Re:Frame 09 Austin rolled on into Day Two of the jam-packed two-and-one-half-day event (read about Day One here) with the first Re:Frame presenter from outside the familiar confines of the wedding video world: internationally renowned DoP Philip Bloom. Bloom began his workshop with a series of arresting videos, including a clip from the indie film The Fall that is worth checking out by, well, anyone with an interest in artistic imagery and cinema. His workshop ranged widely with a variety of topics and clips, punctuated with messages like "Time to dump the tape!" (in reference to the migration to tapeless workflows). He then addressed the benefits of overcrank/undercrank in cameras such as the Sony EX3 and the Panasonic HPX170--particularly for time lapse work--and then moved on to his central topic (and the one that those who know his work came to hear about): How do you get a film look? His first recommendation was shooting in progressive; "progressive instantly looks more expensive," he said.
Most important, he said, was composition: "If your composition sucks, everything sucks." He also asserted (echoing Julie Hill's Monday workshop) that "color grading is essential," and showed a convincing sequence of clips with a split-screen of Magic Bullet-corrected footage and original footage that is most likely to be found somewhere on his website.
Deep in the Q & A session, Bloom responded to a question about what inspires him that cut to the heart of his message and his reason for being at the show (and the reason that his workshop was so important to attendees in this business): "I see things I want to film all the time. I love filming and that's my inspiration."
Following Bloom was Chris P. Jones of Mason Jar Films, who spoke not so much of pursuing your passion in your business as reducing the demands of your business on your life so the passion doesn't drain out when you're spending all your time simply getting the job done. "If you take away 5-10-15 hours each week that you spend editing," Jones asked attendees, "how would you spend that time?"
He went on to describe his efforts to streamline his business and reduce his backlog to the point where he's promising (and delivering) a two-month turnaround on his edits (after being mired in the 8-12 month range in 2006). "We could deliver in a week with our real workflow," he quipped, "but we want to sit on it a bit to make the value accrue."
One key aspect of the way he's streamlined his business, he said, was training editors to work in his style, which in and of itself demands a level of mastery and understanding of what you do and why and how you do it that many videographers (however distinctive their end product) don't have. "If you don't have a system and know your style," he said, "you can't teach other people how to to do this work for you."
That said, Jones took pains to point out that he, like others, got into this business in part because of a passion for editing, and the purpose of making his workflow more efficient wasn't so much to pass off that work as to reduce his role in it enough to maintain that passion. He then went into detail on the things that bog videographers down in post, ranging from Twitter and Facebook and message boards to office clutter and, simply, not knowing what to do next. Not to mention the essential question: "Are you intense?" And the concomitant: Are you capable of being as intense in everyday work situations as you are when deadlines mean you actually have to be?
The final presenter of the day, Bruce Patterson, picked up right where Jones left off with his ever-incisive perspective on the wedding film business and his insight on how to run a boutique business that demands top pricing in the field. He broke his seminar down into four areas to get the most out of your business:
· The art of standing out
· Getting down to business
· Staying productive
· Balancing life, work, and passion
Key issues in the "art of standing out" category, he said, include "push[ing] yourself" with the understanding that "average isn't good enough." Also important is paying "attention to all aspects of how your company is perceived." Perhaps the heart of his seminar, however, was the boldest public presentation in our industry to date on the challenges, the ins and outs, the business risks, and the business potential of Fusion. "This is a touchy subject, I know," Patterson began, before laying out the key issues all videographers should consider before going the Fusion route:
· Are you passionate about photography?
· Do you think you'll make more money by adding it?
· Will you lose more in referrals than you'll gain?
And then he added: "It's not as hard as you may think--you already know composition and editing." He also described his first (very well-received by clients) Fusion attempts, while acknowledging the challenges faced by someone who's only worked the video side attempting to cross over: "The hardest part of photography was telling people how to pose. I don't usually do that."
Patterson's final message, in reference to the importance of committing to your business without letting it consume your life: "Like everything in life, it all comes down to balance."
