Friday, February 4, 2011

Skipping Coins For Motion Stock

Capturing a super slow motion video clip of a coin skipping across water for a visual supporting financial and money concepts.
Visual Impact for Financial Themes Through Slow Motion Video
In attempting to come up with motion clips of a conceptual nature that would be appropriate for shooting in super slow motion, one of our ideas was to capture a coin, in this case, a silver dollar, being skipped across a body of water. The idea would be that such a video clip could be used to add visual impact to themes that include monetary or investment skill, risk, venture capital, savings and so forth. 

Ambiguity and Versatility In Still and Motion Stock
Hopefully this clip is ambiguous and versatile enough to work with a wide variety of concepts. It has always been interesting to me that one of the traits that makes a stock image work is ambiguity. But it has to be ambiguity in a way that facilitates variety and at the same time, when combined with text or headlines, transforms into a clear, concise and specific concept.  This has worked will with me for still imagery, but I do not yet have enough experience to speak with confidence about the world of motion stock.

A Bare Bones Video Production
Shooting this sliver dollar-skipping clip was a bare bones operation. For the water we filled a black plastic concrete mixing container, purchased at Home Depot, with water. The container was about two-feet by three-feet in size and maybe eight inches deep. We moved in tight enough to fill the frame with water. I placed a large piece of foam core directly behind the water and bounced a 5000-watt tungsten light onto it. We had fill cards on either side of the water with enough room for me to skip the coin. We had a bare-bones operation. The camera and recording was handled by my partner Stephanie Roeser and my intern, Tom Penpark played the role of grip. I had the key part…skipping the coin. Though after about twenty tries on my part, Stephanie took over the coin tossing nailed it on her second try…oh well! We spent about a total of an hour from set-up through capture on this clip, plus a spinning coin falling into the water, a bar of soap hitting the water, and a very intriguing image resulting from shooting compressed air into the water. I haven’t edited any of those ancillary clips yet, but will post them to my site as I do.

GVS 9000 VTR and Efficient Video Capture
Our efficiency in shooting was due in large part to the GVS 9000 VTR hardware and software that we used to capture, store and playback our video. Amazingly, within seconds of a capture we were able to view our clips and convert them on the fly to the Pro Res format that we use to edit in Final Cut Pro. GVS made the process simple and satisfying! We captured the “skip” at 1900 frames per second and play it back at sixty frames per second.  The biggest problem was getting a skip that clearly showed as a coin while having an impact placement that allowed for all of the action (OK…most of it) to be seen.

Success In Motion Stock
Hopefully we have produced an ambiguous, versatile, captivating and yet still specific enough, video clip to make some money with. But whether or not it produces the desired income, we had a blast producing it…and that is half the battle! I am convinced that success in motion stock requires an enjoyment of the process even more than so with still images.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Roll of the Dice, Motion Stock, and Revelations

A Roll of the Dice and A Slow Motion Revelation
One of the criteria I have for shooting slow motion stock video clips is whether or not the clip offers a revelation, a glimpse, or more, of something we haven’t seen before…an Aha! moment, if you will. Often it is difficult, or impossible, to predict whether an attempt will produce such a result. For example, at one point we decided to shoot a slow motion roll of the dice. The shot was extremely tight and our resulting depth of field only about as deep as the dice themselves. To try and keep the dice in focus we had to drop them from a very short distance. The first drop of the die resulted in a very minimal amount of action…obviously something not worth keeping. We checked the result of our capture anyway to get a sense of what we were up against. It was really cool! At one point one of the die hit, bounced up, and seemed to just hang there spinning in the air. It was a revelation!

Cactus Spines and a Bursting Bubble Video
Another revelation, even more delicious to watch, occurred when we captured a soap bubble slowly drifting down onto the spines of a cactus. I had my doubts about whether, even in slow motion, we could see anything interesting in a bursting bubble. I thought the speed of the bubble was too fast, but I was wrong. The first revelation happened as the bubble settled onto the cactus spines. I thought the bubble would burst as soon as the membrane was pierced. But that didn’t happen. You can literally see the spines poke through the walls of the bubble as it comes to a rest on the cactus skin.  Then came a second revelation. After a pause the membrane bursts outwards to the edges of the sphere, then back again to the center in a spray of liquid collapsing on itself. It kind of reminded me of an interstellar galactic explosion! Who knew!

Slow Motion Video at 1900 Frames Per Second
One of the keys to the success of the endeavor was our ability to shoot, with the Phantom HD camera at a frame rate of 1900 frames per second. Here I have to give a plug to my friends at GVS systems who allowed us to use their GVS 9000 VTR computer. It allowed us to capture the footage, review it in seconds, and convert the files to Pro Res files on the fly. Pretty awesome.

Bursting Bubbles and Bringing In The Bucks
Of course, one never knows what image or clip may turn out to be the one that brings in the bucks, but this clip can illustrate many concepts such as a bursting financial bubble, any sort of risk or impending doom, or even dramatic and sudden change. I even fantasize about using After Effects to put symbolic images on the bubble such as houses or dollar signs. But then, I would have to do a lot of learning to accomplish that...maybe down the road when I have more time. Yeah right!