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

 

 

 

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:

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.

 

 

Sony PXW X70–The Update We’ve Been Waiting For

Well, it’s here.

This is the link . Sony V2.00 Update

Here are the exact instruction on how to install the update: V2.00 update procedure

There are several reports that, in combination with FCPX’s last update, you can now natively import XAVCL into FCP.

This update does not automatically give you 4K.  There’s another step (purchase) which hasn’t been made very clear at this date, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon. However, if you want to record in XAVCL right now, you can.

And here’s the link for obtaining and activating 4K. X70 4K Upgrade Key

And this comment from the FB X70 User Group regarding a rebate for early adopters of the X70:

 The 4K upgrade is here! It’s easy to install and Sony has the loyalty program. The box will have a sticker that tells users to visit a webpage where they get contact info for POSC…. gives you ‘inside’ access and can help you upgrade in 5 – 10 minutes. Sony wants to show their appreciation to early adopters of the PXW-X70 camcorder: End-user purchasers of PXW-X70 who took delivery of their product on or before March 31, 2015 and who purchase a CBKZ-X70FX 4K license key between June 15, 2015 and August 31, 2015 are eligible to receive a $300 mail-in rebate from Sony!
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