Sony is lending me a NEX-EA50EH, a full sensor Prosumer video camera in the 4000 pound range. Testing starts tomorrow. Want to see if it will be a good camera for corporate and wedding videographers. Looking specifically for depth of field and low light capability favoured by wedding videographers. Stay tuned! (and thanks to the 25,000 people who watched my Sony HXR NX30 review which has for a while been the top google search result for reviews on that camera).
How to Shoot a Live Concert with One Cameraman
First off, I’m not bragging about this piece as it’s flawed. That said, for the one-man-band and small production companies, there are some things worth sharing.
The video above was a live concert. It was, in fact, an album release event and this was the first time these songs were performed live in front of an audience.
And as I shot it, it was the first time for me too.
The trick was to shoot a live concert with only one manned camera and have it appear as a multi-camera shoot. This can be achieved pretty effectively with two cameramen and two or three unmanned cameras, but budget didn’t allow, so I had to pull it off the best I could with me, myself and I (one manned camera hand-held, two un-manned).
I used three disparate cameras: The Canon XHA1 (tape driven), the GoPro III Black Edition and the Sony HXR NX30. The Sony saved my bacon, despite the fact that I made a fundamental error with it. But more on that later on the “Things Not To Do” list. I could have (and should have) added a fourth–my Canon 600D, but that was assigned to still photographs.
In order to edit, it is necessary to cut between angles which are significantly different either in image size or angle or both. Preferably both. So the first task was to find camera locations where the locked off cameras would be safe and out-of-the-way. So the Canon was relegated to a balcony rail. Framing it was a “best guess” and I only had one shot. Turned out ok. Due to the extreme low frontal lighting level and due to the fact that the Canon is not particularly good at low light levels (unlike the Sony), at the editing stage I pretty much had to leave the image size alone. Zooming it in digitally would have betrayed a lot of grain.
The GoPro was placed at the back of the stage for two main reasons: 1) it is a completely different angle and so easy to cut to (and also dramatic due to the stage lights appearing in frame) and, 2) that rear angle can often be used to cover faults that would be revealed by frontal cameras (which can be anything including the performer having to swat a fly, scratch a nose–or, as happened in this case, sync manipulation). And when shooting a live event that hasn’t be rehearsed, it’s good to have a built-in fall back. As it turned out, it became a vital camera because we didn’t wind up using the live mix. Instead I synced the studio recording to the live event and that required some sliding of picture track here and there which then created gaps in the live camera edit that couldn’t be used. So the rear shots covered those momentary lapses of sync.
The Sony was the hand-held camera and here the task was to not only get the close-up camera coverage, but to run around like mad and obtain as many different angles as possible (to give some variation to the edit). You can imagine that 3 static cameras would give a very repetitive and boring edit. So the hand-held had to do the work of two or 3 other nonexistent cameras.
Sound was taken off the house mix board to a Zoom H2 recorder. Unfortunately it was not a good live mix and it was not a multi-track recording (so couldn’t be mixed in post) which is why it was decided to try to sync the studio recording to the live show.
I mentioned that the Sony saved my bacon. If you haven’t watched it, see the review I did on the Sony HXR NX30. It was the image stabilization and intelligent auto that did most of the work. As far as the “What Not To Do List” is concerned, I should have set it on “spotlight mode” since that camera was mainly shooting close shots of the singer in a spotlight against a dark or black background. That would have given me better exposure control in editing (if even needed). Not having done so gave me over-exposure to the degree that highlights were completely lost and unrecoverable. I could only mitigate it to some degree in editing. Nothing you can do when there’s no picture information there to adjust.
The Game Plan
With the two un-manned cameras and Zoom H2 set, through hard experience I knew that I’d have to start them all well before the show started. Shows rarely start on time, so don’t count on that. The trick is to start soon enough before the actual show start to give you a chance to get ready with the hand-held camera without your heart pounding from running all over the auditorium, but not so soon that batteries or tape will run out before the first act is over. (thank god for card-based cameras)
Also, through hard experience, I knew the value of closer reverse shots on the main performer (remember, the Go Pro is super wide). So I had to plan my route onto stage in order to get there and back as quick as possible. I knew that a reverse shot of the singer (playing guitar, for example) could be used to cover an edit ANY song where she was playing guitar. And sure enough, I needed it for this one–as little did I know at the time that I would be syncing the live performance to a studio recording! I only wish I had done at least one more different reverse with that hand-held.
