[Editors Note: This is a guest post by Carl Olson creator of the great http://16x9cinema.com blog & podcast. Carl recently attended the DPE Atlanta workshop back in August and he made this great documentary video of the event. We hope you enjoy it, we are working on the next DPE workshop and we hope we can see you there.]
I usually shoot video in controlled situations. Someone calls and says they want talking heads – interviews. Cool. I know what to expect. Three-point lighting kit. Check. A tripod and fluid head. Check. A slider or possibly a jib. Check. Sound equipment. Check. Take 20 minutes of so to set up. No pressure! And, Action!
Documenting an event is a much different experience. You have to travel light, expect the unexpected, and stay out of the way. Whew! You have to be ready to follow the action wherever it leads.
A few weeks ago Rick Sammon invited me to tag along and document the 2010 Atlanta Digital Photo Experience Workshop held August 14 and 15. The first day of the two-day workshop included lectures and Q&A sessions conducted by Rick Sammon and Rob Knight – a talented Atlanta-based photographer. The lectures were held at the Carter Center – the home of Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Library, a conference center, and a beautiful park.
The morning session featured Rick Sammon’s digital photography seminar. Rick covered many of the principles he has developed over the years for making – not taking – beautiful photographs. Rick also covered HDR photography tips and techniques using Photomatix and Topaz Adjust. After lunch at Felini’s Pizza, Rob Knight shared his vast knowledge of Lightroom 3 techniques ranging from media management to emulating toy camera looks to creating beautiful black & white photo looks.
On the second day we went to Little Five Points just east of Atlanta. It’s a village with a distinctive Bohemian feel – full of interesting people and colorful settings. The storefront of the Junkman’s Daughter was the setting for working with model Rachel using available light, diffusers, reflectors, and flash. After lunch at the nearby Vortex, the DPE class traveled to the Krog Street Tunnel located in Inman Park – another unique village in metro Atlanta. The tunnel is covered with graffiti and street art making for a great background for making cool photographs. Deep in the tunnel the students again worked with model Rachel using flash and reflectors. A few adventurous students applied Rick’s HDR techniques. The noise in the tunnel was deafening because a rap group was filming a music video. Their film crew was running a generator to run their lights (batteries anyone?). So, it was nearly impossible to hear anything and carry on a conversation. Rick and Rob and the students made the best of the situation.
Frankly, I had no script. I didn’t know what to expect nor what conditions I would be shooting in. It was all I could do to get my butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation.
At first I had planned to have Rick wear a wireless mic so I could capture him as he lead the outdoor shooting session. I was also hoping to use my tripod and slider, too. But this was a class room with 20 students, a model, and two instructors on a cramped storefront sidewalk. To use the same setup that I would use for most of my corporate video shoots would just be too much of hinderance. It would be too complicated and time consuming to set up and maintain. No doubt I would miss many good shots, too.
So, I quickly adapted to the situation by mounting a Rode VideoMic to the hot shoe of my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I sometimes use a monopod as a poor-man’s Steadicam. So I mounted the 5DM2 to my Manfrotto monopod equipped with a simple but very sturdy ball head. So videographers like to use a miniature fluid pan head on a monopod. That’s OK, but not really needed. I prefer a minimalist, less-is-more approach. Believe me, if you are shooting for several hours outdoors in 95 degree high humidity weather you are going to want to travel light!
My son Eric stayed close during the course of my shooting. His job is to always be ready with fresh batteries, download and backup the CF cards throughout the shoot and generally be a pack mule. One thing I’ve learned doing video is that it’s always better to have a second person assist you during a shoot. Video is a big job. Yes, you can do it by yourself, but it’s tough. Eric has a keen eye for photography (he’s been exhibited at the High Museum in Atlanta) and has proven to be invaluable in assisting me in my work. What I appreciate about Eric is that he anticipates what I need. I don’t really have to tell him what to do. He just senses what needs to be done. A regular Radar O’Reilly.
The outdoor video was all shot at 24 fps, the shutter speed set at 1/30, and exposure set manually. We were fortunate that for most of the morning their was cloud cover resulting in a nice diffuse light. Of course, when documenting an event with video, I rarely have the opportunity to use diffusers and reflectors and additional lighting because I moving around trying to capture what’s unfolding before me. Sometimes you just have to go with good-enough. Diffuse cloud cover makes that so much easier :)
I shot over three hours of footage – so, yes, I got carried away in the moment. It was just so much fun to video Rick and Rob and the class. Having that much footage to pick and choose best scenes to use in a video that is ultimately only going to be a few minutes long is a challenging task. Chris Fenwick alerted me to his video tutorial “A Fast Way to Edit B-Roll.” This simple technique proved invaluable to locating the best shots to use.
Oh, one other tip… When shooting gun-and-run in 95 degree weather you are going to get thirsty and burn calories. OK, I need to burn calories anyway. But you don’t want to pass out on the job! So, my son Eric made sure we always had cold bottled water nearby. Drink before you get thirsty. Eat a granola bar for fuel. Otherwise, you’re going to be left behind and give out while shooting. And remember, I was shooting Rick Sammon! He’s tough to keep up with! :)
One thing that struck me during the workshop was the way Rick and Rob interacted with the workshop participants. They were both very approachable. They each made learning fun. I’m glad I was there to witness and experience that. It’s my hope that I’ve captured the spirit of the workshop and the great fun everyone had there in this video highlight.
Overall, it was great fun to follow RIck and Rob during the DPExperience Atlanta Workshop. I look forward to the next one.
Thank you Carl for the guest post and for documenting this event. Folks make sure to check Carls website and podcast for some great interviews with leading filmmakers. http://16x9cinema.com