Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If you can't be deep, then be brief.

I did a 20-minute interview with the curator, covering visual specifics and making a narrative that would work for a four-minute package. Then the videographer started taking the first half dozen b-roll pictures. Which is when the lights in the museum automatically turned off for the night.

I was able to come back the next day for a b-roll shoot, but was told that I only had 35 minutes to be there. That's appropriate for a news shoot, but not for the work that I produce. I managed to machine-gun 45 shots in 35 minutes and remain polite. The 20-minute interview was no good because there just weren't enough pictures to cover the words. Instead we have a music video advertisement with a few spoken bits. I'm happy with the final product and pleased that my budget expenditure was successfully recovered. Keep moving forward, team!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back up, pivot, go forward.

This is a news-style package about Meridian Gallery in Union Square. That wasn't the intention when I first left the office.

Profiling Meridian was originally recommended by a co-worker. When I saw there was a "world premiere" reading by 92 year old Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I thought I could make a great evergreen package about him.

Except… he's 92. The poem was only three minutes long and he didn't want to do any interviews. Since I had already invested four hours of labor into the story, I decided to reduce Ferlinghetti and make Meridian the focus. The PR contact was very accommodating and lined up an artist and a curator on the same evening as a performance. I could get sights, sounds, and words in another four hour trip. Adapt and overcome.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Holiday Special - ODC "The Velveteen Rabbit"

The arts coverage gets a little tricky in December. I always look to create evergreen programs that we can run for a few months on SFGovTV, but there are mostly holiday-themed shows happening now. My answer was to do a story about ODC's "Velveteen Rabbit" which I know we can run again next November and December.

This was a pretty easy shoot. KT Nelson was available 15 minutes before the final dress rehearsal started. We set the camera in a spot where we could talk to her quickly and then swing the camera 180 to start shooting the show right away. John R and I took turns running the the camera and just tried to make best guesses on a program that we hadn't seen before. Later during the editing, I spent 2/3 of my time working out the narrative and the audio. The pictures were fairly easy once there was a natural story to hang them onto.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Culture Wire returns to SFGovTV!

Arts coverage for the City of San Francisco returned to SFGovTV in November 2011 with the re-launch of Culture Wire.

A successful partnership with the SF Arts Commission produced 50 videos between 2009 and 2011. Due to budget constraints, the SFAC was forced to discontinue their support of the program for Fiscal Year 2011-12. After two months of budget evaluation, SFGovTV has committed to continuing Culture Wire by providing 100% underwriting for the next six months.

In the first month of Culture Wire's return to Channels 26 and 78, producer Rich Bartlebaugh has profiled three local artists:

Aron Meynell
Sanjay Patel
Jim Campbell

Upcoming programs include a visit to the Meridian Gallery near Union Square, and a look at some of San Francisco's most adventurous dance companies.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Talking Business Card

Candidate Statements are an annual ritual for government television stations. Last time, we tried to use an HD monitor hooked up to CG with a loop playing out of it. It was "okay…" I guess. The height of the monitor couldn't be adjusted, so there were only two positions- the candidate was either on the floor, or on an apple box. It was a bit sloppy.

This year we gambled on using our small folding green screen. It's a gamble because it isn't being keyed out live, so you can't feel 100% confidence. We did test shots a few days before, and we were very clear that candidates could not wear green. When they arrived we demonstrated how their hands would be "cut off" if they were too animated. It went pretty well.

I was very conservative on the lighting and gave a hard edge on the back light for a clean key. For the rest, I used three chimeras and did dance lighting- people are flooded from both sides. I must admit that one of the short candidates (and one extremely tall one) looked a bit spooky.

During editing, I made a dumb producer mistake. I had the official Department of Elections list of candidate addresses, URLs, emails and phone numbers. I used this for the background info. When I was ready to publish, I felt compelled to be a nice guy and double-check with all the candidates. This meant I had to re-type and re-render 13 of the 25 videos because they had new offices, business phones, etc. The other information would have been "correct" but the new information was more helpful to a voter. I could have saved myself three days of rendering if I had a yellow legal pad in the studio during taping and just asked them to write this all down for me.

