80:8 Photography : Video : Sound : Bands : Portraits

Photography Kit

Spider-webs & waterfalls

spider

This is my second shoot with the BMCC – and it continues to impress. What do I like about it? The image is sublime. It’s what I expected from the new dawn of HD footage. Although I’ve been using DSLR’s (Canon 5DII) and small-chip camcorders (Canon XF-100) for the last few years, they always seem to be missing something. The image from the 5D is of course gorgeous, but it breaks down so easily when doing any grading. The XF, I use mainly for stock, live gig footage and anything where I need ‘easy’. Again, it’s image is very nice. But is ever so ‘video’.

So, neither of them do ‘cinema. What is that? I dunno really. I guess it’s just an image I really like & yes, I do love the image from the BMCC. Even the noise…looks like proper grain.

I’ve only used Pro-Res HQ so far, but even that is a revelation when it comes to grading. It is just so robust when compared to the codecs of the 5D and XF. For instance, most of the shots were seriously underexposed (we’ll talk about this later) so I had to really push the exposure in some cases to +2 stops. And it still looks pretty delicious.

Music video’s and personal projects are my bag at the moment and that’s where the frustrations of the camera are actually benefits. It slows me down, it allows me to concentrate and to consider how the camera actually responds in different conditions. If I were a run ‘n’ gun documentary dude I probably would have thrown it through the window by now.

Now, why were all the shots underexposed? The BMCC doesn’t feature any levels or scopes, just a bit of peaking. The screen is large and bright (although terribly reflective) so when in a relatively dark space, such as the sombre, ancient forests of Northumberland where full daylight rarely reaches, you see something that looks very nice. So you hit record. Then, you get home and start logging the footage and you see a load of mud 😦

However, given that Pro-Res HQ is very robust you can then really push it…God knows what raw is like – too scared to try it at the moment (my 1Tb Lacie FW drive, all of sudden seems rather lightweight).

Let’s put it another way : In learning how to use the camera, I really screwed up the exposure this time. Despite that, I still got this:

If this were a paying gig, bacon would be saved.

Stuff used:

– Camera : BMCC (EF Mount), 1080P Pro-Res HQ, Film (log) mode, mostly 800 ISO
– SSD : SandDisk Extreme 240Gb (no dropped frames as yet)
– Lenses : Canon 24-70L (at F2.8 all the time) & Canon TS-E 45L
– Support : Sachtler Ace Tripod & Glidetrack Shoot + Manfrotto MVH502
– NLE : FCP 7
– Grading : Magic Bullet Looks

Music by kind permission of Matt Wilson : https://soundcloud.com/mattwilsonmusic

Location : Roughting Linn Waterfall, Northumberland.

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Shameless ‘aaahhh’ attempt

Yeah I know, but kinda nice. One up from a cute cat shot?

IMG_6541


Video production notes :@Tashabmusic / Tasha Blackmore & ‘Permanent Memory’

OK. So it was cold – probably just hovering above freezing most of the day in a rather beautiful meadow just outside Melrose in the Scottish Borders. I mention the cold, not from the point of view of saying how hard it was / thus how tough everyone was, but more from the point of view that for low/no budget music videos where the intention is to create something with the highest possible production quality – natural ‘hazards’ such as the weather are actually quite a big deal.

tasha

Without assistants, space heaters or an on-site airstream trailer, the cold can be deabillitating to the film-maker and talent alike. Luckily, in this case we had the use of a large indoor space complete with ferocious log-burner. It saved the day and all thanks to incredible help from the owners of the location – Roulotte Retreat. Anyway, enough of the cold – something rather nice came together in this video and I think it was the confluence of three things : 1) The song 2) The performance 3) The location – everything was perfectly pitched. Also, I think it’s probably fair to say that a whole lot more thinking time went into this video. That’s not to say any previous video’s have have been compromised in this respect, but that a different approach was taken this time. The song was listened to for around 90 minutes every day. At four minutes long that’s 22 times a day…For a month, so over 600 times…The location was visited beforehand (an absolute luxury!), scenes were imagined and plans were struck. Here are the production notes:

Working Footage : Around 25GB of content, so around 60 minutes of footage in total, or around a 15:1 ratio between Working and Completed. If we were still working on tape, that would be considered to be a good ratio in economic terms.

