Just An Fashioned Music Video

Just an old-fashioned music video–sans modern transitions, etc.

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.

Comment on Lighting and Grade

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.

 

Marketing a Sculptor (or anyone or anything for that matter)

If you’re English, you’ve probably heard of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, England’s most famous landscape architect.

Last year England celebrated the 300th year of his birth with events around the country all year long.

Brown was responsible for the landscapes of over 170 of Englands most famous estates. And, in England, when we say ‘estate’ we mean BIG house with LOTs of land. If you’ve ever been to England as a tourist visiting any one of these famous estates, chances are you saw Brown’s work, never realising that those ‘natural’ landscapes you were looking at were created by a landscape architect.

If you haven’t been to England but have seen Downton Abbey (filmed at Highclere Castle), well, that’s Brown too.

Anyway, one might assume there’d be a statue of Brown somewhere in England after all that time, but until a few days ago, there wasn’t. Nor were there any plans for one, even though a £1,000,000 was spent celebrating Brown’s birthday last year.

Enter my wife, Laury Dizengremel, sculptor.

Well, watch the video to see what happened. But the purpose of the video was not to simply document the making of the statue and it’s ribbon cutting on the Thames River in London last week. Rather it was to market the sculptor. And you probably wouldn’t think that when you watch it.

This brings me to something mentioned in an earlier post when I referred to a new chapter for the print release of the Run ‘n Gun Videography book (which, sorry, I haven’t gotten around to doing yet. The chapter, yes. The update, not yet).

The Chapter is called Marketing Viewpoint.

It’s simple. In order to market effectively you have to assume the viewpoint of the eventual target audience.

In this case, it’s a rather small audience–people who want a bronze statue made.

So, if you can remember, when you watch the video, try to assume the viewpoint of someone shopping for a sculptor to make a bronze statue that costs anywhere from $40,000 to $90,000 and up. That’s not money spent lightly. One has to do one’s homework.

Tell me what you’d think as that prospective statue buyer after you watch the video. Would you contact her?

In related news…

The other by-product of my trip to China is this video of Laury telling the story of how that whole ‘China Connection’ thing came about years ago…

Pure Frickin’ Genius–Jon Belew’s Light and Shadows Plugin

 

Lights and Shadows–A Must-have Plugin for FCPX by Jon Belew

Last week I watched Jon Belew demonstrate his new plugin, Lights and Shadows. It was a brilliantly done demonstration. He’s a very good teacher. (He also offers Skype training services incidentally). Anyway, I’ll link his video below because it’s much more informative than my trial attempt here, but when you watch it I think you’ll agree with me that this is one of the best and most useful plugins ever developed for FCPX. I don’t think there’s even one like it for any other NLE.

It gives you the opportunity to add any one of 6 main lights, a whole bunch of atmospheric lights, and, if you download his Cucoloris plugin (which is currently free), you can add in a number of window effects and even bring in your own custom ones. And, of course, there are a number of parameters on each that are controllable, giving you an infinite number of possibilities.

Why would you need this?

Well, as a run and gunner, I do have and use my lighting kit. But too often the circumstances of available location, backgrounds, colors, etc., are far from ideal. So one does the best as one can in the short time allotted.

I just got it today and played around with it for about 20 minutes.

I took a frame from a recent corporate video where I had that awful combination of bad problems. 1) It was night, so no window light. 2) I was forced to use 3 different light sources (my own 2 LED panels, one of my Floros–because I needed some fill–which the controlled ambient light from windows usually takes care of), and 3) I had to use portions of the overhead florescent lighting, 4) The walls were green (corporate colors) , 5) The interviewee was wearing the same green.

Embarrassed as I am to show it, here’s the original shot out of the camera.

You can see I have a key light up and to his right and a kicker/backlight to his left (because there was no room to properly position a backlight).

I added just enough fill and exposed it so that he was separated from the background which was more or less lit by the overheads.

