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Rode Lavalier Product Demo

After waiting months to get mine, here’s my first experience with the Rode Lavalier.

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Color Blindness

(This is pasted from my April CVmag article found here:
http://www.christianvideomag.com/articles/articles.php?recordID=305)

I am color blind. I’m not talking about the racial color blindness, though that is the case as well. I do believe that our Creator God made one human race with lots of variety in the pigmentation of our skin. That’s really for another article and another magazine. Back to my point, I do suffer from Daltonism or color blindness. I found out in first grade after messing up a math worksheet. We were to color the balloons certain colors according to the sum in the math problem inside each balloon. The teacher’s aid yelled at me and called me sarcastic and I went home crying. I knew all of the right answers but kept saying, “They didn’t have the papers.” meaning the crayons didn’t have labels for me to read what color they were. So my dad quickly got out the ol’ encyclopedia and quizzed me on the color wheel. Then he went to the color blindness entry and confirmed his suspicion when I couldn’t see the hidden image in the test. It runs in my mom’s family, and women are the carriers, so I am officially color blind.

What’s this have to do with this magazine? Well, since you and I dabble in graphic arts and video and other creative outlets, we know how important color is. It is vital that colors be right. What is right? Depends on whether or not you’re colorblind. Maybe what’s right for you is not right for me, or maybe I’m not going to know anyway! What I’ve had to learn to do is either ask my wife (a good general rule for even non-colorblind men, perhaps) or color by numbers.

Paint or color by numbers is very doable with RGB numbers or even easier with Hexadecimal numbers. Just do a google search of hexadecimal numbers and you’ll get a 6 digit code for whatever color you need. Whether it’s a primary yellow or a forest green or even a magenta (I have no idea what that is). What’s even better is a tool in some programs to match any color on the screen. In Adobe software this is known as the eyedropper tool. You can click on any color and the info on that color gets locked in. You can copy the hex numbers and go to town. Also displayed will be the RGB numbers- three sets of numbers. “I used the eyedropper tool in The Bible in Rhyme’s mother’s day video from Proverbs 31- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/23804/Proverbs-31– to match the text color to the mother’s shirt color in each scene.”

This comes into play, for instance if you want to add text over a video. Use the eyedropper to get colors for your text out of the image or take a screenshot into this site- http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/ and it will give you a palette to work with taking it from out of the picture along with dull and vibrant versions and hexadecimal numbers!

There are some things, though, in which numbers won’t really help you. What if you shot with the wrong white balance setting? What if you want to correct color? What if you want to accomplish a certain look or feel to your footage. This article certainly won’t answer all of those questions, but it raises the issue. It is for you to go out and find the wealth of info out there on finding out how to achieve these goals. For me, I usually have to rely on my wife’s eyes to help me out. She will sometimes get tired of me calling her back in to look at the screen.

She helped me just recently on a little Mother’s Day countdown that I did- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/23520/Crazy-Things-Moms-Say. To have and maintain consistency I used the same project I had for “Crazy Things Dads Say” but obviously used different sayings and had a different ending and music. The only other thing that needed to be different was the color scheme. The “dads” video was sort of manly earth tones and this one need to be more girly and pink even. I was able to take my motion background and manipulate the hues until I had a result that worked well. For this, of course I needed to borrow my wife’s eyes to come and help me out. I scrubbed through until she said, “Stop…no, go back…there it is.”

I also asked for her help on a recent poptent.net spot that I created for Stauffers Animal Crackers. In the creative brief they emphasized that the color palette match the packaging of the product. They wanted an “organic” piece that didn’t feel like an ad using no logos or tag lines. I was pleased that another producer commented on the poptent upload and picked up on the fact that our clothing went well with the brand’s logo. Anyway, I color corrected it using a levels adjustment which I wrote about last month in “Gotta Level With You”. I rendered out a version I thought was pretty good, but then when she came home I requested her expertise and use of her non-colorblind eyes again. We went through and made minor adjustments a couple of times. We checked for overexposure and congruence from scene to scene. Some of the shots that were too yellow were corrected by “color balance” adding some blue mid tones and at times highlights. You can see the whole ad with split screen (half the straight out of camera flat image and half the color corrected display): http://vimeo.com/22127915.

