Sunday, December 21, 2014

Something for the holidays.

I now interrupt the series on putting together promo videos for this holiday message.
Which is a holiday message about producing promo videos.  So honestly it's
not really an interruption.

I was hired to make a video promoting the annual Alaska Governor's Christmas open house
event.  For those of you who have never been to it, it goes a little something like this.
Basically, a bunch of very friendly local elves make around 25,000 cookies and
almost 300 pounds of fudge.  Then people stand in line for an hour or so to get into
the Governor's mansion.  While standing in line, state commissioners will serve you hot
chocolate, cider and cookies.  Once you get inside, you get a chance to meet and shake
hands with the Governor and his family, and eat a bunch of cookies, fudge, and other
goodies, drink punch, check out festive gingerbread houses and traditional holiday
train sets, and listen to Christmas carols.  It's a very popular event in Alaska's capital
city, ESPECIALLY among the children.  Anyways, here is the video:

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

Monday, December 15, 2014

Putting together a promo video part 1

One of my bigger projects this summer was working on a series of web
promo videos for the University of Alaska. I learned a lot from doing
this job, as it was one of the 'bigger' jobs I have undertaken. Now that I
have approval from the client to post the videos online, I thought it might make
for a good series of blog posts, showing what it is like to undertake a project like this.

It all started when my 'network'  let me know that there was a potential job which was to promote the University of Alaska's Tech Prep programs. As usual, I asked the potential client to view my demos and then set up an initial meeting with them.  I went into the meeting thinking they wanted a generic Tech Prep 'promo' video. So, I did a little research. First, I looked up 'UAS Tech Prep' online and didn't really find anything new or exciting. Just a normal University offering Tech Prep programs. Next I did a quick YouTube video search for 'Tech Prep Promo' videos. this is interesting. These videos TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY STINK!  I apologize if someone out there has made one, maybe I didn't see your video.  But my goodness, the Tech Prep Promo videos I found online, are really about as exciting as watching the rocks dry off after a rainy day in SE Alaska. Now, I have something to go on. Not a lot, but I am guessing that this potential client also is not enthused by the prospect of the 'normal' Tech Prep films that I am seeing online from other Universities.

So into the meeting I go. I usually go armed with three main questions.

1. Who is your intended audience?
2. What feelings would you like them to feel while watching the video?
3. What action would you like them to take after viewing your video?

After asking these questions I usually ask one final question.
'Show me an example of a good promo film online.'

So at my meeting, I found out a few things. My potential client was relatively
new on the job and wanted to 'shake things up' a bit. As I suspected, she did
not like the current normal fare of 'Tech Prep Promo films'. But more than that,
she actually wanted a series of videos. Up to this point, I thought I would be making
one video. Now I found out that the project involved three different videos, each
intended for a different audience. So my questions above had to be 'portioned' out.

Video 1 was to be aimed at high school students. It needed to be 'hip' and
convince students that Tech Prep programs are cool. The client compared this to
a military recruiting video

Video 2 was to be aimed at parents of high school students throughout SE Alaska.
Parents in these small towns, have a lot of pride in their small, Alaskan communities.
In the past, most children had to move to one of the bigger cities to get work after
high school. But now, UAS is offering Tech Prep Programs to these high school
students, targeted at the kind of jobs they could get in their own community.
So this video aimed to tug on parent's pride in their community, and hope for their children to
be able to stay close to home after high school, It was obviously going to be more

Video 3 was to be aimed at administrators of high schools. UAS was hoping
for more participation from high schools in the area. Yet some were not
working with UAS to offer the Tech Prep classes. So this video was to
be filled with 'dignitaries in Alaska' talking about how important Tech Prep
programs were. The idea was, to convince school administrators that the 'movers
and shakers' in Alaska feel the program is important, and they should jump
onboard as well. Another minor theme was that there isn't really that much work,
for you, the high school administrator to do, so why not participate?

