About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

24 Comments

  1. It’s beautiful, it’s captivating, it makes me proud of you. And I don’t even know you, except that I read this blog and I guess it’s time to tell you that I share your math things with a math teacher at the high school where I teach English. I’m proud of him, too. Don’t give up your job teaching even though you obviously have a talent that nears your love for working in video, because you have a talent in teaching, too. Your students would miss you, just like you miss all the great people you worked with this summer. Your affection for them and the work they do is strong and clear in this video. You know what it’s like to be proud of someone.

  2. Woah.

    If I could type and do the ‘we’re not worthy’ thing at the same time as typing I would. Hope you feel it was worth it, I thought it was amazing.

    *shakes head in awe*

  3. Dan,

    That’s ridiculously good! I have to tell you, I am unbelievably impressed.

    Can you give me a rundown of the hardware/software config you use to make this?

    I imagine it’s Apple gear…

    Chris

  4. Wow. Practically started missing those people myself, without knowing any of them! Funny how people popping up and disappearing from atop washing machines can make you think of transience and lost friends.

    As usual, lost for vocabulary and knowledge as to where the effect comes from, how it breaks down in terms of technical choices, but whatever you did did work.

  5. Not so much to say to any of the kind comments except thanks.

    This was my last summer at a camp that’s owned my last six, that saw me through college, that found me my best friends and a great girlfriend, etc etc., so I really really wanted to make a document that spoke to that knee-wobbling summer staff experience, that clocked me out of the experience as well.

    So I threw myself into the last shot (the lanky guy), a shot which takes my limited skills as an editor, matches them with my even-more-limited skills as an actor, and punches me in the gut every time I watch it. It’s really rare that I feel affected by something that I created — I’m usually too conscious of the bare wiring — but this was an exception.

    Anyway, technical details for Chris and whoever else:

    Hardware:

    1. a really nice quad core G5 Mac. four gigs of RAM I believe. would’ve been a tough project on my flatscreen iMac G5 at home.
    2. a Sony Powershot S80 (a mid-shelf point and shoot camera) for 99% of the photos.
    3. a Canon GL2 for the live action stuff (only in the last thirteen sceonds).
    4. a green screen for the last thirteen seconds.
    5. one Polaroid.
    6. several hundred paper copies of the back of a Polaroid.

    Software

    1. Adobe Photoshop to cut people out of photos for the second half
    2. Adobe After Effects to do pretty much everything
    3. Final Cut Pro for some basic sequencing
    4. Calico to stitch photos into panoramas.

    Anyone who wants a little more depth on the technical choices here (video prod. teachers maybe), drop me a line through the contact form. I’ve got a PDF which doesn’t seem appropriate in our main forum here.

  6. Hopefully you burned a CD and sent it to all your friends at camp—it looked like waaaay toooo much fun to actually be called work. I started to ask where you can get paid to have fun; then I remembered I do it every day. N.

  7. I didn’t expect to watch the entire video (not knowing the people, having lesson plans to write for tomorrow, etc), but I couldn’t turn away. I was amazed beyond belief. I’m glad I had the chance to see it. You show a dedication and passion for this experience that is also obvious in your discussions of teaching. Thank you.

  8. Dan: In the past you have taken the time to critique and review other peoples work with a very thought out, honest and insightful response, so I was hoping to return the favor… after being blown away by my first viewing I wanted to lend a pair of fresh eyes to your video.

    Here is what I noticed, what I wonder and what if….

    • transitions in the beginning are slow, is this purposeful so the speed can pick up when the rhythm of the music is increased? If so makes sense.

    • some of the backgrounds for the Polorid section look to have a filter on them and some of them are crystal clear – causing the viewer to have conflicting focus… leaving them all filtered or trying to match the light would help with continuity.

    • Frisbee scene to hands holding up the photos HOLY MOLY! Elegant seamless and beautiful to watch – what gave you the idea?

    • the transition in the center… is this an entirely new movie in itself? or is it to be a part of the first part? where is the connection? If it is to be a part of the previous section I would use a connector – like a music fade out to fade in crickets or the last scene of part one ends with the image going out of the bottom of the scene, you could have the image of the next part fill up the screen from the bottom up… initial thoughts…

    • I can’t tell you how cool the idea is to take scenes of the camp with no one in it and then add your friends, it adds a mood of melancholy and plays out like a memory – VERY nice touch! Your visual connections and intelligence enables the viewer to relate to the mood of the piece, creating a juxtaposition of the music and visuals that lead the viewer to a full understanding of the excitement and melancholy.

    • music on point

    • lighting in the laundry super duper

    • due to some of your transitions being quick and paced, it seems like some of them stammer at certain points

    • going from your hand to your body to the full shot of you at the end is a nice staircase to the ending…

  9. Thanks for the critiques, Marcie. There is actually quite a bit controversy reigning over this piece where I work (not worth getting into) but I’ve received zero technical input so far save yours.

