Author Archives: Fletch Murray

6 ways to film a Princess

I’ve had the good fortune to film many princesses in my career…usually from the air.

There are a number of camera rigs to remove the bumps and wiggles from aerial camera shots. The Cineflex gyro-stabilized camera mount is awesome but it takes all the thrill out of hanging out the doorway over Istanbul to shoot handheld of the Grand Princess’ Inaugural Voyage.


(left) Yours truly enjoying the view of the Seven Hills of Istanbul. Do I look worried? Invigorated, yes. Worried? 

What’s to worry about? Stepping out on to the rails with nothing holding you but a climbing strap from taking a nice long dive into the Mediterranean. Hah! I spit in the face of fear !

Anyway, once you fly through the air getting great shots, it’s hard to go back to earth. You go a little insane.  The shots looks so pretty, you just can’t stop.




(above) That’s me in the Bell Long Ranger shooting in St. Thomas.  Rod Tinney, who could fly (and did) fly his helicopter between two buildings with a foot on either side) was my precision pilot. Best in the world.  He could push the envelope…but ALWAYS safely.

Or (below) hanging out the door to shoot a cruise liner. (Yes, we’re on a collision course.)

freewinds approachRod’s again the pilot. We are approaching the bow of the ship four feet off the water at 90 knots closing speed, then at the last second we’ll rise up and over the bow to see the crew on the flying bridge and over we’ll go looking down the smokestacks.

Then, we all throw up and try it again.  

We only hit the antenna once. I was glad after take 14 we had the shot, because I kept imagining the dent we’d make in the bow of the newly-painted ship and I wondered would they put a plaque up in our honor or just buff it out and paint it over.   I think the latter.

Much more preferable is the Tyler Major Mount which enabled me to get rock solid shots of the Kawasaki Jet Ski dashing across Meghan’s Bay at 50 mph (below).  With the Major Mount you can stay mostly inside the chopper which keeps the wind stream from buffeting the camera.



The camera was so well-balanced and steady I could almost take my hands off the hand grips and watch it float with the action, so I could keep the Jetski in almost perfect framing.  Nelson Tyler also makes nose mounts for high speed tracking shots or Middle Mounts for out the door shooting with lighter cameras. And Mini Gyro mounts for Canon 5D sized cameras for shooting off the back of motorcycles and boats and such.

The Cineflex mount is probably the most stable and most expensive.  But you are unhampered by wind (which pushes the tail boom around and makes aerials difficult). It’s great but can get confused with sudden chopper maneuvers.

pea bank


So, if you’re going for flat and smooth and level, this is the choice. Here’s a link to a sample of Cineflex work. It’s after the opening interviews with young pilots talking about their first solo flight.


HOVERCAM - And now walks on the stage the humble HoverCam, which takes just the camera up in the air while the flyer and camera person stay down below.  It’s all controlled remotely and can film not only outside but inside.  And these are the shots we’re planning for the Princess ships today, i.e. flights down the beautiful public spaces and soaring shots ascending through the Atrium on the new Royal Princess.j

HoverCam Tunnel(left)- the Robert Hogg’s HoverCam flying through the L.A. tunnel. That’s a shot you can’t get with a chopper-mounted camera.

(We’ll be woking with the HoverCam at our August 24 & 25 Cine Boot Camp, for any who are interested.)


So, pop quiz.

Q. What are the six ways to film a Princess?  

1) Out the door, hand-held (cheapest and most dangerous)

2) Nose Mount (rock steady, high speed, no wind buffeting but you can still get a bug on the lens)

3) Middle Mount (Lighter cameras, operate out of wind stream.)

4) Major Mount (Heavier cameras, operate out of wind stream.

5) Cineflex gyro stabilized ball (Have a beer while watching the Cineflex operator does all the work.)

6) HoverCam (flies lower than 300 feet over populated areas AND it can fly right through a hallway.)


Fletcher Murray is president of The Association and an overall great guy.  I know him personally.  He’s been spending his weekends training other camera people at the Cine Boot Camps for the last four years. He asked me to ask you if you’d like to read more of his self-serving, boring stories of his career, as long as he promises to keep them short and with lots of pictures.  So email and cast your vote.


