• One of our priorities as filmmakers is to make sure we’re constantly surrounding ourselves with other artists in the industry who are rockin’ it out in their own ways. It keeps us on our toes and gives us a chance to be collaborative outside of our little bubble. Besides, who doesn’t like an excuse to geek out about gear and cinematography? We invite you to dive into the conversation, whether here or at our CINE-SKOOLS!

Lil’ Wayne


It’s been a while since we’ve told you about something we love, so today we’re coming at you to tell you about the Induro DR Hi-Hat Tripod Set, a new addition to our gear bag we’ve been using a lot lately. You saw in our video we used it in the dirt at the Volkswagen Sea Otter Classic and were able to get some really rad shots.


As Chad says, “We got rugged with this thing” using some of our favorite features:

  • Extendable Legs: Each leg has a two section extension and three steps of variable angle adjustment, which makes it easier than ever to get the perfect shot anywhere, on any terrain
  • Independent Movement: The legs don’t all have to move the same amount or even in the same direction – they can move independently of each other to get your shot all leveled out even if you’re up against an unleveled area
  • Getting Low: The Induro’s legs can really stretch out, giving the effect of your camera sitting right on the ground
  • Grips Like a Tree Frog: The tripod’s feet have a lot of grip in them – we got the tripod to hang off rocks and walls – so cool!
  • Two Sizes: This tripod supports both 75 and 100mm half balls, so you aren’t limited in the kind of camera you have to use. Not to mention, it can hold up to 220 pounds!


The Induro DR Hi-Hat Tripod Set has become essential to our shoots and we think it would be to yours, too.  Let us know if you use the Induro Hi-Hat, and let us know the raddest thing you have done with it!!

BTW… We named him lil’ Wayne.  You can see what we do with him by following the hashtag #adventuresoflilwayne on both Twitter and Instagram.


“Why” not “What”

It’s the “why,” not the “what” that counts.  If we are told what someone does, it’s often just disposable information, words. We have no emotional connection to it.  If we learn why they do it, how do we feel? As humans we are connected to people when we feel we understand their hearts, why they do what they do.

With films, we have been able to watch what people do and see why they’re driven to do it. We see the emotion on their faces as they interact with each other. We capture small, meaningful gestures – maybe a fleeting frown or a quick twinkle in someone’s eye. Films show us the why.

Take Adrian, for example. Adrian is a normal guy who will take your “average” life, shake it up and walk with you along a path of self discovery. His talent is helping people find solutions to some of the toughest personal barriers.  He opens his clients’ eyes to their potential. Why does he do it? He believes in people. He believes people can change, improve and become great!

So, in order to create a film that would chop at the root of what Adrian does, we knew it had to be about his hope for people.

We started by asking ourselves questions like, ”Why are people stuck?” “Why is Adrian needed?” and, most importantly, “Why does Adrian do what he does?”

As we dug in to developing the film’s message, we knew it needed to embody keywords like “hope,” “break-through,” “perspective,” “potential,” and “vision.” We wanted to show how people get so caught up in the everyday to-do’s that life can become overwhelming, mundane and imprisoning. Some notice it, some don’t. The film had to end with a feeling of calmness and hope to break free.

The film had to build tension – both visually and audibly.  At certain points of the film, there are 8 different sources of audio layered to create a sense of tension and confusion: Cars, horns, water running and birds flying by.  Visually, we added natural camera movement/shake in the film to make it feel like it wasn’t perfectly produced. At one point, we show a POV of the dad rubbing his son’s head to help the viewer feel as if they are actually the dad rubbing the son’s head.

The payoff for the viewer is the end: The camera shifts to Adrian sitting on a staircase and the viewer realizes he was the film’s voiceover. We see – and hear – how he is invested in people. To create that feeling of investment, we directed the viewer’s attention completely on Adrian. We pushed in on Adrian as he spoke. As we thought about this vital shot, we quickly realized that it was going to be rather difficult to accomplish with a traditional slider shot. “How can we be most cost-effective to achieve this shot?” we asked ourselves. Dollies and carts were out of our budget. We turned to our friends, LensProToGo, to see what they had for rent… and we found it! Kessler makes a 5 foot slider that can be used with a motorized controller. We rented the basic controller with the slider, which allowed us to set the slider to automatically slide at a consistent speed.

