Run ‘n Gun Ticket to Africa

 

Looks like I may be going to Tanzania early next year.

This video isn’t exactly ‘my ticket’ there, but it isn’t the sort of thing I’ve done before–use someone else’s footage to produce an edit with a short interview I shot.

But you see, The Video Whisperer also happens to be the ‘Video Artist in Residence’ for Belvoir Castle in the UK Midlands.

The Duchess went to Tanzania last year to help with a small charity down there called ‘Go Make a Difference in Tanzania’ (Go MAD).

She invited the founder, one of his staff and a group of other businessmen and clergy that could help the charity for a meeting at Belvoir Castle a few days ago and offered my services in her name to help with some video promotion.

So this video was a short video of the Duchess done in about 10 minutes. All but 10 seconds of her interview makes up this two-minute video.

The rest was footage was shot on site over the last few years and provided by GoMadd in the form of 720p video land about 400 stills. It’s all I had.

I’ll be doing one more based on an interview done with their young, enthusiastic site manager who went there to volunteer 10 years ago, and who, after finishing university in the UK, went back to Tanzania to become permanent staff. I guess it will contain more or less the same B roll footage, but it will have a unique target audience of UK students looking for something to do on their gap year.

The next project (that the meeting was about) is to run a pipeline from Lake Victoria (about 1.2 miles away) to the farms in the region you see in the photograph above because they get little rainfall each year and sometimes none. When that gets off the drawing board, it looks like I’ll be going there to document it and help further promote Go MAD.

Confessions

All right, that’s all very fine and interesting, but this blog is supposed to be informative on the subject of video one way or another.

If you read my book ‘Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide’, you’ll know I talk about ‘when things go wrong’. After all, run and gun is often seat-of-the-pants with very little prep time and sometimes things go wrong.

So yes, that was a 5 minute interview. I had 10 minutes in advance of that to set it up.

The Duchess rightly thought it should be done is any of the many ‘over-the-top’ locations in that 320 room regency castle, so she said, ‘let’s do it in my sitting room’. Mind you, even that was pretty impressive, but taking her cue I found a rather dull corner (which coincidentally had sort of African curtains) and did my best to work out how to battle the ambient light conditions while she got changed.

I was using my Sony PKW X70 in 4K (been doing that a lot lately) and just put it in full auto mode. Then she showed up before I was really settled on it all and sat down. That, in this world of castles, is the cue to start.

Well, as you know, sometimes the viewfinder monitor can be a little deceiving (especially when the video guy is anxious to be deceived), so when I imported the footage later that day, this is what I got:

As shot

 

Not only that, there was a hum in the room I hadn’t noticed. Fixed that with RX6 Audio Repair, but the color grade was a little more difficult.

I used several things to fix it:

  1. FCPX color tools at two different stages including a shape mask in the end to bring her up against the background after I did everything else.
  2. Color Finale Pro
  3. Core Melt’s fabulous infinitely variable Vignette plugin.
  4. Neat Video to take noise out of the shadows
  5. A face correction plugin to smooth out skin tones

Whew!

 

Graded

Here’s the video…

 

Run and Gun Videography Boot Camp

Chalabre, France from the Chapel on the Hill

 

Some of you will have gleaned from some of my posts that I am an American living in England with another house in Southern France that we’re renovating.

It now looks like I’ll be spending more time in France than England, mainly because we own the French house lock, stock and barrel. It’s a matter of economy.

Anyway, it got me thinking.

You see, the house is pretty big. When we’re done with the major renovations next summer, we’ll be able to sleep 20 people. Two kitchens, 5 bathrooms across two connected houses (one 17th century, one 14th century) with a private terrace (which is actually within the ruin of a 3rd connected house) on the market square in a historic French town about 1000 years old with a castle on the hill in the foothills of the Pyrenees, steeped in history and in one of France’s best wine regions.

My wife, a sculptor, wants to start some sculpture master classes here, so I wondered if there would be any interest in my starting up a Run and Gun Videography boot camp. It would be based on the book Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, and the idea is that you’d come here for 10 days and we’d do some basic courses and then go off on forays to anyone of a number of fascinating places around here to shoot a video and edit it on FCPX. We can even do multiple video edits as there are always interesting events happening around here throughout the summer (concerts, street parties, etc.) regardless of the various historic or geological destinations that abound. If you use some other NLE, I guess you’d have to bring along a laptop.

You’d have a room and you’d be wined and dined with great food, including the best vegetables you’ve ever had (no Monsano here) and there’d be time for social activities and other fun as well.

I realise that many of you might think that is all wonderful, but sadly out-of-budget, but I also know there are those of you who have either had successful careers or have taken up video as a hobby or second career and the idea of travelling to France for some training and fun is not out-of-the-question.

