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.

A Good Corporate Video Sample

corporate video

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

The Lone Shooter: One day shoot, 2 day edit

I think this is a great example of a corporate video combining many of the chapters of Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide including:

  1. Message
  2. Using local talent
  3. Interviews
  4. B roll
  5. Music

The Message

The message is clear by the content of the narrative (which was distilled from about 40 minutes of interview), but also by choice of B roll. Yes, the use of relevant B roll shots is standard in editing this type of interview, but additionally there are shots in there one might not realise are important–unless you are in this business and know what you are looking for. And for those potential business clients, they will have seen what they are looking for: the top tier German machines in use at the plant. That’s why you see their names prominently in some of the shots.

Local Talent

As to local talent, in this case we used the co-managing directors who are brothers.

To my surprise, it was the younger brother (who appears first) who was the most put off by the camera. In fact, in looking at the footage I noticed his head appeared to be physically straining away from the camera as if to get as far away from it as possible. Correspondingly, there was a lot more to edit in his interview (pauses, ums, ahs, stumbles, etc.), all of which is hidden under the B roll. The end message of the video, however is carried entirely by him. And there’s a reason for that: He was asked the magic interview question at the end. I pointed out that they had a very successful and growing business in a niche market and that they had been at it for a very long time, growing all along the way. “So”, I asked him, “What makes you get up in the morning? What is your passion for this business?” (or words to that effect). His response is entirely uncut. I let it roll even despite a few long pauses because it was so obvious that he was completely sincere. And his message was in perfect alignment with the message of the video in its whole.  Who wouldn’t then want to do business with this guy?

B roll

It might appear, in some cases, that the B roll was shot after the interview to fit so nicely with a few bits that were being said, but no. It was all shot first. But I shot so much that I was able to fit shots very nicely to what was being said as if I had shot it afterwards or to a script.


I must have spend an hour and 1/2 looking for a suitable piece of music for this video. Thanks to the search parameters of Audio Jungle (and now Audio Blocks) which allowed me to search for a pretty exact length, I was able to preview dozens of potential fits. Then I found this one. To my absolute amazement, I laid it down and didn’t have to do a thing to it. No editing. No adjusting. It’s entirely uncut. It fits the beginning and end titles, and, if you listen carefully, it even does several things along the way that would convince you that it was scored specifically for this video.

I liked this music so much that when I was editing a promo video for my sculptor wife I had it in the back of my head to see if it would work. Turns out the same thing happened. It just dropped right in as if it was written for that video too. That’s one magical piece of music.

Other Notes

It was a one day shoot and two day edit.

For those interested, it was shot on the Sony PXW X70 in AVCHD mode.

The interview lighting was done with 2 LED Flexlites which I reviewed in this blog. The ‘kick’ you see on the side of their faces would appear to be from the background windows, but was actually created by one of the Flexlites dialed way down. The frontal fill was another Flexlite opposite the backlight. Fill was simply ambient light in the room with the intensity of the key light being set to achieve a 2 1/2:1 contrast ratio with the ambient fill.

Edited on FCPX. Color balanced with Color Finale.

Oh, and did anyone notice I added the sky, clouds and sunbeams to the opening shot? (it was a lousy day in Leicester that day)

The following video was directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

And just for a bit of fun, here’s the video I did for my wife with the same music:

Out of Thin Air

Belvoir Shoot

(from the Run and Gun Videography blog)

Belvoir Castle, on which estate I live, has been the subject of a 2 year project to bring into being the recently found 200 year old plans of Capability Brown, probably the most famous landscape architect in England. In the last year a TV program has been in the making which airs its first of 3 parts tonight.

Quite aside from all that, Belvoir Castle has become a world-class shooting estate with people coming the world over to shoot here during the season. It has been being run by Phill Burtt, the David Beckham of the shooting world.

It was decided just a few days ago that a Belvoir Shoot video should be done and gotten onto the Guns and Pegs website, the largest shooting related website in the world for both those seeking venues and those looking for them. This was to coincide with the airing of the Capability Brown program.

Luckily I had some footage shot last year to add to the mix.

It turns out now that this is my favorite marketing video to date– shot completely off-the-cuff, mainly with the Sony PXW X70 and some NX30 footage.

It’s a long and interesting story that I may detail in an update of Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, but for now, just a couple of notes.

