Companion Satellite is a sister-application that connects your Stream Deck back to your original Companion installation, allowing you to control your production equipment over the local network, or even across the internet.
Use a Stream Deck to direct your next video production remotely with Companion Satellite
Before we get to the Satellite application, Companion itself is an application that runs on Mac, PC, and even Raspberry Pi to control over 200 brands of live production equipment on your local network – think ATEM Switchers, PTZ cameras, video playback, audio faders, timers, PowerPoint presentations and more. It centralizes the control of all your production gear into a single (or multiple!) Stream Decks.
The computer you choose to install Companion on to needs to be accessible to the other production devices on your local network. For example, Companion is installed on my Mac, which has the IP address 192.168.8.138, and it speaks to my ATEM Mini Extreme ISO which has the IP address 192.168.8.223.
Typically in this scenario, the Stream Deck is connected via USB directly to the host computer. Therefore, the distance between the two is limited by the length of the USB cable (3-10 feet).
However, I can access Companion’s interface on my Mac installation from any other computer connected to the network, by opening up a web browser and typing in the address 192.168.8.138:8000 (the “:8000” indicates the port number).
But what if we want to use the Stream Deck surface at a different desk, or in a different room, or in an entirely remote location?
This is where the magic of Companion Satellite comes in.
Similar to how we could use a remote computer’s web browser to connect to the original Companion installation, we can use Companion Satellite on a remote computer to connect your Stream Deck’s USB surface back to the original Companion installation.
On the remote computer (connected to the local network):
Connect your Stream Deck via USB to the remote computer
Open Companion Satellite (the icon will appear in the upper right task bar on a Mac)
Click “Change Host”, and input the IP address of the computer running the original Companion installation (remember, in my example, this was 192.168.8.138)
Double check that “Change Port” is set to the default port number of 16622
Now the buttons on your Stream Deck attached to the remote computer will reflect the layout of the original Companion installation, and you can control your production remotely across the network.
If you are outside of your local network, connect via your VPN to be able to control your production over the internet.
MultiViewer Over Zoom
One last bonus step, if you use an HDMI-to-USBC webcam adapter (such as the CamLink4K), you can send your MultiViewer through a video conferencing service like Zoom (for low-latency), and you now have a truly remote switching solution so you can direct a live production outside of the studio.
Remote switching a live production with MultiViewer over Zoom and Stream Deck control via Companion Satellite
TL;DR: XLR Audio, Power/Rigging, and Focus Tracking…
Where we came from and where we’re going
As a filmmaker and photographer, I spent many years building up a collection of EF-mount lenses. The crossover of photo-video utility was only partly a financial consideration. It was mostly about the simplification of transportation, storage, and inventory management.
Back in the glory days of Canon 5DmkII (hushed tone…basically celluloid), filmmakers would franken-rig it with another blockbuster indie device: the Zoom H4n. The 2-channel XLR input ran on two AA’s and had appalling battery life. It was an anxious device to use.
The Zoom H6 that followed was much more robust. It still sits in my kit to this day as a backup audio recorder. But for small gigs, such as an interview setup, it never solved the need for balanced audio inputs direct to tape. (“tape”…)
Enter the Canon Cinema line, accepting EF glass and XLR inputs.
We rented the C300 a lot for commercial and doc work, and C100 for cheaper multicam event work. I finally purchased the C200 back in 2017 and enjoyed the crossover compatibility with the EF glass from my 5D3/4 series of photography bodies.
With Canon transitioning to the new RF-mounts since 2018, it placed the lineage of EF investments in a peculiar position. EF glass can be adapted to RF camera bodies, but not vice versa. Therefore, as I continue to purchase new RF lenses, my C200 is obsolete.
I never fell in love with the C70 due to its smaller sensor size, “DSLR-body” shape, and mini-XLR inputs.
But the Canon R5C… now there’s an interesting proposition.
The new Hybrid King for the decade
This moment harkens back to the 2008 Canon 5DmkII days, when a photo camera declared it was more than a single image.
The Canon R5C is a 45-megapixel beast smiling at you like Inigo Montoya in a sword fight – the “C” portion of “R5” declaring it is not left-handed, but rather 8K60p RAW.
It gives me what I need as a photographer, and as a filmmaker, the codecs alone outstrip my C200.
