Quick Tip: Title-Safe/Action-Safe Guides in Premiere Pro

I can never remember how to turn these guides on, so I’m posting this as much for my own benefit as for yours. In the upper-right of the program monitor in Premiere, there’s a fly-out menu that allows you to turn on title-safe/action-safe guides, as well as all the other monitoring options.

title safe premiere

Recent Work: Doctor’s Promo Video

Here’s a simple promo video that I recently finished for a local doctor. All I shot was the on-camera presentation by the doctor. Photos are either provided or from stock.

While I was as pleased as ever by the cinematic quality of the Blackmagic footage, I was disappointed to see quite a bit of moiré in the fabric of the doctor’s shirt. I was able to disguise most of it by masking off the shirt in Colorista II and setting the sharpness filter set to a negative value, but you can still see it if you’re looking for it.

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera – Second Impressions

Here’s a regional commercial for a local bank that I just directed & shot with the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera. The client was looking for the slightly desaturated, shallow depth of field look that is popular in high-end national spots. It was a perfect opportunity to use the BMPC.

A couple of quick notes, now that I’ve been using the BMPC for a few weeks.

1) The amount of data this camera captures in the shadows is UNBELIEVABLE. Prior to this commercial shoot, I had to shoot in a dark computer lab, and accidentally took a couple of shots before I realized I had left the ND filter on the lens. I was going to delete the clips as useless, but decided to see how they looked with a little Colorista II and Denoiser applied. To my astonishment, the footage turned out perfectly usable! Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend underexposing your footage by three stops, but it’s good to know that you can salvage what would be a grainy, noisy mess with a different camera.

2) The BMPC is not nearly as forgiving as the 5D2. Part of the 5D magic is that it made almost anything look great. The BMPC really requires good lighting. However, with a decently-lit and composed shot, the clarity is far beyond anything I ever got out of my 5D2.

3) Audio is AWFUL. Far worse than any DSLR. Not only is the hiss and noise of the camera totally unacceptable, but the camera seems to clip any signal over about -20 db. Maybe I’m missing something, but until I figure it out, I am using dual-system sound for every shoot, and syncing the clips with Pluraleyes.

4) The built-in LCD screen on the BMPC is a bit difficult to focus with (especially outside, in bright sun). Unfortunately, the camera does not have HDMI output, so I had to get an SDI to HDMI adapter in order to use the camera with my existing field monitor. I didn’t want to spend $500 for a Blackmagic adapter, so I bought a $40 one from alibaba.com. The adapter works, but I’m a little nervous about how flimsy it is, so I try to use it as little as possible. At some point, I’ll need to invest in an SDI monitor.

“Save Me” Music Video BTS

Note: Frequent visitors to this website will recognize the name Matthew Ward. Matt is a friend of mine from college, who now works on amazing projects in Hollywood. When he isn’t working on VFX for Robert Zemeckis or DP’ing animated features, he directs & shoots music videos for his favorite bands. Case in point is this rockin’ production he created a few weeks ago.

Matt describes his work as “a serious production with limited tools,” and that uncompromising quality shows in all his work. Luckily for us, Matt was generous enough to share an exclusive Behind The Scenes look at the production of this video, just for CrewOfOne readers!

- Alex

Matt, How did you get this fantastic assigment?

Back in 2010, I shot a music video for bay area musician Megan Slankard and her band. The video featured a crowded restaurant, so we thought it would be fun to fill the crowd with other bay area musicians, producers, and creative types working within the music industry around town.  One of those people was musician Jeff Campbell, who was already making a big name for himself and his band, Pine & Battery, and he had also been touring and performing with Megan at solo acoustic shows, so I had heard him perform a few times before.  After we met at Megan’s shoot, we bumped into each other from time to time and eventually he gave me a few of his albums.  I put them through rotation at home and really got into his music.  I wrote him and expressed an interest in working with him on a video whenever he was ready to share some new work.  A few years later, he released his (current) EP, “In Spite of Everything” and he called me right up.

Turns out Jeff and Megan were dating, as well, which eventually had me land her in his video (she’s the gorgeous blonde peeking from behind him in several shots).  They’re kind of blooming into the Carly Simon and James Taylor of the San Francisco Bay Area.

video_still_03 - Megan Jeff
Was there an extensive pre-production process, or was it more of a guerilla-style shoot?