Cut Ratio : 39 cuts! Again, really slow! On average around 1 cut every six seconds – by comparison, your average R ‘n’ B video is about 2.5 cuts / second

Clips : Erm…About 10 complete syncs of the song + 4 partial syncs + 15 narrative/detail shots. Which probably means something like 8.841761993739701e+30 possible combinations. Of course all but 3 of those would be complete garbage.

Capture Time : We shot for six hours and got sixty minutes of footage. So for one hour of footage, there were five hours of set-up and faffing around.

Editing Time : Ah, well. This is where it gets interesting. Editing time was super quick. Aside from rendering in FCP and eating bran flakes, I reckon total editing time from cataloguing to completion was five hours.

Preparation Time : Excluding listening to the song – 12 hours easy. But that resulted in quite a short filming time and significantly shorter editing time.

Video Treatment : It’s a spare/sparse song of sadness, regret but also some subtle hidden strength. The scenery reflected that, while the final segment was intended to show that even though the singer of the song was the wounded party, actually, who was really going to come out of it a more reduced person? A break once healed is always stronger. Also it’s a C&W / Pop song – not something I’m too familiar with, hence Tasha sent some reference videos to look at. Ok! So it’s Taylor Swift in the Scottish Borders!

Camera’s : All Canon 5DII apart from a tiny bit of the fireside stuff. Lenses for the 5D included the 70-200mmL-is, TS-e24L (all time fave) and the 28-70L. Attempted to do some pull focus by hand – not great, but I think it just about came off. Why no XF100 footage? Well, 5D stuff although it’s not easy to get, has a certain, lovely look…

Camera Picture Profile : Cinestyle (free from TechniColor) super-flat, great for post-production grading.

Workflow : All raw footage converted to ProRes LT @ 1080. Delivered to YouTube as 720P H264 / Max bitrate = 5000Kbs. Why not 1080P? Erm, well, at 1080 the video file is 3.45Gb – no way am I uploading that! At 720 and 5000K nitrate, it’s 173Mb.

Lighting : All natural/ambient apart from one Dedolight used on the fireside scene and inside the roulotte.

NLE : Final Cut Pro 7 and graded in FCP + a subtle bit of Magic Bullet looks. As usual, no sharpening. I’ve tried FCPX but it still kinda freaks me out a bit.

Other Kit : Fab new HD slider from GlideCam, Sachtler Ace Tripod and my ancient Manfrotto stills tripod.

What else : Clothes and make-up by Colleen Henderson-Heywood & a great performance by Tasha

Anyway, enough of that nonsense: Here it is – enjoy!


I really do love my Bowens Gemini lights

Sad maybe, but definitely true…After three years of abuse, being thrown around, falling over, being rained on, sat on and flashing all over the place, they’re still going strong. They’ve been reviewed a million times before elsewhere, but if you’re serious about getting studio quality photo’s on location, then a set of Gemini 500’s with a battery pack is an absolute must. They are brilliant. Here’s a BTS…

 


A Northumberland dawn : XF100 test footage

Yawn. No, it’s not boring, well hopefully not – just a reference to a few remarkably early mornings recently. So first time out with my spiffing new Canon XF100, 04:30 on the Northumberland coast and a quite wonderful sunrise + a bit of a castle + some poppies. Here’s the footage, it isn’t a review (that will come later) but just me getting to grips with what feels like alien-tech. Hope you like it and should you wish to visit one of the finest beaches in the UK, you should head towards Bamburgh – it’s magnificent. You might need sweater though.

Vimeo


A bit of non-HDR, HDR In Lightroom 4.1 + a bit of a review

I’ve loved Lightroom forever. It’s just the best RAW processor ever and a few weeks ago I upgraded it to LR 4.0 and now 4.1. And this is from someone who generally has a phobia about Adobe products.

The bad : It suffers from really bad lag on my Mac – I’ll move a slider and it stutters or the beach-ball starts spinning. A quad-core Mac with 12Gb RAM struggling to power LR? Hmmm, something is afoot methinks. I seem to remember LR 3 suffered the same initially but then it got sorted. Fingers crossed it’s the same this time.

