What’s Coming for 2015

Adding to my FAQ’s , I think I should add “what the heck are you up to?” and well, it’s a lot – so thought “ok, time to let people in…”

Chris’s Picks – This was a compilation I made for the Carolina Cup last year and I was thrilled to present a film of my favorite videos from the last 8 years of covering stand up and prone paddling. It was tons of fun, so much so, that I have been quietly re-editing it to tighten up the edit and release to Vimeo. Because of complications with people being on different brands and athletes not wanting a commercial project out there with them on different sponsors and the huge expense of licensing music, I figured I will just put it on Vimeo and beg you all to donate pennies to the tip jar. I will donate half of all tips to Athletes 4 Cancer. Look for this by the end of Jan

Calico Syndicate – also by end of Januaray, look for the 2nd full length feature from Fin Films to come out. Our fly fishing opus, The Calico Syndicate that tells the story of 5 salt water fly fisherman who have been pushing the boundaries of fly fishing along the California coast. Sound edits are happening now with (we hope) a release by month’s end. I don’t have full control of the distribution, the executive producers have been moving along slowly on that end. My hope is that we will have a DVD pressed soon and a digital download available via Vimeo or some other outlet.

Molo ’14- I am SO proud to announce that I will once again be rejoining forces with my talented Brother, Steve Aguilar, to produce the Molokai 14 race web series. This is by far one of the strongest sets of Molokai footage I have ever worked with thanks to Ocean Paddler Television and our continued partnership. Look for this series to start showing itself in March of this year

The 2014 Reel – The reel has become a short film and I am close to finishing a look back at my year with Quickblade, Bark and Surftech as well as the events I have been lucky to shoot for. Should have this one wrapped up by next week. Stoked to share this one with you.

Legacy- This is the prone film. It is in VERY early development, but I hope we can start actual shooting in March 2015 and shoot it all year along with a potential release in 2016 – maybe in late 2015 if things go well. Look for a kickstart and other things to bring this out to the public.

Ok that’s it….not a lot going on :)

 

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The Art of Not Publishing

I have been watching/listening to a lot of interviews with Allen Ginsburg and then yesterday watched a documentary on the author JD Salinger and in both pieces, they separately discussed the “stillness” of not publishing. Ginsberg’s work, Howl, was never to be seen by anyone in his own mind. It was to be hidden away. But the poem went on to become one of the most important pieces of contemporary poetry and launched his career.

As film makers and artists, operating under the guise of “it will never been seen” seems pretty unusual. But in fact, in practicing this I have found an immense freedom. Certainly I do commercial production work that is beholden to my client’s wishes. But it is those projects where I am free to create what I want and get to go out and just “be” – that is where I am most passionate about the work and most engaged.

So I got to thinking that perhaps it is time to start working as if no one is ever going to see what I am doing. It cuts out the editor instead – that little voice that filters who I am and how I “should” be expressing myself. Maybe it’s time to just keep working “as if” and just create for the sake of creating, because there is a voice deep down that has something to say and wants to say it.

That then, would be the true artist – the expression of the soul, of the heart. Not restricted by anything except what limitations you place on it for your own viewing. It would be an amazing thing to integrate this kind of expressive freedom with commercial work – I think for anyone of us, this grey area would be a goal to live inside of. To find a way to give our true selves a way to be expressed within the confines of someone else’s editorial desires.

Big Surf = Big Savings!

There is a run of good big swell coming to so cal this week and I am offering a special for those looking for photo or award winning video coverage.

When I say big, I mean REALLY big – some spots will be in the 20ft range – so if you are in Los Angeles or Orange County this is a rare chance to have that ride of a lifetime documented and it won’t break the bank!

