Tristan is employee number 4 here at Pro Church Tools and one of the team members at Storytape. One of his specialties is shooting abstract footage filled with emotion.
What’s In This Session?
- The origins of Storytape (8:07)
- Executing a reverse bet (10:15)
- What it takes to orchestrate an abstract scene (14:20)
- Filming abstract clips using fire and flames (16:04)
- Why a macro lens is the key to great abstract footage (20:27)
- Building an abstract scene around a broken speaker (22:35)
- How to bounce back when a video shoot fails (26:05)
- Adding visual effects to abstract footage in post-production (41:00)
Show Notes & Resources Mentioned
- Storytape on Instagram
- Westcott LED Flex Lights
- Savage Seamless Paper Backgrounds
- Tristan on Instagram
- Tristan on Twitter
3 Instant Takeaways
- Draw inspiration from the work of others. Tristan remembers seeing clips of paper burning, and later used this to inspire a sequence of clips of fire and ember. Write down the things that inspire you, as well as things you want to try in the future.
- Use a macro lens. A macro lens allows you make small things appear large. This combination can turn even normal, everyday objects into unrecognizable, abstract shots.
- Don’t be afraid to fail and try again. Part of creating is coming up with things that haven’t been done or seen before – or at least not your way. Sometimes it will take a couple of shots to get something just right. Don’t allow it to discourage you. Come back with new and better ideas.
The Full Transcript
Brady Shearer: This is the Pro Church podcast, session number 187, capturing stunning abstract video footage with Tristan Persaud. Well, hey there, Pro Church Nation and welcome to the Pro Church podcast. You’re now part of a small group of pioneering churches, doing everything we can to seize the 167 hours beyond our Sunday services. Why? Well, because we’re living through the biggest communication shift [00:00:30] in the last 500 years, and what got us here won’t get us there.
I’m Brady, your host, and this is session number 187 and you can find the show notes for this session at prochurchtools.com/187. And in this session, we’re joined by Tristan Persaud, talking about shooting abstract video footage and how to do it, so let’s do it.
[00:01:00] Welcome back to another session of the Pro Church podcast, this is Brady, your host, great to have you with us. We like to start off each and every session by sharing with you a pro tip or a practical tool that you can begin using in your church or ministry right away, and today I want to talk about something that we don’t really talk think about too much at Pro Church Tools, namely because we’re an online business, that does all of our customer communication via email and chat [00:01:30] support, but I want to talk about the old school communication method of phones.
The phones that we have had in our business have traditionally been quite terrible, and I’ve finally stumbled upon something that’s working for us. I frankly don’t know why it took me so long to find this company, because they’re not exactly a new company, but they’ve been doing great stuff for the world of online business and entrepreneurs, helping us get better phone services without having to deal with the tech people and the annoying phone companies that are just [00:02:00] terrible and have a monopoly and hate all of us and want to see us suffer.
The company that I’m talking about is Grasshopper. You can find them at grasshopper.com, and basically how it works, is Grasshopper is going to give you a ton number of phone numbers, or a single one if you need, 1-800 or local, but it all operates through your mobile device. So there’s nine full-time employees, including me, in the offices at Pro Church Tools, each of us has the Grasshopper app installed on our phone and we can all receive [00:02:30] phone calls via our mobile device, through the app, as well as call out via the app, and it doesn’t actually hurt our phone bills or anything like that because it uses the app to make it happen. What’s also cool is that we have three different phone numbers now, one for story tape, one for nucleus and one for pro video announcements, so we don’t have to have that awkward thing that we used to do, where you call us and we’re like “Hey, Pro Church Tools, who do you want to talk to?” Now we have individual numbers for each, they’re all 800 numbers and those numbers automatically forward to the right person.
We can even [00:03:00] set up, we have not yet but will, a custom greeting, so when you call, it’s like “Hey, welcome to Nucleus, if you’re looking for ‘X’, press this, if you’re looking for ‘Y’, press this.” You can, of course, get voicemail. They have this cool thing where they will transcribe your voicemail and send it to you via email, so I can just read my voicemails, I don’t have to call the number. It’s just so versatile and it’s really affordable, like it’s shocking, like it’s less than we’re for phone now and our phone is terrible and I hate it. I think it costs $49 a [00:03:30] month for what we have now, that’s three numbers included, six extensions. Their most expensive plan is $89 a month, that’s five different phone numbers, unlimited extensions. So you can set it up where like the youth ministry has its own phone number and it automatically routes to them. You can set up custom greetings and all that.
This is something that most businesses have figured out, but we haven’t because we just didn’t grow up in a world where real phones were that important and they weren’t really that important to our business, so grasshopper.com. We’ve just been using them for about a month [00:04:00] now. We haven’t fully set up everything, but what we’ve set up so far has been working great and I’m happy to pass them along to you because I have been pleased with the service so far.
With that being said, we’re welcoming to the Pro Church podcast today Tristan Persaud. Tristan is employee number four here at Pro Church Tools and he’s one of the crew members on story tape. One of his specialties is shooting abstract footage, the type of footage that creates a great emotional resonance, doesn’t really maybe [00:04:30] have a distinct subject matter, like, what am I looking at? But it creates emotion. And so we talk about what it takes to orchestrate an abstract scene, filming abstract clips using fire and flames, we talk about why a macro lens is the key to great abstract footage, building an abstract scene around a broken speaker. We talk about how to bounce back, this is important, how to bounce back when a video shoot fails. Finally, adding visual effects to abstract footage in post-production.
