Friday, October 27, 2017
Sitting down with a client last week I was asked a question I hadn't heard in a while.... It surprised me because it seemed based on an antiquated notion of technology. And at the same time it made me realize that it was one of the most common questions I get-- even if it was only every couple of months.
What should I wear?
Well, concerns about "fine patterns and checkers" have disappeared with the advent of HD and 4K, but our expectations about what makes for a strong interview, presentation, or pitch has increased immensely. Seeing people on camera is so common place, that we instantly recognize shortcomings... white shirts, haggard eyes, rambling sentences. How to prepare for being on camera has evolved beyond what to wear. I've compiled a list of my best advice over at Hurricane Images Inc Blog. Head over and check it out....
Thursday, October 26, 2017
|Ian Robin Walker|
Okay, clearly it's been a long time since I posted to this series, and the reason is largely about success. While I do hope/plan/aspire to continue with the odd post on videography/photography business, product reviews, and technique, for now I'm putting a peg in this topic. You can also check my other (even slower moving) blog at Hurricane Images Inc. This is a client facing blog-- rather than this peer facing blog-- and there's a lot you can borrow from that.
I wrote that the end of this series is due to the success of my own process of turning pro. I mean this in an "in progress" kind of way. Since jettisoning my regular employment four months ago, I've been working continuously. I've not consistently earned what I need each month-- I don't expect that to happen for another eight months-- but earnings have exceeded expectations this first trimester... even as turn-around times have proved painfully longer than expected. My projects have included small jobs for big companies like BitDefender, Silicon Valley Air Experts, and The California Department of Public Health, and large jobs for small outfits like Davis Properties and Rocket Interview. Balancing 45 hour work weeks with raising an infant (and keeping my sanity) has pushed writing projects like this to the side.
I started this post with a picture of yours truly, though, which is pretty unlike me. Why? It's a reminder that ultimately you are your brand. If you look at some of the most successful media producers out there-- from Philip Bloom to Casey Neistat to (one of my personal favorites) Brandon Li-- you realize how distinctive their personal style is. Not just their artwork, but their personalities and how they put themselves forward. Everyone, regardless of where they are in their career, should reevaluate their online presence and branding every six months. This includes cleaning up the website, checking that you're still appearing on other sites and searches, and retooling your communications. So if you're bored right now, get to it.
Friday, June 23, 2017
One of the best-- though unnerving-- pieces of advice for new videographers/photographers is to make a pitch to your day job or a current associate, be that a hobby or a related businesses. The bottom line is that every organization can benefit from a video, and people who know you will (hopefully) trust you.
I was lucky. I didn't have to pitch my day job; they approached me to create a video and it was no small project. They wanted a 4 part series on the statewide program, complete with a mini-narrative (or extended role play). It took months to plan, weeks to shoot, and I'm still working on translations for them. It didn't pay well by an independent contractor standard, but it did by a regular employment scale.
But that wasn't the Unexpected Call. That call came from Hilton Worldwide. They didn't want a commercial or even an in-house industrial; a senior Vice President was celebrating his 50th anniversary (and likely retirement due to illness), and they wanted a "thank-you" video from his colleagues and staff who were spread out across the U.S. The video wasn't something they had planned on, either; it was a last minute addition, and it needed to be organized and edited in three weeks. They wanted staff to film themselves-- using phones or cameras or whatever was available. They also wanted it to be clever, humorous, and heartfelt.
I had no idea why an international company based outside of LA would cold-call me in the SF Bay. He said he liked my website (really? the one with five videos?) and I didn't ask any questions. He also said there wasn't a budget for this, but he wanted to see what it would cost to edit the staff contributions. We talked about how many staff would contribute; I asked about general themes he thought we should cover; he told me a little about the Vice President, Greg. I quoted him $1200. It wasn't a living wage, really, but it wasn't embarrassingly cheap, either.
The next day I sent him filming guidelines for the staff, and based on our discussion, eight questions for them to answer, based on themes about Greg's personal style, computer style, driving technique, etc. Everyone was to answer three of the eight questions, plus a statement about "one thing they appreciated about Greg." I set up a Dropbox account for the incoming footage. A week later, the files started to arrive.
As you can imagine, it was a hot mess. Footage was shot on iPhones, in offices, in hotel lobbies, conference centers, vertical for Christ sake. Airplanes roared in the background. The President of Hilton Worldwide had his professionally done. The 15 on-camera interviews ballooned to over 20. Everyone had to be included.
Greg had started as a valet, and I found some archival footage of the Hilton where he worked; I organized the clips around the three major "questions." And then I edited to the bone. Instead of fighting the bad and inconsistent quality of the footage, I went with it... allowing it to help shape the flow of the video.
