Run ‘ Gun Boot Camp

Chalabre, France

I’m launching a new navigation tab on the Run and Gun Videography Blog called Run n Gun Bootcamp of which this will be the first entry.

This is following up on my earlier post suggesting the idea and asking for feedback. It seems there are enough people interested to make it happen, so current plans are to do so by Spring or Summer next year (2018).

As the name implies, it will be a video boot camp based on the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It will happen in Chalabre, France.

This post will be a very short summary of the types of things that I will keep updating and expanding in the new Boot Camp tab. It will include photos of the town, the house you will be staying in, the town’s fascinating history as well as the history and summary of the plentiful activities in the local area as far away as the Mediterranean (only 90 minutes away). We’re in the foothills of the Pyrenees, about an hour from Andorra and Spain and in the midst of Cathar country going back 1000 years. Spotted with Cathar castle ruins (castles built impossibly at the top of steep rocky mountain tops), sprawling with vineyards in one of Frances’ best wine regions, and with rivers, steep gorges, white water river rafting, not to mention mountain trails, skiing, horse-back riding and many social activities happening every day throughout the summer, Chalabre is what many of us here call “Frances’ Best Kept Secret”.

Chalabre itself is a medieval town founded in the late 11th century at the confluence of 3 rivers. Sometime in the 12th century and upriver dam burst and flooded the village. Consequently, the town was rebuilt on top of the old village. It’s interesting to note that when you buy property here there is small print in the contract which says that there ‘is nothing of any historical interest below (your) house”. Sure. Everyone knows the old town is down there.

The advantage of having a boot camp here is that there is SO much to see and do and film at almost any time of year, particularly in the summer.

As part of this new tab, I will create a calendar of events (give me some time as that alone is a huge undertaking) which may help you decide which time of year you’d like to come. Afterall, it will be a bit of a holiday at the same time–not all work and drudgery.

I’ll introduce you to the house which we are renovating and show some before and after pictures of the spaces we have been working on over the last two years. Currently, we are renovating the attic–which is probably where you run and gunners will be staying–though there’s plenty of space elsewhere in the house. It’s all a matter of scheduling this activity along with others that will be happening at this house (such as Air BnB and other events planned here). That’s why I’m sort of reserving the attic for this program. It will be a pretty cool space with two bedrooms and one crash loft along with a bathroom, kitchenette and lounge.

As time goes on I will finalise pricing and options, so feel free to feedback as I start posting all this stuff.

One thing for sure is that couples are welcome even if one of you are not going to be doing the video program. Like I mentioned earlier, it will be a great holiday with a video bonus for you video enthusiasts.

A quick photo tour:

 

 

My wife’s steel wire sculpture of fighting stallions greets you on the main road into Chalabre

“Number 10”. That’s the house on the market square where you will stay. Late 1600s. We’ve got a shop on the ground floor to the right behind the bench (which is made of slabs of pine I hauled from Montana)

Attic windows open with wires hanging out (current renovation project)

View from one of the attic bedrooms currently being renovated. The chapel on the hill is at the top of the silhouetted hill on the right.

From the chapel on the hill after a brisk 20 minute walk to get there. Chalabre is down below.

One of Chalabre’s roads along the river

Right around the corner from the house are two grocery stores and a butcher shop. (the bakery and another butcher shop around another corner).

 

 

Color Grading Tools for Hogwartians

Color grading is relatively new to me, so I’m not an expert, but so far it has enabled me to not only make shots look better, but has allowed me to dramatically improve the look of interview shots.

Denver Riddle of Color Grading Central originally introduced me to the whole subject when he released Color Finale for FCPX. It’s an invaluable tool and I highly recommend getting it.

FCPX has some powerful grading tools itself in its Color pane. It’s more powerful than many people realise, but I’m not going to attempt a tutorial that others would be much better at.

Instead I want to show you a couple recent examples, starting with a little contest Denver Riddle posted on the FB Color Grading Central page.

I’m also going to tell you about the amazing vignette tool from Slice X and show you how and why I used it in grading a few shots. It is definitely way better than the built-in FCPX tool because you can infinitely manipulate it.

I’ll put the links to all these things at the bottom of the post.

First, here’s what Denver posted and asked people to grade:

boy+meets+girl_1.1.1

And here’s what I did with it:

Boy Meets Girl

Hundreds of people posted their grades in response to Denver’s challenge. Mine seems to be one of the few he commented on directly saying it was a nice color balance. I was kind of chuffed, though he said there was too much separation from subject to background. On that I had to disagree. It is one of the primary things I try to achieve with lighting first, and grading afterwards because it creates more depth and 3 dimensionality. But in fairness, I didn’t spend that much time on it and there were still some things I wanted to do to improve it. He might have had a point. Too much separation? Anyway…

I did this grade using both the FCPX color pane and Color Finale. The FCPX color pane, amongst other things, gives you the ability to isolate shapes which you can then adjust independent of the surroundings. In this case I isolated their faces and graded them separate from the background. Most of the color work on the background was done using Color Finale which allows you to independently control the hue, saturation and brightness of the  main color components (along with many other things).

