Another Extreme Run ‘n Gun

Emma Manners, Her Grace, The Duchess of Rutland

 

Did I ever mention I’m the ‘Videography-in-Residence Belvoir Castle’?

I came here to England because my sculptor wife landed a gig as Artist-in-Residence for the Duchess of Rutland (Belvoir Castle).

Years later the Duchess realised the value of video after I did one for the Belvoir Shoot that got about 35,000 views in a couple years.

Anyway, over the years I did a few things for the castle, some paid, some not. But more recently I really think she realised the marketing value and has asked for a slew of videos over the next little while, this one being the first of the new lot.

The reason I’m posting it is that it really is an example of run and gun to the extreme.

What I mean by that is that it was done totally live with no preps and no idea on my part of what she was going to do, where she was going to walk, when she was going to stop, what she was going to say, when she was going to say it and how she was going to end it.

It all took place over about 45 minutes.

One thing I had learned, working with the Duchess, was to always have the camera running as she was apt to start talking at any moment and expect to be in the camera frame and fully recordable.

Step 1: Stick the radio mic on her.

Step 2: Turn the camera on and don’t’ turn it off for any reason until she indicates we are well and truly done.

Now, understand, this approach was understood to be a ‘blog style’ video–meaning, it was going to be dated. It was just an update report on an on-going project that will be totally different a month or two from now. It’s akin to (but hopefully better than) some guy walking around with a camera on a selfie stick.

For this I used the Sony HXR X70 on full intelligent auto mode. No pretentions about getting ‘perfect video’ (color temp, exposure, etc.). Facial recognition was on for focus control of her face.

Actually, in this case, I didn’t even do any color correction. This is right out of the camera.

Everything hand-held, as usual. (try doing that on a gimbal–she’d have left you in the dust from the get-go while you fiddled with your balance controls). Take 2? Forget it.

For something like this you’ve got to have your true run and gun hat on (which is what that book is about you see the link for on the right of the page)

I’m not trying to be smug. You just have to be able to do this sort of thing as a run and gunner.

So…in auto mode you obviously run into some non-ideal situations–like going from inside to outside (or visa versa) or finding that your talent has suddenly stopped with the sun right behind here and has gone into silhouette, and so on.

You will see I did my best in those circumstances to shift the camera’s position as she was talking to optimise the lighting conditions but’s that’s all I did. You’ll see that in certain circumstances the auto color balance adjusted midshot.  Purists will notice. No one else will.

She just wanted to give an update on progress on a live construction site. And that’s what we got.

Just before she walked off to her Bentley I told her I’d need a few moments to run around and get some B roll footage which I did in about 4 minutes. She waited and made some calls.

And that was it.

A couple hours later the edit was done.

Was it stressful? A wee bit.

But practice makes perfect.

We’ve got another one coming up. I’ll try to do better.

 

 

 

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…

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Behind-the-Scenes Video, Run and Gun Style

That's me, The Video Whisperer, all dolled up for a cameo in 'The Wyrd'.

That’s me, The Video Whisperer, all dolled up for a cameo in ‘The Wyrd’.

Wyrd

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to Modern English weird, which retains its original meaning only dialectally.
Last March I did my first ‘behind-the-scenes’ video of a film shoot run and gun style.
Maybe that’s how they’re all done, I don’t know.
It’s a short film called ‘The Wyrd’ featuring Richard Rankin and Ella Road scheduled for release at various film festivals over the next several months. It was written and directed by my step daughter and shot in the woods behind our cottage in the East Midlands.
For 5 days I went out occasionally and shot footage of the crew at work. I also did some shooting of what they were shooting.
On the last day I stole some talent and crew off the set and did some interviews.
It then took me about 3 days to put this edit together.
Shot on both my Sony HXR NX30 and PXW X70 at 50p.  All hand-held except for sit down interviews.
Edited on FCPX with Color Finale.
Neat Video noise reduction used on some of the night scenes.
Note: This upload took 6 days on my super-duper English countryside broadband. It’s got a glitch toward the end and Richard Rankin’s face came out a bit too red in the interview, both of which I’ll fix one day when I’m near a faster broadband.
If you haven’t read Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, everything about shooting this sort of thing is covered in that eBook by The Video Whisperer.