What I really like about this session of the podcast is we talk [00:05:00] deeply and specifically about three different scenes that we shot and how we set them up when it came to lighting and shot list and editing and post production. Plenty of great really tactical stuff here if you’re just getting into video production, if you’re a seasoned veteran, I think that you’ll find some helpful stuff in here.
We’ll be back in just a moment with my interview with Tristan Persaud.
Well, hey there Pro Church Nation, welcome back to another session of the Pro Church podcast and today we are joined by, none other than other employee [00:05:30] number cinc, no cuatro.
Tristan Persaud: Unless we count Luke.
Brady Shearer: Right. Wow, that’s a throwback. We’re mentioning Luke on the podcast.
Tristan Persaud: If you guys have never met Luke before, I don’t think you ever will.
Brady Shearer: But I do want you to meet Tristan Persaud, employee number 4.
Tristan Persaud: Hey everybody.
Brady Shearer: Tristan joined us at Pro church tools about 18 months ago and his role, much like most of our roles at Pro Church Tools, including our products has shifted significantly [00:06:00] since joining the team, but now he is one of the story tape crew members. Licensed drone pilot in both America and Canada, although we don’t technically have a license in Canada.
Tristan Persaud: Check it, check it.
Brady Shearer: Recently on the Switzerland and Ireland trip pulling double duty.
Tristan Persaud: Hurricanes and mountains.
Brady Shearer: Traveling across Europe, introduce yourself to Pro Church Nation. Tristan, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Tristan Persaud: Hey guys. I’m Tristan, as you’ve heard. I started off mainly [00:06:30] doing sort of motion graphic stuff here and then doing video announcements and then transitioned into full-time filming at this point, for story tape and managing story tape from basically the ground up. I was there sort of day one, sort of seeing the vision casting for it. It’s my baby in a lot of ways. I look it like a child.
Brady Shearer: What’s really cool about story tape is that it’s the first product I think where I feel like everyone, especially the team that’s on it, has an ownership stake [00:07:00] in it. It feels like it’s not just my thing, it’s everyone’s thing equally almost.
Tristan Persaud: Oh yeah, for sure. I notice it, for example with video announcements. It’s sort of self-sustaining. It’s like if I do my announcements, that’s as far as my sort of concern with it goes and then I pass it off. Where is this, if Alex and Brandon are talking about something about gear, I want to know, because I want to know everything that’s going with it. I don’t want to just like oh, I do my part, and then I kind of check out at five. I want to know everything that’s going on with story tape, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page [00:07:30] and we know where we’re going and have everything shared between us. Yeah, for sure.
Brady Shearer: Then with nucleus, all of our designers and developers are remote and so if you’re not working on the project every single day like me, or like Alex whose are product manager, it’s like, never even comes up because you’re not doing the development, so you’re not in those meetings and so you’re like, oh yeah right, nucleus is a thing.
But story tape, it’s so integral to the office everyday work because everyone’s editing, people are out shooting, people are out traveling [00:08:00] across the world. The day this podcast goes live, we’re officially one week away from the launch, which is so exciting because it was a year ago, I don’t know if you remember, we were in our old offices when we bought the domain, story tape.com.
Tristan Persaud: I was rehashing this with Brandon on our most recent trip to Switzerland, and I was saying “What was the first thing?” Because I remember the first thing for nucleus. I remember when we were in Atlanta and you said: “What do you think about this idea?” We were on the plane and then when we landed you started working it out and flushing it out. I couldn’t remember what the [00:08:30] very very first thing was that kind of sparked the idea for nucleus. We were like …
Brady Shearer: For story tape.
Tristan Persaud: Sorry, for story tape and we were trying to figure out, we were in the old office then. I remember we talked about the name and we went back and forth on the name, but I couldn’t remember what was that first idea that sparked us.
Brady Shearer: That’s interesting because an unlimited stocked video site or just a stock video site, in general, had been something that people had encouraged me to do over the years. I remember, what I account it for, is the trip [00:09:00] after we went to Atlanta and nucleus came about we went to Nashville a month after.
Tristan Persaud: Yep
Brady Shearer: We had dinner with Kendall Conner from Creative Pastor and now Church Motion Graphics and Jeff McIntosh of Church Motion Graphics. We were in a Red Robin and Kendall and we were all talking about nucleus of course, and then one of them, either Kendall or Jeff, said: “You know what, you just need to do a stock video site.” And I said, “Guys, we’re not going to do a stock video site.” And this was the [00:09:30] second or third time it had come up. Of course a month later I was convinced, you know what? Maybe we do need to do a stock video site. We had that big conversation, we bought the domain and we bought a bunch of other domains, that then did not become the story tape domains because they were for different names that didn’t end up working.
That’s how I remember it. You were at that lunch.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, no, I remember that. I think we shortly after that decided we were going to start eating healthy after that lunch.
Brady Shearer: Well, yeah, because Nashville destroyed us.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, it was another one like straight in the arteries. [00:10:00] Just not feeling good after.
Brady Shearer: I think after we were in the Nashville airport drinking beer because apparently, they sell beer in the Nashville airport.
Tristan Persaud: And you can walk around with it too.
Brady Shearer: It’s not a thing you could ever do in Canada, just walking through an airport with open liquor. Okay sure. We were eating Popeye’s chicken and we were both like, ya know what? We need to make some changes.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah. I think it was that first meal combined with that that was like, yeah, something has to change when we get back.
Brady Shearer: And here’s some real inside information Pro Church Nation because we decided, how are we going to [00:10:30] really going to stick to this, so we made what we called a reverse bet. A reverse bet is basically where if you do something, you don’t get something. A regular bet would be if I do something and it successfully happens I get something. A reverse bet is where if you don’t do something you have to do something you don’t want to do. I think we both decided that if we don’t stick to this new diet, for at least a month, we were going to give $100 to Mitch.
