Blog

What does a ‘broadcast quality’ music video mean?

Broadcast Quality Music Video

The world of video production is chock full of terminology that to the trained ear makes perfect sense but to the unsuspecting can seem down right confusing. We will always do our best to keep things in plain English but for those time we let the odd term slip (or simply can’t help ourselves), here’s our very own cheat sheet for those pesky video terms that might crop up from time to time.

So when we brand our music videos as broadcast quality what do we actually mean? Well, our videos are all shot to TV spec, so should you wish to get your music video shown on TV we’ve shot your work to the required specification that broadcasters will ask for. We do this for all the music videos we produce, regardless of budget. That is the standard we aim for.

It also means we approach our videos with a certain aesthetic in mind. For example we light scenes with professional video lighting, shoot on extremely high quality cameras capable of capturing cinema ready visuals in stunning 4K and we utilize the latest in cinematic video production technologies such as the DJI Ronin (a camera stabilisation tool for smooth moving shots) and the Atomos Ninja Flame (a professional broadcast video monitor and recorder). As well as this we edit and deliver your videos to broadcast spec. Should you be interested in just what these specifications are, take a look at the spec sheet provided by Fastrax – be warned it’s not for the faint hearted!

Shooting Music Videos on A Budget

Shooting Music Videos: On a Budget

You’ve decided you want a music video but your budget is tight. That’s cool, not a problem. A high quality music video can be delivered on a tight budget and in order to do this you just need to remember 3 golden rules:

1. Be Willing.

If you want a gorgeous looking video, shot in a unique and stunning location with all the extras you can have it all, as long you are willing to pull your sleeves up and muck in with the production. This could mean pulling in favours, getting mates rates or biting the bullet and hiring the venue. And there’s good reason for this. Locations can be the most expensive single cost on a shoot depending on what you are after. However, it’s not unusual for venues or people to want to help out artists, especially if they like your work. However as professional video producers there are only so many favours you can call on before you start getting a rep as someone who want’s something for free – and that’s not great.

This goes for anything, location, costume, make up, production design. We’ve worked on shoots where bands family members have helped out behind the scenes with wardrobe and props. If you’re shooting on a budget that’s just one of the ways to help get it made. As an artist you have to be willing to pull in favours.

This works both ways. Taking on a video with a tight budget from a producer’s point of view means being willing to get creative with locations and other aspects of the production. It means understanding that delivering a narrative video concept with actors, multiple locations and lots of production design isn’t going to be achievable on £500 ‘off the shelf’. However, if the band know actors who are willing to appear in the video to build their show reel and the band can deliver an awesome location then this suddenly becomes a potentially viable concept.

Shooting Music Videos on a Budget

2. Be Realistic.

Being realistic about what is achievable on your budget is a guaranteed way to not upset anyone, yourself included!

If you want to shoot half your video green screen with detailed 3D painted backgrounds and the other half on location on board a luxury yacht and you don’t know anyone who owns one… yep, you guessed it, it’s not going to happen on a small budget – unless you can and are willing to put yourself out there and pull in favours. You have to be realistic about what is achievable and be prepared to leave ideas behind if they are not doable or you are not willing to compromise. It’s better to sit on an idea you want done just so, than cut corners and not get what you want. If the budgets not there now for the big idea, save the big idea for further down the line when it is.

3. Be Big.

Music Videos on a Budget

One sure fire way to turn your small budget into something big on screen is to pull out all the stops with your performance. Nothing sells a band like charisma on stage and the same goes for your video. Regardless of if you make it onto TV or not this is a piece of history you’re making, at the very least it will be published online, shared on blogs, written about, watched with admiration,  talked about by fans, music journalists, critics and producers. Charisma and presence cannot be purchased, no matter what the budget so bringing your A game to a shoot is a sure fire way to deliver big on a small budget.

Check out the featured videos:

Broken Links – Within Isolation

Circle of Reason – Themes Amongst Thieves

BlackmagicVideoAssist

Have Blackmagic just blown the Atomos out the water?

ProRes and DNxHD, Full 1080p screen and records to SD Cards AND captures outputs of 50/60p… Have Blackmagic just blown the Atomos Blade out of the water?

Shooting video on DSLRs has come a LONG way since the first DSLRs allowed photographers/videographers to shoot video in 2008. The Panasonic GH4 is the most recent example of just how video focused DSLRs have become with a broad array of acquisition options and bitrate options.

However, as much as the internal workings, codecs and sensors improve one thing has stayed the same throughout. The ergonomics of DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras has remained almost completely unchanged, and I think I speak for most when I say the screen size of DSLRs is still a hindrance. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to swivel the screen is great, touchscreen is for me a little gimmicky, especially on sub 5 inch screens but useful none the less – but the size? No way you’re keeping critical focus without assist or a monitor. Bottom line? You need an external monitor.

The GH4 codec is great and the bitrate captured is a real breath of fresh air when it comes to grading, but for sheer tactility, ProRes is where it’s at. I’m not getting into the RAW debate – yes RAW is incredible but at a substantial added cost and certainly for most projects RAW is unnecessary. So why spend £200 on an external monitor when you can spend £400 and access that lovely ProRes? Well now you can spend even less AND get more bang for your buck, with the Blackmagic Video Assist.

At NAB 2015 Blackmagic announced their Video Assist product; a 5 inch full 1080p touchscreen display that records ProRes 422 and DNxHD direct to SD Cards which is retailing at £360 inc VAT. That is incredible.

To give it some perspective, Atomos have superb line up in varying flavours for varying budgets and needs.