Here are the specials for interested brands or individuals…

2 Hrs Photography Session – Including Film Portrait session with your gun (if you want it) – $400 (includes unlimited photos, editing/retouching, all Edited photos on a DVD and unlimited license to use the photos for print or digital) This is more then 50% off my usual rates – book for more then one session, save 10% off each session

2 Hrs Video Shoot – Includes pre session and post session interview – music licensing, fully edited piece (up to 4 min long), export of individual rides to Pro Res for us in other projects, unlimited license to use footage in other projects, encoding for upload to web – $850 (50% discount off regular rates) – for just exports of rides and no editing – $675

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EMAIL ME: Chris@FINFILMCOMPANY or call me 310-720-9737 to reserve now – this special is going to be good through Jan 24, 2015 but you must reserve in advance ! No day of reservations will be honored.

The First Shot

If you have ever done any sort of writing then you know of the daunting task called the topic sentence. It is the opening sentence that captures the readers attention, tells them what you intended to discuss and it really the foundation of all that is about to come forward. Actually in sitting to write this, I was wondering what that opening sentence was going to be. Formal writing has you state your case right away “The first shot of any film or web video is the most important element of all your work”. But in todays world, things are a bit more lax so we can go with a sort of informal, casual look at things such as the sentence I choose. And actually, I never even wrote drafts…this is a blog so for the most part is off the top of my head…but I digress (fucking ADD)

Much like writing, the opening shot of anything that you make in the video and film world has to have enough weight to:

- hold the viewers attention

- capture their imagination

- give them a reason to emotionally invest in what is going to happen

- tell them that you know what you are doing and this is worth watching

- let them know what this video/film is about

Now in making a full feature – you get some leeway here – most times the people have paid and have an idea of what the film is about. They have made a commitment to be there and participate in it. BUT in the web video world, it is totally different. Especially with the large amounts of content out there competing for your audience.

Also, in film, you get more time to develop, but the time a film has developed to tell you more about what is about to happen, most web videos are over. But still, the first shot is just as important.

Picking the masterpiece is beyond difficult and many times is the one thing that I really struggle with in an edit. But I have learned a couple things over the years and here are some suggestions for picking that first thing people will see on screen

- Don’t make the first thing someone sees a talking head – unless it is someone instantly recognizable to your audience (you know like the President, Leo DiCaprio, etc..)

- Find something that you could publish as a photo – really this rule works for me pretty good. Could this be a compelling photograph that evokes emotion, displays the mood of the entire piece, showcases a certain amount of artistic knowledge, gives insight into the mission of the piece…look at it like a photographer…you might be surprised..

- It is the BEST shot in your film. I mean the most beautiful one – the one that you are the most proud of. Where in logging you said to yourself “wow”– because if you “wow’d” your self…you will most likely wow everyone else.

Some other funny things about the first shot…it does not have to relate one bit to the sequence you are setting up. It can be something showing the resolution, the after party, what ever! WE just need to capture some attention here and deliver a single knock out punch to capture interest and imagination. Seriously, it is almost a disconnected piece of content – but it is the most important one in your whole film or video.

I recently started watching an event video that was 8 minutes in length. Opening shot was an interview, no music, no B roll, just a talking head. The audio was terrible and I felt like I was about to watch a home movie. They did this for over 2 minutes, I was over it. I was bored. I wanted to move on. Ironically, the event was in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and they even had drone footage later on in the video. Had they moved that drone footage up to the first frame it would have changed the entire dynamic of the video for me. It would have told me “ok there is investment in this piece, the place is beautiful…there may be some good eye candy in this”. Instead we had people standing in the dark of trees and you know what’s funny – I don’t even remember the topic if the interview… that is how compelling the first half of the video was…

You, as an editor, are in the job of making an impact on your audience. It is what we are called to do. In doing so, you are making an impact on yourself as well (whether you know it or not). But that impact has no chance if you pick the opening shot of your sequence to be something that is just there because it seemed “right”. Go farther, find that one shot that may be totally unrelated, but tells a story in itself.

Some samples from work I have just on my hard drive of this computer…

QB Clinic video – opening shot says “This is a video with Dave Kalama and involves Quickblade” was the most artistic shot of the day since it was really a full day of people sitting and listening and some paddling.

