Saturday, December 13, 2014
CJ Studios: Who are they?
Crown Heights resident Yosef Shidler can barely remember a time when he didn’t have a camera in his hand. In his teens, Shidler’s instrument of choice was a home movie camcorder, but as technology has evolved, the owner of CJ Studios, a rapidly growing photo and video studio in Brooklyn, has graduated to the highest caliber professional equipment and he spends his days indulging his passion for a hobby that, over time, has evolved into an art form.
“It is always a thrill to be able to capture a moment in time,” said Shidler. “It gives people who were there the opportunity to relive the experience and those who weren’t in attendance to feel as if they really were there.”
Hiring Video Separate From Photo?
In years past, video was simply an add-on to a wedding package, with photographers hiring a videographer as part of their team while today, hiring a talented videographer is just as important, if not even more so, than choosing a photographer.
“It is a common misconception to think that the photographer should choose who does the video or that the two are a package deal,” explained Shidler. “A client should choose a photographer based on his track record, his work, the photographs that he has taken and the same goes for video. You want the team who will do the best job and produce the best product, not just the one that your photographer has a convenient financial arrangement with.”
With today’s sophisticated equipment and the latest technology, it is important for those making a simcha to hire the highest quality video team in order to capture and produce amazing footage and not leave that all important decision to a photographer who might be motivated by price alone. The importance of hiring the right videographer cannot be underestimated, according to Shidler, who observed that CJ Studios works hand in hand with, and is recommended by, many of the biggest names in the photography business.
“We would never ask our musicians if they can do the catering or ask the photographer if he can deal with makeup,” noted Shidler. “Video has become an art of its own and clients should hire a videographer based on his talent and abilities, not because a photographer has a profitable arrangement with a particular video team. If you want great quality, you need to go directly to the source and hire the best talent available. Why would anyone settle for anything less when it comes to capturing the moments of their simcha?”
The DSLR VIDEO Revolution?
Just five years ago the typical wedding video was shot using a large, heavy, over the shoulder video camera. The videographer typically mounted his camera on a tripod and took much of his footage from a single location or stationed himself on a ladder in a corner of the room to capture as much of a simcha as possible. Clients, who had no input in selecting the video crew, would receive four to five hours worth of video within several weeks, with much of the footage being overly long and tedious to watch. But with the advent of DSLR cameras, everything has changed. Today’s clients are finding themselves wowed by state of the art technology that produces superior footage, combined with the latest editing work by talented professionals who sift through hours of footage to produce a Hollywood style movie that captures the essence of your simcha.
First introduced in 2008, DSLR video brought with it a smaller and lighter sized camera capable of capturing stunning photographs as well as high definition footage. While DSLR cameras can shoot Hollywood style footage, and have in fact been used to shoot independent films and TV shows, they are affordably priced, making superior footage accessible to the masses, not just major film studios. Additionally, since their introduction, third party vendors have begun creating accessories for DSLR cameras, bringing an even higher level of quality to the medium by eliminating shakiness and allowing for smoother movements and panning. Given their size, cost, and superior quality, using DSLRs for simchas was a logical step and with their Hollywood caliber footage, incorporating movie making techniques into the finished product was clearly an up and coming trend.
One of the first Orthodox photographers to use DSLR cameras at simchas was Yoni Oscherowitz of Los Angeles who found himself intrigued by the capabilities offered by the new technology.
“I started using DSLR’s not because it was cool but because I saw it as a tool to get better images,” said Oscherowitz. “Once I started using it I realized there was no going back. At first I started using it for the prep and ‘eye-candy’ shots. Like most people I thought you can’t properly cover a wedding with a DSLR. I see that all the time in New York: they have a guy come for the ‘creative’ shots with a DSLR but then they shoot the wedding with a big shoulder mount camera, which literally defeats the whole purpose. I decided to shoot whole weddings with a DSLR and I never looked back.”
It wasn’t long before CJ Studios pioneered the use of the same technology on the East Coast, bringing an unprecedented level of professionalism to the Jewish video industry at an economically affordable price. With their small size and ease of use, DSLRs allow videographers to be in the center of the action, be it standing in the middle of the dance floor or following the kallah down the aisle as she walks towards the chupah. Even today, simcha guests are still shocked to realize that these small, handheld cameras aren’t just for still photographs but are the key component to producing magnificent simcha footage.
