Tag: Video production

Pitch Hill – Behind the scenes

Video Production – Behind the scenes at Surrey Hills

All of us here at fly love a good documentary, and we’d decided it had been far too long since we all made one. The last one we produced was The Lurcher’ way back in 2014, which proudly for us was a runner-up at the Sony Production Awards 2014.

We knew we wanted to make something beautiful, insightful, and emotive and whilst we were researching possible topics, we came across mountain Biker Phil Grundy who lives in Brighton. His story was simple on the surface, he loves mountain biking and often goes out and rides – but after chatting with him more we realised that mountain biking to him is so much more than just a sport. Although his life has taken a number of twists and turns: from injuries to business struggles, mountain biking has always been his anchor and his focus to pull him through the dark times: It was this idea that we wanted to explore.

 

 

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Phil getting ready for the day

 

We decided to shoot the film in Surrey Hills as Phil has ridden the trails there before and knows it well. We wanted to make sure we arrived before sunrise to capture our opening scene of Phil setting up the bike, but if we had known how cold it was going to be, maybe we would have waited! If the cold wasn’t bad enough, we also had to lug all of our camera kit up and down the bike trails!

 

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A beautiful (but cold) day in Surrey Hills

 

We knew that we wanted the film to have a very slow, atmospheric and emotional tone, so we decided to shoot everything in slow motion (because what doesn’t look good in slow motion!) We have access to a great range of cameras here at fly, but we decided to use our Red Epic for this shoot. The high dynamic range and resolution combined with the high frame rates offered (300fps at 2K resolution) gave us a great deal of shooting flexibility.

The red was primarily attached to a Manfrotto 529B Hi-Hat Tripod. Being lower to the ground meant that we could get some really beautiful low angle shots of Phil as he took off from the jumps, but it also meant we could be closer and get a better perspective for our super slow motion shots.

 

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Our Red Epic shooting at 300fps for some lovely slow motion

 

The weather played a crucial part in bringing this film together. The shoot had to be called off the week before because of snow (did I mention how cold it was?) but luckily, this time we were treated to a gloriously sunny (but cold) day with a perfect sunset.

 

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Phil standing in front of a perfect sunset

 

We’ll be submitting this film into action sports festivals and it will be live on Vimeo, where we hope it might even catch enough attention to garner a coveted staff pick!

We love creating stories like this for brands and what sets these type of films apart from the traditional brand film is that they give one a sincere insight into a person’s lifestyle and what the product genuinely means to them.

If you’d like to know more about our unique approach to brands then please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!

We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.

Dan

More stories from fly

https://mustard.film/portfolio/the-lurcher-a-film-about-a-banjo-maker/

https://mustard.film/portfolio/visit-london-celebrate-christmas-in-london/

https://mustard.film/portfolio/knowhow-openingceremony/

TV look with crew

Achieving the TV look on an online budget

It’s 2016 and the marketeers are telling us to invest in online video. We are hearing many reasons for this:

“It will help your SEO”

“It’s cheaper than TV advertising”

“Your audience can be targeted on their commute, at home and at work

All very good reasons, sure. But once we have accepted that we need to invest in online video, how can we make sure that our content looks good enough to be on TV yet stays within the realms of an online budget?

Whilst anyone can in theory take out their phone, shoot a video and upload it in seconds to their website and social media channels, businesses who care about their image and production values (I imagine that’s most of us) will certainly get better value from investing in professional online video. Gone are the days of dull looking corporate videos. We’re in the age where online advertising should look as good as TV!

So, how could you get the TV look on an online budget?

Through utilising cost effective technology.

TV look Ronin

Getting the TV look (or even the film look!) with the nimble DJI Ronin

One of the major benefits of opting for online content rather than broadcast media is that the fast moving digital landscape is allowing technology to be more affordable than ever before. You’ll have already experienced it with your electronic devices at home and the same applies in the video production industry. Cameras that produce beautiful images fit for broadcast are now within reach. As a result we use everything from larger cinema cameras to tiny DSLRs to portray your business in the best light. To keep things economical we buy some of the equipment outright whereas other bits are more cost effective to hire. This ensures that we can provide quality equipment all year round and still have access to anything specialist or brand spanking new when you need it, getting the best of both worlds.

Another example is in the aerial photography world. As HD cameras have gotten smaller they have been easier to attach to UAVs – aka drones! Only a few years ago aerial photography was too expensive a venture for most businesses; drones are obviously much more cost effective than helicopters!

If you have an interest in tech then you might like this article on how to choose the right camera.

It’s not just the camera: lighting & sound are important too.

One of the cons of this technology becoming affordable is that suddenly everybody considers themselves a Video Producer. Some think they can just buy an HD camera and become a professional without considering other areas of video production. What contributes immensely to creating a high value production or the ‘TV look’ is lighting and sound and at flyCreative we respect that. Just because you may be considering a less expensive option that doesn’t mean your product should be cheap!

A little bit more on lighting:

Only fairly recently have many cameras started to become good in low light conditions. However despite this, even big TV programmes today still require the use of lighting rigs. Next time you are watching X Factor take a look at the background of the wide shots. You’ll often see a large film light of some sort. Apart from being able to see the subjects, lighting is used to make people look good! Don’t you want your business to look good?

With an untrained eye it can be easy to accept a TV image as ‘real life’. Trust us though, you’ll notice the lighting when it’s gone. Or if it’s bad!

