Digital Production Buzz
December 25, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Pär M Ekberg, Cinematographer, Coldplay, “Magic”
Kim Furst, Producer/Director, Kilo Foxtrot Films
Matt Abourezk, Director/Photographer, Talkingbox Digital Media Group, Inc.
Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries; and by shutterstock.com, a global marketplace for royalty free images and videos. With over two million royalty free HD and 4K video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level; and by Other World Computing, providing quality hardware solutions and extensive technical support to the worldwide computer industry since 1988.
Voiceover: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum and Podcast Studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution.
Voiceover: What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Merry Christmas everyone, my name is Larry Jordan. We recorded this show on Tuesday this week so that our co-host, Mike Horton, and the rest of our staff can all have tonight off; and we have three excellent new interviews to share with you tonight.
Larry Jordan: We start with Pär Ekberg, a Swedish cinematographer who created the magical look for Coldplay’s new music video, called Magic. This all black and white film has a very retro look and we talk with Pär tonight to learn how he did it.
Larry Jordan: Next is Kim Furst. Kim’s documentary, Flying the Feathered Edge, is ready for distribution. We talk with her about how she plans to make money on her project, what’s working for her now and what isn’t and what her plans are for distribution and marketing.
Larry Jordan: Then we wrap up with a very talented videographer, Matt Abourezk, who got started with video back when we were creating movies the size of postage stamps. We look at the differences between shooting stills and shooting video, as well as how his career has grown along with the web.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder that we’re offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. You can learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making this possible.
Larry Jordan: Next week, by the way, we are inviting all our regulars to join us for a live show on January 1st, looking back at 2014 and sharing their projections on what’s happening for 2015. This is one of my favorite shows each year, getting all these experts together to see where we agree and where we disagree. It will be a fun show and one you won’t want to miss live next week, January 1st, on The Buzz.
Larry Jordan: Remember to visit with us on Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. We’re also on Twitter, @dpbuzz; and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for an inside look both at our show and the industry. I’ll be back with Pär Ekberg right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Pär Ekberg is a Swedish cinematographer, a director of photography with a 20 year career in commercials, music videos and features. Most recently, he created the black and white film for the Coldplay viral video Magic and some amazing other visual images. Hello, Pär, welcome.
Pär M Ekberg: Thank you very much. I’m glad to be here.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been in the business one long time, a 20 year career and being able to still be working is a good thing. What got you started as a cinematographer? What caught your eye about light?
Pär M Ekberg: When I was a kid, I always enjoyed watching movies. I think that’s where it started. I was a big fan of Charlie Chaplin from six years old or something and growing up I learnt to enjoy stills photography, so I did a lot of stills when I was a kid. Having a dad working in the TV industry, I got interested in that too, but I actually started out educating myself as an engineer, soon to find out that that wasn’t on the books for me.
Pär M Ekberg: So I turned elsewhere and I started to actually do something that I enjoyed and it was a good call. I started to work in a really small company which was doing most industrial movies, and it was the kind of company that was small enough so you could get to do everything, basically. I can certainly say that was my school. I got to shoot and edit and do sound and everything.
Larry Jordan: Yes, I remember that. I worked in a couple of smaller television stations, which is when I was learning broadcasting and it’s amazing how much you learn when you’re forced to do everything, you see how it all fits together.
Pär M Ekberg: Yes, and as an editor in this case you had to deal with your own shortcomings if you shot the stuff. You had to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.
Larry Jordan: I don’t talk about my past mistakes, I just simply learn from them, but there are a couple of clangers that I made that I don’t want anybody to know about, so I know exactly what you mean.
Pär M Ekberg: Yes, I have those too. There were a few periods, a few years on the side of the road.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that you created recently was just a stunning video for Coldplay called Magic, a black and white textural story that was just wonderful. Tell me about how you got involved and how you went about putting this one together.
Pär M Ekberg: It was one of those projects that was sort of coming and going a little bit. They moved the shoot and they wanted to do a video – this was with one of my main directors that I work with a lot, Jonas Faulkner. The media was happening and all of a sudden got pushed and we were shifting it back and forth a little bit.
