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July 23rd, 2014

Tim Matsui Wins $25K Fledgling Fund Grant for Sex Trafficking Project

From "Leaving the Life:" Lisa in her robe. ©Tim Matsui

From “Leaving the Life:” Lisa in her robe. ©Tim Matsui

Photographer Tim Matsui, who has focused on stories about sexual violence and human trafficking for the past decade, has won a $25,000 Fledgling Fund grant for his project called “Leaving the Life.” Matsui will use the grant to engage audiences and spur dialogue about sex trafficking of minors in the US. He plans to produce several videos, each about 15 minutes in length, tailored for different audiences.  For instance, one of the videos will examine prostitution among minors from the perspective of law enforcement, which traditionally treats minors in the sex trade as criminals rather than victims. Another short video will present the issue from the perspective of young sex workers.

“Fledgling is supporting the initial creation of this campaign which include several live screenings of the [short videos] and a basic web platform which, in the future, will be built out,” Matusi explains.

Fledgling Fund administrators did not respond to a request for comment.

Matsui won an Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative Grant in 2012 to document new approaches by officials in Seattle to addressing the problem of the sex trafficking of minors. He will use footage he’s already shot for that project to produce the short videos for “Leaving the Life.” Separately, he has produced a longer documentary in conjunction with MediaStorm called “The Long Night.”

The Fledgling Fund, established in 2005, provides filmmakers with grants to “move audiences to action” with outreach and audience engagement initiatives. The fund has provided nearly $12 million to support 333 projects to date.

Related:
Anatomy of a Successful Grant Application: Tim Matsui on the Women’s Initiative Grant (for PDN subscribers)
Frames Per Second: A Corporate Story, Told by a Journalist

June 12th, 2014

Todd Hido Shoots Fall 2014 Campaign For Victoria Beckham’s Fashion Line

An image from Todd Hido's campaign for Victoria, Victoria Beckham's Fall 2014 collection.

An image from Todd Hido’s campaign for Victoria, Victoria Beckham’s Fall 2014 collection.

We never thought we’d mention Posh Spice and Todd Hido in the same sentence, but here goes: Victoria Beckham (previously known as pop singer Posh Spice) enlisted fine-art photographer Todd Hido to photograph ads her Fall 2014 collection of women’s fashion.

The images of models wearing Beckham’s looks recall Hido’s fine-art photographs of women in motel rooms who appear to be living on society’s fringes. In images on the fashion designer’s website we see models posed on bare mattresses or in rooms with shabby carpeting and unmade beds. Hido’s work for the label also appears to include video pieces. In one video we see a model standing against a wall in a dark room while fuzz flashes across the screen of an old-model television set.

Hido didn’t respond to our request for comment. According to W Magazine, Beckham herself said that, “Working with a photographer who doesn’t traditionally shoot fashion really enriched how I could portray the collection this season.”

Related: The Prevailing Wind: Todd Hido’s Excerpts from Silver Meadows

June 3rd, 2014

PDN Video Pick: A Year-Long Documentary Project for Stella Artois

Dustin Cohen’s “Made in Brooklyn” project is a character-driven video series about Brooklyn artisans, and after it went viral last year, Cohen started landing assignments. One was a year-long project for beer brand Stella Artois that is just coming to fruition in the form of a 26-minute documentary called “The Chalice Symphony.” It is about the design and construction of four one-of a kind instruments that use Stella Artois chalices to make musical sounds in different ways. At the center of the story is artist/engineer Andy Cavatorta, the instrument builder, and rock band Cold War Kids, which composed a symphony for performance on Cavatorta’s beer chalice creations.

The full video will be released during the next few weeks, but in the meantime, Cohen and Stella Artois have released a series of short, stand-alone excerpts, including the one shown here.

Cohen told us about the project in a brief interview:

PDN: What was the assignment from Stella Artois and the ad agency?
Dustin Cohen: It was to document Andy Cavatorta and his team building four instruments. It’s a process video, but character driven, from inception to completion of the instruments.

PDN: Did you storyboard it in any way at the outset?
DC: It’s documentary in nature, but knowing we had many months of filming in front of us, we had a brief outline of points we wanted to hit–the process of Andy making these instruments, the problem solving, working with his team, the band composing the song–but we didn’t draw out storyboard per se.

PDN: Did you expect it to take a year?
DC: It took longer to complete them than we had planned. There were a lot of elements that had to come together, and it went at its own pace.

PDN: Was your approach to shooting any different from the Made in Brooklyn videos?
DC: Visually speaking, it’s not different. But the scope of this was huge, so there were many more people involved–art directors and creative directors from the agency, and people at Stella Artois.