    A few, taken mostly in order:

    First bullet:

    This thing picks up speed at a pretty linear pace. The opening music ya got static shots, as the first verse starts I switch to live action (subtly, my starts moving, a car drives out of the top-left corner), and for the second verse and the bridge, things get crazier up until the frisbee. My mind works like that. Given another week to get OUT of my head I would’ve messed with the structure a bit more. Sped up a couple of shots unexpectedly. Kept the audience on its toes more.

    Second bullet:

    Not sure what you mean by a filter. The background plate (traffic, the two computers in my classroom, etc.) is worse quality than the Polaroid in front of it. That’s ’cause the background plate was shot on digital video (which sucks) and the foreground Polaroid was shot with a digital camera (which doesn’t). Bummer, right? Here’s a picture of how the plates were set up.

    Third bullet:

    On the frisbee thing: first, it sucked an audible gasp out of the premiere audience. Which kinda left me rolling my eyes in spite of myself. Out of everything in the video, that sequence took the least time and sweat. Can’t predict these things sometimes. The two guys are good friends I worked with in summers past who I wanted to pull into this. I wanted to link up the different settings here with something kinda fun. Frisbee was it. More than the initial ooh-ahh factor, I’m most happy with how it leads into the climax.

    Fourth bullet:

    The two segments might seem awkwardly sewn together. During the banquet presentation, there were staffer interviews connecting the two a little more nicely. I removed for the sake of the general-viewing audience (and ’cause they’re a large source of the controversy I mentioned before).

    Thanks for the interpretation of the second point. Puts words I didn’t have to feelings I did. Honestly, I just wanted to try out an effect I saw and kinda liked. (Really liked, actually. Just watched it again. Blows my mind.) The real thematic depth is from the first section and the last thirteen seconds. Once camp ends and we’re out in traffic, out at the outdoor mall, out at our soul-sucking job teaching high school math, all we have is our Polaroids. So to speak.

    That’s all. Back to lesson planning for me. Thanks for stirring things up for me, Marcie.

  10. Utterly captivated. Utterly. And delightfully lacking the ability at this moment to do anything but sit back with a mile-wide grin on my face.

    Continue to put vision like this out in the world, Dan, and we’ll; ALL be better for it.

    As a 17+ year “10 for 2” camp counselor kinda guy, you’ve taken my mind/heart back to memories that defy words. Thank you for that. Truly.

    Again, utterly captivated.

    Marcie is spot-on on her Q’s/observations. I’m happy to let her take the lead, but for tonight I’m just enjoying the sheer pleasure of having taken your ride, my friend.

    Thank you. More than you can know at this moment.

  11. Just a quick comment.

    Stripping down the elements to its purest, digital storytelling is about emotionally conveying an idea with imagery and audio. You’ve done this.

    What the use of After Effects does is add a depth and meaning to images that evoke additional responses. It reminds a bit of the first time I used pan and zoom. It’s difficult now to create a story with photos that don’t use it in some ways. It’s just too powerful to ignore.

    Now that I’ve seen the use of After Effects, I’m compelled to take the time to learn.

    It’s still at its core a story borne out of experience and yours was obviously a rich one told well.

  12. Simply awesome!

    Sailed in from Christian’s blog post about this – thank for sharing Dan.

    And would love to explore featuring half of the film in a MediaSnackers vodcast if you’re game?

    Peace

    DK

  13. Yeah, definitely. Drop me an e-mail at dan [at] mrmeyer [dot] com and let me know what delivery format you need. I’ll see if I can ftp something.

  14. This is so amazing. Even not knowing any of the people involved, it’s powerful…can’t imagine the impact for them (and you). What an incredible piece of personal history.

  15. Very cool – unless you are a super fast editor, that would have been hours and hours of work. After all, I can sweat over a Photoshop image incessantly for lengthy periods of time and still miss basic details – but you are at the deep end of the design talent pool and I’m in the wading section. Nice to see the Open Educator badge displayed – notice that the designer forgot to create it on a transparent background??!!? Seriously, Dan, I loved it and there’s no such thing as summer camp down under and you made me feel like there was a gap in my life because of it.

  16. Very very cool! It makes me want to find a copy of After Effects and learn to use it to try something like this myself.

    What are the songs that you used?

  17. First song was “My List,” by The Killers.

    Second was “Brother,” by The Annuals.

    Both great. Thanks for the interest, everyone.

  18. A lot of people I respect keep leading me back to your blog, and I’m never disappointed. Really glad I followed Christian’s link to this video, and very appreciative that people as caring and talented as you are willing to share with strangers who will invariably benefit from your creations and ideas. Thanks for the honesty and generosity. I’ll be following along from now on:-)

    Otsukaresama!