However, while it works as promised out-of-the-box in photo mode, there’s one major crippling factor to the R5C being a Cinema boy-wonder (person-wonder): power.
It just burns through juice. Brand new LPE6NH batteries are supposed to give 40-min, but in the real world it’s more like 25-min… even if you’re not recording (Canon: firmware update??). And if you put in an older gen LPE6N battery, you’ll be lucky to get 5-10min.
Remember that anxiety-inducing Zoom H4n recorder?
With that in mind, on today’s livestream we will look at three tips to turn the Canon R5C into a pro video camera.
TIP #1: PRO AUDIO with TASCAM XLR
I’m not sure I love the Tascam CA-XLR2d hotshoe adapter just yet, but so far it does bring in XLR input into the Canon R5C as promised.
The design feels plasticy and cheap, it’s too big (and yet too small), and there is no digital meters or feedback that you are hitting levels correctly. There’s not even any feedback in the Canon menu to let you know the hotshoe is seated correctly.
I wouldn’t put too much weight on it, and it’s disappointing that it cuts out the possibility of a top handle, unlike the Sony FX3 handle.
I’ve also heard anecdotally from friends who own the unit that unplugging microphones while the phantom power is on can fry the unit… goodbye $500.
The two main pros are: power via the camera (one less power source to manage, phew!), and all the physical buttons are easy to access.
(The other pro is that when you remove the Tascam unit it, there’s no added bulk to a photo stills body…)
This audio device is in the category of Gets The Job Done. Here’s an affiliate link in case my tepid response hasn’t put you off:
This tip is more of a general how-to, but understanding how the focus works on the R5C is critical to understand to avoid chasing your tail on set.
When you have the focus modes dialed in, you will make the most out of the camera, whether running with a gimbal or dialing in a super-shallow DOF during an interview, and can instantly switch between auto/manual, eye-tracking/ point-tracking.
Many people are familiar with the R5 photo menu’s approach to focusing – the capability is also there in the Cinema menu, you just need to know what to look for in the setup.
Having just received the Yolobox Pro from our friends over at Yololiv, here’s a running summary of my thoughts on the device.
Smells like a new pair of shoes!
Very cheeky that there is no AC adapter…Only the USB C and A cables
Would like a black power cable – white stands out too much when the YBP is in the camera shot
Case construction is plasticy, but feels solid. Heavier than I had anticipated!
I like that it can sit flat on a surface and the fan grill is not blocked
Compact form factor and swiss army knife of connectivity is an obvious win – this device is unique in its category
Bringing in and displaying user comments is easy
The ease of bringing in remote guests looks promising – I need to test this workflow out more
Want Bluetooth access for keyboard – I like the way Apple computers automatically remember the bluetooth pairing connection after plugging in and then disconnecting a USB cable
Need to be able to access network settings while live streaming
Does the audio bell notification of power connected/disconnected play through to program? Or just headphone monitoring? I tested this on my first livestream and the audio “ping” when power is reconnected only comes through headphone monitoring, not on to program
Fan is loud for a presenting environment. Because it is touch screen controlled, it needs to be placed within arm’s reach, which places the fan in front of the microphone
Would love remote control (Companion, Stream Deck, OSC etc) to be able to place the screen at a distance
Can’t stream Privately to FB if you want to test the settings. Have to post publicly, which notifies everyone, then go to Facebook in a web browser and change to private.
Kept getting “Update abnormal privacy status, please click the distribution switch button to redistribute; Or the user id has expired, please re-bind your Facebook account”. However, after rebinding, error message still appears.
Forgets AFV Audio settings. Livestreams sessions do not remember audio parameters. For instance, I want it to remember HDMI 3 audio in, have AFV off by default, and to have my webcam audio Off.
Forgets HDMI Program Out setting.
Forgets USBC Out
Forgets encoding settings and resets it to default 3000kbps. YouTube’s recommended rate is 4500, so I’d like YBP to remember that when it has been set.
Live stream event description is not automatically copied to the resulting Facebook post (just shows up on Facebook as DESCRIPTION)
Headphones have weird noise when scheduling a livestream on the white startup page
#1 thing I want: integration with Companion, open up OSC control.
Assignable Inputs 1-99…. So that you can recall shows and map it to a console.
Add video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype. Use case: even in non-livestreaming productions, we often have to bring in remote clients to view a field shoot. Using a laptop is cumbersome on location.
