The Cuban sun burned especially bright on the day Katie and Seth got married, but the wind kept everyone comfortable while unlimited drinks made sure sobriety was never an issue. There’s something to be said about the exclusivity of destination weddings, cause they leave little room for strangers or acquaintances. Only the closest people will commit to plane tickets and accommodations. The celebrations are all the more intimate for it, and I’m always glad when I have a chance to be part of the that.
You never need to make a special effort to find the wildlife in Varadero; even on the resorts, birds will bravely snatch food at your feet, while stray cats toy with lizards and mice alike before eating them. And being surrounded by other people on their own holidays, whether they’re tanning on the beach or letting pretty girls cheat at limbo, brings a warmth to the atmosphere that even the sun can’t provide.
Allie and Eric had a picturesque wedding at South Pond, a quant little farm in Bethany Hills. Their day was filled with delightful details, like carriage rides to the ceremony, dove releases, and paper lanterns. It all made for a wedding film that never loses it’s momentum. Even though I’ve been working with a composer to score my most recent films, I still take special requests from couples who want me to use songs that have personal meaning to them, and in this case it was Such Great Heights by The Postal Service.
I cut my teeth on filmography and discovered my personal style when spending time on Eric and Mark’s farm in Bancroft. Back then, I had a cheap camcorder but needed a subject, they had the snowboarding skills but needed a documentarian. That’s how I gained crucial experience with editing, composing, and grading, though it would be years before I got a real camera and finally understood aperture, shutter speed, and ISO as well. Filming Eric getting married was like coming around full-circle, where I could apply all the things I’ve learned through the years since those weekends spent in the country with his family and friends.
Shot at a Jewish sleep-away camp at the side of the Ottawa River on a perfect day.
This film is one of the highlights of my 2012 wedding season. I had to end it on a scene during the first look, when Dave’s face reveals how anxious he is to see Heather in her dress; those are the moments that speak for all the years in a relationship. They’ve known each other since grade 7, along with most of the wedding party. You can easily tell how close everyone is from the way they touch and dance and embrace.
I worked very closely with Adrian from Five Stripe Studios in scoring this film. The wooden buildings and outdoor setting made me think of summer camp, so I wanted the first section to sound like an old tape you’d find in your dad’s glove compartment as he’s driving you there, the ribbon warped from heat. Adrian did an amazing job of creating that mood, the careful melodica being a very nice touch. There were also important details I asked for, like the slide guitar going from note to note exactly when the focus zooms from a leaf to the sun, which he ingeniously built into a repeating theme.
Having complete control over the music is great for perfectionists like me, but the best thing about working with such a talented composer is being able to give each couple a set of songs that have been created just for them, something that makes each film particularly unique.
I’ve been having a lot of fun making these little animated gifs, each one a moment from a wedding I shot last season. Not all my footage makes it into the final cut of a film; occasionally, something has to be sacrificed for reasons of pacing or timing or…appropriateness, and it seemed like such a pity that these clips would end up on the cutting room floor.
The tricky part is not making a gif too long, otherwise it becomes a scene, and loses the repetition that makes us believe the moment goes on forever.
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While studying this Carcassi étude — and analyzing as many version as possible in aid of that — I realized that classical music is like wine. They’re both based on a central theme or taste, and it’s the subtle differences between the interpretation of each performer or wine maker that make them unique and interesting. That’s why you need to listen to a lot classical music (or drink a lot of wine) to develop a palate. I bet two different musicians (or even the same musician at two different points in their career) playing the same piece would sound the same to some people for the same reason that two different merlots would taste the same to others.
This is supposed to be played allegro, but I’ve yet to hear a version above 105 bpm that didn’t feel rushed to me, so I prefer to play it andante. Luckily, I enjoy classical music, and I can tell the time I’ve invested in developing that foundation translates over to non-classical songs, not only in the extra finger precision but in practicing techniques too.
I’m still using electric strings, which I’ve had on longer than any other set, cause I love how crisp and brassy the tone is throughout the range. For a piece like this where the melody switches between bass and treble, that becomes really important.
Singhouse Studios is a voice and performance school for people of all ages, and one night every year the students perform in a big show. This year, the show — titled Sparkle — was celebrity-themed, complete with a melange of hits from the last five decades, a red carpet runway for all the stars, and even Ottawa’s local pop heartthrob, Alex Lacasse.
Music by Five Stripe Studios. Adrian and I worked closely to make sure the music had the right kind of playful energy to focus on the school’s main demographic.
I was asked to create a promotional video for the studio, so I followed the performers to tell the story of their day, from the backstage to the main stage. I felt it was as important to see all the preparation as much as the performances themselves, which is why I included footage of warm-up routines, practice rituals, and dress rehearsals. I love to see the focus so many of the young performers have, and much of that comes out before they even step into the spotlight.
