Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's Always Darkest Before the Storm

August 3...October 17...only two months this time? Not too shabby!

Hello all! Sorry for not updating again, but things have been crazy, as usual. For those of you who have not yet read my blog, understand that I do this for to promote myself as a videographer, and to cross-promote those clients I speak of in these posts. The later part of my summer after my last post was nearly uneventful. Helping a friend out by filming on-the-street interviews for his reel, some minor editing with Kristen on the wedding and the High in the Mid 80s concert - not much past that and covering vacations at work.

In the first week of September I received several messages for work. The first was from the director of the pilot I briefly wrote of in April. The show we worked on, "All People Are FAMOUS" - a prank show - has been picked up for air (see the teaser here. I was asked to come out to film again and recalling that the first time was unpaid, having network funding smelled like the potential of money to me. I later learned however, that the network decided to take over production, so I doubt I'll be working on that show again. That's showbiz!

The next message was from Alexandra, asking me to PA for a new project of hers. I'm not even sure what the project was... Anyway, the date she wanted me to come out conflicted with "All People Are FAMOUS," so I declined her. When I wound up sitting at home that weekend, I came to wish I hadn't. Oh well!

Then came Jim. His message told of a project he was hired for - he was filming the unveiling of a new limited edition Chrysler 300 that was designed by men's fashion designer John Varvatos. Jim asked me to come out on September 11th to the big gala in honor of the car. As I understood it, it was to be a red carpet event with a killer invite-only celebrity bridled party (I was mostly right). I was asked to film the celebrities as they came up to the vehicle to take pictures. Howard Stern, Kris Humphres, and others were in attendance, with ZZ Top giving a performance. While we had no clearance to film the performance, I'd like to think we got good footage. The creative director seemed impressed with me, so that makes me feel better about myself. Let's see if Jim and I get more work from this...

Since then, it's been the Kristen and Craig show. I really have to hand it to the girl; she can really make an impression on people and get herself hired. I'll just do my part and keep providing good footage and hard, dedicated work ethic so that she keeps bringing me along.

A few weeks ago, we filmed a local A Capella group from Princeton, NJ called Jersey Transit - Kristen had done work for them prior, and they were a fun and energetic bunch. Kristen informed me that she arranged with the group that we would film them so that we didn't get rusty, as we haven't done much in a while. Seemingly out of thin air, she calls me three times in the weeks after filming Jersey Transit telling me we have more work coming up. Whatever it is you do, girl...keep it up!

The first of these new gigs we have been working hard on  was with a NY Jets fan website who's proprietor was looking to create a web video on tailgating and fan reactions. Kristen worked with him during the San Fransisco 49ers game, but took me along on the second week, as the Jets were playing the big Monday night game. In the week after, in between our other jobs we were editing. Three videos are up on JetNation.com, so I suggest you click the link above and check them out!  Wow...that's a lot of work in so short a time!

Other than that, there is more work ahead, so I will post all the news that's fit to print as it comes in. Until then, take care!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Where Has the Time Gone?

"...so that this blog doesn't become irrelevant."  I believe those were my words, yet it seems I have done quite the opposite.  Three months have passed since I last cataloged my adventures to you all.  So where, the mind begs, to begin?

I suppose I could start with concerts.  There were two, about a week apart - though my memory may be off a bit, as much has happened since April.  The first was in Manhattan, in the village, I don't remember the name of the bar.  I had been running late due to construction approaching the Holland Tunnel, but Jim didn't mind - his contact, the bands drummer (if I'm not mistaken...), hadn't arrived yet either.  I came to learn, however, that the strange man I had seen in a limo waiting in line for the tunnel - a tall black man sporting sunglasses and crazy Mardi Gras beads - would be the very person who's band I came to film.  Funny how things turn out sometimes.

The band played for about twenty minutes - they were the first of several to perform that night, and our job (Jim,his buddy Armando and myself) was to create a music video/promo of sorts for them.  When their set was complete, we took to the streets for a little interview with the band.  Jim and Armando held their cameras for alternate angles, the man who would conduct the interview wore a microphone, I held the shotgun off Jim's camera to be pointed at the individual talking at the time.  When you don't have the audio equipment necessary to mic everyone in a group, you improvise.  I hope things turn out well when Jim cuts it, though my tripod was giving me some issues (I cannot wait to earn enough for a good one).  While this was a small job, any day I can get away from the hum-drum of my day job to film is a blessing.