  1. I probably take the ‘don’t use tripods much’ to an extreme. The only tripod shot in the video was the Phil Burtt interview. But look closely at the opening and ending shots of Belvoir Castle with the titles. I amazed even myself, because, believe it or not, that was hand-held standing a mile away from the castle.
  2. Notice the echo in the Duchess interview. I actually recorded it with two mics, one lapel (rather sloppily attached I note) and one rifle. It is a real echoey room to begin with. The rifle picked up too much echo so I didn’t use it. The lapel picked up none. So I mixed the lapel and then added echo from the FCPX audio effects–ironic, because I’m usually trying to get rid of it. In this case, it sounded really dumb without echo.

Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now.

You Americans might not understand what you’re looking at. It’s just the time-honored tradition of English shooting, right on down to wearing the right outfit, with breaks for champagne and sloe gin, bacon or sausage sandwiches, ending up with drinks and a dinner.

Last Preview: Run ‘N Gun Videography, Chapter 14–Notes on Music

I feel bad. I’ve been promising this book all summer. Well, it’s written and edited and now I’m working on interior photos and illustrations. The cover is done though:

Run 'n Gun cover final


So here’s Chapter 14, ‘Notes on Music’ with a sample video to go along with it:

Chapter 14  

Some Notes on Music

Music, like anything else in a film or video, is a partner in the story-telling task. It’s a huge subject and there will be no attempt here to cover it in any great detail—especially since I am not an expert on the subject, but suffice it to say that you are more an expert than most if you just know that the purpose of music in a film or video is to help get across the message of the film or video.

That being the case, obviously the best music for a video would be music that is specifically scored for that video. After all, that’s how it’s done in the film industry and for good reason. It is necessary to know the lengths of scenes, the lengths of transitions, the emotional content of each scene and so on, in order to plan and write music that will do its job. You simply can’t have the ‘oh beautiful, happy day’ music come on when it’s supposed to be the ‘whatever you do, don’t open that door!’ scary music (unless you’re deliberately trying to induce heart attacks).

For the lone shooter and small production company though, custom music is probably not in the budget. That leaves you with production music libraries, and this is where I think too many videographers aren’t imaginative enough or just get lazy.

How to Choose Music for your Video

If you can’t have the music scored specifically for your video, the next best thing is to find some stock music that is generally of the right genre, the right mood and a fitting tempo for your video.

If you simply edit your video (with or without narrative) and then tack on some music, it’s going to come out sounding like elevator music. (It will do nothing for your video except perhaps annoy people).

The funny thing is, if you’re really clever and do this right, in the end it can sound like the stock music was written for your video.

Here’s what I do:

1) Determine overall length of video

  1. If there is no narrative planned for your video (music only), simply determine what the optimum length of the video should be based on the content you will be using and then choose a suitable piece of music of the right mood and tempo of that approximate length.
  2. In the case of narrative-driven videos, the first thing I do is mix the voice track of the narratives I’m going to use. That’s because I’m about to chop it up into a lot of pieces, so it’s best to have any audio work done first. You can always go in later to tweak various pieces of it at a later stage, but I’ve learned the hard way that mixing the audio before you start slicing it up is a big time saver.
  3. The next thing I do is edit the interviews to create the narrative (which is essentially my script). Adding a few seconds for beginning titles (if any) and 10-15 seconds for end titles, that gives me an approximate overall length for the video.
  4. It is not necessary at this point to add in B roll, or titles or to do any other fine-tuning of the narrative. By the time you’re done editing the video with the music, the length may change by as much as 15 or 20 seconds. So this stage simply gives you an approximate length of music to choose, and once you’ve chosen the music, it is going to inform and assist your edit.

2) Source the music

You have many choices of sources for obtaining inexpensive licensed music. I find it easiest to use various websites that provide this service because you can quickly narrow your search to type or genre of music, length of music, the tempo (beats per minute) and most sites allow you to listen to the music in its entirety.

A couple of the good sites I use are and Audio Jungle, though there are many more.

The better sites will enable you to narrow down the type of music you’re looking for (corporate themes, instrumental, children’s music, classic rock, new ages, etc.) while also allowing you to quickly listen to the song in its entirety.

Once you’ve picked the style of music you’re looking for the next thing you want to do is find only the songs of the same approximate length of your video. They can be a little longer or a little shorter.

Usually a site will provide a drop-down menu to help you sort music by things like ‘longest to shortest’, ‘shortest to longest’, ‘highly rated’, ‘most popular’, etc.  Just go for the ‘short to long’ or ‘long to short’ and advance through the pages until you reach the section containing the length you’re looking for.

Now sample each of them one by one. Most of them you’ll discard within seconds. Some you may consider as possibilities, so keep some notes. In all likelihood you will find only one or two suitable songs for your video on any given site. If you’re not totally happy, do the same thing on other sites until you find your short list of songs, which you can then narrow down to the top two choices.