I’m very pleased to say that I’m now working with Five Stripe Studios, a talented boutique music composition studio, to score my films. Music is one of the most important parts of any film, and the right music can make great footage look even better.
Choosing the right music also happens to be one of the most difficult parts of the storytelling process. For one wedding, I spent a week looking for the perfect song. When I discovered it had an inappropriate line (nothing vulgar, just very unfitting for a wedding), I spent another week trying to find a replacement, but eventually went with my original choice, using audio software to take the line out.
Kyden’s First was a small project we worked on to make sure we were able to communicate effectively at different stages of the scoring process.
It made sense to find a more capable person to handle this responsibility, and I just happened to come in contact with the right person at the right time. Adrian is the creative director of Five Stripe Studios, and not only does he write the music, he sings, plays, and records it as well. I met him in Australia when we were much younger, and he contacted me after coming across my work many years later.
This not only gives me total control over the music, allowing me to choose the right instruments, tone, pace, and mood, but I have more options with the footage as well, as I sometimes found myself leaving out a great scene out to match another scene with a certain part of a song. Adrian is also a very dynamic composer, and can give me widely varying styles and genres; exactly what I need when working with all the different things I film.
Rap Legend Jesse Dangerously just released his latest single, a remix of Tired Angels from Krista Muir’s most recent album. He wanted a bit of breathing room between verses and asked me to write a ukulele solo, so we hit the studio a couple months ago. I was lucky enough to learn a lot about the recording process that had largely remained a mystery to me.
This was my first time trying to write music that wasn’t a cover. It was unique challenge, cause it’s hard for me to tell what sounds good vs. what sounds good only to me. I also have a habit of trying to fill my arrangements with too many ideas instead of following a theme, so this time I tried to build on the hook that Krista sings. Then I added as much vibrato as I could on my soft cedar-topped nylon-stringed uke to fill out the sound.
I also provided some backup harmonies at the start of Noah23’s verse, and it’s weird to hear my singing with some real production. I don’t think I’d recognize my own voice if someone didn’t tell me it was me.
Jesse has the ability to piece together a bunch of motley musical ideas from various genres, and it’s awesome to hear something that started out as a simple rap song become more than the sum of it’s parts.
I was very excited to be working with Liz again when approached me to shoot a promo video for her photography business. Since she does engagements, weddings, and pet portraits, we decided to film all three types of sessions.
Liz lists some of her favourite things as her hubby, her pups, her shoes, and her Apple products, so I included little bits of each to give it a personal touch. I also kept the grading crisp and clean with colours that pop out of the screen to match Liz’s style of vibrant photography, of which I’m a huge fan. My main goal, however, was show how fun it is to be one of her subjects because she has a perpetual smile and bubbly personality that puts anyone at ease.
A special film for a special couple.
I was given the chance to film the wedding of Jenny and Dave on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Everything about the day was gorgeous, from the tropical weather to the burgeouning centrepieces to the torchlit reception. It all came together to create an atmosphere of sublime charm, and I had so much fun capturing it all.
I make each wedding film as accessible as possible, so anyone can get a sense of the day even if they weren’t there. But I also include certain things that would be understood by only the people involved. In this film it was shots such as an uncle doing an hilarious bump-and-grind on the dance floor, or the bride tearing up while writing her speech, or the father-in-law saying a few words while firmly holding the groom’s hand during the tea ceremony. Details such as the latter may not seem like much to an outsider, but family and friends at the wedding would understand how such a small physical display of affection can mean so much.
This was by far my most challenging wedding film to make, but it was well worth it. For a while, it became my reason for living, the one I wanted to be remembered for, and my goal was to deliver this film before I died. There’s a piece of my soul in it, so I can’t say how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity to create this for Dave and Jenny, and how I happy I am to know they deserve it.
(A big thank-you to wedding photographer Mike Adrian, who was a delight to work with, and taught me a thing or two about how to pack for destination weddings.)
Filmed another lovely wedding in the Fall. The ceremony was small and intimate with only a handful of people invited, taking place at the tiny lookout on Rockcliffe Parkway, while the reception was a great big party at the RA Centre. One of the most unique things about this wedding were the paper lanterns given to all the guests. By the end of night the sky was full of them, drifting away beautifully above us.
It was another chance to work with the wonderful Liz, who is always on the top of my list of photographers I recommend for weddings. Not only do her photos end up looking amazing, she always works with me when capturing all the important details, instead of against me, as I’ve noticed with some photograpehrs. Check out the photos in her sneak peak.
