This past summer of 2015, I, along with Callie, produced and shot the short film “Reach”. It’s about a group of students that traveled to Uganda to meet and understand a life-destroying condition known as “obstetric fistula”. We traveled with these students and shared the experience of hearing devastating stories and meeting women who have survived the disease. However, I’m not here to talk about the film itself. I’m here to talk about how we lost the majority of our equipment and continued to produce a film.reach-animationOur stay comprised of about 2 weeks in the country. We were greeted with the most open arms and to extremely gracious hosts. We were welcomed to their homes as they cooked, cleaned and did everything to make our group feel comfortable. And beside a bit more humidity and heat than I’d prefer, we felt safe. I tell you this because our hosts became our friends and they played such an important role after we discovered our equipment vanished.

It’s taken a while for me to come to terms to the fact that our equipment was stolen. Personally, it was hard to know that it happened under my watch but without going into too much detail into why and how, the fact of the matter still remained: Everything was gone.

Gone were the thoughts of “What does my next shoot look like? Who do I interview next? How many timelapses can I get tonight?” Immediately, I sprung into action and started listing out exactly what was missing. Our hosts, being as helpful and beyond appalled as to what happened, helped us file a police report. The police then brought dogs, to see if they could sniff anything out, to no avail.

It wasn’t until noon when I sat down, it all started to sink in. I realized that we were 1 week into our 2 week trip. Callie told me that not all was lost. She kept the hard drives and a camera with her that night to work on. We still had something to shoot on! Gears started turning and I began to think what we needed to continue our production.

    • This is what we had: A camera, lens, one battery, two chargers, one memory card and two hard drives. Those two hard drives were a miracle, as they had everything we’d shot backed up.
    • This is what we needed: an acceptable microphone and a tripod.

I thought I was fair in thinking we only needed two things. I was also confident to think that in Uganda, those two things could be found somewhere. Our hosts arranged a ride for me to take me into the market to find a camera store. Any camera store.

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This is me proudly displaying my craftsmanship in taping back the headphones for our new lav mic.

It must have been 6+ hours until we got back from the city. We probably checked five different places, made multiple calls and came home with one of those two things: a tripod. During dinner, I sat there and felt defeated. We had a camera that could record ambient audio, but not interview audio. Maybe we could use our phone as a recorder, that would have worked better than in-camera audio.

Then, a moment of brilliance. I asked our group, “Does anyone have iPhone headphones?” All of them turned to me and several started to speak and said they do. Bingo.

The microphone on the headphones, it was crazy but it just might work. After testing it, we concluded: it worked surprisingly well.

So for the next week, production moved forward using a Ugandan tripod and makeshift iPhone headphones lavalier mic.

For the first time that day, I felt pretty good about myself.

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A still from one of our interviews using the our new “mic”

Reach: Partnering With the Forgotten Women of Uganda will be released within the next month and preliminary viewers swear they wouldn’t have noticed that all our gear was stolen during production. Also, a special thanks to our friends at Terrewode who without their help and understanding, we would be looking at terribly shaky interviews and barely audible anything. 

 

-Darryl

lab0

So you’ve got yourself a Drupal site, and it’s feeling a little neglected. Maybe it doesn’t have any friends and nobody plays with it anymore. Why not bring it to one the Drupal Open Labs? Or maybe you don’t have a website yet but you’ve always been thinking about getting one. Why not stop by and try one out? At the Open Labs, someone might let you play with theirs.

Think of the Open Labs as a sort of 4-H club for website owners. The free program has been around for a while as part of CWS’s suite of web training and support services, but this quarter we’re giving the sessions an adrenaline injection in the spirit of experimentation. We’re planning to hold extended sessions weekly through March, and we’ll not only have our Drupal trainer-in-residence, Sher Fenn, on hand, but we’ll also bring developers, site builders, graphic artists and writers.

We’re looking for web property owners who want to improve their sites. Bring your projects to the lab and we’ll assemble a team on the fly to either workshop solutions right on the spot or set you on a course to continue to work on your own with confidence. Are you lacking a robust web support team? Well now for two hours per week you’ve got one. Oh, and the program isn’t restricted to just Drupal. We welcome other web species as well, from WordPress to garden variety HTML.

