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Bristol, United Kingdom
Chronicle of an aspiring amateur filmmaker taking on the world!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Yay! I've finally filmed something!

Greetings People

I'm so pleased, after a dozen blog posts I can finally confirm that this post will be dominated by the subject that it was created for in the first place.  The waiting is over, I've finally gone out and done some film shooting and have some stills, and a little bit of conceptual test footage to share with you, as well as a bit of write up as to how it went.

One of the main points to this blog was to show how I set about my filming, and some of the technical issues I come across - I'm almost pleased to say that I did indeed hit one such issue during the shoot, and had to resolve it in a very improvised and somewhat comical way! 

I've also got the latest on episode 2 of the Crash & Burn Movie Podcast.

So, without further ado...

19.08.2012 - Alien Stash Tin - All Riot Now Promo Music Video - Shoot #1 - Big Jon

Jon is the lead vocalist from Alien Stash Tin, a friend since my college days, and obviously anyone who has caught episode one of the Crash and Burn Movie Podcast will know he is my co-host on that.  Thankfully, after my initial attempt at shooting a video for his band, Jon was quite up me having another go. This video is a lot more conceptual than the last, its going to feature a few distinct sections inter-weaved together.  Myself and Jon had the band's rehearsal studio to ourselves for about 5 hours, and while we were telling ourselves that this was purely a test exercise, I was certainly hoping we could get at least some usable footage for the final video.  I hadn't really discussed it with Jon, but I had a few lingering doubts about film rig I was going to use - whether it would produce the quality I was hoping for - I had it in my mind that if we came out of this shoot with less than 25% of the footage shot being usable then the whole project would be in serious doubt, so I felt a bit under pressure, to be honest.

Shot 1. The Great Green Screen Experiment

At the very heart of the video's concept is section involving Jon playing the part of a newscaster.  This involved Jon having to don a smart shirt and jacket, wear a tie, tie his hair back, and at my behest, wear a pair of spectacles.  In fairness, it was quite transformation - possibly he ended up a bit more professor than newscaster, but I was happy with the illusion we were creating.

First challenge was how to set up the green screen.  I'd bought the screen loose, so I didn't have a specialist stand to hang it from - my original plan had been to hang it on the studio wall with duck tape, using more duck tape at the sides to add tension to the screen to get rid of creases.  We instantly found that just suspending the screen using the duck tape wasn't going to work, the walls are covered in sound absorbing foam and are not a great surface for the adhesive of the tape to grip to.  After a few failures we managed to tuck the top of the screen into the cavities at the top of the wall.  It was then that we found out how uneven the wall was - it turned out to be really difficult to get enough tension into the screen, but worse was still to come.  Having got the screen up on the wall, next we got the lights out and attempted a basic three point lighting setup. I'm pleased to say that the lights worked pretty much as expected, a bit hard to control the direction, but the quality of the light was giving good results as far as I could tell looking at the camera screen.  However, the uneven wall that the green screen was hung on revealed a massive problem - the various dips and bumps in the wall we're creating shadows all over the screen - it was pretty obvious to be that there was no point even trying to film using that particular setup.  For a moment I thought about abandoning the green screen shot and trying that another day, when we finally had a bit of a breakthrough.  Jon had found a length of timber near the front door of the studio, it was about three metres long, and we managed to jerry-rig it to hang in the room and then hang the screen off of it.  It was a bit of a botched job, one end was rested on top of the studio PA system speaker and the other was propped on top of a box, set atop of a step ladder!  We managed to get some tension into the screen using yet more duck tape(we were running low of the stuff by then) and while it still was far from perfect, I was at least ready to start filming.  Here is a still of the shot, notice the ladder to the left of the picture!

Professor Jon Vs The Duck Tape Ladder Monster
You'll notice that we had quite a narrow field of vision to record within - the screen area to the left of the picture had the least creases in, so I had to get Jon as far to that side as possible, alas the right hand side was a problem as the powerful 500 Watt light I was using a backlight was proving to be a nightmare.  We needed it as the main and key lights were casting shadow, so it got rid of those, but not without creating a lot of visible glare, as you can see. It was a bit of a nightmare to get Jon to keep his movements within such a tight space - I knew I was going to have to crop the shot around him, it would look daft if his hands kept going out of shot and vanishing!

We did two full takes in front of the green screen and that was about the most I think I could ask for from Jon, who was absolutely sweltering in all that fancy clobber, under the intense heat of the lights.  Shot 1 complete, but I would know until later if it would be any good...

Shot 2. Rockin' it Out!

