What goes into a video shoot

So, I sit here killing time as my footage from the last shoot imports.  And I'm realizing that people don't really know what goes into a video shoot.  Beyond the actual shooting (which I'll cover too) there are lots of tons of other things going on and being planned.  Wonder what?  I'll use a recent shoot for a client (see the finished product below).

PRE-PRE PRODUCTION

Every project starts with an email, phone call, or text.  It usually goes like this "Hey, I've got a project we're thinking about doing a video for.  We're talking to a couple people, but can you put together an estimate together and do you have time for this project?"  There's usually a call to go over what ever assets they have (script, storyboard, etc) so far.

The estimate is pretty easy at this point.  I know, pretty accurately, how much it costs me to have my office open for an hour.  That includes the office space, electricity, internet, computers, cameras, audio gear, lights, software, even the desk (it's called the Cost of Doing Business).  So it's a pretty simple calculation... how much time will it take X CODB + hard costs (VO, music, stock) = The total cost of the project.  There's some profit factored into my CODB, so if a client comes back and says "can you work with us on this?" there can be some flexibility.  But it makes zero sense for me to take a project way below my costs, so I pass on stuff from time to time.

TREATMENT / BIG IDEA

Everything starts with an idea and it's a good thing to know what you're getting into ahead of time.  Hopefully there's been a script or storyboard developed, but a lot of times we'll help with that side of things too.  It's important to get that idea down on paper so the right people can approve it.  For the shoot the other day, they were really buttoned up.  Beautiful storyboards and script.

PRE-PRODUCTION

This is the planning stage.  Most of the time, it's the most important part of the whole project.  It's when you go through EVERYTHING in the project and plan it all out.  For the shoot I was doing, it included two big things.  A call to go through the storyboard and put together a shot list with the client.  And the biggest part... finding a laundry room we can shoot in.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But think of your laundry room.  It needs to look perfect first and foremost.  But then you need room for a tripod and big camera, 2 or 3 lights, props, me and an assistant, a person to be "talent" (from the agency), and 2 or 3 agency people to approve what we're shooting.  It took a while to find.  I hit up every person I know, the agency went through people they know, I searched dozens of Airbnb listings.  Finally we found a great laundry room.  It was a little far from the agency's office but timing was tight.  We had like a week and a half for all of the pre-pro.

THE GEAR

Before I get into the actual production, the other part of pre-production is identifying what it will take to get the shoot done.  I also firmly believe in having a back up for everything.  Here's a list of what we brought...

  • Sony FS7 Camera - we were shooting 4k and needed slow motion
  • Canon 5d Mark III - brought as a backup and for stills if needed
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS
  • Canon 70-200m f/2.8L IS USM II
  • Metabones Speedbooster EF > Sony
  • Metabones EF > Sony - backup adapter
  • Kinoflo Diva - key light for the shoot
  • Astra Lite Panel BiColor LED - back / fill light
  • Lowell DP 4 Head Lighting Kit - backup lighting
  • Small HD 5" monitor w/ LUT support
  • Sachtler Tripod
  • 3x C-Stands
  • Leatherman
  • Gaff Tape
  • Lots of Batteries & accessories

THE PRODUCTION

The day of the shoot went pretty smooth.  My assistant showed up early and we got out to the location around 8am.  I like to show up at least an hour prior to the client arrival so that we can get stands, lights, cameras, everything up and checked before they walk in.  This is good for 2 reasons.  Primarily, I get to check everything before someone is looking over our shoulders.  We test before we head out, but it's a safety so we can solve any problems without the client being alarmed.  Secondly, it leaves less time for the client to sit around.  We want them to be in and out as smoothly as we can.

Client walked in, we tweaked lighting for the product they brought and got to the shooting.  During pre-pro we had set up a shot list and I'd ordered it into the most effective sequence for what we needed to get.  But we're always open to input and additional shots.  For this, we had a lot of those to make sure we were covered.

We shot for about 4 hours and sent the client on their way while we broke down.