I then graded it with FCPX Color and Color Finale Pro and got this:

Then I used CoreMelts SliceX Vignette Shape Mask, which looks like this in the viewer (after manipulation):

This was the final look:

Not a bad recovery. I must say, the CoreMelt Slice X Vignette mask is the best on the market and the only vignette that gives you various parameter controls so you can shape it any way you want.

So, for my little test, I took off the vignette and played around with Lights and Shadows. If it was for real, I probably would have spent a lot more time on it to get it just right, but I must say, it was a lot of fun seeing what could be done even on a rudimentary basis. With more practice, I should be able to master it.

 

Here’s another before and after:

Here’s Jon’s video.

Do watch it. You’ll be impressed, I’m certain.

Here’s his web site. (the plugins are under the ‘FCPX Effects’ tab):

https://jonbelew.com/

Behind-the-Scenes Video, Run and Gun Style

That's me, The Video Whisperer, all dolled up for a cameo in 'The Wyrd'.

That’s me, The Video Whisperer, all dolled up for a cameo in ‘The Wyrd’.

Wyrd

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to Modern English weird, which retains its original meaning only dialectally.
Last March I did my first ‘behind-the-scenes’ video of a film shoot run and gun style.
Maybe that’s how they’re all done, I don’t know.
It’s a short film called ‘The Wyrd’ featuring Richard Rankin and Ella Road scheduled for release at various film festivals over the next several months. It was written and directed by my step daughter and shot in the woods behind our cottage in the East Midlands.
For 5 days I went out occasionally and shot footage of the crew at work. I also did some shooting of what they were shooting.
On the last day I stole some talent and crew off the set and did some interviews.
It then took me about 3 days to put this edit together.
Shot on both my Sony HXR NX30 and PXW X70 at 50p.  All hand-held except for sit down interviews.
Edited on FCPX with Color Finale.
Neat Video noise reduction used on some of the night scenes.
Note: This upload took 6 days on my super-duper English countryside broadband. It’s got a glitch toward the end and Richard Rankin’s face came out a bit too red in the interview, both of which I’ll fix one day when I’m near a faster broadband.
If you haven’t read Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, everything about shooting this sort of thing is covered in that eBook by The Video Whisperer.

Upselling

tcc-grab

Giving a Client More Bang for the Buck

Many months ago I recall making mention of a project I was working on with Leapfrog Marketing that was particularly rewarding. But I wasn’t able to share it or any of the additional videos that resulted at the time because their public release was predicated on the culmination of a marketing strategy, including a new website.

On a hunch, I checked their website tonight (having done so several times over the past few months to no avail), and viola!  Their new website is now up with a couple of the videos embedded on the home page that played very nicely. I was impressed. After a quick check I saw that all 9 videos were on the site.

So now that they’re public, it’s fair game and I’ll share them with you here.

As most of you who follow me probably know, I’m a video guy firstly. Marketing is not actually my strong suit. But since video is all about MESSAGE and marketing is all about MESSAGE, it is inevitable that even I can turn one video commission into multiple ones.

So I called this post ‘Upselling’.

Honestly, it’s something any sales person would do in almost any circumstance. And many of us find that quite annoying.

But this is really about educating a client who may not fully realise how unique or valuable his product or service is and offering him a way to maximise the value of a video commission. It’s a win-win situation.

In this case, the client wasn’t actually my own. It was the client of a marketing firm, Leapfrog Marketing, that uses my services. But no matter if it’s my client or the client of a Marketing firm, (and I do this in both cases) if the initial brief for video services indicates to me that multiple properties can be obtained from the main shoot for the benefit of the client, I would be remiss to not mention it and the potential economy and benefits in doing so right at the outset.

In my experience, in most cases, the client goes for it.

The math is simple.

One shoot day, one video.

Or one shoot day, 3 videos obtained from the same original shoot material at a considerable discount.

