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

 

 

 

Testimonial-driven Corporate Videos

Too often corporate videos consist of the MD or executives and staff blagging about their own products and services. Nothing wrong with that, and when the people are sincere (and not forced to spout prepared marketing scripts or company ‘talking points’) they can be effective.

On the other hand, when you get the client of your multi-million dollar installation raving about you, you have to ask: “What will interest a potential new client more (and indeed make him or her directly contact you), a company spokesman or a satisfied customer?” And what if you landed on their site and all you found were 4 or 5 videos like this (which is how many we’ve done for Axiom)?

Anyway, I’m posting this really as another example of interviews and interview editing as covered in one of the chapters of Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide . The original interview was about 25 minutes from which I derived this narrative. It may not interest you as it’s rather technical, but for someone in that business, it would be of great interest because a few million bucks is not something you consider lightly.

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

The Real Essence of the ‘Cinematic Look’

Understanding Movement in Composition

As I’m sure I must have mentioned in Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, the word ‘cinema’ derives from Greek kinema “movement,” + graphein “to write”. In short, it has to do with motion. But that’s just the definition of the words, not the art form that evolved.

Just because the camera moves or things move within the frame does not necessarily mean that it’s good ‘cinema’. Poorly done or done without understanding can actually make it ‘bad cinema’

These days it seems the ‘cinematic look’ has been reduced down in meaning to shallow depth of field and cinematic ‘looks’ being given to the film or video in post production. I covered this somewhat in a chapter of the book called The Filmic Look which was also published on this blog.

Anyway, all this is to introduce an excellent short video produced by someone else on this very topic. No, he’s not talking about the ‘filmic or cinematic look’ per se (because no one in the film world ever uses the term), rather he gives an excellent commentary on the subject of movement in composition using the works of Japanese film maker Akira Kurosawa.  And this is truly what the cinematic look is all about. It’s the art form of moving composition in a medium that records motion.

For those of you who have read Run and Gun Videography, you’ll know that much of it is based on and reiterates the fundamental idea of forwarding a message with everything do you in motion pictures. Without saying so, you’ll notice that the commentator in the following video is talking about message with practically every point he makes. And there’s no doubt that the film maker understood that’s exactly what he was employing his tools to do.

It’s 8 minutes. Watch it through. There’s some fascinating material in there that anyone can put to immediate use in one degree or another.

Original article: http://digg.com/video/understanding-movement-in-composition-through-the-work-of-akira-kurosawa

 

Run ‘n Gun Music Video

Abi Moore

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.)

 

About That Extreme Run ‘n Gun Wedding…

It occurred to me I never came back and showed anything of that extreme  run and gun wedding I shot.

This is the one where the videographer didn’t show up and I was asked if I could go shoot the wedding which was already IN PROGRESS.

Anyway, I covered that a bit in the linked post above.

I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been in France working on a personal project.

Anyway, that wedding is all done and delivered and the bride was more than pleased with the result.

It was a 2 hour edit as they requested the entire Hindu ceremony be covered and all the speeches.

This was the highlight video I also gave them. It’s only a couple of minutes but gives you an idea that it is possible to pull off even the worst scenario if you know and apply the basics discussed in my ebook Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

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:

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