Using Google Maps in Video Production

 

 

Nothing special about this recent video I did (the only footage of mine was the interview; the rest was footage provided by the charity), but it was the first time I ever used Google Maps in a video production.

I was inspired by a link provided by Ryan Nangle, a plugin creator who also does excellent tutorials. In this case, it was how to use Google maps. In his tutorial, he provides the link to his extremely reasonable zoom transition used in the particular tutorial (which I bought for something like $6). It’s not the first transition I’ve bought from him.

For example, the clouds are from FCPX and he shows you how to manipulate those. Literally takes seconds to change the form, shape and density of clouds and fog.

In his example, he even showed a clever trick on how to animate something (a boat on the river in his sample) in the static Google maps image. Very clever stuff.

In this video, I didn’t incorporate the camera-shake effect from FCPX as he did because it wasn’t as appropriate to my purpose as it was in his sample (where it was very effective).

Nevertheless, it gave me a new tool which I was able to use effectively and appropriately in this little video I did for a charity for the purpose of promoting to gap year students. And that was the sole purpose of this video. (to those in the U.S., a ‘gap year’ is often taken by UK students who complete the equivalent of high school before going to university. Usually, they spend a year in another country for cultural or experiential purposes).

As a note, in the original review, I did of the X70 I mentioned the advantage of shallow depth of field (due to the large sensor size) compared with the earlier review of the NX30. The only original footage in this video is the interview itself, and it’s a good example of the shallow depth of field obtainable with the X70. I know many videos cameras more closely approximate the fast lenses of film cameras, but the point is more comparing the price point of the X70 versus the price point of the high-end cameras that emulate high-end film cameras.

So here’s the video. After that you will find the link to Ryan Nangle’s excellent tutorial. In the YouTube description of his video you will find a link to his transition effect used in this video. As a note, he has many useful and clever transitions available, so he’s worth subscribing to.

Here’s the link to Ryan’s tutorial and transition download:

 

Run ‘n Gun Boot Camp

Chalabre, France

I’m launching a new navigation tab on the Video Whisperer Blog called Run n Gun Bootcamp of which this will be the first entry.

This is following up on my earlier post suggesting the idea and asking for feedback. It seems there are enough people interested to make it happen, so current plans are to do so by Spring or Summer next year (2018).

As the name implies, it will be a video boot camp based on the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It will happen in Chalabre, France.

This post will be a very short summary of the types of things that I will keep updating and expanding in the new Boot Camp tab. It will include photos of the town, the house you will be staying in, the town’s fascinating history as well as the history and summary of the plentiful activities in the local area as far away as the Mediterranean (only 90 minutes away). We’re in the foothills of the Pyrenees, about an hour from Andorra and Spain and in the midst of Cathar country going back 1000 years. Spotted with Cathar castle ruins (castles built impossibly at the top of steep rocky mountain tops), sprawling with vineyards in one of Frances’ best wine regions, and with rivers, steep gorges, white water river rafting, not to mention mountain trails, skiing, horse-back riding and many social activities happening every day throughout the summer, Chalabre is what many of us here call “Frances’ Best Kept Secret”.

Chalabre itself is a medieval town founded in the late 11th century at the confluence of 3 rivers. Sometime in the 12th century and upriver dam burst and flooded the village. Consequently, the town was rebuilt on top of the old village. It’s interesting to note that when you buy property here there is small print in the contract which says that there ‘is nothing of any historical interest below (your) house”. Sure. Everyone knows the old town is down there.

The advantage of having a boot camp here is that there is SO much to see and do and film at almost any time of year, particularly in the summer.

As part of this new tab, I will create a calendar of events (give me some time as that alone is a huge undertaking) which may help you decide which time of year you’d like to come. Afterall, it will be a bit of a holiday at the same time–not all work and drudgery.