The other two key elements of the day were precisely the kind of thing that wouldn't have happened--or even been possible--at a large conference less focused on providing a hands-on, workshop-type experience to attendees. First was the "30-second film clips," short promo (or other videos) submitted by attendees and projected in HD on the big cinema screen at the Alamo Drafthouse. (All attendees were invited to submit a clip.) The inclusion of these videos--besides being cool and fun--underscored the attendee-centricity of Re:Frame as well as the notion that participants in the workshop aren't just ambitious videographers who came to Austin to learn, but also rising stars and potential future industry leaders with much to show their peers.
Day Two's daylight hours concluded with Re:Frame's first-ever "shootout," in which all attendees (who had been encouraged to bring their cameras) headed down to Sixth St. to shoot "bride and groom" models in various distinctive downtown Austin locations. For the shootout, Julie Hill split the attendees into various groups. There were the XH A1s, the EX1s, and EX3s; a slew of 5Ds and an array of sliders and stabilization devices on display, Glidecams, Smooth Shooters, and monopods of various stripes. Quite the spectacle: 40-some shooters, 2 models, no permit, on the city's busiest sidewalk, swarming the corner of Sixth and San Jacinto, under the blue and white neon that adorns the Aces Lounge. Meanwhile Kristen* of Bliss* led an enthusiastic coterie of 8 and 16mm film shooters, some of them trying out the medium for the first time.
Of course, this was a video/filmmaking workshop, not a photo seminar, so after a few minutes of relatively static shooting by the Aces brick wall, it was time to walk and get the Glidecam and Steadicam shooters in motion. The procession moved on to the steps of the Driskill, one of Austin's oldest and stateliest hotels (built in 1886). By all appearances the crowd of shooters looked like a bunch of paparazzi awaiting the predicted exit of a celebrity on the Driskill steps, but it was really just a group of wedding shooters "geeking out" (as Re:Frame had billed the event) on a crowded city street. On behalf of the city of Austin, I'd like to thank to Re:Frame for doing its part to keep Austin weird.
And finally, a short, 5D-shot film by David Perry of David Perry Films recapping Day Two:
Re:Frame Day 2 04/28/09 from David Perry on Vimeo.
Following the Tuesday night “Gunslinger’s Get-Down” at Sixth Street’s Buffalo Billiards, attendees reconvened at the Drafthouse Cinema for a second dose of Julie Hill’s cinematic editing workshop, this time with the emphasis on color grading using Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks filter. She also described some of the systems she has in place to manage workflow with her team of remote editors, including an extensive description of how tools such as WebEx/WebOffice (networked project management) and Digital Heaven’s DigitalPrint (essentially, Adobe Clip Notes for Final Cut Pro) work.
Always one for the dramatic entrance, three-time EventDV 25 honoree Jason Magbanua arrived after 19 hours in transit, having just shot a hush-hush wedding in Boracay, the Philippines, for a celebrity couple he described as “the Filipino Brad and Angelina.” Magbanua’s (unannounced) topic was a hot one: “A Case for the 3-Minute Highlight.” Stating first the practical advantage of putting your signature effort into a shorter version (on today’s Twitter-terse web, the short, digestible clip is much more effective than a longer one that will challenge an online audience’s attention span), Magbanua went on to argue that “There can be depth, story, and a deeper level of emotion in a shorter clip.” And then he rolled a few breathtaking clips that demonstrated just that. (See for yourself at www.vimeo.com/3661532.)
And for anyone who wondered if Magbanua’s dazzling 16-month run of globe-crossing stateside appearances might be coming to an end, at least for a while, the answer came almost immediately after his workshop. As the reconstituted Re:Frame Three announced plans for the next Re:Frame event (Re:Frame 2.0) in San Francisco in October (with a heightened focus on business and educating attendees from perspectives outside “the wedding video bubble”), they also revealed that Magbanua had officially joined the collective, giving the outfit a truly global demesne. It’s enough to drive a man to Twitter.
Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV and program director of EventDV-TV.