12 Cities, 1 Year Film Food

a new film by Todd Bradley

A few months ago, one of my Facebook friends turned me on to a short film contest that was right up my alley. It was the Real Food Media Contest, and they had a contest to make a short documentary on one of a set of topics related to food and farming. So I took footage I shot in Missoula, Montana when Beth and I were there for a month in the summer of 2012, and edited it into a short. Unfortunately, I didn’t win a prize, but today they announced the winners. If you want to check out what won, here you go:

My buddy Chad Johnson reviewed and critiqued the film I put together. His assessment was that it was a basically good edit and interesting story. But he felt I probably wouldn’t place in the contest because my film doesn’t have the “shallow depth-of-field DSLR look” that’s so popular. Well, he was right; my film wasn’t even a finalist. And if you look at the films that got the top 5 prizes, you can see his comments about the “look” the judges wanted to see were right on the money.

The winners are also interesting stories, so I don’t mean to imply that they won only based on their look. But my traditional video camera’s small imager just can’t produce the kind of pictures that people’s eyes want to watch. It’s awesome for sports, but not for sexy documentaries. So I’m gonna get a DSLR (or something like it) and learn to fiddle obsessively with rack focus. That’s my recipe for success. Just watch me.


how to do fake dolly moves in Final Cut Pro

A couple years ago, my friend Chad taught me a very useful trick in Final Cut Pro. We were both using FCP 7 at the time, though I have since moved to FCP X (an essential part of this story that I’ll get to in a bit). This was when I was still pretty new to video editing, having had other people edit my films up to that point. I shot one particular video for a charity organization and there were some shots that weren’t framed very well. Unfortunately, I shot the footage at the same resolution that I was going to output the final video in – standard definition.

Now any of you who are experienced video editors are already thinking, “WTF? Why did you do that?” Well, I assumed that since the final video was meant to go on DVD, I should just shoot and edit in SD.

But as Chad explained it to me, I should always shoot at a higher resolution than what I’m going to deliver on when possible. Then, when I have a shot that isn’t framed well, I can fix the framing during editing, without any loss of image quality. In my example, the end product was going to be 720×480, but if I shot at 1440×1080, then I can pick and choose which pixels are going to be thrown out to downscale the image. This is a way of improving the framing up or down or left or right, but the trick can also be used to zoom in a little, or – by using keyframes – to fake a dolly push. If you don’t have more pixels than you need, then if you want to zoom in a little, you’re forcing the editing program to make up pixels, and of course since it can’t invent data that’s not there, it has to guess, and that means something that doesn’t look crisp.

As I learned the trick from Chad, you can also use this to add interest to a single static shot of someone talking or doing a presentation or whatever. If you intersperse cuts from fully wide (100%) to a bit tighter (150%) then you can cover up cuts you’ve made to remove mistakes in a performance  while also adding some visual interest to the video.

Here is a video by David Acampora explaining how to use this technique in Final Cut Pro 7:

But when I switched to Final Cut Pro X, I was confused for quite some time about how to do the same thing. You see, when you’re editing bigger clips on a smaller timeline, FCP X automatically scales the footage to the timeline window and calls that “100%” even though you know you’re really seeing only 66% (or something like that) of the pixels. You can do a fake zoom in FCP X by editing the Scale parameter of the Transform section of the Video tab of the Inspector window (whew, say that fast!) to something greater than 100%.

But it wasn’t clear to me if Final Cut Pro X downscales my footage first (to match the project properties – the timeline resolution) and then zooms in (interpolating pixels where there aren’t any), or if it’s smart enough to zoom in and then downscale (in which case there may be no interpolated pixels). And so for the last year I’ve been avoiding this technique as much as possible. You see, I paid for an online training class in FCP X from Ripple Training when I first decided to take the plunge to the new version. The training was great, but they didn’t cover this topic.