The other main section of the video will be the footage of the band performing the song, I'm trying to create the illusion that they are playing it live on stage.  I've mentioned this at length in my early blog posts, but just to remind you, we had to abandon the idea of filming the whole band together - the studio was simply too small(as I found out in the previous video shoot) and we could not afford the cost of hiring a large venue for filming.  So, the plan is to film each individual one at a time and see if I can make it look convincing in the editing.

I got Jon to stand about 6 feet in from the corner of the room, then positioned a 150W light on either side of him, slight behind him and shining down at a angle just in front of him, to hopefully create the illusion of stage lighting, and to create a dark background behind him - we couldn't get hold of a black background sheet so it was important that I use the lighting to disguise the drab, grey wall behind.  In fairness, I think this went pretty much exactly as I hoped and looked more or less as I had envisaged it.  Have a look;

"Thank you Wembley, goodnight!'
I went for a bit of a hero shot, filming Jon from low angle to give the impression he is up on stage.  I insisted upon getting a microphone into the shot - again to try and further enhance the live look, I had to get Jon sing up to the mic, rather than the more natural position he prefers for playing live, just because it made the hero shot look so much more rock'n'roll!  I think Jon was sceptical at first, but then I got him to have a look at the shot through the view finder - we swapped places and I stood in shot and he agreed it looked pretty damn cool.  I love the glare of those two lights - and there was also an unexpected but beneficial side-effect to the way I was shooting this, you can't see it on the still but if Jon made any rapid movement then the camera got confused as to what it should be focusing on and you can see the auto focus loosing it for a second then re-focusing on Jon again, it looked awesome!

Did two full takes with the camera fixed, then did a third take with the camera mobile, attached to a monopod, just getting alternative angles.

Probably only a few bits of the third take will be usable, the lights weren't as effective when shooting across as they were when shooting forward, but i think there will be the odd cutaway that I can use in there somewhere. Shot 2 complete.

Shot 3. A Madman in a Padded Cell?

With the time we had left I knew I wanted one other unusual bit of footage - I hadn't quite figured out in my head how this should be, so we winged it a bit.

I knew I wanted to a shot looking down on Jon, and not in a live sense, I wanted it to look a bit like he was being interrogated, so I've got the lights shining onto him this time.  We did two takes, each time I was getting him to get more crazy looking as the song progressed.

While I don't think he'll win any awards for his performance, Jon has become the bookies favourite to land the role of 'Cousin It' in the forthcoming West End musical adaptation of the Adams Family!

 Seriously though, I was fairly happy with the footage, it gave a really good contrast to the other shots.

And So, Some footage!

After shooting I rushed home to check the footage.  My main concern was the green screen shot - two many creases in the screen or excessive glare and I wouldn't be able to remove Jon from the background.  Although there were some issues, I did have to be more heavy handed than I would have liked when chroma-keying out the green, which meant Jon is slightly transparent and definition suffers a little, but it was completely usable - success!  So, to show you I quickly did a transformation video showing the original footage changing to the virtual studio one step at a time.  And Jon, I apologise in advance, I couldn't resist having a bit of a laugh at your expense with the caption!

As you see, it goes from original shot, to cropped, then chroma keyed, then resized and moved to the bottom right corner.  Then I added the looped world background, the screen, the news logo, the red and blue legend at the bottom, and finally the captions.

I've maintained the 640x480 res and 4:3 ratio for the purpose of this test video.  I really don't know if I'm brave enough go through what will be an arduous task of putting the final video together with a 16:9 ratio, I do want it to look cinematic, but I can also see it causing no end of problems.  I've decided that I'll get all the shooting done first, then create a first edit in the native ratio - its mostly for consumption online so I think it will be alright.  I may then attempt a re-edit in 16:9 but I reckon I will probably need to redesign a lot of the graphics to fit a wider screen.  I fully expect that my next project will be shot using my wife's fancy new camera which shoots natively in widescreen, so that will sort out that issue in future!

So, what a day!  But I'm totally over the moon, the quality is certainly a massive step forward from my previous efforts, and now I just need to get the other band members into the studio and shoot their live shots and I'll be ready for the edit.  Its going to be a monster, I reckon I will have to add extra RAM to my PC before I start, but initial signs are so promising!  Can't wait to get on with it.

And Finally...

Video aside, myself and Jon will hopefully be recording episode 2 of the Crash & Burn Movie Podcast this coming Thursday.  Our themed selections will feature alien invasion, we've got some classics lined to talk about, plus a couple of celluloid shockers to share with you in So Bad, Its Great, and we've finally found out what the forthcoming film about Bigfoot was called!  Its going to be a cracker!

Keep it real!


1 comment:

  1. Great blog, Jim. The "Live" shot cheat looks really effective