Pär M Ekberg: I knew from the start that Jonas wanted to make it a longer short… type of video and there is actually a longer version coming out. We shot it as a longer short story where we also go back and forth from color to black and white, with the older characters telling the story so all the flashbacks are black and white and the rest is color.
Larry Jordan: Sort of like a Water for Elephants kind of concept, where we start with the old guy in the present day.
Pär M Ekberg: Exactly. That’s where we started and we wanted to find this circus show type environment to shoot it in and we quickly figured out that we had to build our own set, so we built it on a field right next to downtown and we wanted to have that quirky mix of old and new, because you can see the train tracks running there, you can see downtown, you can see all the modern parks of downtown Los Angeles and this quirky little world of the film, which was sort of antique and black and white, and all the stuff we connect to that feeling of the circus, all types of sideshow.
Pär M Ekberg: We were lucky enough to work with Emma, our set designer, and she built this awesome set and I knew from the beginning that we had to light the whole thing, get ready to shoot interior/exterior and I wanted to keep it as much to a night shoot as possible but still try and squeeze some magic hour stuff in there too. It was pretty much a full set – interior, exterior – so we could seamlessly move between the different tents and venues. From there, it was a big production set up. … is always a fight because… but we managed to put it together…
Larry Jordan: I thought the results were really, really stunning, but let’s go into some detail here. Did you know at the beginning that you were going to be shooting black and white? And, if so, how did that change how you lit the scene?
Pär M Ekberg: Yes, I knew it was going to be black and white for most parts and we talked about mixing the flashbacks with the other parts and mixing black and white and color, so I knew that for a fact. But when it comes to lighting, I wanted it to be somewhat true to the era with naked, quite harsh light and harsh shadows. There’s also a lot that happens on stage, so you would have stage lights like follow spots and really crude simple, straight on key lights, so that’s what I wanted to do and I think that high contrast works very well with the black and white medium.
Pär M Ekberg: I also wanted to be prepared to go back and forth between the color and the black and white, so I wanted to keep everything as true in color as possible. I’ve been talking about the LED panels I used for the project. They helped me a lot, but basically it was a really simple set-up when it comes to lighting. Every room had its lights fresnel or PAR cans or open source, like really harsh top light, and then I filled it in with smaller fixtures so it was easy to move them and they were still true in color.
Larry Jordan: Were you working with significantly different instruments? Or was it really just looking for more of that harsher look that was the big change between this and, say, a color production?
Pär M Ekberg: All the units themselves were basically stuff that I always use. I just don’t use them that way. We had PAR cans and we had the follow spots and the… and most of it was tungsten. If you look at the exteriors, it was a mixing of really true work lights, tungsten type and PAR cans… and the only new stuff I used when it came to lighting fixtures was the Area 48 LEDs and the smaller LED panels.
Pär M Ekberg: The Area 48s are a little bit different from what I was used to back then because they’re the remote phosphor type fixtures. You don’t any phosphor in the actual LED, it comes as a separate panel and you shift that panel depending on if you’ve got daylight or tungsten or whatever in between. They came in new for this project.
Pär M Ekberg: That was the unknown for me at that point, and I used them a lot because they’re dimmable, you can run them on batteries, they’re easy to move around and you can have a little shimmy or a bag on it if you want it a little bit softer or you can use it raw as a straight on LED panel. They gave me that little chill or edge or that little extra something I needed to make it something else than just the crude uplight style lighting.
Larry Jordan: What camera did you use to record all this?
Pär M Ekberg: For this project, we used the RED Epic and I did tests with the Dragon before we shot it and I wanted to shoot it on Dragon, but the Dragon was quite new and it was hard for us to source three cameras for this project. It was hard for us to source three bodies and have everything tested and the whole workflow and it was sort of a pressed time schedule too, so I couldn’t really make that happen. But I decided that the Epic was good too.
Larry Jordan: There were a lot of magic tricks that were displayed here. Was that stuff done on set live or was that all added in post?
Pär M Ekberg: We did a lot of the magic tricks on set while shooting and we had an excellent Swedish magician, Joe Labero. He was helping us with the magic part of the Magic video. He was there and Chris was rehearsing all the tricks and everything in the days before the shoot and that was a lot of fun. We had a big stage set up with all the tricks. Joe Labero had brought all these things there and we were watching him do it and it was like a little private show and Chris did it and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. It’s amazing, being able to actually do stuff like that on camera rather than doing a post effect or whatever.
