Tag: video

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

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

Biological Timelapse

On the 13th of September 2008 I was set upon by approximately fifteen youths after absolutely no provocation. Having been kicked and punched to the ground, half hard-heartedly helped out by the police, documenting the healing of my bruise over three weeks as a time-lapse video felt like a constructive outcome of an otherwise crappy event.

After editing the video I realised how uncomfortable I felt about any explanatory text I might include with it. Generally it seemed to me that if someone posted a note about being violently attacked that they would be seeking sympathy and praise from anonymous internet goers for both their ordeal and heroism. This was far from what I wanted. My physical injuries were very, very minor indeed compared to a sadly large number of people who fall victim to all kinds of unimaginable acts of cruelty.

This was my main reason for considering posting the video with no accompanying text. This of course could be construed as an invitation for inquiry as a cheap ‘get around’ of the above scenario. After much thought I decided that writing an explanation free from self-importance, a little drama, perhaps bias opinions (they are like ass holes after all) would be impossible and so the only way to proceed would be to attempt to be as neutral and fair to the facts as possible.

The day following the attack one of the first thoughts that came to mind was “Why don’t any of my friends with PhD’s spend their Saturday evenings in large groups looking for lone people to afflict injury upon?” This led to the more reasonable and common question “What set of circumstances come together to make a group of people think that engaging in violence with non-participating strangers is acceptable?”

To someone like me with no qualifications or knowledge in the field of sociology or psychology the answer feels like “anything and/or everything” and so impossible to lay out as any kind of manageable explanation. It seems likely that each individual of such a group would have at the very least an inert notion that this behaviour is wrong and more likely would be well aware that it is unacceptable. I find it easier to analyse the conundrum of someone carrying out behaviour that they know to be unacceptable when thinking about people dropping litter.

I have dropped litter in the past, knowing it’s wrong and would say that I did it by justifying it to myself, by trying to out-weigh the wider problem of dropped litter with reasons why I deserve to drop it. “I don’t want it in my pockets”, “someone else will pick it up”, “there is already a load of rubbish on the floor” (Broken Window Theory) or “I’m always picking up other people’s rubbish.” No matter how you spin it, there is no way of arguing that dropping litter is good. I’m sure there are some people who genuinely think it is OK to shoplift small items from large stores that make up large chains. Not only would these people justify it with reasons like “no individual person is losing money”, “I needed a pint of milk” or “they shouldn’t be able to charge these prices”, but they could genuinely believe that shoplifting on a small-scale is a good idea and teaches big corporations a lesson.

Back to dropping litter; I would imagine it almost impossible to find anyone anywhere that could honestly say that dropping litter is a good thing. Speak to a serial litter dropper and sure they would begin by justifying it with the above excuses, but I really do believe that after raising a few of the obvious dilemmas (like “someone has to pick it up eventually”) it would be impossible for them to be unaware of the problem. It’s a strange situation: regular people doing things they agree are wrong and shouldn’t happen.

I expect that a good proportion of the people involved in mindless violence would acknowledge that it is wrong but would justify it by trivializing it or dissociating themselves from the effect of their actions. However, this still doesn’t really take me any further than my second question “What set of circumstances come together to make a group of people who are capable of justifying violence against non-participating strangers?”

As you get older you find more of the things your parents told you whilst growing up were true “one day you won’t hate your siblings”, “drugs are bad”, “there are plenty more fish in the sea”, “working hard at school is a good idea”, “if two trains are travelling at the same speed . . . “, etc. I remember when I first realised that I agreed with a few of these I felt ashamedly old and boring! I have always liked films and whilst under fifteen was often allowed to watch titles like Terminator, Friday The 13th, etc which I guess my parents decided I could handle watching without turning into a violent psychopath. As a twenty three year old I was rather disappointed when Rockstar’s most violent video game Manhunt 2 was banned before hitting the shops.

Day 48 - Tuesday 17th February

It felt patronizing that a grown up wasn’t given the opportunity to decide for themselves if they wanted to witness such sickening senseless violence that was reportedly carried out in the game (I never bought or played it). It is quite likely that the sensors didn’t think the game would corrupt geeky adults (indeed, Rock Star say the game is aimed at a more mature audience), but more so the impressionable under eighteens who might experience the video game. The game was of course due to be released with an eighteen certificate and so it felt like an added frustration that us adult video gamers were being denied entertainment to cover for the parents who were not responsible enough and could not accurately asses whether their child was mentally stable of playing an eighteen certificate violent video game. The eighteen certificate is only a legal matter when selling a video game, if an adult buys it then the eighteen certificate is there to act as a guide (in the UK at least).

Major studies have shown no conclusive link between video game usage and violent activity and I am not proposing otherwise, just that irresponsible exposure to violent material (of many mediums) is very likely to be one of the many (perhaps in the thousands?) circumstances that join together to create a justification of violence. The youths that attacked me were trying hard to look and act like rappers/gangsters/film-stars, they called me Blood and walked like they needed the toilet. When the police spoke to them it looked like I was watching a play where the police said their parts with their puffed out chests and the hip hoppers played their part of speaking in faux-maican slang and shuffling their feet. This social appeal of being involved in a violent gang must be yet another contributing factor, a modern equivalent to being in a pack.

It seems way too easy and simple to say that in late teens the sporty kids are in sports teams, the musicians in bands and the naughty kids in gangs. Going back to my first question of “Why don’t any of my friends with PhD’s spend their Saturday evenings in large groups looking for lone people to afflict injury upon?” It also seems too simple and easy to tie this to education. Shirley you can be educated and enjoy dishing out violence in situations where people can’t defend themselves?

Malcolm Gladwell has a very interesting chapter in his book Outliers where by heavily referencing a study carried out by Annette Lareau (and documented in her book Unequal Childhoods) he discusses the difference in attitudes to education in a working class and middle class environment. I won’t attempt to go into any detail, but the jist of it is that a middle class family takes an active interest in a child’s education and a working class family views their child’s education as a duty and responsibility of the school. Throughout the book you get to learn how not only are both methods good and bad, but that both methods lead to a surprising number of seemingly unrelated factors. This book led me to think that it would be mostly middle class kids being encouraged to join the school band or sports team while the working class kids would be left (and encouraged?) to entertain themselves, learn how to occupy their own time, organise activities and take responsibility for their own time. This goes some way towards answering the question about the lack of PhD holding street gangs ready to talk victims into submission, but does (like all the other suggestions put forward) seem too simple and easy, taking me back to my original vague answer to the whole collection of factors that make a violent youth: anything and everything.

Making the video

The main problem in assembling this time-lapse was the change in perspective and framing between all the shots (over six hundred in total). When I began taking them I tried to hold my camera out in front at such an angle that would be comfortable and natural to repeat often. Once I lined them up and began watching it was clear that there was too much change between shots. I wanted these photos to be played back at 24fps and at that speed they mostly looked like a jumbled mess. The painstaking fix I chose to use (I am sure there must be quicker methods) was to place a maker on each of my pupils. I then went through every photo zooming in or out and moving it until the pupils fitted as best they could under the two cross hairs. Even after this lengthy corrective measure it was still very jerky. In trying to disguise it some what I did some panning and zooming that appeared to help.

The look of the healing bruise and scabs got me thinking about other biological time-lapse video’s that I’d like to try, including fingernails, facial hair and other injuries.