Pure Frickin’ Brilliant–Flexlite, the Flexible LED Panel for Filmmakers

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I like stuff that’s simple, smart and compact.

Being a great fan of LED lighting for the home, I felt it was time to check up on the advances of LED technology for the film industry.

I was never happy with the bulk, fragility and horsepower-lack of my flouro softbox lamps, so I went to the Broadcast Video Expo in London earlier this year to see what the LED crowd was up to. They were up to a whole lot of things it turns out.

But of the vast array of impressive LED lights, one particularly caught my attention–the Flexlite, manufactured in Korea by Neonix Co., Ltd.  I spoke with the London distributor Prolight Direct Ltd.

Flexlite

 

 

It’s designers didn’t follow the traditional path of encasing it in an aluminium housing. Rather it is on a flexible backing.

It has a clever, compact mounting bracket that slips into elastic bands on it’s backside. Or, using its velcro tabs, can be mounted just about anywhere.

You can curl it up into a cylinder, bind it with rubber bands and drop it into a Chinese lantern for 360˚ illumination.

You can stick it on the end of a monopod or selfie stick and, with a battery, use it as handy fill for vox pop interviews.

And, of course you can stick it in a softbox.

Is it durable?

I asked this of the distributor at the Broadcast Video Expo. To answer that, he took the lit panel and threw it down on the floor. “I’ve been doing this all day”, he added.

It’s currently available in 5600K adn 3000K versions only. Bi-color versions may come in the future.

Cost is £413 available at Prolight Direct Ltd.

Full technical specs and related accessories, including battery and cable can be found here.

U.S. Distributor (Wescott) here.

The battery offered by Prolight Direct is a single unit with built in charger, but any Vlock battery will attach to their belt-clip V lock battery holder. If you already have V lock batteries, all you need is the adapter cable provided by Prolight Direct or any future distributor.

It comes with a power adapter and dimmer, adjustable from 10-100% maintaining a constant color temperature throughout the range. It also comes with a compact support frame, adjustable light stand mounting hardware, and an extension cord for the dimming unit that can be employed as the case demands.

Flex lite kit

 

Following a video review I did  demonstrating the light, showing samples of its use and demonstrating its brightness and constant color temperature at different brightness settings using its dimmer.

Note: I’ve uploaded over 180 videos to YouTube with no trouble and for unexplained reasons, this one was a nightmare. 3 aborted uploads. Finally made it as a 720p upload, but the color was quite red. Thought it was a fluke, but uploaded again with same results. Finally in desperation I altered the red in the edit by several points and did several test uploads until I got what you’re about to see. It’s still not as nice as the original edit which had absolutely no color correction, but I was getting fed up. Anyone else have trouble recently with Youtube uploads being altered in color by YouTube? 

Final preview of the book “Run ‘N Gun Videography”

For anyone interested who has been following this, I’ve been writing an ebook entitle “Run ‘N Gun Videography–the Sole Shooter’s Survival Guide”.

I’ve now finished the first draft of the book which sits currently at 40,000 words and 25 chapters. I suspect there may be one or two more chapters added, but besides that I’m in editing mode and starting to think about graphics and layout. Should be finally published some time this summer.

Thought I’d share one more sneak preview, this one of Chapter 10. (most of it anyway. Hey! I can’t give away all the punch lines!)

Any feedback would be appreciated.

P.S. For the moment my Video Whisperer website is down for unknown reasons, so you may get an error message if you click that link. I’ve been wanting to re-do the whole thing and move it over to WordPress. Maybe it’s a sign….

Chapter 10, Corporate Shoot-outs

The Video Whisperer Approach to Corporate Videos

I’m using the term “corporate videos” loosely here. I am referring to the full range of business videos likely to be produced by a lone shooter or small production company. In my case, that ranges from home business owners, shop owners, small business owners and on up to multi-national corporations.

Clearly, when you start getting into the big name global corporations, they’re probably not going to be taking you on as a lone shooter.

So we’re not competing here with video production companies that are essentially small film studios with a full complement of specialized personnel.