Now the University of Alaska Southeast has campuses in several communities.
Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. The client wanted to make sure that I didn't
just stay in Juneau, as she wanted it to appeal to the parents and students in
the other towns as well. She also wanted me to go to a SE Alaska town which
did NOT have a UAS campus, but whose high school participated in the Tech
Prep Programs. So, I put together a bid, taking into account flights to three locations,
hotels, rental cars and so on. I was awarded the bid and finished the mounds of paperwork,
wrote out a contract and all the boring, but necessary business stuff that one must do.
Luckily, I specified 25% payment up front as the flights, hotels, rental cars and meal
expenses were not going to be cheap. I packed both both my cameras (Sony FS700 and Sony
VG20) a bag of lenses, a couple tripods. slider, lav mics, batteries, chargers, and lots of
SDHC cards and got onto the jet. Now I live in Alaska, but what many people don't realize,
is that the part of Alaska I live in is not particularly cold. But it is wet. It rains.
And rains. Usually about the time everyone is starting to quack, we will have a break from
the rain for a solid two hours. That's what we call a 'partly cloudy' day. So that made it
all the more amazing when I had pretty much solid sunshine for the whole week I was on the road.

Anyways, after a week full of 14 hour work days, I came home with about 200 gigs of footage.  As this was for the web, and I had to be fairly mobile, I shot this all to internal AVCHD on the cameras, which honestly looks way better than it has any right to. Being on the road, it was perfect to be able to carry 8 32 gig SDHC cards in a case about the size of a pack of cards. And the SDHC cards cost about $35 each and will hold 3 hours of video. Once I was home, I started working on the postproduction.  Because of the client's stated desire for something that high school students would think was 'cool', I made
extensive use of the slow motion mode of the Sony FS700 for this first video.  Now each on of these three videos in the series
was different.  Obviously, there would be a lot of similar footage, but each video
was aimed at a different audience.  For this blog, I am going to include a 'client brief'
which is a short summary of what I wrote down for each video after meeting with the client.
Most of the stuff in these briefs are DIRECTLY from the client.  A filmmaker may have
their own ideas how to do a commissioned film, but as always, the client is the one paying the
bills so it's good to have a short brief down in writing to explain what it should look like.

The client brief for the first video is as follows:

Video 1)Student
Totally directed toward the high school student.  It should outline some of the programs 
offered but has to have an amazing 'wow' factor in the way the video and music are put 
together.  Students want to be involved in programs they can be proud of.  It's all about 
bragging rights.  Probably no longer than 3 minutes, they don't have a long attention span. Teenagers, especially those who don't enjoy traditional schooling, don't feel as young as
they are.  They have a mindset that they are more mature and advanced than their peers.  
They don't want to be talked down to or listen to explanations. 'Shock and awe' works well 
with this group.  Listening to other teens talk about their experiences won't work, unless 
the other teen is deemed to be as 'cool' as they are (and no one is as cool as they are).  
The self-esteem of young people is generally pretty low.  We want to show them what they 
could become.  We have to present the information in the future tense.  Maybe a bit with
students doing awesome hands on work, but also clips of actual work in the field.  Young
people sign up for the military many times because of their recruiting films that showcase 
troops in the field 'The Few, The Proud, The Marines'.  Students wouldn't sign up if they saw
boot camp videos!! 

So there is the client brief.  This necessitated some 'staging'.  I didn't want to just show what
kids may actually do in these classes (although I wanted to show some of that as well) but
to show what it may be POSSIBLE that they could become if they kept following the career
paths these classes would lead them towards.  So, as you can see in the video, the CNA
student probably would not be performing CAT scans on patients or scanning through
X-rays.  The EMT and fire trainees, would not be responding to a fire, and so on.  But the
client brief directed the course that I took in the video....which really is the most important
thing.  If the client likes the video, then they hire you again, say good things about working
with you and all that stuff which is very important if you like eating actual food and paying your mortgage.

Anyways, take a look at the completed film below after reading the client brief.  Hopefully you can see how the two of them go together.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Earlier this summer I got a call from cinematographer Robert Howell from Texas.  I had
worked with him a year or two before, on a shoot in Juneau, and he was wondering if I
would like to fly to Sitka to help him on another shoot.  This one was for a nationwide
social media contest....Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the Year.  An national agency needed promo videos made of each of the top 3 Good Neighbor Pharmacies.  Then the videos would go up on social media, and people all over the nation would view the videos and vote for their favorite.  So it was for the web, but being a national ad agency, they wanted high quality video.  Robert brought his F3 along.  We rigged it up to record Pro Res to an external recorder.  I gave it the nickname 'Megatron 6000'

