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Monthly Archives: January 2010

Last week my sister, who is a Yale alum sent me a link to a YouTube video, that was a forward of a forward with a very cryptic note “Watch this, you will enjoy it.”  I was not sure she was sending me the video to watch because I too am a Yale grad or because of my total fascination, make that obsession, with all things visual and this multi-media world we live in.  It turns out that she sent it for both reasons. The first thing I noticed when I clicked on the link was that the video which was posted on January 14, had logged in over 180,000 viewers. 

Within a few minutes of watching the video, the “still-mo-tographer” in me realized the hallmarks of motion captured with a CMOS sensor, and I knew this film was shot with the Red One.  My interest in technology and HD motion capture is not what kept me glued to the small screen for the next 17 minutes. It was the innovative college admissions video that unfolded before my eyes that had me transfixed.  Admissions video, marketing collateral, musical or musical admissions video- I’m not sure what to call it, but it is different, and surely will speak to the target demographic with glee, high school students considering college. 

“That’s Why I Chose Yale” is the result of a forward-thinking Admissions Dean and a collaboration of Yale undergrads, recent alums, and recent alums working in the admissions office.  According to Andrew Johnson, who produced the movie, the project developed out of conversations in the admissions office concerning the need for a new marketing piece to give prospective applicants a snapshot of life at Yale.  Johnson’s survey of the admissions video efforts among colleges found that they were so similar that it was difficult to identify which school’s collateral you were looking at.  “I went back to my boss and told him if we are going to do something, we should do something unique.  I felt that the best compliment anyone could ever give our video, would be for a prospect to want to watch it twice or for someone who has no interest or intention of applying to Yale to find it interesting and engaging.  I told him that I thought we could do this with a musical.”  Johnson indicated that after a moment, the Dean agreed that if they could get and keep the tone right, it could be a good idea.  So with a very small budget, which would be used for camera and lighting rental, and an army of student and alumni volunteers, the project got its green light.

“When we showed the video to the Yale administration, they thought it was certainly a big departure, but they thought it was funny, and engaging and entertaining,” says Johnson.

Is the movie technically perfect? No, and if you wear a cinematographer’s hat, there are a few small things you may note.  But I have long said that sometimes the spirit captured is more important than technical perfection, and this movie captures the spirit, energy and imagination that will be important for and to the target audience. 

I decided to write about this project for a couple of reasons.  As a writer who covers photography gear, I try to strike a balance between talking about gear, its actual use, and trends.  This video was shot under conditions which lots of us are familiar with, small budgets/constraints, short timeframes, with volunteers, and yet it is an amazingly big and ambitious undertaking.  This movie was not shot for the purpose of promoting or marketing a particular brand of camera, or demonstrating what a camera is capable of, or for a contest.  It was shot for a real world application.  This project is significant as it speaks to the growing importance of motion capture in reaching Internet-savvy audiences, and audiences that expect not only to be informed but to also be entertained.  It is a stunning example of what digital motion capture technology can enable, and it should be a reminder to all of us that the cameras we use are just the tools to achieve an end.  The fact that as of this writing more than 289,000 viewers have clocked in according to the YouTube counter cannot be dismissed.

I asked cinematographer Streeter Philips why he chose the Red One for use on the project.  “I had used the Red One for a short film that I shot last summer, in part because I wanted to know what they hype was about.  After seeing the dailies [for my short] I was convinced that given what Andrew (Johnson) and director Ethan Kuperberg (Yale ’11) wanted to achieve visually—they wanted a high-gloss, bright, saturated image—and we definitely didn’t have the budget for film, that the Red One was the right choice.”  Phillips who is no stranger to motion capture and has been using the Panasonic HVX  for much of his motion work as well as the Canon 5D MarkII, says he has become a real fan of the Red One.  He indicates that once you learn how to operate it, that it is pretty easy to use.  The learning curve was steep however, and his learning curve was helped along by a five-hour workshop and a lot of on the job experience.

While the outdoor shooting relied heavily on natural light, the supplemental lighting of choice for indoor and outdoor applications was HMI.  “Our indoor lighting consisted primarily of 1.2k HMIs, Pars and Fresnel’s which were heavily gelled.”  One of the advantages of shooting at Yale was unlimited power:  the constraint, placement of outlets, was easily overcome with extension cords.

“That’s Why I Chose Yale” was filmed over 10 days and in 30 locations last September (Philips says that sometimes they were in five or six locations in a day.)  The movie is a testament to what happens when you have the right team of people working towards a common goal, great direction and oversight, and a killer idea to begin with. 