“Corporate Shootouts” is probably an apt title. The bigger they are, the more people you have to please, the more meetings you have to have, the more planning you have to do and get approved (and modified ‘till everyone’s happy), the more back and forth on your edit, the more unwanted input from executives that want their stamp on your good ideas…and those larger video production companies have people that deal with all of that.

At any rate, I don’t play that game anymore, and if you’re reading this book, you probably don’t play it either. I like to keep it simple.

I travel light.

I don’t go into a corporate shoot like a swat team.

I walk in alone with a 6 shooter.

But I have a strategy.

And the funny thing is, even in that corporate environment I’ve walked into a conference room full of harried scriptwriters and producers and won with this approach, so don’t get the idea that because it’s simple, it can’t be effective.

Are you ready for this?

1)  I don’t script it.

2)  I don’t storyboard it.

3)  I don’t rehearse it.

So far that sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?

Let me clarify it starting with a little story.

I used to be sent out to various parts of the globe to do a mini documentary on some interesting character by a corporation who had already fully pre-conceived the story and had it scripted by the “very best scriptwriters” based on glowing PR reports from the “very best research personnel”, right on down to the expected content of the interviews and testimonials.

The only trouble was, the real scene on the ground was never what the script said it was. So I used to get beat up about this pretty regularly by the corporate people for “not following the script” because I found real life far more interesting than their imaginary version of it.

One day it dawned on me why it was that the reports sent in to management from the field always understated the actual scene.

The real heroes on the ground that we were sent in to do stories on were too busy (and too humble) to waste much time on paperwork and bragging themselves up to the higher ups. So in the 25th hour of their day, they probably just didn’t spend much time sending their obligatory reports to management.

It was only when I tossed the interview questions and started really chatting these people up that I began to realize that they were too humble to know how extraordinary they really were. They had far more interesting stories to tell than anyone who sent us there knew about.

How ironic. Those “higher ups” were so damned concerned with their own PR that they chose the certainty of false reports based on faulty research over the actual truth which was far more interesting and better PR than they ever dreamed of.

Ok, this is a personal story and won’t have much to do with what most people will run into, but it did teach me a very important lesson that later formed the simplistic approach I started taking toward corporate videos summarized in #1-3 above.

And that lesson was: Real people are far more interesting, sincere and believable than imaginary ones.

I learned this by watching one director interviewing someone in quite a different and remarkable way…

The Secret of Interviews

Let’s face it. We’ve all seen standard, run-of-the-mill TV news interviews.

And we’ve all seen those high-end journalists who make the big bucks because of the compelling stories they supposedly draw out of people.

I’ve seen these things from the back end too. I’ve seen Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes fame (one of those supposed high end investigative journalists) doing a story. He arrived in a limo with a full entourage and large crew. “Intimidating” comes to mind. But this time he left in a big huff with his tail between his legs because the people he was doing a story on decided to run their own 5 cameras on the 60 Minutes interview so that 60 Minutes wouldn’t have the freedom pull off their usual skewed agenda-driven story through the magic of editing. That’s right. You can make people look like fools or criminals or worse just by the way you edit the footage—and I’m afraid that’s probably done more often than not depending on who is financing the story.

Anyway, that’s one extreme. But generally speaking, reporters are after controversy because that’s what sells. They’re after tears on camera and true confessions. They’re after salacious material and confrontations. They either have an agenda or their editors or producers do. That’s the world of journalism for the most part.

Documentaries can also be agenda driven with a similar approach to conducting interviews.

Tell me if I’ve gotten this right:

An interview consists of someone asking a list of prepared questions and getting responses to those questions.

Seems to be a reasonable definition, but it’s about as idiotic as it gets. I wouldn’t even call it simplistic. Not only that, it gets worse.

