2012: New Projects + New Tools = More Fun


As usual, I’ve been derelict in my blogging duties, but I’m determined to get more active here in 2012. My last post was almost seven months ago after my trip to the Pacific Northwest and San Francisco. Life has been plenty busy in the meantime, most of it focused on my real job as a network geek and a bit less on my photography. It’s not that I’ve not been an active photographer… I’ve just had a lot less time or reason to write about it. Somehow I also got into an almost entirely photo-centric mindset with the blog and have done little writing about the rest of the technology in my life. I’m going to try to broaden things going forward.

One of the things I’ve always loved about working for a small private college is the vacation time and relative peace and quiet of the Christmas/New Year holiday season. I always take the time to dive into some project or another for a few days. This year was my first chance to finally explore Final Cut Pro X. I’ve been using FCP to some degree since its initial release in the early 2000’s, but most heavily with the previous version (FCP 7). I’m also a big fan of Motion and have used it extensively for projects over the last couple of years. The new FCP X release is a complete reboot of the product (less of a change to Motion) and has met with, to put it mildly, mixed reviews from the pro community. Fortunately, I don’t claim such pro status by any stretch, nor do I rely on it for my livelihood.

To summarize: I like it a great deal and, for the types of videos I tend to make, it’s actually a big improvement in many ways. Yes, it has some fiddly quirks and I can see quite a few of the pro-level gripes (though, again, am personally unaffected by them for my needs). In the first days and weeks after it was released, the blog scene was quite overheated with claims of one missing feature or another. Once people stopped freaking out and spent some time exploring the redesigned UI and absorbing the new approach Apple was taking, many of those “missing” features turned out to be either fully intact or, in some cases, no longer needed. I think the bigger missing parts will be addressed by Apple in future updates.

During my trip to the Pacific Northwest, I shot thousands of photos and quite a bit of video. The video shot on the 5D Mark II was primarily atmospheric and came in short snippets for seconds or minutes. I shot tens of hours, though, of video on a GoPro Hero HD. The

latter was purely intended to provide context and document the travel and photography process itself. I almost never got in my rental car without it shooting raw 720p, 60fps video from the front bumper just above the road. Much of the time that I was hiking in the rain forest I had it fastened to my chest with a harness. The results of the chest cam can be a bit wobbly, but useful for passively recording the world around me with no real effort on my part. To round this all out, I recorded a great deal of ambient audio on my Zoom H4n which I use in the beginning, middle and end of the video.

I wanted to create a video that did two key things: convey the mood and atmosphere of the places I visited and, to some degree, document the travel and photography process itself. To this end, I broke the trip into two parts which are set to separate pieces of music that I felt fit well and provided me with a great foundation for the editing process. I am very thankful to Crowfoot and Tomáš Dvořák for graciously granting me the permission to use their music.

I’ve embedded the video here, playable in the window or full screen. If you prefer, you can watch the 720p and 1080p versions on the Vimeo site. Both versions require some decent bandwidth (the 1080p version in particular), so if it stutters from the outset, please pause it and let it load to the end before resuming to keep from destroying the flow. You can also toggle off the blue HD button at the cost of some image quality.

The video opens with fairly soft ambient audio, so turn up the volume a bit.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. I’ll write another post soon on my other creative outlet this past holiday: returning to Modo and finally getting far more serious about 3D modeling. Believe it or not, a tremendous amount of your photography knowledge – both creative and technical – comes into play when creating and rendering 3D scenes and animations. I think each endeavor helps improve your insight into the other. But more on that later…

5 Responses to “2012: New Projects + New Tools = More Fun”

  1. Fantastic! I was especially captivated by the fog scenes at the beginning, the overhead view of the round rock in the sand, and the series of tunnels.

    I found the audio “previews” on scene changes around the beginning a little confusing — the overlap was perhaps 2x what I would be comfortable with.

    It was great to see you photographing stuff and then seeing the photographs, especially the self-portrait ones, since in those the chest cam made a full appearance itself.

    Overall, excellent work. I turned off all the lights in the room, full-screened the video, and felt nicely immersed in the scenery.

  2. Loved it! As with Tim, I too felt that some of the black transitions were uncomfortable long. I love the video footage of you shooting and the time lapse effects of you moving around. You have motivated me to go back and relearn Final Cut Pro!

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. amahler says:

    Thanks, guys! You’re probably right about the black spaces being overly long. I’ve been torn on that because, when I first edited this, I pushed it a little to what I hoped was -almost- uncomfortably long. This was for effect, forcing the focus more onto the audio and breaking an otherwise rhythmic or predictable timing for the cuts. As it turns out, they might be just a hair too long for most watchers.

    Feedback is what I need, though, and I’m glad to be getting it. 🙂 Fortunately, this is digital video… so I just might make v2.0 of this after gathering input.

    Thanks for watching!
    – Aaron

  4. Beautiful, Aaron. This was so very great to watch after reading through $^%*&! faculty meeting materials.

  5. […] getting into DSLR video as a still photographer. I used my trip to the pacific northwest and the video I created this past December as a framework for discussing various equipment, techniques and thoughts on making videos that […]