“We spent a year working with leaders in the DSLR cinematography field, learning how to best put this incredible new technology to work,” recalled Shidler. “We learned from masters of the craft, videographers who were revolutionized the secular wedding video business, so that we could bring these incredible new techniques to the Jewish simcha market. We were trained by the very best, something that you can clearly see when you look at our work.”
Shidler notes that many of those who trained his crew in the art of DSLR video have become part of the CJ Studios team.
“Some of them are our editors, others go out and shoot jobs for us,” said Shidler. “They taught us about video and we taught them about the Jewish wedding market and we still work hand in hand with many of them.”
Highlights & Full Video
Following a trend in the secular videography world, CJ Studios began offering their clients a taste of these groundbreaking advances, offering clients a five to eight minute highlight clip of their event, in addition to the standard video footage. The results were nothing short of astonishing as clients were wowed by the highlight movie.
“People couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” said Shidler. “One of our first clients said ‘This is like an album for the video.’ It captured all those special moments into something people can watch again and again.”
Spurred by the positive response of his clients, Shidler took things a step further, offering the option of creating a full length sixty to ninety minute movie of their simcha, bringing the best moments of the milestone event to life. This revolutionary move has totally transformed the video business and with it come certain adjustments and associated costs. Original style videos, most of which were minimally edited, could be churned out quickly, and clients had become accustomed to receiving four to five hours of simcha footage within a period of weeks. With the new cinematography techniques made possible by the DSLR camera, a team of carefully selected editors could spend as much as fifty to sixty hours putting together a single movie, increasing both the cost and the time factor for the finished product.
The concept of a 60 to 90 minute movie is a ground-breaking one, according to Shidler.
“When you have a four or five hour video, people will watch it maybe once or twice before putting it back up on the shelf,” explained Shidler. “No one has the time or patience to watch that much, no matter how important the simcha. What we have done is to condense the highlights of an entire event into a shorter, more watchable format. It is 60 to 90 minutes that is a true cinematic experience that is enjoyable to watch from start to finish. Literally every minute is jam packed with the most important and most emotional moments of your simcha.”
With the increasingly sophisticated DSLRs becoming the new industry standard, it quickly became clear that it was imperative to find editors whose artistic eye and talents were of the highest caliber in order to produced the highest quality film. CJ Studios interviewed dozens of candidates who were hand-picked from within the New York cinematography community.
“In one case we took five applicants from film schools around the tri-state area and we gave them all footage of one wedding,” said Shidler. “We made a competition to see who could create the best results. We took only the best from that group and we continue to be very selective when hiring, working closely with our editors to insure that the final results are something people can cherish over and over again.”
With its reputation for excellence, earned by consistently putting out top notch work, CJ Studios can run multiple jobs on any given night, keeping their meticulous and gifted editors extremely busy. Shidler estimates that it takes approximately a week to ten days to put together a simcha movie but given the high level of expertise required to produce a superior product and the number of events covered weekly by CJ Studios, current turnaround time for a simcha movie is approximately eight to twelve weeks. Shidler hopes to continue building his ever-growing team of highly trained staff in order to minimize the wait time.
“We are extremely selective when we hire editors and we won’t compromise the quality of our work in order to get our movies out faster,” remarked Shidler. “We pride ourselves on putting out consistently superior products but we hope to bring in more people so that we can cut the wait down by half.”
Final Product: DVD vs. Digital Format
The results? Well worth the wait, according to Shidler, whose customers receive both a digital download of their full length film and have the option of getting the complete footage of their event downloaded to an external hard drive.
“We had one customer who brought a hard drive to their simcha and we downloaded the footage to it at the end of the night,” recalled Shidler. “They had the full footage of their simcha available for their guests to watch the next night at the first Sheva Brachos and we invite all of our clients to do the same.”
Why use digital download instead of DVD? The answer is obvious to Shidler, who notes that DVD is a dying medium that will likely be completely outdated within a decade, making it a poor choice for a milestone event that customers will treasure forever.
“DVDs became very popular because they were economical, but they are not the best medium from a quality standpoint,” said Shidler. “They may be cheap and easy to produce but they definitely don’t give you the best product.”
Shidler also noted that DVDs aren’t capable of playing the high definition that is currently captured by a DSLR camera.
