freelance editorial, commercial, photographer + videographer


Top Hat & The Time Machine

A stop animation of the installation of a skyscraper spire in downtown Raleigh

Footage and editing: Travis Long

This morning Shawn Rocco and I rose before dawn to photograph a high rise being adorned with a new top hat, a 60 foot 11,000 pound steel spire. The 33-story RBC Plaza is now the tallest building in Raleigh.

For this assignment I attempted my first time-lapse using my still camera mounted on a tripod and a handy little intervalometer gadget called the Time Machine.

With its LCD display, giant buttons and beigeware aesthetics, the Time Machine appears as though it ripped through the time continuum straight from 1988. I won’t bore you with all its geeky functions, (check out the website for all the nitty gritty) but I can think of a half dozen quick little projects you could do with this thing.

I set up Time Machine to shoot 1 second intervals and and let it rip for 650 plus exposures and zoomed and changed lenses to add a little visual variety. I used Quicktime Pro to export a sequence of all the photos as an .mov file. I collected a few minutes of ambient sound at the base of the building which I combined with the .mov in Final Cut Pro. I toned the entire sequence with 3-way color correction in FCP rather than using a Photoshop action to add conistent contrast to the images more efficiently.

Total post production time? Let’s just say it took me longer to write this post.

Relocating a Hive

Tree experts and beekeepers relocate a bee colony containing more than 50,000 honey bees from an oak tree more than 100-years-old.

Footage and editing: Travis Long

Mental Disorder

Mental-health reform has been a bust for North Carolina taxpayers and patients. Millions of dollars have been wasted and services have suffered.

Footage: Travis Long
Interviews: Juli Leonard, Travis Long and Michael Biesecker
Still photography: Juli Leonard
Editing: Travis Long and Juli Leonard
Music: “Prelude” The Flashbulb, licensed by Vapor.

Update – April 5, 2008: Governor Easley responds to N&O investigation, fires public information officer.

Governor Mike Easley’s administration fired Debbie Crane, the state official who handled News & Observer reporters’ requests for public information as they worked on a series about the state’s mental health system reform. Watch an interview with Crane and excerpts from Gov. Mike Easley’s press conference in response to the paper’s investigation into mental health reform.

Footage: Travis Long, Scott Sharpe
Editing: Travis Long

Update - April 5, 2008: PIO alleges Gov. advised staff too delete public record emails.

Debbie Crane, the former N.C. Department of Health and Human Service’s public affairs director who was fired in March 2008, alleges that Gov. Mike Easley’s press office has a policy to delete email correspondence to his office. Her contention, if true, shows a violation of the state’s public records law.

Footage: Travis Long, Scott Sharpe
Editing: Travis Long

Great 8 2008

The News & Observer’s “Great 8” spotlights eight of the best and brightest music acts from the Raleigh Durham area. The 2008 edition featured twelve videos and eight acts including: Red Collar, Small World , Megafaun, I Was Totally Destroying It, Bowerbirds, Bull City, Scene Of The Crime Rovers, and Alina Simone.

The Trailer

Footage: Travis Long, Jason Arthurs, Rob Roberts, Juli Leonard
Editing: Travis Long

Small World

Footage: Jason Arthurs, Juli Leonard, Rob Roberts, Travis Long
Editing: Jason Arthurs

Scene of the Crime Rovers

Footage: Travis Long, Juli Leonard, Jason Arthurs
Editing: Travis Long

I Was Totally Destroying It

Footage Jason Arthurs
Editing Travis Long
Additional editing: Jason Arthurs

Footage: Jason Arthurs, Rob Roberts, Travis Long, Juli Leonard.
Still photography: Jason Arthurs
Editing: Jason Arthurs, Rob Roberts, Travis Long, Juli Leonard
Design: Tim Lee
Text: David Menconi
Production and programming: Rob Roberts

Dail: Life Unbarred

A forgotten child’s nightgown pushed Dwayne Dail from wrong man to free man. Convicted of rape, he lost half his life in prison before DNA evidence found on the gown proved his innocence. Now free, Dail looks back and tries to make sense of a life unbarred.