Music to the ears: 

The other half of achieving the TV look is through getting good sound. When it’s not good you’ll notice it and will wish that you’d hired a professional. To maintain TV production values on an online budget we also take our sound very seriously, using broadcast quality microphones and recorders to ensure clarity and noiseless recordings. Some projects require their own sound recordist, just as in TV.

As online productions are usually smaller in scale than big TV shows, there is less of a requirement for large lighting rigs, mixing desks and huge teams of personnel which can add substantially to the cost of a production. Portable lighting kits, solo sound engineers and self shooting producers are more widely used than ever before. The number of crew required will depend on your individual requirements, but generally speaking the crews are small for online content.

Through planning and creativity, except you are in control.

Creating content for broadcast can sometimes be a little restricting. All of the major broadcasters such as ITV and SKY have strict broadcast guidelines regarding what can be considered ‘fit for broadcast’. Whilst legal issues such as libel, defamation and copyright breaches aren’t exactly blown under the carpet when it comes to producing online, the truth is by not having so many restrictions and guidelines to meet you can effectively have a lot more freedom when it comes to the kind of content you want to produce, how long that content should be and when you want to release it. With broadcast advertising you may also be competing with many other organisations, all after the same airtime. This can once again hike up the cost. Obviously, to get the most engagement from online distribution you should have a well informed social media and marketing strategy in place.

The beauty of having freedom to create whatever you want (within reason!) means that it’s easier to innovate and choose an idea that hasn’t been done before. This can increase the likelihood of your content being shared and for some, can even mean going viral. Remember, it has been accessibility to content on social media that has helped many adverts (that were originally made for broadcast) go viral. Do you think the Old Spice adverts would have had as much success if they weren’t shared on social media?

Need some inspiration? Take a look at this promo for Virgin Holidays where we got a bit creative. Cinematic slow motion cameras were used to capture members of Cirque du Soleil performing acrobatics on the streets of London.

https://mustard.film/portfolio/virgin-holidays/

The finishing touches to the TV look: post production.

To get the TV look it’s not just about the shoot itself but what we do to the footage afterwards. Colour grading, as part of the editing process, is used to enhance the images so that they help evoke a certain emotion from the audience. This can make your brand stand out from the crowd. Once this is done titles, text, motion graphics and animation can be added to further enhance the production.

The video below is a good example of how a project was really brought to life through post production. Not only did we shoot a range of material to promote London in the summer through the use of steadicams, drones and slow motion filming, but we added warm flashes of colour throughout to give off a summer flavour and produced some small animations along with the text. There’s a lot going on here and it certainly looks fit for TV.

https://mustard.film/portfolio/visit-london-summer-in-the-city/

Don’t forget..optimise your content for your chosen demographic!

Just because you’ve got your content looking like it should be on the telly you must not forget one of the key reasons for choosing to advertise online in the first place. Your creative freedom and a flexible online budget can allow you to customise your content for particular audiences; from simply adjusting the title cards for each audience to creating specific ads for each demographic. Once again, timing of release is crucial here too. What time of day are your customers most likely to be online? With so many options available, it’s down to you to decide what you would like and we will help you realise your vision.

And another thing..

The recurring theme here and the key difference between producing content for TV and online is the scale. Whilst there are many technological savings to be made and in ways a lot more freedom to produce the content you want for online, you will still have to consider the scale of your production. Hiring 50 extras to star in the background of a promo in London Victoria Station is still going to cost a fortune, regardless of whether it is for web or TV. If you are prepared to think big but balance it with realism then there is no reason why you can’t make substantial savings and still walk away with an incredible advert for your business.

To find out how we can achieve the TV look in your online production come on by and say hello!

 

Tips for improving the audio in your video

The first tell tale sign of a video amateur is bad audio. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your images are, how long your steadicam shot is or how interesting your talent is; if your audience is struggling to hear the content they probably won’t give you the time of day. As sound is half of the picture it is crucial that video producers get their audio knowledge up to scratch.

So, what are some of the common causes of bad sound and how could we solve these issues?

Poor location choice

Can you rely on the natural light alone?

A thorough reccie will allow you to (somewhat) find out if you’ll be disturbed during filming

Background noise is probably the biggest problem when it comes to clean sound recording. Where ever we go, whether that be in the city or the countryside, some sort of background noise will try to interfere with our recordings. This could include traffic noise, chatter, sirens, aircraft, footsteps, air conditioning..and the list goes on.

 

 

 

Solution: If you are fortunate enough to do a location reccie, consider the audio elements as well as the visual. Filming under flight paths, by main roads, next to the staff room etc. should all be avoided where possible. If your location looks great but you’re going to be interrupted every 2 minutes, is it really the best place to film? Consider what time of day may be best to do the recording; if the office empties out at lunch time, why not film then? Also, turn off any appliances and equipment that you’re allowed to if they emit unwanted noise. It all goes back to a little foresight and planning before your shoot.

Poor acoustics

Recording in wide open rooms with hard floors and few furnishings can make your recordings sound reverberated. While it is easy to add reverb in post, it is much harder to remove it from a recording. Acoustically treated rooms sound much better to the listener, particularly if recording voice overs.

Solution: Where possible try to shoot in rooms with soft furnishings. Consider using old carpet to reduce the reverb somewhat and this will also reduce any sounds of footsteps. If recording voice overs, either use a studio that has been sound proofed, or set up carpet and pop shields close to the artiste to treat their voice as much as possible.