The nice thing about Videoblocks is that once you subscribe, you are allowed unlimited downloads of anything on the site (music, stock video and whatever else they have) for the entire year. I was grandfathered in on a very low rate a few years back, so essentially any song I like I just download. If there are two or three I think might work, I download and try them all. Even the current subscription rate makes it worth it and if you’re trying it out for the first time, they allow unlimited downloads for a period of time. The songs you download and don’t use may come in handy for another video later.

Since I use FCPX, I just put the songs into iTunes under a ‘video music’ folder, which I can easily access from within FCPX.

Anyway, by whatever legal means you get the music you will use for your video.

A note on corporate music libraries

This probably applies to more than just the corporate genre, but I must say that the musicians who create this stuff, for the most part, really know what they are doing.

Almost any song will have a beginning section that fits the length of a typical title sequence of your film or video before the song segues into its main theme. Also, during the course of a song (depending on length) they will generally have 2 or 3 variations on the theme either in terms of complexity of the arrangement, and/or pitch, and/or volume, and/or tempo. And each piece of music will all generally have a good ending where you’ll have your end titles or call to arms.

Probably knowing that editors will want to adjust the length of their songs to fit an edit, it is usually relatively easy to cut out phrases of music seamlessly to reduce the overall length, as each phrase or ‘cue’ of music has a consistent beat and some repeating element and can be taken out with each remaining end seamlessly attaching to each other. 

Likewise one can cut out a phrase and copy and paste it in order to increase the overall length. 

It takes some tricky editing to find the exact edit points where this can be done. You might not get it right at first, but by adjusting the edit frame by frame in either direction, eventually you’ll find the exact beat where your music edit suddenly becomes seamless. It’s pretty fun actually when you get it right. Makes you feel like a musician even when you’re not. (Apologies to the real musicians!)

This is why I said you want to pick a song of the approximate determined length of your video. Both the length of the song can be adjusted and almost certainly the length of your edit will be adjusted.

But now that you have the music, you can really start editing.

3) Editing with music

As mentioned earlier, the normal correct sequence for adding music is after the edit is done.

What I’m talking about here is the poor-man’s approach to music in which the process is done out-of-sequence when using music that was not written for the film or video. Specifically I’m talking about using the music as a guide or assistance to determining or adjusting many of your edits. The end result can be surprisingly effective (providing you choose an appropriate and fitting piece of music) in that it will seem as if the stock music you chose was written for your video—and that happens when various edits in your video coincide with beats or shifts in the music.

The more the pictures and music seem to match up, the more the music will seem to be custom. But more importantly, the more the music will actually be helping to get across the overall message of the video because it’s now no longer out-of-sync with or irrelevant to your video. If this is poorly done, or not done at all, music can seem distracting and out-of-place which causes a mild or major distraction from the overall message of the film or video which would be a violation of the purpose of music.

Once I’ve determined the rough length of my video and chosen the music, I then lay down the music track. I usually find that the beginning of the song is appropriate for my title. I also find very often that there are music beats or cues that will dictate the edit points for title changes if I have, for example, company logo, a main title and a subtitle. At this point I run the music to a level of about -6db and drop it down to about -18db for the start of the narrative.

This is where it starts to get really fun.

Since my videos are generally 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, I usually watch the whole rough cut at this point with the music just as I’ve laid it down. I am often amazed, even at this early stage, how certain shifts and changes in the music correspond to different parts of the video. It nevertheless gives me an opportunity to spot certain points in the music where significant video edits should occur. At this points I may place edit markers so that as I’m adjusting the edit from the beginning I can keep an eye on the editing timeline for the upcoming markers I want to align a certain part of the edit to.

At this point I go to the beginning of the video and start editing.

So far what I’ve got on the time line is a blank spot for titles followed by the edited narrative with no B roll* (footnote to define B roll). There may be certain parts of that narrative where I want to be sure to have the person on camera and I’ll either mark or just remember these. The rest of the narrative will be B roll that is relevant to what is being said (and which now covers my edits in the narrative). This is where the music will often help me determine the length of the various shots, which are primarily determined by the narrative.

Remember everything we’re doing in an edit is toward the forwarding of the message. The B roll must be relevant to the narrative—either directly supporting it or perhaps even counter-pointing what is being said. So the first consideration of the length of a B roll shot is the narrative itself (what is being said tends to dictate what B roll shot or shots should be used).

The second consideration of length is cutting it to the beat of the music.

If you go through the edit in this fashion you will wind up with a nicely integrated video with music that seems to have been scored for it.

But there’s a little more to the process than that.

