Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"The Sandpit" - A short film by Aero Director, Sam O'Hare!

UPDATE 10/26/2010:  A lot has happened since we posted this!  Sam's film has gone on to win the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction and was just selected to show at AFI Fest 2010!  Director, Sam O'Hare also has a follow-up film (also in the style of tilt-shift) called Coachelletta, which he shot at the Coachella Music Festival in early Spring of 2010.  Enjoy and THANK YOU for all the support!


Aero Director/ VFX artist Sam O’Hare has finished a short film, The Sandpit, that we’re very excited to be able to share with you. This short is inspired by films like Koyaanisqatsi (really, that’s not in spell check??), and time-lapse tilt shift photography.  Click to see The Sandpit.  (For best viewing, check HD and watch in full screen mode.)

The Sandpit is a day in the life of New York City, as seen in miniature:

After watching it, there are 2 immediate questions, “HOW did he do that?!?!” and “WHAT is that music track?!” Well, the 2nd question I can answer on my own, the former, I’ll have Sam explain…. The original music is by Human, co-written by Rosi Golan and Alex Wong. The piece was created for and inspired by the film. The production team at Human were absolutely amazing and incredibly helpful. Immense thanks to Marc Altschuler, Lauren Bleiweiss, Frank Reagan, and Mike Jurasits, as well as the incredibly talented Rosi Golan and Alex Wong.

Ok… now to the “how.” For this, Sam O’Hare joins me!

ME: Hi Sam!

SAM: Hi Sara.

ME: I feel like Stephen Colbert. This is exciting. My first interview in the blog-osphere!

SAM: Should I be frightened?

ME: (thinks) Maybe. Anywho… How did you shoot The Sandpit?

SAM: It is shot on a Nikon D3 (and one shot on a D80), as a series of stills. I used my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lenses for all of these shots. Most were shot at 4fps in DX crop mode, which is the fastest the D3 could continuously write out to the memory card. The boats had slower frame rates, and the night shots used exposures up to two seconds each. The camera actually has an automatic cut off after 130 shots, so for longer shots I counted each click and quickly released and re-pressed the shutter release after 130 to keep shooting.

ME: That has to be a lot of stills!

SAM: I shot over 35,000.

ME: Holy shit.

SAM: No kidding.

ME: How did you capture the mini look?

SAM: I did some initial tests a while back using a rented 24mm tilt-shift lens, which is the standard way to do this. However, after my tests, I found it made much more sense to do this effect in post, rather than in camera. Shooting tilt-shift requires a tripod, as it is very hard to stabilise afterwards, and gives less flexibility in the final look. I opted to shoot it on normal lenses, which allowed me options in the depth of field and shot movement in post. I used a tripod for the night shots, and my Gorillapod (which is much more portable) where possible, but many locations—like hanging over the edge of a roof or through a gap in fencing on a bridge-- had to be shot hand held, and the inevitable wobble removed afterwards.

ME: That sounds kinda badass.

SAM: Um, sure?

ME: How long did the shoot take?

SAM: The entire shoot was completed in 5 days and two evenings, during the hottest week of August 2009. Many thanks go to all the people who gave me access to rooftops, penthouses and balconies to shoot from.

ME: So, you’re sitting with 35,000 stills. I’d probably have a Virgo-clutter overload and need a beer… But what did you do?

SAM: At first, I had a beer.

ME: Good man.

SAM: The footage was shot as raw NEFs, which I organised and colour graded in Adobe Lightroom. I always shoot raw, as it gives you so much more latitude when grading. These were then output as 720p jpg sequences and quickly stabilised to do the initial edit. Once the edit was mostly locked, all the final footage was re-output at full 2800px resolution, tracked, stabilised and the DOF effect and movement added in Eyeon Fusion, using Frischluft Lenscare. I output the final shots at 1080p. Although most shots stay with the basic tilt-shift effect, some have focus pulls, or more complex depth mattes were built up along with some paint work to allow buildings to drop out of focus next to the in-focus ground. This would not have been possible if I had shot using tilt shift lenses on the camera, which works best with relatively flat landscapes. New York City is anything but flat!

