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Proof Reel: Broadcast News Image (KPRC)

By April 21, 2010 Houston, KPRC, Photography, Promos

Proof Reel: Broadcast News Image from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

If you’ve seen any of my promos in the past year, then chances are you’ll recognize some of this footage. Basically, I’m getting my various reels together for my (soon-to-be) upgraded photo/video site…and whatever future marketing needs I might have now that we’re moving. My intent is to demonstrate my digital cinematography skills for use in broadcast promos and related projects.

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Dominique at Miller Outdoor Theater

By March 16, 2010 Houston, KPRC, Photography

I’m trying to start posting more of my daily workflow on the blog, but since I don’t really have any shots of me pushing paper or sitting in meetings today, I’ll go with this image from Friday’s promo shoot at Miller Outdoor Theater. On that afternoon I had a chance to play with some wicked, new lighting equipment.

Dominique at Miller Outdoor Theater

For an impromptu still image (I was shooting video at the time) I think it came out rather well. Though I can’t take too much credit. Between Dominique and my Canon 5DII being awesome, all I had to do was push the button on top of the camera.

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chicken fried bacon

By March 14, 2010 geekery, Houston

Last year’s carnival food discovery was “deep fried Oreos”…this year I wandered upon this glorious abomination:

chicken fried bacon

I sorta took this photo in a hurry, as I was eager to rush off to our table and have bite, but also because I had a hundred cowpokes in line behind me getting annoyed that I was nerding out and taking photos of my food. Anyway, let me say it again in case you missed the headline: Chicken Fried. Mother Fuckin’. Bacon.

[On a completely unrelated note: I’m getting really fat lately.]

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“Dusk till Dawn” promo (:60)

By February 24, 2010 Houston, KPRC, Promos

It’s actually called the “10PM to AM” promo internally at the station, but somehow “Dusk till Dawn” stuck with me. (Unfortunately, the anchors don’t turn into vampires halfway through the promo)

KPRC – 10PM to AM News (#3 :60 version) from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

It’s like 99% shot with my 5D, except for like three shots. I’m not terribly happy with the encoding I did for this Vimeo upload, as it’s choppy and contrasty. But it’s a decent example of what I’ve been working on – the standard, thirty-second version of this spot is crazy fast compared to this extended promo.

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News at the Speed of Life (:30)

By February 15, 2010 Houston, Photography, Promos

Here’s the first spot in our new promo campaign that began Friday night during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. I shot about 95% of it with my 5D2, except for a few HD stock shots of people that I needed (so that it wasn’t all news people looking rad).

KPRC – 2010 Image Spot (#1 :30 version) from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

There’s an alternate (longer) version on our promo department’s YouTube channel, in case you want to see the same spot, but twice as long.

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The view from the 24th floor

By February 9, 2010 geekery, Houston, Photography

If I were someone that used the disgusting phrase “get your creative juices flowing” then it would certainly be used to describe my sudden growth in productivity and killer work I’ve been doing in the past few weeks. Though, being that a good portion of my job is working on secretive video projects, I can only really show some random photo I’ve taken – like this one here:

houston buildings 1 (tilt shift)

Man, I have become a sucker for Lensbabies and tilty lenses lately. If there’s a support group I need to join it – LIKE NOW – especially since I’m about to get another lens. I took this photo from atop one of the hotels in downtown Houston for three reasons: 1) I was on a weird creative streak; 2) I also was able to shoot some much-needed HD skyline footage; 3) The “bathroom committee” at work was looking for some ‘Houston-ish’ artwork to hang up in the men’s room. (They ultimately picked a different skyline photo I shot)

Anyway, I’ve been working hard lately on some very special promos, and by the end of the week I should be able to post the video, and a cool behind-the-scenes thing I’m putting together.

Time to log off the blog and go look up Lost spoilers…

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Gone, like a turkey in the corn.

By December 7, 2009 Eliza, Houston

The headline for this post is one of those random lines that’s been stuck in my head ever since hearing it in the Twin Peaks movie back in 1992. I believe the line was something close to, “She’s gone, James. Like a turkey in the corn.”

gone... like a turkey in the corn

Anyway, that sprung into mind when shooting this photo of one of the “wine cork turkeys” my wife and I made for Thanksgiving a few weeks back. And it’s sorta appropriate considering how fast this past month (and year, really) has flown by.

Luckily, most of my family has taken a pact not to buy each other gift this holiday season – mainly focusing on the kids and grandkids – so I’ve been somewhat immune to the ‘black fridays’, ‘cyber mondays’ and ‘fifteen more emails from tuesdays’ this year. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted to get little presenty items here and there.

