Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Sugrue HQ

Just signed a lease on a new studio space with plenty of awesome Sausalito light. Working like crazy to get it operational. A lot of changes in the next several weeks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

RED update

A couple of technical updates to the previous post about my RED workflow. You'll definitely need Final Cut Studio 3, which includes Color 1.5, in order to take full advantage of 4k RED footage. The previous version of Color only allows up to 2k output back to Final Cut.

Second, there's a bug called the "looping bug" in Color where you can't adequately play back clips within Color. Download ColorFixer for free for a super simple workaround. It somehow "fixes" your Color .colorproj files to function properly.

Thanks to Eric Escobar for helping me sort that out.

Take it to the next level!

It's all right there in front of you. You just have to look harder.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

RED/5D workflow

Since this was the first time I shot with the RED, I enlisted the help of my friend (and LucasFilm employee) Sean Wells. He came over to work me through the idea of editing, grading, and outputing RED footage.

First, a disclaimer, or a quest for knowledge, whatever. I'm by no means an expert at this, and this may not be the best workflow for everyone, or even for me. If you know of a better way, please let me know.

It ended up being MUCH more simple than anticipated. RED creates quicktime proxy files to edit from, which puts much less pressure on your GPU than full-res 4k RED files. These proxies come in half, quarter, and eighth resolution, and ultimately reference the large R3D files when you're ready. I have two types of footage to deal with, the interview and b-roll. I imported the smallest quicktime proxies to edit the interviews first, so the client has something to chew on while I'm dealing with the b-roll, sound, graphics, color, etc.

RED proxies on the right. Each references the large files, but makes it much easier to start editing.

After importing everything to Final Cut and dropping them in a timeline, I converted the whole thing to ProRes 422 in the "Sequence Settings" dialogue (command-0) > "Quicktime Video Settings". This basically makes the footage smooth and editable, otherwise it's jumpy because the filetype isn't native to FCP. I chopped up the footage so it's just the interviewee talking and output a quicktime movie (without video) and sent it to Perfect Pages in Oakland for transcription. Then I output another quicktime (this time with video) and uploaded it to vimeo. At this point, the video is just an uncorrected shot of the interviewee with a timecode overlay.

I create a custom page for my clients so they have an address to view, and provide feedback on, the linear progression of the project. I highly recommend Vimeo Plus. It costs like $50/year and you can customize the player on your videos, and upload 5GB without incurring the costs of hosting them yourself. Works very well and allows me to keep it all within my branding with (nearly) none of the heavy lifting. Anyway, then I send the link to the client, along with the transcription in Word format. Shirley at Perfect Pages usually gets it turned around in a day or two. Now the client is looking at the video, but relying heavily on the transcription to get the necessary talking points across. I'll get back a version of the transcription with important sound highlighted, and round and round we go.

Screen grab of the custom site for clients to view the progression of editing versions.

After a few rounds to get it down to an acceptable length and narrative order, I'll start to drop in the b-roll and graphics. With this video, I'm at the point where the v1 of the rough edit is pending approval, so I'm pretty much ready to go to Color. This is where my little tutorial session with Sean comes in. We tested sending some of the small proxy footage to Color to see what happens. In the past, you had to output DPX files, essentially manually referencing the R3D footage. Not incredibly difficult, but a little more technically intensive than I care to deal with.

And then the magic happened. The footage I sent to Color (the smallest of the proxy files) from the FCP timeline was 480x280px. Pretty much iPhone size. Without doing anything, I realized I was now correcting full R3D files. I accessed the RED tab in the Primary In room and adjusted exposure/color/levels/etc., similar to RedCine-X or Adobe Bridge (for stills). We played with the resolution to make sure, made some ridiculous corrections, and sent it back to FCP. Just like that, we were looking at the real deal. So, apparently the newest version of Color automatically references the big stuff, with no back-end technical connections to make.

Primary In room of Apple Color, showing RED tab on far right.

