Killing Your Darlings by Zachary Robinson

It isn't just in writing where you have to kill your darlings. This is the first in a series where I'm going to talk about some scenes I love that I had to cut.

First, you should watch the shots that were cut. The full version of the scene can be found at www.layerframe.com, and the cut scene is below.

So what makes these shots special? Let's talk about each of them individually.

The first shot is a rack focus, slide and reveal. The goal was to shoot a person doing an activity in NYC that feels very 'New York.' DUMBO Boulders sits right under the Manhattan Bridge and has this wonderful backdrop of the financial district in NYC. It's a pretty magical place that just doesn't feel real in such an urban area.

The shot itself has a couple of great elements. First of all, there's just enough motion to draw your eye to Emily (our talent) in the background while she's out of focus. As we notice her, so does the camera, and the focus shifts. We have a little bit of camera motion in the shot (that's a Edelkrone sliderPlus - it shifts during the slide which is frustrating; it's unlikely I'll rent another). We also have some great dynamic color from a tow truck's light being reflected on the kiosk, and there's this incredible backdrop of the World Trade Center sitting behind a climber topping out. All the elements come together to make an interesting shot. 

So why didn't it make it? Well, the shoot was a pitch for a client, and focused on using their product. So the order of the shots had significance. The final video shows Emily prepping to climb, then climbing. For continuity, this shot would have to come at the end of the video - we can't have her on the wall climbing then the next shot her getting ready to climb. On top of that, those beautiful bars in the foreground that create parallax separate us from Emily. It's distancing the viewer from the action, and almost makes a bit of a voyeuristic moment happen. In the end I cut it because having it as the opening shot didn't make sense and Emily finishing the climb felt like a natural end to the scene. So adding this shot, while pretty, made the scene feel too long. In the end it's my fault for not shooting a wide pan to set the scene that didn't have Emily already climbing.

The second scene is a slow-mo money shot of Emily chalking up.  Both these shots were at 1am in Brooklyn and I was working with some practical lights which you can see in the first scene, and a couple of crappy lights from a cheap kit. I decided to backlight it (all epic shots should be backlit, right?) which helped show off the chalk itself. I got lucky and it had the added benefit of adding a really nice glow to Emily's red hair when she exits the frame. I shot it in slow-mo hoping it would feel epic. 

In the final cut of the video, the 'reveal' shot is Emily hopping up onto the wall while the camera slides left. Then we move into a series of cuts timed to the music that follow her on a route up the wall. All of this smooth, continuous motion matched the story and music well. Unfortunately, inserting a close up of her chalking up stopped this motion - no matter where I put it in the sequence it felt like a break in the scene, not a continuation. In my head I had built the whole sequence around this one shot. But in the end I realized that I was using slow motion just to have slow motion, and it didn't add to the story. You have to kill your darlings.

Merchant RPG - A Trailer by Zachary Robinson

I cut a trailer for my friends at Retora Game Studios. It's a Medieval Tycoon RPG game where you play the Merchant, but they describe it far better than I can, so go read about it here: Merchant

It's an addictive little game and they needed a short trailer to show it off while traveling at GDC. Link below.

Upcycled WOOD By Elana by Zachary Robinson

It's been a while! Life's been busy with the holidays and work, but I finally got a chance to do some more video shooting. Over the weekend I shot some footage of a couple of friends of mine, Timmy and Elana. They have a business where they upcycle old wood into all sorts of furniture. Elana's incredibly talented and if you're looking for something handmade, unique and sustainable, check out her Etsy page. They're currently turning some found wood into a new kitchen table, and I wanted to capture them in the process.

For the shoot we went to Tim's workshop on Long Island. The workshop was a wonderful space - I couldn't have asked for a better set to film, although it was blisteringly cold in New York this weekend. We filmed a lot of B roll throughout the afternoon, and we'll get some more video of the polished product this weekend, barring any possible snowstorms. 

Below are a couple of stills and some video. I was playing with some color correction to see if we can get a look we all like, so one video is straight out of camera, and the other two are with some creative tweaks. This was all shot on my A7S II with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm, and edited using Prelude to ingest (why don't more people use it?!) and Premiere Pro to cut and color. Let me know what you think!

Teddy Time! by Zachary Robinson

My parents came to NYC recently to see my brother and his family. So I spent a night down in Sunset Park with my 8 week old nephew, Theodore! My brother and his girlfriend want everyone to call him Theo, so as the Uncle I've been calling him Teddy just to make sure everyone is confused.

I brought my camera so I could capture some moments. He wasn't particularly camera friendly this visit; it seemed like any time I pulled the camera out he stopped doing whatever adorable things he was doing before. So I did a short 1 minute Teddy video to share with the family. Most of the shots were run and gun, but the last one was framed really well, I wish I had more footage of it!



A day in Chicago by Zachary Robinson

I recently was in Chicago for work, and found myself with an afternoon to do some exploring. I brought the A7S ii and my Loxia 35mm to play with and did some photo and video. 

Since I've had the camera, I've thought I might have a bad version. I bought it with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm lens which is supposed to be beautiful. But since I've had it, I've been experiencing serious problems with the display showing me a completely different image than the one that gets recorded. Either it was super saturated to the point of looking fake without a picture profile on (or using PP1 - PP6), or it was giving me a very very flat image. Slog 2 looked ok, and Slog 3 looked like Slog 3 should look, but I couldn't get a neutral image with good color and correct exposure.

With my first test at the 'Gunks I managed to under-expose every image by about 4 stops. It was frustrating because according to my live view and histogram, the images were correctly exposed, but once I looked at the raw images they were incredibly dark. Thankfully, the uncompressed raw stores so much data that I fixed all the images, but you'll still find a little bit of noise in some of the shadows. And with nearly 300 pictures, I couldn't even see which ones were worth keeping until I adjusted the exposure. Fortunately Lightroom has the ability to make a change and sync it with all your other images, so this ended up being a quick and painless process, but one that I shouldn't have needed to do in the first place.

I did a bunch of research on the internet, and google didn't have any answers for why, so I went to a local camera store and played with the versions on the showroom floor. I discovered that a camera reset doesn't reset picture profiles, and that the bright interiors of the camera shop looked boring but properly displayed, showing no signs of the problems I was having. I resigned myself to the fact that I might have a bad camera, and that I'd have to ship it back to the store.

Since I have 30 days to send it back, I wanted to keep using it until I had to send it in. I got a surprise trip to Chicago for work, and thought I'd bring the camera to help fill my downtime. This was the first time I got to use the camera in a real setting without anyone else in the group - so I had plenty of time to play with it and not feel like I was inconveniencing the people with me. So I spent time playing with all the functions of the camera, adjusting picture profiles (PP) and figuring out the difference between PP and Creative Style, and working with stills vs video and trying to store settings like shutter speed and picture profile when in each mode (which doesn't exist). While exploring I stumbled on the 'view-assist' setting. At some point I set it to S-LOG 3, instead of turning it to off. Well lo and behold, when I put it to auto, all my color and saturation woes were removed! The camera isn't broken after all!

I captured a few pictures and some video and everything was working like expected. I did a bunch of S-LOG 3 video and messed around with some quick LUTs to see what sort of quality I could expect when grading. I'll be doing a short project in NYC and I'll be able to grade the footage by hand, so expect to see some shots from that coming soon!


The Gunks by Zachary Robinson

After years of working in different mediums, doing everything from photo to 3d modeling to animation and videography, I finally decided it was time to really commit and purchase a professional grade camera and lens. Since the majority of my paid work is video, and the work I want to do in the future is film, I snagged an A7S II from the super friendly people over at Precision Camera and Video in Austin, TX. I also picked up the beautiful Zeiss Loxia 35mm lens. 

I had weekend plans to go to the Gunks in New Paltz with friends to do some rock climbing and a day of hiking. So I decided it would be a great time to get familiar with the camera and the transition from Canon to Sony.

Firstly, I'm still figuring out Profile Pictures and how they play into video and photography. The menus are poor at best, and shooting with profile pictures while doing photo throws off all my meters and images, which I found out the hard way. But they appear to be necessary for video. I shot some S-log 3 and used some other profiles, and the S-log has great range, but I need to do a full color correction before I can say anything tangible about the different profiles. If anyone has a great resource for explaining how to shoot and adjust different settings for different types of capture, please let me know. Otherwise it's back to the manual to figure out how to set up my camera properly.

So I went out and spent two days at the Gunks. I took a bunch of photos, and some of them came out good enough to put on the website, and a few of them I liked but just didn't carry the wow-factor that I want. You can see them under the Photo section. 

As I continue to do more video and photo with the camera, I'll post up some sneak peaks here while I'm working on getting them portfolio ready. I've got a couple series in the works, including #LookingThroughTheGentrificationHole and #NYCatNight.

For now, you'll have to settle for my first slow-mo involving Jennifer and some leaves. The first half is uncorrected S-log 3 and the second half is color corrected.