chins

How To: Create Chinchilla Videos

While photographing chinchillas can be challenging, its rewards are adorable and its cuteness nearly unmatched. However, aside from taking your chinchilla photography to the next level through creating adorable sets, there is another medium which is much more true-to-life and far more engaging: videography.

Chinchilla videos allow for additional dimensions of sharing: movement, sounds, and quirky personalities shine! But creating and editing videos is a time-consuming process that may seem daunting for new videographers. No fret – I’ll help you break down the requisites to create compelling pet videos without getting overwhelmed.CaptureThere are a few steps to consider when it comes to the video-creation process: conceptualization, setup, videoing, post-production, and sharing. Read on, and you’ll be creating delightful videos in no time!

Step One: Conceptualization

Each great video starts with an epic theme: cuteness. But the question is, what kind of cuteness do you want to capture? Sometimes it’s fun to play into a certain theme or creative concept, such as “Paranormal Chintivity,” “Chillaween,” or “CHINN Breaking News: Ebola Cure Found,”  there’s always room in the webiverse for no-frills, simple shots of your adorable fluffballs. While creating sets and developing themes is always fun, don’t forget to manage expectations. Every single set I’ve created for the fluffs has been thoroughly destroyed by the end of filming – and certainly, with all the destruction and re-takes, these videos require more post-production than a simple scene. If you’re just starting out, simplicity is key. A well-lit room (I prefer natural light always, but artificial light is also helpful when needed) and a chin-comfortable environment are the two must-haves for your chin’s YouTube success.ly edit_DSCF0060Another important question to ask is: how well do you know your chinchillas? Of course there will always be natural variables to every chinchilla’s behavior, but you should be in a comfortable enough place in bonding and learning your chin’s general demeanor. For example, I’d say “Muff’s not going to do well in a large, unconfined area. He’s a speed demon on the open road!” or “Koko Bear loves cuddling and massages. She’ll be a perfect cuddle or scratchies video subject!” or “Lulu and Fifi are wildcards! It’s pretty safe to say they’ll be little troublemakers on a hand-crafted set,” or “Mitty is an intelligent divo. He’s going to either give us incredible angles or ignore the camera entirely… likely a mix of both.” These kinds of insights into your fluffy ones will be the foundation upon which your video relies. Pick a personality and a setting to fit.ly edit_DSCF0063

Step Two: Setup

If you’re just starting out, it’s a great idea to start out in-cage to prevent your chinchilla from behaving sporadically due to being filmed in a new environment. Try to pick a time of day where your chin will be between sleepy and feisty – normally, midday works pretty well, between naps. This will also allow for the most amount of natural night for filming.ly edit_DSCF3742After a while, if you’ve become comfortable with in-cage videoing, you can start to get a bit more creative by moving your set to another area of the house. Great places are confined playroom areas such as closets, bathrooms, and other properly chinchilla-proofed spaces.

In order to put as much of the focus as possible on your little best friend, it’s important to make sure each area is as clean as possible. If in-cage, take the time to clean. If out-of-cage, same thing (+ chin-proofing). It may seem redundant and unnecessary, but the filming process and final output will thank you!ly fb edit_DSCF4065

Step Three: Videoing

There are plenty of options when it comes to the best gear to choose. Of course, still photography is one thing. Videography may seem similar, but there are a few more factors to consider with regards to this medium: ease of use and desired output.

While the bulk of our current YouTube videos are created with the latest iPhones, I have been taking more time and energy to create more beautiful and artistic videos with the 4K options that FUJIFILM X Series cameras have to offer. My go-to camera choices for video capture is the FUJIFILM X-T2 or X-T20, both boasting beautiful 4K with film simulation overlay options. I love the X-T20’s touchscreen LCD focus, which makes capturing moving fluffballs as much of a breeze as possible. Both options are mirrorless, meaning they’re lighter and easier to use than DSLRs.ly edit_DSCF0039A few of my favorite lenses for creating lovely video shots are the XF50mmF2 and XF16mmF1.4 for cinematic vibes. If you need an extra hand, try using a tripod to help steady your takes. I also love the XF10-24mmF4 and XF50-140mmF2.8 for the epic OIS (optical image stabilization), which minimizes shakiness (typical to iPhone output), and diversity of focal lengths in the zooms. If you’re working alone, OIS will come in handy when you’re shooting handheld. ly edit_DSCF0044So, which option is best for you: a smartphone, or a professional camera? It comes down to what you’re comfortable with and what kind of feel you want to convey in your videos. Oftentimes, a phone is all that’s available when something supercute happens out of the blue – making it perfect for those quick snaps and adorable memories. However, if you’re putting the time into a concept and setup, you should consider a more professional system for more epic chinchilla videos.ly edit_DSCF0056Gear aside, don’t get discouraged when you’re shooting – remember, there’s an inherent learning curve in all new and worthwhile endeavors. Try to time your filming on a treat day – don’t overindulge your chins, but if they’re on schedule for a treat, this is a great overlap. If you don’t get the shot, take a break and try again. If today’s not your day, maybe tomorrow is. Oftentimes, a patient and relaxed approach will yield the best possible results.

Step Four: Post-Production

The easiest way to share is to simply upload your captured video to your favorite social website, no frills and no post-production. This also means no post-production: no color correction, frame adjustments, splicing/cropping, or intro/outros – but it sure does get your chinchilla’s cuteness out there as fast as possible!

While that’s an expeditious method, I’m going to dive a little deeper into your alternatives if you’re looking to invest a little more time and energy into your post.

Apple’s iMovie is one of my favorites: it’s incredibly easy to use, and the learning curve is very mild if you’re a regular smartphone user. This is how the bulk of our videos were created, and the software is certainly good enough for most videographers operating in the pet-video-creation realm.ly edit_DSCF0045Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro are great options for the more technically-savvy out there. These two are definitely professional grade software; a bit more difficult to learn than a simple interface like iMovie. However, it’s worth putting in the time, pulling up a few YouTube tutorials, and getting deeper into the edit! There are a lot more options in these types of technologies than a simpler interface can offer. To get started, a simple YouTube How-To search will get you where you need to go!19686725_10154490867201415_960349302_o.pngThere are also a plethora of other post-production options out there, but those are the ones we’re comfortable with! If you have any other favorites, feel free to comment and share with us.

Step Five: Sharing!

YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are our all-time favorite sharing platforms. But, it’s really up to who you want to see your videos and how you want to share your chinchillas with the world. They’re definitely cute enough that they deserve to be shared, and you know it! Be sure to have fun and create a sense of community while you’re at it.edit_DSCF0069.jpg

Step Six: Bask in the Cuteness!

There you have it: the five simple steps to creating adorable chinchilla videos. Take this summer as a time to keep your chinchillas cool and creating even cooler videos! Don’t forget to check out our official YouTube channel here! There are a ton new videos on their way, just hit subscribe and enjoy the pawdorable fluffs. 🙂

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Plastic is Bad, Wood is Good!

When it comes to chinchilla care, all owners understand – or will eventually come to understand – the negative risk associated with plastic consumption. It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to this issue, as pet stores and manufacturers across the world push its occupants towards plastic for an obvious profit. It’s cheap, easy to produce en masse, and nearly indestructible – except when it comes in contact with a determined set of chinchilla chompers. Today, I’m raising my digital paws to the sky and asking all chinchilla owners to please – for the love of fluff – switch to a chinchilla-safe wood alternative.

Mitty Home

Plastic consumption can cause blockage or impaction in a chinchilla’s digestive system, causing discomfort, pain, or even death. Sure, we’ve all had experiences of miraculous chinchilla digestion: for example, Muff, why are you drawn to chewing fabric? Why does it enchant you so? Why must I chinchilla-proof my outfit before handling you? 😉 I will say that my chinchillas have had their share of quirks and unsafe behaviors, but their mishaps are always recognized, seriously addressed, and prevented until the behavior is eventually resolved. But the simple relief of your – or my – chinchillas being safe after an unsafe behavior is no indication of future success. Yes, plastic can kill your chinchilla. I mean, it probably won’t, but it can. And putting your chinchilla in a potentially dangerous situation when you have the power to chinchilla-proof their living and playing space is simply unnecessary. As good owners, it is our responsibility to take the care of these fluffy lives very seriously and get rid of the plastic.

