The winter that never was, 2023-2024

If you’re a casual follower of this website and have been wondering what I have been doing for the last several months, pretty much nothing. There is nothing to chase for winter weather in Central Minnesota.

This season is nonexistent, with a total snowfall here in Saint Cloud, MN; this winter, we’re at 11.0 inches from December until this weekend. That is less than a foot of snow when last winter, St. Cloud recorded a whopping 88.2 inches for the season, just edging out the old record of 87.9 inches from 1964-65, per the MN DNR.

We typically average about 24 inches at this point in the winter season, and the bulk of our moisture that helped us with the drought came as heavy rain over the Christmas holiday.

We can’t forget about the temperatures. As I write this under the full moon’s light, the outside air temp is 36 degrees F. The forecast for the next few days is for temperatures to be almost into the 60s, with a slight chance of snow later in the week.

The ground is not frozen, the trees are about to be budding, and our winter is just one that has everyone saying, after last winter, we needed this.

So, what does all this mean for the upcoming spring season? Nothing. El Nino will continue to mess up all the forecasts and change the weather for the next several months, if not for the rest of the year, from our typical weather.

Video Piracy, so you think you can get away with it?

This week, the multi hour a day work to review, verify and then take down video pirates on Youtube and META (Facebook and Instagram) continues to consume a huge part of my working day. So much so that we just created a standard reply form letter to send to everyone but is more focused on the international video pirates who never thought they would get caught and outside of just shutting them down, their is not much legal action we can take against them.

The form letter is a legal version to reply to them saying you f’d up, go f yourself and f off, you ripped us off, for pretty much everyone outside of the United States that cries that we took our content. For those inside the United States, I’m putting together a list for the attorney to start to go after to sue them. The piracy just for the hurricane footage is so bad, we even caught an attorney using our footage in their advertising campaigns and when we confronted them, they said they had no idea… Yeah sure… they are talking to our attorney now.

Don’t get me started on all of the Middle Eastern accounts that are ripping off Bryan Snider and Mike Oblinski’s time lapse work of the clouds and deserts to remake some religious video. The ironic part is that they are stealing video to promote their religion that has very strict rules about stealing. I know, I can’t make this up. Well, we just shut them down, several dozen a day just from about three of their videos alone.

It is funny when people have lost their Facebook or Instagram channels and have threatened to sue us but when we ask them for the license to use our work and to have their lawyer contact us, they just storm off mad and pissed that they got caught and their free ride is now done. We have had a couple of American based Youtubers that we caught using material and they have come back and paid a retroactive license to get their productions back into compliance and back on line. It is not cheap but they did want their channels back on line and where willing to pay.

Pay? How much? When you consider a video for something these days ranges from $75.00 to $150.00 PER SECOND with a 15 second base for long format usage which is anything over ten minutes long, that is a $2,250.00 in footage that someone is using if they lift top shelf hurricane footage. Now if you consider advertising rates for the top shelf footage at $250.00 per second with a ten second base for a limited time and area usage (local TV market and 3-6 months or longer) because the usage of our material could be also considered an endorsement of your product or service, that is $2,500.00 in footage. Factor in a settlement of three times the original rate for being caught being stupid, that is $7,500.00 to settle before you get dragged into court. Stealing video is not worth it with all of the tools now to scan the internet.

Then their are those who say “Those prices are insane, we can get footage much cheaper from the royalty free websites.” Yes you can but is the footage that is on those sites actually legit? We have had to go after many different royalty free websites over the years because others have taken our footage and uploaded it as their own footage. They stole our work, resold it as their own, pocketed the money and when caught, they just vanished and left the royalty free site, and their clients who we caught using the footage in a lot of trouble. It has happened and probably will happen again.

And for the fans that just want to share something, you see, it is so easy to share a video on your social media page or even your website like this, but not host the video. Below is a funny video but it is only an embed link, I’m not sharing it.

