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.

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.

 

 

B Roll, What it is and how it will save your bacon

B roll

First of all, what is it?

For a comprehensive definition and history, here’s the Wiki.

In short, in the early days of linear film editing (and tape editing) of documentaries, interviews or dramatic films, the main scene, master scene or main interview was strung together on one roll of film or tape called the A roll. Wherever that scene was to cut to another shot (a cut away, an insert or simply another scene not from the main scene) the A roll would get a piece of opaque leader and in the corresponding blank spot, the appropriate shot would be synced up on the ‘B roll’, itself separated by opaque leader which corresponded to those parts of the ‘A roll’ that were meant to be seen.

Later it would all be married up. This procedure is what made editing ‘seamless’ (otherwise you’d see constant flashes every time two pieces of film were joined together with editing tape). It also allowed for seamless transitional treatments (such as dissolves, fade to black, etc.)

These days it’s all done on computer—even features shot on film. The film is transferred to video where it is edited and then output back to film. Computer editing programs, of course, are called non-liner editing systems where you can simply drag and drop shots, transitions, effects, etc. with impunity. It’s intrinsically seamless.

Anyway, while B roll retains its original meaning, it has also modernized itself through the magic of Time and Slang.

Today in corporate video work, wedding videos, events we generally mean B roll to be any shot that’s not part of the narrative (such as an interview) or story, such as a scripted film. In film they generally call this ‘coverage’, which means you shoot a bunch of detail shots (the clock on the wall, the leaves blowing on the trees, birds in flight, people walking down the street, etc, ad infinitum) that might come in handy for the editor if he’s in a tight spot. Great film makers with large crews usually plan their films to the nth degree and specify all these things. Even then, smart cameramen shoot more than was asked for even by a detailed script.

In the run and gun category, when you don’t have crew support (assistant directors, script supervisors, etc.) B roll is essential. It will be, in fact, the main pictorial content of your video.

Let’s say you have a 15 minute interview. Or even a 3 minute one (in final edited form).

Who wants to see a talking head for 3 minutes or 15 minutes straight?

More to the point, most interviews of any length have to be edited. How do you cover up the cuts?

B roll.

But the purpose of B roll isn’t just to cover up cuts. Yes, that’s where it can save your bacon when you found yourself forced to do an edit and have absolutely nothing relevant to cover it with. More importantly, B roll should help forward the story of the narrative. It should help forward the overall message of the video. It needs to be relevant to what’s being said.

Let’s say you’re planning a documentary which involves traveling across the United States and stopping in various cities to interview certain people on the same basic set of questions. One thing is for certain. You’re going to interview those people. That’s what you do know. But you’ve never been to these places and have no idea in advance what also should be shot in terms of B roll, so you’re going to ‘wing it’ and hope you’re covered.

Well actually, you already know more than that. You know you’re going to a particular city or town.

Most every city or town has a ‘Welcome to ___’ sign. Shoot it.

Mount your camera on the windshield or handhold it and shoot some traveling shots, highway signs, landmarks and anything of interest as you arrive. You may only wind up using one or two of those shots—or none—, but so what? You’re not doing anything but driving. (let me clarify that: If you’re alone, use a mount. If you’re with someone, have them hold the camera).

Shoot some establishment shots of the town and its landmarks. Long shots, medium shots, close shots, detail shots.

Shoot the bustling downtown–or the vacant one.

Shoot the exterior sign and buildings of the location you’re going to.

You know something else too. You know what the questions are and the subject material to be covered. So shoot stuff in that town that’s relevant to the subjects that will be discussed.

If relevant, shoot the interior of the establishment you’re going to. Not just long shots of interesting rooms, but detail shots of interesting details.

Yea, shoot atmospheric shots of flowers, trees, birds, lakes or whatever is there and may be relevant to what you’re doing.

And if it turns out you need a bird in flight for the Chicago edit and you didn’t shoot one, use the St. Louis bird you shot. Who will know?  It’s called ‘cheating’ and Hollywood has always gotten a kick out of cheating.

If you spend an hour or two on the interview, spend that much or much more on the B roll.

After the interview you may realize you need to shoot something else based on what was discussed.

So shoot that.

You get the idea.

For a video to be interesting, it should not only have interesting narrative or story content, it should also be rich in story-telling pictures (footage). You won’t use a fraction of what you shoot, but you will have so much latitude in editing for having shot it that you will be free to make a great video no matter the headaches you may have endured during the interview itself.

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