Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hanging Lights

Electricians Wayne and Charles hang lights, 1975. I am glad I shot these photos.

For many years my Dad, Raymond Wagoner, Sr., and his business, Wagoner Electric Company, would hang the downtown Christmas decorations for the City of Reidsville, North Carolina. Imagine long strings of lights on gold and silver tinsel that were strung from the street lights back and forth across Scales Street. Giant red bells with lights in them hung from the strands over the middle of the road.

Now for me, this was a major event in my calendar of cool things. On the big day I would wait with as little patience as one can imagine to get out of school and go downtown. I would get to help in any way that I was able, depending on my age at the time. When I was very young, that meant tagging along when my father went for coffee, but in time I was handing lights or tools up to the men on the ladders. By the time I got to high school I would work on the ladder myself, which proved to to good training for my career.

The other part of the job that was great fun and seemed at the time to carry a great deal of importance happened a week or two before the light hanging day. We would go up into a warehouse space that was over Davis Pharmacy to test all of the bulbs, and replace the ones that were burned out. OK, I know it does not sound like much, but trust me, it was big fun. See, it involved getting to bust the old light bulbs! Oh, and when you changed a bulb, if you got the aluminum tinsel into the socket (by accident, of course) the bulb exploded - like I said, big fun.

Around 1970, the Chamber of Commerce made a major change in the Christmas lighting plan for Reidsville. They decided to go modern and replaced the old gold and silver strands that were strung across the street with these "things" that just hung on the poles of the street lights. Heresy I say!

I do not know how many years my father's company did this job, it started before I came along and ended after I had moved away from Reidsville, but it always gave me a sense of pride that my father was asked to oversee what seemed like such an important task for my home town. These are moments that I cherish and will always remember.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Magic... behind the scenes

In the beginning, there was an idea. Mark had an idea for a scene of an enchanted forest, perhaps at dusk or in the evening. Over the course of several months, three days of shooting, 720 still photographs, and 500 snowflakes, this idea developed in to "Christmas Magic," a stop-action animated short that we are very excited to share. We were pleased to have Natalie Jester and Kelly Swanson at Ink Production Services collaborate with us, and you can see their artistic touch throughout. You can see the video on our channel.

Although the final product is only one minute and 30 seconds long, months of research and planning went into creating this piece. One of the most difficult parts was finding the right elements for the scene. Trees from model train sets and miniature villages were tested for size and shape. Also, arranging the trees to create the perspective of depth in the forest took careful planning. The snowflakes in the scene were arranged on three different planes, also to give the illusion of distance. Finding tiny decorations to fit our hero tree was another challenge. Eventually, lights and ornaments intended for a dollhouse Christmas tree were located. (and the transformer required to provide electricity for them, without burning down the studio!)

Finally, our deer was assembled by Kelly and Natalie, with articulated joints to let him walk, jump, angle his head to look at the tree, and of course, wiggle his ears and tail!

We hope you enjoy viewing the final result as much as we did creating it!

Letters to Santa... behind the scenes

"Letters to Santa" includes footage shot for a series of commercials with our friends at G-Force Marketing. Mark wanted the results to show "classically beautiful lighting and camera movement" to give it a traditional, yet timeless, feel. He re-cut the footage to showcase the results into this short film, which can be viewed on our channel. Here are a few production stills from the shoot, showing all the work it takes to make something look natural and effortless!

Mark shot the film using the Letus camera attachment, which combines still camera lenses with the video camera. This allowed for the shallow depth of field and critical focus pulls that give the video a very intimate feel.

The crew rented a real, lived-in home for the day, rather than build a set, for a variety of realistic environments. It made it a tight squeeze for the dolly and track, but they were necessary for the camera motion that contributed to the classic look.

Actors don't always appreciate the time it takes to get everything set just right... But we think it's all worth it in the final film!