Unsuitable microphone choice & placement

Sometimes it's good to have options

Sometimes it’s good to have options

You can still record good sound if there is some background noise, but how manageable that noise is all falls down to your choice of microphone. Using the inbuilt mic on your camera is rarely the best option. These mics are often of lower quality, have poor bass response and aren’t usually that directional. High quality shotgun mics may be good alternatives but even those with the most directional pickup patterns can’t completely eliminate some background noise. Lapel mics can also be a good choice but if your subject moves a lot expect to hear a lot of rustling. You also might have trouble attaching a lapel on certain outfits!

Solution: Only ever use your camera’s inbuilt mic for reference so that you can get rid of that tinny sound and reduce the likelihood of any handling noise. Shotgun mics can be great on location, but consider whether having one attached to your camera is going to get the clearest recording or if you need to get it in closer to the subject and purchase a ‘deadcat’ or ‘fluffie’ to eliminate wind noise if you are on location. If using a radio mic, attach stickies and under/over covers to eliminate wind and clothing noise. If possible, find somewhere to attach your mic where there is less chance of your audio becoming muffled  – under a tie or a shirt collar for example. If you have the luxury of both a shotgun and radio mic, record using both into separate channels so you have options! Lastly, if your camera has AGC (automatic gain control), for Pete’s sake turn it off!

Imperfect recording technique

There are numerous ways that your recording technique can affect the quality (or lack of) in your recordings. Turning your microphone’s gain up so high that there is distortion and choosing a mic input when you should be using line are both suitable examples.

Solution: Different equipment manufacturers and sound recordists will have their own opinions on what is a safe level to record at. Some may recommend your maximum recording level hit -18db as it peaks, but some may prefer it to be closer to -12db or even -6db (which is a little dangerous for my liking). It’s important to remember that once a microphone distorts it is pretty much impossible to recover, whereas sound that is recorded slightly too quietly can always be amplified. However, recording as close to your devices’ nominal level is best as too low a level will result in amplification of hiss. This page from the Final Cut Pro user guide explains it well but basically you’ll want to use microphone and recorder combinations with the lowest signal to noise ratio possible. Before you buy any audio equipment do your homework first and look out for comments made by other users regarding this.

One way I found to get a cleaner radio mic recording into my C100 was to select line input in and turn up the output of the receiver quite high

One way I found to get a cleaner radio mic recording into my C100 was to use a line input in and turn up the output of the receiver

One thing to remember is that recording into a designated audio recorder rather than a camera will in most cases give you the cleanest audio as some cameras have quite noisy preamps. On location this might not always be practical but in an acoustically treated studio this is definitely the best method. Either way it is always good to test and get to know your equipment before you go out on a shoot to see how you can get the cleanest recordings possible.

 

 

Insufficient mixing & EQ

audio waveformIs the music drowning out the dialogue? Does your subject become lost amongst the layers of foley? Recording good sound at the outset is important but mixing and equalizing that sound appropriately is just as important in order to produce a product that people want to listen to.

 

 

Solution: Check your levels using the audio meters in your editing program on both your speakers and through a set of headphones. You may notice things through your headphones that you didn’t notice otherwise.  Experiment with EQ and see if you can make any improvements, continually referring back to the original audio. Maybe you’ll discover something, maybe you won’t, but there’s no harm in trying things out. Use fade ins and fade outs where possible so that no source jars when it starts or stops. Find out more about EQ here.

Too much noise reduction

Ever watched a video that sounds like it was made underwater? If so, one cause of this is too much or inappropriately applied noise reduction in post. It sounds bad; worse than most cases of background noise!

Solution: Get it right at the recording stage – do what you can to reduce the background noise. If this isn’t entirely possible, utilize noise reduction and other plugins such as high pass filters to eliminate certain frequencies. The latter cuts off all frequencies below a certain level, allowing the higher frequencies to pass through which can be good for consistent low level noise from an appliance for example. With this and any audio filter be prepared to spend time tinkering if you want the best chances of reducing the unwanted frequency without affecting the voice.

Not listening!

 filming headphones

Despite what anyone may tell you I am a good listener!

Pretty self explanatory, really!

Solution: Always wear a decent pair of headphones and be prepared to playback takes if you can to ensure you’re recording the cleanest sound possible. Other things to listen out for include unsuitable gaps between questions and answers in an interview (you need room to cut), spikes in the audio from background noise (the consistent sound of traffic may be OK but a siren will stand out) and interference.

If you have even the slightest doubt about your recording, go for another take if you can. You will thank yourself in the edit.

 

These tips are just the beginning and should only be the start of your research into sound recording. However, by taking these points on board and applying them to your productions you should start to see a noticeable improvement in your audio. Plan as much as you realistically can, be prepared for the unexpected and when scheduling allow for interviews and pieces to camera to take a bit longer so you can get it right the first time.

Video Production London

10 things they don’t tell you about working in video production

Universities, film schools, specialist courses – all can be a great place to start if you want to equip yourself with useful skills for a job working in video or film production. However, there are some things that just can’t be learned in an educational environment. Only by talking to those already working in the industry and gaining experience yourself will you learn some things that no book or lecture could ever prepare you for. So listen up, we’ve got a few industry insights here. Some are positive and some are not, but if you want to work in this industry you had better listen to the pros first before you dive in at the deep end.

Video Production Company Brighton

Fatboy Slim appreciated the gig!

1. Every new job you land, no matter how big or small, becomes a huge personal victory.

This is especially true to start ups and freelancers. It is much harder to get new clients than it is to get repeat business from an existing one. Even landing little jobs that only last a few hours can give you that warm feeling inside that something is working because people want to hire YOU. This in turn will help you stay driven and motivated. Enjoy it!

