Dive into the dynamic world of digital media and sports photography with Jeff Atkinson, founder of Freedom Digital Media and resident director of photography for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. In this engaging conversation with host David Snyder, explore the impact of AI on the industry and the ever-evolving technology landscape. Jeff shares insights into his 24 years of experience, from the transition from film to the latest innovations in content creation. Discover the challenges and intricacies of shooting sports events, the art of storytelling in unscripted moments, and the behind-the-scenes logistics of a bustling production crew. Join us for a deep dive into the fast-paced world of capturing iconic moments and the constant pursuit of innovation in digital media. Plus, learn about Jeff’s fitness routine and how staying fit plays a crucial role in his demanding profession. Don’t miss this captivating episode that unveils the secrets of success in the world of digital media and sports photography.
Versatile, creative, energetic film and video Director/ Director of Photography
Over 24 years experience in broadcast and commercial television production
Founder of Freedom Digital Media and Resident Director of Photography for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens
Director of Photography for Emeril Green on Planet Green/Discovery HD
Principle DP on the critically acclaimed documentary “Divine Trash,” winner of the 1997 Sundance Film Festival’s Filmmakers Award.
Professionalism, quality and an eye to detail are the standards Jeff applies to every shoot.
Jeff is dedicated to bringing the highest level of skills and experience to your production. To do this, he owns and uses the latest and best production equipment.
He is familiar with most camera support units and lighting technologies including: Cranes, Jibs, Helicopter mounts, Motion control systems, Dollies
Little known fact: Jeff’s favorite scented candle is cotton linen.
Jeff says checkout Abstract: The Art of Design on Netflix
Welcome to the agency balance podcast. I am super excited to bring you today’s guest, Jeff from Freedom digital media. Jeff, welcome to the podcast. Well, thank you for having me, David. It’s an honor to be here and look forward to sharing the next hour with you. That’s so I’m excited to dig in. Because Jeff’s background is amazing and 24 years of experience in broadcasting, commercial television production, most likely, you’ve seen some of this stuff, and you haven’t even realized you’ve seen it. He’s the founder of freedom digital media, and he’s the resident director of photography for the NFL is Baltimore Ravens. So how cool is that we’re gonna dig into those. Maybe we can splice in some samples here, or I could put some links to Jeff’s work out there. Or maybe you just turn into, you know, CBS on a Sunday afternoon. But before we get into that, I am hitting you with a hard question right off the bat. When it comes to digital media and photography and videography.
Over these last six months, or even a year, what has been the biggest change? Or the biggest thing that surprised you? That that hasn’t been there for a while?
Yeah, well, I think the biggest thing that’s approaching my my field is AI, everyone seems to be really worried about it, and quite honestly, scared to death of it.
I’m not sure where all that’s coming from. I’m not an expert on it myself. But I do think it’s something that we need to be aware of. But I think we need to start digging in and figuring out, you know, how it’s going to affect us all. But I’m also not too concerned about any, you know, change in our business is constant. And I just think we need to stay on top of it and figure it out and incorporate it and move on. I think the live elements always going to be there, especially in what I do. And I don’t think that’s gonna go away. And people want to see real people out there saying real things and but I’m definitely looking into it. No doubt about that’s super cool. I mean, if you go back to, to maybe your the start of your career, and that’s maybe how you can talk about, you know, how you got started. But I mean, at some point, they introduced CGI, and and, you know, special effects into into our media, right. And I think when we think about AI or think about anything with the evolution of change, and look at it as an advantage, right? Like, how can you apply that to make what you’re doing better? It’s not necess, necessarily, maybe it is replacing some of the things but that’s okay. So if it if it frees you up to do things faster, or more efficiently, I was playing around with this silly app, that it came up in my feed, right? It was a video thing where it was like,
produce a video and you could tell it to do anything like a snowman, cooking hot dogs, and it generated that image in an animated for me in real time. Because it’s using AI How cool is that? Like? Did that stuff? Like how did that? Like, talk about like how you got started, right? Like did something like this exist? Or how did you how did you innovate when you got started?
I go back a little longer. That’s I mean, I was shooting film when I first started. So so the big change for me when I started was the transition to one inch videotape. And then then then what really shocked everybody was beta cam, and how portable and easy that was to us. And those are big ones. But those are more like logistical things. I mean, technology wise, you know, lighting is still lighting, camera composition is still camera composition of a good interview, and how to talk to people and relate to people and pull that out of people. Like that hasn’t changed. You know, since I’ve started, you know,
the technology stuff, obviously, it is changing, and it’s changing seems to go on faster and faster.
