Tag Archives: MC

You’re Only As Good As The Last Thing You Shot

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):

Never “phone it in” thinking you’ll get a chance to create something better “tomorrow,” because tomorrow never comes, and now you’re stuck with subpar work floating around out there with your name on it.

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I Phoned It In:

I screwed up.  I was  doing an evidentiary photography job for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA, formerly JPAC).  All my photographer buddies who have done work for these guys told me this command has a really conservative public affairs posture (by that I mean, “they don’t release anything.”)  Well, the command recently went through some big structural changes, so I figured I’d holler at the PAO and propose some products.  The PAO was really receptive, so I decided to create some PA products in addition to my primary evidence photography duties.

Instead of diving in head first, I decided to test the waters.  I wanted to test command’s releasing posture, so I banged out a quick package of products in the first week of the mission.  I turned in a multimedia piece, a print story, and seven photos.  The products weren’t horrible, but they weren’t intended to be the last word on our recovery mission in Vietnam.

Why did I turn in stuff I wasn’t totally stoked on?  Honestly, I was lazy, and I didn’t want to put a lot of work into a product package that wasn’t going to get released. I figured if the stuff got released, I would have time to create a second, more refined package of products.  Well, things didn’t work out that way.  The weather really hampered our mission.  We couldn’t get to the mission site most of the time we were in country.

So, my quickie, throw-together products were the only things I was left with to represent this mission.  I thought about reworking the products, but the release process with this customer is pretty lengthy, so that wasn’t really an option.

… The Last Thing You Shot:

Photographers (videographers especially) can be pricks (especially me).  “You’re only as good as the last thing you shot” is a saying that’s been around forever.  Of course, it’s a totally untrue and unreasonable standard.  A shooter, writer, producer’s talent level is, of course, the sum of his/her body of work.  However, I use the saying to motivate myself, and I believe it helps me push myself to always produce at my highest level.  Resting on your laurels is the kiss of death in our career field.  Every time I start thinking, “I’ve got this MC thing locked down,” I meet some junior MC who is 10 years younger than me but only 10 months behind me skill wise.  And that young guy/gal doesn’t care what I did “back in the day.”  He wants to know what I’ve done lately, and that keeps me hungry to be proud of my latest work.

In Conclusion …

I phoned a product in, and now “the last thing I shot” isn’t something I’m completely happy about.  The moral of the story is: Give it everything you’ve got today, because tomorrow isn’t promised.

-bc

 


Keep Big Projects and Photos from Slowing Down (crashing) Adobe Premiere

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):

Q1: How do I keep Adobe Premiere from crashing/slowing down when my project gets too big?

A: Use the Media Browser instead of importing the files into your project.

Q2: How do I keep Adobe Premiere from crashing/slowing down when I’m working with still photos in my timeline?

A:  Your photos are probably huge.  Use Photoshop to resize them to a video/film frame size.

Opening Shots:

I was recently at a two-week small-arms/photography/videography training exercise (you’re not gonna find that combo anywhere but combat camera.)  Besides being one of the mass communication instructors, I was also tasked with editing a video using the VI products the students were turning in.  There were 16 students, and every day I chopped up each of their primecut reels and interview reels and organized them on timelines. Sixteen primecuts per day for two weeks equals a lot of footage.  I worked in one Premiere project for the entire time.

On one of the first nights of the exercise, some of the students were surprised to hear that when I’m on a real-world mission, I will usually work in one project for weeks at a time.  I explained that I’m able to do this because I keep my projects lean by using Premiere’s built-in Media Browser.  I assumed everybody has been using Media Browser for a while now, so I just glossed over the point and moved on to the next subject.

At the end of the two-week exercise, the best editor from each team edited together a multi using footage/photos his team had captured throughout the exercise.  That’s when the trouble started. Computers were freezing up, Premiere was crashing, projects were getting corrupted and error messages were flying.  At first I didn’t know what was causing the havoc, but a quick peek into the editors’ workflows pointed toward two culprits:

1. Editors were importing entire primecut reels into their projects instead of using Media Browser to load the clip into the Source window and edit from there.

