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).



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:


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.



More Bang for the Buck

I thought I had covered this in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide, but on quick review, it appears that I didn’t.

So here we go.

If you’ve read the book, you know how I go about shooting corporate videos. In short, I do an extensive interview or interviews with the relevant people and then I shoot a lot of B roll of their business. A lot. Then, as a result of being thoroughly indoctrinated into the business (by reason of the interviews–which are usually with the Managing Director, other executives and sometimes staff), I edit the interviews down to a final length of about 3 minutes to forward the marketing message in the best way possible and then cover up the dozens of edits with relevant B roll. The ‘script’ is created from the narrative.

Producing Multiple Videos For Different Purposes (from the same content)

Anyway, in most cases it is quite possible to create multiple videos from the material obtained on a one or two day shoot. They don’t always ask for it, but I always point out that this can be done because I make sure to obtain adequate footage during the shoot day(s) to facilitate multiple videos. I’d do it anyway, because it’s always good to have lots of B roll to choose from, but of course, not all of it will get used.

Probably half the time they think this is a good idea. They’re already spending the money, and it won’t be that much more to get multiple videos for different purposes out of the spend. And that’s good because it can double your income or more, depending on how much they want and what you can do. They’re essentially paying for additional editing time–and frankly, after the initial editing process, the creation of further videos goes much faster as much of the basic work has already been done.

Case in point and the reason for this post…

I recently posted a sample video from a shoot where I said 11 videos were produced. The purpose of that post was to give an example of the interview -style approach I just mentioned above. But this was also an example of the client realising the benefit of obtaining additional video content from the paid shoot days.

I did three different kinds of videos for this client.

1) From his interview I created several different narrative-driven videos about specific top selling products.

2) We created several more videos that were simple demos of these products.

3) I then created an ‘overall’ video for his Home Page or About US page which used music and graphics to get across all the things that they do.

As a note, for the first two types of video I created a template to massively speed up the editing process. When done with one edit, I could simply copy-paste it into a new project, change out the narrative bits, change the wording of the title or graphics, adjust a few shots if necessary and adjust the music to the length of the new video. Also, each of the narrative versions had the same ending (where he talks about branding and ‘UK made’). This is because those different products would never really be seen by the same audience. People will tend to watch the product they are looking for and won’t know several other videos have the same ending. And if they did watch other product videos, so what?

It might be a bit tedious, but I’m going to string all the videos out below. You don’t have to watch them all, but it might be of interest to watch a few to see what I mean about creating a template.

As a note, all 11 edits were approved as submitted with no changes required.

The ‘Interview-driven’ series


The ‘Product Demo’ series


The ‘Overall’ graphics/music driven summary of the business

Frankenstein Cameras


It was one of the Video Whisperer blog followers who either coined the term ‘Frankenstein cameras” or passed it onto me.

I liked it.

I’ve used some pretty audacious frankenstein rigs in the movie business, but that was back in the film days. Nowadays they’re producing ‘films’ with hi end video cameras. And that’s a pretty exacting art form.

In the context of run and gun videography, however,  it’s an oxymoron.

I’m writing this hopefully for the benefit of those who are relatively new to the field so they don’t think they need to run off and buy all that stuff to shoot professional video–be it corporate work or weddings, documentaries, short films or whatever.

These days the technology they can pack into small cameras boggles the mind. My first contact with big technology in a small camera was with the Sony HXR NX30—and that’s a really small camera. I was so enthusiastic that I did my first ever video review on that camera. Within 5 months it was the top review on Google—and my review came out more than a year after the camera was released. It remains the number one search result for reviews on the NX30 to this day.

The next camera I reviewed with similar verve for similar reasons was the Sony PXW X70. This time my review came out 3 months after the first reviews, but within 2 months it was number one and also remains so to this day.

By the way, this is not to say that there aren’t other cameras that have comparable—or perhaps even better—characteristics, but I just happen to own these two and they suited me to a ’t’.  I had enough of big cameras, tripods, matte boxes, zoom controllers, follow focus rigs and all the rest of it.

Why did I like these two cameras so much?

I was looking for a camera that was small, smart, light and could do all I wanted it to with very little effort or attention on my part.  I wanted to keep my own attention outward. I also didn’t want to have to lug a bunch of stuff  around. Been there, done that. Those two Sony cameras gave me what I wanted in spades. Their intelligent auto systems were the best I had ever used. Their state of the art stabilization systems were cherries on top.

I do understand the Frankenstein allure however. You can add matte boxes, auxiliary controllers and external LED monitors, Flash storage devices and gawd knows what all to a small camera, then stick it onto a glide rail, Steadicam, dolly or crane and suddenly look like you’re top dog behind a Panavision camera, replete with multiple assistant cameramen to help you set up and operate it all. It’s very Hollywood.

To be fair, it depends on your own use. If you know you’re going to be in a fixed position for a wedding, you’ll want to be on a tripod and you’ll want a good zoom controller on your panning handle. Those would be good and needful accessories (tripod and zoom controller) if that’s what you’re going to be doing with that camera. In my case, even when I was commissioned for a wedding, I’d put another cameraman on that main camera fixed position and cross my fingers. I’d be the one running around hand-held during the live event getting all the other interesting angles and reverse shots so that in end, I’d be able to produce a more memorable edit that looked more like a 6 camera shoot even if there were only 3 cameras.

My approach—in any production situation—is to get as much usable footage from as many different viewpoints, angles and image sizes as possible in the least amount of time—especially since I’m usually alone. That makes editing easy. And for that you need a camera that’s small, light and smart.

If a camera (such as these two mentioned) can take in 96GB without a sweat either by using internal memory or cards, who needs an external recorder? If you can hand-hold it so steady that nobody would know that you’re not on a tripod, who needs a tripod? If it’s got a good quality flip out, rotatable LED screen, who needs an external monitor? If it’s got fast and smart auto focus systems, facial recognition or ‘tap-the-screen-to-keep-this-thing-in-focus’, who needs follow focus controllers? If its stabilization system is so good you can do follow shots are hand-held pans practically as good as a Steadicam, who needs stabilisers and glide rails? And given the time it takes to set all those things up, how many shots could you have shot in the meantime with a camera that can do practically all of those things in your own bare hands?

So that’s why I like them.

Yes, you have know how to handle a camera and you’ve got to practice to get the best results out of a camera like that. I’d much rather pay that price  Granted, you’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes the camera will let you down and focus on the wrong thing when you didn’t realise it in the rush of it all. But if that’s a tiny percentage of a massive accumulation of shots that you were able to get because the camera is not slowing you down, be happy. That’s why god invented editing and you’ll be in pretty good shape with multiple solutions for any problem you may have created or been given in the process. And it’s a lot better and a lot more fun than to having to drag along all that other stuff which doesn’t guarantee a professional result anyway if you’re a lone shooter.

Leave all that to the professional film production companies. They’ve got the time and the money. As a lone shooter, you don’t. You’ve got to get done what those 12 other guys do in a fraction of the time. Time is money. Spend it wisely.

True story: One of the first solo productions I did back in 2008 with a Canon XHA1 tape camera was for a helicopter logging company that had been featured for 3 seasons on the History Channel’s ‘Axmen’ series in the US. They had big film crews out there every day for the better part of 3 years. Once I finished my little documentary for them, in response to a request for a testimonial they said that I had managed to get more done in one day than those Hollywood producers, assistants, cameramen, grips and service people would get done in an entire week.  Who knows, maybe they were exaggerating a tiny bit…but probably not much.

If you’ve got a smart camera, let it be smart and give you more time so you can make more money.

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