POST PRODUCTION

So now the fun begins.  Most clients think you can jump right into the editing process.  In fact there's a half day or day of things to do prior to shooting.  Here are the steps...

  1. Take all the cards (which are well labeled for what order we shot in) and import them into the job folder.  Depending on how long we've shot, this can take a while.
  2. After that, I make disk images of every card.  If something gets corrupted during import or an emergency happens, I have an exact copy of the card we shot on and I can re-import.  I hold onto those until the project is completely wrapped.
  3. Once all that is done, the imported files are then renamed to match the project.
  4. Then everything gets backed up from my main working NAS to a backup NAS and an offsite NAS.  To lose something I'd have to have 2 drives in each of those fail all at the same time.  That's why I back it all up first.
  5. Then the footage gets imported and sorted into Adobe Premiere and we're ready to edit.

At that point I assemble a rough first cut that goes to the client via Wipster.  I can't say enough amazing things about Wipster.  Clients can comment directly into the video and it's matched to the time code.  It's amazing.  We go through a number of rounds of revisions and then we're wrapped.  When it's wrapped I send the clients MP4 and MOV.

So that's some of what goes into each shoot.  There are a million other little things, but if you're thinking about a video project you'll know most of what goes into it.  Here's the finished piece...

Kate + Nick's Wedding at Byron Colby Barn

One of the benefits of having a lot of irons in the fire is that I don't HAVE to do weddings.  What I mean by that is I'm able to choose couples who's style and attitude mesh well with mine.  I don't feel like I have to take every wedding that comes across.  Kate & Nick's style and wedding location were a perfect fit for my approach.  They got married, and had the reception, at the Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake, IL.  It reminded me a lot of my first wedding at Oak Hill in Galena.  Great space with a lot of energy.  It was a little cold that day, but every really stepped up and sucked it up and you wouldn't even know it was in the 30's when you look at the pictures.

Ceremony & Reception: Byron Colby Barn - Grayslake, IL

Second Shooter: Mike Durr

I have no job.

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I mean, I always have a job.  But for the first time in a LONG time, I don't have a 9-5 job.  I have always done freelance while having a full time gig.  Even if it meant getting home from work, doing the freelance all night, going straight back to work.  But now I don't have that middle of the day thing to eat up my freelance time so I'm going full speed ahead with AV Collective.  If the right full time opportunity came along, I'd entertain the idea.  But right now I'm really psyched about offering full service photo and video to a wide range of clients through my own company,  AVCollective.com  It's not really that different than what I was doing before, other than the fact that my family depends on my salary and it's elevating my hustle to work with new clients.

Along those lines I've added new clients and projects the past two months that I'm really proud of.  I'll put together some case studies on each of them so you can see exactly what I did and how we executed.  It's been a blast.  So stay tuned as I reboot my websites and re-engage.

Apple took my money & ran...

IMG_6314sq So, there’s always one person in the family who gets to be the IT professional for everyone else.  Nine times out of 10 it’s the simple fixes and you’re on your way.  My latest endeavor is the worst experience I’ve had with a tech company.  And it’s the biggest of them all (in most people’s mind), Apple.  They’ve taken my parent's money and left us with an iPhone 6 that can’t be activated, and they won’t return it.

My mom has been using a flip phone from Sprint for the past 5 or 6 years.  It’s a piece.  When the new iPhone 6 came out, it was time to make the jump to join the rest of the family on Verizon.  I have my own plan and phones and all of that good stuff, I’m simply acting as the person in the know for my parents.  So on October 4 we ordered up the phone, put in the info to port the number, filled out everything, good to go.  It’ll be a few weeks before it ships so I forget about it.  I get a text from my dad about a couple things and he says “oh yeah, the iPhone came.”  I’m about to go out of town, but I swing by the house to get the phone.  I try to activate it and I get a message that says “Your iPhone could not be activated … Try connecting your iPhone to iTunes to activate it.”  I connect it to iTunes, same issue.  I try 3 different wifi networks… same issue.  I’m about to go out of town so I schedule a Genius Bar visit for when I get back.