Rather than share the draft video with my client, I shared how I was structuring the piece. After 10 days, I produced a draft for his review. It was rough-hewn, a visual jumble tied together with playfulness, and audio earache to the refined. He loved it. I don't recall a single suggestion. They played it at the 50th Anniversary, and the audience fell out; Greg and his family were deeply touched.
My client sent an email, introducing me to four new Hilton owners in the SF Bay (Hilton is a franchise), recommending me. New businesses hasn't come from that-- at least not yet-- but I appreciated it as a sincere compliment.
Five months later I received an email from my client. Greg has passed away from the illness that forced his retirement. They played the video at his memorial.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Photographer Ming Thein recently posted a discussion on his blog about the process of turning pro. If you don't know him, his architectural photography is quietly phenomenal, with a subtle Miksang influence and flawless post production technique. He writes a good blog, too.
For a unique perspective he shares this post with Robin Wong, a photog who's mid-stream in his journey of turning pro, and together they reflect on both the pitfalls and the tricks to being successful. On point that can't be emphasized enough is how to think about and manage cash flow.
"The reality is that most material work tends to be planned anywhere from one to six months in advance, and some clients may not pay for a month or two after that – which means your cash flow cycle should really be six months to a year once everything is stable."
An even bigger take-away in the piece is using smaller short-term jobs with quicker turnaround with the larger "meat" of your work. This can sometimes mean taking on jobs that don't typify your work. Ming may take the job, but he doesn't add it to his portfolio.
"Everything I’ve done up to this point has that question at the heart of it: is it core to what I want to shoot and what I want to be as a photographer? If no, unless I really, really need the money, I don’t do the job – and even then, I don’t tell anybody about it. So the answer is – let’s call it ‘identity building’ – must happen directly or indirectly, all the time. In practical terms, this means 3-4 hours a day answering email, making content for the site, maintaining the other social media channels (FB, IG, Twitter) etc. And that’s of course on top of the actual shooting and admin and logistics."
It's a long read, but a good one for anyone thinking about the leap.
Saturday, June 17, 2017
For actors, dialogue and physical movement are both considered actions. Script analysis reveals each character's objective, and the various actions they take to obtain their goal. They speak in order to reach their goal, to convince another character do something. Actors will identify the beats (or sub actions) that determined when an action is complete. The action, for example, may be to intimidate the other person. They'll accomplish this by probing their vulnerabilities, insinuating that harm might come to them, and escalating to a blunt threat. Each sub-action (probe, insinuate, threaten) is a beat that makes up the action, and they'll only give up on a sub-action when it's clear their not reaching their objective. They’ll push through each beat with 100% intensity until its done. Then they’ll blink. It's a divider, a rest, before they begin their next action. The actor’s “beat,” therefore often coincide with cuts. What this means is that you can often predict when an actor will blink just by analyzing the script for beats. Though you'd never want to edit so blindly, you could almost edit without watching the actor at all.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Friday, June 9, 2017
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Friday, May 26, 2017
So what's up with the last three weeks? In a word: crazytown. I've been creating a sound design for a theatre festival, shooting and editing a commercial for one client and a Kickstarter video for another, wrapping up that other pesky job, and building a small production studio in our yard. The last was a job that was supposed to take 3-4 days but took two weeks. Two weeks in which I couldn't efficiently set up my equipment; two weeks where everything outside my home was covered in dust.
The interior floors and paint still need to be don; plus whatever small photo/video studio elements need to be built it.
It's been 90 hour weeks. With the studio unavailable to me I missed my Kickstarter video deadline by two days and the still images for the video commercial by five days. It's the first time I've ever missed a deadline. So when do you apologize for inactivity? I sure apologized to them for missing the deadlines. I provided an encouraging update on what had been accomplished thus far, explained my situation clearly without annoying details, set a new deadline for the final delivery.
Hopefully I'm back on track now.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
- Content is king; make good content
- Reference and link to your web pages often
- Link to other folks good works, too. You can summarize if you credit and link.
- Don't have your image right at the top of your page. It looks great but search engines can't read them.
- When you link, use the title of the page as the link (rather than writing “here”); it’s better SEO optimization
- Optimize your images; they should have titles and company name
- Post frequently – twice weekly or more in the beginning
- If you post infrequently (less than weekly) disable the auto date function.
- Never apologize for not posting frequently; you don’t owe your reader anything beyond good content
- If someone engages/comments, engage back. Immediately.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
|Levi Strauss Volunteer Day|
Friday, April 28, 2017
Thursday, April 27, 2017
|Moroccan Olive Seller|
If You Don't Own It, Rent It
|Shark skin in Hong Kong Market|
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
|Jorg Gray Luxury Watch|
There's no such thing as a one-time discount
Find Your Panic Point
Save don't borrow
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
|Theyyam Ceremony - Kerela - Hurricane Images Inc.|
#1 Takeaway: Make the damn pitch
|Theyyam Ceremony - Kerela - Hurricane Images Inc.|
Hello from your former Board Member. And congrats on the directorship-- I seem to be a little behind the times. When did you take over the helm? That's exciting and wonderful.
