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Tuesday
Jun192012

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

It’s amazing how time flies. A little over a year ago when I first started this blog, I had a post about Why HD-DSLR Video. Basically, it was meant as an open discussion about utilizing a newly conceived HD-DSLR workflow at my “day” job. It’s hard to believe that in the time since that post, DSLR video has been used to make a major motion picture like Act of Valor as well as being used regularly in everything from commercials to music videos. Anymore, you would be hard pressed to find a DSLR camera that doesn’t do video. The times are changing.

In that very same post, I had images of myself shooting on location for the first video production using this workflow. A production that resulted in a video we recently found out won a bronze award at the 33rd Annual Telly Awards this year. 

I figured in a post about winning a Telly Award, I should actually show the award. But it looked a little pretentious, so I figured an exact 13" replica of Iron Man's prototype Mark II armor would help balance it out.

For me, this was a major achievement on many levels. The first of which being that the workflow I helped develop with my co-workers Michelle Polk and Wes McDermott actually worked. We have gone on to utilize the DSLR production method on many more production shoots. Most recently in a trip to the Netherlands with an even smaller crew, myself as shooter and Michelle as producer. And let’s just say being able to carry all your essential shooting gear in a pack on your back makes for a much less stressful trip.

Beyond the validation of our production method, the UPS Supply Chain Solutions - Post Sales video we won for was also the first project that I edited and color graded myself. Recognition at such a high level for those efforts proves that the time I took to learn those skills was well worth it. While a wish I could preview the video for you all here, the reality of working on big customer sales pieces is that we don’t want to give away any competitive advantages. So, I figure I could give you a few screen caps and sprinkle them throughout this post without giving too much of the content away.

The people identifying text was created by Wes McDermott and actually move with the speaker.

As if developing a new video production workflow wasn’t enough, I also made the choice to edit the piece in Final Cut Pro X, which at the time was newly released and a little corky, to say the least. While the debate over what Apple did to the Final Cut application with this complete overhaul is something that is still being debated in the video forums, the fact is I really liked the color grading features. They were easy to understand and use rather quickly. Color grading and general video finishing techniques are a necessity when dealing with Canon 5DM2 video footage. We shoot using a completely flattened image profile. This basically means, we take out all the saturation, contrast, and highlights to get the most range out of the footage. All of these things you can get back in the grading stage of the edit.

Color grading and the help of the mFlare plug-in for FCPX helped spice up the footage.

The edit posed several challenges from the start. One being that FCPX was brand spanking new, which comes with a "slight" learning curve. I had been doing some general editing in Adobe Premiere prior to running FCPX, but needless to say it was a slightly different beast. Apple went out of its way to rethink the video editing process. In many ways, Apple was allowing for even a intermediate user to use the software. However, all the high-end features that a pro-user would want were still there just hidden or they eventually rolled them out in subsequent updates to the application. At $299.00, FCPX is a hell of value. I was even able to buy a copy for home. I mean you have a complete über editing system for almost nothing. In my book, very cool.

Boxes on the move.

I have to give a big kudos to Wes for his work on the people and location identifiers in the video. They were so good he won a seperate bronze Telly for video graphics as well. They really helped to take the final piece over the top. You can learn more about what Wes is up to on his blog the3dninja.com.

Wes is a master of all things digital. His treatment for the location identifiers was mind blowing.

I had always intended that first DSLR Video post to be a 2-parter. I think this nicely bookends that post. It’s always nice to have all the work you put into a project be recognized by your industry. What I learned from the making this video has been invaluable to future projects. We have gone on to expand the type of shots that we can capture with the Canon 5D by purchasing a Kesler Slider and using a Glidecam HD 2000. These have helped to create even more stylized shots.

We were able to integrate footage from other productions by external vendors using traditional film because the Canon 5DM2 has such a film like quality.

The key to working with a DLSR for video is to know its limitations and play up its strengths. Getting creative with framing your shots and camera placement can go a long way to spicing up any production. These skills have even afforded me the opportunity to jump in as second shooter on several external vendor productions. You may even see a few of my clips in one or two of the UPS We (Heart) Logistics campaign videos where I got the opportunity to shoot for the commercial director using his personal Canon 5D kit.

An up close and personal look at my recent work with one of our external vendors as a 2nd camera unit using our Canon 5DM2

In a time where the state of print and traditional media is in flux, it’s always good to be expanding on your skill set. I can not recommend this enough to all those seeking to be a designer. It’s hard to have a career as just a graphic designer without having a few more tricks up your sleeve. Currently, I am taking my interest in video and typography and working on a few motion graphic pieces. My current software of choice is Motion 5, which is a great tool to test the waters. Don't worry though, I'll be back with more illustration projects shortly.

Cheers, Ben.

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