Sweet, part one of this shot was taken care of.  The next piece of the puzzle was how to keep Adrian in focus as the camera moved closer to him. If we were to rack focus manually with our hand on the lens it could cause camera shake as the slider pushed in. A follow focus was a must for this shot. We had tried out various brands and found RedRock Micro makes a simple, lightweight and durable setup. When we ordered the setup, the company went above and beyond to help pick the right rig and make sure it got to us in time. RedRock Micro also included a “whip” – a thick cable with a wheel knob on it that keeps you from putting direct pressure on the focus wheel and minimizes the vibration that our hands could have caused – for the follow focus.

When production day arrived, we got everything set for the shot and had Adrian sit down.  We positioned the camera to where we wanted the shot to end and we marked the disc on the focus ring. We had Adrian run through his dialog while we ran the slider back, pulling out.  This way, we were able to gauge where we should start the shot.  After trying the shot a few times, we ended up putting markers on the slider from start to finish.  We then stopped the slider on each of these points, checked focus and marked the wheel on the follow focus. As we pushed in closer to Adrian, we had to rack focus faster because the window of focus became shallower.  After a few tries, we were able to pull off the shot we set out to capture…and we love it.


We started the post with saying why is greater then the what, and within the post we explained what we did to create the why… but why did we do it?  Well, we wanted people to feel that they had hope to take control of their own lives and future.  We knew a film about Adrian coaching a person would not help a person discover this, so we worked hard to produce a film that took you on a journey of being overwhelmed, stuck, and brought you to a space of clarity.  Our ultimate goal with every project is not to entertain someone… its to move them!  If we can do this, we feel we have helped change the world just a little, and this makes us happy.  Why do you do what you do?


Love STF

Mark St. John - May 14, 2013 - 7:38 pm

Wow, what a treat to read the in depth background of such an impacting video that i just watched for the first time yesterday on Adrian’s site. It was very apparent to me during the viewing that tension was created as i watched the busy crank of day to day life while the provoking questions came through. Creating the “relief” and peace in the stairwell was a welcome and subliminal peace where Adrian drew me in for the “Kill”
And, admittedly, not knowing anything about the film industry found this quite intriguing from that angle as well.
Stellar work!!

Mark St. John

Sweet November!


Hi Friends!

We know this post might be a little over due, since the upcoming November Cine-skool is already half full,  but we still wanted to take a minute to relay some of our thoughts!

Cine-skool has certainly been a constant evolution for us.  Those of you who came to the first few dates, (over two years ago) and have stuck around up until this point, could attest that being a part of the Cine-Skool fam is definitely a different experience.  After each workshop, we try to honestly evaluate the value of each discussion and exercise, to make sure that we are offering as much value as possible.  This can be a daunting task, but it’s one that we actually love because it leaves us giddy with excitement for the new dates and for another rad experience.

Last March we held the first Cine-skool at home, right here in the STF studio (check out it here). Not only was it a blast to invite complete strangers into our space and have them leave close friends, but having it on our stomping grounds also allowed us to create a more complete and holistic experience.  Not to mention the after party was off the hook. ; )

So as we prepare for the dates coming up in November, we are of course assembling a curriculum that incorporates all of the new techniques and equipment that we are employing, but we are also giving a lot of attention to the way that things are taught and presented.  We want Cine-skool to not only be a place where peeps come to learn about filmmaking and storytelling, but a place to get inspired, refueled and excited!

Up to this point we havn’t had a chance to share some of the feedback we have received from those who have attended in the past.  So for your reading pleasure…

When I attended Cine-skool, it literally changed my life.  It made me think about my life differently, it made me think about my business differently, and it made me think about the way I shoot differently.”        -Becky

 I really wanted to say thank you for making a difference and most importantly being authentic. In short, KIR… keeping it real.