Once I send it back to FCP, I can still make refined frame-accurate edits, then output to taste. One wrinkle of this project is that I shot some b-roll and an alternate interview angle with the 5D. The RED is at 23.98fps, while the 5D is at 30fps. In the course of refining my b-roll material, I created two timelines, one for RED, another for 5D stuff. Once I got the 5D stuff down to a manageable length, like a handful of clips, I used Philip Bloom's tutorial on converting 5D footage to 24p. I had to manually chop it up and copy/paste each clip into my final 24p timeline. That will definitely change once the people at Canon finally give us proper 24p capture, hopefully in early 2010.

All in all, the only issue (so far) is combining footage from the RED and 5D. My initial impression of the RED, at least on set, was that it's a little overrated. It's WAY heavier than I thought, and even in post, the images from the 5D seem to compare favorably. Just ask Shane Hurlbut, a very talented evangelist for the 5D. But it seems that the RED really begins to shine in Color, and can handle much more image manipulation than the 5D. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. If there's anyone out there who's done this workflow, as well as combining the two cameras, please let me know how it's worked for you, as I'm keen to do this better/faster/easier the next time.

More social control

I promise I will post about the RED/5D workflow I've cobbled together for my last shoot. In fact, I'm taking the whole timeline into Color today to start cracking on it.

As this is the time for holiday parties, I usually can't be bothered. My wife and I are homebodies in Marin, and going into the city is usually avoided. Of course, there are exceptions. Last Friday, I went to a party hosted by Caren Alpert, Jeff Singer, and Natalie Bowen, the first two being photographers and studio mates. While there I chatted with Shane O'Neill, an awesomely talented and passionate dude that makes me glad to be a photographer. We also took a few shots in the photo booth Jeff set up. Hopefully he'll post some of those to see. The point is that it was much more fun than I would have thought. It wasn't about schmoozing clients or being pretentious about how busy everyone is. Just really cool to hang out with like-minded people. At the end, Shane asked me if I'd be at the APA party this Friday. 1400 people. Um...we'll see.

Earlier in the day, I met the very talented photographer Justin Bowen for coffee in Sausalito. He's graduating soon from the Academy of Art. We talked about getting started, etc. The problem I have is that everyone's story is so different, so I feel like any details about my background are simply not relevant, but we talk about it anyways cause that's what you do. Hopefully he can glean something from my rambling. The unifying factor is always resourcefulness and finding your own way, which I'm sure Justin will do, and already has to some degree.

Curious, passionate people tend to figure it out.

Maybe this video will be a preview of the APA party. While it's starting to be a played-out trend, I loves me some good super slow-mo, especially with good music.

HEY CHAMP - Cold Dust Girl from hanaari on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Social Control from Improv Everywhere

This is pretty funny. Complete strangers out to help a random lost dude.

Where's Rob
from Improv Everywhere

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Screen time

I'm really going to try to start posting more often. Seriously. There's usually a lot of cool stuff happening that I only really share with my crew. Not that I'm secretive, just that I've enjoyed doing actual work more than writing about it. I'm now in my office listening to the XX (thanks Emily) post-processing multiple projects, including the RED shoot I mentioned (more on that later).

The reality is that my business has changed profoundly in the last year, and I'm all too eager to talk about it with anyone and everyone, as the students in Caren Alpert's class at the Academy of Art can attest. Talking about it is the best way to share the love, even if nobody reads this blog (hi Beth and Jenny!).

I've learned A TON in the last year. Not just about technical stuff and business, but about vision and style and execution. I don't think it's even evident in my work yet, and I'm still getting my feet wet with a lot of new things. Anyone who's followed my photography work over the past couple years will have noticed a subtle shift in style. I even went so far as to discuss this with photo editors on two recent magazine assignments. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it felt like I was being hired to execute old work and lighting. I developed my work by taking risks, especially on magazine assignments. I was no longer doing that because I felt expected to give them what's worked in the past.

Of course, it's on me to take advantage of each opportunity to shoot to push myself to get something amazing out of it. Since they would rarely, if ever, run that work, I started to feel like I was just wasting my time. That's completely stupid.

While my goal is to give the client what they want, I expressed my new approach and how I felt comfortable shooting an assignment. I was willing to walk away as well. I understood if they wanted to hire someone else to shoot it. To their credit, they understood and let me do my thing.