Next came High in the Mid 80s, a band that was playing a benefit concerts in Teaneck, NJ.  When I learned of the gig, my friend Kristen had asked me if I would like to help her shoot a band that wished to have internet videos of their performance.  Upon arrival at the club, we were immediately met with some resistance from the audio tech employed by the club, who was not too thrilled about giving us a feed from his board, which we were promised.  He could only be called unprofessional, as we came to learn, since the point of a feed from the audio board should mean a clean mix - what we got was blown out, garbled garbage.  After much audio cleanup, we were able to produce the videos and are happy with the result.  Click the link above and see!

Before I continue, let me give kudos to Kristen.  If there was ever a pinnacle of inspiration, she is it (and I hope you are embarrassed reading this, Kristen!).  She has decided to launch her own videography company when she graduates this coming spring - with me as the first freelance cameraman on her list.  Whenever she decides to build a website for her company, I will post it here.  It is truly nice to have people in your life who trust you and your performance as a professional!  The aforementioned concert was our first venture as a team; the second came in the form of a wedding.

The wedding was out in Long Island, NY.  A very sweet Colombian couple needed videographers, and as it turns out, the bride's cousin-by-marriage happens to go to school with Kristen (what great luck!).  When I say the couple was sweet, that is an understatement to say the least.  They treated us with the utmost kindness - we were there to do them a service, yet they couldn't help but make sure our every whim was tended to - regardless, I enjoyed working for them!  Anyone who has never been to a Colombian wedding, a bit of advice: GO!  While any normal wedding would allow a bit of time for the videographers to move from table to table allowing guests to wish the bride and groom well on video, this wedding, from the time the reception started around six thirty to its conclusion, the guests never stopped dancing.  These people know how to party, but so much for well-wishing... We are in the process of editing the wedding, but we have the promise of more exposure with the pastor, who stated he would post the finished ceremony on his site and link back to Kristen's company page (when we get it up), and I will link to the pastor's page on here as well so you can all see it. Everything in time.

Literally a week after the wedding, Kristen, a few other friends and myself went up to New England to film a webseries of our own.  Kristen and her boyfriend had been talking about traveling to ballparks and blogging about their experiences.  That changed quickly when they realized they could film the parks and make a show of it, to create interest in minor league baseball.  She asked me to do cinematography.  Why wouldn't I accept a gig like this?  I'd be a fool not to.

After three months of planning, graphic design, phone calls and public relations, writing scripts and discussing shots, we were ready to leave.  We were on the road at 7am on June 21st.  Six minor league parks in seven days was or goal, and nothing would stop us.  Hours upon hours of footage, fan interviews, tours of the parks, interviews with general managers were all shot.

I made sure to purchase the microphones I was holding back on, an on-camera light and an extended life battery pack (four hours of camera life over less than two? Wahoo!) before we left on the trip.  Everything came in handy.  Kristen borrowed a tripod, another lapel microphone, and an audio recorder from the university to make or lives easier. Easier, they were, but not completely.

Our days were long and tiresome.  Our nights consisted of charging batteries and transferring footage to hard drives before going to bed.  We checked our inventory of equipment four times a day. By no account was this a pleasure trip, but it was probably the best week of our lives.  Well, perhaps I cannot speak for everyone else, it certainly was for me!  The sun beat down on us for the first couple of days, before three days of rain (luckily, no games were canceled due to inclement weather).  I especially felt the heat of the sun beating down on me as my camera weighed down my shoulder most of the day.  I'm pretty sure I lost five pounds the first day from how much I was sweating.

Hopefully the show should be edited soon - I for one cannot wait to see the fruits of our labors.  For now, I implore you all to go check out our pages on Facebook and Twitter so that you can view behind the scenes pictures and be updated on when the series will be online.  Also, subscribe to the official YouTube channel where we will be uploading each episode!  Yes, I know, shameless plugs - well, gotta get out there somehow, right?

Meanwhile, and even though I put this as the last item, chronologically it falls in the middle of everything, I took a test for Bergen County Cablevision public access broadcasting and have done a few shows on the side for them.  It's a small studio that does live-to-tape programs for local businesses and others who want to run their own shows.  It feels like college all over again, but with much less crew members.  Again, it's a small job, but it keeps me in the game.

That's about it for now.  I'm building up some spending money to build a computer that can handle editing.  Let's see what the future holds, hopefully much more fun.

Please remember to subscribe, like, comment, etc.  And follow me on twitter! Catch you all soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Housekeeping

It's that time again!

Today will be short - I don't feel like writing much, but I do need to keep actively writing so that this blog doesn't become irrelevant.  TEDx Wall Street was almost three weeks ago already, and from that came a short gig this past Sunday - thank goodness for updating your resume, right?  Anyway, I probably shouldn't divulge too much information on the particulars of the shoot, but let's just say it was a television pilot, and I was one of two cinematographers.  It was a long day and extremely productive, but I am very happy to have been a part of it, even though there was no pay.  I will also be happier if it turns into a recurring gig - but I won't let myself get too excited - at least, not yet.

