Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts

Apr 19, 2016

10 Tips to Improve Your Instagram

Instagram can be a tough egg to crack, but it's now one of the most popular social media platforms with some of the most engaged users. How do I grow my following on Instagram? How do I make my feed better? What should I share on Instagram? I've grown my following to over 10K in the last year, and have asked myself all of these questions. Here are a few things I've learned, distilled into 10 tips to improve your Instagram feed, following, and reach.

10 tips to improve your instagram feed followingFor more check out @editingluke on Instagram.

Dec 1, 2015

8 Things You Didn't Know About Editing Luke

One of the biggest challenges in creating a personal site like Editing Luke is that it takes a long time to build a solid foundation and figure out exactly what you want it to be. 

I began this project as a film student in 2007 and used the site (and rather successfully I might add) to promote my work in film festivals. This lead to Editing Luke becoming a decent platform for me to discuss my transition into professional video production. Eventually, this evolution lead me to showcase more of my work, share my entrepreneurial ambitions, create regular content, and finally launch my own business.

editing luke fandrich medicine hat video photography

These are 8 facts about Editing Luke that may give you a better idea of who I am, what I do, and why this website is such an important component of my professional life. Or, maybe it's just 8 random things you didn't know about Editing Luke.

1. This is my full-time job.

Since the beginning of 2014 I've been producing video content and photography under the banner of Editing Luke as a full-time independent business. Before this, I was producing media content for another company as a day job and using my website to gain contract projects on the side. This leap to go solo has allowed me to be more selective about the work I take on and explore opportunities that only a couple of years ago seemed out of reach.

For those that I've worked with, this point will be obvious. However, every now and then I still meet people who think I do all of this as a hobby or that someone else must be supporting me to be creating content as regularly as I do. Neither of which is the case. I've simply found a way to make a living doing something I enjoy.

2. My content has reached over 30,000,000 people since 2011.

It's been a long road to get to this point, but in 2011 (after regularly posting to this site for over 4 years) I actually started thinking about a content strategy. I began doing targeted posts, focusing on consistency, and paying attention to where my content was being shared. The combination of my blog, video, and image impressions over the next 4 years that followed resulted in a massive online reach that extended far beyond my own website. 

3. Editing Luke is ad free and the content isn't sponsored.

I treat this website and blog as my storefront. The content I share is a way to showcase my business and skill as a photographer and videographer. 

In many cases I work to spec when creating content, meaning that I'll capture a location or event knowing that there's a demand for those images. I'll then make a pitch to sell them after the fact. This might be for tourism, for prints, for a related business, etc. However, I only do spec shoots on my own terms - not as freebies. 

Even if images for a certain post never sell, if the content is strong than at the very least it works as marketing by attracting visitors to Editing Luke. 

On the reverse end, if I'm hired by a client, as an added bonus I'll sometimes share the images or video I produced on my website if it fits my criteria of being a showcase of my skill set. The posts themselves are never sponsored though and from the beginning Editing Luke has always been ad free. It's my opinion that this keeps the content at the forefront. 

4. Editing Luke's tagline is Exploration, Culture & Lifestyle.

In building a media business I've worked hard to distinguish myself as someone focused on a very specific type of photography and video production. For example, I don't shoot family portraits, I don't do wedding videos, and in general I don't think of myself as merely a media "service".

My goal has always been to create engaging content - from travel, tourism and experience based photography to narrative promotional videos, documentaries, and web shorts. I've always approached my work with the audience in mind, realizing that even if I'm promoting something the story has to come first. The rules I've established aren't hard and fast, but in general they do set my brand apart. Have a look at what I mean by exploration, culture & lifestyle by exploring a few of my projects here

5. My viewership is younger than you might expect.

A lot of my content focuses on history, art, culture, architecture, location, and the general aspects of producing video and photography. It's not exactly the easiest site to summarize and as a result the appeal is quite varied. However, while you may think some of these topics would skew towards a slightly older audience, actually 59% of the following on my Editing Luke facebook page is between 18 to 34, and 77% is under the age of 40.     

6. Instagram is my most engaged with social media platform.

This might seem like a no-brainer for a photographer/videographer, but I was actually late in joining Instagram. Once I started I quickly made up for lost time. With a modest 5,000+ followers (@editingluke) my images have amassed over 175,000 likes so far.



7. My background is in video production.

I attended the University of Regina majoring in Film and Media Production. As a student I took part in a number of international film festivals from the UK to South Korea, and I even won a few awards. After university I became an editor for a small production company and went on to build the in-house studio for an online retailer where I shot web videos and photography for their magazine and website. 