Typically the interviewer almost never acknowledges the answer before asking the next question. (wouldn’t that make you feel uncomfortable? You’d be wondering, “Did he hear what I just said?”) Worse still: (and I’ve seen this countless times) “that’s great, but could you give that to me again with a smile?” or “great!, but I need you to mention (_________)”, or “don’t bring up (__________)”, or any of an infinite number of other ways to introvert the interviewee because of some stupid pre-conceived idea that the interviewer has in regards to what he thinks the interviewee should say. After a short while the interviewee, convinced that you’re not interested in what they might want to say, spends the rest of the time trying to figure out what you want to hear, and the more he or she apparently “gets it wrong”, the more introverted he or she gets.

If anyone ever asked you a bunch of questions and never once acknowledged anything you’d said, you’d get the idea he wasn’t really very interested in what you had to say and you’d be right. If you had any integrity at all, you’d end the interview and tell the guy to buzz off. But too many people forge on and try to please the interviewer. They cease communicating about their own interests and passions and try to second guess what it is they’re supposed to say to make the interviewer happy.

I don’t care if it’s a news interview or a corporate interview. You get the same results; a dull, lifeless, stilted interview that forwards a supposed news agenda or marketing agenda.

It is so prevalent as a style that too many novice directors fall into the same “reporter mode” because they think that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.

I know I’m generalizing and I know there are exceptions to the rule. There have been truly great and memorable interviews and biographies, but I’m making a point that it is a pretty common approach to corporate videos by small productions companies and lone shooters who “learned it” by watching some of the “big guys”. It probably came about simply because some of these journalists who were on a deadline just didn’t have time to actually talk to someone, or (more likely) had orders from producers to obtain specific content.

A good interviewer puts his or her interviewee at ease and then engages in friendly conversation that makes the person happy and willing to talk. That should be the easy part—like riding a bicycle. The hard part is at the same time steering the interview to the end of obtaining quality, usable material for the purpose intended—like fixing a flat tire. Not very hard really.

The secret to interviews is getting people to talk about what they want to talk about, not what you think they should talk about.

But how to do know what they want to talk about?

You don’t.  You just don’t.

It’s no different than meeting someone for the first time.

So you start off with the minimum of what you have in common, even if very little. Well, you’re at their company, right. That’s a start. You’re both aware of the company and what it does. (It goes without saying that you will have done your homework and have some idea of the content or marketing message you are after). Nothing wrong with starting off with “So how long have you been working here?” Easy enough to answer and gets things off on an informal foot. The guy relaxes. He thought you were going to ask a tough question.

And you go on from there finding out about his specialty, his knowledge, his contribution to the company.

Just don’t make the mistake of getting caught up in the brilliance of your own questions. And don’t assume that you know what the ideal response should be, regardless of what the marketing people think.

Your questions are meant to be a good guess at what might get them going and what they want to talk about. And presumably you’re talking to them because they have some intimate knowledge of the subject at hand.

So start chatting. Keep it real. Keep it light and conversational.

And watch their eyes.

When those eyes light up, you’ve just found the entrance to the subject of what they like to talk about, what their passion is, etc. I don’t mean start talking about fishing or motorcycle racing. Obviously he knows what you’re there to talk about that’s relevant. What I’m saying is that when you’re in that area you’re probably going to find a hot spot that lights up his eyes. That’s the subject that’s going to get you some good material. Chat it up from all directions. He may start brief, but due to your interest, he may open up and dump a whole load of great stuff on your lap. It’s your sincere interest that will get him talking.

Listen to what they say. Really listen. Really be interested. Acknowledge what they’re saying by smiling or nodding or whatever is appropriate. Don’t cut them off.

When they seem to be finished, ask them more about what they just said. Better still, ask them something specific about something that they seem particularly interested in or emotive about. You don’t even have to ask a new question. Simply commenting on, agreeing with or otherwise acknowledging some aspect just mentioned will be enough to get them to continue talking about it.

And let them talk.

Of course you also ask all the perfunctory questions. But ideally you first establish a great rapport by talking about their interests. Then all the rest of the stuff will come off great too.

You can talk to anyone about anything that THEY are interested in.

When you find those topics, all their inhibitions disappear–so long as you do your part by listening, acknowledging and not cutting them off.