In the end, it was a huge success. Every one of the candidates posted the video to Facebook and many put the video on their front page. The view counts were way up compared to last year. It was wonderful positive feedback for me to see the candidates supporters give "likes" to my effort. One of the people called it "Cool… It's like a talking business card!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Working Vacation in Greene County, PA

My good friend Greg Ayersman was kind enough to buy me an airplane ticket to Pittsburgh, in exchange for doing some camera work and editing for him. We picked a ten day window in August 2011 when four tourist events were happening.

The first was a portrait of the last day of the historic Jacktown Fair. The farming communities around Wind Ridge have had this celebration for well over one hundred years. But now, as the economy changes, so does the feeling at the Fair.

We went with a classic "hands-off" documentary approach for this one. Some viewers found it gloomy, others were reminded of their happy experiences at Jacktown. For me, it was just fun to be in PA during the summer, edit to a pop song for a change, and to test out the "cinema" settings on the Canon Vixia.

A few days later, I stopped for an hour and captured the Waynesburg Farmers Market during the height of the season. My production goal was simple- get some pretty pictures and focus on one message. I came up with the line "Wednesdays in Waynesburg" as a persistent mnemonic device.

The best part of editing the Waynesburg Farmers Market video was writing the music. By doing a cut-down video edit, I was able to see how many pictures I liked and what the approximate pacing of the video would be. I had used GarageBand in "Music Project" mode and wasn't impressed. This time I opened up "Movie Score" mode and had a completely different experience. I was able to write a short song that contained the pastoral country flavor of the market, contained a faster section to show off the products, and then returned to the laid-back sound for the closing.

The next Saturday I stopped at the Historical Museum for the opening of the annual Quilt Show. This is "in their own words" event coverage. Greg and I turned it around quickly, so it could be embedded on the front page of the local newspaper to promote attendance the following weekend.

This showed the limits of the Vixia, though. It did not capture great pictures with only ambient indoors lighting. And even though we closed the door and turned off the room's fan, the built-in mic's audio is not acceptable to me.

The last video was for a small section of The Warrior Trail in western Greene County. I shot some pretty pictures and then headed for the airport and back to San Francisco. So of course it's still sitting on my computer, waiting for an edit, behind all the regular daily edits I have to keep up with. Soon. I promise. Soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Allan Alcorn for PBS in San Jose

Personally, it was a real treat for me to meet Al and spend a few hours with him.

Very similar to the structure of Guy Kawasaki's piece: there's an opening scene, a linear story of his life, then a return to the opening scene (which allows me to re-cap the story you were just told).

Graphically, it's based on the box of the Atari home version of PONG. Not an outright copy, but it uses the curved line and the bands of orange color. The rest of the graphics were a real egg hunt. Al provided a few pictures from the 1970s, but the rest came from trolling around on Atari tribute sites.

I was very sad to cut out an early section about the importance of his Berkeley years. He witnessed the tear gassing of rioters on Telegraph Avenue and considers it to be an important event in his life. It took about thirty seconds for Al to tell the story, and it was only cut because This Is Us had to fit it's running time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guy Kawasaki for PBS in San Jose

This profile was scheduled around the same time that Guy's new book "Enchantment" was coming out. I read the book before the interview, and decided that the design of the book cover would be the design of the profile- strong red gradient and Helvetica font. When we arrived at his office, he had the original butterfly model framed in the corner. Perfect!

The main narrative is in three parts, built around his three careers. The hockey rink is a frame for the introduction and the closure. (It is also a more exciting start scene than a writer just sitting at his desk.) A moment of conflict was placed near the end of the story- where I question Guy's credibility.

The writing and editing didn't take long. The graphics were time-consuming, but I had a quick jump-off because I already knew what the general look was going to be. During the final edit, there was an early section of Guy's history that had to be deleted. I didn't have family pictures to cover up the narration, so the information had to be cut.