The Production Diaries: PA vs. PM

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by: Clayton Burns

People often ask me “Oh, so you’re in media? What exactly do you do?” To be honest, there is no simple answer. Every single day is different, and that’s what makes it so incredible!

That being said, my standard, straightforward reply is that I’m a Production Manager. But it’s very hard to explain my position to somebody who has never worked a day in the media industry. My mother just assumes that a career in media means that I came out of college with every manual for every home electronic device completely memorized. I should know how to hook up her VCR to her television and through the surround sound, because I went to school for media.

On a serious note – the great thing about a career in the media is that you have so much to choose from. Personally, I’m not much of a technical person. I’m not an editor, I’m not a camera operator, I’m not a sound mixer nor am I a professional at hooking up my mom’s Blu-Ray player. I am however, a creative. I like to tell stories, I like to produce and direct. I’m extremely detail oriented and organized. I knew that I was different while I was going through college, I knew that I did not want to end up in a stuffy newsroom pressing buttons. I wanted to be where the action was, I wanted to be out telling people’s stories and creating. I wanted to be working on stages and giant film sets. Up close and personal with the production itself.

I began my climb toward Production Manager (PM) the way most people do – as a production assistant. I had much to learn, so I began applying wherever I possibly could. I learned something very quickly – big production houses love taking on production assistants (PA’s) as interns. Basically it’s an entry level position and your job description includes absolutely everything and anything. One minute you’re taping extension cords to the floor and the next minute you’re testing out challenges in the Big Brother Canada mansion. I PA’d wherever I could whenever I could for a solid 3 years. Working for massive Canadian productions like television series, feature films, commercials, reality TV and award shows! I went from job shadowing to wrangling A-list celebrities down the red carpet.

 

 
From massive scripted television shows to small business profiles or ads, production assisting is a huge job and without PA’s, these productions would not be possible. We’re the soldiers on the front line and it always takes an army to pull a project off. Production assisting can take many different forms – from administrative desk duties and paperwork to audience control, wrangling, wardrobe, set control, or even fetching coffee!

The goal of course is to eventually become a production manager, coordinator or just simply a producer/director and to hang up your PA hat for good. I’ve been lucky enough to sit in the Production Manager chair for over a year now and the job is quite different. It’s much more responsibility and much more attention to detail. You can be juggling dozens of projects and dozens of clients at once and you are constantly doing bookings, meetings, phone calls, filing and keeping everyone including yourself on track. There is always a production schedule to be followed and it’s your job to make sure that everything is going according to plan. It’s about putting together call sheets, scheduling, client management, locations management, assistant directing, scripting, props and wardrobe and following through to make sure things are getting done.

When you’re a production assistant, you feel like you couldn’t possibly take on any more responsibility, but in reality, the position is meant to prepare you for more. Sets are hectic, there are always fires to put out, but it definitely pays off. As a Production Manager I’ve been lucky enough to walk on many exciting sets, worked with some inspiring people and sometimes I get to wrangle actual animals! You learn so much, and you learn it quickly, and that’s exactly what makes the position so perfect.

 

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From the Edit Suite: Why We Love Creative Cloud

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by: Zakk DiSabatino

One of the pillars of a good video is the editor sitting behind the computer. That editor relies on his or her knowledge in the art of editing, but equally on their knowledge and the performance of the software they use. Professional editors seek out editing software that is powerful, and efficient. In the past the majority of editors have opted to use either Avid or Final Cut Pro 7, however in the last decade Adobe has amped up their editing software, Premiere Pro, and for many reasons it’s becoming the software of choice for many editors; myself included.

So why the spike in popularity? As mentioned, the top software for years had been Avid and Final Cut Pro 7. Premiere was around, but not exactly a frontrunner. On June 21st 2011, Final Cut X was released to the public to extremely disappointing reviews. It was missing many features that professional editors rely on day-to-day. Many editors initially felt that the software was useless, with Hollywood film editor Walter Murch stating “I can’t use this”. Those issues have since been addressed, but the damage was done. Editors felt betrayed by a software that they had relied on for years, and many looked for other options. Premiere had a similar look, feel, and features to Final Cut Pro 7, as well as its own set of additional tools that were unique from any other software on the market. For many editors the choice was obvious, and the product has only grown making Premiere an obvious choice now for people just getting into the craft, and professionals looking for a different ecosystem to work in.

In 2013 Premiere Pro joined Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is an affordable cloud-based subscription service that allows access to Adobe’s entire creative suite including popular software such as: Photoshop, After Effects, and Illustrator. Having access to all of these programs means that more can be done in-house (such as graphic design, animation and compositing). These programs also work extremely well together, and have the exclusivity of Adobe’s dynamic link between software. This means for example that you can make a change to a dynamic linked animation in After Effects, and it will immediately update in your Premiere timeline. This saves time and space from the usual method of re-exporting the animation after every change, and having to replace it in the timeline.Along with dynamic link and affordability, another benefit of Adobe’s move to a subscription service is that they release updates every few weeks rather than every 12-18 months like other softwares. Sometimes these updates are minor bug/performance fixes, but they can often be larger things like adding new features to keep them at the top.

