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.

 

 

 

A Family Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

But do you really need one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would anyone notice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Free Book Offer: Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide

Run 'n Gun Videography

I’ve decided to enrol in KDP Select which gives me some promotional options including making the book available for FREE for 5 days.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m doing it for two reasons.

  1. I’m locked into KDP select for 90 days during which period the book can only be available on Kindle. So that gives me a sort of deadline for making the book available in soft cover and putting it on other platforms. I can’t promise it, but it’s a good target for me because I’m going to be pretty busy before then anyway. Plan is to update it and make it available in hardcover next fall.
  2. Though the book has sold a few hundreds copies, it’s only gotten about a little over 30 reviews between the UK and US markets. They’re all good reviews, but I’d like to see a lot more reviews.

The Free Download Offer is NOW LIVE on Amazon and runs through Sunday.

I hope that most of my subscribers here who don’t have it yet will take the opportunity to download it.

In exchange I have a humble request: Please review it on the Amazon page once you’ve read it.

US Amazon Link

UK Amazon Link

Available world wide.

Making a Murderer–A Compelling Netflix Documentary

Making a Murderer

Making a Murder is a Netflix documentary that was filmed over 10 years following the case of a wrongly accused man who spent 18 years in prison, and who shortly after his release (when DNA tests exonerated him), was arrested for murder–apparently framed by the police.

This is the most compelling documentary I have ever seen. I watched most of series 1 in one sitting because I simply couldn’t stop watching it (but finally had to stop because I could no longer stay awake).

Way better than ‘reality tv’. Way better than professionally produced crime dramas. The twists and turns never stop–and yet this is real life, real people, real court proceedings.

It chronicles a corrupt justice system and police department in addition to the influence of media. At least that’s how it rolls off so far. I don’t now how many times my jaw dropped watching this. It appears to be a frame job, but despite all evidence submitted in that regard up to the point I’ve watched it, I’m guessing he’ll be convicted again regardless.

Now what’s all this to do with this blog?

In the book Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, I talked a lot about message being the overriding fundamental in any artistic production, film and video included. I also talked about the subject of technical perfection being junior in importance to getting the message across. So much so that in deciding as an editor if a flawed shot should be used or not, the answer to the question is whether or not it will detract from the message and throw the audience out of the story.

Early on in this series I noticed how rocky some of the hand-held camerawork was. This was not any kind of deliberate ‘technique’. It’s just that these cameramen were shooting everything hand-held with big Sony Betacam cameras, even from inside cars bouncing around on dirt roads. There was some pretty rough stuff.  BUT, the story was so compelling that it didn’t matter one bit. Furthermore, it was so well put together in terms of editing and the message was so loud and clear (and compelling), that there wasn’t any technical flaw that was going to throw me out of that story.

Some of the close-ups of people were simply jaw-dropping in terms of raw emotion. These weren’t actors. These were real people caught up in a horrible situation–guilty and not guilty alike.

Highly recommended as a study of run and gun camerawork–because that’s exactly what it was.

 

Run ‘n Gun Music Video?

Abi Moore

 

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

Well, normally one wouldn’t promote this sort of thing. After all, it takes quite some time and planning to do a music video…

But, as Abi Moore remarked, ‘if you want something done fast, ask a busy person”.

I’m not always this busy, but in the week before a trip planned to the US, I found myself with 3 scheduled shoots and one edit that absolutely had to be done before I left.

Then Abi messaged me urgently.

She needed a music video by the end of the month (when I would be gone).

She had sent me the song. A very nice song, though a sad Christmas song as it were.

I asked for the lyrics, got them, glanced it over and said, ” Come on over tomorrow. We’ll shoot you singing the whole song whilst driving a few times and then some more at our neighbor’s Steinway piano, a few additional shots in town, throw something together and see if we need anything else to polish it off.

So we did just that one evening.

For the night scenes I used the Sony HXR NX30. All hand-held, of course, though I utilised a bean bag on the car’s dash for most of the car shots.