 

2. How tremendously adaptable you sometimes have to be.

To get where you want to be in your career you may find yourself sooner or later doing something that you don’t really want to do (well, that’s life!) but you’ll realise that it’s a necessity to making any sort of progress. Whether it be learning a new skill in an area you’re not confident in or taking on work in a completely different industry just so you can survive until your next video job comes in, if you really want to succeed you’ll do what it takes. You may just find it character building too.

3. Marketing is so incredibly, ridiculously important.

Whether you freelance or run your own business, you simply can’t avoid the subject of marketing or you will fail. Word of mouth is often described as one of the best ways of getting work in an industry as small as this, and this is true, but first impressions count and knowing who it is you are trying to work for and how to target them is key to starting new working relationships. Included in this is the ability to sell yourself, plus with growing demand for online video content the marketeers out there should be your best friends!

4. GAS.

Not the poisonous kind, unless you let it get the better of you. GAS stands for gear acquisition syndrome. It is actually a thing. In the western world we are suckers for consumerism and just love to own stuff but this is especially true in video production for cameras are sexy, lenses are bokehlicious and a DJI octocopter – well, who wouldn’t want one of those?

Video Production Brighton

I’ll take them all please

It’s very tempting to spend lots of money and think your career will instantly bloom but if you’re not careful you could get stuck in a never ending process of continually needing to buy stuff and never make any money as a result. For some of us of course it is important that you buy the right tools for the job but perhaps consider whether you really do need that new flashy gizmo or if hiring would be a more sensible option. And don’t forget, your talent counts for something too.

There’s some brilliant advice on the matter in this filmmaker magazine article by DOP Sean Porter including one bit that really stuck with me:

“We have to be very cognizant about the impact, however minute, we make when we mix our creative responsibilities with enterprise. Your gear is a powerful influence on your work, both good and bad. I think stepping up means knowing which is which, even if it’s not the answer you want to hear.”

Wise words.

5. How to balance multiple jobs.

This for me, and I’m sure many others, is probably one of the hardest things about starting off in this industry that’s on this list. I’m not just talking multiple film or video jobs; I’m referring to balancing the self employed work with the employed. The paid with the unpaid. The desirable with the reliable. The big question that nobody seems to have the answer to is:

How can you get experience without a job when you can’t get the job without experience?

You have to start somewhere. Maybe you’ll be working part time so many days a week so you can focus on the video work on your days off – if you can afford to live off part time wages. But then, what if your perfect job comes up while you’re at work and you could be potentially missing out on your big break? If you keep trying to get time off from your reliable work are you likely to keep that job for long? On the contrary if you always keep your diary open, how do you know that you’re definitely going to land more video work to pay the bills? Juggling the reliable and the desirable work can be an absolute nightmare and it’s one thing that no educational institution can ever prepare you for.

My advice is to keep your options open and explore the different possibilities available to you until you find something that works. Everybody needs to earn somehow but what ends up working for one person may not work for someone else. I recently wrote about how my non video job helped me learn new transferable skills but the most important thing to understand is you have to be prepared to work your socks off, whichever path you decide to tread.

Oh, and one more thing. Dealing with a clash of job offers never gets any easier.

6. When to say no.

I must refer again to the article mentioned earlier by DOP Sean Porter, who deals with this point in great detail. Knowing when to say no can be another one of the hardest things to deal with in this industry. Taking on too much work could leave your clients unsatisfied or affect your personal life and relationships in a negative way. It’s another thing that can only be learned through experience and through applying a good level of judgment every time an opportunity arises. We’ve all accepted those jobs we’d wished we’d declined but it’s all about learning from these mistakes so that our future selves won’t curse our present selves into oblivion!

money

Budgeting can be hard when your income fluctuates

7. Steady sources of income can disappear suddenly and you may not know why.

A client may go on sick leave or change premises, marketing budgets may be slashed or a competitor may offer your clients better value. In fact, there are a whole host of reasons why you might lose a steady client and it can be very hard and frustrating when this happens, especially if you don’t know why.

The answer? Don’t take it personally, avoid complacency and learn to be like a gecko – adapt! Don’t stress and remember that factors which are beyond your control can be a blessing as well as a curse in your work life. It also pays during busy times to save for a rainy day.

8. How to manage your taxes.

Tax returns, accounting, filing..yawn. It may be boring but unfortunately it’s something that none of us can avoid doing, whether we freelance or run a business. Not to suck the fun completely out of the creative industry at hand but the more you learn about tax returns and the like the earlier on in your career the easier it will be for you to stay on top of your money and make sensible decisions throughout. You wouldn’t want any nasty surprises now!

The first place to look for information on all things tax is the HMRC website.

9. Your competition may also be your friends.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Working in such a small industry means we often bump into familiar faces and that includes the competition. The beauty of this, unlike most industries, is your competition could not only help to keep you on your toes but they could potentially be a reliable stand in for you when you need a helping hand or could loan you equipment and vice versa. There’s also a thing called referral fees for the business minded among us!

Video Production Brighton

Time to take a break?

10. How to switch off and relax.

Last, but certainly not least. You spend so much of your time and energy hacking away at your career that no matter where you are on the ladder, it can be nigh on impossible to switch off from work when you’re worried about things like where your next pay cheque is, if your clients will like your work and what your competitors are up to. Whether running a business or working for yourself and with dangerous cross overs between work and play on your social media accounts, switching off from the world of work can be very difficult indeed. It could be viewed as a good thing as we are just that determined to succeed, but don’t let it consume you. Allow yourself some ‘me time’ and enjoy those rare opportunities to turn off your phone. Your other half will appreciate it!

