5 Day Music Festival, 2 Cameras

Chalabre, France

Hello.

I know. It’s been a while.

You’re looking at where I live when I’m not in England, home of the annual Chalabre en Sérénade music festival, now in its second year.

The founder, Vinx , lives two doors down, and we both live in the centre of the town where much of this takes place on our doorstep.

You may have seen videos I did of last year’s festival, mainly for promotional purposes to help increase sponsorship for this year’s festival and those to come.

This video tells the story of the festival in Vinx’s own words. It’s an interesting story because this festival has features not seen in any other festival in the world.

It’s my longest ever project (850 GB original material), 5 days to edit, 20 minutes final length.

I gave my Sony NX30 to a retired British local. I shot on my X70 and a bit on the Mavic Pro II drone.

And there were the usual run and gun challenges to overcome.

I’m not going to get into them all, but I do want to cover one of them: The lighting and shooting of Vinx’s interview. (that was a 45 minute interview)

I hadn’t planned to do that in the beginning. Actually, I didn’t have much of a plan at all–except to wait and see what I got and see what the footage might ‘tell me’ to do with it.

What you will see is what it told me to do.

Trouble was, I didn’t have any of my lighting kit with me, nor a tripod. That stuff was in England.

So I propped the camera up on a window sill and tilted it with a matchbook wedge.

I turned off his overhead lights to get light off the back wall and used a 50 watt halogen gooseneck reading lamp from my house to create a key on his face in the room that was otherwise lit by daylight from a small window behind me. That was enough to separate his face from the background both by light and by colour (mixing daylight and tungsten can be a good thing). Afterwards, in post, I used one of my favourite tools, the Slice X Vignette Shape Mask, to subtly vignette the background in a shape that wouldn’t be obvious. And voilà! I must say I was pleased with the result.

The other main challenge was, of course, music audio recording.

I pretty much knew at the outset that we wouldn’t be doing a ‘concert video’. For one, there were over 40 artists in multiple venues all around town. For two, I had no interest in even trying to do that.

I decided I’d do it the way I did last year: Establish one good track to tie together each of the single events into a montage.

That required at least getting some good recordings to which end I took a feed off the board at the main concert, and otherwise used the camera mic to record an act that sounded potentially good. When I was doing that, I kept still and let the other camera  guy move around getting additional B roll. Ironically, the feed off the mix board I mentioned was faulty, and much of that sound had crackle and hiss on it. But I got by with the skin of my teeth despite even that.

I also didn’t hang around long at most events. Sometimes I regretted that–such as at the church sequence at the end, but I took my chances knowing I’d have to edit with the best of what I had even if I missed some really good stuff. Of course, if it was a paid gig, I’d dutifully stick around for everything, but charity  shouldn’t have to kill me.

Sorry about any ads that might show up. Someone’s got a copyright claim on it and I’m trying to find out who it is so I can get permission on behalf of the festival, since we’re not trying to monetise it.

Finally, I think you might find that this 20 minutes goes by pretty quickly.

If it doesn’t, then for you, I have failed.

 

 

 

 

Drones: The Video Whisperer Enters the Modern Age

Red Kites flying over Blackberry Hill at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, England

 

Well it’s true, but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean every shot is going to be a drone shot now.

But heck, it certainly was a lot of fun.

First and last shot in the video below were my first actual drone shots. I was practicing. Due to bad weather after that, it’s a good thing I did.

I know, I know, I flew over traffic and people. My bad.

But in the first instances of using this Phantom 3 Standard drone over empty fields just a few moments before, I was so amazed by the technology I couldn’t resist it.

You see, my introduction a few years back was with a Ghost Drone, supposedly just then introducing the technology of controlling drones through a smartphone. Problem was, I don’t think their IOS software (I use iPhone) was quite dialed in. It was a disaster.

I never got a decent shot and wound up crashing and destroying 3 of them.

This entry-level Phantom blew my mind.

Now I want the Mavic Pro 2.

