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October 1, 2015

What You Need To Know Before You Shoot In St. Louis

Welcome to St Louis

Gateway to Video Production

Saint Louis has to be one of the most interesting cities in the Midwest to shoot a video production. While most major American cities grew in the late 20th century, St. Louis actually shrank as people moved out to the suburbs, leaving behind hundreds of homes and commercial buildings vacant or abandon. Time has taken its toll on some of these structures giving certain areas a  post-apocalyptic look without all the effort of the Set Design department. However, St. Louis still maintains gorgeous turn-of-the-century buildings, cathedrals, parks and some modern commercials districts with high-rises. As a videographer and photographer, I believe that St. Louis’s diversity is all the reason to flip on the video camera and start shooting, but there are a few things you should know before you start shooting.


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Unions Rule

When I first moved to St. Louis, I was surprised to learn that it is very much a union town, especially with the hotels, event centers, news stations and sports arenas. So before you set your sticks down in Busch Stadium, make sure you have checked in with the local and received their permission. A few that I know are IBEW Local 1, Local 600, IATSE Local 493.


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Clear Skies Ahead

We have all heard about FAA restrictions on the use of aerial drones and that they are now offering  special licenses for commercial use. However, getting caught flying without a permit can cost you time and money and St. Louis law enforcement is on the lookout for unauthorized UAV’s. The people over at Know Before You Fly have some great advice to save your video production from hefty fines.


Watch The Weather

While you are unlikely to see tornadoes in the city, if you are filming in the suburbs or outskirts of St. Louis or in southern Illinois, summer afternoon thunderstorms and high winds can derail your production schedule. During the winter time, ice storms are common and can cripple the city’s roadways. So always keep an eye on the weather radar.


Keep An Eye On Your Gear

While most areas of St. Louis are nice, peaceful places to film, the quality of the neighborhood can change from street to street. Break-ins and theft are very common throughout the city. So, be smart and always have a PA or grip watching your video equipment and grip trucks.


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Rent From The Bad Dogs

The biggest and baddest rental house on the Mississippi is Bad Dog Pictures. I was tuned onto this place by producer, Ray Voltz, over at Wells Fargo Advisors. They stock all the gear you need and can help you find local crew, as well.


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The Best In The Midwest

So, while there may be a few things you need to keep in mind before shooting video here, there is no substitute for the iconic, unmistakable beauty of St. Louis.


January 22, 2013

How to archive your digital photos, videos, documents, etc.

After a costly hard drive failure a while back, I learned an important lesson on how to archive important files for the future. After working at NASA, I knew that redundancy is key to a safe archive, but how much redundancy is needed? While the cost of large, 1TB+ hard drives are coming down in price, they are much more prone to failure according to the fine folks at DriveSavers. Their recommendation is to use smaller drives such as 750gb or lower. This presents a conundrum for small business owners, tape-less production houses or anybody handling large amounts of data. Spend a pretty penny on large capacity server systems or have a library full of smaller, more stable backup drives? Well there are actually more options than you think. Here are a few suggestions to get you started thinking about your solution. (FYI: JBK Productions is not paid or sponsored by any of the links in this article. They are just personal recommendations)

Redundancy is key to a safe archive


Local server

Servers, in my humble opinion, are the ultimate solution if you have a large amount of data that you want to have access to most anywhere. These systems are stationary, however, you can configure them to be accessed remotely as long as your have a network connection. This works great especially for photographers that want to archive their photos and host customer galleries, businesses that want their employees to be able to access files on the road and production houses that want the best security while editing large projects. However, these systems are costly and do require maintenance. The guys over at ImprovePhotography.com recommend the NetGear ReadyNAS server for their backup and hosting.

 [Servers]are the ultimate solution…


Dual drive RAID systems

As an affordable alternative to a server, dual drive RAID external hard drives are one of my favorite options for a couple reasons. 1.) If set to a RAID 1 mirror, your information is written to both drives equally so that if one drive goes down, it is safely stored on the other. 2.) They are portable! That means that I can safely edit while on the road, take a project to clients’ editing suite or bring a project home with me to finish. There are many brands to choose from, however after reading reviews on CreativeCow and discussing with colleagues, my choice was the G-Tech G-RAID. For more information on how to choose one for your system, check out the video below from CreativePlanetNetwork.

Cloud & data managing services

If you have a company or individual that doesn’t have terabytes of information and you want to leave the system maintenance to someone else, there are plenty of companies out there that offer cloud networking and data management services on a subscription basis. One of the most popular is from Carbonite.com. Personally, I have not used these services other than from Apple and Amazon so do your research before you buy. Typically, the larger space you need, the higher the cost.


I hope this helps you start to consider the best archive for you. This article is just a stepping off point and you should always consult with your IT professional before deciding on any solution. Your final archiving system may have combinations of these or other systems such as LTO tapes.

Hammer hitting an external hard drive


July 30, 2012

How To Integrate Social Media Into Your Business Plan

With my clients, I always try to explain the importance of establishing a solid web presence and how interacting with their target audience will help grow their business. However, most of the time they will start off with good intentions, setting up accounts and maybe even posting a few blogs, but sooner or later, they start to disengage and let their presence go stale.

So while skimming a few of my favorite blogs, I came across this article from Social Media Examiner that gives some tips on how to set yourself up for social media success!



February 6, 2012

How to prevent taking a blurry picture

While working at “Shall Not Be Named” camera store, the number one complaint I received from customers was that their camera took “blurry” pictures. Often enough, it’s because they were indoors in low light settings. Perhaps this has happened to you too. Here are some tips on how to stop getting those blurry pictures.

1. Be sensitive to it’s needs. If your having issues with blurry picture, it is because your camera is having to allow the sensor more time to record the light that’s available. In order to reduce this time, you can open up the aperture all the way to allow more light in, however, most consumer cameras don’t allow you to adjust this. So what do you do? Most consumer camera allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor, a.k.a. ISO, in the camera’s menu. Just bump up the ISO to 1600+ for most indoor lighting. Now this will cause noise in your photo, but you can get rid of that with some photo editing software. A grainy, sharp picture is better than a blurry, dark picture any day.

2. Be still. Another reason people get blurry photographs is because, as the picture is being taken, the photographer’s arms and hands are shaking. To fix this issue, hold the camera closer to your body with your arms tucked in, breath in and take the picture at the top of your breath.

3. Try Night Portrait mode. Almost all consumer level cameras have some sort of night mode built in. This feature forces the camera to bump up the ISO (sensitivity), widen the aperture and increase the shutter speed.

4. If all else fails, use a tripod. Tripods are a great and sure fire way to get a steady shot. Tripods range in size, sturdiness and price. Finding on that fits your needs and budget will help you get the pictures you want, plus, you’ll be able to get in the photograph as well!

I hope this improves your photos. All cameras work the same way and knowing how to manipulate your camera and use proper techniques well improve your photography dramatically. Just by adjusting the ISO, steadying yourself and using tripod, you will be able to get better low-light photographs and stop blaming the camera.