2. Editors were working with (many) full-sized JPG stills in their timelines.  Instead of resizing the photos to a reasonable size (e.g.: 1920×1080) before bringing them into Premiere, editors were resizing in Premiere.

(Just for your situational awareness, the problems we were having were on MacBooks running OS X with 16 gigs of RAM and a 2.7 GHz processor and using Premiere CS6)

Using the Media Browser and resizing photos in Photoshop are two really easy workflow shifts that’ll really help keep your Primo projects lean and mean.  Here’s how I roll:

Media Browser in Premiere

If you want to keep your Premiere project lean, DO NOT IMPORT VIDEO into the project. Use the Media Browser. One of the advantages of Premiere over other systems is that it can work with almost every video file format without having to transcode it.  This means you don’t have to import a ton of video into your project.  So, you can leave the video where it lives on your computer or hard drive, and just use the Media Browser to navigate to the video files.

The media browser tab lives behind the project tab in the "Editing" workspace of CS6.

Find the Media Browser: The media browser tab lives behind the project tab in the “Editing” workspace of CS6.

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Find the Media Browser

You can find the Media Browser tab behind the Project tab (if your Workspace is set to “Editing” in CS6).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigate to the Video Files

Navigate to the video clip.  Double-click the clip to load it into the Source Monitor.

Navigate to the video clip. Double-click the clip to load it into the Source Monitor.

In the Media browser tab, navigate to the folder where you keep your video. I keep my video in my “Movies” folder. In this example, I’ve navigated to some F-35 footage I shot in October 2014.  Once I’ve navigated to my video folder, thumbnails of the video clips appear in the Media Browser.

Double-clicking a thumbnail will load the video clip into the Source Monitor where I can create In and Out points and edit into the Timeline.

I haven’t done any research on it, but I’m pretty sure this is the way Premiere is designed to work now. At our training exercise we had folks importing clips into their projects (File> Import). Their projects were dealing with 14 days of footage from multiple people, they were importing a ton of footage, and I believe that is what was freezing and crashing their projects. Once we got them using the Media Browser workflow most of the crashing issues cleared up.

Resize Photos to a Video Frame Size

Resize photos to something that is closer to the 1920 x 1080 pixels video frame size.

4928 pixels?!? This photo is huge for most Navy video projects. Don’t make Premiere think so much. Resize photos to something that is closer to the video frame size of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Still photos were another thing that was causing Premiere to freeze or crash. Some of the editors were importing full-sized photos and scaling them down in Premiere. At the very least, this is going to slow Premiere down. Once the editors had edited in a bunch of these full-sized photos Premiere started crashing and freezing.

There are a million ways to resize a photo. In Photoshop, go to “Image > Image Size” (or CMD + OPT + I). In the Image Size dialog box, change the width of the photo to something closer to the 1920 pixel-width of a video frame.

The example I used here was a JPG that had already been compressed, and it was still 4928 pixels wide (about two and a half times bigger than the typical video frame width of 1920 pixels).

(One more point about resizing photos: I save my JPGs at a medium quality of 7. I know this is probably heresy to some people, but it gives me a good quality image that isn’t a pain in the ass to move around and manipulate.)

In Conclusion …

So, these were two fixes to Adobe Premiere problems we were having at our COMCAM exercise.  If you’ve got any fixes or bugs, please hit me up and let me know.

-bc

 


After Effects tips [part 2: basic organization tip]

Opening Shots:

In this post I want to talk about an organizing structure for anything bigger than the most simple After Effects projects. This is a basic concept that I didn’t know about since I’m pretty new to After Effects.

When I started this CNO Tenets project, I was having problems organizing the whole thing. I was trying to build everything in one composition (comp), but the comp got crazy really fast. I asked my coworker, After Effects Ninja Nate Quinn (quinngraphicdesign.com), for advice.  He suggested I use one composition as a “stage.” He said I should build all my individual elements in their own little comps, and then, drop those comps onto the Stage Comp.  Using a Stage Comp not only keeps things organized, but it also makes life a lot easier when you have to make changes to your project late in the process.

Stage Composition:

Let’s look at the first 15 seconds of the CNO Tenet project. What’s going on in the first 15 seconds?

First, there is a black and white image of a couple of ships; this image serves as a background for this scene.

