Thursday, 31 March 2011

First readthrough with a non-principal character

On Tuesday we met with our friend Vince, who will be reading for Ken, the manager of the Electric Edwardians. Ken is the non-principle character with the most scenes, and the first casting we've done outside of the band who are all playing versions of themselves.

We had a laid back readthrough at my place (the bonus of not having to travel!) over a few beers, and Vince was absolutely brilliant. We had a great laugh and read over his scenes a few times and tried a few things out. It was utterly relaxed and everything came very naturally.

I think Vince is our man!!

Over the next few months we'll probably have similar readthroughs, with the principal cast present to read with the new cast member. Once we have had a low-key rehearsal with each cast member I'm planning to bring everyone together at a party, perhaps a barbecue, so that everyone can meet and mingle. We're all untrained actors, and I think everyone probably feels nervous about acting next to a stranger, so we'll remove that barrier.

The last thing I want on this project is for people to feel stressed. Perhaps I might need to help myself out and get some people to assist me during shooting, I've got a lot on my plate!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Gig recording at New Cross Inn

On Saturday I took the Canon XL1s and my trusty Panasonic camcorder sidearm down to the New Cross Inn to video tape two bands, Frau Pouch and The Explorer's Collective. Mark of the Explorer's brought another small camcorder for me to borrow, so I had a total of 3 camcorders to film the gig with. Pablo of the Explorer's brought his digital audio recorder that he uses for capturing gig audio so I could have a seperate sound recording.

I enlisted several helpers to man the two camcorders for me throughout the two sets, so I want to publicly announce a big thank you to the incredible Diana, Phil, Pablo, Steve and Lauren. I couldn't have asked for more! Further thanks are in order to Diana again for taking care of the transport and being super-amazing in general.

Basically we recorded the bands from three angles and did a seperate audio recording so I can put the results together in Final Cut. We recorded each set in it's entirety, with no stopping between songs so that the three video files would be easier to synchronise when editing. We didn't really plan or co-ordinate our filming angles but we have some audience shots we can use as a cutaway in case all three camerapeople were shifting positions or changing focus at the same time. I took the Canon and tried to get the main shotsdown at the front and I think the end result came out pretty good. I brought enough tripods for everyone but didn't use any as it was risky to put a tripod up in case it got knocked over by a drunken dancer, and having the cameras handheld gave us so much more freedom.

The audio recorder was placed up by the soundbooth to minimise crowd noise. The soundman (a helpful guy named Ben) recommended putting it behind the bar as the speakers were pointed that way, but I put it by the soundbooth so I wouldn't have to hassle the barstaff or fight through barflys between each performance. Pablo still has the sound recorder so I haven't been able to use the captured audio just yet, but the cameras actually did a pretty good job, much better than expected. There was some crowd noise but I couldn't hear specific conversations or yelled arguments, which was my main concern. The venue was very dark, the stage lighting would sometimes hit the band members, but often not, with people on stage right often shrouded in darkness. I turned up the gain on the main camera but this meant that a lot of images were grainy. As a result of these factors the video and audio is certainly not pin sharp but it feels accurately representational, and hell, I was never going for pin sharp anyway!

I spent most of the evening either frantically filming or waiting in the corner guarding all the gear. A friend's handbag was stolen a few months ago in the same bar and I didn't want to take any chances. The crowd was great though, lots of people I knew, so even though I was hanging around I was never bored. I have also never spent that long in a pub without drinking!

In the end the whole thing went unexpectedly smoothly, everything went to plan, we had complete support from everyone, the bands, the staff, the punters. There was never a second of stress during the entire evening, right up until I lost a camera bag but it turns out Frau Pouch accidentally took it home with them. But I have Suzanne's shoes so I'm sure I can arrange some kind of prisoner exchange with the Pouch People.

Here's the first edit, the footage of Frau Pouch. They needed some live footage asap, so I've rushed this one through.

The rest of the footage will have to wait until I've finished one of my current music video projects as my hard disk is groaning under the weight of all the footage.

Summary? This was a lot of fun! Just got word that Frau Pouch like the video too, so I'm damn happy right now!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Got the footage from the other day...

So I got the footage (of our rehearsal of act 1 scene 1) on to the computer and everything looks and sounds fine. The lack of preparation hurt it a little, there were lines of dialogue for which I had no usable shots as I hadn't planned my angles, I just filmed several takes of them acting out the whole scenes with me focusing on different elements each take. Very rough and ready. I made a quick edit to show the band and they like it. The acting was pretty good, and I can see where I need to be more careful and plan my shots better.

I switched the audio to manual control to film their song at the end, they played very loud and the camera handled it very well, the levels were set correctly. But the vocals were of a very poor quality, even though the rest of the instruments came across very nicely.

I'm filming a few bands this weekend live, and there doesn't seem to be much of a chance that there will be any separate audio recordings made, or even the opportunity to go through a mixing desk (as it is such a small venue they only put the vocals and the kick drum through the PA). Will have to do some reading and see what my options are.

Crowd noise is also going to be a problem if I can't get a microphone close to the bands....

