One fully restored Faux Bois tree at the Huntington
A beauty shot of the final Faux Bois tree rebuilt by Terence Eagan.
I’ve specialized in 3-5 minute construction time-lapse films for about 8 years. In 2018 I produced my first construction documentary film. It’s 26 minutes long and includes music specifically written for the film.
What It Is
Faux Bois At The Huntington is the story of taking something beautiful and broken and making it whole again. This film features the work of Terence Eagan, a sculptor who restored and improved the original 100 Faux Bois trees dating to 1915. Faux Bois is the French Decorative Art, dating to 1860, of making imitation wood structures out of iron rods, wire mesh, barrel bands and concrete. In 2010, Terry began repairing a century of damage to the trees that replaced the Victorian Rustic Movement native oak log and timber arbors that Henry Huntington loved but frequently needed attention. Not so with concrete trees.
Incorporating hours of video and time-lapse footage, location sound recording, purchasing original music and mixing sound effects was me punching above my weight class. Exhausting. Fun. But exhausting. I brought in several experts throughout but knowing when to do so and vetting the folks I hired was a new experience for me too. Love the life-long learning stuff when you’re self-employed!
A cinemagraph is the marriage of a single still photograph and either a real time video or a time-lapse video.
The technique of combining still photography with a motion clip to create engaging visual treats has been around for several years. Since I first discovered this amazing trick I’ve been looking or the appropriate time and place to produce my first one:
Press the play button to see it again and again and again…
The story behind this is simple: working with my client, we decided to end the first part of what we hope to be a 2.5 year time-lapse film with a simple yet elegant group portrait of the heavy equipment operators in their employ. While shooting this epic group portrait, (one of my specialties) I had an epiphany: this was the time and place for my first cinemagraph.
And so it went. After the photography session, I took the file into post-production to tone colors, add a cloudy sky, add an employee who was photographed separately and finally, added the company logo and date of operations:
A look at what the camera records, (left) and the artists application of his vision afterwards. (right)
And just like that, my client has the perfect ending to the first chapter of their time-lapse construction film. Note: the cloudy skies in the still photograph above were used specifically for the framed prints given to each person in the photograph. The cloudy sky motion clips blended together in the cinemagraph had a different look and feel.
I’m planning on adding cinemagraphs to future time-lapse construction films.
In the interest of furthering overall knowledge about the process of making short time lapse films (or narratives as I like to call them), the 3 distinct phases of production and why I like to make them, I’ve prepared an 18 minute presentation online.
Knowing none of us has that much continuous free time anymore (right?), I took the liberty of identifying 14 key points and making them into much shorter videos bits.
There’s a lot of great info contained within….time to watch!
I’ve a muse to inspire push and motivate. As an SECP (self-employed creative professional) I want to get my bubbles of influence (creative, financial, relationship) out further and farther (or farther and further?) Every project I work on, every email I send, every letter I write, every negotiation I undertake, every sales presentation I make, every personal relationship I have present a challenge of some sort. The challenge is my muse.
Challenge calls to me like the Sirens. If I don’t approach each challenge wisely however (as the Sirens hoped for), I may not crash but most likely will not have the expected outcome. I’m always down for seeking new and unfamiliar ways to channel this muse to help me accomplish my goals. Do I always succeed? Of course not. But I do succeed enough to propel me, my family and career forward.
For instance, during my current time-lapse project I’ve worked out ways to photograph the subject to make it more interesting. Some of my ideas: fade in and fade out to convey the passage of time, zoom in, zoom out and pan while manually shooting a burst of frames. The end results are cinema type camera moves within a still photography time-lapse. My client is pleased with the result and this had led to discussions about future time-lapse projects. This of course encourages to think up new ways to increase the the value of the overall project for all involved parties.
Another challenge on this project; how to get the specialists (carpenters, roofers, plasterers, foremen) flown in from Japan to accept me. I wanted to be able to place my 2nd and 3rd cameras in locations of my choosing. These locations while great for my purposes may not be ideal for them. How to respect their boundaries, achieve what I want and come together for the sake of the project?
I’d planned to give prints as gifts near the end of the project. But after reviewing the first days take from camera two (set inside where the carpenters were working), I noticed the carpenters had posed during a few of the exposures. One silly, one serious and one group with all of them. How great is that? I didn’t know they had posed. Once the camera was set, I leave for several hours, came back to retrieve the camera and leave again for my office. I discovered their self-portraits during my edit session. I remember telling them the camera was set to make an exposure every 90 seconds and that you could hear the sound of the shutter. I didn’t think anything of it. It was left up to them to act. They did. And I responded in kind.
This simple gesture on both sides has resulted in a bonding of sorts. Subsequently they have suggested spots for camera placement. They are also very careful to ensure my cameras don’t get disturbed during its’ daily cycle. Challenge met and conquered.
I urge you to find your muse. In whatever shape it comes to you. Embrace it. Get to know it. Learn how to apply it to advance your goals.
Keywording, meta tags and SEO work. I received an email last week. It was a request for a quote to produce several time-lapse videos. A four month (possibly longer) time-lapse project. Video inserts also requested. I was stoked. After setting up a meet and greet, I prepared my talking points and began research into weatherproof housings. We’re in the budgeting process. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I was told an online search was performed for professional time-lapse and that my name was the only name that showed as a professional photographer of time-lapse and it was at the top of the results page! Spot number one. It’s good to be the king. All the other results were for time-lapse gear and youtube time-lapse movies. I know this to be accurate because I checked out the results using the same keywords they told me they input. Very cool indeed. Take that traditional marketing. Zap! Pow! Not to say traditional marketing is useless, it isn’t. Being diligent however with my keywording, meta tags and SEO, definitely gave me a clear advantage in this unusual situation.
The takeaway here is to really think about your keywords, meta tags, SEO strategies, the text on your website (especially the landing page) and not using flash to run your information. Takes time to learn, apply, measure and refine. The effort is worth it. And if your competition is doing so and your not…guess who gets more opportunities?