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Experimenting with the 5D

Some feedback please on my experimenting with the Canon 5D & 7D.
Honestly it’s been a struggle for me to get Time online to understand what I’m producing with these short films. They have been assembled during my photo assignments for Time. They are something I do on the side. They have not commissioned me for these.
Below I’ve included the links. One is for Time.com which was posted yesterday. But it’s very hard if next to impossible to find. Only through Dispatches have I been able to showcase my short films. Which I’m very grateful. All were shot on the 5D except for the “New Leader” which was shot on the 7D.





by Christopher Morris at 2009-12-05 06:31:00 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Yeah – great stuff, all of it.. and I would like to add the question of who’s the singer (and why isn’t she credited :P) and did you use a lensbaby for the focus effects?

by BignoseTW | 05 Dec 2009 12:12 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
Oh and you asked for feedback … as a professional video cameraman, there are times when you are panning where I want to go, “Hey, smooth out that pan, it’s jerky!” but then, I actually think it will lose a lot of its organic feel and impact if the moves are too smooth. There are also one or two moments where there is something happening in the frame, maybe something quite small, but some anticipation builds up for it… and then you cut away JUST before the action completes. That’s a very personal thing though and you may be focusing on a completely different part of the frame.
I really like the parts where you shoot just a part of soemone’s face as they are speaking… again it is unconventional and very effective.

by BignoseTW | 05 Dec 2009 12:12 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
well done chris. really well done.

all your vids have a moody feel that i have been trying (and failing) to work into my pieces. i think a lot of it comes from your musical choices, which are all excellent btw, and the lack of any recorded audio.

i guess this is my criticism as well. personally, i would like to hear some recorded audio (not a lot), to give some of the sequences more of a context. i suspect you refrained from using any recorded audio to keep a pristine vibe, but i think adding some recorded audio might keep the viewer from dozing. not dozing in the sense that they aren’t watching, but in the sense that they become kind of numb to the visuals. a few short audio clips might keep that spark in your vids.

just a thought…

by David Root | 05 Dec 2009 13:12 (ed. Dec 5 2009) | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Christopher, I started experimenting with the 5D2 earlier this year, did my first production in February, http://www.vimeo.com/3563975. It’s quite a challenge to do compared to stills. Since the piece that I link to, time constraints have limited my video shooting to very short web clips.

I like the fact that you are consistently shooting, or converting in post, using black and white and the T/S lenses to make it seem like the footage was shot 100 years ago, and not ten minutes ago. It’s very effective. You’ve managed to impart a strong visual signature to your video much like your stills, and really, that’s the strength that still shooters bring to the medium. Great camera work and editing, and I do like your choices of music. Overall, very effective.

Like everything else though, where do we go with it, and who gets it, and how do we charge for it are the questions that need answers. Will the new Time, or maybe the NYT go for this? Will they be able to charge for on-line subscriptions? There has to be a new paradigm for the media to work in so it can survive as an entity strong enough to stand up and continue to be independent.

There are a lot of smart people out there, hopefully someone will figure out how to do this so there will be viable places to show good work and pay a decent amount for all of the hours that go into it. Otherwise all of your good work will have be shown for free on blogs. As nice as that may be, you can’t take that to the bank and cash it.

Best of luck, and keep moving forward. It’s the only way we can survive. I look forward to seeing more.

by Mike Peters | 05 Dec 2009 14:12 | NJ, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks for your replies and feedback… It’s much appreciated.
First the singer is from the Russian Folklore group DrevA. She is credited, on the vimeo link its the text and at the end of the one on Time.com

The reason for the crudeness and the roughness to many of the shots, is that these cameras were not designed to be held as video cameras. They are actually quite hard to hold steady, if not next to impossible. No camera support is used on any of these, just my hands..
As for panning. This is a something, that i really try to stay away from… Especially because I’m hand holding the thing… There is only one intentional pan and trust me when I was doing it… I kept saying to myself that this is never going to work.. It’s the frame where I pan from the cadets to the war cabinet during the west point speech. The other moving pan’s, in the films are all shot from moving vehicles out the windows again hand held. The cargo plane is shot from the window of a taxing helicopter. Very difficult to hold that steady, for the blades cause this constant shaking.

As for cutting away before the clip reaches a peak… I do this for several reasons.. I have found that it builds more tension into the frame… if I let the clips play out, sometimes they become to obvious… Or it may be simply, that’s all I have of the frame and I have to end it. Remember I’m at these events as a still photographer… I have my obligation to my client to document the event. So at times I cant let the camera roll long enough to give me the space to edit.

