I traveled to the NU Hotel in Brooklyn, NY to document the creation of Laura Hollick’s mural, The Trees of nü York. My job was to capture the beauty of Laura’s creative process in photos and videos.

When working on a project like this, the secret to success is flexibility. Many artists like Laura (and myself, quite frankly) don’t have a precise vision of the final product before starting, so planning how to document it can be difficult. The art evolves during its creation, and that’s part of what gives life to a piece like this. Laura talks about it in her blog post about her process of creating the mural.

Even though things were going to be unpredictable, we did sketch out some rough plans for the final documentary video before starting. We knew, for instance, it would weigh in at about 5 minutes long. Because the painting was going to take about three days to complete, I proposed to do a time-lapse segment. We also planned to do an on-camera intro and extro so Laura could explain a little bit about the project. Finally, we planned to do some kind of artistic video sequence to tie it all together.

All in all, this project was a lot of fun and went very smoothly, although there were some minor challenges to work out. The main one was lighting. There were many different levels of light in the room, from extreme brightness near the window to dark shadow near the door. Overhead lighting was minimal. Normally, shooting in RAW can provide some mitigation for problems like this, but I was shooting medium resolution JPG files to create the time-lapse because I needed about 6000 frames to make the time lapse. The finished video also had to be produced in a very short period of time. That meant file size and ease of handling were considerations. JPG won the day.

The different levels of brightness in the room meant I had to expose for the shadow areas while being careful to avoid too many blown out areas. I set the camera up with the excellent Marvels Cine picture style for the Canon 5D Mk III, which has very flat contrast and saturation meant to be corrected in post processing. The Marvels Cine picture style made it quite easy to make very precise adjustments in Lightroom, which I could then synchronize across thousands of frames. Shooting medium sized JPG still provided files big enough to use for 1080p video. After making the Lightroom adjustments, I exported them to 2400px on the long side, which still gave me enough resolution to do some panning and zooming within the frame to add a little dynamism to the stop motion video.

Check out the finished video below. And if you’re visiting Brooklyn at any time, stay at the NU Hotel and request Laura’s art room!