Also of note were the wedding favours, each box containing a pair of candy sushi. The maki was made by rolling a flat sheet of Rice Krispie squares over a filling of Gummy Worms, wrapped with Fruit Roll-Up. The nigiri had gummy sharks as the fish, also tied together with a strip of Fruit By The Foot. Small, bite-sized packs of cute and delicious.
Wu Wei, my free WordPress theme, is currently the 5th most popular theme on WordPress.com, with over 550,000 blogs using it at the moment (not including ones being self-hosted), and it’s become so successful that the administrators have made it one of the default themes for new sign-ups. By far the most common support question I get is why the WordPress.com version isn’t available for WordPress.org users (some have even offered to pay for an update), so I’m very pleased to announce the release of version 2 for self-hosted blogs.
The theme has been updated to take advantage of new features that came with WordPress 3.x, such as custom header and custom background APIs, custom menu management, as well as various under-the-hood fixes and improvements. Tags and comments have also been included on the front page, to bring better standardization across WordPress.com and WordPress.org versions.
People have asked me why I don’t charge for such a theme, seeing as how I’ve poured a tremendous amount of time and energy into something used by so many people. I can only say that Wu Wei has brought me much luck since its release, and thanks to it’s popularity, I’ve met many great people, received new design work, and even had a chance to visit Britain — things I don’t think would have been possible if Wu Wei was a paid theme.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of filming Geneviève and Jamie on their wedding day. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony in the country with only about 50 people, and a vegan dinner for the reception.
One of the interesting things I got to see was the sock dance, an old French-Canadian tradition where the eldest unmarried sibling has to don a pair of ugly socks (symbolizing their cold feet) and do a silly dance. People throw money at him or her, which is then collected for the newly married couple.
I decided to keep the grading natural cause there are so many vibrant colours in each scene — from tattoos, hair dye, clothes, foliage, and decorations — that I wanted to bring out for a lighthearted, playful mood. Goddammit I love grading; it’s become my favourite part of the process. You can set so many kinds of tones with colour alone.
The colours also led me to decide on using Beirut’s “Postcards from Italy” for the song, as the ukulele and horns emphasize that festive feeling wonderfully.
I also got to work with Liz, a photographer who’s as fantastic as she is considerate. So far, she’s been the only one to say to me, “Tell me if I get in your way”, before I could say it to her. Guess who I’m referring if anyone asks me for a wedding photographer recommendation.
Sometimes I study the films of videographers I admire, and I’m inspired by their style but it never feels right when I try to achieve the same for my films. They rely on editing to make their films interesting, and the films end up looking posed or unnatural. I’ve realized that I have to follow my own style — telling a story by capturing the beauty in the simplicity — because that’s what I’ve been trying to do in words and photos my whole life.
To be honest, I’d never heard of Spanish Romance until this year. Once I found out it was a classical standard, I started seeing it on all these CDs by respected guitarists and compilation albums of “classical greats”. It seems like anyone learning classical guitar will try to tackle it at some point, seduced by such an elegant melody. I have no classical aspirations, and even I fell for it.
I figure I’d record this before I cut off my nails cause I’ve been growing them for about two months and I’m completely sick of them. They clack on my keyboard and iPad, and I always have to be annoyingly careful about not breaking them. Unfortunately, this song also sounds way better with some brightness to it when it’s not played with actual nylon strings; I’m still using a set of Silk and Steel, and there’s a certain fatness to the sound when you really dig into them.
I’ve only had Larissa for six months now, but it feels more like six years. There’s so much familiarity in the wood and glossy curves. Even when I’m trying out a guitar several times the price of what she would cost, it never feels as nice.
So the iPad 2 is something I bought last week, solely for the purpose of GarageBand. It’s powerful enough to be a sketchpad where you can create musical ideas, and because the instruments are touch-sensitive, it’s really fun to doodle and experiment. I don’t actually have a bass or piano or drums, so the extra instrumentation is pretty handy too.
Over the weekend I made this sketch of Shaded By Your Shadow as I was figuring my way around the software. It’s always been one of my favourite songs by Shane; the title alone evokes this image of lying in the grass on a warm day, with someone’s hair drifting in the haze of their outline above you.
I haven’t lost myself this much in a project (small as it was) in a long time. I had to figure out the roles of instruments I’ve never played before, percussion being a particularly weak point of mine cause I rarely pay attention to it when I’m listening to music. There are a lot of synth instruments included with GarageBand, so I tried to give it an 80s synth-pop sound. Everything was done right on the iPad, including vocals which were recorded using the built-in microphone.
I still have to learn about mixing and production and whatnot (and since I don’t have any monitors, I’m completely blind when setting the various levels), but I was happy as punch just to be able to figure out the software and process. It really is it’s own creative process when making a full band arrangement for a song, a puzzle in it’s own right, because you can start with an idea or motif on any instrument and there are so many directions you can go from there.