Jun 13

Mobi Health News story about our Farm PSAs

Over on Mobihealthnews.com they are talking about our farm safety videos and the mobile deployment of that campaign. The research that led to creating the videos: farm workers count their phones among their prized possessions and community health workers don’t want any more paper. The language of film is turning out to be a powerful tool for reaching all kinds of audiences.

Here is HERO DAD, one of the 5 shorts created for the campaign.

Farm Safety – Morning from Michael Winokur on Vimeo.

Jun 13

New Work, New Friends

www.winokurphotography.comWhen my friend and Artist’s Representative Jon Lucca owner of Artists Untied called suggesting I test with one of his stylists I jumped on the offer. Jon has been a friend and collaborator for a long time and he knows talent. Jon told me LA based stylist Megan Kelley was going to be in town and looking to make some new work.

Megan and I brainstormed some ideas and started looking for a location and talent. Megan reached out to City Model and found the lovely young talent Sophia.

When our location search failed to result in a useable spot for the lifestyle concept we had, I thought we should punt. Megan was determined to shoot. She pushed me and we brainstormed a way to proceed. I came up with transportation as a concept and we planned on styling Sophia as different kinds of travelers: explorer, commuter, shopper.

Using only available lighting, we explored the different looks we could create as we rode around the Bay Area. In the end I was thrilled with the look. The edit broke into two different groups of images, from the day bright, cool and clean and from night warm and cinematic.

See more here and here.






May 13

Flirting with Vine

I’m experimenting with Vine. It used to be the challenge was telling a story in a couple minutes for shorts or 30 seconds for broadcast. Now Vine has re-defined the short form to just 144 frames.

May 13

Animal Portraits win in 2013 Graphis Photo Annual

This morning I received some great news, two of my images made it into Graphis. My Barn Owl photo is in the 100 Best of Photography Annual and my portrait of Zero the Arctic Fox is in 100 best for the Americas. I’m really humbled and thrilled to be in the company of such amazing photographers. Both images come from my ongoing work making portraits of wild and farm animals that reveal something about their character or personality.

Barn Owl Portrait featured in Graphis Photo Annual 2013


Portrait of Zero the Arctic fox which won Top 100 for The Americas in Graphis

Oct 12

Recommended Reading:

Directing Actors by Judith Weston

If you are, or plan to be, in a position to direct actors, models or any other humans on camera or on stage, read Weston’s book. The book covers a set of questions I’ve been interested in for a long time. Weston discusses these questions: How do I communicate ideas not directly in the script? How do I make sure I’m understood on set? How do explain physical action I can’t show? How do I discuss a through-line with the cast? How do I get a slightly different performance or even get the same one again? and a multitude of others about performance, script and rehearsal at length.

Weston’s interest, and it should be the director’s interest, is that we must be communicating directions that are “playable”. This means that your directions must be understood by the actor in a way she can return them in the form of a performance by their character. On set the cliches “once more with feeling” and “that was perfect do it again” have become running jokes. Weston hammers home the idea that actors are constantly given direction that is unplayable: Can you give it more energy, Can you make it more quirky? Can you play him aggressive but pleasant? If you think you’ve given this direction, immediately click on the Amazon link above and order her book for 1-day delivery. These directions might honestly come from your desire to see a more quirky, pleasant, aggressive,  or energetic performance but they will not help your cast. Results oriented directions like these will distract the actor into trying to see them-self through the lens instead of being inside the character they are portraying.

Weston’s thesis is around a director-actor relationship where through careful preparation the actor internalize their character and then the director helps to free the actor to be that character on set. Starting with the introduction Weston tells directors that its on them make an active choice to engage with the actors in their process and she posits that taking that choice gives the director freedom.

Until you’ve worked with actors they appear to be extremely over-paid, over-indulged and accorded far to much credit for the quality of a movie. When you start to understand how hard it is to get a good performance and how easy it is to get a laughable performance it gets a lot easier to see the value a great actor brings to a production. That said, I’m afraid that in today’s celebrity driven market actors are often being asked to be stars and not to play characters.

I have two criticisms of this book. One is that in her effort to help directors understand actors Weston has implied that the director is the Doctor in a psychiatrist, patient relationship with the actor.  I would hope that a healthier less paternal relationship is possible. My other note is about her writing and the poor overused exclamation mark. Weston tells us repeatedly that the director must be very careful in delivering playable direction to the actor lest it be misunderstood. She should be as concerned with her reader’s needs.

If you’ve read Directing Actors or any other books on acting, directing or film-making please share your insights.

Aug 12

Lectrosonics vs. Shure Vs. Sennheiser for Scarlet and Epic Audio

I’ve been shopping for a wireless mic for my Scarlet. Here is what I’ve learned about single system audio. First, hire a pro when you can, we just worked on a shoot with a great guy and the audio is 100 times better then I could do myself. When you have to, audio into the camera can work well. The first thing is to make sure that the 1/8″ cables you use are actually wired the way they appear to be.

Out of the box there are many mono audio products with 1/8″ connectors. Logically one would assume a mono audio tool with a 3 pin 1/8″ connector would be TRS. (Tip, Ring, Sleeve). It turns out this is not the case. Many companies try to help you by sending that mono signal on both the tip and ring pin. These connectors will not work with Epic or Scarlet. There is a thread on Reduser.net telling you how to cut the white wire in a Rode Video Mic pro to turn it from bi-mono to a proper mono TRS connection. That thread is worth following, I fixed up my mic in 5 minutes.

The same issue applies to both the Sennheiser G3 and Shure FP15 wireless lavaliers. They are both mono sources but they both come with 1/8″  3-pin jacks that are wired for “bi-mono”. You can either replace the wires that come with these kits or try to cut the wire running to the RING pin yourself. Getting a wire that has mono pin – to pin TRS from either system will make it RED friendly.

Here is a quick review:

1)The Lectrosonics 100 series comes out-of-the-box working with Epic and Scarlet. This is very nice gear made here in USA. If you have the means I suggest this wireless system. For me, I’d save the extra money and use it to hire pro-audio. I’m not buying audio gear to replace working with a pro, I just need the ability to get decent sound into the camera. So I’m not investing in Lectrosonics. These units are around $1300 for a transmitter, receiver and lavalier mic.

2) The Sennheiser G3 is ubiquitous in recording, so it might be a good way to go. Out of the box it is not RED friendly, the nice screw-lock 1/8″ wire that came with the kit is wired up with signal on both ring and tip. However since it uses 1/8″ you probably have a 1/8″ male to 1/8″ male stereo wire that is wired up pin to pin in your drawer, plug that in and you’ll be good to go. If you want to find a wire with screw locks on the Sennheiser side it’s probably out there, I’ll add a link if I find one.

3) Shure FP15: I was excited by this because it is over $120 cheaper then the Sennheiser and it boasts being easiest to setup. This system is also wired with signal on Tip and Ring so the wire it comes with doesn’t work. This is bit harder to fix because the connector is TA3F (aka mini xlr) on one end and 1/8″ 3 pin on the other. I can only find this wired properly as a very expensive custom cable. If one were to open the TA3F end and cut the black wire it would work with RED. If money is the primary choice this is a good bet. Though I can’t hear much sound difference between the Sennheiser and the Shure the Sennheiser has a smaller microphone and it’s levels seem to match the Scarlet better.

In the end I’m going to keep a Sennheiser G3 and a Rhode Video Mic Pro in my kit. I may add a boom and another wireless set. Really I’m happier working with a second system sound and a pro sound recordist. The takeaway should be this: Just because a wire appears to go from XLR or TA3F or TRS to TRS doesn’t mean that’s what is going on inside the cable. Many posts have complained about the use of non-locking connectors on RED. I think the bigger issue is the non-standard ways many device manufactures are using these wires. You can’t look at a 1/8″ mini plug and know if its’s stereo, mono, balanced, unbalanced or “bi-mono” for some of these wires we literally had to put a multi-meter on them to know how the pins were mapped.

Audio sample comparing Shure and Sennheiser:

Aug 12

Make a Face – Rubik’s portrait puzzle

The Make a Face puzzle is a customized Rubik’s cube that I sent out to perspective clients as a self-promotion this year. Working in portraiture, lifestyle, film and even animal photography faces are my true subjects. The idea of the puzzle was to to challenge people to think consciously about the faces they see in real life and in imagery. I wanted to re-purpose the cubes to become a user-interface so recipients could create new faces out my photographs.

The project broke into three areas each with its own requirements, photography, production and packaging.

Working with Suzette Blackwell and Cast Images we brought people to the studio based on specific looks: age, mustache, eye color. Then I photographed them all the same way. I added markers to the ground glass in my camera so I could get the eye size and position the same in each image. Next the selected images were retouched by Chrysta Giffen and then printed on 4×6 paper at a mini-lab. From there things got challenging. I needed to dissect each photo into 9 square stickers and attach those stickers to the 6 faces of the cube. If you are keeping track that’s 54 stickers per cube or 5400 stickers on 100 cubes. Those stickers would all have to be aligned on all four sides. This is a job for a die-cutting factory. All that was a no-go. This needed to be a DIY project. I ended up creating an acrylic jig to align the print to the cube and using a laser cutter to create my “die-cut” stickers. The process was: align the cube in the jig, glue the photo to the cube, laser cut the 9 squares out, peel away the excess. Repeat 6 times per cube. As a result the alignment is okay, but it’s far from perfect registration. Even with the precision of the Helix Laser, these are essentially each hand-made.