Anyway, enough of that. This is not a review of drones. I think everyone reading this already knows a lot more than I do.

Instead, let’s talk about the video.

This video is meant to be an ‘update’ on a new facility opened up at Belvoir Castle in England. It’s the first video since the place was opened last summer, but I wasn’t here to do a video of it. My last updates showed it in quite a state of construction–like scenes out of movies during the reconstruction of Europe after WWII.

So we had some catching up to do.

It’s opening was a greater success than dreamed of, and more importantly, since then the parking lot is full every day of the week, even now in the cold bleak English almost Winter. So they must have done something right.

This video catches us up and shows all who haven’t come what is there and what’s to come (since it isn’t quite finished yet). It’s meant to be a hold-over at least until Christmas.

Then we’ll update again.

Eventually, when it’s done, we’ll do a finished posh version that can reside on their website.

What’s to tell?

Not much. The whole process is no different than I cover in my book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

As usual, it’s all hand-held, except the interview.

It’s quite long, but that’s because there’s already a substantial following that will probably watch it all the way through.

It’s a local thing. So it was important to show what is there and a bit of the flavor of what is there.

It was shot mostly during part of one day with a few pick-ups. Edited over most of the next day.

It was all on my own in terms of narrative edit and content (no other input), which I prefer and which is 99% of the case with each of the 300 or so videos I’ve done in the past several years.

It was approved first time through.

It’s not perfect, and some of you eagle eyes will figure out why.

But I think it does the trick.

 

 

When the 4 Camera Shoot Becomes a 1 Camera Shoot

The ‘Balcony Serenade’ Parade around Chalabre, first of its kind.

This was the Grande Finale Concert of the week long music festival Chalabre en Sérénade in Chalabre, France where I live.

Vinx is my neighbor here, and as we are both taking actions to promote the area, all my shooting was volunteered.

Most all my coverage of the various events was with a single camera, adequate to produce promotional material for next year.

Two events were multi-camera shoots including the Grande Finale, not for purposes of producing a concert video, but perhaps for releasing a few of the songs from the 3 hour event.

In this case I had two fixed cameras plus my hand-held (X70 fixed taking sound off the board, and RX10ii on a fixed side angle). Hand-held was the NX30. Additionally a new friend who came to perform, but  who also produces high-end commercials in Hollywood as well as documentaries, was shooting the finale with me.

But, as happens, it ran longer than anticipated.

One by one my camera cards filled up and they went off line. Alone, it was impractical to climb up ladders and what-not to change cards and batteries for the other cameras. But unbeknownst to me, my other shooter was chased off-stage by the stage manager and so he wasn’t there for the end either.

Down to one camera.

The unfortunate thing was that what happened at the end was rather unexpected–and quite emotional. I had to cover it.

Even if you don’t watch the whole 16 minute video below, the first two minutes will tell you why this was so. (in short, he was recovering from brain surgery a few months back and it wasn’t even certain that he’d be able to partake much at all in the festival that he created)

I had asked Vinx before the show if he was going to take to the stage. He said he wasn’t sure.

He did intro each of the acts, but when it came to the very end, imagine my surprise as I realised he was going to perform the Grande Finale.

So I covered it as best I could trying to anticipate when to be where and when it would be ok to change locations requiring some sort of edit handling.

When it was all over and done I thought about how I was going to put together an edit of this emotional ending for the benefit of his fans, the attendees (who all wished they didn’t have to leave) and those who wanted to come but couldn’t.

B roll saved the day…, but in this case, I think I used it rather cleverly…

(Like and Share if you would…not for me but for Vinx)

Check him out at vinx.com

Technical:

All hand held with Sony HXR NX30 and Sony PXW X70 and OSMO. Aerials by Jastero with DJI Phantom Pro.

Edited on FCPX.

For those who noticed, I never had ‘banding’ of any kind with the NX30 and was unable to handle it after trying a few of the usual solutions. Strange that it was locked, not rolling. Anybody know what that is and how to handle it?

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.

 

 

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