Viewing entries tagged
videography

Inspirational Storytelling

We're always excited when real stories get promoted in the creative industry in Denver, so when we came across The Denver Egotist's post highlighting work from Parallel Path and Roos Brothers we were inspired to watch and discuss. 

Three short films were created to promote Rocky Mountain Health Plans using real stories of people's lives on the Western Slope. They're beautifully and artistically done. 

 

Advance Video Stories: Transportation and Health

Advance Video Stories: Transportation and Health

We've started working on a series of stories for The Colorado Trust that mirror written stories published in their Advance newsletter. The stories cover all areas of topics around health equity in Colorado, and we were so impressed by the amazing reporting and information that we saw an opportunity to produce videos that would spread the stories even further. 

Check out the first video in the series below that highlights three Colorado residents with very diverse experiences, and their stories about transportation and its disproportionate effects on health.

Building a Chance Multimedia Team

Building a Chance Multimedia Team

We're a small team of people at Chance Multimedia, and it's so important to maintain team members that will uphold the company's ethics and values and understand the often sensitive nature of what we produce. When our dear friend and editor Dan Sohner decided to take his career to the mountains, (where his heart belongs!), we were on the hunt for a new editor and cinematographer that would jive with our team as well as Dan did. 

We are so happy to have found Alex Sandberg, an East Coast native and wanderlust who started his career in L.A. before being called to the beauty and expansiveness of Colorado. Alex is approaching his one-year anniversary with us, and he's made our team so much better since we snatched him off the freelance market. Here's a little bit about Alex:

1. Why did you decide to move to Colorado?

I grew up on the east coast, and before moving here I had spent the previous three years in Los Angeles, so I was ready to get away from the endless urban sprawl. I love the outdoors and I’m an avid hiker, so I wanted to move somewhere in the western U.S. with forests, mountains, four seasons, and great weather, and nowhere fits that bill better than Colorado! I only knew a couple of people here but I decided to just take the leap, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice.

2. What was your first shoot experience like with Chance Multimedia? 

My first shoot with Chance was certainly a memorable one. The day after my interview, I got a call from James asking if I was available the following day for a shoot, which would also serve as a “test run” to see if I was a good fit. Then he asked me if I had ever been up in a helicopter, to which I replied something like, “Uhh… no.” I said I was free and up for the challenge, but couldn’t make any major promises about the quality of my footage. The shoot was a blast, and I managed to walk away with one or two usable shots (with lots of stabilization in post), which I guess was enough to pass the test! 

3. What camera gear are you looking at right now? Drone? New DSLR? 

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my camera body for a year or two now, but just haven’t been quite ready to pull the trigger. I have Canon lenses, so I (like so many others) for years eagerly awaited the release of the Canon 5D mkIV, and I (like so many others) was disappointed when it finally came out. The photo specs are superb, but 60fps at 1080p is underwhelming for slowmo capability, and the 1.74x sensor crop in 4k mode is a deal breaker. I’ll take a bit of pixel binning any day over a crop that extreme. Sony on the other hand has been very impressive over the last several years. The A7S II and A7R II are both fantastic cameras and very tempting, especially with the performance of metabones adapters for using Canon lenses, and the cheaper price tag than the 5D mkIV. The A7S II is certainly the better camera for video with its fantastic low-light capabilities and 120fps slowmo, but the sensor size for photography is a bit underwhelming at 12.2MP, as compared to the A7R II’s 42.4MP sensor. My ideal camera is an all-in-one video and photo camera, which has me leaning towards the A7R II at this point. Sony also just released the A9, which appears to blow both A7’s out of the water. But with a price tag of $4,499.00, I may need a slight raise to make that jump... James? Jessica?

4. What do you do on the weekends? Tell us about your adventures. 

I try to spend as much of my free time as possible outdoors, preferably hiking. I’m also an avid nature photographer (childhood dream job was to be a National Geographic photographer), so I love finding new remote places to explore with the hopes of spotting any little (or big) critters who might be roaming the woods. I had an awesome adventure just this past Monday in the Mount Evans Wilderness, which is only about an hour from Denver. I hiked the Tanglewood Trail, which follows a beautiful bubbling creek through a lush forest before emerging above the treeline to a saddle beneath Rosalie Peak, a 13’er in the shadow of Mount Evans. I got to break in a new pair of snowshoes for the last couple miles to the top, and the trail was completely lost under fresh snow so there was some bushwhacking involved! The view from the top was incredible and I didn’t see a single other person on the trail all day. I also came across some large and quite ominous animal tracks in the snow, which I later ID’d as belonging to a mountain lion. Or it could’ve been an enormous dog... but I’m going with mountain lion. Makes for a much better story.