So bring your neglected pet projects or even your major initiatives to the lab and let’s poke ’em with a stick and watch what happens.

Here are the dates for the upcoming labs. And you can sign up here. We hope to see you there this winter.

  • January 22, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • January 29, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • February 5 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 12 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 19 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 26 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 4 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 11 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 25 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Photo: Oregon Digital Collections)

walkers

“I think there should be a real war against commercials,” said Werner Herzog, the great German director famous for his cerebral documentaries and his dark narrative voice. Charlie Brown warned us of the perils of commercialism as he stood next to his sad little tree. Edward Abbey famously called the television, “the Great American Lobotomy Machine.” For much of my life I largely agreed with this trinity of wise souls, swearing off the tee vee, opting instead to spend my time with trout streams and Russian novels, pretending to be both a Luddite and somewhat clever.

Suddenly too many years have slipped by and here I am now working on commercials. Am I a hypocrite, a pragmatist, or was the younger, more idealistic me just plain wrong? Maybe all three or none of the above.

After dabbling in film, I’ve come to appreciate the artistry, creativity and craft that goes into commercials. The good ones, not the local pitches for your town chiropractor…though even some of those have their moments. Everything from the writing, visual style, editing, narration, composition can be quite sublime in a well-made television pitch. Certainly, nothing on screen garners more attention per frame than the classic 30-second broadcast spot, with many TV spots sporting budgets that rival feature films.

Which brings me to our latest broadcast commercial at Oregon State. Our budget was nominal. Microscopic by industry standards. What’s more, it was it was put together by a band of in-house state employees, not some fancy agency where creative types get to wear retro tee shirts and cool glasses. But still, our commercial will be seen by millions thanks to an agreement between our school, the NCAA and the networks that broadcast our sporting events. It’s a great deal, really…we get to show our commercial, basically for free, during the only type of programming left on television where people actually watch the commercials: live sports. Corporations would pay millions for that kind of exposure. But our little homemade commercial gets shown instead. Take that AT&T, Nike and Cialis!

So we made a commercial at OSU. In house. Take a look, and then I’ll tell you how it was put together:

So after watching the commercial, you might be wondering a few things: What’s with the ocean stuff? Well, OSU has a historic legacy of strength in marine and ocean research, plus there’s a brand new Marine Studies Initiative (so big it even has its own website!) that is bringing an expanded ocean focus to all of our colleges and programs. Why didn’t you show the campus? I really wish you would have. We usually do, but we had a different point to make this year. Oh, and we thank alumni like you for your ongoing support. Did you use a drone? No, we actually strapped and intern to a weather balloon.

We started the process with some internal conversation. We had some agreement that this would be a rare opportunity to have a focused commercial. Most university television spots say the same thing: we do a lot of stuff, and we’re good at all of it. Cue the students tossing a frisbee on the quad. Cue the one handed catch in the end zone. Cue the lab assistant in a white coat and safety glasses holding a beaker colored with food dye. You get the picture. The root word of university is ‘universe.’ It’s tempting to try to be ecumenical when it comes to your lone television spot, especially when there’s a room full of people to please. But vague, broad claims filled with cliche images and fancy boardroom words are deadly boring in the world of marketing and basically try to say so much that they wind up saying nothing.

But we figured we could be bold this year and actually say something concrete, and thankfully our leaders agreed. Our university launched a Marine Studies Initiative this year, which connected all of our eleven colleges. The groundwork had already been established, and that helped greatly to sell the concept.

We wanted to say something simple. Our basic message was, “The ocean needs our help, so we’re helping the oceans.” Bam, get ‘r done, OSU.

The next step was to brainstorm ideas. We had several versions and concepts for how we could bring the marine environment to life. One concept included a woman surfing. But the pitch that actually stuck was an idea to illustrate the path that water takes to the sea from glaciers in the Cascades to the open ocean. That had a nice downhill visual metaphor that’s easy to grasp.

This pitch had a number of things going for it right off the bat. First, the concept that the ocean environment extends to the mountains is a core concept of our Marine Studies Initiative. Next, if you follow water from the glaciers to the ocean in Oregon, you encounter some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. We knew the scenery would be a character in the piece. Probably the main character.

