I’d like to draw your attention to a few new pages. Please look for the Animals button above. They are related to a project I have been researching and working for two years, and intend to work for the rest of my life. Animal Rescue.
I’ve been in the trenches on the animal rescue fight in a number of ways, and I’ve learned a great deal – both good and bad. One of the most important lessons is how animal rescue organizations work, and the takeaway is that for almost every rescue, there is a mountain of low hanging fruit being ignored – lots of easy ways to get the message out. If there’s a meta level to what I’m doing, it is to help rescues learn to grab that low hanging fruit and to do the easy things that make a big difference without spending a fortune in traditional methods. Most animal rescues need help in communication. Some do it very well.
The second part is to reduce the confusion for people who want to help these organizations. There is a common saying in animal rescue. I’ve tried to find the source of this clever poem of animal activism, but I can’t say where it started. If someone knows, I’d appreciate the information. Here it is:
The third part is focused on the first word. The ultimate best outcome for any animal is a permanent home of people who love it. After all the dogs I’ve had in my home, with the simple rule that we stay with them until the end, I can say that it takes time for most rescue dogs to understand that they actually have a home. Once they do, their happiness is so powerful that it usually overcomes their entire history of trauma and even significant health problems. Just as well as it works for us, unconditional love is the best medicine for a pet’s life. Captain Wally’s recovery is the result of medicine, love, and attitude.
That said, the other words in this mantra of animal rescue matter just as much. Not everyone can commit to the entire lifetime of a dog or cat or pig or horse. Some of the greatest efforts come from fosters who help animals learn, heal, and prepare for a full life with their forever homes. Fostering is hard work, especially when it’s time to let go of that animal. Sponsoring an animal in the rescue system is rewarding for both the animal and the person who can claim a specific piece of the victory for that animal. There is a sense of connection that bypasses all the reasons why people are unable to have a pet of their own. Volunteering in all aspects of life can be incredibly powerful, and in animal rescue, each successful encounter changes at least two lives for the better. Plus, there are very few animal rescues that don’t need more help. The same applies to donations, of course. And finally, there are people who unfortunately cannot afford a pet, much less financially support other animals. For those folks, the power to share good information is just as effective. Finally, a bonus thought. Share your pet, if possible. It’s good for a dog to meet new people and it definitely brightens the day for new friends. I go out of my way to meet dogs when I’m out and about, and it is always grand to meet a 6 pound Yorkie named Tank.
There are a lot of numbers for the answer to how many homeless animals live in this country alone. Somewhere in the middle is about 7 million for dogs alone. If I can help reduce this number with the tools at my disposal, I’ll call it a win.
Every animal has a story. Just like our stories, some are very common, some are painful, or dramatic, or funny, or outright miraculous. Among all the methods we’ve invented to communicate, story is usually the best way to connect the central idea directly to hearts and minds – to memory. Luckily for us, most of the myriad of modern methods can contain story as well as an ancient oral tradition around a campfire.
In my experience, most pet owners are more than happy to talk about their furry babies to the point of a childhood vacation slideshow torture session. I’m one of those people who actually want to hear those stories, but I understand that if the goal is to spread the word on how and why to save an animal and to have it work out well for everyone, then telling good stories matters.
I’m telling a story right now, but not a particularly good one. I’ve spent a long time relying on words alone, and that works very well to get inside the heads of the main characters, but it takes a while for a reader to get to know the characters no matter how well they are written. From the author side, it takes us a while to know our own characters.
So, let’s add images. Most people look at a pretty cat or the dog photos on this page and see ‘pretty’ or ‘cute,’ and other people see the same pictures and see ‘dirty’ or ‘scary.’ It happens very quickly. Longtime pet owners see a lot more in the same photos. They see health, facial expression, state of mind, and emotion just as quickly. A great photo tells a story in a moment, but it takes a great photo to do it, and the story is worth, at most, a thousand words. Or so I’ve heard.
So, let’s add motion. Animals in motion are beautiful for a million reasons. They can string moments of profound grace into a stream of pure life. It could be a stumbling puppy or a snake slithering across a desert dune. Every animal motion is an expression of how well nature works. While most of us have no way to read anything from a desert snake, we all know a great deal about the information conveyed by domestic animals. We know when a dog is proud, or ecstatic, or embarrassed after slipping on the grass. We know when a cat is content, or hyper, or about to pounce on something. Every pet owner knows the amount of excitement her own pet expresses through motion every time she comes home from work.
And that’s the reason I dusted off my production skills from the 90’s and 00’s. I stopped because I couldn’t stomach another meaningless marketing project and limited myself to words and photos for a decade. I have finally found a reason to pick up a video camera again.
When I stopped making video, I had a flip phone and video was mostly standard definition (SD) recorded on DV tape. Things have changed.