You’ll find yourself wanting to make adjustments to the edit for various reasons. Once you start working with it you may decide to delete or shorten pieces of narrative that now seem irrelevant or redundant. You may then find your video is shorter than the music. I usually don’t worry about this much as I construct the edit from the beginning because I know from experience that I can always successfully, one way or the other, shorten the music to fit. (Or you may decide you have to add a bit to the narrative for some reason, but the same applies; you can always extend the music by repeating some portion of it where it won’t be noticed).

It is also at this stage that I tend to start cutting out “ums” and “ahhs”, hesitations and other aspects of the narrative that break the clean flow of story-telling or any other fault. But doing all this as I go along and trimming the B roll as I go and using the music as a guide to effective edit points, I finally wind up near the end where I have to start considering editing the music (either by lengthening or shortening) so that everything dovetails nicely at the end, be it a call to arms or end credits or both.

I mentioned earlier about dropping the narrative down to about -18db under the narrative. That’s a rough guide and is usually workable. You could wind up dropping it even lower in volume.

The rule of thumb is set your music track 12db lower than your narrative track. The real test is listening to the narrative with the music. You must balance it so that the narrative is clear and easy to understand. This is another reason that the audio mixing of the narrative should be done before evaluating the final level of the music. You additionally have the option of mixing the stock music to help separate it from the voice (more or less treble or bass, for example)

Now you do your final tweaking. If there are blank spots in the narrative where we are meant to be watching some activity or process covered in the B roll, you may want to bring the music level up unless some other audio or sound effect is more important at that point.

Once everything is tweaked and finalized, you will have a video with off-the-shelf stock music that not only helps forward the message and mood of your video, but will also seem to have been written for your video.

To be honest, sometimes your choice and editing of stock music will be better than other times. Occasionally it will be stunning. But one thing is for sure: It will always be a hell of a lot better than just schlocking any ol’ music onto your video without regard for these things.

(end of preview)



Here’s a recent video that’s in the category of music that I thought really worked out. This piece of music had various ‘chapters’ to it. When I heard it I knew it would work, because the video itself had various ‘chapters’ as you will see. I simply took the cumulative total of about 8 minutes of footage and cut it down, using the best shots, to more or less fit the music.  In a few weeks I’ll upload another video to this post (as soon as it’s approved) that also had a great stock music fit–two pieces of music actually.

This video was a bit of a throw together for a fundraising dinner that was scheduled even though the proper narrative driven video wasn’t yet complete.  Shot with the Sony HXR NX30, all hand-held.

Bit of a tear jerker–in a good way. Enjoy!

Call me a Sucker

In my past life, amongst many other things, I was privileged to be a cameraman on multi-camera shoots for several concerts with extremely talented musicians. It was one of my great pleasures as a cameraman.

When I started the Video Whisperer, the first thing I did was a music video. For free. It so happens that it was that shoot that obtained the name “Video Whisperer”. While the young artist doesn’t want me to show the video anymore, it was (believe it or not) shot at night in the middle of a snow storm in our front yard in Montana. I had put an old piano out there the day before. It was on a trailer. I covered the wheel wells and protruding hitch with pine boughs which were then completely covered by an 8″ snowfall thus completely disguising the trailer. It just looked like a piano was sitting out in the middle of the forest. Then, on shoot day (night), I put a couple spot lights dimly on the pine forest in the background so it wouldn’t go completely black and lit the entire piano scene with a bunch of candles. The singer bundled up and, with an electric heater hidden under her coat, she performed a single take of an original song in –14C temperature. The next day in the bright warmth of just below zero we did some daylight rehearsals for a couple other songs. A few of our local deer (who we knew well) showed up to listen and that gave me some precious B roll for the performance the night before which I inter-cut with the song video. Later, some friends were watching this rather extraordinary performance, complete with wild deer in attendance, and I overheard one say to the other, “the video whisperer”.

Truth be told, I have no idea of what the context of the statement was. Nevertheless, I always prided myself in being “invisible” as a cameraman…not calling attention to myself, my camera or my craft; rather using my craft to hopefully catch life as it happens in a candid fashion, an art form in itself.

Needless to say I quickly searched Google to find if anyone already had the name. No one did.

Moving up to the present, though I mainly do business videos now, I was recently approached to shoot a gig for a young singer/songwriter who needed a video for submission to a university. I did it for cheap. And then did a music video for her for free. It was fun and a nice break from corporate videos.

So I’ve decided to offer the service to local (Grantham, Newark, Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, Peterborough–UK) talent for cheap. Recording sessions, gigs, and music videos. Way cheap. Anyone interested can go to this link for my site or comment here.

Maybe somewhere along the line I’ll help someone make the Big Time. And then, in a way, so will I.

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