Harmony Halloween Horse Show – A Different View

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When I do an event shoot I take a LOT of pictures – (often) hundreds to (occasionally) thousands of them.  When I post galleries I edit them down to to a small fraction of the day’s captures and then I whittle it down to a handful of personal favorites for a blog posting.  My editing process involves several passes of the photographs: the first pass involves deleting bad frames (badly blown or out-of-focus exposures, test shots of the ground) — you know, utter garbage.  And I really delete them.   The subsequent phases involve various forms of rating and have a lot to do with the particular event and why I was there and what kind of story I’m trying to tell with the images.

The bottom line is that a LOT of photos end up on the proverbial cutting room floor.   Wouldn’t it be nice if I could use them all without inducing eye-clawing boredom on the viewer’s part?   Well, here’s my quick attempt at such a thing — let me know what you think.   758 images in 100 seconds…

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/7483048[/vimeo]

(Also available on YouTube HD)

Technical stuff:

I originally approached this using a new feature of Lightroom 3 (Beta) that allows exporting of slideshows in H.264 video.   This is a really cool feature and I will certainly make use of it for certain projects.  (It is also a slick way to easily produce more traditional time-lapse videos directly from Lightroom.)   As with most things there are tradeoffs and the drawback of this direct-from-Lightroom technique is one of performance and flexibility.  It takes a LONG time for Lightroom to generate the video and when you are done you may find that you wanted a different pacing — and then you’ll end up generating it again.

The bulk of the time was spent tuning the images in Lightroom.  In a normal edit I only spend time fine-tuning the looks of the selected images, but in this case all of them needed some level of processing.   Fortunately I shoot in manual mode so the input exposures are pretty consistent.  This means that I can apply the same corrections to large sets of images at a time using the Synchronize tools in Lightroom.  I even created a few Develop Presets along the way to make this even easier for the shoot.  The emphasis was on creating groups of similarly exposed images so that the video levels wouldn’t be jumping too far out of whack. There are a couple of ways of approaching this, but in my case I created a separate Lightroom catalog with just this shoot in it — so the edits of my selects didn’t affect the edits for the video.   I could have also achieved the same result with a collection of virtual copies and may well do this in the future because it allows me to keep both end-products in the same catalog.

I used the same Slideshow capability in Lightroom, but opted to generate JPEG images instead.   (This output option is plain to see Lightroom 2, but you have to press the Option (Alt on PC’s) key in the new Lightroom 3 interface.)  For this video I selected the output size 1280×720 to match the 720p HD frame size.  Lightroom took almost an hour to generate the 758 frames on my 4-processor MacPro.  From there I open the images as an Image Sequence in Quicktime Pro and  select a frame rate.  10 frames per second happens to be close to the burst rate of my Canon 1DMk2 camera so the jump sequences almost play in “real time” and the pacing for the rest of the images is pleasingly frenetic.   The important part here is that if I didn’t like the frame rate choosing a different one and previewing it takes a few seconds rather than hours.

It is important to note that the use of Lightroom’s Slideshow feature is important to the success of this workflow.  If you chose to simply export the images they would end up being different sizes (unless you used identical cropping on every single one of them) and they also would not be sized for a video frame.   If the generated images are not identical in terms of aspect and resolution they will not be included in the Quicktime image sequence.  Using the Slideshow option allows you to generate consistently sized image frames with whatever background you want to use.

After generating the frames in Lightroom and rendering them as an image sequence with Quicktime Pro, I imported the video file as a clip into Final Cut Pro where I added the titles and credits and then added the soundtrack (thank you Duke!).  Once I had the music there I realized it might be fun to break up the video a bit to correspond to the music.   This is a creative process where you can absolutely go overboard.  Since this video was meant to be just a fun use of “excess” images I tried to keep it simple.  I then added the titles and credits and then uploaded it to the YouTubes…

I did some basic color grading in Final Cut, keeping the images coming out of Lightroom pretty basic.  I edit video in a different gamma than photographs (1.8 versus 2.2) so it is better to send Final Cut “flat” images and work the final result from within the video editing suite.

I thought the result was pretty cool and tells the story of the event in a unique and entertaining way.  I’ll likely alter my shooting slightly to enhance the results of future videos.  What I would normally consider gratuitous shots can now form the basis of short stop-action sequences.  Yet another tool in the story-telling kit.

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My thanks to Duke Levine for his permission to use his music in my blog videos.  If you like what you hear, visit Duke Levine’s MySpace page and pick up one of his albums.

Photos from the Harmony Halloween Horse Show can be found at: events.dmg-photography.com

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