Finally (also learned the hard way), when shooting hand-held close shots of the performer, you have to resist the temptation to dive out to another angle until an appropriate edit point. If she’s singing a note, let her finish it! Then dive. Re-framing as fast as possible and from as different an angle as possible, is the trick, but not so often that you wind up with only short usable bits. Its the main singer people want to see. Nothing wrong with holding on a close shot for a little while. It will usually be evident when a good point comes to be able to change to a new angle, knowing that while you’re doing that you’ll be cutting to the main frontal wide camera or the reverse.
Syncing Live Performance to Studio Recording
This is how I did it in FCPX:
1) laid down the main frontal camera on the time line
2) added the studio recording track
3) manually found a sync point. Played until it went out of sync and then cut the picture track. Then nudged the picture track left or right until the next portion was in sync. And so on. In this particular case there were about 4 points of sync correction, each of which gave me a 2-6 frame gap in the picture track.
4) Added the next camera track and found a starting sync point.
5) Then went to the exact edit points in the main picture track and made the same cut and shift in the next camera track–essentially creating an identical gap.
6) repeat 4 and 5 for the last camera.
7) If any of the above left a gap at the beginning (by reason of shifting any track to the right) I added slugging to the beginning so that all tracks have the exact same starting sync point.
8) Now I made each of the 4 tracks into a New Compound Clip, naming each one.
9) Then selected each of the new Compound Clips in the browser and created a multi-cam clip.
10) Edited the multi-cam clip in the usual way producing a rough cut of the show.
11) This, of course, left me with about 4 or 5 black flashes where the gaps were which I was forced to cover using my generic reverse angle of the singer or by cheating the GoPro reverse shot. (if the drummer showed enough to betray the sync, I cropped the GoPro shot to exclude the drummer).
12) Added a beginning and end title sequence.
13) Colour balanced.
This next song was a bit more complicated in that there were 8 different points of sync correction. Once it was all fixed up as in points 10-13 above we reviewed the whole thing and determined there were just too many reverse shots for “no apparent reason”. Of course we knew the reason and it was a mechanical one, not an artistic one. Fortunately there was some studio footage taken during the album recording, so we sucked that in and strung it out from a natural break in the song for about a minute.That took care of most of the sync correction edits seamlessly.
Now, the reason for the title “Don’t Try This At Home”, is that to really make it come across as professional (besides not making stupid errors like I did), is simply to have at least one more cameraman doing hand-held work. Better still, add a third static camera at a different angle (and so on). Now you can really start making it look like a large multi-cam shoot. I’m talking low budget high value here.
(I’ve done 14 camera live shoots too, but that’s a whole different ball game and price range!)
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Partnering with Web Marketing Firms
I doubt there’s anyone in the fields of Video Production or Marketing & PR that aren’t aware of the fact that the future of the internet is massively video-centric.
Yet there are Web Design companies, Web Marketing & PR firms that can’t provide video services.
And there are professional videographers and well as talented up-and-coming ones that are looking for clients.
What to do???
The question has just answered itself, hasn’t it?
A Real Example
My best business relationship is with a Marketing company. I was lucky. The MD was one of the few I’d met who understood long before most of his peers the direction and importance of video for both marketing purposes and SEO. His was a medium-sized, successful and expanding Business to Business marketing company with industrial clients.
He didn’t have video production capability, yet he knew he needed his clients to start establishing a video presence on the internet, and the sooner the better.
So he got me.
He didn’t have to hire me on as staff. All he had to do was test me out to see if I could deliver.
That done, with me at the other end of a phone call or email, he could now promote and deliver video to his clients along with all the other marketing and PR tools he provides in-house.
And since he was providing me with regular work (an average of one video per month for the last two years), I could offer him a lower rate for video services allowing him to add a fee that pays for the time he puts into the projects (he attends all shoots) while still providing excellent value for money to the client. In other words, having a professional video arm to his company doesn’t cost him a thing while at the same time allowing him to provide FULL SERVICE to his clients.
Just Do It
If you’re a Web Design, and/or a Web Marketing & PR company without video production capability it doesn’t have to cost you a penny to promote, advise and provide video services to your clients. Your business will instantly increase in size, stature and the ability to deliver results.
Shop around for a local professional videographer who can fit the bill.
Not a Big Production company. They can do it, but that’ll cost you. And it’s why you haven’t done it already.
To be clear, a “big production company” has staff and overhead. Minimally several people will be involved in your productions, even if small ones. Or they may pick and choose. Or have a full diary.
Look for a capable but small video company or lone operator with experience and judgement enough to be able to produce what’s needed or even better than hoped for and with lightning fast turn-around.
In England, you can start here: The Video Whisperer
For a further comprehensive list of professional videographers, go to the Institute of Videographers site, then click “Find a Videographer”
(to subscribe to this blog (free), or join me on Linkedin or Facebook, click the appropriate link(s) on the Home Page right-hand side)
Ok, it’s not viral, but it’s my best stat so far.
