyl Tours (ditto). After moving all the clips into the relevant bins I was ready to go.
Step three: I spent the next two weeks throwing spaghetti at the walls. Drop a clip into the timeline, see how it looks, then trim or delete it if it doesn’t. Movie making is largely serendipity and you never know what you’re going to get until you try. There were a few parts that worked out exactly as I had envisioned, but I’d say about 90% of it was made through playing around.
If you’re a natural director who can pre-plan a whole video, more power to ya! Email me and teach me your secrets. (I’m serious.)
Once the clips were sorted in a rough sequence that worked well, it was time to trim and make sure the timing was perfect. By the way, precision trimming is a little easier to do in Final Cut than it is in iMovie.
Color. Now this was a real toss-you-by-the-horns, buck-you-in-the-rump beast. I played around with the Color Corrector, then tried Magic Bullet’s Colorista, but after much blood, sweat and tears I decided there was just no way I was going to get that Hollywood-rich color that I had always dreamed about. Not for this. The weather in the clips was overcast and rainy and I do have a regular job and a life outside of movie-making. I had to move on.
Since the music was already raw and Cold War-esque, I decided to throw on a black/white filter with a slight sepia tone, then add a small vignette to round out the edges.
Finally, I made the opening, ending and intro text in LiveType. This is a very simple program to use and I didn’t want anything fancy, just a simple slow fade out. This probably took about half an hour, total, and the nice thing about LiveType is that as you’re saving the clips in one program, it automatically updates it in the other.
Export, upload et voila! You’re ready to click Get a Link and post it everywhere. This particular movie was created to build momentum for the still pics from the Exclusion Zone, so I hope others find it interesting as those of us who were there.
Good luck and don’t be afraid to edit your own movie. This is a fantastic way to record memories and tell your stories in a fresh way. You’ll be glad you did.
Need moral support? We’ve got a great little corner on our Dgrin forum reserved for video dabblers and we love seeing folks try their hand at it. No question is too silly… except for the ones I ask! Don’t forget to share what you make.
Here’s to creating great movies together,