If it all goes wrong and you can’t seem to get off on the right foot, be humble enough to realize that you’re the one that introverted them and got them to stop talking. There is still an out.  I’ve done it many times to miraculous results.  It goes something like this:

“Forget about everything I just said or asked. Forget about what you think you should say or what the company thinks you should say or what you think I want to hear.  What is it about this subject that interests YOU the most? What about it are you most passionate about? Go ahead, let your hair down.”

Sometimes after 30 minutes of interview, I’ve gotten the greatest percentage of my editable narrative after making that statement alone.

Look at it this way. It’s really simple.

An interview is simply a directed conversation.

But it’s still a conversation.

It’s not formal. It’s relaxed. It’s fun. It’s interesting. It’s something you’ve done naturally all your life.

If you’re shooting a corporate interview or a testimonial, the only difference is that you are a director and you know the sort of content that is required to fulfill the marketing angle (or instructional angle—or whatever kind of video you’re doing). It doesn’t matter how long it takes to accumulate that information. It doesn’t matter a hoot what you say or how much you banter with the interviewee. All that gets cut out. But as you go along you will be making mental notes, “that was a good bit”, or “that’s a great opener”, or “that will work great in the wrap up”, etc.

With experience you’ll know when you have enough material to be able to edit the interview and achieve your objective.

The main point is, that the best of your material in that interview will be honest, sincere, passionate, and believable. But better still, you might well turn up with some great material that no scriptwriter or marketing person could ever have dreamed up for the very best actor or presenter to deliver with all the right hand gestures.

The intended audience for your video can see marketing hype a mile away.

But the real guy, warts and all, speaking from the heart is also something they can see from a mile away. And that’s they guy they’ll listen to.

Ok, that’s a basic overview. I’ll cover some more on this subject later, but for now, let’s get back to what this has to do with shooting corporate videos, or more specifically, how I do it in terms of “the Video Whisperer approach”….

 

Sony HXR NX30 Production Report

I’ve now used the NX30 in several productions including music and corporate.

Last week I completed an 8 minute fund-raising video in Los Angeles which I thought would be a good video to elaborate on the NX30s capabilities in “run and gun” production.

Rather than go into the subject of what I mean by “run and gun” at any great length here, I’ve decided to take that up separately in a later blog. But to be clear, it’s in this type of shooting that the camera shines. It’s a rather competent “wing man”.

This production “The Locke High School Project” was definitely run and gun. Despite requests for various things to be lined up in advance of my arrival, very little was planned. Some things that were planned were faulty in terms of permissions, and some things planned simply fell through. It was up to me to pull it all together in a relatively short period of time to accomplish the objective of a video capable of appealing to a particular prospective donor of parting with $2,550,000.

If you can, watch the video in Full HD in order to evaluate the performance of the NX30.

You can watch the video now if you’d like and then read the comments below, or visa versa (or watch it twice).

1) It starts off with a sunset beach scene. That wasn’t planned. That was an off-the-cuff solution to a celebrity endorser to introduce the video who wasn’t able to be scheduled due to other commitments.  I didn’t want to have Sidney (the client making the appeal) to be bragging about his own accomplishments in order to position himself in the beginning of the video, but when the celebrity fell through and time had run out on my stay, I told him to grab his french horn and race down to the beach with me for sunset as a back-up to the original plan.

We got there in the last minute, and, as you can image, with no time for dilly-dallying, I just parked him on the sand and told him to start playing while I shot the footage.

If you’ve read my earlier blogs or seen any of the videos, you’ll know that I’m not a tripod or camera support system fan. In the old days working with crews, I’d have an assistant who took care of all that stuff giving me the time to plan angles and so forth.  When you’re solo, and in a rush, there’s little time for all that. Plus it’s a pain in the backside to clean out all the sand off your equipment after a beach shoot.

That’s why I love the NX30. Those shots are all hand-held. Not a speck of sand on any of my equipment.  But more than that, I could just turn the camera on in full intelligent auto mode and start shooting. It locked focus on the face and set its own exposure and colour balance.  What you see there isn’t even altered in post.