I've been working on a new project that I thought might be helpful for TWP's fundraising activities. I still work part time as a health educator and community engagement coordinator, but two years ago I started working professionally as a photographer with the rest of my time. Then about 9 months ago I started getting a number of requests to produce video for companies. As I thought more about how I wanted to develop that side of the business, I realized that I really wanted to work with clients from the non-profit world. Video is going to be increasingly important for organizations-- for fundraising, education, and awareness. But the clients that are hiring me aren't exactly the type I'd like to focus on.
So I wanted to offer my video services to TWP free of charge for a project. It's an organization I'm personally invested in, you do great work, and it's an opportunity for me create a product that's a perfect example of the work I'd like to focus on. I thought that creating a fundraising-focused video for Bubbles and Bivalves might be one opportunity; I'm certainly open to anything that might be useful to TWP (such as a more general "this is TWP" video).
Is this something that might be of interest?
You can examples of my work at www.hurricaneimagesinc.com.
All the best,
Friday, April 7, 2017
The next five posts will delve into the process of getting clients, including how I landed my first few. Finding new clients is one of the most difficult and frustrating parts of starting any business, and in truth what works when you're first starting doesn't necessarily work once you've got your sea legs. Client acquisition evolves. The dream is that eventually the clients come in on their own, but frankly I'm not convinced that's true for the vast majority of successful media companies. For most of us, it's a chess game with an invisible and illusive partner.
My first move may be controversial to some. But it's what I did, so I'm sharing. Beacuse this blog can't be very useful if I withhold information.
Through my work (which has me creating two videos), I have a subscription to Videoblocks, a stock footage company. There are pluses and minuses to the service and their collection, which can feel a bit limit... something I suspect is true of all stock companies. I noticed they had an abundance of stock footage from Africa. So I researched a non-profit, Schools for Africa, who's work I admired, and I created a promotional/fundraising video for them using the footage from my subscription. Why is this controversial? Well, they didn't hire me to do this (and I don't explicitly state that), and I didn't shoot the footage myself. The service I provided (and I do provide this service), was to develop the concept, write the script, edit the available footage, and add music. In one sense, it's precisely the services I offer-- creating compelling video stories from footage they own; in another it doesn't distinguish between footage I shot and footage someone else shot. And, of course, I would never distinguish this footage under any circumstance. Nor would anyone else. A TV show doesn't flash a disclaimer saying "this clip of the White House was supplied by Getty's." That would destroy the story. But because I wasn't actually hired to create this video, I feel the slight of hand more acutely. Does the use of stock footage change the quality of story-telling and editing Hurricane Images provides? No. Does it change their perception of how accomplished Hurricane Images is? Well, maybe yes.
Next Post: Using a Pro Bono gig to get to the next level
Just discovered our blog? Our Going Pro series documents the 40 weeks leading up to launching our media company, a journey from part-time photographer to full time video/still production. You can find the beginning of the series here.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Contracts and budget proposals. Obviously, you need them. My approach is to over-engineer them slightly-- I like them to be meaty but not so dense as to overwhelm the client. Most people won't read a five page proposal or contract and you want them to understand and have appropriate expectations; at the same time you don't want a document so brief that it appears poorly thought-out. I want my clients to feel like they basically understand it, but the technical aspects make them want to give over control to someone who knows what they're doing. Three times in the past year I've had my contracts "sent over to legal" for review, and I've never been asked to modify it. So I feel pretty confident that it passes muster.
My contracts always stay the same, but the budget proposal (which I sometime call the "Spec Sheet") is tailored to each job. It can be longer depending on the client and the size of the contract. It's supposed to lay out all of the details of the shoot so that we're all working from the same set of expectations. We've talked through most of the details by the time I write up the contract and proposal, but never count on them remembering what was said. Always write it into the contract.
A few bits, pieces, and golden rules:
- Never work without a contract
- Always require a retainer at signing
- Never call it a deposit (deposits should be returned if the job falls through)
Just found us? You can start at the beginning of the Going Pro Series here.
Monday, April 3, 2017
|CAME-TV Boltzen 55W Fresnel - It's tiny!|
CAME-TV: CAME-TV doesn't play with the big boys in high end gear like Wescott, but they are a name you can trust. They produce quality gear at a relatively reasonable prices, and typically aren't considered innovators. The Boltzen is something of a bargain in the their line up, and is surprisingly innovative in design.