Upselling

tcc-grab

Giving a Client More Bang for the Buck

Many months ago I recall making mention of a project I was working on with Leapfrog Marketing that was particularly rewarding. But I wasn’t able to share it or any of the additional videos that resulted at the time because their public release was predicated on the culmination of a marketing strategy, including a new website.

On a hunch, I checked their website tonight (having done so several times over the past few months to no avail), and viola!  Their new website is now up with a couple of the videos embedded on the home page that played very nicely. I was impressed. After a quick check I saw that all 9 videos were on the site.

So now that they’re public, it’s fair game and I’ll share them with you here.

As most of you who follow me probably know, I’m a video guy firstly. Marketing is not actually my strong suit. But since video is all about MESSAGE and marketing is all about MESSAGE, it is inevitable that even I can turn one video commission into multiple ones.

So I called this post ‘Upselling’.

Honestly, it’s something any sales person would do in almost any circumstance. And many of us find that quite annoying.

But this is really about educating a client who may not fully realise how unique or valuable his product or service is and offering him a way to maximise the value of a video commission. It’s a win-win situation.

In this case, the client wasn’t actually my own. It was the client of a marketing firm, Leapfrog Marketing, that uses my services. But no matter if it’s my client or the client of a Marketing firm, (and I do this in both cases) if the initial brief for video services indicates to me that multiple properties can be obtained from the main shoot for the benefit of the client, I would be remiss to not mention it and the potential economy and benefits in doing so right at the outset.

In my experience, in most cases, the client goes for it.

The math is simple.

One shoot day, one video.

Or one shoot day, 3 videos obtained from the same original shoot material at a considerable discount.

It requires planning, and the additional cost of the additional editing, but offered up front as a package discount, suddenly your one video becomes 3 and your $2000 becomes $3000 for an additional two days work. (Those numbers are completely arbitrary, but give you the idea…)

In this case, with Leapfrog’s client Total Community Care, it became evident to me almost immediately that their brief had the potential of multiple video products from the requested shoot of a single video that would be to THEIR benefit.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this straight off, but certainly once I shot the initial video (several interviews and relevant B roll), it became evident to me that at least 3 more testimonial videos could be edited from the same material.

They agreed.

So one video became 4.

They were so pleased they requested a second video; this time at their corporate headquarters featuring the executives.

This time I noted that they had enough material from the executives for the initial video they requested PLUS 4 more videos from those same interviews that answered Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS).

They agreed.

One video commission grew into 9 videos.

So that’s it on how to increase your income.

Now back to ‘video guy’.

The reason this project was so enjoyable was because the people were so interesting, and interesting people make for an interesting story.

As in almost all my videos, they are interview driven.

I (or we, in the case of Leapfrog Marketing) go there with no preconceptions of what should be said and we just interview the people.

It is my job to take the hours of interview and distill them down into the marketing story.

These videos were mainly about a Care Company that specialises in caring for paralysed patients with spinal or brain injuries.

My only opportunity for B roll was to shoot as much footage as I could of the interviewees whenever I could in the limited time they were there. That was made slightly difficult since they were often arriving during another interview (and all I could really shoot was arrivals, departures and whatever activity occurred in the lounge when I was not shooting an interview). So whenever I was between interviews I ran around like a banshee shooting whatever I could. In the end, I used every last scrap of it.

The primary video (the original one asked for) was 7 minutes long.

Might seem a bit long, but here’s where you just don’t get stuck on some arbitrary time limit like you read about on internet forums? Consider your intended audience.

If you’re paralysed and are looking for a care company, the length of a video has absolutely NO BEARING on whether you are going to watch it or not. It’s the content that matters. You have nothing but time.

It’s not that I made it unnecessarily long. I feel I made it long enough to get the point across with clarity, conviction and emotional impact. I made it for the potential new client for Total Community Care.

Marketing is a subject designed to CREATE WANT. Time (‘videos must be 2 minutes or less due to attention span, blah, blah, blah’) is irrelevant.

Make up your own mind. If you were paralysed and unable to get out of bed or go to the toilet without assistance, much less go shopping or go to the pub, would you watch this?

Primary Commission video

All of the following videos were directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

(Shot on Sony PXW X70/Sony HXR NX30, Edited on FCPX, with Color Finale)

 

And the videos derived from the two shoots:

Testimonials

2nd Shoot, TCC Execs

And the FAQ videos derived from that shoot

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.

 

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