Not only have I learned alot in film making, post editing, general logistics of running a well oiled film making team, I also learned alot about you all in general. You guys probably hear this often but you guys are truly amazing people. I’m a full time engineer and film part time, and most days I cant wait to get home to start editing or storyboard for that next gig. I think for myself and everyone from my team have come a long way in just a few days. We’re excited, we’re motivated, we’re a bit more skilled (lol), and we’re grateful for sharing and being you. Thanks!”     -Christian

 Firstly and most commended, was the warm, open and very welcoming environment that you prepared which made us very comfortable.  It was not hard for me to blend in the rest of the day. It was because of the loose and easy going setting that you guys made it seem.

The meat of the whole workshop for me was discovering myself.  I can just as well read and practice by myself and I am sure I can cover the same material but will never arrive at the same conclusion as I did after the workshop.

Shifting a lot of my previous conceptions regarding the technicalities of the craft was easy. The more salient point(s) were about vision, thinking creatively, marketing strategy and mixing them together without loosing yourself in just one or the other was key. It had to be blended as an overall model so you can have a brand that is both a work of art and a viable business.”  -R-Jay

In short, we absolutely cannot wait to see what will come out of our time in November. We hope you can join us and become part of the Cine-skool fam.
Love, STF


Sweet November - Shade Tree Films - September 17, 2012 - 8:48 pm

[...] Come on over and check it out! [...]

Frame On Purpose

Hi friends!

One of the constant questions film makers and photographers must ask themselves is, “How should I frame?”  There is no right or wrong way to frame because composition is subject to style, feeling, BLAH BLAH BLAH.  It’s one thing to get the subject in your frame, but it’s another to have your composition purposefully tell a story.  There are so many elements that can either strengthen or weaken your story.  When we are shooting we try to ask ourselves a series of questions to help us frame on purpose.


Whats in my frame?

Are there objects in your frame that can distract your viewer from the story your want to tell?  Is there things such as exit signs, gear, blown out back drops, people, that are distracting the viewer from what you want their attention to be on? If needed, change your angle, use foreground, use Depth of field, or DONT use it, to help your viewer feel right.

This shot was usable for about the first 6 seconds.  But then objects in the frame became too distracting to the story.  Its tempting to use the shot and hope that your viewers don’t notice, but they usually do. It will disconnect your audience from the desired feeling.

Here is how the shot started… a great shot!

Once they got a little ways down the isle, things went wrong…

In the picture below with a little adjustment to the framing, the distractions could eliminated.

What’s going on in my frame?

What am I shooting?  How do the things in my frame have relevance to the story? Sometimes as cinematographers we get so focused on getting the shot whether it be some epic slide or insane use of foreground, that we forget to ask ourselves if the composition or the objects in our frame are telling the right story.

The following examples aren’t a matter of right and wrong… but a matter of what story is being told.

As you look at these screen grabs, ask yourself… how do I feel about this subject.  Then make note of what objects are in your frame and how did they help dictate your feeling toward the subject.

In the above images the one on the left gives you a feeling of chaos, disorganization, slob.  Where as the on the right gives you a feeling of precision, cleanliness and clear understanding. Why?

In these images, what is the focus?  The intention for both of them was for the computer to be the focus, although the one on the left had something going on in the background that was a little more interesting. Compared to the one on the right its no question that my attention is supposed to be on the computer.

Once again sometimes we are so focused on getting that slider shot smooth, that we forget to pay attention to what our subject is doing in the shot.


What’s next?

Anticipate Action – When shooting concentrate on what people are saying and doing to anticipate their next action.  This way you can be one step ahead and be ready when the action happens.  This allows you to get the content that you intended to get.

Did I get it? If you have the chance, try the shot a few times and with variations.  This gives you more to work with in post production and can make up for mistakes not seen while shooting.


Hope this helps!



Home Sweet Home

This past week a dream that we have had for a few years came to life.  As we swept the last of the construction dust up in our new studio space, we welcomed 18 rad film makers to the humble home of Shade Tree Films.  It was an amazing three days with peeps all at different places in their film making. The relationships that were formed and the opportunity to work side by side with some incredible people was the highlight for us.  Through our various shooting and editing activities, it was great to watch people stretch themselves and work hard to improve their film making in every way. Everyone was so dedicated to making the most of this experience, as were we.  Because everyone was coming from completely different backgrounds and skill levels, we structured the three days in a way that they could almost choose their own adventure.  From observing one of our teams through the entire filmmaking process to completely making their own films with us there as a resource, the attendees were literally able pick the learning style that fit them best.

