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Old October 3rd, 2012, 01:19 PM   #1
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UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims


Everyone longs to go home. (I’m still enjoying this exercise of summarizing the story in one short sentence.) The title obviously comes from our discussion on the Wonders and Woes thread. It was actually more like Plan E (and I’m really glad to avoid the sharks!) but Plan B fits better with the concept and has a sharper hook. I’ve tried to contrast the first part (the city) and the second part (the zoo) by, in the former, using long clips with moving camera and a heavy grade intended to convey a stark gritty image and, in the latter, shorter cuts with static camera and a lighter more “natural” grade. Unfortunately for me, the grading in the city didn’t hold up to the Vimeo Flash compression; I think it looks too muddy. (I will try to put another version up on my website later this week and link you here so you can see more what I had in mind.) Lesson learned- in future I will first check any heavy grade with the compression to be used. The compression also had some other undesired effects. In the original you really can see the reflection in the glass of the man taking photos of the monkeys with his cell phone and trying to get his sleeping baby in the foreground. No sight of the reflection in the final. Several shots came out looking very soft focus which originally weren’t (mostly clips with very high contrast like lighted displays and dark hallways or with patches of bright sunlight). The sequence with the pets was intended to bridge the first and second parts and actually has the same grade as the first part at a much reduced level. It was shifted somewhat to the blue- I’m not sure why it came out so yellow. That whole sequence needs to be re-edited and tightened up quite a bit. I just didn’t have time.

The bird that is extinct in the wild is the Guam Kingfisher. The endangered crane is the national bird of Uganda (Just for you, Simon!).

Another important function of zoos that I did not mention is affording frustrated wildlife videographers which are stuck in the city an opportunity to try and “keep their eye in”. Obviously some zoos are much more photographer-friendly than others. I’m fortunate to live near one that is quite accommodating. There are two other major zoos nearby. One is somewhat ambivalent about photographers. Cameras are allowed but no tripods are to be used inside buildings. No one ever stops you from doing so and it happens all the time. The other is quite hostile. No cameras allowed. Anyone seen taking photos-even with a cell phone- is asked to leave. Ouch!

Any questions, comments, criticisms and, especially, suggestions for improvement are requested and, as always, appreciated. Thank-you!
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Old October 4th, 2012, 03:14 AM   #2
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Haha, Mike! Yup, those Crowned Cranes are indeed the national bird of Uganda, as seen in the centre of the flag. Those guys are far from home. We visited this location back in the winning entry of Zoo in a Dewdrop, so you're off to a good start!

Its interesting for me to see so many African animals in that film. That was a Wild Dog at 1.45; they are very endangered and in fact I have never seen one in all my years in Africa (bearing in mind I actually used to work as a ranger in various National Parks!). I guess that was an Okapi at 2.0; also an animal I have never seen (though essentially no one has ever really casually seen one in the wild!). They are native to the Congo, though recently there was evidence of Okapi living in the Virungas National park, which is contiguous with forests in Uganda; so its likely they must have lived here in the past.

As you say the grade didn't work out so good in the beginning (seemed a bit dark), and perhaps there were some audio level discrepancies at one point, but you got the message across nicely.
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Old October 4th, 2012, 03:37 AM   #3
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Mike, I really liked that film, it has a strong message!
I have a hard time taking a stand about showing captive wild animal. I do it in my exhibition (fish and shrimps), and if the zoo got a conservation program and really working with this, that it feels a bit betterÖ But I every time get a stomach acheÖ
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Old October 4th, 2012, 04:57 AM   #4
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Hi Mike,

I hear you about plan B... or E. Had the same thing myself this round.

I learned something new from watching your film, and thank you for that.
A great story, and the visuals to back it up. Good to see you experiment with filming and grading styles to back up the story.

Well done!
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Old October 4th, 2012, 07:19 AM   #5
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Mike,
I agree with you. The compression recommended for Vimeo upload dulls the production big time.
The only good thing to say is that it's better than YouTube. Have you experimented with other means of displaying material with less compression?
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Old October 4th, 2012, 12:41 PM   #6
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

I always look forward to seeing what Mike Sims is going to put up. So this is the first one I watched. It started out like a crime movie, dark and gritty. Something bad was going down in the dirty city. Of particular note was the body language of the people in the zoo, relaxed, at ease though alert at the same time, fully observing their surroundings. Like they are in an oasis in the middle of a desert. Production wise I didn't notice that it was too dark in the beginning until I saw your quote. It seemed like it was planned that way. The best shots I thought were at 1:34, and 2:28. The audio background with the families talking among themselves was excellent as a counterpoint.
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Old October 4th, 2012, 01:17 PM   #7
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Mike,

When the movie first started I was preparing myself for a gritty, underworld, city feel. I love the juxtaposition of the friendly zoo against the grainy city.

Favorite shot was at 2:58 with the family of deer(?)

What type of audio equipment did you use? I think it was on-camera audio for the zoo scene, but I was wondering about the voiceover.

Loved seeing so many varieties of the zoo animals! Makes me want to head up to the Bronx!

Toni
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Old October 5th, 2012, 06:43 AM   #8
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Mike,

Thanks very much for your film - shows a lot of thought into getting the story across, and showing the human species in its own environment.
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Old October 5th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #9
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Thanks, Simon. Most of the animals I showed are African. I did that on purpose to go along with the ďlonging to go homeĒ. I certainly feel a longing regularly to ďreturnĒ to a place Iíve never (yet) been. The San Antonio Zoo for many years specialized in itís African collection, especially ungulates. About 60% of the exhibits are currently under renovation and most of the antelope are off visiting other zoos. I wasnít able to match species for the last cross-fade and had to settle for somewhat the same horn structure. The Wild Dogs are currently raising a litter. The zoo has several Okapi (seven I think). They are in three exhibits and the one I showed wasnít really supposed to be filling for a groundskeeper and pruning that tree.
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Old October 5th, 2012, 11:34 AM   #10
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Markus- Sorry about the stomach ache!-but Iím pleased you liked the video. Iíve worked with many captive animals in the past and I guess you get used to it. I very much prefer, though, recording natural behaviour of wild animals in their native habitat.
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Old October 5th, 2012, 11:35 AM   #11
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Thanks, Trond. As you say, much of what you saw is still very much an experiment in progress.
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Old October 5th, 2012, 11:38 AM   #12
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Steve- I shouldnít have blamed so much the compression! I should rather have blamed my own lack of time to optimize it. Many people get excellent results with Vimeo (much evidence here this round!). I wish they would publish their final requirements and let us do the Flash encoding. I donít like having two levels of compression; one to mp4 which I can somewhat control and again to Flash over which I have no control. The highest quality method Iíve found is to make a nice looking mp4 and host it yourself. My own website is sadly neglected (working on it) but I have an excellent service provider (Itís $5 a month for unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth. I canít mention the name here but if anyone is interested PM me. By the way, Per Johan recently remade his website and if any of you havenít seen it yet itís worth a look. Lookiní good P.J.)
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Old October 5th, 2012, 12:51 PM   #13
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Thank-you Bill. Thatís the reaction I was hoping for. I like the shot of the two little ones at the fence too. I came around a corner, saw it, and scrambled to set up and get the shot before it changed. Just as I stopped recording Mom called them away.
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Old October 5th, 2012, 12:54 PM   #14
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Thank-you, Toni. The spotted ones were indeed Axis deer from India. The big guy was a male Greater Kudu from Africa. We have a lot of exotics wandering around Texas (even in the cities now but thatís another storyÖ). Some of the Indian antelope now have larger populations in Texas than in India.

Audio is something I suspect we could all learn a great deal about from you. This video was shot on a Canon T2i-550D (28 f1.8 and 100-400L lenses) and as you surmised, the zoo audio was recorded in camera. Several times I set up and recorded long takes for the audio. None of it was originally tied to the clips you saw. The other ambient sound was recorded on a Zoom H1 with built in microphones (for example the car) or a parabolic mic (the birds which is actually four layers- there is a thread in the Audio sub forum about the mic if you are interested in details). For the first time I used a 60 cycle hum as an ambient bed (you know- that thing we usually try really hard NOT to record!) under the houseplants and pets. It is very noticeable without but as an ambient the hum seems to blend right into the 60Hz symphony we North Americans live our lives in. (I think that is one reason why spending time in wilderness is so compelling. The lack of the hum is so noticeable and refreshing.) I wonder if it is more noticeable in those clips by European ears used to living in a 50Hz cloud? The voice-over is recorded with a MXL USB.008 Mic to a laptop using Audacity as an uncompressed WAV. It was then transferred to my editing computer and EQ applied with a classic V in Adobe Soundbooth. With more time I would have used a compressor, spent a lot more time on mixdown and added some Foley (the leaves sound while the Okapi was browsing is just serendipity.)
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Old October 5th, 2012, 12:56 PM   #15
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Re: UC24- Plan B- Mike Sims

Thanks Paul, thatís nice of you to say. This was rather somewhat of a rush because I came up with the idea so late in the game. Like a couple of my earlier entries the idea finally came to me while I was asleep and dreaming.
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