Thad Allender

photographer, web developer & startup founder based in Brooklyn, NY.

Category: Feature (page 1 of 2)

Barack Obama Inauguration Documentary

The video demo reel above contains some of the clips and motion graphics that I made for “America’s Journey” at USA TODAY. Watch the seven chapter documentary here. You can get the DVD or video-on-demand here.

Earlier this week USA TODAY released a seven chapter documentary about the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. It was a very, very long week for everyone on the documentary team. For myself, the week included a night sleeping under a desk at the downtown Washington, D.C. office, multiple 12-13 hour work days, and a diet of roasted pecans and half a cup of water on Inauguration Day.

3D Photo Animations
I’ve been waiting for the right project to use a visual technique that I refer to as 3D photo animation. The concept also helped to drive home the theme of our project: To document the individual journeys to the inauguration as well as the journey that we, as one nation, have made in our history. The 3D fly-throughs were made using a single base image and cutting out multiple layers of foreground, middle ground, background in Photoshop. I added the layered Photoshop documents to Apple Motion, spread the layers apart in 3D space, and walked a camera through the digital scene. Textures and vignettes were also added in Apple Motion.

Steve Elfers, video director at USA TODAY, and I decided early on to not mix content from multiple images. The 3D animations allow the viewer to see the scene from an entirely possible perspective, had he/she been present in the photograph. The trick was to essentially hide each duplicated piece of the scene by flying the camera around and through foreground and middle ground elements. Without these limitations, the possibilities are endless in terms of 3D scene depth and layering. These ethics made the animations very difficult, but it was ultimately worth the trouble.

Canon 5D Mark II
This was my first major project using the Canon 5D Mark II as my primary video camera. The camera has so many positives that the negatives seem trivial. The image quality is astonishing. The flexibility is unparalleled. I was able to shoot HD video, still photographs and capture 360 panoramas using one camera. Last year, that would have required three cameras.

I used a Sennheiser transmitter and receiver combined with a Tram lav mic for all interviews and natural sound. While the audio is one of the major things holding this camera back, I found the combination of using the Senheisers and the Tram lav mic very acceptable. Obviously, the fact that the 5D tries to normalize all audio levels can create problems, especially during interviews.

24 Hour Inaugural Day Timelapse
I knew early on that I wanted to document the entire inauguration day using timelapse photography. The problem was, locations with quality perspectives of Pennsylvania Ave. were limited. Josh Hatch, a fellow multimedia producer at USA TODAY, milked some of his connections at the Newseum and secured a prime location for the camera pointing east at the U.S. Capitol. We crunched some numbers and decided one frame every 15 seconds would be suitable to capture at least one frame of Obama’s motorcade in the foreground of our shot and also provide ample image to create the timelapse. I used a pocket wizard as the intervalometer, plugged the camera into an AC outlet, mounted the camera on a magic arm and teethered the camera to a laptop inside the Newseum. You know the drill. I wrapped the camera in bubble wrap for insulation and weatherization and taped a hand warmer pack onto the pocket wizard so the battery wouldn’t freeze overnight. God save the hand warmer.

Earlier that week, I wrote a script that would automatically copy, resize and automatically FTP the images in real time back to the USA TODAY servers for virtually live posting on our Web site. Everything went according to plan up until the teethering. Apparently, the 30 feet of USB cable carrying images from the camera outside in 20-degree weather simply didn’t have enough power to reach the computer. So, we ditched the teethering approach and inserted a large memory card.

I worked with some amazing folks on this project and I can’t wait for round two. Rhyne Piggott followed an intimate story about a Tuskegee Airman. Garrett Hubbard documented a million-dollar benefactor who purchased 300 hotel rooms overlooking Pennsylvania Ave. for the less fortunate. Rhyne, Garrett and Steve were amazing to work with. We had above a dozen video journalists who contributed content for the documentary. The full list of credits appears at the end of chapter seven.

Super Rat Machine Works Design

Super Rat WebsiteOne of the best things about working in the creative industry is the luxury of being surrounded by amazingly passionate people. One of those people is Phil Wasson. I’ve known Phil for more than a decade now and his craftsmanship with all things metal is next to none. Over the years, I’ve collaborated with him on various projects including magazine articles, living situations, cooking recipes, you name it. A few years ago, he launched Super Rat Machine Works, a machine shop specializing in high-end, revolutionary BMX components.

This weekend, Phil and I sat down to rethink, redesign and reevaluate both the Super Rat website and the future business model of Super Rat’s online operation. If you ride BMX, or are at all interested in online business, you should keep tabs on Super Rat Machine Works in the coming months. Just yesterday, we launched the new website, which uses WordPress as the CMS and a modified version of my Monochrome theme that I sell at Graph Paper Press. You can expect some innovative products from Super Rat Machine Works in the coming months.

Do It Yourself Lightbox

Professional product photography is one of the most overlooked aspects of running a successful online business. Bad photography can loose you sales. Good, clean product photography can increase sales. After all, your clients are basing their decision largely based on how the product looks in the photograph. This post is for all amateur photographers or online business owners looking for a professional product photography solution on a very tight budget.

Note: Some of the ideas in this post build off of light diffusion ideas available at Strobist.

What you need:

  • Cardboard Box
  • White cellophane (trash bags work too)
  • 11 x 17 white office paper
  • Clear tape
  • Box cutters (the terrorist-free kind)
  • Three 60 watt lamps

DIY Lightbox

  1. Open the box
  2. Cut away windows from three side of the box
  3. Cut your white diffusion bag/cellophane/paper to fit the three windows
  4. Tape the diffusion onto the three sides
  5. Bend and tape the white paper to the bottom of the box, creating a seamless curve down onto the side of the box that was not cut.
  6. Set up the three lights, one on each side of the translucent white diffusion panels on the lightbox.
  7. Set your camera’s white balance on the incandescent setting (the light bulb).
  8. If shooting small products (lets say less than 6 inches tall), then set your camera on macro focus
  9. Start shooting

Total construction time: 15 minutes
This won’t win you the Pulitzer Prize, but it might earn you some sales.
Super Rat Stem

High speed mode

I once thought that high speed mode was simply just a camera function for increasing frames per second. I was wrong. It is also a lifestyle, to which I recently subscribed, albeit unconsciously.

During the month of December I…

  1. Traveled to Atlanta for three days for a photo shoot
  2. Traveled to Minneapolis for Christmas
  3. Worked well over 160 hours at my 9-5
  4. Designed and launched Graph Paper Press
  5. Designed and launched four WordPress theme designs for WordPress
  6. Hosted two small “get togethers” with friend and family
  7. Photographed a friend’s wedding in Kansas City
  8. And finally, I raked my yard. Yikes!

Yes, I’m tired. But, I’ve never been more excited about life, work and what I like to refer to as “play work.” Luckily, I received the Tolstoy of all phones for Christmas: The iPhone. It’s proving to help keep me organized, on top of email, and constantly distracted. So, in the mean time, take a peek at a few of the things I’ve produced during the tale end of 2007:

  1. My 2007 Year in Pictures at the Lawrence Journal-World
  2. Graph Paper Press
  3. A few photos from my friend’s wedding

Here’s to a less manic 2008!

Introducing Graph Paper Press

Graph Paper Press
“Over 1,500 hits in one day?” That was the question I asked myself the day after that I released Visualization, a premium magazine-style theme for WordPress, a popular online publishing system. Since then, I’ve released Gridline Magazine, Gridline News, and Gridline Lite to help feed the beast.

But, I had to ask myself, do my site visitors really care about all this WordPress jibberish? Likely not. So, I decided to curl up this weekend and make Graph Paper Press, a focused repository of WordPress themes created by me for you. The site accomplishes a few things, but most importantly, it makes it much easier to locate, preview, and download my theme designs.

So far, I’ve sold themes to people on every continent, except Africa. So get with it Zimbabweans! In all seriousness, the popularity of these themes has come as quite a pleasant surprise.

In the mean time, take a peek at Graph Paper Press.

