UWOL #15 - Elephants of California by Rich Ryan at DVinfo.net

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Old October 31st, 2009, 07:08 PM   #1
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UWOL #15 - Elephants of California by Rich Ryan

I had my heart set on a title of "Butterflies and Elephants." Featuring two migratory species - Northern Elephant Seals and Monarch Butterflies. Well the seals were very cooperative, but the butterflies not so much (I did see two of them flutter by).

We had a week vacation in Pismo Beach, CA which is really close to one of the largest Monarch Butterfly groves in California and only an hours drive from one of the largest Elephant Seal Rookeries. No butterflies so my video features only the elephant seals. Oh and I forgot my tripod! So a quick trip to a local electronics store yielded a cheap replacement (and boy does is show on pans and tilts).

Since the last challenge I got a new camera - a Panasonic AG-HMC40; so there we some "issues" resulting from a new camera. But it was (mostly) fun and allowed me to carefully follow rule #11.

Here is a higher resolution version on Vimeo:

Last edited by Rich Ryan; October 31st, 2009 at 07:39 PM.
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Old October 31st, 2009, 07:49 PM   #2
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Rich

Thanks for an interesting glimps into these behemoths. Your footage was nicely shot and your editing was very easy to watch. Thanks for posting up in HD elsewhere, when possible, even on the imbedded links I try and click to goto the HD version. Yours was eye candy HD wise. Nice colors too.

You have a great VO voice. Very easyto listen to. There was a place or two I felt that the music was competing a little strongly for my attention, but overall, an excellent piece!!

Chris
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Old November 1st, 2009, 05:01 AM   #3
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Rich,
I remember these Elephants from when I visited CA years ago. Very nice to see a video about them.
You do a good VO, and a nice choice of music too.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 05:59 AM   #4
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Rich,
It is a very interesting film you have made, with many great shots.
The narrating is very good. Maybe the background sound should be lowered a bit.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 06:32 AM   #5
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Hi Rich- I agree with Finn-Erik. The location sound overwhelmed the VO in a couple of spots. I have to say, though, your location sound is great! You recorded in a very windy place with no wind rumble. What’s your secret? Good job with the new camera. Congratulations.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 01:00 PM   #6
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Rich,

So someoneone else got all the seals... I was left with none, zip, zero, zilch. I swear they were all hiding out to sea, laughing at me.

You did very well considering it was shot with a cheapy tripod. The pans weren't too bad I thought. You got some excellent close-ups of the seals, and the seals interacting.

The story was well told, with a good vocieover. I liked the time lapse at the end too. The music was dramatic, but overpowered the voiceover at times I thought (pretty much the opposite of my bad levels, where the voiceover was too loud!)

Leaving that minor issue aside, that was a great film.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 01:32 PM   #7
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Thanks all for your kind words.

Yes, the audio is a problem for me. I hate to do voice overs (I don't much care for the sound of my own voice). Sometimes I think subconsciously I am trying to cover-up my voice.

Mike Beckett - you should have seen the pretty ugly pans and tilts I had to throw out (-:
I was fortunate that there were plenty of seals the day I went. Of course, when I got there I went to the south bluff and there were plenty of seals but way too far away (I got some video, but was pretty disappointed). I was talking to one of the docents and she asked my if I had been to the north bluff - good think she did, because that's where 90% of my shots came from.

Mike Sims - mostly I was just lucky that day. You are right it's normally pretty windy but I got a pretty calm day.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 03:34 PM   #8
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Rich,

I not sure what I could add to what has already been said. I think you have some great shots and a good narative with a great VO. I had trouble with my VO also.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 03:49 PM   #9
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When I saw the first shots of this, it reminded me of my trip 6 or 7 years back to San Simeon, where I experience the same animals. Their size can't be overstated.

I am glad you were able to capture some action. When I was there... well, they were just basking. You certainly got more than I saw.