Larry Jordan: Did I hear you say that you were shooting this with three cameras?
Pär M Ekberg: Yes.
Larry Jordan: How did you assign what camera was capturing which shots?
Pär M Ekberg: I use two cameras a lot for main sets. We can get two different angles for dialogue or even if it’s just something happening, we can cover a wider frame and a tighter frame at the same time. Then I had a second unit picking up detail and all those little bits and pieces that help to spice it up. I had my… , he also works as a… operator so we’d send him in to brush it up and just pick up the pieces when we were done with the major set-ups, so it was like, “Ok, now we’ve shot this, we need inserts and we need this and this and this and this,” and we work so much together that we have good communication and it’s really easy…
Larry Jordan: Would you put those two cameras next to each other, one set wide, one set tight? Or would one be some distance away?
Pär M Ekberg: Sometimes it’s like that and sometimes it’s more like covering two different angles. It depends on what’s actually happening and what the location. Some of the locations were really, really tight, really small. There was a tent in which Chris was rehearsing the trick where he’s going to elevate his bad neighbor with a little teaspoon. That tent was really, really small and tight, so we were sort of crammed in there. There were a lot of times when we were side by side with two cameras because there was nowhere to go…
Larry Jordan: How much feedback, creative or otherwise, did you get from the band or people that were not the director? Were they behind this or were you having to fight an uphill battle?
Pär M Ekberg: This one was really cool and easygoing. I think everybody was on the same page when we started to shoot. It was a very good creative process. We didn’t have any standstills or any discussions. There was no drama. There was a very positive energy driving this shoot forward and Chris is wonderful to work with. We did so much stuff, since he’s playing both the roles. It was very stressful for him to go in and out of costume and in and out of character and all that. I think he did a wonderful job and it was a pleasure to work with him.
Larry Jordan: Was post production different because this was a black and white project? Or was post production the same?
Pär M Ekberg: It was basically the same, I would say. It wasn’t that different. We tend to send a lot of still over the telecine back and forth and discuss a lot and it was sort of the same process.
Larry Jordan: As you look back on it, what’s the thing you’re most proud of and what would you do differently?
Pär M Ekberg: I think what I like the most and what I’m most proud of is the way we set it up, the whole location part of it and the whole beautiful set that Emma Fairley built, together with us. The way we laid it out, it actually worked with… and a little yard in between, the whole set-up and the lighting set-up too, where we could move around a lot without wasting too much time.
Pär M Ekberg: Also squeezing it in within the budget, that whole set-up is what I’m most proud of, actually, that we made it fly and it was also a very well lubricated machine, thanks to my crew, of course. If I would change something, I don’t know, may I say it’s a perfect product? No, I guess not. If I would change something, I would want to shoot another day.
Larry Jordan: One more day of production?
Pär M Ekberg: Yes, one more day of shooting. That would have been on my wish list, to actually be able to make more out of it, because it was so beautiful, so much stuff we could have shot with all the extras. They did this fantastic wardrobe and there were so many details that Emma put in there. We could have probably done even more, brought some lions. I could easily have spent another day there.
Larry Jordan: Pär, you have an amazing portfolio, not just this one Coldplay video called Magic, but some of your other projects are just exquisite. Where can people go on the web to learn more about you and your work?
Pär M Ekberg: You should probably go to parekberg.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s parekberg.com and Pär Ekberg is the man himself that we’ve been interviewing, a cinematographer, a director of photography, a Swedish cinematographer with over 20 years’ experience. Pär, it’s been wonderful chatting with you. Thanks so much for your time.
Pär M Ekberg: It was a pleasure. Take care now and happy holiday.
Larry Jordan: And same to you.
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Larry Jordan: Kim Furst is an award winning documentary film producer, director and an editor. Flying the Feathered Edge is her fifth documentary on aviation. She’s now in the process of distributing the film and we want to learn what’s working and what isn’t. Kim, thanks for taking time out of your holiday preparations and welcome back.
Kim Furst: Thanks, Larry. It’s always great to talk to you. Appreciate the call.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted because the last time you were on the Buzz was in June, as you were finishing Flying the Feathered Edge, and now bring us up to date on what’s been happening since.