Premiere Pro has grown a lot in the last decade. It has become one of the top choices for both video and film editors alike. The ability to work dynamically with the rest of the creative suite which includes industry standard software is a huge benefit to any editor who also has tasks outside of cutting. With the frequent addition of new features and tools, as well as constant updates to performance and bugs, it’s no question that Premiere Pro is here to stay and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

Double Barrel Podcast: Episode 3 ‘Why Production Value?”

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Anyone can film a video these days. So what separates an amateur from a professional? It’s something those of us in the industry like to call “production value.” And if you’re a business looking to establish credibility with your customers, it’s something you can’t do without.

Come along for our third episode of the Double Barrel Podcast, where we explore the topic of production value. What is it? How do you get it? And why do you and your brand need to make sure you have it for your next video project?

The Art of Colour Grading

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by: David Capizzano

The process of adjusting the colour, contrast or overall look of footage is called colour grading, and it’s probably one of the most important steps in the production process. Despite this, if it’s been done well, you might not even notice it at all. Colour has a massive impact on how we respond to what we’re seeing on screen, and a good colour grade can bring out an entirely new set of ideas or thoughts which can be communicated to an audience, and with the advent of digital technology, the options for setting a look are almost endless.

But it wasn’t always this way.

In the days of film, directors and DoP’s would use a series of chemical baths and prisms to chemically alter the colour composition of the film after it was shot. They might have also used a series of filters on the lens while capturing the scene.

Before Roger Deakins used a digital colour process on the film O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) to achieve a dustbowl look, chemical timing was standard practice. Despite shooting in a very-green South Carolina & Mississippi, Deakins used a digital process to essentially remove the colour green from the film, resulting in a wonderfully bleak and magical depression era setting.

These days, the most common method of capturing footage is through using digital cameras. These cameras are incredibly powerful and capture images up to 6k resolution (5760 x 3700), however upon first glance, the footage you initially get doesn’t look fantastic, but there’s a very important reason for that. Like shooting digitally, these cameras capture video in a RAW format. A director or DoP might choose to shoot raw to ensure that they’re getting the most flexible footage possible. Later on in post production, RAW formats allow the DoP & Colourist to match shots effortlessly, adjust white balance with amazing specificity, and to recover areas of the footage which might seem too bright or dark.

So until the footage gets processed, it typically looks something like this:

By capturing the scene in as flat of a colour profile as possible, you’re ensuring the camera is collecting the maximum amount of data possible, offering you tons of latitude later on. Sometimes, a LUT (or Look-Up-Table) will be applied to the footage temporarily on set as the flat footage can be tricky to see through if you’re not used to it. This allows the client or viewers to get a “glimpse” of what the final colour process might look like.

On larger productions such as movies or t.v shows, a colourist will usually be brought on to work with the DoP to grade the footage using a control panel specifically designed for colouring software. This control panel is large, expensive, and requires incredible skill and knowledge to operate, so the process is usually reserved for bigger projects. Smaller projects can be graded without the use of such systems, meaning you can achieve great quality and professional results by using your edit suite, or a free version of the Davinci Resolve software.

Almost everything you’ve ever seen on t.v, at a theatre, or even online has been through some sort of colour treatment, but when it’s done well, it doesn’t draw attention to itself. Colour will continue to become an increasingly important step in the production process as more and more footage is shot using digital cameras, and the technology inside of those cameras progresses. Taking the time to go through this important step with your project could make the difference between something great, and something spectacular.

And hopefully, if it’s done well, your audience won’t have any idea it’s been done at all.

Behind The Scenes of 2016: A Year in Pictures with Double Barrel

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by: Clayton Burns

Over the years, Double Barrel Studios has had the pleasure of working with many different clients producing many different styles of video content. Everything from healthcare and education to top national brands and non-profit local organizations. We have the luxury of working with individuals from all walks of life and learning about different interests and perspectives.

Personally I have been with Double Barrel for just over a year now, and even with my extensive experience in television and film production, I have never experienced anything quite like this before. It’s been a privilege visiting many organizations, not only in our city of Hamilton but also across Canada! I have learned a lot, grown a lot, laughed a lot and taken a ton of photos!

Of course, every project has a ton of pre-production planning, coordinating and location scouting that takes place before we even roll camera. Without flooding your Instagram feeds we aren’t able to share everything! I thought it would be fun to share some never before seen photos from our various sets and adventures in 2016!

We always have the best time while working on these projects with you guys, as you can tell! 2016 was a fantastic year for us & we are so looking forward to all of the amazing photos we will share in 2017.