Brain Surgery

Seven months ago I had brain surgery to repair a subdural hematoma that I sustained in a fall two and a half months prior. Here are two things I learned:

“The Best Camera You Own is the One You Have With You”


The Morning After

The morning after my surgery, I had my 14 year old daughter take a picture of me with my iPhone 4. It’s a little bit creepy but so great in helping me remember what I went through. I carry this picture with me on my iPhone all the time. It’s a constant reminder of how fragile life is. As Yoko said after John was murdered, we all live in a Season of Glass.

“ You’re Here for a Good Time Not a Long Time”
….Tommy V


Yogi Berra Museum


Babe Ruth’s Gravesite

A month after the surgery my buds organized a “therapy road trip” to get me out of the house and to start the social recovery process. I love my friends! We hit the Yogi Berra museum, then La Manda’s old school italian restaurant for lunch and ended the day at Babe Ruth’s grave site. Once again using Tommy V’s long reach and his iPhone 4 we I have two great photos from that day and a great reminder of what a strange trip life can be!

Next Sunday, giving your pictures the finger with the new iPad and iPhoto. It’s pretty cool!

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Out of the Fog!

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head and looked out the window (my apologies to the Beatles) and gazed upon the foggiest of fogs. Grabbed my 7D and headed to the Croton Dam. I have been wanting to shoot a video of the dam in the fog as the sun started to burn off the haze for quite awhile. So….in your travels, always keep an eye out for great locations and be prepared to record! . Check out the background info on the Croton Dam.

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Edit Before You Shoot, Part One

Rick Sammon and I recently finished a small video project for Square. Square enables people from all walks of life to accept credit and debit cards. What better way to illustrate this than a real world situation that Rick finds himself in multiple times a year, selling his books at his workshops and seminars and loosing sales because he doesn’t take credit cards. With the basic premise in place we started out the process for shooting.

First Setup (unable to accept credit card):

  1. Establish location and activity. Rick selling his books after a workshop. Which he does all over the U.S.
  2. Introduce a workshop attendee wanting to buy a book and being frustrated that he can’t use his credit card
  3. Show frustration for Rick and his assistant Susan that he doesn’t take credit cards and looses a sale.

Second Setup (happily accept credit card):

  1. Establish location and activity. Rick selling his books after a workshop. Which he does all over the U.S.
  2. Introduce a workshop attendee wanting to buy a book and happy that he can use his credit card.
  3. Demonstrate how Square works
  4. Show a successful sale and purchase because of Square.

Edit Before You Shoot:

Because I was the director, cameraman and editor and knowing what our basic set up was, I went about plotting how I wanted to shoot. One of the things I’ve learned as an editor, which helps make the videos message work, is the ability to visualize the completed video before I shoot! Sounds weird I know but boy does it make everything a lot simpler when shooting. Basically it’s a storyboard but not on paper, but in your head.  First thing we did is to do multiple run throughs of the action. While listening to the performances for pacing, timing and hitting the key story telling points I mentally blocked my shots.

First Setup (unable to accept credit card):

I knew I wanted to have a wide shot to establish where and what we were doing.

Wide of Book Signing

My next shot was going to be a close up of the attendee who at first is excited to buy one of Rick’s books and get it autographed. It was important to show his disappointment and frustration in not being able to do so.

CU of Leo

Finally I knew that we needed to show a two shot between Rick and his assistant Susan that showed their disappointment in the lose of a sale.

Loosing a Sale

Second Setup (happily accept credit card):

The front piece was similar to the First Setup but now I needed to also shoot the Square demo.

Happy Wide

I knew we needed to shoot the iPhone with the card dongle in it, the credit card sliding through and then the app doing its transaction.

App Shots

I also wanted the buyer’s curiosity in what Square was doing.

CU Happy Leo

Finally I needed to see Rick and Susan’s successful sale.

Two Shot End

The actual shoot was done single camera. I felt that it was important that I shoot the performances all the way though for each camera angle. That allowed me to control the pace and flow of the action between the actors and allowed me the freedom in the edit room to mix up the different camera angles. See video below.

Square with Rick Sammon from David Leveen on Vimeo.

In part 2 I’ll go through the lighting setup and all of the equipment used. The whole shoot took about an hour including rehearsals and setup. The actual edit and graphics took just over an hour. So remember to Edit before you Shoot and visualize what you want your video to look like from start to finish.

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How I Did It: Steve Sabol, President, NFL Films

Great article about how Steve Sabol and his Dad started NFL Films. Believe in what you do and anything is possible….and of course makes for great film making! Enjoy

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The Two W’s

“Why and What”, your video project mantra. “Why” am I making this video and “What” do I want my audience to walk away with. Keeping the two W’s always in mind while brainstorming, creating, and distributing your project will make for a success for both you and your intended audience.

Executive Chef Jon Pratt from Umami Cafe lighting his fire!

The picture included here is from a promotional video and DVD done for a popular local restaurant, Umami Cafe in Croton on Hudson, NY. Click the picture to see the video snippet!

The “Why” for this video was strictly promotional. For the Christmas season the owners and executive chef of the restaurant wanted to make a “how-to” video of 4 of their most popular dishes and thus extend Umami’s brand outside of the restaurant.

The “What” they wanted their audience to take away was how to make the restaurants signature dishes in their home. The feedback was great as people mentioned how much fun and easy the recipes were to make at home every time they came into the restaurant.

So the two W’s are there to help and begin the process of making a successful video.

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Doritos Crash the Superbowl Shot with the 7D

A great spot shot with the Canon 7D. Again, a great storyline will always win the day! And the added plus is how they created the spot. Thanks to our friends at Planet 5D

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What’s up with Leveen?

It was 8th grade, I had just gotten my braces off and Sandy Kaplan finally noticed me! The space program was in full swing, it was heady and exciting times and I was hooked. Science was going to be my thing, that’s what I wanted to do when I graduated from college. I knew the results from my Iowa test that I had a taken a week before where going to confirm my career choice. When I sat with the guidance counselor, whose name escapes me, but not what she said, “David, your science and math scores are average, but your English and Creative skills are near the top!” I was stunned, my dreams of the space were dashed, what possibly could I do for the rest of my life, and then Advertising popped into my head! Of course, if Daren Stevens could do it and be married to the beautiful Elizabeth Montgomery on “Bewitched” that was for me and my 8th grade brain.

As it turned out, it really was the best decision I ever made. I didn’t end up in an advertising agency, but working with almost all of them as an editor/director of TV commercials. Not only commercials, but TV news, TV programs, Music Videos and Movies and along the way I used an ever increasing array of technology advancements from 16mm b/w film to 3/4”, 2” and 1” video tape to Hi-8, to HDV and to HDSLR. I edited and directed with them all! I cut film by hand, used the first 3/4” editing system by SONY, also CMX, Montage, Avid and Final Cut Pro programs.

From $1,000,000 dollar edit rooms to a $1000 laptop one thing has always been constant, it is what made me a successful editor and director. It has nothing to do with the technical skills you need to learn but everything to do with your heart and soul. Who you are as a person, what makes you tick, what you feel and what you think. I’m going to offer up my experience in what I call “movie making” both the technical and the gestalt of it. That undefinably something that differentiates a picture from a photograph, a cook from a chef and a craftsman from a genius. It’s going to make you a better film maker whether you’re shooting your daughters soccer game, making a video for your band, selling a product, or baring your soul! Stay tuned!

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