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Radiance Corridor Time Lapse

In Memory of Jane, “Jae” Carmichael

The Gig

I received an email from an executive at Mountain View Mortuary, the historic funeral home in Altadena, CA inquiring about producing a time-lapse video of the Radiance Corridor. This wing of the mausoleum is defined by a large stained glass window facing East and a series of skylights embedded in the ceiling. The way colors and shapes move through the space has to be seen, words fail me here. The photo provides some insight into the beauty of the space.

The impact upon me as I spent many hours there filming was significant. I felt as if I was being watched. Comforting and a bit strange at the same time.

The Challenge

What made this story particularly challenging was that it had no discernible narrative. Other than  sun moving through the space, there is no story. I naively thought that just the sun would be enough to enlighten this film: I’d make all the time-lapse sequences in chronological order and cut the movie in a the same chronological manner. Wrong! It didn’t work or rather I could not make it work to my satisfaction because it was too limiting in terms of flow. A good time-lapse edit is akin to a jigsaw puzzle: smooth pieces that seamlessly fit together. The reality of putting beautiful time-lapse sequences together so they fit just right is the art form of time-lapse. What seemed like a good edit idea boxed me into a look that was unformed, lacked emotion and uninteresting.

My job after the photography is to put on my producer hat and make it all come alive. No pun intended.

So I just went for it and made it as fine arty as I could. Really pushed the order and intensity of the colors. Got way out in la-la land and stopped, evaluated and eventually pulled back to what you see in the finished film because after all I did have a client to satisfy. Smile.

  Nice concept but not the right application

Hope you enjoy it and please share if you do: Radiance Corridor

Thanks for reading and watching!

Michael

Expertise In Craft & Vision: The Story of Syncreon

How It Began

In January of 2015, the U.S. headquarters marketing director of a German based supply-chain company hired me to direct and produce a time-lapse film about how they as a company transform empty warehouses into order fulfillment centers. From the jump it was envisioned as a stand alone film. Filming began in early February and ended in late April.You can see it here. Note the high view revealing the package conveyor system getting installed. It’s near the end of this film and is pivotal to the rest of this story.

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Weber Metals Heavy Transport

The following short film depicts the transportation of an extremely heavy part for the worlds largest privately owned 60K press. It moved very slowly through the city streets of Long Beach, at night with a full compliment of Highway Patrol vehicles and personnel. This very mundane process has been livened up quite a bit through the manipulation of time, (speed ramping) dramatic music and my overwhelming love of things construction and industrial related…

The press arrived in 39 pieces at the port of Long Beach. Due to their tremendous weight, each piece had to be moved via a specialized transport.

This short film depicts the transportation of one of four specialized pieces called a guide cannon. A guide cannon supports the guiding tolerance of the moving press frame. The press frame is composed of the lower crosshead, the tie rods with the pressure sleeves, the foundation crosshead and the upper crosshead with a overall weight of 8,818,490 pounds.

BOOM!

I know too much lingo but the thing to remember is that each guide cannon weighs almost 610,000 pounds and as such requires a very special process for moving from the port to the factory.

Hope you like it as much as I do!

Removable Solar Panels Installation Video


While driving to an out-of-state shoot in December of 2015, I received a call from the marketing director at Mitsubishi Electric US. They were interested in having a time-lapse marketing video produced for them. The story they wanted to sell / tell was how easy it is to install, maintain and use their innovative new commercial / residential product: removable solar panels.

It was a difficult shoot in the sense that the location was on the roof of a 30′ tall warehouse with roof access from a single ladder inside the building. This ladder was attached right against the wall, surrounded by a cage to catch you if you slipped. Not easy to use properly if you’re carrying gear on your back. And you’re past the spring chicken phase of your life. I took a lot of gear, (about 125 pounds for this job) so getting on the roof was problematic. Fortunately I was able to get the forklift operator (who was lifting solar panels onto the roof) to help me bring most of my stuff to the roof too. He was a total lifesaver.


The end product as envisioned by MEUS and executed by me:

 

The Construction Site Theater

How I Evaluate What Shots Will Work

A Case of Stage Site

The Site Is Live Theater

For me, project locations are large stages, with the action (construction process) playing out during multiple, daily scenes, using specialized and off-the-shelf props (hand tools, concrete pumps, tractors, etc.) by the actors (workers and supervisors). Add in ever changing and dramatic lighting conditions into this mix. For a location photographer like myself, (who specializes in time-lapse film production) the lighting conditions make or break great shots. I cannot stress this aspect enough.