But if you do come, I promise it will not only be the trip of a lifetime but also extremely valuable in terms of what you will learn and be able to do from here on out as a professional videographer.

I look forward to some comments/feedback on the idea.

Cheers, Joe

The Video Whisperer

 

The Accidental Wedding Video

Vinx is a world class musician with a long and colorful history. From his website.  “VINX has recorded and toured with some of the music industry’s greatest icons: Stevie Wonder, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow, Branford Marsalis, Ernie Watts, Taj Mahal, Ricki Lee Jones, Darius Rucker, Vance Gilbert, Cassandra Wilson, Brenda Russell, Cher and numerous others.  His songwriting credits are a long list ranging from Tom Jones and Will Downing to The Lion King and Sprite™”.

Anyway, Vinx moved to Chalabre, France last year, two doors down from our house, joining a growing group of talented people including my wife, sculptor Laury Dizegremel and others. We, along with the Mayor, are taking actions to ‘put Chalabre on the map’, i.e., make it a destination. There are good reasons for that, but in short, this area is ‘France’s best-kept secret’. It’s ‘the other southern France’.

For brevity, I won’t say much more than that except that I have been accumulating footage of all of the extraordinary things that happen around here, including the things that are not far from here (the Med is a 90 minute drive through one of France’s best wine regions, we’re 40 minutes from skiing, an hour from Andorra and Spain, surrounded by Cathar castles mounted impossibly on steep rocky mountain tops–and much more, not to mention a perfect climate).

Vinx’s wedding was just one of those things I wanted to get some footage of. It took place at the chapel on the hill that looks down over Chalabre, a view featured in the opening shot of this video (night for day shot–a gorgeous daytime time lapse made to look like night–sort of). I planned to go and shoot some clips for my eventual promotion video for the area. And I planned to go to the concert he organized afterward in the covered hall in front of our houses.

Because I was meanwhile busy with renovations, I didn’t realize there was a connection between the two.

The concert was called ‘A Night of Serenades’ whereby musicians would perform and dedicate a song to someone sitting in a chair in front of the stage. There were about 20 serenades. Vinx’s serenade to Jennifer was to be the last. But by then the front chairs, including the chairs of honor, were full of crowd, so I organized a chair for Jennifer to be put on stage. By then I decided I’d do my best to cover Vinx’s serenade and use it to be the soundtrack for a short wedding video, weaving the two performances together.

And so it was that I came to shoot an accidental run and gun wedding video.

It was shot on September 3rd and edited on September 4th.

No prior planning except for an 11th hour idea.

No audio out of a mix board which didn’t exist. Because my hand held camera would be moving around, I put my Zoom H2 in front of the stage and hoped for the best. Not getting what I hoped for I improved it as much as I could with the iZotope RX 5 audio editor (the best) and some FCPX Eq tools.

Poor lighting in both locations But I only used Neat Video on 3 shots. Otherwise the Sony PXW X70 performed well enough at +32db.

It’s only 5 minutes long, and given the circumstances, a bit unique.

 

 

 

 

Video Whisperer Blog Domain Change

That’s me–uh, on the right.

Effective sometime over the next couple days the domain for this blog will be thevideowhisperer.blog.

It is currently thevideowhisperer.wordpress.com.

Hopefully this won’t mean that those of you who have book marked it won’t be able to find it anymore. I hope WordPress isn’t that dumb. (it was offered free as part of the upgrade to get rid of ads).

UPDATE: The new domain name is live. Old one seems to still be working too.

Cheers,

Joe

Order of importance: 1) story, 2) technology

Technology is wonderful these days.

So many plugins, so many transitions, so many effects.

So many stabilizers, so many drones.

I don’t know about you, but I see so many videos these days showing off all these wonderful things that don’t tell story. Well, if there is a story it’s ‘look at me, look what I’ve done’.

Who cares?

Use them to tell a story and forward a message and people might actually watch and enjoy them.

(The picture? Just a lake in the early morning near where I live in southern France.)

Just An Fashioned Music Video

Just an old-fashioned music video–sans modern transitions, etc.

In all fairness, I have used some of the modern transitions when appropriate, but I am generally not a fan of the current craze–or any fad for that matter.

But that’s not really the point of this post.

In actual fact, this music video isn’t finished yet. There’s another location shoot to do, but that won’t be until summer’s end, so for the benefit of the singer, we’ve decided to release it as-is and update it later.

The point of this post really is that I used quite a number of plug-ins for this. Probably more than in any other video I’ve produced.

John Belew’s ‘Lens Filter’ pack contains a number of very useful filters, but the one he’s got in there that I don’t think anyone else has is a ‘fog filter’. Strange that it’s so rare. In the early days of Hollywood it was pretty common and used mostly for shooting close-ups of the female stars. To get the effect the cameraman would use vaseline on the lens or stretch a stocking over it. Eventually, Tiffen made a series of fog filters which I used myself on occasion. In this video it is kind of obvious what the fog filter effect is.

