Jaime and Joey: A Wedding Film

Another wedding that Jenn P. got me invited to, this time in The Pas. We listened to electro music a lot; it was a blast.

Joey happened to be the son of two long time customers at my parents’ restaurant. I had never met Joey in person, but he was a guy with a good sense of humor and a subtle charm that lended well to the camera. Jaime was the kind of bride you would see in magazines – statuesque and tall, but with an approachable air and a great sense of humor. She held her emotions in check for most of the day until I trained my camera on her for her secret message to Joey. I felt so bad for almost making her cry, and I feel like when she watches this, she’s probably going to cry again.

The church. Holy cow, the church. Now, I’m not a religious man, but that church!! Did I mention the church yet? It was a beautiful venue full of wonderful nooks and crannies. I could make an entire film of the church alone. Even in the much larger church of the third wedding I did, this one blew it out of the water. And in The Pas, no less! Sometimes you find these kinds of gems in small towns.

Jaime and Joey - A Wedding Film Banner

The venue sucked for lighting, though. My nifty-fifty came through once again, but it was at that point that I was really chomping at the bit for Canon’s 50mm f/1.2L. That would have been amazing to shoot with.

Jaime’s brother happened to be a filmmaker as well. It was interesting to swap stories and talk shop with him. I don’t know how his film turned out, but I hope it went well. Unfortunately, it was challenging to keep him out of the shot since we were both competing for the best ones, but I think I did well under the circumstances. The great thing about my style of cinematography is I only ever need a few seconds of footage at the most.

I didn’t leave the camera recording on this one. Power was limited, and I didn’t know if I would have easy access to setup my laptop and transfer files off while charging batteries at the same time. So I was very selective with my shots.

Jaime and Joey - A Wedding Film Poster

Post production went in a different direction this time. I had discovered The Music Bed, among other licensed music sites, but something about the way their site worked made it easy for me to curate more accurate results. I wanted music to be at the forefront because I planned to design this film to be more like a music video. I marked two tracks by beat in Premiere Pro and used musical cues to layout each sequence. Once that was done, it was a matter of varying up the b-roll until I was satisfied. It made the process go by smoother than ever before. This resulted in a film that I think is my best yet.

Unlike the last time, I avoided my zoom lens. I got in real tight for my close shots, so I was always on the move. Throughout the ceremony alone, I think I circled the church’s circumference at least twenty times. Unfortunately, the church didn’t have a PA system with XLR, so I was left out in the cold for audio. The reception had perfect PA audio, but with the length of each music track, I decided to just forego the speeches and let the music speak for them.

All in all, I loved the experience of being in The Pas, hanging out with Jenn, meeting some incredibly fun people (shout out goes to Trevor, the best man, for livening up the place by 9000%), and mastering my craft even further. However, I didn’t get to eat the cake because I was so busy!

How about that music track by Landon Austin? I’ve got that song hecka stuck in my head!

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!

Anna and Shaun: A Wedding Film

I was given a chance by a photographer friend, Jenn P., to film a wedding that she was shooting. As luck would have it, the bride, Anna, happened to work at a business I visit occasionally.

Anna was a blast to work with; she set no boundaries and no expectations, and was even shocked to see my previous film footage, so I think she realized at that point that she got way more than she was expecting. On the flip side, Shaun was very laid back. They chose a wonderful blue theme for their wedding, from the accent decorations all the way down to the bridesmaids’ dresses and groomsmen’s ties and pocket squares. I still think this wedding was more on schedule than any of the ones I did afterwards.

I shot this wedding like any of my previous events; I captured every single moment I could possibly take, filling up my SD cards and eating up my batteries as fast as I could transfer media and recharge. After this wedding shoot, I learned quite a few things.

