Confessions of a Run and Gunner

The Ritz

 

Warning: This is an 11 minute video. The  subject is St. James’s Square, London, one of the most historical and prestigious districts of London.  All of the following will be of no value at all if you don’t plan on watching it. This is for those of you who plan to.

This video is not typical of what I do, but I treated it like any other that I do. And all that is covered in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It wasn’t typical, because it is long (11 minutes).

In the book I talk about how to do and edit interviews. Up until now, I’d say for an hour of interviews, I cut out on average about 50% or more. That means all of my questions and all of the answers that I know I won’t use. What’s left is what I use to construct the narrative.

In this case, I had just over an hour of interview, and with my questions cut out, over 95% of is was totally usable. That’s never happened before.

This was a case of a very educated, experienced and articulate Brit. There are many like him. I just never got to interview one. And I’ve done over 1000 interviews.

I already knew I was going to produce multiple properties from his interview, but when it came to the first one–an overview of the St. James’s Conservation Trust, when I got it reduced down to about 11 minutes, I felt I couldn’t cut it down any more without losing.

Sure, he didn’t say it all in the order your hear it, but in crafting an overview and knowing that it’s first showing would be to a prestigious event in St. James Park attended by a lot of very important people, I felt I just had to work with that 11 minutes and make it as visually interesting as possible.

That was what was different about it.

As to the rest, it was all hand-held, except for the interview of course.

Why is that worth bringing up?

Well try going around St. James Square and in the vicinity of a working palace and other important clubs and high-end shops in the heart of historic London with a big camera and a tripod and see how far you get.  The client was even concerned that I get all the right ‘permissions’. I told him, “don’t worry about it”.

All that B roll was shot with my teeny weenie Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

The interview was shot with my Sony PXW X70. And guess what? I somehow screwed that up, inadvertently shooting with high gain.

Though we were in the offices of the Ritz Hotel, we weren’t able to get a suite in the Hotel for the shoot. I was your typical white room. So to get that interview look I had to 1) apply Neat Video de-noiser to it, 2) use Color Finale to get the best separation from subject to background (after doing my best with foil to keep spill lights off the back wall) and , 3) Used the vignette tool from Digital Rebellion (it’s awesome–much better than the FCPX tool, because you can manipulate it on all axises, control its shape, ctc.)

TIP: When using Neat video, get your look, then disable it. It’s very processor intensive and whenever you change an edit it will want to re-render again. So get your look, disable it, and when you’re all done, re-enable it and let it render everything one time.

The other regular practices were shooting tons of B roll and how I found a stock music piece that worked (two in this case) and made them seem like they were written for the video. Seriously, if you manage to watch it once through, try again and just listen to how the music plays to and enhances the narrative. It was pretty magical–considering it’s stock.

B roll:  As much as I preach about shooting TONS of B roll to cover your edits, even I, in this case, did not shoot enough. In fact I made 3 trips to London in all. And still didn’t shoot enough. There was just SO MUCH covered in more than an hour of interview, I was lucky to scrape by in order to produce this one (and the next one I’m working on now). More properties will probably develop from this, and when that happens I’ll edit the narrative first and then get back on a train to London with a list…

Shooting handheld:  Shooting hand-held is one thing. You should also know that for almost all of these hand-held shots I applied 50% slow mo. And in most cases ALSO added stabilisation. Some from FCPX and some using CoreMelt’s ‘Lock and Load”.  Also (did you know?) that once you apply any kind of speed change in FCPX, you can then select a video standard of either ‘frame blending’ or ‘optical flow’. I used optical flow which smooths it out just a little bit more. Also, in some case (shooting those wall plaques), I shot them both as stills (on the NX30) and as slow zooms. In the edit I wound up animating the stills rather than using the zooms. And finally, (as dictated by the edit and conformity with surrounding shots, i.e. continuity), I also often applied manual key-framed zooms to my shots.

Marketing yourself: Also covered in the book. Relevant here is this: Sometimes you do something for cheap with malice aforethought. I had done another video for an organisation that had often asked but never hired me. Finally I did a birthday video for the daughter’s 18th. That was so well received I was asked to do one for the organisation–for cheap. I did it because I knew their upscale clientele would see it and it would likely get me more business. It got me two commissions worth £6000, including this one.