The change : The processing engine has all changed and with it parts of the Develop UI. Gone is the familiar fill light etc, to be replaced with whites, shadows, highlights ‘n’ blacks and with completely different ‘zero’ points. It all seems pointlessly confusing and unfamiliar. Familiarity with the processing controls is of course what gives you speed and consistent results. Not happy initially…But then…

The good : The new controls and processing are so much more smoother, subtle and yet capable of so much more. Here’s a photo from last year, tweaked using LR 4.1. It almost has a HDR kinda feel to it – but it was done simply by lowering the whites, upping the shadows and tweaking the clarity. I don’t have the patience to do normal HDR photography and also I think it’s a technique to be used sparingly, so now I can give it a go on any image without having to go to the trouble of setting out to do it in the first place. Other good stuff? The Noise Reduction is significantly improved and there’s other new bits and pieces which others elsewhere have already reviewed.

Overall it’s really good but suffers from latency – which I can handle for a short time. Oh, and here’s the non HDR, HDR photo:


Desert Island Lens : Tilt and Shift

Desert Island Discs. Kirsty Young. Ok, calm down. Now…what would be my luxury item? I reckon a tilt and shift lens…An unspoilt wilderness, great vistas, lush verdant foliage and an endless sky. Perfect. Here’s why.

Ah. Slight problem. I need a camera to attach it to.


A bit of wide angle

Now, way back, a million years ago all I ever wanted was a wide-angle lens. I thought “just imagine how much I could pack in”. So after much saving up, doing another paper-round and living on lentil dust, I finally bought a Canon 17-40L. Not only was it lovely and wide-angle but it had the red L band around it. I mean wow. I was using it on a cropped sensor camera at the time so all was fine. Then, after putting a very lucky bet on the three-thirty at Doncaster, I got my first full-frame camera, the legendary Canon 5D Mk1. The 17-40L became really wide angle and I fell out of love with it. The distortion, the vignetting, the softness at the edges…I went all purist and the lens went on the shelf, rarely touched and slightly maligned as I explored the esoterica of white L Lenses and er, video. Seven years later and none of that matters. I love the imperfections, the distortion, the madness of the thing. I know it can be used ‘properly’ but these days I like exploiting all the bad stuff about wide angles. As for purism? Well, that’s better left to the people who monitor water quality.

So, Ellen  comes to visit and she wants a portrait…Well, you know what’s gonna happen :

Ellen


Gear Lust 2 : Canon C300

I don’t need one. I probably wouldn’t know how to work it. But sadly I do want to cuddle it. Or perhaps put it on a plinth and leave baskets of fruit at it’s feet. This is sheer gear lust though. I can deny myself. Which actually, is remarkably easy given it’s £10K. I bet it works and looks like a dream though. Sigh 🙂

Canon C300


Burning Up / Video Preview & How we did it

Here’s a little preview of the soon to be released official video of ‘Burning Up’ by Edinburgh based band, Lost In Audio. All shot, directed, edited, produced and colour-graded by 80:8. We shot the video over a six hour period between 9pm and 3am in a top-secret Borders location. And y’know, I think it came out really rather well. The full length video is a great example of constant visual and aural energy – the guys in the band put in amazing performances take after take after take (we did 21 in total)

For those interested in the how’s, why’s and wherefores we used :

– A Canon 5DII with 24-70 f2.8L & 24mm TS-E lenses, Full 1080P @25fps, converted to ProRes 422(LT) for editing, then output in 720P for uploading to YouTube. No sharpening, contrast turned down low and saturation down two notches.

– Lighting was an esoteric mix of my Bowen’s flash heads with the modelling lights on, Maplin disco lights, LED’s from 7 Dayshop and of course what every film director needs…Site floods from MachineMart!

– With all these lights I managed to shoot at 640 ISO so grain was kept to a minimum, aperture wide open most of the time.

– Editing in Final Cut Pro, titles via Motion and Colour Grading via er, Color!

– Syncing was done by eye (based on the audio waveform) then a multi-shot sequence was created in FCP allowing me to cut from angle to angle easily.

And that was it! A breeze! The intention was to create a high-powered take on the ‘Bubbles’ video by Biffy Clyro, except of course on a budget of £9.87 – or the price of chinese takeaway for four people. And, y’know what – I think it succeeded. I’ve projected the video at a size of 50″ and it stands up really well, while on YT I like to think it stands up to pretty much anything.

So, four blokes in a shed basically. Limits, actually, make you go further.