I know there are many studies in color and color palettes and I will be studying some of this. I believe there are plenty of sites out there to help understand the psychology behind colors and which ones go well together. Suffice to say that colors do matter. Interestingly enough, in a “lighting” lecture at Lights Film School the instructor said it’s good to dabble with Black and White before attempting color, so that with your lighting you create and can recognize good contrasts in your shadows, mid tones, and highlights. That’s a challenge; but let’s takes it to heart. Lighting is one area that I really need to work on. The good thing about shooting with a flat setup in HDSLR is the ability to boost those levels and make the colors pop in post. However, it would be best to get all that looking good when shot. As my instructor said, “You can’t fix tonal range in post. You either have tonal range or you’re flat. You can darken your blacks and pop your highlights if they are there in camera, but you can’t invent them in post.” Get it right the first time! Those are good thoughts to consider.

Even though I’m color blind I can see colors. I appreciate colors. Colors can also evoke different emotions if we understand and use them correctly. Watch films and see how there’s a certain tint to different types of films or even scenes. Colors are truly a gift from a creative God. Let’s try to use amazing colors that He has given us and create images that are most interesting.

Get Popping.

February 5, 2011 1 comment

Here’s my article from Christian Video Magazine’s Jan. 2011 issue- www.christianvideomag.com.  Since it’s release, “Daddy Calls Mommy” was selected to be a finalist!  Here’s the article:

I told you last month about a big step in my pursuit to make better quality videos that glorify God.  That step was enrolling in Lights Film School, an online institution in which one can do the work at their own pace.  Though I am currently a student at Lights, I also registered somewhere else to help spur me on towards more professional looking films.  This place is www.poptent.net.

Poptent is a place where creators can see assignments from major brands and create commercials for their products per their specifications.  Then the brand will select among all of the entries and buy the best ones to actually use in their ad campaigns.  One might ask, why even try a contest like this, it’s such a long shot to win some money; it’s a complete waste of time.  No, it’s not a waste at all.  It is experience, and well worth it.

I’ve currently completed 3 videos for poptent and the jury’s still out on them.  I’m awaiting the verdict on who will be chosen among all of the excellent competitors.  Like I said, I don’t expect to be chosen, but that would be very nice if I had such a stroke of luck!  In the last two especially, I’ve learned a lot about checking through my work flow list of to dos.  Since I’m a one man crew and using some new equipment, I’m in charge of sound and filming and directing and producing and set design and at times acting and of course editing.  That’s a bunch of details to have to keep track of.  Even in a 30 second spot, the execution becomes quite an ordeal.  That’s precisely why I see value in popping onto this scene.

You might say, “Greg, you mentioned you wanted to make films that glorify God.  How can a Trident commercial do that?”  Well, you’d be right.  While there’s no real redeeming value in a gum ad, the flexing of the creative muscle and learning what comes with pulling off something I would want to have in my poptent portfolio will be worth the sweat involved because it will make my films that glorify God better.  There is so much amazing talent on poptent.  I feel out of my league.  That’s a good feeling, because it stretches me to create something with excellence and a level of production value.

The church needs the quality that the secular world gets.  The church has that redeeming value that the world needs.  At the same time, the message should not be so in your face.  A bit of tact and creativity is needed to speak the visual language of our day.  I encourage you to get your feet wet a little in the creative crowd that is poptent.net, and have fun with it.

My first submission to poptent was a Spanish submission.  I figured that would give me an edge or at least narrow the playing field a little.  I learned that this is literally an international contest, and high stakes!