The cameras have nothing on them except how they came out of the box… The audio, without an external mic is unusable almost always. They pick up any hand movement on the body. Plus they pick up the lens gear movements…
The lenses are a bit varied. The blurred wedding photography effect is with the 45mm tilt shift. The tight clips on Obama were done with the 400mm 4.0 and the 135mm 2.0. With some clips shot with the 24-70mm zoom.
As for post production. This is usually done the next day after the assignment, once I’ve edited and toned the stills. I sit down and look at the clips that I might want to use. One thing to point out. Before the event or day. I have no idea what my concept is going to be. This all comes and is dictated by what images I will see. I tend to shoot everything I can. Like when I saw the troop transports when we landed at the air base near west point. The helicopter I was in taxied by them. I shot them not knowing how or if they were going to tie into Obama’s speech to the cadets. But in the end the cargo plane became the central them in the short piece.

As for editing… I’m quite the novice… I have final cut… But I can’t wrap my head around it. So I stick to the original version of imovie.. The 2006 version… The newer version has been dumb down and you can’t control the audio… So I deleted it from my powerbook and reinstalled version 6.0.3 Very simple very elegant.

Then when it’s done I simply upload it to Time and wait their response… Which is very varied..
Hence why I made this post in the first place.

by Christopher Morris | 05 Dec 2009 14:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
First David… The first thing I tried several years ago on a small tiny sanyo camera… “The Dear Leader” I used audio to highlight Bush and how through his words were used on his audience.. And it was very effective…
The reason with these last 3 Obama short films, that their is no audio is to the fact that I was unsuccessful in obtaining any usable audio with the camera. There are easy way’s around this either with a external audio recording device or a mixer with a boom mic on the camera. But for me this has not been an option. For I’m at these events as a still photographer and can’t be seen as someone doing a video production on the President. I’m in the photo pool as a Time photographer.. Once I start putting on boom mic’s, using a glidecam with an external monitor, I’m no longer a still photographer.. Which would jeopardize my roll as a still photographer… It’s a very fine line I’m having to tread here..

In the “New Leader” clip you can hear a small piece of audio from the camera as they introduce the President… But that is all I’ve used up to this time.

My other option is to download some of his speeches online and cut them into the piece…

Which I’m sure I will do at some point…

by Christopher Morris | 05 Dec 2009 15:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Mike, You did a fantastic piece…
As you I’ve been a still photographer for a long time… And I find that playing around with moving images can be quite liberating… It’s not my intention to become a filmmaker. To do it well and to do it with the professionalism that is required of the final product is so daunting for me, to event contemplate. I will stick to being a still photographer who on occasion attempts to make my stills come alive through these new tools we’ve been handed.. They or almost like slide shows for me. That’s why I prefer to hold the shot and never zoom and only rarely do I allow a pan. It’s all about the frame, the still image.. It’s also if you notice there are very few cuts. Most of the images fade in and out to black.. Which is how still photographers assemble slide shows.
As with my photography my intention is to cause some kind of emotion from the viewer. To make them laugh, to make them cry, tug on their inner feelings… To cause them to think… To let the viewer think on their own… Let them decide how this is to affect them.. Not by having some narrations to explain what you are seeing… It’s the same with my book My America… It’s up to the viewer to decide how the images affect him… No text in the beginning to tell the viewer what to think….
This is what these little shorts are about for me…

by Christopher Morris | 05 Dec 2009 15:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→

it sounds like you are treading a very fine line with Time Magazine (photographer/videographer), and it must be tricky. but definitely download a few of his speeches online and cut them up, if only to see if they would enhance your piece(s). though after watching your stuff again, i fear that additional audio might ruin the vibe. still, it’s worth a shot.

i carry a small audio recorder with me but find that i rarely use it. it’s almost easier to gather audio content online or on another day when im not shooting. i hate carrying it, i hate using it, but i guess im afraid i might miss something and dont want to be caught without it.

be good.

by David Root | 05 Dec 2009 17:12 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks, 90% of that was hand held using the 24-105 zoom with the stabilizer. The only additional things were a hoodman loupe that I fashioned to attach to the camera before their rubber band solution was available, a small sony stereo mic, and a cheapo shoulder brace from bogen. It is a bear to hand hold, and the audio from the in camera mic is horrible at best. Hopefully more tiny but sensitive mics will come out.

The voice overs in my piece were recorded using an M-audio digital recorder and a Rode video mic, which I find too sensitive and large to use on the camera. I too use imovie HD, the older version. Works fine for me. I avoid zooming and panning, mostly because I don’t like the former, and the camera doesn’t deal well with the latter.