Tristan Persaud: I think it was $300, something like that.
Brady Shearer: $300 cash to Mitch the first employee at Pro Church Tools and we just [00:11:00] did not want to give Mitch that much money.
Tristan Persaud: And your first thing was if you fail you have to delay your engagement to Suz and I was like if I agreed to that, I would go back on that in two seconds, maybe even one second.
Brady Shearer: That was such an extreme reverse bet, you knew you couldn’t stick to it.
Tristan Persaud: No, not at all.
Brady Shearer: Man, inside information about the inner workings of Pro Church Tools. It’s funny because the really Genesis, the beginnings, the origins of both nucleus and story tape, the only consistent thing was [00:11:30] that we were both on those trips.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, yeah.
Brady Shearer: Which is interesting, you were there for both of those.
Tristan Persaud: I think it was probably quite similar sort of thought process like in nucleus, I remember you said, “What do you think about this?” And I immediately came back with pushback of, well what about this? What about this? With story tape, I would have probably thought at the time something like, yeah I don’t know we’d possibly do that, it’s such a big thing to task ourselves with. It’d be way too much for us to sort of compete with all these other companies and [00:12:00] that would’ve been my same mindset. You, on the other hand, would have been, let’s see how we can make this happen.
Brady Shearer: The entrepreneur in me, no we can figure this out, but I totally understand that objection and that pushback because we’re just seeing now the story tape’s site as the developers are wrapping it up. There’s more than 5,000 clips already in the catalog, so the site has more than 5,000 pages already. You look at it and you’re like, we made this site, and it’s so big and we’re going forward adding a thousand new clips every month, it’s [00:12:30] just going to get bigger in less than six months. There’s going to be more than 10,000 pages on this site. It’s just so cool to think we made this, and it’s so cool because for the longest time, with the existence of our company, we’ve created things for churches and now they’re going to have access to all of it. On-demand, download it yourself. You don’t need us to make you something. We’re not going to teach you how to make something. We’re going to make something and let you download it however much you want.
Tristan Persaud: This is the first time we’re kind of giving people raw data to work with.
Brady Shearer: Exactly.
Tristan Persaud: It’s also the first thing we’re offering [00:13:00] that’s going to bring people outside of the church circle as well. That’s pretty interesting.
Brady Shearer: That’s a new thing for us as well because we shoot a lot of church specific footage, but a lot of the footage could be used by other organizations too, which doesn’t mean that we’re focusing less on churches, we’re still Pro Church Tools.
Tristan Persaud: We are.
Brady Shearer: We’re not pro regular organization, slash non-profit, slash enterprise business tools.
Tristan Persaud: We’re not passive Pro Church Tools. Were not like, tools that are okay for churches. We’re pro. This is to a whole nother [00:13:30] level.
Brady Shearer: Now, you’re the third person that we’ve brought on to the podcast. Three consecutive weeks, I wanted to bring on the three main story tape members. With Alex, we talked about last week, drone shots because he’s been one of the drone operators focusing specifically on the camera. The week before we had Brandon and we talked about Instagram stories. I wanted to bring you on Tristan and talk about your specialty within story tape, which has been interestingly and unbeknownst to me, I didn’t expect this, unexpectedly, abstract footage. I think this is one of the things that [00:14:00] also makes story tape great, we’re not shooting, ya know landscapes or people, we have this abstract footage that could be used in truly an unlimited number of contexts because it really is 100% abstract.
Can you talk, we’re going to kind of break down some of the specific scenes we’ve done and how we orchestrated them. I want to get your take on that, but first, what is it about abstract footage, from your perspective, that has made you so good at it? No one else seems to have the eye for this type of stuff that [00:14:30] you do.
Tristan Persaud: I think it’s probably like something in my personality that I kind of thrive off chaos a little bit. It’s kind of okay by me. I look at the way that I like, so I play guitar in a band, and the way that I play guitar is a lot of noises and a lot of different effects and all that kind of stuff. I love to just sort of throw a whole bunch of things together and see what the end result is. It doesn’t have to have necessarily always a very straightforward trajectory. It can, something beautiful is going to come [00:15:00] out of the chaos of it, something really unique and really fresh is going to come out of what is essentially just an experiment. You don’t really know, it could go really badly as well. I kind of look at guitar that way.
It’s the same way with this footage, to paint a picture, it’s like that artist who just throws paint at a canvas screaming and at the end he’s painted this amazing piece, which is timeless in itself. I kind of look at these shots a little bit that way, where it’s you don’t know exactly how it’s going to end [00:15:30] up. I kind of like just tweaking things and a lot of times just kind of keeping the camera rolling. It’s not always planning it out shot for shot, it’s just we’re going to through all these elements together, shake it up, turn the camera on and let it rolls until it ends.
Brady Shearer: I’m thinking of three unique scenes that we’ve, you’ve shot so far that I would categories as purely abstract. I really want to kind of break down how we shot each scene. Let’s first [00:16:00] start with, what I think is the most recent, which is you did this one we called the scene flames and embers. There’s about 100 clips within that scene and from what I understand, you basically went to the old office, which we still use as a video studio for like announcements, talking head videos as our backup studio. You burned it to the ground, but you filmed it.
Tristan Persaud: Yep.
Brady Shearer: Because I know my wife went in afterwards and she was like “What did Tristan do this time?”
Tristan Persaud: I was worried part-way through though, this could go badly. I had to forsake the safety [00:16:30] for the sake of the tape. Like we like to say, do it for the tape.