QB Trifecta video – this opener shows the cool clean lines, has a light panning across the paddle so it went from dark to this lit up shot. I felt it told the audience “this is different” – in essence we were going after the look of a sleek car commercial

Dave Kalama “Have Fun”- this was an interview with assorted B Roll and this shot for whatever reason stood out to me. I could have framed this one it was just so neat looking. Shot with a Lensbaby of wind driven water on the rocks in Maui. The shot to me said “we are in Maui, it’s bright, it’s happy and this video is about having fun”

Don’t Drone on Me!

Seems like over the last few years the world has gone drone crazy. While in Maui shooting XOXO, I had the misfortune of watching a custom made, $5000 rig go flying off rocks and right into the ocean. The disheartened pilot showed up holding his fragile baby in his arms with what looked to be tears. I have been hot and cold with the whole drone craze over the last few years. I see the value, it is a poor mans helicopter, it beings in a new world of opportunity for the average video guy. We suddenly have the birds eye view – and paired with a Go Pro, it makes things super simple.

I have for years worked with and played with Kite based systems. These were super fun to play with, but still impractical for video – I think in a downwind it’d be insane, but stabilizing the kite rig was always my biggest hang up. Especially since when I undertook the challenge 5 years ago, small gimbals and stabilizers were just not cost friendly or readily available. In this new drone era – you can find these items pretty quickly and for just a couple hundred dollars.

I have never personally flown a drone, but I have been getting more chances to work with drone footage and it is unreal. You can really expand the horizons of the edits using footage from these devices. I am a fan. And now want one for myself. But that also brought up an interesting thought – how legal are they? I know where I live in Palos Verdes, the skies are controlled by the city and the amateur radio association, so technically you have to be licensed by them and are allowed only to fly in two parks in the area. That does not stop people from flying them all over the place – they probably just are not aware of the laws. And let’s be honest, who is out enforcing them anyways…

The FAA is the body regulating the use of the drones – rightfully so since they handle anything that flies..but their rules on drones are left to a certain amount of interpretation..

Currently drone use by commercial firms for the intent of paid for services and marketing is illegal and punishable with fines up to $10,000 per offense. Realtors in particular have been at the brunt of the enforcement as they have been using drones to shoot homes. A court on the east coast ruled against the FAA in one case which forced the FAA to go back and make their regulations on drones more clear. The last set of regulations released on unmanned remote controlled aircraft was issued in 1981 – lots changed since then.

In addition to the prohibition of using drones for commercial use there is the question of where the airspace is itself, restricted. This map provides you pretty good insight into where the airspace is restricted by the FAA.

Now mind you, I doubt any FAA agents are hanging out in the South Bay looking for drones, but what if one of their friends gets a print from one of the many commercial photographers using the drones in the restricted airspace – there is evidence right there that the flight is illegal – the photo was taken from a drone, shot in an illegal spot and since the photo was purchased, that is proof of a commercial (non-recreational or hobbyist) enterprise. Your artwork is your downfall.

I considered hiring pilots for the end of the Catalina Classic and decided not to just based on the FAA guidelines, my own film would have been the incriminating evidence that I had hired someone to do an illegal flight in restricted airspace performing illegal activities.

Interesting loop hole though is that the FAA DOES allow drone flight for hobbyists. Which I find amazing, they would rather have people who have no idea what they are doing flying them instead of professionals using them.

The other night, I was sitting at home in San Pedro and heard that familiar sound of hornets swarming out my window- It was a drone. It had funny flashing lights and was making night time rounds in the neighborhood. It was then I considered the privacy issues that the FAA will also have to tackle. When a realtor flies a drone, is there an expectation of privacy from the houses near by? What could a pilot accidentally capture on video or photos that those people may not want captured?

For now, I am holding off on my drone enterprises until the laws are much more clear. I won’t be surprised if someday we see a bunch of FAA “drone agents” out enforcing guidelines and no fly zones. Till then, be educated, do research, contact your cities to find out where you can actually fly and of course – have fun and be safe!

