Category: Lifestyle

Day 59: Production Choices

Yesterday, I had a film shoot for a special project I’m working on with some people. I arrived at the location. We set up the lights; the scene; the shot. And it came time to finally shoot a test run. The shot was elaborate, choreographed, and most of all, long. I hit the record button, and we started.

The test run was mainly desired by myself, so I could check my lighting, and composition in the midst of the choreographed segment. When we finished our run, I dumped my SD card, did a few edits, and we watched the take there and then; getting a feel for what we were trying to do, and whether it was being communicated properly.

The First Take

We watched, and we were mesmerized. The test run worked well, and there were moments in the take that were unplanned for, but still blew us away. There was only one problem. All of the thoughts in my head on what we could do better; the focus was soft, the shot wasn’t wide enough, the lighting could be better.

After we finished reviewing the take, most of the team was ready to call it there and then, but I proposed we do it again, and that we could really nail it this time. Everyone looked at me as if I was crazy. Not only was everyone tired after a long day of setup for this shoot, but no one thought we needed to do it again.

The Second Take

I thought they were crazy. You aren’t seeing what I’m seeing! It was late at night, and I had to pull the teams arm quite a bit. Eventually, we agreed to redo one last take, and so we did. We reset the scene, I changed up the lighting and lens, and off we went.

By the end, everyone was beat and went to bed; no one was in the headspace to stick around for a full take review. So, I got comfortable, and examined both. Watching. Comparing. I saw the changes I made. I liked them. But there was one thing that I didn’t like. The moments.

The Moments

One take clearly had better moments, and it wasn’t the one that had the seemingly better production choices; it was the first take. Something in me got really tense at that moment. Knowing that I clearly knew which take was prettier, more captivating, and less abrasive, at the expense of the better production choices in the other take through me for a loop in my head.

Going back and forth between my choices, I found myself in a hard place. I’m one for production, excellence, and perfection. But, I am one for moments, art, and spontaneity. There was battle going on, as I thought the two were in utter conflict. Until something crossed my mind the next day while I was sitting at a coffee shop.

Could picking the take with better moments, in its self, be a better production choice.

Production Choices

I remembered a conversation I had with a member of the team, and I said “It’ll all be worth it when this art starts changing people’s lives.” And that’s the point. It’s about the art. And production is only a tool. No one will be talking about how amazing the quality, composition, or lighting was in 50-100 years. (They might not even talk about it at all). But what people will talk about, if there’s any chance they will, it’ll be about the moments.

Why do you think some retro video games have the replay value that some game makers are still trying to achieve? Why do some people still gather for movie nights to watch their favourite old film? Or why do extremely lo-fi records that were recorded with experimental ideas and techniques years ago still make it onto our top 100 playlists? It’s because everyone remembers the moments.

Sometimes we can get too caught up in the production, that we actually start treating the production as king, instead of the art that we’re trying to capture. Not everyone will remember what lens you used to make that video. But everyone will remember the way that video made them feel.

Day 54: Analysis Paralysis & Why You’re Going No Where

While you’re out with someone, have you ever tried to figure out where you should go eat? You end up bickering for awhile; you both try to be modest; but in the end, neither of you really knows where you want eat. You just end up picking the first thing you drive past, and then your night proceeds. The worst place to be at as a beginner or a professional is at a point when you have to many choices to choose from that you end up making no choice at all; analysis paralysis.

This paralysis can hit us in any field of work at anytime, as long as we let it. A lot of us are still flipping the coin, or bickering with others over mundane things that are actually keeping us from making more important or creative decisions. Instead of arguing about what camera to buy, just pick one, and learn how to use it. The key is to move forward, and analysis paralysis effectively keeps us stagnant, allowing no room for growth or exploration.

Camera Paralysis

So now I had a choice to make. I have two friends who are both professional videographers; one of them suggests a GH4, and the other suggests a Canon 6D; my luck. It’s super easy when everyone’s saying the same thing, but when the people you trust start saying contrary things to one another, it can get difficult, and mentally taxing. Analysis paralysis.

I started to research. The new Panasonic GH4 has a lot of hype built around it (4k, raw video, higher frame rates etc.), but it’s a crop sensor, so the low light performance isn’t amazing. The full frame Canon 6D only shoots 1080p, has limited frame rates, and is all around bigger and bulkier (including the lenses). However, the Canon 6D beats out the GH4 in low light performance. Both shoot amazing video, but for what I need I’d rather have the ability to shoot in more dimly lit places for events, weddings, and night photography, then the ability to shoot 4k. If you’re someone that might be shooting a lot of interviews and appreciates the crop-ability of 4k, then your choice might have been different than mine. So I made my decision. I’m happy with the decision I made, and more importantly I’m happy that I made a decision.