Photography came second nature to me after focusing so much on video early on. Not only was photography fun, it seemed easier because audio and motion were removed. Today my work is split fairly evenly between both video and photography.

8. Editing Luke is based in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Depending on where you found my website or the post that initially lead you here, you may be surprised that I'm actually based out of the small city of Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, Canada. In the last few years, after doing a lot to establish myself locally with my Around the Hat photo series, I began expanding my content to attract new visitors and potential business. This means that despite being in Medicine Hat, I actually travel frequently for work. My following has grown dramatically all over Alberta, with new pockets forming on the coast after my Pacific Northwest and Roadside California projects took off in the last year. 

CONTACT ME 

Did you have any other questions? I'm always game to discuss project ideas, collaborations, and read your messages. Get in touch with me here


May 28, 2014

Trading Your Photography for a Credit

As a corporate photographer and videographer it's almost immediately apparent when you start out that there are lots of people who think your work should be free - and frankly, maybe that's another topic. They tempt you with a photo credit, they say it's great exposure for you, and they lay on the compliments about how much they love your work. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, but at some point (especially if you're pursuing a career) you have to ask yourself when are you going to get paid? 


Over the years I've traded my work for opportunities to be published in books, magazines, on websites, and in all kinds of promotional materials - even a textbook in Singapore. Often times my decision on whether I donate my work (or trade it for a credit) comes down to a few simple things:

1. Are they going to make a profit by using my image?

If someone is looking to use your work in an ad or in any way where they are directly pushing a sale, you should be compensated fairly. The time that went into shooting and editing that image obviously got their attention, and in an advertisement it seems more unlikely that anyone will notice the little photo credit you traded your work for.

2. Do you agree with how your image is being used?

The intent of someone looking to use your photography is incredibly important. Naturally, if you're trading your work for a credit you want to make sure that your image is used in the most flattering way possible. 

3. Will this photo credit lead to future work or attract potential business for you?

In some cases trading your work for a credit can be like free advertising for your business. For example, I donated my photography for a 2014 calendar with a local real estate agent and he covered all of the printing costs. I had my logo (which included my web address) on each image, and he had his contact info on the calendar. It was a win-win for both of us, and a situation where the local advertising the calendar brought me was greater than any short term payment I would've received from just the images alone. 

Do your research. I've also had lots of businesses and groups come to me with the promise of giving me promotion, but my images were already showing up first in google searches or I personally already had a significantly larger social media following than them. In those cases, it becomes clear that I'm helping them more than they're helping me, and I'd prefer they purchase an image license to use my work. 

4. Is the story worth it?

Sometimes the photo credit doesn't matter because the story is worth the trade. Like that Singapore textbook I mentioned above - I just wanted an excuse to say that I've been published in a Singapore textbook.

5. Is the trade portfolio building?

Sometimes the payoff in having someone ask to use your work is about the prestige more than anything else. In these cases you know that the client has more experience or following, etc. than you and you're just happy to be included. Still note the points above, but consider the value of how that credit will look in your portfolio. There's no reason that this couldn't be a paying gig either.

In the end, whether photography is your hobby or your business, realize that the quality work you do has value and giving it away for free sends the impression that it's cheap. There's a reason why people continue to ask for images. They want them! Photography for a credit is only one form of compensation, and the reality is that people are responding to quality creative work now more than ever. It's worth something! Don't be afraid to ask to get paid for your efforts (and throw in the credit too).

Jan 30, 2014

How to Make the Most of Instagram

Without question, Instagram is one of my all-time favorite social networking platforms (you can follow me @editingluke). I reintroduced myself to it last April, and since then I've shared over 500 images, gained nearly 1000 followers, and collected over 11,000 likes in the process. I'm still small potatoes in the Instagram world, but I have figured out what works best for me and what I enjoy seeing from others. Here are my thoughts on how to make the most of Instagram.

how to succeed on instagram


1. It's about sharing your life. The beauty of Instagram is that you can share your activities and interests in an incredibly pure way. Here is what I'm working on, here are the people I'm with, here is what I'm having for lunch, etc. It may sound pointless to some, but looking back at the last 9 months since I started I've built an incredibly detailed account of my time. It's the most thorough photo album I've ever put together, and in that sense, it's as much for me as it is for anyone who might want to have a look.

Keep in mind that if your using Instagram to actually engage with people and promote yourself (as I am) the point is that you are meant to be the main character. The images you post should have some relation to you, to what you're doing, to where you are, and to what you're interested in. The best accounts give a genuine glimpse and share a part of your personal story.

