Tag Archives: Production

Press Play: Playlist


Break out the blue jeans and favorite sweaters, because Fall is upon us and bringing with it the cool chill of change. It’s a time for pumpkin spice flavored, well, everything. A time to flood your senses with new sights, smells, and the exciting calm before the holiday season storm.

Like the leaves, your music changes to one more suited to the moody atmosphere.

So brew some coffee, carve a pumpkin, and enjoy our fall playlist favorites.

  1. Minds Without Fear – Imogen Heap (feat. Vishal Shekhar)
  2. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift
  3. Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
  4. Spitting Image – Freelance Whales
  5. The Girl – City and Colour 
  6. Black – Kari Kimmel
  7. We Will Walk Through Walls – Electric President
  8. Madness – Muse
  9. Blood For Poppies – Garbage
  10. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons
  11. I Am The Walrus – The Beatles
  12. Fly – Nick Drake
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Chalk It Up

“No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist.” -Salvador Dali

Meticulous.

The word perfectly describes the process applied by designers Josh Luna & Alisha Noles in re-designing and re-making the menu board for the Silk Espresso cafe.

Let me take you through their work…

First they took detailed measurements of the wall they’d soon be painting with chalkboard paint. They then created an elevation in the wall using Autocad, which included all the measured elements.

Having made careful revisions, the final design was printed on a large format printer in black & white. They set this aside for later, and, along with a few helpful friends, painted the wall with three coats of chalkboard paint. The paint dried for 48 hours before any graphics were transferred.

They applied graphite (2B works best!) to the back side of the to-scale print, taking care to get good, thick layers for a clean transfer onto the wall. Once finished, the prints were taped to the wall exactly where the graphics were to go.

Using very hard (4H) pencils, they meticulously traced every letter and line of the whole design. This took a good while, but once finished and the prints were removed, it was exciting to preview their work finished.

Everything was re-traced over in chalkboard marker (Chalk-Ink brand is the best and has a wide array of colors) and left to dry for two hours. Once dry, traditional white chalk was rubbed over the entire wall to add a textural finish.

It’s probably best to simply visit the location for yourself, enjoy a cup of their new Stumptown roast, and witness the work of art for yourself. Because it is, truly, a work of art.


Top Secret Work Time (Night)

I tend to work best late at night, or early in the morning.

Not so much in the afternoon.

Such a simple thing that I find I cannot go without: Moleskine Pencils.

Is it the same for you? What time of day does your creativity peak?


In the studio!

In the studio!

In the studio about to record drums for our latest song!


Innovating with the iPad

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” ~Steve Jobs

A beautiful merging of design aesthetic & technologic advancement

The world of production is an ever-changing environment.

In a constant state of flux, the period between an “industry standard” practice and a “revolutionary” one is diminishing. As in the medical field, technological innovations rapidly shift the way we work.

The incredibly useful Movie Slate App

Ethan Borden, Cinematographer & VP of Gradient, has found his workflow radically altered using the iPad:

“With the Movie Slate App, it makes us probably ten times faster in post-production. It does a shot log which I can send out with an HTML or as a Final Cut XML document, and saves time and keeps us more organized because we’re switching from paper to digital.

We also have a Wireless Monitor App which allows us to connect to a computer that has the camera plugged in. It lets us control the camera and look at what’s being seen through the lense with a live view. We’re also able to walk around wherever on set and look at what’s being shot on camera. We see whats being seen through the DSLR.

I use the iPad 2 for a lot of workflow stuff on other projects as well: websites, Facebook, uploading photos that I’ve just taken on set.”

“In Post we use it a lot for labeling footage. It’s easy to make notes on set and then have our editor be able to refer to those while he’s working. It keeps everything centralized so that there aren’t 5 pieces of paper flying around with separate notes.”

Nathanael Sams has found his workflow in Post-Production streamlined as well:

“The Slate makes all the difference because we work with separate cameras and separate audio (Zoom H4N). What can be a daunting task of syncing up video and audio is a lot more feasible and automatic when you have a slate that beeps, because the program automatically syncs it up for you. That saves hours of time of manually going in and making sure it’s synced up.”

We aren’t shy in expressing our love of Apple products, and the iPad is no exception. It has quickly become invaluable on set, off set, and within our workflow.


Avoiding Predictability

“We have a duty towards music, namely, to invent it.” ~Igor Stravinsky

I recently sat down with Gradient’s Musical Composer, Sound Designer, & Editor Nathanael Sams to talk about how he approaches writing music for promotional videos.

“I’m actually really intimidated every time I have to start a new project. I’ll sit down at my piano and have ProTools open and just try to find the right melody. And once I find it, I begin building a chord progression around it.”

“I typically use ProTools, Logic, and Garage Band. It’s all Mac based. When I started using a Mac, I discovered MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). So everything I do pretty much revolves around MIDI instrumentation.

“In the movie What Women Want they do this ad campaign for Nike I think, and it’s really emotional and piano based and I remember that really inspiring me. I’m a big fan of piano based commercials because I think they’re the hardest to pull off.

“There’s this delay effect that people will put on the audio that makes it sound like they’re playing more notes than they are-”

(David) “It seems like it’s a lot easier to try to be really complex and overdue it, and then the most successful things are the most simple. Is that true?”

(Nathanael) “Yeah actually when I’m composing, I really try to be unpredictable. The hard thing is that your ears are accustomed to hearing a 1-4-5 chord progression which sounds really happy and pleasant. And a lot of people will try to mix in chords that don’t work well together. I’ll use Garage Band on my iPhone and basically be able to enter a chord that I’m starting with, and it will show me chords that work together with that.”

“You can always do a really powerful song using just a few notes on the piano. Like in Jaws, there’s this really beautiful, haunting melody through out the entire film.”

“Basically what I’m trying to say is that the greatest music comes from simplicity. You don’t always have to, or want to, be predictable with the music.”


What to Write?

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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Writing for Gradient Productions has been both edifying and challenging.

Tasked daily with drafting something worth reading, in various forms, you gain a set of skills unlike those found in a classroom.

Take campaign writing: In order to get your point across the content must be simple, informative, yet creative. For a graphic flyer, you must take into account what the Visual elements are saying, and choose to either let them speak for themselves, or build upon what’s being implied. And considering you have roughly 5 seconds of an average persons’ attention, it must be short.

In the case of Narration writing, cut the unnecessary. “Audiolize” in your head the narrator’s voice and choose words appropriate to their style of speaking.

I pull inspiration from a variety of sources; Apple for the way they speak volumes for a product/campaign in 1-6 words. Certain creative minds for Vanity Fair & National Geographic. Anthony Bourdain and his superior writing “voice”.

I was an actor under the tutelage of an established screenwriter/director, and of the many lessons I learned from him, one that resonated for me as an actor/writer was that, “If you aren’t going to feature something, cut it.”

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