There were a few challenges presented to me, namely the variety of available light. The church had frosted windows, so natural light was diffused. Due to the focal length of my lens and limited aperture, I had poor performance in low light, so I had to film at ISO 800, which added some noise to my footage. I also brought the monopod into the ceremony to keep myself portable and out of the way, but monopod + zoom lens = exaggerated shaky footage. The reception was a low light situation, but I shot with my nifty fifty instead which alleviated the situation of camera shake, but due to the amount of natural light coming from behind the wedding party table, I ended up with silhouetted shots which didn’t look ideal after I brought up the brightness.

All in all, my best shots happened in the hotel room and trailer, due to natural light and the small spaces. Post production wasn’t that terrible, but I know now that I need to bring my white balance card along on these shoots to compensate for different venues and exposures. A second camera would be great too, which I alleviated by the third wedding.

I also learned another important lesson: weddings are 16+ hours of hell spent on your feet!! Wear comfy sneakers. :)

Anna and Shaun - A Wedding Film (Remake) Banner

Update: Three months after wrapping up post-production, I noticed a message from Anna asking if I could add the rest of the speeches to her film.

I was going to say no at first, since I was already behind in so many other projects from the summer. Then I realized how much I had learned from doing the next two wedding films that I saw this as the perfect opportunity for me to fix all the mistakes I saw in the original film. I hadn’t published it yet either, so I agreed.

I had recently made several positive changes in my life since the film, so I put all my new skills to good use and planned out the entire project, estimating about 4 weeks to completion. I wasn’t going to just make some changes and hand it off, I was going to treat this as a whole new project and start from scratch.

Despite some of the poor amateur footage I took, I feel so much better about this new version of the film. I also took the time to create a new set of film packages, and what I’ve released here publicly is just the FoSho (Focused Short) Film version. The Featurette Film version has several private moments between the wedding party, and I wanted to keep that just for them.

The biggest changes in this version were:

(a) Better narrative and flow. I wanted to make sure that Anna and Shaun’s story was more precise, and I had originally made mistakes by building it too much like a documentary. This was a wedding, for Pete’s sake, and poignant moments should have just been able to speak for themselves. Weddings #2 and #3 made me realize that selecting a great piece of music and allowing it to speak as a voice was a far better solution than having people talk incessantly over music, especially where time constraints were involved. However, with this new version of the film, the Featurette Film had the best of both worlds, and I chose high quality instrumental music that served as a backdrop for the speeches.

(b) Color grading. I’ve always wanted to do color grading in addition to color correction, but really couldn’t due to all the different lighting scenarios I had. I don’t have a portable lighting kit or crew, so lighting scenes is just not feasible for me right now. As a result, grading would take extra long because I can’t just copy and paste Colorista II settings or apply Magic Bullet Looks. I had to go through each sequence, clip by clip, and adjust Colorista II settings individually. It was painstaking, but I scheduled a week to do it, and managed to get done ahead of time. I went for a cool temperature look overall. The lighting is still uneven, but I’m much better and faster at color grading manually than I was before I started.

Anna and Shaun - A Wedding Film (Remake) Poster

(c) Audio. Yes, I had low quality audio to begin with. However, with my ever-improving Audition skills, I’ve taken mastering audio to a whole new level. I’m no audio engineer, but I’ve become much better at compression and noise reduction. Aside from the speeches (partway through, the compressor on my H4n dropped and never came back up), I’m proud of what I did with the audio this time around.

(d) Music. I could easily lump this in with audio, but music was such a huge part of the reason why I wanted to remake this film. In the first version, I purchased a track from Audiojungle, an Envato marketplace and used a free Lazslo track. While the stuff there is decent, it’s certainly not the highest quality out there. The track by Laszlo was good, but didn’t quite fit the narrative despite how much I forced the footage to do so. The instrumental track came from VideoBlocks (now AudioBlocks), who have music that is slightly better, but not high caliber. This time around, I licensed tracks from Music Bed, and that music is streets ahead of other competitors out there.

This is the first time I left in a bonus ending that wasn’t funny. Weird, right??

I can’t wait to take on more wedding films. Jenn P also expressed her interest in collaborating some more, so I need to get out there and start generating leads. What do you think of what you’ve seen so far?

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!

