Using Photographs in Video

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.

 

 

What Makes A Video Good?

 

Belvoir shoot (1)

Last September I put up a blog post on this video called Out of Thin Air, which was in reference to the two day time span that particular video was shot in to make a publishing deadline. There was a national tv programme on Belvoir Castle scheduled to broadcast on the subject of Capability Brown and one of the shoot guests, a marketing man, suggested to the Duchess that she capitalise on the exposure and interest it would generate by getting a video up on the Guns and Pegs website to promote the Belvoir shoot.

Well, that was a good call. They just had a record year at the Belvoir shoot.

I can only say the video probably had something to do with that. All I have are the video’s analytics look at. I’m not able to do any correlation to Belvoir’s income at this time.

But at this writing I can say it’s one of my best performing videos with over 8500 views in 4 months at this writing.

Analytics suggest that the views are all the result of organic search and/or YouTube suggesting the video to a similar search. Besides, I know for a fact that there was no marketing done for this video aside from my titling and tagging it and their putting it onto the Guns and Pegs website where it plays back in a very small window.

Most of my views are usually from the U.S., even though I live in England. This one, however, has most of the views coming from the UK.

The retention rate (what percentage of the entire video that people watch) is quite high at 72%. However, 60% of the people watch it straight through practically to the end. It starts to drop off as the Duchess does the ‘come to Belvoir’ call to arms in the last few seconds of the video. You can see the analytics screen grabs at the bottom of this post.

It’s my feeling that the reason they drop off at the end is they’re already sold, which is what should happen. A ‘call to arms’ is there to tell people what to do and who to contact. In the case of Belvoir, that may be a moot point. Everyone in the shoot world knows about Belvoir Castle and knows how to contact.

Of course not everyone watching this can afford to shoot at Belvoir, but it’s a good chance that those who can will now want to if they haven’t already.

So what makes this a good video?

The complete answer is something I’ve written about in detail in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, about £5 on Amazon.

Is it a perfect video? No. Shot over two days and edited over a couple more had its compromises. Fortunately I had a few shots done last year I was able to pull into the edit that added to the ‘all-seasons, all-weather’ aspect.

Is it the music? I think that had a lot to do with it and I chose it very carefully. It’s driving music with a good degree of excitement and feeling of success. But good music with inappropriate or bad shots and sloppy editing would not have the same result.

You’ll notice that even though this is stock music, the shots are edited to the music making it seem more like the music was scored for the video. It’s integrated and it supports and forwards the message. That’s what music is supposed to do. It’s not something you just tack on at the end. Again, this is something covered in detail in the book. You also find posts in this blog on the subject under ‘Supplements to the Book’.

In short, the reason it is good is that it does its job of getting the message across with impact and interest and every editing decision made was done to achieve that in the best possible way with the material available.

overview analytics

traffic sources

retention

 

 

 

A Good Corporate Video Sample

corporate video

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:

Out of Thin Air

Belvoir Castle, on which estate I live, has been the subject of a 2 year project to bring into being the recently found 200 year old plans of Capability Brown, probably the most famous landscape architect in England. In the last year a TV program has been in the making which airs its first of 3 parts tonight.

Quite aside from all that, Belvoir Castle has become a world-class shooting estate with people coming the world over to shoot here during the season. It has been being run by Phill Burtt, the David Beckham of the shooting world.

It was decided just a few days ago that a Belvoir Shoot video should be done and gotten onto the Guns and Pegs website, the largest shooting related website in the world for both those seeking venues and those looking for them. This was to coincide with the airing of the Capability Brown program.

Luckily I had some footage shot last year to add to the mix.

It turns out now that this is my favorite marketing video to date– shot completely off-the-cuff, mainly with the Sony PXW X70 and some NX30 footage.

It’s a long and interesting story that I may detail in an update of Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, but for now, just a couple of notes.

  1. I probably take the ‘don’t use tripods much’ to an extreme. The only tripod shot in the video was the Phil Burtt interview. But look closely at the opening and ending shots of Belvoir Castle with the titles. I amazed even myself, because, believe it or not, that was hand-held standing a mile away from the castle.
  2. Notice the echo in the Duchess interview. I actually recorded it with two mics, one lapel (rather sloppily attached I note) and one rifle. It is a real echoey room to begin with. The rifle picked up too much echo so I didn’t use it. The lapel picked up none. So I mixed the lapel and then added echo from the FCPX audio effects–ironic, because I’m usually trying to get rid of it. In this case, it sounded really dumb without echo.

Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now.

You Americans might not understand what you’re looking at. It’s just the time-honored tradition of English shooting, right on down to wearing the right outfit, with breaks for champagne and sloe gin, bacon or sausage sandwiches, ending up with drinks and a dinner.

 

 

Slow Brew Compilation Edit

Laury Dizengremel

Not exactly a key-word-rich title, but I kind of like it. Just came to mind as I sat down.

My wife is a sculptor who has worked on many prestigious projects and hobnobbed with some important people and celebrities over the years.

Occasionally I’ve been around and was able to get an interview or two on tape to add to a growing list of B roll shots I had been accumulating in the past few years.

Finally, with 3 interviews and some recent interesting footage with the Duchess of Rutland and Alan Titchmarch, I thought it was time to throw something together that didn’t require interviewing Laury. I’d just let these other people do the talking this time.

As I usually do, I edited the interviews to provide the narrative that would drive the video, then added appropriate B roll, titles and music. Pretty standard fare. For those interested, it was all done on the Sony HXR NX30–except a few rocky shots that were shot in China by someone else.

Something interesting happened though–of no great importance, but interesting just the same.

I had recently completed a corporate video. I spent quite some time searching for the right piece of music for it on Audio Jungle (my favorite music site) and finally found a piece that was not only perfect for the video, it was the perfect length. Double perfect. It was the only time I ever added music that I didn’t also have to edit to fit. It just fit perfect and, unbelievably, did all the right things in all the right places–just as if it were written for my video.

I really liked that piece of music and, in the back of my mind as I was editing Laury’s video I hoped I might be able to use the same piece of music–something I don’t normally do.

As I got the final length established (by the narrative along with beginning and end titles) I glanced down at the total length. Amazingly, it was the same length as that last corporate video I did, and amazingly that same piece of music dropped in on this video without any need of editing.

Quadruple perfect.

Chapter 12 and 16 Supplement

This video is a good example for various aspects of corporate video production in the style described on the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–specifically the use of an interview to produce the narrative script and the selection and editing of stock music to make it appear more as if it was specifically scored for your video.

This was a case study, so was longer than the usual video–meant as part of an information package along with other videos and case studies for PTA UK.

The original interview in this case was 70 minutes long. From that I produced this 6 minute version and another 9 minute version, the difference being the longer one started off talking specifically about how the student body was transformed from incorrigible and low grades to one of the most productive student bodies in all of England.

Because there was a lot of history it required some documentation to be able to cover edits in the interview. All I had for this was a small collection of low quality photographs given to me by the school. I was able to make them work to fit my holes. As to the quality, that will be forgiven by most viewers–if not all– because it is obvious that they are old snap shots documenting parts of the history of the school.

The rest of the many edits done to produce this narrative were covered by my own B roll. Notice how the use of ‘walking shots’ B roll can be used to cover just about anything compared with other B roll shots that were more relevant to what was being said.

This was also one of a very few videos where I used two completely different pieces of music, the first covering the beginning of the video in which the ‘problem’ is discussed, and the second more upbeat piece covering the 2nd half of the video which covers the ‘solution’.

This was shot on the Sony PXW X70 in AVCHD mode and can be watched in 1080 HD.

Corporate Video Sample

This is another sample of utilizing royalty-free music in such a way that it appears to be scored specifically for the video as covered in Chapter 16 Notes on Music.

It is also an example of a different utilization of interview narrative by an end-user (testimonial) covered in Chapter 12 Corporate Shoot-outs. In this case I had 45 minutes of interview which could have been cut into a full description of the production line and all its benefits with further descriptions of how the contractor set up this massive production line while the facility was still in full production on the old line–an impressive feat.

That edit, however, would have been anywhere between 5 and 7 minutes–far longer than needed to get the marketing message across. So I opted to use the narrative as a book-end to the video (a good beginning piece and a good ending piece) with the full production line featured for most of the video using descriptive graphics suggested by me and then modified slightly by the client who loved the approach.

That gave us a 3 minute video which still accomplished it’s purpose for anyone who might be looking to invest in the automation of a large plant.

Notice that it is the choice of music and how it was used in the edit that makes it all work. This was shot on the Sony PXW X70 in AVCHD mode. It is also the first time I used the LED light panels that I will be doing a review on shortly.

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

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