With my graduation coming soon I can't help but become nostalgic about my time in college. Looking back over the past four years I can easily see how much I have grown in almost every aspect of myself.
The summer after high school I bought my first HD capable camera, my still trusty Canon 7D. I had saved up for several months working as a swim coach to be able to afford it. At that time it was the most expensive purchase I had made, clocking in at just shy of $2000. Little did I know the places that that camera would go and take me.
Entering college after that summer I had little to none knowledge of video and film nor did I have any editing software except iMovie. I was a photographer who wanted to explore into video and film. I had ideas for projects and mini-scenes that I wanted to film, but I knew I lacked the ability to be able to capture the images I had in my mind. But I knew that my creativity wanted to take me somewhere.
That year, my freshman year, three projects stand out as milestones on my creative journey into film. The first of these projects was the very first swim promo I did for my school. Inspired by the early pop music mashups by artist 3LAU and by how swimmers pre-visualize there races. This promo I used the campus's film club's Canon 5DII and a set of cheap old ProFoto lights to achieve a dream like feel and visual style. I only had two shots planned ahead of time and improvised for the rest. Using Final Cut Pro 7, the original cut was three and a half minutes, full of redundant shots and poor cuts. Later that year I re-edited it down to 90 seconds.
The next project was part of my video production class I was taking that same semester. Heavily tied with my experience on the swim team, I made a short 8 minute documentary about the team. It was this project that I really expanded my skill in lighting and sound design. It was the required interviews that expanded my skillset the most.
The last project of my first year, and one I hold very dear to myself, was my spring film for the campus's film festival, Don't Close Your Eyes. This film I had entirely visualized and mentally planned before even starting to collaborate with anyone else. My goal was twofold: have extremely beautiful shots and give the audience feel good experience. It was also this film that I learned more about shooting in a "log" scale (or as close as a Canon dSLR gets to log) and was my first mild foray into color correcting, albeit extremely basic. I also had the pleasure of working with Leticia Dias who composed all original music for the film. The film was a hit and won viewers choice at the film festival.
My sophomore year entailed a much stronger focus in my academics since my classes had picked up strongly. I produced plenty of videos including various swim promos and even a short film that followed my Hardware Architecture class. Those were quite fun to work on but were more just regular artistic exercise. The project that stands out is the film I was in collaboration with that spring.
Through and Through, directed by my close friend Damon Wilgus, was by far the largest project I had taken on. Although original idea and concepts were Damon's I did add some creative input about adding several small scenes. Overall he was the director and in charge much of the films logistics while I was the lead on all things technical aka cinematography, camera operating, and color. We both shared in the editing process.
What I love most about this project was the large variety of scenes we were able to capture. The film's called for many different locations and settings including surreal ones for three dream sequences. It was these sequences which I loved working on the most. For the sake of time I will only talk about my favorite.
This dream sequence was originally to involve our lead character searching for a woman in the woods. The woman, his ex from a bad breakup, was supposed to be eluding him until when he finally catches up with her at which point he would wake up. Originally we were planning on just shooting in the woods when we had time. Our location and time of year, in Illinois near St Louis at the end of winter, was absolutely dreary and grey. We wanted to push it off until it was more spring like and green like. However one morning I awoke early to a foot of snow; a snowstorm had blown in that night. Minutes later I got a text stating that we were going to film that scene now. We ended being able to use that storm very much to our advantage.
Using a rain bag over the camera equipment we filmed while it was snowing hard. I shot almost everything on the 5DII with my 135L at f/2. There was only one point I had to go wider. Looking at the footage later that day it was evident that our spontaneity had worked out. The footage was just plain gorgeous. Every shot we needed was spot on and we had exactly captured the feeling we were looking for. A very big shout out to our talent for not only being willing to film in the snow but to do so in shirtsleeves and a dress. The film was also very successful and won viewers choice at the film festival.
My junior year was much the same as my sophomore; strong focus on academics with many smaller video projects. Two projects from that year are worth mentioning, well three actually but I only want to talk about two. The first was the first swim promo I produced that fall.
This promo evolved from me playing with a (at the time new) GoPro Hero 3. I was, and still am, fascinated by the level of quality GoPro camera's produce as well as there ability to capture striking POV angles. I knew for that fall's promo that I wanted to heavily use one. I ended up passing it around to various teammates and have them use it. I also decided to really work with the different underwater angles the camera made possible. On my forehead while I swam, on the bottom of the pool in the diving well, and following a swimmer are a few examples. I had some really excellent footage which I also had captured at 60FPS 1080p allowing me to slow it down 2.5x.
However the footage wasn't enough for a whole promo. Bringing those old ProFoto lights back to the pool I decided to shoot some atmospheric b-roll concentrating on working with lens flares and stylized lighting. Combining the two for the final edit created a nice level of depth and a really cool modern look, which was what I was looking for.
The other major project that year was the second large film I've worked on, Partners in Crime. This film was Damon's capstone project for his degree and as such he took on a much larger role than that in Through and Through. My role was much smaller, but still important. From my suggestion we rented a Blackmagic Cinema Camera and shot the whole film in 2.5k RAW. Choosing this camera and workflow taught me so much about how to truly color grade as well as what a RAW workflow looks like. The project was hectic with a strict schedule and due to reshooting and reediting I only had 20 hours of time to focus on grading the footage, which was very unfortunate. Instead of spending the time focussing on each shot I basically only did global grades using an overall film LUT. Even so I had a great time working on this project which took viewers choice at the film festival that year.
This leads me to this year. Since it was at this point I rebuilt my website and began blogging again I won't spend the time talking about my more recent projects, since one can easily search through my previous posts.
What all this nostalgia really tells me is how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to hone my passion and expand my creativity. Even though my degree is not in film I have been surrounded by so many chances build my skillset. Not only that but I have truly been blessed by the friendships and connections I've made in the process. I am so excited to see where my future lies but I do know that I would not be where I am at know without the help, inspiration, motivation, and guidance of all those who I've had the occasion of working with.