I am leaving you 7D I am really sorry…

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The 7D was purchased in 2010. For the past four years, we have been in every body of water in Hawaii, shot two award winning films, countless web videos and shot some pretty amazing stills.

But now, I think it’s over. Last year, I got the Panasonic Gh3. It is lighter small, has a weather resistant body and shoots 1080/60p. But I could never really get it dialed and I kept going back to the 7D. At the 2013 Molokai, I just never felt good using the camera. All of the footage was under exposed, the follow focus did not seem to track really well and I eventually put it away and went back to the 7D because I know that camera how it behaves and what to expect from it.

This year, I promised to give the Panasonic another shot. And really that camera shone in 2013 as an interview camera. It just LOOKED amazing with it’s 14mm lens and for what ever reason, Panasonic cameras just have a “vibe” to them. The Canon to me always had troubles with excess luma and sometimes a washed out image in certain light. The Panasonic on the other hand always kept itself more on the darker side, and even in neutral setting has wonderful contrast.

Then I shot in the channel and after looking at the footage, I think the Panasonic has the best video image. I used the 7D with a 100-300mm USM Zoom and the Panasonic on their mid grade 45-200MM zoom. The images in the 7D look extremely bright – like too bright and I can see and feel excess luma in the image. But the Panasonic on the other hand handled the glare off the water and was able to render a very true to life image. In addition, I just feel like the Panasonic image is just more “real” and looks more cinematic then the 7D. I ran the 7D in 720/60p to match my working time lines. Maybe in 24p it would have rendered a less bright image and it would have been better. But I don’t think so. Right now, I am pretty much in love with how the Panasonic image looks.

GH3 Action Shot

Now, I want to save my pennies and move up to the GH4 and have a full Panasonic fleet to chose from. Noted, I once had their HMC150 and that was my goto camera for years. I loved it’s 24p look, but hated the feeling of it’s plastic body and felt it’s image was always a little flat when compared to the 7D. But now, with this series, I am back to panasonic.

See if you can tell which images are panasonic and which are 7D in this edit from the Molokai 2014

Molokai 14 – BTS

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The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships really is the super bowl of paddling. Each year, the best of the best of the best the rest show up on the small island of Molokai to take on the channel of bones. The channel is 32 miles of currents, swells, and is one of the most feared bodies of water in the world. What makes it so gnarly? It is deep. Really deep and it gets deep really quickly. Also, it is smack in the path of the ever present trade winds. Sometimes it can be a good run, but most times it is a side chop suffer fest. As big wave pioneer and all around waterman, Dave Kalama said of the finish, “it is the only race that gets harder as you get closer to the finish”. Why? When you finish you are fighting the refraction of water bouncing off Oahu, a current line and a head wind. In an interview one year Kalama called it ” Cruel and unusual punishment”.

The race started as a group of paddlers and surfers who just wanted to try it. That was 18 years ago and it was a handful of guys. Now, it is a world class event with international media coverage. This year after the race, we had footage going to ESPN, Australian National Broadcasting for the Morning Shows, and crews from all over the world shooting.

As the official producer for the race, it is a daunting task to cover it every year. But life is made a little easier with the help of Ocean Paddler Television in Hawaii and their capability to cover with their own boats and (gulp) helicopter. The day after the event is a made dash of hard drives being copied and cards being captured so we can collaborate on footage together.

I usually get to Hawaii a few days before the event to help the race committee (a small team of about 5 people handling 300 paddlers and 200 or so escort boats) with setting up registration and other pieces of the race. The first shooting day is the registration at Dukes, then we run off to the island. The Saturday before the race is always hectic trying to get in all of the athlete interviews. In previous years I have always over shot these interviews and this year, I committed to keeping everyone under 5 minutes. Mission accomplished – we ran interviews from 10am to 6pm…I shot over four and a half hours of interview footage featuring not just the top talent in the sports of paddleboard and SUP – but also a lot of the relay and solo people just going out to do the race. Those people are interesting to me, they have spent thousands to get here and are not doing it for any other reason but to do it. It’s special.

