Tag: music

Directing and shooting Wintersong by Daryl Kellie

I’ve worked with the amazing Daryl Kellie quite a few times now, in fact, we lived together for a year back in 2004! I created most of the video content for his DVD/album Wintersong released summer 2014 and back in September he called about the possibility of shooting a music video for the title track of the album, obviously I jumped at the chance.

After a few chats about the songs meaning and the looks that Daryl liked we settled on a performance based video that cut to beautiful nature shots that mimic the story of the song. The idea was to express the new life that comes around with winter as a marker of a new start and nature awakening as the days get longer. We would effectively show this through the nature shots, mostly of the sun poking through branches and what not. And also in the close up shots of Daryl’s lips where the sun rises throughout the 3 minute video.

The first shoot was the interior performance by Daryl with Tom Nichols on upright bass and Kris Lousley on drums. We actually shot this in Daryl’s kitchen which, although large as far as kitchens go, was quite a struggle to fit in for a performance space. I wanted to light them as if pools of light were spilling in through a window on camera right with the rest of the light being warm tungsten or candles. And so we lit the candles and I used two tungsten lights, both fired through home-made cookies/gobos to exaggerate the ambient candle light.

I then placed two daylight LED panels on camera right to represent a window, I wanted everything pretty dark so most of the set up was restricting the light flow/spill.
Filming Daryl Kellie
Filming Daryl Kellie
As I had lit the space for the wide master-shot there was little adjustment needed in the lights as I moved in for the closer angles, just a case of pulling in some of the LED panels to get a softer look at times.
For anyone interested, my approach was to get the ugly wide master-shot in the can then move in for medium (on slider), then close-up, then even more close-up, then slomo shots. That way if anyone suddenly came down with food-poisoning or whatever, I’d still have enough for the performance part of the video.

To film Daryl’s lips and show the sunrise we filmed him on three occasions, the first was just after sunset with an LED panel to create the pre-sunrise blue look. Then we filmed him at actual sunrise then finally about an hour after sunrise and among a little shade. I feel like this subtle narrative helps tie things together nicely.

Most of the rest of the exteriors were filmed of Daryl strolling around a park near my flat on a day that happened to have beautiful light, it wasn’t as cold as we would have liked but it actually ties in with the meaning of new life a little better as it’s not so deathly cold.

Almost all of the nature shots were filmed in my backgarden where the sun pokes through the trees beautifully. The water droplet shot had to be faked because of time constraints and so I stuck a 500W tungsten light straight into a macro lens while a twig fresh from my freezer was clamped in front of it, job done!
Fake Sunrise

I’m really pleased with this video and Daryl has been getting some great feedback, we’re due to be shooting another very soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for it on Daryl’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/darylkellieofficial

Kit Used:
Sony FS700
Canon 5DmkIII
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 mkII
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8
Canon 50mm f/1.8
Canon 85mm f/1.8
old 200mm macro lens
LED panels x2
Glidetrack 75cm slider

Directing a live performance video around symmetry

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.
Filming Hudson Taylor

For anyone interested in the audio on this shoot, I broke it down in this blog post for Rode Microphones.

The Edit
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.

In the mean time, here’s Dan Baxter squished in a corner straddling a tiger getting one of the tight shots:
Dan Baxter getting the shot

Kit Used:
Canon C100
Canon 5DmkIII
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8
LED panels x3
Rode NT2-a mic
Rode NT5 mic x2

Making something beautiful in under 30 minutes

I was recently asked to film two performances and an interview with solo artist Natasha North for SubTV. The interview would be between just her and presenter Ivan Berry and the performances would be just her on her own on guitar or piano. The challenge was that I had to do all of this on my own, including audio, with one light and all within an hour.

We filmed the interview first and this served as a great way of loosening everyone up, Ivan is great at that. Moving onto the first performance, Natasha perched herself on the edge of her couch with an acoustic guitar. I stuck my light up on her right as she was leaning to her left so the light grazed across her face. I also had a horrible little LED panel in my bag that I rested on the back of the couch as a hair light. She gave a great performance over the two takes and I filmed in close so as to allow me to move the camera a little more. This video is embedded at the bottom of this post.

Thankfully we were able to run over by around 20 minutes and so we quickly switched to her beautiful upright piano for the second performance (embedded above). I’ve always found it a bit tricky filming people at an upright piano because they are essentially singing with their face up against a surface. On this occasion I wanted to be brave and make the viewer wait to see Natasha’s face. And so I set up my one light above and behind her and clamped a 5DmkIII to the light stand and opened it up to f/2.8 so that her hands on the keys were just out of focus.

The other angles were the fillers to give the audience something to work with and I found the light balanced quite nicely with the ambient light of the studio. Natasha gave two great performances and I handed the footage over to Dan Baxter who did a lovely edit including slow fades that really suite the song.

Here is the first song Natasha performed:

Kit used:
Canon 5DmkIII
Canon 550D
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
One LED panel

Filming with fake sun on a real budget

My long friend Dan Baxter and I run a channel called The Live Sessions where we film and record artists/bands 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.

A little while ago we worked with an artist called Polly Money in my favourite pub, The Priory Tavern. Polly is a summer girl and her vibe is all about summer so we wanted to capture that in her video.

In England the sun doesn’t shine all that often and even if it was shining on this day we wouldn’t have got many summer beams in our shot. And so we placed a tungsten light at the back of shot in front of a window to represent the sun shining through, we puffed a bunch of smoke back there to sell the effect too. After looking through the lens in the three angles we had chosen we found the back of the bar to be a bit boring. It would have made sense to light the bar but this felt a bit 90’s porno so we were a bit naughty and chose to shoot this light straight back into the lens because we loved the flares.
Filming Polly Money
And that was it, two tungsten lights, three budget cameras, we rolled two takes and got a video with a lovely summer vibe. In no small part down to a constant smile from Polly!

Kit Used:
Canon 5DmkIII
Canon 600D
Canon 550D
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8
old vintage 50mm f/1.8
Glidetrack 75cm slider
budget 500w tungsten light x2
budget smoke machine