“Our quality today is already three times better than what DVD was made for,” explained Shidler. “The only way to ensure the quality of our product is to have it in a format that will last, like digital download. DVDs will soon be technology that sits on the shelf like cassette tapes and will be a thing of the past. We want our clients to be able to ride the wave of the future.”
Another advantage to delivering the finished product by digital download?
“Clients can essentially make as many copies as they please and have the highest quality,” added Shidler. “They can share their movie with as many people as they choose and can even load it onto a cell phone or a tablet and take it with them wherever they go.”
Two Cameras A Must
Appreciating the importance of hiring a team with the right skill set, from videographers to editors, CJ Studios looks for crew members who have experience, talent and a sense of artistry. Over the years, Shidler has also come to realize that it is impossible to capture the essence of a simcha with only one camera and it is that attention to detail and that emphasis on superior quality that has catapulted CJ Studios to a position of prominence within the video industry.
“To really do a simcha right and to get the quality right you really need two cameras,” explained Shidler. “Part of it is making sure that you don’t miss a single moment and you don’t have to choose between a kallah dancing with her mother or the chosson dancing with his father. But another part is that double angles are a major part of creating that movie experience. You never see a movie or a television show shot from just a single camera. To create real cinematography you need different techniques, different angles and that cannot be done with a single camera.”
There is no doubt that producing a high caliber movie comes with higher associated costs. There is more work involved in producing a product of this nature and team members need to possess a higher level of training and artistry. Despite the greater cost factor involved, Shidler works hard to keep his prices as low as possible.
“Like anything else, you get what you pay for and you want to be able to relive these once in a lifetime moments over and over again and make them the best they can possibly be,” notes Shidler.
Still, Shidler observed that for the services he is providing, his prices are among the lowest in the industry.
“Friends of mine in the secular market wonder how we can even make money at the prices we charge,” said Shidler. “Other videographers offering comparable services charge 40 percent more than we do for the same style work.”
CJ Studios continues to blaze trails in the exciting new field of cinematography, using cutting edge techniques and incorporating new technologies. Shidler hopes to start bringing video editors to simcha halls to do on the spot video editing, which will give clients and guests the ability to see highlights of the event before they even leave the hall. CJ Studios is also pioneering the use of drones in the video market to shoot overhead footage.
“I don’t know of anyone else in Brooklyn who is using drones,” said Shidler. “It is a very, very innovative concept and the footage we can capture that way is really breathtaking.”
With their newly opened studio in Crown Heights, clients have the ability to discuss their needs and have pre-event consultations with the staff at CJ Studios, and in some cases, work alongside editors to custom tailor the finished product.
“Customers come in and they see our beautiful big screen and they see how we bring events to life,” said Shidler. “We won’t settle for anything less than perfect when it comes to your simcha and neither should you.”
Know what your getting!
With his own knowledge of the Orthodox simcha market, Shidler is well attuned to the special moments of every event, from capturing a kallah saying Tehillim on her wedding day, to the look in the chosson’s eyes as he sees his kallah for the first time, to the proud look on a mother’s face as her newly Bar Mitzvahed son delivers his speech and every member of the CJ Studios team is carefully trained to pick up on the nuances and the subtleties of these once in a lifetime moments.
With hundreds of events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, concerts and dinners to their credit nationwide, CJ Studios has the experience and the know how to capture every moment of every simcha and the list of happy customers who have trusted their most special moments to CJ Studios continues to grow.
“When it comes to capturing your simcha, there are no do-overs: you only have one chance to get it right,” said Shidler. “We know how to capture your simcha and bring it to life .You will relive it all over again as you watch - the heart-stopping emotion, the indescribable joy, we get it all for you.”
What is most important to Shidler is not whether or not a client hires CJ Studios but that the public understands what excellent video is all about and that they appreciate the power of video and the importance of hiring the right video team.
“Photographs are great, but they don’t grab you and pull you in the way video does,” said Shidler. “Video allows you to relive an entire event and a really well done video needs to be magical and amazing in order to transport you to that moment in time and make you feel like you are really there, seeing it unfold before your very eyes. People need to know what to look for, what makes a video really great, and once they understand that, they can make an educated decision about who to hire for their event and how to preserve those precious moments so that they can relive them over and over again.”