Here is the link: http://www.poptent.net/media/26170.  On this one, they actually provided some footage we were able to download and use if we wanted.  On this longer piece I created several After Effects animated segments, but then filmed some parts as well.  I learned that with my new Canon 7D, some extra attention to audio is needed.  Even with the Rode Videomic on the 7D my interviewee didn’t sound so good, so for Christmas I ordered the Zoom H1 to record audio separately.  (Watch this short little video on sound and HDSLRs from vimeo video school- http://vimeo.com/videoschool/lesson/16/recording-sound-for-dslrs). On the last shot, I still wasn’t very familiar with the 7D, so I used my Panasonic DVC30 for that bit.

For the next one, my Zoom H1 had arrived and I was more confident on the 7D.  So I set up to do a Triaminic spot.  This link is in English, by the way: http://www.poptent.net/media/25676.  This one needed to be 30 seconds long, or short I should say.  Trying to cut the concept down to that amount of time is a chore.  However, it can be done.  I had planned more that simply could not make it into the edit.  I had to keep it moving during that time frame, but really cut things down.  It was good practice in a principle they taught in the screenwriting module at Lights Film School of arrive late and leave early.  I also learned how sensitive the Zoom H1 is.  I positioned it out of the frame of the shot but under a ceiling fan that was on.  Though the fan was on the lowest setting, I could hear wind created from it occasionally and didn’t realize it until later.  This “handy recorder” came in when I had to overdub the “buy” line my audio got messed up badly by the fan at that moment.  Well, the worst thing on this one was making my baby cry!

Finally, we get to my latest entry.  Here’s where I got to practice over the shoulder shots and depth of field and even some focus pulls.  This one was fun to make!: http://www.poptent.net/media/38410.  I thought, if I get a buddy to act as the Landlord I can focus on directing and sound, etc.  I can wear headphone and make sure that the audio is clear.  I even remembered to turn the fan off.  But on some of my best takes, I forgot to hit record on the Zoom H1!  I was hearing its output levels, but was not recording.  You live and learn.  I ran out of time to get the same level of performance before we had to leave, so I ended up using some good audio clips and some I had to clean up the on camera audio, which is not so desirable.  All in all, I’m gaining more confidence on some tricky new equipment so that when an important project comes along, I’ll be ready to go on it!

How about you?  Poptent.net’s a great place to practice your craft.  So, get popping!

School’s in Session!

December 21, 2010 1 comment

The following review is copied and pasted from my Greg’s Toolkit December 2010 article in www.christianvideomag.com:

I’ve written a column in this magazine since its inception. In many instances (including the little blurb bio at the end) I made mention to the fact that I had no formal training. All that I’ve learned has been through trial and error and/or tutorials, books, and blogs, etc. This month I’ve had to amend the blurb, because school is in session. That’s right. I’m going to school. And I’d love to tell you where I landed.

For some time, and funny as it may be, I prided myself in having no formal training. At the same time, I earnestly yearned to enroll somewhere to study filmmaking. This is because I believe that we should always strive to make better and more quality films that have a lasting impact. Formal education can make a real difference; but, where to enroll? There are many good places to learn, but they were simply out of the question for me, and I suppose for some of you, too. I can’t simply uproot and move my family to some campus and go through college again. It’s not feasible for me. I thought about taking some classes at a local college, but again, the cost factor was intimidating. To pay such prices per class, and possibly not learn much until having to ante up for a later class? No thanks. If there was only something online that I could work on from home (at my own pace), that would certainly be an answer.  That’s what I needed. I looked into a few options – only to find the same thing – too expensive for a narrow scope approach. Then I came across my answer – Lights Film School (http://lightsfilmschool.com).

Lights offered all of the features that I was looking for. Number one, on my mind and yours too probably, is the pricing. Lights is extremely affordable, and I say affordable because the product is anything but cheap. As I write, their website states the course is “now being offered for 50% off our regular enrollment fee of $600 and is now being offered for only $299 (USD) (a full $300 discount).” The value in what you get for their unbelievable low price goes way beyond anything I thought was possible as I shopped around for a place of learning.  It’s a bargain! A real steal! 

