When Everything Goes Wrong

I’ve been traveling a lot between England and France lately. Thus I’ve had to change my equipment packing routine–which I know is a dangerous thing to do.

I’ve forgotten to bring my keyboard (so now have one in both places, plus a spare), drives that I needed (now I taken them all back and forth in a small case), my LED lights (well, can’t forget those again because they’re too expensive to just buy a spare set), battery charger cords, drive cords, etc.

All that’s pretty sorted out now, but still, traveling on Ryan Air with a couple small bags with all the equipment I need violates my run and gun principle of ‘always carry everything you might need in two small cases’.

But ‘Ryan Air small’ is a different kind of small.

So it was with great deliberation that I decided this time to leave my Sony RX10 in France.

That was the first thing that went wrong.

A couple weeks ago I went to Wales to cover the unveiling of one of my wife’s statues. I shot a lot of it on the RX10. Naturally I thought I had done what I always do after a shoot: immediately download.

So when I arrived back in England with some time before my next shoot I thought I’d sit down and put together a promo video for Laury on that last statue commission.

But it turns out half my footage and all the high quality stills were still in France. Either that or the footage evaporated off my drives in transit.

The other things that went wrong happened earlier in Wales though.

The morning we left I had a few short minutes to interview the main guy who was going to provide my narrative for the video. We met at the statue.

Suddenly my radio mic wasn’t working. It stared at me with an ominous digital error message.

I didn’t have my rifle mics either.

That left me with no choice but to use the on-board Sony PXW X70 mic. In the wind. Next to a busy road.

When you only have one choice, you have to take it.

So I worked with what I had.

Then Laury gets an email that she’s been shortlisted for another statue in Wales.

Suddenly my new video was urgent. I knew it would potentially close the deal as it was a freshly unveiled statue in Wales with some very good selling points spoken off-the-cuff by a respected Welsh solicitor (lawyer).

Footage-wise I managed with what I got on the X70.

I had to steal a still photo off the internet shot by the event photographer who was next to me as I shot the same shot on video. Hope he doesn’t mind.

For the audio I used Izotope RX6 Advanced audio repair. (really, it’s a life-saver)

And I came up with this:

 

 

Why I like Audio Jungle for Audio Tracks

I promised to put together a short video piece for a friend who was doing a photo exhibition in our town of Chalabre, France and then totally forgot about it until the day before.

I had been (and still am) accumulating footage of what happens in the local area for an eventual narrative-driven promo and intended to use some of that for a short piece.

As I was leaving the next day for an event in England, I had about 6 hours to get the job done.

Since it was just going to be an edit to music, and knowing I had plenty of footage, the first step was to find a piece of music that was quintessential France.

I almost exclusively use Audio Jungle for a few reasons. Other sites may have these qualities, but once I found Audio Jungle years ago, I had no reason to look further.

As with any site, you can narrow down your music search by genre and even further by instrumentation, vocals, etc.

Unlike most sites, you can also narrow it down by putting in length parameters (time). Also BPM (beats per minute).

But what I like most is that the music is graphed so that at a glance you can see if there are shifts and changes in the music. (A lot of music for corporate and such uses is rather monotonous with great use of looping and you can see it instantly on the graph).  That at least helps me narrow down the options of what I’ll bother to sample because I prefer a piece with variations.

And, once I’ve found something I think will be suitable, Audio Jungle allows you to down load a preview (with audio water marks) so you can test it out in the edit.

In this case, I spent perhaps 5 minutes to find a suitable piece.

The edit was simply an assembly edit to the music.

No fancy transitions or titles. They wouldn’t have made it any better or made anyone more interested in perhaps visiting this area of France.

Watch it and tell me if this might make you want to come. Or if fancy effects would make any difference in your wanting to come.

If you do…we have Air BnB space for you to stay right in the heart of all this. Indeed our house is right on the village square where several of these scenes were filmed.

 

 

Spin a 60 Second Instagram Version off Your Corporate Video

Some of you may have seen a few of the videos I’ve been doing for the Duchess of Rutland. She got the video bug all of a sudden about 6 months months ago after realising that shoot video I did for them was bringing in big spending foreigners to the Belvoir shoot.

She also got a 20-something Marketing Director in who got her all jazzed up on social media, particularly Instagram and they have a successful account going there.

So now I’m having to make 60 second versions, and sometimes exclusively a 60 second video for their Instagram account.

For their website, however, I produce longer, more informative videos on their main subjects or services (weddings, corporate events, Gardens and one on Capability Brown–England’s most famous landscape architect) whose last design happened to be for Belvoir Castle, a fact only discovered in the Belvoir Castle archives a few years ago.

Anyway, I was busy doing the usual corporate style videos for the website (Gardens and Corporate), and was asked by the Marketing Director to do an Instagram version.

In two cases I just chose some appropriate music and condensed the B roll into a 60 second edit because there was no way to edit down the narrative to 60 seconds.

In one case, I was able to make a sensible narrative in the 60 second time limit, so now I’ve done both.

I then wrote the Managing Director of another marketing company that uses me exclusively for videos and showed him what I’m about to show you–suggesting that for future contracts, we add in the offering of a 60 second version for any company that also has an Instagram account. And charge them for it, of course.

He thought it was a good idea and I’m passing it on to you, hoping that I’m not teaching my grandmother to suck eggs in the process.

So here’s the usual corporate video:

And the Instagram version:

And by the way, if anyone is reading this far:

Shot on the Sony PXW X70

All hand-held, except for sit-down interview, of course. Stabilised as necessary with FCPX.

Edited and Graded in FCPX (following Denver Riddle’s excellent video on using FCPX’s new color tools)

And, something new! I bought Izotope’s RX6 Advanced when there was a recent offer, paying only a few hundred for an upgrade from RX6 Standard (hey, I’m not rich and the price for Advanced is usually over $1000).

My oh my! I used it on the Duchess interview to handle room echo and clothes rustle. The former was not my fault, the latter was.

One click and less than a minute of processing for the entire interview and you’re listening to the otherwise UNMIXED result. (I normally–even with RX6 Standard) spend a lot of time mixing to get the sound good. The RX6 Advanced result was so good I just left it as it was. Presence, warmth, clarity.

RX6 Advanced is lightyears better than anything else and even worth the $1000 price tag to have it in your FCPX toolbox. For anyone interested, my last blog was all about that with reference to the same video above (but you can hear the before and after there.)

 

Pure Frickin’ Awesomeness | RX 6 Advanced Audio Repair

I stumbled on Izotope’s RX Audio repair tools a few years ago.

I bought and used RX5, and later upgraded to RX6 Standard. Things that used to be impossible to handle (such as wind noise, clothes rustle, echo or even police sirens) now could be.

I’m not an audio geek. But I do know that the best answer to all these audio problems is not to record them in the first place.

In other words, correct microphones correctly placed and a good audio environment are far more important than many people realise. And no matter the quality of the image, poor quality sound is unavoidably a direct index to one’s level of amateurism.

Even so, things don’t always go right.  And that’s where RX6 Advanced is an essential editor’s tool. It’s pricey, but worth its weight in gold.

Now listen to me. RX 6 Standard is pretty good, but compared with RX6 Advanced it’s like the difference between a 2011 MacBook and a 2018 iMac Pro. Or, shall we say, a Ford F150 and a Ford F350 King Cab dually.

And the difference is a module called ‘Dialogue Isolate’.

Take a look at the modules that come with RX (click to enlarge).

 

Anyway, like I said, I’m not an audio geek.

I recorded the Duchess of Rutland in the Guardroom, which I already knew was an echoey space. I used a rifle and a lapel.

The rifle mic turned out to not do the job. And the lapel had clothes rustle on it. And, of course, there was echo.

Being the new and proud owner of RX6 Advanced I fully expected to use at least ‘Dialogue Isolate’, ‘De-Rustle’ and ‘De-Reverb’ to clean up the sound.

Turns out the default position of Dialogue Isolate did the whole job. It was a two click process. Sure, there were LOTS of parameters I could have adjusted, but just to show you what it can do in default mode using only the dialogue isolate module with no further adjustments, listen to this short excerpt. It starts with the untreated raw footage and intercuts with the RX6 Audio repair and graded footage.

Here’s the whole video.

Toppling a 17th Century 2nd Floor Stone Wall

The Forge (1652), as purchased and before site cleanup.

 

Not my usual type of video. It was done for family originally but just thought I’d make it public now because it’s kind of interesting.

It’s a detailed account of the process of removing a dangerous 17th century stone wall (the old Forge, a typical ruin in south France) without machinery and without getting killed in the process.

The exciting bit is at the end of course.

Money Heist, Filmmaking Par Excellence

 

If you really want to learn film making, yes it is usually necessary to school yourself on the fundamentals. Really school yourself, learn the basics and get them down cold. I say ‘usually’ because there are a few geniuses that have by-passed that approach because they somehow gleaned it all from the next point I’m going to make.

The next thing is to study the work of real professionals who successfully applied those fundamentals and made classic or ground-breaking films. And even ‘cult underground’ ones. I’m sure you can think of a few,

But amongst that group are a smaller group of visionary artists who push things to a whole new level. That’s a very small group in my opinion.

In the book Run ‘N Gun Videography–The Lone Shooters Survival Guide, I made mention of a few who I felt were in that category at the time. Mentioned were ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Killing (Danish original–not the American version which is crap) and ‘The Bridge’ (a Swedish/Danish collaboration), all of which were crime dramas.

I confess, I’m a crime drama fan, so I’m going to have to add one more to the list.

It may be the best one of all.