But the basic people interaction and storytelling skills has changed. But that’ll always be the same. You know,
AI is crazy. I don’t know enough about it myself, to be honest with you. Some of the things I’ve seen are eye opening. I mean, that app, I haven’t heard about that. But we’ve used it a little bit already replacing some some voice stuff, you know, we didn’t get a word or a phrase or they misrepresented a statistic and like a corporate, you know,
reports, whatever, we have been able to get permission to not bring the guy back on and make work. So it’s a tool, put it in your toolbox, learn what it is and you know, just gotta stay on top of that. Yeah, never gets any easier. You know, you always got to stay on top of it. Yeah, just think about that. A great example there like you’re using AI to fill in the void
lengths or miss word. I mean, when you got started back in the day, you had to call that person back. And then you got to build the client for another half day or whatever your minimum was right. And that just incurred costs were now it’s like, you know, they forgot to say you saying to he instead of, though I’m making it up, right, but like, you can do that, and how cool is that? Right? And I think that’s, that’s what we’re saying. I mean, what I’m saying with AI, my positioning is right, like, embrace it, it’s here, it’s not going away, figure out how to use it, how to free up more of your time to be more efficient. And stay in your lane. Like if it’s out of your comfort zone, just figure out how, how you can apply it, whether if it’s script writing or filling in the blank, like you said, yeah, yeah, we’re, we’re small or small team here, and but we’ve got one of the guys, John Furman. I mean, he’s looking at it on a daily basis. And he’s says it’s incredible. And so I’ve been asked him to feed me some links and stuff like that, so I can start looking at it intelligently and speaking about it intelligently.
I know, still photographers that are scared to death. I mean, I think that might be legit. You know, but they’ve managed to survive. Also, you know, over the years, I mean, just look at sports photography, you know, now there’s, like, 1000 guys on a Sunday wanting to shoot a football game, you know, where it used to be, you know, only a couple people. So the competition and the technology, it’s just, it’s always gonna just keep changing, you just got to stay ahead of it and figure out how it works for you.
Right, right. And obviously, I can imagine the, like, what you’re shooting whether if it’s still or video, whether if it’s, you know, landscape, or if it’s a person or if it’s sitting there talking a talking head, or it’s it’s Lamar Jackson diving into the endzone, right, those are, those are a whole bunch of different things. And, you know, where are they? Where are you going to apply, though? So, how did that like over your career? How did you get into like, Did you Did you always, like, be diverse in what you were shooting? Or did you like, start? Like, how did you get started?
Yeah, so I wanted to be a sports announcer coming into college, that’s really what I wanted to do. My family’s you know, we’re from South Jersey to being you know, sports town, Philadelphia, all the teams are there represented. So I want to go that way. And I realized real quick, that I didn’t have that skill. There were some kids already in college, that were just, you know, phenomenal on the, you know, on a radio on the radio, or whatever. So I always had a natural knack for, I always took stills always took pictures. And my senior year in college, I got hooked up with this production company, Spicer productions, and the DP, there was a little was a little tired and just, you know, needed some new fresh things. So he, we hit it off immediately, and he’d been paid to the let me do everything I could, you know, we again, we were a small shop, so he would let me shoot with him and just watching the monitor. So that gave him you know, a break. You know, I learned lighting, immediately, I would take the one inch tapes into the into the edit suite, they would let me sit through the edits, I would, you know, I would maybe ride the faders and make some sound. Back then graphics were putting, you know, physical elements under a camera and shooting them and we would, you know, manipulate them onto the camera. So you learn like all this stuff, like in a really concentrated time. And I was there three days a week, four days a week, and by time i was my semester was over, I was pretty much a part of the team. And, and again, that was a big transition where a lot of the ad agencies at time were, you know, they’re all shooting film. We were shooting film, we had a 35 minute film package in house, which was like unheard of for a company that small. And that big transition was coming through and they laid some people off. I got hired. It’s been honestly, it’s been great ever since I just been really lucky man. I’ve been really fortunate. The sports thing came in a couple of years later, you know, the Ravens came to town from Cleveland and one of my friends was editing, who I used to work with and you know, my first company Spicer, and a big shot, Big Shot productions. And they had interviewed like 20 people, they’re like, you gotta go talk with Jack. I think Jeff might be willing to make a jump about on his own. So I went in an interview with Larry Rosen and got really lucky. I love my reel. It’s what they wanted to see. My first game they asked me if I could wire Ray Lewis which I had never done. reached out to someone from NFL films for and I had to do it. Why had Ray Lewis the Ravens sold a TV show for the rest of this season based on what I had done. They asked me to build a studio for him in their in their stadium. They were getting into doing some live stuff. I was wanting to go on vacation guys like was like well, when do you need to kind of get into you want to get a bag like no and you know why we’re on vacation. So random internet back in the day 24 years ago and put together a package they did it immediately. We started the show. There was nobody in the audience by Tommy were done heading to the Super Bowl which you eventually want. And we had, you know, three or 4000 people in our in our stadium watching the show in a live band, it just it just everything just snowballed. And and we pulled it off. So I’ve been kind of, you know, really fortunate ever since and they’re a great organization I’ve just kind of, I’m in Yeah, I’m embedded, I did it, I pulled it off. And I’ve been there ever since. It’s a great relationship. They’re great. It’s helped build, you know, freedom a lot. And it’s been good for everything all the way around. And still there sevens crazy.
