LED Lighting For Video

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Some time back I did a review of a Flexlite (flexible LED panel).

I was fortunate in that I got two of them in exchange for the review. I did the review because I was already sold on them at the Expo I saw them at.

Anyway, I realise they’re a bit pricey and not really something every run and gunner wants to go out and buy when you can get a couple of flouro soft boxes for 1/3 the price of a single Flexible LED light–or just about any other LED light for that matter.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s all changed now.

But before I get into that, let me say that there isn’t a better lighting tool for the run and gunner.

  1. They take up hardly any space in your kit bag.
  2. They’re feather-weight.
  3. You don’t need to carry big bulbs or replacement bulbs.
  4. They’ll probably still be working when you die after a long life.
  5. You can drop them and they don’t break.

I love mine. I have only two and need a third.

A few days ago I found the video I’m about to share. This guy shows you how to make them for about $60.

Not only that, he really went through the hoops to source the right LED lights and bits and pieces you’ll need and shares the links. This is important because not all LED lights are equal when it comes to the spectrum of light they output.

Finally, what he’s going to show you is how to make a bi-color flexible LED panel. (Mine are only ‘daylight’ balanced). With bi-color you’re all set up for either indoor or outdoor shooting and can even mix the two different colors independently to create just about any color temperature you want.

 

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

 

Color Correction Basics

 

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Like anything else, color correction has its own fundamental principles and rules.

And like anyone else, if you don’t know the rules you wind up with lots of questions:

Do you adjust the black levels first or the while levels?

How do you correct skin tone?

How do you completely change the color of something in the scene?

I found this 20 minute video from Larry Jordan particularly informative and useful. (For his written article on the same subject go here.)

Extreme Run and Gun

run-and-gun

I was happily working in the bright sunshine atop a hillside doing some preparatory work on a steel peacock sculpture my wife made that will be raised next week for a BBC program on Belvoir Castle.

The castle itself looked down on me from a mile away across rolling fields and lakes.

About an hour into my project, hands partially covered in sticky black mastic,  I heard the rumble of our Landrover approaching. My wife arrived to tell me there was an emergency at the castle. There was a lavish Hindu wedding ongoing and the videographer hadn’t shown up.

Naturally I explained why I had to say no. No preps. No 2nd or 3rd cameraman arranged. Simply too risky. And besides, I was already having fun.

She left.

20 minutes later I heard the rumble of the Landrover again. This time she popped out with the castle events manager who pleaded with me.

The ceremony was scheduled to begin in 90 minutes.

Great.

30 minutes later I was there, one hour before the ceremony.

The bride and groom explained that they wanted the whole ceremony and all the speeches that would occur afterwards at lakeside the reception dinner. Since the traditional Hindu ceremony itself was going to be two hours, that meant it was likely going to be a 2 1/2 hour program.

Normally, for a wedding,  I’d hire an additional cameraman or two in addition to planting a couple of additional static cameras of my own and use my X70 hand-held for all the interesting shots.

I only had time to hang one additional camera on a long shot of the ceremony.

I stayed close to the action with the radio receiver for the priest on the X70.

So far, no big deal, right?

In fact it was going rather well despite it all being unfamiliar to me–that is until 20 minutes from the end of the ceremony my battery died (wasn’t paying attention). I swapped it out quick to be greeted with a warning that the camera was unable to save the recording. It asked me a dumb question: Did I want to recover the file?

So I answered the dumb question and then it told me that there was a data-base error and asked me another dumb question: Did I want to re-build the data-base? Anyway, I spent a few seconds chatting back and forth with the camera in this fashion and a few seconds later everything seemed to be back-to-battery.

When the ceremony was over I changed both cards.

I wasn’t sure if it was a problem with one card or both. It didn’t tell me that. So naturally I was a bit concerned the rest of the evening.

It got worse.

The same thing happened toward the end of the speeches on the new cards. And this time it wasn’t because the battery had died.

I had smartly routed the audio to the receiver on the other camera (NX30), so at least if it happened again (as it did), I’d have the good sound.

But now I was really freaked.

They specifically wanted the whole ceremony and all the speeches.

All the B roll was fine (drinks in the rose garden, cannons being fired, long shot of the venue from atop the hill where I was so rudely interrupted only hours before. But the meat of the whole wedding was in severe jeopardy.