Once I was sure I’d be able to successfully create the cubes I turned to friend and creative director Kurt Herr I found a tuck-box I could laser cut which meant I could ink-jet print a design on the box and then cut it. Pretty cool. I gave Kurt the design template and we talked about how to make a package that would explain the project without being to complicated. I suggested we could have a few directions on one side of the box. He pushed me in another direction. Instead as you see here we choose to show how the cubes worked and we came up with the name Make a Face that in a few words really explained everything we wanted people to know about the gift they received.

The photos for the sides of the cubes needed to be really straight-forward, without context and similar. Since I was having really cool people in the studio for the shots I wanted to do more. I also photographed each person with my Graflex Super D on Fuji 4×5 neg film. Those image became a contest-winning portrait and the folded insert we sent with the cubes.

A big thanks to consultant Diane Eames who kept, what became a monumental project, on track and Kurt, Chrysta, TechShop San Francisco, Suzette, Amber and my intern Neil Norman who helped me shoot the video.


Aug 12

Velcro is now a BOLD FACED name.

This portrait of Velcro the Ring-Tailed Lemur won an award in PDN’s Faces Photo contest. Ironic because it’s virtually the only image in the series that doesn’t prominently feature a face.

I started making animal portraits around 6 years ago before many of the books of that sort started getting attention. The biggest struggle with the project has been finding animals who want to sit for a portrait. Animals aren’t motivated by fame the same way humans are, mostly they are motivated by money and the food it allows them to buy.

Photographing animals in a studio setting is a natural extension of my work, specifically capturing a moment that reveals character and personality. That applies to my stills, videos and yes to animals. A picture that makes an introduction between the viewer and the subject is a success for me. When I started thinking about animals what I hoped to accomplish is to create the same kinds of personality studies that I do with human subjects. Essentially separating my subjects from context so something unique about them may surface. I worked as a photojournalist for the first part of my career. There was so much in those pictures, the goal was to capture as much story as possible in a single image. Now my work is about stripping away and telling a story in the most minimal way possible.

You can see more of my animal portraits here: Animal Portfolio.

And some exceptionally cute videos here: Mr. Fox Takes a Nap. and here: Behind The Scenes.

May 12

Sunday Morning and Sunday Morning: super 8

I’ve been writing about the shorts I saw at SXSW lately. Today I can share one of my own. A few weeks ago I finished up a short I worked on with my friends Emily Miller and Josh Mogal. Josh renovates traditional San Francisco houses into modern environmentally friendly homes. When he finished his last project he offered Emily and I the chance to make a short video at the home. He asked for something that would evoke the feeling and value of home, then he let us run with it. It was a fast pace from writing to shooting, because of the house going on the market we would only have one day to work on location. The story we put together is about a Sunday morning at home, we are guided through the morning by the imagination of two children. The long version is the original storyboard we went into the shoot with. The short version came from Emily and I in the edit process when we decided to make it all about the kids.

The project was shot on Red Scarlet at 4k 24fps, mastered in 4k in Adobe Premiere 5.5 and the Super 8 post is a combination of Red Giant misfire and layering old film stock in various alpha channels.

Sunday Morning: Super 8

Sunday Morning

Special thanks to:

Josh Mogal and Eco Historical

Director & DP: Michael Winokur

Producer: Emily Miller Productions

Stylist: Teri Cundall
DIT: Stephan Winokur
AC: Mike Blumenfeld
Gaffer: Gordon McIver, Rebel Sun
Grip: Michael Catalano
Hair/Makeup: Jackie Yost

Set Teacher: Shelley Booker
PA: Agustina Perretta
PA: Neil Norman Laroya
Editor: Michael Winokur, The Foundry Studio
Sound Design: Polarity Post


Girl: Aeslin Cameron 
Boy: Ben Resnick

May 12

“I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art”

One of my favorite shorts from SXSW has made its way into public circulation. It is “A Brief History of John Baldessari” The short is narrated by Tom Waits, so it has that going for it.

I saw this in the Documentary Shorts category at SXSW. The word documentary has such a specific meaning for me, I would like to see documentary (as in documentary journalism) have its own category while innovative narrative non-fiction projects like this take a skill set that is more similar to narrative storytelling then reportage.

What I think is so successful here is the directors adopt Baldessari’s wit and style not to document him but to create their own version of a Baldessari about Baldessari. Fun and well written from the first line. Enjoy:

directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman      (http://gosupermarche.com/)
edited by Max Joseph                          (http://www.maxjoseph.com/)
written by Gabriel Nussbaum                   (http://www.bankstreetfilms.com)
cinematography by Magdalena Gorka             (http://magdalenagorka.com/)
& Henry Joost
produced by Mandy Yaeger & Erin Wright

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