Second, there are picture panels of the Chief of Naval Operations testifying before congress.

Third, there is a text animation that IDs the CNO as Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

Fourth, there is a camera movement that transitions the viewer from this scene to the next scene (the text animation of the three tenets.)

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01 Stage Simple.

Here is what the first 15 seconds looks like in the Stage Comp. There are four elements and a camera.

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I created each of the elements in its own composition, and then I dropped each of them onto the Stage Comp.  Each element can have tons of layers with its own cameras and movements, but when I drop the comps onto the main Stage Comp, they’re in neat, self-contained comps.

05 stage n thumbnails.

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This is what the first 15 seconds would look like if I put everything in the same comp instead of using a Stage Comp.

02 No StageSo, that’s it. By using a Stage Comp, I can keep my project clean and more manageable. And when your PAO decides that he doesn’t like a particular element or scene, it’s pretty easy to swap that element out of the Stage Comp.

Thanks for reading. I know this was a really basic concept, but it’s definitely changed the way I work, and I’ve shown it to some of my co-workers who are also new to AE, and they’ve found it really helpful, too. Pass it on to a newbie.

-bc


Standard News Package — Science Awards

This is a standard news package, and at the Pentagon Bureau, we shoot a TON of these.  They’re boring as hell, they’re not very visual, and they are usually on topics that one could care less about.  As lame as this sounds, I try to approach these things like a challenge: How can I make the coolest, most professional looking product out of this award ceremony/wreath laying/plaque dedication/whatever?

In this package, I opened with a reporter stand up.  I really don’t like doing these because I’m a little self-conscious about my delivery.  With a story like this, however, there really aren’t enough good visuals to carry the piece, so having me in the beginning takes up a little bit of screen time.  I also feel like it gives the piece a little immediacy.  I use the present-progressive tense in my lead (“… the Navy IS awarding its top scientists …).  By having me on the scene and using the present progressive, I’m trying to give the viewer that “breaking news” feel.  Hopefully that adds a little bit of excitement to a boring award ceremony package.

Workflow

So what’s the workflow for a piece like this? Well, we start planning as soon as we get the tasking to cover the event.  Here are the steps we took planning and executing this shoot:

-Get a list of the awardees being recognized.  From that list, we isolate one or two of the awardees who have done VISUALLY EXCITING things.  Our plan is to interview these folks, and use some B-roll of their visually exciting work to make our package more entertaining.  For this event, we chose the Rail Gun team, and another team that didn’t make the final edit.

-Write the script.  With an event like this we have time to craft the script, and it usually doesn’t change that much.  We think of what soundbites we want from the interviews, then we craft questions to elicit those soundbites. Sometimes we get the predictible soundbites, sometimes we get better ones.

-On the day of the shoot, we brought two cameras to this event.  A Sony F350, which is a big broadcast camera that is good for shooting Main Cam (the podium shot for the 1st soundbite of ASN Stackley).  We also brought a Canon 7D DSLR.  With these events, I end up shooting Cut Cam, but I’m also the official event photographer for grip ‘n grins, so the DSLR is the all-in-one machine that I need to accomplish my mission.

-We set the Main Cam up first, so we are ready to roll when the event starts.

-Then we set up and shoot my stand up with the DSLR.

-After the stand up, my partner, MC2 Alexandra Snyder, goes and finds our interviewee while I re-adjust the camera composition and our lights so the interview doesn’t look exactly like my stand up.

-We shoot the interview.  It goes great, and then it’s time for the show to start.

-Snyder operated the Main Cam for this shoot.  Main Cam usually stays focused on the podium, or the main action on stage.

-I shot Cut Cam.  The cuts are what make my package, so I’m shooting non-stop (plus I’m shooting the still photos for the event). Usually, whoever is shooting cuts is also going to edit the product in post.

The Edit

Ok, so let’s talk about editing this thing, and how we use Main Cam and Cut Cam to stitch together sequences for the final product.