And it’s not about cats, fantastic feats or anyone famous.
It so happens to be the video review I did for the Sony HXR NX 30.
Turns out a lot of people have been interested in that camera.
It was the first-ever video review I ever did for a camera, and since I was a bit jazzed, I guess it came off okay. But the main reason I did the video was that I was disappointed in many of the reviews I had seen (even though I was sold on the camera), so I decided to do one from the point of view of a cameraman, not a geek. I wanted to put into it the sort of things I would have like to have seen myself.
Some Key Points
I also made sure that the automated transcript that YouTube generated was corrected and uploaded. (related post: YouTube Drops a Bomb)
I gave it a relevant title, which was pretty simple, because it said exactly what it was.
I also gave it relevant keywords.
Because it was well-received it got a lot of likes and almost as many comments (over 90 to date).
I made sure to answer every comment (and found out my replies counted as comments).
The interaction that occurred apparently caused Google to rank it high for relevance in organic searches.
Consequently my blog (this one) started received the vast majority of hits from Google organic searches by a factor of 8X. (the main source used to be Linkedin). In fact, as a result, this relatively new blog will also hit 10,000 views this week though 7500 of those views were of other articles.
On quality, I should say that I at least took the time to light the shot, dress nicely and record good sound using a lapel mic. It was shot on my Canon DSLR as I was using the Sony as a prop in the shot. (the Sony’s face recognition auto-focus would have done a better job, but overall the communication value over-rode any of the occasional technical errors on focus as I moved forward and backward in the shallow depth of field of the shallow depth of field DSLR).
I should further point out that in reviewing the “Audience Retention” YouTube metric, I can see that 33% of the viewers watched the entire 14 minute video. About half watched 7-8 minutes–still quite a long time. Ideally, of course, that metric would be near 100%, but what this tells me is that the video was highly relevant and interesting to over 3000 people, so I can consider it a success for the niche it addressed. I also know, by feedback, that quite a few people bought the camera because of this review, not other reviews. And, of course, I can study that audience retention graph and try to determine if there was any significant reason people started dropping off about half way through for consideration in the next video. It could be simply that’s not the type of camera they’re looking for and therefore no need to change anything. I have to consider the intended public. Some might realize it’s a Mini Cooper S when they were looking for an Aston Martin.
“Engagement” Counts, Not “Views”
Most of you may know by now that the “views” metric is no longer considered highly relevant for offering up organic search results. Mainly because that metric has been gamed (manipulated) for so long. Viewing time (length of time watched) is now considered an important metric for determining ENGAGEMENT. Add to that the number of “likes”, the number of times “favourited”, the number of times “shared” and the number of “comments” (which includes your replies to the comment) and the number of people who then “subscribed” to the channel (in this case, 77 new subscribers to date), and you have a truer picture of the engagement value of the video and its relevancy to search results. The higher all those factors combined, the higher it will rank for that general search result.
Update : 17 September Part 2 of the Sony HXR review (second video in that article), uploaded 3 months ago just hit 5000 views last night.
Update 23 September: The Trifecta. Today this blog reached 10,000 views. Now I know these are not big numbers, but is relevant to the point of this article about a video that ticks most of the engagement boxes. The Sony review video got 2680 total views on this blog. (The other 7770, as of this date, were on YouTube). As a direct result I got about double the number of subscribers on both the blog and on the YouTube channel. The actual YouTube engagement numbers at this date for that video are: 97 likes, 71 comments, 8 shares, 27 favorited and 81 new subscribers.
Obviously the next game is to top that.
Intention is senior to Mechanics.
When you mean to do something, no matter how small or big, no matter how simple or impossible, if one truly and purely intends to do it and then does it, it was the intention that carried it through to completion. It was the intention that guided all of the mechanics necessary to get it done. And by mechanics is meant tools and materials and stuff–and even the human body itself.
A short story:
I was once interviewing the employees of a rather bigger-than-life character. A couple of the lads were on the back of his yacht shooting at targets in the sea with a .45 hand gun. They weren’t having much luck. And they weren’t aware they were being watched. Suddenly the old man tapped one of them on the shoulder and said, “Give me that”.
He took the .45 and “BLAM, BLAM, BLAM”, hit all three of the targets.
Then he handed back the gun and said, “Just hit it”, and left.
It reminded me of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”.
You can add all matter of complexity into anything, most of which will prevent you from getting anything done–
If you think about it, all the best things you ever did or accomplished and which brought the greatest joy were driven by the purest of sheer intention. If you waver, you miss. Or you take a long time. Or produce a less than desired result.