PDN: That sounds like a lot of bosses. Was that a problem?
DC: I wouldn’t call it a problem. For Made in Brooklyn, I had only myself to answer to. But when you sign up for a project like this, and money is on line, the opinions of other people matter, and some are people with a lot of weight. There were times when it was harder than others, but I’m super proud of the documentary we made.

PDN: What kind of crew did you have? Were you the DP as well as the director?
DC: It depended on the day, but most days, the crew was four or five people: two cameras, a sound person and a DIT (data tech/producer). I directed all the videos, and I grabbed a camera and shot a good amount of it. On a few days, the crew was triple that, when we needed beauty shots or had really important interviews where we needed lighting. We had three cameras, an art department, and grips.

PDN: What advice would you give someone else about to take on a big project like this?
DC: Surround yourself with people that care–production company and crew. There are so many things that change, and you’re going to want to put in so many more things than the budget allows. Having a project we were pumped on made the extra days and hours totally worth it. You’re going to work a lot harder and longer than you think. Be ready, be excited, and surround yourself with other people who are willing to do the same.

Related:
Personal Work That Lands Assignments: Dustin Cohen’s Made in Brooklyn Project (for PDN subscribers)

March 6th, 2014

PDN Video Pick: Making an Award-Winning Story of One Woman’s Resilience

Sensei from ora on Vimeo.

Ora DeKornfeld, a communications major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, won first prize for her video “Sensei” in the Multimedia Feature category of the 2014 Pictures of the Year International competition. Brilliantly shot and edited, DeKornfeld’s video tells the powerful story of a rape victim’s survival, resilience and determination. DeKornfeld explains how she won her subject’s trust, found a way to portray events in the past through evocative imagery, and produced a tight, dramatic narrative.

PDN: What was this project was for? How did it get started?
Ora DeKornfeld: That project was made as a final documentary piece for a journalism class. The assignment was to make a vérité documentary. It was a challenge for us to [record] something actually happening, instead of fully relying on B-roll over interview audio. My professor [Chad Stevens] assigned the project knowing that was unrealistic, so this project deviated greatly from that initial assignment, but that’s how it started.

PDN: How did you find this subject, and how get her to open up?
OD: I went to this neighborhood in Durham (North Carolina)–a pretty dynamic low-income neighborhood, and I saw a flyer for self-defense classes and that’s something I have always been personally interested in, and I wanted to do a piece that touched on women’s issues. So I called the number and ended up talking to Brenda, the subject, and she was immediately open. She told me that the reason she got into martial arts was because she was a victim of a violent crime. I didn’t push that at the time, but it was an immediate indicator that she had a real deep experience that motivated her. So I said, would it be OK if I made a documentary about you? She was really open to it.
I went to her karate class on Tuesday and Saturday for two weeks, then I asked if I could come to her house, meet her family and start hanging out with her there. And I kind of just stayed until she said, “OK, Ora, you need to get out of my house.” But through that experience we bonded. (more…)

February 26th, 2014

Cinetics Intros Axis360 Motorized Camera Slider and Quickly Hits Kickstarter Goal

Axis360-1Cinetics is a company we’ve been following since its deceptively simple CineSkates camera dolly system caused a splash back in 2011. That product, which was introduced on Kickstarter and quickly made its funding goal, was followed by CineMoco, a more sophisticated motorized camera dolly that also easily hit its Kickstarter pledge mark.

So what does Cinetics do for another encore? It introduces the Axis360, a compact, motorized tripod head and slider system which — you guessed it — made its Kickstarter goal of $75,000 yesterday, less than 24 hours after it was launched.

The Axis360 slider, which is designed to help photographers and cinematographers create dynamic panning, tilting and sliding video along with timelapse photography, has collected nearly $110,000 in pledges from 150 backers at the time of this writing.

Here’s how Cinetics describes its new motorized slider in a press release about the product:

“Axis360 is an automated motion control system that rotates and slides a camera. Designed specifically for small production crews and extreme portability, the system is compact and lightweight, sets up quickly and easily, and is extremely versatile. Compatible with most DSLR, mirrorless, and cinema cameras weighing less than 11 pounds, Axis360 can move at a wide range of speeds, fluidly or incrementally, and the number of system combinations to suit specific shooting needs is virtually endless. Axis360 is controlled by the CineMoco motor controller, which is compatible with most video cameras and can synch moves and timelapse photos on most Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras with cables included with the system. Many other cameras support timelapse photography with built-in timers (intervalometers) and do not require a camera cable.”

Axis360-with-Rail-Low-Res-2

The Axis360 will sell in three kit configurations: Basic, Plus and Pro. The Basic Kit ($450) including the CineMoco controller, tripod, and ballhead. Tripods with ¼”-20 or 3/8”-16 attachments can also be used.

The Axis360 Plus ($550) includes the components of the Basic Kit plus a Tilt Kit for balanced, motorized tilting moves. The Axis360 Pro ($900) adds a slider rail for automated horizontal and vertical camera moves.