2. Variety is the spice of life. The best Instagram accounts (in my opinion) are full of variety. From selfies to food pics, from kids to vacations, from work to play, and everything in-between - that's what it's all about. If you post the same selfie over and over again or 10 pictures of your kid in a row, you're missing the point and not being very engaging. Show me a picture of what you're reading. The next day post a cool sunset. The day after share a picture from that party you went to - and please post selfies too - if I'm following you I'd like to see your face from time to time. Like I said above, it's not about documenting every facet, but curate your highlights. This is my Instagram feed: 



3. Pace yourself. Post an image and then chill. Nothing is worse for followers than seeing 10 pictures in a row of the same thing. That's what a facebook photo album is for. Instagram should be just the gems. 

4. Put some effort into what you post. As I said, if Instagram is meant to be just the gems than put some thought into how you're taking your pictures. This doesn't mean being all that elaborate, it just means don't post blurry photos, highlight your best shots, and share the kinds of things that you'd like to see from others. It's a lot easier to attract followers when your gallery looks nice. 

5. Go for the details. In a world where it seems everyone has their cell phone with them, there's something really amazing about getting to see the world through someone else's eyes. Pinpoint things that interest you and share them. From the stereotypical morning cup of coffee to a cool pattern you see out on the street, what makes Instagram fascinating is that you're able to share your world as you see it. 

Take advantage of those details to remind yourself of the amazing things around you. I didn't set out to shoot over 500 images for my account, but because I was casually thinking about it, I became more perceptive and put a bit more time into finding those details. In the end, it's an amazing document of your life to share.

Jan 20, 2014

No-Brainers That Have Helped Me Succeed

Things have been good lately. I've got lots of creative work on the go, some money in the bank, and some nice achievements under my belt. Nothing has happened overnight, and the variety of experiences that I've had on the back of my videos and photography are the result of a steady pursuit. These are a few of the no-brainers that have helped me succeed professionally and that have continued to get me closer to exactly the kind of work that I want to be doing.


1. Create / contribute something. It's not enough to have ideas. Your actions define you, they propel you forward, and they make your efforts tangible. Your strength is in what you do and what you've done before. Actions are the proof of your potential.

2. Put yourself out there and say yes. Most opportunities are rarely packaged exactly how you'd like them, but if you're unwilling to accept challenges then ideal projects will always seem fewer are farther between. Take on work that has the potential to become what you'd like it to and take advantage of the chance to shape it.

3. Commit to realistic goals. Incremental steps you make are like investments. After a couple of years it can be amazing to see how much growth there's been, and it comes from simply aiming towards your next achievable step. Focusing on the top without any real plan for getting there is just dreaming.

4. Learn from your mistakes, and give yourself enough flexibility to make them. You're never going to be perfect and mistakes can help you to establish workable barriers and move forward. Give yourself options and the mistakes become lessons, not anchors.

5. Stop making excuses. If you're not happy in your current situation do something to stir the pot. Create something independently, volunteer, propose ideas to potential clients, take a course, etc. The excuses are almost always to keep you from feeling guilty about not taking a step outside of your comfort zone.

6. Put passion into your pursuit. Money tends to follow those who are ambitious and genuine about what they do. Find the things that interest you in your work and use them to fuel you through challenges. This comes back to #2.  

7. Confront the things that bother you. Don't waste your time feeling mad, upset, etc. Call things out when they don't seem right and give yourself permission to move on.

8. Stay true to your word and loyal to those who help you. Stability is attractive and surprisingly more rare than you might expect.

9. Enthusiasm is contagious. Get excited about what you do and others will follow suit. Trust me on this one. 

10. Relax. Everyone else is just winging it too. 

Jul 3, 2013

How Important Is Camera Equipment?

I tend to receive a lot of random messages about my images, the style I shoot, and various other production and editing quirks - more of my lesson posts can be found here. After another such email about photography, I decided it was time to summarize a few of my thoughts on the importance of the camera equipment you use. Recently I received this message:

Hi Luke! 

First off, I just came across your blog for the first time today and it has been really helpful so far so thank you! Secondly, I was wondering if there is a camera that you use most often when shooting stills? 

I graduated from the film program at Cal State - Northridge last May and since then I have just been pretty lost as to what I want to do career wise. I'm just really overwhelmed with all the routes I could take, and I just don't know what to invest my time in. I've always loved photography and shoot a lot in my free time but all I own is a canon 60d and only have one lens at the moment (50mm, 1.8). 

Anyway, I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to how I could get my hands on more equipment in the cheapest way possible as I am currently unemployed. Also, how crucial is it to own a bunch of equipment (lights, lenses, camera bodies etc) if I decide to become a professional photographer? 