When I got home I put in the first of the cards that reported the error. Heart sank. The main chunk of the ceremony (with the good sound) wasn’t there. Same with the second card, though there were more files on that one, but the important bit was gone.

Strangely, the reception speeches and stuff seemed to all be there.

Long story short and twelve hours later after a lot of research (and purchase of) card recovery software (that reported “0” volumes on card), I tried rebuilding the data base in the camera again. (It said everything appears to be fine).

Stuck it back in the computer again (as one does) and suddenly there were a lot more files. Was the important one there? YES! In fact, they were all there.

(somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but apparently sticking the card in and out a few times can have this result–and that’s honestly the only thing I did in the end)

Anyway boys and girls, that’s ONE reason why you have multiple cameras on a live event of any sort. You can lose one and not lose the whole show.

 

 

Memory Cards–“If It’s Too Good To Be True…”

Counterfeit SD cards

I’ve always used SanDisk cards and never, ever had a problem in the 5 or 6 years I’ve being using digital equipment.

Also, I generally get the highest rated cards in terms of speed and bit rate for the equipment I’m using.

One is tempted when making SD card purchases to find a really good deal.

BUT, if what you find seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

Here’s a story about SD card counterfeiting

As you will see, the counterfeited cards look identical. And where you’ll find these great deals is on eBay, Amazon or similar sites.

FCPX Audio Magic–matching tonality between clips

FCPX Match Audio

I knew there must be a way. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.

I won’t tell you how many hours–I mean DAYS– I spent trying to match up tonality between two different audio takes.

I had a 2 hour interview to cut down to about 12 minutes.

The first thing I did–before cutting anything–was to give a rough mix to the whole interview audio track. That’s so no matter what order the pieces wound up in, they’d all be the same mix.

Then I fine tuned it to a final narrative at which point I copy-pasted the audio track into a separate project where I mixed it and then exported  it back into my original project as one 12 minute piece. That way, any further mixing could be applied to the whole track and not have to be applied to dozens of little pieces.

I forgot one very important thing–to keep a copy of that first mix saved as a separate project I could go back to if need to. I had called that project “work” (meaning it was a temp project just to be able to do something out of the main project). I later used the ‘work’ project again, this time over-writing it to do something else.

Well, that was dumb.

After I had crafted the narration and added the B roll for my rough edit with my mixed audio I realized I needed an additional piece of narration to cover a particular subject.  So I found the piece in the original footage after realizing I had over written the project where I had mixed it and exported it from. You see, even if the piece I wanted to use wasn’t in the original project, I could have either dragged out the clip nearest it to find it (at which point it would have the same mix as everything else, OR I could have simply copy-pasted the audio effects from the mix onto the new un-mixed clip.

Now, try as I might, I could not duplicate the original mix to achieve the same tonality with the new clip. I tried all kinds of different EQ tools, studied the frequency response to try to match it, but all to no result. The original mix dealt with ambient noise removal, making the voice more present and fuller. No matter what I did, I could not match the new clip to the mixed version. I couldn’t remember the order I did what in (and that does matter)–and there was a looming deadline.

Finally I must have googled the right question.

Right there at the top of the list was a Larry Jordan article on this very problem: matching tonality between shots.

Turns out the solution is right there in FCPX and is idiot simple.

With one click I suddenly had a very near match that I was able to tweak a bit and all in a matter of a couple minutes (after wasting untold hours) doing other stupid things.

The main difference now wasn’t really tonality, but the talent’s emotional tone and pace, but I was able to make it close enough to not be really noticeable.

Here’s the Larry Jordan link that explains where to find the magic tool and how to use it. It will take you about 30 seconds to learn it and not forget it. Larry’s article on matching tonality in FCPX.

Notes to self:

1) ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS save every project for exactly what it is, even if a temporary work project that’s been copied pasted out of your main edit for the purposes of being exported or copy-pasted back to it.

2) Periodically duplicate your project (particularly after completing a significant phase) and number them all in sequential order while continuing work on the new duplicated project which is now your current version. Leave the old ones alone. If you ever need to go back to cut and paste an audio or video effect to your current version of the edit, all the information will be there.

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