Screen Capture & Auto Thumbnail update – I want to pull screen grabs from program feed and save to SD card as a PNG/ JPEG. I use this all the time on the ATEMs when setting up a YouTube livestream – I’ll grab a still, and upload the image to be the program thumbnail. It would be amazing if Yolobox could automate this – with the option to update the livestream Thumbnail, and to save the image to SD card.
Would like click and drag to arrange menu Icons in order of priority.
Would like to be able to filter comments by platform source (currently available), but also all platform comments aggregated by time – so that you don’t miss a comment on a different platform.
When in the “Full Screen” view of the monitor, would like to be able to view and select comments for on-air display as a screen overlay.
FTP access… i.e. use a laptop to load a video into the SD card via the network, or copy off a program recording without having to eject the SD card.
“Invite Guests” Feature
YoloBox’s ability to invite guests on to a livestream shows a lot of promise. These are a few findings after using it live:
Need a field in the web browser for guests to enter their name when they join. Currently they just show up as “GUEST42” etc. If the host doesn’t know their name (ie, a drop-in show) then there’s no way to differentiate between the “Guests”.
If a guest drops off, the whole screen (even if the guest was part of a 2-UP/3-UP composite) goes black. Need to retain local HDMI source active in a 2UP, or have a default HDMI source to automatically switch back to.
Need a more intuitive 2UP/3UP/4UP/5UP/6UP layout if a solo presenter/streamer is going to use the feature. Takes too long while on air to build composite shots.
8/12/2022: Experienced the whole YoloBox Pro crashing mid-livestream while trying to bring a composite of a Guest on screen. Need an intuitive recovery mode, since when re-entering the session, the “stop livestream” button was active, even though it was no longer streaming. Without wanting to close out the session and lose the audience currently watching on YouTube and Facebook, I was able to “pause” the livestream (rather than “Stop”), and then restart it again. Took two goes at this before it started streaming to Facebook again.
Guest invite list – would like to remember contacts in Most Recent address book – perhaps even sync to Google Contacts.
08/23 – Yolobox Pro won’t allow a livestream to be scheduled more than 7 days in advance. Need to be able to schedule further than 7 days…what about recurring shows?
08/23 – Bug: again discovered Guests appearing on the show with their audio active, even with the “mute guest audio on entry” button enabled, and even with their audio channel settings muted.
Do you have any input on your own experience with the YoloBox Pro? Comment below!
When you run Companion on a dedicated piece of hardware like a Raspberry Pi 4, it ensures the central control of your live streaming production is “always on”. Your laptop is freed up to be disconnected/reconnected from the network as needed, and Companion will continue to operate unhindered.
This article will show you how to install a simple “headless” setup of Companion. Headless means the Pi will operate as a server on the network, without a display, keyboard, or mouse. You already have those peripherals on your desktop anyway! So this solution will take up minimal space with low power consumption.
We can then connect a Stream Deck to the Pi via USB for tactile control at your fingertips. And we can still very easily access Companion’s button settings from a laptop web browser, connected to the same router via ethernet or WiFi.
Livestream August 16, 11AM EST
Run CompanionPi with minimal setup: power, Pi, and microSD card.
Use Raspberry Pi Imager to “flash” (copy) the entire CompanionPi Disk Image to the microSD card.
Operating System > Choose OS > scroll to bottom and select “Use custom” > then select the CompanionPi Disk Image you dowloaded previously
Storage > Choose Storage > choose the microSD card you inserted
Eject the microSD card from your computer and insert it into your Raspberry Pi 4.
Connect the Raspberry Pi to the Network
Insert the flashed microSD card into the Pi
Connect the Pi to your router/switch via ethernet cable
Connect the Stream Deck to the Pi’s USB3 port (blue inner lining)
Connect USB-C power to the Pi
The first boot-up will take a bit longer, and the Stream Deck screen will flash a few times
The Pi has fully booted up when it displays Companion’s blank “Page 1” buttons
A “headless” CompanionPi, without keyboard or monitor.
Configure the Raspberry Pi Settings via Computer
Use the Terminal Application on a computer that is connected to the same router as the Pi.
Log into the Pi:
(unless changed, the default password is: raspberry)
Find the Raspberry Pi’s IP Address:
Make a note of this IP address!
