When Everything Goes Wrong

I’ve been traveling a lot between England and France lately. Thus I’ve had to change my equipment packing routine–which I know is a dangerous thing to do.

I’ve forgotten to bring my keyboard (so now have one in both places, plus a spare), drives that I needed (now I taken them all back and forth in a small case), my LED lights (well, can’t forget those again because they’re too expensive to just buy a spare set), battery charger cords, drive cords, etc.

All that’s pretty sorted out now, but still, traveling on Ryan Air with a couple small bags with all the equipment I need violates my run and gun principle of ‘always carry everything you might need in two small cases’.

But ‘Ryan Air small’ is a different kind of small.

So it was with great deliberation that I decided this time to leave my Sony RX10 in France.

That was the first thing that went wrong.

A couple weeks ago I went to Wales to cover the unveiling of one of my wife’s statues. I shot a lot of it on the RX10. Naturally I thought I had done what I always do after a shoot: immediately download.

So when I arrived back in England with some time before my next shoot I thought I’d sit down and put together a promo video for Laury on that last statue commission.

But it turns out half my footage and all the high quality stills were still in France. Either that or the footage evaporated off my drives in transit.

The other things that went wrong happened earlier in Wales though.

The morning we left I had a few short minutes to interview the main guy who was going to provide my narrative for the video. We met at the statue.

Suddenly my radio mic wasn’t working. It stared at me with an ominous digital error message.

I didn’t have my rifle mics either.

That left me with no choice but to use the on-board Sony PXW X70 mic. In the wind. Next to a busy road.

When you only have one choice, you have to take it.

So I worked with what I had.

Then Laury gets an email that she’s been shortlisted for another statue in Wales.

Suddenly my new video was urgent. I knew it would potentially close the deal as it was a freshly unveiled statue in Wales with some very good selling points spoken off-the-cuff by a respected Welsh solicitor (lawyer).

Footage-wise I managed with what I got on the X70.

I had to steal a still photo off the internet shot by the event photographer who was next to me as I shot the same shot on video. Hope he doesn’t mind.

For the audio I used Izotope RX6 Advanced audio repair. (really, it’s a life-saver)

And I came up with this:

 

 

Spin a 60 Second Instagram Version off Your Corporate Video

Some of you may have seen a few of the videos I’ve been doing for the Duchess of Rutland. She got the video bug all of a sudden about 6 months months ago after realising that shoot video I did for them was bringing in big spending foreigners to the Belvoir shoot.

She also got a 20-something Marketing Director in who got her all jazzed up on social media, particularly Instagram and they have a successful account going there.

So now I’m having to make 60 second versions, and sometimes exclusively a 60 second video for their Instagram account.

For their website, however, I produce longer, more informative videos on their main subjects or services (weddings, corporate events, Gardens and one on Capability Brown–England’s most famous landscape architect) whose last design happened to be for Belvoir Castle, a fact only discovered in the Belvoir Castle archives a few years ago.

Anyway, I was busy doing the usual corporate style videos for the website (Gardens and Corporate), and was asked by the Marketing Director to do an Instagram version.

In two cases I just chose some appropriate music and condensed the B roll into a 60 second edit because there was no way to edit down the narrative to 60 seconds.

In one case, I was able to make a sensible narrative in the 60 second time limit, so now I’ve done both.

I then wrote the Managing Director of another marketing company that uses me exclusively for videos and showed him what I’m about to show you–suggesting that for future contracts, we add in the offering of a 60 second version for any company that also has an Instagram account. And charge them for it, of course.

He thought it was a good idea and I’m passing it on to you, hoping that I’m not teaching my grandmother to suck eggs in the process.

So here’s the usual corporate video:

And the Instagram version:

And by the way, if anyone is reading this far:

Shot on the Sony PXW X70

All hand-held, except for sit-down interview, of course. Stabilised as necessary with FCPX.

Edited and Graded in FCPX (following Denver Riddle’s excellent video on using FCPX’s new color tools)

And, something new! I bought Izotope’s RX6 Advanced when there was a recent offer, paying only a few hundred for an upgrade from RX6 Standard (hey, I’m not rich and the price for Advanced is usually over $1000).

My oh my! I used it on the Duchess interview to handle room echo and clothes rustle. The former was not my fault, the latter was.

One click and less than a minute of processing for the entire interview and you’re listening to the otherwise UNMIXED result. (I normally–even with RX6 Standard) spend a lot of time mixing to get the sound good. The RX6 Advanced result was so good I just left it as it was. Presence, warmth, clarity.

RX6 Advanced is lightyears better than anything else and even worth the $1000 price tag to have it in your FCPX toolbox. For anyone interested, my last blog was all about that with reference to the same video above (but you can hear the before and after there.)