Did you come in right when they won the Super Bowl? So maybe that’s Navy, maybe your good luck charm to?
There’s some of that too, you know? Yeah, there’s some that too, so it just, it just worked out, man. And like I said, they they gave us they gave us a lot of leeway to get things done, and he pulled it off. And that that’s the end of the day, you got to be able to pull it off, then we figure it out. And we did it. We worked hard. It was those first couple of years. Were brutal. And sure, you know, I’m a time commitment wise. Yeah,
I can imagine too. I mean, like there’s there’s so much that goes involved into shooting something like that. And you know, it’s, that’s you’re still telling a story. It’s it’s obviously maybe a little unscripted. There’s still something you’re still a schedule, you follow, but you’re shooting the game, but you’re shooting everything else in between your I can imagine there’s so much content that has to be created, even in a game that the average person doesn’t think about. And then well, how how do you process that in a way where it can be consumed quickly? Because I think that’s the one thing with sports, it moves so fast. It’s like, okay, yeah, that game was last Sunday, we’re already moved on to the next thing, like so if you’re capturing those moments, or you’re miking somebody up and, and Ray Lewis does something that’s going to carry, like, how do you leverage that content? I can imagine that’s different. So how does that like, how does that integrate? I assume you’re working with a lot of different not only hardware, but a lot of different crew members there like logistics of all of that I couldn’t imagine.
Yeah, and it’s, it’s grown a lot. So you know, when I originally, you know, the first couple of years of freedom and a lot of my gear, you know, went on the jobs and traveled with the team and all the logistics of getting everything there. And I was playing crew, a lot of the cities, you know, as they’ve built out their department. Yeah, that’s, it’s gotten easier for me in that respect. But yeah, there’s a lot of moving parts. Earlier, when we did the wiring pieces, you know, yeah, we started with Brian Bullock, and he was really gave us access. It was incredible. You know, I would walk around practice on a Thursday afternoon. And, you know, I mean, literally walking around the guys as they’re stretching and working out. And that’s, that’s when they’re laughing and having a good time. And I could start talking to him. And, you know, you mentioned about, you know, how do you tell a story, I can prod a piece a little bit one way or the other, you know, if we knew who we were playing what the, you know, who was coming into town, if there was any history between things, I could get guys to talk about it. And it kind of became like, you know, Jeff, do your thing, you know, like, just just do your thing, go talk to guys. I wasn’t afraid to do it. I talked to coaches, I just, you know, just kind of personal guys just kind of who I am. And that’s how it evolved. I mean, even during the game, like, you know, once you get to know guys on that level, if they’re on a sideline, and you’re sitting there, shoot, I mean, you’re 510 feet away, you can say something at some point, you know, I don’t do that as much now. But back in the day, can I can do it in a tunnel or with a coach beforehand, or, you know, whatever, maybe get a little sound bite, maybe a little sound bite out on the field during warm ups is how could you can get some messages in there. In addition to what you know what the game itself is, but it is exploded, as far as also, you know, is how much content we develop in a day. It is staggering how big our crew is now and how it all integrates between all the different departments. And it is it is so impressive, and I’m learning stuff every year and we’re trying new stuff every year. We’re using new technologies every year, and everything is just getting it faster and faster and faster. You know, before and we’re uploading shots while we’re shooting and wirelessly in the stadium to a logging person in the stadium. You know or it’s crazy. Films is don’t NFL films is doing it. You know, it’s it’s incredible how much it’s changed in that respect.