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Never Lost a Battle (in Voice Technologies)

On a recent visit to Prague I was haunted by an immense statue on Vitkov Hill which overlooks the city.


General ZizkaIt is of Jan Zizka, a Czech general and Hussite leader, who fought in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, with a Polish-Lithuanian army in defeating the Teutonic Order.

General Zizka is one of six commanders in history who were never defeated. The others, according to Wikipedia, were Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, Genghis Khan, Alexander Suvorov, and Khalid ibn al-Walid (although they are not counting arguments they had with their wives).

Today, the battles we fight are not on such a grand scale.  We don’t get a chance to fight the Teutonic Order but we’re still in a fight for our lives in the corporate world.  They’re not big battles against massed troops. Today our enemies are the little mistakes that slip through the cracks.  These errors that accumulate in our personnel folder and eventually determine our fate.

We at The Association prefer to believe that we are your strong ally as you wage your corporate battles by providing solutions to your challenges.  We take full responsibility for projects and implement quality control measures to make sure the project’s a success over time.

It all adds up to quality and sustainability.


OUR ATTITUDE - We take the attitude of General Žižka into every project.

When we’re recording voice files, we don’t have to pull out the battleaxe to ward of the Teutonic Order.  The enemies of today are much smaller but just as lethal. We have to guard against errors creeping into the voice file set  like:

Czech general

  • incorrect vocabulary tree syntax
  • disjointed phrase lists
  • improper parsing of english phrases causing difficulty in other languages
  • incorrect grammar
  • scripts not localized
  • words skipped by voice talent
  • excessive mouth clicks etc.
  • inconsistent volume, tonality, cadence, diction, warmth, inflection
  • deviations from the script
  • mislabelled voice files
  • missing voice files



When we began this work fourteen years ago as GPS systems were introduced to vehicles, we studied where errors creep in.  We derived a checklist and workflow to detect and correct these errors.  Richard Robinson, who produced voice files used in Great Britain’s mass transit systems, was the primary architect of our production line.  To augment his efforts, we introduced Quality Control checkpoints before, during and after the recording process.

And the last step on the checklist is for three of our QC people listen to all the voice files independently to make sure all files are recorded correctly, labelled as scripted and that they fit seamlessly with the files we’ve already produced.


As a result, we have maintained a 100% error free record since the beginning. We have never had to re-record a single voice file. Our clients have won the J.D. Power award for Excellence.


Here’s an example of the seamless voice files we produce (short files combining to make a smooth sentence) versus disjointed files others produce.

Click HERE for DISJOINTED voice files.

Click HERE for SEAMLESS*, natural sounding voice files.
*Seamless Voice Files. The phrases we record combine seamlessly into a coherent pleasant sentence that sounds like it was recorded all at once.


The Association has been providing voice files for in-vehicle navigation systems the longest of any vendor, beginning with the Clarion/Microsoft Auto PC project in 1999, The Association has the most successful production workflow which has provided over 64,000 error-free voice files to Alpine, Johnson Controls, IBM, deCarta, Boeing, Raytheon and others.  In June, we completed a 22,400 voice file project recording “ordinary people” reading lines in eight languages to train computers to improve voice recognition scores.

Please call us at 818 841-9660 or 818 606-3538 to discuss how we can provide solutions for your voice file projects.


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FIlmmakers! Are you lighting with a “roller brush”?

Mole Richardson Mini-Mole Classic FresnalEvery filmmaker wants to “paint with light” for beautiful lighting setups. The ability of the Canon 5D, 7D, 60 D and even the “t’ series to “see” at higher ISO make using CFLs and LEDs tempting.  But with the new CFLs (Compact Florescent Lights) and LEDs it’s hard to get precision light and shadow needed for great filmic looks.

Using CFLs and LEDs is more like having a roller brush instead of the fine brushes that allow you to put highlights and shadows where you want them.   If you want to “paint with light” you have to have the right “brushes”.  In our Lighting Workshop last weekend, we let our filmmakers explore looks they could only achieve with fresnel-lensed fixtures, like Mole Richardson’s Mini-Mole Fresnel Tungsten Light.