Now you know all my secrets.

Ok, so this is run’n gun. As covered in the book, it ain’t perfect. It won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the various film geeks out there. But it does the job and the stuff that the geeks will gleefully point out won’t be the things that the intended audience will ever see or concern themselves with.

The test is, does it get the message across with clarity and impact.

 

Free Book Offer: Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide

Run 'n Gun Videography

I’ve decided to enrol in KDP Select which gives me some promotional options including making the book available for FREE for 5 days.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m doing it for two reasons.

  1. I’m locked into KDP select for 90 days during which period the book can only be available on Kindle. So that gives me a sort of deadline for making the book available in soft cover and putting it on other platforms. I can’t promise it, but it’s a good target for me because I’m going to be pretty busy before then anyway. Plan is to update it and make it available in hardcover next fall.
  2. Though the book has sold a few hundreds copies, it’s only gotten about a little over 30 reviews between the UK and US markets. They’re all good reviews, but I’d like to see a lot more reviews.

The Free Download Offer is NOW LIVE on Amazon and runs through Sunday.

I hope that most of my subscribers here who don’t have it yet will take the opportunity to download it.

In exchange I have a humble request: Please review it on the Amazon page once you’ve read it.

US Amazon Link

UK Amazon Link

Available world wide.

Using Photographs in Video

(From the Run and Gun Videography blog, for those of you who don’t follow that one). Thought I’d repost it here as I haven’t posted anything in a while (super busy!)

Belvoir Castle's Capability Brown Landscape thumbnail

Nothing revolutionary here, but I haven’t posted in a long while.

This could be titled ‘Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear’.

It’s Spring here in England, but with cold weather lingering, Spring has been struggling to arrive.

The gardens at Belvoir Castle are open now and the Duchess of Rutland wanted to promote them in a timely fashion–that is, promote them to potential visitors.  There’s another good reason to promote these particular gardens. This is the 300th anniversary of the birth of England’s most famous landscape architect–Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (who designed the landscapes of over 170 of England’s mosts famous estates) and Belvoir Castle was his last project. It was never realised while he was alive and never completed.

A few years ago his plans were found in the Castle archives and the Duchess of Rutland set out to complete them. It was the subject of a 3 hour television show here in England last Autumn, and now that it’s Spring and the gardens are open, it’s the perfect time to promote them as such.

But Spring has been stubborn in it’s arrival, so there would be no live footage of the beautiful gardens and landscape.

What to do?

I suggested to the Duchess that we use the photographs from her book on this very subject and update the video later with live footage that I can take over the next few months.

Now that it’s done I don’t think I’m going to do it, because I like this video the way it is. So I’ll probably just do another video using some of this interview material and other bits I didn’t use.

Very often I make a video that exceeds my own expectations, given the production circumstances. This was one of them.

There’s not really much to say about how to use photographs in a video. Many go for the ‘Ken Burns’ effect. I just manually animated them very simply. The real trick is choosing the right photo that helps forward the narrative.

There are two other things that make it a good video in my opinion. All these techniques and approaches are covered in detail in the Run ‘n Gun Videography E Book (centering around message, of course), but in this case–since it was really only an interview and still photos, the strengths were lighting to make her look good in an appropriate environment (her home at Belvior Castle) and music.

The lighting is what it is. 3 lights used judiciously in a large space. But in this case it was the music that really did it’s job. In the book I covered the subject of using ‘stock music’. The trick is to make it appear to have been specifically scored for this specific video. Music has the role of forwarding the messages as much as any other technical subject does. Too many people just tack on music for no reason and to no advantage. I won’t go over my procedure in detail here (that’s covered in detail in the book), but I would like you to note how the subtle shifts of music sync up to the narrative and pictures being shown. That’s the real magic as far as I’m concerned. Because that composer had no idea that his music would be used for this video. Yet I think anyone would be hard pressed to think that it was not. How this is done, I’m afraid you’ll just have to read the book.

Sorry for the shameless promotion, but this blog is meant to be a supplement to the book anyway.

For anyone interested in the Capability Brown story, several months ago I did another video. This time it featured your truly, the Video Whisperer.