Thanks again! 
Emanja


I appreciate the message, Emanja. I wanted to respond to you in a blog post seeing as a lot of people can probably relate. I know I've had a lot of the same concerns in carving out my own path. 

There are many who swear by their high-end cameras, fancy software, and arsenal of extras, but at the forefront, it's what you photograph that really matters. In the simplest terms, that's what you should be most concerned about. A keen eye, interesting subjects, a method for sharing your work, the right connections, etc. - these things matter more than whether you're using a $200 point and shoot or a $5000 SLR. Any camera that can shoot a picture in focus is overflowing with potential.  

Don't get me wrong, having nice equipment to work with is a plus, but don't let that be your road block in getting started - people who think expensive equipment will make up for a lack of creativity are fooling themselves. 

To answer your question, I have a range of cameras that I use on a regular basis - the most frequent of which are a Sony point and shoot, a Rebel series Canon, and a 5D Mark II. And before you go thinking that I threw the Sony in to be humble, I really do believe that a decent point and shoot is a must, and I've actually sold a number of images and prints using that little camera.

There are different requirements whether you're doing weddings, or portraits, etc. However, speaking as a corporate photographer I have a basic 3 light set up, a few soft boxes, reflectors, and a light tent that I use in the studio. Outdoors I keep it especially simple, and try to plan shoots for when I know the light will be best. My personal shooting motto is keep it simple and capture a lot. In total though, for the variety of work I've done, my equipment isn't nearly as fancy or elaborate as it probably could be.

In my experience, it's been my editing that's really helped my images stand out. Using just a small collection of programs, none more than photoshop, I've taught myself to build custom filters, play a lot with tinting, and develop a style for my work. Many photographers like to build their shots in camera (which is absolutely fine) but for me I really build my shots in the processing. In my opinion, it's a very easy way of putting a stamp on the work you do - not to mention, if you're photographing familiar things, the editing is like an exclamation mark for the subject matter. 

So here's my advice, if you want to be a professional photographer then simply start working towards that goal. Play with images and take lots of them. Take your 60D and continue to build a portfolio, get your friends to help you with shoots, share your work online, and determine the kind of photographer you want to be. Check out thrift shops, eBay, or even garage sales for props or used equipment on the cheap. Submit your work around, build a simple website to attract attention, and consider applying to places that require photographers - newspapers, magazines, websites, tourism, etc. for added experience - even if you're working contract these are great places to pursue. A few solid shots online with your contact info attached, and the doors will start to open rapidly. Media is always in demand, but to start you have to chase the work to make it pay.

At the end of the day it's your images that speak, and developing a body of work is paramount. The regular messages I receive are often about specific shots and how I achieved a certain look. The cool thing about that is that it's the picture that draws the attention, and people can't tell how much (or how little) money my equipment cost. You can do amazing things just with the basics, and regardless of the type of photographer you want to be, a distinct style and professional aesthetic will come with practice. You already have a camera, so prove what you can do with it.

Focus on creating captivating and unique images first and foremost and the work follows. Talented artists are seldom born because they had the best of the best from the start. Good luck, and happy shooting!

Jul 26, 2012

Misconceptions About Film School

Post-secondary education is a mixed bag of potential, stress, and promises.  Film school can be even messier when you consider that part of what it's selling is a connection to pop culture and the fantasy behind film and television production.  For anyone considering or who is already in a film program, here are some common misconceptions about film school that I'd like to dispel.   

1.  Film School Makes Filmmakers. FALSE.

Whether you're taking a technical or creative program, a film degree can't make the same promises as a degree in education or engineering can.  Film school is intended to help you understand the technical aspects of film production in cooperation with the creative elements that help fuel ideas, but ultimately, the onus is on you to develop yourself as an artist.  It's not that film school won't help foster your career, but it's real job is to nurture a talent that's already there within you, not create it from scratch.

2.  Your Grades Don't Matter. FALSE.

Frankly, your grades aren't as important as the work you create in film school, but you're fooling yourself if you think that you don't have to bother with marks.  Employers might not care as much, but your reputation with film profs can sink if you don't make an effort and that's just another way of cheating yourself out of improving.

3.  Film School is Easy.  FALSE.

It's easy to overlook the challenges of actually creating a film project, but the moment your tasked with writing, casting, shooting, editing, and screening a project on someone else's deadline you'll quickly realize that there's no coasting.

