Pingry School Video Project - Part 2 - Post Production

Originally posted on InspirED School Marketers

This post is part 2 of a series. If you haven't already read Part 1, then I suggest you do that first.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.16.59 PM.png

In an age where things are measured in bits and bytes I think it might be best to explain how much video footage we captured over 4 and half days of shooting in data speak. We recorded and downloaded over 500 gigabytes (GB) of video footage. This isn't even 4k footage. We were shooting in 1920x1080 HD with the exception of the aerial footage, which was shot in 4k to allow room for movements in post of necessary. While that's nowhere near the amount of data that a large commercial production or movie might create, it's still a lot of information to organize and to sort through.

Organizing Assets

The image above is just one small leg of the organization structure in my post production software. We had 4 cameras in total that we used and multiple subjects where we shot with more than one camera across 2 separate campuses. Not only did we have 2 separate campuses, but it made sense to try to organize all footage into lower, middle, or upper schools. Organization of all of this information was crucial. Our organization structure looked like this:

Subject > Campus > Class/Location > Camera > Video File

Once we had everything organized in a logical way, I started going through all 9 hours of video footage and pulling the best shots to be included in the edits.

Beginning The Edit

I began with the edit for Honor & Character, followed by Diversity & Inclusion because I knew these two videos would be the most difficult to pull meaningful clips for. I wanted to make sure that we were using original footage in each video so I decided to use clips that related to diversity and to the honor code exclusively in these 2 videos. When starting an edit, I have a basic vision of how everything should fit together. I start with the voice over and adjust the pacing of the narrator's voice. I edit the narration so that it feels authentic, with natural pauses throughout. I then start layering music options onto the timeline and experiment with different genres and moods until I have a music bed that amplifies the kind of emotion I want to convey. 

Building the Rough Cut

Once I have the narration and music bed in place, I start building the rough cut. The rough cut is really fun to work on because it's the first time you get to see all of your work being put together to form a cohesive story. While I'm building this I'm looking for shots that complement the narration and flow with the music. I do a lot of mixing, cutting and re-organizing during this stage. I try a wide variety of clips until I get the structure that I like.

A view of the rough cut of Honor & Character. It looks chaotic because I've quickly been mixing and matching clips trying to find the right position. I don't move clips to one line until I get the next round of feedback. 

Client Review

Once I had the rough cut built for each video I would send it over to Pingry for feedback. Typically, I plan for 3 rounds of notes/revisions per video. This gives the client plenty of options for making changes to the video without giving an unlimited number of revisions. I've found that unlimited revision options without any additional charge delays the delivery date and adversely affects the final video. It's basic human nature to want to contribute, but unfortunately most people like to wait to give their 2 cents until the final version is ready to be shared. It's at this point that criticism can get a little nit-picky. I don't like the color of that shirt. Or, that student doesn't look happy enough. It's these kind of changes that need to be stated early on if they are really a problem. By limiting the number of revisions, it forces the client and myself to be more thoughtful about each version. Each edit takes time after all, and time is money. For those on a set budget, keeping your edits concise, thoughtful and detailed is the best way to watch your bottom line. Fortunately, the communications team at Pingry had a clear vision and knew what kinds of visuals they needed to avoid. They were aware from the very beginning that these videos needed to show a broad view of what the school was like and they were very clear in communicating that with me through each version.

Establishing Deadlines

Before we began post production, I set up a shared google calendar with deadlines for my delivery dates along with deadlines for feedback from Pingry. This allowed all of us to be on the same page and to have a clear picture of the timeline for delivery. My first deadline for Honor & Character was May 18th. Most times, we would have a week between my delivery date and when feedback/notes were due from Pingry. For 5 videos, the post production took the better part of the summer with all 5 final videos being delivered on August 23rd.

Final Delivery

The final version is where all edits and changes to the timeline have been made and each individual video clip has been color graded. It's also where all audio is mixed for optimal sound quality. Each video is then rendered (which can take up to an hour depending on color adjustments made) and encoded (another 1 - 2 hours depending on length) for web delivery. This is the final video. It's the deliverable where all the planning, money, creative energy, time and hard work come together into a tangible product. It's why I do what I do and hopefully will encourage prospective students and their parents to take a closer look at the Pingry School. 

Pingry School Video Project - Part 1

Originally posted on InspirED School Marketers

Eight months. That's how long we worked on this 5-part video series. Actually, from the time I put together a proposal it was just under 11 months. In October of 2016, I was approached by the communications department at the Pingry School about putting together a proposal for this project. I had worked with Pingry before on a 3-part video series as well as providing them with still photography so we already had a good working relationship.  

Pingry is a private K-12-day school just outside of Newark, New Jersey with two campuses and over 1,000 engaged and energetic students. I love this school. I really do. I work with a lot of different education clients and each is unique in its own way, but Pingry is the kind of school that I would have attended if the opportunity presented itself all those years ago when I was in high school.