I wrote a rough script and made some image notes. The original idea followed a single drop of water from glacier melt all the way to the sea, and along the way you’d encounter OSU people in the real places where they conduct research or connect to the landscape. I took that script to a talented illustrator on our team, Oliver Day, and he created illustrations to match the script, giving us our storyboards.

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We asked a student worker to read the script. It wasn’t just some random intern, though, it was Claire McMorris, who had a wealth of theater experience and happens to be the very sort of exceptional, involved student who we like to show off. We set it to music and showed the concept to our leadership team next to some other options that approached the idea of marine studies from other angles, and they made their choice and green-lit it on the spot.

That posed something of a problem. We now had to execute what we had designed. And in a hurry. Our concept called for nine different locations and dozens of people across a range of environments. What’s more, we were running out of dry weather (a precious commodity in our corner of Oregon). Our team wanted to also be sure that our commercial featured people represented a number of different programs across the university and ensure that the research was accurately portrayed and was as ecumenical as possible, even if most images were on screen for less than a second.

Enter the scheduling fiasco.

But we soldiered on and started shooting, assembling different teams and sending them to the far corners of the state with some packs full of camera gear, some emergency OSU sweatshirts and a granola bar or two.

The locations we filmed included a receding glacier on Mt. Hood, mountain streams, a rocky seaside cliff and a collection of boats on the open ocean and even a dive shot in one of the tanks in the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The concept shifted away from following a single drop of water as the script was workshopped through the usual channels, but the fluid downhill motion remained a metaphor throughout the project. The script was more like the connecting tissue. The basic function of the words was to deliver this concept at the culminating point: the ocean is facing the greatest challenge in human history, and OSU is rising to meet that challenge.

The downhill motion was a vital visual metaphor…the bones of the piece. The script served as the tendons. But there is one more component that is equally as vital, and that is the transition style. Justin Smith and Darryl Lai on our team helped create this concept of a circular movement from a wide, aerial landscape shot transitioning to a handheld shot. That transition helped to emphasize two important points about OSU: our community is made up of real people, and Oregon’s landscapes are our spectacular natural laboratories. This concept of place and people was technically executed through a mechanical camera technique. I’m reminded that Tolstoy, when asked what was most vital in storytelling, plot or character, the age old dichotomy, he answered to everyone’s surprise: transition. Storytelling is all about transitions, or so says old Lev Nikolayevich.

And who said 30-second commercials couldn’t be literary?

So to get a sense of how we executed those transitions, check out our behind-the-scenes footage:

Because every detail and every person featured in the commercial was the result of a lot of thought and attention to authentic nuance, we didn’t want all of that detail to exist solely in the heads of the people who made the commercial. We developed a companion website to help tell the deeper story behind the images, and we plan to make it part of a larger campaign celebrating Oregon State’s commitment to protecting and understanding our natural resources at a critical point in history. In past years we’ve been equally faithful to authenticity with our commercials, with every person featured, even narrators, being a real member of the OSU community with a real story. But often, the only people who knew this fact were on our communications team. It would get mentioned at conferences and in meetings and the like, but through this website we hope to extend that concept and showcase the people who made this all possible.

The great thing about a project like this, where you work on location with people from different backgrounds, colleges and disciplines, is that you really become invested in their personal stories and their work. Some of the people I met on this project have already become new friends. All of them and their work will become parts of our future storytelling efforts.

Finally, here’s our extended version of the commercial. You can get a sense of the range and volume of material you need to shoot to get a 30-second spot like this:

 

Stats & Credits:
– DJI Inspire 1
– Panasonic GH4
– Audio mix by Digital One, Portland, Oregon
– Music: In Anticipation of Flight, D. Holter/M. Smith, License Lab
– Director – David Baker
– Cinematography – Darryl Lai, Justin Smith
– Behind the scenes – Kegan Sims, Oliver Day
– Storyboards – Oliver Day
– Design – Santiago Uceda, Oliver Day, Kegan Sims
– Additional writers – Callie Newton, Gary Dulude
– Producers – Laura Shields, Melody Oldfield, Brittney Yeskie, Larry Pribyl
– Web development – Kegan Sims


The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

An emotional connection

Whenever a police car is following along behind me I get this overwhelming sense of panic and fear. Usually they speed ahead or turn off in other pursuits but for that instant I am frozen thinking about all the possible laws I could have broken. It doesn’t matter what city I’m in, if they are a sheriff, state trooper or even campus security they all bring that same reaction. For many reasons (media, TV, personal experience) over time the law enforcement brand has developed this emotional connection.

