Official Selection – 2016 Fargo Film Festival

I’m pleased to announce that my feature documentary Bill Brunton: Guitar Maker is an Official Selection for the 2016 Fargo Film Fest (March 15-19).


Bill Brunton: Guitar Maker – Full Documentary

A pile of wood learns to sing. This is a feature documentary I shot, produced, and edited independently about anthropologist-turned-luthier Bill Brunton. Enjoy the whole thing for free right here.

Fargo Flag design

This is my design for The Arts Partnership’s Fargo Flag contest. The top 15 designs will be which will be presented to the City Commission for possible adoption as our official city flag. Voting is open until Sept 23rd at 5pm.

Having a city flag is important for several reasons, but most importantly a well-designed flag can become a graphic that unites us as a community. My design was inspired by our agriculture (wheat symbol), tech-industry (the wheat symbol has bold, modern lines), and cold winters (blue for the glacier that once covered Fargo, and lighter blue for the snow and ice every winter).

This contest was inspired by Roman Mars’ talk: “Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed.” Hilariously, my hometown of Bismarck makes an appearance in his talk as one of the worst examples of flag design. One of Roman’s most interesting points is that the basic guidelines of flag design apply to almost any kind of design. Those guidelines, as defined by the North American Vexillological Association, are:

1. Keep it Simple The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
2. Use Meaningful Symbolism The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
3. Use 2-3 Basic Colors Limit the number of colors on the flag to three, which contrast well and come from the standard color set.
4. No Lettering or Seals Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.
5. Be Distinctive or Be Related Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.

Denmark and Inside Energy

Østkraft engineerThis summer I flew to Denmark as a videographer for Inside Energy and the PBS Newshour.

For a week, radio reporter Stephanie Joyce and I worked on this story. She gathered material for 3 radio stories and I gathered all the footage material for the TV piece. Rebecca Johnson, the video producer at Inside Energy, edited this version for PBS NewsHour.

Everything was shot on the Canon 5D Mk3 (Magic Lantern). I had a lot of fun working as a run-and-gun crew. All of our gear fit in 2 backpacks and we used public transportation almost exclusively navigating between Copenhagen, Bornholm, and Western Denmark. We quickly got in a groove and captured lots of great material.

Read/listen to all of the stories and see some of my photographs here.

This isn’t my first time shooting for Inside Energy. Below are two stories I filmed with reporter Emily Guerin.

SmartCamera paper published

SmartCamera systemThe paper I co-authored at NDSU just got published by Multimedia Tools and Applications! This was a really satisfying project to work on because it combined my professional video knowledge with programming and my Computer Science degree.

I worked with Dr. Jun Kong and Amin Roudaki to create this system to automatically direct video of a conference room meeting situation. The system uses 2 cameras: a static wide shot and a moveable PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera to automatically move the camera to film the current speaker, switch to the wide shot while that camera is moving, cut to the wide shot if many voices are speaking, etc. A Kinect is used for the wide shot because it also is used to detect who is speaking.

My role was to advise the project as a professional videographer who has experience directing multi-camera events, developing heuristic rules for the system which help it behave like a human director (telling it how long to stay on a particular shot, for example), building the motorized linear camera slide, and programming the Arduino, which received serial input from Amin’s software.

Prairie Musicians behind the scenes

Every year at Prairie Public, we produce a local music show. This year I pitched the idea of trying to get more social media presence by doing short behind the scenes videos of every band. These were super fun to shoot and edit because there’s lots of fun stuff to see like camera gear, lights, the bands prepping their instruments, and practicing. See all 8 of these videos here, and the other behind the scenes video about the set’s graffiti mural.

Bill Brunton: Guitar Maker

“There’s no reason why anyone should be bored in this life. But you have to tune in to yourself, and you have to find those points in you that resonate, and then go for that.”

Bill Brunton is a retired anthropologist, and a seasoned craftsman of classical guitars. Building a guitar is all about attention to detail. He deals in terms of millimeter thicknesses, varying expansion rates of woods, grain patterns, and of course, exploration and the unknown. You never know what a guitar will really sound like until you string it up.

This is a short cut of a longer documentary I’m working on about Bill. As a classical guitarist myself, working with Bill has really helped me understand more about the guitar itself, and its fascinating construction. Right now he’s about 2 weeks from finishing the guitar you see him building. It’s been about 7 months in the making, so we can’t wait for the day when we get to hear these guitars sing – though we have heard the tones of the different woods throughout the process as Bill does “tap-toning” to hear that the wood is musical.

I’m hoping to have the final documentary ready this summer and enter it in some festivals.


Threshing grain at Rollag MN

Each Labor Day weekend in Rollag, giant iron machines come to life. Old-timers and new-comers relive the our past in agriculture, construction, and daily life. It’s like a living museum of Midwestern Americana. You might see a 1hp gas engine puffing about, a man riding a mini bulldozer, or a rare Minneapolis thresher steaming across the road.

I produced, edited, and filmed this piece with a crew from Prairie Public, and it aired in both Prairie Pulse (weekly talk show) and Prairie Mosaic (news magazine show).

Prairie Musicians set painting

Each year at Prairie Public, we make a new set for our local music show Prairie Musicians. This year I wanted to create a series of behind the scenes videos to promote the show. Here’s the first, which is about the walls of the set. Local artists Paul & Micah came in to paint a vibrant graffiti mural for the set. Learn a bit about their craft and the project.

Music by Cameron Seibold

PRODUCTION TIPS: organizing your memory cards

I just made a short tip for video production about memory cards. Sometimes little systems can save you a lot of stress/time/accidents.

Data wrangling isn’t the sexiest part of video. But keeping tabs on your memory cards while doing video, photo, or audio production is super important. I use a system of two color-coded card holders in a protective case so managing cards is simple.

When I’m going on a shoot, I gather all my cards and format them for my camera (of course making sure the footage on them was ingested and backed up). Those cards go into the black case.

Then when I’ve filled a card, I move it from my camera into the yellow case. I stick with this system so I always know which cards are which. Yellow means “caution! these have yer hard won footage on them.”

Ready to level up? Ingest your footage onto a harddrive in the field. Then keep that harddrive physically separate from your cards so even if your cards get lost, corrupted, etc, your footage will still be safe. Yaaaaay data redundancy.