Drones: The Video Whisperer Enters the Modern Age

Red Kites flying over Blackberry Hill at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, England

 

Well it’s true, but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean every shot is going to be a drone shot now.

But heck, it certainly was a lot of fun.

First and last shot in the video below were my first actual drone shots. I was practicing. Due to bad weather after that, it’s a good thing I did.

I know, I know, I flew over traffic and people. My bad.

But in the first instances of using this Phantom 3 Standard drone over empty fields just a few moments before, I was so amazed by the technology I couldn’t resist it.

You see, my introduction a few years back was with a Ghost Drone, supposedly just then introducing the technology of controlling drones through a smartphone. Problem was, I don’t think their IOS software (I use iPhone) was quite dialed in. It was a disaster.

I never got a decent shot and wound up crashing and destroying 3 of them.

This entry-level Phantom blew my mind.

Now I want the Mavic Pro 2.

Anyway, enough of that. This is not a review of drones. I think everyone reading this already knows a lot more than I do.

Instead, let’s talk about the video.

This video is meant to be an ‘update’ on a new facility opened up at Belvoir Castle in England. It’s the first video since the place was opened last summer, but I wasn’t here to do a video of it. My last updates showed it in quite a state of construction–like scenes out of movies during the reconstruction of Europe after WWII.

So we had some catching up to do.

It’s opening was a greater success than dreamed of, and more importantly, since then the parking lot is full every day of the week, even now in the cold bleak English almost Winter. So they must have done something right.

This video catches us up and shows all who haven’t come what is there and what’s to come (since it isn’t quite finished yet). It’s meant to be a hold-over at least until Christmas.

Then we’ll update again.

Eventually, when it’s done, we’ll do a finished posh version that can reside on their website.

What’s to tell?

Not much. The whole process is no different than I cover in my book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

As usual, it’s all hand-held, except the interview.

It’s quite long, but that’s because there’s already a substantial following that will probably watch it all the way through.

It’s a local thing. So it was important to show what is there and a bit of the flavor of what is there.

It was shot mostly during part of one day with a few pick-ups. Edited over most of the next day.

It was all on my own in terms of narrative edit and content (no other input), which I prefer and which is 99% of the case with each of the 300 or so videos I’ve done in the past several years.

It was approved first time through.

It’s not perfect, and some of you eagle eyes will figure out why.

But I think it does the trick.

 

 

When the 4 Camera Shoot Becomes a 1 Camera Shoot

The ‘Balcony Serenade’ Parade around Chalabre, first of its kind.

This was the Grande Finale Concert of the week long music festival Chalabre en Sérénade in Chalabre, France where I live.

Vinx is my neighbor here, and as we are both taking actions to promote the area, all my shooting was volunteered.

Most all my coverage of the various events was with a single camera, adequate to produce promotional material for next year.

Two events were multi-camera shoots including the Grande Finale, not for purposes of producing a concert video, but perhaps for releasing a few of the songs from the 3 hour event.

In this case I had two fixed cameras plus my hand-held (X70 fixed taking sound off the board, and RX10ii on a fixed side angle). Hand-held was the NX30. Additionally a new friend who came to perform, but  who also produces high-end commercials in Hollywood as well as documentaries, was shooting the finale with me.

But, as happens, it ran longer than anticipated.

One by one my camera cards filled up and they went off line. Alone, it was impractical to climb up ladders and what-not to change cards and batteries for the other cameras. But unbeknownst to me, my other shooter was chased off-stage by the stage manager and so he wasn’t there for the end either.

Down to one camera.

The unfortunate thing was that what happened at the end was rather unexpected–and quite emotional. I had to cover it.

Even if you don’t watch the whole 16 minute video below, the first two minutes will tell you why this was so. (in short, he was recovering from brain surgery a few months back and it wasn’t even certain that he’d be able to partake much at all in the festival that he created)

I had asked Vinx before the show if he was going to take to the stage. He said he wasn’t sure.

He did intro each of the acts, but when it came to the very end, imagine my surprise as I realised he was going to perform the Grande Finale.

So I covered it as best I could trying to anticipate when to be where and when it would be ok to change locations requiring some sort of edit handling.

