Thursday, January 27, 2011

Motion Stock, An Exploding Piggy Bank, and An Important Lesson

 An Exploding Piggy Bank shot at 1000 frames per second.

Shooting Motion Stock
I recently completed a second round of shooting motion stock clips with a Phantom HD camera at frame rates of up to 1900 per second! I would not have gotten involved with this project was it not for the fact that I was given access to this rather expensive piece of equipment (to rent the set-up we used, the Phantom Camera with a GVS 9000 VTR computer and raid array, would have been in the neighborhood of $5,000.00 a day) in exchange for a percentage of the royalties. But even with the overhead of the camera taken care of, the time I put into the effort may not be worth it.  Luckily I enjoyed the process.

A Slow Motion Clips With Getty
The thing is that my previous set of slow-motion-clips is not earning that much money. Approximately a hundred clips with Getty are bringing in an average of maybe seven hundred dollars a month. On the surface that seems pretty good…but those clips took me two months worth of work. Now I saved something like $70,000.00 over what it would have cost me to rent the equipment…but I still have expenses including lighting, models, props and so forth. Most of that will be paid back in the first year. So for two months of my time I will be earning, after I divide the royalties, maybe three thousand a year…an amount that will, no doubt, decrease each year. For two months of work?

A Murky Profit Potential
Of course, like many photographers, I tend to forget a lot of the expenses involved. Like buying Final Cut Pro, hiring a guy to teach me to use FCP, hiring him again a few weeks later after I forget what he teaches me, buying a new hard drive to send the images in on, hiring a File Maker Pro expert to amend my database program to be able to split the royalties appropriately and so forth and so on! So the profit potential gets even murkier….

Extreme Slow Motion Clips and An Advantage
I thought that the extreme slow motion aspect of the clips would give me an advantage over others involved in creating stock footage, but apparently not. I even found a guy on iStockphoto who has shot pretty much everything we did, with the same camera and the same level of quality. On iStockphoto! Geez!

Shooting Means Editing
However, being the extreme optimist that I am, when the opportunity presented itself again, I dived in. I did come up with some pretty cool stuff and will be sharing some of it here on this blog (see above). But again, shooting for a couple of weeks means editing for a couple of weeks, and I am so slammed right now, particularly producing a new round of images for greeting cards, that I am only getting an hour or so of editing in every few days…this may take a while!

An Exploding Piggy Bank and The Value of Imagery
 One of the clips we produced, the above example of an exploding piggy bank, shot at 1000 frames per second, did produce a valuable insight for me, one that I suspect many of us photographers need to remind ourselves. As a photographer I love cool visuals, and I love to see that bursting piggy bank disintegrate in slow motion. I have watched it dozens of times, mesmerized by the flying coins and falling debris. But when I showed it to my brother he commented “Yeah, its OK to watch…once.”  So the problem here is that I may not have, probably don’t have, a realistic idea of the value of my imagery. Seems like an exploding piggy bank might be an apt metaphor!

Success In Commercial Photography and Understanding Reality
To succeed in the world of photography, of commercial and visual art, it is imperative that we have an accurate idea of the value of what we are offering. Without a firm grasp on the realities of our market, we will continue to make bad decisions, which will ultimately lead to our failure as businesses. If I really get it, really do understand the true value of what I am offering, which can be equally problematic in either overvaluing or undervaluing, then all the time I put into that latest motion stock effort will have been worthwhile!


Sean Locke said...

Cool slo-mo! How did you make it explode?

Unknown said...

John this is so effective from the visual perspective and also from the subject matter perspective! Thanks for being out there and willing to take all the risks and being willing to share what you learn from your experiences!

John Lund said...


This is top secret info about a very sophisticated technique....

I stood behind a black cloth and hit the piggy bank with a sledge hammer.



John Lund said...


My pleasure!



Sean Locke said...

You did it very well - I thought it might be something like this, but the pig hardly moved towards camera. Good job!