That is exactly what we should strive for in our marketing efforts, although probably along the lines of hope and positivity instead of panic and fear. If we can create that kind of emotional response when people encounter our brand we will have joined the elite.

Ignore their minds connect with their hearts

Sometimes we get stuck trying to force our “Strategic message” on audiences that can’t relate. A great example of this is our Brand Statement. “Oregon State University is an authentic community, whose accomplishments, inclusive excellence, innovation and leadership promote a healthy planet, wellness and economic progress.

Your average human doesn’t think in these terms, that statement is really hard to understand. They don’t have a history of higher ed nomenclature to pull from. The base instinct that we are actually going for is “OSU, yeah they are super smart” or “OSU, they always impress me”.

Our typical pattern would be to do a very good job of storytelling. We would find a research breakthrough and if we were good we would come up with a way to make it relatable. It could be in written form, story, video, web site, etc.. Then if we were really good we would have systems in place or ways to make sure that content had maximum exposure.

Does that sound familiar? The content was created from an institutional perspective. The likelihood of creating an emotional response is pretty low. What if we came at it from a different direction? What if we created content with the purpose of getting people to think “wow, they are super smart”. We could come up with content that taught people something and not academic sense, more on a real life level. I bet if you made a list you could think of five things that you have always wanted to learn or maybe it’s five life hacks you learned in the last year.

Here is my list

  • Learn how to be an average singer. I don’t want to be a rock star I just want to be able to sing karaoke and people not hate it.
  • How to bake chocolate chip cookies? I’m terrible at anything culinary and learning simple recipes was super useful.
  • What are the best house plants and how to keep them alive? Plants are great to have around but I used to kill everything. A simple guide on what plants are easiest to grow and how to keep them alive would go a long way.
  • Poetry, I have always had an interest in writing poetry but I have no clue where to start. A basic guide would be really helpful in potentially unlocking something I’m passionate about.
  • How to change a flat tire. It seems silly but this is not a skill that you are born with and is useful for everyone.

So imagine we developed a series of content that accomplished all of these things. They were branded OSU but just cut right to the topic, no bull, no core messages. Imagine if you learned how to sing from a YouTube series? Wouldn’t you have a great connection with whoever provided that? The positive experience would transfer to the brand, people would consider us to be knowledgeable only because they had an experience where we taught them something as simple as how to change a flat tire.

Not only does this simple transference happen, but the content we would be producing is much more shareable and has a chance to reach a much larger audience. Even the best breakthrough research content has a limited audience and it is also temporal. Todays innovations are old news tomorrow.

Disclaimers

  • This is just one example and it might not even be a good one. It just represents the shift in how we could be connecting to our audiences in addition what we do now.
  • The OSU brand statement is not meant to actually show up in any collateral it is by definition steeped in academic terms. I very much believe in our brand statement and think that it is quite well written. It is just the easiest example I could find.
  • My visceral reactions to law enforcement, following me, no way reflects how I actually feel about them. I am deeply thankful for the men and women who dedicate their careers to protecting our communities. It’s also quite possible that the negative emotion tied to their brand is a good thing. It might help keep crime in check.

-Kegan

-Kegan

The idea came from an off-hand comment in another interview I was having with Ron Mize, the director of CL@SE at OSU. We’d talked about the subject of the story: The Tenured Faculty Diversity Initiative for almost half an hour. At the end of our chat, I asked him what he does for fun. Of course, most of our very dedicated professors don’t have a lot of free time, and he explained that he ESPECIALLY doesn’t because he happens to live in Portland and commute to campus in Corvallis four days a week.

I was shocked. I hate commuting. I live exactly 1.5 miles from campus. It takes me about 10 minutes on my bike…

“But people do this?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered. And it’s not just him. There are more than a dozen faculty members at OSU in this unofficial carpool, and the idea intrigued me.