For the piano scenes I used the NX30 and the X70; X70 on a tripod and the NX30 handheld.

And, for the first time ever, I found it necessary to add stars to a shot using an FCPX generator and FCPX color controls and shape masks to take down the white sky to a darker gray.

Also, for the first time ever, I added snow to a shot, using the Pixelfilmstudios plug-in. Two layers of snow–the foreground layer to which I added yellow as if lit by the foreground yellow light from the doorway. That was surprisingly easy.

Who says you can’t produce a music video in a couple of days cheap as chips?

You’ll be the first to see it as I’m only publishing it here.

(Best to watch in full HD, as it’s a rather sad–and therefore somewhat dark Christmas story.)

Lie Back and Think of England

 

The campaign to create a life-size statue commemorating the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s 300th birthday is now officially live!  Capability Brown Statue Crowd Funding PageCapability Brown Statue Campaign

This is my first crowd funding video.

Its purpose is to raise the funds necessary to create a life-size bronze statue of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, England’s most famous landscape architect. It has been said that English landscape architecture is one of England’s greatest contributions to world culture and it is, indeed, Capability Brown who is behind the meaning of that sentiment. Yet, unlike his French counterpart Andre Le Notre who has statues, busts, paintings and engravings all over France, Capability Brown is without similar recognition in the UK. No busts. No statues. Only two paintings, one of which is in a private collection.

The video tells the story, but since this is the Video Whisperer blog, I thought I’d fill you in on some details behind the making of this video.

My wife Laury Dizengremel is a sculptor and is also the artist-in-residence at Belvoir Castle. Two years ago the last known plans of Capability Brown were discovered in the Castle archives which were supposed to have been his crowning achievement. They were started, but never completed due to the financial problems of the 4th Duke of Rutland. So the current (11th) Duchess of Rutland decided to have a go at completing those plans as part of her legacy.

She called in Alan Titchmarsh, England’s pre-eminent gardening expert, TV personality and author to help her and both embarked on a two-year program to execute the first phase of planning resulting in a 3 part national TV program which recently aired in the UK.

Laury found herself immersed in all of this and asked the foremost expert on Capability Brown, historian John Phibbs  (who was also part of the process) if there were any statues of Capability Brown. “No”, was the answer.

Some weeks after the dust settled from all the filming activities and airing of the program –and after we ourselves found a break in our own activities, Laury decided that she was going to take it into her own hands and get the funds raised to finance a life-size bronze statue of Capability Brown to gift to the nation.

For that she wanted a crowd funding video. And she wanted it that afternoon.

I said, ‘whoa Nelly–I’m pretty good, but not THAT good”.

And I explained the sorts of things that are necessary to pull off such a thing. Such as “who are we going to get to be the presenter for it THIS AFTERNOON?” and other small details like that.

I only knew of one person–one of her daughters, who sounds as English as they come, but she wasn’t available. And I wasn’t willing to find and hire a presenter. So I thought about it for a couple of hours during which I came up with a rough draft of how I might want it to go.

The more I got into it, the more I thought, “well, hell, I’ll just do it.”

So the next morning I got up early, walked off into the English fog and shot the whole video.

I had the job of explaining who Capability Brown was, why he deserved a statue in this, the 300th year of his birth, why an American was giving the pitch, and why a French sculptor with an American accent was going to create the statue for the people of England. That’s a tall order, isn’t it?

Here’s the crowd funding page with the video.

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/capability-brown-sculpture?tk=6bcf1b28fded861304ae3c52399f092b038cc06c

For £100 your name will be added to the plaque at the base of the statue–which will be the first ever statue of England’s of the man who came to define the natural landscaping that has been one of England’s greatest contributions to world culture. Pledges from £25 upward to £15,000 are available, each with a perk listed on the website.

I hope some of my faithful Video Whisperer Blog subscribers will help us make this possible with a pledge of £25 or more.

Please donate.

Thank you,

The Video Whisperer

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