Yeah, obviously, you know, we talked about innovation in AI and who knows, maybe AI is going to work its way into how you know things work from data transfer and stuff like that, too. But yeah, I mean, I remember the beta can days I I remember transferring beta making copies, like at my first agency to like VHS because no one had beta play it not everybody had beta players. And then it was the CDs, and it was the DVDs and the blu rays. And now forget it. It’s just wireless transfer. And I’m sure you know, and even like at our agency, last, I don’t know, it’s probably five years once we went to like, mirrorless camera, like, you know, there’s just so much evolution in the hardware space. But so talk, you know, so you’re trying to always capture the moment you’re you. That’s why you said like, there’s a sideline of guys, because they want to capture whatever it is, if it’s a sports trading card, or it’s going to be on the New York Post, or whatever right they’re shooting for. So what happens when you capture a bad moment? Like we saw a few like scary moments, like, in the NFL this year with injuries and stuff like that? Talk to me about like shooting something where you realize like, Oh, my God, I just captured a bad moment.
Yeah, so So I worked directly for the Baltimore Ravens. I’m not in New York adjacent. We’re not trying to. So everything I shoot gets postprocess later, you know, so I’m really respectful that I’m a guy. I mean, I’ve had guys break legs right in front of me on the field, and wow, your legs. And he just, I don’t shoot it, you know, I stop. I’ve had guys thrown out of games wired, you know, during the game, and I’ve had someone say, oh, follow the guy off the field, like, I’m not going to do that, like they let me into their world to trust them. A magnet, put them in a bad light, you know? So I just I just don’t do that. But we’re also the team. So you know, you just not expected to do I don’t think that’s, I don’t know, that answers your question. No, I
stay away from it happens. And again, sometimes this game is so fast. I mean, it really it’s staggering. You know how fast as I’ve had friends come down wherever helpers, or you know, freelancers come down, we’ve never done a game. And it’s always the first thing I say is, I can’t believe how fast you have to be your head on a swivel. And there’s things that happen in front of you in front of your camera that you don’t even know what happens. You see it later. And that’s the truth. They were shooting at 120 frames per second. And until you see it, you don’t know it always happens. So the logging crew will see that and that you know, or if somebody says something that I shoot, I don’t always hear because I’m hustling, the stuff that I’m talking about something else, whatever. But we are very respectful of our guys. And that’s just kind of where we handle our business.
Amazing stuff. And obviously you’re doing something right if you’re if you’re listening to this podcast right now hop over to the YouTube channel, because over Jeff’s right shoulder is some serious gold hardware. So you’ve you’ve been you’ve been blessed to have some some sizable trophies there. I mean, Emmys.
Yeah, I wanna, I’ve won about, I think nine or 10, local, Emmys, regional Emmys and we want to be a couple of as what we’re honored to be part of a national Emmy lash that the NFL Network did for the smoke GABA piece we did on a young young boy in Baltimore, who passed have various cancers and a story we did about him. So I produced and helped coordinate all of that here locally, so pretty lucky. But to pick him up like it’s like the trading cards, and that’s how good they are. I think a lot of teams look to us to see what we put out. And they’re trying to keep up and we do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, we’re doing the same thing. We’re always trying to push the envelope. Eddie Coghlan and J O’Brien are just they’re just amazing. And it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of it keeps my pulse going. I love it. I mean, every day it’s it’s it’s good stuff.
That’s that is the so I understand other than keeping your pulse running, you’re, you’re you’re doing what do you do to stay fit? You do some things to stay fit? I understand because I think you’re moving around a little bit. And it’s funny, because I’ve been I’ve been blessed to be on some some films, and we’ve done some shoots, and no one. Everyone’s like, Oh, it’s so cool. You’re doing you’re doing video. That’s so neat that you get to do it. I’m like, you know how hard it is, you know, work in the day of a life of a GREP or something for 14 hours lugging stuff around and then you’ll see how cool it is. Right? How do you stay fit?
Yeah, it’s like a small army. And I always say that all the time. And Logistics is a bit of a small arm around and all the equipment comes with it. You know, I tried to just be consistent and I just tried to vary it up. You know, I’m a I’m a wannabe triathlete. I’ve done a couple Ironman half Iron Man’s, but I literally I swim, I lift. I ride my bike. I’m a mountain biker. I’m a road rider. You know, I just tried to lift it up, do everything I’ve run and I try and do something every day. I don’t eat I don’t eat great So that’s kind of my, my fallback. But I do, I do try to work out on time, you have to be fit on a on a sideline, even, you know, working at Freedom. I mean, we, you know, we take out a small, you know, a small artillery every day and what we do, we try to bring out everything we can to be anticipate anything we definitely not aren’t aware of. And I’ve had again, I’ve had friends out with us, or, and they’re like, this is crazy, How much stuff do you like, my kids didn’t want to be in the business, you know, and they were like, you work too hard. You know, and I’m one of those guys who pride myself in that a day, you know, I’m almost 60 years old. And when I get on the plane, you know, I don’t have ice bags on my back. I don’t have ice packs on my shoulders. I see other guys that way. And I just don’t want to do that, you know? Just stay fit, do it. It’s a lifestyle. I’m I’ve been that way my whole life. You know, it’s not something I just do.