About a month ago, though, I subscribed to an email list from a video expert named Larry Jordan. He does a video blog series, a written blog, training videos, and lots more. The guy knows it all. So I decided to ask him about this earlier today. He immediately wrote me an email back filling in the missing gap in my knowledge. Here’s the trick in FCP X:

  1. Select the clip that’s bigger than the resolution used for the project
  2. Go to the Inspector and change Spatial Conform
  3. Then use the Ken Burns mode in the Crop menu to move the image around however it looks good

Larry suggested changing Spatial Conform from Fit to Fill, but I found that there’s also the None mode which seems to give me all the pixels in the raw clip to play with. I didn’t even know about the Spatial Conform menu before. So now I have something new and cool to play with. Thanks, Larry!

Film Roller Derby Travel

seeking help with my video backlog

Do you or someone you know want to get more experience with video editing in general or with Final Cut Pro X specifically? I’m looking for one or two like-minded individuals to help me catch up on my huge backlog of non-paying video editing projects. I’ve been shooting way faster than I’ve been editing for some time now. The list of unfinished projects finally got so long that I stopped taking on new projects – even some of my favorite topics, like roller derby – until I can knock some of these off my plate.

My video work is split between paying jobs (advertising, training, etc.) and non-paying jobs (both short films and work for charity organizations). I’m not looking for someone to help with the “work” stuff, but I could definitely use help with the “fun” stuff. Here is a list of what’s on my backlog right now:

  • roller derby action highlights videos
  • pedestrian bridges of Portland
  • interview with the Mayor of Missoula about creating community in a “big box store” world
  • Harvest Garden – a non-profit combination garden/workshop that donates all their food to charity
  • Team USA roller derby – two or three topics from the 2011 World Cup
  • Smashed Potato – a short film that’s 90% shot and just needs animation and editing
  • documentary on my grandparents’ life as dry land farmers in western Colorado, as told through interviews of people who knew them
  • Derbyverse season 2 – my roller derby culture interview series; interviews are all shot and just waiting to be edited
  • vacation 2008 – I’ll probably do this myself, unless I find someone who is really into canyons and rivers

If you want to help with any of these, you’ll need a modern Mac with Final Cut Pro X. I’ll provide guidance, training as necessary, hard drives to shuttle things back and forth, gratitude, good coffee, and so on. This would be the perfect way for a student to get some real world experience and credits on a low pressure project with small commitment. To find out more, just call me at 720-480-4890 or email

Oh, if you haven’t seen my work before, here are some videos similar to what you’d be helping with.

Film Music Roller Derby

my letter to YouTube, explaining why they are violating copyright law in their effort to prevent violation of copyright law

Here is a letter I just sent to attempting to explain why they should remove their advertising from one of my videos.

Hi, I uploaded a video that contains audio from a song that is copyrighted by a US artist. However, in addition to releasing the music under a standard license, the artist also released the song under a Creative Commons license that allowed use for attributed derivative works. YouTube flagged the song as copyrighted, and I disputed that claim because I have the legal right to use this music in this video. YouTube then rejected the dispute, and reinstated the claim.

Because that the YouTube web interface doesn’t allow any further recourse, what are my options? Is there any way to get a human being to look at my license to this piece of music and remove the ads you are showing on my video?

The video is this:

I purchased the music on March 5, 2008. And as you can see from the following article, the license sold on that date was Creative Commons BY-NC-SA. I can send you a copy of the receipt if you’d like.

Thanks for your help with this matter.


ps. Ironically, by advertising on my video, YouTube is now making money from this work, which violates the non-commercial restriction of the music license. That, in turn, makes it illegal to publically perform this work. As strange as it sounds, I think in your effort to catch copyright law violations, YouTube has now actually caused a copyright violation!

Film Roller Derby

roller derby documentaries and how Derbyverse came to be

A roller derby photographer from Toronto asked me to write a review of a film called “Derby, Baby!” But what came out was an article about roller derby documentaries in general, why a lot of filmmakers are wasting their time making docs that won’t earn any money, and where my online interview show Derbyverse came from. I liked the article so much I’m posting it here to share with my friends.