The video below is an overview video for Pingry and I'll explain how we got here.

Setting Goals

The goal of this project was to create 5 videos that could work independently from one another or together as a series. The topics were to include arts, athletics, honor and character, diversity and inclusion, as well as a general overview video. My first step was to develop an approach and vision for the best way to tell these stories and then to determine how much it would cost. The original proposal included an approach that would rely heavily on on-camera interviews with students, faculty and administration. After some careful consideration, we decided that this might not be the best approach for these videos. Instead of showing on camera interviews, we decided to perform Skype and phone interviews with students, parents, faculty and administration and then to write scripts based off of these conversations. I did more than 30 hours of interviews over the course of about 6 weeks. From this, I was able to build the basic components of a script for each video.

Writing the Scripts

I used the information I received through my interviews along with direct quotes to build each script. Once I had the foundation for each script, I began to fill in the gaps to make each script flow nicely and to fit within a 1 - 2-minute video. After revisions from the Pingry team, we settled on our final scripts and began looking for our voice over narrators.

Step 3: Find Voice Over Talent

I knew that I wanted each video to be about the visual experience of Pingry School, but the voice over had to communicate the right message. In reality, the voice overs were going to be the lynchpin through which each story could be told. Without a solid voice over, the videos would fall flat, no matter how beautiful the visuals were.

We wanted to use actual voices from Pingry and not hired voice over talent. It was important to us that these stories be in the words of the people of Pingry. During my weeks of interviews I made notes on potential readers. I was looking for two things; quality of voice and ability to take direction. We identified a few people to be our readers based off of my initial interviews and found the rest based on recommendations from the Pingry drama department. Once we had identified our potential readers, I did additional phone interviews and asked them to read the scripts I had written for each video. With each reader, I had a script in mind for them, but occasionally asked them to read additional scripts as well. After I had all the initial tests recorded I spent quite a few hours listening to them and making my decision on who I thought we should record on the first day of production. Even though we only needed five voice overs, we ended up recording script readings from 8 different people on our first production day. I wanted to have backups in case someone couldn't make it or a performance just didn't work as well as I anticipated.

The Crew

I worked with a 3-person crew. My audio tech was only on site for the first day to record our voice over narrators. This helped minimize our crew budget and travel expenses. I'm always looking for ways to streamline my productions and save my clients money. My second camera operator would be shooting along side of me as well as filming separate events when we had to be in two places at once. Lastly, I hired a producer to manage the logistics of this shoot. Each crew member is invaluable and well worth the money it takes to bring them along. Each brings with him/her a unique set of skills that can add value to the end product.

Scheduling Logistics

One of the biggest challenges of this project was scheduling. My producer worked closely with the communications department to craft a schedule based off of their wish list. She gave direction to a shoot that would require a massive amount of subject coverage across two separate campuses. Without the hours of pre-production work she did with the communications department, there is no way we would have been able to walk away with all the footage we needed in 4 days of production. I'm a detail oriented person and used to wearing many hats, but I knew there was no way I would be able handle all the technical and creative aspects of this shoot as well as managing the schedule on my own. My producer took this monumental task and made it seem easy. She had to marry the expectations set forth by Pingry with the reality of shooting videos such as these. Video production is not easy. An incredible amount of planning and resources go into making a 2-minute video. Sometimes it can be difficult for a client to understand why we can't shoot everything on their list. In most cases it's a matter of time combined with budget. We can't do everything and that is why it was important for me to have a producer who could manage this aspect of the project.

Production Days

We planned to shoot everything over the course of 4 days with a 5th day as a backup to pick up any additional shots we thought were missing. While I was confident that we could record all the voice overs and film everything we needed in 4 days, we wanted to have the 5th day available as a backup in case of bad weather or some other element that was out of our control. It turned out that we needed that backup day. From Monday through Thursday the sun refused to show its bright face. I knew that we needed some establishing aerial shots and the truth is that aerial shots just don't look that good on cloudy days. Really, all I needed were two shots on a sunny day. The forecast for Friday looked good so I sent the rest of the crew home and stayed one more night with my fingers crossed that Friday morning would bring good light. After a dense, foggy morning the clouds finally parted and I was able to get the shots I needed before hitting the road. I was able to pick up a few extra shots that I hadn't planned for as well so the extra morning was well worth it.

Learn how we managed the post production in Part 2.

Check out the other 4 videos below

Photographing Education . . . In the Summer

Fall and Spring are the busiest times of year for me when it comes to photographing and filming education. This makes sense because it coincides nicely with the school year. Fall and Spring also happen to be the times of year when the campus looks the best. So why then am I photographing education in the summer?

