Tag Archives: Navy Mass Communication Specialist

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.



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.




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.



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.



Getting the Front Page on Navy.mil


Opening Shots

Whenever I do a public affairs job, a couple of my “marketing” goals are to get my videos into the top banner on Navy.mil and to get my still photos into the “Images of the Day” gallery on the front page of Navy.mil.  The first step is to produce quality products; the second step is pushing the images/print/video to the right places.  Transmitting imagery to Navy.mil is what this blog post is about.

Getting the Top Banner

Most of the pieces in the top banner come from All Hands Magazine Online (AH.mil).  AH doesn’t want just video or just stills.  When you send them images, they want a print story to go along with it.  The print story can be a straight news story, or it can be a print feature.

Once you’ve got your products, here is how you get your products to Navy.mil:

1. Get the username and password for the Defense Media Activity (DMA) FTP site.  I got this email address from the AH Best Practices page: allhandsmagazine@dma.mil  Drop them a line and ask them for the username and password.

2. Go to the FTP site by typing http://ftp.dodmedia.tv into the address bar of your of your internet browser.

3. Type in the username and password you got from the folks at allhandsmagazine@dma.mil.

DMA's FTP Log In Screen

4. Click the “up arrow” 02 up arrow in the top row of buttons.

5. Browse for the file you want to upload.

Upload Screen

6. Once you’ve chosen your files, hit “Upload” to begin your upload. This may take awhile depending on your internet connection.

7. At this point, you’re done.  You just have to wait until your file is done uploading.  As a side note, I would recommend downloading Filezilla FTP Client.  It’s free, it’s approved for government computers, and I believe it’s faster and more dependable than a web browser to get to the FTP server.

Getting into the Images of the Day Gallery

Getting photos into the Images of the Day gallery is easier and harder than getting videos into the banner.  It’s easier to transmit the images — you just email them — but the Navy Imagery folks get a gazillion photos each day, so there is a lot more competition vying for a spot in this gallery.  But, hey, at least it’s easy to send the pictures.  Here’s how you do it.

1. Attach your photos to an email.

2. Copy and paste all your VIRINs and captions into the email.

caption email

3. Email it to: navymedia@navy.mil

4. Hit “send,” and you’re done.

Here are a few side notes:

  • I shoot RAW, and after I edit, I save as a JPG with the quality slider at 7.  I’m not sure if this is SOP, but I’ve never had any complaints.
  • They can’t put vertical images into the Images of the Day gallery.
  • The Images of the Day (and all the photos on Navy.mil) are chosen by the Navy Imagery folks at the Pentagon, whereas Navy.mil’s top banner is chosen by the DMA folks at Fort Meade.

In Conclusion

I always try to get my stuff on Navy.mil no matter who else I’m marketing to.  It’s a little extra work at the back end of a project, but I’ve found that my customers are usually pretty psyched on seeing their unit on the front page of the Navy’s web site.  That type of exposure usually buys me a little more access the next time I work with that unit.  So it’s a win-win for everyone.  Thanks for reading.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook (cote brett) or via email (brett.patrick.cote@gmail.com).


Rembrandt Lighting (Video Interview Techniques)

I’m stationed at Combat Camera now.  I’ve been stationed here before, so I know it’s pretty rare to travel with a light kit.  We still have to shoot interviews, and we want those interviews to look as well-lit as possible.  So how do we do that?  My answer is: Rembrandt lighting.


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch painter from the 17th Century [FIGURE 1].  Rembrandt lit his subjects so that one side of the subject’s face was well lit, and the other side of the face was in shadow except for the eye and a small triangle of light under the eye.  The triangle of light is created when the shadow from the nose reaches down to the corner of the mouth and connects with the shadow from the dark side of the face.  And that’s “Rembrandt lighting.”


Here is a self-portrait of Rembrandt as a young man. In this painting, the well-lit side of his face is facing the “camera.” When we set up our interviews, we usually want the camera to be facing the shadowy side of the face. See the examples below.


Here are some modern examples of Rembrandt lighting at work:

Dramatic Rembrandt

Very dramatic use of Rembrandt. I pulled this picture from Lens Diaries’ great post on Rembrandt lighting. The photo is linked to their post. Check it out.

In the first example [FIGURE 2, above] the Rembrandt lighting is very sharp and defined. You probably wouldn’t use such a dramatic use like this unless your subject matter really warranted some drama.



Natural Looking Rembrandt

Here is a more subtle use of Rembrandt. I pulled this photo from Louis Daniel Botha’s great post on lighting techniques. Click the photo to check out his blog post. (He uses an awesome WordPress theme)

In this example [FIGURE 3, above] the Rembrandt lighting is less sharp and contrasty.  I’m guessing the photographer used multiple lights on this one, but it is set up to look like it was lit with natural light coming from a window.  In my opinion, unless you’re going for a specific effect, the natural look is the way to go.

How to Do It Yourself

Like I said before, sometimes you just don’t have a light kit, but that doesn’t mean your scene can’t be as well-lit as possible.  Here are four simple steps to help you get better looking interview shots by using availible light to achieve Rembrandt lighting.

1. Find a Light Source and Position the Interviewee:

Find a window, and position your subject so that the light from that window is casting Rembrandt lighting across your subject’s face.  If you’re in a windowless room, try a desk lamp or some other available light source.

