Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Bank Holiday Sunshine (and some filming...)

This Bank Holiday Monday I spent at Looe with some visiting family (and my brood!), basking in glorious sunshine. Before leaving I was tempted to weigh myself down with a load of camera gear, thinking it would be a beautiful day for some photos, however at the last minute I stopped myself with the thought that a) I'd have to lug it around all day and b) it would get in the way of spending some quality time with the aforementioned family so, slightly (but not really too) begrudgingly, I left it all behind.

And we had a great day, mooching around, paddling in the sea, eating ice cream and doing all the touristy stuff that we always do in a place that's only 1/2 an hour away and we seem to gravitate to whenever we're not sure what to do. And why not, it's a beautiful place!. Whilst there my wife was taking pictures with her iPhone in what we refer to as capturing family memory mode, ie:

Which to be frank I'm generally really lazy about and leave to her and which I'll be incredibly thankful for in years to come when they disappear to University or the like. Until she started doing this I was content to not have my camera and hadn't really thought about taking any pictures but very soon I started to get an itchy trigger finger and thought it can't hurt to get my iPhone out of my pocket...

All resistance soon crumbled and I started taking a few shots. I always forget how good the camera on my phone actually is and I got some images that I was really happy with and truth be told I seriously didn't miss my DSLR. Here's a couple:

Note the lack of family members! Then I thought I can take this further. Let's play with some slow-motion video. The harbour was really busy as the tide came in with boats going in and out so perfect opportunity for some artsy stuff and as the camera was holding up so well to the stills I was pretty sure I'd get a good, if not fantastic result. In fact I got this, which for a few minutes waving my phone around I'm pretty happy with:

The whole point of this blog post is really to highlight the fact that you don't need the latest and greatest, the biggest and the best. The old adage stands true 'The best camera is always the one you have with you!' (an iPhone 5S in this case). I think technology really is at a point now where anything from the last 3 years at least should really be at least good enough.

Now where's my credit card, the Canon 5D MkIV is available for pre-order...!

NB: None of the family noticed me filming either so I didn't get into trouble for ignoring them!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

One Down, One to Go...

So I've finished one of my current editing jobs, a live music video for local Plymouth band Lomi in support of their self-titled debut album (now available on all good streaming services!) and following on from my last post I'd like to talk some more about the Panasonic DVX200 and those editing capabilities shooting 4K allows.

The video, which can be seen above was shot with 2 cameras, for the most part allowing coverage from both sides of the stage and in the event that one camera goes awry for whatever reason there is always a usable shot to cut to. However, anyone who has done this will know that invariably there are times when both cameras are out of focus or re-positioning etc and another shot needs to be found to fill the gap. Standard practise.

The other issue with only having 2 cameras ( I usually like to cover with at least three, one being a locked off wide master) is a lack of variety in the edit which can lead to a dull and repetitive video.

Shooting in 4K for a HD deliverable has given me the flexibility to make the video look as if there was much more coverage, by cropping and re-framing the 4K to create new shots and the appearance of additional camera positions making the final result much more interesting, as well as simply shrinking down the full frame for wider shots.

This has also impacted on how the video looks in terms of picture quality. I have done very little in terms of colour grading, just a little to match the cameras and remove some of the banding from the highlights, as I wanted to retain as much of a grimy aesthetic as possible, however some shots are much more noisy than others.

The environment was obviously a very low-light scenario so we has to use an ISO in the region of 2000. The 2nd camera (the 5DMkIII) coped very well, largely down to its full frame sensor, although the DVX200 did produce some noise. In the shots where the footage has been shrunk to HD this has virtually disappeared, one of the huge benefits of using this method. You can tell the difference in comparative shots where the 4K has simply been reframed at full size. I could of added some noise reduction but as mentioned deliberately chose not to, although on shoots where a more pristine look is required it would be an essential part of the edit and would need to be factored in.

One down, one to go...for now!

Friday, 19 August 2016

In the Edit

I have two very different post-production jobs on the go at the moment which couldn't be more different - a Digital Gateways seminar for artists looking to develop their online and social media knowledge and a live music video for local band Lomi, who have just released their 1st album.

Both were shot using new 4K technology by way of the Panasonic DVX200, which is a camera I have recently been getting to know inside and out and despite a couple of minor niggles, which is always going to be the case, I am absolutely loving! 2nd camera on each shoot has been a Canon 5D MkIII, another great quality camera, although I've never been a huge fan of shooting video on DSLR's.

Anyway, the point being that I now have the challenge of integrating 4K footage into a HD workflow and I have to say, after spending a hefty amount on a high-spec PC last year does not so far seem to be causing any problems, in fact everything (touch wood!) is so far silky smooth.

My plan has always been to offer 4K capture, which I am now happily able to do, and with a purchase of the forthcoming Canon 5D MkIV (which will also be 4K despite some underwhelming rumours - it's not officially announced until next Thursday) I will be able to provide a full 4K multi-camera production environment.

This is still not, however, to deliver in 4K. Unless specifically requested by a client I don't think the requirement is there yet but what it does allow is twofold - the best possible HD image when down-converted but also the ability to crop and produce a multitude of shots from a single camera position. I have been using both of these techniques on the projects mentioned above and it is incredibly empowering to me as an editor to suddenly have all of these options available.

Will it make me a better editor? Probably not.

Will it allow me to give my clients a much better product. Without a doubt.

And that's what it's all about.

Here is some of my initial test footage from the Panasonic DVX200:

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

To quote Bob Dylan: 'The Times They may be kinda changing sometime soon' - Or Something Like That!

Imminently now I will be making some sort of change from full-time employee to well, something else...still trying to work out the details and fine tune the small print but ultimately I will be leaving/reducing gainful employment to focus on...big gulp...freelance work!

I've spent the last 11 years teaching the technical aspects of filmmaking with very little time for my own work, however the last 18 months has been leading up to this point - buying kit, flaunting myself across social media, working on my small talk for those awkward networking events but very soon I will need to turn all of those Facebook likes into actual money. Anyone know how? Seriously, anyone??

I have (I think) a good, although not huge (but growing) profile and following across the different platforms and work trickles in slowly, enough that I can easily manage the workload and don't have to turn it down for fear of reprisals for cutting my current full-time job to take it on, but soon that simply won't be enough. Can I cut it? Only one way to find out so let's see where it takes me.

Incidentally, if anyone is after some High-Quality Video Production or Photography at excellent introductory rates please let me know! 

Here is an example of a  recent promotional video for local business Absolute Confection: