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Meet Filmmaker Shawn Ahmed

Tapping The Power of Lock & Load X and Saving Lives One Video At A Time

What's the difference between 6 hours and a few minutes? A lot by most standards, but for filmmaker/citizen journalist and charitable organizer Shawn Ahmed it's a difference that can be measured in amount of time a community suffers.  Six hours is typically how long it would take Ahmed, a Toronto native who in 2005 gave up a sociology scholarship at Notre Dame University to found the global poverty-focused video blog The Uncultured Project (, to stabilize video footage using Final Cut Pro's inbuilt stabilizer; Smoothcam. All that's changed thanks to CoreMelt, the developer of advanced video plug-in effects and their Lock & Load line of image stabilization tools.
For a videographer like Ahmed, who is constantly on the move with his Panasonic GH1 camera throughout the third world (mostly in Bangladesh but briefly in Kenya) crossing rough terrain, it's all about shooting as much quality footage of these devastated locations as possible, with no crew of any kind, and getting it edited, posted online and seen as quickly as possible. Because of those circumstances, a reliable image stabilization solution is not merely a luxury, but an essential component to Ahmed's entire filmmaking process.


Working with YouTube, Ahmed's films have been viewed over 2.6 million times, raising money for an array of endeavors that have resulted in building a clean water system for an entire village of over 50 families; rebuilding a school serving over 100 students; providing emergency disaster relief to over 80 families, and helping the charity Save the Children's community health worker program that will ultimately aide over 10,000 children against major childhood fatal illnesses.
Save the Children has officially verified that 10,000 children have been directly helped through Shawn's efforts.

But while his work is noble, his workflow was anything but. The far-flung locales, where access to communication basics like electricity, were often at ends with Ahmed's filmmaking needs.

Consider this: For every hour of footage Ahmed shot it would take him an hour to transfer it to his MacBook Pro. From there he would begin what he literally called his "multi-day" process to stabilize the footage using Final Cut Pro's Smoothcam plug-in. Given the urgency of his work, spending inordinate hours of time just to stabilize the footage demanded a change to a more efficient workflow.

Ahmed recalled the frustration of traveling to Bangladesh following the aftermath of the 2007 Cyclone Sidr and again 2009 with Cyclone Aila, which left thousands dead and more homeless, trying desperately to stabilize his shaky and hastily shot footage while dealing with random power outages -- a fairly typical occurrence in third world nations on good days, let alone following a national disaster.

Before and After CoreMelt

"I would spend most of my nights stabilizing footage, and whenever the power went off, it became this perverse game of beat the clock," Ahmed says. "I knew I had about an hour of battery power with my laptop running at full speed. I would literally watch as battery power in the laptop drained steadily and the status bar on Smoothcam progressed hoping either the power would come back or Smoothcam would finish. If neither happened, I'd have to start the whole six-hour process over again.

 "I discovered Lock & Load while browsing and downloaded the free trial, and instantly it completely changed my workflow," Ahmed adds. "No longer did I have to go through the waiting process. I could edit they way I normally do, bring it into Lock & Load and it would stabilize the footage within minutes. What once took hours now took minutes."

Starting with the Lock & Load trial version, Ahmed quickly realized the positive impact the software would bring to his work and the mission of The Uncultured Project. He contacted CoreMelt founder Roger Bolton asking if they would donate a Lock & Load license to his cause. Bolton immediately agreed.

In addition, other features in Lock & Load helped Ahmed add a layer of cinematic quality to his films that he believes has helped move people to donate.

Ahmed points to one of his films, "The Boy Who Lived," which features a beautiful, seemingly Steadicam shot, of a beach at sunset.

"For most filmmakers, to get a shot of that caliber would have a required a professional Steadicam rig, but I was able to get it with a $2000 Canon camcorder and Lock & Load. CoreMelt's software brings a level of artistry to my films that I could never afford to achieve the traditional way," Ahmed says.

"Lock & Load gives amazing results instantly to blurred footage, eliminates ghosting effects and reduces rolling shutter artifacts that typically come from shooting on-the-go."

And while cinematic flourishes may seem secondary to Ahmed's primary mission of informing people about the dark corners of the world suffering acutely from global poverty, Ahmed notes you can't move people to action with bad footage.

At the end of the day you need the right tools to communicate a story that touches people, and gets them to donate.

"I see my work as part citizen journalist, part citizen philanthropist," Ahmed explains. "I work in a journalistically unbiased way, but I'm trying to inspire viewers to do something.

I'm trying to get donors and get people on the ground and corporations working together.

Having access to the latest technology is crucial. CoreMelt is making a lot of that possible by helping me tell stories that need to be told."

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  • Meet Filmmaker Shawn Ahmed by DMN Editorial at Apr. 23, 2011 12:20 am gmt

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