5. What are your dreams for the future in the documentary/video production business? 

I’m passionate about environmental issues and I hope to use the power of documentary filmmaking and visual storytelling to help spread awareness about the impact that climate change is having on all the living creatures of our planet. Facing existential threats are countless species and entire ecosystems, not to mention the homes and way of life of people around the world. I believe climate change is the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced, and I hope to use filmmaking and photography to be part of the fight. 

Green Spaces

Green Spaces

Did you know we moved?? Chance Multimedia has been growing and expanding in great ways.

When Chance Multimedia started, James and Jessica were working out of their home in the RiNo neighborhood, before it was hipster Denver, a time that Jessica fondly refers to as RiNo B.C. (RiNo Before Crema).

Then when the company grew a little they moved to Green Spaces, a co-working building down the street that offers work stations and a fridge full of beer in a very energy-efficient green conscious building.

When the Chances bought their first house in City Park West they renovated the attached garage into a cute, small Ikea-esk office space and moved out of Green Spaces. A couple turnovers, a new baby, and a few years later, we are back in Green Spaces!

The community has grown immensely, but it’s still the fun, quirky, relaxed environment that Chance Multimedia thrived in before. With the expansion of Chance’s nonprofit arm, Stories Without Borders, and the addition of a team member, Alex Sandberg, and the expansion of the Chance’s family with little baby Daniel, we just needed some room to spread out.

We also wanted to welcome clients, partners and friends into a space where we could offer coffee, beer, couches, and a creative ambiance. Our office is decked out with plants, accented by beautiful brick walls, and we feel great working in a space that is so energy conservative. We were able to become a Certified Green Business through the City of Denver just by being in this space and operating how we do as a company.

One of the best parts about this space is being able to mingle with other creative minds every day, as the whole building is full of entrepreneurs of all sorts. Need a web designer? He’s next door! Need someone to help on a shoot? There’s a videographer available! The community is amazing, and the craft beer in the fridge doesn’t hurt.

 

The Editor's Chair

Chloe: Dan, how long have you been an editor? (Of photography and video) Dan: Ever since I started shooting, I have been editing. A lot of people try to be the “do it all” kind of person. Doing that teaches you a lot about efficiency, but is very difficult to do properly.

Chloe: What do you enjoy about editing?

Dan: I like seeing a project come full circle. I also like interpreting all of the content from the producer and shooter. I have to take the way these two people see the story and make it fit together.

Chloe: What do you do to set up an edit? What is your routine?

Dan: Everything begins with a meticulous file naming system and I start with the end in mind. I want all of the footage to be easily accessible and searchable by subject and date. I will set up the projects with a folder for Footage, Graphics, Music and the Premiere Project File. Knowing that this same folder setup will be imported into Premiere, making sure everything within “Footage” is labeled properly is important.

Inside Premiere, I will set up folders for Footage, Graphics, Music and Sequences. I make sure all of the Sequences are labeled with their contents, the version number and the date, just in case someone else in the office needs to find a specific edit or scene. This also makes naming our exports a lot easier.

Chloe: Do you think about edits you want to make during shooting? How much of the editing process is happening during actual production?

Dan: Absolutely. We have to be very strategic and efficient with our time at every step in the process. We do this so that we aren’t creating extra work for ourselves and so that we can deliver projects to the client in a timely manner. We will show up to a shoot with a rough outline of how we see the edit going, but are careful to leave room for the unexpected. We are always keeping a running list of the shots we have and constantly communicate the shots we are getting to each other to prevent shooting duplicate footage.

Chloe: What are the greatest challenges you have when editing?

Dan: I think the hardest part of editing is being concise with the edit. We often come away with a lot of great content and it’s hard to find a place for all of it. This means that I have to only select the very best content for the final edit.