For grading I used a combination of Color Finale and the FCPX color board. I often use them together.

One of my most useful tools is Core Melt’s Vignette Shape Mask which you can get free from that link. It’s a powerhouse vignette tool that has infinitely variable parameters. In this video I used it to partially mask some of the background shots so that the slow dissolve transitions to the singer wouldn’t be as jarring.

Everything else was done from within FCPX.

It was shot with a Sony PXW X70 in 4K and output to 1080.

The performance was shot with 2 cameras (Sony X70 and Sony RX10ii) over 3 different takes to obtain the different angles.

Holly (the singer) did an almost flawless lip-synch to her studio recording every time.

The edit was done as a multi-cam edit in FCPX.

Looking forward to completing it early September after a sunset shoot on the rocky coast of southern England.

Comment on Lighting and Grade

Someone asked if I could comment on the lighting in the comments.

Well, it was simple, but also interesting for me this time. By simple, it was an upstage key (flexi LED panel snooted with black foil) and a more or less opposing backlight (also a flexi-LED)  set to create that soft rim on the side of her face. Truthfully that backlight could have been a stop less bright. It was all rather slap-dash. The fill was simply ambient bounce from the room. No supplementary fill needed.

By ‘interesting’, I mean this: I knew it was a white room and I knew I wanted to go for low-key lighting (two things that don’t normally go together well). Fortunately I could shutter the windows and knew that I’ve have to flag the hell out of the key and backlight. In each case I used back foil to create a ‘snoot’ that restricted the light to a very narrow band. Of course that still gives off enough bounce to illuminate the white walls. So in post I just took the mids way down on the FCPX colour board. Nothing fancy. Didn’t affect the highlights and was adequate to considerably darken the white walls which had been reduced to mid-tones due to the flagging off the light sources in the room.

The other thing that was a bit of fun was creating the ‘day-for-night’ look on the exteriors. Again, nothing really fancy, but normally I don’t have any reason to do that (doing corporate videos), so it was fun. I used the FCPX day-for-night effect as a start and adjusted it’s parameters. I then supplemented the effect with Color Finale with which I increased the saturation of and reduced the luminance of the blues.

Incidentally, those exteriors were shot on the RX10ii which I was using for the first time on a production. Bit of a no-no because I never really fully tested it in video mode. Maddeningly I could not get it into total manual in the very brief period of time we had at dusk. As a result, I was getting exposure correction that I didn’t want and, since I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, I was trying to trick the meter. Anyway, it was a disaster, but the main point is that most of those shots were OVER-EXPOSED! Even so, I was able to fix it in post to the look that I wanted.

And now, of course, I know how to put the camera into total manual. Nothing like near-disaster to inspiring one to read the manual a little more carefully.

 

Marketing a Sculptor (or anyone or anything for that matter)

If you’re English, you’ve probably heard of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, England’s most famous landscape architect.

Last year England celebrated the 300th year of his birth with events around the country all year long.

Brown was responsible for the landscapes of over 170 of Englands most famous estates. And, in England, when we say ‘estate’ we mean BIG house with LOTs of land. If you’ve ever been to England as a tourist visiting any one of these famous estates, chances are you saw Brown’s work, never realising that those ‘natural’ landscapes you were looking at were created by a landscape architect.

If you haven’t been to England but have seen Downton Abbey (filmed at Highclere Castle), well, that’s Brown too.

Anyway, one might assume there’d be a statue of Brown somewhere in England after all that time, but until a few days ago, there wasn’t. Nor were there any plans for one, even though a £1,000,000 was spent celebrating Brown’s birthday last year.

Enter my wife, Laury Dizengremel, sculptor.

Well, watch the video to see what happened. But the purpose of the video was not to simply document the making of the statue and it’s ribbon cutting on the Thames River in London last week. Rather it was to market the sculptor. And you probably wouldn’t think that when you watch it.

This brings me to something mentioned in an earlier post when I referred to a new chapter for the print release of the Run ‘n Gun Videography book (which, sorry, I haven’t gotten around to doing yet. The chapter, yes. The update, not yet).

The Chapter is called Marketing Viewpoint.

It’s simple. In order to market effectively you have to assume the viewpoint of the eventual target audience.

In this case, it’s a rather small audience–people who want a bronze statue made.

So, if you can remember, when you watch the video, try to assume the viewpoint of someone shopping for a sculptor to make a bronze statue that costs anywhere from $40,000 to $90,000 and up. That’s not money spent lightly. One has to do one’s homework.

Tell me what you’d think as that prospective statue buyer after you watch the video. Would you contact her?

In related news…

The other by-product of my trip to China is this video of Laury telling the story of how that whole ‘China Connection’ thing came about years ago…

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