It requires planning, and the additional cost of the additional editing, but offered up front as a package discount, suddenly your one video becomes 3 and your $2000 becomes $3000 for an additional two days work. (Those numbers are completely arbitrary, but give you the idea…)

In this case, with Leapfrog’s client Total Community Care, it became evident to me almost immediately that their brief had the potential of multiple video products from the requested shoot of a single video that would be to THEIR benefit.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this straight off, but certainly once I shot the initial video (several interviews and relevant B roll), it became evident to me that at least 3 more testimonial videos could be edited from the same material.

They agreed.

So one video became 4.

They were so pleased they requested a second video; this time at their corporate headquarters featuring the executives.

This time I noted that they had enough material from the executives for the initial video they requested PLUS 4 more videos from those same interviews that answered Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS).

They agreed.

One video commission grew into 9 videos.

So that’s it on how to increase your income.

Now back to ‘video guy’.

The reason this project was so enjoyable was because the people were so interesting, and interesting people make for an interesting story.

As in almost all my videos, they are interview driven.

I (or we, in the case of Leapfrog Marketing) go there with no preconceptions of what should be said and we just interview the people.

It is my job to take the hours of interview and distill them down into the marketing story.

These videos were mainly about a Care Company that specialises in caring for paralysed patients with spinal or brain injuries.

My only opportunity for B roll was to shoot as much footage as I could of the interviewees whenever I could in the limited time they were there. That was made slightly difficult since they were often arriving during another interview (and all I could really shoot was arrivals, departures and whatever activity occurred in the lounge when I was not shooting an interview). So whenever I was between interviews I ran around like a banshee shooting whatever I could. In the end, I used every last scrap of it.

The primary video (the original one asked for) was 7 minutes long.

Might seem a bit long, but here’s where you just don’t get stuck on some arbitrary time limit like you read about on internet forums? Consider your intended audience.

If you’re paralysed and are looking for a care company, the length of a video has absolutely NO BEARING on whether you are going to watch it or not. It’s the content that matters. You have nothing but time.

It’s not that I made it unnecessarily long. I feel I made it long enough to get the point across with clarity, conviction and emotional impact. I made it for the potential new client for Total Community Care.

Marketing is a subject designed to CREATE WANT. Time (‘videos must be 2 minutes or less due to attention span, blah, blah, blah’) is irrelevant.

Make up your own mind. If you were paralysed and unable to get out of bed or go to the toilet without assistance, much less go shopping or go to the pub, would you watch this?

Primary Commission video

All of the following videos were directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

(Shot on Sony PXW X70/Sony HXR NX30, Edited on FCPX, with Color Finale)

 

And the videos derived from the two shoots:

Testimonials

2nd Shoot, TCC Execs

And the FAQ videos derived from that shoot

Color Grading Tools for Hogwartians

Color grading is relatively new to me, so I’m not an expert, but so far it has enabled me to not only make shots look better, but has allowed me to dramatically improve the look of interview shots.

Denver Riddle of Color Grading Central originally introduced me to the whole subject when he released Color Finale for FCPX. It’s an invaluable tool and I highly recommend getting it.

FCPX has some powerful grading tools itself in its Color pane. It’s more powerful than many people realise, but I’m not going to attempt a tutorial that others would be much better at.

Instead I want to show you a couple recent examples, starting with a little contest Denver Riddle posted on the FB Color Grading Central page.

I’m also going to tell you about the amazing vignette tool from Slice X and show you how and why I used it in grading a few shots. It is definitely way better than the built-in FCPX tool because you can infinitely manipulate it.

I’ll put the links to all these things at the bottom of the post.

First, here’s what Denver posted and asked people to grade:

boy+meets+girl_1.1.1

And here’s what I did with it:

Boy Meets Girl

Hundreds of people posted their grades in response to Denver’s challenge. Mine seems to be one of the few he commented on directly saying it was a nice color balance. I was kind of chuffed, though he said there was too much separation from subject to background. On that I had to disagree. It is one of the primary things I try to achieve with lighting first, and grading afterwards because it creates more depth and 3 dimensionality. But in fairness, I didn’t spend that much time on it and there were still some things I wanted to do to improve it. He might have had a point. Too much separation? Anyway…

I did this grade using both the FCPX color pane and Color Finale. The FCPX color pane, amongst other things, gives you the ability to isolate shapes which you can then adjust independent of the surroundings. In this case I isolated their faces and graded them separate from the background. Most of the color work on the background was done using Color Finale which allows you to independently control the hue, saturation and brightness of the  main color components (along with many other things).