Making A Choice

Now you’re probably wondering how do you choose? Is it as simple as just making a choice? It is as simple as making a choice, but forced choices are usually only made under pressure. Before I left for Whistler on the weekend, I really wanted to have my new camera along with me. That left me with a day and a half to figure out what I wanted, and how I was going to pay for it. If I hadn’t gone up to Whistler, I highly doubt I’d have my new camera right now, along with all my affairs in order so I could actually pay for it.

If you’re at the point where you can’t make a decision but you want to make a decision, it’s probably because you’re not actually in a place where you need to make a decision. Wanting to make one, and needing to make one are two different things. If you truly want to move forward in an area of your life then I’d consider placing yourself into a situation where you have to make a decision. For me, it was taking on some new work in wedding videography. What could you commit yourself to, so as to move from a place of paralysis into action?

Day 52: Sell Yourself Not Your Gear

So, what if you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of money, and wants to break into a new trade or profession? You want to move from hobbiest to professional, but you don’t have the money to take the plunge. Well, that’s what this post is about.

Last Friday I was able to finally upgrade my DSLR from a Canon T3i, to a full frame Canon 6D, and the upgrade has been stunning thus far. While I was in Whistler over the weekend, I was stunned at how much of an improvement this camera was with low light shooting and sharpness, in comparison to my old one.

Investing In The Future

Sure, not everyone needs a full frame prosumer camera, but I figured it’d be wise to equip and orient myself with more professional gear. Especially, before this summer’s wedding season starts. Like I said in my previous post…

After paying it off within the month, I’ll have a higher quality portfolio filled with content my old gear couldn’t achieve, along with a nice arsenal of professional equipment. – Saving For The Future vs. Investing In The Future 

The Rule Of Deposits

So, how was I able to make all of this happen? I did it through using the rule of deposits. Whether you’re signing on for a programming contract, recording an album for a client, or booking dates to film someone’s wedding, the rule of the thumb is 50% up front. Remember that. The rule of thumb is 50% up front.

  1. This helps decipher whether or not your client is truly serious about working with you.
  2. It lets you have some cash up front to put towards things like new equipment, rentals, and/or hiring out extra workers before the gig actually happens. 

But Sean, how do I get these gigs without already having pro-gear? Good question, but it’s as simple as finding someone who has pro-gear, working along side them, and creating a small demo reel to showcase your ability, not your gear.

Sell Yourself Not Your Gear

This is where I see most people fail, and it’s because every magazine, television ad, and website, has sold us the message that it’s the gear that makes us great, and not our own ability. Sure, the gear is a huge tool in creating great work, but it’s just a tool. New gear comes and goes. Things go from standard definition, to high definition, to 4k, but what stays consistent is You! If you can make a demo reel with someone else’s gear, that’s just as good as making it with your own, or with some gear that you rented.

In all honesty, people just don’t care about how you did it. In wedding videography, this couldn’t be overstated enough. People aren’t looking at your gear, they’re looking at you as a person, and what you can accomplish. For instance, most music producers don’t even have their own home studio setup (I’m the odd one out). So, they literally have to sell themselves to the client, hoping they’ll believe that if they walked into a fully equipped studio they’ll know how to use it, just by saying “Here. Look. Check out my portfolio. Trust me. I know what I’m doing.” That’s some serious pressure!

If you’re someone who can make great content, and is able to build trust with your potential clients, then you’re in the same position as me. Go out there and find someone with pro-gear; make a demo reel, book some gigs, and get some deposits. Now you’re on a roll.

Day 50: Keep Moving Forward

This past weekend I was on an adventure in Whistler, BC, taking on the Tough Mudder challenge with a group of friends. Tough Mudder is a hybrid marathon/obstacle course challenge that was designed to test your limits, and in the end, raise awareness for those who serve in high risk areas. i.e. firefighters, military, police, and the like. The course consisted of 20 kilometres (12 miles) worth of running, and 10+ physically intensive obstacles to overcome along the way.