There is no real single secret to a successful career in any of the creative industries, but hopefully these insights will help you make the right decisions early on. If you make mistakes along the way however, that’s OK, it is part of your professional development no matter what career you decide to embark on (except for the tax issues – we wouldn’t want you getting in trouble!).

Light meters – do we need them for video?

It was my birthday earlier this week and one of the presents I received from my family was a light meter – a Sekonic Flashmate L-308s to be exact. This little gizmo is hardly the most glamorous gadget in the arsenal of video gear and probably nowhere near the top of most camera peoples’ wishlists, but nevertheless I decided that it was time to get one. Now I shoot quite a lot of video and you may be wondering why I would ever need a light meter when most video cameras have histograms, wave forms, zebras and other exposure aids built in. It’s perfectly valid to question why anyone would want to spend more money on an item that is, in theory, debatable as to whether it is really needed in these modern times.

In this digital age and with the rapid advancement of technology has the light meter become more of a relic from a bygone era rather than an essential video making tool? Do photographers even need to use them anymore now that most shoot digital? Do we really need light meters for video?

The short answer is yes. But it’s not as simple as that. Depending on what you shoot, the answer may actually be no. To decide if you do need a light meter or not it’s worth considering the reasons why one might have one in their kit bag. You may be surprised at how many reasons there are:

sekonic light meter

Sekonic – a widely adopted brand of light meters

1. To get the most accurate exposure:

First and foremost and the most obvious reason for owning one. I’m not discounting inbuilt light meters in digital cameras but the truth is a quality light meter will always be the most accurate way to measure exposure because that is their primary purpose. Inbuilt light meters usually feature modes that rely on averaging the exposure by taking several readings across the frame. Using an averaging mode can sometimes result in the camera been tricked into the wrong exposure because it averages the whole scene rather than taking a reading of the subject you are focusing on, meaning your subject could end up over or under exposed. Using a light meter here can allow you to expose the correct area of the frame first time round.

To control the highlight in this image a flag was held partially in front of the light source so it didn't wrap around the face too much.

The back light here was deliberately over exposed so that it was unrecoverable in post but if I wanted to I could have measured it so it was specifically 1 or 2 stops over the rest of his face.

2. It is easier to control your contrast:

Once you have established optimum exposure of your subject, a light meter can be used to balance the other areas of the frame to help create the look your production desires. For instance, you may want everything to be flat and even for a corporate video or high contrast and moody for drama. You could always judge by eye but knowing exactly how many stops over or under areas of your image are you can have confidence knowing that you’re being accurate. What’s more, if you know the dynamic range of your camera you can expose your images in a way that lets you have a greater degree of flexibility during colour grading if you want it.

Can you rely on the natural light alone?

3. You can have a more efficient location recce:

When you visit a location how do you know what equipment to bring if you don’t know how good the natural light really is? Our eyes can be deceiving and lead us into thinking the natural light can do all the work but really the only way to be fully prepared is to measure that light and then make the decision.

 

talent and lighting

Metering will improve your efficiency in setting up.

4. You can light a scene before the talent arrives (and quicker):

This is a very important point. If we could only light when the talent (or a stand in) was in shot we would never get anything done. Of course, once the talent is in the frame you may want to make some small adjustments but being able to set the exposure beforehand will help save you and everybody else’s time and money. Adding to this, if you have to run back and forth between adjusting a light and viewing the histogram or waveform this can be quite time consuming.

 

which camera?

It doesn’t matter which camera you decide to use, a light meter could assist you with exposure for any model that lets you set exposure manually

5. Video & photography skills often overlap. Embrace this:

For the DSLR video shooters out there, you’ve probably learned a thing or two about photography whilst you’ve been at it. You may have tried out long exposure and timelapse photography out of curiosity, the latter of which can certainly add an interesting element to your videos. Much of this may be a result of simple trial and error until you get pleasing results (this is certainly how I used to do it), however using a light meter can help you to reduce this method and once again save you time. What’s more, you could go further down the photography route later on and so having a greater understanding of exposure and light now could actually make you more employable in the future.

 

 

dog 35mm film

This photo of the old family dog ‘Dolly’ was taken on my old pentax 35mm film camera. Although it’s a lovely photo, if I had taken a reading off of her fur rather than relying on the inbuilt meter to average it out then it wouldn’t have appeared slightly over exposed, as being a golden lab her fur was actually a shade darker.

6. You open up the possibility of shooting on film:

Ever had that burning desire to go old school? We all have. With Kodak’s recent announcement of a new (yes, new!) Super 8 film camera you may just get tempted further into experimenting with film.

Now, many 35mm stills cameras have inbuilt spot meters, as do super 8 cameras, however, once again they may not always be the best option for you, especially if these meters calculate an exposure based on averages. Of course with digital cameras you can readjust your exposure and snap again but with rolls of film this can be an expensive thing to do so you have to be much more conservative with your shots. Taking proper exposure readings will eliminate the need for guess work and ensure you become comfortable with the format.

And finally..

7. You look like you know what you’re doing:

In other words, you look like a pro. That’s a good thing, right? Oh, and you can give accurate orders to an assistant (this is invaluable)!

So, taking these points into consideration, what kind of video shooters could benefit from using a light meter?

