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Photography: From beneath the sea to Sydney gallery

by on Sep.16, 2009, under Ethics & Sustainability, Our Projects

Some of you will already know that I’ve had a long-standing love affair with photography and the natural world. Eight odd years ago, I bought my first digital SLR camera. A second-hand Nikon FE, I bought my first prime lens (a 50mm f1.4) and ever since, I’ve had great trouble putting it down. I learned to burn film like a chain-smoker does cigarettes- I rolled my own reels of film, developed black and white stock myself and loved every minute of it. Combined with my life-long passion for observing and recording wildlife, my photographic kit expanded rapidly and considerably, absorbing an extensive range of prime lenses, a couple of zooms and a box full of filters. Often seen toting two camera bodies and multiple lenses, my kit became formidable- both in its image-making potency and for the sheer weight of all that metal and glass.

Around 2004, my interests shifted more into 3D photography (stereography) exhibiting 3D works in Adelaide twice in 2005, before I veered into Super8 filmmaking. The leap into HD video-making followed in 2006, and since then I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the photographic forefront, waiting for an opportunity to put my beloved old lenses back on a DSLR body. I guarantee it’ll be a Nikon or a Fuji when I finally commit, as both of these offer Nikon F-mounts and I can snap my ol AI-S lenses straight on the body and shoot with all the manual controls that make photography equal parts art and science.

Starfish undercover

Starfish undercover

Until that day comes, I’ll be content excercising my Panasonic DMC-FT1 camera (or DMC-TS1 as it’s known in the USA) that I purchased earlier this year. The rugged little point-and-shoot has allowed me to take 12 mega-pixel photos in an environment that has always fascinated me- the Southern Ocean (along with 720p HD video, but, that’s another blog post). Seldom photographed by comparison to warmer Australian waters, I was encouraged by PanasonicAU on Twitter to submit a gallery of my recent work to LumixLife: an exhibition they were then planning. Several weeks later, I’m very pleased to announce that my collection of ten images has been selected from a field of about one-hundred-and-eighty galleries and will be exhibited on October 8th in Global Gallery, in Paddington, Sydney. Featuring a collection of starfish, sweep, cuttlefish and a colony of ascidian sea squirts, my shots are also visible online, but unfortunately will not be offered for sale at the gallery site.

After receiving some very warm compliments from my social networks on Facebook and Twitter, and being the entrepreneurial sort, I decided to look into options for selling photo prints online. The site I’ve settled with is RedBubble, as suggested by Simon Loffler from the creatively-connected blog, Home Slice. Like many other print-on-demand services, Red Bubble allows artists to upload high-resolution artwork, select from a range of printing options, set their prices and make enlargements available to the world. It’s free to register and offers a remarkably easy and expedient process for turning your artworks into saleable products. Many comparable sites offered much murkier pricing structures, uglier interfaces and in some cases, prohibitive registration fees.

If you’d like to support this blog and my photographic efforts, please consider buying an enlargement or two from my recent exhibition. If you do so, please shoot me a message, or better still take a picture of the artwork once it’s hanging in its new home- I’d love to see where my local surveys of underwater life end up next!

Dan Monceaux

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Eco-Tourism: Video shoot for ‘Le Casuarina’, Kangaroo Island

by on Sep.08, 2009, under Great Finds

I’ve always loved Kangaroo Island– from my first taste of it with my family back in the 1980’s, to the numerous visits paid in the last few years. Recently, Emma Sterling and I had another reason to travel there- to produce a series of promotional videos for a holiday home called Le Casuarina. Since this was to be a new endeavour for us, we decided we would make a number versions of the piece, demonstrating what could be done for a variety of budgets. Called as I often am by nature, I couldn’t resist spending time in the garden filming bees and birds, hanging over the ferry bow shooting dolphin… and along with interiors, exteriors, some peopled shots and stills, we came home with a hefty volume of footage.

The main distinguishing feature of our deluxe package (above) was the use of models and actors, and the video’s extended 3 minute duration. Stylistically, placing people in the video creates a much more personal ‘lived in’ feel for the property, and also helps hold the viewer’s attention for longer, with a suggestion of story. It does so at a price though, and working with actors is costly and more difficult to schedule than shooting bricks, mortar and the surrounding environment. Local filmmaker David Mackey (who I first met many years ago when I storyboarded his short film $um Assault) and his wife Belinda Mackey, a talented South Australian model and actress, both volunteered their time to play as guests of the house. Tess O’Flaherty, another talented local actress performed the voice-over once we’d returned to Adelaide, and the score was created using a great software package called SmartSound SonicFire Pro. While I’m a musician myself, SonicFire was able to save me countless hours of composition and recording time, and allowed me to conveniently export versions of the song at four different durations and with variations in instrumentation. Nice.