Great advice, though, for any anybody young and up and coming in the in the film industry, make sure you stay fit and so that you can keep moving, because that’s really important. So obviously, you know, we’re about balance. And so there’s we’ve talked quite a bit about the ravens, but you’re you’re shooting other things. So how do you how do you balance like, when you’re in kind of the an agency or production having a production company? Like how do you balance having, you know, big, big clients, blue chip clients versus kind of small things? Or how what like, is there an ideal Cust client profile that you have? Or what’s your what has been your approach? For our listeners out there that are thinking about how do they balance their portfolio of who do they shoot for?
Yeah, well, it’s not easy. You know, it’s really hard. It’s something we work on all the time. But, you know, follow a calendar religiously, I have great staff that we scale up with, you have a great bunch of freelancers that we’ve developed over the years, I probably have at least 30 different people that I can call on a regular basis, whether they’re grips electrics, graphic artists, editors, sound guys, we scale up and we scale down. Our clients are phenomenal. They do they trust us. I think it’s all about communication. And that, but that takes time. So you know, when freedom when I was younger, you know, I definitely missed a lot of some stuff that I wish I had. But you know, your family gets used to it also. I mean, you know, they, the not the abuser, but I mean, they they know what you are that my kids know that I love what I do. And they like what I do. And it’s it’s kind of cool. And they just kind of get used to but I don’t know that answers your question. And I have great staff, I mean, Jordan, and John, and Well, Nick, Nick is now the owner, those guys were amazing. I mean, they were just able to juggle a lot of things all the time. Again, the technology changes. You know, we all have computers and offices at home, and we all are able to do everything. Everyone can multitask. Now, were back in the day, you handled one or two things. I think, honestly, when I came into Spicer productions, I was that guy I was the new guy, Jeff could do this, it could be that he can do this. And I’ve always surrounded myself with people who are like that I don’t want to go out on a union job, where everybody has just that role. And I and I’ve hired people that way. And we talk about that when I hire them. Like, what do you want to do? Do you want to be just this? Or do you want to be a piece of something where you have an influence on how the day even unfolds and how the week unfolds and how your own clients unfold. So I’ve just surrounded myself with people like that necessarily what Nick and Jordan and John are and all the freelancers that I use. I don’t I use an example. It’s a horrible example. But you know, there’s audio guys that they just come on set and they do audio, they do nothing else, I will not hire those guys. I’ll hire that audio guy will come out and do a little grip work, you know, help pack then at the end of the day, you know, there’s trash on the ground, we’ve left from grab server, you know what, you know, I’m exaggerating, but you know, we all just pitch it and do it. And occasionally you need to go out of that outside of that. But for the most part, I stick to that. And it has been a win win all along.
Yeah, that’s really good. I think of two things. One, when I got my first job when I was I was either 19 or 2008. I was really young, coming into like the digital world and I went to school for 3d animation. My goal was to like work at Pixar. And I was like this close to like, saying, I’m going to I’m going to submit everything I’m going to work on Toy Story. And then I like the web was just happening in the late 90s and the.com Boom happened and I was like, well see you later 3d animation. I’m doing websites dot coms. But anyways, the advice like For one of my professors was he was actually, he was a professor, I took photography. And he’s like, take whatever job you can get as an intern, like if it’s emptying the trash. And I did. That’s what I took a job resizing images, like photo correcting in like Photoshop 4.0, like when it’s and resizing images, silhouetting things like doing like 1000 images a day. And they saw I was like working hard. And they’re like, Thanks for going to run and get copy paper and emptying the trash. And they recognize that and that leveled me up and I tried to my second point was, I was teaching my son this to like, I took him out on a shoot, because he showed an interest in photography, he actually just participated in this program called What’s so cool about manufacturing, it’s a statewide thing in Pennsylvania, he actually yesterday went to states for it’s a, it’s a production where these companies partner up with a local school, middle schools, and they tell their story. And these students, they, they script it, they shoot it, they edit it, they produce a two minute video, and it’s into a competition, and he went to the state level. And he showed his interest in photography, I said, you come out to a shoot once, and you’re going to help pack pack the van up and unpack it. And if somebody needs something, you’re running out of battery, or water or whatever, it’s like, the end of the day he goes, Dad, I’m exhausted. So that’s really great advice. You know, like if, if you’re in just get it get, get the experience and just watch what’s going on. Right? Like logistics, I can, you know, I’ve only been on you know, a handful you this has been your whole career. So it’s like, just watch what’s going on too. And is there is there like other like resources that you can point people to that or like other things that come to mind that somebody is kind of trying to figure out which direction to go? Like, is there anything that you can point people to?