4.  Film School is a Ticket to the Top.  FALSE.

Many believe that a film school education will entitle them to working as a director, producer, editor, or screenplay writer as soon as they graduate.  This is rarely the case. Taking into account where you go to school, the kind of film program you take part in, and your personal connections, for the average person your education is simply a means of entering the industry, not starting out in your dream position. 

5. A Film Degree is Necessary.  FALSE.

Connections and experience matter more than a degree in film.  Speaking personally, employers have had far more interest in the festivals I've taken part in and the clients that I've worked for than where I went to school.

6.  Film School is the Most Practical Option.  FALSE.

Film School is simply an option, but the variables on whether it's the right choice for you come down to your location, financial situation, connections, and what you want to do. There are as many reasons not to go to film school as there are to go.  Great filmmakers are born from great experiences, and the real challenge is finding and creating your own.  

7.  Film School Provides Real World Experience.  FALSE.


It's unfortunate, but most film schools and programs are internal operations that serve to produce  degrees not real world experience.  There are exceptions, and some programs are more versatile than others, but the real focus is on developing a skill set, knowledge, and basic technical know-how about the medium of film.  This canned environment, while valuable, is often not entirely applicable to the work you're more likely to be doing when you graduate.

8.  (After Reading All of These) Film School Isn't Worth It.  FALSE.

As I've said many times, there are numerous reasons why film school isn't the right choice for everyone.  However, film school put me in touch with a handful of like-minded people that helped me grow creatively, helped me fine tune my interest in editing, helped me build a portfolio of work, and provided challenges that made me more fearless about how I approach media and clients.  Film school can be a springboard, but you have to be willing to jump.  



Jun 19, 2012

Life After Film School

Last week I received this message:

Hello, I am a 2nd year film student at the University of Regina. I actually came across your blog by accident, and I'm sure glad that I did! Not only do you propose lots of good insight and ideas into filmmaking and it's various ups and downs, but you do it from a place that I can relate to. I've been having a lot of the same doubts about film school that you've described here, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who's felt this way. And it's also great to see someone get out of this program (degree or not) and actually GET a job, which is something that has me quite worried these days. If you have any spare time on your hands, would you mind telling me a little bit about why you decided to drop out of the program, and how you made your way into the industry on your own? I'm very interested to hear the journey of someone who's been in the same boat. You have a great blog, and I'm very eager to hear from you.

As I've done in the past, I received permission from this student to respond publicly to their message. As always, I want to thank everyone who sends me questions and feedback. It not only makes this website feel worthwhile, but it also gives me an excuse to explore what I've learnt as well.



I've written at length about film school in the past, and even recently. This blog was a result of me trying to understand the direction I was heading, to facilitate a transition out of university, and to give me a bit of clout when it came to actually pointing to things that I'd done creatively. As a film student, nothing stressed me out more than the fear of not finding meaningful work when I was done.

For the record, I did enjoy a lot of my time in university and I do think there's a lot of value in a film school education. The practicality of it requires you to fill in some of the blanks however.

To answer your question about why I dropped out, I had overstayed my welcome to the point that it wasn't a choice anymore. I completed all of my core production classes through to 4th year, but had spent six years at the U of R doing so. By the time I left I only had a semester of electives, one language class, and one film theory class keeping me from my degree. I was broke though, and after completing the courses I'd come to university for, I became apathetic about school and spent months simply spinning my wheels. I was forced to realize at that point that the only thing I valued about film school anymore was being able to say that I went.


Thankfully, there was a bright side that came from all of this. My frustration with classes actually motivated me to make more personal projects and finally explore my passion for editing on my own terms. I submitted my work to film festivals, I took part in video contests, and started this website. In the beginning it was just self indulgence (and frankly a lot of it still is), but I can see now how these projects laid the groundwork for the opportunities that followed.

I moved home to Medicine Hat in 2008 with my tail between my legs. I had acquired some nice festival credits and had a little bit of money left from a Sasktel video competition that I'd taken part in, but the best thing I had going for me was that I was hungry for anything that seemed even mildly related to video or photography.

It was on a fluke after hearing about Stream Media that things changed. I soon realized that they'd sponsored the local student film festival that I had been a part of, and actually won a few awards from, a couple years before. I then discovered that I had a loose contact through Julie, one of the owners, who I'd spoken with briefly one of the years that I'd had something in the film festival. With nothing to lose, I wrote her an email explaining exactly what I'd been up to.

This shot in the dark changed everything for me. I was called in to talk, I gave them a reel of some of my shorts, and Julie's insistence got me a job. I was hardly financially independent at that point, but the opportunity I'd been given was amazing. The experience I got with Stream Media became building blocks. Suddenly I was shooting for various corporate projects, editing promos, and most importantly, working with a small team that could show me the ropes.


