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“Wow!  I didn’t know you were bringing so much equipment!”  If I had a dime for every time I heard that when we arrived for a shoot I’d be rich!   Even though we let clients know during preplanning that we will have at least a cart full of equipment, they really don’t understand what that means until we arrive.  


 Equipment Loaded

Loaded with the minimum we bring on a shoot - Good for a basic talking head.


I think the impression a lot of people have these days is that cameras are just so good now that all you need is the camera, a tripod, and maybe one small LED light.  And while in a lot of cases that will get you decent video, we don’t settle for decent.  Sandstone Productions is all about getting you Awesome video.  And part of getting awesome is having the lighting, audio, camera, and grip equipment to help us achieve that.  That’s why we will put up with the hassle of lugging our setup through downtown Chicago parking garages, hauling it up stairs where there is no elevator, unloading everything to get through a revolving door just to load it up again on the other side, and having to work around it in tight locations.


Girl Scouts Plaque

At the beginning of the year we were approached by the troop leader of Girl Scout Troop #75142 in regards to a video.  The troop was working to fulfill the requirements of their Silver Award project (the highest award a Cadette can earn) by putting together a workshop on Cyber Bullying.  Entitled "Don't Be Mean Behind the Screen." part of the workshop was to be a round table discussion between the girls, educators, and parents.  They were looking for someone who could donate their time and equipment to shoot the round table and edit it down to around 10 minutes to be shown on the day of the event.  Using some of the resources the troop had along with ours we were able to do a two-camera shoot of the round table at the Bolingbrook library.  We then took the hour plus discussion and edited it down for their presentation.  The workshop event successfully took place Sunday, April 30 along with our well-received video.  We wish the best of luck to the Cadettes of Troop #75142 in their future!


We recently finished a new promotion video to highlight why it's benefical to have video on your website.  (If you just want to skip to the video it is below.)  There are a lot of videos out there on that topic so we wanted something that would help set us apart from all the other explainer videos and hopefully drive some traffic to our site.  With that in mind we decided to go with a stop motion animated piece.  Stop motion has a unique look and feel, and it just sounded like a fun thing to do!

Our character Professor Ashcroft used a hand-made armature for movement.  We bought galvanized steel wire at the hardware store and twisted several strands together to form the body sections.  These were twisted around each other to form a skeleton of sorts.  Sculpey clay was added around the joints to help hold it all together.  Then the armature was fastened to a block of wood.  Sculpey clay was also used for the head and hands.  Ken doll clothes stuffed with styrofoam strips covered the rest of the body.

Profesor Ashcroft

Different eyes and mouth positions were also made from Sculpey clay. We gluded magnets on the individual pieces and into the eye sockets and mouth area of the head. This made it pretty easy to change out the pieces as needed for animating.

Mouth Positions

Our "studio" was a spare counter in the basement tethered to a laptop with Dragonframe software.  Even this old laptop (still running Windows XP!) worked great with Dragonframe.  We started off using a Nikon camera but where getting small exposure differences in the individual frames that gave the video a "flicker."  Dragonframe's camera setup page mentions this is because even on manual cameras have slight variances in exposure between shots.  Following their recommendations we switched to a Canon camera and used our Nikon lens with a Nikon to EF-S adapter.  Since the Canon camera couldn't communicate with our Nikon lens we finally had true manual control and our flicker problem went away.

Studio SetupDragonframe setup

Overall this setup worked pretty good.  The biggest issue we ran into was our home-made armature.  It just didn't allow fine control over the puppet movements.  There were also some poses we wanted to do that we couldn't because of a lack of range in motion.  If we were gong to do a lot of these it would definitely be worth investing in a premade armature.  We definately learned a lot on this project.  Check out the finished video below.



Sandstone Productions will began to offer free web video commercials for nonprofit groups.  Our goal is to do at least 6 over the next year.  These will be fully produced videos with the same attention to shooting and editing as paid projects. I usually have some down time in between projects.  Besides catching up on paper work and marketing this time is usually filled with test shoots.  These little projects are used to test new equipment, try new ideas, or just for practice and continued learning.  Most of the time nobody ever sees the finished videos.  I’m still spending the same amount of time on them as a paid job, so I thought why not do them with an organization that could use them?


So what’s the catch?  There isn’t one really, but there are some conditions outlined at the end of this article.  The intention is to provide a high quality video for cause-worthy nonprofits at zero cost to them.

So what do I get out of it?  Practice, Promotion, and Marketing.  It will provide the chance to try out new approaches or techniques which I wouldn’t be able to do on paid jobs.  I also get projects to post about on social media or write about here as well as content to post on the Sandstone Productions YouTube channel.   

To request a free web video just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., put “Free video nonprofits” in the heading and provide a link to the nonprofit’s website.  Now for the conditions:


* Finished video will be between thirty and sixty seconds.


* Videos will be structured to avoid outside expenses such as professional narrators, actors, or additional crew and equipment beyond what Sandstone Productions provides.


* Sandstone Productions will present a concept for the commercial.  Both Sandstone and the nonprofit must sign off on an agreed concept before Sandstone will commit to producing the video.


* Scheduling and turn-around time will have to be flexible to fit around paid work but once a video is committed to it will be finished as promptly as possible.  


* Not all nonprofits that request a video will be chosen.  Projects will be selected based on a variety of factors that would make it a good match for Sandstone Productions including our scheduling availability, nonprofit location, and organization size.  The purpose is to focus on local organizations that may not have the resources to have a video made.


* Final video will be hosted on Sandstone Productions’ YouTube channel.  The nonprofit organization will receive via electronic file transfer a HD video file of the video to do with as they wish including uploading it to their YouTube channel, other social media sites, or website.  They may also embed the video from Sandstone’s YouTube channel on their sites.


So that’s about it.  This is something new we are trying and are excited to see how it comes out.  If you have any feedback or questions let us know.

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