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Distant Moon

Distant Moon We're the film production company behind the stories, brands, and nonprofits who are making news headlines and improving the world. We're Distant Moon.

Film, for good.

Operating as usual

An old shot from the blogger who saved the economy. This was filmed at night. So we lit it with a simple side key. This ...
04/07/2022

An old shot from the blogger who saved the economy. This was filmed at night. So we lit it with a simple side key. This was a super guerilla shoot, so all we used was a kino diva fluorescent light to push the feeling of a little daylight from the left.

04/05/2022

Shooting on location is hard to beat. For this scene, we knew that we’d need to juxtapose technology with exploration of nature. So instead of trying to recreate nature with greenscreen, we decided to take a splinter crew to the sawtooth mountains in southern Idaho to capture people experiencing nature. This is only one of dozens of powerful shots and almost all the lighting is natural.

To get the contrast between subject and background, we found a small grove of trees in front of the lake, so that on camera side, the subject would be in shadow. With a wide open space in front of talent, we knew that the ambient light would key him nicely to create the soft wrap from his front to his back. This specific shot was taken while clouds were briefly in front of the sun

For this project, we wanted to add an element that people don’t typically see in documentaries - slow motion. We knew we...
04/04/2022

For this project, we wanted to add an element that people don’t typically see in documentaries - slow motion. We knew we’d be filming a falcon flying, so we thought “What if we could see the individual wing flaps at 1000 fps?” So we reworked the budget, brought a phantom 4k camera to central california and shot as much slow motion footage as possible around sunset/sunrise. At moments it feels as if we’re suspended in time as the flapping of the falcon’s wings slow to almost a standstill. It happens so quickly in the moment that watching playback is like seeing the shots with completely new eyes.

One of our favorite things is to mix VFX with live action. For this shot we captured a wide plate with talent keyed from...
03/31/2022

One of our favorite things is to mix VFX with live action. For this shot we captured a wide plate with talent keyed from a large litemat above. We placed quasars in the deep background to add some additional reflections/visual interest on the architecture. We then had talent pretending to interact with a HUD on the glass window. Thanks to the always incredible Zach Zombek, the shot really came together with the VFX/HUD overlay that we made to interact with the talent on the glass. Still one of our favorite shots to date.

The Blogger Who Saved the Economy. 2016.
03/30/2022

The Blogger Who Saved the Economy. 2016.

For this scene, we only had a few minutes to create an interesting composition. Luckily we were shooting on kowa anamorp...
03/30/2022

For this scene, we only had a few minutes to create an interesting composition. Luckily we were shooting on kowa anamorphics which have the crazy barrel distortion you see in this image. To create some contrast with the lighting, we turned off nearly all lights in the library and then armed out a quasar light tube to slightly key the talent.

03/25/2022

Every time we produce a new online course for @hillsdalecollege , we try to push the creative a hair further than for the previous courses. For the recent release of “The Roman Republic,” we wanted to make old maps come to life with the movement of troops, citizens, and nations across the mediterranean region. We sourced images of maps from the 17th-18th century to keep that “old map” look. But that was too easy, so why stop at easy?

We then shot empty book plates with old books and different types of parchment paper. We then composited the old maps onto the old books, added digital lighting, and then animated the areas of the map with different colors to draw the viewer’s eye.

To accomplish the highlights, we rotoscoped the areas that needed to be highlighted, and we animated it with footage of an ink spilling across a page. To finish it, everything was color corrected and tweaked to sell the composite. Voila! An old book shot of a map.

03/23/2022

This is @themarissastreit . She’s the captain of a non-profit in Los Angeles that produces video content that has garnered over a billion views a year (yeah, with B). So we thought what better way to show how fearless a leader she is than to playfully add some hand-drawn wardrobe that hearkens back to some of the great military leaders in history. Also, how fun would it be if CEOs all wore large napoleonic hats today?

This was the first set we ever built. It was for an online course with Hillsdale College. We were talking with the direc...
03/22/2022

This was the first set we ever built. It was for an online course with Hillsdale College. We were talking with the director of Online Learning the other day, and @ianareid mentioned that we hadn’t built a full set before this project and he was shocked. They probably wouldn’t have approved that approach if they had known. That conversation illuminated a realization we had—sometimes you have to just fake it until you make it (and we REALLY mean fake it. We built an entire set following youtube tutorials for constructing set flats. We had never used a rosco backdrop before, etc.). Now, fast forward several years and we construct sets on soundstages for close to 50% of everything we shoot. Moral of the story: If you KNOW you can do something but someone hasn’t given you the chance to do it yet, figure out a way to do it and JUST DO IT. You can tell people you hadn’t done it before a couple years later.