Kim Furst: We’ve had this incredible summer into fall. We did some wonderful film festivals and we went on the festival circuit and we also did some industry and private previews that were great, and we’ve just been building buzz for the film and showing it at festivals and we’ve had a lot of strong interest but we have not lined up a distributor. I don’t think we’ve explored every single option, but we’ve had very strong responses from distributors.
Kim Furst: It’s so funny because we’re at that point where I almost don’t want to say exactly who, but they’re not distributors who are going to take it on, but I would say that we have some very good people who have said, “Let us know how we can help with this,” but because it is a documentary, there are not a big theatrical release. Most distributors aren’t looking at that as something incredibly lucrative, and they’ve been very frank with us about that. They did say, “You could take this to theatrical and we could take it on,” but let me qualify that ‘We could take it on’.
Kim Furst: Nobody has said, “We could take this on.” They could say, “We could help with this,” but I don’t think anybody has said that that’s going to be a more financially viable solution for anybody involved than some other means of getting it out there, such as self distribution or going directly to Netflix or Amazon or any of those other ways that smaller pictures can be distributed.
Larry Jordan: Kim, it’s been said that a documentary is a great way to make a film without making any money. I was just reflecting, theatrical distribution really isn’t on the cards for documentaries, so assuming that you do want to make money on your film, what are the options? Is it broadcast? Is it cable? Is it self distribution? How are you going to get the money back?
Kim Furst: I’ll be really honest with you, I’m figuring this out as we go along. I’ve read a lot about distribution of docs and I’ve seen a number of friends do pretty well with self distributing their own docs and so with that baseline of information – it’s always changing too. I wouldn’t say things like Tug or Fandor or some of these are incredibly new, but there are a lot of dynamic ways that you can make a return on a documentary that aren’t what they were ten years ago. I’ve learned a bit about Tug. We actually aren’t necessarily doing Tug.
Kim Furst: One of the best things we’ve done was we got accepted into the Napa Valley Film Festival. We’ve had Brecon Ridge, Rhode Island, some wonderful festivals, but Napa Valley really blew me away. We were one of the ten documentaries in competition for Best Documentary and so they put me as a producer/film maker in the artists’ and residents’ program that they have there and they really brought us face to face with some unbelievable talent. We had meetings with Dan Quando from the Weinstein Company, the head of Tug was there to talk to us about that method, we had Ted Hope speak with us and tell us about Fandor and some of what they’re doing there, and it was just an incredible amount of information.
Kim Furst: What was incredibly encouraging is there’s a lot that could be done to distribute a film outside of the traditional theatrical means and we’re doing a lot of those things. The first thing that we did was we really had to decide if we were going to self distribute or put it up on Amazon or iTunes first, what were we first going to do? Truth be told, we have a passionate audience and we just wanted to get this out before the holidays for our dedicated fans, so we did a bit of… release, which we’re in the process of doing directly off our website at thebobhooverproject.com and you can purchase the DVD, you can purchase the Blu-Ray off that site.
Kim Furst: We’re manufacturing them in San Diego, we have a filament house in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, and they’re being shipped. We created a website using Volusion and so we’re currently shipping DVDs. I would say, without a lot of effort from Black Friday to now, I think it’s close to 2,000 orders and that doesn’t mean 2,000 DVDs, that just means 2,000 orders. We haven’t even put out a press release yet, we haven’t really been trying.
Kim Furst: All we did was sent out the information to the people who have been tracking our film’s progress for three years, we’ve been grooming our friends and fans who have been signing up for our MailChimp program that people sign up for and they get newsletters from us as to when we premiered, when we had different screenings at the festivals and we just encouraged them to stay in touch, so they’re the first ones that we reached out to and just said, “Look, we’re doing pre-sales, we’re going to be selling this off of our website and you’re the first ones to know and thanks for your support and your interest in the Bob Hoover project.”
Kim Furst: We have a Facebook page, a Twitter page, YouTube and we try to stay incredibly active with the social media and we just wanted to give back to those people who had been following us to release the film so that they could potentially get it or give it to someone under the tree for the holiday or before the New Year.