Configure the Pi:
This will open up a graphical settings menu, which is easy to navigate with arrow keys and Enter:
Use the command “ip r” to reveal the Raspbery Pi’s IP Address
Set a Secure Password
1 System Options
Change the password for the user “Pi”
<set a secure password>
(make a note of this password as you will need to use it next time you ssh back into the Pi)
Set the Country
5 Localisation Options
L1 Locale – set your location
L2 Timezone – set your timezone
L3 Keyboard – match your keyboard layout (optional)
L4 WLAN Country – set legal wireless channels for your country
Access Companion’s Web Interface
Now that you have CompanionPi up and running, you will access and build your button layouts via your computer that is connected to the same network as the Pi.
Remember the Raspberry Pi’s IP Address you made note of in the previous step? Open a web browser and type that in, and append the port number “8000”.
For instance, mine was:
And that’s it! Enjoy the extensive control of your live productions!
If a new version of Companion becomes available, you can update easily, without having to go through flashing the image process.
Open the Terminal Application on your computer and type the following:
ssh email@example.com (hopefully you changed the password by now, otherwise the default password is: raspberry)
Once you have logged into the Pi, type the following command to run the update:
Make sure the Stream Deck is plugged in before you power on the Pi. If the USB connection is disconnected, cycle the Pi’s power to reboot the Pi, since CompanionPi will search for Stream Decks on startup.
Add a button to Companion with the variable text $(internal:all_ip) to show all IP addresses available. That way, if you ever move the CompanionPi to a different network (ie between the studio and a location shoot), you will be able to see at a glance what IP address has been assigned to the Pi on the new network, without having to connect a laptop to ssh in to check.
Once you have CompanionPi up and running on your network, use Companion Satellite to connect a Stream Deck to any other computer. That way you can maintain a single Companion installation from a distance.
For instance, say you have CompanionPi running permanently in a rack. Then you connect your laptop over Wifi, and a Stream Deck to that laptop. Using Companion Satellite, you’ll enter CompanionPi’s IP Address to operate your production remotely (because you like coffee breaks from the outdoor sofa).
The DJF Companion Profiles require running Companion 2.2.0 or later to support the most up-to-date features and modules.
You will not be able to operate or install this profile using Companion 2.1.3.
Companion’s Web Server icon will be in the top-right menu bar. Click it to open the tray.
Check the server is running locally on 127.0.0.1 (easiest setup).
Set the Port to 8000 (or 8888)
Launch GUI in a web browser.
Install the DJF Companion Profile
Navigate tabs to Buttons > Import/Export.
If you already have your own custom Companion setup, click “Export” to save a backup of your profile first!
Replace Current Configuration (recommended)
Select Import. Choose the DJF Companion Profile file (ends with “.companionconfig”)
Select “Replace current configuration”.
**Note that this will wipe all existing Companion pages, so make sure you’ve backed up any essential work first!
Individual page import (not recommended)
Note that the DJF Companion Profile pages are heavily inter-connected, hence it is recommended to “replace current configuration”. While you can copy and paste buttons quite easily after the initial “replace current configuration”, importing individual pages will require manually updating the Page-jump actions, plus you must be careful to target the correct instance label of a module when importing.
If you still wish to import individual pages, note that there are also several “backend” service pages need to be imported to very specific pages to maintain integrity:
Backend service pages for v3.1:
Extreme………..Pages 55, 56, 57, 58
Pro………………Pages 83, 84
PTZ……………..Pages 86, 87
Backend service pages for v2.5:
Pro………………Pages 22, 23
Once those backend pages have been imported to their specific page numbers, you can import individual pages to any other Companion page.
If dealing with a dual profile that contains both Extreme and Pro, make sure you target the correct instance (i.e. “ext-atem” and “pro-atem” are completely different implementations of the same ATEM Module).
Note that any Menu or Page-jump buttons will need to have their action “Set surface with s/n to…” updated manually.
For example, if you wanted to import the Extreme’s VLC page:
Import DJF Companion Profile Pages 55, 56, 57, 58 to their respective Pages, 55, 56, 57, 58 in your Companion profile.
Import the Extreme VLC (Page 30) to whatever blank page you have available in your configuration.
Update the Page-jump button actions (ie VLC’s Button #1) to target your configuration layout.