In 2009, the modern resurgence of women’s roller derby made it to the mainstream in the form of Drew Barrymore’s film “Whip It.” Thousands of girls and women saw the film and rushed out to buy roller skates and try roller derby for themselves. Now, over three years later, it’s the only significant dramatic motion picture about the modern version of the sport. But there have been several documentary films about the sport, some good and some bad.

I’m a movie buff, a film maker, and a roller derby fan. To me, the two best documentaries about modern roller derby are “Derby, Baby!” and “Brutal Beauty.” Technically, they are the only ones that look, sound, and feel like a real big-screen movie. And they both work well from a storytelling perspective.

“Brutal Beauty” came out in 2010. It was directed by Chip Mabry, and looks into Portland’s Rose City Rollers over the course of about a year and a half. It showed in some indie film festivals, but never was picked up for any significant distribution. It’s now available for rental on Netflix. “Derby, Baby!” came out in 2012, with a much wider scope to show a lot of different leagues and people involved in the sport. The filmmakers took an unusual distribution route with this one; they teamed up with individual roller derby leagues to host screenings around the world and split the proceeds. Eventually it will be available on DVD and, I think, Blu-ray.

In addition to these films, there are several other roller derby documentaries, with probably a dozen more in some stage of production. Most of these films suffer from the same weakness. Some guy with a camera becomes a fan of roller derby, starts following his local hometown team, and then decides to make a documentary about them. I’ve personally met about six filmmakers who are trying to work on different films of this type, which means there are probably more than twice that many.

The fatal flaw of this type of film is that the market is almost non-existent. That’s because of two things. First, any film that’s about specific players making their way up the ladder – as many roller derby documentaries are – has a limited lifespan. The average career of a roller derby skater is only about three years. So by the time the film is finished being shot, and then edited, and then sold, and then shown in theaters, most of the people who are in the film aren’t even involved in roller derby anymore. And because the sport is changing so fast right now, the best you can get is an unsatisfying snapshot of what it used to be like a few years ago. The second – and much bigger – reason there’s no market for this type of film is that only the fans of a local team are really interested in a documentary of that local team. As much as the guy with the camera thinks his local team is unique and exciting and interesting, nobody in Atlanta wants to watch a documentary about a roller derby team in Vancouver.

This brings up a bigger issue that I should back up and explain. There is not a significant audience for roller derby documentaries of any kind – even the really good ones. First, in most of the world, there really isn’t much of a market for documentaries of any kind. In addition, even though derby is the fastest-growing women’s sport in the world (so I’ve read), it is played by only around 10,000 skaters worldwide, and watched by an audience of probably 50,000 to 100,000 real fans. That’s about 1/50 the size of lacrosse. And how many lacrosse documentaries have you and your family seen at the local cinema this year?

I’ve given a lot of thought to this issue because I used to be one of those dozens of filmmakers working on a roller derby documentary. I even had a pretty unique angle that most of the derby films never took. Instead of focusing on my hometown league, I was looking at the roller derby community as it varies around the country (the USA, which is where I live). I wasn’t so much interested in the history of the sport, or roller derby rules and strategy, or how my hometown league came to be. What excites me is the unique culture that’s grown up around the modern version of the sport.

I canceled that film project about halfway through production. But from the ashes of that film came something new and unique, a weekly online video series. It’s called Derbyverse, and each 6-to-10 minute episode focuses on a single person involved in modern roller derby. Most of the episodes are about skaters, but it’s not just famous players whose names are known to everyone in the roller derby community. I’m trying to show the full spectrum of people in the derby universe – the “derbyverse.” So there are some skaters you’ve never heard of, plus officials, fans, and volunteers. You can watch the series at, and we have a Facebook page at Come check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Film Roller Derby Travel

I’m now a citable expert in roller derby

This year was the first ever Roller Derby World Cup.  It wasn’t put on by any official organization, just a roller derby magazine.  They chose to hold the event in Toronto. When I learned about it early in 2011, I decided I could probably afford to go to either Rollercon or the World Cup to shoot footage for my roller derby culture documentary. The World Cup seemed likely to have more significant historical value, so I chose that one.