Well, I mean, there’s so much stuff content wise out on the internet right now. I mean, I Adobe themselves has tons of learning stuff on there. I think talking to your professional and, you know, working your way that angle, I think the human element is, is the best way first, to kind of narrow it down a little because it’s I think it could be mind boggling need to focus on something. I tend to get a lot of calls first time calls from people, and then I never hear from them again, you know, you could follow up. Yeah, that would probably be the biggest advice I could give anybody. And then once you show up, do everything. Like you said to your son may literally just do it, do whatever it can you can to help on, it will get noticed. But I think a lot of people are afraid to do that. I asked people to do all kinds of stuff for me, because I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. If somebody asked me to do it. You know, the other day somebody can just break by mail. And you know, if you could go get that at the office, can you bring my mail? And I was like, wow, that was kind of weird. But when you think twice about it, that’s just kind of who I am. And it’s who I surround myself with, you know, as far as resources, though, yeah. I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff on the web. There’s all kinds of stuff at YouTube. There’s all kinds of, um, there’s so many explainer videos out there. Yeah, I really do think trying to navigate to a person who can guide you a little bit and then follow up and stay and stay engaged. I can’t tell you how many first time calls I’ve gotten from family, friends or friends or friends and professional friends and just never call back. It’s like, alright, well, either I’m not doing a great job, or that’s just how people interact. Yeah, but it’s like, it’s like securing a new client. Someone tells you to call them in a month column, calm the next month and call in the next month and don’t stop, you know, and I think people just give up to us, in general.
Yeah, great, great words of advice. Don’t give up, keep falling, keep, keep the communication flowing. Make sure that you’re following up on showing interest showing caring. I mean, that’s what I use in my business is like, because like when you’re selling or you know, pitching, right? It’s it could come off very one sided sleazy, or whatever you want to call it. And I think it’s really important that you go down a path of showing you know, that you’re human to and showing the caring side of it. So you mentioned something before I want to I want to boomerang back to swing swing back to you mentioned that so you’ve transitioned the business now. So after being in the business for so long, you’ve you’ve you’ve kind of stepped down and you’re entering a different phase here. You know, talk about that process a little bit maybe how you came about of deciding, hey, it’s time for me to kind of step back in and let somebody else take over at Freedom digital Can you can you walk can you share about that?
Yeah, sure. Um, so, you know, I’ve my entire life, I’ve been pretty shielded from any personal tragedy or anything like that. I mean, my mom passed away during COVID of dementia, you know, in old age and my wife went through cancer. And she’s great. I caught her, thankfully, caught it early. It just really made me step back. I do work. I work all the time. But I love what I do. You know, I mean, I don’t even think of it as work, you know. And it just really made me kind of step back a little bit. And I work with this gentleman, you know, Nick Spire, I cannot sit here and even begin to say enough wonderful things about this guy that that are all earned. So when I hired Nick, 15 years ago, he had sent his resume out to like, 50 people, I think I was the only one he responded back to me, his real was great. It came out of grade school up in New York, and, and I said, Well, if this guy can do that, that’s not what I’m doing now. But if he can do that he can do anything I’m doing, or he certainly has shown me that he has the capacity to learn. So and I’m when I hired Nick, I told him, I said, Look, you know, at my first job, or my second job at Big Shot, I was kind of promised, you know, ownership at one point, well, I was, it never came to fruition, I said, Nick, hang with me, and I’ll, you know, I will try to make it worthwhile. And he’s earned it. So, you know, I’m getting pushing almost 60. And it just, it was time, you know, it was just time COVID came, and I just, I didn’t want to pull the train anyway, I wanted to start just pulling back to being more of what I do a technician and an image maker and use those skills. And it’s worked out great man, Nick Sinek, bought the company in January. It’s been, you know, peaceful transition of power. He’s a great guy, he’s gonna, he’s gonna do amazing stuff. And he’s kind of carrying it on in the same vein that I have, where we didn’t lay anybody off it using the same account and all that kind of stuff. So it was, it was really pretty easy and organic. All my clients know, and they all love them. It’s been great. It’s been good. It’s only been a couple of months. But business is good. And, you know, he’s going to add some new perspective to things. Or maybe I just didn’t have as much input on things, you know, and he will, so I’m really excited for him. And I’m excited for myself, I’m excited to do some other. So So So what am I doing? So I’m going out trying to find some cool stuff, again, that sometimes maybe freedom doesn’t get considered for and I would bring it right back to Nick, you know, he’s my best friend. He’s the best technician I’ve ever worked with. And I’m just gonna bring it back to him. If I can get it, you know, so I’m looking forward to that.