The morning of the race starts at 4:30am with packing gear and prepping for the swim to the boat. Yes you swim to the boat. There is no dock. So everything has to be in Pelican cases and dry bags. Luckily this year we had a ski to help taxi us out, but usually, it is a morning dip in the ocean. After the prayers and final instructions, we load up, run to the start and wait. Race morning is chaotic- from a production stand point, my goal is beach side interviews, shoot B roll and try to capture what it is like to be on the beach in the morning of the race. Not sure I have ever really done that. But hey, you have to try.

The rest of the day is spend bobbing around the channel trying not to fall on top of the other shooters on the boat. The water there is rough, very rough and when you are moving at around 5mph, you feel every bump. Shooting from a boat is a science in itself. I try not to drink coffee that morning — at least too much. One year I over did it and you can see it in the footage. I think boat shooting is by far the hardest thing you can do, and I have tried every device you can imagine to not get any shake – it’s ocean and you cannot beat it.

Once we wrap up the channel shooting, i scurry to the hotel to get out a Video News Reel for the international press. I usually don’t even shower till this reel is done. It is really a feat to accomplish getting footage exported within a few hours of the event. It was made a little easier this year as I used Adobe Premiere which natively handled all of the different camera formats – unlike my old Final Cut that would have required a bit of transcoding.

The next day, I spent the whole day once more in editing working on a high light reel…this again was done in Adobe, it was my third ever project in this software and I have some learning to do – that’s for sure (such as audio leveling haha).

 

It’s all in the Music, Pt 2

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Awhile back I wrote on this blog about how in my editorial process, I first locate music. Sometimes the music is even playing while I am shooting in my trusty ipod. Although the tracks may not be the EXACT thing I end up using, I still can locate themes relating to the tracks in the many libraries of music that I have on file.

Especially during the logging process, I listen to a HUGE library of different instrumentals and original scores from different movies and even video game sources. The biggest pool of these are actually located in my favorite little corner of the web – Spotify. Here you can find dozens of playlists dedicated to different genres. And for me, I have created a Soundtrack Picks playlist. If you want to get inspired to make a masterpiece – make a playlist to listen to as you trim and work on footage. From there I always find inspiration for the actual edit.

Here is my playlist for sound tracks and I will keep adding to this as times goes on…so check it out and subscribe to get updates as I find new music to get inspired with..

 

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Why Watch?

Jamie Mitchell leading the Tahoe race

Jamie Mitchell leading the Tahoe race

I was on one of my favorite sites for stand up videos , SUPRACER and was watching a new video out of France when I started to ask myself, “why am I watching this?”

Sure, I make videos for a living so that is one obvious reason, I like to watch videos. Plus, to be really honest, it gives me a glimpse into what other producers are doing :)

This latest piece was a 14 minute mega video of a race in Europe. The intro threw me off because they had the audio mixed to one speaker – cut quickly to someone giving instructions (but it was just music over them no actual audio of the instructions, but then again, I would have never understood them anyways – it’s in French!) and then a quick snippet of the guy talking and POP the audio mix came into both speakers about blowing my ears out. Cut again to windy audio of a beach side interview – in french so I had no idea what was being said, then into a wonderful song and montage of, I guess, the long “elite” race.

I have no idea who any of the paddlers are, what the race course is or anything else about the event – so as I am about 11 minutes into watching people I don’t know or care about cross the finish line – I ask myself – why am I watching this? Which of course started me down another rabbit hole – why does any watch a video from any SUP event? Really, most event videos follow a very common path – some type of set up shots, some type of race montage set to some upbeat music and of course, the awards. And if the company has budget – stick in some drone shots for good measure.

Stand Up World Tour has a different model, they do a narrated highlight reel after each day of competition… they skip straight to action of athletes who are team riders for event sponsors. I recall seeing one of their edits and wondered if any other board company besides Rogue was even at the event!

