The Next Big Thing: Practical and Profitable Implementation of Fusion

By Jeff Kent

Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams are a husband-wife, photographer-videographer team that has been pioneering a progressive, and profitable, approach to the fusion of still photography and video. Joy handles the photography while Adams provides videography and video production services. Their partnership has earned them The Knot’s “Best of Weddings” 2010 award, WeddingWire’s 2010 Bride's Choice Award, numerous publications in magazines, and an eager clientele clamoring for their next big thing in fusion.

Joy and Adams, who are partners but run separate businesses, began offering fusion wedding coverage in 2009 and have spent the last two years perfecting their style, their workflow and their presentation. They stress that fusion is not wedding documentary video; it’s meant to augment the still imagery, not replace a videographer. As such, they caution against making guarantees about what moments will be captured on video. “Fusion is a subjective concept just meant to enhance the photography,” says Joy. “If a client wants a full wedding video, that is a different thing entirely.”

Of course, the ultimate point of fusion is to boost your bottom line. What’s the point of learning all of this if you’re not going to make money? Most fusion products revolve around a multimedia slideshow that incorporates still images, video clips and music. You can burn the slideshow to a disc or flash drive and then sell it to clients as an add-on or part of a package. Several album makers are now producing fusion albums that incorporate space for a digital display, such as an iPod, iPad or even an LCD screen sewn right into the fabric of the book cover.

Joy and Adams also sell digital fusion albums that can be viewed on computers or pad devices, or set up on a video screen and played on a loop. The layout is similar to a magazine-style album, except there is a mix of still images and video clips. The viewer turns the page, virtually speaking, and sees different images and different clips on each page.

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For a fusion slideshow, which Adams creates with Animoto, the charge is $600. A fusion album runs upwards of $1,000. Joy and Adams offer these products not only for weddings but for portrait shoots, trash-the-dress sessions and other events.

Take a look at these examples of their Wedding Fusion Album, and an Engagement Session Fusion Slideshow.

The best part is that fusion is still a relatively untapped market. “I don’t think it’s taken off yet,” says Adams. “As more and more photographers do it, and as more products come out to capitalize on it, fusion will become a mainstay of the marketplace.”

Getting started with fusion

Fortunately, most pro photographers already have most of what they need to successfully implement fusion. According to Joy and Adams, there are four main elements you'll need to get started.

1. A pro DSLR with HD video capture. Fusion is all about creating video and still images that are indistinguishable in color and quality. So using a high-quality DSLR to capture both elements is very useful.
2. A way to keep camera steady. If you have a monopod, a tripod or a lot of well-placed cocktail tables, you can check this one off this list.
3. A video editing program. iMovie offers a simple option, and Photoshop Extended can run a variety of video editing programs, including PhVusion Effects, a plug-in developed by Adams specifically for fusion video editing.
4. A presentation system. Animoto Pro provides one of the best automated platforms while programs like Photodex ProShow offers more manual tools.

Shooting fusion

With capture principles similar to still photography, most pro photographers have an easy adjustment when it comes to adding video. Joy and Adams provide a few tips to fine-tune your filming.

Use what you already know. Photography skills related to light, posing, exposure and composition will transfer to video capture almost seamlessly.

Brush up on your manual settings. Manual exposure, white balance and focus are best for video. Auto white balance won’t look as good most of the time, auto focus doesn’t work well with video on most cameras, and auto exposure modes like shutter or aperture priority only raise or lower the ISO—not something you want when shooting video.

Steady yourself. Stabilize your camera during shooting by using a stabilization device or a stable surface. Don’t rely on your camera’s image stabilization features, which usually don’t work that well for video capture. Some telephoto lenses have image stabilization, but you generally want to avoid using a long lens when shooting video. Short lenses help reduce camera shake for hand-held shooting. A good rule of thumb: Don’t shoot hand-held video with a focal length more than 35mm.

Stay put. If you watch well-made movies, the camera only moves when it’s absolutely intentional. You should employ the same approach when capturing video clips. Compose the shot the same way you would a still image—well framed with good light and a good exposure—then keep the camera position static and let your subjects add the motion.

Fix your focus. Avoid zooming during filming. Ask yourself, when was the last time your eyes zoomed in or out on a scene?

Set it, but don’t forget it. Don’t change your exposure while filming. If you are working in changing conditions, then stop the video capture, change your exposure, and start shooting again. Otherwise you end up with footage that looks wildly inconsistent from one moment to the next.

Keep it short. In fusion there is no reason to roll the camera for several minutes. Your job is to grab quick clips to enhance the photography, not long video to document the entire event.

Ignore the audio. Audio is the most difficult part of videography. If you’re new to fusion, don’t worry about it. Concentrate on the imaging first, and then when you're comfortable with your filming, you can think about adding sound capture.

Don’t fret the edit. Editing fusion video clips doesn’t have to be difficult, especially with automated and easy-to-use programs like iMovie, Photoshop Extended, Animoto and PhVusion Effects. If you capture video with the same exposure principles as your still photography, then you’re already halfway there. In post-production, you just need to pick your favorite clips, trim them down to the appropriate length (clips of less than 10 seconds work best), enhance them the same way you would enhance still images, render the files, and walk away.

To see more from Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams, visit vanessajoy.com and robadamsfilms.com.

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