The film festival had become my foot in the door, and because I'd taken chances with my work as a student, it made an impression when I came knocking several years later. That experience still impacts me now when I think about the value of sharing your work. You never know who could be watching or where the next opportunity might come from.

As the economy cooled towards the end of 2008, I began working contract with Stream and found work in early 2009 with a retail website that had an interest in using video. I started as a copywriter with the potential of moving into video with them. My excitement and their willingness to grow lead to them taking a chance with me. I ended up building their in house media department, and began shooting enough photography and video to the point that I had created a new job for myself as their Web Media Editor.

To date I'm still balancing both jobs, and feel like I've been given an incredible opportunity to build my reputation on what I genuinely enjoy doing. The truth is that there is little to be gained in a creative profession without taking risks. Some of the smartest things I've done (looking back) is latched myself to people who appreciated what I was doing. I've also made a point of not just talking about how I love photography and video, but showing people that I do. Words are cheap, but it's difficult to ignore proof.


Once out of film school you're going to have to make sacrifices to move forward. This means making less money for a job that pays in experience, or putting in extra hours just to prove that you can do something new, or taking someones whim and being the person to interpret a logical first step for making it happen. Neither of my jobs existed when I went looking for them, which just goes to show that sometimes your fear can be an amazing motivator. 

Use your uncertainty to explore just what it is you want to do or where you want to be, and start taking as many steps in that direction as you possibly can. Redefine your film school expectations and realize that degree or not, you're still at square one when you get out there. You can take comfort in the fact that what I initially viewed as a failure in terms of leaving university when I did, actually timed me perfectly with the companies who were ready to take chances at that time too. There are a ton of hidden opportunities, and sometimes it really is as simple as getting in touch with the places you'd like to work with whether they're hiring or not.

I'm 28 now, but I've hardly got it all figured out for myself. I know it's important to stay hungry. Make things that inspire you and use them to inspire others. You'll start to pick up crumbs that will lead to bigger opportunities just based on the number of new people you're reaching. And one other thing, people like people who can tell a good story. You'd be amazed how far that can get you. 

So, to sum up a few of my own thoughts here are a few things to consider.  Share your work in as many ways as you can think of.  Like I said, you never know who could be watching.  Work hard to make meaningful connections with other people who are interested in some of the same career ambitions as you, they can become meaningful allies later on.  Take creative risks on a regular basis to challenge yourself, to grow, and to discover new things.  And don't forget, enjoy yourself.  The stress and fear are healthy, but don't forget how much fun the work can be and how defining the journey becomes.  If you really want to make the most of life after film school, stay hungry.  

Jun 5, 2012

Film School and the Real World

After recently saving my film school notes from a leaking pipe I couldn't help but muse over what I'd written and how so much had changed since I was a student.  At the same time, I realized that I wasn't entirely oblivious throughout university and actually made some smart decisions.  For any of my aspiring filmmaker/student readers, here are a few things I'm now certain of.

1.  The time to pursue your creativity is now.

I mean this regardless of your age, but especially if you're a student.  When you're in school it's easy to coast on the promise of your potential and believe that just being in a creative program is enough to get you where you want to go.  The reality is that it's the films you make to amuse yourself and the experimenting you do when you're younger that actually make those dream projects possible down the road.  University and film school aren't about giant leaps forward, they're training grounds to help you make steps.  
In my experience it was this blog, film festivals, competitive video contests, and the random content that I continued to create throughout university that helped me build a meager reputation.  That translated into connections though, and those translated into jobs.  Find ways of targeting your energy into the field that you really want to get involved in.  Trust me, persistence speaks volumes.

2.  Criticism never stops.

I have never worked on a project that didn't involve taking others viewpoints into account.  There is no golden rule here, but knowing when to stand your ground is best when it comes from experience and not from ego.  The creative process can be a balancing act at times, and criticism should always be constructive and used as a way to present alternatives to achieve a particular vision.  Whether or not you act on criticism is your call, but being able to discuss what works, what doesn't, and why, goes a long way in creative meetings.


Student life in Regina.



3.  Your experiences are worth more than your grades.

In my post-uni job interviews and in creative meetings with clients, my experiences have always carried far more weight than what marks I got or where I went to school.  Keep in mind that people like good stories.  They also like people who can back up their passions with real life applications.  It goes back to my first point.


4. It's easy to be a one-trick pony.

If you always do one thing really well it's easy to fall into a rut where that's all anyone will ever want or ask from you.  Instead, develop consistency in your work, but continually take risks to show that you're approach is varied.  Or don't.  Some people like routine - I am not one of them.

