Who are you and what are you doing?
I am Jesse Spaulding, a filmmaker and photographer living in Missoula, MT. I co-own Spaulding International Cinema, a video production company, with my business partner and fiance, Hannah Weinert. Spaulding International Cinema, or as we like to refer to it, SIC, specializes in Aerial and Time-Lapse Cinematography for film, commercials, TV, web, and real estate outlets.
What hardware are you using?
Wow, there is a big list for this question. We operate a lot of filmmaking and photography equipment. Most of our cameras are digital SLRs because we can do both photos and video at a very high quality. We mostly shoot on the Canon 5D. The 5D has a full frame sensor, which gives the most filmic look. The SLRs allow us to change lenses to accommodate for any situation or artistic style. We have a full spectrum of lenses from ultra wide 10mm to telephoto 500mm. I love using prime lenses, but my go-to lens for any situation is the Canon 24-105 F4 lens. We have multiple tripods because they can be equally as important as the cameras. The tripod we use most is the Sachtler FSB8. This tripod has lightweight, but sturdy carbon fiber legs. The tripod head balances out perfectly with the 5D even with a 500mm lens. The head also has 5 settings for pan and tilt, so you can get the desired resistance for moving shots. I do a lot of filming of wildlife with a long lens and a smooth tripod head with lots of resistance is very important. People often overlook the importance of a stable, smooth, adjustable tripod.
We also operate a remote dolly for moving time-lapse photography and smooth tracking for real-time video. We purchased a dynamic perception dolly and adapted the rail system for smooth video. We also use a steadicam for smooth filming while walking or running. I don’t currently own the vest with the shock arm, but that might be our next purchase. The steadicam gets really heavy after just a couple minutes of filming, so a vest would make filming much more bearable.
Our largest piece of “hardware” would be our “Cinestar”; a remote aerial platform with a 360 pan and tilt camera mount. We operate this for aerial perspectives in photography and filmmaking. The cinestar allows us to capture very smooth, cinematic and dramatic perspectives that would otherwise be impossible to obtain. We can travel anywhere with the cinestar and have it up and filming within minutes. I pilot the Cinestar, while my partner, Hannah, views the live video feed as she remotely pans and tilts the camera mount to keep the subject in frame. The only other way to obtain shots like this to hire a helicopter, pilot, aerial videographer, and camera with gyro attachment, which could cost around $20,000 a day.
We also operate professional audio gear. Half of making a quality video is good audio, so we don’t overlook audio. We have Sennheiser wireless mics, a Rode audio/video mic for run and gun shooting, and a Zoom H4n. We mix all the audio into a preamp before sending it to the camera.
All of our video editing is done on 15’’ and 13’’ MacBook Pro’s. We’re always on the road, and laptop technology has improved so much that we just avoid the desktops.
What software and web services do you use?
We do all our video editing on Final Cut Pro, and photo editing is done on Photoshop CS5. I compile a lot of our time-lapse photography using Adobe Light Room with the Time-Lapse edition. Our website was designed with Photoshop and iWeb, but we are in the process of switching to a WordPress site that will allow us easier updates and more visibility. I can’t do any editing on a phone, so I pretty much always have my laptop. Just recently I gave into the smartphone world (which everyone makes fun of me for). One of the main reasons I purchased the iPhone was for the gps navigation. I am always on the road and need to find filming locations in cities I don’t know. I don’t use many of the apps, though. I try to focus on being a professional with the video and photo software, which is a full time job within itself.
Describe the system you use to manage your time and resources to make sure the right things are getting done.
We begin our day with a morning meeting and usually start a list of daily tasks that need to be accomplished. There is a bigger overall checklist that we’re constantly working on. We mark our clients shoots on the calendar and make sure we never overbook ourselves, so we have time to edit and wrap projects up before moving onto the next one. The iphone calendar is awesome for reminders and scheduling.
We also make sure to give ourselves play-days. To stay motivated, you have to give yourself a break now and then.
What books, ideas and people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I think the best creativity comes from just doing and experimenting, brainstorming with a close friend or business partner, and not letting outside judgement cloud your vision. Hannah and I come up with some great ideas after a glass of wine or two, bouncing ideas off one another, and not judging one another for bringing up ridiculous schemes.
A good business book also really helps with putting ideas in motion. One good business book that I’ve come across and looks “outside the box” is “The Right-Brain Business Plan” by Jennifer Lee. This book helps artists and creative people start thinking more about what it takes to run a business, other than just making art.
I read a lot of current photography magazines to keep up to date on equipment and new, fun camera techniques.
What can Montana do to increase its creative and entrepreneurial cultures?
I wish Montana offered more grants. I tried applying for a filmmaker grant multiple times, but the only way to get it was to be a non-profit organization. We need more grants for artists and filmmakers to get on their feet and get new businesses going.
I don’t know of any business mentorship programs outside of the University, but it would be a great resource for young professionals and entrepreneurs. If there is a program like this, someone should point me in the right direction.
Montana is a great place to live for inspiration. Finding a way to support your inspiration can be a struggle in Montana, but it is definitely a worthy pursuit.