I’ll introduce you to the house which we are renovating and show some before and after pictures of the spaces we have been working on over the last two years. Currently, we are renovating the attic–which is probably where you run and gunners will be staying–though there’s plenty of space elsewhere in the house. It’s all a matter of scheduling this activity along with others that will be happening at this house (such as Air BnB and other events planned here). That’s why I’m sort of reserving the attic for this program. It will be a pretty cool space with two bedrooms and one crash loft along with a bathroom, kitchenette and lounge.

As time goes on I will finalise pricing and options, so feel free to feedback as I start posting all this stuff.

One thing for sure is that couples are welcome even if one of you are not going to be doing the video program. Like I mentioned earlier, it will be a great holiday with a video bonus for you video enthusiasts.

A quick photo tour:

 

 

My wife’s steel wire sculpture of fighting stallions greets you on the main road into Chalabre

“Number 10”. That’s the house on the market square where you’ll be staying. Late 1600s. We’ve got a shop on the ground floor to the right behind the bench (which is made of slabs of pine I hauled from Montana)

Attic windows open with wires hanging out (current renovation project)

View from one of the attic bedrooms currently being renovated. At the top of the silhouetted hill to the right sits the ‘chapel on the hill’.

From the chapel on the hill after a brisk 20 minute walk to get there. Chalabre is down below.

One of Chalabre’s roads along the river

Right around the corner from the house are two grocery stores and a butcher shop. (the bakery and another butcher shop around another corner.

 

 

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.

 

Pure Frickin’ Genius–Jon Belew’s Light and Shadows Plugin

 

Lights and Shadows–A Must-have Plugin for FCPX by Jon Belew

Last week I watched Jon Belew demonstrate his new plugin, Lights and Shadows. It was a brilliantly done demonstration. He’s a very good teacher. (He also offers Skype training services incidentally). Anyway, I’ll link his video below because it’s much more informative than my trial attempt here, but when you watch it I think you’ll agree with me that this is one of the best and most useful plugins ever developed for FCPX. I don’t think there’s even one like it for any other NLE.

It gives you the opportunity to add any one of 6 main lights, a whole bunch of atmospheric lights, and, if you download his Cucoloris plugin (which is currently free), you can add in a number of window effects and even bring in your own custom ones. And, of course, there are a number of parameters on each that are controllable, giving you an infinite number of possibilities.

Why would you need this?

Well, as a run and gunner, I do have and use my lighting kit. But too often the circumstances of available location, backgrounds, colors, etc., are far from ideal. So one does the best as one can in the short time allotted.

I just got it today and played around with it for about 20 minutes.

I took a frame from a recent corporate video where I had that awful combination of bad problems. 1) It was night, so no window light. 2) I was forced to use 3 different light sources (my own 2 LED panels, one of my Floros–because I needed some fill–which the controlled ambient light from windows usually takes care of), and 3) I had to use portions of the overhead florescent lighting, 4) The walls were green (corporate colors) , 5) The interviewee was wearing the same green.

Embarrassed as I am to show it, here’s the original shot out of the camera.

You can see I have a key light up and to his right and a kicker/backlight to his left (because there was no room to properly position a backlight).

I added just enough fill and exposed it so that he was separated from the background which was more or less lit by the overheads.

I then graded it with FCPX Color and Color Finale Pro and got this:

Then I used CoreMelts SliceX Vignette Shape Mask, which looks like this in the viewer (after manipulation):

This was the final look:

Not a bad recovery. I must say, the CoreMelt Slice X Vignette mask is the best on the market and the only vignette that gives you various parameter controls so you can shape it any way you want.

So, for my little test, I took off the vignette and played around with Lights and Shadows. If it was for real, I probably would have spent a lot more time on it to get it just right, but I must say, it was a lot of fun seeing what could be done even on a rudimentary basis. With more practice, I should be able to master it.

 

Here’s another before and after:

Here’s Jon’s video.

Do watch it. You’ll be impressed, I’m certain.

Here’s his web site. (the plugins are under the ‘FCPX Effects’ tab):

https://jonbelew.com/

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