So what? The phone in my pocket can shoot 4k. I use it when I happen to meet a dog at Home Depot or a parking lot somewhere. There’s a good chance yours can too. If only it were that simple… There are apps that can add to your phone’s capabilities, but there are two unavoidable limitations. The amount of data you can process and save for each frame of video and the tiny size of the camera and the image sensor behind it. Odds are, if you break out your phone in daylight, the video you shoot will look great. That tiny sensor is getting blasted with plenty of light to make a clean image. If you try to shoot in moderate indoor lighting, it will be a brown muddy mess. The phone will try its best to process a good video out of it, and it may even look okay on your phone screen, but on a large screen it will look like squirming blobs.
Let’s say you’re serious about your video and want to edit it. That’s where the other limit kicks in. The phone takes that 4k video stream and compresses it as hard as possible to save room on your phone and to make sure your hardware can keep up with the amount of data flowing through. Some of those apps can increase the data rate, but it comes with the risk of overheating, skipping frames, corrupting files, or even crashing. I’ve tested several apps on multiple modern phones. All this means that when you go to edit, there is not much you can do with that phone video if you want to blend it in seamlessly with the video around it.
In general, the larger the sensor and lens the better the video out of the camera. When it comes to high quality editing, the more data you can record for each shot, the more flexibility you have to create a polished final show.
Great. The more data you save on the camera, the more storage you need on your editing system and the faster the system needs to be to keep up with all that data. More performance saves the other limit we can’t get around – time.
Time in production is also about equipment in the field, having flexible, reliable gear that can set up quickly for a wide variety of shots and conditions. It’s even more pointed when working with animals. You never know when it’s suddenly time for a critter nap. You have to catch the moment. By the same logic, animals can be extremely active, move unpredictably and faster than we can actually see. You need enough resolution to keep a fast moving animal in the shot and still have room to zoom in later, and enough frames per second to slow the footage down when necessary.
We started by telling a story, and when the goal is to share important information, we need people too. No dog is going to explain how to select a good vet. Two things need to happen for people shots. One is that they need to sound good. This is the secret of good production. If I show you a bad looking video of something you want to know, but the sound is clear, you’ll watch it through. If I show you a beautiful video with muddy audio, you will lose patience quickly. Two is that the people need to look good. I don’t mean they need to look like movie stars. I just mean that if I don’t take the time to light them well, they will see the video later and be less likely to appear on my camera again.
Quality and workflow. Having good field gear makes for higher quality from the start – and faster workflow, but the bulk of workflow comes in the post production phase. That’s where everything gets very detailed and software-driven. It’s still amazing to me that after years of very large specialized equipment to get old TV standards out of a project, it’s possible to make great video with an off-the-shelf laptop and some good software. It’s not painless when working with 4k, but it’s entirely doable.
If given the choice between software that does a million things with a thousand buttons, and software that does 10000 things with 100 buttons, choose the latter. I’ve spent years with Adobe software, actually decades. They switched to a subscription model in 2013 and like most people, I’ve hated it ever since, but I put up with it to keep using the thousands of files I’ve created, to avoid learning new software, and because there weren’t really any competitive replacements at the time. In setting out on this project, with its massive file workload, it really started to bother me. I realized that if I do a ton of video projects in Adobe Premiere, I’m stuck with Premiere project files forever. I could literally never stop paying that subscription. It began to feel like extortion, and that feeling was making the use of the software distinctly unpleasant. Add to that the escalation of pricing, some really boneheaded policy changes, and it suddenly became worth the effort of switching.
I recently researched replacements for everything I use in the Adobe subscription, bought them, learned them, and dumped Adobe. If anyone wants to know the replacements, let me know and I’ll happily share that information. Hint:
I’ll keep talking about the why, what, and how of my animal rescue plan until it becomes reality. To vastly simplify this lengthy screed:
I have the post production part covered, although I’ll need to add storage as I fill up hard drives.
I have two years and 2 terabytes of animal event footage, and way too much footage of our own pack.
I have a good portion of the dog footage cameras in hand. These are lower cost cameras, very specialized for shooting critters-in-motion outdoors in good weather conditions. There are still some missing pieces for what I have in mind for dog cinematography, but the much higher priority is what I need to do a complete job of telling an informative story.
I’m referring to the gear I need to shoot a good interview. A general purpose camera with good weather resistance and enough supporting gear to keep it running all day – namely batteries and high speed memory cards. I need audio gear to guarantee good interview audio so that I can start filming various experts in the field. I need a basic lighting kit for indoor work and some reflectors for outdoor work. If I can get to that point, I think the rest will take care of itself.
For now, I only have the one link to PayPal for support, but I’ll be adding more options very soon along with the links to see some videos. I’d appreciate it if you can help me get this thing rolling. Thanks!
The Official Youtube Channel is up. Please head over and subscribe so that I can set a friendly address instead of this thing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTT0G3mZ0QubohPGryiCpUg
Update*** I’ve got a TeeSpring store up, so you can support the project by buying some merch. https://teespring.com/en-GB/stores/jf-perkins-store