Video Project: Tree of Heaven

Matthew and I have joked about creating a hosted educational nature documentary style video series for years, but you know how life goes… we never got around do it. Our original idea for beginning the video series was a profile of Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), which he studied for his Masters degree.

When I asked him to choose the one plant we were most likely to find in our hometown of Baltimore AND in our travels to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shenzhen in late July, he surprisingly suggested Tree of Heaven. He remembered seeing the tree in Beijing and Xi’an when collecting Kudzu there four years ago… and lucky for us, the ecosystem remained unchanged when we visited!

To begin, we took a quick walk around our northern Baltimore neighborhood to find the best specimen (our landlord recently removed the Tree of Heaven in our backyard), and found a 20-year old tree growing through a chain-link fence with clonal shoots spreading out for at least 20 meters in either direction. Perfect!

Geared up, we went back to that area during golden hour, only to find the guy across the street mowing his lawn and a storm rolling in overhead. Not wanting to waste any time, Matthew practiced everything he wanted to say and I filmed as much B-Roll as I could think of before the wind became too insane.

We tried again the next evening to find a much quieter atmosphere. With my H4n mounted on the hotshoe of my Nikon D800, I handheld to film.

During our first day in China, we spotted a few Ailanthus individuals. The tree seemed common enough that we agreed to put off filming until we found an individual during golden hour in a quiet area. The moment came as we explored the city wall surrounding Xi’an, China’s ancient capital. One Tree of Heaven grew next to an alcove in the wall that most tourists were passing by, so I grabbed my phone and we spent a few minutes filming before continuing our tour.

Back at home, I brought all of my footage into Premiere. I first layed out all of Baltimore my video files on V1/A1, their corresponding audio files on A2, and sent the sequence to PluralEyes for synchronization. After opening the synced sequence with audio replaced in Premiere, I scrubbed through the timeline and used Cmd+K to cut out just the sections I wanted for my story arc. Since we filmed out of sequence, I had to do a fair bit of rearranging of clips even after cutting the fat.

With the basic arc in place, I opened my Video bin in thumbnail view and scrubbed through all of the B-Roll clips, marking my ins and outs for later use. I chose a wide pan for the intro shot to in each location to establish sense of place. Then I added a couple of close ups when they better illustrated the subject than the A-Roll currently in place, and to cover jump cuts created when I removed pauses in the audio.

Next, I opened Premiere’s Color tab and attempted to give some life to the Nikon footage. Nikons aren’t known for their beauty when it comes to video, and I’m used to editing flat Sony S-Log2 footage, both facts leading to a less than ideal final product. Next, I added some of my favorite Light Leaks, one over each establishing shot to add a bit of depth and magic.

Then I created lower third graphics in Illustrator, using a left aligned version for place names and a right aligned version with background for people & plant names. I used keyframes in the Effects Control panel to animate the graphics sliding on and off screen.

Lastly, I added a music track from Audio Jungle called Beautiful Sky, that I feel ads layers of wonder and positivity to the piece. The Music Standard License is only $19 on Audio Jungle, which is great for a 3-minute piece!

Before exporting, I watched the video several times through, adjusting transitions and the length of onscreen graphics until everything felt just right.

I hope we get to film more together.

Audio Story: Kudzu and other Invasives in Thurmond, WV

One of the main reasons I chose Invasive Plants as my topic for WSU’s Introductory course: Multimedia Content Creation, is the Eco-Voluntourism trip we had scheduled in early June. Matthew and I agreed that would be an excellent venue for an audio story to explain why invasive plant removal was important, and the final story could be shared with the Smithsonian and National Park Service (NPS) for use with future grant applications and calls for volunteers.

The weekend event brought together 10 volunteers from the area around West Virginia, to work with NPS Biologists learning invasive plant identification and removal, and historic importance of our site: the small railroad town of Thurmond, WV. After two days of “arduous labor” (we had to sign a release), NPS took us on a rafting trip down the Upper New River on Monday. Sooooo worth it.

Due to some poor planning on my part, I used my Samsung Galaxy phone for all of the audio & photo work that week, eek! Recording with my phone put me way out of my comfort zone. I used the Voice Recorder app in Interview mode and used my phone exactly as I would a shotgun microphone, placing it as close to my sound source as possible.