In the picture on the left below, the mini-mole streaks the background fabric from holes in the black wrap.
In the picture on the right we drop a nice circle of hard light to on a white disc on the desktop in front of her to bring a nice limpid pool of warmth to the bottom of her eyes.
mini-mole streaking background and pool of light
We’re all for progress and the CFLs and LEDs offer a lot but they just can’t give you the fine touch of a fresnel lens.This way you can get more cinema looks for your corporate video production or commercial production. To learn DSLR lighting techniques, come to our DSLR Lighting Workshop. For current schedules, visit, or call us at 818-841-9660.

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How to close clients for 7x what they wanted to spend – Tip #3

Fletch directs a green screen sequence for a Phineas and Pherb 60 Second Spot

We’ve all been through it.  We’re talking to the client and we get to the budget part.

They lean back (acting disinterested) and say, “We don’t have much money for the budget. What can you do it for?” Or worse, “We’re taking other bids. How much to shoot a three minute video?”

And you’re tempted to say, “$1,000. a pound.” But you bite your tongue and say something lame like, “That depends on a number of variables.”

Instead, try one of the great lines I’m going to tell you. First, you’ve got to address his question:

“A video is a lot like a car.  If I ask you ‘How much is a car?’ there’s no real answer, is there?  I don’t have a dartboard budget for you because we’re not going to give you an ‘off-the-shelf,’ cookie cutter video.  We are going to design a custom video production that will move your target audience to buy your product or service. And that’s how video can pay for itself. The majority of our videos pay for themselves. Some of them many times over because they’re designed to accomplish your goal.”

(This usually has magical effect on them.  Up ’til now, they’ve had the perception that the video’s an expense.  We’re changing that perception.  We’ll talk more about “perception changing” in a future blog post.)

Here’s the next “perception-changing” line.

“You know when you really want to impress someone you wear your best suit?  That suit tells the prospect everything about you.  So, this video is ‘your suit’ to the viewer.  What do you want them to think?  Audiences are very sophisticated these days. They see network shows with superb graphics and production values.  We’re not going to impress them with a cheap video.  The audience will think either you can’t afford quality or you don’t know what a quality video is. Neither one is very good.”


“We plan to give you the best value for your money. With us you’ll have the best chance of paying your budget back.  Let us proceed with our creative development process so we can offer you a real budget (not a guess) based on a script custom developed to reach your target audience.  We’re not going to make you a cookie cutter video that doesn’t engage your target audience.  To make a video like that is throwing your money out the window.  Let’s design you a tool that’ll produce results and pay for itself. I hope you’ll let us proceed.”

Listen for the prospect to say, “Okay”.  And get to work on the next steps in the  process.  More on this in upcoming blogs.

Let us know if this was helpful to you.

(Fletch has personally closed clients for $450,000. contracts.  The tips above will be in his upcoming book, “How to Close Clients for 7 Times What They Expected to Pay”)

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Fine Art Photographer Ray Carns Becomes a Filmmaker

Ray Carns’ Experience at the Canon Boot Camp

Ray Carns is a Fine Art Photographer who attended our special boot camp at the Palm Springs Photo Festival in April 2012. Ray worked alongside a dozen other still photographers to soak up our signature Canon training for 5D, 7D and 60D filmmakers. Here’s what Ray had to say about The Association’s Canon Boot Camp, the longest running Canon camera class of it’s kind:


Fine Art Photographer Ray Carns at the Canon Boot CampI’ve just recently started getting into digital within the last couple years, and a lot of things are moving towards multi-media, videos; and I have the camera that’s supposed to be able to do all this, so I needed to learn how to do it. I learned all the basic steps to set up my camera so I could shoot video, and then actually got to use hands-on experience out of it.

I also didn’t think we were going to shoot a short film either. I thought, you know, we were going to learn different aspects and how to use it hands-on, but then not really have something that would turn into a finished product.

I would definitely recommend it for anyone that’s interested in getting into video or even if they’re just thinking about “what are the possibilities?” I think this is great, and that’s why I’m here.

Ray Carns
Fine Art Photographer


Want a Clean Slate?

Clean your Clapperboardimages

After all these years we’ve got a clean slate.

In video production and filmmaking they usually hold a slate (clapboard) up in front of the camera to identify the scene. They “clap” the board of the clapboard after identifying the scene and the director shouts, “ACTION”.  Word has it that Clint Eastwood doesn’t yell action but says, “Whenever you’re ready.”

Anyway, for years we had dirty slates.  They never seemed to clean off the last scene’s information.


Remaining image on clapperboard after cleaningWriting on acrylic clapperboard before cleaning







The slates are made of acrylic. So, last week, to celebrate Oktoberfest, we bought a new one.  We picked up the dry erase marker we’ve been using for years on the slates and when we went to wipe it off, we saw the same after image.  We couldn’t get it out with window cleaner, soap, green cleaner etc. etc.

Then we noticed that on the dry erase marker we’d used for years there was some fine print – “Indelible if used on clothing and porous materials.”  

Indelible on porous material warning.








Aha! So we’d been using the wrong Dry Erase marker all these years.  Other dry erase markers, made by the same company with the exact same brand name had no such warning.

Indelible, Dry Erase Marker on top. Dry Erase Marker on bottom.

So, how do we salvage our brand new clapboard?  It turns out that “Goof Off” took the after image away completely.

Goof Off

HOWEVER, it will also dissolve the paint filling the etched words on the slate – “Director”, “PROD.” etc.  So be careful.  You may get a slate that’s cleaner than you wanted….which would be a refreshing change for Hollywood.

(We did contact Sanford, the maker of EXPO markers, to see if they still make the indelible on porous materials dry erase marker.  We’ll report back what they said.  Stay Tuned.)

Prague Canon Boot Camp a Huge Success

Green Screen Compostite Shot
The Association’s Canon Boot Camp Team recently traveled to Prague, Czech Republic to deliver our signature Canon camera classes. Thirty-eight filmmakers from Prague and other parts of Europe joined our Prague Boot Camp.  The first day we trained them in Canon DSLRs. The second day we shot a dramatic short film about two lovers breaking up at the ornate Prague train station, the scene of many motion pictures.
Would you like to hear the story? We’re working on editing the shoots into a short film, which we’ll make available as soon as it’s complete.
Prague Canon Boot Camp Students
The film opens with a distraught woman in a cab. She gets out at the train station. Her lover in a separate cab pursues her.
She rushes past an empathetic janitor.  The man runs into the station searching for a flower bouquet but the flower shop is closed. He spots the janitor and asks him if there is a flower shop open.  The janitor says no, but the janitor offers him the old rose on his cart.  It’s old and withered. The man refuses. The janitor urges him to just touch it. The man finally touches the rose and when he does the rose comes alive.  The man takes the rose and runs to catch his woman.
He offers her the rose but she throws it in his face. He walks away dejected.
Prague Boot Camp - The Lover and the Rose
The rejected rose on the ground triggers a distant memory in the woman and she flashes back to an earlier life. We dissolve to an old woman on an old train remembering her young soldier. A rose and his picture are in her diary on her lap and as the train rocks gently she remembers the day when she bid her young love (a soldier leaving on the troop train) goodbye never to see him again.
Prague Boot Camp - The Rose and the Diary
Prague Canon Boot Camp - The Past Life Lover
The old woman sighs and looks out the window.
The modern woman looking into the window of the modern train, sees the wispy image of the old woman and realizes her mistake.
The modern woman calls out to her lover and runs to him and they kiss happily.
As the happy couple pass the janitor he nods, then looks at the withered old picture of the young woman a long time ago.  The janitor disappears. The woman’s picture disappears.
Next we see the young soldier and his love walk into the old Prague train station, visually laden with the art nouveau architecture (see 1st picture above).
We broke the students into smaller camera units so we could complete the short film in two shoot days.  The filmmakers shot with Canon 5d, 60d and 7d on jib arm, steadicam, dolly, car mounts and tripods.  Canon Europe donated 19 lenses up to 600mm so we could achieve some stunning shots.
It was truly a fun shoot with great shots. Once we have the short film edited, we will showcase it here on the blog, but you can subscribe to blog updates and/or sign up for our email newsletter below:

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Who Would Turn Down a Cookie? Privacy Settings for Flash Cookies

From chocolate chip to Oreo, kids love ‘em, adults love ‘em. But on the web, the term “cookie” has a different meaning, and many people want nothing to do with them. Internet cookies are bits of text embedded in Web browsers that remember the sites you visit and help advertisers target you for pinpoint marketing. These people know how to get rid of the cookies but there is a new cookie called a “Flash cookie”, that eludes the normal  ”delete cookies” procedure.

