When Video Comes a Calling: Beginning a DSLR Film Series

I have just been contacted to produce a web-isode pilot about how I select, cook and plate food for photography. GreatTerrible! The past 24 hours have been “the best of times and the worst of times.” I am so excited to give this a try and hopefully have it succeed on any level. It would bring my love of food and photography to an intersection, but it would also, by necessity, connect my personality, my music and my fascination with movies into the mix. I would also need to turn the videography over to V., which will be totally fine as she is able to translate the look I am seeking into the real world while making space for her own interpretation. The exciting part is that it might lead to something bigger; I have no idea what, but it just might, and that possibility is a catalyst for great things.

The worst of times comes into figuring out how to produce a professional series with two people, a limited amount of time, and the equipment I currently own. I spent about six hours yesterday trying to figure out a solution to recording sound, shooting about 10 seconds of footage, and then trying to sync it. It was nightmarish.

Fortunately, I think that I have found some workarounds. Let me explain… I currently have a Canon Rebel T2i, a Redrock Micro Captain Stubling kit, a full set of prime lenses, a MacPro computer with Final Cut Pro 7, a MacBook Pro, a pair of Profoto D1 lights, and lots of the little things. These will allow me to record phenomenal video with filmic depth of field and digital precision, and then I can edit in Final Cut. What it will not allow me to do is to record sound that could be used for anything; the mic is rotten.

Solution: I own ProTools 9 with an Avid DigiRack 002, a Focusrite Voicemaster Pro Channel Strip and two excellent microphones – the Blue Bluebird and the Rode NT2-A. I decided that the only way to record sound effectively in the studio would be to set this system up and run it during the shoot. Solved? Sort of.

Syncing sound to video is not so simple when your video is in short sections and your audio is continuous. It can be done manually, but it takes a long time. Apparently, PluralEyes software will do the syncing for me if I record with in-camera mic and ProTools – it must sync the sound waveforms. Possibly solved.

I also spent about an hour in Motion software creating a 10 second title sequence showing my food photography. It looks really great, and those 10 seconds are what I came away with after hours of work. Did I mention that I will probably have to record another soundtrack for the opening sequence? I had a rock instrumental, but V. thinks that jazz would work better, and she is probably right. That should only take a few hours…

Technology moves faster than we can stay on top of it. I firmly believe that at some point it overtakes each of us, and we have two choices: fall behind into the chasm with those who fell with setting up VCRs or to dedicate a chunk of your life to catching up with the wave. Neither is easy. In the past year I have been overtaken by Apple’s iPadiTouchiPhone revolution and the apps evolution. Normally, I can withstand a few generations of falling behind new products, but when I was in Peru, and the students could connect on their iPhones while my Razr was dead to the world, I felt old. When I realized that instead of buying a new $400 radio tuner to replace my Sirius Radio, I could merely buy a $1.99 app that would provide me digital radio on all of my devices anywhere I have wi-fi, I felt naive. When I sent a colleague’s laptop into a tailspin because my fingers inadvertently used gestures to mess up his Photoshop settings, I felt like Godzilla in Milwaukee. My solution was not to roll over though; I bought an iPhone 4, borrowed an iPad 2 and have been trying to use them each and every day.

The iPhone 4 is beautiful. I am not a phone person. I do not call people much, but I do text to make contact or ask questions. The functionality of the iPhone and raison d’etre for me was being able to make contact while I am on the road and out of Canada. For Spain and Morocco I want to be able to send a text to my mom to say I need diplomatic intervention or that the fish tastes amazing. The peace of mind is calming. Having a movie or two, a playlist of songs, my GTD organizer, my contacts, my calendar and my email accessible is brilliant and worth the extra $40 a month over my Razr’s pay-as-you-go plan.

The question then becomes: “…but Chandler you love film photography and seem to be heading backwards toward the arcane?” Yes and no. I do love the best of the arcane technologies, but I do realize that they need to be matched with the most modern technologies for them to make any sense. Therefore, I need to scan my film for it to make sense to me. I want analog guitar effects pedals and tube amplifiers, but ProTools is the only way to translate them into music, and all of this comes together for the video project.

Today will be a walk out to get some groceries, some Toronto footage for the opening sequence and to think about whether we can actually pull this gig off without killing ourselves in the process. If we do pull it off, then I know it will be a success. If we don’t, then it will be back to the lab again. One way or another, I am excited about the work. When I was in Grade 6 I wrote and directed a thirty minute film called Hollywood Heat. When I was in my B.Ed. program, I made a series of mockumentary films about the program that starred my character Antoine La Poupee. When I came to Toronto I made a short film about my brother’s return to gymnastics after a ten year lay-off. Each had their positive responses, but it is only now that I feel I can produce what I envision in my head. VHS tape was never a great way to make movies, and those editing machines were monsters of expense and quirks. With Final Cut Pro 7, the learning curve is high, but it will eventually do anything you can imagine. I do love film, and tend to have a lot of fun making a piece come to life. Let’s just hope it does not kill me this time.

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