You can get more information about the Axis360 at its Kickstarter page. Also, check out the demo video below.

November 27th, 2013

PDN Video: Is Your Photo Project a Contender for Lens Blog?

Jim Estrin: How Lens Blog Selects Photo Projects from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Jim Estrin, founder and co-editor of Lens, the popular New York Times photography blog, recently sat down with PDN to talk about what he looks for in photo projects, what distinguishes the projects that Lens blog publishes, and why Lens editors reject many other stories. For photographers trying to get his attention, he offers insight and tips about work ethic, story choice, and representation of subjects. He also discusses two projects that exemplify Lens Blog’s standards and esthetic.

 

November 20th, 2013

PDN Video: Bil Zelman on Shooting Portraits of Difficult Celebrity Subjects

Photographer Bil Zelman: How to Shoot Portraits of Challenging Celebrities from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Celebrities can be skittish and uncooperative in front of a camera, so photographer Bil Zelman sometimes uses psychology to elicit a particular reaction for a compelling portrait. In this video, he describes how he calmed author Isabel Allende, who was self-conscious in front of the camera, and how he got himself out of trouble on a shoot with film director Werner Herzog. “He was just staring at me,” Zelman says. “It was a blank stare. I was getting nothing.”

In addition to shooting portraits, Zelman specializes in shooting lifestyle advertising for top brands such as Coke, Apple and Budweiser that looks real, not staged. In previous videos, he shared tips and tricks he uses to coax natural performances from the non-professional talent he uses on most of his shoots.

Related:
PDN Video: Portrait Master Gregory Heisler on How to Relate to Portrait Subjects
How Top Photographers Shoot Great Portraits
PDN Video: Bil Zelman on How to Shoot Ads that Look Real (Not Staged)
PDN Video: Bil Zelman’s Tips for Directing Kids on Advertising Shoots
PPE 2013: Tips for Shooting Ads That Viewers Believe and Clients Like
A Hands-Off Approach to Real People Shoots

November 19th, 2013

PDN Video: Tips for Directing Kids on Advertising Shoots

Photographer Bil Zelman on How to Photograph Kids for Advertising Campaigns from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Photographer Bil Zelman explains how he used psychology (and magic) to get emotionally genuine performances from kids for two recent advertising shoots. Zelman specializes in shooting lifestyle advertising for top brands such as Coke, Apple and Budweiser that looks real, not staged. In a previous video, he shared tips and tricks he uses to coax natural performances from adults. He also explained why he prefers non-professional talent, and how he scouts that talent for his shoots. (Check back tomorrow for another video featuring Zelman explaining how he handled two difficult celebrity portrait shoots.)

Related:
PDN Video: Bil Zelman on How to Shoot Ads that Look Real (Not Staged)
PPE 2013: Tips for Shooting Ads That Viewers Believe and Clients Like
A Hands-Off Approach to Real People Shoots

October 23rd, 2013

PDN Video Pick: Gregory Heisler’s Tips on Lighting Portraits

Photographer Gregory Heisler’s new book, 50 Portraits, is a tutorial in the art and craft of portraiture, as well as a retrospective of Heisler’s career. An excerpt of the book appears in this month’s issue of PDN, and Heisler sat down for a video interview about his techniques, his approach to subjects, and his thoughts on working with clients. In this clip, he talks about the pitfalls of lighting subjects using formulaic lighting set-ups, and explains how he customizes the lighting for every shoot to create a mood that the subject or situation calls for.

Heisler will hold a seminar called The Evocative Portrait at Photo Plus Expo this Friday, October 25, from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m.

Lighting Tips from Portrait Master Gregory Heisler from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Related:
Gregory Heisler Shares the Techniques That Go Into His Portraiture
PDN Video: Gregory Heisler on His New Book and Best Portraits
How Top Photographers Shoot Great Portraits

October 2nd, 2013

Video Pick: “He Doesn’t Love You Any More”

When the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University announced the winner of the 2013 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize last week, the selection committee also awarded a “special recognition” to Bianca Giaever. The committee recognized her innovative approach to using images and words to tell a funny, touching and very personal story in her video “Holy Cow Lisa,” which she produced for a college class.

The video is based on an actual conversation she had with her college advisor—he provides the voice over for the video—during what was evidently not an easy time in Giaever’s college career. She seems to have a hard time confronting those tough words, “He doesn’t love you anymore.” Her advisor encourages her to “revel in these emotions,” and shares his own story of a sad break-up. In fact, he shares a lot about it.

If you’ve been to college, broken up with someone, or marveled at grown-ups and the advice they give, you’ll probably find something to like in “Holy Cow Lisa.” It’s on view on Vimeo at vimeo.com/54700919

Holy Cow Lisa from Bianca Giaever on Vimeo.

Related Article
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