P1040313

My first thought was, “This could make a great story for our Beaver Nation PDX newsletter,” which I work on and contribute content to regularly. It focuses on content that relates to our Portland audience. Blah Blah…. But the idea became more than that for me….

I mean, these people are brilliant, right? Ph.D.s! In a car! For hours at a time! The conversations they must have! It wasn’t difficult to get the rest of my team on board with the idea.

I knew I couldn’t just talk to them about it. I needed to experience it for myself, so I got permission to join them on a Wednesday in May. But I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Please never accuse me of not suffering for my art. This is what happened:

•5 p.m., Tuesday: I picked up a car from the motorpool
•4:30 a.m., Wednesday: I drove to the Park-N-Ride in Tigard
•6:15 a.m.: I began my journey back to Corvallis with the Carpoolers
•7:30 a.m.: I arrived in Corvallis and made my way directly to Java II for some caffeine
•5:30 p.m.: I met the carpoolers again
•6:30 p.m.: We are stuck in traffic behind an accident that eventually closes I-5 North.
•7:30 p.m.: We arrive back at the Tigard Park-N-Ride. I hop back into my motorpool car and turn around
•8:00 p.m.: I stop at the Sonic in Wilsonville for more caffeine. And tater tots. I need the tater tots.
•9:00 p.m.: I drop off my motorpool car. Go home and directly to bed.

The result: This story. And I’m totally and completely thrilled with it. It was a blast, and I hope you enjoy reading it!

-Callie


The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

Maximizing reach

So much of advertising depends on reach. It doesn’t matter what medium or channel you are considering. Before you can drive engagement and deliver conversions you have to start by reaching your audience.

Sometimes reach at a university ebbs and flows outside of our control. During the summer months reach is diminished. Students leave, faculty go on vacation and our physical touch points start to dry up. The same goes for our digital space, during these months some of our audiences have fewer reasons to go to our home page. The natural (unpaid) forces that provide motivation for people to enter our funnel temporarily dry up.

EndofYear
Commencement 2015

There are also a few times each year where our natural reach is maximized. During commencement our touch points increase. Parents, siblings, alumni, current students, etc. all coming to campus, some for the first time in years. Web traffic analysis shows that this is also a peak time for the university home page and core sites.

As bargain hunting marketers we make an effort to pounce on the opportunity. Every year our department composes features about our graduates often including stories and videos detailing their exploits and possible career options. This allows us to celebrate the university through the stories about some really interesting people. These are particularly useful in targeting our prospective parent demographic. Parents want to imagine their students getting a degree and moving on with the job of their dreams and we happily share examples with them. Callie our storytelling guru and Darryl, the lord commander of video production, usually pair up to make excellent content.

Here is one student from this year’s graduating class.

Normally these profiles would be inserted into our carousel towards the top of the Oregon State home page. Without going on a rant I’ll just say I’m not much of a carousel fan. Typically this feature of our site has a 1.3% click through rate. You can spin that number however you want, but to me it isn’t good enough. This year we decided to try something new.

Going outside of the box

It is unrealistic to consider completely redesigning our home page for this one use and the current design was never constructed to be very flexible in terms of layout. We decided that there might be a way to augment it with some small CSS tricks in order to take advantage of this temporarily increased reach. Oliver (one of our graphic designers — which is oversimplifying his amazing talents, but I digress) came up with the concept of adding functionality that allowed the home page to essentially slide away revealing bonus content. The thought would be to make it feel like you were finding a secret or something hidden. Making an emotional connection rather than the expected experience with the carousel. The simple act of changing the background to an image, instead of a color, might register with the users that something has changed.

Screenshot of our home page with a background image for the first time. You can also see the button that was added.

Screenshot of our home page with a background image for the first time. You can also see the button that was added.

After talking it through we came up with a fairly simple solution. We inserted a new graphic that when clicked slid the main content area of the home page to the right revealing our special commencement feature. This was done with one line of jQuery and absolutely positioning the commencement feature underneath the main container with CSS. We played around with all sorts of ideas, but this seemed like the best compromise. We didn’t want to impede the user experience by forcing people to go through this feature, but we also wanted it to be interruptive enough that it would be noticeable.