Footage: Shawn Rocco, Travis Long
Interviews: Mandy Locke:
Stills: Shawn Rocco
Editing: Travis Long, Shawn Rocco
Additional editing: Rob Roberts

December 9, 2007: In late August, Dwayne Dail , 39, was exonerated after serving 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit. A 12-year-old Goldsboro girl pointed to him as the man who raped her; a jury believed her. Dail spent half his life behind bars until the N.C. Center for Actual Innocence uncovered evidence containing DNA that authorities thought had been destroyed after Dail’s trial.

Colleague Shawn Rocco and I got a call from a picture editor late in the evening Aug. 27, 2007. We were to drive to Goldsboro, NC the next morning where Dail was expected to be exonerated. Shawn shot stills and I shot video. Our reports had to be filed to from the courthouse. This is the video I cut in the courthouse lobby:

Shawn stuck with Dail while all the other photographers and news crews packed it in to file their stories. That’s him in the last few seconds of my news video running ahead of Dail while the rest of the photographers stopped at the curb. It payed off, as Shawn reporter Mandy Locke were able to develop a rapport  with Dail and his family that allowed them to continue with this story.

A few weeks ago Shawn and Mandy traveled to Lehigh Acres, Fla to find out how Dail was coping with life out of prison. Shawn was in Florida for 2 1/2 days. He was responsible for shooting photos that would carry a Sunday page one display as well as video. This was Shawn’s first foray into video (aside from a few daily breaking news videos he shot on a Canon S3). Before he left, I showed him how to hook a lav up to a Canon HV20 and off he went.

Shawn came back with amazing interview, b-roll and photos. After Shawn struggled in vain with iMovie, we decided to team up and hit the studio last Sunday. We started by writing sound bytes onto stickies that we organized into clusters on the window and door of the studio.

On Monday, multimedia producer and all-around ninja, Rob Roberts, envisioned a DVD-like piece that featured a main video with “extras” including video interview out takes, audio, photo galleries, and documents. The main video would be prominent and if folks were compelled after watching it, they could explore all the additional content Shawn and Mandy gathered. We would also debut FULL SCREEN video. It was going to take everything we had to get it live by Sunday.

Rob farmed out parts of the project while Shawn and I cut the main video. Rob went to work programming the shell based on the back end of our State Fair multimedia. We were aiming for a 4 to 5 minute video with three distinct parts: Prison, Exoneration and New Life. We used Shawn’s new footage as well as the news video I shot in August. Shawn drove out to Nash Correctional facility on Monday to shoot some b-roll and get sound to fill out the Prison section.

By Thursday Shawn and I had the main video roughed out. We were asked to show it during the 4 p.m. editors’ meeting. They liked what they saw (maybe too much). We were asked to get it on the site by noon on Friday to promote the Sunday story. Panic set in. Shawn and I were at least another day from having the video ready to go live and the multimedia components weren’t ready either. We came to a compromise. We would put up a trailer by noon Friday. I whipped up a few text slides Friday morning at the breakfast table and tacked them on the end of the first 30 seconds of our rough cut.

Friday night, Rob tightened the screws, color corrected and put a sweet encode brew on the video. In the end I think we came up with something that served our readers pretty well. Now if I could just catch up on sleep.

Update – Frebruary 13, 2008: Dail: Life Unbarred featured in PDN magazine: PDN Magazine wrote a little diddy in this month’s issue on “Dail: Life unbarred.” I think Shawn got more photos in the magazine than he got in the paper. Too bad the article has us working for the Charlotte News & Observer. But hey, we’ll take what we can get. Click to see the print article:

Update – April 9, 2008 “Dail: Life Unbarred” named offical honoree in 12th Annual Webby Awards for Public Service and Activism.

Update - March 30, 2008: NPPA Best of Potojournalism 2008 names “Dail Life Unbarred” 1st place Feature Video and Best Web video

Hogway Speedway

Pig, duck and goat racing at the North Carolina State Fair. Need I say more?

Carrboro Wiener Dog Day

Carrboro (NC) Wiener Dog Day draws together hundreds of eccentric dachshunds and their owners annually.

Footage and editing: Travis Long

Ian’s Peace

Footage: Travis Long, Ethan Hyman
Interviews: Juli Leonard
Stills: Takaaki Iwabu, Juli Leonard,
Editing: Travis Long
Night projections: Travis Long, Rob Roberts
Music: “QKThr” Aphex Twin, licensed by Chrysalis

On June 23, 2007, News & Observer photojournalists Travis Long, Takaaki Iwabu, Ethan Hyman, and Juli Leonard visited the Eno Quarry in Durham to shoot video and still images for an in-house project on the quarry. The group had envisioned a light piece on swimming hole culture.

A few weeks later, they were contacted by the family of 18-year-old Ian Creath who had drowned in the quarry July 9, 2007. The family sought the last known video and photographs of him.
In the process of gathering photographs and video of Ian the group got to know his mother, Shawn Bailey. Her strong spirit and thoughtful remembrance of her son inspired this project.

When the N&O started its push towards video in June of 2007 our then director of multimedia, Robert Miller, broke the staff into five teams. We were to go make a video and the only rule was that the video had to involve water. Our team (Takaaki Iwabu, Ethan Hyman, Juli Leonard and myself) chose to pursue a video on the Eno Quarry swimming hole in Durham.

We lugged a boat-load of gear a mile into the woods and spent the whole day immersed in multimedia bliss. A few weeks after our visit, 18-year-old Ian Creath tragically drowned at the quarry. Ian’s mother, Shawn Bailey, mentioned to the reporter who wrote the news story that Ian’s brother, Lance, remembered seeing N&O photographers at the quarry a few weeks prior to Ian’s death. I went through two hours of tape and didn’t find any footage of him because we didn’t interview Ian. I had no context.

About a month later, I was learning Final Cut Pro while using the quarry video as source material for practice. I was in the studio capturing video when I heard someone off camera call out Ian’s name. I logged on myspace and found Ian’s profile and was able to determine that we indeed had video of him. Takaaki went through all his photos from the day and found photographs of him as well.

Juli and I went to Ian’s home to give his mother, Shawn, the raw video and prints. We talked with her for more than an hour She said when she visited the quarry she could not be sad and that it was a peaceful place that was special to Ian. We were struck by Shawn’s candor and thoughtful remembrance of her son.

We pitched a story. Then we followed up with a formal audio interview and two more visits to the quarry (one visit with Shawn and another with a gasoline generator to do some night projections with our original footage of Ian).
We were able to get veteran writer Martha Quillin onboard and the story was slated as a Sunday features display.

In the end, we came out with a 50 inch feature story, some nicely displayed photos and the video online.
It truly was a collaborative effort that developed over weeks and weeks. Ethan’s original footage of Ian, Takaaki and Juli’s still photographs, Juli’s thoughtful audio interview and a solid week worth of video editing resulted in a piece I’m pretty darn proud to be associated with.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of this whole project was this letter to the editor from Shawn:

Dear Editor,

I commend your staff for the wonderful job on “Ian’s Peace.” Martha Quillin, Travis Long, and Juli Leonard were spectacular during the process of creating the tribute to my son. Not only was the project of highest quality, but they truly “entered in” –as much concerned for my personal journey of grief as they were interested in procuring a story.

The article and video are treasured gifts, but equally cherished will be the memory of these three compassionate people who have been an integral facet to my healing. When they accompanied me to the quarry, they just let me be what I needed to be—let the words come, but also allowed the silence. It felt like a sacred time.

I realize there were others who invested in the birth of this gift to my family and me. I sincerely offer my gratitude to those individuals as well.

Some aspects of humanity disenchanted Ian. Yet, there are so many stories of how he used this frustration as a catalyst to make a difference. In his laid back, brilliant way, he pointed us to a better moment, or simply made us smile. May we all be so deliberately invested.

Update – April 9, 2008: “Ian’s” Peace” named as official honoree for Documentary Individual Episode in the 12th Annual Webby Awards.

The Rez

Cherokee, or the Qualla Boundary (more than 56,000 acres held in trust by the federal government), is home to about 9,000 of the 13,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains and bordering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cherokee is surrounded by some of North Carolina’s most breathtaking scenery.

During the 1940s and ’50s, seasonal tourism overtook logging as the mainstay of Cherokee’s economy. Indian iconography and relics of 1950s and ’60s tourism coexist with chain hotels and fast-food restaurants. In 1997 the tribe opened the glitzy, upscale Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, one of the largest employers in North Carolina west of Charlotte. Gaming has pumped hundreds of millions into Cherokee’s long impoverished economy, making Cherokee a powerful economic force in Western North Carolina.

Along with other changes in Cherokee has come the desire to move beyond the stereotyped images associated with the town, to embrace instead a more authentic representation of tribal heritage.

Unto These Hills: The Native Truth