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Tripod Arrives - Test-Filming the First Act

The tripod arrived yesterday!
It's big and chunky, really nicely packaged, and it feels like a quality piece of kit. Very strong and sturdy.

The head has a half-ball and socket fitting so you can get some full movement and then can lock it in place. It has metal locking plates for the bottom of the camera. The panning is really smooth once the locks are loosened. For the price, this is a great piece of kit, there's not a flimsy thing about it.

I'm hoping the tripod feet will fit nicely into the tripod wheels I bought a long time ago. This heavier tripod and camera should hopefully be stable in the wheels, which caused vibration in the lighter tripods.
(link to old blog post about the wheels)

Last night I met with the principle cast for our short film, Surviving The Toilet Circuit, in the rehearsal studio where the band meets for practice. I had decided to come down during one of their rehearsals to film a scene where the fictional band will be rehearsing. It was a good opportunity to get used to the new camera. I planned out the shoot as much as possible beforehand and mapped out all the physical actions I wanted the cast to perform. It all went pretty much to plan, and we managed to shoot several different angles of them acting out the entire first act. With each reading everything got better and began to look more realistic and genuine.

I think when we do the final run we'll film it shot by shot, but for this early run it was great to act the whole scene out in one go with minimal references to the script. I think it felt a lot more natural this way, to keep the flow of the dialogue and the actions consistent.

Everything was shot handheld as I couldn't bring my tripod, the car is currently awaiting repair/euthanasia so I had to get public transport and walk from one end of New Cross to the other to get there. Dee came with me on the journey and brought the dog, so we had a big hairy escort to protect our precious cargo. She also made rhubarb kuchen cake for when I arrived home! Thanks Dee! You're the greatest!!

This means I haven't yet used the camera on the tripod yet, although I will soon and I will let you know how it all fits. I really don't think the weight of the camera will be a problem, this tripod is beastly enough to handle it.

I'll get the footage onto the mac this weekend and do an edit to show the guys. I'll also discover what the pitfalls are, and where I need to make improvements with my planning.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Unrelated note - fricking battle tested bayonets - CHARLIE SHEEN

Just wanted to share this for anyone else who has been enjoying Charlie Sheen's rants of late. I think Sheen is having the opposite of a mental breakdown, he's exploding into some kind of God-like genius philosopher warrior, brimming with the truth.

Huge props to graphic designer Steve Thone for building this WITH HIS MIND and a lot of red wine one late evening.

This made my day.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Tripod

There's just no way around it. I'm going to need to outlay some real cash to get a tripod strong enough to support the Canon. My current inexpensive tripods just can't hold the weight convincingly.

I've been browsing for ages, and for budget videographers, it seems the top choice is the £106 Konig tripod sold by NetGadgets.

The reviews on amazon are overwhelmingly positive, the construction is largely steel and not plastic, and the recommendations are plenty. The fluid head seems to please a lot more people than it disappoints, and the whole thing is heavy and strong enough to easily support the Canon XL1s. People compare it favourably to tripods three times the price.

So I'm going to buy it. £106 is more disposable income than I have in a month, so I have to spread it across two months and tighten my belt. No more hot chocolates on my break (previously a thrice monthly thrill) for a while. No more budget dvd purchases. God knows I have enough unwatched movies on my shelves.

A tripod is too important to skip over, and this one is value for money. I'm getting a bargain here.
I'll let you know how it is once I finally order and receive it!

After spending £750 on a camera people are probably wondering why I'm suddenly so tight when it comes to the tripod, an essential piece of kit that I need to be able to trust. The reason is that the camera has been paid for by a colleague on the video project and I'm going to buy it back in instalments, because I am broke and frankly, living beyond my means. My outgoings are greater than my incomings, and I've already locked down every kind of expenditure. Things will improve in a few months once a debt is paid off.

Don't get into debt kids, it can screw you for quite some time. I should have known better, but it's too easy to lose track of things until it's way too late.


4/03/11 14:02pm
Glorious update! A friend at my previous job (which I left in December) had a whip round for me for a leaving gift but they couldn't decide what to get me, so he's just going to give me the cash towards one of my projects. As it turns out, that money, plus the money I'll get this weekend when I return a camera case I bought two weeks ago (too small, this was before I mastered the packing foam conundrum), plus the money I was going to put aside this month, comes to excactly £106!!!

I can get the tripod NOW!! Holy mackerel, that's made my day!

Thursday, 3 March 2011


I have a worklight from Wickes that we bought years ago for £15 (reduced) to light up our garden during a BBQ party. It hasn't worked since then. I bought some replacement bulbs and it's back in business!

It's 500w so nice and bright. I'm thinking of using this as my main light in my no-budget lighting setup. The only problem is the metal grille over the glass, it casts a shadow. What's a guy to do? I tell you what. Prise that metal grille off with his bare hands, that's what! I managed to do so without breaking the glass beneath or lacerating my hands.

Here's just hoping that the glass doesn't get smashed now that it has no protection.
So, I now have a powerful light for video shoots. I will look into getting a dimmer plug/extension lead to give me some control over the output, as this particular light is only either off or on.

One step closer to a great set up.

The tripod is still an issue. There's no cheap alternative.