But how can we go on? How do we really live in an affordable manner without plastic? I mentioned in my Ferret Nation post that when it comes to cost-effective production, the small animal industry too often turns to plastic. Outside of cage fabricators, there are also major manufacturers pushing cheap dust houses, running wheels, litter boxes, hideaways, water bottles – plastic, plastic, plastic. As small of a media sector as there is for the small animal community, we need to stop listening to the part of it that is telling us to put perceived low cost and ease of purchase over the health and well-being of our animals.

Koko Sleepy Ledge

The answer is, we need to shop differently and stop the flow of plastic consumption. Stop by Home Depot or a lumber supply, grab some cheap kiln-dried wood, screws and washers, and learn to make some simple things for your chins. And yes, it is actually cheap – as cheap or cheaper than plastic, and far more healthy both in the interim and long-term. Another DIY option is to cover plastic items tightly in fleece, a safe way to modify existing plastic items. A great way to think about improving your chinchilla’s environment is to look at the process as a positive bonding experience – a way for you to give your energy to your fluffy child in a way that they can truly appreciate. As chin owners, we really don’t get to experience a silent cuddle without any signs of struggle, so watching your chinchilla enjoy their well-made home is truly an expression of appreciation for all the work that you’ve done. And yes, we know that you have done a lot of work, and the work ceases to end, especially if you’re doing a great job.

Ladies Cage Wood Ledge

Or, a less energy-consuming alternative: find a vendor that makes safe chinchilla ledges, platforms, houses, and accessories. There are plenty of great home-spun chinchilla vendors that put a lot of work and energy into making some beautiful accents for your chinchillas so you don’t have to! I will note, however, that when energy goes down for the end user, cost will tend to rise: the cost of purchasing from these vendors is almost always at least double the cost of producing these goods yourself (although a lot of people don’t want to make the initial investment of purchasing a drill, saw, and other construction materials needed to start on projects that require energy and attention, which I also understand). But honestly, if you aren’t going to break out the tools and do it yourself, by all means – buy from these vendors. It’s a higher cost than plastic, sure – but it is invaluable for your chinchilla to have that safe, healthy environment that he or she needs. The investment is not short-term, and it’s important not to lose sight of that.

Muff Home

Since the chinchilla pet owning market has not really spoken out against plastic in mainstream commercial avenues (i.e. endorsed by major chinchilla-selling pet stores) most creators of chin-safe goods will be sold at a premium. The more we evolve and begin to understand the chinchilla on a national scale – their complexities, individuality, health requirements, and all the basics – will we begin the full evolution of a safer, inexpensive, more comprehensive chinchilla market that gives our fur-babies exactly what they need, at a cost that won’t break the bank.

We already do so much for our chins, the least the industry could do is recognize and proliferate the true requirements that chinchillas need so as to promote ownership that is not ignorant for a lack of preliminary information. Ignorance will continue in each and every pet kingdom, that’s just the unfortunate truth. However, we should do our best to dissuade unfit owners through education and knowledge. I know the knowledge is out there, and amazing owners and breeders contribute to the chinchilla society, but too often the contributions are laced with a high-strung attitude about best practices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a person without opinion, and I definitely feel that there are a great many ways how to raise a chinchilla and a great many ways how not to. But I think there needs to be an open dialogue with the community – chinchilla owning and not – about chinchilla ownership and coming to an understanding of general chinchilla needs, and having that conversation turn into a pedestal for future expansion of the industry. The lack of a centralized commercial understanding of chinchilla care – or the willingness to promote bad care in exchange for profit – is unacceptable.

Hay Feeder 1

For my chinchillas, I make everything out of kiln-dried pine, from litter boxes to hay feeders to ledges, platforms, and toys (toys are often made from a variety of vendor-purchased pear or apple woods). I use stainless steel bowls, glass water bottles, and metal pans with fleece covering as a replacement for the stock plastic components in my cages. But then again, I’m just one loving chinchilla owner, and I can only do so much for the community at large. Chinchilla education starts with you, learning and sharing and learning again. There’s an endless ocean of information out there, and it’s spectacular. I spend a lot of my free time reading and learning and searching for more, for the simple reason that I care about chinchillas and would like to know more. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, but always try to fix your mistakes and practice great caution before making any decisions or setting your mind to some half-fact that could negatively impact your chinchilla. Knowledge is always power: the type of power that leads to a happy chinchilla home. Also, don’t get discouraged if you can’t do everything at once: making improvements is a process that expends time, money, and energy. You learn about what works best for your chinchilla, making positive changes whenever you can.. and every step counts.