ME: And you did this all yourself?

SAM: The post? Yeah. It’s good fun. I had help from my friends Mary Joy Lu and Alex Catchpoole at Tanq finding all the locations, and you helped with that, too… And you also kept on me to finish this as soon as possible.

ME: I am delightfully bossy.

SAM: Something like that.

ME: The music track is amazing… How did that come about? Chicken before the egg?

SAM: Towards the end of the process I approached Human to provide music for the piece, and they very generously donated their time to produce a beautiful sound track for the film. It captures the feel of the film beautifully. I wanted the track to speak to what it is like to experience the many rhythms, pulses and moods of the city and the composition, especially the peak, does this beautifully. The vocals add narrative and pacing to the piece, and really help draw you through it.

ME: Without getting too artsy-fartsy, what inspired you to make this film?

SAM: I have always loved time-lapse footage, and films like Koyaanisqatsi especially, which allow you to look at human spaces in different ways, and draw comparisons between patterns at differing scales. I also really liked the tilt-shift look of making large scenes feel small, and wanted to make a film using this technique with New York as its subject.

ME: Thanks so much, Sam. The Sandpit is truly beautiful, and we’re so happy to have you as a part of the Aero Film family.

SAM: I'm happy to be here! I'm really glad you like the film, I had a lot of fun making it.


Check out The Sandpit HERE and then click on “like”! Please forward/tweet to friends, family, pets, etc.

More of Sam’s work can be found at the Aero Film website as well as his own personal photography blog and his Twitter page.

Special thanks for locations to:

Alex Catchpool, Mary Joy Lu at Tanq
Grace Kelly at Nice Shoes
Zach Hinden & Even Levy
Susanne Kelly and Chinagraph
Ray Foote & Ann Zagaroli at Big Foote Music
Diane Patrone, Chris Zander & Sean Mihlo at The Family NYC
Ken Duffy at Tams Witmark Music Library
Christopher Marich at The Standard Hotel
Ken Gelman and Dan Real @ One Brooklyn

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Olympics Opening Ceremony Day! I hope there's cake...

I have the Olympic Fanfare stuck in my head. That’s a LOT of trumpets to be in one head. I had the misfortune of playing said song in concert band in 10th grade and ever since, I hear one bar of it and it’s a trumpet explosion in my noodle. Thankfully, I played the saxophone so my part was just a bunch of blunt whole notes. (I excelled at those.) But I digress… HUZZAH!  It’s time to root for the good ol’ US of A and marvel at such amazing events like the ski jump, and ice skating, and that one where they cross country ski and then shoot stuff. Well, gotta give them points for practicality. When the ice age comes around again, they’re going to fair much better than the ice dancers. (Won’t we all?)

With the Opening Ceremony at hand, we end our tribute to Shaun "Animal" White and release the final webisodes shot by Jason Farrand for HP. 

Fun fact for the day, Shaun’s brother, Jesse, is a designer at Burton and runs the apparel dept in California. He came to set on the second day with a couple of tshirts that he had designed. You’ll see Barak (the bearded character, who also goes by Bu-Bar) in one of the tees. Another fun fact, Bu-Bar was also in the Dockers “no pants” spot in the Superbowl. I don’t think he had to dig too deep into his actor-inspiration to enjoy running around in underpants. (I’m going out on a limb here, but it seems like a sturdy limb.)

Hope you’ve enjoyed all 13 episodes. If you missed any along the way, here’s the full set of links. Share with your friends! 

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4 / Final

Wish there were more, but maybe a The Flying Tom…ahem!  I mean, Animal, will be down for shooting more after he’s won a few more gold metals. Here’s hoping on both counts. Have a great weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day!

SNOW DAY!!! WOOT WOOT!!!!  Okay… well, not for the west coast office… and frankly, everyone can work from home these days, so snow days don’t really have the same appeal they once did. But working in pajamas is a pretty good deal. Not that I’m wearing pajamas right now! NOOOO!!! No, I’m wearing um, a suit made of um, silk. On my couch. With the dog. It’s terribly practical. Shut up.