We landed somewhere in the middle, though I have a hard time treating any project I do as “guerilla.” I just assume it’s a serious production with limited tools.


For “Save Me,” I used it as an opportunity to test out (and price out) a low-prod/low-budget shoot as I had been getting a few requests to fly with equipment to work with clients out of the area.  To do that successfully, it required some planning, a budget, and some contacts in the area to help with it all.  I had to get scouting shots sent to me, relay questions back and forth about existing light, the location, all without being able to be there prior to the shoot.  And based on the concept, Jeff and I had agreed on a budget and as co-producers, we vetted everything that the budget was to help with.  Though the budget wasn’t in the 6-digits, we treated it as a big budget shoot.  And although we weren’t using the best equipment, we didn’t skimp on what we needed to do the shoot properly.  With any project, I obsess with the pre-production planning.  It’s the Eagle Scout in me… “Be Prepared.”

During these pre-production processes, Jeff and I built up some serious trust and I think we were impressed with each other’s insane work ethic.  This only helped move us forward and better set us up for even more trust required on the day of the shoot.

Crew of One: Matteus Clement

Most of us work in creative fields because we like being creative, not because we wanted to become accountants or salespeople. Unfortunately, most of us wind up wearing those hats as well. The following is a post by Matteus Clement, an independent video pro located in Vancouver Island, Canada. Matteus has taken an innovative, flat-rate approach to budgeting his videos, and has generously agreed to share his insights, as well as a sample of one of the production agreements he and his small-business clients sign off on.

If you struggle with the “business” side of the photo/video business, you’ll find Matteus’ approach very interesting. Whether you agree or disagree with his approach and his pricing (keep in mind, his prices are in Canadian dollars), it’s terrific food for thought.

Enter Matteus:

I’ve been producing videos ever since I went overseas in 2003 with my Canon Z60 DV tape camcorder. It was only three years ago that I decided to take the plunge into my own business, Mazo Media. Since then, I have learned a lot of new video techniques because of necessity and learned a lot of business practice from mistakes.

I have found that a flat rate quote system works much better than an hourly/daily rate (at least in my region). I believe that most owners/managers find peace of mind in a fixed cost as opposed to a project that can balloon out of control.

I have included a mazo media quote template that I have used for the last three years. I have slowly added amendments after having misunderstandings with clients over what was covered and what wasn’t, as well as limits on stuff like edits. (25 revisions are not acceptable). My closing rate is about 80%. The quote is your way of setting boundaries

The biggest mistake I made in the beginning was trying to assess the value of the video, not of my time. The video market here on Vancouver Island is slim and other video production professionals keep their numbers hidden to stay at an advantage. So it was hard to try and say, “John charges $200 for this video and Susan charges $1500, so I will charge $750.”

That system doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work because John is filming in his mom’s basement with a handycam and Susan has been filming for 10 years and films on a RED Scarlet. While this method will allow you to give a ballpark of you in the local industry, it doesn’t do much for quotes. The “Ah-ha!” moment for me was when I asked myself, “What do I want to be paid per hour?”

How I Made An App

screengrab5 How many times have you heard someone say – or said yourself – “I’ve got a great idea for an app …” A few months ago, I posted an interview with Dean Head, a DP who developed an app for film crews working in China. Ever since then, my own “great ideas for apps” have been nagging at me.

After talking to a couple of programmer friends, I quickly realized two things:

1) Nobody had time to help me.

2) I couldn’t afford to hire somebody.

This was disappointing, but not unexpected. In fact, it’s much the way I expect people feel when they look into video production and discover how much it costs to product a quality project.

But, I don’t give up that easily. When I was in high school and college in the mid-to-late ’90s, the internet and 3D graphics were just starting. At that time, I was a computer nerd, cutting my teeth on the GW-BASIC programming language (as a middle-schooler, I tried to program a searchable Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and moving on to PASCAL and C+. Once I discovered filmmaking in college, I turned my back on “a life spent in front of a computer in a dark room,” and – aside from learning enough HTML and CSS to do my own websites and eBooks – I abandoned programming.

But, times change. These days, video production puts me in front of a computer a lot more than it puts me on a set or location. To a great extent, the photo/video/web/programming industries have all sort of converged into a nebulous cloud of “creative work.” So, I figured, what the heck, I’ll learn to do apps myself.