Brady Shearer: And you were thriving in the chaos, in this context, the fiery chaos.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, do it for the tape, set yourself on fire.
Brady Shearer: The best that you can, only using audio, walk Pro Church Nation through, first the idea for this scene, second the actual set up within the studio, and then third, how you managed to get 100 different clips and how that all happened. So first, like why, what [00:17:00] gave you the idea that, oh, I’m going to set things on fire and film it?
Tristan Persaud: I had seen some footage somewhere at some point in time that was just, I think a piece of paper burning and you could kind of see the paper unraveling and the sort of ash beginning to form on the edge. It was really really shallowed up the field on obviously a macro lens and I just thought that looked really really cool. And everything else is black in the background. Just lighting something on fire in a black room. So I kind [00:17:30] of kept hold of that idea and put it on a list of shots I’d like to do.
I think it was like a Thursday or something like that, and I just had the afternoon to film something for that week’s quota and I thought I’ll try to do this scene. I quickly came up with what are some cheap things I could buy to burn that I know are going to look cool?
Brady Shearer: Always the start of a good idea, what are some cheap things I can buy to burn?
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, always the start of every good story. I took Kyle to Walmart, [00:18:00] and we went around looking for things that were inexpensive, and we found some feathers, some tissue paper for wrapping. We found an old pillow, couple other things, and I just kind of had an eye. It was sort of like, almost like with cooking when you’re like, I’m going to throw this spice in, I just know it’s going to taste good. I’ve never tried this before, I just know it’s going to look good. I remember buying these feathers and I’m like I can already see this, the plastic is going to melt and bubble and it’s going to be really shallowed up the field and it’s [00:18:30] going to get and I’m going to film some of it in 120 frames so I can get that really really sharp shot out of it.
So I just brought all those things back to the old office. We have a little shelving unit in there, which is like one of those white metal grate shelves.
Brady Shearer: Yeah, it’s like a shelf, but it’s entirely made with wires. So stuff could fall through, we put big things in there, but if you put pens in there, they would fall through the square holes.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, so I took that, used [00:19:00] that as our stand for everything because I knew if any ashes fell through they’d just get caught in there. Loaded up on some water in case anything went wrong. I made a tiny little perimeter on top of this, actually took we have a black backdrop in there and it’s like card paper and we have a huge roll of it and we’ve never ever torn of any of it. I took some of it, tore off a section, laid it over top, outlined water around it, just in case anything went wrong. If it was going to burn down, at least there was water there. [00:19:30] Then I just set things up on there. I started off with a sparkler, was the first thing I did.
Brady Shearer: Right
Tristan Persaud: Just stuck a sparkler in the cardstock so that it stood up straight, focused the camera in with the light on and then turned the lights off, hit record and then just set it on fire. Ya know?
Brady Shearer: There’s a couple things that stood out to me there. That’s interesting that you used the paper background and then you stuck the sparkler in it so it that would stand up so you don’t have to hold it because you’re just one man operation.
Tristan Persaud: No
Brady Shearer: Then you focus [00:20:00] the camera with the lights on, but then turn the lights off because you didn’t want to have the actual lights on.
Tristan Persaud: I wouldn’t of been able to focus anyways in the light, it wasn’t like I was going to light it, then focus it because that would just be too chaotic.
Brady Shearer: And sparkles only last for like?
Tristan Persaud: 30 seconds or whatever
Brady Shearer: So you don’t want to waste time focusing.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, exactly.
Brady Shearer: Also, you’re using a macro lens, which has a much shallower depth of field normally because it requires so more light. Tell me about this macro lens, because I would say that’s one of the keys [00:20:30] to shooting really great looking abstract footage, at least it makes it easier. What is a macro lens and then what makes it good for abstract?
Tristan Persaud: Macro lenses I couldn’t tell you all the sort of physics behind it, but it’s just a really zoomed in lens where your band of focus can be really really small. So if you don’t understand the band of focus, like when you look at a wide shot and everything’s in focus, imagine that wide shot, that all you could see and focus was just like the tip of somebody’s [00:21:00] fingertip, or something like that. That’s your band of focus, so with this, you have a very zoomed in lens, and it allows you to have very small amount of things in focus, so it draws a lot of attention to whatever that thing is.
So in the event, if you, say you pointed a macro lens at a table, and see the grains of wood, like the lines in the grain, that macro lens would allow you to really focus in on just a single spot of that and really attract attention to that. It might take something that is otherwise [00:21:30] just a random inanimate object and really brings a lot of life to it as well, I find. So with this scene, it was really perfect to just set something on fire. A lot of the flames at times would be out of focus, but then they would come into focus at just the right time, and you’d just get a really cool look.
Brady Shearer: I think that one example for macro lenses, its use is it gets used a lot when shooting really small animals, like insects or spiders or something because there’s a time that goes [00:22:00] into the actual mechanics of a macro lens, but basically to be absolutely simple and distill it down to this. It makes small things look big. So when it comes to abstract, you can take something as small as a sparkler or a feather that’s on fire and make it look gigantic, like you’re right there, as if you’ve like were in Honey I Shrunk the Kids. To use the 90’s reference and you shrunk yourself down and now all these things that are normally small feel massive, which is really cool and allows for a different [00:22:30] type of perspective which is perfect for abstract.
So let’s talk about another abstract scene that we did. This time you again, destroyed the old office because you brought in a speaker and then you turned on a bunch of random lights and threw dust everywhere. I think it what happened.
Tristan Persaud: That’s the short of it for sure.