An Obstacle In My Way

The obstacle “arctic enema”, one of the first obstacles within the course, contained a vat of ice water with boards that you needed to dive under in order to reach the other side, and climb out. While jumping in, and embracing the ice water, I reached the board, took a breath, and dove underneath. Considering the temperature of the ice water, once you dunk your head, the first thing you want to do is scream, and the second is to get out of there as fast as you can. Little did I know that there was a second board underwater; one I was not anticipating. While underneath, I threw my head forward to get to the other side, and hit my head on the second board, and the thoughts in my head were no longer pertaining to screaming, and moving forward, but a split second of panic while trying to get lower; and this is what I learned.

A Choice To Be Made

I had three options while under that water; stop and do nothing, try and get my head back up above the water, or keep moving forward. Thankfully, I choose the latter, and made it out from the other side. Whether another made it out of the obstacle easily, or had a certain struggle they had to overcome is not the point. The point is what I learned while under that water; to keep moving forward, and to never go back.

If I had gone back I would have 1) had to do it again anyways and 2) failed to test my limits, in a time of adversity. The truth is that some of the most rewarding things are accomplished through pursuing goals while under pressure; and it’s through these circumstances that teach an individual how important it is to keep moving forward. To keep moving forward, and not quit just because it’s too hard, or you ‘never expected [blank] to happen’, is what makes the reward so good, and so special, because not many people have overcome the same adversity that you did.

Never Settle

The brutal reality is that in our society the apathetic spirit has taken over our schools, homes, and workplaces because we’d rather watch TV, or play some video game, and get a high score in a world that is non-existent, and keep living our lives as if we’re heroes. But what gave me hope today was running this course, and experiencing the exhaustion, and pain that some people experience on a daily basis, for the sake of protecting and providing for those around them, in time of adversity, whether your a civil servant, or a civilian in a civil war.

If you want to accomplish something great, meaningful, and impacting, then keep moving forward. Keeping taking on the challenges that are ahead of you, and never settle, because settling is just being ok with who you were yesterday, and knowing that you’ll be the same person tomorrow.

Tough Mudder Before and After

Day 45: Great Things Happen With Great People

Recently, I was able to do a collaborative piece with my friend Braedin. He had three friends Emily, Tsion, and Kate sit in a field and jam out their Bob Marley cover of Is This Love. I was able to help with location sound and editing, and the final product is the video below.

This collaboration was a lot of fun, and I’m glad that I was able to be apart of it. Looking back, there was one thing I learned specifically, and I’d like to share that with you.

Great Things Don’t Happen On Their Own

Whether you’re a musician, programmer, videographer, etc. You will at one time or another get the feeling that you can do it all on your own, and that you don’t really need anyone but yourself. Sure, you could release your own solo EP, program your own app for the iPhone App Store, or make your own documentary, but you wont accomplish anything great. It’ll be good. Not great.

Most of us are usually really great at one or two things, and pretty good at a lot of things. So, when you start dabbling in a big picture concept or production alone… you finish them… but all that was added was your one or two great things. As soon as you start bringing on more people to fill in specific roles and duties, the higher the chance that all of those roles will be accomplished with a higher sense of efficiency and quality.

Specialization Is Key

For this project I operated as the sound engineer, Braedin operated as a director of photography, And of course, you also have the musicians. I myself am a videographer, but for this project, that wasn’t my focus. If Braedin decided to shoot video, setup a bunch of tripods, and sync up all the audio, sure, he could have maybe come out with the same result. But the truth is, we didn’t have that much time to film at the location, so operating as an efficient team was key.

If you ever try to record drums in a studio by yourself, you’ll understand what I mean. You got to setup your session. Have an ample amount of time to get to the drums after you click record. Finally, click record. Play your part. Come back. Listen. Repeat. It can get mentally exhausting very quickly.

Instead of thinking about what you could accomplish on your own, think about what it is that you want the final product to be, and then assess what kind of team you need to get you there. Then either 1) you’ll finish your project more quickly then you expected too or 2) you’ll finish it with a higher sense of quality and greatness. Both of which are desirable outcomes. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself… Who do you want on your team?


Day 43: Saving For Your Future vs. Investing In Your Future

Having a considerable amount of video work coming up in the next two months has made me change the way I look at money. The truth is, I am not a considerably wealthy person. I was a university student for two years of my life who operated a home studio out of his basement; both of which don’t really make any money…

Saving vs. Investing

Whether it’s buying a new tripod head, upgrading a camera, or maybe buying some new on location audio equipment, these things start to cost a lot once you reach the “prosumer” grade. However, my mentor brought up a great point; you’ll pay it off within the month. This is what makes saving vs. investing radically different. 