I believe the answer is anyone who wants or needs to light their productions to a high standard. This includes those who work in (but is certainly not limited to) commercials, drama, green screen and stills photography. Aspiring DOPs certainly need one, hence why I got one. For conferences, weddings, run and gun documentaries and corporate videos, you probably won’t need one. In these instances you can simply rely on your camera’s exposure aids and you won’t have to fork out for an expensive item that may just end up gathering dust.

At the end of the day the decision of whether you need a light meter or not is down to you and it all depends on what you shoot and/or what you want to shoot. Light meters aren’t the cheapest tools out there so, as with everything else, only get one if you really need it. If you decide that you do need one however, it could be one of the most important investments you’ll ever make in your video career.

If you would like to find out more about lighting check out this article on why good lighting can sometimes be more important than the camera and how a cheap reflector could be your most important lighting accessory (after the light meter of course!) .

Why a reflector is your most important lighting accessory

The 5 in 1 reflector: cheap and incredibly useful

Cheap, light and with so many uses, your 5 in 1 reflector is a lighting accessory that should accompany you on every shoot.

Lighting in video production is not just about flicking switches. When I was just starting out as a freelancer I was guilty of believing this; that lighting simply had to be turned on and that was that. I recently wrote about how lighting could actually be more important than the camera itself and that lighting can sometimes be deceptively simple but what should be noted here is the idea that the subject isn’t always referring to the lights themselves but to the modifiers as well. In fact, I’d say that half of lighting is actually modification. Flags, floppies, bounce, scrims, nets, diffusers..there seems to be so many different lighting accessories about that it’s hard to keep track of what they actually do. These items are all examples of lighting modifiers, however in this case I’d like to focus on the simple 5 in 1 reflector – a low cost, multi use modifier that really is an essential tool for any film maker.

But it’s just a reflector?

No it’s not. If you’re thinking that, you probably haven’t explored the many uses even the cheapest of 5 in 1 reflectors has to offer. Having 5 different sides allows you to do a lot in a variety of shooting situations whilst remaining portable and convenient.

Lets take a look at the different sides of a typical 5 in 1 reflector and how you might use them in your moving image productions:

White

Tip: If you need something bigger to bounce, polystyrene board is cheap, light and in your local DIY store

Tip: If you need something bigger to bounce, polystyrene board is cheap, light and available at your local DIY store

Any white reflective surface is often referred to as ‘bounce’, the reason being that a hard light is bounced off the surface and onto the subject to create a nice soft light with minimal shadows. Your hard light source could be a powerful tungsten lamp or the sun.

Soft light is commonly used in corporate environments

Look at the difference between a hard light shone directly at the subject (left) and a hard light bounced off a reflector (right)

Look at the difference between a hard light shone directly at the subject (left) and a hard light bounced off a reflector (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bounced light can be used as the key light (main light source) when even lighting is required or as fill (to fill in shadows created by the key light) when a higher degree of contrast is needed. It is commonly used in all matter of video and film productions for a flattering image.

Black

Tip: If you need a flag to block out a large area such as a big window a tarpaulin is an effective solution.

From experience, you can never have enough flags.

Your matte black surface is vital in situations where you want to cut out light. This could be to control exposure, shape light or even remove light from the image entirely. It is often referred to as ‘flagging’ or providing ‘negative fill’ and you would be surprised at the number of situations that you might find the need to do this.

 

For situations where your reflector might not be big enough a tarpaulin is a great way of flagging a large area such as a full window

For situations where your reflector might not be big enough a tarpaulin is a great way of flagging a large area such as a window.

Can't see your screen? A flag would be handy here..

Having difficulty viewing your LCD screen? A flag would be handy here..

The problem with powerful key lights is that it’s easy to lose control of them, in that light can get in some areas of the image that you don’t want it to. Some lights have barn door attachments which can help but this may not always be enough to control the spill. Simply holding up a flag can make all the difference. The other thing to consider is how long you are filming for and if natural light likely to change throughout your shoot. Flagging any uncontrollable light sources allows you to start from scratch and build your lighting design from the ground up, even allowing you to shoot night scenes during the day!

To control the highlight in this image a flag was held partially in front of the light source so it didn't wrap around the face too much.

Without a flag partially cutting the back light, the beam here would have over exposed half the actor’s face.

Diffuser

Tip: There are many different types of material that diffuse light in varying amounts. One popular and cheap method of diffusing large sources on low budget films is to use a shower curtain.

Tip: There are many different types of material that diffuse light in varying amounts. One popular and cheap method of diffusing large sources on low budget films is to use a shower curtain.

Sometimes you may not want to directly cut out light but soften it instead, so it creates more subtle shadows. Hard light sources such as direct sunlight can create strong shadows and too much contrast as a whole, in which case placing the diffuser between the light source and the subject can make it appear much less harsh. The surface of your diffuser may appear similar to the bounce but on closer inspection you’ll find it much more translucent.

lighting at kinetico cropped

Hard light shone through a diffuser is softened but without a huge reduction in overall output.

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The diffuser is essentially a cheaper (and more portable) version of a trace frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By diffusing a hard light source you are able to soften the light but also keep the spread. Moving the diffuser further away from the light source will soften the shadows even further.

Tip: Another popular low budget method of creating higher contrast is to use tin foil.

Tip: Another popular low budget method of creating higher contrast is to use tin foil.

Silver

Silver is incredibly useful in creating contrast quickly, by making certain parts of the image ‘pop’ out from the rest. Whilst it must be used carefully to avoid blinding the subject, it has a surprising number of uses such as creating highlights (areas of the image that are deliberately over exposed for creative effect), filling in shadows and for creating texture (such as a rippling effect from light reflected off water).