Also, please take a look at Lessons From My Early Twenties.  This was the short film/webseries that I worked on last summer and once this past month.  Alexandra, the director/star, will be posting episodes for the next several weeks on YouTube starting today.  If you enjoy what you see, repost it so Alex gets some exposure.  Thanks!

That's it for now.  Later!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Moment to Rest Among the Ravel

So I finally I have a day to myself to reflect and write.  My life has been crazy as of late, and I need to get it off my chest - so here it is.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I was given the opportunity for a paid job at the New York Stock Exchange.  I really had no idea what to expect, but it's a good thing I did some research before I went in.  The event was a TEDx conference.  TED, by the way, is a not-for-profit organization that brings people together in order to spread new ideas - see their website here.  TEDx events are independently organized and can cover many different topics - this one, finance reform- no, not campaign finance reform, but more in line with what the protesters in NYC keep yelling for.  I was part of a team of independent contractors - lead by Brendan van Meter who were to create a professional webcast of the event.  And that's what we did!  The event was in a conference room on the 7th floor of the NYSE, while the selling floor was busy as normal with stocks being bought and sold.

I will admit that it's been about 2 years - since the time that I graduated college - that I operated a camera for a live broadcast.  However, things seemed to work out well.  I was asked to work the wide angle on this three-camera setup, however, I felt the need to take the proverbial "bull by the horns" (and yes, I am using that phrase in tribute to the fact that I was on Wall Street) at one point in the conference and not take the wide angle.  A musical interlude in which a man started singing a cappella before sitting down to a keyboard and joined by another singer on his left (stage right), then later two more singers.  While Brendan ordered cameras 1 and 3 to get their shops, I felt it necessary to to zoom into a medium of the guy and follow him as he strutted the makeshift stage, sat down at the keyboard and began to play.  When the three singers were on stage, I then zoomed out  get the entire stage - all without instruction to do so from Brendan.  I am happy to report that he didn't mind, as the overall quality of the webcast was enhanced.

After the conference, there was an after party.  While we all had a job to do, it was too tempting for us to go down and see the trading floor for even five minutes.  I know this is off topic, but the trading floor is large, but even the small bit that you see on television (the balcony where the bell is rung and the gavel is struck) isn't as impressive as it is on the small screen.




 Standing about 90 degrees to the side of both the television camera and the balcony, I realize that they are no farther than 10 feet apart.


That was March 30th - what have I done in the past eleven days, you ask?  I've been working my day job.  Well, maybe not the entire time, but most of the week, anyway.  I'd like to make a big deal out of this because I finally got what I wanted out of my job - better hours.  I am now working days, which means that running off to shoots in the afternoons and evenings will be a whole lot easier.  Thank goodness!  The only trouble is with the next couple of weeks when my manager (hopefully) finds a replacement for my evening hours, I will be working both sets of hours...oh well, more money for me!

In other news, I could have had a gig for next Saturday, but due to my hours I have to work, not to mention that my store has a sale that I shouldn't miss, so I had to cancel my involvement in the shoot, which would have been a guitar show in Montclair, NJ.  My apologies to those involved with said event, if you are reading this.

In any case, I'm sending resumes, let's see if anyone responds!  Onward and Upward!

I should also note that I have been playing around with the free trial of Photoshop CS6.  I love photoshopping pictures, it's fun.  I would post a picture that I happen to be quite proud of due to the fact that it was taken in 1983 and wasn't given the proper exposure when it was shot, so the colors and contrast were off.  I was able to restore the picture to brilliant color - worthy of the time it was taken - the reason I won't post it is because it's a family picture, and I would prefer to keep it private.  If another picture finds its way to my computer that I can post, I will - and that's a promise!  With that, until next time!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Final Cut X vs Avid 6...and other things!

Last week, as you all know from a previous post, Kristen, her friend Megan and I attended a seminar on Avid Media Composer 6.  We were impressed - eer, I should say I was, Kristen prefers Adobe Premier, which, from what she has told me, I cannot really blame her for.  From version 5 to 6, Avid seems to have changed very little about the interface, but the workflow of the program has certainly been sped up due to subtle changes to where tools are located and how footage and other media can be accessed.  Our presenter even showed us the multicam function, which proved to be a great asset!  The program quickly created a master clip of multiple camera angles based on their timecode and or audio waveforms.  Once the clip is created, all angles can be shown simultaneously and angles that look the best can simply be clicked on to create a new clip in the timeline (for those of you not familiar with the layout of an editing system, see the image below).