In the three days, we were able to plan, produce, shoot and edit a few films… All to be premiered at our rockin wrap party. Each shooting group broke into two different editing groups and produced their own edit (the reason there are two different films with the same talent). Here the films that were created for your watching pleasure…

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4


As with every Cine-skool, there are so many rad people and sponsors to thank so here we go…

LensRentals for providing gear for our attendees to use.
The Music Bed for providing music that makes our industry legit
New Blue FX for making it possible to color our films in a way that they feel right
Big Deal Branding For Their mass amounts of branding brain power
Plural Eyes Software for saving us a bajillion hours in syncing time
Shoot Sac for the RAD sacs
Props FX For the BALLER after party
The whole STF team… Candice, Geoff, David, Brandon, Maci, Chad and Drew

And last but most imprtant all the AMAZING attendees!!!!


Check out the story of Cine-skool Redlands told by the lens of all the attendees’ camera phones…


- Love STF

joshua - March 25, 2012 - 3:35 am

Daryl Johnston is my father. Thank you so much for what you have done. You gave him a lot more confidence.

Sweet November! | Skooled By Fools - September 17, 2012 - 8:41 pm

[...] March we held the first Cine-skool at home, right here in the STF studio (check out it here). Not only was it a blast to invite complete strangers into our space and have them leave close [...]

Go Towards The Light

Lets face it! We all know it sucks to get caught with our pants down when it comes to lighting, figuratively speaking of course.  Not to mention, the hassle a full lighting set up can be, when time is short or space is limited.

We cannot tell you how many times we have run into situations where our client just doesn’t have the time for us to set up our entire interview lighting.  In addition often times we are shooting weddings that important events end up happening after we have taken down all of our lighting.

We have been trying to figure out an affordable solution to this problem, the perfect scratch to our itch, if you will.  Well, the search is over… at least for now!


Check out the Sima, Color-smart LED light!

What are the things we LOVE about these little gems, you ask? (We refer to them as our little miracle lights.)

  1. Small and compact… they don’t take up much room in the bag, which is heaven sent when traveling.
  2. Rechargeable… All of the other LED lights that we have worked with took a million “double A” batteries, and they lasted for an hour if you are lucky.  This made them heavy and expensive to run.  Not our little Sima, you plug that little baby into the wall to charge and enjoy free long lasting light.
  3. Dimmable… You have complete dimming abilities.  Although you have to be careful, as you get to the lower levels, there is some pulsating issues with the camera shutter.
  4. Temp adjustments… With the push of a magical little button, your light temp can go from extremely cold to extremely warm, and everything in between.  This gives you the ability to match the temperature of other light sources… AH-MAZ-ZING!!!!!
  5. Piggy backing… They attach to each other with a hot shoes mount.  This allows you to use one, or ten on one light stand. GENIUS!!!!
  6. Diffused… They are a soft filling light, not harsh and too direct.
  7. Price… These little babies are extremely affordable.  At $54 a pop you can afford to get a few.


Here is an example of an outdoor interview we did at night, using only these little beauties!

(This is an unfiltered clip)

Although these could never replace our ARRI lighting kit, they are a great alternative, when one is needed.

There you have it… now go towards the light!

Hope this helps!!



Jennifer | ZinchukFilms - December 15, 2011 - 1:52 am

Thank you for sharing this!! We have a cheap LED light that recently broke so we’ve been looking for something affordable and this light is so cute!! It actually fills our needs perfectly! I think we need to start a collection of these little guys :)

Think Tank Magic

If you have been around us much, you have probably heard us rant, rave and shout about a little group called Big Deal Branding.  Not only are they super rad people, but there product and process blew us away.  They are the creators of this beautiful website that we now live in, and the catalysts that has pushed us in a direction that feels AMAZING!  Their knowledge and awesomeness is not reserved just for Shade Tree alone… no no no.  They are sharing the goodness with everybody through consulting, coaching, workshops and design services.  They asked us to create a little ditty that represented the experience of one of their workshops, Think Tank!  The information is invaluable and their friendship is authentic.