Hope you’re all enjoying the Shaun White webisodes!   Installment number three is here! It’s kind of amazing to think they shot all of these in a day and a half! Jason Farrand doesn’t mess about, apparently. Or maybe that’s all he does, and he just happens to shoot it so it all works out. Could be that he’s just that smart. I don’t want him to get a big ego or anything…

For more snow/Olympic fun, check out what those kooky people at Google Streetview have done:

Stay tuned till Friday for the "Shauntourage" finale just in time for the Open Ceremony in Vancouver!  Have a great day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Super Bowl, The Olympics and more Shaun "Animal" White!

Welcome to Super Sports week!

It began with another amazing Super Bowl. I remember how much the games used to BLOW and then lo and behold, they started getting really, REALLY good. We’ve been spoiled and I’m okay with that! Onside kicks, very few penalties or turnovers (mmmmm, pastries…) dramatic late game interception, underdogs winning… Truly awesome game. But it used to be that the commercials were better than the game… but they are just not what they used to be. Do I sound like an old fuddy-duddy? (Don’t answer that…)

Simply put, the IDEAS of the spots weren’t there. The Super Bowl used to be about great comedic spots with an element of surprise that made you drop your whole hand into the chip dip, or something so visibly arresting that you’d look up from your chicken wings for 30 whole seconds. (Few things can tear me away from wings.) We got some of that classic comedy from Punxsutawney Polamalu, David Letterman's promo and Betty White for Snickers. (OH how I love my Golden Girl...) And visually, the Google spot, “Parisian Love,” was very simple and executed really well—extra kudos to the copywriter. That’s some of the best writing I’ve ever seen!

But, I have a beef with you, CBS (other than the fact that Two and a Half Men is still on the air): the placement of some of the ads struck me funny and not a good funny. The spot with people in their underoos, right next to the Dockers spot of men in their knickers?? Betty White gets tackled, and then Tim Tebow tackles his mom? Mini-Kiss and then Mini-Polamalu? A little weird, no? Advertisers pay 13 kidneys (13!!!) to run these spots, and you plunk them all together without any care for ebb and flow? Perhaps I’m asking a lot… but C’MON. If you paid me MILLIONS, I’d watch them and say, “Gosh, perhaps I’ll split up these two spots…” Frankly, you could pay me hundreds or thousands and I’d do that. I’m that nice. (Throw in a few wings and pastries, and I’d even make you an Excel spreadsheet of how I organized everything!). Networks are complaining about decreased revenue, why don’t you do your advertisers a solid and look out for their own interests a bit, too?

Okay, phew! That’s out of my system! Onward and upward to the countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics!!! Time to roll out the 2nd block of HP webisodes featuring Shaun “Animal” White from Aero director Jason Farrand!  If you haven’t sent the first set, fear not! Click here and you can catch up on the first block. 

Keep coming back all week to see the whole set!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Busy week!

Happy Friday, everyone! Busy week… I’ve been to Hotlanta, which I guess is just “Atlanta” at the moment, but it’s still a sassy town with a batshit-goofy airport. (No offense.) Lots of trams and monorails, y’all. Good people though! Klaus wrapped a Nissan job and got a note of appreciation from the Los Padre National Forest for his care and respect for the environment while shooting. Even though he does a lot of crazy things, safety and ecological respect are always top priority. He’s now prepping for a new Ram project and more Outback Steakhouse. Ken just finished a project with Kaplan Thaler and is gearing up for more GMC work. Gary is working on TD Ameritrade with his now old and dear friend Sam Waterson. You do 20+ spots with a man and you grow close. We’re waiting for the Law and Order: Gary McKendry Unit to come out. I mean, there are 12,000 versions of L&O now, what’s one more? Sam O’Hare is working away on a short film that should be done soon and bidding on a few new jobs as well. Jason is appreciative of all the kudos he’s gotten for the Shaun White webisodes… If you haven’t seen the first installment, check it out here

It's a good way to start the weekend with a laugh and as the East Coast is suppose to get another snow storm, perhaps this will inspire you to build a half-pipe in the backyard. (Aero Film doesn’t endorse the building of a half-pipe and takes no responsibility for your bodily harm or your wife yelling, “Why is there’s a bloody half-pipe in the back yard but yet you don’t have time to fix he banister?!”) 