Providing a happy home is, above all else, providing a healthy home. The happiest home is an environment that allows your chinchilla to explore their personality, growth, and development in a space that fosters and caters to their safety and health. I urge all owners to get rid of plastics inside your chinchilla’s cage and replace them with delicious, crunchy, dental-health-promoting chinchilla safe woods! 🙂

Muff Sleeping Litter Bxo

Muffton sleeping like a baby in his safe wood litter box! He might not use it as he should, but enjoys it all the same!

 

Custom Chinchilla Cages

This week has been busy! I’ve been all around the city, catching up with old friends, meeting with clients, and planning for the holidays with the fam. Needless to say, it’s been full of fun and festivity. One major thing I’ve set out to accomplish prior to the new year is to re-customize our custom chinchilla cage.

Chinchillas love change! To encourage mind and body stimulation, I love to move around parts of their cage from time to time – and that’s the best part of having a custom built cage. Everything can be modified simply with new pieces of kiln-dried pine (or other chinchilla safe woods) and just a couple of screws! Since each chin is different, getting to know your chinchilla is critical when it comes to modifying their cages and allowing them the safest & funnest habitat possible.

Cage 2013 2014

Last year, my boyfriend and I custom-built a cage based on the size and preferences of our chinchillas. For most of 2013 into 2014, we had only four chins, so the single custom armoire cage made perfect sense. When Koko came along in the latter half of 2014, we modified and combined two smaller wire-based cages to create a spacious multilevel loft for Mufftoneous (it was best at that point to separate the boys from the same cage complex). Prior to that point, we had a few wire cages in storage and the other as a playtime wheel for the kids, containing a water bottle and wheel for free use. Now, we keep the wheel with Muff because he has been deemed the unstoppable athlete – everyone else gets their energy out at playtime, but Muff just keeps going like the Energizer Chinchilla.

Below, you can see the most recent updates to our cages:

Over the course of the year, there were many small changes and modifications to all cages. But the desire to switch it up even further has officially arrived. So, onward! The process we use to make changes to the cage involves taking the chins out one by one for playtime and modifying cages one at a time. Typically, I start with the oldest chin’s space and work my way to the youngest, although there are always slight aberrations to that selection method. Since I constantly observe my chins in their environment, I have noticed their changes and preferences as they get older, bigger, and more curious. Their cages have always been able to be a reflection of their personality, and I’m happy to be able to be hands-on with it.

Since Mitty [located in the bottom left tripartition] loves organization, he received a few large shelves, VIP bedding area, and a custom house (not pictured). He was also given Muff’s hammock, since Muff used it more as a platform than a relaxation tool. Muff [located in multilevel wire cage] had that hammock replaced with sturdy pine shelving in large and small sizes to keep him entertained. Since I know Muff loves wall climbing and tight spaces, he received a long pine wall to scale and squeeze himself up and down (don’t worry, it’s not too tight). Lulu and Fifi [located in the bottom right tripartition] received a spacious 3-way aluminum tube so they could snuggle together and new platforms to stretch their legs on. Finally, Koko [located in the top tripartition] received Mitty’s old hut and the girls’ smaller tube. She also got a few small ledges to prance around on – she’s not a jumper, so height has never been her preference.

We had a great time modifying our kids’ cages this time around, and it’s always an exhausting pleasure being put to work by the chinchillas! I know they’ll be happy for a few weeks to come. Remember, a chinchilla owner’s job is never truly done – it’s onward, and upward, always!

Stay tuned for our weekly Wednesday blog posts by following via email. Also, subscribe to us on YouTube and visit us on Facebook! We leave you with a sweet video and we hope you all have a great holiday, and spread that furry chinchilla love to your friends and family. Cheers!

Tips for Chinchilla Playtime!