Brady Shearer: So walk us through the same process, what was the idea for this scene that we called strange speaker, once it [00:23:00] was finished.
Tristan Persaud: So it started off actually as a separate abstract scene where we were just going to put dust in a speaker cone. People have seen that before, those, I can’t remember, what … it’s like a something plate, and the frequencies of sound, when played through a speaker on to a metal plate will make shapes, different geometric shapes. So I was attempting to do that and then trying to do just dust in the speaker cone. I was filming this, and I was like, this doesn’t look that great, I’m [00:23:30] not really happy with this scene, what can I do to really just shake things up, make it really weird. Make it look like something nobody else has shot before.
We had, at the time, just acquired these lights, which had a couple different settings, one of the setting was a sound sensitive setting.
Brady Shearer: These were like really cheap LED lights on Amazon, right?
Tristan Persaud: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: They were like 40 bucks a pop, like super cheap, but they had different settings, and they could do multi-colored LED’s, and we were like, we could use this for [00:24:00] abstract.
Tristan Persaud: Oh yeah, and we did. I set it to multi-colored, and I set it to the sound setting where it responds to the sound in the room, so if there’s some sort of pulse in the room, the light will pulse to whatever that is. I had brought in a synth, plugged it into this speaker cone that we had, and I was playing just a square wave synth patch through it and then I set an arpeggiator, which is like, allows the wave to fluctuate. These lights were fluctuating to the sound [00:24:30] of this synth going off.
I had tossed a bunch of dust and other debris into the speaker cone. So all this stuff is pulsing out of the speaker cone while it’s going off. We have the lights flashing at the same time. There’s a fan in the room just to move stuff around. I mean, it sounds like the way that you would destroy a room. It doesn’t sound like you’re shooting something, it just sounds like, oh you just came to mess this room up, but the end result was this really eerie, really, yeah, [00:25:00] chaotic and this really strange scene we ended up with. It’s kind of like the thing I said in the beginning, it’s like filming the chaos and see what you get out of it.
Brady Shearer: It was one of those things where we called it strange speaker, not only because of the alliteration, which is nice but also because when watching it reminded us of Stranger Things, which is timely because season two just dropped pretty recently. Like, not to ride the coattails of Stranger Things, but what Stranger Things [00:25:30] does well, it really uses color well. Like if you think about season one, I don’t want to go into season two spoilers, but season one you have Winona Ryder’s character, and she’s using the Christmas lights all around her home and obviously in the opening credits you’ve got that deep red hue in the motion graphics. Red is a color that gets used a ton throughout the series and it just reminded me you’re looking at this speaker scene, there’s a lot of red in the LED’s and it’s flashing and it’s obviously chaotic and bizarre and so we’re like, strange speaker. [00:26:00] And that’s where the name came from.
Let’s go to the third and final scene that I wanted to talk about. What’s interesting about this scene, is that it took us a bunch of tries to get right. The first couple times that we shot with it, didn’t look good at all. This had to do with ink and water and then eventually milk and water and then eventually oil and paint. First, we finally got a good scene out of it. We called it swirling colors and [00:26:30] it’s just really really cool, but talk to me kind of about the first early attempts at this. Because we shot a couple of scenes, spent days or afternoons on them, and then we were like, well we can’t use these because they just don’t look that good.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah. So it was footage of water with ink sort of drifting through it or you could see the ink dropping onto the water or being shot through the water. You guys have probably seen clips of that sort of stuff before. We [00:27:00] were trying to replicate that and do our scene of that. We got a fish tank, filled it up with water, bought a whole bunch of food coloring, thinking this will be simple enough, we’ll just fill it up with water, toss some food coloring in, film it, it’ll be fine.
Huge complication we found out very quickly was that the water sways back and forth like waves in a pool, which became really troublesome for the film because everything we filmed, even though the colors were drifting through the water, it looked like the whole frame was just shifting [00:27:30] back and forth. It was dizzying to look at and it, unfortunately, didn’t look that great. That was our huge roadblock in that scene was just trying to figure out how do we drop this ink into this water, get it to swirl around without disturbing the water at all?
Brady Shearer: Because that’s the problem, you want the canvas of the water to remain perfectly still and then you want the colors to kind of flow and swirl through the canvas so you want one of the liquids to move, but you want the other liquid to not move.
Tristan Persaud: Exactly. [00:28:00] Yep.
Brady Shearer: But that’s against physics.
Tristan Persaud: Not in this world is that possible.
Brady Shearer: So we kind of went back to the drawing board and when I say we, I mean, Y’all and there was a second attempt. Did that one involve, like you wanted to use a different container, right, like the fish tank was maybe too big, so you tried like a bowl or something?
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, I can’t remember, which dish specifically we used, but we used some sort of flat bowl, and we just filled it up with milk instead.
Brady Shearer: Why milk?
Tristan Persaud: With the water [00:28:30] it was, I guess bit of a different look this time, but instead, of seeing the depth of the ink floating through the water, we wanted to just get a flat white surface and then get the ink swirling around, and it would look really like a gobstopper or like planets or like when you look at space, and you just kind of see the blackness and then there’s just color there. It was the same thing, but with white as the backdrop instead.
We were trying to do that, but we ran into the same thing again. We thought if we used a flat surface, then there’d be less disturbance [00:29:00] on the liquid, but instead we got the same thing again. When you would swirl the ink around the stuff would just ripple back and forth because of the energy’s being returned by the dish, but the edges of it.