Funny Or Die video edit of Les Grossman

The above video is hosted on Youtube, the view count is logged on Funny Or Die Youtube channel stats and any and all advertising revenue goes back to their channel. It is a win win for everyone. I get to share the video here but I’m not hosting it and they have ultimate control over the video so they can shut it down today or tomorrow and limit it’s usage or the other owners of the footage that Funny or Die used can also limit or remove the video from Youtube. Share the link, don’t re-upload!!!

So how many people have the copyright take downs impacted? We have received dozens of emails from people in the last few weeks that have lost their Instagram or Facebook channels and are begging to have them restored. Since SCV was late to the game to get on board with the META copyright verification system unlike our system we have had with Youtube / Google for the last 15 years that pretty much takes away all the Advertising Revenue from someone and gives that to use for our crews. We have to go through hundreds of videos per day and submitting at least one hundred or more a day to be deleted on META alone.

For just this one video from Simon Brewer and Juston Drake of them playing in Hurricane Irma, we have had to submit several thousands of take down request just for this video.

Simon and Juston in Hurricane Irma

Big or Small, where taking down them all… The latest take down freakout was someone in the Caribbean who lost their social media channel that had about a million followers but now META just did the Thanso “Snap Of Disintegration” then and “POOF” their channel is gone. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the clip from Marvels Youtube channel. The character Thanso just snapped his finger and deleted half the population of the universe.

Marvel Universe Entertainment Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – “Snap Of Disintegration”| Movie Clip HD

So if you are reading this and thinking, I won’t get caught, yes, yes you will. A.I. and the copyright verification’s are getting better everyday.

Some day I will be back out in the field chasing. Last year it was my back and neck injuries that kept me from chasing, this year is working in the office and a weather pattern that is keeping the northern plains in a perfect weather setup for summer time fun where we are on the verge of a drought.

The piracy is bad on Meta

One of the behind the scenes things I have to do at SCV is fight the massive video piracy of our content on social media. Last year SCV was finally approved for the META (Facebook and Instagram) content management system or “CMS”.

What does CMS do for us? Just like the Youtube CMS that we (SCV) have been part of since it was pretty much created by Google to help copyright holders fight the piracy on Youtube, the META CMS does the same across the META platforms. It digitally fingerprints your video and then searches for other videos that match the fingerprint to let us know about a possible video pirate.

In the last six months of using the META CMS platform, unlike the Youtube platform where we have a huge footprint, we needed to start from scratch on META. I did not think it would be that bad since the main video piracy revenue was from Google Adsense. Wow, I was wrong. Although we are still pushing our content to META to be reviewed, the number of Facebook and Instagram accounts that we have found just downright stealing our content is sickening.

How bad is the video piracy on Meta? While we only have a fraction of our content on Meta, we started out with our most popular videos and the results where pretty much terrifying. Just for one example, the Hurricane Irma video from Simon and Juston:

Simon and Juston Fight Irma’s Eyewall Winds For Science

Just this one video, shows 7,388 total matches and of that, 4,243 still need to be removed. That means I have had to remove over 3,100 + pirated copies off of the Meta platform alone for this video and still have 4,200+ to take down.

Thank that is insane? Last week I found a law firm that was was using SCV footage in their advertising and you could clearly see that they ripped off the footage since our watermark was still in the video. I talked to our attorney and they are dealing with that one now.

So what, people are just using and sharing your content? Really? They are taking away views that should be coming to our crews and the SCV channels to promote our work. It is so bad that I recently had someone call me and threaten to sue me for taking down their Social Media pages because their pages had our stolen material and that they where “entitled” to use our footage under fair use when they where promoting a product and using our material for click bait. Yes I asked for their attorneys name and number just to speed up the process and was told to F#(( Off.

This policing of the video content is becoming a full time job on top of my normal job of working in the field and working on rights and clearances. I’m hoping to outsource it soon as I’m still trying to recover from the loss of work from last year dealing with the accident and spending most of my time trying to get my back, back into where it was before I was run off the road from the truck loosing its breaks.