I then made travel arrangements to go from San Diego to Toronto and back. You see, San Diego is the city where we expected to be living, as part of the 12 Cities, 1 Year project. Unfortunately, our best-laid plans were thrown into a tailspin when we learned Beth had cancer. Our travels went on hold, and we returned to Denver. I assumed I would need to drop my plans to go to Toronto, so I could stay with Beth for moral support. My airline tickets were mostly bought with reward points, and my hotel would be refundable, and I never actually bought tickets to the tournament because I knew I could get in for free. But Beth said she thought I should go. “This is the first one ever, and you should be there,” she told me.

Changing my travel arrangements turned out to take two or three hours of clicking and phone calls, plus a few hundred dollars. But I made it. The official events of the tournament were scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I arrived at the hotel very late Tuesday night, and made it over to the venue late Wednesday morning.

I had a terrible day, the details of which I won’t list here. But it was stressful, unproductive, sad, and expensive. However, before the day went downhill, I was staking out the building where I’d spend most of the next five days, and watching some roller derby teams practice. A local Toronto news team was there, doing story on the event. And since I was also there on a media pass, I struck up a conversation with them – the camera guy and the on-air talent. They didn’t know anything about roller derby, so I filled them in on the basic rules, a little history, etc. Since I seemed to know what was going on, they interviewed me.

That night, I was on TV in Toronto. Here is the news segment they broadcasted. As Bob LaRue later pointed out, this means I can now cite myself as a recognized expert on the topic of roller derby in my own roller derby film. Ha ha! I just think that idea is hilarious.


“Birthday Girl” world premiere

For the past year, I’ve been working on a film called “Kung Fu Sushi Chefs.” It’s the biggest film project I’ve ever been involved with, and has a cast and crew of about 50. We did a “test shoot” to try some things out and learn from our mistakes. Now, that test shoot is a short film of its own, and it’s going to premiere on Saturday January 30 in Denver at 7:00pm. If you’re around, you should come check it out. Here is a link to the flyer:


the weirdest Hong Kong action movie ever?

I’ve seen a lot of Hong Kong action movies.  Certainly not as many as the very dedicated fans, but way more than 99% of the American population.  This segment from an action scene in a film with the English title “A Chinese Torture Chamber” takes “action” in a whole new direction.

Warning: You are probably not going to enjoy this unless you (a) know and appreciate the traditions of Hong Kong action cinema and (b) are not averse to explicit sex scenes.

Now, with that warning out of the way, go check out this clip.  Here is the IMDB page about the film, for completeness.


Joseph Wiseman Dies: ‘Dr No’ Dead At 91

Joseph Wiseman Dies: ‘Dr No’ Dead At 91

A moment of reverent silence, please, for the passing of Joseph Wiseman.  He played the Bond villain in the very first James Bond movie, “Dr. No”.  A coworker and I were just talking about that character earlier this week.  He didn’t get all the cool evil lines that later villains got, but he started it all.


Hell in the Pacific

I was just flipping through channels on TV last night and ran into “Hell in the Pacific.” I thought I’d watch just a few minutes, but I got sucked into it and watched the whole thing. It’s a weird movie. There are really only two characters in it. Toshiro Mifune (widely regarded as the best Japanese film actor ever) was in it, and only spoke Japanese. His counterpart was played by Lee Marvin, who only spoke English. Can you think of any other film with only two characters who speak different languages throughout?

Mifune was such an incredibly amazing actor. You may know he was Akira Kurasawa’s main actor, and he made – according to IMDB – 181 films. He appeared in such classics as “The Hidden Fortress” and “Yojimbo” and “The Seven Samurai.”