I always wanted to do one of those talking dog videos…
I always wanted to do one of those talking dog videos…
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.
Normally I hate double interview shots. I’ve even advised against it in my book I think.
The reason, of course, is because the guy who’s not talking is sitting there like a lump on a log.
So I told these guys they could stand side by side and chat and I’d feature one or the other as we went.
But I changed my mind.
They actually pulled it off.
I just held the camera and let them talk.
If you don’t know, Phil Burtt is the David Beckham of the shooting world. He’s known internationally and is also a very nice bloke.
So this whole video was done on the strength of his name. And he knew exactly what to say.
So I let it ride and with very little editing and some judicious B roll, I thought it came off very well.
Yes, it’s a bit long, but if you’re a soccer fan and the video features David Beckham, you’re going to watch the whole thing.
And so it is with this one for those in the world of shooting.
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:
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.
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.
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.