2) The sit-down interview with Sidney was shot on a tripod (as were the later interview scenes) because even I’m not masochistic or stupid enough to hold the camera for a 30 minute interview.

But here again, look at the beautiful clarity of the image. No, it’s not that shallow depth-of-field DSLR look. But with nice lighting, composition and tonal separation, what difference does it make for the purpose?  That’s a serious question. If it was shallow depth of field would it make it any better in terms of communication value?

I like shallow depth of field too. But that immediately taxes your attention that much more in terms of setting and maintaining focus. In this type of shooting, I’d much rather have more of my attention available for other things and not worrying about focus. Once I start that camera rolling, I’m no longer looking at the camera or the monitor. I’m chatting with the person. Nice to know the camera isn’t going to let that face go out-of-focus if he happens to shift or move.

3)  Shooting in the school.

This video was almost a disaster. I knew it was vitally important to get permission to shoot and interview in the school which was on the list of things I required to have set up in advance of my arrival.  When we got to the school we luckily got the athletic director to take us around. Here again, the little NX30 did not get a lot of attention due to its size. Could have been a different story with a larger “professional-looking” camera.

So what I did was tag along during the tour and just kept the camera running constantly. I had a radio mic on the athletic director and wore headphones so I could hear what they were talking about, but my main objective was to grab as much footage as I could.

Later we did the sit-down interview after which we stole over to the music department for about 40 minutes and obtained what the footage there on a similar basis.

Our time was up and we had to leave even though I wanted more. Interviews with sports students for example. But when it came time to go back to the school for that with fingers crossed, we ran head-on into the full bureaucracy of requiring written permissions based on submitting script, list of shots, video distribution plans, etc.

And since the marketing arm of the school would not be keen to show what needs to be shown in a FUND-RAISING video for the school’s inadequacies, I knew that road was closed. And we were out of time anyway.

So how did the NX30 perform?  I had it in Active Mode, Full intelligent auto. None of those “steadicam shots” were processed in post. Even though one shoots that sort of shots in wide angle for obvious reasons, there’s still the chance that the camera will decide to focus on something stupid. But the NX30 was set to keep track of faces and I could see it boxing in the faces as I moved, so my confidence was high (and not let down) in terms of focus. Or exposure, for that matter.

Short anecdote:  After we left the school for the second time without permission to shoot inside, I walked around outside to try to get a shot that showed a lot of students. Unfortunately the school was fenced like a prison. Nowhere in the entire circumference of the school was I able to see inside. Then, as I completed my walk around I noted an electric driveway gate opening. I stood ready, and as soon as the vehicle left and the gate started to close, I planted myself in the opening and grabbed a slow panning shot that showed a large group of students changing classes. I had one chance and only a few seconds. One shot.  And the NX30 backed me up by taking care of all the technical details.

3)  As I was leaving we got our hands on an old year book. I needed some historical shots. I used my Canon 600 to take stills of most of the shots I wanted out of the book (animating them in editing), but there are a couple of panning shots in there I did with the NX30 in Active Mode. That’s kind of difficult to do smoothly so close up, so in this case I further stabilised the shots in post to a very nice result.

AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY ABOUT THE NX30

In some of my earlier corporate productions (and on this one too), I would come home to find to my horror that some of my interview shots were soft on focus. It was both unnerving and baffling.

Then it happened on this production on the interviews with both the original music teacher and the current one. As I watched these interviews I could see the camera slowly drifting from foreground to background over and over. I had NO IDEA what caused this and thought I might have a camera fault to be fixed.  (this is why the interview with the current music teacher starts with an unusually long amount of B roll before we actually see him talking. Likewise, near the end of the video the original music teacher is coming out of a dissolve which hides the moment when the shot is coming into focus and cuts to B roll just before it rolled out-of-focus)

The next day when I was setting up to do the interview with Sidney, I put the camera on the tripod and did what I usually do: shut off the stabilisation. As I did that I noticed something flash on the viewfinder screen. And a little notice came up that said something like “turn off intelligent auto”.  I looked closer and saw that what had flashed on the screen was the little intelligent auto icon turning off (greying out; going inactive).