5. If you don't hold yourself accountable you'll never do the work you want.

Once you're out of film school there are no assignments, no teachers, and no classmates to encourage (or force) you to create another short film or participate in a new project.  If you weren't motivated to create before, welcome to the real world where it's more challenging to find the time (or excuse) to make something.

You might wonder what the point is, but depending on what you're doing, new projects (especially when shared online) become links to new people and contacts.  I've been contacted for work and festivals as a result of this site, and that's the thing - you never know who might stumble along.  No one will hand you your dream job if you're not willing to play a role in earning or creating it for yourself.  


In the dorms in 2007.




May 7, 2012

Lessons Learned From the Kony Video

Seeing Kony posters pop up in little old Medicine Hat, Alberta was a bit of an eye-opener. Not because people had seen the video on the internet, but because the video, this viral sensation, had compelled people to go out and do something.  I don't even want to get into the whole debate about Kony, or talk about how getting your dick out in public isn't a great strategy to help your charity, but I do want to discuss the video.  

Specifically, I want to identify a few of the reasons why I believe the Kony 2012 video was a success and what we should keep in mind when making/marketing our own videos. So, allow me to brush away some of that media fallout, and let's explore.

1.  Branding.
Going purely on their visuals you have to give Invisible Children credit.  Their posters and merchandise (so much red!) were incredibly eye catching and well designed.  The republican and democrat symbols forming a dove was symbolic of the campaign and the action required.  The contemporary branding was also consistent throughout all their outlets, and they actually made charity look trendy. Going bold worked.    

2.  
Target Audience.
In creating their video, Invisible Children was very successful at acknowledging their target audience - AKA those who may not know anything about Africa.  That's not meant to be insulting, in fact, they did a great job of not talking down to the audience.  They skillfully built their message on the ego-boosting message that we were the ones who had the power to change everything and make it right.  It was both universally aware and targeted at making individuals realize that there was a role ready for them to adopt. One of the big criteria in developing any message is understanding who you're talking to, and they were successful at making a big issue seem accessible.

3.  Call to Action.  
The kicker in all of this was how urgent they made the issue seem.  Forcing an expiry date for the video, the cover the night promotion, and the sincerity of their plea to spread the message created specific goals for viewers who were willing to help.  Follow through is always a big deal in promotion, and making it clear that there were simple steps already laid out served the campaign's goal.

4.  Celebrity.  

While this one isn't so easily achieved, the video exploded off of the success of celebrity tweets and social platforms.  The goal of targeting big names who might be interested in the subject matter was smart though, and just by getting tweeted by a few of them they opened their video to millions of potential viewers.   

5. Simplicity.  
Although their facts really just skimmed the surface of a very complex issue, they were thorough in explaining their focus, goal, and the wrong they wanted to right.  The length of their video ultimately played in their favor by raising and answering questions.  It also served to show that the campaign was already in swing and that a lot of the hard work had already been done.  In short, it made it easy for new followers to hop on the bandwagon with a semblance of knowledge and champion the cause.

6. Luck.  
As quickly as Kony 2012 went viral, the real work didn't happen overnight.  The charity and campaign was years in the making, and their well-timed strategy was a masterclass in orchestration.  A slow build of followers and supporters gave them just enough strength to push their concept off the ground and let the wind take it.   

 

Feb 21, 2012

Custom Filters and Video Filter Software

About a week ago I received this message:

Hi Luke,

I have been reading your blog daily as a result of my hobby of photography and video.  I am just a little older than you at 50 years old.  I have been off and on doing photography for a few years... My real question is how do you get that "old time" look to your videos.  When I watch them, I always seem to drift away and think I am watching films or home movies from the 50's or 60's.  I don't know how to explain the look I am seeing.  It is almost like a sepia or 8 mm look without the film scratches, etc.  Do you do post production filtering of some sorts?  I guess a better description would be, the videos remind me of early 50's documentary films with the dude with the tenor voice narrating...."Here we are at the Grand Canyon, Timmy can't seem to get enough of climbing rocks.  Even the donkeys join in"  I am sure you know what I am trying to say.  I use a Canon HF G10 HD camera for videos and love it.  My first video camera was a DVD mini disk, by Sony.  I still use it sometimes.  Anyways, enough of my ramblings.  Thanks for the videos and interesting read from your Blog.  Keep them coming. 

Sincerely,

Don N.
St. Charles, Missouri

First things first, thanks for writing me the message, Don!  I always appreciate the feedback, and like I said when I first responded to you, your question seemed like a great topic for me to blog about and answer.