Skate Thompson Ice Show 2014: A Short Film

On March 22, 2014, a local ice skating group, Skate Thompson, held an Ice Show event showcasing the talents of its youth membership. I had only heard of Skate Thompson through word-of-mouth but never really knew how much work went into these kids, and it was a mutual friend of the group that introduced me to them, quite literally at the last minute. Their videography arrangements fell through the day of the event, so I got in contact with them and I went on-site to quickly survey the situation. As it turned out, all they required was somebody to use their camcorder and tripod to record the event, but I had other ideas in mind.

I filmed the full event with my DSLR and did very minor edits in post to give them a video of the full event. However, I decided to put together a short film to really showcase this group and their event to people who didn’t have time to watch the event in full.

Skate Thompson Ice Show 2014 - A Short Film Banner

As a radical departure from my Project Thompson videos, I kept this film under five minutes. The reason for this was to generate interest. Not everybody has the time to invest 25 minutes in watching a video, and you have to hook short attention spans very quickly these days. As a result, I did have to heavily edit some of the narration, but I did so in a way that wouldn’t affect the overall message.

If you have a very good ear, you can sometimes hear the zamboni in the background when Megan is speaking. I foolishly thought my boom mic would pick up on her voice more than the zamboni, but it ended up being a nightmare in post.

Lesson learned: organize an on-site narrative when it’s relatively quieter. :)

Skate Thompson Ice Show 2014 - A Short Film Poster

This is also the first video where I decided to use music from a source outside of VideoBlocks.com. While a lot of their stuff is decent, a lot more of their stuff is kind of crap. I like house/EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and I subscribe to several copyright-free music channels on YouTube, which is how i stumbled on to Laszlo’s track, “Nothing Yet”. He’s an amazing, talented artist and the minute I heard this song, I immediately knew that it would suit this film very well.

Props to Laszlo:

Thanks to NoCopyrightSounds for featuring Laszlo on YouTube.

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!

Live Ammo Freestyle 2014.

What is Live Ammo Freestyle?

That was the question running through my head when Dennis approached me to film this project. We had just finished filming the first Project Thompson, which was still in post production, and I was just hot off the heels of filming my first professional shoot and another winter film. Needless to say, it was a busy month and I was only just getting started!

As it were, the notice I was given was barely a day or so. They wanted me to come out to the Live Ammo compound and film their practice for the live event, which was happening the weekend after. I drove out of town and found the entrance to the compound with Dennis’ help, but it was rough going because the “road” was only a snow trail one vehicle wide and although I was driving my SUV, it was still touch-and-go given that my vehicle was built for luxury, not off-road.

When I finally arrived, I heard the sounds of snowmobile engines revving and smelled burning exhaust fumes in the air. The sun was high in the sky without a cloud in sight. For a Thompson winter in April, it was surprisingly a warm day. I got over the shock of what these young lads were doing pretty quickly and got into work mode. I filmed the ramping and talked with the guys. The same question kept popping up in my head.

What kind of person finds the motivation to risk their safety and future health so they can participate in an extreme sport? I sought to answer my question through this film.

Live Ammo Freestyle 2014 Banner

The practice went relatively well. Some guest rampers were coming into town and practicing throughout the week, but I figured I would catch them at the event instead of taking the long trip out there. This foresight was my downfall.

The event itself was great. Lots of people showed up, and the guys put on a great show. It was the first time I used my Manfrotto SYMPLA shoulder rig. There were two accidents, but the riders were able to walk away from it. I missed filming both accidents, which would have added to the film’s suspense. Partway through the event, the worst thing happened. My card filled up. It couldn’t be, though; I had a 32 GB card and it took two consecutive hours of non-stop filming to fill it up. While two hours had passed, I was doing a lot of stop-and-go filming. I inspected all the clips, and there were a handful of clips, but nowhere near 32 GB worth of them. I hadn’t even gotten to the interviews yet! I didn’t have my laptop on me, and the event still had a few hours to go. So I had to make a choice then and there; I formatted the card. :'(

I re-shot all the jumps I could. I shot the interviews. Two hours later, the card wasn’t even 1/4 full. The file system was probably corrupted. This taught me a valuable lesson. Always carry a spare card, bring my laptop to offload files, and format cards between sessions!