An internal team favorite, this project was a real labor of love from a fantastic crew. Our brief was to recreate severa...
03/21/2022

An internal team favorite, this project was a real labor of love from a fantastic crew. Our brief was to recreate several different time periods on a limited budget over a 3 day shoot. As often happens, the creative changed shortly before filming began because the original script wasn’t exactly what the client wanted, BUT you pivot, roll with the punches and then see how you can best create something you’re proud of at the end of the day. They often say that there are three films made in every project. There’s the film you script/write. There’s the film you shoot. And there’s the film you edit. That was DEFINITELY the case with this project. The end product is almost entirely different from what was scripted AND what was shot, but that’s the name of the game and it makes the process almost like solving a puzzle. (In case you’re wondering, we like puzzles.)

This frame is from one of the projects that put us on the map. The Blogger Who Saved the Economy ended up getting picked...
03/17/2022

This frame is from one of the projects that put us on the map. The Blogger Who Saved the Economy ended up getting picked up by The Atlantic, and for years after, many people who reach out to us, tell us that this is the piece they first saw. The lesson we learned from this project is that in the film and video game, we all want every piece to be the “next big break,” but that’s just not how the industry/life works. Oftentimes, you’ll release film after film, until one “makes it.” So, for anyone who thinks, “man this is hard.” We’d just encourage you, yeah it is. But consistency, showing up, and continuing to pour your best into each project eventually starts to pay off. Even though Distant Moon has only been officially around since 2017, many of our team members have been working in the industry for over a decade and the growth and opportunities are NOT linear. We promise, things compound and when stuff starts taking off, it really starts taking off.

Some frames from a project we released last year with @motivomediaco and @animallegaldefensefund . This man is a lawyer ...
03/16/2022

Some frames from a project we released last year with @motivomediaco and @animallegaldefensefund . This man is a lawyer who defended a horse who was abused and neglected in rural Oregon. The work ALDF is doing is crazy important—fighting to make America a more just society by encouraging humans to treat animals with decency and respect. This project was also a fun one because the amazing @nikkireed was gracious enough to do the narration for the film.

03/15/2022

Let’s talk about trends. Have you noticed how often creative projects with the exact same storyline/visual style/other aesthetic end up being released simultaneously? A perfect example that comes to mind is when The Prestige (one of Christopher Nolan’s best movies in our humble opinion) came out the same year as The Illusionist (what even happened in that movie again?). Both about magicians willing to push themselves to the point of destruction for their craft. Both were set in the late early 1900s. Both feature swoon-worthy leads (Hugh Jackman vs Christian Bale). Too much? Ok, anyhow, it happens all the time. A Bug's Life and Antz. The Truman Show and EdTV. Armageddon and Deep Impact.

And right now we’re seeing a trend in hand-drawn animation over live-action/animation. It’s happening everywhere. Arcane. The Mitchells Vs. The Machines. Turning Red. Spiderman into the Spiderverse. And….our work. Over the past couple years, we’ve fallen in love with the combo of sketch elements and hand drawn animation over a different medium. It’s fascinating how certain styles/trends end up pervading an industry for a time. The question is how do you stay ahead of the trends? After all, we all want to be the first to make a style cool, not the last to use it when that style is on its way out. That’s why we’re ALWAYS talking about what makes something artistically worthwhile at Distant Moon.

What do you think about the current trend of mixed medium and hand drawn elements over other animation or live action footage? Let us know in the comments!

03/04/2022

For this project, we had the challenge of matching a later shoot, on a green screen, with an earlier one on a practical set. While we had a solid foundation to go off of during the compositing process, the magic really was in how well the team matched the lighting between both shoots. (Shoutout to @ianareid and @timwirtala !) Because of their attention to detail, it was possible to create a barely detectable difference between the two. Also thanks to @chasepkinney and @brucejhudgins for their very much needed skills.