I do like the new way of thinking that it has brought about though, it really helps to have your brain stimulated by a new direction in imagery, no matter what it is. Opens you up to new things.

by Mike Peters | 05 Dec 2009 21:12 | NJ, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks a LOT for your responses Christopher, it’s great to get some insight into the mind-process. And yeah I know – the ergonomics just aren’t on your side. But I really think that if you put that 5D on a fluid-head tripod and do that pan, some of the feeling will be lost – or at least it will feel different. I got you on the tension in the frame kind of thing, that’s totally your creative decision.
I’m impressed as hell to know you put this together like, in a DAY. But yeah you are definitely doing something with a unique personal stamp here. I see TIME calls it a “video essay”, don’t be surpised if one day they call such things “A Morris Video Essay”, sort of like “The Ken Burns Effect” :)


by BignoseTW | 06 Dec 2009 00:12 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
One more think that I’ll bring up. A friend sent me a private email that felt that my musical choices were " over-dramaticize the images". Which is a very valid point.. For when I’m at a workshop or seminar. I also get quite annoyed with soundtracks that tend to go over the top when paired with stills. I tend to feel silence is best when showing stills to live audiences.

But with moving images, film, video…. The soundtrack is as important as the images. It’s vital to the creative process. Plus having a silent film would be next to impossible for me to get on Time.com

With some of the earlier post, I went into why I’m not using ambient sound at this time..

Below is my explanation to my friend.

The music is the film for me. It’s what helps amplify the emotion I’m trying to evoke. If you turn of the sound all together. Then it takes in a whole new meaning. They are all directly linked to each small film that I do. They aren’t documentary pieces in the traditional sense. They are for me, mood films that force the viewer to sit and look and get caught up in their thoughts on what it means to them. I don’t expect everyone to like them nor do I expect everone to sit through them on their tiny screens. Most will actually leave after the first 30 sec. But the others that stay, the others that can see a message in the work. That’s who there for.

by Christopher Morris | 06 Dec 2009 00:12 (ed. Dec 6 2009) | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Chris…The choice of music for your videos has been a curious question for me and in the case of the West Point video even more so . Thanks for someone else bringing up the subject so I don’t feel so guilty. :) So… what has this primal/mysterious Russian folk music have to do with Obama? As a Russian/American I love the sound but still question the why. You seem to be taking the subject to a place it doesn’t deserve. Love the images. Cheers,G.

by Gregory Sharko | 06 Dec 2009 01:12 | Brooklyn, New York, United States | | Report spam→
Many thansk. This is very useful for others photojournalists that don’t have good resources, like me. I am trying to take a place in a changing world. I still like shoot still film and this is very interesting for me. I think, if you have to take video, then take video with all the shit that goes with industry, sounds, tripod and all this. But i am thinking in something that are different, with some respect for the still shooter. I like your videos Chris. But i am wondering, why you don’t include your still shoots in them. For me, this new technologies can be a good support to rise the individual frames we shooted. If not, well, i give a shit for my still cameras and will go only for the video thing. We are in a different position, we have credential as photographers. I like very much what i saw, but i miss the still frames between the shorcuts of video. I respect a lot what you do and did Chris, but i have to express this as audience. Yeah, a photographer kind of audience. Saludos

by Hernan Zenteno | 06 Dec 2009 01:12 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Please, Chris, read the bottom part of my post first, is the imporant thing of my opinion. Salud.

by Hernan Zenteno | 06 Dec 2009 01:12 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Gregory, Finally someone asked about the choice of a tender Russian folk song for the track.
I stumbled across it by chance. I have some music that was downloaded through Time that I have access to use. While looking for those tracks. I inadvertently stumbled across this one song. What I normally do after I download the film clips… I will play a few while listening to different tracks to see if I can match the feel of what I’m trying to convey. For me it was chilling. Her voice had such a calming beautiful sound. But in my reality it was taunting me… She Was singing in Russian. Taunting America…. who now was stuck in a War in Afghanistan. Just as Russia was 30 years ago. How many Russian cadets did we help the mujahideen kill. This was how I decided on this track…..

The amazing part was how to contact the group DrevA and get their permission within 1 day. Via the internet I found them on via myspace . Thanks to the singer Elena Mushnikova. For alloying me to use her voice. After she saw the film she gave an interesting quote “Surprisingly how this idea has come to you and you have connected the unjoinable!!”