After paying it off within the month, I’ll have a higher quality portfolio filled with content my old gear couldn’t achieve, along with a nice arsenal of professional equipment… and only a month went by! Sometimes we could be saving, and saving, and saving for months, or years until we finally take the plunge. Yet, if we would have taken a loan, or started to bootstrap equipment better, you could be miles ahead.

Not Everything Is An Investment

Of course, not every thing involving your profession could be considered an investment, and you have to be careful with that. “I just need a new MacBook Pro for programming”. No you don’t. “But I want to use Xcode”. Well… buy a Mac Mini thenand save yourself the money. Don’t use this as an excuse to get the latest and greatest. Those are peripheral things. Instead, bring yourself back to the goal; how I can start contributing more professionally to a certain field, as soon as possible.

What Should I Invest In

Saving is a great tool and discipline, but the truth is that it’s only half the story. Every dollar saved somewhere, should have a future purpose for being spent elsewhere. Money is only a means to accomplish an end, and the key is to make sure you remember what your real goal is; upgrading your education, buying new gear, saving for a house etc. When all you do is focus on the numbers, your creativity stagnates, and the fear of whether you have enough money will start take over. That kind of fear keeps you working a job for 30 years that you never really liked, just to let you take home a decent pay cheque, instead of fearing whether you’ll work a job that you actually like, for the next 30 years.

If you want to know what you should invest in, ask yourself what you would do if money wasn’t an issue. Would you be working the same job, or getting the same degree? Figure out what it is, and how your money, time and energy can be better used for the accomplishment of that purpose.

Check out this Ted Talk. It speaks towards overcoming fear, and doing what you’re passionate about.

Day 40: People Over Personal Computers

An interview with Steve Jobs from 1995, while he was still working with Next, provided some insightful input into what it means for someone to become enticed with curiosity. You can skip to 9:20 and watch till about 18:00 to see what I’m talking about, but for the most part, the entire interview is fairly phenomenal.

Putting A Face On Learning

Previously in the interview, Job’s was speaking towards the fact that he almost had his creativity and zeal for learning beat out of him by the time he was in Grade 4. However, a certain teacher decided to give him one last chance, and that chance helped re-engage his drive and desire to learn. Jobs, then mentioned that machines cannot engage someone with curiosity as well as a person can.

Putting a face behind learning isn’t something we naturally tend to do. Most of the time when someone envisions what it means to learn it usually looks like sticking your head in a textbook, taking some tests, and getting a passing grade or degree. Yet rarely do we equate it with professors, teachers, educators, and mentors. Like I said in an early post… who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you approaching life with a sense that there is always something to be learned from somebody? Or do you just equate that with “school” or “education”, letting yourself off the hook from learning in any other facet of your life?

Don’t Waste Your Time

If you’re in high school or university right now, I’d encourage you to fully utilize the ability to speak personally with your professors. Pick their brains. Ask them about their successes and failures. They are there for a reason. Otherwise it would be no different then taking the class online. Most of the professors I’ve had while attending University said specifically that they could be off doing some other thing that would make a lot more money, but the truth is, they enjoy teaching; and they enjoy teaching those that want to learn, even more.

It thrills me to say that you can learn a lot of what your learning in University on, but it also saddens me that University has become no more then an experience that could be swapped for an online tutorial, and you can change that… just by opening your mouth, asking a few questions, and become someone who wants to learn from people while the ability is still there.

Day 36: You Are The Average Of Your Five Closest Friends

This past week, multiple videography jobs have been falling into my lap left and right, and improving my skill set has been only half the story as to why this has been happening; the other half I credit towards people. These people are those who I’ve been surrounding myself with.

“You are the average of the five closest people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

Learning From A Friend

I have a friend who got married this past New Years. He lived in California, and so I took a road trip with some friends down to California to attend his wedding. Ironically, he’s a videographer, and shoots weddings as well. While I was down there, I had the time to ask him how he get into wedding videography, and he said “easy, I just called up the best wedding videographer in town and asked if he could teach me.” I thought that sounded too easy… but it was the truth… and that struck a pretty deep chord in me. A chord that resonated and said I can do that too.

Learning From An Expert

When I got back, I approached a friend who was a professional videographer, and asked if I could help him out with his shoots. Not for money, but just to help, and be there, and learn. Over the time I helped with his shoots I learned things like how to manage a film shoot efficiently, dealing with multiple camera angles, the benefit of using different lenses, and not to mention using gear that I could have never gotten my hands on with my own personal budget. And the benefit for him… he got a guy willing to lug around his gear for free. Hah. What a deal! Now, I consider him a sort of mentor in the field of videography.

