Month: June 2014

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 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 47: The Case For The Visual Learner

In regards to getting a grasp on programming fundamentals, Objective-C has been a lot easier to learn then PHP. Not necessarily the programming language (all though it is more readable), but the fact that everyone who’s coding with Objective-C is using the same developing environment; Xcode. A developing environment is a piece of software that has all the capabilities for reading, writing, and compiling code built into it, along with a graphical user interface builder (and many other tools). To create any sort of program or application that will run on iOS or OS X, you’ll need to use Xcode. Some might say that’s very crippling for developers, but I think it’s the one reason that made the AppStore take off, and has made learning Objective-C a lot easier for me, then PHP.

Consistency While Learning

I tend to leap onto “industry standard” programs, just because I learn better on more widely adopted technology, because it’s a lot easier to learn when everyone is using the same technology/program, and platform. Inherently, widely adopted technology makes for easier learning when surfing the web. If I’m watching a tutorial on Lynda.com one day, and then watching another tutorial on YouTube the other day… when both tutorials are using the same platform i.e Xcode, or Pro Tools, or Premiere Pro… it makes it a lot easier to learn and build off of content from multiple areas on the web.

When I was just getting into audio engineering (around the age of 13), I had some entry level software to do all my mixing and editing on. I remember at the time, searching for tutorials and guides was brutal! There were a lot of videos out there on Pro Tools, and Logic, but watching them, and then looking at my software trying to translate what I was learning was hard and inefficient. While I was learning some core concepts of PHP, different tutorials would be using different code editors,  colours, fonts, and sometimes operating systems based off of the time they were recorded at. You might think these are all peripheral things, but when it comes down to it, visual learning works best when the visuals remain consistent.

“Free”dom For Programmers

So far, every tutorial I’ve watched on Objective-C has been coupled with Xcode, and that’s been extremely helpful when trying to remember the things I’ve watched. Now, opening up Xcode is a lot like replaying a tutorial I’ve watched in my mind, just because that was where I was first acquainted with it. Not everyone has this luxury, mainly because not all IDE’s are free like Xcode. You could be watching a great tutorial on C++ in Microsoft Visual Studio, but for someone who’s just learning to program, that might not be an initial product purchase you’d be willing to make. Then you’ll be in the same situation I was when I was 13; using some sort of entry level software, but watching tutorials on industry standard software. If you have a Mac, and a burning desire to learn some programming, then you have the ability to use a widely adopted language on a great platform for free; Objective-C and Xcode.

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 Lynda.com, 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 38: Apple WWDC 2014, Swift, and OOP

Considering it’s mostly Apple technology that’s powering my creative pursuits (my MacBook, MacPro, Final Cut Pro X); whether it’s programming, editing video, or recording in my studio. I thought it’d only be appropriate to talk a little bit about Apple’s WWDC, mainly the release of their new programming language, Swift, and how that’s affecting my journey in the programming space.

What Is OOP

After finishing my first tutorial on the PHP programming language awhile back, I figured it’d be good to move into object oriented programming (OOP). Object-oriented programming is an approach to designing modular, reusable software systems. Instead of running a piece of code from the top-down on a script, OOP allows you to create objects the operate independently of procedural code. An online shopping system would have objects like shopping cart, customer, and product. Each object will have multiple methods that you can call upon at different times within your code. Productfor instance, might have different behaviours such as electronics, books, or kitchenware. This brings a sense of hierarchy, which in turn makes for more clean, readable, and manageable code… and for someone who’s just diving into programming, that’s always a plus.

OOP, iOS and Swift

iOS development uses the programming language Objective-C, an OOP language. I figured an exciting way to learn OOP, would be to dive into iOS development, and in turn, prepare myself to be able to take on the programming language, Swift, in the future. I’m a firm believer in remaining updated with the latest software, techniques, and hardware for whatever task it is that I’m working on. Seeing as how the iPhone and iPad are working even closer with desktop systems like OS X, it’s only reasonable to assume that the mobile development space is not even close to slowing down.

The following video is a basic look at the Xcode development software for Apple, and is one of the introductory lessons to the iOS App Development Essential Training course on Lynda.com.

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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