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

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.

 

Using Photographs in Video

(From the Run and Gun Videography blog, for those of you who don’t follow that one). Thought I’d repost it here as I haven’t posted anything in a while (super busy!)

Belvoir Castle's Capability Brown Landscape thumbnail

Nothing revolutionary here, but I haven’t posted in a long while.

This could be titled ‘Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear’.

It’s Spring here in England, but with cold weather lingering, Spring has been struggling to arrive.

The gardens at Belvoir Castle are open now and the Duchess of Rutland wanted to promote them in a timely fashion–that is, promote them to potential visitors.  There’s another good reason to promote these particular gardens. This is the 300th anniversary of the birth of England’s most famous landscape architect–Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (who designed the landscapes of over 170 of England’s mosts famous estates) and Belvoir Castle was his last project. It was never realised while he was alive and never completed.

A few years ago his plans were found in the Castle archives and the Duchess of Rutland set out to complete them. It was the subject of a 3 hour television show here in England last Autumn, and now that it’s Spring and the gardens are open, it’s the perfect time to promote them as such.

But Spring has been stubborn in it’s arrival, so there would be no live footage of the beautiful gardens and landscape.

What to do?

I suggested to the Duchess that we use the photographs from her book on this very subject and update the video later with live footage that I can take over the next few months.

Now that it’s done I don’t think I’m going to do it, because I like this video the way it is. So I’ll probably just do another video using some of this interview material and other bits I didn’t use.

Very often I make a video that exceeds my own expectations, given the production circumstances. This was one of them.

There’s not really much to say about how to use photographs in a video. Many go for the ‘Ken Burns’ effect. I just manually animated them very simply. The real trick is choosing the right photo that helps forward the narrative.

There are two other things that make it a good video in my opinion. All these techniques and approaches are covered in detail in the Run ‘n Gun Videography E Book (centering around message, of course), but in this case–since it was really only an interview and still photos, the strengths were lighting to make her look good in an appropriate environment (her home at Belvior Castle) and music.

The lighting is what it is. 3 lights used judiciously in a large space. But in this case it was the music that really did it’s job. In the book I covered the subject of using ‘stock music’. The trick is to make it appear to have been specifically scored for this specific video. Music has the role of forwarding the messages as much as any other technical subject does. Too many people just tack on music for no reason and to no advantage. I won’t go over my procedure in detail here (that’s covered in detail in the book), but I would like you to note how the subtle shifts of music sync up to the narrative and pictures being shown. That’s the real magic as far as I’m concerned. Because that composer had no idea that his music would be used for this video. Yet I think anyone would be hard pressed to think that it was not. How this is done, I’m afraid you’ll just have to read the book.

Sorry for the shameless promotion, but this blog is meant to be a supplement to the book anyway.

For anyone interested in the Capability Brown story, several months ago I did another video. This time it featured your truly, the Video Whisperer.

It’s a fund-raising video and I really thought it should be done by an English person–but that got too complicated, so in my brash American approach to getting things done, I said, “well fine, I’ll do it myself”…

By the way, the sculptor Laury Dizengremel, is my wife. The statue has, since this video, has been cast in bronze on our dime. So if you’d like to contribute ANY amount–whether you’re an Engishman or just a follower of the Video Whisperer, any donations will be appreciated. Just go to to the link at the end of the video to donate a tuppence or two.

Run ‘n Gun Music Video?

Abi Moore

 

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

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

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

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

Then Abi messaged me urgently.

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

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

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

So we did just that one evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lie Back and Think of England

 

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

This is my first crowd funding video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the crowd funding page with the video.

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

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

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

Please donate.

Thank you,

The Video Whisperer

A Good Corporate Video Sample

corporate video

(from the Run and Gun Videography Blog)

The Lone Shooter: One day shoot, 2 day edit

I think this is a great example of a corporate video combining many of the chapters of Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide including:

  1. Message
  2. Using local talent
  3. Interviews
  4. B roll
  5. Music

The Message

The message is clear by the content of the narrative (which was distilled from about 40 minutes of interview), but also by choice of B roll. Yes, the use of relevant B roll shots is standard in editing this type of interview, but additionally there are shots in there one might not realise are important–unless you are in this business and know what you are looking for. And for those potential business clients, they will have seen what they are looking for: the top tier German machines in use at the plant. That’s why you see their names prominently in some of the shots.

Local Talent

As to local talent, in this case we used the co-managing directors who are brothers.

To my surprise, it was the younger brother (who appears first) who was the most put off by the camera. In fact, in looking at the footage I noticed his head appeared to be physically straining away from the camera as if to get as far away from it as possible. Correspondingly, there was a lot more to edit in his interview (pauses, ums, ahs, stumbles, etc.), all of which is hidden under the B roll. The end message of the video, however is carried entirely by him. And there’s a reason for that: He was asked the magic interview question at the end. I pointed out that they had a very successful and growing business in a niche market and that they had been at it for a very long time, growing all along the way. “So”, I asked him, “What makes you get up in the morning? What is your passion for this business?” (or words to that effect). His response is entirely uncut. I let it roll even despite a few long pauses because it was so obvious that he was completely sincere. And his message was in perfect alignment with the message of the video in its whole.  Who wouldn’t then want to do business with this guy?

B roll

It might appear, in some cases, that the B roll was shot after the interview to fit so nicely with a few bits that were being said, but no. It was all shot first. But I shot so much that I was able to fit shots very nicely to what was being said as if I had shot it afterwards or to a script.

Music

I must have spend an hour and 1/2 looking for a suitable piece of music for this video. Thanks to the search parameters of Audio Jungle (and now Audio Blocks) which allowed me to search for a pretty exact length, I was able to preview dozens of potential fits. Then I found this one. To my absolute amazement, I laid it down and didn’t have to do a thing to it. No editing. No adjusting. It’s entirely uncut. It fits the beginning and end titles, and, if you listen carefully, it even does several things along the way that would convince you that it was scored specifically for this video.

I liked this music so much that when I was editing a promo video for my sculptor wife I had it in the back of my head to see if it would work. Turns out the same thing happened. It just dropped right in as if it was written for that video too. That’s one magical piece of music.

Other Notes

It was a one day shoot and two day edit.

For those interested, it was shot on the Sony PXW X70 in AVCHD mode.

The interview lighting was done with 2 LED Flexlites which I reviewed in this blog. The ‘kick’ you see on the side of their faces would appear to be from the background windows, but was actually created by one of the Flexlites dialed way down. The frontal fill was another Flexlite opposite the backlight. Fill was simply ambient light in the room with the intensity of the key light being set to achieve a 2 1/2:1 contrast ratio with the ambient fill.

Edited on FCPX. Color balanced with Color Finale.

Oh, and did anyone notice I added the sky, clouds and sunbeams to the opening shot? (it was a lousy day in Leicester that day)

The following video was directed and produced by Leapfrog Marketing (Alan Myers – 0116 278 7788) in association with The Video Whisperer.

And just for a bit of fun, here’s the video I did for my wife with the same music:

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