Despite that hard lesson, there were more to come. My battery died. I had barely caught all the riders ramping since some of them went early in the day, which were part of the data I had to delete. That taught me lesson #2: always carry a second battery, and bring the charger so that I can charge the dead battery while shooting with the second!

Live Ammo Freestyle 2014 Poster

Finally, the last lesson came in post. I was creating subclips in Prelude when I came across Mike Poirier’s interview at the event. The audio was missing! I checked the sequence numbers and sure enough, it looked like I didn’t even record it, which was impossible, because I remember listening to it when I got the files on my workstation. So either my memory is playing tricks on me or I completely failed to hit the record button. That didn’t teach me a lesson, but I was acutely made aware that recording audio separately had its caveats.

I hate to say it, but the entire ordeal of this project was crazy. I was stressed out the max, and due to the issues I experienced at the live event, I admit that I put off post production of this film for three months partly because of those bad memories (and mostly a busy schedule). When I finally did get to producing this, I ended up with missing scenes, audio, and sanity. Despite all of that, I managed to put out a film that contains my blood, sweat, and tears. This film is my kryptonite, lack of foresight, and my uncertainty of whether I’m doing the right thing or not. But at the same time, it was my adversity, ingenuity, and creativity which gave birth to a film that managed to be something I could look at and say, “You may have won the battle, but the war is far from over.”

On the plus side, I met local photographer, Jenn P., at this event for the first time. Dennis had been promoting her to me for a while, and after working alongside her, we finally formed a professional relationship that would later expand into a future project that I just wrapped up filming as I’m releasing this. Stay tuned!

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!

Project Thompson: Episode 1 with Jasyn Lucas.

Written and hosted by Dennis Foley in this provisionally named documentary series, we sit down and talk with people around Thompson, Manitoba about their stories and opinions about their lives in the Hub of the North.

In this first episode, Dennis sat down with Jasyn Lucas, a prolific artist whose works include the Northern Lights, wolves, and other Aboriginal inspired paintings.

When Dennis approached me for the project, he wanted to focus on the positive aspects of living so far up north in Canada. Most people usually respond negatively when it came to Thompson, and it took 36 years for this humble filmmaker to learn that his family and friends lived here. I spent the entire time trying to get out of Thompson and it seemed that in the blink of an eye, I planted roots and realized that if you actually took the time to look, Thompson is actually a wonderful place to live.

Project Thompson 01 with Jasyn Lucas Banner

A lot of what Jasyn said really resonated with me. It was coming into alignment with what I was starting to see. I know the video is pretty long for a guy sitting around talking about his life and this place; I totally could have edited it to make it shorter, but I don’t want to just make films. I want to make emotions tangible and immortalize them for generations to see.

Sure, it’s butt-freezing cold in the winter, but no different than most places in Canada. You’d be surprised how easy it is to adjust from -25°C to -50°C with windchill.

There’s crime. There’s always crime. But to be labeled as a murder capital is only that – a label. There’s no more or less crime per capita here than any other place, and despite what the numbers say, you won’t see crime unless you actually go looking for it like a damned fool.

Project Thompson 01 with Jasyn Lucas Poster

Food selection may be limited, but I believe this has made accomplished cooks out of the residents of Thompson. So if you can’t cook or like to eat out, then either make peace with becoming proficient at cooking or make friends who can cook and invite yourself over for supper; I guarantee the friendly people will accommodate you and more! Just make sure to chip in for groceries and do them a favor here and there. :)

Maybe one day, I’ll go to Vancouver and attend film school or fulfill my dreams of traveling the world and making documentaries, but no matter what happens I will always come back to Thompson and proudly call it my home. I became the person I am today because of my family, my friends, and my hometown.

So why not come up and visit the Hub of the North?

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!