And the Winner of UWOL #11 is... at

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The UWOL Challenge
An organized competition for Under Water, Over Land videographers!

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Old October 29th, 2008, 06:54 AM   #1
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And the Winner of UWOL #11 is...

First of all, I would like to thank Meryem for asking me to judge the short films. It's an interesting experience to look at videos knowing I should select the ones I find the best. Judging of this kind of contest is necessarily very subjective, so wish everybody understands that there is no such thing an objective view. In addition, would like to add that I have not yet read the comments you have posted, but will do that later on. So, it's going to be interesting to find out which way my observations match with the ones everybody else has made. So, there's always a risk I'll find myself like the camel booth man following his own trail and missing the points everybody recognizes. But now, let's get to business.

The winner is Mihali Moore, A Walk in the Park

The first runner-up is Kevin Railsback, The River

The second runner-up is Jeffrey Hendricks, One again

Explanation: The film A Walk in the Park is very much on topic and Mihali Moore exploits light in a very subtle and artistic way which reminds me of Art Wolfe's photographs (see the footnote in the end). When I first opened Mihali Moore's film in the Quicktime player the default setting of contrast was too low. But, the first images taken in the morning looked fabulous and the clips popped up from all other material submitted to UWOL #11. That is, exploitation of light is one of the main ingredients of wildlife films and Mihali shows a great talent there. A Walk in the Park is also a spontaneous film in the sense that it had not been possible to fully plan it on before hand but instead the film takes the advantage of the conditions that were there when the raw material was shot. Also, the story develops nicely and consistently from the dawn towards the noon. Finally, the graphics is excellent.

With no doubt the The River is the most professional production. The film is just great and if Kevin Railsback is not a professional he will be a one in the near future. The opening shot is wonderful. Notice how the small movement of the camera leaves the sun first behind the branch and then it becomes visible -a big opening shot with small effort. The tempo of the cut is very good, some of the clips are very very artistic, the visual story telling from the morning towards the evening cleverly emphasizes the main message of the story. In simple words, a master piece of work.

Saying this, I know, I owe an explanation why Kevin Railsback's film is not the winner. Well, it could well have been the winner, and I'm not surprised if many if not most people expected this would have been the case. I spent couple days trying to make up my mind between Mihali's and Kevin's films. Eventually I got biased towards Mihali's film as it is more spontaneous and Mihali had such a great use of light. The clips of Kevin's film remind me more about the clips which are seen in movies. That is, they look just fabulous but can somewhat be planed on before hand. You know, it's bit like the difference between sun set or sun rise in postcards and genuine wildlife photographs. In addition, I felt Mihali was more on-topic implying the challenge taken was perhaps also bit more difficult. This is a very subjective matter and if anybody feels the other around, one has all the reasons and justification for it. Kevin's film is wonderful.

Jeffrey Hendrick's One Again has a very good opening and end. The filming is very artistic and the motion of the camera is motivated. I mean, the camera does not move just for the sake of moving but instead there is a good reason to move the camera. That's the same thing as in Kevin Railsback's opening shots. Move the camera when it supports the over all goal or if there is a reason to move the camera, but otherwise, keep it steady. If the camera moves for no reason, the audience pay attention to the camera motion, which is to say, the attention jumps out from the story.

Comments on other films I did spent time thinking whether to say the second runner up is Jeffrey Hendricks and Cat Russell's Relatively Infinite, but was not sure whether Meryem would have approved that. Cat's story is a great example of good story telling. The story grows nicely from small towards large and it attracted my attention immediately. I started to wonder where is this going to end --that is, I got hooked-- and realized only towards the end where is it probably going to end. Cat could have been bit more creative in the last clips. At least I felt the photographs of the milky way somehow jumped out from the rest. Notice also the nice idea of ending to the same theme from which the story started from. Well planned and visually built expression.