A basic view of the Avid Express video editing software.  A viewer screen is located on the upper left so that unaltered clips can be played, footage bins are in the upper middle, effects are located on the right, and the actual project being created, or "sequence," which includes all clips, effects, transitions, audio tracks, etc, is located in the timeline, at the bottom of the screen.  All editors have their own style for how they prefer to see the screen to make editing quicker and more efficient.

If, during playback, an editor decided that a particular camera angle wasn't as good as he originally thought it was, he could right-click on that particular angle and choose another.  That clip would be overwritten by the new chosen angle at the same timecode (start to finish) as the original, because all the clips at married together via the timecode (or the audio, depending on the situation).

The new Avid made me feel better about my choice to stay with PCs rather than with Macs, but it wasn't until I saw Final Cut Pro X yesterday, that I was really convinced.

First off, I mean no disrespect toward the B&H superstore (or the Event Space), Manhattan Edit Workshop or to yesterday's presenter, but yesterday's seminar for Final Cut Pro X was terrible.  First off, there was apparently some misunderstanding behind the topic of the seminar.  Most of the attendees were expecting a lesson on how to continue their projects from Final Cut Pro 7 in X, but what we got instead was Multicam Editing in Final Cut Pro X.  Since there is a lot of gripe in the editing world about how FCPX is not allowing projects from FCP7 to transfer over, I can see why that why everyone got upset.  The audience did, however, convince our presenter to do both!

Again, FCPX completely did away with the formats that worked with FCP7 and 5, so there is no way of converting the older files to the new system to continue projects...not anyway that was developed by Apple, that is...We were shown a program that was developed specifically to transfer the files (and, it doesn't do a perfect job, mind you) from version 7 to X.  The major problem, besides the fact that not all plugins and effects transfer over, is that the two versions of Final Cut cannot run simultaneously, they crash...as shown by our presenter on multiple occasions in less than two hours.

The overall interface of FCP has changed between versions 7 and X.  When clips are imported into the program, audio and video are no longer two individual tracks that are bound together.  Now they are one track.  Even by "expanding" the tracks so that in the interface they appear to be to separate tracks, they are still joined to where it is very difficult to make a basic edit (like say, creating a freeze frame and having the audio continue on.  Also, terminology has been altered greatly - there doesn't seem to be any bins, a sequence is now a project, and a project is a event...confused?  I was.  I should also note that in the timeline, individual clips "snap" together, so even though they are separate, they link up magnetically so that they are ordered the way the program thinks it should be.

The Multicam feature of FCPX was also confusing.  While it did the same thing as Avid's multicam function, the interface changes that I mentioned above still apply.  The clips are all married together either by timecode or audio waveform matching, and any particular angle that doesn't seem right during playback can be switched out with ease.

It's the method by which it happens in the program that bothers me.  The entire master clip is placed down into the timeline and played at normal speed.  Whenever the editor wishes to change the angle, he may simply click on the desired angle in the Multicam viewer window (same as in Avid).  The difference is that the master clip in the timeline is now altered.  Rather than having editing clips on the fly and placing the new clip (angle at starting time - ending time) and placing it in the timeline, FCPX makes a physical cut in the clip, and replaces it with a new clip, until the angle is changed again.  That, to me, seems like a waste of the computer's RAM (Random Access Memory, or, in simple terms, what allows a computer to perform any desired task - a bigger cache of RAM means that operations can either be done faster, or can be more difficult).  My suspicion seems to be correct, since our presenter's computer took forever to complete the task.

My conclusion: Without having seen Adobe Premier 6, I am completely turned off of FCPX.  Will I use it if I'm hired by a post house that has it? Absolutely!  We need to be flexible in this world to get a job.  What I will not do is buy a Mac for the sole purpose of using FPCX, since I am buying a PC (for that explanation, read earlier posts) and it does not support any version of FCP.  PLEASE NOTE: While writing this, I notice a tweet by Adobe Premiere for this article.  Worth the read, and not out of my realm of possibilities at this point.