It’s a fund-raising video and I really thought it should be done by an English person–but that got too complicated, so in my brash American approach to getting things done, I said, “well fine, I’ll do it myself”…

By the way, the sculptor Laury Dizengremel, is my wife. The statue has, since this video, has been cast in bronze on our dime. So if you’d like to contribute ANY amount–whether you’re an Engishman or just a follower of the Video Whisperer, any donations will be appreciated. Just go to to the link at the end of the video to donate a tuppence or two.

Making a Murderer–A Compelling Netflix Documentary

Making a Murderer

Making a Murder is a Netflix documentary that was filmed over 10 years following the case of a wrongly accused man who spent 18 years in prison, and who shortly after his release (when DNA tests exonerated him), was arrested for murder–apparently framed by the police.

This is the most compelling documentary I have ever seen. I watched most of series 1 in one sitting because I simply couldn’t stop watching it (but finally had to stop because I could no longer stay awake).

Way better than ‘reality tv’. Way better than professionally produced crime dramas. The twists and turns never stop–and yet this is real life, real people, real court proceedings.

It chronicles a corrupt justice system and police department in addition to the influence of media. At least that’s how it rolls off so far. I don’t now how many times my jaw dropped watching this. It appears to be a frame job, but despite all evidence submitted in that regard up to the point I’ve watched it, I’m guessing he’ll be convicted again regardless.

Now what’s all this to do with this blog?

In the book Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, I talked a lot about message being the overriding fundamental in any artistic production, film and video included. I also talked about the subject of technical perfection being junior in importance to getting the message across. So much so that in deciding as an editor if a flawed shot should be used or not, the answer to the question is whether or not it will detract from the message and throw the audience out of the story.

Early on in this series I noticed how rocky some of the hand-held camerawork was. This was not any kind of deliberate ‘technique’. It’s just that these cameramen were shooting everything hand-held with big Sony Betacam cameras, even from inside cars bouncing around on dirt roads. There was some pretty rough stuff.  BUT, the story was so compelling that it didn’t matter one bit. Furthermore, it was so well put together in terms of editing and the message was so loud and clear (and compelling), that there wasn’t any technical flaw that was going to throw me out of that story.

Some of the close-ups of people were simply jaw-dropping in terms of raw emotion. These weren’t actors. These were real people caught up in a horrible situation–guilty and not guilty alike.

Highly recommended as a study of run and gun camerawork–because that’s exactly what it was.

 

Coming soon: Run and Gun camerawork

DSC03597

Alibaba heaven. If you know what Alibaba is (Chinese merchandise website), this is Alibaba heaven. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you can possibly want available in one market. Hundreds if not thousands of shops lining the streets for a square mile or more filled with people like this. One of many such markets in the Chongqing Provence. This is a still taken with the NX30, but plenty of video footage to share coming soon.

 

I’m still in Chongqing China and have been shooting a lot of fascinating footage–mainly with my trusty little Sony HXR NX30 because it’s so small and light to carry around.

I’ve decided that what I’ll do with the footage is a new video which is part travelogue and part commentary on run and gun camerawork since everything I’m doing is hand-held.

I’m often asked about how I do camerwork, so I thought a lot of interesting footage–often in difficult circumstances (such as small streets and alleys filled with thousands of jostling people) would be a good way to talk about run and gun camerwork.

If we get the time, Laury will take my X70 and shoot me shooting with the NX30. That should be interesting.

The main reason I’m here, though, is to document my wife’s production of a number of bronze commissions and particularly the in-progress Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown statue for which we will produce a new fundraising video to raise the balance of funds needed to cast it in bronze and ship it back to England—so that may have to come first.

In any case, I think I’ll get to this new video sometime in the next 3 weeks. I really looking forward to it.

Run ‘n Gun Music Video?

Abi Moore

 

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

Well, normally one wouldn’t promote this sort of thing. After all, it takes quite some time and planning to do a music video…

But, as Abi Moore remarked, ‘if you want something done fast, ask a busy person”.

I’m not always this busy, but in the week before a trip planned to the US, I found myself with 3 scheduled shoots and one edit that absolutely had to be done before I left.

Then Abi messaged me urgently.

She needed a music video by the end of the month (when I would be gone).

She had sent me the song. A very nice song, though a sad Christmas song as it were.

I asked for the lyrics, got them, glanced it over and said, ” Come on over tomorrow. We’ll shoot you singing the whole song whilst driving a few times and then some more at our neighbor’s Steinway piano, a few additional shots in town, throw something together and see if we need anything else to polish it off.

So we did just that one evening.

For the night scenes I used the Sony HXR NX30. All hand-held, of course, though I utilised a bean bag on the car’s dash for most of the car shots.

For the piano scenes I used the NX30 and the X70; X70 on a tripod and the NX30 handheld.

And, for the first time ever, I found it necessary to add stars to a shot using an FCPX generator and FCPX color controls and shape masks to take down the white sky to a darker gray.

Also, for the first time ever, I added snow to a shot, using the Pixelfilmstudios plug-in. Two layers of snow–the foreground layer to which I added yellow as if lit by the foreground yellow light from the doorway. That was surprisingly easy.

Who says you can’t produce a music video in a couple of days cheap as chips?

You’ll be the first to see it as I’m only publishing it here.

(Best to watch in full HD, as it’s a rather sad–and therefore somewhat dark Christmas story.)

Lie Back and Think of England

 

The campaign to create a life-size statue commemorating the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s 300th birthday is now officially live!  Capability Brown Statue Crowd Funding PageCapability Brown Statue Campaign

This is my first crowd funding video.

Its purpose is to raise the funds necessary to create a life-size bronze statue of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, England’s most famous landscape architect. It has been said that English landscape architecture is one of England’s greatest contributions to world culture and it is, indeed, Capability Brown who is behind the meaning of that sentiment. Yet, unlike his French counterpart Andre Le Notre who has statues, busts, paintings and engravings all over France, Capability Brown is without similar recognition in the UK. No busts. No statues. Only two paintings, one of which is in a private collection.

The video tells the story, but since this is the Video Whisperer blog, I thought I’d fill you in on some details behind the making of this video.

My wife Laury Dizengremel is a sculptor and is also the artist-in-residence at Belvoir Castle. Two years ago the last known plans of Capability Brown were discovered in the Castle archives which were supposed to have been his crowning achievement. They were started, but never completed due to the financial problems of the 4th Duke of Rutland. So the current (11th) Duchess of Rutland decided to have a go at completing those plans as part of her legacy.

She called in Alan Titchmarsh, England’s pre-eminent gardening expert, TV personality and author to help her and both embarked on a two-year program to execute the first phase of planning resulting in a 3 part national TV program which recently aired in the UK.

Laury found herself immersed in all of this and asked the foremost expert on Capability Brown, historian John Phibbs  (who was also part of the process) if there were any statues of Capability Brown. “No”, was the answer.

Some weeks after the dust settled from all the filming activities and airing of the program –and after we ourselves found a break in our own activities, Laury decided that she was going to take it into her own hands and get the funds raised to finance a life-size bronze statue of Capability Brown to gift to the nation.

For that she wanted a crowd funding video. And she wanted it that afternoon.

I said, ‘whoa Nelly–I’m pretty good, but not THAT good”.

And I explained the sorts of things that are necessary to pull off such a thing. Such as “who are we going to get to be the presenter for it THIS AFTERNOON?” and other small details like that.

I only knew of one person–one of her daughters, who sounds as English as they come, but she wasn’t available. And I wasn’t willing to find and hire a presenter. So I thought about it for a couple of hours during which I came up with a rough draft of how I might want it to go.

The more I got into it, the more I thought, “well, hell, I’ll just do it.”

So the next morning I got up early, walked off into the English fog and shot the whole video.

I had the job of explaining who Capability Brown was, why he deserved a statue in this, the 300th year of his birth, why an American was giving the pitch, and why a French sculptor with an American accent was going to create the statue for the people of England. That’s a tall order, isn’t it?

Here’s the crowd funding page with the video.

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/capability-brown-sculpture?tk=6bcf1b28fded861304ae3c52399f092b038cc06c

For £100 your name will be added to the plaque at the base of the statue–which will be the first ever statue of England’s of the man who came to define the natural landscaping that has been one of England’s greatest contributions to world culture. Pledges from £25 upward to £15,000 are available, each with a perk listed on the website.

I hope some of my faithful Video Whisperer Blog subscribers will help us make this possible with a pledge of £25 or more.

Please donate.

Thank you,

The Video Whisperer

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