I've always been big on post-production filters and customizing them to create different looks.  As you noticed, vintage looks from the 50's on through the 80's have been a point of interest for me.  I actually wrote a post around a year ago (almost to the day as a matter of fact) about creating vintage filters that highlights some of my past experiments.  It's a good place to start if you want to get an idea of what some of these looks I'm talking about are.

I do all of my filters through either a combination of overlays created in Adobe Photoshop, or more recently, through the Magic Bullet Looks Builder as part of the Pinnacle and Avid Software that I edit with.  There are a wide array of presets to play with, and I've often used them as a jumping off point to create custom filters that best suit the look I'm after.

Another tool I use to build and customize filters is the proDAD VitaScene software (also available through upgraded packages with Pinnacle and Avid Studio).  What I love about this program is that it comes in handy for tinting your footage and it also gives you a lot of useful tools for text - like flares or glowing overlays for instance.

Creating filters that look fresh and professional is tough to achieve with presets though, so I almost never use them as is. Instead, I use the presets as templates to build upon. These programs make it easy to layer various filters, to adjust the aspects of each individual filter, and to manipulate your base footage all within small steps of one another.  It's really not a complicated process to play around with, but achieving the right balance for certain looks does take some fine tuning.

If you look at the edit I did for Backyard Bubbles, where I took some of my home video footage and gave it a vintage upgrade, you can see some of what I'm talking about. With this clip I applied very soft crushed edges to create more darkness in the corners, I upped the saturation, played down the contrast, and added a soft blur to take away some of the digital sharpness.  I remember there was a lot of tweaking to get the lighting correct, because it was easy to wash out or black out large portions of the footage.  And, just in case you're thinking I was using some fancy camera, this was shot on a $100 Flip Cam.


In short, pretty much every tool I use to edit video (both personally and professionally) is very affordable and easy to find.  The difference comes from experimenting and playing with what the options really are, and not just what they're presented as.  Digital video has made having a professional edit suite much simpler, and often professional looking results are possible with a less than professional budget.

I hope this helps - and presents some new challenges too!

Nov 22, 2011

5 Ways to Improve Your Editing

Video editing has become one of those skills that any interested candidate can pick up and perform with ease.  That's not to say that everyone is good at it however.  Here are a few simple guidelines that I use that you can follow to help improve your video editing.

1.  Stay Organized

Editing is really about organization.  From sourcing the best footage available to creating effective sequences, your ability to keep track of footage is what will make ultimately make your edits stronger.  On a smaller scale this involves labeling tapes, hard drives, and files, where on the more ambitious side it means keeping editing logs, transcribing dialogue from unscripted takes or interviews, and diligent note taking.  The rules vary between  individual projects and time lines, but organization means efficiency and that goes a long way whether you're an employer or employee.

2.  Try Everything Once

Early on I began broadening my own editing by trying every kind of project I could think of.  I created animations, experimental shorts, and narratives, and this only become more varied during my time in film school.     The beauty in trying out these styles and genres is that they each require a different sensibility in how they're cut together.  It's also a great way to find out what you like and what genre your style of editing favors.

3.  Mimic Editing You Like

This may sound like cheating, but homage is one of the best ways to enhance your skill as an editor.  Create vintage filters, cut music videos, play on cliches.  Editing is as much about understanding timing as it is about the footage you select.  By mimicking the pacing of a popular commercial or music video for instance, you'll gain an appreciation for the subtlties that separate that style from telling a longer story in a narrative.  It's always better if you learn the rules before you start trying to break them.

4.  Use Music For Inspiration

I still often use music when editing my home videos and travelogs as a way to motivate a more ambitious edit and experiment with styles that I don't get to try everyday. Understanding how a jump cut or a more elaborate transition effects the rhythm and dynamic of video is something that you can continue to experiment with and learn from. In general, using others as inspiration is a great way to springboard your own original edits.

5.  Keep it Simple

The mark of an amateur editor is too many cuts, transitions, or abrupt scene selections that remove the viewer from the story or cause confusion.  Even when editing something with high energy, the goal of the editor is to keep a common thread throughout the entire video.  Part of that means knowing when to cut away, what to cut to, and the meaning or relationship that is created for the viewer by doing so.  An experienced editor will see when it's better to let something play out or when it's necessary to elaborate.  

There is no one right way to edit, and this is part of the beauty in it.  Play around enough and you'll see how the choices you make as an editor can have dramatic effects on the outcome of a project.  Like all skills, practice will only make you better.