Ah ha!  Intelligent auto only works in Active Mode! Makes sense too. That’s when you really need it.

So the lesson learned is: When shooting on a tripod with stabilisation turned off, you MUST set focus manually. You can either turn off auto-focus once it’s focused on the subject you want, or just turn it off and manually focus it on the subject.

Ok, that will be my last word on the NX30. Hope it helps any of you who are looking to buy a camera.

And thanks to the 50,000 of you who, at this writing, watched the 2 Part Sony HXR NX30 review making it the most watched and highly rated video review of the NX30 on the internet.

Yeah, I heard some of your complaints about it too and agree with you, so I’ll  incorporate those points next time.

(hey, what do you know–this is my 50th blog post!)

Priceless

Brainstorm: one split second

Write script: 15 minutes

Shoot video: 30 minutes of ghastliness, 20 minutes of hiccups, 15 minutes of giggles, 15 minutes of magic and two stars are born

Edit video: 4 hours

Result: Priceless

Call me a Sucker

In my past life, amongst many other things, I was privileged to be a cameraman on multi-camera shoots for several concerts with extremely talented musicians. It was one of my great pleasures as a cameraman.

When I started the Video Whisperer, the first thing I did was a music video. For free. It so happens that it was that shoot that obtained the name “Video Whisperer”. While the young artist doesn’t want me to show the video anymore, it was (believe it or not) shot at night in the middle of a snow storm in our front yard in Montana. I had put an old piano out there the day before. It was on a trailer. I covered the wheel wells and protruding hitch with pine boughs which were then completely covered by an 8″ snowfall thus completely disguising the trailer. It just looked like a piano was sitting out in the middle of the forest. Then, on shoot day (night), I put a couple spot lights dimly on the pine forest in the background so it wouldn’t go completely black and lit the entire piano scene with a bunch of candles. The singer bundled up and, with an electric heater hidden under her coat, she performed a single take of an original song in –14C temperature. The next day in the bright warmth of just below zero we did some daylight rehearsals for a couple other songs. A few of our local deer (who we knew well) showed up to listen and that gave me some precious B roll for the performance the night before which I inter-cut with the song video. Later, some friends were watching this rather extraordinary performance, complete with wild deer in attendance, and I overheard one say to the other, “the video whisperer”.

Truth be told, I have no idea of what the context of the statement was. Nevertheless, I always prided myself in being “invisible” as a cameraman…not calling attention to myself, my camera or my craft; rather using my craft to hopefully catch life as it happens in a candid fashion, an art form in itself.

Needless to say I quickly searched Google to find if anyone already had the name. No one did.

Moving up to the present, though I mainly do business videos now, I was recently approached to shoot a gig for a young singer/songwriter who needed a video for submission to a university. I did it for cheap. And then did a music video for her for free. It was fun and a nice break from corporate videos.

So I’ve decided to offer the service to local (Grantham, Newark, Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, Peterborough–UK) talent for cheap. Recording sessions, gigs, and music videos. Way cheap. Anyone interested can go to this link for my site or comment here.

Maybe somewhere along the line I’ll help someone make the Big Time. And then, in a way, so will I.

Pure Frickin’ Magic–Sony HXR-NX30

Urban Legend has it that buried deep in the guts of the Boeing 747 somewhere is a little black box.

A young engineer once noted that in the schematics, the box was given the cryptic designation “PFM”. It seemed no one knew what the letters stood for.

Years later he tracked down one of the original engineers and asked him.

“Pure F..ing Magic” is what the old man told him.

Sony HXR-NX30, A Cameraman’s Practical Review

(Note: For the complete review, there are SEVERAL videos as well as written notes to be found below)

Related post: Unshackled Camerawork

Some Notes

1:  Shoots in full HD 1920 X 1080 at 50p, 50i, 25p, 25i and 1280 X 720 50p.  All the test shots in this video were shot at 720/50p .