La Case de Papel (literal translation: ‘House of paper’ and stupidly translated as a series title to ‘The Money Heist’) is a Netflix original Spanish crime drama. Strangely, I’d never really seen a Spanish film before. Looks like the Swedes, Danes and Spanish have all left Hollywood in the dust. (my theory: Hollywood got into politics while the rest of the world seems to be making better and better films)

Anyway, I was gobsmacked. (a British expression meaning what we might call ‘shit-faced’).

Wow!

I binged watched the whole series in two days.

Why is it so good?

Well, for you readers of Run ‘N Gun Videography, you’ll know what the primary point of that book was and how that primary point is the common denominator of all the fundamentals for any part of film making–MESSAGE.

This series is a fantastic example.

It’s cinema par excellence in all departments. ALL departments (camera, lighting, casting, acting, scripting, sets, props, music, editing….you name it). That’s always what makes a great film great. All departments acting in harmony to forward a message with the greatest possible emotional impact.

But all that techno babble aside–if you want to see the greatest heist film of all time, the most unexpected love story of all time, a great story and  a great thriller, with world class actors you never even heard of, that you will watch episode after episode until 3 am when you realise you’ve unavoidably fallen asleep, and with a fantastic ending–watch ‘The Money Heist’ on Netflix. And learn.

And by the way, I don’t say that smugly. These guys are way out of my league.

YouTube Channel Coming Soon… (but not what you might think)

 

 

Heads up! Tons of rock coming down!

A couple months ago I started thinking about starting a YouTube channel to see if (using what talents I still have) I could hit the Big Time. Or even close.

About a year before that I had another idea. You see, we have a house in southern France that we’re renovating. An old house. Older than the United States. Sounds exotic, I know, but honestly we wouldn’t have it if not for an inheritance. Since then another family member who fell in love with the area bought an old ruin and we’re renovating that too.

But mainly this area of southern France is amazing in so many ways. It’s not the ‘usual’ southern France (Provence, Nice, Cannes, Marseille) that you normally associate with that term. It’s about 100 miles west of that in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s France’s Best Kept Secret. (and that was going to be the name of a promotional series I was going to do for the benefit of the local area).

But then, one day, as I was standing in the ruin of the old Forge (1652) that I was working on, I got this new idea.

The Old Forge (1652) as purchased and before site clean-up. That’s a very productive, ancient grape vine growing across the face of the building.

After all, renovating old stone houses is extremely interesting. It takes an understanding and appreciation of the technologies that they were built with that made them last so long. (Perversely, the one sure way of expediting the demise of an old stone/oak frame building is with the introduction of modern building materials such as concrete).

Anyway, interesting as all that that might be, it wouldn’t sustain interest as the sole subject of a YouTube channel…and that’s when the penny dropped and when the two ideas became one: a channel that showed how easily an old ruin can be transformed into a dream house (and also showing you some houses around here and how unbelievably cheap they are) along with a tour of the region and the myriad of interesting things that happen here, particularly throughout the summer, and all the fascinating things and places that are around here. From Cathar castles perched impossibly on sheer stone mountain peaks,

Montsegur, not far from here and one of dozens in the region.

 

to white water rafting, wine tasting tours, street parties that take over villages throughout the summer, concerts, tattoo festivals, traditional festivals, quintessential French villages and towns, lakes, the Pyrenees, skiing, tax-free Andorra, the Mediterranean, Roman hot baths, flea markets that take over towns and villages all summer long (called ‘vide granier’, which means ’empty the attic’ and the treasures you can find there) –all within 90 miles. And so much more.

And to make it interesting, I’d take you around to all these places in a 2CV.

2CV (‘deux chevaux’ –meaning ‘two horses’)

 

The French have an absolute knack and creating the ugliest automative designs that are so adorable they become beloved classics. I don’t have one (but hope to eventually), but may be able to sweet talk a local English friend who has one into borrowing it now and then. It’s the ONLY way to tour old France.

In an earlier post I talked about the possibility of starting a ‘Run and Gun Videography Boot Camp’ down here this summer. If that happens and I manage to get this channel idea going, guess what we’ll be doing? –making videos for the YouTube channel and running around in a 2CV. What could be more fun?!

So there you have it. That’s the news.

The video posted here was done mainly for family members at the time, but with this YouTube channel in the back of my mind. It’s much longer than it would be for the channel idea, but the channel approach would definitely highlight some of the interesting bits of renovating (like the last minute of so of this video).

And like most of what I do, there would be an element of humour along with interesting information to share–except all in short, digestible videos (not 14 minute ones like the Sony camera reviews–which nevertheless were the most watched videos on the internet for those cameras ever and to this day. Thank you. I probably wouldn’t be announcing a possible new YouTube channel if it wasn’t for those videos and your support.

And by the way, my chance for success is based on hedging the bet that many of you will come aboard and help me share it with others when the time comes.

So, for a wee taste, here’s the LONG version of a day in the life of renovating a 380 year old stone house.

(I just noticed a typo in the date. This didn’t happen in the future–it was last month. My bad)

 

 

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