As all chinchilla owners know, chins are high energy and high maintenance – there’s no sugar-coating it! We go out of our way to provide safe multi-level havens for our babies, order them the finest foods, and hope that one day they’ll come around and show us some love back! A major part of chinchilla health and bonding is playtime. Playtime is critical for chins, as it gives them a chance to discover a new environment, stretch their legs, and get to know their owners a little better.

Get to know your fluffball. Playtime is an incredible way to get to know your little babies. Chinchillas have abundant personalities, and you miss a lot of that while they’re in their cages. Letting them out will encourage them to approach you (as so oftentimes it’s the other way around) and share their squeaks, leaps, wall jumps, and more with you! I encourage all owners to be very aware of their chinchilla’s behaviors – study them: their idiosyncrasies, movements, and physical characteristics. Any change in personality or behavior can be indicative of a health issue and should be carefully monitored – but you need to know your chinchilla’s baseline personality in order to detect any semblance of a change. There are a lot of health issues or injuries that can be fixed simply by detecting them early, and to put it simply, you can’t catch it if you aren’t looking.

Be present at playtime. Watch them like a hawk! – at least, keep a very watchful eye when you first start letting your chinchillas out. As you get to know your chins, you’ll be able to know which ones respect authority more than others, which ones you can trust around the furniture, and where they like to hide. There’s nothing more terrifying than fearing your chinchilla has dissipated into thin air when they’re actually snoozing under the couch – true story.

Set your boundaries. Many people like nice things, chinchilla owners being no exception (in fact, I think we have the best taste). So, it’s natural to be apprehensive letting your chinchilla out with such lovely molding, fabrics, and wooden furniture strewn about – chins are known for filing their teeth on wooden toys, and they don’t care whether that toy is your bed frame or an appropriately sized apple stick. It’s critical to set your boundaries and take up a stern talking with your chin. The easiest place to start for most homes is the bathroom or closet, as it’s a confined space and easier to spot a misbehaving chin. When you feel comfortable moving into a larger space, start in the new space by keep the playtimes short and working your way up. Trust is something that is built over time, chinchilla-human relations being no exception.

Chin-proof the playroom. The method I use for training my chinchillas not to bite my things starts with me. As people, we are responsible for our furniture, rug, walls, and important documents. No one can protect these things better than ourselves. Oft, it’s as simple as moving something important out of reach or closing the drawers. Chinchillas are so curious – you really can’t blame small animal instinct for why your favorite book (or camera, or passport, etc.) got destroyed. If you can see it, they can probably get to it. There is always a way. So put the birth certificates away, remove the climbing mechanisms, tape cardboard against your molding (make sure the tape is not reachable), shove pillows and blankets under your couches and around your radiators, and close those windows. When you’re done, you’re probably still not done. Those little buggers are more compact than your foresight will lead you to believe, and aren’t scared of venturing where no chin has gone before. It’s best to simply be there and catch them before they do the deed.

I know many owners have playpens, and I’m all for that – but if you have the time and energy to expend on chin-proofing, you’ll find it’s a much more interesting experience, allowing them to be more fully integrated into your space, if only for a moment.

Train. I don’t use treats when I train, I simply use the concept of ‘playtime’ vs. ‘home’. If they want to be out, they have to be good. If I see someone lingering by a wall for too long, I’ll say his/her name in the same manner I’d speak to a disorderly 4-year-old or a misbehaving dog – I’ll utilize the don’t you dare tone. They will hear you, and if they know you well enough, they’ll turn to you and be aware that you are talking to them. Sometimes they’ll stare right at you as they decide their playtime fate, chomping into a picture frame or art piece. Then, they’re headed home to think about what they’ve done. Less intellectual chins may never put it together, wondering with the same fascination each and every time why they’re going back to their cage! However, most chins will begin to see a trend in playtime consequences and learn what they can and can’t bite. I leave chew toys out for them, and allow them to bite on certain furniture such as my barn wood table and wicker chair. Everything else will simply buy them cage time. Again, you must be present in order to train. You can’t be sending mixed messages while they’re out (i.e. when you’re lazing they can bite, when you’re training they can’t), as it defeats the consistency required to teach & learn. If my chins are good, they can be out for up to 45 minutes before they decide they want to fall asleep, tap on the door to go home, or need a sip of water. I’ve found that some of my chins are now able to communicate their needs to me, which is extremely rewarding to recognize.