Robert is totally chill and a fun guy to work with.  We spent a couple days running around
Sitka, shooting interviews

And B-Roll

The video we were shooting, was a promo video for Harry Race Pharmacy in Sitka.
After the videos were posted,  people all over the nation began viewing and voting for their favorite one to win Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the year.  In late August, the winner was announced....
and it was Harry Race Pharmacy!  Here is the video itself:

Just a couple days ago, Sony announced yet another big sensor camera the Sony FS7.
It looks like it will be a very good one!  4k, 10 bit internal recording, and so on.  But it's nice to remember that good cameras from the the F3, can still put out really nice looking work, and make you money.  For a lot of clients, even a national ad agency, an 'outdated' camera like the F3 will do the job just fine!!

                                                                       Gabe Strong
    G-Force Productions
       Digital Cinema | Websites | Consulting |  Multimedia

Friday, March 7, 2014

Metabones.....are we friends or not?

I did a blog post about the Metabones adapter awhile ago.  It worked great, and allowed
me to use Canon lenses on my Sony cinema cameras (Sony FS100, Sony FS700 and
Sony VG20). Everything was cool......until it wasn't.  Now I don't know exactly what is
going on.  But here is a cautionary tale.

Now I'm a one person shop....which means I have to be smart about what I spend money
on.  I started my video business with a PD150, and an Apple Powerbook (yeah, the black
G4 400mhz one with a copy of FCP 2).  And I stayed with that camera for about 8 years.
When I finally had enough clients who wanted HD, I a FS100.  Yup,
the Sony FS100 was out before I upgraded to HD.  In a way, it was kind of neat, because
I skipped right over all the small sensor HDV cameras and never spent money on them.
But when I got the FS100, all I got with it was the kit lens.  As my business continued, I
bought some faster lenses.  A 'B-Stock' Sigma 50-150 F2.8 (an absolutely fantastic lens!)
A 17-50 Tamron F2.8.  A Tamron 28-105 F2.8.  A Sigma 10-20 F4.5.  And recently a
Sigma 18-35 F1.8.  I also have some vintage FD mount primes, but for this blog post I
want to talk about the third party Canon mount zooms.

After using them for awhile, I realized that although the Tamron lenses worked just great
there were issues with the Sigma lenses.  I would randomly lose contact with the lens.
The Fstop reading would read '--' and I could not change it with the dial on the camera.

Sometimes, disconnecting the lens and reconnecting it would get it to work.  Sometimes disconnecting the Metabones and reconnecting it would work.  Sometimes, turning the 
camera off would work.  Sometimes, none of the above would work.  Very frustrating.  
Now I have an early Metabones Smart Adapter Mark II.  I emailed Metabones and they 
had me send the adapter back to them (I paid $25 for shipping) and they updated the firmware.  
Got it back and it worked perfectly with the Sigma's.  I was happy, my old friend was back....or 
so I thought.  Soon I noticed it started doing with the Tamron's what it had been doing with the Sigma's.  Losing contact with the the dreaded '--' in the Fstop column.  Again, disconnecting and reconnecting the lens or the adapter would fix it sometimes....but then 
there was a sign this was different.  When disconnecting didn't work, I powered the camera 
down.  And I noticed something a little funny.

If you look closely, you can see.....the switch is turned off.....but the camera
literally refuses to shut down!  The Sony symbol stayed up, even though the
camera was powered down!!!  I literally had to pull the battery out to get the
camera to turn off.  Soon afterwards, the Tamron lenses quit working entirely
with the Metabones adapter.  I get the dreaded F-- every time I use the Tamron
lenses.  The lenses will also no longer work with any still camera, somehow the
iris control has been literally broken inside the lenses.  The good news is, they
are stuck wide open, so with use of my built in ND filters (I now have the Sony FS700)
I can almost always make them work.  But still....uncool.  More good news, the Sigmas
continue to work just great with the Metabones adapters.  So here is some of my assumptions.

Assumption 1) The Metabones is made to work with Canon lenses.....less so with
third party 'Canon mount' lenses.

Assumption 2) Tamron and Sigma have some kind of different protocols and
somehow the Metabones could only work with one or the other.