 

 

 

 

 

Silver - a bit more kick to your fill than normal bounce.

It can provide a bit more kick to your fill than normal bounce.

Silver can be used to create a rippling water or a 'glow from the TV' effect.

The uneven texture of silver means it can be used to create effects such as that of rippling water or a glow from the TV. Easiest to see in a moving image (yes, watching breaking bad counts as work!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip: Although not as powerful as silver, gold can help increase the contrast in your image too.

Tip: Although not as powerful as silver, gold can help increase the contrast in your image too.

Gold!

Always believe in your..

Ahem.

In my opinion this is the least useful of the 5 for the moving image, but it still has some useful applications. Gold is mostly used for creating a warming sunset effect or for texture and can be particularly flattering in fashion and beauty films.

An up lighting effect for warmth.

A subtle up lighting effect for a bit of warmth.

So there you have it – your reflector has so many uses that it really is your most important lighting accessory – and I’ve only begun to touch the surface. Bouncing, diffusing and flagging each deserve their own articles but just knowing how you can start doing these modifications with your reflector will take you a step closer to raising your production values, and that’s whether you’re in a studio or on location and working in controlled settings or operating run and gun.

If you care about production values then there are really no excuses for leaving your reflector at home. In fact, once you start utilizing one you’ll probably want another (and if you need to google how to fold it back into its bag, that’s OK – we’re all guilty!).

Happy shooting!

Video Production Companies London

How to choose the right camera for the job

The C100's form factor and weight made it the perfect choice on a recent trip to Gibraltar

The C100’s form factor and weight made it the perfect choice for a day trip to Gibraltar

I’m terrible at making decisions sometimes. When presented with a multitude of options for anything in life it’s so easy to spend too much time overthinking which options to take that you end up wasting unforgivable amounts of time being indecisive and not actually getting anything done. The process of deciding on a camera to use is one of those tasks that I, and I’m sure many others in this field, have been guilty of in the past for spending far too long on. Many hours can be lost to Youtube comparison videos and the forums if you’re not careful. Sounding familiar? There are so many options available to us that it’s understandable why it would take so long to decide, but time is money after all and we’ll get left behind if we ‘oom’ and ‘ahh’ for too long.

And the award for most expensive wedding video ever goes to..

Lets face it – all of us techies would love to have the latest and greatest cameras for all of our projects. Wouldn’t it be great if we could shoot in 4K or 6K (or even greater) every time? Having the ability to shoot super slow motion on a full frame sensor with internal ND in a lightweight body would be pretty amazing right? Why would anyone want you shooting for them if you don’t have the most up to date technology possible?

We’d better stop dreaming I’m afraid.

Not to rain on the parade or anything but the fact of the matter is we can’t always have the most advanced technology every time. Most of the time this is down to money, but even if you had all of the money in the world to buy however many cameras you’d like, you’d probably reach the same conclusion as me eventually:

No camera is perfect. But, for each job there is a perfect camera. 

Think to yourself what your favourite film is. Why is it your favourite film? Did the choice of camera have anything to do with it?

Probably not.

You probably chose it for its story or maybe the acting. Perhaps you chose it for its cinematography, but remember the camera only did half the work. There was a person operating that camera and they would’ve probably made a conscious decision as to why that camera was the tool for the job in their current situation.

The right camera for the job

It’s very easy to get into the gear mindset and only think specs, but really if you want to be taken seriously as a professional then think of the equipment as merely tools. Cameras are obviously much more exciting than other tools in other industries, but realistically that’s what they are.  You are there to do a job and they are there to help you do that. The camera manufacturers want us to think differently, but then they want our hard earned cash! The key is finding the camera that will help you do your job, whatever it may be, as efficiently and effectively as possible whether you are buying or hiring.

So what is your situation? Do you have a short term brief to meet or a long term investment to consider? If you are stuck choosing a camera, here are some factors to consider before your dreaming becomes a money losing opportunity:

  • Price

The most obvious thing to consider. As with any other product the more features a camera has, the dearer it will be, whether you’re buying or hiring. Set yourself a budget.

  • Return on investment 

If you’re buying it’s sensible to think about how long it will take (or – gulp – if) you’ll make a return on your investment. We’d all like an Arri Alexa, but do we all earn that much in a year? Similarly if you’re shooting on a long project, would it make sense to hire a camera for that period when you could actually save money in the long run by buying?

  • Accessories

What do you actually need to make your camera perform how you want it to? Does it work straight out of the box or are there other bits required? Do these additional items cost much or take long to set up? Will these accessories remain useful if you decide to upgrade further down the line? Have you thought about which lenses you’re going to use? (that’s an entirely different subject in itself)

  • Target audience

Crucial, this one. What do you actually shoot? What are your clients asking for? Do you want to move into shooting something different? An Arri Alexa is probably going to be a bit overwhelming for talking heads!

  • Workflow

How quickly do your clients need their video? Do you need to shoot with edit friendly codecs for speed? Or do you require something more efficient for storage? Can your editing system handle 4K or do you plan to upgrade in the future? Do you need flexibility in the grade?

  • Image

It would be lovely to not have to worry about this but unfortunately in the world of business first impressions are made very quickly and this can mean the difference between landing a job or not. Whilst this is mostly attributed to personality, punctuality and presentation, the same can also be applied to the equipment you use. If your clients think you’re using cheap equipment are they likely to pay top dollar? If you shoot on a DSLR have you ever had someone ask you ‘Are you doing stills?’. What impression do you want to leave?

