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

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: Hot tools for managing profiles, music and online video

Guilty as charged… I’m a heavy internet user and early adopter of web 2.0 services. I’m not a geek or a nerd though- just keen on mass communication and the dissemination of ideas, knowledge and creativity. The internet is by far and away my favorite place for this, but with the myriad of platforms offered here for social networking, video and music sharing, it’s easy to get lost in the maze, or simply not know how best to spend your time.

I’m happy to say that in the last two months I’ve discovered some terrific new online services which do (or promise to in the near future) allow you to maximize the impact of your sprawling web-presences. There are three gems that I will discuss here: one for individuals and general social network users, one for online video distributors, and another for musicians.

atomkeep - your profile everywhere
atomkeep - your profile everywhere

I only discovered this site today after following a Twitter link. While the service is in ‘closed beta’ (that’s nerd speak for ‘we’re still testing, but we’ll open to the public soon’, the labour-saving and syncronising services it promises to provide are exciting. Basically AtomKeep allows you to enter status, information and content updates to their site once, and it will in turn redistribute this information to the web 2.0 social networking sites of which you are a member.

At this stage, these include: LinkedIn, Monster, Facebook, CPGJoblist, Twitter, Mixergy, Slide, Jobster, Yelp, Blogger, JOBcentral, LastFM, YouTube, digg, Ning, Flickr, Google, WordPress, Disqus, Pownce, Technorati, Meetup, Plurk, Mixx, LiveJournal, Indeed, Job.com, Friendster, imeem, Bebo, Myspace and Unyk. Services listed as ‘coming soon’ include: HotJobs, Dice, Yahoo! Groups, Careerbuilder, Hi5, Vimeo, Upcoming, Plaxo, Epinions, Evite, TheLadders, Photobucket and StumbleUpon.

The above list covers a range of general social networking sites, job seeking ones, photo and video sharing sites, bookmarking sites, blogging and commenting portfolios, email list managers and more… surely this is a service every web 2.0 user can benefit from!

TubeMogul - empowering online video
TubeMogul - empowering online video

On the online video frontier, TubeMogul provides a service truly in a league of its own. Essentially a video re-distributor and tracking service (my description, not theirs) TubeMogul accepts your video uploads, complete with descriptions, categories and tags, and then redistributes the video to other sites of which you are already a member. The site even transcodes your video (if necessary) to suit the requirements of each different site. As if the service isn’t great enough already, the real pay-off comes when the stats come rolling in. Graphs of your video’s popularity within and between services can be customised with easy, and you can even track the progress of your peers/competitors. The site also offers some promotional services which I hope to explore soon- these include spruiking your videos on social networking and bookmarking sites. Getting involved with tracking our online video footprint via TubeMogul has got me really excited about online video. If you have an interest in this field, check it out pronto.

The third, and probably the most specialised service I will describe here is ArtistData. Also currently in ‘closed beta’ ArtistData gives musicians and managers the capacity to easily handle presences of their artists across numerous sites and platforms. There are truckloads of web 2.0 services offering musicians distinct audiences for their work and forums for its discussion and proliferation, so the need for a service like this has existed for some years. As I’m yet to be invited to sign up, I can only cite the services the site claims to provide. It claims to:

    Import your shows from MySpace or allow you to enter them manually.
    Synchronize your shows to social network profiles on PureVolume, Virb, and soon Facebook.
    Submit shows to concert databases such as Jambase, Last.fm, and many more.
    Update your official website through XML or a customizable calendar widget.
    Updates your desktop calendar (iCal, Outlook, Thunderbird, Google Calendar).
    Export formatted show lists for import to SonicBids and ReverbNation.
    Automate the submission of shows for listing in local publications. *See screencast.

So there you have it folks, one service to leap on and two to watch for their pending public launches. I don’t know about you, but I really dig the way the web is evolving right now.

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Animation: Classic techniques are alive and well

My recent absorption into the world of Twitter has led me to some interesting places, and among other things, rekindled my passion for the animation artform. Emily Dodge, animator and blogger at ReelAlive has posted a few beautiful discoveries on her site, two of which I will repost here. Coming from the font of creativity that lies in Europe’s outer reaches, these two films are wonderful examples of storytelling without the need for dialogue or verbal comprehension of any kind. They are beautiful, illustrative, poetic and captivating… as you will see below.

It is rare to see an animated film told in a single character’s POV. The above work uses this technique to great effect.

The element that makes the above animation so lyrical in my opinion is the artist’s observational skill. Subtle details turn the loosely sketched children into flesh and blood, perhaps even more palpably emotive than their ‘real life’ counterparts. We are blessed to see contemporary animation that harks back to the analog age and delivers so deftly!

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