For Better Lighting, Soften Things Up.A popular inexpensive light for on-camera or light stand use is the Neweer 160. It is a relatively small LCD that comes with a couple of color slides-ins to soften or change color temperature. I have a couple.
But even with variable strength control, it causes glares if I try to use it for a tutorial or quick video.
The answer is the Neweer Softbox for the 160, available on Amazon. It fits over the light, diffuses and softens it, and should have a definite impact. I get mine Wednesday… I’ll try it and let you know.
Ken Burns has been credited with devising the “smooth moves on stills” effect that has permeated his various award winning productions. But, for history’s sake, I’d like to claim that this effect was developed simultaneously across the country by “multi-image” slideshow makers.
I’ve written here previously, and in my book “The Videobiz: A Practical Guide for Video Startups”, slidemakers using 2 or more projectors and the capability to transition smoothly between each image pushed the envelope to imitate motion. This, coupled with a great soundtrack, often convinced audiences they were seeing “movies”.
The slide shows often used historical still mixed with original photography. The historical images were shot on a camera stand, first manually– cranking the camera up and down to frame the picture– then, automatically, using programmable copy stands manufactured by Marron-Carroll and others.
The smart director would ask the camera operator to shoot three or 4 shots in a row “pushing in” to the picture (or pulling out) or panning left or right or diagonally. Combining these sequences with dissolves or cuts between the pictures simulated a sequence that added visual interest to otherwise static medium. Above is a short excerpt from such a show we produced in 1977 for Cleaver-Brooks.
Eventually this became second nature, and became part of the language in “multi-image” slideshows. It was a phenomenon I used to call “spontaneous combustion”– the fact that many people working along similar paths wouldld develop similar techniques and solutions to keep progressing along those paths. In other words, we in Milwaukee weren’t the only ones doing this.
In early 1978, we were asked to produce an opening “module” (as we used to call them) tracing the history of the credit union movement for the Credit Union Executives Society based in Madison, Wisconsin. This was our fourth or fifth assignment from them, having produced multi-screen slideshows for their annual and marketing meeting the last few years.
Feeling a bit bored, I suggested we should do the opening module in video instead of slides. Video projectors were pretty rare back then, but we had successfully used video projection for advertising awards shows in the past. That way we could show commercials that had been produced on video in their native format, rather than transferring them to film, which wasn’t cheap.
Renting the projector wasn’t cheap either, but the manufacturers of the one giant projector that coud actually do the job was willing to cut us a break on the $9000 rental cost in order to expose it to an audience of advertising pro’s. Yes, $9000. This giant behemoth, which stook five feet by four feet, had to be transported by train or truck. And allow two weeks.
So we worked out a deal with the manufacturer, got approval from the client, and went about starting to produce the video opener. We rented a video camera, and borrowed a Sony u-Matic editing system from the owner of the local Milwaukee Sub Sandwich Shop Suburpia. Why exactly he had such gear I still do not know. But it had come up in conversation at a bar, so I took advantage of that.
Soon we had hundreds of great black and white photographs detailing the history of the credit union movement. Now, what would we do with them to make this opener visually interesting?
Well for one thing, I had already developed a rather quick paced edit style in slide shows, so I wanted to keep doing that, only with video. We didn’t have any graphics or special effects capability other than quick cuts, so whatever we wanted to do would have to be done in camera. No problem. Photographer (now videographer) Linda Barton and I arranged our pictures chronologically, including shots of United States events to give it a universal flavor. Then, we proceeded to choreograph pans, zooms, pull outs, tilt-ups– anything we could do with camera movement and the zoom lens– and shot the historical video section of the video sequentially in camera. Live video was shot in a more traditional style, but still allowing for the long shot, medium shot, wide shot cutaway basics. It’s interesting to see this now (a short segment is below (sourced from vhs; please excuse the dropouts) and compare it to the earlier Cleaver-Brooks slide show– especially since we used some of the same historical photos.
Editing was then done to a soundtrack assembled– for the first time– as part of the edit. (I had done the majority of our soundtracks up to that time, so this was a natural extension for me.)
When it was all said and done, we had a video. We created some special title effects at a local “real” editing studio– it took all of an hour at most– and inserted those into the opening and close of the video.
Perfecting the Technique
Six months later, we were working on our first documentary– the life story of Eugene O’Neill, in concert with the Milwaukee Rep. By this time we had film editing equipment, and one of my partners, Rob Riordan, did similar magic using stills shot in a faux “rehearsal” by my other partner Ric Sorgel. It turned out beautifully, and that short segment in shown below.
I don’t remember when Ken Burns emerged on the scene, but I do remember mentioning to my wife at home watching one of his beautiful videos, “That style looks familiar.” I’m sure many slideshow makers across the country were thinking the same thing.
If you’re trying to reach potential customers, you have two ways to do it: digital and physical.
If you’re young, you probably know about digital. Facebook groups, Instagram, websites, Reddit…. and if you’re older, you’re more comfortable with the physical (in person) approach. Joining clubs, attending functions, taking out booth space at business conferences, direct mail, and that old favorite– cold calling.
Of course, a mix of the two is the correct choice. I must emphasise to those younger (much younger) than me… making REAL contact involves you showing up somewhere in person and having a business card ready.
A short conversation, a request to follow up, an exchange of business cards… BAM! You’ve got a lead.
This doesn’t matter whether you’re into corporate work or consumer work. People don’t like talking to machines, and the web is full of noise, so people are for more cynical about things they can’t see with their own eyes in real life (IRL). Any personal contact can become a lead! Even at Karaoke!
70 is just a number. But in terms of mortality, it’s a decent number. I’d rather be younger, but I’m happy to be here. And at 6:25 this evening (2-27) I will be, in fact, 70.
At a family birthday party last weekend, my son Matt asked me what inspired my move from multi-image slideshows into video production as the primary medium for “audio-visual communications”.
We were waiting in the car for his bus back to NYC. Just as I was about to start spewing whatever popped into my head, his bus rolled up. As we said our goodbyes, I remember that I had written something about that move way back when. It was for the magazine “Multi-Images”, which was published by AMI, the Association for Multi-Image, the trade group for those in the multiple slide projector show business.
I found the article, scanned it, and sent the PDF to him the next day. It was written five years after I left my first business to start a second business on my own, bringing some staffers from the first business with me. Date of publication was 1987 or so. What I wrote was basically honest, although I simplified the motivations for starting over somewhat. Anyway, the PDF is below, and if you’re up for a magazine article sized read, you’re welcome to indulge and comment.