Set ATEM Module’s Target IP Address
Under the Connections tab, click “Edit” for the “atem Blackmagic Design” module. Update the Target IP to the IP address for your ATEM Mini/Pro/ISO, and for your ATEM Mini Extreme/ISO if running dual systems.
**Note: it is recommended to keep the instance labels the way they are (i.e. “ext-atem” and “pro-atem” etc.) Changing the instance label names will update most – but not all – variable names, and will leave some button text (i.e. the BLK button) unable to find the new name.
**Note: you can find the ATEM IP using BlackMagic’s “ATEM Setup Software”. Setting a static IP address is recommended.
All other modules (VLC, H2R, VICREO, OSC) are pre-set to local 127.0.0.1 and don’t need to be changed.
Set the Home Page
Under the Surfaces tab, click the green “Settings” button for the “Elgato Streamdeck Plugin” (or the actual Stream Deck serial number, if running Companion solo).
Slide the Page number for your specific profile’s HOME PAGE:
DJF PROFILE v3.1
32-button Extreme…………………..PAGE 1
32-button Pro…………………………PAGE 66
Vertical Pro…………………………….PAGE 96
Vertical Extreme……………………..PAGE 98
DJF PROFILE v2.5
32-button Pro…………………………PAGE 1
15-button Pro…………………………PAGE 31
Vertical Pro…………………………….PAGE 71
Make Changes to Companion’s Settings
“Remove the Topbar on all buttons”:
Go to Companion > Settings > Navigation Buttons > “Remove the topbar on each button” > SELECT “Enabled”.
**Note that the PNGs and text layout on the DJF Companion Profile buttons have been designed for the full 72 x 72px.m The buttons will look squished unless you remove the topbar.
Go to Companion > Settings > OSC > SELECT “Enabled”.
Set the OSC Listen Port to “12321”.
If your Stream Deck is plugged in but the Companion buttons are not showing up, go to Companion’s “Surfaces” tab, and click “Rescan USB”
If you’d like to run this without a the actual Stream Deck hardware (i.e. use it on a computer or tablet instead), click on “Emulator” in the top left corner. Locally, the address will be http://127.0.0.1:8000/emulator
If there’s a conflict while running Elgato Stream Deck’s native software simultaneously with Companion, quit both applications.
Then try opening Elgato’s Stream Deck software first;
then starting the Companion server secondly.
(Make sure the Companion Plugin within the native Elgato Stream Deck app has been installed – see “Stream Deck” installation instructions below).
**Note: The DJF Companion Profiles require running Companion 2.2.0 to support the most up-to-date features and modules. Some functions will be missing if you try to operate the profile using Companion 2.1.3.
Compact, portable, mountable. Fully self-contained power, networking, and monitoring.
Save time and space when you arrive on set with a self-contained ATEM Mini Pro / ISO rig. Don’t bother updating network settings as you move between the office, home, and location with a built-in router. A single V-mount battery or AC adapter powers the whole system and eliminates cable clutter. Mount it on a tripod, or place it on a desk. Save footprint and cable runs by stacking laptops, mixers, cameras, or autocue on to the rig itself.
This ATEM Mini Pro / ISO rig was designed almost entirely using off-the-shelf, universal video production parts. 15-mm rods, rail blocks, NATO clamps, and 1/4-20 cheeseboards makes it highly customizable with existing production production equipment. Plus, when you out-grow your ATEM Mini, there’s no wastage since all these parts can be re-purposed in other kits, such as camera rigging.
These downloads are standalone switcher pages. Test out your network configurations and Companion modules (ATEM, VLC, H2R, VICREO) for switching, graphics, video playback, and slide control. Import it into a new or existing Companion configuration to easily add network control of an ATEM switcher.
If you want to extend your capability, check out the full-featured v3.0 profiles for both ATEM Mini Pro and Extreme below.
And please do join the mailing list to keep track of my Companion updates as well as production tutorials!
It’s an awesome portable Switcher page that’s easy to import to any Companion profile! 🙂
Note that the v2.0 DJF Companion Profiles mentioned in my 2021 YouTube Companion tutorial videos have been superseded by these free trials of the Home Page v3.0 (below). The download does not include the native Stream Deck application profiles or the ATEM Macros that are found in the full v3.0 package.
