Category: Videography

Day 57: Tough Mudder Highlight Reel

Over the past week I’ve been working on a highlight reel of my trip to Whistler, BC for Tough Mudder. Working with a new camera, new lenses, and all around new potential has been fun and challenging. The video I put together is more of a keepsake then a professional video, and you’re welcome to check it out.

Some Things I Learned

A few issues I ran into while up in Whistler was the insane amount of light sensitivity this new sensor has, especially while outdoors when the sun is out. I had to crank the shutter and aperture down quite a bit, and concluded that I’ll probably need to invest a few dollars into a Neutral Density Filter so I can shoot with a slower shutter and wider aperture. Not that this is a bad thing. It just proves how sensitive the sensor is!

While my team was running the race, I handed off my camera to my friend’s Dad, who ended up taking some great photos of us while running the race. I’ve heard around the internet that the Canon 6D isn’t the greatest sports photography camera due to it’s slower auto focusing system. From what I found however, when you’re using the viewfinder’s focus assist beam while in manual focus, you can get great, sharp, and snappy photos. I mainly shoot on manual focus anyways, so this was a plus.

I also forgot to install the CineStyle colour profile to my camera before leaving from Vancouver. I ended up adding it while up in Whistler (connecting my camera to my MacBook through wifi of course), so the colour grading in the video is inconsistent at points. However, while editing, I was reminded once again why people use the CineStyle profile over the Neutral profile built into the camera. The amount of detail I saved, recovered, and was able to work with in comparison to the shots I shot in Neutral was astounding. No buyers remorse here.

Tough Mudder Highlight Reel from Sean Witzke on Vimeo.

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 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 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 33: Mdat.mov, Corrupt Video Files, and Keywords

If you’ve been following my blog for sometime, you’ll know that over the weekend I lost all of the video I shot on my DSLR because the SD card became corrupt. Well… I’m sitting here at a Starbucks fixing my corrupted files slowly but surely, and I’ve learned some thing that every person, who’s involved in todays tech sector, needs to know. Keywords.

What Are Keywords

Keywords are, well… the keywords you use in order to place searches in either online databases, search engines like Google, or even a help file built into an application. I have a pretty well rounded understanding of how to utilize the functionality of keyword searches, but today has reminded me how important they really are.

Diagnosing The Problem

You see, after recovering my SD card’s corrupted data, I found that my .MOV files were actually separated into two separate files. Ones that had the extension of ftyp.mov, and the others that had an extension of mdat.mov. Each file consists of certain unique elements that when the two files are combined, create the on .MOV file we are so used to clicking on, and playing on our computers.

After hours of searching online for a program that could help me to combine these files, and recover my shots, I came up empty handed… until today. A few hours ago, I decided to give it one last shot. I began searching in Google for “fragmented .mov files”, and then “corrupt .mov files” and then “mdat.mov” and “recover mdat.mov files” etc. Until finally, I found one forum where a user mentioned the word “truncated”. He specifically said “truncated mp4”. I then decided to google “repair truncated mp4”, and I finally found relevant content. Multiple companies offering different programs to repair .mp4 and .mov files.

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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.

sky_Fotor

Day 8: Astoria/Cannon Beach Hyperlapse

Over the past weekend I’ve been on the Oregon coast taking a little breather from life, but it’s allowed me to experiment with a few of the different videography techniques I’m reading about. If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that I am both a film geek and an audiophile. This trip has allowed me to step away from programming for a bit, and explore some of my older roots. I also mentioned in my last post, that I would be experimenting with shooting hyperlapses; filming a time-lapse in a moving vehicle. The following video is a hyperlapse while on the road in Oregon, going from Astoria to Cannon Beach… we end on the beach. You can check it out below. Hopefully, I’ll be able to experiment a bit more in the future. The video was shot mounted on our minivan, with photos being taken at 5 second intervals. I was using my Canon T3i with my 18mm lens, and shot with an aperture of f/8. The video was assembled in Adobe Premiere. Make sure to view the video in HD through my Vimeo profile.

Hyperlapse Oregon 2014 Astoria To Cannon Beach from Sean Witzke on Vimeo.

Day 5: Making Up For Lost Time

In my first post I mentioned that I intended to learn a series of computer programming languages, and a few other skills “here and there”. Well the time has come for the “here and there” post!

Now I love the creative arts, and am passionate about music and film. I love creative expression, and helping others express themselves through the arts. I think it’s this passion which originally sparked my interest in learning some programming languages. At the start of my experimentation with programming, I felt a bit like an artist looking at a blank canvas, but as I began delving deeper into programming, a painting began to emerge; it truly is an art form requiring practice, dedication and creativity!

And I believe that programming, like any art form, give us a glimpse into eternity, as it parallels the space of the infinite: no project is ever the same. Now hopefully down the road I can talk a little bit more about what I do in the space of musicianship, music production, and audio engineering, but today, this post is reserved for the film geeks!

Take Everything In Moderation

Now, I wanted to get something straight. This blog is not meant to belittle film… or Netflix.  I  enjoy a good movie, or a suspenseful TV series, (in fact, I had to quit a series mid-way into it’s second season when I canceled my Netflix account). But the thing is, I was always left hanging… there is a time and place for everything, and always a time to watch a good movie, but on the other hand, I  it’s time to start making good movies, instead of just watching them. Anything in excess can lead your life into unbalance; movies, video games, friends over family, etc. And right now I’m trying to make up for lost time spent in front of the T.V. screen.

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