Now realize, that I had my Metabones adapter for a year and a half before
issues started.  Also realize to this day, it works flawlessly with the Sigma
lenses after the firmware update.  I'm not knocking Metabones and in fact
the adapter is a crucial part of my kit.  And there are new versions out that
may deal with this issue much better.  But I've heard too many stories out there
from people having similar issues.  So I wanted to get this story out there.
You must realize, translating one type of lenses 'electrical signals' into
a competing cameras 'language' is not easy.  And despite the raves
Metabones has rightfully earned......there ARE issues with certain
third party lenses.  Also, I didn't like having to return my adapter, and
be without it, not to mention paying for the shipping for a firmware update.
I felt like that should be something an end user should be allowed to do at
their home computer.  From what I hear, with the newer Metabones adapters,
this may be possible.

Gabe Strong
G-Force Productions Digital Cinema

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sigma 18-35 F1.8

Sigma 18-35 F1.8 review

Sony FS700 with Sigma 18-35 F1.8 with Metabones adapter

One of my favorite lenses for my FS100/700 is a old Sigma 50-150 F 2.8 that I picked up
from B&H's 'used' department.  If you shoot 'large sensor' video cameras but don't operate in
the stratosphere where you can afford a Fuji Cabrio 19-90, you will probably have to 
make do with still camera lenses.  Now there are a variety of problems with this, but most 
can be worked around.  The Red Cinema 50-150 zoom was rumored to be a rehoused
Sigma 50-150....and the lens is very well suited for shooting motion pictures.  

So, when I heard about a 18-35 F1.8 zoom lens, which was coming out from Sigma, I was
interested.  I looked around everywhere but no one seemed to have it in.  It is a VERY
popular lens it seems.  I was finally able to track one down.....and wow I'm glad I did!
This lens, like the 50-150 is just about as good as it gets for shooting video.  I have
no idea how it performs on a stills camera, but it works fantastic on my FS100, 700 and

For a 18-35 lens, this one is very big.
From left: Tamron 17-50, Sony 18-200 kit lens, Sigma 18-35, Sigma 50-150

Which makes IS the first F1.8 zoom ever made as far as I know.  As far
as build goes, this lens is about as good as it gets.  Both the zoom and focus are made
from rubberized material and have just the right amount of resistance.  The focus
throw on the lens also seems to be just right.  What, you mean everyone doesn't
like the fact that you can focus 6 inches away, turn the focus ring 2 mm and
now you are focused at infinity????  Really?  But you don't need to turn it a full
rotation either.  There is enough 'room' to have space between the different markings,
but not so much room that you absolutely have to have a follow focus and have no
chance of pulling focus from the lens barrel because of the shake that the long focus
throws introduce.  It almost feels like this lens was actually INTENDED for video shooters.....

Ok, so it's built very nicely.  What about the image quality?  Is it worth writing home about?
Nope, it's worth flying home and telling everyone in person about!  It is just absolutely
amazing!  Sharp as a tack, great contrast, and just beautiful bokeh.  This lens will give you
some just amazing images!  Want that "wide shot that still has shallow depth of field like
you get on a full frame camera"?  You will get that with this lens.  And best of all?  The
price.  It only costs $799.  There are really only a couple cons.  It's big and heavry,
no image stabilization or autofocus available, small focal range (which is the trade off
you accept for the amazing F1.8 speed) and biggest problem of all.......because it is
such a good lens, stores can't keep it in stock, which means you may have a problem
finding one!  If you are lucky enough to find one, grab it as soon as possible.  There is
nothing like it out there.  Quick test video with way too much slow motion in it....


Great build quality

Amazing images

Brings back the nice wide shot with shallow depth of field 'full frame' look on a Super 35 cam.

Price is just amazing for what you get.


Heavy.....can be a pain to handhold as it makes the camera a bit front heavy.

Focal range is not really that big....less than a 2x lens.  But that's what you get
when you get a F1.8 zoom.

VERY hard to find!  Many places are sold out of this lens.

No image stabilization.

Nikon and Canon mount only means you can control the iris with appropriate
adapter but no possibility of autofocus (although Sigma does say a Sony A mount
version is coming.)

                                                                       Gabe Strong
    G-Force Productions
       Digital Cinema | Websites | Consulting |  Multimedia