I watch these videos for entertainment, to stay informed about the sport on a global level – and yes, to see people I know in them. It is pretty neat to turn on a video and see someone I know half a world away competing. Kind of cool how technology can be used to bridge vast distances.

I began wondering about my own work…many say that I am skilled at connecting to emotions at the events. But what’s interesting is that most of the time I really don’t know who I am shooting and rarely go into any situation with any sort of game plan. Sometimes I will make a video that is 10 minutes long, sometimes it will be 3 minutes long. It all depends on what really happens that day. But more on that later…

I know that probably about 1 of every 10 people will actually click on a video link that I post. I tend to believe that most just get through the first minute and move on. I know I have done the same with some videos. I will give it my “minute test” – if in the first minute I don’t see something that grabs me – a shot, a sound bite, even a song – I am out.

Yesterday I watched a surf video that was over ten minutes long. Ok, let me be honest- I skimmed a surf video. It was BEAUTIFULLY shot. I mean GORGEOUS. But in all that time, they never said one word. I was dying to know “why did he use that board?” – the guy was on a HUGE long board that looked like it has so much history and I wanted to know about it. He drove from remote woods into San Fran, what was it like to go from woods to the big city? What was his experience? Videos, for me, HAVE TO BE more then just a collection of pretty images. I want to share in your experiences. If your pictures don’t tell a story, don’t have a sense of being, of being their own little personalities, then what is the point?

So ..why do you watch SUP Videos? Or any paddling videos? What is your one minute test?

And if you are working on something ask yourself – what is this piece’s personality? How does it talk? Walk?? breath? it sounds so odd – but the music can drive those things only so much – is it sad? it is lonely? is it happy? Is there a serious undertone of reflective peace? I am not sure that I think about these things aloud; but the interviews I gather, the look of the day, the feeling of the air while shooting will give me these indications. And that will, in turn, drive the entire project. So ask yourself these things next time ¬†you are sitting down to edit.

 

 

 

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Behind the Scenes…QB’s Trifecta

Recently for Quickblade Paddles, I got to make a very cool video for their new, innovative paddle – the Trifecta. It’s a really special paddle that needed a really special video.

Most of our work with QB has taken place in their paddle flume, a gym designed for training water athletes. We have used this for our backdrop for most instructional and other types of content. But for this video, I wanted to show the process of the paddle – showcase its unique features and make something a bit different then usual.

One of the neat things about QB is that the place is a manufacturing center. The paddles are made and assembled on site – and in the owner Jim Terrell’s suite are actual presses used for molds. They are stainless steel, beautiful and are labeled with the QB logo. In addition, there are workspaces with carbon fiber dust, foam dust and all kinds of other things that go into making the paddles. This is the very room where prototypes are born.

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To give the look of a car commercial I opted to keep everything very dark and moody. One challenge of the room though are skylights and I was shooting the middle of the day. The nice thing about the Panasonic GH3 is how flexible the camera is and through a combination of manual settings, I was able to make the room dark enough to look like it was pitch black. The next ingredient was a single LED light.

I put the paddle in various positions and going handheld with the camera in one hand and the LED light in the other I created light pans across the paddle. I shoot most things handheld, it is pretty rare that I use a steady cam or tripod these days, it takes practice, but once you get it down it’s simple. The LED light created very cool shadows and the fades in the video itself are not post production fades – they are literally the light coming up and backing down across the paddle and work areas.

As luck would have it, Jim walked in while I was shooting and needed to sand a paddle blade. It was actually an outrigger paddle with a Trifeca blade – a sort of test. But I saw the opportunity to get some moody shots of the master at work. I used the single LED to shoot Jimmy sanding a paddle out and this impromptu shoot created one of the best collection of moments in the video. It shows that you need to be open to what could happen next to get good footage. Jimmy working was not even in my storyboard.

We got lucky that one of our Hawaiian dealers was going to see Travis Grant, one of the co-producers of the paddle – so we had him conduct an interview with Travis and send to us. It all fit together perfectly and created a very dynamic, contrast filled video. All shot with a Panasonic GH3 and one LED light.