The scope was a big selling point for me as well. I wanted something broad that would give me an understanding of the many different skills needed. Lights has designed a comprehensive 8 module film course that allows students to systematically work through the different areas of the filmmaking process. The 8 modules of their course are: 1. INTRODUCTION TO FILMMAKING & ONLINE LEARNING, 2. SCREENWRITING, 3. DIRECTING, 4. CINEMATOGRAPHY, 5. SOUND DESIGN, 6. EDITING, 7. DOCUMENTARY, 8. FILM DISTRIBUTION & MARKETING. This all-encompassing syllabus is tailor-made for people like me, and if you’re reading this magazine, probably you as well.

I also love that Lights is not simply a theory based school. They provide a hands-on, practical learning environment. When you enroll, you’ll learn about their philosophy of “outcomes based” learning, which differs from the traditional approach of objective based institutions. Simply put, “objective based learning focuses on providing opportunity for learning while outcomes based learning focuses on how learning is used.” With a limited time scale and an online structure, their model is much better than traditional models.

I am still a student and have much of the course ahead of me yet to be completed. However, I can already say that I genuinely appreciate the hard work and resources that have gone into making Lights possible. So far, I’ve learned a wealth of information and ideas on storytelling, which is invaluable to me. I have been challenged through the assignments, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The personal attention given each student is also such a positive aspect of their educational system.  The Student Grading Center “acts as a collective learning experience for all of the students in our school. It’s a great way to learn from other beginners´ mistakes.”  It’s a true community of like-minded folks, with an international flair.  At a live online Lab chat conducted recently, there were students from Italy, Kenya, Canada, and the USA. We, as students, are able to see what others have done and learn from them and the instructor’s reviews of each assignment. Constructive feedback is a necessity in any work of quality substance. This is provided when you enroll in the course.

The course is a tremendous resource. A buddy of mine, who has a college degree in the same field, mentioned to me that he had the same assignment in his college course that I just completed at Lights. Lights will point you in the right direction and expose you to great films and interviews that compliment the subjects being taught, as well as software and other online tools that will aid in the process. Upon completion you will receive a certificate, but even more importantly you will literally embark on a journey of a life-long learning and refining the craft and powerful art form that is filmmaking.

I’m so glad that I enrolled. I look forward to working hard through this course and gaining so much at the same time.  For me, it’s just what the doctor ordered.  How about for you? Give yourself a Christmas present you’ve been wanting (or needing). Or make your New Year’s resolution be the completion of this course. It will be such a benefit to you in your filmmaking aspirations.


http://lightsfilmschool.com

The Christmas Story (Like you’ve never heard it before)

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…  We know the words from Luke 2 by heart.  We hear them every year around Christmas time, as we are reminded that our Savior came down from heaven to earth.  I love those words and I love Christmastime.  Christmas and Advent videos abound in Christian circles.  There are new videos being made every year.  This year, my new video features that same text, but like you have never heard it before.  The next installment from my partners, The Bible in Rhyme, is “Luke 2”.  We are very excited about it! 

Download a full-res, no watermark version (HD or SD) here:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/20146/Luke-2

Read about the process of making this clip here:

http://www.christianvideomag.com/articles/articles.php?recordID=273

HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

REMEMBER TO TELL THE STORY!!!

Bulletin Bloopers

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s a remake of a fun piece I did a while back.  I walk through the process in an article for Christian Video Magazine called “A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words”- http://www.christianvideomag.com/cv2010_10/cv2010_10gfish.pdf

You can download an HD version (without the watermark) at- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/20386/Bulletin-Bloopers-Countdown

Here’s the old versus the new thumbnail:

2nd Video in TBIR Series

July 31, 2010 2 comments

I’m so glad to finally have this video done.  The Beatitudes from Kyle Holt’s “The Bible in Rhyme”.  I very much like the way it came out.  I just took too long on it!  Little pieces here and there.  Then a big push yesterday and it’s done.  I’m especially proud of the salt bit.  Hope you enjoy!

Download this video in HD at –http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/19611/Matthew-5

Read my article about the process of making this one- http://www.christianvideomag.com/articles/articles.php?recordID=252

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