2009 has been by far the best year of business for me, in many ways. I'm very excited about 2010. I haven't even mentioned things on the video side. That's been overwhelming and amazing at the same time, but I have to save something for another post right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New work, new site, new project

Here's a new image from a Visa print campaign, as well as a couple of screen grabs from the commercials, with one thrown in from another project, and a shot of the new site. It definitely looks best full screen. All of this is now live on my site, sugrue.com, designed by my friends at D10 Studio in Monterrey, Mexico.

I'm shooting my first commercial project on the RED on Thursday (with a 5D2 second camera), working with a pretty solid production team, brought together by my ace-in-the-hole Emily Miller. I could not recommend her more highly. She seriously does absolutely whatever it takes to get a job done properly. Working with me, Emily has acted in various capacities as den mother, bar tender, psycho-therapist, good cop AND bad cop, animal wrangler, wrangler to the animal wrangler, detective, queen bee, and financial consultant to name a few.

She's a saint for dealing with a certain city employee on this one, ensuring that all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

I have a new studio manager named Annie Pautsch. I'll put up a short video of Annie at some point, and she may do a little guest blogging. Right now she's busy greasing the wheels of the latest promotional campaign, rolling out over the next couple of weeks.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

Friday, October 23, 2009

New (York Times) developments and inspiration

© Michael Sugrue

Here's an image from about a month and a half ago. I've been sequestered in my cave post-processing several jobs for over a week, with at least another week to go. I've been able to get some vitamin D while shooting a couple of new jobs recently, so I'm not a total vampire.

I'm proud to say I just had my first large ad in the New York Times. It was in yesterday's paper (10/22) on page A10. It was essentially a still from a commercial production for Visa that's online here. I shot 6 of the 9 videos, and edited a 7th. Much of that work will be on a new version of my site, which I'm pretty excited about launching around mid-November.

The trailer below, from a film by Grzegorz Jonkajtys, was shot with a 5D Mark 2. This is WAY better than anything I've seen from that camera. It just goes to show you that it's not at all about the technology, but how you tell the story using lighting, motion, sound, and editing (and some CGI). Basically all of the skills you can't just buy for $2700 from B&H.

Check out the film site here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More new personal work

Some big changes coming soon. New site, and possibly some new digs. In the meantime, here is some recent work:

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Digital friends

© Michael Sugrue
It's been quite busy lately, but I wanted to give props to my good friends at Pro Camera. They've saved me more times than I can count. This is Jen Wilson demonstrating the merits of a good gyro, not the greek taco either.

If you're ever in need of cameras, lighting or grip in the SF Bay Area or nationwide, I highly recommend Pro. This sounds like a paid testimonial, but I have to say, they are much cooler than the other place in town, super friendly, and always up for a chat.

Pro Camera Rental

Friday, July 17, 2009

New work from the Pacific Northwest

Two really long days, 2 1/2 hours of sleep in 48 hours, but well worth it.

© Michael Sugrue

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Roger Deakins forum

Scene from from "Jarhead", shot by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC

It's finally back up! This is a great place to learn and ask questions about cinematography. I've spent a lot of time pouring through the information here, then the site was taken down because it was attacked by a hacker. They finally got the site back up, and I highly recommend it.

Deakins forum.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Channel Islands from the air

8:12AM, 7/10/09

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More Hawaiian landscape

There's really not much to say. This place leaves me speechless. Got up plenty early in Kapalua for the drive over. Didn't try to make the sunrise, so we could get some incredible views and sunlight climbing to 10,000 feet from sea level. Totally worth it. I can't post everything, but here's two. It's actually very quiet here. I expected masses of humanity, but the whole island is just much more low key. Perfect.

One of the observatories tracks EVERY man-made object in space. Something like 8,000 items, satellites, spare parts, etc. There might not be a better place in the world to check out the stars than the top of Haleakala.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

By the way, I've had a few emails for wallpaper images. Just send me your screen size and I can fire off a jpeg. It just might take a few days.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Outtake from video, shot with still.

My assistant Lea Anna, in full Zeiss HD.

© Michael Sugrue

Personal work, Maui

Some new landscape work from the beautiful islands of Aloha.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

Also, whatever technical issues have arisen with my site have been addressed and fixed. Sorry to anyone who tried to email me within the last couple of days. All's back to normal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

After Effects test

Taking my first crack at After Effects, I've just scratched the surface and it's pretty fun. Still trying to figure out some graphics for this project, while ironing out some workflow issues. Now I go out of town for two weeks, so I guess that's enough time to think about it.