After clicking the button in the left corner of the page the main content area slides to the right exposing our hidden content.

After clicking the button, in the left corner of the page, the main content area slides to the right exposing our commencement feature.

The results are in

By attaching event tracking to the button, that activated the animation, we were able to track how many times users interacted with our marketing Frankenstein feature. During the 14 days that this feature was on the home page it was “opened” 3,956 times by 2,652 unique users. Those numbers in isolation tell me that at least some people figured out how to interact with this new feature and absorbed some of our storytelling goodness. A few of which probably clicked on it a few times for the fun of it.

A more complete pictures comes into play when you know that there were 101,906 unique users that visited the home page over that same 14 day window. Giving us a usage rate of 2.6% (amount of unique people who interacted out of the total unique people who possibly could have). That is almost double our standard CTR of the carousel, so in some sense you could consider this a smashing success. I also heard anecdotally that people enjoyed the hidden content and generally thought it was a pretty cool feature.

However, I can’t help but feel a little pessimistic. Capturing less than 3% of our users just doesn’t feel good enough. There are all sorts of reasons why I could explain it away. Maybe the button was not very noticeable. Maybe people saw it, but there were no visual queues for them to know that it was clickable. Most likely people saw it and didn’t care. Those users show up wanting to fulfill whatever task they came for and have little interest in being caught our web.

I suppose the takeaway here is understanding that these natural cycles exist and that they can be a valuable tool for maximizing reach. It is also important to explore new techniques and creative ways to capture your extended reach. We proved that it can have a positive impact, but we also found we have plenty to learn when it comes to understanding our audience and the best way to connect with them.

– Kegan

-Kegan

Time lapse photography has occupied my attention for several years. The visual passing of time strikes a chord with the part of me that is in constant daydream mode. With most of my experience coming from video production and not photography I had (and very much still have) a lot to learn. At this point I should mention that when I refer to time lapse I am typically referencing the process of combining numerous photographs into video form as opposed to dramatically speeding up recorded video. I flirted with both and settled on the photography base as my preferred method.

Start simple

My first foray into the world of time lapse was pretty basic. I started with a fixed camera taking “standard” photos, usually over the course of 30-40 minutes. Nothing special here, but I was trying to convert my video knowledge into basic photography principles. It was fun, but not particularly successful.

What I learned

  • You need a really sturdy tripod base. Any vibration or movement will more or less ruin the party.
  • Understand the passage of time and how fast your subject moves. Things that move slower require a longer interval between photos to create any effect. Think of a plant growing from a seed. You might have to take one photo every week to notice any difference. ON a busy street corner you could take a photo every 3-5 seconds. The sky is popular component of good landscape time lapse. Keep in mind that an interval of at least 10 seconds is useful to create dynamic cloud movement.
  • Understand how long you have to actually run your time lapse. Not being a fan of basic math I struggled with this. For example, pretend you are setup to do a nice landscape time lapse. You reckon since the clouds are slow moving you might want to have an interval of 12 seconds between photos. Going with the assumption that you are going to produce a 24 frames per second video (cinematic standard) it will require 24 still images to make up one second of video. With this information we can figure out how much actual time you need to have your camera running for every second of time lapse video. 12(seconds between photos) X 24(total frames needed for a second of footage) = 288 seconds or a little less than 5 minutes. If you are ever going to use the time lapse for anything you want a time lapse to last on screen for at least 10 seconds (at the very least). So if we extend that information we now have 5(minutes for every second of video) X 10(minimum length of useful video) = 50 minutes! The takeaway here is to plan out your shots, in some cases be prepared to be out there for hours.

Motion Controlled Time Lapse

Naturally after I crawled further into the subject I noticed people making incredible camera movements throughout their time lapses. I was obsessed and had to figure it out. The concepts are all the same, but now you introduce the technique of moving your camera during the interval between photos. Each movement is incredibly subtle, but over the course of the entire time lapse it adds up to, in some cases, a six foot slide or a 180 degree pan.

In order to jump into this technique some additional equipment is required. There are many manufacturers out there so I won’t get into specifics, but you will need a system that will drive the motion of your camera over time including a control system that can program the movement. Some have been able to master this with a simple slider and moving your camera by hand, but human error makes this very difficult. Having this controlled mechanically and by a computer provides a much more consistent result.