Then, more comments in arbitrary order. I'm a documentarist, so I liked a lot Dale Guthormsen's, Trond Saetre's and Rob Evan's documents. Chris Barcellos has a great clip in the end (the timing is about 2:12 -2:22) as well as Keith Heyward's clip of the ants about 2:13 - 2:22. In Kevin's case I first look at the video and thought, what is that, and then the next clip gave nicely the answer. Oliwer Pahlow's A Hidden Nook by the Brook has a nice opening as well as Ron Chant's The Red Brest. Markus Nord's Thousand Brothers is in my eyes very sympathic. Although the beginning has an idea copied from BBC Planet Earth, the opening is great. I liked the idea of Markus driving a Saab and diving in the lake, and found a very creative use of the camera and clever cutting. Furthermore, how come his shots under water are so stable? Also the end is great -nice work from Markus. Finn-Erik Faale's Rules of the Water has great angles of view and good cutting. Nice work as well.

Tips: Finally, some tips to those who have not been shooting wildlife films that long. In general, in modern documents the average length of a clip seems to be around 4-5 seconds if not shorter. This means in a 3 minute film one needs about 40-50 selected clips. If there is no detailed manuscript this means that one needs several hundred "raw clips" taken from different heights and angles from which the final ones are selected.

Another thought that came into mind: Over the years I've tried to get rid of the dictatorship of the standard tripod height. That is, when I'm out there on the field, I tend to ask myself, what attracted my eye and attention. Then I try to figure out which angle of view, focus length and so on is the best to show others what I'm seeing. Only then I put the camera on the tripod if it serves the purpose the best. You know, one can lie on the ground or climb into a tree as well, whatever it takes to get a good shot.

There is no need to move the camera for the sake of moving it. The whole point is to tell a story with the camera. If moving the camera helps there, or makes a clip more interesting, then, yes one should move the camera. Otherwise, better to leave the camera steady. The same applies to the zoom. Often, or should I say, in most cases, a cut from a large view to close-up is better than zooming in. Also, when filming animals or birds, it's not compulsory to follow the animal with the camera. One may also let the animal to go out and come in to the image. In fact, this often makes post-processing easier. An unsteady shot often grabs attention at the expense of the story.

And now my last comment which is already off-topic; To manage economically in such a difficult area as wildlife films, focus on what you are able to do and do always your best –and I mean always. Thanks again for everybody.

Footnote: See Art Wolfe-Martha Hill: The Art of Nature Photographing, a great book.

Last edited by Lauri Kettunen; October 29th, 2008 at 11:39 AM. Reason: Footnote added
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Old October 29th, 2008, 07:42 AM   #2
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Thank you Lauri for taking you time for the challenge.

Big congrats to Mihali and to Kevin and Jeff as well.

As I have written in some threads I think that out challenge have definitely stepped up one or to levels this round.
Thanks Lauri again for you extra time on comments to the rest of us, we learn a lot of this.

Cheers from Sweden
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Old October 29th, 2008, 10:23 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Lauri Kettunen View Post
And now my last comment which is already off-topic; To manage economically in such a difficult area as wildlife films, focus on what you are able to do and do always your best –and I mean always.
Wisdom from a master, I think! Thank you Lauri for the difficult work of judging this contest and putting so much thought and effort into your comments. Excellent work!

Congrats Mihali, Kevin and Jeff! Your contributions are an inspiration!

And for me... my oh my, how I continually stand at the door knocking but am not able to find the door-knob to enter in and sit by the fire!

Great round everyone!

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Old October 29th, 2008, 12:54 PM   #4
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congrats to the winners, and thanks to the players for a fun round full of great films. the talent in the room never ceases to amaze me....
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Old October 29th, 2008, 09:51 PM   #5
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Thank you Lauri,

Congrats to Mihali and Kevin you films were truly inspiring. It was an honor to be a part of this and amongst such talented artists.

I have learned so much from all of you.

great round...looking forward to the next.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 12:59 AM   #6
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Congrats - wonderful work Mihali, Kevin and Jeff.

I really enjoyed watching all your films this round and learned so much as usual. Certainly glad I wasn’t the judge - a really tough call with so many outstanding entries!
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Old October 30th, 2008, 03:24 AM   #7
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Congratulations to Mihali, Kevin and Jeff!
You made some really great videos!

Nice to see how everyone´s skills keep improving each round.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 05:31 AM   #8
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Hi Guys. Thank you very much indeed. I am chuffed to bits. Congrats to Kevin and Jeff too.