In my 20’s, I was acutely aware of the need to know my “voice”. As a director fumbling my way through film school, much emphasis was placed on expressing one’s thoughts with both gravitas and artistic merit, as though my self-understanding lay buried in the pages of French New Wave and Auteur theory.
When thrown the question, What do you want to say?, my mind would struggle to expel some erudite observation, yet filtered through latent religious hang ups about the disconnect between who I imagined I should be and how life had actually unfolded.
My father father mused once that each decade is better than the last. That with the shedding of years comes also a shedding of I don’t give a fuck what people think of me anymore. Emphasis mine. He would never speak like that.
Last night I visited a gallery in Red Hook. Some hipster art event in an impossible location with an exquisitely manicured back yard with a fire pit, and a refurbished factory space hosting a band. I was with two friends, and the three of us dovetailed around each other, exploring the art, music, and hipster folks, each on our own journey.
There was a moment I was standing alone in a room full of people, listening to the band and watching the extroverted few dance up front. I became aware of my body, my ability to relax my shoulders and to dispel any niggling worry about what people must think of me (because people probably didn’t even notice, let alone care).
Instead, I was able to observe the rhythmic energy of the drummer, his movements rising like a dance above the hide, and the joy whirling through the audience. And despite standing alone, I observed my ability to be connected… for their smiles to be transferred to my face. Mirror neurons are what I’m referring to. From this came the ability to focus on what I do have around me, rather than do not have: the things in life that make the present moment satisfying, and the feeling of having enough.
Quite simply, I am who I am. Wonderful and complete. I really like myself.
I don’t believe in the notion of a person being where they’re “meant to be”, or that things work out they way they’re meant to, as though the road were predestined. Rather, the numerous junctures along my life-path led me to where I am today, in New York. One decision after another. All valid experiences. And one node pivots on to the next to create the context of my unique life story.
This is what voice is – understanding that my meta narrative is a valid human experience, unique among the billions, worthy to be communicated to others, in the hope that I may be known, and that they may glean something from it for themselves. In turn, it allows me to appreciate the uniqueness of other people and their stories.
So as I pause in this moment, about to propel myself with abandon into the rabbit hole of my 30s, I’ve discovered my voice does not begin with the reverberations of my lungs. My voice begins in my silence, my stillness; my ability to simply be.
Getting creative with random kids in Bali… I found myself alone on the west coast of Bali with time to kill. If you’ve been to the island, you will know that every single sunset is spectacular: vibrant, detailed, textured. I have a camera & an off-camera flash… time to play!
Exposing for the sky at sunset will make your foreground subjects silhouette
Silhouettes are great. Their shapes can be simple and distinct, and allowing your subject to go completely dark to expose for the sunset means the colors will remain rich and saturated. You’ll retain the details in the sky and present a more accurate mood. However, if you want to get the detail of the person in the foreground, you can either create a HDR image with multiple photos, or, use a flash to fill in your shadows.
The light was changing rapidly and a local crowd gathered to watch me muck around with a number of setups. This kid (top) wandered into my frame, so I picked him up to use him as a prop! This photo would be a silhouette if not for the flash, so if you’re interested, here’s how you would accomplish a shot like this:
Set your camera to manual exposure, and place it on a tripod. Make sure you are shooting RAW instead of JPEG so you have maximum latitude in this high contrast setting.
Adjust your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed until you have a correct exposure for the sunset. My settings here happen to be ISO400, f8, 4sec.
I’ve set the focus manually to a spot I marked in the sand, and f8 will keep the image sharp so I have a little latitude to move around.
Place your flash to the left or right of camera to get more shapely shadows. You’ll need a wireless trigger on your camera to trip the off-camera flash. Put your flash in manual mode, and test out how much power output you need to expose the subject.
I have a remote shutter trigger in my right hand on a 2 sec delay. This allowed me time to pick up the kid before the camera fired.
Because the burst of the flash is so instantaneous, the kid and I are sharp even though we’re moving. The black shadow beneath me is the trail of my silhouette over the remaining 4 seconds the shutter was open to expose for the sky – basically me putting the bewildered little guy back on the sand and returning him to his mother.
I’ll write another post soon about how to shoot a similar setup during daylight, as there are some basic principles you can follow to get your settings in the ballpark before fine tuning for the particular environment.