Brady Shearer: And then what happened was, we finally figured out this scene, but you weren’t a part of it because you were on your trip in Switzerland and then previous to that Ireland. I think this is one of the situations where you were the person that was given [00:29:30] the can that’s impossible to open and you spent ten minutes like as much as you possibly can, you’re like squeezing the lid trying to turn it off, trying to pop it off, you’ve got a towel in one hand so your hand won’t slip and then you’re like, I just can’t get it and then you hand it off to someone and their like, get it and oh I got it and you’re like, don’t worry, you loosened it up for me. But that’s never comforting you always feel like.
Tristan Persaud: Oh I wasn’t like upset when I saw that Alex was able to get that scene, I was really excited because I was like, that’s sweet footage, also [00:30:00] we can do it probably three or four more times. Because every time looks a little bit different, and there’s a lot of stuff you can do with it. I was just happy somebody figured it out. I had had theories on how we could figure it out, we just hadn’t gotten around to trying, so that’s not me trying to reclaim the scene. Well done Alex.
Brady Shearer: No, I think you should totally reclaim it. This is all Alex’s fault. He’s on vacation now, so we can bad mouth him.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah. Well, Alex, I’m sorry, but I’m going to steal this scene back from you.
Brady Shearer: Nice, I love it. Did Alex talk to you at all about how they finally solved the shakiness [00:30:30] because I know they used different liquids like they added oil and paint this time to the milk? I think it was three parts, it was like one part milk, one part paint, one part oil, to make an incredibly deadly disgusting tasting.
Tristan Persaud: He mentioned they used more of an oil based, first off they used ink or paint, where I had just used food coloring. Like the food coloring that you would toss into, you could toss into food, it’s safe to eat, but it’s a very thin liquid, it’s not very dense. [00:31:00] He had used some sort of ink for it, which is a lot heavier and when you drop into the water, I think, falls through the water a lot faster, so it takes a little bit of time for the water to get disturbed and to start to wave. If you drop something heavy into it and it shoots through in five seconds, then you can get that clip before the water gets disturbed.
That’s at least my theory. I haven’t asked him how it was he dropped it in the water. But my theory, and I still want to try this, is that we use the same ink, but [00:31:30] use a syringe to shoot it through the water because that will give it a very direct shot very quickly. You can get your shot, the water will ripple, but by that point, you’ve already got a bunch of shots out of it.
Other than that, he hasn’t explained to me how he stopped the rippling.
Brady Shearer: He’s holding the secrets close to the vest.
Tristan Persaud: I’ll get them out of him.
Brady Shearer: Nice, it is interesting, that does make sense about the density of the liquids because water and food coloring versus oil, milk, and paint, like one of those is two liquids that are incredibly [00:32:00] not dense and the other two are much more, like the viscosity of those other three is definitely increased.
I want to talk about the lighting of these scenes a bit because each of the three was lit differently. The first one was basically a black backdrop using our savage paper backgrounds as the backdrop and the only light was coming from the flames themselves. The second one was lit with those cheap LED lights that we bought on Amazon. And then the third one was lit kind of more like a product would [00:32:30] be lit, where we had our Westcott flex lights turned up to a really like a clean white light that was like fully illuminating surface.
So how did you use the flex lights in the food coloring milk scenes?
Tristan Persaud: We kept them at 5,600, so like the pretty standard temperature and then we just turned them up all the way. That being said, there’s a whole other room that you could experiment with is the changing of the temperature on those lights. That would give you a whole other scene in itself and perhaps [00:33:00] something that we can experiment with in the future, but for now, we had just tried to keep it, kinda of a standard white. We didn’t want to affect the temperature too much, we just wanted to get a lot of light in there. Plus I think with whatever our aperture was set at, we had to get a lot of light in there to try and get everything into focus.
That’s another thing about abstract shots, is when you’re shooting at, with a macro lens, if you’re using a really thin band of focus, and your f-stop is only like three or four stops down, no problem. But, if you’re using [00:33:30] a macro shot, and you want to get a lot of things in focus, and you’ve got your f-stop down to like 22 or something like that, then you need a lot of light and a lot, a lot, a lot of light. Like when we did the speaker scene, separate speaker scene, but similar kind of stuff, we had rocks on this metal plate, we had all the flex lights in basically a pyramid over top of this speaker.
Brady Shearer: Which is what makes the flex lights so cool.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah and they are amazing. We had all of them in a pyramid over top of this stuff just [00:34:00] blasting light on to this subject just so we could get the shot. In this case, we did much the same, we wanted enough light to kind of, the water to just kind of be blown out and white and the ink would really really pop in those scenes.
Brady Shearer: Similar to the flames and embers scene where you used the savage paper as the black backdrop, we also have white savage paper and I think that you tried using that has a backdrop at one point?
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, I think in that same scene with the water, now that you mention it, we used the white savage backdrop, [00:34:30] tiny little piece behind the fish tank.
Brady Shearer: Because the fish tank is of course glass and transparent.
Tristan Persaud: See through, yes, so we had a white paper right behind the fish tank. We had the lights focused on the other side shooting into the fish tank and kind of blowing out the backdrop and then we were filming from the same side as the lights so that what you would get is a nice clean white backdrop. You wouldn’t even think you were necessarily in a fish, like looking at a fish tank. It wasn’t a wide shot, it was a very shallow [00:35:00] macro shot. You wouldn’t know you were in fish tank you would just see ink come drifting into the frame with a nice white backdrop blown out. You wouldn’t even know it was like, it’s not sort of thing that you’d even know there was water. You could put that together, but you wouldn’t know that automatically.