I return from my sunny vacation and go to the Apple store on 10/30 for my appointment.  They’re not sure what the issue is, and the techs (while super nice) don’t seem to have a good idea of what’s going on with the activation side of things.  The employee calls up another guy to return my phone and give me another one.  That guy comes up and says “I can’t do that, we’re past the return window (which I thought was 30 days).  You can only swap out for a new device.”  Fine, whatever.  At this point I’ve been at the store for 90 minutes.  Original guy comes back and we take another 30 to get the swap and he says “should be good to go, just go activate it”.

I get back to my office, try to activate it.  Still won’t go, but at least I can see the home screen now.  I call Verizon.  They tell me it has a bad SIM card.  That night I go to the Verizon Store, they swap the SIM card but tell me that’s not the issue.  The Porting of the number is held up somewhere, but their Porting center is closed.  Because why would they be open the same hours as the store?  Spent an hour trying to figure it out, they end up having to call me back.  They call the next day and say everything is good on Verizon’s end, Apple hasn’t sent them notification that the sale is complete and thus they can’t port the number.  I need to go back to Apple and have them “reactivate” the phone.  Of course it’s Halloween and I can’t get a Genius Bar appointment until the following Monday.

Back to Apple I go.  Talk to the same Genius Bar employee.  Lots of back and forth and they say “we should have returned and issued you a new phone, we were wrong initially.  We’d do that now, but we don’t have any so I can add you to the list and when one comes in we will let you know.  Or I will just take it as a return and you can start over.”  The idea of starting new and waiting another few weeks for a replacement phone was annoying, but better than waiting a week for a new phone to come in and have a new issue.  I say “Let’s do the return.”  At that point, for a reason I don’t understand, they start calling Verizon and Apple to try to figure out what’s going on.  I say enough of that, just return the phone.  Their computer can’t return the phone because it was bought online and the online people (via phone) can’t push the return through.  After 3 hours at the Genius Bar, the only option I’m presented… go home and someone will call me within the next 24 hrs to talk about options.

At this point, everyone has been nice to deal with but this is a joke.  Of course nobody from Apple ever called.  I have a phone here that was purchased at the subsidized price.  I’m told that at any moment the number Port and everything could get pushed through.  Which means if I haven’t activated this phone on the network, Verizon will hit me with an early termination fee.  Apple says everything is fine on their end.  So they don’t seem to really care much (the online people, the store people are great but can’t actually do anything).  I have an iPhone that won’t work and Apple won’t let me return.  Despite Apple Care and not having a product that works.  We’re stuck between two behemoth companies that don’t seem to care and I’ve got a phone that connect.

Open workspaces suck.

I read a REALLY interesting article from Fast Company on why open workspaces are not good for employees [read it here].  They made some great points that really resonate with the place I'm working right now.  The biggest issue with an open work space is you can't focus.  I can't tune everything out and just focus on what I'm doing.  There's someone talking or doing something else around you, or the hum of the AC.  So you turn to headphones, but then you've got music or something going.  There's never just silence.  The other issue, from a creative person standpoint, is there's no relaxing when you're in an open floor plan.  There's times I have to come up with something totally new and original.  I can't stare at a screen and force it to appear.  I need to move around.  Maybe shoot a basket or two on a little tykes hoop.  Bounce a ball off the wall.  Stare at the ceiling.  All of these things you can't do in an open workspace. Long story short?  They don't work.

Success In Photography

I've been thinking a lot about what success means when it comes to photography. Then I found this little F-Stoppers video that is really interesting. It also has a quote that I love. The abridged version is... "You have to be working until all hours of the night. If you're not working late, someone else will be and they'll take your jobs." (go here to jump right to that quote in the video)

Commuting Sucks

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I have written 3 blog posts about why I think it's bullshit for a company to move from the suburbs to the city.  I've deleted each one for being to wordy.  So, here's a top 10 list...

