My long friend Dan Baxter and I run a channel called The Live Sessions where we film and record artists performing one song either in a gig setting or often in a stripped back on location setting. Either way our goal is to get amazing audio and beautiful cinematic visuals. For a while we had talked about the aesthetic of shooting a duo performing around a single mic and playing with the symmetry that this offered.
As if by magic we were offered the chance to work with Irish duo Hudson Taylor, two lovely guys with great voices and great song-writing. For the shoot Dan Baxter had secured The Kings Head Members Club and we had the pick of four of their upstairs rooms.
One of these rooms not only had a beautiful tiled floor but also an amazing stained glass window with just enough space to fit the two guys around, we had found our symmetry! We set up Hudson Taylor to perform perpendicular to this window, facing each other with a single mic between them (though we did stick an extra small mic on each of their guitars).
The camera angles were super simple: master wide shot looking back to the window, medium shot from the same angle, tight over shoulder into singers face, tight over other guys shoulder into other singers face. Lovely and simple.
I wanted the light to be motivated and feel real. To achieve this I put a daylight LED panel above the wide camera to add to the light from the window and then a tungsten LED panel left and right to give the boys an orange hair light that looks like it came from some of the lamps in the room. The hair lights had the barn doors almost completely closed so that they just skimmed the back of each of them.
You can see most of the set-up in this shot, you can also just about see (on the screen of the 5DmkIII) how we cheated by leaving light stands in the master shot, then grabbed a 30 second plate with no light stands to comp in later.
For anyone interested in the audio on this shoot, I broke it down in this blog post for Rode Microphones.
I did consider having most of the video rest on the wide shot because I love the composition of it so much but I chose instead to do the opposite and save it as a treat for the viewer that reveals itself just occasionally. It feels like this makes more sense with the song and makes the wide shot even more special, I love it.
I would love to take this symmetry further in a really minimalist setting, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for locations and duos to work with.