Monday, January 13, 2014

PLU Christmas Greeting - Behind the Scenes

By Katie Martell

Pre-production - Can we make this work?

For this past year’s Christmas Greeting, PLU Photographer John Froschauer (photo-left) and I (photo-right) decided to try something a bit different. The idea was to use long exposure photography to capture students “light writing” Christmas themed words at iconic locations on campus. The real challenge was finding a method to turn the resulting series of still images into an engaging video, but we found a way!

Production Night!

First, we had to plan a night time shoot so the “light writing” would stand out against the background. Long exposure simply means using a long-duration shutter speed, and in this case we left the shutters in our cameras open for several seconds at a time. When this is done in the dark, the paths of any moving light sources become clearly visible.

Because we wanted to spell out the Christmas-themed words over time, we had to take several pictures (ten or so) as each letter was added. Volunteers from ASPLU helped us achieve longer phrases, such as “Merry Christmas.” For each image, we called out letters and the students would essentially draw the letter in the air with a colored flashlight. As each light path will never be identical to the one previously drawn, the letters appear to dance on the screen, which created a nice effect in the final product.

Final Touches

After the shoot we were left with hundreds of photographs, which John sequenced and turned into little movie files, with about ten images per second. This is a much slower frame rate than would usually be used for video, but we agreed that it gave the best result for spelling out the words over time. I then imported all of the videos into our editing software, and began piecing things together. For the final “Merry Christmas,” I decided to put a move on the image series to make it a little more dynamic. All that remained was to add some appropriate holiday music and a snazzy PLU logo at the end. Here is the final result!


If you are interested in learning more or seeing some amazing examples of light writing/painting, here are a few of the videos that inspired us:
How would you like to be featured in the 2014 Christmas Greeting? We are already brainstorming new ideas and will keep you posted over the coming months!

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