When it was all over and done I thought about how I was going to put together an edit of this emotional ending for the benefit of his fans, the attendees (who all wished they didn’t have to leave) and those who wanted to come but couldn’t.

B roll saved the day…, but in this case, I think I used it rather cleverly…

(Like and Share if you would…not for me but for Vinx)

Check him out at vinx.com

Technical:

All hand held with Sony HXR NX30 and Sony PXW X70 and OSMO. Aerials by Jastero with DJI Phantom Pro.

Edited on FCPX.

For those who noticed, I never had ‘banding’ of any kind with the NX30 and was unable to handle it after trying a few of the usual solutions. Strange that it was locked, not rolling. Anybody know what that is and how to handle it?

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.

Using Local Talent vs. Actors in Corporate Videos

I was doing a little maintenance on the Video Whisperer website and found an article I had written that somehow didn’t make it into the Run and Gun Videography book. The basic idea was written into the book in other ways, but in seeing this I felt it was quite well written and informative and worth sharing on the blog. Here it is:

Using Local Talent vs. Actors in Corporate Videos

Most of the business/corporate videos on this site were done with local talent–specifically, the actual people who work at the business, including owners, directors and regular staff.

Heavyweight Air Express was a medium-sized, but global company venturing into the video realm. They immediately thought to hire a professional actor to do their video. I advised against it, and whilst my opinion, when I told them why, they decided to go with their own talent.

In the case of Heavyweight Air Express, it wasn’t that they couldn’t afford to hire a pro for the job. In the case of smaller businesses, the additional cost may indeed be an important factor, and could even be the reason for not even considering having a video done due to perceived high cost.

The good news is that a high quality impactful business video is quite affordable, notwithstanding the fact that it should rapidly pay for itself.

As to pro actor versus local talent, here is my opinion and essentially what I told Heavyweight.

Firstly, think about those big companies who use professional talent on TV commercials. We know they’re actors and we know they’re paid and we know they’re reading script. The only reason that doesn’t bother us is that we ALREADY KNOW the company, its products and services, precisely because they’re already big.

Now let’s consider we were watching a commercial for a company we never heard of and that a professional actor was presenting. Well, we can tell at once that he or she is a professional actor, and we know that they’re being paid and reading script.  Suddenly those factors that didn’t bother us with the company we already know come into play in a different way with the company we never heard of. To a certain degree we suspect that is it just “hype”. Afterall, it’s a professional actor reading a script with perfect hair and all the right hand gestures.

Now let’s take that same company and use it’s actual president, CEO or owner.  First off, we can tell it’s not a polished pro. We can tell this is the real guy and that he’s putting his reputation on the line. So what he has to say–if it’s a subject we’re interested in–has a little more credibility. And we tend to give him a chance. We listen. We don’t just toss him off as a bit of marketing hype.

Secondly, people who work for the company and believe in it and its products and services are emotionally attached. They know what they’re talking about. They’ve dealt with the products, services and the customers who use them. And we can tell that too.

So the question becomes, how does one get a “regular guy” to come off well in front of the camera.

That’s pretty simple and is something a director is trained to do. But in terms of content (how we get them to say what we want them to say), here is where the Video Whisperer differs from most other video production companies. We don’t try to script it. “Remembering script” or “remembering what to say” is the downfall of any attempt to produce a marketing piece for a business, because people who are not trained actors have trouble with that sort of thing–and you can tell.

Instead we do it on an interview basis. We have an informal chat–interview if you like– with the camera rolling. Sure there are plenty of bobbles and mis-starts and all else that is part of normal human conversation. But as soon as we start talking about a subject that they KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT or have a particular EMOTIONAL CONTACT with, they suddenly start sounding quite natural and start coming off quite professionally–having completely forgotten about the camera.

Such interviews may last 20-40 minutes or more. And from that, the job of the editor is to distill from all the footage the essence of what we want to impart to the potential customer or client. That means there are a lot of “cuts” and that means often things are put together in a sequence differing from how it actually came off in the interview. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that, in the end, they provided the material necessary to being able to put together a marketing piece for the company just as if it had been scripted to begin with. And the best part is: Some of the things that come up in an interview one would never have thought to script!

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