FX From Red Giant Are Free (For Now)

I have been a fan of Red Giant’s third-party editing plugins for many years now. I’ve used Looks quite a bit, and Colorista II is by far my favorite color-grading app. Today, Red Giant announced that it is creating its own online community: “Universe.” Membership in Universe if free (for now), and gets you several free plugins. More importantly, Universe members will be able to contribute directly to the release and development of future products!

Here’s the Red Giant promo video.

Here’s the page where you can go to sign up. http://www.redgiant.com/store/universe

Red Giant Universe will quickly become a paid service, and the free beta won’t last long, so – impressive as it is – I’m going to delve in and figure out whether there’s enough on here to justify the not-inconsiderable licensing fees:

- Premium Monthly: $10
- Premium Yearly: $99
- Premium Lifetime: $399

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Q&A With “Thanks, Dan!” Creators

It is a rare lawyer commercial that makes me want to commit a crime, just so that I can be represented by the lawyer in question. That was exactly the response I had when I saw this spot for Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Daniel Muessig.

When I first saw the video, it had been updated a few hours previously, and had 400 views. Later that afternoon, it was well over 18,000. Clearly, I was not the only viewer who was impressed!. Curious about the team behind this viral video, I reached out to the man himself, Dan Muessig, Esq., who was kind enough to reply to my nosy questions.

Dan, your promo video had 400 views when I watched it earlier today. Now it’s over 18,000. What kind of response are you getting from people?
Response has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. Some people are mad but you’ll have that.

Your video has a lot of humor, but you’re making a serious point, which is that everyone should have the right to decent legal representation. Kidding aside, what’s your opinion of the current state of the criminal justice system?
The system is completely broken. Its a conveyor belt to prison. In my mind to be effective you have to have your client’s backs to the extent that you are willing to do anything within the law to help them.

Recent Work – Ginny Deerin Campaign Announcement

Benjamin Franklin famously stated that, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Only slightly less certain is the preponderance of political media that is produced for every election cycle. As with too much of our political system, money is the primary factor in determining outcome: candidates backed by wealthy donors or powerful lobbies can pay for high quality production and plenty of TV airtime. Independent candidates struggle to get enough publicity to make potential voters even vaguely aware of their existence.

However, the situation is far from hopeless. On the contrary, social media and low-cost production equipment has made it more feasible than ever for grassroots campaigns to get attention and build up steam. As an example, here is a video I recently did for Ginny Deerin, who is running for Secretary of State for South Carolina.

As you can see, the presentation is very simple, but highly effective. The location was Ginny’s living room. The scene was lit with a Genaray LED light kit. I filmed wide, medium and closeup shots of Ginny delivering her statement on a Canon 5D Mark II. In post, I cut between the different shots to add visual variety, and added photos that she provided. Finally, I added some simple text to the screen to emphasize her key points. Total crew: 2 people (myself and a hair/makeup stylist). Total production time, including editing: less than 7 hours.

The response has been outstanding. One of Ginny’s supporters told her, “If you can get enough people to watch that video, you will win.” Another simply stated, “EXCEPTIONALLY good video!!!!!!”

You don’t need a RED, a full crew, and a giant budget to help a regular person establish themselves as a viable candidate for elected office. If somebody has something powerful to say, keep the production clean and simple, and let them talk.

RIP Sarah Elizabeth Jones


Normally, I try to keep things fairly positive on this blog. Not today. The tragic death of Sarah Jones on the set of “Midnight Rider,” represents everything I have grown to despise about the entertainment industry.

Here’s the short version of the story (which you can read here): a 27-year-old camera assistant is dead, and seven other people are injured, because the producers of the film she was working on decided it would be okay to shoot on a railroad trestle, at night, without permission.


Behind The Screens With Twisted Media

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 8.54.13 AM

No, that’s not a typo in the headline. Normally, we look behind the scenes, but today we’re going to look behind the screens.

Did you ever notice that computers in movies and TV shows look WAY cooler than in real life? Now only is the hardware often impossibly sleek and futuristic, but the software is incredibly fast, powerful, and awesome-looking.

I’ve been mildly obsessed with movie and TV computer interfaces for a long time, so I was very interested to talk to Derek Frederickson, one of the principals of Twisted Media, a company that specializes in on-screen graphics.