Size: The first thing that surprised me was how small it is. The Boltzen is about the size of an extra large travel mug. It would be easy to pack six of these in a carry-on suitcase, making it great for traveling. Light stands are now the burden for the mobile videographer. Extra bonus: built in barn doors. Some folks expect they will give sharp defined edges to the light, but that's just not how Fresnels work (that's the job of an Ellipsoidal). This is more gentle shaping.
|CAME-TV Boltzen 55W Fresnel|
Construction and set up: They feel very sturdy. You never want to throw a light around, but I don't get the sense I'll have to coddle it. It has separate On/Off and light level knobs, which is nice because you don't have to guess the level if you turn it off to conserve power. Some buyers have complained that you have to disassemble the light from bracket to fit it into the carrying case. It's true, but honestly it took me 60 seconds to set up the first time. Slightly more troublesome, though, is that the bracket nobs come complete off, leaving the possibility they'll get lost. I may try and find a way to attach them.
|Locking mini XLR power cable|
Another very slight downside is that the length of the power cord to the brick is fairly short, leaving it dangle in mid air. I tied my to the light stand with one of the wire twisties that came with the packaging. The cord locks into the light, which makes some folks happy about the solid connection and others nervous about kicking the whole thing over.
"The big question is power"
But the big question is power. I haven't seen any reliable specs on lumen, but I'm more of a practical application person anyway. I set it up against my RPS Studio 100w LED for a real world comparison. The RPS is a very good light for the price (about $280), though it suffers from light fan noise (I've yet to swap out my fan, which is recommended). At distance of six feet, a shutter speed of 1/60th, and an ISO of 500, my meter reads f/8 for a perfect exposure with the RPS on full. In the same conditions, the Boltzen gave a reading of f/5.6 wide open and f/8 with the narrow beam. Which is impressive, given it's just 55 watts. Housed in the reflector, the RPS produces a wider spread of light than the Boltzen, so that's where the additional wattage is going. But if you don't need the spread, the smaller Boltzen provides just a stop less light wide open. The narrow setting on the Boltzen is really quite narrow. I'll be interested to see what happens in a softbox or reflective umbrella, because it's very small and hard otherwise. I haven't done a direct comparison yet, but the CAME-TV seems to be about as powerful as my Apurture 672 panel, with slightly better color rendition.
The color of the light between the RPS and the Boltzen seems quite similar. I don't have a way to test for color accuracy, but I don't see a tint as yet. And daylight temperature is a bonus-- you don't find that in real Fresnels which are traditionally tungsten.
The fan is very quite. In fact, I thought they had sent me the 33 watt unit without a fan. I had to go back and listen for it. The fan will probably be noticeable if you have three lights going in a small room, but I don't think you can do better without going fan-less. Mic well and you'll have nothing to eliminate in post.
Wifi. There's a mysterious reference to Wifi (and a micro USB plug) on the unit. I've downloaded the app (which appears to be new as of March), but there are no instructions and it doesn't auto connect. UPDATE: I emailed the folks at Came-TV and they said they are working on a wifi module that will attach the the Boltzen. Shame that it's not built in, but even so it has the potential to be very useful. The app appears to be able to control six separate lights, and it would be great to be about to adjust levels while looking at your monitor. I imagine future versions of the Boltzen will have wifi built in.
Those bonuses: Smaller than I thought. Barn doors help shape the light. Separate Power and Level knobs. It can run off a Sony NP-F960 battery, but you need to get the larger capacity version. My 8700mAh only lasted about 40 minutes at full power, but that's still great in a pinch. Oddly, my battery barely fit and I really had to wedge it in the slot.
Though a full stop weaker, the Boltzen is a smaller, quieter, and more adaptable light than 100W studio lights like the RPS. At the moment, light in the $300-$400 range will generally be 55-100 watts, which is only the difference of one stop of light. The difference between your choices are all about build quality, color quality, and features. In that respect, the Boltzen does very well.
CAME-TV has a solid reputation, and they get a lot right here. It's a solid, professional instrument, and I could see owning two of them at Hurricane Images. They make a Bowen adapter so you can attach it to softboxes, reflectors and grids, though I'm more likely to shoot through a scrim since the Fresnel-style Boltzen can "grid" itself.
The CAME-TV Boltzen 55W Fresnel review: worth the money, especially if you like the form factor.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
For the past dozen posts I've been chronicling my 40-week journey toward starting my own production company. The first trimester of the journey has really been about setting up the "back end" of the business. Today I launched my video production web pages. This is a big milestone for me; even though it’s not “finished” or complete, I now have someplace to refer people to see my work.
For the time being my video pages are a section of my photography website. This may change in the future, but while I have limited examples of my video work I am showing my photography as supporting imagery. You might notice that I’m immediately contradicting myself: my advice is to super niche, and only list what is important to my videography clients (photography is obviously not it). Obviously, it’s difficult to follow any advice to the letter—real life gets in the way. In this case, I’m hoping to create a media production company that combines still and motion. But I’ll be watching to see if my “muddied” message gets in the way of any clients.
Just joining us? You can read about the beginning of the journey here.