Well, congratulations. I mean, it definitely goes with that. What does that saying? Right? Like, if you, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And it sounds like that’s, that’s what you’re doing. And I think it it does sound like a great win win, that you’re able to do that. So that’s, that’s really exciting that you found somebody that you could, you know, partner up within, and you know, and it allows you to be more creative or have more flexibility and you’re still a part of it. So that’s, that’s, that’s really neat. I hope to get there together someday.
Nixon, he’s going to do great. I’m excited for him. I mean, I I’ve never seen a young man, with so much composure and confidence and patience. In 15 years with me, I’ve never seen a guy ever get upset, loses temper, you know, or just look overwhelmed. It just didn’t happen. So, yeah, my clients are going to are going to do well by Nick.
So when we talk about balance a lot here, so as you’re transitioning, how are you finding some balance is is you know, I it’s something that I still work work on every single day is how do you balance you know, work life or talk to me about what does balance even mean? Mean to you? Let’s start there.
Yeah, um, wow, what does bounce mean to me? Um, you know, I so, you know, in modern technology, you’re never unplugged. And I got to the point where I let it happen myself. And Nick is already recognized. He does not want to work like I did. Like I never there were no boundaries. You know, you could talk to me anytime a day, weekend, whatever. I always made myself accessible. But I got to where I was because I was that guy. And I never really turned it off. So and I think I definitely could have so I think bound to balance for me is not having to do that anymore. And it’s it’s the first couple of months were hard, but I’m slowly waiting myself, but you know, I want to support Nick too. So like, I still check, I still check the emails. The second I wake up, you know, we have international clients. So I want to be I want to help him like if he misses something, I want to be there for him, but I don’t, I’m not pulling the train. So, you know, there’s balance there already. I’m not I’m not having to do the invoicing. I’m not having doing the billing. So yeah, I’m just not responsible for like, you know, I really felt like everything funneled to the top. And now I’m not that guy. But I’m like, the best support guy. You know, I know what it takes. And I’m looking out and, and but we’re all that way, like our whole companies that way. So we’re all looking after Japan’s it’s pretty cool. So that’s a balance for me. One is that, and then I, I’m just trying to do um, you know, take a couple of trips and have, you know, another beach a little bit more and trying to get on my bike a little bit more, and you know, those things, but those are like things I’ve always done. You know, I just do more now.
Well, that’s it. Maybe that’s the balance, right? We always talk about balance as a scale. Like when one side tips to the other. You feel unbalanced. If if I’m doing more work and less personal, then I feel unbalanced. So I want to do more of the other one to be that way. But then, you know, maybe it sounds like you’re wired in a way where you always got it to work. Maybe you just don’t have to work. You’ll work every day, but maybe you don’t work full days.
Yeah, exactly. And yeah, that’s absolutely it. I definitely can put my phone away now and not so guilty about it. And I do and I’m getting used to it. I’m doing it more and more. But I think I am guy who always need something going on. And I’m not gonna make apologies for that.
Yeah, I can’t sit still either. I’m always doing something. Yeah, right.
Yeah, life is short, and take it by the reins and get after, you know.
Yeah, definitely. Interesting stuff. Well, I want to drop, where if someone wants to learn more about you personally, or freedom, digital, how can they get in touch?
Well, our website is, you know, digital.net You know, the Baltimore ravens.com We have there’s tons of content there. You know, anything with ravens productions, you know, I’m not on everything. I can’t sit and take everything out there as mine. And I have a huge staff. I’m a small part of it. But in the game day pieces and stuff like that are full, you know, freedoms got a lot of stuff out on Vimeo and stuff like that, and Instagram FDN Inc, Jeff, or something like that on Instagram, I tried to put out a picture once a week or something just again that but that’s like, my personal stuff. It’s my hobby. It’s not my job. So I love it.
I’ll make sure I link up all of Jeff’s links on agency balance.com. So you can connect and consume some of his content. I know, I’m gonna be circling back to some of that, because I didn’t know you had an Instagram. I want to check that out. Do you? Do you? So you’re talking about taking more trips? Like, do you always have the like, through the lens, no matter where you’re looking? Like you’re framing up things? Oh, that would be cool to shoot it there? Or is it like, is it like, that’s the last thing I want to be doing Dave?