Gridline Magazine Theme for WordPress

I’m on a bit of a web design and development kick lately. Earlier this week, I released the Visualization Theme for WordPress. Today, I’m releasing Gridline Magazine, a modular, minimalist, magazine-style theme for WordPress that supports a widgetized bottom bar and sidebar. Design features include:

  • All original PSD files, making all graphics easily customizable
  • All theme files, including the Blueprint CSS framework
  • Author archives template page for multi-author websites
  • Two page templates for narrow and wide column pages.
  • Web Standards Compliant
  • Backwards compatibility with, hiccup, Internet Explorer

You can download them all from

Visualization WordPress Magazine Theme


Visualization is one of the original “magazine-style” themes created for WordPress. It was released as a free theme, then it became a paid theme available through Graph Paper Press. Today, it’s a free theme again and can be downloaded by signing up for a free account at Graph Paper Press.

visualization magazine theme for wordpress
If you visit my site regularly or irregularly, you have undoubtedly noticed constant design changes, tweeks and dramatic overhauls. Chalk this one up to my obsessive compulsive nature and insatiable taste for modern, clean, minimalist aesthetics. So, after more than two years of fidgeting with dozens and dozens of WordPress themes I have decided to release my own theme for others to enjoy.

Visualization is a grid-based, magazine-style WordPress theme that is easy to customize and make your own. The CSS borrows heavily from Blueprint, a CSS framework that streamlines development by utilizing an easy-to-use grid and sensible typography. Visualization can transform your blog into a full-blown magazine or news Web site.

Visualization includes

Penn Valley Skatepark

A few sequences of Jeff Sadler at the Penn Valley Skatepark in Kansas City, MO on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007.

From Work to Home to Trails in 15 Minutes

Photo: Leaving the trails after sunset.
<img src="bmx_endor_tyler_590.jpg
Photo: Snap cover-boy Tyler over the main line, recently back in Kansas from the Philippines.
The best thing about Lawrence is that most of my favorite places are within very close proximity to each another. With the light fading around 4:45 p.m. today, I made a mad dash from work to home to grab my bike and head out to the trails for a quick 30 minute session. Enjoy the pics.
Photo by Joe Montgomery: Me blurred as I head through the roller line.

Shawnee Mission Skatepark session

Fall is my favorite time of year for riding, photography and doing absolutely nothing. A strange mix, I know, but I tend to need some time for rest, relaxation and recreation to help recharge my batteries. The resting part I can do anywhere, trust me. The recreation part has always been a bit more challenging given that I’m a total bmx junkie and I live in Kansas. Luckily, I live less than 30 minutes from an amazing skatepark in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. I spend almost every Sunday carving the bowls, trying to find some new lines with my friends and snapping a few pics here and there. Last Sunday, I shot a few flicks with the new HD video camera. Despite the fact that my computer doesn’t want to deinterlace the video, I’m pretty psyched on the video quality. No crazy tricks here, just a fun day cruising around the skatepark with some friends. Word.
If you want, you can watch the video in full quality HD here at Vimeo.

Duluth Minnesota

Duluth Minnesota bridge

If you ever have an opportunity to visit Duluth, Minnesota, do it. It’s quite an amazing little city on Lake Superior. During much of the twentieth century, the city was an industrial port town, with a cement plant, nail mill, wire mills, and the U.S. Steel plant. The population surged well above 100,000 residents, many of Finnish descent. But due to foreign competition, the steel plant closed in 1971. More closures soon followed, leaving an industrial complex scattered along the banks of Lake Superior.

Today, many local businesses have began the process of reclaiming some of these relics of the past in the name of tourism. Needless to say, Duluth is one of the most visually unique American cities that I have ever visited.


My Nokia PhoneWith all this blogging going on about the iPhone, I figured that it was time to pay homage to the iPhone‘s more capable older sibling: the Nokia 312ob RH-50. The more than 300,000 blogs and millions of comments on blogs about the iPhone makes me wonder if we all have too much time on our hands. I mean, aren’t we fighting a couple wars right now? But who am I to chastise others about iPhone obsession? I’m a guilty as anybody. But today, I’m here to praise the Nokia 312ob RH-50.

Lets get things straight. This phone is dope. Every number has a button. That’s right, every single one. Although the Nokia only has one volume level, I can still hear almost every phone call. It has this really smart feature programmed in so that everytime I power it on, I have to reset the time and date. This helps keep me on point.

For the past year or so, I’ve been secretly billed $20 each month for a data plan for the phone. This gives me unlimited access to the internet, email, IM, you name it. Too bad I just found out the phone is incapable of doing any of that. But just think of the possibilities! It also has cool applications like Media Mall, Services, Rayman Bowling and Darts. I love Darts. That’s something everyone needs.

If the phone had a camera, I’m sure it would be great, because the gallery application built into the phone sure has a lot of empty room for great photos.

Older posts

© 2018 Thad Allender

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