For the ‘standard’ version, another fine local actress Michelle Nightingale volunteered her time and talents. As you will see, many of the shots are the same as in the deluxe version, and there is much common material in the script. The whole process would have been much faster to turn around if we weren’t so obsessed with riding the bleeding edge of production techniques though! We shot all the footage on our new Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 , and the pictures looked great. Since it is sold as a ‘Dual Camera’ (a hybrid of digital still and video) it offers traditional photographic control of the video image (aperture, ISO, shutter-speed) and offers the kick-ass bonus of recording FullHD progressive footage (1920 x 1080). We shot everything in the highest resolution and frame rate (1080p at 60 frames per second) without any expectation that our editing software, Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 would struggle processing it.

Sure enough, whenever our 1080p editing timeline reached about a minute of content, the program would crash. We purchased and installed the MainConcept MPEG Pro H.264/MP4 plugin and enjoyed improved results, but still could not get more than about three minutes of material onto the timeline without toppling the system. This is on a powerhouse i7 920 cpu, with 12 Gb of RAM, might I add. Admitting defeat after experimenting with countless variables, Emma edited the project in segements, down converting slabs of footage to 720p resolution, and re-importing them into a 720p timeline. We floated the two longest clips online yesterday, and as always, have spread the word using Web 2.0 platforms, most notably Facebook and Twitter to help get the pieces circulating. With any luck, we’ll be able to follow this job with more commercial work along a similar vein armed with the knowledge to just shoot 720p resolution footage in the first place… at least until the next patch for Premiere Pro is released.

If you’d like to know a bit more about Le Casuarina, please visit the property’s website.

Dan Monceaux

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Web 2.0: Great tools for music management & promoting shows

by on Sep.03, 2009, under Our Projects, Tips & Advice

Yesterday I took a call from the manager of Tomas Ford, an established Western Australian performer, who presents something like the Bowie of electro. At the time of the call, I didn’t know anything about his music or theatrical self. His manager was looking for replacement support acts for the SA leg of his national tour (accompanied by DOS4GW) after discovering that the venue they had booked the gig had paired them up with a couple of wildly inappropriate musical acts! Pairing up glam-electro-pop and chiptune music with anxious punk rockers wasn’t going to fly with TF’s manager, so he found us online, and gave us a call. Understanding his situation, and an a few descriptive words like break/noise/electro later, we confirmed the spot. The gig is on Sunday, September 6th at the Crown & Anchor Hotel in Adelaide, and we’re happy to announce that it’s licensed and all ages.

So, what do you do after you take a gig with less than a week’s notice? You put your internet and web 2.0 marketing skills into top gear! The most powerful tool I’ve found to date is ArtistData– a service I discovered a few months back. Artistdata is too hot to not seize control of. It works on the simple principle that artists and their managers should only have to upload or enter data once. News, blog entries, gig info, bios, pics… the service handles the lot, and redistributes the information you feed it across a range of popular social networking and music specific websites.

Tomas Ford & DOS4GW - Australian Tour Flyer

Tomas Ford & DOS4GW - Australian Tour Flyer

Better than that, it creates custom webpages for every gig you create (click on the image above for a sample) featuring handy links to your other online presences, and pumps out RSS feeds (ask me about that one if you’re not up to speed) that you can have feed data directly back into facebook, your blog etc. In North America, ArtistData is even establishing direct links with traditional music media across the continent, so that provided you post events with at least a fortnight’s notice, street press will get all the details in whatever town or state your playing in in time for publication. Smoking hot.

So once I’ve keyed the event into Artistdata and hit ‘Publish’, it does its thing and breaks the back of my online promo work. Next there’s some tidying up to do elsewhere- picking up the trail of fans that are clustered at various sites. More than likely Facebook and Myspace are the core catchments, and both have pretty obvious means available for broadcasting to fans. Beyond this, I try as best I can to centralise our fan management via a managed email list hosted by another great website I’ve used for a couple of years now- ReverbNation. Reverbnation is dynamite for many reasons, not the least of which is FanReach, a very flexible and powerful fan management system for artists to tap into for free. I use FanReach to send an HTML email blast with customisable links and content out to all the fans specific to the town we’re playing in, and we’re well on our way.

The whole exercise should take less than a couple of hours, and the value of that time in targeting key audiences is immeasurable. If you’re an artist, set yourself up with free accounts at Artistdata and ReverbNation today- they will make the path forward in marketing your band much easier to manage. These sites continue to impress me with ongoing improvements and new services, and certainly make mass communication manageable for the self-managed or breaking artist! I guess we’ll see how the short-burn campaign pays off on the weekend… hope to see some of you there!

Dan Monceaux

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