To finish off, here is the actual image I was going for… something I could use on a website to illustrate a photographer in action in a dramatic location (despite that – if you know anything about speedlites – I’m “adjusting” the wrong side of the panel, and, really, you should never look into a firing strobe in the first place….). But it pictoralizes a “behind-the-scenes” nonetheless.
Setting a speedlite to manual power to compensate for an exposure set for the sunset
It’s my little bro’s birthday today. When I say “little”, I mean in age, for at 6’5, I am one inch his little bro. But, with nine years life experience on him, I’m hoping I can offer some insight about stepping out and taking charge of his work life.
I remember what it was like job hunting post-university in my early 20’s. The work you’re offered is usually far from where you want to be, with no clear path of the steps to attain your long-term goal anyway.
My first job was working in breakfast television as a production assistant. While it was reassuring to have a staff position, I only lasted a couple of months before I got itchy feet. I packed the job in and took off to Brazil, Europe, Africa.
I’ve always had the sense that time is limited. As time passes, I’ve also come to understand it as one of our most valuable assets. For me, it makes sense to take the risk to explore the world and find something I’m passionate about, rather than stay put and wonder what might have been on the other side.
When I returned from my world travels, it also made sense for me to go freelance, and in more recent years, start a business. The reward of owning my own time, choosing priorities, and being proactive in my growth, outweighs the consistency of full-time pay.
My bro is currently between government contracts and said he was waiting to hear back about the next one. But, he also made $500 this month designing custom drawers for a 4WD and reworking a Harley Davidson. That’s the origin of a business!
So on his birthday, I wanted to share 6 insights I believe are critical in taking a proactive attitude towards success.
1. Present your future-self to the people you meet.
Americans do this well.
I’ll meet a person at a function who will introduce herself to me as an actress. She’ll give me a card with a headshot and tell me about a recent film she was in. I know she works in a bar. That is her main source of income, but at this point, that is irrelevant.
Our common point of interest is making films, and the priority of our conversation should be working out if we have cohesive personalities, values, interests, ideas, sense of humor, etc. She would do herself a disservice if she opened with the line “I work in a bar, but I really want to be an actress”.
Other people often give us more credit than we give ourselves, so put your insecurities aside and just speak freely about your current work and aspirations. You might inspire your new friend.
2. People always want to put you in a box. That’s fine. Just give them 9 different boxes.
In my early 20’s, there was a brief time I was a “slashie” — writer/ director/ producer/ actor/ model/ TV presenter/ photographer/ cinematographer/ editor. I’m young; the world’s an exciting place; I want to try it all!
However, it gets darn confusing when you throw so many variables at someone. They’ll leave the conversation with less of an idea of how you might be of interest to them than when you met.
The fact is, in your early 20’s you’re probably going to have many different “hats”, or boxes, as you experiment and find what you enjoy doing. This is good! Even established entrepreneurs and businesses continue to diversify and experiment with new ventures. Just make sure you present each skill or business or idea with clear parameters.
Create different business cards and portfolio websites for each venture. You as a person are the umbrella to bring all those facets together, but you decide on a person-by-person basis the relevant identity to present. On social media like LinkedIn, present only your core role.
You’ll see I’ve reduced this website to two core facets: my direction of moving images and still images. Many of my other “slashie” skills and experience are now utilized under my umbrella role as a director.
My business advisor Monica Davidson gave me this advice, and it’s been instrumental in refining the presentation of my skills over many years. If you’re in Australia, I recommend her workshop for creative businesses: freelancesuccess.com.au
3. Create an online portfolio website.
Less is more. Present only your best work.
Search Engine Optimization aside, I think the initial value of a well thought-out website is not traffic from random strangers, but comes from the people you meet In Real Life.
You meet someone, they like you, you give them a business card. It looks good and stirs their interest. They look up your website. They’re impressed by a clear and simple demonstration that you can execute in detail the task you were discussing in person. Having this forward-facing entity establishes credibility and a history. They’ve already met you, and now trust you enough to hire you or buy your product.
This is essentially refocusing the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” to understand that the people you need to know are already in your address book, not the cold-calls you think you have to make to powerful people.
In short, make a list of 100 people who have some level of mutual friendship/ acquaintance/ concern for you. Also list 40 goals you want to achieve, big or little, business or personal (it’s important to be specific). Then match the dots. Who can help you with what goal?