Speaking of the light, there are three qualities of light: direction, unfiltered sun (specular) or cloudy bright (diffused) light. You could add overcast conditions where the the sun is totally obscured as a fourth category. The mixture of light quality and activities happening makes or breaks a great day of filming. The way the light falls on the stage throughout the day should be taken into consideration. There are other light qualities to consider, (nighttime lighting) but that’s for a future post…

The Responsibilities of the Director

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What I Have In Common With D. W. Griffith

“The thrall of great sweep and the poignancy of meticulous detail” – Jeffrey Fleishman

This quote is from a story Jeff did for the LA Times back in September. The story was about The Birth of A Nation and it was engrossing. At a particular point in the story, Jeff came up with the above quoted line when describing D.W.’s work. (And yes I wrote, asked and received permission to quote Jeff) What struck me about the line was how apropos it was when applied to my work: construction and industrial time-lapse film production. My projects occur at large active job sites, where men and women abound and an incredible amount of equipment (from items off the shelf at Home Depot to highly specialized gear that can cost upwards of a thousand dollars an hour to operate) is deployed…

I am absolutely charmed and mesmerized by life on a construction site: the noise, hard work, the specialty tasks that play out every day, it’s all good for me. From project managers, engineers and surveyors to the young guns just beginning their careers, it really fascinates me. It’s the scope of it all, the ultimate grandeur that results from meticulous planning and execution. All projects begin the same way: from dirt. Whether it’s demolishing something first or starting from pristine earth, every project deals with dirt, above and below ground. Then it’s pouring the foundation, building the walls, wiring, roofing, etc., (plus a ton more) until it’s all done. And the frequent scaling of men and machines on site is as tightly a choreographed dance  as you’ll find anywhere. Add bad weather and seasonal changes to the mix and you’re in for quite a ride all righty.

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The Love of Building

The Beginning

As a kid playing make believe construction, one of my favorite things to do was constructing buildings and environments and the stories that went with them. Fast forward to my adult life and photography career and many times I desired to redirect what I was being paid to photograph to focus exclusively on industrial landscapes, especially large outdoor locations. The allure of oil refineries, manufacturing plants, construction sites and the like swirled around my mind constantly. If the work included travel, so much the better. I was studio bound for years and happy. Business was good. I look fondly upon those days.

Nevertheless as much as I pined for a different type of photography career, I couldn’t get myself motivated to produce a portfolio showcasing this desire beyond the occasional self-assignment. When the infrequent industrial assignment came my way, I didn’t build upon those opportunities. I couldn’t identify the issues at play for me to understand why I wasn’t heading towards my hearts desire. So I kept at what I was being paid well to do: products, architecture, copy work, lab services and headshots. In 2003 I went into teaching more or less full time, thoroughly enjoyed that career and found the answer…time lapse! Continue reading »

It’s Elementary My Dear Client

For the most part when I get called to produce a construction time lapse film, the request falls into one of two categories: a) …“we’re starting tomorrow, (or in the next few days) can you set up a camera?” or b) …”we’ve already begun our project and would like you to come out ASAP.”

This presents a challenge because as a story teller I’m concerned about the beginning of each and every film I produce. At what point does your story begin? As a client you have to ask yourself how will our story begin?

Beginnings

Every film, book, play, song or performance’s beginning is used to set up the audience for the rest of the story. A good beginning gets you to the emotional spot where the rest of the story can be consumed easily while informing and entertaining.

It’s not just a construction project, it’s your carefully choreographed story waiting to be told by someone like me, a dedicated and enthusiastic professional with a deep fondness for all things construction.

Call Me As Early As Possible

When you contact me with short, (or no) notice my ability to access your projects timeline is compromised. I’ll get your audience interested in what you have to present to them because that’s what I do. But the more time I have up front, the better and possibly more clever the intro. And that’s key to getting the attention of your audience.

End Result

For example, I was asked to produce this film after the demolition and new foundation work was completed. Not ideal for me and I struggled throughout the shoot to come up with an opening fitting to the subject. I succeeded because again, that’s what I do but I would have preferred to begin the project with a time-lapse sequence of the existing buildings demise…oh well a fella can dream can’t he?

Enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Michael

Time-lapse Sculpting: The Process of Finding It

As discussed in a blog post last year, time-lapse film production is a two-step boogie: data collection and data management. Now I’d like to discuss my artistic approach to this mostly technical photography genre…

Producing your time-lapse story is similar to a sculptor turning marble into something beautiful, thoughtful and engaging. Once the photographs, video snippets and sound effects are logged, identified and archived, reviewing the story arc begins.  Based on my pre-production scribbles, shooting notes, observations and daydreams I imagine how the completed film should look, play and sound. And for how long. I look at and review dozens of pieces already published, (mine included) read up on new techniques and software advances to see what may be appropriate for your story.

These two frames depict the level of change in a 5-month time-lapse. The top image is the finished waterfall and below you can see where we began. Impressive. (a little bragging here, this film was selected for the 2016 Time Lapse Film Festival in Los Angeles. Click on the thumbnail to see the film)

Once these steps are in their stages of process and completion, multiple software “chisels” are brought into play and the process of carving out your story begins. First order of business is discarding the pieces that impinge. Second, discard the pieces that impinge. Third, discard the pieces that impinge. This takes a lot of “chiseling” time. Oy! But it’s the necessary step in getting from here to there: a logical and entertaining story that leaves your audience better informed and satisfied.

The next step is putting the chosen sequences into a timeline. A timeline is the order in which things occur. And they don’t have to be chronological! You’d think that in a time-lapse film, order is everything. Especially when it comes to a construction story. Most of your film will be in a chronological sequence but the way I direct and edit, it ain’t necessarily so. As long as the bits and pieces are recorded properly, changes in chronology are useful and necessary. Trust me. :()

For example, this time-lapse of tree trimmers working on my property was put together with a few ideas in mind: black and white, one sequence plays forward and back, a lot of quick cuts to cloud movement, sound effects and music were mixed in a way that makes the film short, sweet, jumpy and fun. And it’s ever so slightly out of chronological order. But it engages you to watch: Tree Trimming

After roughing out your story arc, the refinement process commences. Decisions about where to transition, when to transition, and why begins. Should it be a cross dissolve, jump cut or effects driven? I use ‘em all to great success. Absolutely love this process. Added into the mix are time-lapse sequences with organic movement, (or static sequences that have it added later). I spend a lot of time with this critical component. Quality demands it. My muse says so!

At this point the story is working at a level where rendering is required for further evaluation. This render, (output, video, etc.) is high-quality video and designed to work inside another software application where titles, other graphics, sound effects and music are added. After watching the film several times with music and sound in place, it becomes apparent that some transitions have to be changed. This happens because a particular dissolve, jump or effects transition isn’t in sync with the beat of the music. So it’s back to the prior application to make a change. Output another video file to replace the first one to gauge the accuracy of the change. If it’s good to go, cool. If not, the process is repeated until it works. This iterative process is part and parcel of how a successful time-lapse producer works: The Loop

Easy-peasy.

Thanks for reading.

Michael
818-422-0696

 

We did it! Bingo! Score!

Excuse Me

I have to brag a bit about my success. It’s such a sweet feeling to achieve recognition in a crowded field.

Film Festivals

As I began my incredible journey directing and producing construction time-lapse films in 2011, I laid out several goals for myself: make a living, have fun, elevate the mundane, meet new people, learn new stuff and gain recognition for the work. I can now safely say that 100% of these goals have been achieved: two of my films have been recognized and accepted for inclusion in the premiere of the worldwide Los Angeles 2016 Time Lapse Film Festival.

Lingering Clouds Peak and Syncreon’s deliverables were well-defined by my clients. These two amazing people were guided by their instincts in commissioning me, they believed in my value proposition and trusted me to deliver results. The recognition of my work bears out their trust in me and I’m very happy and excited for all of us.

Trust

Because both films were photographed and produced under ideal circumstances for a commercial artist: 100% trust from the clients and just about as close as one can get to 100% creative freedom, we came up with winners by working towards common goals. That is one of my value propositions: that of a dedicated and thorough professional, who looks around corners you don’t even know exist. I am your eyes on a project. Deliver results, not excuses.

Thank you Jim and Marjorie.

Michael