A video confession

I’ve been watching a lot of tutorials on video color grading lately. For those of you not working with video in a professional context that means that I’ve been learning how to adjust and tone the video that I shoot much like you work with still images. But not at all.


Ya see when I become Emperor things will be made consistent. We won’t have 32 different terms for the same thing so that when you learn a new discipline that really isn’t that far away from your main body of knowledge you don’t have to pick up a thousand new words for things that you basically already know how to do. Thus I’ve been learning how to “color grade” video using basically the same kind of tools that I’d use to process a still photo. And friends I gotta tell ya I just can’t believe how picky these guys get about the subtleties of the color in their video, I mean wow.


So why the heck am I torturing myself with this rot? Well I’ve been editing a large-ish video project that I’ve been shooting for a local client of mine and it’s made me want to have a better and larger set of processing tools. I have an excellent video editing suite but in the past nearly all my video work has been news/editorial and just like when being a still image news photog you aren’t supposed to play with the image in post. But for commercial work it needs to be cleaner, more interesting and maybe even slick. Depending.


This is a lot like how I had to learn how to actually use Photoshop for more than cropping. Now when I’m shooting portraits and the client wants, for instance, some skin smoothing I can do that easily. But back “then” I had no idea how it was done.


Now I’m not interested in doing feature films at all as that is way too much like work for me but I do really enjoy shooting and editing video. Much like the audio based multimedia that I’ve been working with for years video is just another way of telling stories. Unfortunately in the past when I’d have my video camera rig on me I would also have two still cameras as well making for a very clumbsy me. It’s very hard to shoot stills and video of the same time and not make a mess of it. But I had clients who wanted both and since they were paying for it and knew that it means that you have at best adequate stills and passable video, I did the best with what I had to work with.

Oh and for those of you who haven’t seen the mess that video editing looks like here is a screen shot of all the cuts, bits and tweeks I had to do just to get that two minute and a smidge piece to look that way. Ugh!

I got my first video only assignment last year and it was a very freeing experience. I was to shoot the annual fireworks held at the University of Colorado’s football stadium, (boring!) but we got a torrential downpour (Yah, bad weather!) so I spent two hours with my lens not pointing up at a bunch of meaningless flashing lights. The weather became the story so I shot it that way. Considering that I put it together on daily deadline and did it all muh-self I’m pretty happy with it all things considered. It’s raw and such but for my first “real” news video I can live with it. (It’s much better than the stuff I did when I also had to shoot stills!)


So anyway I’m doing more commercial video now and it’s freaking great. I’m be able to get good sound, put the subject in good lighting, and do two dozen takes with varying angles to then edit it together and with some post production have it, well, look good. She-ZAM!

And it’s funny because I was at a very cool seminar a few weeks ago all about better reaching advertising clients and one of the topics was “do you need to shoot video as well” and the consensus was that if you can that’s cool but to do it right takes more than just handing you, the qualified still photographer, a camera that shoots video. There is the audio, the lighting, the direction of the subject and all the editing/grading that makes it work. But I was chuckling to myself because I am not nor will I ever be a junior Spielberg but I do think that I can fake it all well enough to have people write me a check for the work that I do.

Oh and I’m just about 3 chapters away from finishing “On Directing Film” by David Mamet and I think that his insights may have effected my still photography brain even more than my moving pictures brain. How did that happen?

Leave a comment

Copyrighted Image