Where my father drinks

He drinks and drinks, my father
Also calls me

And I young, very young girl have tarried

Was amused with ducks and geese

And with bird a crane

Also the crane goes on a green grass

Also the crane burns a green grass

And the father drinks all and drinks

And all calls me

by Christopher Morris | 06 Dec 2009 02:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
I love all this. But i am wondering yet, why you don’t include a single still shot. When the action comes, as commented Bignose, why don’t include a still frame in the main point of tension, this would be, maybe, a good tool to show the work of a photographer, a very good one.

by Hernan Zenteno | 06 Dec 2009 02:12 (ed. Dec 6 2009) | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Herman… The creative possibilities are endless on what you can do.
For me I’ve always wanted to see what I could do with a film camera… Not a video camera… And low and behold Canon comes out with the 5D…

I can barley keep up with my current still production.. A film combined with my stills. I’ll leave that for someone else to assemble….

by Christopher Morris | 06 Dec 2009 02:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
But they are still shots Herman… Thats the whole point to the style you see… You got to wrap your head around that Idea. Look closely… There are still shots in there.. Look closely and imagine….
If you go to Dispatches and watch my first attempt at this from the Dear Leader Film… It might help you to understand where I’m coming from…


by Christopher Morris | 06 Dec 2009 02:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Well, if you are like me, at saturday night, writing this, you show your passion and curiosity in some way. My point is about not do what usual camera men do because this will be our end of the profession. We have different tools, at less for now. I love see the still images, i only remember with still images. And now I appreciate you reply to me on saturday night. Go to you girl, parents, son, daugther and forget me and the photography and video. We will continue tomorrow. Many thanks.

by Hernan Zenteno | 06 Dec 2009 02:12 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→

Wow thanks all! For a Saturday night-a visual and literary cocktail for the senses. I’m in awe.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 06 Dec 2009 04:12 | TX, United States | | Report spam→
Christopher, one thing I’ve found out whenever I put out a video or a multi-media piece into a forum, people always seem to question every part of the presentation. No matter what, there is always some out there who will not like one aspect or another. What you’ve done is a very personal form of visual and audio expression. It is wonderful just as it is. Kudos to you for doing it! Please keep sharing these as you produce them.

by Mike Peters | 06 Dec 2009 05:12 | NJ, United States | | Report spam→
Reviewing all i understand now what you said Chris about they are still shots. I appreciate the way you did the videos, without all the accesories that will turn us into cameramen instead photographers. About the sound, a colleague i known use a little microphone in the hot shoe of the flash and he plug in the side conexion of the camera. This cut the sounds from the lens and camera manipulations. But as i commented i like the simple way you work, the idea to use downloads from the speech is good. Another simple way maybe is put in some place a sound recorder to get some ambient sound. I coincide with others that your soundtracks are very well chosen.

by Hernan Zenteno | 06 Dec 2009 15:12 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→

Not quite sure what you were seeking in the original post. Seems to have generated plenty of tech talk responses (I won’t contribute there) so I’ll go with what I know:

I watched ‘New Leader’ several weeks ago and found it fascinating. I was rivetted to the screen when Obama takes a moment before speaking. I’ve haven’t seen that particlular ‘moment’ before — similar but not quite like yours. I also liked the shallow depth of field, which although I’ve seen many times, works well here.

I watched all three videos now and I like them as a ‘good start’. There is an ominous quality. It feels like we are being led to a calamity…almost like we already know the end of the movie but we are starting now at the beginning. Maybe you have a certain sense about what is going to happen, yes?

I found the Russian music too dramatic, I liked the ambient audio from Congress introducing Obama. I like the ‘look’ of the video and the shallow DoF as a techinique I think suits the work. Naturally I’m very interested in seeing where it goes and I hope you stick with it. As for Time and burying the work, what can you do? Probably too ‘different’ for them which means to me it is ‘new and original’ — a good thing. I saw the work on LS, Dispatches and I suspect others will too. Its an interesting piece that I think will find an audience simply because it is good, unique and very interesting.

Windsor ON

by MACLELLAN | 06 Dec 2009 17:12 | Windsor, Canada | | Report spam→
I personally find that your style (which i like a lot) has a minimal tonality while the musics you chose tend to bring in the frames emotions that overflow (but they are highly beautiful). so x my taste the armony between images and sound is missing an organic whole although your rational motivations have their meaning. thanks x sharing

by Dana De Luca | 06 Dec 2009 19:12 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Christopher, You probably don’t remember me (that’s ok). I was a wide-eyed photography student that met you early on in the Iowa caucus process over the 4th of July holiday. After everything you’ve accomplished, I find you experimenting with video, still trying to expand your abilities, damned exciting and inspiring.

I do love these videos, but pairing the video with music is a slippery slope. Music, especially well-made music, is intended to invoke an emotional response, same as photography. The music selected could be (mis?)interpreted as an intentional editorialization on the photographer’s part.

I know you said you won’t do it, but I agree with Herman, I’d love to see a hybrid of stills and video of your work. I’ve been shooting local fighters for a while, and I’m hoping to combine some video of a fighter walking to the cage with the ambient sounds from the crowd. So, instead of just a panning stability issue, I’m trying to walk behind the guy. Seeing what can be done with video here has certainly lit a fire under me to keep trying.