No, I just find it. I can’t look at anything without looking at through a lens. It’s sad. But that’s just the way it is. Everywhere I go. It’s like, wow, that would be cool. Or I’m always looking for something. I’ll take like to take walks by myself with just my camera and just go out. It’s I’m always looking through the lens. I just I see life through a lens, I put the blinders on and focus in on what’s important. And that’s just kind of how my life is. It’s weird. I can’t I can’t even explain it. But it’s definitely me. And so yeah, I’m always thinking that way. Always.
It’s not weird. It’s totally not weird. I used to there was a good phase. There’s probably early in my career, I was really into, like, like typography, I feel like as I got like transition into digital, I was really into typography and I would watch film and I would like critique the opening and the ending. Like typography use, I’d be like, I can’t believe they use that font, like that’s so unreadable, or like, I just counted nine fonts, like, stop it. And my my wife was always like, poking me, like, what is wrong with you? Like, just watch the movie? I’m like, It’s a film. It’s not a movie.
You see, you should check out. So Netflix has a series called abstract. Have you seen that?
I have not. I’m gonna jot that down.
Check it out. Alright, so there’s a resource for people. It’s high, and it’s super well produced, but they’re actually talked to the gentleman. I’m gonna botch it but there’s a there’s a thing on typography. Okay. Fascinating. I watched I was like, What is this? And it was amazing. Yeah, abstract on Netflix is a great industry. talks the guy the guy who designed Instagram and talks about it Another guy is the guy who was started in Nike shoes that started I guess she’s been designing
oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah I actually I think I did see parts of that yeah I know what you’re talking about yeah good stuff so the other thing about your so you’re you’re you’re out there walking by yourself with the camera what what do you shoot with Can you share like what what kind of camera you use and all that?
Yeah, yeah I’m shooting on a Nikon D 850 It’s like a 42 megapixel camera which gives you the ability to blow up incredibly so I shoot like a lot of high speed I like lately what I’ve been doing like my things to shoot waves as they’re breaking at the beach and then really like like literally just hit that little break and I print I’m doing some big prints down my beach house and got some stuff here I just I shoot. We have today I’m shooting with a Nikon Sony FX three on a ronin RS two were all Sony and house. The ravens are all area mirrors, which is the Rolls Royce of camera. So yeah, I’m pretty much a da 50 guy though. And all my kind of been like Kai my entire life. But I know Canons phenomenal law. So I’m really looking at the Sony the new Sony stuff. It’s just it’s pretty fascinating. It’s It’s just incredible how fast it’s gotten. And grainless it’s gotten and but you know, they all all catch up to each other. So whatever. So yeah. Yeah, my Nikon guy, Nikon Sony.
Yep, same here. I started out Nikon using using Nikon in school. Even before that I was using it when I took film, or photography. It was it was Hasselblad, I was shooting on looking down into a Hasselblad and I had a I had to produce an imprint mount Chromes.
I was too poor for that, Dave, I couldn’t afford as
well. Well, that was the thing too. It’s funny, you mentioned that because my teacher was like, All right, you only have so much in your kit of Chrome. And you got to pick your shots. You know, it’s not just blasting through digital like it was back then you would be like this cost like your, whatever 100 bucks that you spent on the Chrome, I had to plan out my 12 shots and I had to really make sure like I took still life was like the first thing like he had to like set up the product shot and stuff. And I’m like shooting down in this. And I liked that because I liked the lighting aspect of it. I liked you know, playing with metals and how light would bounce and bend and I apologize, I didn’t. It’s too beautiful. The day I left my window open and the left side of my face is getting a little blown out. If you’re seeing me Jeff’s critique me. But I usually try to when I’m on camera, no matter what I try to, I care about lighting, lighting, lighting is hard. And a lot of people overlook lighting. But it’s the most important thing. It really is not the most, but it’s very important.
Right? Right. And that’s really just changed a lot in the last couple of years. The the LED stuff is fascinating to me. And that, you know, lighter, faster, more powerful. I mean, it’s just incredible what you can do now. Now we’re going out with battery, you take a small generator out and plug, you know, LED lights into a generator versus a big truck, you know, generator, you know, diesel, whatever, all that stuff that came with it. It that aspects were very cool. I kind of missed that earlier. That’s been very, very cool.
Yeah, good stuff. Well, I think we could talk about lighting and camera equipment, and the Ravens and all this all day long. But I do want to kind of end and thank you so much for coming on and sharing some of your wisdom and congratulations on your journey. I will be sure to drop as many links so you can kind of consume Jeff’s content. And I just want to thank you again for coming on agency balance today.
I appreciate it and hopefully somebody gets a nugget out of there for something. Yeah, something in the future. I appreciate it.