My name is William Petruzzo
I am an artist and a creative explorer.
I began my journey as a child admiring my father’s photography. I took a liking to illustration and cinema, and later to graphic design. My medium has always been visual, until recently when I began experimenting with music.
In my view, art is uniquely human, and that is how I define it: as that which is created by a human with intention. I believe there is a great deal to learn about ourselves and those around us if we give ourselves to the discipline of bringing things to life every day. Even when it’s ugly, art is love and love brings life.
I believe a happy life is one with people you love, and passions you have the freedom to pursue. I create for myself, and for my livelihood. If you are interested in commissioning my services, you can do so through the Petruzzo Photography collective.
Books I’ve Been Reading
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January was a lot of things. “productive”, “comfortable” and “optimistic”, didn’t describe any of them. However, “busy”, “distracting”, and “motivating” were somewhere on the list.
After taking a break from the monthly project in December, I wanted to get onto something specific and goal oriented. And new. Many projects of recent months have built heavily on skills I’m already fairly proficient at. Music, for example, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with and, more or less, know how to get what I want. And even more so with photoshop-related projects. I’ve been doing Photoshop for about 10 years now. Personal projects relying on Photoshop give my skills some polish, but I’m not usually learning much.
I knew I wanted to make some use of new equipment that was purchased for the business at the end of last year. Specifically, a lens combination with a maximum focal length of 800mm, and new camera bodies that make more than capable video cameras.
The idea for the project came to me when we got a few inches of snow back in early January. I was sitting in the office, organizing and tinkering with some equipment. I wanted to test out the capabilities of an 800mm focal length, and play with the video settings. From the comfort of my PJ’s and the house’s central heat, I started recording some short, close-up clips of snow piling up on various plants and backyard fixtures. Pulling them into Lightroom, and then looking at them in Adobe Premiere, it dawned on me that I could probably make pretty convincing infinite loops out of the clips.
I’ve always had a soft spot for infinitely looping videos and animations. It’s satisfying when you realize you don’t know whether the video has looped or not. It tickles the brain.
So, I started working on a workflow that would allow me to make these clips into convincing infinite loops. The process went something like this:
Select a clip with some motion, but not too much motion. Select about 20 seconds of the clip. Freeze the final frame to a new video track, and match the length of the original video. Set the freeze frame’s blend mode to “difference”, Then scrub through the the clip looking for the whole frame to turn black, or mostly black, which would mean that the first and last frame are almost identical. Finally, delete the freeze frame, make a cut somewhere in the middle of the clip, then move the first half to the end. That means the “loop” in each of these clips is actually somewhere in the middle, not at the beginning or end.
With a mostly looping clip, that’s when the tricky part started. Most clips that involved the random, chaotic motion of nature, never“looped” in real life. At best, they got close. So creating a loop out of an imperfectly looping clip would mean masking the transition in a way that complemented the type of motion being displayed.
The simplest loops were those that included a few moments of true motionlessness. For example, clips with cars were relatively easy because it was just a matter of cross dissolving at a point where no cars were visible. The next trickiest loops were those that included water. Water never produces a real loop, or even anything close to it, and a simple cross dissolve was too obvious. The solution I came up with was to transition with a feathered wipe that followed the direction of the water. Similar to the water, clips that featured a flag also proved challenging. In one clip, the flag looped so close to perfectly for itself, but not for the rest of the scene. So, the flag was looped independently of the rest of the clip.
Finally, the most frustrating and often unforgiving of the loops were those with a rocking or bouncing motion. Reeds, leaves, trees, etc. In this scenario, it wasn’t just necessary to match the first and last frames up, it was also necessary to try and match the continued motion from the beginning to the end. So, for example, if a reed were swaying to the left at the beginning, it couldn’t be swaying to the right at the end. The solutions in these cases mostly came down to luck. A few of them, however, were carefully masked to capture certain motions that didn’t otherwise fit in the loop. For example, a bird flying by or some bugs zipping about.
Some of these loop more perfectly than others. If you stared at them long enough, you might find the loop in some of them, and in others, you could probably spend all day watching without identifying the cut.
I’ve been using these infinitely looping video clips as screen savers on my computer. With more than 50 of them, it’s added a nice sense of tranquility to my home and office. Check out the playlist of videos below:
How to Use These Videos as a Screen Saver
If you’d like to download these clips to use as a screen saver yourself, you can do so here (~5gb). Bear in mind, neither Windows nor Mac allows for video screen savers out of the box. If you’re using a Mac, you can download the free screen saver add on, SaveHollywood, which will allow you to display videos instead of just photos. If you’re on Windows, check out some of these options for using videos as screen savers or desktop backgrounds.