Luckily/Unluckily, much of my spending has been curbed after having to nuke my checkcard when I found that someone in the Czech Republic has been using it to make fraudulent charges. Fortunately, I caught-on rather quickly and the damage was minimal – although I was slightly disturbed that my bank didn’t get wise to it, considering the charges look like your classic, “We’ve noticed some unusual activity on your account” sort of thing.

Cyber-theft aside, all is going well. I haven’t watched the last episode of V yet, though I have seen that SNL “Reba” video about 5 trillion times. The Sons of Anarchy season finale was spectacular. And I’ve started to get over my aversion to PVP games, spending countless late-nite hours playing Ground War scenarios in Modern Warfare 2 – we even went so far as to start up a clan. The game limits your clan name to only 4 characters, so Hasser came up with H1N1 as our title. Classic.

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no place for baby

By December 2, 2009 Houston, Photography

no place for baby

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Today is Your Day (Houston Versions)

By November 17, 2009 Houston, KPRC, Promos

NBC sent the affiliates a video toolkit, so that we can join our local morning anchors with The Today Show brand. Here’s Local 2’s versions of the spot, which I shot….(wait for it)….on my Canon 5DII.

KPRC – “Your Day Is Today” (Houston Versions) from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

I only did one take of the paper falling in the studio, as there was no way we’d ever be able to duplicate how perfectly all the paper fell.

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Even more weather promos!

By November 5, 2009 Houston, KPRC, Promos

KPRC – Frank Weather Promos #2 from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

Here’s another round of spots in the latest weather campaign, all shot with the 5D2.

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Dr. Oz’s Houston Free Clinic event

By October 16, 2009 Houston, Photography

Here’s a quick video embed of how my still pics were incorporated into the “Dr. Oz Show” today. Basically I just cobbled together two quick photo-related segments, nothing fancy. If you want to see the actual segments from the show, you should check them out on the Oz website.

I ended up shooting a few hundred photos, and then narrowing those down to around 100ish. It was cool to see which photos they chose from both mine and Lewis’ (the other, stellar photographer) pools. There were a few that I knew would be used, and then some that I was surprised didn’t make it – though I’m sure they’ll have some eventual use. Also, I appreciated the “shout out” from Dr. Oz. Anyway, it was a great learning exercise, an awesome freelance paycheck, and an all-around memorable experience. I put a mini flickr slideshow of about a dozen random-ish pics from that day (below)…

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KPRC – Frank B viewer promos #1

By October 14, 2009 Houston, Promos

KPRC – Severe Weather promos #1 from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

As a promo producer, I’m always working on new promos…and it’s highly likely that they’re weather-related. This newest round features the Chief Meteorologist, Frank Billingsley meeting with some of the viewers who have written the station over the past year. And there’s three more of these type of spots in the editing phase right now.

Everything was shot with my Canon 5D Mark 2 still camera (though this time I had a Zacuto rig and DAT recorder for audio) and composited in FCP and After Effects.

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My ‘Office’ bobblehead collection (so far)

By October 7, 2009 geekery, Houston

My 'Office' bobblehead collection (so far)

I figured it’s probably time to take proper photo of my NBC bobblehead shelf at work. Somehow I got lured (I blame my obsessive personality) into buying “The Office” bobbleheads from the NBCU store. They release a new one each week – at a discounted price – and I still get to use my employee discount, so it’s really not that bad. Right?

I have one empty shelf ready to go, and exactly enough space for the unreleased b-heads. Though, I’ll have to find somewhere to put Michael Scott when he gets reissued (or I break down and buy him off eBay).

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How is it already October?

By October 6, 2009 geekery, Houston, Meta, Photography


I just got finished loading up my new office mini fridge with a case of Vitamin Water, leaving no room for anything else. Costco, man – it’ll do that. I just wandered around the station on this fine Tuesday morning, gabbing with various folks, coordinating video transfer details with master control, and stopping by the shipping office to see if any of my new The Office bobbleheads have arrived yet. I could use online tracking numbers, but I like to be surprised.

Last week I knew that a bobblehead was arriving for me, so I checked with the daytime security officer, Ricky about when the FedEx truck usually arrives. He was overly helpful and kept me updated throughout the day on the shipping patterns at the station. He later put the package on my desk. I kinda feel bad because he probably thought it was something terribly urgent or time sensitive, and I certainly didn’t have the nerve to mention that it was just a Toby Flenderson bobblehead.