In order for us to make a film that matched the feeling of these get togethers, we employed some techniques that help you feel like you are there, experiencing it right along side of everyone else.

Stabilization and lens selection: We shot mostly with the Manfrotto monopod, close up, with short ranges lenses. This was done to give that close intimate feeling.

Angles: The camera positioning in almost all of our shots were from eye level of the main subject in the shot, keeping us on the same level as them.

Audio: There was a lot of use of natural audio and conversations.  This was to help the viewer feel like they are a part of the conversations that happened during the event.  This brings a realness to the viewers involvement with the characters in the film.  With out this element of natural audio the viewer  would have felt more like an onlooker, someone not part of the action, rather watching from a distance.

The goal was to emotionally attach the viewer to the experience, which would drive that person to really want to experience it all for themselves.

Check out what we put together for them!  They are certainly a unique company, producing a valuable product, telling a unique story.


Texas ——> So Cal

We took the whole Shade Tree team out to Dallas Texas to have ourselves a good time… and to talk a bit about film making as well.  After three jam packed days of instruction and going through the entire film making process… we were ready to party!  See for yourself:

 Once again… a huge thank you to all our Cine-skool Sponsors that make it possible for us to have this much fun:

Shoot Sac
Plural Eyes Software
The Music Bed
New Blue FX
Big Deal Branding

Oh and just as a side note… The next stop for Cine-skool will be held at the new Shade Tree Studio in sunny Southern California. So grab your sunglasses (or sunnies, as Drew calls them) and head our way on March 8th-10th 2012. For more info on attending the next Cine-skool, check out this link.



Gusttavo - November 24, 2011 - 5:55 pm

Great stuff, guys! Cine-Skool ROCKS!

Sharon - November 19, 2011 - 3:49 pm

Nice skating skillz, Chad!

JPurdue - November 19, 2011 - 4:02 am

art meets roller derby….I love it.
Can’t wait to attend Cine-Skool soon.

Garnold - November 19, 2011 - 2:20 am

Love it guys! Go Shade Tree Team!!!!! Twas an amazing workshop experience, thanks for everything.

What Are You Looking At?

There are a lot of things that have become necessities of life for our team… A few of those are Panera Bread, toilet paper, caffeine, frequent flier miles and remote control helicopters.  Another one of those “must haves” for us is a good viewfinder for our Canon DSLR cameras.  Shooting outdoors, in the middle of the day creates some definite challenges in your ability to see what you are actually shooting.  Before we started using viewfinders on all our cameras, we would often get back to the studio for the post-production process, only to find out that the exposure on the footage is off, or the subject is out of focus.  These are all flaws due to the fact that we couldn’t see because of the blinding glare on our LCD screens while we were shooting.  Just like toilet paper, there are so many different types of viewfinders out there, and you really can’t ever know what you type you like until you see how they feel to you.

We have been on the hunt for the perfect viewfinder.  The following is our experience with two of the leading brands of viewfinders.  We know that there are a lot more options out there, but we have decided to just review the two that we see as the industry leaders; the Z-Finder by Zacuto and the Cyclops by Cinevate.

Lets weigh the good with the bad; its time for Pros and Cons…




-       Dual Eye Viewing: You can look into the viewfinder with both eyes.

-       Magnification: They magnify the screen just enough to be able to see well without the LCD looking pixilated.

-       No Facial Contact: We have heard a lot of buzz suggesting to have multiple points of contact with the camera, in order to create a more stable shot; however, we have actually noticed that with our forehead pressed to the viewfinder our shots are more unstable than if our hands were the only point of contact.  Using the Cyclops you can still see your entire LCD clearly without having your head touch the viewfinder.


-       Weight: Cyclops are heavy themselves, and when we use them on the Manfroto mono pod, it throws the balance off, making it front heavy and difficult to make the mono free standing for longer shots.