Thanks for sharing.

by Brian C Frank | 08 Dec 2009 05:12 | Des Moines, Iowa, United States | | Report spam→
Hey Brian….
It is an intentional “editorialization on the photographer’s part.” I am pairing the music for the sole purpose of enhancing the images… to effect some kind of mood from the viewer. What that mood is? Is up to the viewer. But Yes…. Im using multiple methods other than the music to do this. First off, is the fact that I’m shooting the camera in B&W, which in not reality. Second is that many of the frames are slowed down, which also enhances the drama. Fading to black between cuts. And just the simple composition methods that are all used, with all helping with setting up some kind of editorialization on the my part. Once again this is my whole point.

They are not a pure vérité, Drew Associates style documentary!

All These questions that I’ve received… above are exactly why I put out the original post.

I had no idea how anyone felt about them, I needed some feedback, and thank you for providing it. For it helps me and helps all of us…. For the future of our survival in the industry…

by Christopher Morris | 08 Dec 2009 13:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Fair enough, and again, I thought they were great. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

by Brian C Frank | 08 Dec 2009 14:12 | Des Moines, Iowa, United States | | Report spam→
I think this has been one of the most fruitful (and respectful) threads in Lightstalkers in a while.


by BignoseTW | 09 Dec 2009 00:12 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
Beautiful work! I found the music & imagery in Obama’s War well matched; sobering and moving.

Have you considered posting with The Nation on line:

or MediaStorm: http://www.mediastorm.org/?
Thanks for sharing,
Robb Goodell

by Robb Goodell | 09 Dec 2009 06:12 | | Report spam→
Christopher, did you cover the Romanian Revolution??? I cannot find your pictures if you did. Suau, the Turnleys and Paul Lowe were here, were you not, and if so, why not?

by Davin Ellicson | 13 Dec 2009 23:12 | Bucharest, Romania | | Report spam→
I have a hard time not thinking about a lot of music videos from the late 80s and early 90s when I see the tilt shift. Nine Inch Nails in particular. I like the videos. I find them interesting, but I think that at times the tilt shift is too much, but this is feeling I am getting with some still imagery too.

I appreciate your honesty in saying how they were put together. I just think that those of us who remember when MTV played videos have some history with some of the techniques you used.

It will be interesting to see how these evolve for you.

by Tom Leininger | 14 Dec 2009 01:12 | Denton, TX, United States | | Report spam→
Congrats, Chris.

I still remember the first time I saw “The Dear Leader” projected at Host Gallery in London. As amazing as the talk that followed.

This 3 new incursions on the moving picture are just as good as the first one, if not better as you got more experienced and are using cameras that give you more creative control and options…

One of the things that grabbed my attention in all of this short films is the choice and use of the soundtrack and, as you referred above, how it is used to pass the message…

Interested to see the next instalments on the series…


by Armando Ribeiro | 14 Dec 2009 18:12 (ed. Dec 14 2009) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Very impressive. No surprise there. I feel your work has been getting even better very quickly. Masterfully executed. You remain one of my all-time favorite photographers and I have tremendous respect for your work. Thanks for sharing Christopher, keep up the great work.

Tell Nachtwey we still love ’im, and that paying his interns would make him an even greater hero.

by P. Money | 14 Dec 2009 22:12 | | Report spam→
this is the spot that I should use to say some thing highly intelligent and talk about weather the use of t/s is over the edge or the share thing that does the film and adds the touch of 1920 feeling I get from watching this timeless motive and the use of silence as a motive in moving image singing along with the music and dancing with the framing and focus.

but can’t cause my jaw dropped
congrats from Iceland
great work

by Kristjan Logason | 14 Dec 2009 22:12 | Reykjavik, Iceland | | Report spam→
Kristjan, P. Money & Armando.. Thanks for your kind words…

For everyone, these short films are actually little experiments to see what can be done in a day or two. With the intention of giving something for Time.com to put on their site. Only to find out that they don’t really like them. Like everything I’ve had to do with my career, I will adapt.. Long lens, short lens, tilt shift, music, no music, voice over, silence.. All of these things will be used… Just not sure how yet…

by Christopher Morris | 15 Dec 2009 03:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Hope you don’t adapt too much. If all of us adapt of what conventional media wants we are lost. Hope the people at Time can adapt to other kind of video that have different approach from the people that make videos. Been you a very high level professional i hope they found a way to catalyze a new approach to the phographer with video capabilities. You are showing a very personal and photographic view, so i really hope you found your way. The reality of this is all of us are learning with this new technologies. Take all comments with a pich of salt. I my case i really would like to see this video with some stills in between. The problem is how to edit them.

by Hernan Zenteno | 15 Dec 2009 03:12 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
One of the things I like the most about your “My America” work is the critical distance, and the almost invisible perspective of the camera. The work never felt contrived, distorted, cliche or unnatural. The videos have a powerful mood, but constant use of tilt-shift is distracting for me. For some reason I just don’t think you need it. I agree that many of the scenes feel like frames made by a still photographer, and that seems like something worth embracing.