I’m pretty sure this applies to Martial Arts and to the apparent miracles pulled off routinely by the best sportsmen and women around the world.
Intention is senior to mechanics.
So how does this apply to camerawork?
I had already sort of figured this out earlier in my camera career. By treating the camera as an extension of my eye and keeping my attention outward (whether I was on a tripod head, crane, dolly or hand-held) I was essentially eliminating a certain number of mechanical “vias” (like going from Point A to Point B via Point C, rather than going direct).
The trickiest was the Worrel geared head, and that’s where I sort of perfected my approach. With a geared head (designed for the heavy cinematography cameras) you’ve got one gear that does the pan and one gear that does the tilt, and you have to operate them together regardless of different speeds or degrees of movement of either the pan or the tilt. If you thought about it much, you simply couldn’t do it.
I’m sure you can think of similar complex actions that, once practiced, you execute “without thinking about it”. And when you find yourself thinking about it, you mess it up.
Another thing that complicated it was the need to hold your eye to the viewfinder on those big cameras–added to the fact that as you panned or tilted, sometimes the viewfinder was hard to keep your eye on–in which case you had no choice but to aim the camera like a gun.
So I used to sort of consider that cross hair in the viewfinder as a target that I would draw across the scene. I was well aware of composition needs, but by then that was second nature and tended to fall in place as I guided the cross hairs (and I’m talking about complex camera moves involving changing planes on multiple axes (plural of axis).
The advent of video assists suddenly eased some of the mechanics (no need to twist and crane your head and neck).
When I later heard the “just hit it” story, the full simplicity finally dawned on me. But it was with an understanding of the meaning of that statement. Intention is senior to mechanics.
So in camerawork, what are the “mechanics”?
It covers the camera itself and all of it’s mechanisms, the lens and the subject of optics, film and the subject of exposure, the camera mount (tripod, dolly, crane, etc.) and head, your hands, legs, eyes and everything else that holds that all together. And then there’s the stuff (people, objects, spaces) that move within your frame. It’s all the physical stuff and there’s lots of it.
When you’re brand new, you worry about all of these things and you might say that you’re introverted into the mechanics. Your stuff probably even looks mechanical. But with knowledge, practice and experience, your attention goes more and more outward and the mechanics just become an extension of your intention when framing and composing scenes.
And that’s what it takes–knowledge, practice and experience.
Even this is a rather complicated explanation of something which is itself a simplicity when it comes to explaining good camerawork.
The short version is:
Just shoot it.
Just Do It!
Ok, below is my first rather ambitious use of a Motion Template. It’s a two minute video. The template was about 30 seconds I think.
First of all, this template from Motion VX, can be opened up in Motion 5 and every parameter is available to be altered to suit. When I did open it in Motion I was astounded by the sheer mass and complexity of what was done by the creator to make that template. I promptly abandoned any idea of changing any aspect of it–primarily because I had NO IDEA of where to start.
So with some vague idea of future Motion Training to be scheduled, I proceeded to figure out a way to extend the template to suit my needs.
The first thing you discover when you try cut (edit) the template in the time line, it’s like there’s a rubber band inside of it and it all goes splooey. So you can’t simply cut out a section and copy-paste it for example. Doesn’t work.
The solution, however, is simple.
If you click on the template and make a NEW COMPOUND CLIP out of it, you can then cut it and it won’t affect the rest of the template. So, for example, if you want to cut out and duplicate (copy) a portion of the template, you can do that with impunity in a compound clip. Be sure to NAME the compound clip so that when it shows up in your event file you’ll know what it is.
IMPORTANT: You must import the template back onto your time line and make a NEW compound clip EACH time you want to use a different portion for a different purpose.
In other words, say there is one portion of the template you want to use two or three times in the edit. Every time you edit one of them, it will change the others as well. For example; if you duplicate one portion of the template which contains TEXT, and you want to use it in several places for DIFFERENT text, every time you change the text for your next edit, it will also change the text of your earlier edits because it considers your “copy paste” portion of the template to be the SAME.
So…re-import the entire template into the timeline, make it into a new compound clip, NAME IT for your new edit, and cut and paste the piece you want and then change the text for that portion. Delete the rest of the template and build your edit in this way.
I know, it sounds tedious and it is.
But that’s what you can do to manipulate templates without having to go into Motion to alter them.
And yes, I know, that’s the price you pay for being dumb.
I hope someone can point me in the direction of a good value-for-money way of learning Motion. Looks like you could make a killing producing templates!