Larry Jordan: Which has been the most important emphasis? Is it marketing, to tell people it exists, or distribution, getting it in their hands, or working with Amazon or somebody to distribute the film? Where are you putting in the bulk of your work?
Kim Furst: We’re now at the place where we’re about ready to do a press release, so press will be incredibly important. Still, traditional press is incredibly important. We’ve had incredible help from aviation magazines, who we have gotten quite a few reviews in. We do have a good press book, we’ve been collecting our reviews. Those reach many more people than we can with social networking. It’s just a fact. You could get something to go incredibly viral, but that’s a real outlier.
Kim Furst: Making sure that you have good traditional press releases, you’re saving your clippings, we’re very fortunate in that we do have a subject matter, a gentleman who’s very beloved in the aviation community, and so he gets press. Bob gets press and we try to maximize that with tying into that when he has different things going on and so I would say at this point it’s really publicity and it’s treating your fans incredibly well. We’re trying to be very respectful of them and give them good updates and good product with getting the film to them on time and treating them well, and I think that’s how you build a fan base.
Kim Furst: I guess I’m in the middle of it now, so I’m saying I think that’s how. We’ll be able to tell you more about it later, but that’s the way we’re approaching it – take care of those who are really interested in your film and then try to get it out using traditional press to everybody else.
Larry Jordan: What we’ll do is we’ll check back in in about six months and see how it ended up.
Kim Furst: That sounds great. We’ll look forward to that.
Larry Jordan: Kim, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and your film?
Kim Furst: If you go to thebobhooverproject.com, you can find out more about me and about the film and you can actually go to our shop page and purchase Blu-Ray or DVD.
Larry Jordan: That’s thebobhooverproject.com and Kim Furst is the producer/director and editor of Flying the Feathered Edge, the story of Bob Hoover. Kim, thanks for joining us today.
Kim Furst: Thank you so much, Larry. Have a happy holiday.
Larry Jordan: And you too.
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Larry Jordan: He’s been called a pioneer of web video. Director and photographer Matt Abourezk was at the leading edge of internet video since before there was broadband. He also owns his own company called Talkingbox Digital Media Group. Although most recently recognized for his award winning television series, Kelsey On The House, which appeared on an NBC affiliate in 2014, Matt has produced video and photography work for a who’s who of famous brand names, including Apple, Amazon, CNN, The History Channel, Warner Bros Records and many more. Hello, Matt, welcome.
Matt Abourezk: Hello, thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: Matt, tell me about your company, Talkingbox Digital Media Group. What do you guys do?
Matt Abourezk: Well, we’re not much different than your average video production company. Especially in this economy, you basically take any work that comes along. It seems like we are specializing in high end corporate work these days. For a long time, it was music videos and a variety of family type work but now we’re more in the corporate world.
Larry Jordan: Well, back in the old days, what got you interested in web video to begin with? It was not an easy everybody to begin.
Matt Abourezk: No. I started back when the 56k modem was the new thing. I was shooting with three-quarter inch, you had a 20 pound camera on your shoulder and a 30 pound desk connected by a thick cable and I used to be a professional musician and at the end of this last band that I was in, I was 30 at the time, and we were doing to do a farewell tour of Europe – we did pretty well for ourselves, we were on MTV, had three videos…
Larry Jordan: What was the name of the group?
Matt Abourezk: It was an alternative rock band named Thin White Rope.
Larry Jordan: Ok.
Matt Abourezk: In fact, Larry, if you want to buy our albums, you can still get 105 songs on iTunes. So the band was going to do its final tour, I’d been with the band for five years, and I thought, “It’s such an amazing experience, I want something someday to show kids,” so I bought a Canon X1 I think it was at the time, because I wanted to videotape this final tour. My girlfriend went on tour with us, so she videotaped the shows and I videotaped behind the scenes, what it’s like to tour, and for our final few shows the President of the record label came to watch our shows in Europe and asked what we were doing with the camera and asked if I’d be interested in putting out a documentary of the final tour. I said sure.
Matt Abourezk: I didn’t know that much about video or anything, but the next thing I know we had a 75 minute video on sale worldwide. From there, I got a call from Warner Bros and Geffen Records and Universal, MCA and I started doing music videos. After Thin White Rope broke up, I moved to San Francisco and went to work at Apple Computer as a software engineer and was just doing video projects on the side.