I knew the event would be about a day and a half of manual plant removal, during which I would need to take my breaks for field recording. And breaks were exactly what I needed. I enjoyed walking around Thurmond recording plants crunching under my feet, as well as getting my phone dangerously close to Matthew using a machete and to my own self while spraying herbicides.

As there were no indoor structures for us to use, I recorded both interviews outside, as far away from everyone else as I could get. The other tricky thing in this old railroad town was to wait until just after a train had gone by for the best chance that another train would not ruin my audio mid-interview. (Got some cool train audio that I didn’t end up using though.)

My interviews were short, six minutes each, but that was about all the talking we could stand in the heat during our brief lunch break. Even so, I knew I’d probably trash 90% of each interview in the final project. I find that telling interviewees this up front makes them much less nervous about saying something incorrectly.

When editing, I decided to open with nat sound to allow the interviewer a sense of curiosity, before briefly explaining the event and the exact details of the sounds being heard (machete, herbicide). In Audition, I used two tracks for ambient sound because I wanted to employ long fades and have multiple natural sounds play at once. Ashley & Matthew’s interviews both sat on the top track so I could crossfade between them. Both of my interviewees were somewhat frustrating to edit, as they both pause in the middle of sentences but not between sentences, so I really had to zoom in with the razor tool and cut frame by frame to craft my story. After the meat of the interview concludes with what Ashley & Matthew each find rewarding, I ended with more nat sound to let the story come full circle and fade out into nature.

After finishing with my story arc in Audition, I sat down with the Audio Engineer at work and we took the track into Pro Tools (Audition is a no-no in our office) and his gorgeous speaker set-up. Together we cut out some of the subharmonic frequencies in the interview recordings, and clipped more of the lower frequencies in all of the audio to make the sound overall more bright.

I hope that my audience will learn a little bit about invasive plants, the power of volunteering, and get a sense that they were briefly transported into arduous labor in the bright June heat.

Back to (Grad) School

When I first began video editing, I felt that story craft was a linear process from production and through to editing. I believed that my footage was like a slab of marble and that my purpose as an editor was to sculpt it down into the form that it was meant to be. In the years since then, I have learned how incorrect that analogy was.

Communication and story craft are not a straight line, nor are they only an art. From a background in photojournalism and documentary work, I moved into the product marketing world and now into education. What amazes me most is the strategy and precision necessary for successful communication in today’s media landscape. My interests in video production no longer start with what makes a visually compelling story, but with who the video is intended to address and through which media channels.

As my career takes me out of the field and into meeting rooms, it is imperative that I fully understand the needs of my internal customers — our curriculum, public relations, and marketing departments— and of their external clients. I relish the opportunity to steer my career path to focus on production management, making this emphasis on strategic communication as customer service is both personal and professional.

The online MA in Strategic Communication will allow me to supplement my work experience with thought-provoking assignments and discussions that will be applicable to my daily video production environment. As communication strategy and customer service have always been interesting to me, I decided to pursue this degree to further my expertise outside of purely filming and editing video, without taking time away from the work that I enjoy. With the knowledge and experience gained through WSU’s online MA, I can proactively provide my internal customers with coordinated and timely video strategies rather than simply waiting for an assignment to come down the pipeline.

As I am currently employed within an online education company, the importance of pursuing a degree online cannot be overstated. Although our end users are K-12 students, their parents, and their teachers, any opportunity I can take to experience a learning environment similar to theirs will lend me invaluable insight and perspective.

Another goal in furthering my education with WSU is to experience different perspectives from those inside my current organization. Discussing peers’ successes and failures can often be more valuable than reading case studies or making a similar mistake myself. Each course in WSU’s Strategic Communication MA speaks directly to situations in which I must be knowledgeable as a video producer and eventually a production manager. From Crisis Communication and Persuasion to Brand Development and Creative Media Strategies, I fully expect WSU’s curriculum to meet (or exceed!) my desire for professional and personal growth within the foreseeable future.

My ultimate goal in earning this degree, alongside career advancement, is to gain a comprehensive understanding of how to tailor video communication differently per audience. I firmly believe that with a new knowledge of strategic communication, I will help guide proper pre-production with internal customers that will lead to more efficient video production. My goal is to facilitate a process in which a single set of footage will be edited and delivered differently across channels to appeal to a variety of audiences. Increasing the efficiency of operations and the success of video communications is within my reach as I expand my career with WSU’s MA in Strategic Communication.