As far as the music goes, I like it. I don’t need the words or the background sounds… For me these short videos are about seeing how a photographer sees…all the glimpses and passing stuff, and the weight of it all.

by Matt Gainer | 15 Dec 2009 06:12 | Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
damn, that’s some fine work there. i’m going to completely disagree with some of the others suggestions, with due respect. i think these films are not about “reporting” per se but are mood pieces or a creation of an atmosphere, a fleeting impression. the music works, no problem, with location audio i think we would get sunk or trapped into attempting to create a documentation of the speech itself; i don’t think this is a film about the speech, but something far scarier. especially fitting at the west point academy with those crazy uniforms and absolute undeniable absolution towards The One, this reminds me of the film coma for some reason, or maybe animal farm with it’s attention to a single soul. that was really captivating for me, i liked the slo-mo and the starting and ending of the film with the airplanes. it sort of alluded to technical supremacy, certainly with the cadets in those gray uniforms, a uniform march to technical prowess and that only hyper-modernity or hyper-technicality can save the world, yet there was great skepticism shown on obama’s face, perhaps knowing that this is not so. it worked for me how the crowds were always a mass, and the president was the president, close up. anyway, technically what do i have to say, not much! i think these are really excellent and again you’re pushing our expectations to new expectations, further out there. as for audio, maybe if you didn’t want sound, it’d be interesting just to hear the idling jets on the runway throughout the film, or if you wanted to have obama’s speech (which i would think would be wrong – why hear it when you can feel it or see it? no need to hear the words, i think the visuals sum up absolutely what was said). just like the screaming jet engines, you know when they sit idling? it’d be interesting to play with sound in that regard but if you wanted to add speeches, perhaps a layering or collage of sorts of his speeches, so they become inaudible after awhile, with key points in and out? i heard a radio special glenn gould once did with interviews, layering multiple layers of tracks of voices and interviews over top one another, no idea what specifically was said, but it left on me exactly what he was trying to say with the piece.

i also liked all the very potent symbols of power you used in the films – flags, columns, graves, monuments, uniformity, conformity, salutes, even the way trees are used, all very much the architecture of fear and really comes prevalent about the use of symbology and architecture in american politics, a manipulation of the public space on a scale i haven’t seen since, ahem, moscow!

i really need to get myself a 5D II. I used one once and i really liked how we can stay photographers yet use some new methods of presenting the work. another reason i liked these videos is that it exploits the technology that it is – a camera, afterall, and it’s shot like a camera, not a preofessional slick smooth video production. my last bit of criticism is that obama’s burden is a few minutes too long, i think 5:00 would be plenty.

and surely you have assuaged time after 8 years covering the president?

by [former member] | 15 Dec 2009 09:12 | Kiev, Ukraine | | Report spam→
you know, i also noticed that to me there is no difference in the man that you present to us, bush and obama. i sense it’s not about the president, but about the presidency – there are remarkable similarities between the machine-like gazes of both republicans and democrats. i wonder, was it intentional, or did this come to you as you began covering your second president? because columns and flags and graves and obelisks never change, people do.

by [former member] | 15 Dec 2009 09:12 | Kiev, Ukraine | | Report spam→
An extraordinarily simple and beautiful piece of video. I disagree that the audio/music overwhelms the piece, video is not photography, it has similarities visually but audio is at least 50% of the experience. Time is definately getting much more (than you’re contracted to give) from your venture into VDSLR. I’ve experimented with using various pieces of music & some specifically designed for some of my video pieces and they definitely inform the reading, and the intent of the piece. The fact that it is Russian probably makes the associations larger for me. Afghanistan was once the USSR’s war. Even your grading of the images resonates with socialist realism. This Russian woman’s lament is as relevant now as at any other time in Afghanistan’s history.
On a purely technical point, I have found that use of a LCD viewfinder adds not just a focus aid, but a huge amount of stability. I’ve just got the LCDVF and it’s incredible. I have also just added an ancient canon chest pod to the ‘rig’ and it helps hugely – it’s very light, can use as a handle, extends to just over 50cm and wedged into my belt becomes ‘almost’ like a steadycam. You could also use one of those table tripods or a gorillapod in the same way.

by Nadine Hutton | 15 Dec 2009 15:12 | Johannesburg, South Africa | | Report spam→

first, let me share with you a quote I shared with Teru a few weeks ago on Facebook:

“Do you comprehend exactly how more casualties on a battlefield can be said to render previous casualties on a battlefield not to have been in vain? Is the argument beneath this logic that the losing dead are worse off than the winning dead?”-“the interrogative mood,” padgett powell

let me simply state the obvious: these are brilliant and rich and intelligent and thoughtful and imaginative films, full stop. In truth, they ring closer to me to Alexander Sokurov’s documentaries (do you know his films?) than the typical ‘vids’ from journalists. Then again, I have never viewed your films as pieces of journalism, not at all. They’re, like Sokurov’s documentaries, expressions of observation and idea, with deep insight and intelligence. Don is absolutely right: the films are the same (generally) to the film about Bush (which i loved).