Brady Shearer: And that’s what I love so much about abstract footage, especially when it comes to the context of churches. When I think about abstract footage, one of the key foundational elements of the footage is that [00:35:30] you don’t really know what it is. If you look at it for long enough you might notice, oh this is a flame, or this is colors in ink, or this is a speaker with some dust on it. But your initial reaction to it is purely emotional because your brain is going to react to the colors and to the movement and the to chaos or to the serenity of the scene, rather than the subject matter.
What I love about that is that it allows you to use that footage in ways that others wouldn’t. So for instance, in the aerial shot of the Alps, it’s going [00:36:00] to give you an emotional reaction, but your brain is piecing together what it’s seeing, going, that is a mountain, I recognize that subject matter. And it’s inferring certain things based on your experience with nouns. Maybe it’s a great thought because you’re like I always remember going to the mountains, the cottage and it was in the mountains. Or you’re like, mountains again, like my wife, she thinks that mountains are stupid, she’s like I’ve seen them, they’re big, they’re everywhere. Weird reaction, but that’s hers I guess.
Tristan Persaud: Yep.
Brady Shearer: But with an abstract scene, your brain isn’t able to render what it’s seeing and say, “This is X.” [00:36:30] I find that my response is always purely emotional, which is really cool. It allows you to use it in so many ways. You could create a sermon bumper on like hell, using the fire or evil using the strange speaker, or on love and serenity using the water and the … and because it is a purely emotional foundation and so you can use it as a worship background, or as a sermon bumper that is content that’s meant to be emotional rather subject based. That’s why I like, we’re [00:37:00] going to be shooting two scenes each month that are purely abstract because we want you to be able to take that footage and use it in a variety of context, not just, man kisses woman and okay I can use that for some specific things, but the abstract is far-reaching. It could be anything.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah. It could even be a boat, I’ve wanted one of those.
Brady Shearer: A boat?
Tristan Persaud: It was a long stretch. I was hoping you’d get it. It was a Family Guy reference.
Brady Shearer: Oh.
Tristan Persaud: Dang.
Brady Shearer: My apologies, I’m so sorry. I don’t watch those terrible shows.
Tristan Persaud: I don’t either.
Brady Shearer: Oh Okay.
Tristan Persaud: I’m backtracking hard. I’m backtracking [00:37:30] hard.
Brady Shearer: Right before you met Jesus.
Tristan Persaud: Yes
Brady Shearer: Of course, naturally.
Okay, let’s close out by talking about ways of editing the abstract footage because we’ve done some cool things in posts when it comes to additional visual effects. On top of the already abstract footage, but you know, you can do some much with color grading, with grain, with speed up, speed down. Talk about when you get all the footage inside Adobe Premiere Pro, the editing interface that we use, what are some of the things that you’re doing and experimenting with?
Tristan Persaud: [00:38:00] I think that the mindset of coloring grading for that is very different than the aerial, and the scene stuff, so I’m starting off from a very different page. With the scene stuff and with aerial footage, you’re looking at your scopes, you’re thinking, make sure this doesn’t go past 90, make sure it doesn’t go below ten, as far as where the exposures at. You want to get kind of a general look that’s going works for most people.
Where the abstract stuff is like this is a brand new thing. There’s no rules on how [00:38:30] you grade this. If you make it really grainy, if you wanted too, that’s what it is. Then if you don’t make it grainy, that’s what it is. I don’t think there’s a right, and a wrong way to do it, however you end up grading it, is just going to give you brand new thing. That’s the fun about abstract stuff, is you can take one really simple thing, like ink and water, color grade them a billion different ways, set the lights up a billion different ways, and you have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of combinations of what is just ink dropping through water.
So with me, I [00:39:00] just look at it and I go, what looks alluring to me? If I was editing the fire stuff, I want the blacks to look really black. I don’t want them to look kind of gray. I don’t want them to look too grainy, I want it to look like a pure black with a really obvious subject in the frame. So I boosted the blacks in those scenes. I made the colors a little bit warmer, so I brought the oranges up a tiny bit for the flames just to make them [00:39:30] pop a little bit. Brought shadows down, so it was really just the flame and whatever the flame was burning at that moment that was in focus.
But like I say, there’s really no wrong way to do it so it was a lot of the same way the scene is kind of a bit chaotic of just hitting record, setting something on fire, and seeing what happens, is kind of the same thing with editing it. I start editing it one way, and I’ve brought the blacks all the way up and then I go, I’m just going [00:40:00] to try substituting a color or bringing the temperature up, or doing the total opposite exposure in this scene and then it looks really really nice to me. And I’m just like, okay, I’ll just go that way with it.
It’s just as much of an experiment as the scene is itself. I think everything single time I probably end up with probably a little bit of a different direction with how I’m color grading things. Every scene’s a little bit different.
Brady Shearer: That makes sense. [00:40:30] We’ve talked about failing with these types of scenes where you shoot something and just doesn’t turn out the way that you wanted it to. A lot of it comes down to just experimentation, I think this will look good, but I’m not certain, whereas, with other stuff that we shoot, you’re like, oh yeah, I know exactly how this is going to look. I can picture it in my mind as I shoot it or as I prep for it. Whereas, abstract its kind of just this discovery process, and it does make sense to go back to how you kind of started this conversation like it’s almost like you need to have the personality for this.
Tristan Persaud: [00:41:00] Yeah, it’s like taming the chaos or just finding the order, and the beauty in the chaos of whatever that abstract shot is. I find like, I think that there is a bit of an overlap with anybody out there who’s has ever shot aerial footage. A lot of the times you’re flying, and you’re looking and let’s say it’s mountains as the backdrop, you’re like, ya know what, everything looks cool in some way, whether I’m doing some sort of pan across, or I’m craning up to the horizon, or I’m doing a top-down shot. Whatever it is, [00:41:30] it all kind of looks cool, so you have your obvious shots you’re going for, but then you also just stumble across all these things that look cool because everything about it looks cool.