So, enough of the editing wars, as I like to call it.  While yesterday's seminar may have been a bust, Kristen and I were able to touch base with a gentleman who we met at the Avid seminar the week prior.  Hopefully this man will help us both out in the near future, and vice versa.  Also, I received another call from Jim.  This time, however, he was recommending me as a cameraman for a guy he worked for previously.  So tomorrow I will be at the New York Stock Exchange.  Yes, you read correctly.  My career is booming and I better ride this out.  Wish me luck, everybody!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Time Keeps Truckin' Along, So Shall I

This will be a short post, I promise :)

As you can all see, I posted not three days ago, and here I am writing again.  I felt really good this week, if you couldn't all tell.  The shoot on Thursday went well, although there was one small glitch.  Jim informed me before we shot that my heavy Panasonic AG-HMC80 would be placed on his tripod while he used his AG-HMC150 handheld.  As this was a comedy show, we wanted my camera to film Jude as he bobbed around the stage while Jim's camera took the more interesting angles.  The problem being that Jim misplaced his tripod head, forcing me to hold my camera all night.  A tough job, but I think I made the most of it, though I had to re position the camera several times due to the its weight...I swear I'll get used to it soon...

When Jude's show was over, Jim and I were invited up to a nearby rooftop where we were allowed to film Jude's reaction to the success of the show.  While we didn't have a lot of light, I would like to think that the feel of having him in complete shadow against the backdrop of the lit skyline of New York City definitively provided the effect of tranquility that was needed after what was most likely a stressful day for him, and our footage will reflect that.

Afterwords, Jim requested of me to shoot another comedy show (with other talented comedians) which will happen tonight, so I will be leaving for the city again shortly.

I will end this brief post by simply saying thus: The last few months have been a bit strenuous for me, as I've tried to get the equipment that I need to be a freelancer, and have even the slightest chance of success.  Even though I still need a computer and software for editing, and a lapel mic for interviews, I feel I'm ready to begin this journey - So, I will open this up to all of you - If you know anyone looking for a camera operator, give them a link to this blog, or have them follow me on Twitter @CraigRShom (and, do it yourself, if you have a Twitter account yourself!).  Let's do this!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Busy Couple of Weeks

Sorry for being conspicuously absent lately, though I have had a lot on my plate.  Since I have some time before I rush out to NYC tonight, I figure I can quickly fill you all in.

So, two weeks ago today, I get a message from Jim to assist with another shoot for his webseries.  This episode, I was told, was to be rushed due to the urgency that our interviewee, Jude Destin, was putting on a comedy show very shortly, and Jim thought it best to give Jude some extra publicity.  Check out his site for more info on him and where he performs if you live in the NYC area.

The interview happened the following Sunday; Jude brought a lot of energy in his responses to Jim's questions and definitely made a great interviewee.  My camera, on the other hand, gave me a few problems...As I've stated earlier, if you're at all interested in being a professional photographer or video camera operator, know how to use the manual settings on your camera.  I made the mistake of not realizing that there is a difference on my camera between switching the camera into manual mode and having the camera set to FULL manual control.  The difference being that even with the camera switched to manual control, I hadn't changed the individual controls to manual, so the iris and focus kept changing on me.  I am sure I have fixed this problem, but we will certainly see soon enough, as Jim and I will be filming Jude's comedy show tonight.

This week has also been pretty busy for me, as even though my work schedule was empty (work on Sunday, off Monday-Thursday, work Friday and Saturday), I found myself being called out for another Lessons From My Early Twenties shoot.  Apparently, Alexandra, the producer/director/star of the film/webseries decided to do a followup to the original, so I have no problem coming out to help.  I worked the boom for the evening, and if I may say so, the audio reproduction was terrific.  That was Monday night; on Tuesday Kristen Martin (whom I have mentioned before, though never by name [sorry, Kristen]), her friend Megan and I attended a seminar at Tekserve to learn Avid Media Composer 6.  What a great chance to see the new editing platform in all its glory, meet other dedicated professionals who were eager to learn and exchange contact information and just to be in the city!  Did I mention the seminar was free?  Yeah, hit up their website and find a seminar for anything you want, it's well worth it!

Yesterday I decided to go in earlier so that I could hit up the B&H superstore.  I had some extra funds and a list of things I needed to pick up, so it worked out for me.  I recently came into possession of a tripod that is much better than the one that I purchased with the camera.  While still not a perfect tripod, it at least holds the weight of the heavy camera!  The major problem with this tripod is that there was no carrying bag with it.  B&H to the rescue, haha.  A tripod bag, a second 32GB memory card and the RΓΈde NTG-2 shotgun microphone with a shock mount and twenty-five minutes later, I was feeling very good about myself.  I then walked across town to a little bar that was hosting a meet-and-greet with several creative freelancers who are based out of New York.  Video and film cameramen and editors, photographers, web designers and all manner of folk who fall into the category of "freelancers" were there.  Definitely a great meeting, and a great day, aside from the humidity while I was trying to walk...

That feels like everything, I can't really think right now, as I'm trying to rush this out before I leave for the comedy show.  There is also another seminar coming up next Wednesday at B&H for the new Final Cut X.  I'll let you know how things are going again soon!

Take care all!