  1. When I accept a position at a company, one factor is the proximity to my home.  I want to have a work, life balance and you deciding to move the company to the city means I might have made a different decision when I took the job.
  2. "But you'll get to experience the city!" Everyone says that, it's not true.  Maybe if I was 22 and could get back to my place whenever I want, but I have a family I want to see occasionally.  Think about your average day and how much time you spend hanging out and enjoying your surroundings.  It's maybe a half hour at lunch, tops.
  3. It's a sprint to the office/train.  I wake up and I'm rushing to make the train, then I get to the city and I'm rushing to get to the office.  Then the day is done and I'm rushing to get to the train again, so that I can make it home before 7pm.  It sucks.
  4. It costs me more to get to work every day.  My train pass is $150, I've taken 5 cabs (due to weather or timing) which is about $50, I've had to park at the train station 4 times which is $12, and I've had to drive to the city to drop off/pick up gear twice (48 miles round trip x 55 cents a mile, plus $28/day to park) which cost me $108.80.  That's $320.80 or $120.80 more than what I was spending to drive.
  5. It costs more when I'm at work.  I just had a Caesar salad and a Diet Dr Pepper.  It was $10.  The salad dressing wasn't even included in the $7 salad price.  My first day I got a Coke and a bottle of water and it was almost $5.
  6. I can't go out for a beer after work.  My friend's company screwed them too and moved from the burbs to the city.  But for me to meet up with them for a beer or two I have to miss spending any time with my wife or putting the baby to sleep.  If I don't get on a train between 5 and 6:30pm, I don't get home until 8pm.
  7. The flip side of number 6 is that if I have to do anything in the suburbs before 7pm I can't make it.  By the time I get to the train, get to my home, walk there, put my stuff down, get everyone together, get in the car and pull away it's 7pm at the earliest.
  8. I work in the loop, like most everyone else.  Even when I want to do something after work, there's nothing going on after 6pm or on weekends.  Everything happens in neighborhoods, nothing happens downtown in the loop.
  9. Even though you're in the city, you can't get to anything.  If I need to go to the camera store I have to either drive down (see costs above), take an hours worth of trains/busses/walking, or take an expensive cab.  Even if all I need is a USB cable I have to walk a mile to Best Buy or take a $7 cab.  And that's assuming what I'm looking for is popular enough to put on their small amount of shelf space.  And I can't go to the one by my house on the way in because it opens at 9 and I'll miss my trains.
  10. And finally, people who don't work in the city always talk about how great it would be.  It's not.

(Btw, I think it would be just as bad if it was a company in the city moving to the suburbs.  People take jobs based on location.)

Amazing glasses holder

I have a dream job... It's having an online shop that designs things specifically for people's desks.  Unique items that are well designed and almost like mini pieces of art to have on your desk.  In addition to unique items that share your personality but in a subdued way.  I stumbled upon the Bushakan Glasses Stand and it's exactly what I'm talking about.  I want one.

The cost to move to the city

A company I got my start at has always been based in the western suburbs of Chicago.  They've always talked about moving to the city and today they announced to everyone that it was happening (I have lots of good friends there still).  That made me think a little bit.  Sure, working right in the loop would be great.  But what's the cost to the average employee for a move like this?  I did some quick and dirty math and it's a lot more than you'd think...

Driving

Assuming 22mpg average and you're adding 50 miles on to your commute round trip.  And I'm averaging out a month of working days to 21.75 (365 days - 104 Sat/Sun divided by 12 months).  Doing the straight math, gas will cost you approximately $8/day.  That doesn't factor in that you're sitting in traffic and not driving for a good portion of your commute so I'm adding 25% to that so you're at $10/day or $217.50/month.

Parking

I did a quick search of a couple websites and rates near the new building are anywhere from $300 to $550.  I chose $400 as it was near the average and seemed to be the easiest walk to the office.  So that's $400/month.

The Train

If you decide to take the train to the office then you can get a monthly pass.  From a nearby station, south of the office's current location you're looking at $150/month for a train pass.  Parking at said train station is $105/quarter or $35/month.  Bringing your train total to $185/month plus a nice half hour walk in the elements.  That doesn't include gas costs driving to the train, but that's too hard to calculate.

Food

Why am I including food?  Because the current office includes a cafeteria for lunch.  Now you're going to be in the loop at lunch hour and you'll have to buy that lunch.  The average trip to lunch (based on the abundance of eating out I do) is about $9.  $9 times 21.75 work days a month is $195.75

The Results

If you're going to drive, it will cost you $813.25 more per month to work in the city versus the location of the current office ($617.50 minus the lunches).

If you're going to take the train, it's a more affordable $380.75 ($185 leaving out the lunches).

Most people at the company live in the suburbs.  North, South or West of the current location.  This doesn't factor in that you're adding about an hour and a half commute round trip.  That's got to be worth something, but it's tough to monazite  (it'd be $261/month if you were working minimum wage for those hours).  And the eating out can be cut down by bringing your own lunch.

All in all it gives a pretty good idea of what it costs for a company to make a move from the suburbs to the big city.  You get a more prestigious location but you put a lot more financial burden on your employees.  It's an interesting trade off.

 

Clients

Sometimes I find myself taking a step back and looking at where I started out, and where I've ended up.  I'm a pretty lucky guy to do what I do.  I started a company last year and I'm launching the site soon and was pulling logos for a client page.  In the past year or two I've done work for almost 20 different clients and worked on 50 or so different brands.  That's a pretty big number.  I'm really happy that I get to work on such a variety of stuff and I haven't gotten stagnant on the same 3-4 brands for 1 employer like happens some times.   Hopefully I can add 20 more clients and another 50 brands in the next 2 years.  Until then, keep an eye out for my new company and new site.

How'd you get so lucky?

A guy I know named Rob Hoffman wrote a little piece on his response to people asking him for a camera recommendation.  It's a pretty good read (find it here) and inspired me to post a quick note myself.  I get the camera question ALL THE TIME, especially this time of year.  It bugs me sometimes, but it's one of those things where I know more about it so I might as well fill people in. What really bugs me is when people say something like "How'd you get so lucky to do what you do?" or "Your work is amazing, how come my stuff doesn't look like yours?"  Those two questions annoy me because people assume that photo and video are things that people can just do.  When you see a really great painting someone did, you don't go up to the artist and say "your painting is great, why do my people only look like stick figures?"  People assume that just because they own a camera, they should be able to replicate what others have spent years crafting.  Just because you bought a DSLR doesn't mean you have any idea what to do with it.  You need to put it in manual mode, tape that dial down and never switch it.  You need to learn composition and lighting.  And you need shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more.  Don't stop shooting until you've used up the shutter on your camera (they don't work forever) and then shoot some more.  Stop asking and start doing.

The thing that bugs me even more than "how do I make my pictures look like yours" is the question of "how did you get so lucky?"  I didn't get lucky.  I got motivated.  It's not luck.  If you're not willing to get in there and start working you're not going to make it.  The skill almost comes secondary to the willingness to work.  It's almost 1am and I'm taking a break from a project right now to write this and then I'm going back at it.  I work long hours all day, I eat dinner and talk to my wife and then I go back to work and work all night.  It's not because I need extra money (although that's nice), it's because I don't say no.  The first real boss I ever had taught me a long time ago that you don't say no.  You say yes and you figure out how to deliver the work faster than they want it and deliver something that's twice their expectations.  You don't sleep, you don't eat, you don't think about what you might be missing.  You go out and you work at it until you blow everyone out of the water.  Then you ignore what they say about it and go do it again.  You can't be a photographer, you can be a video editor, you can't really be good at anything unless you work at it.  If you say no, you don't deserve the success and there will be someone else out there who works at it harder who's more than happy to get the extra work and build their skills even more.  Instead of asking others how they got to where they are, pick up a project and get there yourself.

Do yourself a favor and listen to this.

"Dynamic Duos: The Famous Partnerships in Advertising" from Terry O'Reilly's Age of Persuasion, listen it here. It's a half hour look through the relationship between a client and an agency creative and what it took for those two to create some of the best ads of all time.  Phil Knight (Nike) and Wieden, Jobs and Lee Clow, Gallo and Hal Riney.  Really interesting listen.