 

Using Local Talent vs. Actors in Corporate Videos

I was doing a little maintenance on the Video Whisperer website and found an article I had written that somehow didn’t make it into the Run and Gun Videography book. The basic idea was written into the book in other ways, but in seeing this I felt it was quite well written and informative and worth sharing on the blog. Here it is:

Using Local Talent vs. Actors in Corporate Videos

Most of the business/corporate videos on this site were done with local talent–specifically, the actual people who work at the business, including owners, directors and regular staff.

Heavyweight Air Express was a medium-sized, but global company venturing into the video realm. They immediately thought to hire a professional actor to do their video. I advised against it, and whilst my opinion, when I told them why, they decided to go with their own talent.

In the case of Heavyweight Air Express, it wasn’t that they couldn’t afford to hire a pro for the job. In the case of smaller businesses, the additional cost may indeed be an important factor, and could even be the reason for not even considering having a video done due to perceived high cost.

The good news is that a high quality impactful business video is quite affordable, notwithstanding the fact that it should rapidly pay for itself.

As to pro actor versus local talent, here is my opinion and essentially what I told Heavyweight.

Firstly, think about those big companies who use professional talent on TV commercials. We know they’re actors and we know they’re paid and we know they’re reading script. The only reason that doesn’t bother us is that we ALREADY KNOW the company, its products and services, precisely because they’re already big.

Now let’s consider we were watching a commercial for a company we never heard of and that a professional actor was presenting. Well, we can tell at once that he or she is a professional actor, and we know that they’re being paid and reading script.  Suddenly those factors that didn’t bother us with the company we already know come into play in a different way with the company we never heard of. To a certain degree we suspect that is it just “hype”. Afterall, it’s a professional actor reading a script with perfect hair and all the right hand gestures.

Now let’s take that same company and use it’s actual president, CEO or owner.  First off, we can tell it’s not a polished pro. We can tell this is the real guy and that he’s putting his reputation on the line. So what he has to say–if it’s a subject we’re interested in–has a little more credibility. And we tend to give him a chance. We listen. We don’t just toss him off as a bit of marketing hype.

Secondly, people who work for the company and believe in it and its products and services are emotionally attached. They know what they’re talking about. They’ve dealt with the products, services and the customers who use them. And we can tell that too.

So the question becomes, how does one get a “regular guy” to come off well in front of the camera.

That’s pretty simple and is something a director is trained to do. But in terms of content (how we get them to say what we want them to say), here is where the Video Whisperer differs from most other video production companies. We don’t try to script it. “Remembering script” or “remembering what to say” is the downfall of any attempt to produce a marketing piece for a business, because people who are not trained actors have trouble with that sort of thing–and you can tell.

Instead we do it on an interview basis. We have an informal chat–interview if you like– with the camera rolling. Sure there are plenty of bobbles and mis-starts and all else that is part of normal human conversation. But as soon as we start talking about a subject that they KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT or have a particular EMOTIONAL CONTACT with, they suddenly start sounding quite natural and start coming off quite professionally–having completely forgotten about the camera.

Such interviews may last 20-40 minutes or more. And from that, the job of the editor is to distill from all the footage the essence of what we want to impart to the potential customer or client. That means there are a lot of “cuts” and that means often things are put together in a sequence differing from how it actually came off in the interview. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that, in the end, they provided the material necessary to being able to put together a marketing piece for the company just as if it had been scripted to begin with. And the best part is: Some of the things that come up in an interview one would never have thought to script!

Your Equipment Does Not Define You or Your Skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(originally posted on my Run and Gun Video Blog , but seems not too many people follow that one, so sharing it here)

 

I noticed my book cover on Amazon along with some of the related ones being promoted (and their covers) which reminded me at the same time of the many postings I’ve seen of people’s equipment. Some nice stuff and some Frankenstein monsters, but the underlying message (despite what was being said) was usually, ‘look at me’.

You know, the guy posts a shot of a whole load of expensive stuff with the caption: ‘off to do a blah-blah shoot’. Since surely nobody cares that he’s off to do a shoot, the obvious intended message is ‘look at all my cool stuff and be envious’.

Now look at the cover above.

That was very deliberately posed. Of course there was a humorous analogy with and throughout the book of the camera being a gun (so the Marlboro man hat and coat forwarded that), but note that the relatively small and unfancy camera is just dangling from the hand as if it were a 6 shooter and he’s off to shoot some vermin on the ranch that are stealing his chickens–or off to the OK Corral  to dispatch Billy the Kid for that matter.

The gun, the camera are tools, they are not the man.

They come out when it’s time to do the job and the pro doesn’t care what you think about them.

They’re taken care of, oiled and cleaned as any professional would treat his equipment, but except for a few of the narcissistic crazies, they don’t sleep with them, pose with them in the mirror or caress them fondly when no one is looking.

They’re just tools.

And look here: The gun that killed Billy the Kid didn’t even have a laser scope on it.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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