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Day 31: Committing vs. Upgrading

There’s a fine balance between being an early adopter, or committing to an older way of doing things. I know some people who can make better recordings on Garageband, then some people who work on Pro Tools. Why? Mainly because the one who’s been using Garageband has been using it for years, and knows his way around the program perfectly (however limited it might be), versus the person who’s been jumping from Garageband, to Ableton, to Sonar, to Pro Tools.

Committing vs. Upgrading

So, I’d like to ask this question… are you at a point where you should be upgrading your methods, or committing to them? An easy way to find out is to look at how many years you’ve been using your method, and how many things you’ve accomplished through them. Are the scales tipping in your favour?

If you’re not accomplishing anything, either your method is to outdated to accomplish what needs to be done by today’s standards, or you plain out haven’t learned as much as you need in order to accomplish what you want. I’m a sucker for being an early adopter, and hopping from one thing to the next mainly because I’m so fascinated with all the things that are out in the world.

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Day 29: When Things Go Wrong

This post was technically supposed to be a time-lapse of the night sky in Princeton BC, but I’m being honest… it wasn’t able to happen due to technical difficulties. However, I learned a lot this past weekend. My church has a mens retreat once a year, and this year we had the privilege to go up to RockRidge Canyon in Princeton BC for the weekend. The overall weekend of the retreat was good. I got asked to film over the weekend, so my church could put together a small highlight reel to show all the people who didn’t come, mainly the women… hah.

What Happened

Over the weekend I got some great shots, until the end of the last day. Some friends of mine and myself lifted our pastors car onto milk crates as a prank. It turned out pretty well, and we filmed the whole thing. We thought it’d be funny to show the video when we have our evening session, so I got my card out of my camera, and put it into my laptop… to find out… my SD card became corrupt.

What Did I Do

For the next five hours I spent researching and digging through the internet to find data recovery programs. The thing is with flash memory, even if the card is corrupt, the data is still there. At least, corrupt bits of it… I got a program called TestDisk for Mac, which is free, and runs in Terminal. It recovered nearly 50 Gigabytes of corrupt footage off of my 32gb SD card. It even recovered my old hyper-lapse photos from Oregon. Sounds great, right? Well… it turns out the way Canon DSLR’s write movie footage is through random sequenced data. It doesn’t actually create one file. The stitching of the sequenced pieces of data creates one file in the end (the .MOV). After digging through .MOV repair programs, I was left empty handed. The only thing left was a site that charged an arm and a leg to repair up to five files manually. In the end it was no help because I have over 100+ files.

I have yet to touch my SD card in hopes that someone here in Vancouver does these kinds of repairs/data recovery services specifically for DSLR video. Yeah, that’s right… I only brought one SD card to Princeton. So in light of all of this, I thought this would be a good moment to share a few simple things that I learned. Things which you all should know if you wish to take part in DSLR Photography or Videography.

  1. When you transfer content off of your SD card… don’t take out your SD card. Just plug in the USB cable into the camera. The less you take the SD card in and out of the camera, the better.
  2. Always bring more then one SD card. This might sound like common sense. But for me, I felt too comfortable with my 32GB card. I should have brought my extra 8GB card in case. At least.
  3. TestDisk is an actual program that recovers your corrupted data fairly well… it’s also free… and fully functioning.
    • For videographers, you will get a series of corrupted sequenced data that should technically make up ONE .mov file, which will need to be repaired manually.
    • For photographers, you’re in luck. If you ever need to recover photos. It recovers them flawlessly. All the photos from this past weekend were fully saved; RAW and all.
  4. Lighten up. Stuff happens. We move on, and learn from our mistakes.

How Do I Feel

I feel like I am that much more of a prepared videographer now that this has happened. I would never wish this upon anyone, and it still has left a bitter taste in my mouth, but if this has happened to you I would encourage you to move forward and to ask yourself “What can I learn from this?”. When you start asking those questions you’ll start having answers that more unexperienced professionals would never have, because they never got themselves into a place where they needed to ask those questions. Don’t let your mistakes go to waste. Take the time. Learn from them. What are some unfortunate things that have happened to you while on the job? How did you learn from them?

The following photo is one of the few I was able to recover. It was a test shot I took the first night to prepare for my time-lapse.