It’s the same thing with abstract stuff. I might have a couple different looks that I’m going for, whether that’s like a really shallow shot as well as like a, I don’t know, a top down shot, just to sort of give context for it. But really it’s just kind of, ya know, everything looks cool in some way. [00:42:00] It’s almost harder to make the shot look bad than it is for it to look good with these kinds of things.
That’s where I see there’s a bit of an overlap with aerial in that way, where it’s really hard to make aerial look bad, as long as you can operate the drone and get some nice movement to it, anything you shoot’s going to look cool. With abstract stuff, as long as you’ve got some more or less shallow depth of field for most of the shots, and you’re doing something weird and little bit emotion to it, it’s going to look awesome.
Brady Shearer: I love how simple you’ve made it to be.
Tristan Persaud: [00:42:30] Yeah.
Brady Shearer: I think that’s a perfect place to leave off on our conversation. Any place where you are online or in the digital world where if someones listening to this and wants to connect with you, where can they head?
Tristan Persaud: You can follow me on Instagram at wooboypersaud.
Brady Shearer: Instagram’s, sorry, Instagram’s, Tristan’s nickname, I don’t know where the origins of this, maybe you can tell the story quickly is Wooboy, W-O-O boy. Woo boy. So his Instagram handle wooboypersaud last name P-E-R-S-A-U-D. [00:43:00] Do we know where Wooboy came from?
Tristan Persaud: Wooboy, was, so my parents were watching a show before I was born where they got my name from.
Brady Shearer: Wait, this is like a nickname that’s a quarter century plus old?
Tristan Persaud: Oh, it’s older than I am alive. I think they had it ready when I was born. They got my name from a character on a show. In the show, there was some character who also had a dog that was called Trickywoo, and I think they saw that and said, “Trickywoo. Oh, we’re naming our son Tristan, Tristywoo. [00:43:30] That’s kind of clever.” So Tristywoo was a name. Then when my sister was born, she couldn’t say my name properly so just called me boy instead. Then it became Tristywooboy. That’s the full name and then once I started making friends, and I wanted to have kind of a clever nickname, I just went, just call me Woo. Then it’s just kind of taken off from there.
Brady Shearer: Wooboy. Man, that’s an amazing origin story for a nickname.
Tristan Persaud: When I went to church with a lot of people from West Indies and they would call me Wooboy, it’s probably [00:44:00] my proudest moment. I just felt so much street credit that moment.
Brady Shearer: Respect. So, on Instagram wooboypersaud. Wooboy the quarter century plus nickname.
Tristan Persaud: Yep, also on Twitter, don’t tweet as often, but you can follow me on there if you want to.
Brady Shearer: Same handle?
Tristan Persaud: Yeah
Brady Shearer: Nice. Awesome. Well, thanks so much Tristan for joining the Pro Church podcast and for being such an integral part of story tape. We couldn’t have done it without you and anything else you want to leave Pro Church Nation with before we sign off, something I haven’t asked you yet?
Tristan Persaud: Do something weird today. [00:44:30] If you’re listening to this and you’re really inspired by abstract stuff, try something weird today. What’s the worse …
Brady Shearer: Doesn’t need to be video-centric, could be anything.
Tristan Persaud: Yeah, it could be anything.
Brady Shearer: Get weird.
Tristan Persaud: Get weird. Stay weird. Keep it weird
Brady Shearer: Awesome.
Tristan Persaud: Cool.
Brady Shearer: It’s been a blast, my man.
Tristan Persaud: Thanks for having me.
Brady Shearer: Alrighty, there you have it, my interview with Tristan Persaud discussing how to capture just great looking abstract video footage and just to do a quick recap of what we talked about.
We talked about the origins of story tape and how Tristan [00:45:00] was really a part of that initial conversation at Red Robin. We talked about executing a reverse bet, what it takes or orchestrate an abstract scene, filming abstract clips using fire and flames and milk and oil and water and paint and food coloring and ink and sand and dust and broken speakers. We talked about why a macro lens is the key to great abstract footage. How to bounce back when a video shoot fails and finally, adding visual effects to abstract footage in post-production.
[00:45:30] A big thank you to Tristan for taking time out of his busy day editing footage for you and for story tape, to stop by the Pro Church podcast and deliver so much valuable information. We do salute you, Tristan. Thank you again for your time.
And with that being said it’s time for our review of the week inside the Apple podcasts application, this one comes from anonymousbnmp from the U.S.A. five stars, this is “Brady is our invisible sixth man and this podcast, Brady and the Pro Church team, each of the interviews is pure gold. [00:46:00] There’s so much to process, and I especially appreciate the broad scope of topics as well as a balance between practical tools and vision. My head pastor doesn’t know it, but Brady is the invisible sixth man on our communications team. Keep it coming.”
Well, thank you anonymousbnmp for that review inside the Apple podcast’s application, means the world to me. If you want to leave a review, subscribe to the podcasts, download additional episodes, see what’s up. Head to prochurchpodcast.com. That’ll take you directly to our podcast [00:46:30] page where you can hit the subscribe button, leave a rating and review. The types of things that mean the world to me. It won’t cost you much, but they really do push the needle forward for me and the business and the podcasts.
Thanks so much for listening Pro Church Nation, we love you. You are the best. If you haven’t already, head to story tape.com and check that out. And we will talk soon.