Also, keep in mind, these are not licensed for any other use. If you’d like to use any of these in one of your own projects, hit me up on Twitter.
August was an incredibly busy month for me, and September is shaping up to be even more intense. Hence this post coming almost halfway through September. Nevertheless, I’ve committed myself to working on and publishing something creatively challenging every month. Or at least representative of every month.
In early August, I started working on another music project, but then my friend Ryan dropped this in my lap. He’d surprised his girlfriend (now wife) Leah with a trip to their favorite place, Joshua Tree National Park, where he’d eventually propose. Ryan had the forethought to record a lot of footage during the trip–about 6 hours of it, if my calculations are correct–thinking he might want to edit it together as a wedding gift. That’s where I came in. I like variety in my creative endeavors, so I agreed to edit his footage for him, on the condition that the final cut would be mine. Luckily Ryan and I are mostly on the same page creatively, so that wasn’t a big problem. We weren’t likely to run into any major creative differences–and we didn’t.
Of course, I like being able to help friends accomplish creative goals, but the challenge this project presented and that I was really attracted to, was going in blind on someone else’s footage. I have never worked on a video where I was not instrumental in creating the footage, and where I would know what was there to work with, and approximately where to find it.
I watched a lot of footage at 2x speed, and did a lot of scrubbing through clips to get acquainted with them before I started laying out a sequence. I quickly discovered that the quirk of this collection of footage would be redundancy. There are only so many clips you can create from the driver’s or passenger’s seat of a car, or walking around a desert, before they all start to look the same. This is how I settled on this chunky, blend-mode based style. Overlaying the clips on top of each other diluted some redundancy and helped give a feeling of movement from point A to point B. It also feels right with the music, “All I know” by Washed Out, and is a style that comes naturally to me.
I did some motion graphics work in After Effects to create the image collage that zooms out toward the end of the video, but ultimately I am still not 100% satisfied with the timing. The After Effects software does not play nice with audio, which makes syncing up beats very tricky. Or maybe I just didn’t manage to figure out how it’s supposed to be done.
When everything was finished, I went through clip by clip to color correct everything, as well as doing a little masking where it would help. I finished it off with a color grade across the entire sequence. By this time though we were pretty close to the deadline of their wedding date on September 3rd, and as a result the polishing process was perhaps not carried out as meticulously as I’d have liked. Luckily the intentionally sloppy editing style helped disguise the limitations of our short timeline.
All in all, editing this video cost me about 35 hours, most of which was spent alone in this cave, and some of which was spent working directly with Ryan to smooth out narrative and transitional issues here and there.
Big congratulations to Leah & Ryan! For everyone else, check out the video, I hope you enjoy it. See you next month.
When I was about 16 years old, I dropped out of high school. I’ve waffled on whether that was the right decision, but I’ve never really regretted it. The school system we had wasn’t right for me. I’ve never excelled under ‘authoritarian’ conditions and even in adolescence, it felt demeaning to have to ask for permission to use the bathroom, or worse, have to carry around one of those massive keychains that screams “I’m about to relieve myself”.
Of course, looking back, I can see why those things were necessary for the whole of the system to work, imperfectly as it may. Kids, as a general rule, can’t be trusted. This is not a discussion about how they could be trusted, or how your kids can be trusted—I believe in that, but it’s not the point right now.
I was a bright and mostly honest kid in a system that fell somewhere on what I’d call the prison spectrum. Highly ordered, mandated, little reward for creativity, and a lot of rules that seemed arbitrary when applied to a big diverse population. I didn’t rebel though, I just withdrew from learning. Stopped trying, stopped caring, focused on my social life and walked the line of respect and responsibility just well enough not to get in too much trouble. I was a C student most of the time and that seemed plenty good enough to me when considering the alternative.
When I dropped out in 10th grade, I spent about a year doing nothing, as you’d expect a dropout to do, before getting a job with a small local tech company. I found it interesting enough. I liked having a cubicle at the time—made me feel like a real adult. Making money was also pretty neat. But I wasn’t terribly motivated by what I was doing. I looked around and saw opportunities all over the place. I thought, “I could probably go to school and learn to do what that guy over there is doing…”
Fast foreword a few years, and I’d gotten a job at a religious bookstore. For the first time, my interest was piqued. I was heavily invested in a religious faith at the time and I started reading books thanks to the store’s generous lending policy. I studied a lot harder than I’d studied anything before, and getting quite good at it, I eventually ended up in admissions office of a local bible college. A life as a preacher seemed appealing.