Your 100 people have their own network of 100 people, giving you potential access to 10,000 people. You only need 1 person to open the right door, so you have good odds.
Pride and fear keep us from asking for help from friends, but all successful people are able to ask for help. Whatever you truly want in life, it will always involve relationships. Instead of cold-calling strangers, it’s better to be “doing life” with your friends. Friends are naturally prewired with a desire to help you anyway, and you them.
This tip comes from Bob Beaudine who wrote “The Power of WHO!” (gotta say that like an owl). A random book I perused while subletting a stranger’s apartment in New York City.
5. If you want different results, try something different.
This one is simple, yet people continue with the same activities, expecting opportunities will magically shift in their favor with the passing of time. They won’t.
I mean, they might, but you’ll probably be dead by then. Rather than wait, take a calculated risk.
The important note here is that it doesn’t have to be seismic life-shift that turns your world upside down, like quitting a full-time job. Beginning small is the key! And, like Jullien Gordon in his talk “Side Hustlas” at TEDxMidwest delves into, start your venture as something you hustle on the side — in addition to your other job.
This brings us down to the question, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Maybe you are simply doing your job to make money. That’s great! However, in the long-term, even that money to sustain your life has to funnel into a more intrinsic value system to carry a sense of fulfillment.
6. Know Thy Self.
What do you want to do?
If you don’t know what you want to do… how do you find out?
I’ve always known I wanted to direct, yet it took a good portion of my 20’s to feel grounded in my craft. There’s always more to grow into, as well as the deeper question, What do I want the films I direct to be about?
I’ll leave this post with words from the late British philosopher Alan Watts, who asks “What makes you itch?”:
What would you like to do if money were no object? Do that. Become a master of it. Then you will get a good fee for it.
Happy birthday, bro! My prayer is you take that risk and try something new, that time be on your side, and that you sense fulfillment in what you do.
Under a building titled 1930 Falcon Laundry, of red brick and a graffitied roller door, sits a man in a white long sleeved shirt, charcoal pants and dust-worn boots. He turns a magazine pullout over in half and straightens both his arms to support his weight on his knees with palms of his hands. He glances up and down the street. It’s empty.
He stands up, mounting one foot on the arched drainpipe he’d been sitting on and swats the wall with the magazine roll as though he were in a fashion photography shoot. A little Chinese girl passes him, walking her greyhound: black with white booties. The man stands straight against the wall, observing her.
Finally a van labeled Construction rolls in at an angle to the curb and a big smile crosses his face. An arm extends from the driver window, a pair of keys dangling from fingers. The man shoulders his bag and saunters over, retrieves the keys and unlocks the side door. A third man in a battered purple polo shirt jumps out the passenger side and enters the Falcon Laundry also.
A moment later the graffitied roller door recedes into is coil and the van squeezes through the dark of the narrow opening. The man in the white long sleeved shirt appears one last time with a metal rod in hand. He hooks it into the roller door, and in three steps, draws it shut. The street is vacant again. The day has begun.
The icons of the New York skyline so familiar through recess of memory and the window of film, now examined through the window of a taxi sailing the BQE.
I want to find my notepad to write all this down, but my girl is nestled into my chest. She’s usually fetal with her back turned by 9pm, so I’m reluctant to disturb this spring communion when an isolating city surrounds.
In the morning I wake early and climb the noisy wooden stairs to the rooftop. The panoramic icons glisten in a sunlit post-rain lineup: Liberty, Freedom Tower, Triborough Bridges, Empire.
It’s an outer body experience: like a spectator automated through the motions of another person’s life. One foot after another on a trajectory to I-don’t-know-where.
However, devoid of routine and permanent residence, I choose to let all sense of confusion slip by and acknowledge simple facts: I’m alive, healthy, well-fed, and have an exciting future to build.
My parents and I rode our bikes down to the ANZAC Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial today. My brother was playing saxophone in the military band for the royals who were only 20m away! I love how casual security details are in Canberra.
I’m on a father/son motorbike trip through Samoeng & Mae-Se, northwest of Chiang Mai. It’s Strawberry country!! Strawberry shakes, strawberry wine, sweet strawberries, sour strawberries… and every farm we pass has a giant strawberry mascot out the front. It’s one of Dad’s first times on a motorbike… so I’m glad he’s still here to take a selfie with me.