Check in next week for more from Shaun White and the Aero countdown to the Olympics!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Olympian Shaun White makes a webseries with Aero!

Newly monikered, Shaun “Animal” White, is taking to the snowy half pipe again this Olympic Season. (This is not a smoking trick, I looked it up.) Back when he was simply “The Flying Tomato,” Aero director Jason Farrand, shot a series of webisodes with him for HP. (Note: I love that his nickname now reflects a Muppet. Who needs lycopene anyway??)

The campaign was to support the “Back to School” effort for HP laptops. Everyone on the project agreed that the webseries for the HP brand shouldn't (and wouldn't!) be a weird QVC/Billy Mays type of thing. (RIP Billy. I miss your beard.) Brad Cohn from McCann SF came up with the show idea of Shaun and an X-Games version of Entourage. (But with WAY less Jeremy Piven. WAY LESS.) And from that, the webseries was born!

Shaun "Animal" White & Jason Farrand on set

Brad and Jason came up with about 20 statements of simple advice for kids going back to school like, “Always play to your strengths,” and “You can’t choose your own nickname.” (Shaun really can attest to that one...) With those themes, the episodes revolved around Shaun and his newly formed “entourage”-- a cast of comedy actors who played his friends, such as: the hot chick (of course), the adoring yet geeky super-fan, the wallflower, and the mooch (which is a staple in all entourages).

Like the TV show, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Jason’s series Head Case, a lot of the dialogue was improvised, but the story followed an outline so that the plot points wouldn't get lost amidst a sea of tangents. (Note to self: Sea of Tangents would be a great name of my next album… if I had a first album… dammit.) The team at McCann-SF and Jason gave each actor a very clear set of guidelines for their character as well as notes on their character's tonal angle. So together, as a group, they organically built each characters' relationship with Shaun.

Fact: This process might make a client who’s used to scripts and storyboards a tad bit nervous! But HP trusted Jason and their agency partners at McCann and away they went! With only a day and a half to shoot, they came away with 13 episodes between 90 seconds and 3 minutes apiece. (Had the website not needed to launch 3 weeks after the shoot, there would have been more… but a baker’s dozen isn’t so bad.)

Everything was shot on the RED CAM since Jason believes it catches “the funny” better than any other camera. Shooting with multiple RED CAMs per scene (super duper cheaper than traditional film cameras) allowed them to get an amazing amount of coverage. They didn’t have to pause to change film mags in the middle of brilliant takes, and being able to capture multiple angles at one time is key. It’s not so much fun to repeat a perfectly improvised line 14 times. It tends to lose its magic a bit. (Ask any politician, they'll back me up.) And it helps that the RED makes things look good, too.

The HP website that hosted the series was skinned with simple navigation to the HP laptops that were on sale and targeting for this audience. The videos themselves didn’t have to do any heavy lifting in the sales department. Nobody wanted the viewer to walk away doing their best Ralphie impersonation from A Christmas Story as he sat next to the toilet with his Orphan Annie decoder pin, “A crummy commercial?!” Its hard to walk that line between entertainment and commercials… and sometimes you just need to dive head first into the entertainment and trust that will bring the buyers to the site, and the commerce bit can work on its own just being a click away. And not to toot our own horn but TOOT TOOT--it worked out for HP as they had record sales from visitors to this site.

An added bonus to this story is that the webisodes also were posted on YouTube, and 400,000 people viewed the first posting of spots in the first few days! They made a little history by being the first HD BROADCAST of a video on YouTube by an advertising client...and the first time an advertiser had taken the home page of YouTube to display content. This is now common practice but it was cool to be the first to implement this practice. (I’d say, “Neener neener!” but that’s not terribly professional.)

In support of Shaun’s road to the Olympics, Aero is bringing you these videos back by popular demand!  Click here to watch the first quick installment!  And check back as we roll out new episodes every other day until the opening ceremony in Vancouver!


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