 

 

Insights from Chance Multimedia's Director of Photography

Insights from Chance Multimedia's Director of Photography

Hi, Chloe here. Today I’m going to interview James Chance, our Director of Photography and co-owner of Chance Multimedia. He has been the creative eye behind all of Chance Multimedia’s shoots for 6 years, and had many years of shooting experience before the company’s inception. I’m curious to know how he does what he does, what exactly goes on in his brain while he’s on a shoot, and I’m sure you could glean some insight from it too.

Chloe: So James, first can you tell us how you came to be so enamored with shooting video?

James: My background is photojournalism, however, I always had an interest in video because it was another tool. Way back, in my early foundation courses I specialized in video rather than photography. It had always been at the back of my mind. As I got more serious about visual journalism, although my track was still photography, there was always an interest and it grew. Mainly because it offers so much as a medium for storytelling. You can only do so much with stills. Being able to hear someone’s voice… It’s just a an added layer of the story.

Chloe: What does it take for you to prepare for a shoot? What steps do you take beforehand?

James: I’m uber-organized. If I could give one piece of advice to people starting out, it would be ‘stay organized.’ Especially with video, there’s so much stuff, so much gear, being organized is essential. I put a lot of thought and prep in before getting on location to ensure I have everything I need and that it’s accessible.

I like to know ahead of time what’s expected. That’s the benefit of working with a team, it helps to have someone in a production role. Starting out, there’s a lot of people having to do the one-man-band thing and it’s challenging. For one person, staying organized when you’re dealing with complexity is tough. You need someone to keep you on track so you can lose yourself creatively in any moment. Coffee is also important.

Chloe: You have a very unique style to be sure. It is what sets Chance Multimedia apart from others. How do you achieve the unique movements that we see in shots, where we are following a character’s feet as they walk, or getting a sweeping overview of a landscape?

James: Specifically with equipment - you have to conceive the idea first and then apply it with equipment. Physically I can’t carry everything -- that’s how we’ve grown as a company in striving for better production value. The main pieces of equipment we use are jibs and sliders. We also recently got the Movi. These are all just tools to facilitate ideas and high production.

First and foremost we’re talking about motion. Motion defines video. So given that, I want to make the best motion I can, use motion to my advantage because it determines production value. In any visual medium, providing the viewer with intriguing or new perspectives is important. When I do workshops, I teach photographers and videographers that you always think about where you’re shooting from. If you don’t move that much and every picture is the same, it becomes very dull. You have to create interesting angles and perspectives so the viewer is challenged in a way. Great images offer a unique perspective. The tools and equipment are really just to provide fluid motion, because you can only do so much with a handheld camera. We still do a lot of handheld stuff, but it’s all about production value.

Chloe: I’ve also always wondered, how do you achieve the beautiful vignette that we see around certain shots? And what affect do you think this has on the overall aesthetic of the video?

chance
chance

From “Rotary Projects in the Dominican Republic

James: This type of look is used a lot more in our documentary. Without getting too technical, a lot of times when shooting with lens apertures wide open, that vignette is created. Also, using neutral density filters is critical when shooting on DSLR cameras. However at their highest settings, they tend to vignette. This effect draws the viewer in toward the middle of the screen. It’s not something I deliberately seek, it just happens as a side product of the way I’m shooting through the lenses. We do it less with commercial stuff because it’s more difficult to shoot that way.

Chloe: What is the first thing you do when you get to a shoot location? How do you set up your shots and know what to capture?

James: Usually when we arrive we know there’s going to be an interview. So we scope the best location for the interview - looking for natural light and a clean area that’s not too cluttered. An important thing is to get a lot of distance behind the subject, because we’re using quite a shallow depth of field on the lenses to make the subject pop out. We do interviews first as a rule so that we can illustrate any points that were made. If the person talks about getting their eyes tested using a specific tool we need to get a shot of them doing that after the interview.

Generally with B-roll we work as a pair. One person will have the A-camera which is handheld with audio to make sure we’re getting the basics and the sound. Then the B-camera is usually a DSLR like a 5D, which is rigged on a slider or jib to complement the basic stuff with more high-production-value shots. The balance in necessary.

Now that’s for live action situations. Next we’ll pull away from that and look for specific pickups, shots that can fill spaces which aren’t dependent on a subject doing a specific thing. They’re more about a space, more detailed shots, more conceptual in nature. With that stuff we’ll use the equipment to achieve high production value. All the while I’m thinking about the editor as well. In order to make their job easier you have to use a combination of wide shots and close shots so that they have enough to make a very dynamic-looking video.

