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August 24th, 2010

Bridging the Gap Between Still Images and Video on the Web: Q&A with Justin Francis

Posted by liveBooks

Justin Francis won’t tell you he’s a big deal, but he is. He’s a New York-based director, filmmaker and photographer who made his name in the music industry and has worked with the likes of Mariah Carey, The Cure, 50 Cent, Eminem, Gwen Stefani and The Roots. He’s the mastermind behind Alicia Keys’ award-winning “Unbreakable” and “No One” videos, and this year he directed commercials for companies such as Target, M&Ms, Dunkin’ Donuts and Adidas.

It wasn’t until later, after he had established himself in the film industry, that Justin began to focus on his other passion: Still photography. It was then – in January of 2008 – that he decided he needed a website to house his images, as well as some of his videos. He was one of the first liveBooks customers to effectively implement video on the Web.

In this Q and A session, we asked Justin to share his insights and offer advice to those who are just starting to incorporate video on their websites.

LB: Justin, with your film background, you really understand how video should be presented on the Web. When creative professionals decide to implement video on their websites, what three issues should be top of mind?

JF: Actually, I think I can break it down to one issue. Given how many photographers are shooting video (and vice versa), I think the most important thing is to try and achieve a clarity of vision throughout your site. And while stylistic consistency is important, I think how the work is presented is equally as important. If you look at my site, you will see a pretty wide variety of styles. But whether it’s a glossy music video or a documentary photo from rural Africa, the presentation is always the same. Each type of work gets the same attention, shares the same spotlight. So, in building a site, I think the most important thing is to come up with a design that allows all of your work feel at home.

LB: You were a forerunner in the convergence of still images and video on the liveBooks platform. What challenges did you face in the beginning and how has the process evolved over time with the availability of online video services like Vimeo?

JF: Two things drew me to liveBooks in the beginning – the elegance of the presentation and the simplicity/flexibility of the editSuite. However, when I first started work on my site, I don’t think people were thinking of liveBooks as a viable option for Web video. Even though some sites already included little Quicktime or Flash clips, none of the existing designs incorporated video in a seamless way. None of them felt faithful to the quality of the liveBooks still image presentation. So, in my case, it was simply a matter of working with a Flash designer (Adam Royer) and testing the limits of the liveBooks framework. Now you have a lot of examples of great video on liveBooks sites. But at the time, I think Web video was more of an afterthought than a true selling point.

LB: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to experiment with the video capabilities that a HDSLR camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II produces?

JF: I would say learn everything that these cameras can do. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Test them in every possible circumstance. Take them with you wherever you go.

Shoot a video shot, or two even, when you only plan to shoot stills. Take pictures in between your video clips. Play with all the contrast settings and picture modes in order to figure out what you like best. But even after you’ve done all this, realize that you’re only beginning the process of creating an image. So, learn Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One and After Effects. Figure out just how much you can get out of an image. And once you think you’re done tweaking, save the file and then go back and process it in an entirely different way. Do a flat version, do a crunchy version. Play with saturation. Then compare it to your favorite photos/videos and think about what you’re doing wrong or doing right. But remember that lighting is the most important factor of just about any shot. Framing can always be fixed in post. But good lighting can enable you to take a great photo with just about any camera.

LB: Where do you see online video heading in the years to come? What changes and new uses would you like to see?

JF: I look forward to the day an HDSLR offers the same resolution in video mode and still mode. Even though these cameras are revolutionizing the way we capture and think about video, it is always painful to do a side-by-side image comparison of a video clip and a still shot. Latitude, color balance, aliasing and compression – it all goes out the window when you really start to dig into one of these “HD” video clips. Coming from the world of hi-end RAW video (Genesis, Phantom, Viper), all I can say is that consumer HDSLRs still have a long way to go.

I think that once the resolution gets sorted out, there will be no limit to what we will be able to do with online video. Video sites will become as interactive as still-based sites. It will no longer be a matter of sitting back and watching a video play. Rather, we will be able to grab and interact with every element in the frame. Monitors will get bigger, resolution will get higher. Computer monitors will be 3D. And the whole experience will only become more and more immersive. There will always be a place for traditional stills and video. But it will be hard to resist making it all interactive once the tools and the technology are sorted out.

To get a closer look at Justin’s web site, check out his Success entry.

To see examples of Justin’s workclick here.


  1. August 24th, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Justin Francis Video, featuring Modest Mouse – Little Motel | Success With liveBooks

    […] Read Justin’s take on the future of Video […]

  2. August 24th, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Justin Francis Video, featuring Alicia Keys – No One | Success With liveBooks

    […] Read Justin’s take on the future of Video […]

  3. August 24th, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Justin Francis Video, featuring The Game (feat 50Cent) – Hate It or Love It | Success With liveBooks

    […] Read Justin’s take on the future of Video […]

  4. August 31st, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Justin Francis Video, featuring Timbaland and The Hives – Throw It On Me | Success With liveBooks

    […] Read Justin’s take on the future of Video […]

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