#tbt Madison, WI

#‎tbt‬ February 2012, on patrol with the Challengers in Madison, WI. I was contacted by Scandinavian Traveler magazine about using this photo in their Sept issue with a story by Tea Krulos. Working with Real Life Superheroes is one of my favorite memories and I was more than happy to dig through my old files for this frame.

Stroll down memory lane with me and see my original blog posts from my Great Lakes Alliance trip.

Modern Old-Time Fiddling

After 11 days of shooting spread out through last June – October, and nearly nine months of editing this school year, need I preface any further?

Modern Old-Time Fiddling: A Master’s Project Documentary

This project was produced in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree from the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University in 2012.

Julie Elman, chair, Rebecca Sell and Terry Eiler

This project is for educational purposes only. Not for resale.

Copyright © 2012 Heather Haynes and Ohio University.

Featuring and special thanks to: The Amundsen Family/Jubal’s Kin, Ammon Bowen, Bob Borcherding, Buck Mountain Band, Shona Carr, Marcy Cochran, Samantha Cooper, Pete Easton, Fox n Hounds, Lynn Garren, Alys Horne, Alan Jabbour, Heather Lewin-Tiarks, The Marchi family, Harold Maurer, Rob O’Connor, Jenny Leigh Obert, Kevin Samuels, Liz Shaw, Roger Sprung, Fred Swedberg, Chris Via, Charlie Walden and Andrew Zinn

Update // This project has been accepted into the Blue Ridge Film and Music Festival, Virginia Film Festival, and 15 Minutes of Fame Festival this fall!

Soul of Athens

When I first began looking at graduate programs in 2008-ish, Ohio University was on my radar for it’s connection with BOP and Soul of Athens. Each year I loved the Soul of Athens production more. When 2010’s came out, after I had sent my acceptance, I knew that I made the right choice. Last year I abstained from Soul, choosing instead to focus my time on gaining the skills that would allow me to be a good producer this year.

I dutifully finished all my coursework, studied as much multimedia and interactivity as I could, and divvied up my time so that essentially all of it would be spent on Soul of Athens. After forming the original theme of “What’s at Stake?” as a brain trust, Priscilla and I chose to co-produce on the Liberties team. We lived, breathed, and dreamed Soul of Athens. After countless meetings and rampant frustration the website launched last Friday.

We give you Soul of Athens. (Liberties is here, but I suggest the full experience.) I only hope that the final product inspires you as much as it did me.


So I’ve not been very alive recently. Next week, week 9, marks the final deadline for Soul of Athens and my master’s project defense. Week 11 holds my Information Architecture/User Experience final and graduation. After that: the real world.

Since I can’t show you anything from Soul or my project before the final edit & release, here’s one of the first things I can legally show you from my GA position:

Imagine you’re a prospective student, maybe interested in audiology or linguistics, and you stumble into OU’s College of Health Sciences and Professions. You watch.

RLSH Podcast

My first attempt at a podcast or narration since recording radio-style mix tapes in elementary school. I’ve entered a slightly shorter version in the Missouri Review Audio Competition so in December we’ll see how it does!

Chauncey Elementary

For this project, I acted as co-editor and co-producer in a group of four collaborators. Seriously proud of this one.

//update – 3/21/12 Athen’s local NPR station, WOUB, published this exact cut on their website. View the page here.

Patrol, Madison

After a week of Minnesota’s superheroes I became comfortable with the idea and situation. Patrol in Madison blew my mind in a way that was probably boring and underwhelming for the RLSH involved. Here they were able to help homeless on the streets and in the Occupy camp and talk candidly with passers-by about the RLSH movement.

I walked with them for almost five hours, until well after I knew my feet were bleeding, and still they patrolled into the night afterwards. Forget what they do and where they go…what does it feel like to be with them, the presence and energy and camaraderie. Maybe, just maybe, this explains the experience a little.

Pictured left to right: Night Vision, Blackbird, Watchman, Electron, and Geist. Curiously absent from this frame is Charade.

And to prove I brought a long lens, a pause as they stop for supplies to bring the Occupy camp: