Molokai Honey

It was summer in Hawaii and we decided that the family would move to the island of Molokai to raise bees and harvest honey as a family business.

Or, at least that’s what we told the kids right before we put them in front of the camera.

We hope you like our bee movie! The mockumentary style covers up a lot of our errors, and we threw in a few intentional goof-ups along the way. The result, we hope, is a comedy.

Molokai Vacation Location

I never make ideas, I only find ideas. It’s true that we did have a few bees in the pool on our summer vacation and it was my wife Cindy came up with idea of a family honey business mockumentary.

Being on vacation and considering the slower “Molokai time” of the small island, I enthusiastically jumped on board, interviewing the kids before they could figure out what was going on.

I shot the main interview footage one afternoon on our Molokai vacation using only a handheld iPhone 5 with available light. There was really no script or plan for the story at that point, so I chose some provocative questions and hoped for the best.

The Kaneshiro family and Molokai Meli were real, of course, and we did find them only after we began filming — on the Intenet. They were very gracious for not only letting me interview them, but also in sending me a few dozen still images of bees and their hives. While in Hawaii, I also tracked down the producer of a who was kind enough to let me use his secondary bee footage that you see in the cutaways.

Story Development

Back in Virginia, I picked through all the vacation footage and started piecing it together into a kind of narrative.

I had begun to build a story around the best of the kids’ reactions, but it was a bit flat and disjoint. The kids’ answer to the various interview questions were pretty good, but the story needed some kind of structure to tie it together.

Basement Set
Dad’s set, Basement Studios Inc.

Rather than using a narrative voice-over, I wanted the film to be of the style where the interviewees tell their entire story, prompted only occasionally by the interviewer. While Mason, Cassie and Maddie were completely unscripted in Hawaii, I had some direction in mind when I filmed Cindy that fall back in Virginia.

Hailey's Set
Hailey’s Room set, courtesy: Guest Room

The Virginia shoots were much later in the season and we were lucky to capture Cindy’s video outside before the weather turned gray and we would have to use interiors and need good lighting. That winter, Hailey and I wrote scripted scenes for the two of us around indoor settings and created some sets that would round out the story.

Post Production

The most fun on this project was getting to learn a number of new production techniques. Here’s a brief overview of some of the things we did.

Color Correction

Primary color correction is the work to adjust all of the visual assets (footage and stills) so that they have the proper white & black levels as well as good, balanced color. Despite my efforts to set exposure and white-balance in Hawaii, I found that not only did light levels and color shift between interview locations — but sometimes even between questions with the same subject in the same location! We learned how to correct for this as best we could to make the shots look similar.

I also found that some subjects would blend into the background too much, tempting the viewer’s eyes to wander around and lose their attention to the scene. For these, I created vignettes by subtly dimming the edges of the shot in order to highlight the subject.

Image Color Progression
Color correction progression

We also did some secondary color correction to tone-down bright or distracting things in the background and, at the end of it all, added the overall color grading that gives the film the brownish Molokai cast.

Cassie color correction
Cassie with secondary correction for the bright white bench
Image Stabilization

Because I had shot the Molokai interviews using a handheld camera, the shots looked pretty awful bouncing around as I posed my questions. I used some video tools to stabilize these shots, giving the look of the camera mounted on a tri-pod. The ravine pan shot is a great example of what was originally a very shaky handheld video. If you want to see how the raw interview frames looked before stabilization, take a look at the post-credits clip of Mason.

Hallway Set
The hall outside Hailey’s room, dressed with Hawaiiana

There was a lot of sound work. While the Molokai location sound was captured in-camera, all the “studio” sound was recorded separately from the video using lav and shotgun mics that were synced or mixed during the editing process. All of the off-camera voices, including Hailey’s behind the door, were recorded separately and mixed in later.

While about half of the bird sounds are real, the other half were added from unused Molokai footage to expand the sound field. I even did a small amount of for the sound of my slippers as I follow Hailey into “her room,” which was actually our basement gym.

All sound clips at a minimum had to be converted to mono, cleaned of noise and compressed in dynamic range. Even before music was added, the audio project consisted of over 100 clips in 12 tracks of audio.

Audio mixing with Joe Ross
Finalizing the audio track with Joe Ross

Joe Ross, the , did an incredible job tweaking every audio clip and blending the tracks together into the final mix. I thought I had done a pretty good job with the rough tracks and was amazed at how much he was able to improve the overall composition.


Music rights are a funny thing. There are many many things you can get away with on YouTube, but using other people’s music is not one of them. I found out how good YouTube is handling music rights when I first uploaded Sector 42 — The Space Movie. Within 30 seconds of uploading, YouTube had computationally identified some of the music as having had a rights claim against it. I did have a license from the music publisher and so I had to work with them directly to confirm this to YouTube before the video was released.

Finding and licensing Hawaiian music for this project proved much more difficult. After many hours on the Internet dealing with inflexible licensing companies wanting hundreds of dollars per song, I finally found . They had some great original Hawaiian music and were kind enough to license me everything I needed for a fraction of the cost of just one of the more traditional tracks.


We learned that a simple iPhone can capture some astoundingly good high-definition footage. We also learned that when the older iPhone 5 is coerced (via ) to capture raw frames of video in the hot sun, it will overheat and completely lose it’s audio sync. Also, bring a tri-pod.

I completely screwed up Hailey’s shoot by recording the entire thing at 30fps, rather than the film rate of 24fps we were using. This turned out to be an almost unsolvable problem for reasons I didn’t initially understand and fixing it was an interesting but longer story that I’d love to tell another time.

I also learned that if parts of your image are so bright that they exceed the camera’s ability to record them properly, they cannot be fixed in post-production. This ruined some additional pool and bee shots I would have liked to include. Some of Mason’s shots couldn’t be properly light-leveled and appear much too bright as a result. A simple bed sheet to diffuse the sunlight would have fixed this.

We removed dozens of squeaks, hums, and car sounds to make the locations sound more pristine. We shut off furnaces and refrigerators back in Virginia to get cleaner sound. We used blankets and pillows to make a recording studio and learned that it’s virtually impossible to get rid of location wind noise that spans the vocal range.

Lower-Third Caption
Lower-third caption graphic

We removed fingers that obscured the camera lens, re-framed shots, restored “lost” audio and, in general, experienced all the newbie mistakes in making a movie. Along the way, we also made graphics and titles and managed to meet a lot of interesting people.

All in all, another great family project!

3D Printing A Spaceship

The Artemis transitions from virtual to physical
The Artemis transitions from virtual to physical

Today at work, I printed a spaceship!

One of the best things about my job is that I’m surrounded by tremendously smart engineers that fully appreciate the benefits of geeking out. Over the history of our small start-up, my colleagues have brought all manner of their creations into the office including 916福彩下载-built telepresence robots, processor-controlled Christmas decorations and a 916福彩下载made quad-copter drone that was so good that it was able to crash into a tree way over on the far side of the parking lot.

But this week, we were the kings of Nerdville when Steve brought his new 3D printer in for all of us to play with.

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Motion Graphics – thejbo goes to Florida

My friend at work, who goes by “thejbo”, is the guy who builds and maintains all the servers that host our company web application. He’s moving to Florida to work remotely and I made this motion graphic to commemorate his leaving the office. Really though, it was an excuse to learn more about After Effects and to work with my daughter Hailey. We had a great time making it!

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Hipster Swag Badge

This is a quick motion graphic I created give hipster props to Kalimar, one of our developers.

The original graphic was created in Illustrator and then brought into After Effects for the animation.

You can learn these same techniques I used by watching these two great tutorials:

  • Mt. Mograph —
  • ECAbrams —

Hollywood Image Analysis

Unmasking the Prankster!
Unmasking the Prankster!

This is the story of a fake “Forensic Image Analysis” effect I created to pin the blame for some recent office pranks on my colleague, Kalimar. My faked police scanning effect was accompanied by doctored-up emails of my conversations with a local Fairfax detective in which he explains that modern CCD cameras actually capture a small amount of infrared light that can be extracted with their advanced forensic photography analysis. This set up the idea that the Prankster would be unmasked by this new image scanning technology!

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Sector 42 – Production

This behind the scenes video shows the production workflow for the Sector 42 trailer.

In this video, I show how Dave and I put the movie together using Adobe Premier, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Audition using a single clip from the trailer as an example. There are also some nice outtakes at the end!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Sector 42 – The Space Movie

Three girls on a routine space mining mission in Sector 42 encounter an unknown intelligence. What will it mean to the Corporation? What will it mean to humanity?

Our amateur movie project that began as an idea on January first is finally complete! It’s been five months of long nights in the basement but it was truly a terrifically fun experience and Ken and I had a great time doing it all with our daughters.

We hope that you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it!

We also enjoyed writing about it, so if you’re interested in the making-of, you’ll find our stories here:

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