Larry Jordan: Now, wait, wait, wait. I’ve got to stop you. You were a rock musician and then a software engineer and then a video documentarian. I can’t think of three more disparate careers. I’m impressed just to begin with.
Matt Abourezk: Yes, well that’s the way my brain works. I’ve been told I’m very right and left brain.
Larry Jordan: Or something.
Matt Abourezk: Yes, and the stuff in the middle just gets lost. …the whole day to day stuff, so video and photography for me was a perfect marriage of technology and creativity.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so you’re working at Apple as a software engineer and doing video on the side. How did you make the transition into full time video?
Matt Abourezk: I started getting offers. I got a call from Proctor & Gamble saying that they wanted 120 videos, could I produce them? And keep in mind, this is the time where I would do a full on production video and I would be outputting a postage stamp sized video, because we didn’t have broadband. So I did 120 videos on weekends and evenings for Proctor & Gamble and then General Motors contacted me and they wanted 70 videos, and it just kept going.
Matt Abourezk: Finally, it got to a point where I sat down with my wife at the time and made a list of pros and cons. I was making a lot more money doing videos suddenly than I was working at Apple, although Apple paid well, and so we made a list of pros and cons and decided I was going to quit Apple and continue doing video, so that’s exactly what I did. Sold off all of my stock at $40 a share, which still hurts…
Larry Jordan: Yes, I believe that.
Matt Abourezk: …later and that’s how I got into video.
Larry Jordan: I was on your website, and I am struck by several things. One, your still photography is some of the most amazing, beautiful, artistic things I’ve seen with an incredible sense of depth of field and color and texture. The stills are wonderful; and then you’ve got video, which has an entirely different aesthetic, an entirely different look. When you’re putting your stills together, are you doing that for clients or for yourself? And how do you differentiate between the look of your stills and the look of your video?
Matt Abourezk: Well, I actually think that the look of the video is influenced greatly from my 35 years of experience as a stills photographer. It really worked well. When I picked up a video camera for the first time, I felt right at home because basically it’s just a moving version of a still image, right? You still have composition, you still have lighting, you still have things that to consider that are very similar between the two. Personally, I feel as though there’s a lot of similarity between my photography and what that brings to the video.
Larry Jordan: Do you look at a scene differently if you’re shooting it as a still than if you’re shooting it for video?
Matt Abourezk: A little bit, certainly because with video you have a passage of time in it, whereas a still image is obviously just freezing a moment. But a lot of the same rules still apply, whether you’re shooting film or video. You still have to look at what the lighting’s doing, how it’s interacting with the subject matter and you still look at composition. The rule of thirds plays strongly in video, just like it does in photography, so I actually think that it really helps in my video work by having such a strong background in photography.
Larry Jordan: I can absolutely see how the two of them would build on each other, and especially from a composition point of view. Stills are all about composition and video, you can sort of fudge composition because everything is moving, but the more you understand about composition, the better your video is going to be, so I can understand that.
Matt Abourezk: Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: You’ve talked about the fact that you’ve done projects for Proctor & Gamble and General Motors. What’s been a recent video project for you?
Matt Abourezk: Obviously, you mentioned Kelsey On The House. That was a pet project. Brian Kelsey and I started working together a while ago on a pilot and we hit it off as friends and this guy is a mover and a shaker and he was morning DJ for Martha Stewart on Sirius Radio for many years and he did a lot of pieces for HDTV. He wanted to do this project called Kelsey On The House and we started working on it and hit it off really well. It’s an interesting project in that it literally is one camera, we’re going to celebrities’ homes and interviewing them, the first time we meet them is when they open the door.
Matt Abourezk: He wanted everything natural and real, so that’s been an interesting project and we ended up on an NBC affiliate and we’re going to start working on that again next year. Beyond that, several videos for a large international bank, instructional videos for a medical supply company, weddings, across the board. If you look at my portfolio, you’ll notice that there’s quite a variety of things. I’m not just doing weddings, I’m not just doing corporate work. There’s quite a range. I think I have eight different galleries of different types of work in my portfolio online.
Larry Jordan: I think variety is a very good work to describe your portfolio. It’s a wide ranging collection of subjects.