Your films are bold statements, even critiques, on the nature of hegemony and possibly absurdity, of not only the foolishness of power but the sadness and solipsistic point of view that this entails: not only to leaders (be it Bush or Obama or any other world leader) but you manage to convey this idea and emotion through the technique. I too love the russian lament that accompanyied the 1st film and being married to a russian, whose brother in law served in afghanistan during the war with the Soviets, I can tell you how back-to-spine similar the posits are today. This is a keenly observed idea, but also for those who can understand the russian, it is simply another layer of meaning placed on the visual elements. I also loved the use of depth of field: again both as commentary and as insight. the obama speech a cross between kubrick and le carrie (dr. strangelove and the spy who came in from the cold)…

the video of Obama’s burden, to some degree, reminded me of Bella Tarr’s extraordinary film ‘Satantango’…do you know it??…9 hrs…watch it!!…..

the fact is that, these films convey a vision and a point of view not only about Obama (and bush prior) or the presidency or the war in afghanistan/iraq, but are windows of observation through which a viewer can begin (had they neither thought nor understood prior) the nature of power and the fallacy of supremacy….it is isolating and it is maddening and in the end it warps and defeats and leaves bereft…

just as what Padgett Powell suggested in the quote above…

we’re caverned by the logic of our own absurdities…..and that will continue to allow us to, addled and gnarled, proceed as blinded as ever….

music is language, pictures are language, movement is language, shadow and light and coaster and mis-en-scene and cut are languages….

and these films show a filmmaker in full command of both his head and his heart and his vision….

and i congratulate you on that….

a pleasure, Chris, always, to watch these films…

now, for christ sake, can you show them at HotDocs in Toronto next year! :)))))


by [former member] | 15 Dec 2009 23:12 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Nadine.. Thank you for taking the time to look at my shorts… I’m glad you liked them and Thanks for the input on the chest pod… I will look into it… I’ve been lusting after a small monitor since day one… Just haven’t found the cash yet… I did start using the hoodman eye cup, which is also fantastic… It helps me hold the camera up to my eye like a traditional film camera… Plus it was only $100.

by Christopher Morris | 16 Dec 2009 00:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Bob, That was a great post… I forwarded it to my editors at Time…. I will attempt to view Sokurov’s docs… I have never seen and now I’m very curious… Also don’t know Bella Tarr….


by Christopher Morris | 16 Dec 2009 00:12 | DC, United States | | Report spam→
Really compliments Christopher
your work is really touching i really appreciate the New Leader because in my opinion it has some great image composition and really a good focus on the people for who Obama is the Leader. great job

by Alessandro Rampazzo | 16 Dec 2009 01:12 | Padova, Italy | | Report spam→
chris :)

my pleasure…

Alexander Sokurov is probably the foremost living Russian filmmaker (wht Alexied German). His most well-known film in the West is Russian Ark, an extraordinary tour-de-force: 90 minute SINGLE-TAKE walk through the Hermitage nd 300 years of russian history: social, literary, spiritual and artistic. It is breathtaking (if u see it, take note of the scene where Catherine the great runs away in te snow)….he’s primarily known now for his ‘fictions’…but he makes documentaries which, for me, are even greater than his ‘fiction’ films…his trilogy of WWII leaders is famous: stalin, hitler and hirohito…The Sun (about Hirohito) wa just re-shown in NYC 2 weeks ago (check it out, it’s availabe on dvd)…here is is film on hitler, Moloch:


hi documentaries are exquisite….especially his elogies…

some info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Sokurov

Bella Tarr is a hungarian filmmaker. He is slow slow slow, long long takes, b/w, like living in cinema…his materpiece Satanstango is 9 hrs long, day in a farming village….again, must viewing…i watch it when my wife and son went to russia, cause u need along time alone…anyway, …

and again, think about HotDocs…the best, pre-eminent doc festival in the world….you are a filmmaker, get these films shown here :))


by [former member] | 16 Dec 2009 12:12 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
It’s Béla Tarr. Satantango is 7h 12min.

by DPC | 16 Dec 2009 14:12 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
yes, …actually, i was once told it’s Tarr Bela ;))….7 12 minutes with intro and credits felt like 9 hrs…or if u add, i guess, breaks to pour wine, take a bathroom check, it was 9 hrs for me ;)))..

either way, necessary watching

by [former member] | 16 Dec 2009 15:12 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Hey Chris,

Looks good, I like it. You say that you have trouble getting Time to understand what you’re producing. I would suggest that if you can take your raw footage to a film/video editor they might be able to craft your vision into something that Time likes.