By the way, after extending the template in the fashion described above, you can then use various transition tricks (or not) to smooth out the cuts you’ve created in the template. Since they were created in Motion, you will generally find there are FCPX transitions and effects that you can use to make it as seamless as possible. The template I used, for example, used a “raster” effect throughout the visuals. So whenever I created or added a new image that wasn’t part of the template, I just added the raster effect to it to help it integrate. etc. I also had to do some basic motion tracking with key frames to animate a few things to integrate with the template. Maybe I picked a rough one to begin with.
Oh, and I used more than one template to create this. All the “multi-screen” stuff was another template. The “screen crawls” were an FCPX effect to which I added the raster effect. Etc.
This video took too long to create and it isn’t perfect. But I learned a lot.
Hope this helps you, if you’re anything like me.
Here’s another one, a bit simpler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dqU9zI98aE
Overall I’m pleased that so many have found the review I’ve done on the Sony HXR NX30 helpful and informative.
I wanted to address a valid issue brought up by several people by giving a little more perspective to the image stabilization (“stabilisation” for you Brits).
When I first started watching video reviews of this camera I was somewhat disappointed in the short shrift given to it’s performance. A lot of talk, a lot of description, but very few actual shots, and some poorly done at that. Not really enough to get a feel for what the camera could do. So I decided to give it a go myself.
My shots were, on the other hand, perhaps somewhat exaggerated in that they were overly long. But I did that for a reason: It’s easy to put up a 3-5 second shot of the best bits which really doesn’t give you much time or opportunity to evaluate what you’re looking at. What I would want to see as a cameraman would be lots of footage under varying lighting conditions, varying focal lengths, and, in the case of stabilization, lots of examples of a long enough duration that I could get a feel for the camera’s potential.
So that’s what I did. And I didn’t edit out the bad bits. I showed you the whole thing, warts and all. And because the FCPX stabilization feature is so fast and easy (unlike FCP7), in many cases I plugged that in too.
That, of course, showed up some of the combined faults of both camerawork and the bad side-effects of trying to stabilize footage that’s a bit too shakey to begin with.
I had to assume most people interested in this camera were already familiar with the stabilization characteristics (or lack of) of their own cameras past or present.
So here was an “orders of magnitude” comparison–meaning, “here’s what I could knock off with little to no effort under the same conditions you might have tried doing the same thing with your current camera”.
In reality, NONE of those shots would ever be used as-is. Take the flat-out running shot behind the young girl. Such a shot would be part of an ACTION SEQUENCE and action sequences are generally fast cut with few shots on screen for any duration. Actions scenes are intercut from several cameras whether real-time or from subsequent re-takes of the same scene.
Consider those long walking shots. BORING. You’d never use any of those in their entirety in any production. You might use 2-5 seconds bits of any of them, but that’s about it.
So in APPLICATION (in the case of these hand held tracking, dolly or boom shots) one would hardly ever bother using any of the bad bits. It’s easy to say that one could get it perfect with a Steadicam, but the truth is, even Steadicam or Glidecam shots get blown and have to be re-taken. For that matter I’ve had my share of dolly and crane shots I wasn’t happy with and had to re-take.
It’s not easy to walk a camera hand-held in the first place. It takes some practice to minimize the natural tendency to bob up and down as you walk.
This camera doesn’t eliminate that. It minimizes it. So if you practice good technique in minimizing it and add to that a camera that minimizes it further toward something approaching the fluidity of a good steadicam shot, then you should start getting interested.
And if the result of your technique and the camera’s technology give you a result that is pretty steady and without any bobbles, then you have to option to stabilize it even more with your editing program–and with all these things at near optimum, you probably won’t get any bad side-effects such as jello. –That comes when the editing program stabilization (or indeed the camera’s built-in stabilization) are trying to handle too much at once. On the other hand, you could do it so well that you don’t even need to further stabilize it–realizing that in application you’re only going to see a few seconds of that shot in juxtaposition with many others. SURELY you can get it good enough that you don’t jolt the audience’s attention out of the arena with bad technique.
So remember there’s an editorial aspect to everything you shoot in terms of what will be actually used and how. Don’t expect perfection from the camera. Don’t expect perfection from your own technique. Just get them, through practice, to the highest standard you can achieve.
I, for one, prefer less equipment, not more.
The spirit of this review was that this camera allows you that freedom like few other camera’s or systems I have ever used. And at a truly inexpensive price.
The one thing that doesn’t come in the box with the camera, I assure you, is technique and judgment.
To be honest, I’ve used this camera in paid productions and made some embarrassing mistakes in each one. But that was my own fault, not the camera’s.
Live and learn.