Well, technically speaking I was photographing a summer camp on the campus of one of my clients. Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana has been hosting magnificent summer camps since 1902. With over 1,400 students from around the world attending and experiencing everything from aviation to horseback riding to sailing, this was an action packed 3 days of shooting. 

Culver needed updated photography for their Summer Camps marketing. Since I had worked with them previously in shooting admissions materials it was an easy choice for us to work together again. I was thrilled to go to summer camp for three days! I went ice skating and skeet shooting, threw hatchets and more. It was a pretty epic three days of photography in the heart of Indiana.

After roaming around campus for 12 hours a day in the heat and humidity of an Indiana summer, it's easy to feel the strain of the elements on your body. Luckily, I'm accustomed to shooting in these conditions and was prepared with everything I needed for a mostly outdoor shoot. We shot in 90 degree heat, rain, and wind. It was hard work, but it was also a blast. I have hundreds of images that I really like from this shoot, but these are a few of my favorites.

And here are some behind the scenes photos.

Hold Still by Sally Mann

I don't usually use this blog to discuss the work of others, but occasionally I see something that I feel warrants my sharing on this site.

I have loved Sally Mann's work for years. Her work has always felt magical to me and despite her numerous detractors, I think her work is beautiful. It's not often that I find a book about photography that really inspires me, but Sally Mann's book, "Hold Still" really got me excited about the still image once again. She discusses her relationship to photography and she shares some of her families most intimate stories in her memoir. Stories that are both good and bad. Her writing style is genuine and engaging. Her artistic sensibilities inform her writing style and help make what is already a fascinating life even more enthralling to read.  For example . . . 

"The Japanese have a phrase for this dual perception: mono no aware. It means "beauty tinged with sadness," for there cannot be any real beauty without the indolic whiff of decay. For me, living is the same thing as dying, and loving is the same thing as losing, and this does not make me a madwoman; I believe it can make me better at living, and better at loving, and, just possibly, better at seeing."

Read a thorough review of the book on NYtimes.com or pick up a copy of her book on Amazon.

Photo Shoot for Men's Fitness Magazine

This past fall I had the good fortune of being assigned to photograph Police Officer, Rob Capezio just outside of Pittsburgh, PA for Men's Fitness Magazine. Men's Fitness has a success story in each month's print edition and Rob was chosen for the work he did to transform a bare bones gym at his department headquarters into a well-equipped training space for himself and his fellow officers.

I was hired to photograph Rob working out in a variety of scenarios with his fellow officers as well as to make a few portraits of him. My assistant and I started the day by grabbing a few shots of Rob running outside before moving into the gym. Once in the gym, we prioritized getting shots of Rob working out with fellow officers. Both Rob and his fellow officers were very gracious with their time on their day off of work and were happy to help me get the shots we needed. The gym is well-equipped but fairly small and covered on one side with mirrors. While the mirrors are great when you're working out they are problematic when shooting and lighting a space. This limited me to only a few angles and I chose a shot that had a bit of depth to it for the group shot. 

Once we had the shots we needed of Rob with his fellow officers we moved on to focusing on shots of just Rob. Since we were shooting for a fitness magazine it was important to highlight Rob's physique. Rob has some wicked looking arms so we thought photographing him doing some dips would give him the arm definition we were looking for. For this shot, I wanted the image to be focused solely on him so I didn't mind shooting against a plain white wall. I used two softboxes slightly behind and on either side of him to add definition and used a 36-inch Octabox with a grid attached to light in his front. 

After we had the shots we needed for the story we spent some time experimenting and grabbing a couple extra options which you can see below along with tear sheets from the January/February issue of Men's Fitness.

The Colonization of Mars

"And life needs to be more than just solving problems every day, you need to wake up and be excited about the future. Be inspired and want to live.” - Elon Musk

In a recent speech at the 67th International Astronautic Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk gave a speech about Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) plans to put humans on Mars. Whether you believe this is possible or not is irrelevant. The important point is that someone believes it is possible. Instead of simply talking about it Elon Musk and SpaceX are actually working toward achieving their goal. This is a private company who is building rockets and sending them to space. And while they are doing it, they are driving down the cost of sending rockets into space. Occasionally, they have problems, but they are doing it. 

Because of this vision and a relentless drive to achieve it for the good of all humanity, SpaceX is actually doing the impossible. The reason I'm writing about this on a blog that mostly talks about photography projects I have done or am working on is because this is just damn inspiring shit. If you are an aspiring or professional photographer you need to have the same drive that Elon Musk has. Well, maybe not to the extreme extent to which he lives his life, but at least sharing a bit of that enthusiasm for the future will be helpful.

