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.