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.

 

 

 

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…

A Family Video

I wasn’t going to share this public at first, but just watched it recently and thought I would for an interesting reason.

I follow a lot of video groups on FB and Linked in.

One thing that comes up a lot–and I do understand it–is requests for what is the best stabiliser. Frankly, there are some new fantastic ones out there, and one day I might even buy one. But it’s low on my list and may never happen.

The most recent request asked if the expensive ones were better. My reply was along the lines…”yes”.

That said, back in my day of using a Steadicam, they cost something around $30,000. Maybe they still do. A cheaper alternative at the time (the 90s) was the Glidecam. I used that too. The Steadicam was way better.

So even though prices are down, you get what you pay for.

But do you really need one?

Depends what you do, of course, but my view is that technology isn’t there to correct bad camerawork. And that seems to be the inspiration behind some of these posts. “What’s the best stabiliser?” “What’s the best post stabilisation program that’s free?”

Nothing beats good camera work to begin with. That takes time and practice. In this age of technology, some people seem to think it’s there to solve their inadequacies. I beg to differ.

Anyway, if you’ve read my book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Loner Shooter’s Survival Guide, you’ll know that I follow the ‘less is more’ philosophy when it comes to equipment.

I have 3 small cameras. All Sony. The NX30, X70 and RX10ii.

In this video I had the NX30 along, the oldest of the three.

I bought it because of it’s stabilisation technology. I didn’t want another bag with more kit requiring more time to set up. I wanted a camera that was a wingman for run and gun work. Something that would let me keep my attention on the job, not on the equipment.

I never use tripods, except for sit down interview. Never. And for the same reason.

So, it follows, everything in this video is hand-held.

Would anyone notice?

Beyond that, it may have no interest for most viewers. It’s a family video that only means something to those involved. My wife is French (she’s the one trying to get the others to dance at the end of the video), and what you are seeing here is the beginning of the move from the last family home in Saint Saens, France. All the others are long gone. This is the last one, and this is the last walk through the garden by father and daughter, a father who inherited the house decades past and spent all those years carrying on the stewardship of a house that was in the family for 300 years.

I only started shooting clips over the last two days there, so had little to choose from. The song was played on our last evening there (in the scene where they are all drinking calvados), so copyright issues aside, that was obviously the one to use. Made for an easy edit too.

Most of the shots were candid, except where they obviously knew I was there.

Yea, one shot is through a dirty window, but what I captured there was priceless.

The girls cried and cried. Watched it several more times and cried even more. (That’s a good thing).

Moral of the story: Quit worrying about your equipment and get your attention out there capturing things that matter to people and clients.

(as a note, the one weakness of the NX30 is lack of ND filters, and thus some difficulty in rendering details in bright exteriors)

 

 

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.

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.

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