-       Mount and Dismount: When you decide to use the Cyclops, you have to be committed.  The process to mount and dismount the Cyclopes is a lengthy process involving allen wrenches and screwdrivers. (We know that there are other mounting options, but the cost on these mounting alternatives is extremely expensive.)

-       Mobility: We noticed a reduction in our ability to get a good variety of shots.  The Cyclops makes to really difficult to get low, high or moving shots (such as slider).

-       Size: They are large and make us much more noticeable in live event situation.

-       Durability: some of the parts have broken through normal usage.




-       Weight: They are extremely lightweight and compact.

-       Mount and Dismount: They are easily mounted and dismounted in seconds just by pushing it onto a mounting bracket.

-       Mobility: Because of the easy mount and dismount, you are extremely mobile and versatile on the fly. This gives you the ability to move to any level and to use other stabilization such as sliders.

-       Size: They are very compact and discrete, keeping our rig less noticeable in live event situations.

-       Durable: Because they are so compact and easily removed, they don’t take as much wear and tear, and there are fewer parts to break.



-       Magnification: The magnification is so intense that it makes the LCD look pixilated.  This sometimes makes it difficult to know if you are in focus or not. (There are extenders and different magnifications to help with this, but they don’t make that large of a difference.)

-       Burnt Screen: We learned from sad experience, that if you allow the sun to come through the Z-Finder and hit your screen, it will burn and kill the pixels in you LCD.

-       Single Eye Viewing: Closing one eye is annoying and tiresome.

-       Facial Contact: Your eye must be in the eye-cup for you to see any of your picture.



We wrap all of this up by saying this… We don’t recommend one over the other across the board.  We think that both have there time and place.  We use the Cyclops in interview situations, where we are locked down on a tripod and we don’t need to be too mobile.  We use the Z-Finder in fast paced live event situations where mobility, and ease in mounting and dismounting are a must!


So in your search for the right viewfinder or toilet paper… try them out before you make your purchase.  Rent or use someone else’s to make sure you know what you want.  Viewfinders are a large investment, but in our minds a necessary one.

Hope this helps!


The STF Team

raj - November 16, 2011 - 4:53 pm

Guys, glad you took the time to lay this out. I know I spoke with Drew about the cyclops awhile back and he mentioned the “commitment” part. The z-finder is nice and when I initially used it, I found it a bit bulky. But compared to the cyclops its seems way more compact. I’ve also used the cheap-o Hoodman as well but it’s just a sunshade at the end of the day. Though, its cheap and effective to get shots outside in the middle of the afternoon. Thanks for the insight guys!

CS Creations

Our greatest goal with Cine-Skool is to help our friends apply what they have learned on a very real level.  A large part of the experience is where those involved get into small groups and work to create a masterpiece.  In Dallas we had some amazing talent, both in the film makers and the subjects.  The main objective (aside of having fun, of course) was to tell a true story, both verbally and visually, that is compelling, moving and illustrates the true personality of the subject. We are so proud of these film makers and what they were able to create in a matter of 48 hours.  Divided into three small groups, armed with all the necessary story telling equipment provided by LensRentals.com, in their sweet little Shoot Sacs, they journeyed into the surroundings of big old Texas, and worked their beautiful magic.

Of course we couldn’t have done it without The Music Bed supplying the incredible tunes that edited to.  Also the films would not be what they are visually without the help of New Blue FX filters.  PluralEyes software also allowed to the groups to sync their multi-angle interviews, in a matter of minutes.  We have the best sponsors in the industry… just sayin.

Also a huge thank you to Da Smiz, Jonny Adams and Kayti Edwards, for pouring their hearts into the projects and being such tubular people!

Sit back, relax and eat some tacos, because it is our pleasure to present to you the creations of Cine-Skool Dallas!

(These films were created  with-in the 3 day workshop by each group)

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3


The Cine-Skool Fam

SMiZ - November 15, 2011 - 5:48 pm

Thanks for the support, and the AWESOME work on the video! All 3 videos are amazing. Positive energy for 2011 and beyond!


[...] sound.  There were guest speakers to tell us about branding, and music.  We shot and edited an entire film!  The experience was incredible.  It revitalized me and made me really start to think about the [...]