In the five months since launching the VideoBlocks Marketplace, we’ve welcomed 5,700 contributors from 111 countries into our ranks. With over half a million clips uploaded so far, we thought it would be fitting to highlight the stories of the filmmakers behind the stock footage. So, we decided to launch a new series: Around the World with 80 Contributors. Our video voyage starts with James Orlowski—a Pittsburgh-based contributor with an eye for cinematic shots.
First Stop: James Orlowski in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Most people think of New York City when they think of Gotham, but most people don’t know that The Dark Knight Rises was actually filmed in Pittsburgh. Unlike the manufactured sets of Studio City and similar industry epicenters, the city of Pittsburgh offers bona fide grit and real urban beauty—making it the choice location for a surprising roster of blockbusters.
If you’ve seen The Avengers or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you’ve seen Pittsburgh on the big screen. The relaunch of The Outsiders will soon be putting the city front-and-center on the small screen as well. And chances are, somewhere and in some form, you’ve seen James Orlowski’s stock Pittsburgh footage.
A Videographer’s Origin Story in Pittsburgh
As a lifelong Pittsburgher, Orlowski has shot the City of Bridges from every angle. He started his career as a videographer and producer over 20 years ago—building an impressive catalog of footage that often focuses on his hometown.
Orlowski felt the draw to filmmaking from a young age. As a child, he would “borrow” his brother-in-law’s camera, until his parents finally yielded to his pleading and bought him his very own VHS camcorder. From that day forward, he was the official family videographer.
After honing his camera skills on holidays and family vacations, Orlowski went on to study broadcasting at Penn State and eventually established his own production house, OrlowskiDesigns.
Seeking Shots in High Places
Download this stock video of a sunset behind a Pittsburgh bridge
Even after several decades, Orlowski’s favorite locale to shoot is still Pittsburgh.
“Pittsburgh is a great place to get shots,” says Orlowski. “It has a very unique location on Mt. Washington that overlooks the city. There aren’t too many cities where you can get above the skyline from a mountain that is so close to downtown.”
From this vantage point, Orlowski has captured sweeping visuals of the city and incredible sunsets. It’s also allowed him to record day-to-night timelapse footage of the skyline. These establishing shots run the gamut from dusky Gotham-esque cityscapes to sunny portraits of buildings against blue skies.
When he is not capturing fresh clips of his hometown, Orlowski likes to head north to New York City to expand his portfolio of metropolitan scenery.
“I love traveling to get shots of new locations, but Pittsburgh and New York are my favorite places to film,” he explains. He particularly likes the view from the High Line above 14th St. in Manhattan.
A Creative Process That Runs on Instinct
Orlowski has a knack for finding and shooting the mundane in an interesting way. Whether it’s the angle of a take or the composition of his framing, he tends to use a unique set-up for his shots. One of his recent favorites is a knee-high look at tourists crossing the Pittsburgh’s Smithfield Street Bridge on Segways.
“I really have no set process on what to shoot,” Orlowski continues. “Being an editor myself, I think I have the ability to know what other editors might need, so that’s my guiding instinct.”
He frequently challenges himself to uncover inspiration in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. By traveling to new locales both domestic and abroad, Orlowski hopes to continue growing his distinctive repertoire of city footage.
Why Shoot Stock?
By licensing his work through the VideoBlocks Marketplace and other channels, Orlowski has been able to financially support a multitude of creative pursuits while simultaneously providing fellow producers with the footage they need.
“Stock is a great way to hone your videography skills while making a few bucks in the process,” Orlowski explains. “When I heard VideoBlocks was opening a marketplace where contributors took home 100% of the sale, I was hooked.”
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