Finally I used Slice X vignette to direct attention to the subjects.

All of these things are key-framable. Since this is a still shot, key-framing was not necessary of course.

SLICE X Vignette Shape Mask

Here’s a screen grab of Slice X Vignette in use:

Slice X

Unlike most vignette tools, including the one in FCPX, this one is infinitely controllable in terms of shape and axis. Like all the others, you can also control the density, size and softness of the vignette. But this is the only one where you can also shape it and change its axis. Here are the properties that you can vary from within the inspector in addition to the on-screen controls you see above:

Slice X Inspector

Ok, now for real life.

For those of you who read Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooters Survival Guide, you’ll know I covered the subjects of lighting both generally and specifically in regard to interviews. Lighting is the lifeblood of cinematography and is much more effective in creating that ‘cinematic look’ than shallow depth of field alone.

Here’s an interview shot I did recently as it came out of the camera:

Peter ungraded

It was not without some problems.

While I did manage through lighting to effectively separate him from the background in a white room (turned off all overheads, closed the window blinds, skimmed the back wall with a light to give the impression of of an off-scene window while controlling the spill from hitting the opposite wall as much as I could and gave him facial modelling and a backlight–both of which I had to severely control with black foil to avoid spill). The trouble with white rooms is that light bounces all over the place. So this was pretty good and I could have left it as it was, but there was another problem I hadn’t realised at the time. It was shot with relatively high gain (unnecessarily) and so is a bit grainy. You’ll see what I mean if you click on the picture to see it full-sized.

Here’s what I did with it:

Peter grade

 

Grading was done with FCPX and Color Finale. Then I added the Slice X vignetting tool subtly. I also used Neat Video to de-noise it. The result, I think, is that the shot has more depth and dimension.

And one final sample and a small test:

 

Duchess ungraded

Duchess grade

The first one was out of the camera, the second one graded. But what may be of more interest is the lighting. See that big window in the back? Well, there were three more to the left which effectively lit up the whole room. I closed the heavy curtains on the side windows. Then I placed a softbox in the floor in the background (left) to create a fake light from the (now dark) window being sure to keep it off the walls. Now I was able to light her with a relatively low intensity softlight and have her more dramatically separated from the background. I gave her a backlight and a little frontal fill which also gave her eye lights.

As I told Denver, this is what I try to achieve with almost any shot–separation of subject from background which can be achieved with focus or lighting or both. (In this case lighting was going to carry the job as the focal length was wide and the depth of field too great)

.

I could have done it more telephoto (which can also be more flattering), but chose this because she is a Duchess in a castle and I felt the grandeur of the room was important to include.

Now for the test:

Did you notice the microphone in the shot ?

(I didn’t think so–which is why I left in in there rather than crop the shot)

Because of the depth and because of the directing of attention to her face, what is it that you look at when you  see this shot.? Her face, right?

Our little secret.

 

Links

Color Grading Central Facebook page

Color Grading Central Website  (where you can get Color Finale)

Slice X Vignette Shape Mask

Neat Video De-noiser

Run ‘n Gun Videography eBook

 

 

Confessions of a Run and Gunner

The Ritz

 

Warning: This is an 11 minute video. The  subject is St. James’s Square, London, one of the most historical and prestigious districts of London.  All of the following will be of no value at all if you don’t plan on watching it. This is for those of you who plan to.

This video is not typical of what I do, but I treated it like any other that I do. And all that is covered in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It wasn’t typical, because it is long (11 minutes).

In the book I talk about how to do and edit interviews. Up until now, I’d say for an hour of interviews, I cut out on average about 50% or more. That means all of my questions and all of the answers that I know I won’t use. What’s left is what I use to construct the narrative.