2. Position the Reporter Right in Front of the Interviewee:

Your whole set up is based on the available light source. So once your subject is properly lit, you’re not going to want him to move or turn his head to face the reporter asking the questions.  Position the reporter (which is probably you, right?) directly in front of the interviewee, so he stays properly lit while he’s answering your questions.

3. Position the Camera:

Position the camera so that it is on the shadowy side of the interviewee’s face.  If you look at the two Rembrandt examples [FIGURE 2 and FIGURE 3], you’ll see the camera is on the shadow side of the subject’s face.  Shooting the shadowy side of someone’s face has a slimming effect.  Conversely, positioning the camera on the bright side of someone’s face has a broadening effect.  Normally people want to appear slimmer, but there are definitely occasions where you would want to shoot the bright side to make someone’s face fuller.

(note: often the shadowy side is called the “short” side, and the bright side is called the “broad” side, but, whatever…)

4. Don’t Forget the Background:

Make sure your background isn’t too dark or too bright (ie: you don’t want the background brighter than your interview subject.) Sometimes it helps to kill the other lights in the room; sometimes it helps to leave them on or just kill a few. If I’m using a window as my light source, I usually try to kill all the overhead lights and open curtains to light my background. This helps me avoid mixed lighting situations.

Because you built this whole scene based on where the light was coming from, you don’t really get to choose your background composition, so make sure there isn’t anything crazy or distracting in your background.

Interview set up diagram

Here is a diagram of how this set up would look from the top. We’ve got light coming in from a window creating Rembrandt on our interview subject. The reporter is standing right in front of the properly lit subject. The camera is pointed at the shadow (or “short”) side of the subject’s face.

That’s All Folks

Using available light to achieve Rembrandt lighting on your subject will give your video that extra touch of professionalism.  We can’t all roll around with light kits, flags and reflectors, but using this simple technique will up the production value of your interview footage.

After Effects tips [part 1: “3D” objects in AE cs5.5]

I plan on doing a few posts based on After Effects tips I learned while working on this multimedia project. In this post I want to talk about  how to import and work with 3D objects in After Effects.

3d in AE 5.5:

Alright, so this trick doesn’t work in CS6. So, if you’re rolling with the latest and greatest, don’t bother reading this post.

FREE 3D Models: The green Arleigh Burke destroyer that moves onto the green map at :36 is a 3D model that I got for free from the Google Sketchup Warehouse.  My homie Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Fudge (http://vimeo.com/user2450985) first turned me on to Sketchup Warehouse. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out; it’s an amazing FREE resource.  I just typed “US Navy Destroyer” into the Sketchup search bar, and this model by TOBY and APA-168 popped up.

With Sketchup Warehouse, you can download a .SKP file or a zipped .DAE file. I downloaded the .DEA and unzipped it.  Then, I open the .DAE in Photoshop 5.5 (it’s actually 5.1, but it came w/ CS5.5). Next, I saved the file as a .PSD.  Once the object is a .PSD, it can be imported into After Effects.



Trouble Shooting: If you open the .DAE in Photoshop and don't see anything, open the 3D Scene window and find a setting that works in the "Render Settings" dropdown menu.

Trouble Shooting: If you open the .DAE in Photoshop and don’t see anything, open the 3D Scene window and find a setting that works in the “Render Settings” dropdown menu.

Trouble Shooting: O.K., so sometimes, it’s not that easy. This destroyer model was one of those times. When I opened the .DAE in Photoshop, I couldn’t see it. So, this is what I did.  In Photoshop, I highlighted the “Window” dropdown menu, and chose “3D.” This brings up the “3D Scene” window. In this window, the “Render Settings” dropdown menu has a bunch of different options to try. For this particular model, I chose the “Normals” render setting to end up with this funky neon destroyer. The colors here don’t really matter because I can desaturate it or adjust the hue in After Effects. At this point, I just save as a .PSD and move on to After Effects.



… the ability to import Live Photoshop 3D is what changed between CS5.5 and CS6. For whatever reason, CS6 got rid of this option …


AE import dialog box.




Importing Into AE: Import the .PSD into the After Effects project as a “Composition,” not as footage. A second dialog pops up after you hit OK. In this dialog box, make sure you’re still importing as a composition with editable layer styles. The most important thing here is to make sure the “Live Photoshop 3D” option is checked. The ability to import Live Photoshop 3D is what changed between CS5.5 and CS6. For whatever reason, CS6 got rid of this option.





Animating the Object in AE:  Once the “3D” object is in AE, you end up with a Composition and a folder with the Layers for that Comp.  Inside that Comp, there is a “Layer,” a “Layer Controller,” and a “Camera.”  Inside this Comp is where you’ll animate any motion you want the object to perform, because inside this Comp is the only place where the object will be 3D. The Layer Controller and the Camera position is what you’ll use to animate. If you look at the screen shot below, you’ll see that for this particular animation, I used the Camera position to create the “pull back/zoom out” that starts the animation, and then I used the Layer Controller’s “Y Rotation” to make the 90 degree rotation at the end of the animation.

01 controller n cam

Finishing Up:  When the core animation was done, I just dropped this Comp into another Comp and started building the greenish effect that I ended up with. I’m not going to get into the details about how I made the greenish look, but if you type “Night Vision” into the “Effects and Presets” tab, you’ll be off and running. I want to repeat the fact that I drop this Comp into another Comp BEFORE I start putting effects onto it.  Trust me on this one, if you work this way, it’ll be a lot easier to make changes later on.  I’ll cover “project organization” in another post.