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“Curiosity”

Pre-Production

Last month, when my mom and sister were up from NY visiting for a weekend, we decided to take the kids to the Boston Children’s Museum to check out the Curious George exhibit. Expecting the museum might offer an interesting visual backdrop, I decided to use the family outing as an opportunity for an off-the-cuff short video. There was no preconceived concept I went into this with, so the idea of turning my daughter’s little moments of exploration into the underlying storyline originated in post, as I was going through all the footage I had shot.

Production

I ended up packing my new National Geographic Walkabout bag (which is coming quite in handy lately) with the following essentials:

  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 50mm f1.2 L
  • Zacuto Z-Finder
  • Zacuto Rapid Fire
  • Fader ND

The museum was crawling with kids, offering a lot of stimulation, as one would expect. As a result, it was difficult chasing my daughter around, quickly framing up, and getting a quick shot before she’d run off to explore something else. She’s also starting to get to that age where she knows you’re filming her, so she turns or runs away from you, so I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the quality of what I was capturing.

I also fumbled a bit white balancing the shots. The walls in the Curious George exhibit were all yellow (no surprise there), and some of the stations to visit emitted colored lights as part of the display, so most of the footage came out looking kind of funky. Thinking back, I think my mistake was attempting to white balance out some of the colors at the beginning of the shooting, but not repeating that step all the way through, which caused some of the skin tones to look a bit reddish in certain shots.

Post-Production

While walking around the museum, I had overheard one of the displays playing a snippet of Fur Elise, which has always been one of my favorite classical pieces (these days, it tends to remind me of Gus van Sant’s “Elephant”). It also reminded me that I had a Baby Einstein CD at home that we used to play for my daughter when she was younger, so going into the edit, I already had some music in mind that I wanted to use.

Going through the footage, I struggled to find an interesting concept to cull out of the footage. I didn’t feel I had gotten enough coverage, so I wanted to keep it short and quick, to avoid it feeling like the typical home video one quickly get’s tired of watching. I almost changed the music to something more upbeat, in order to “hide” behind it, but decided against it for a few reasons. One was practical in that I wanted this to be a quick little project and not spend a lot of time assembling a heavily cut piece (I have some other projects in progress that I wanted to spend time on); the second reason was I had already done my upbeat kid video with Danielle’s Birthday, so I didn’t want to repeat myself; and the third reason was I simply wanted to challenge myself and see if I could create something relatively engaging given the constraints of limited footage and a slow-paced piece of music.

I started off going through the footage looking for some tie-in to Curious George, since that was the context for most of the footage. In listening to the Fur Elise piece, and watching the clips I had shot, the music started to evoke a feeling of inquisitiveness and exploration, so I started to play on that “curiosity” theme. The first set of cuts I actually started with was the ending for the video – I recalled taking some shots where my daughter had walked away from me, leaving a Curious George jack-in-the-box behind. It felt like a nice way to end the piece, emphasizing the general theme I wanted to convey, so long as I didn’t end up emphasizing the Curious George character all throughout the video (that would be tacky).

Once I had that, I started looking for little moments of exploration or discovery in the footage, laying most of the clips down in the order I had shot them. Since most of what I had shot involved only my daughter, I wanted to keep it consistently focused on just her, but in the end, since I didn’t have enough coverage, I ended up having to use a couple of shots of my son. I used the change in tone in the music as the lead-in to introduce him, but since it’s towards the end, I’m not 100% happy with how that flows.

The edit didn’t take a long time, but correcting the color issues did. I used Final Cut Pro’s Color Corrector 3-Way filter on all the clips, in order to get the skin tones right. I then graded using Magic Bullet Looks, adding a vignette along the way. In order to give the piece a little more life, I took advantage of having shot in HD to scale a few of the clips and key frame in some motion. It’s subtle and selective, but it seemed to help.

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