Enjoy and take your time. My chins are my children. I love spending time with them! They are badass kids at times and don’t care at all for what I have to say. That’s fine, they’ll learn – and, don’t tell them, but if they don’t, I’ll still love them. And watch out for them, and take care of them, and make sure they are safe and healthy. When playtime is over, be sure to collect your chinchilla carefully! Do not rush that final process, and if your pet escapes your clutches, do not panic. Be patient and coax your kids back into your arms or their cage, as long as it takes. I have heard too many horror stories of owners losing their chinchillas by stepping on their beloved pet accidentally, or falling on them when chasing an escaped chin. With all your might, try your best to avoid thoughtless and tragic accidents. Safety first! My best advice is to just take your time – don’t force it, and be genuine. If you love them, they’ll know – and on some level, they’ll reciprocate. Enjoy their company and never stop doing your best. Patience, practice, consistency, and human foresight can all create an extremely fun and productive playtime for all.

Times Square and Chew Toys

Today was Saturday, and I am prolifically known by my friends and loved ones to be terribly boring and lazy on weekends. However, I had just learned that my photography had been published in a magazine sold only in Midtown Manhattan. Alright, I thought. Time to get out there and see the world! I made a phone call to the cafe, only to find they didn’t have the issue yet. Alright, that’s not gonna stop me – I’m feeling mildly inspired, so let’s bring my Nikon, go to Times Square to shoot around, and stop by the cafe just double check the issue’s release date. I gathered up my belongings, tidied up the place, and ended up spending a few hours laying on the living room floor with my mosaics running around my body like a pile of shredded wheaties.  Eventually though, I made it out the door.

After checking the cafe, I took a long walk around Midtown. The air stung, but the mood was vibrant.

NYC Times Square Logo

I walked by Bryant Park, with its bustling Christmas shops already in full swing, stopped by Rockefeller Center to take a look at the MASSIVE undecorated Norway Spruce Christmas tree, and toured around Times Square for a quick (and always annoying) galavant. The cold is seeping into the New York City streets, but it’s festive and foreboding of a much more frigid freeze to come. I was bundled, and grabbed some hot chocolate to warm my nose.

Minnie Maus NYC Logo

I saw a few middle-aged women in Times Square donning the garb of Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse. I scoffed, thinking, you want to pass yourself off as a Maus? You’re no Mitty! It was around 8, and I was hungry. I thought about the chinchillas; I missed them so dearly. I always miss them, no matter how close I am to them. In the next room, sometimes. I definitely feel like all my motherly instincts were wrapped into one furry heart and delivered five separate ways. So, I headed home.

Then, came the more exciting part of my night – boiling apple wood branches to make chew toys for the babes! I had gone “apple-picking” a month or so ago and collected short branches from an adorable orchard in northern Connecticut. I boiled the pieces for 20 minutes and then rinsed and cleaned the logs under cool water with a bristly brush, to rid the debris. I placed them on a cookie sheet, baking at 300 degrees at 15 minute intervals until they were ready to chomp. I know chin owners have different methods for baking wood, but that was mine – and the chins loved them!

As soon as I got back, we let Muffton and Mitty out in rotations, as they are no longer compatible friends. When I first got them, they were bonded pretty well, and the fact that Muff was a little less intelligent than Mittenmaus didn’t divide them completely. Over time, they became more evidently unable to see eye to eye, despite being similar heights. Unfortunately, by the time the girls came along, they were finished with each other and squeaking to the ladies about how uneventful the other was and why they shouldn’t even sniff his way. Oh, well! C’est la vie. Sometimes bonded chins simply unbond – perhaps because of puberty, another sex entering the equation, or almost no reason at all.

In other exciting news, we’ve started a brand NEW YouTube channel, NYChinchillas! Be sure to Subscribe and stay tuned for the impeccable cuteness to follow! We’ll start uploading our arsenal of adorable videos starting today.

After an exhausting day out, I’m ready for my chin-feeding daily ritual and human bedtime! I hope you had a great Saturday and did something nice for your babies as well! 😀