03/03/2022

“The study of the Roman Republic is one of the most important things we can do as Americans.” After working on this project closely–we would agree! We were deliberate with these sound design and image treatment choices with hopes the combined effect would immerse viewers into ancient Roman everyday life which–shocker–isn’t that different from some scenes we find ourselves in today. It’s like there might be something to this whole “history repeats itself” thing…unless we choose to learn from the past and leave humanity’s biggest mistakes where they belong: in the history books.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the present time and effort of each project that you forget what it was you were aiming...
03/02/2022

It’s easy to get so caught up in the present time and effort of each project that you forget what it was you were aiming for in the first place. We’ve been making an effort to practice focusing on the desired result around here, which refuels passion for our work, for the company, and for what lies ahead for Distant Moon!

03/01/2022

Incorporating the right archival and B roll are essential to storytelling in documentary film. Thankfully, we had some great stills from Ron Terwilliger, the subject of this recent project on affordable housing. These assets created the perfect element of nostalgic homelife juxtaposed against images of today’s housing crisis, highlighting the need for a bipartisan solution to this critical issue. This piece was a unique challenge because we only had a total of 3 hours across two separate days to capture everything we could with Ron, including an hour + interview!

02/27/2022

We hoped to take the client’s traditional style of paper cut-out animation and create a more cinematic experience with scenes that provide a greater sense of depth than their audience is used to. Volumetric lighting, hand-drawn scene elements, and reducing animation to 12fps provided a handcrafted touch that draws you into this "paper" world.

Shout out to @chase for his creative leadership on this piece!

02/24/2022

Check out this clip from the title sequence of one of our latest projects. We approached the visual idea behind this title sequence by building the scenes in 3d and wrapping everything in an “art gallery” setting. As usual, the project evolved a lot throughout the process, but the key inspiration was still represented in the distorted vignettes and red lighting/texture. Shoutout to @taylorshanton and his team for really bringing this to life.

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128 South 20th Street
Purcellville, VA
20132

Telephone

+1 571-206-7326

Products

Constitutional Literacy with Michael Farris
The Screenwriters
Building the Machine - A documentary about American Education

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A glimpse at the pages of history. Check out this frame for Hillsdale College's "Congress" online course, depicting the inception of the U.S. Congress. Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #congress #architecture #aftereffects #history #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
Bringing words to life. Architectural renderings and historical imagery combine in this opening title sequence for Hillsdale College's "Congress" online course, depicting the creation of the U.S. Congress! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #congress #architecture #aftereffects #history #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
These are the foundations of our modern civilization. Ancient documents like the Magna Carta come to life in this opening title sequence for Hillsdale College's "Congress" online course! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #congress #architecture #aftereffects #history #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
Ancient books come to life in this opening title sequence for Hillsdale College's "Congress" online course! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon #openingtitles #congress #architecture #aftereffects #history #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
Taking to flight. A frame from an opening title sequence we created for Hillsdale College's WWII online course! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #wwii #worldwar2 #worldwarii #war #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
They that answered the call. Archival WWII footage composited on vintage WWII-era props helped create an immersive cinematic world in this opening titles project for Hillsdale College's online courses! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #wwii #worldwar2 #worldwarii #war #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
Patriotism and paratroopers. Enjoy a frame from an opening titles project we created for Hillsdale College's online courses! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon #openingtitles #wwii #worldwar2 #worldwarii #war #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
Glimpses of archival WWII footage composited on vintage WWII props helped create an immersive cinematic world in this opening titles project for Hillsdale College's online courses! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #wwii #worldwar2 #worldwarii #war #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq @hillsdalecollege
Check out this frame from an epic opening titles project for Hillsdale College's online courses! Created in collaboration with Distant Moon. #openingtitles #wwii #worldwar2 #worldwarii #war #courses #educational #titles #experimental #lighting #video #videoproduction #compositing #vfx #archivalfootage #vintage #productioncompany #handshakestudios #frame #postproduction #cinematic #titles Hillsdale College @distantmoonhq
Here is a snapshot from our recent socially distant shoot with Neil Chilson, former CTO of the Federal Trade Commission. This is what being on set looks like during these crazy times. Despite the challenges that remain, we’re thankful for technology, a flexible team and the ability to continue creating meaningful content. In what ways have you creatively adapted to this time of social distancing? Thanks to Ian Reid of Distant Moon for helping us pull off this shoot.