Well, enough ranting, what else have I been up too? Well, not much, since I got out of the groove for the most part with shooting video last year due to the wreck and rehab, winter was kind of trying to get back on the horse so to speak. I did make it out for the several amazing Aurora Borealis shows this spring but timing for chasing severe has been way off or the weather is just not happening up here.

Here are some of the time lapse videos that I produced over the the past few Aurora events.

5/20/2023 Aurora Borealis & Shooting Stars Light Up The Sky Over Saint Cloud, MN

I’m kind of bummed that this version pretty much was ghosted on Youtube, compared to my fast edit the night of the solar storm. This edit has a lot more production work put into in post production.

4/24/2023 Massive #Aurora Borealis Fills The Sky – Remastered 4K #auroraborealis

And yes, I even was able to see them on the massive solar storm when I was in Iowa for the Iowa NWA conference this spring. I was able to drive back to the north and find a perfect spot in the middle of a wind farm and get a time lapse for a play on words “Solar Wind Farm” theme. I did notice that I did rush the production and was not on my A Game for this one due to lack of being out using my cameras much over the last year. I was able to correct the faults and make it work for the video above based on what I messed up on the video below.

3/23/2023 Aurora Borealis TimeLapse, Northern Lights Fills Sky Over Central Iowa

Well it is late, Laura has one more day of school before summer break, time to get some rest people and back at it tomorrow. I’m hoping to be out chasing next week but not sure if the weather is going to cooperate. We shall see.

Auroras Are Still Alive

So some might say, wow, Doug you have finally updated your page. Yeah, the last year was pretty insane. I was knocked out for most of last year with back issues and focusing on health and pain b.s. from getting wrecked in January of 2022. That stuff took a lot out of me where I could not chase due to the pain and headaches.

Well, I’m back, and ready to get back into the chasing game this spring as long as my back is not spaz’ing out like last year.

I actually just got back in from watching the Auroras here in St Cloud. I’m processing the video but I just wanted to share this photo. It is late and I need some sleep, I’ll post more this weekend and a recap of the last year of what I have been and not been doing.

Where have I been, updated on stuff.

Ok, so I have been not updating the site since I have not really been working much in the office and basically not in the field since the start of the year.

Back on Jan 5th, a trucker driving a Freightliner lost their brakes on their truck on Interstate 94 when I was heading towards the Twin Cities metro to do some shopping. Unfortunately before I left that morning I cleared out the always on dash camera memory card and formatted it but failed to cycle the power to get it to begin recording after it was cleaned from the prior days driving. Yeah I was pretty pissed when I found out nothing was recorded. Since I was not chasing, the big dash camera was not on recording anything so alas, it is just a memory for me. I credit the fact that when the big truck lost control on interstate and slammed into the passenger side and pealed it open like a tin can as it slammed me up into the rock hard snow along the center barrier of the interstate, the tires I had just installed helped me keep traction and control to not spin, flip or roll. And some driving skills on my part.

After the accident I did however get the other driver saying on my Sony A7R4 when I was documenting what happened for the insurance that it was his fault and that he lost his brakes since his boss was in another truck that was following him. It was a commercial vehicle and as of now their insurance is covering things for the loss of the truck and medical bills.

What really does suck is that it did take out the Toyota Sequoia that was all setup to be the chase vehicle this spring. I just got it ready for spring with all the necessary work including new tires and suspension work and flush of all the fluids.

So, what does this have to do with not posting? So driving along minding my own business and the truck next to me lost its breaks, slams into me and I saw it coming since I was trying to avoid it and was like WTF is this dude doing creeping into my lane as I moved to the left towards the shoulder and he kept coming and bammm… Yeah it was like one of those scenes of oh crap, this is going to hurt and tensed up. Well my Chiropractors here in St. Cloud that I have been seeing to keep my back in place for years pretty much told me tensing up before the wreck was the worst thing I could have done. Yeah sure, you try not to tense up when your driving a Toyota Sequoia (BIG SUV) and a truck that dwarfs you, runs you off the road and then hits you and slams you around. So, my back got messed up.