Matt Abourezk: Yes, I have a lot of interests and I get bored doing one thing for too long. I really do. I used to also offer a DVD authoring and website development on my website and at one point when the economy tanked, I realized the phone wasn’t ringing any more and I thought, “Ok, it’s time to re-tool in this economy. I’ve got to figure out how to play by new rules,” so I hired a company in New York to advise me on my media presence, how I could streamline what it was I was doing.
Matt Abourezk: They took a look and the first thing they said was, “You need to kill everything except for one. Make a choice, what do you want to do? Because if you offer photography and video, then people are going to be confused by it. A Vice President in Marketing who’s looking for a videographer is going to go to your page and see that you’re a photographer and think, “Ah, deluded. I want someone that specializes,”” so that’s been a battle for me. I dropped the DVD authoring and I dropped the website development but I couldn’t get rid of my two passions, which are photography and video.
Matt Abourezk: An interesting thing about that is I realized a while ago that there are two completely unique needs there. If some corporate client is looking for a videographer, they don’t want to hire an individual, they want to hire a production company. But if somebody’s looking for a photographer, they don’t want to hire a company, they want to hire an artist, a single photographer. So it’s been quite a challenge, trying to find a balance on the website that if people are looking for a photographer, they’ll find a photographer; if they’re looking for a video production company, they’ll find a company. It’s been an interesting balancing act to do and whatever I’m doing seems to be working – I’ve got more work now than I’ve had in years.
Larry Jordan: Congratulations on that.
Matt Abourezk: Thank you, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Our contacts at Panasonic have told us that you’re using one of their new cameras, the PX270. Why are you using that and how are you using it?
Matt Abourezk: Well, here’s an interesting thing – I was using the HDC200, another Panasonic camera, for a lot of years. Depending on the project, we always rank in cameras, but my go to camera for a long time was the HDX200. It was kind of a Swiss Army knife of cameras, it did everything, and then being a still photographer and using Canon gear, when this HDSLR revolution came, I jumped on board.
Matt Abourezk: I just thought that was the greatest thing ever, so suddenly I’m shooting exclusively video with my Canon 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III and obviously when you do that, you’re increasing the cinematic quality quite a bit. Overall, the projects looked better, looked less like video. But after a while, I realized there are some severe limitations to shooting with HDSLR. It’s a tool, it’s great for the right project. This year, I had had it with all of the problems with shooting with HDSLR so I spent about three months researching the latest cameras.
Larry Jordan: Give me some detail. What were some of the problems you ran into shooting video with an HDSLR camera?
Matt Abourezk: Well, a couple of things in particular. I’m a gear head, I love gear, I love my 15 millimeter rod system on my camera, I think it pushes all my man buttons. It looks so cool… and it’s very functional. I absolutely love it. But haul that thing around for a while and you realize, wow, this is not a good… to work with. The cinematography aspect of the image quality is great, the cinematic look is great, but you have to work for focus really hard.
Matt Abourezk: Every time you’re going to go do a shoot, you’re going to take two hours just to get the equipment ready, then bolt the camera onto the rig, bolt on the audio. It’s just a lot of extra work; and then the depth of field, which you can control to a certain degree with HDSLR that everybody loves – use it for that cinematic look – works against you when you start doing corporate work, your typical corporate job where you want to have by default more depth of field. That for me was a killer. I was offered a couple of jobs I just couldn’t do with my equipment because I needed to have more depth of field in natural light inside a building – they were very specific, natural light for a large corporation – and the DSLR’s not going to do it.
Matt Abourezk: You’re indoors, you can’t get much depth of field if you’re shooting with any kind of telephoto unless you’ve got 4,000 watts of light running. Just based on the depth of field limitations with DSLRs – granted, it’s a plus in the right project but it’s a minus in your average corporate job – I decided I needed a camera that was going to allow me to have more control over the far end of depth of field, I want more things to be in focus. I know that flies in the face of what the current trend is, with killing the depth of field, highlight your subject, have the background completely fall off, but when you’re doing day to day corporate work you need a camera that’s going to work with you and I felt like I was always having to fight with the DSLR.