The Flash cookie, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine, takes a special procedure to remove it. First, open any Flash application (like YouTube), then, right click (or “control click” on the Mac). An Adobe Flash Player Help window should open up that looks like this.

Flash Cookies Privacy Setting

It just took a few minutes to take away the Flash cookies and set my privacy settings to keep Flash cookies from piling up again.

Social Networking – Is it a Mammoth Task?

Have you ever said, “I’ll use Twitter the day Clint Eastwood takes up knitting!”?

You’re not alone. A lot of business people still aren’t sure Twitter is of value to them in business. In fact, they’re unclear about this whole corporate social media and social networking on the web. I was dragging my heels as well, probably because I didn’t understand what it was.

So, what is a social network?Evolution at work?

Wikipedia says, “A social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes,” which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.” From this definition you can see that social networking isn’t something new. I’ve got a social network and so do you. In fact, social networks have been around since the caveman days.

Cavemen were “tweeting” to alert each other of danger or perhaps just to check in with the wife. Caveman Ralph would stand on a hill and let out a scream that meant (roughly translated), “Leaving work, now, honey. Want me to pick up a pig on the way home?” As we’ve evolved, we’ve adopted innovative software to help us do caveman tasks. Take PowerPoint, for example. Before the big wooly mammoth hunt, the tribe leader, Tor the Merciless, would have his “creative artist”, Larry, paint “slides” on the cave so he could show his cross-eyed but well-meaning warriors what to do when the mammoth comes.

The Wooly Mammoth - a walking grocery and apparel store

Tor would then “present” to the group to get their buy-in on his strategy for the hunt. (Tor tried to keep it down to less that twelve words per slide.) We’ve adopted PowerPoint to help me accomplish this age-old task of getting group buy-in. Surely we can adopt innovations to help us with our social networking.

If you’re having trouble adopting social networking it may be that you don’t understand the innovation. According to Wikipedia, Everett Rogers, in his studies of innovation, says that your “willingness and ability to adopt an innovation depends on your awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption”.

And it’s true. I have been an early adopter of many things, if I understood them (understanding), they apply to me (interest) and they had value to me (evaluation) and worked well (trial). I did drag my feet and only bought the “Clapper” when the price came down. That’s because I didn’t place the value on it (evaluation) that they were selling it for originally. In summary, these new social networking web tools will make it much easier to stay in touch with the people in our social network in this time-shifted, virtual office world we live in.

And it’s so much better than screaming from the hilltop.

You could say that understanding enterprise social media is not such a mammoth task after all. Trevor, our social media strategist will explain it to you and how you can use it. If you’d like to understand Social Networking and social media marketing better, we heartily recommend a book called Social Media Marketing On One Hour a Day by Dave Evans. Wiley Publishing, available on Google at this link

Extreme Shooter Experiences The Canon Boot Camp

The Association's Canon Camera Classes and Canon CertificationL.R. is an extreme/high risk shooter who took The Association’s Canon DSLR 5D and 7D Boot Camp. Here’s what he had to say:

Class A instruction  all the way! The instructors are there to be used…You come out of that Boot camp knowing the camera as well as under duress which I might add is needed in the work place. Hence, the name Boot camp. There’s literally decades of experience as well as debunking any myths of the Canon 5/7D cameras.

Even if you are a veteran you will be surely surprised on what you get out of this workshop!

Extreme/High Risk Shooter

The next Boot Camp is going to be on Dec 10th. Actually, there are two Canon Camera Classes that weekend, because Pro Level I is on the 10th, and Pro Level II follow the next day! So it’s going to be an exciting and productive weekend for the participants. The attitude of both classes is we assume you have already booked work using a Canon DSLR on the following Monday, and you need a working knowledge of the camera ASAP. Thus, these Canon camera classes are a very practical and hands-on learning experience.Visit to find out more or register for the classes on Dec 10th and 11th.