(Random example of some time lapse with motion. There are tons of amazing examples on YouTube and Vimeo.)

Motion Control Systems

Hyper Lapse

After spending a lot of time practicing the “vanilla” time lapse and even leaping into some motion controlled projects I was pretty engrossed in the art form. I mention art form because it’s more and more evident to me that you will only get as far as your creative mind will take you. I consider myself fairly well educated in the science of time lapse but to truly get the shots that make you go “wow” you need that left brain point of view. I don’t say this to deter you, but be prepared to crawl on the ground, climb a mountain or do whatever it takes to find that elusive void to make art.

Darryl, another time lapse acolyte in our department, turned me on to the concept of a hyper lapse. Instead of taking tiny movements sliding or revolving around a fixed point (tripod) you move the whole package throughout space. An example of this is approaching an object of note from say a 100 yards away. Between intervals you would move your tripod in a very controlled manner. If done well this creates a “sliding” movement but on a very large scale. This technique becomes another layer of complexity that takes a while to master.

(You can see the hyper lapse concept in a commercial we produced for Oregon State. They create an almost dreamlike feel.)

What I learned

  • Planning is even more critical for this kind of move. You want a relatively straight path free of obstacles and hazards. If a car parks itself along your path the party is over. Try to have your move as linear as possible. Since you are mimicking a sliding movement you don’t want to have to bend around a tree or else it breaks the illusion.
  • Although you are moving your whole tripod the camera needs to stay locked onto the target. Think of looking through your viewfinder as crosshairs. You want to move your tripod and then re adjust the camera so it is still framed similarly. Using your grid will help with this, but ultimately takes a lot of practice. If you change your framing the video will end up a little insane. (you just have to see for yourself)
  • This technique requires some manipulation on the video processing end. Because this is done by a human hand inevitably there will be some wobbles in your path. Using a tool like the warp stabilizer in Adobe Premiere/After Effects does a great job of smoothing out these rough edges.

My love for time lapse photography will always evolve as I learn, but that’s part of the fun. I haven’t even scratched the surface of Night Sky time lapse. Being in Oregon there is always a vista just down the road. Trial and error in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I could do worse.

-Kegan

-Kegan

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.53.54 PMI recently got a tour of the new online catalog that our Extension office built. Essentially it houses all of their publications in one easy to navigate Drupal site. For anyone with Drupal or database experience you know that alone is a heroic task. The site is full of features and cool modules. It is a shining example of quality content, great architecture and strong development. A big congrats to everyone in Extension and Experiment Station Communications who knocked this one out of the park.

-Kegan

-Kegan

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Our latest digital campaign is underway. It’s our Beaver Nation interactive documentary, and it’s following the themes of the ongoing Beaver Nation efforts led by our sister unit, University Marketing. The whole campaign launched last year with our new commercial (also produced by our team in partnership with University Marketing).

What the interactive documentary does is establish a sense of place. Oregon State University has the great benefit of being located in a natural resource wonderland. Old growth forests, dramatic volcanoes, glaciers, gorgeous coastlines and waters rich with sea life, an array of agricultural products, vineyards, hop farms, pastures, painted hills, mysterious canyons: all of these wonders orbit our main campus like a constellation of glossy tourist brochures. You sometimes have to pinch yourself as a reminder that it’s all real.

We’re lucky to live in Oregon. And that our campus has such deep connections to every corner of the state.

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The Beaver Nation documentary and site is intended to show our reach within the state and beyond, but it’s more than that. We also want to just step back and celebrate the places that we’re fortunate to be surrounded by.

Our crew traveled to all of these spectacular places to uncover the stories of the people who call them home and are connected to them. And we didn’t just focus on OSU students, alumni and faculty. Anyone who loves where they live and appreciates their local bounty–and works to protect it–is an honorary member of Beaver Nation. It’s not just about orange and black…it’s about making a difference in your community.

We’re releasing a new chapter every few weeks through early 2015, and we’ll be finishing with coverage of Beavers around the country and across the globe.

What I’m particularly proud of is that the entire project has been produced completely in house with our full-time staff and student workers. Our team can compete with the best agencies and show the potential of committed workers devoted to the institution. Beaver Nation isn’t just out there. It’s right here, inside our studio as well.