Podium Sequence

Right after my stand up, we have a Cut Cam shot of the speaker at the podium.  The audio under that shot is still the narration from my stand up.  The next shot is the soundbite of the speaker at the podium; this is from Main Cam.  This gives us a nice little two-shot sequence.  The Cut Cam shot leads the viewer into the soundbite.  We get this shot by design.  If you notice, the action matches up pretty well from the Cut Cam shot to the podium shot.  To make sure the editor can get that matching action,  Cut Cam has to capture a full range of the speaker’s motion.  He looks left, he looks right, he talks with his hands . I captured that Cut Cam shot for almost a full minute to make sure I would be able to roughly match action with whatever soundbite I used from Main Cam.

“I captured that Cut Cam shot for almost a full minute to make sure I would be able to roughly match action with whatever soundbite I used from Main Cam.”

Rail Gun Sequence

The next sequence is of the audience watching Rail Gun test footage.  We got lucky that they played this video at the ceremony.  We had already downloaded the video from DVIDS, and we were planning on using it to spice up our package.  Since they played the video for the audience, we were able to sequence it.  This sequence goes from Main Cam to a shaky, awkward Cut Cam shot, and then we use the actual footage we got from DVIDS.

Next, we go into our interview soundbite. How we chose this soundbite out of the all the great stuff she gave us would take up a whole blog-post, so I’ll just say this: her soundbite adds “color” to the line of narration that I read just before the soundbite. In my narration I explain that the Rail Gun uses electricity to launch projectiles, and her soundbite implies that using electricity is a really major step forward.

In Closing

Finally, we finish with my standard lame-ceremony closing sequence of applause.  As everyone knows, video rules say an editor should finish a piece with “negative action.” Applause is my negative/closing action.  I actually get the applause sequence in the beginning of the ceremony.  These ceremonies always start with the MC or the keynote speaker thanking a host of people.  This part of the ceremony is useless, so I use it as an opportunity to catch the applause sequence.

These ceremonies always start with the MC or the keynote speaker thanking a host of people.  This part of the ceremony is useless, so I use it as an opportunity to catch the applause sequence.

This piece isn’t going to win any cool-guy awards, but for the past 6 months, these stories have made up 85 percent of my workload.  So, since these pieces are the bread and butter that pay my mortgage and feed my children, I really have no choice but to try and make them as good as I can.

If you like this post, follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @bpcote1 and I post mostly about mass comm subjects. You can also friend my professional facebook page: Cote Brett.

-bc


Uploading Stills to Navy Visual News (navy.mil photo gallery)

My coworker, MC2 Alexandra Snyder, and I have spent the last couple of weeks standing up a Navy Pentagon bureau for the Defense Media Activity (DMA).  Today Alex is out on the Pentagon bureau’s first assignment.  I’m home recovering from some minor surgery. So, as is often the case, the E-5 is out getting the job done while the E-6 is sitting around talking about it.

Al is out at the Sea, Air, and Space Expo (SASE) getting still photos for navy.mil.  I’m sure most of you are well-versed in getting photos to Navy Visual News, but Al and I weren’t.  We found instructions here:  http://www.navy.mil/photo_submit.asp, and we ran a couple of tests.  Here are the steps we followed:

1. We shot the highest resolution JPEG as possible with our Nikon D3.

2. We named the photos with VIRINs.  If you don’t know what’s up with VIRINs, check out that navy.mil link; it breaks it down for you.

3. We captioned the photos.  We used Adobe Bridge to put the caption information into the metadata.  If for some reason you don’t have Bridge, but you have Photoshop, go to “File > File Info.”  You can enter metadata in there.  The folks at Navy Visual News told us that they prefer if shooters use a program called Photo Mechanic to enter the metadata.

4. We also put the caption info into a Word document.

5. We e-mailed the photos and the caption-info Word document to: navymedia@navy.mil

6. After we sent the email(s) we called Oscar Sosa, the photo boss over at Navy Visual News, and gave him the heads up that the photos were on the way.

Mr. Sosa gave us a tip about file size.  If you’re out on a ship or in the field, and you’re having trouble sending huge JPGs, he said to save the JPGs at a lower Image Quality level.  When you save JPGs in Photoshop, the program asks you what quality you want to save at.  Sosa suggested reducing file size by saving at Quality Level 8 instead of 12.

So that’s that.  I’ll post some of Al’s pics from the expo later.

-bc