Work is going well, and I’m starting to enter the finishing stages of another promo campaign while sorta planning for another. Presently I’m working on launching a new blog, finishing a book project, and doing some photography stuff. Mostly I’m playing Halo 3: ODST firefight mode with my Xbox crew. I’m always amazed how we can coordinate virtual death and destruction across three time zones. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing how my still photos are incorporated into an upcoming Dr. Oz episode, finding out if I get an Emmy (Atlanta was a bust, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Dallas), and heading to Oregon for a quick, hit-n-run holiday.

Also, the above photo is a dead bird that I saw lying outside the employee entrance on Friday.

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BTS of “The Dr. Oz Show” in Houston

By September 28, 2009 Houston, Photography

BTS of "The Dr. Oz Show" in Houston

Here’s one of the shots I got while working as a freelance photographer for the “Dr. Oz Show” this weekend. The production came to Houston, holding a massive all-day free clinic in the Reliant Center (which broke records, I’m told). This photo is just one of the many captivating, heartbreaking stories we experienced during the event.

While I can’t reveal the circumstance behind this photo until the show airs, I can tell you how I got it. When all the camera crews from the show piled into the makeshift exam room, I was the only one left without an angle. With the help of some medical volunteers I jumped up on a nearby exam table and sorta fired blindly over the top of the curtain.

I have a reverse image with Oz and the patient in focus, but for some reason I felt like this version resonated more with me. And, as many folks have already asked me: Oz is a decent, cool guy.

photo (c) 2009 ZoCo l LLC./JL Wakins All rights reserved.

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Another creepy Houston billboard

By September 14, 2009 Houston

My morning/afternoon commutes never seem to lack excitement. I’m often maneuvering to save my life, or watching other people fall into obvious speed traps and avoid near-collisions. And when the drive is slow, I’m often entertained by all the creepy billboards…

another creepy billboard

Today’s selection is from an area chain of tanning salons called Darque Tan – which, honestly, have always seemed rather skanky to me (though, I’ve also heard that some locations are quite nice). Anyway, the billboard has some chick photoshopped into the chain’s silhouette logo – only leaving me to imagine what scenario this ‘scene’ is supposed to be depicting. Do women really love a man that has tanned himself into a charred corpse? Or perhaps she’s a groupie who stalks members of Blue Man Group. Or maybe it’s just all some lovely, horny dream. All I know is that “you’ll love getting Darque.”

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3 new weather image promos

By September 1, 2009 Houston, KPRC, Promos

It seems like I’m always working on some kind of weather promo. Here’s the latest batch that I just produced and set loose upon the digiwaves.

KPRC – Weather Image Promos from JL Watkins on Vimeo.

Note: This epic battle was won with Ginny Landers playing After Effects Yoda to my Final Cut Pro Mace Windu. The force is strong with these two.

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I don’t know the football terms.

By August 14, 2009 Houston, KPRC, Promos

When it comes to following football closely, or even really having conversation about it, I’m at a loss. The football game is not my thing. Now if the game was a blood sport and utilized ATVs, or had something to do with wizards and trolls, then I’d probably run the Facebook fan page. Which is why I’m amused that I’ve been chosen again to make a promo for a high school football program.

Last year at WYFF4, Benjie and I went with the “mascots trying to murder each other” theme, and I think that worked well. This year, I had a more outlandish idea for the Local 2 promo, which would have resembled Summer Heights High rather than high school football. Instead I went with the “Frenzy” (as the show is nicknamed) as more of a airborne contagion – instead of “Swine Flu” think “Pigskin Flu”.

Anyway, I was back out there on the field this morning shooting the actual promo (this one was just the preview) that’ll run throughout the season – which will be more straightforward about the game of football.

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Got any billboards?

By July 3, 2009 Houston, Photography

It’s an odd coincidence that on the same day my favorite roadside billboard vanishes, another interesting one appears along my commute in a completely different spot. I guess it’s true that advertising abhores a vacuum. I snapped this shot of my friend and colleague, Mia Gradney’s new billboard – even though I don’t work at that station.

her eyes follow your car along the road

You see, back when Hasser and I did that cross-country road trip back in 2005, we both thought it would be fun to take photos of every roadside billboard we saw featuring local TV news personalities. Unfortunately we thought of it in the last twp hours of our 36 hour drive, passing hundreds of them along the way. And I’ve been meaning to start a photo collection ever since.

So I’ve started my very own Flickr group called, “Local TV Personality Billboards” and I’m looking for folks to submit shots of their area TV news anchors on roadside billboards. Anyone can join/post, and I give bonus points to those who have the “Mount Rushmore” shots of anchors cut-n-pasted together, defying lighting and spacial composition. Anyone interested? It’s like a scavenger hunt!

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