It’s a really interesting exercise to do; to see what a dispassionate professional editor will create from the same raw footage that you have. I imagine that is how a photo editor works on a photo story.

We do this in film/tv all the time. The director will have an editor create his/her vision.

by | 16 Dec 2009 22:12 | Timaru, New Zealand | | Report spam→
I remember watching Obama’s speech at West Point on TV and not really having a significant reaction to his announcement. But after watching your short, it definitely hit closer to home (my best friend will be a 2LT come May). The solemn and anxious expressions that you captured on everyone’s faces – from the war cabinet to the cadets in the auditorium – were things that I didn’t notice on the original broadcast.

A few years back, my photo professor showed us the opening montage for the Woody Allen film “Manhattan.” All static shots, no camera movement, but the action within the frame was perfect. And I’m seeing a lot of that in “Obama’s War” with some camera shake thrown in for good measure. As a viewer, this was really important, as it gave me more time to dwell on the images, which I definitely wouldn’t be able to do if you had thrown in more pans and straight cuts. I’m also happy that you didn’t include any traditional still images – there were lots of subtle movements (cadets swallowing and fidgeting in their seats, slight facial twitches) that added to the uncertainty of the future of these cadets which probably wouldn’t have translated as well otherwise.

For a piece like this, I think the absence of dialogue, both from Obama and the narrator, was a good decision. I’d like to think that this silence is also going through the heads of some of the cadets who are now learning- and may still be trying to process – that they’re being deployed. Or at least it seems that way. I also really enjoyed your choice of music. Not only did it set the mood well, but it also reminded me of a similar short (commericial) that came out a few months back: the live-action trailer for Halo 3 ODST. Yes, I know it’s a video game, but it felt somewhat similar to your short, minus the aliens and spaceships.


I’m starting to ramble, but I’d like to say that I enjoyed “Obama’s War” a lot. Thanks, and keep ’em coming!

by Philippe Teston | 17 Dec 2009 08:12 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Christopher here is the audio setup I use for my 7D. I also prefer to use a monopod (not pictured) when shooting video on the go.



I modified the mic mount with a hotshoe adapter that came with my mic. I think it’s called the ATR-55. Audio Technica.

The mic mount really helps eliminate the camera noise especially with the mic set to telephoto. The way the mic mount works is that it helps absorb shock and vibrations from the camera by suspending the mic with an elastic band.

There’s also smaller stereo mics with hotshoe adapters but most of them are omnidirectional and don’t absorb camera noise without a mic mount.

by P. Money | 19 Dec 2009 22:12 (ed. Dec 19 2009) | | Report spam→
“the new leader” is one of the very best documentary movies I’ve seen last time. I think it will be timeless movie. Simple like most great movies.
Any awards? Should be!

Best and Happy New Year

by kjkjlljkkljk | 29 Dec 2009 08:12 | Wroclaw, Poland | | Report spam→
Of possible interest to those following this thread, Christopher Morris agreed to answer some questions for dvafoto.com and we have just posted the interview: http://www.dvafoto.com/2010/01/interview-christopher-morris-talks-about-his-videos-of-the-american-presidents/

“dvafoto: Your lightstalkers thread called your videos “experiments,” why are they experiments? Will they become more than an experiment for you? What got you started shooting video? How do you fit in the video shooting with the stills and deadlines? What influenced the style of your videos?

Morris: Here I’ll give a short synopsis of each of the Obama works and how they really came about. The first one I did was “The New Leader“. I didn’t wake up and think oh I’m going to make a statement about the Presidency today. It really started as I was sitting in the balcony of Capitol Hill while the President was about to step out to address the Nation on his Health Care Reform. I had been loaned one of the new Canon 7d’ cameras to test the day before. So literally 5 minutes before he came out, I decided to attempt to shoot some video of him at the start. Still images from a balcony 100 feet away of someone walking down the center aisle really do not make for great photography. So why now shoot video instead.. Later the next day when I put the clips into my laptop. I was stunned, with the whole quality and the mood of the images. In the next few day’s the President left for Wall Street to make an address on the Economy in New York. Basically here is a man that is trying to sell the nation on Health Care, the Economy, the War. The urgency of everything. This is what I’ve attempted to convey in “The New Leader” short."

by [former member] | 08 Jan 2010 07:01 | Seattle, United States | | Report spam→
great, thanks!

by BignoseTW | 08 Jan 2010 08:01 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→

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