But, I decided to put off school again when a friend from church presented an opportunity to work with a media watchdog company. It was real adult money, working alongside a friend, in an office environment, doing something that seemed fun and important to me at the time. Admittedly, I’m a bit embarrassed to have worked for their cause now, but I digress.
While at the watchdog company, I did some writing. I did some organizing, and I thought to myself, I could really do this if I went back to school for journalism and business.
Luckily, the friend who’d gotten me the job was also an aspiring photographer. With perhaps a tinge of competitiveness, I wanted to get into photography too. Hell, my dad was an amateur (in its original sense) and I really loved what he did. So I bought a camera, I bought some lenses, and me and my friend started shooting during lunch breaks, and on the weekends. I started thinking to myself, “I could go to school for photography and art, and I could do this for a living!”
Fast foreword through a sort of mini-emotional breakdown, a departure from my faith, and a falling out with my church confidantes, and I found myself working at a Thai restaurant serving tables and still taking pictures for fun on the weekends. One day, I got a call from an old family friend who needed a wedding photographer. I reluctantly agreed, but with dollar signs in my eyes (holy shit, money for pictures, really?).
When the wedding day came, It was crazy. It was a blowout for me. I mean, the wedding went fine, but the pictures look like a disaster from my current perspective. There were more than 700 guests attending, a giant church, a gymnasium reception and a huge family that needed wedding formals. I wasn’t ready for any of it, but I made it through and learned some of the most important lessons of the career I’d eventually choose.
Then someone else asked me to shoot their wedding. It went better than last time. Then someone else. And it kept going. I stopped thinking about going to school, except for the specific challenges I was facing. I was already moving foreword and making progress and school, as a means of ‘certification’, seemed irrelevant.
But it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. Even though I didn’t take advantage of the education opportunities around me, I was benefitting from just having them around.
At every opportunity causing me to pause and wonder if I’d enjoy doing this or that for a living, the door was always left open by this sense of confidence that I could just go to school and learn how to do it. I could go and be a phone tech making a little money, and flirt with the idea of becoming a field tech with an education. I could go and work in a bookstore and tease my interest in being a preacher or author. I could work for a watchdog company and consider whether I’d like being a political pundit or journalist. I could do all of that without any sense of defeat. Nothing ever felt like a dead-end because education was always an option.
It was the possibility of a formal education that allowed me to worm my way around in life until I found something I really enjoyed doing. And when I found it, it turned out I didn’t really have to get an education because I was making one myself. And even now, when the occasional feeling of “is this really what I want to be doing?” comes up, education is right there to say, “Sure, you can do something else if you really want”.
That’s been my path so far. But there are lots of paths.
I know people I went to school with who did very well in their academics, who went on to college and then on to well paying jobs. And some who didn’t go to college and still went on to well paying jobs. I also know people who saw no path to an education, and they did not do as well in school and are not doing as well today. Some of them have gone to jail, others are just working for beer money.
Hope is a powerful thing. Without an education or hope, you probably have a criminal on your hands. Without an education but an abundance of hope, you have topsoil for human excellence, even if education isn’t the path to get there.
Thanks to Bernie Sanders in this presidential election cycle, we’re hearing a lot more about education from the stump than we have in previous cycles. “Free education!” Some people say derisively, as if an education is akin to a 60″ TV or a luxury car. And no, college is not the right answer for everyone. Yes, we need plumbers and electricians, garbage men, HVAC technicians, construction workers and janitors, but we need them have other options too. For some people, they love those jobs, but for others, alternate options are the very reason they don’t mind doing those jobs.
Those positions are not the bottom rung of society, but they become the bottom rung when they are filled with people who feel they have no other choices; when people have to be there, or be desperately poor. It’s not a bad job, unless you hate it and feel trapped.
Public education is an important factor in hope. The feeling that we’re not necessarily trapped doing what we’re doing. But unfortunately, that’s how a lot of people feel. They work too many hours at a job they don’t like to get an education for a job they would like, and even if they do, they’re saddled with debt they’ll be hard pressed to repay before taking a year off for an internship or something. Whining slackers, I know. But the thing is, every single one of us benefits from public education, whether we personally get that education or not. Either way, we all get to enjoy a better, safer, more economically equitable society because other people are getting that education. It matters to all of us, whether it’s obvious or not.
You don’t have to like education yourself, but stand up for it. It’s important to all of us.