Chloe: How do you balance being behind the camera and also engaging with the subjects of your video? The people in front of the lens?

James: My history as a stills photographer taught me the huge importance of engaging with the person you’re shooting. As storytellers we all have different styles that are personal to us. As a photographer, I would spend a lot of time talking to people and hanging with them and getting to know them before shooting. We often don’t have that luxury now on video shoots because it’s go-go-go. But people being comfortable in front of the camera is everything. If people feel awkward or shy it absolutely is read by the viewer. Sometimes I’ll stop shooting and chat with people and goof around a bit, then we’ll start up again. You know, we’re not doing hard news generally, and although our responsibility to the clients is very important, I try not to make it all too serious. People are intimidated when the video guys come in, especially with a multi-person crew. So we just try to put people at ease by recognizing the fact that it’s a bit uncomfortable.

As far as engaging with the subject while I’m focusing on the shots...you kind of just get used to multitasking as you shoot. It becomes second nature, like how you can have a conversation and make a sandwich at the same time. You’ve made a lot of sandwiches, so you can do it. That’s where organization comes into it too, because when you know what points you have to hit coming in, you can move very freely within them, you don’t have to think too much. It becomes easier to find the right exposure and angles. Between shooting moments you can re-engage with the subject. If there’s action going on between two people, I’m not going to say anything, I just let it play out.

Chloe: Because we do impact reporting and uncover serious issues, there must be times where being behind the camera is difficult. What is the most difficult shoot you’ve been on? And what advice do you have for filmmakers in those situations?

James: The worst situation I’ve seen people surviving in is a community that lives around the landfill sites in Manila. There is a site we shot at specifically in Vitas, Tondo. The people there are surviving off two things - one is sorting through the landfill where all the trash is getting dropped off to find recyclables to sell. The other is producing charcoal .They are pulling scrap wood from wherever and cooking it down to produce charcoal. So this whole area is full of black smoke, and it’s just unbreathable. For shooting, I could duck in for 20 seconds at a time, breathing through a handkerchief, and then run out. Not only are people working in there all day, but there are communities living right next to it. There are kids with no clothes and bare feet just running around the trash. Not only was that tough on a physical level, but emotionally it’s just hard seeing people live that way. It’s always the kids that hit you emotionally. What future do they have?

My advice to other filmmakers that may put themselves in the same situations -- Be compassionate, be sensitive, work sensitively. Always put the subjects first. I’m not going to upset anyone to get a better shot. If they don’t want me there I’m just going to smile and wave and say ‘see you later.’ You have the responsibility of representing a whole field and that I take incredibly seriously. You also have a responsibility to represent your subjects honestly. If you’re in a situation where they are consenting to being recorded, with that comes a huge responsibility to tell their story correctly, truthfully. What are you doing if you’re providing misinformation? What’s the point? It doesn’t serve.

Chloe: What do you believe video and documentaries do for the people on the other end of the camera? The people and lives you’re featuring?

James: You hope that the window into other people’s lives promotes change in society as a whole. I try really hard not to be the bleeding heart. When I was 18 I thought I could save the world, but as you grow older you just realize all you can do is use your skills to help as much as possible. There are organizations that are far better set up to deal with the massive challenges.

Honestly, you do it selfishly and you do it for other people, it’s fifty-fifty. I can make a difference and I am satisfied by the work. I have a skillset, and I would rather offer my skill-set toward social change because it’s important.

Chloe: To end on a light note, what are the most inspiring types of shoots for you to go on? What do you enjoy capturing the most?

James: I like shoots where I can take my time. Time is the most valuable asset. It promotes creativity. It’s not so much subject matter that excites me the most, there’s a scale obviously, but it’s more about having the time to approach any subject as creatively as possible rather than having one morning in one situation to hit all the marks. We’re good at that now, but it’s not as satisfying because there’s not time to be as creative. It takes time to ingest a situation, wait for things to happen organically. There could be something twice as interesting an hour later but you just have to go with what you’ve got because you’re on the clock.

To answer the obvious side, I always enjoy working with people, telling their stories. It’s the personal stories that I like. It’s an honor to represent people, it’s a responsibility that I love. Some people open up about incredibly personal things and it’s not easy to do.