And our staff also produced the various chapters. Each region had a different producer who pulled together the team and invested a part of themselves into every story, word and pixel. And the results are amazing. It’s a great privilege to be part of this talented crew.

– David

Here at Interactive Communications, we like to experiment. We’ve built DIY camera rigs and try the nightly builds of Magic Lantern firmware on our Canon cameras. Heck, I even built my own timelapse camera slider, going so far as to write my own program to set the move speeds. We do it because we want to tell the best story and have different tools to use to do that.

So in 2012, when we saw the short video that Vincent LaForet did with the Movi, our jaws dropped. Fast-forward just under a year and now the do-it-yourself crowd has built a community around these gyro-stabilized camera gimbals, blossoming out of the RC hobby.

A couple of us in the office are in to the RC hobby. Flying helicopters and quadcopters kind of got us thinking; we could build one of those! And so we decided, when the right project came to our attention, we jumped on the opportunity to build one.

The finished gimbal during its debut shoot
The gimbal at its first real video shoot

Before I get too much further, I want to make this clear: This is NOT a how-to. Realistically, if you are toying with the idea of making your own camera gimbal, then you have to be able to tinker or pay up for the out-of-the-box solutions. However, I’d like to give some tips that would have helped us from the start.

Our parts list (all from HobbyKing):

  • Turnigy PRO Steady-Hand Gimbal 3 Axis KIT
  • Quanum AlexMos Brushless Gimbal Controller 3-Axis Kit Basecam
  • Turnigy HD 5208 Brushless Gimbal Motor (BLDC)
  • Lithium Polymer Charge Pack 18x22cm Sack
  • TL-262 Thread Locker & Sealant High Strength
  • Hobbyking 2-8S Cell Checker with Low Voltage Alarm
  • Cable Ties 160 x 2.5mm White (100pcs)
  • 5.6mm x 13mm M3 Nylon Threaded Spacer (10pc)
  • EC3 plugs (10pairs/set) (USA warehouse)
  • Turnigy 420 Balancer/Charger 2S~4S
  • Wire Mesh Guard Black 3,6, and 8mm (1mtr)
  • HobbyKing Power Supply 100~240v 5A
  • Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack

Totaled out to be around $600 shipped vs the Movi equivalent at just under $5,000.

Additional parts were bought from Quadframe.us who we were able to provide IMU and AlexMos board cases. We also took several trip to our local hardware shop, where we got our nylon screws, nuts and spacers for mounting the board. Here’s a short video that includes some shots with the gimbal:

Some notes and tips (specific to this build)

  • The Hobby King frame is not easily adjustable and thereby very frustrating to balance. Be prepared to tighten and untighten the screws about a thousand times.
  • The hardware provided with the frame was not quite adequate, it was missing motor mounting screws and it was not in the motor box. Some screws broke threads or just didn’t work. Have some additional screws on hand!
  • Another suggestion to Hobbyking: Please include a stand for the gimbal, it would save people so much time and frustration. What we did was use two light stands to hold up the gimbal, which worked great but if there was an option to buy a simple stand, we would have definitely done that.
  • Get yourself a halfway decent set of hex drivers, they will save your fingers and sanity.
  • Providing a case for the IMU and the AlexMos board would be really helpful in protecting the electronics, especially if people are going to fly this on a camera ship and if it is intended on being used on a production shoot.
  • A longer IMU cable would have been tremendous; we tore ours off so many times, eventually creating a longer one.
  • Header pins for the IMU would have been nice so we wouldn’t have to keep resoldering the wires.
  • BE SURE to check all axes for friction-less motion, it is super important and gave us too many headaches.
  • BALANCE is essential to the success of this, we followed the basics from the Movi online manual on Vimeo and found it very helpful.

So the big question is, was it worth it?

Yes and no. We saved a ton of money by doing it ourselves and we sure as hell paid for it in the time we spent tinkering and adjusting the thing. In the end, I can build one of these things with a bit more confidence and the experience we gained is new territory in the world of cinematography. So to answer the question, it was mostly worth it minus the times we wanted to throw the gimbal through the window.

-Darryl