In this case, I had just over an hour of interview, and with my questions cut out, over 95% of is was totally usable. That’s never happened before.

This was a case of a very educated, experienced and articulate Brit. There are many like him. I just never got to interview one. And I’ve done over 1000 interviews.

I already knew I was going to produce multiple properties from his interview, but when it came to the first one–an overview of the St. James’s Conservation Trust, when I got it reduced down to about 11 minutes, I felt I couldn’t cut it down any more without losing.

Sure, he didn’t say it all in the order your hear it, but in crafting an overview and knowing that it’s first showing would be to a prestigious event in St. James Park attended by a lot of very important people, I felt I just had to work with that 11 minutes and make it as visually interesting as possible.

That was what was different about it.

As to the rest, it was all hand-held, except for the interview of course.

Why is that worth bringing up?

Well try going around St. James Square and in the vicinity of a working palace and other important clubs and high-end shops in the heart of historic London with a big camera and a tripod and see how far you get.  The client was even concerned that I get all the right ‘permissions’. I told him, “don’t worry about it”.

All that B roll was shot with my teeny weenie Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

The interview was shot with my Sony PXW X70. And guess what? I somehow screwed that up, inadvertently shooting with high gain.

Though we were in the offices of the Ritz Hotel, we weren’t able to get a suite in the Hotel for the shoot. I was your typical white room. So to get that interview look I had to 1) apply Neat Video de-noiser to it, 2) use Color Finale to get the best separation from subject to background (after doing my best with foil to keep spill lights off the back wall) and , 3) Used the vignette tool from Digital Rebellion (it’s awesome–much better than the FCPX tool, because you can manipulate it on all axises, control its shape, ctc.)

TIP: When using Neat video, get your look, then disable it. It’s very processor intensive and whenever you change an edit it will want to re-render again. So get your look, disable it, and when you’re all done, re-enable it and let it render everything one time.

The other regular practices were shooting tons of B roll and how I found a stock music piece that worked (two in this case) and made them seem like they were written for the video. Seriously, if you manage to watch it once through, try again and just listen to how the music plays to and enhances the narrative. It was pretty magical–considering it’s stock.

B roll:  As much as I preach about shooting TONS of B roll to cover your edits, even I, in this case, did not shoot enough. In fact I made 3 trips to London in all. And still didn’t shoot enough. There was just SO MUCH covered in more than an hour of interview, I was lucky to scrape by in order to produce this one (and the next one I’m working on now). More properties will probably develop from this, and when that happens I’ll edit the narrative first and then get back on a train to London with a list…

Shooting handheld:  Shooting hand-held is one thing. You should also know that for almost all of these hand-held shots I applied 50% slow mo. And in most cases ALSO added stabilisation. Some from FCPX and some using CoreMelt’s ‘Lock and Load”.  Also (did you know?) that once you apply any kind of speed change in FCPX, you can then select a video standard of either ‘frame blending’ or ‘optical flow’. I used optical flow which smooths it out just a little bit more. Also, in some case (shooting those wall plaques), I shot them both as stills (on the NX30) and as slow zooms. In the edit I wound up animating the stills rather than using the zooms. And finally, (as dictated by the edit and conformity with surrounding shots, i.e. continuity), I also often applied manual key-framed zooms to my shots.

Marketing yourself: Also covered in the book. Relevant here is this: Sometimes you do something for cheap with malice aforethought. I had done another video for an organisation that had often asked but never hired me. Finally I did a birthday video for the daughter’s 18th. That was so well received I was asked to do one for the organisation–for cheap. I did it because I knew their upscale clientele would see it and it would likely get me more business. It got me two commissions worth £6000, including this one.

Now you know all my secrets.

Ok, so this is run’n gun. As covered in the book, it ain’t perfect. It won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the various film geeks out there. But it does the job and the stuff that the geeks will gleefully point out won’t be the things that the intended audience will ever see or concern themselves with.

The test is, does it get the message across with clarity and impact.

 

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