Finally I used Slice X vignette to direct attention to the subjects.

All of these things are key-framable. Since this is a still shot, key-framing was not necessary of course.

SLICE X Vignette Shape Mask

Here’s a screen grab of Slice X Vignette in use:

Slice X

Unlike most vignette tools, including the one in FCPX, this one is infinitely controllable in terms of shape and access. Like all the others, you can also control the density, size and softness of the vignette. But this is the only one where you can also shape it and change its axis. Here are the properties that you can vary from within the inspector in addition to the on-screen controls you see above:

Slice X Inspector

Ok, now for real life.

For those of you who read Run and Gun Videography–The Lone Shooters Survival Guide, you’ll know I covered the subjects of lighting both generally and specifically in regard to interviews. Lighting is the lifeblood of cinematography and is much more effective in creating that ‘cinematic look’ than shallow depth of field alone.

Here’s an interview shot I did recently as it came out of the camera:

Peter ungraded

It was not without some problems.

While I did manage through lighting to effectively separate him from the background in a white room (turned off all overheads, closed the window blinds, skimmed the back wall with a light to give the impression of of an off-scene window while controlling the spill from hitting the opposite wall as much as I could and gave him facial modelling and a backlight–both of which I had to severely control with black foil to avoid spill). The trouble with white rooms is that light bounces all over the place. So this was pretty good and I could have left it as it was, but there was another problem I hadn’t realised at the time. It was shot with relatively high gain (unnecessarily) and so is a bit grainy. You’ll see what I mean if you click on the picture to see it full-sized.

Here’s what I did with it:

Peter grade

Grading was done with FCPX and Color Finale. Then I added the Slice X vignetting tool subtly. I also used Neat Video to de-noise it. The result, I think, is that the shot has more depth and dimension.

And one final sample and a small test:

Duchess ungraded

Duchess grade

The first one was out of the camera, the second one graded. But what may be of more interest is the lighting. See that big window in the back? Well, there were three more to the left which effectively lit up the whole room. I closed the heavy curtains on the side windows. Then I placed a softbox in the floor in the background (left) to create a fake light from the (now dark) window being sure to keep it off the walls. Now I was able to light her with a relatively low intensity softlight and have her more dramatically separated from the background. I gave her a backlight and a little frontal fill which also gave her eye lights.

As I told Denver, this is what I try to achieve with almost any shot–separation of subject from background which can be achieved with focus or lighting or both. (In this case lighting was going to carry the job as the focal length was wide and the depth of field too great)

.

I could have done it more telephoto (which can also be more flattering), but chose this because she is a Duchess in a castle and I felt the grandeur of the room was important to include.

Now for the test:

Did you notice the microphone in the shot ?

(I didn’t think so–which is why I left in in there rather than crop the shot)

Because of the depth and because of the directing of attention to her face, what is it that you look at when you  see this shot.? Her face, right?

Our little secret

Links

Color Grading Central Facebook page

Color Grading Central Website  (where you can get Color Finale)

Slice X Vignette Shape Mask

Neat Video De-noiser

Run ‘n Gun Videography eBook

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

 

Coming Soon: Run and Gun Camerawork

DSC03597

Alibaba heaven. If you know what Alibaba is (Chinese merchandise website), this is Alibaba heaven. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you can possibly want available in one market. Hundreds if not thousands of shops lining the streets for a square mile or more filled with people like this. One of many such markets in the Chongqing Provence. This is a still taken with the NX30, but plenty of video footage to share coming soon.

 

I’m still in Chongqing China and have been shooting a lot of fascinating footage–mainly with my trusty little Sony HXR NX30 because it’s so small and light to carry around.

I’ve decided that what I’ll do with the footage is a new video which is part travelogue and part commentary on run and gun camerawork since everything I’m doing is hand-held.

I’m often asked about how I do camerwork, so I thought a lot of interesting footage–often in difficult circumstances (such as small streets and alleys filled with thousands of jostling people) would be a good way to talk about run and gun camerwork.

If we get the time, Laury will take my X70 and shoot me shooting with the NX30. That should be interesting.

The main reason I’m here, though, is to document my wife’s production of a number of bronze commissions and particularly the in-progress Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown statue for which we will produce a new fundraising video to raise the balance of funds needed to cast it in bronze and ship it back to England—so that may have to come first.

In any case, I think I’ll get to this new video sometime in the next 3 weeks. I really looking forward to it.

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