Now it is back to the non stop headaches that pretty much made me extremely irritable that are still plaguing me going on four months. Also the right side of my back from the mid back down to the right hip has been locked up where pretty much just in pain constantly so making long drives is really not in the cards for me. I did do the Chaser Summit drive and that took a lot of Advil for that trip and yes I hurt like a MOFO after that trip which pretty much made me gun shy to any long road trips for the foreseeable future. .

Why don’t I just get some drugs, some “fun pain killers” and numb the pain? Yeah um no, no thank you. I need to be mentally sharp and not strung out on narcotics. Plus I can’t fly a drone if I’m on any drugs other then Advil. And I just don’t want to be doped up and strung out “Comfortably Numb” when I Choose Freewill.

What I have been doing for the last three months is simple, instead of seeing the Chiropractors 1-2 times a month just to keep things in check, I have been forced to go their so fn much that it’s really becoming extremely annoying and look forward to the weekends when I might be in more pain but I can focus on family and work without spending 60-90 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week going into the Chiropractors to get adjusted, acupuncture and having my back muscles worked on to try to get them to relax. Add in the fact that the Covid scare is still not over, having to go into a public place like the Chiropractor is just a little nerve racking on top of the back pain stress.

I have estimated that I have lost at least 60+ hours of work time just in the office and I could forget about being able to cover the rest of the winter season for blizzards in western Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas or chasing the early severe down south in Iowa. Yeah this pretty much took me out of the game for at least until May, if not through the summer.

And the other really crazy part is just shopping for a new vehicle to replace the Sequoia. With the shortages, it is pretty much impossible to find a vehicle that I would use to replace the Sequoia since I knew all the maintenance that was done and made sure the timing belts and other required maintenance was competed. Every Sequoia I have looked at since has not had the required work and some even look as if they went 15 years without the timing belt being replaced (01-07 Toyota 4.7L engines) which if they did not replace the belt, you know they did not flush and fill the fluids or suspension work.

So right now I’m pretty much in a medical induced chasing doldrums until I can safely get back out without worrying about throwing my back out in the middle of nowhere. On a plus side, I might be renting out my camera gear this season to my crews to shoot on some high end gear since it looks like I might be still dealing with this through May. I pray I can get things back in order on my back by the time Hurricane season ramps up.

The other plus side silver lining is Laura is really enjoying having Dad around all the time.

Hartland, MN Rare December Extensive Tornado Damage and Close Lightning 12/15/2021

Epic Lightning on the tornado warned storm in Freeborn county just south of the town of Hartland that was hit with a possible tornado. Footage then continues with an extensive damage survey of the down showing numerous building and homes damaged including damage to the back side of the post office, a destroyed bank and several severely damaged businesses and homes. I split these up into two videos to since it took a while to edit the Komodo footage.

Hartland, MN Storm Damage
I love this camera, no rolling shutter on the lightning footage. #ShotOnRed
Snow on the ground and lightning fills the sky. Image from the Sony A7R Mk4

And it looks like a busy holiday week with weather in Northern Minnesota. Still checking the forecast for the rest of the country but I an trying to figure out how I can get caught up with work and get out to chase the next severe event to document more lightning footage next month with some of the Southern Storms.

Winter Storm, Pile Up On I-35 and Metro Heavy Snow 12-10-2021

I was out at it again in southern Minnesota in the middle of the winter storm and stuck close to the hots spots of known travel areas where traffic is known to pile up. It did not take long and one area just to the north of Faribault had a pretty bad pile up. I did not hear about any serious accidents but the Interstate was shut down for hours due to the numerous jack knifed Semi Trucks.

Winter Storm, Interstate 35 Pileup, Faribault MN 12-10-2021

As the storm progressed, the worst of the heavy band of snow was setting up around the south side of the Twin Cities metro area. I shot the following footage around Minneapolis to the south end of down down by Burnsville, MN and Bloomington, MN.

Winter Storm Creates Slick Roads In The Twin Cities – 12/10/2021

Overall this was an interesting event that was the far northern end of the historic tornado outbreak that impacted the region from Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.