Nice film !
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Old November 1st, 2009, 06:40 PM   #10
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Rich,

Wow! Great subjects. Certainly never see anything like that in Iowa! :)

You had a lot of great shots with this one.
Loved the shot of the seal scratching its head. Pretty comical. :)

The only "notes" I have are that I agree that the music competed with the VO at times.
I think this piece would have been suited to a longer time limit. It sounded like you were trying to get a lot of info into a short amount of time. Which from an educational point it's awesome cause I learned a lot about these seals. From a cinematic point, allowing it time to develop might have made it stronger.

I always try to keep elements of man out of I can so the shots with the rope "barricade" popped out at me.

You should really be happy with this one. You have some great stuff here!
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Old November 1st, 2009, 09:16 PM   #11
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It's clear I need to work on my voice over and audio in general. In the past I have focused on pieces with with only a music track -- no natural sounds and certainly no voice over. So these challenges have been... well, challenging!

Chris - yes the action was OK, but I may try to get back in December and January when the BIG males are fighting for the beach. Unfortunately none of the big males are "hauled out" in October.

Kevin - yes I did have way too much material. In fact, my original script notes could easily cover 20 minutes and that's even pared down. These guys could make a pretty good long form subject.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 07:43 AM   #12
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Rich...another educational video! Outstanding...

Here in the Midwest, we rarely encounter seals, so I found it very fascinating...

I thought your VO was very nice...easy to understand, but yes, a lot of information for a 3 minute video...

The colors looked great. Was that just the HMC-40? Or did you do any correction?

And, how do you like the HMC-40? What "issues" did you have.
I got myself a HMC-150 back in February and love it, but it does have a learning curve...
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 11:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Thieda View Post
The colors looked great. Was that just the HMC-40? Or did you do any correction?
Bob - no color correction -- except the opening and closing sequences use Magic Bullet Quick Looks. The rest of the clips have some curves applied - mostly very gentle; almost straight. I am very pleased by the images I get right out of the HMC40.

I did use a custom scene file:
detail +2
v-detail +2
coring +1
chroma level +2
matrix cinelike
gamma cinelike-v


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Thieda View Post
And, how do you like the HMC-40? What "issues" did you have.
So far, I really like the HMC40. It is very slow compared to the HMC150 (about 3 stops slower) and of course it is CMOS with all of the issues that entails (skew, jello, etc). But its resolution is significantly better than the HMC150. For my purposes (shooting outside, during the day), I don't find the 3 stops loss a problem (in fact most of these images were shot with additional ND).

Most of my issues are because this is the first professional camera I have owned at it has LOTS of settings. It includes almost all of the same setting capability as the HMC150 (including waveform) - so getting a handle on when to use what is a bit overwhelming.

How are you managing the learning curve on your HMC150?

I also struggle with the view finder -- unfortunately the HMC40's EVF only works with your right eye and I am left eye dominant (I am thinking about getting a cheap eye patch -- of course I am looking for suggestions).
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 02:54 PM   #14
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Rich,

I love it when I learn new things on these videos!!! The narration did just that for me.

I think you did great with your new camera!! is it up to your expectations?

I would have liked some closer shots of faces and expressions. My favorite shot is at 37 seconds when the seal is scratch9ing itself or whatever it was doing.

Good job, Kepp up the great work!!
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 03:30 PM   #15
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Dale,
Thanks for your comments. So far I am very please with the HMC40. I was really torn between it and the GH1. I did not really want the shallow DOF provided by the GH1, but the interchangeable lens would have been nice. The somewhat limited reach of the HMC40 is my biggest problem when it comes to filming wildlife. Of course, I am really please with the video camera features that I would have given up on the GH1 (audio control, zebras, waveform, etc.)

I did have a couple of additional closeups that ended up on the floor. There was one in particular that I really liked that was in the video for quite sometime - unfortunately it suffered from the cheap tripod and from some shaking that I could not remove in post and proved to be unacceptable to me.
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