2: There’s a multi-function knob at the front which you can press to assign a key function from a drop down list in the screen (color temp, focus, exposure, etc.) which then allows you to manually control that function from the knob. Using it to manually control color temperature is pretty cool as it is an infinitely variable control. You can just roll it until the facial tones or whatever look the way you want them to.

3:  There is also a feature called “My Button” whereby on the touch screen you can assign specific functions to 3 shortcut keys.  For example, I set mine to Focus, Exposure and  Color Temperature. By touching any of those, it brings up the options on that feature directly so you can turn them on or off or make them automatic or manual.

4: It has 96gb built-in flash memory and one card slot for an SD card.

5. File format is AVCHD and is totally compatible with FCPX

6. If your NLE does not support AVCHD native files, you’ll find solutions in your user group forums. For example, “Clipwrap” does a brilliant job of transcoding to .mov (Quicktime) and other formats with amazing speed and no quality loss. From the Clipwrapper site: “Support for all the popular editing formats (ProRes, DNxHD, etc) and non-linear editors (Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple iMovie)”

7. With the audio block removed, the camera fits easily in the palm of your hand. I found that, unlike other cameras I’ve had, this one is very practical for still photographs as well (21 megapixel). Switching modes back and forth is done simply by pushing a logically placed button (unlike my last camera which required finding a slider switch which was close to another slider switch with a different function–easy to mix up when not specifically looking for it)

For full technical specs, go to Sony’s site. For best UK price and fantastic service, go here: http://www.jigsaw24.com, and mention me and ask for a deal. Hey, I asked and they knocked another £15 off what was already the lowest price for that camera–and it was on my doorstep the next morning!

PRODUCTION SHOOT: LIVE GIG

I just did a one-man-band shoot of a live performance in a Music Bar/Steak House and this bears further comment on the Face Recognition and focus tracking capability of the HXR NX30…

I did the shoot with 4 cameras: 1) the GroPro Hero 3 Black Edition (from behind band), 2) Canon 600 DSLR locked on a side angle, 3) Canon XHA1 locked on frontal angle, 4) Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

Here we have the worst combination of factors for a cameraman shooting close-ups on a live shoot: Low light level, coloured lights, moving targets.

I simply could not have done this with with either the DSLR or the XHA1–or probably many similar cameras or larger ones.

The Sony HXR NX30, however, was a dream.

By using the auto-focus feature and Face Recognition, there was little to no lag on locking onto focus of the singer, even when she was moving forward and backwards. And certainly when there was a brief lag in the worst conditions of low red or blue light, the camera got it a hell of a lot faster than I could have manually. And when it got it, it held on. The truth is, I just didn’t worry about focus and was able to put my attention on the shot to hand or thinking ahead to where I was going to go next. This was the first I was ever seeing this performance–as I was shooting it, so I was glad I wasn’t introverted into a follow-focus nightmare at the same time because these hand-held shots were the only hope of close-ups. The other three unmanned cameras had to be framed loose to account for any movement that might occur within the frame.

I’ll link to one of the three songs I edited for the singer which will illustrate my point.

Here’s the NX30 in my first actual production situation, a short promo done for a local First Aid Service.

The opening scene utilizes the Active Mode stabilization for a steadicam look.

I ran in behind the actress, then moved laterally to the side and down, then stopped–not something you can do with any camera.

Finally, after a few months of using the camera in various productions, here’s a final report which contains some valuable information:

HXR NX30 Production Report

Related Post: HXR NX30 Image Stabilisation in Perspective

The Secret to Interviews, Part 2

Based on feedback, I’d like to post a few more tips on the subject of How to Do Interviews.

Bear in mind, the original post, was written to emphasize the most important of all these points; In line with what you’re trying too achieve marketing-wise or otherwise, find out what the person likes to talk about, be interested, listen to what they have to say, and acknowledge what they’ve said once they’ve said it. This is simply a partial distillation of the whole subject of good communication, and the original post expanded on that somewhat.

In the excellent feedback, others shared some of their tips in doing interviews, all things I’ve done myself as have many interviewers, so let’s round them up. Let’s also remember they are tips and tricks and can only really be effective if the point in bold above is also in place.