The movie is not without controversy as there are those who have expressed concern that the musical genre cheapens or damages the Yale reputation and the admissions message.  Then there are those like myself who applaud the willingness of a venerable institution to understand the dynamics of their market and adapt accordingly to reach it.  The enormously talented pool of people associated with its creation, student and alums, both in front and behind the camera should also not be overlooked or get lost in the discussion of the videos merit as an admissions tool.  What an incredible student body!

As I was writing my concluding remarks, I realized that I was humming a catchy little tune…yep, you guessed it:  “That’s Why I Chose Yale.”

To view the movie, click on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGn3-RW8Ajk

To view what’s new in our companion blog, http://www.hdslrs-n-motion.com, click on the article title below:

A Light and Portable Handheld Stabilizer For HDSLRs From Cavision

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Mention beauty dishes choices around a group of photographers– working or enthusiast– and invariably Mola Softlights will play a prominent role in the discussion.  One of the reasons that the Mola brand may be synonymous with beauty dishes is that they are the sole product the company manufactures.  Unlike most manufacturers who offer the “familiar” 16-22 inch product, Mola offers four sizes, from the 22” Demi to the 43.5” Mantti.  The unique stepped or undulated interior that is a signature of the Mola line makes their products easily identifiable.  Mola has expanded the current interior finish options beyond “white” to include silver finishes.  While there are lots of things to like about Mola products, one of the most attractive features is that Mola products can be adapted, via speed rings, to accommodate many different brands of strobes, and continuous lighting products.  If you change your lighting brand, and own a Mola product, all you have to do is change the mount. 

Mola founder Walter Melrose notes that each of the Mola offerings shapes the light in a unique way before it hits the subject, because they were each developed with a different use in mind.  “The 33.5 inch Euro was actually the first product we developed.  I designed it with versatility in mind:  It is a well-rounded, no pun intended reflector that can be used for beauty, fashion and product work; the Mantti on the other hand was designed to simulate window light.  The Demi is a smaller version of the Euro.”

Based on size and price and a well-established beauty dish market, I suspect that the 22” Demi is among, if not the most popular Mola product.  As a user of the Demi and the larger Setti, the Mola dishes have never disappointed.  While the interior of many beauty dishes including the Molas is characterized as being “white”, the interior finish of the Mola is a “softer white” than my Profoto beauty dish and the texture gives it a “pearl-like” appearance.  While the light wraps the subject in typical beauty dish style, I have always felt that the Mola stepped surface resulted in a larger surface area and increased the efficiency of the light.  The resulting light is slightly warmer, and in my opinion, it subtly enhances most skin tones.  I say “in my opinion,” because with lighting as with so many things there is always an element of subjectivity.  Some one is bound to be wondering how the Demi compares to the Profoto dish.  I really can’t tell you because other than both being classified as beauty dishes, a comparison would be apples to oranges.  The differences in size (22” verses  20”  or so in diameter) interior finish, and surface area are all going to impact optimal placement, amount of light and fall-off.

The 28” Setti is deeper than the Demi and more parabolic.  It produces a more focused light with greater contrast and more rapid fall-off.  While the Setti can be used close-in, in a similar manner as a traditional beauty dish, it is large enough to be used for full body applications.  If there is a downside to the larger Mola products, it is the fact that they do not collapse for transport.  You just have to be sure you factor that into your considerations when going on location.

Melrose also points out that while the silver finished dishes appear to be new, that Mola offered dishes with silver interior finishes 20 years ago. “The harder light was not as popular as the softer light, and we stopped offering the silver interior for a while.  We brought silver interiors back simply because the market asked for it.”  What sets the silver dishes apart from their white counterparts is a cooler light (color temperature wise) and a light with both greater directionality and contrast. 

So what’s new from Mola as we move into 2010?  Melrose says that they are now offering polycarbonate flex grids for the Demi and the Setti, which will give users another option for light control.  For the location photographer who uses, small flash heads from Lumedyne or Quantum, speedlights, and/or heads that do not generate a lot of heat as a result of modeling lights, an ABS version of the Demi is on the way.

As far as the Mola mystique is concerned, the products are analogous to the perfect storm:  that combination of shape, color, size, and interior finish that result in some amazing lighting.

For more information on the Mola line visit them on line by clicking here.

To see Mola products in use, visit their blog at: http://blog.mola-light.com/

Disclosure:  No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has  any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration.