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March 31st, 2009

First Foray into Video: Planning and Editing

Posted by liveBooks

Commercial photographer Martin Sundberg decided a few months ago that it was time to explore the potential of video capabilities in high-end DSLRs, as in his Canon 5D Mark II. He knew he could offer his clients extra value by shooting both video and stills for campaigns — but he also realized he had a lot to learn about the new medium. So he assigned himself a shoot with two professional triathletes and produced a video that not only provided valuable lessons, but also gave him something to show potential clients. We talked recently about choosing the right subject and the biggest difference between editing still and moving images. Check back soon for the second installment.
A frame grab from Martin's triathlete video. ©Martin Sundberg

A frame grab from Martin's triathlete video. ©Martin Sundberg

Miki Johnson: What was your idea for this shoot and what did you want to achieve creatively?

Martin Sundberg: This was a personal shoot that I put together to begin cultivating my video skills. The idea of the shoot was to explore some of the new technologies and tools that are being presented to photographers, such as the video capabilities now being packaged into our still cameras. Video is a hot topic among photographers these days, and it seems that individuals on all fronts are testing the waters, exploring what this physical merging of media means for the creative process as well as the business. Having never shot much video, I was really interested to see how my mind, one that has been conditioned to create still images, might instinctually apply that vision to motion.

I chose the triathlete as a subject for this project primarily because my style of shooting is very active, which lends itself well to shooting active people. The triathlon also required that I shoot footage in three outdoor locations, which I could weave into one continuous standalone piece that would be about a sense of place as much as an activity or person. From the beginning, I conceived of this project as a collaboration between the athletes, Matt and Chris Lieto, their coach, Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness, and Derek Weiss of Piton Productions.

We set out to tell the story of what it feels like to participate in the three activities — swimming, biking and running — at such an elite level. To make pictures like this, I often find that it’s absolutely necessary to get physically into the shoot yourself; otherwise, it’s too easy to capture what it feels like to be a spectator. We shot from strategic angles and a mixture of vantage points, including from the air and the water. We were constantly on the move, trying to keep up with Matt and Chris. And let me tell you, that wasn’t easy. But all of these efforts are felt, if not directly seen, in the footage, which was our goal.

MJ: How did you plan for this video shoot? How was it different from planning a still photo shoot?

MS: Planning for this shoot was very similar to producing a photo shoot. One aspect that is different is the fact that video is experienced on a continuum, thereby forcing you plan for how the subject enters and exits the frame, what will come before and after that scene, and how the transition between scenes will occur. It’s no longer one moment but a series of moments within each frame, and ultimately, within the entire piece. And not only does the entire piece have a beginning and an end, but each scene also has its own beginning and end. Everything needs to be considered on this larger continuum.

With video, it’s also necessary to plan for sound. For this project, we chose to utilize a soundtrack, which allowed us to really focus on the visual aspect of video while shooting. Otherwise, I scouted locations, coordinated with the models, discussed shots and scenes, researched access issues — basically the same planning as a still shoot.

We shot over the course of four days and took advantage of the visually powerful locations available right here in the Bay Area. The biggest differences between video and still photography is evident in the post-production work. With video, more time is spent sequencing shots; whether it’s a narrative piece or not, you’re still communicating something to an audience and the right sequencing will determine whether that ‘something’ is clearly delivered.  In addition, you’re simultaneously working with the many other variables that harmonize to complete a video piece, like transitions, sound, intro and closing.

Video always reminds me of the tremendous team effort that goes into producing a finished piece. With stills, I have a very refined workflow and can navigate my editing tools, like Lightroom and Photoshop, with ease. For this project, however, I culled footage and selected the clips that worked well individually and that told the story, but my editor Derek took over from there. I knew what I wanted to see, and he edited the many variables together to communicate the story we intended to tell. I have a huge respect for this part of the process.

Editing is absolutely vital to any final product. With most of my still photography work, I’m looking for one iconic image, which doesn’t necessarily rely on what comes before or after it. With video, sequencing is everything. Again, this is a notable departure from the process of editing still images. Unless I’m working on a portfolio, an essay, or a particular series of images, sequencing doesn’t figure into my still photography edits.


  1. April 3rd, 2009 at 7:03 pm


    Great site this and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor :)

  2. April 7th, 2009 at 9:30 am


    How did you do the from the air stuff and what waterproof case did you use?

    Any behind the scenes shots?

    Cool video!!

  3. April 8th, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Martin Sundberg

    Hi, The aerial images were filmed using an R/C Helicopter and the water housing is from an Australia based company called Aqua Tech

    I posted a small behind the scenes gallery for you where you can see both of these tools in action. Not many photos to share but you will get the idea. You can also see my small and mobile crew and our production vehicle that could reach some of the more remote locations!

  4. April 10th, 2009 at 12:44 pm


    great site this great to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor :)

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