1.  An old film director trick is to announce a rehearsal to the actors on the set. He then winks at the cameraman who rolls the camera during the “rehearsal”. It’s a bit hit and miss, but often enough it’s the best take of the day.  A savvy director knows when to do this though based on his observation of the actors up to that point.

2. For an interviewer that same approach can be even more effective as he or she is often dealing with non-actors who are a bit put off by the camera and lights. So when everything is technically set up, the interviewer turns on the camera and sits down and starts “chatting about the up-coming interview.” Very relaxed and conversational. For example, ” I’d like to cover these various topics (A, B, C…). Which of those is closest to your heart? Chat about that one a bit and steer the person through the aspects that seem to make his eyes light up–the things he seems most familiar with or seems to like to talk about.

There are all kinds of things you can say to put him at ease along the way.  ” Go ahead, let your hair down, etc.”

Just lightly breeze through all the topics you want to cover.

(make sure you either turn off or tape off your red camera running light!)

Some of your best material may drop into your lap here.

Don’t say anything about it.

Finally tell him the “interview” won’t be any more complicated than that. Get up and “turn on the camera” and then proceed with the interview.

My advice is to start with his best topic (based on responses so far) and say, “I’m fascinated by your opinion on (Topic B). Can you tell me a bit more about that?”

You see, he’s already warmed up to the fact that this is easier than he thought it would be and now he gets to talk about something he likes to talk about and the interviewer seems interested in.

Now you’re set up to roll through the whole interview and have a good chance of getting even better material.

But please don’t tell them that you rolled the camera from the beginning. Maybe when the whole edit is done, sure, but not now. For one, you don’t want to come across as having “tricked” him or her, and secondly, you don’t want to introvert him into the process or start editing himself as he “said that already earlier”.

By the way, I’m not advising that you do this all the time. I don’t. But it can be helpful if you’re just starting off as an interviewer and learning the ropes of how to get usable material.

3.  Remember, an interview is simply a steered conversation. You don’t always have to ask a question to get an answer. It can be much more effective to make a comment on something they just said–which will get them to continue talking about it.  Or, when they seem confident enough, you can play devil’s advocate and state some opposing point of view–” you know, most people think______”, or, “I’ve heard (some opposing point of view)”, or “how do you handle people who think (opposing or different point of view)?”  and that gets them to really start explaining and expanding on the point.

4. Don’t turn off the camera. If you have to get up to adjust a light or mop some sweat off their brow, just let it run. You’ll kick yourself the day they say that killer line when the camera was off. And it happens all the time.

5. Don’t ever ask someone to “say something again”. Yep, if you screw it up and have to ask that question, you’ll never get it the same again because they’ll be trying to remember what they said as opposed to just communicating. It unnecessarily introverts them. Just work around it and try to come back from a different angle to get them to say it again. If you’re lucky, it will be even better. If you’re not, just kick yourself later.

6. Don’t ever ask someone to repeat something but with different wording, or ” can you say that and end with a smile this time?”  If you do that, don’t wait. Just kick yourself right there on the spot. That’s the mark of an amateur interviewer.

7. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a good statement has to be said with a smile. Conviction, yes. Emotion, yes. Heart-felt, yes. Smiles are optional. That “must smile” business is just years of conditioning to crappy Madison Avenue marketing where everyone is always smiling all the time which is a good part of the reason they’re so unconvincing. How many ads have you seen where people are pointing to and smiling at their laptops? Looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s just not real. Not 100% of the time anyway.

8. (thanks to David Bonyun for reminding me):  A great last question to any interview is some form of this one (and this is what I ask): “Is there anything I should have asked you and didn’t?”  David’s version is this: “Is there anything you wish I asked you about today that I missed?”

A good interviewer puts his or her interviewee at ease and then engages in friendly conversation that makes the person happy and willing to talk to you. That should be the easy part. The hard part is at the same time steering the interview to the end of obtaining quality, usable material for the purpose intended.

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