Lauri thanks for your comments and to everyone else for their feedback and for submitting their films to watch.

Bring on UWOL 12!!!
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Old October 30th, 2008, 05:47 AM   #9
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Congrats all!! Great films there guys, truly some superb stuff this round. Wonder what opportunites winter will bring for the next one (well for those of us in the northern hemisphere anyway!!)
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Old October 30th, 2008, 07:03 AM   #10
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Congrats all !

In between studying I have managed to look at your films.
I guess one time an uwoler, always an uwoler :)
Some pretty good films this round and what a great feedback from the judge :)
Hats off for Mr Lauri Kettunen!

All the best.
Geir Inge
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Old October 30th, 2008, 03:36 PM   #11
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Congrates to Mihali, Kevin and Jeff. This is really something to stretch for. As a first-timer, I have really learned things from the contributions and the comments.
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Old October 31st, 2008, 12:01 AM   #12
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If you have not yet seen the material shot by Kennan Ward with Red One in Alaska, you may want to check

Kennan's sample

It's wortwhile to notice the tempo of the cut. For instance, just count the number of clips and divide the length of the trailer with it. Then when you see new BBC documents, count the seconds of each clip and get amazed. The tempo of modern documents is pretty fast.

Last edited by Lauri Kettunen; October 31st, 2008 at 03:05 AM.
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Old October 31st, 2008, 04:01 AM   #13
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Mihali, Kevin and Jeff, congradulation. Great entries. Mihali, as others have said the opening sound of the stag with the fog around him was chilling. Kevin's shots of the sun rise was beautiful was stunning (and a great VO). Jeff, at first I was a bit confussed by the story, then it just seemed to come together. I think as a group we have grown and learned together. Thank you all. Bob
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Old October 31st, 2008, 07:10 AM   #14
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Hi Lauri,
Thank you for the comprehensive comments on all the video entry’s, the 4-5 second rule is a bout right but any shorter, some oldies could end up with Migraines :-0

Congratulations Mihali, Kevin and Jeff for you’re your outstanding short films
Now we can take a break while we wait for the next challenge.
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Old October 31st, 2008, 08:43 AM   #15
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Ron, yes share the same view with you.

I guess the key issue is to know how to vary the tempo and find the right places when to accelerate and deaccelerate. Recently I've been counting that in some wildlife documents the tempo can temporarily be as fast as 2-3sec per clip and still there is no obvious feeling of rushing although one hardly has enough time to process what is shown in each clip. Perhaps that's the point; the images go straight to the back of the mind bypassing the higher levels of conscious? Still, would like to emphasize, I don't master these things. I'm just expressing some thoughts loudly in words.

Have no idea whether people reading this forum have read Art Wolfe's and Martha Hill's book. I bought the book from Chicago at some point in early (or was it mid) 90's, and nothing else has had such a big impact in my shooting. In this book there are great examples of how small changes in the angle of view or lenght of lens make big differences in showing the subject. After reading this book I (hope I have) started to learn to show what I saw at the field.

Don't know whether any of you have the same experience that you first see something which attracks your eye. But, when you take a photo or shoot a video clip you find the result is rather boring and far from what you thought you should get. Over the years I've learnt that in all cases my problem has been that at the critical moment I was not active enough in processing on what is it what I'm seeing. This is where Wolfe's and Hill's book has been so useful. Although have now mostly forgotten what's there precisely in the book, reading it made me to absorb a new approach in (wildlife) filming. In addition, in the end of the book Martha Hill gives a great introduction to the basic principles of story telling. After reading that, whenever I've been shooting on the field I keep asking myself the basic questions: when, why, where and what. If any of you are interested in this kind of things, warmly recommend the book.

Another great books are those of Hannu Hautala. He is internationally a very well known Finnish wildlife photograper who is a master in including the environment into his photos. Art Wolfe takes great portraits and compositions, whereas Hannu Hautala is a master in a kind of documentary photos; You will not see only the subject but simultaneously the conditions and environment in which the subject lives. These two photographers have influenced the most my own work.
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