  • Style

OK, so we’re allowed to have a little bit of fun while we’re selecting our tools. Every camera out there has a distinct look and processes colours and skin tone slightly differently from the next. You might just simply prefer the look of one over the other, regardless of specs. Try some cameras out and see what you like. Are you Canon or Sony? Black Magic or Red?

Sony or Canon?

Are you Sony or Canon?

As you can see there is a lot to consider when choosing a camera and we would all want to know that we are making the right choice. Lets look at some examples, in this case some up to date 4K cameras, and think about when they could be used as effective tools and when they may just be a big fat waste of money:

Arri Amira

arri amiraEveryone knows that Arri is king when it comes to cameras, as was evident when cinematographer Roger Deakins commented that the Alexa was the first digital cinema camera to challenge 35mm film.

The Amira is essentially a slimmed down ‘documentary’ style version of the Alexa. With HD, 2K and 4K options, a range of Pro Res codecs, slow motion up to 200 fps, internal ND, interchangeable lenses and huge dynamic range, this camera really has everything I would love to have in a camera. Most importantly, the images it produces are superb. I mean they would have to be as this camera retails at over £20,000. Would probably be hiring this one me thinks.

20151020_093951

I was fortunate enough to spend some time recently with the Amira. An incredible camera but with the weight of accessories you might think twice about shooting on it entirely handheld.

Best for:

  • Broadcast and high end drama, documentary, commercial etc.

Worst for:

  • Event work and majority of online output (impractical and uneconomical)

 

 

 

Black Magic Cinema Camera

blackmagic_design_blackmagic_production_camera_4k_964119From my experience Black Magic seem to be a bit like marmite. Most people seem to either love them or hate them – there’s no in between. Why’s that? To start with, the specs for their production camera are very good with lots of frame rate options, huge dynamic range and popular lens mount options all within a small body. What’s more it comes at an unbelievable price for a 4K camera at just over £2000 currently. Where it falls short however is in its battery life, impractical screen and ergonomics. It sounds tempting but if you decide to invest in some accessories for it then suddenly it’s not so cheap.

BMPC: Ideal size and weight for a car rig.

BMPC: The ideal size and weight for a car rig.

Best for:

  • Low budget drama, commercials and music videos or 4K on a budget

Worst for:

  • Anytime you have to shoot quickly, as a lone shooter or in low light, i.e. documentaries & travel (impractical)

Sony A7S mkii

sony a7s iiThe A7S took the DSLR world by storm last year mostly due to its incredible low light capabilities attributed to its full frame sensor and it’s affordable price tag. Now the mkii is here and whereas previously you could only record 4K footage to an external recorder this new version offers internal 4K recording as well as some other nice features including frame rates up to 120fps and several variations of S-Log for greater dynamic range in the grade. At £2500 it is certainly an affordable 4K camera, but it may not be for everyone. As a DSLR it still lacks some features associated with professional video cameras including XLR inputs and is limited to recording no longer than 30 minutes. Its battery life is also not great and the Sony E mount offers far fewer lens options than EF or PL for example. If you decide to invest in accessories, then once again, it may not actually seem that cheap after all.

Best for:

  • Travel

Worst for:

  • Conferences, weddings and other long recordings (impractical)

C300 mkii 

canon_0635c002_eos_c300_mark_ii_1134579

A recent offering from Canon, the C300 mkii builds upon the success of the original C300 which became a widely recognised video production workhorse. The original camera was popular for broadcast, news gathering and corporate work and the C300 mkii looks set to improve on this build with new codecs and frame rates on offer, 4K recording, inbuilt ND, popular lens mount options and a form factor that makes it ideal for shooting as a single operator. But with only being able to shoot 4K at 30p, a heavier build than the previous model and a price tag far higher than the spec-tacular Sony FS7 (which is in the same league but does offer slow motion in 4K) this camera may be too much for some at £13500.

Best for:

  • Broadcast and online (anything that requires a single operator)

Worst for:

  • 4K slow motion requirements (non existent)
Video Production Companies London

The original C300 has dropped in price substantially since the mark ii release. Great if you don’t need 4K.

These are just a few examples to get you thinking and of course these are my own opinions, but as you can see it’s a bit of a minefield out there. There are so many factors to consider and what one person needs in a camera may be unnecessary for another. It also doesn’t help that new cameras are being thrown at us left, right and centre all the time and the old models are becoming obsolete quicker than ever (which hurts us financially for sure!). The plus side of this camera boom however is there are so many options available that there is something for every budget, whether you shoot HD or 4K.

Get what you need and concentrate on producing high quality work – remember it’s not just about the equipment but the people and the creativity behind it.

Video Production London

A Checklist of Qualities to Look for in a Video Team

When you’re looking for the right video production company for your project, you’re likely to face difficulties drawing up a shortlist. There are lots of businesses out there, which superficially seem like a good fit, but how can you find the ones best suited to you? If you’re looking online, the first thing to do is get your search terms right: for the avant-garde ballet company based in Norwich, searching for ‘video production company London’ is unlikely to be fruitful.

Otherwise, here are some qualities and attributes you should pay attention to when shortlisting film production companies.

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Using a Video Production Company to Create Screencasts

screen cast video production brightonScreencasts are perfect for businesses in the tech industry or have a product which can be shown on screen.

A screencast is a video that captures what is shown on a computer screen. This works well for creating marketing videos for software and online technology companies to promote how a product works.

For example,

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