As an aside, I recently finished 'Elon Musk,' a biography by Ashlee Vance and highly recommend checking it out. If you're like me you will find Musk to be equal parts inspiring, equal parts despicable. His vision for humanity is incredible while the appearance of his personal relationships seems quite dismal. Of course, I don't know him, but from Vance's reporting it doesn't seem like he will be winning any awards for greatest husband or father. But, I suspect he will be looked upon as one of the greatest industrialists of our time in the years to come.

His ability to think on a timeline well beyond his own lifespan is very humbling. How many of you can actually say you think about the state of humanity 1,000 years from now? I think about what the world will be like for my kids, but beyond that, it becomes hard to fathom. Just try for a minute to imagine humanity in 1,000 years. Will we still be here? Will Earth still support us? How will we evolve? What will society be like? Will we be traveling around the universe in space ships? Will we still argue about which bathroom people use?

I'm trying hard to bring this post back to photography, but honestly, I'm forcing it a bit. I just like this quote and I like talking about space exploration and the future of humanity. Let's leave it at that. I hope it inspires you in the same way it does me.

Oh, and here is the video about making humans a multi-planetary species. 

Celebrating 10 Years!

10 years ago, with a passion for photography, a strong work ethic and just the right amount of naiveté, I struck out as a professional photographer with the support of my wife. I haven’t had a real job since. There have been some major highs and major lows during the past decade, but as my 11th year in business begins I feel as if I’m finally on solid ground.

Read More

Why You Should Watch "Make" This Weekend

I feel that I should give a warning before you dive into this blog post. It contains a lot of links to other websites where you will likely spend a good deal of time watching, looking and listening to great art. If you're at work, you may want to wait to read this until you're on break.


I recently stumbled upon a documentary on Vimeo On Demand called “Make” and have been thinking about it ever since. The film is expertly produced and well shot. It’s a beautiful film that tells the stories of multiple artists and really reminded me of why I do what I do. 

I’ve been in the photo industry long enough that sometimes I forget why I got into photography. This is my job. Sometimes I love it, and sometimes it’s just a job. One truth that continues to hold up no matter what my day is like, is that I get to make things on a daily basis and that makes me happy. Sometimes I get to make pictures that I want to make. Most of the time I get to make pictures that other people want me to make. Other times I get to make my own rules and that feels pretty good too. Regardless, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to make photographs for a living and I try to remind myself periodically not to take it for granted. 

When I watched “Make” I was reminded of the drive that creators have to make things. Artists are compelled to bring new things into the world over and over again. The film features artists that I am familiar with like Miller Mobley, the band Sylvan Esso, and Elliot Rausch. Each person has something interesting to say about their lives and their art. After I researched Elliot Rausch a little more I was excited to learn that he was the director of a music video of a song that had a dramatic impact on my adolescent life, “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise. The influence of Pennywise on my younger self cannot be understated and to hear from the director of a music video of the song that defined my youth is particularly inspiring.

Just a quick warning. If you go to Elliot's website and watch "Last Minutes With Oden" you are going to cry. If you don't, then you are a heartless bastard. If you want to be inspired and moved without crying, you can do it for only $3.99 this weekend. Rent “Make” on Vimeo and enjoy this honest look into what it means to be a creator.  

Mercersburg Outdoor Education Book

Back in June I had the pleasure of photographing a rock climbing trip to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. The 10-day trip was put together by The Mercersburg Academy Outdoor Education program and I was hired to document it. I love climbing so it was a thrill to climb and photograph in one of the greatest climbing destinations in North America. 

The book above was created using my photos from the trip and quotes I collected from each student during short, informal interviews. It was written, photographed and designed by me and published through Blurb

New Blog, New Site!

Hi There. Thanks for visiting my blog! This is an all new platform for my website and blog. It took a long time to get everything together, but it's finally here. My blog and website all in one place. Woohoo!

For those of you with developer experience this probably would have been a piece of cake to make happen, but alas, I'm a photographer. And what do photographers do when they don't know how to do something? They figure it out. I'm stubborn enough that with enough hard work and research I can side step obstacles and get things to work the way I want them to. Of course it took 4 times the amount of time it should have taken a knowledgable web developer. With that said, it sure would have been nice to have somebody smarter than myself to migrate all my old blog posts to my new blog.

Anyway, it's here and it's live! That's the important thing. So, whether you're a new visitor or an old time pal, I hope you enjoy what I have to share. Hit me up with questions, comments and suggestions.  

-Ryan

Rodney Mullen - Skateboarding, Passion and the Tech Industry

“If you do it for the sake of loving it, and you don't care whether you're seen or not, or paid or not, all that stuff will come. But enjoy the process! If you start doing things for the sake of selling up front, for rewards, then it's going to catch up to you. The other guys not chasing money are going to outdo you in the end, because real innovation and grit come from loving the process.”-Rodney Mullen

Read the entire article titled "Silicon Valley Has Lost Its Way. Can Skateboarding Legend Rodney Mullen Help It? on Wired.com