A still from the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K for a film shoot on Trinity's new state-of-the-art Center for Sciences and Innovation launch
San Antonio, Texas-based Trinity University is dedicated to educating its students and helping them learn in any way possible. It’s why the university developed the AT&T Center for Learning & Technology, which provides faculty, students and staff access to technology, media and training that enhance teaching, learning and research, as well as distribute and maintain media and media equipment for instruction and campus events.
“Trinity University makes it a point to give the students access to the best tools and newest technology available for hands on learning,” said Taylor Stakes, video and web multimedia content developer for the Center for Learning & Technology at Trinity University. “It’s one of the reasons we chose to invest in Blackmagic Design’s Production Camera 4K, Pocket Cinema Camera and DaVinci Resolve.”
In his role, Taylor handles all of the university’s marketing video content, from concept to creation to completion. Although he operates as a one man show, Taylor does work with students interested in video and web multimedia, teaching them the ins and outs of video production. The university’s video production department also uses his gear.
“At the Center, we want to be on the cutting edge of technology in order to create the best possible learning environment for the students, but we don't have an unlimited budget,” Taylor said. “Blackmagic Design helps us accomplish those two things by creating affordable yet competitive technology. We originally invested in the Pocket Cinema Camera, which gave us access to RAW and then purchased the Production Camera 4K, which not only has RAW, but also gives us 4K, which is where the industry is headed.”
Taylor began his career volunteering at a local church doing live production. He was inspired by his high school teacher to pursue his love of video, and after interning for a few summers, the church brought him on full-time. After eight years with the church, Taylor jumped at the opportunity to helm Trinity University’s video production.
“Just as I was inspired to pursue a career in video production, I want to do the same for the students of Trinity. I had an amazing opportunity to learn hands-on during my time at the church, so I understand how important that is for students,” said Taylor. “I started out at the church using Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink products when they first came out, so I’ve been a fan of the company from the beginning. We’ve both grown over the years.”
Professional Production on a Budget
With the majority of Taylor’s work revolving around advertising and commercial productions, he is tasked with delivering a professional product on a budget.
“We don't have the budget for large scale commercial productions, but we still want the content to be professional, otherwise it won’t attract new students,” he said. “We solved this by using Blackmagic Design and partnering with PBS, which is a way to advertise and compete with the big Ivy League schools. Trinity is a smaller college, and the PBS campaigns allow us to reach a greater audience and share the university’s story.”
On location using the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K for a short documentary on engineering at Trinity University
Through its partnership with PBS, Trinity is able to advertise on television stations across Texas and California. Shot with the Production Camera 4K and graded using DaVinci Resolve, the television campaigns include interviews with professors and students, as well as a full spot on the history of the university.
“For the PBS spots, our marketing team really wanted to show off the campus because it’s simply beautiful. It’s in the middle of San Antonio and has gorgeous heritage oak trees. By enticing viewers visually, we hoped to draw them in, so the look of the spots was very important,” said Taylor. “The Production Camera 4K’s RAW capability was able to capture so much detail, and it really enhanced the natural beauty of the campus.”
When shooting interviews, Taylor often uses a green screen and shoots in RAW using the Production Camera 4K, which provides no compression and good color space for clean keying. The camera also allows him to crop the image to 1080, making it look like a two camera shoot.
“I get a really nice key and rarely spend time in post fixing it, which is great because I’m busy. There’s never been a position like mine at Trinity, and I have organizations and departments coming to me for extra projects all the time. Having such amazing quality footage from the start saves me from spending extra time in post, which allows me to work on additional projects. That fact alone is so valuable to me, and it’s a win for everyone,” he said.
In addition to television commercial campaigns, Taylor also uses Blackmagic Design cameras for corporate videos, such as annual and thank you videos for donations, as well as videos for e-mail campaigns and social media.
“We want to recruit students, so we need to be tapped into what’s important to them and what they relate to. We often do funny videos that prospective students can watch and enjoy, but that also feature the campus and provide information about the university,” said Taylor. “We post the videos to our YouTube channel, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We often interview alumni and post the videos on LinkedIn so students can see what graduates have accomplished afterwards and how Trinity has helped affect their future.”
By using DaVinci Resolve at Trinity University, the producer is able to get the exact look he wants.
Although the majority of the projects are planned out in advance with the marketing team, if the university wants something last minute, it’s up to Taylor to deliver.
“Before, we would have outsourced video production to another company, which cost us more in the end, especially if it was a last minute shoot,” he said. “But now, I’m doing all video production and average about 50 to 60 videos a year. If the university wants something last minute, I’m here and can grab the cameras and go. With the Pocket Cinema Camera, I can throw on an MFT lens, use the auto focus and iris and I’m ready to run-and-gun if I don’t have time to set up for a shoot.”
In the event that Taylor requires additional cameras for a shoot, he relies on DaVinci Resolve to match the cameras in order to create a seamless look. Even though the cameras all give off different colors, Taylor is able to apply a LUT to them, matching the looks perfectly.
“Sometimes I’m faced with different looks because of multiple cameras or if we need a reshoot and the weather or lighting is different. With DaVinci Resolve, I can match everything and make it look cohesive,” said Taylor. “One of the things I find most helpful is Resolve’s ability to mask in color. If something is overexposed, I can fix the subject without messing up the whole shot.
“DaVinci Resolve is very simple to use and intuitive, and I now can color footage faster than I can edit it,” he said. “All around, Blackmagic Design helps me create a better professional product in the end.”