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/

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.

 

Free Book Offer: Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide

Run 'n Gun Videography

I’ve decided to enrol in KDP Select which gives me some promotional options including making the book available for FREE for 5 days.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m doing it for two reasons.

  1. I’m locked into KDP select for 90 days during which period the book can only be available on Kindle. So that gives me a sort of deadline for making the book available in soft cover and putting it on other platforms. I can’t promise it, but it’s a good target for me because I’m going to be pretty busy before then anyway. Plan is to update it and make it available in hardcover next fall.
  2. Though the book has sold a few hundreds copies, it’s only gotten about a little over 30 reviews between the UK and US markets. They’re all good reviews, but I’d like to see a lot more reviews.

The Free Download Offer is NOW LIVE on Amazon and runs through Sunday.

I hope that most of my subscribers here who don’t have it yet will take the opportunity to download it.

In exchange I have a humble request: Please review it on the Amazon page once you’ve read it.

US Amazon Link

UK Amazon Link

Available world wide.

YouTube Analytics

YouTube analytics

I recently produced a short promo video that performed surprisingly well in its first 5 weeks online. In fact, it’s out-performed any other video I’ve produced like it.

When a video performs well or badly, YouTube analytics is a handy and comprehensive tool to determine why.

You’ll find the analytic metrics in your  YouTube ‘video manager’.

The metrics I tend to be interested in are, 1) traffic sources, and, 2) Audience Retention. There are a lot more metrics being tracked including views per country, viewer demographics, etc.

Traffic Sources

Traffic sources tells you if the video is being viewed from the YouTube watch page (organic search), as a suggested video by Youtube (someone watched something else and Youtube suggested yours to watch next) from an embedded website, etc.

Audience Retention

Audience retention can be viewed as ‘absolute retention’ or ‘relative retention’.

‘Absolute’ tracks every minute your viewer watches your video. It shows you where they start dropping off and also tells you if they watch it more than once or watch certain parts over again (indicated when the retention percentage exceeds 100%).

‘Relative’ compares your video’s performance with other videos that YouTube deems similar to yours. Here you can see if your video is performing average, above average or below average.

As I mentioned in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, it is folly to expect that 100% of people watch your video all the way through. Even popular viral videos probably don’t achieve that. For one, there are those who click on it and click right off realising it was not what they were looking for. For two, they tend to click off when they perceive it is done if they do watch it all the way through, but may not stay on for any ‘end credits’. For three, people may stop watching when you’ve ‘sold’ them on whatever it was you were trying to do (in the case of business or fund-raising videos, product videos, etc.) –and that would be the purpose of the video in the first place.

“Attention Span”

This is not a metric, but it bears mentioning that you’ve all heard that videos should be ‘such and such’ a length due to the ‘short attention span’ of people. This is simply false. A video can be as long as it keeps the attention and interest of the intended audience period. Any other datum is simply the confession of video producers who produce crappy videos.

As an example, my most popular videos (the NX30 and X70 reviews) were both long videos. 14 minutes I believe for one and the other was even longer. Yet between them I think they’re well over 175,000 views with tons of engagement (comments, likes, shares, emails to me, etc.) and the audience retention is about 35% which I think is quite good. Look at it this way: 60,000 people watched the entirety of both videos.

But my recent promo for the Belvoir Castle shoot exceeded even that.

It appeared that Belvoir Castle uploaded the file I gave them directly to their servers, so that was not a source of the views counted by YouTube. The other site it was embedded on was Guns and Pegs (which was a YouTube link), but I doubted it was delivering that many views. So I had a look to see what was happening.

Traffic sources

Turns out only 21% came from embedded websites. 43% came from the YouTube Watch Page and 1/3 of all views were because of YouTube suggesting the video when someone was watching something else similar.

Thus, nearly 3/4 of all views were the result of an organic search.

Next I looked at audience retention.

Absolute retention

Here I found there was a very high retention rate (73%). Roughly 3/4 of all viewers watched the entire 4 minute video.

Relative audience retention (how the video performs compared with similar videos), showed it to be ‘above average’ through most of the video.

Relative retention

How did they find the video?

That is attributed to the relevant title, tagging and description I gave it. (mind you, this is for a targeted public–those who are interested in paying big bucks to shoot on a country estate, and to a lesser degree, those generally interested in the subject of shooting or Belvoir Castle).

Why did they watch as much of it as they did?

That can only be a measure of the quality of the video to get and keep their attention.

As you can see, using these analytics, one could go back and modify a video to improve it by seeing where attention drops off, evaluating what caused it and then remedying it. As for me, I usually just let it go if it seems to be doing its job.

There’s a chapter in the Run ‘n Gun Videography ebook that goes into greater detail on how to optimise videos for YouTube, and even then, there’s much more to it than I covered. But I did cover the essential basics based on my own experience.

Message

Message is a big subject in that book and it might interest you to know that when I produced this particular video, the client had quite something else in mind. It took some fancy dancing to go ahead and produce it the way I did and then get them to watch it with a looming unalterable deadline facing us. After all, it was their interest I had in mind, not any desire to make myself look good. They loved it, so again, the point made in the book about the seniority of message was well proven as the video’s performance in the first 5 weeks has been very positive. You just have to understand and be able to clearly communicate the intended message and disregard ideas to the contrary.

FCPX–Cutting a Live Show Using the Multi-cam Editor

Just saw this short clip showing a sample of cutting a live show (cameras still recording) in the multi-cam editor in FCPX on a Mac Pro.

It’s a 4-camera sample and the live recordings are happening at the same time on the same Mac Pro whilst the shots are switched live in the multi-cam editor. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for 6,9 or 12 cameras.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WuJotQsB7Y&feature=youtu.be

Boris FX Filter Package Giveaway

Boris (1) Features: 21 Filters & 300+ Presets • Stagelights, Spotlights & Volumetrics • 3D Lens Flares & Sweeps • Glitters, Glares & Glints  • Cross-host License Compatibility:  Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, FCP X (Motion 5), Resolve, Sony Vegas Pro Operating Systems:  MAC OS-X, Windows Note: Go through the entire ordering process.

With the coupon code entered ‘bcclights’ just before hitting ‘submit order’ the price will change from $299 to $0. Valid until 31 July 2015. http://www.borisfx.com/store/products/continuum-units/lights/

Here’s another link for the same: http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=067f5a758fc7da9813d25d913&id=1f0ee7e88c&e=38a1b4f538

Some have replied to the first one saying “it doesn’t work”. It will work. If you’re not a current Boris FX customer and don’t have a login you do have to register. And you do have to fill in everything, including card details. The coupon window will be there the whole time, but the ONLY time it matters is after all other details are entered. You then enter the code and then hit submit. The price will change to $0 and where your card details were entered it will say (to the effect), “payment details not required”.

I received my download link and have downloaded and installed. So don’t worry. All they’re getting out of this is your email address and your details so that–if you want–you can easily order and pay for anything else in the future.

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