Artist or Engineer?

I love the challenges of shooting time lapse photography. I love building motion control rigs, building sets, working with all the equipment, and I love getting and reviewing the footage, but to be honest, I really do not enjoy editing together showcases or reels.  I am sitting on top of a bunch of footage of flowers, and I have put together a short 2 minute film, but it feels awfully generic to me.  I have learned enough about Adobe to cut together videos, add sound effects, transitions, smooth footage, etc, but I am only scratching the surface of what it is capable of doing. I find myself getting frustrated because I just don’t have the know-how when it comes to editing to get the “look” that I am going after, and to be honest most of the time I do not even know what that “Look” is.

Ever since I was a kid I was always drawing stuff. All through my schooling years and beyond.  I always focused on details, trying to make things look real. I was never good enough to create those photo-real pictures, but good enough to get a reputation as an artist while in school. Over the years I have sketched, painted, airbrushed, carved, and sculpted.  There is something about the action of doing these things that always drew me.  For me, the act of creation is more important than the creation itself.  I remember looking at the work from other kids in art class, while mine looked more accurate, I always felt theirs was far more artistic. There was something about my final output that I always felt was lacking, even if from a technical standpoint it might have been considered better.

The fact is I am more of an Engineer than an Artist. There can certainly be an artistic nature about engineering. Building Otto was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done.  I have hundreds of hours into the design and creation of it. I took several weeks off of work and would spend 10-14 hours a day cutting, building, tapping, routing, re-working, etc. I find it very easy to lose myself in that sort of work, my mind just drifts and wanders and I sort of hit a zone. It feels a lot like coding to me.

I enjoy every last bit of the timelapse process, until I start working to put together a short film. I find this entire part to be frustrating and time consuming.  I am not exactly sure how I want it to look, or how to get it there. I am terrible at presentation. I would like to learn more about Adobe, but there is the issue of finding time to learn how to use it properly. I admit, there is a bit of a lack of desire as well.  So now I have to figure out what to do with this footage.  I never had any vision with any of this footage. Most of it was experimental. Trying different ways of creating sets, making notes, seeing what works and what does not. I spend some time working through some Otto/Dragonframe issues while gathering this footage. Flowers are great for shooting while debugging and experimenting because they are minimal on the time commitments. Most flowers bloom within a few days. But with a lack of actual vision in the beginning, what I find is that my footage is a bit of a mess. There is nothing cohesive about it, which makes cutting together a final short film even more difficult. But some of it is pretty good and I would like for it to be seen. I suppose I will just release it and put it out there. Not sure what else to do with it, but I am not excited about it.

I have quite a few strengths when it comes to this sort of work. I’m good at overcoming technical challenges. I’m able to design and create my own tools and systems.  I can follow my vision when it comes to creating the systems, but I find it very difficult to follow my vision when it comes to content. Maybe I need to team up with an artist who sees merit in the Biolapse project and can help with the direction.

I am currently filming some new plants,. Gone are the set pieces, no more mix of live and fake plants for the background. No more flowers. This project is going to focus more on growth and motion. 10-14 days per clip will be about the average capture rather than 3-5.   I still find myself struggling with the idea of storyboards and such. We will see how it goes. Looking at what I have already captured in the last 5 days, I am pretty excited about what I am filming.

On a side note. Big Pacific Episode 3 airs July 5th. I spent nearly a year filming carnivorous plants for this episode. Some of the most difficult carnivorous plants to find, and cultivate.  I have seen several previews of this episode, and it looks almost like it is all under water. Maybe my footage got tossed on the editing room floor. There were some reference shots they were supposed to provide when they were on-location, however My understanding is they never found what they were looking for.  I had reached out to them multiple times after I submitted the footage asking if they had a chance to review it and wanted me to shoot any additional footage but they never replied.  I hope it made it on the documentary.  Either way, it paid very well and that is what funded my build of Otto.

2 thoughts on “Artist or Engineer?”

  1. I find your project absolutely fascinating. I use dragonfrane and cameras professionally and can’t think of anywhere else that someone has created such a niche field. Your work deserves to be seen widely.

    I suggest you team up with a professional editor or even an enthusiastic recent graduate to help you create some perspective on your work.
    Then you can stick to what you’re really good at and allow someone to extract and create a new dimension to your footage.
    You can’t do everything yourself.

    Try it, you may be amazed at the results.

    Thank you for sharing!


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