There's been three main projects my brain has been alternating between for the last week or so. It's hard to focus on one, then have to switch gears, then switch gears again, all while trying to learn some new software and make sure my homemade chicken soup doesn't burn.

And I lost a hard drive yesterday. It's backed up, but still a hassle. At least I know the synapses are firing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blogroll Please....

Just updated the blogroll on the left side of the page. It's no longer just photo blogs. While I've added some great new photo and photographer sites, there are many more dealing with film, video, editing, and motion graphics.

I've had a lot of people ask me where I get some of this information, so here it is. Enter at your own risk. Each site is it's own wormhole of knowledge and inspiration.

Entering storm clouds, somewhere in the Caribbean.
© Michael Sugrue

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Visual Passion Infusion (ongoing)

Some stills from a shoot last week. This whole motion thing has me very excited. I totally love it! While I think some photographers will easily take to it, many others won't. That's because it's so much different than photography! It's an additional creative outlet, like painting, drawing, or writing, and just as unique.

The reason I love photography is because I'm infatuated with studying the still image, a quiet, meditative, moment in time. I love taking the time to plan and execute still images, and I always will.

But I love film/video because it's opened up an entirely new way to tell stories, at least for me. I'm in love with using new tools like motion, sound, editing, and motion graphics to convey emotion the way I never could in still photography.

I've already cut the first :30 spot for this project, just because I can't tear myself away from it. Integrating video work with my stills, over the last several months, has completely rejuvenated my passion for the visual medium.

Time to dial back the coffee.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

Thursday, June 18, 2009

View from the steering wheel

...in northern Idaho.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More stills from video

These are from the most recent shoot in New York last month.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Short Attention Span

This video is hilarious. A combination of Dave Chapelle and my friend Whitney.

Critic-Cal "Short Attention Span" from Vinit Borrison on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Go Wings, and more iPhone goodness

Friday night is Game 7. Probably the biggest deal in pro sports, at least for hockey fans of the Red Wings. I'm nervous.

Awkwardly switching gears, this thing is really cool. A colour grading tool from The Mill, an award-winning production and post house, that you can download for your iPhone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More convergent thoughts

Just got back from an incredible trip to the Dominican Republic and New York City. I was in each place for about 5 days, shooting a project on stills and video. Here are some screen grabs.

As much as it feels like the creative rush of adrenaline has finally died down, the hard work of photo and video post production now begins in earnest. Sorry I don't have more details right now, but I'm really tired.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

Monday, April 13, 2009

FCP and what have I gotten myself into

Here's a screen grab as I just finished a recent video project. It probably doesn't seem too crazy or overwhelming to many editors or directors, but for a photographer who's recently begun incorporating high-end commercial film work, it represents a few months up a steep learning curve.

There's corresponding print work with this, some of which will even make the portfolio, but far and away the biggest satisfaction comes from the motion side.

The client is happy, and my reel is beginning to take shape with some other commercial and personal work.

© Michael Sugrue

Here are links to some of the books I read, and highly recommend, to brush up on the art:

The 5 C's of Cinematography, by Joseph V. Mascelli

Film Directing Cinematic Motion, by Steven D. Katz

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, by Michael Ondatje

Producing Great Sound for Film & Video, 3rd Edition, by Jay Rose

These books and a few others, and a VERY hard-working crew, basically took me from knowing zilch about it to producing something a great client loves.

There are some additional, potentially creatively rewarding, commercial jobs with both print and motion on the near horizon. However, the most profound change has been the new, wide-open tap to explore personal work.

I shot my first short film over the last few days (rough stills below, coming soon to a festival near you), and I'll see if I can get a couple of clips up soon. It has much less slick production value, but aims to tell tell a story (written and directed by Nick Frangione) with color, camera, minimal dialogue, and editing. If not the essence of story-telling, pretty darn close.

In the long-form narrative category, I may be shooting a pilot for a television show in the fall. All still quite tentative at this point, but enough promise to get me very excited about all of the possibilities and creative challenges that lie ahead.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue