Video

The greater part of my adult life has been taken up with the task of making video look like film. With the advent of the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera making video look like film got a lot easier. With my first DSLR I was able to use lenses that my father bought in the 1970s with stunning results (see below).

The chips that gather the image data inside the DSLR cameras are almost as big as a traditional 35mm camera which gives the shallow depth of field (some things in focus, other things out of focus) that is the defining characteristic of real film.

Smart-Brothers
Smart Brothers, from The Green Room Lounge.

I own 2 matching DSLR cameras and can shoot both sides of an interview or do multi-camera coverage of an event. I can hire additional cameras as needed.

But lighting is what separates the seed from the chaff. Many of your less experienced camera people (videographers/not cinematographers) think that an expensive camera is all they need to make a good image. But if it’s not lit, and you can’t love the way the thing that you’re selling looks, no amount of editing is going to fix it.  A sense of composition helps too.

Lizzy-Ross-Band
The Lizzy Ross Band from The Green Room Lounge

I have Arriflex and Mole Richardson (industry standard) lights and stands. Apart from my feature film, Dirty Habit, I shot everything you’ll see here on this site. I have contracted others as a second and third camera persons at times but I have always done the lighting myself.

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Motion Graphics

We've gone on at some length about the importance of other services we offer and why you should hire us instead of an undergraduate film student or hobbyist, but when it comes to motion graphics and animation, twenty four frames a second is worth a thousand words. Have a look at our reel and I think you'll find that the four words. "this is so cool," pretty much sums it up. And sometimes that's enough.

Most of the films you'll see on this site have our motion graphics in them, generally at the beginning and/or the end.

This reel also features a Blu-ray menu, and a character morphing excerpt from an evolution animation we did of John Gurche's artwork. All the work here is done with Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. We also shot and recorded the accompanying musical performance by Woody Pines at the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival.star

Custom animation is our top-of-the-line product and can be very time consuming, but we may just have something laying around the shop that we can retool to fit your needs.

Concepts

Concepts are the visual ideas that give structure to design and help define your brand. It’s more than just a logo. It’s your story. It’s the detail about you or your company that all your design decisions will be based on.

Motherlode pictures headslate

The concept for my company, for example, is that the family posed in front of their home  (my actual ancestors) are the propietors. It’s an idea that resonates with me personally because  I made my first successful film, Wishing Well, on an optical printer I built from equipment my grandfather left me along with a box of old home movies.

The concept started to evolve  when I saw this picture in a shoebox at my grandmother’s house. Now my fonts, my textures, my visuals, and even my vocabulary is based on the time period of this picture.

I no longer have to  ask myself “how does this leaf and berry flourish on my business card express who I am and what my business is all about.” I just ask, “what would They do?”

badge-shop_petrune

The concept for the petrune commerce site came out of an afternoon’s wandering around their store. The next day I collected all the materials and shot the backgrounds.

This is a Blu-ray menu for my film, Dirty Habit, which is about a nun and crack-addict getting stuck on an elevator together.

Finding a story that resonates is not easy, but it’s worth it. Because once we know and love our concept, all the design decisions practically make themselves.

When you hire me to make a film for you I can throw some concepts out and see what what sticks. If you’ve put your heart and soul and your kid’s college fund into your business venture, don’t scrimp on this step.

It’s the difference between a brick house and pile of straw.

 

Art Direction

I use a broader definition of art direction than the guilds in Hollywood.

I could call it Production Design, but honestly, we’ll call it that when it’s appropriate. Art direction is what they called it back when movies were “pictures” and the credits only lasted three minutes.

I use the term to describe everything you see in the frame of the finished film that isn’t a human being. For example, if I decide we need to shoot your film in the conference room because I like the potted plants, that’s art direction.

 

 

Branding

It’s not just for cows

...but it's the same idea.

Immediately recognizable as yours. That's branding. Successful, publicly traded companies have all, at some time or other, paid an ad agency genius to distill their company's identity down to a few strong brush strokes.

It's a chicken and egg question as to whether successful businesses have good logos or good logos make successful companies. Either way, the importance of a simple, immediately recognizable symbol that is pleasing to the eye, appropriate to the company and easy to fit on a box or business card, is incontestable.

"What is this film about?" my professor at AFI would ask in his eastern European  accent. "What is the premise?" ("where is moose and squirrel?") he'd press. If you couldn't tell him he'd send you away to think on it some more. No one was allowed to talk about anything technical until the seminal questions were answered. It was great. This disciplinarian approach has guided me ever since. And it's applicable to more than just film making.

Take a look at some of the the branding ideas I've come up with and logos I've designed and read my post on Concepts--which are the foundation of a brand. I'd love to help you find your brand and how it fits into a film and anywhere else you want it.

 

Sound

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a movie with bad sound, no matter how visually stunning or interesting of subject, will not hold an audience’s attention–unless it is a silent movie, and even then, the music is critical.

Conversely,  a movie with bad image quality–or let’s just go there and say NO picture (as in radio), will hold an audience if it’s interesting and has GOOD SOUND. When we made Dirty Habit what we heard from all the producers we talked to was “if there’s one thing you can’t save money on, it’s sound. You have to pay your sound person.”  And this has been born out for time out of mind.

MlodeAudioWave

The average viewer won’t even know what it was that made them turn off the film with bad sound and will say, “I don’t know… I just lost interest” or “I had a headache” or “I wanted to eat a donut.”

Bad sound is the creeping death that will ruin the films of all non-believers. Get a good mic and get it in the right place.

Motherlode PIctures partners with  Calf Audio and MonkSound who boast about a century and a half of recording and live sound experience between them.

calf audio
calf audio

We consult with these sound engineers on a constant basis and are, in fact, the best of friends. We’ve been cross-pollinating each other’s productions for years. We believe sound it is at least 50% of the filmic experience and we treat it the same way we treat any other aspect of our production–with a singular emphasis on quality.

 

Editing

Below is a movie trailer I cut for Dirty Habit a creepy feature film that I also edited (using the pseudonym Will Dailyrest).   I have done a lot of editing since cutting this trailer, but trailers really are the editor’s bailiwick, which is why I’m posting this here.

Skip this if you have problems with profanity.

Editing is not as sexy as the lights! camera! action! part of the process and generally (though not in our case) takes place in a dark room that smells like dead skin. But it’s where the movie takes shape.

I have been annoyed at times by people who think movies are made entirely with cameras. If you use the architectural model, it’s the editor’s job to build the house, while the cameraman and the rest of the crew just draw the plans and go to the lumber yard.

I can edit something that I’ve shot with one camera by about 6pm if I stop shooting by noon.

I am very at home with editing, particularly when I’m editing my own, recently-shot footage. Most of the time in editing is spent simply watching what’s been shot. If I just shot it, I already know what parts I am going to use and I can buzz through the stuff pretty quick (not long enough to develop that “closeness” that you’ll find at other post houses).

I’ve worked on shows where just watching the footage, without cutting anything, would take days. A selective shooting plan is the best way to keep post-production on budget.