Matt Abourezk: So I researched for about three months, actually intensive research, and when I learned about the 270, I kept thinking, “Ok, I’m seeing this checkbox, this checkbox, this checkbox.” I kept thinking, “Ok, something’s going to come in and make me go, “Oh no, that’s not the one either,”” but I didn’t find that problem. It checked all of the boxes of what I was looking for.
Larry Jordan: So what were you looking for? Besides more control over depth of field, what were some of the other key items you were looking for?
Matt Abourezk: First off, the most basic was a camera that I could pull out of the bag and start shooting without having to put it together, but also something that I could put on a rig and put the matte box on and follow focus and all the other accessories that you have. For starters, it was a good size. After that, it was the different formats that you can record with. First off, it has ten bit 422 recording in… 25, which is good for the green screen work. It has a really great 22 times optical zoom lens and even the digital doubler, which are usually just more of a marketing gimmick, looks good times two.
Matt Abourezk: There are three control rings on the lens for focus, zoom and iris. I wasn’t going to have to go into a menu system just to adjust something or push some strange little button. I had actual physical controls on the lens which, as a stills photographer, that’s my comfort zone. I like the fact that it had backward compatibility in that it has a full size P2 card slot so I could bring over my cards from my HDX200. I liked the fact that it uses the new micro P2 card slots and it also uses the standard SD card slots. Granted, Panasonic wants you to use the micro P2s, and I understand why, they’re brilliant, but you could also just run standard SD cards in this, so you have affordable media that you can use on this if you want.
Matt Abourezk: Other checkboxes were it has timecode in and out, gen lock in, has SDI out and HDMI out, so thing will fit into a huge variety of workflows and, with the variety of work that you see in my portfolio, I have a huge variety of workflows that I need to accommodate. So all these things even more, even just the fact that it has AVC-Intra 100, which I use and it’s amazing video quality, for higher end productions where we’re shooting to edit. Then I can switch the camera over to AVC long gop 25 and suddenly I have 128 minutes that I can record on a 32 gig card, so I’ve got two 32 gig cards, I’ve got 256 minutes that I can record without having to stop, which is great for presentations.
Matt Abourezk: I’ve used the thing a few times for three and four hour presentations and you can hot swap cards as you go. You’re writing to one while you pull the other one out and hot copying it to your computer. One thing that this camera does that I think is amazing is the fact that you can record to both cards at once and set one card to record a low bandwidth proxy while the other one’s recording AVC-Intra 100, so if you need to quickly just throw up footage on your computer just to see how the edits are working or see if there’s continuity from one cut to the next, you can do that. That’s pretty amazing.
Matt Abourezk: Overall, I have to say I think Panasonic did a really, really fine job with this camera. There’s a lot of competition out there and in every instance – I looked at Sonys and Canons and quite a variety in this price range – this Panasonic walked away from the other cameras in terms of overall functionality. That’s not just a sales pitch either, this is really what I discovered and in each case I would see a camera and be like, “Oh, that’s great, that’s great, that’s great. Oh, darn, big fail right there. Ok, it doesn’t do what I want there,” and I was actually surprised.
Matt Abourezk: I had not even heard of the 270 until I found it in an article when I was doing my research and I thought, “Wow, how is it that I have not heard of this camera?” I was thrilled when I got it and have used it quite a bit now and I just keep getting more excited about it. It just seems to work with me.
Larry Jordan: Matt, where can we go on the web to learn more about you and your work?
Matt Abourezk: You will find all of my work and everything you want to know about me at www.talkingbox.tv.
Larry Jordan: That’s talkingbox.tv and Matt Abourezk is the owner, the Director and photographer of Talkingbox Digital Media Group. Matt, thanks for joining us today.
Matt Abourezk: Thank you so much, Larry, it’s been a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank this week’s guests, starting with Pär Ekberg, the Swedish cinematographer that put together Coldplay’s Magic; then Kim Furst, documentary producer, director and writer with Flying the Feathered Edge; and Matthew Abourezk, Director and photographer and well known web video expert.
Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, digitalproductionbuzz.com – hundreds of past shows and thousands of interviews, all searchable and available. It’s always interesting to see how far we have come.
Larry Jordan: You can visit with us on Twitter, @dpbuzz, and Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on The Buzz is provided by Smartsound. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. You can email us at email@example.com. Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineer is Megan Paulos and on behalf of Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan. Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
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