Atomos - Ninja Star

The Atomos Ninja Star is a portable recorder with no screen which retails for around £200 but you’ll need to invest in at least one super fast CF card which retail at around £80 for a 64GB card. So that’s £280 without a screen.

atomos-ninja-2

The next level up for £324 inc VAT, the Atomos Ninja 2. It’s a 4.3 inch SD screen (800×480). It records onto SSD which is around £50 for a 128GB drive. Total of £374.

Atomos Ninja Blade

Next is the Atomos Ninja Blade, which provides a similar experience to the Ninja 2 but has a 5 inch 720p screen and allows monitoring of focus peaking, waveforms etc. Again, records to SSD and the unit retails for around £650, so thats £700 including the SSD.

I won’t touch on the Atomos Shogun as that is a different beast altogether. I am just focusing on 1080p ProRes and DNxHD capture.

All of Atomos products above capture a ProRes or DNxHD output at no greater than 30p or 50i. That means no slo-mo capture at all unless you want to capture it interlaced.

As the Blackmagic Video Assist records to high speed SD cards which you need anyway with cameras such as the GH4, there is no added media cost.

So to summarise: for the price of an Atomos Ninja 2 you can get the Blackmagic Video Assist AND have 50/60p output from the camera, a larger and higher resolution full 1080p screen and no added media cost. No details on if the screen supports histogram, focus peaking etc but given that this ‘Video Assist’ is designed to be used with their line of cameras specifically the newly announced Micro Camera which has no built in screen, my money is firmly on the YES it will include all of these features.

I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these soon and see if the answer to my question “Have Blackmagic just blown the Atomos Blade out of the water?” is a resounding “Yes”.

Circle of Reason - Themes Amongst Thieves Video

Behind the Scenes – Themes Amongst Thieves

I really need to get better at this blogging business…

Almost a year ago I had the immense pleasure of shooting the video for Circle of Reasons Themes amongst Thieves. From the get go the boys had said they wanted something silly, fun and sports related. So we rattled our brains and came up with ping pong battle to the death, with pensioners. Shot at 240fps. Naturally.

Everything looks better in slow motion.

A key part of the narrative revolved around a slo-mo team talk in the changing rooms. Anger, rage, towels flying, half time oranges getting smashed into peoples faces, spittle flying from the gaping maws of angry young men. Bitterly pissed off with the fact they’ve been schooled by a gang of hustling OAPs with game.

We were on a tight budget, but we put our thinking caps on and started looking for the kit, venue and talent.

The kit was tough on such a tight budget and we needed a camera that would shoot 1080p @ 240fps. There was pretty much only two options; the RED Epic or the Sony FS700. The RED was out of the range of the budget, so the Sony it was. We hired the camera from http://www.sonyfs700rental.co.uk/ John Fry hooked us up with a great shooting kit at a very fair price and I would absolutely hire from him again.

Finding a table tennis club wasn’t too much of a problem as table tennis is a thriving sport with a hugely active community – which I was not aware of until taking on this video. We had offers from Brighton, Fareham and more locally, Totton. Brighton had the offer of access to some seriously sweet table tennis tables courtesy of http://www.pongplexed.com/ however the band were Southampton based as were the crew, and our actress so getting everyone up to Brighton was an additional factor in an ever dwindling budget. So we looked closer to home in Totton, where the Waterside Table Tennis Club were based.

I visited the club on a Friday night when they were in full swing. A Dozen tables or more all buzzing with action, banter and so much energy. Colin, Nico, Barry and Harry… infact everyone I met at the club were so friendly and welcoming and they loved the idea of the video which always helps. It also turned out they had a great changing room and a couple of mature players who would be up for any shenanigans we could throw at them. Sold.

We shot the video in a day and everyone involved absolutely smashed it. The band were a great laugh and seemed to really enjoy Bruce Lee-ing the living daylights out of bananas and clementines all morning. Our non-actors Albert and Shaun were two of the nicest guys I’ve met and Albert (the one with glasses) stole the show with his slo-mo cut throat action, he had us in stitches all afternoon. We were also blessed with the lovely talents of Julia Fay Jones who kept the boys on their toes.

So here is a bit of fun behind the scenes of the shoot. I’ve matched a couple of the shots as they happen fly-on-the-wall style with how they appear in the final cut, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did making it.

Behind the Scenes

The Video

METS Trade Show - Motion Graphics

METS Boat Show – The Launch of GoFree

Last week I delivered several projects for METS, the world’s largest marine equipment trade show.

Played over a total of 14 screens ranging from 14″ touch screens to 80″ wall mounted TVs, and there was even a Dreamhoc display thrown in as well and this was my first project delivering for this platform.

The content was broad and included lifestyle videos for each brand represented, these were compiled of video footage shot from several press events and existing footage. Product videos compiled largely in After Effects with video and a couple of C4D elements such as 3D boat models and product renders.

There was also a new brand being launched for which I produced a 2 minute video using the Plexus plugin for After Effects which is extremely cool allowing you to manipulate dots and lines of geometry in 3D space. I was lucky enough to work with the very funny voice actor Tom Clarke Hill for the second time which always puts a smile on my face first thing in the morning. The finished video can be seen here:

I didn’t get to use it as much as I wanted to in this piece, but I fully intend to use it much more as it is an incredibly powerful plugin which allows you to produce some stunning images and effects quickly and efficiently. One downside was that while using Plexus my MacPro crashed on at least four occasions sighting the new plug in as the issue. In typical form I didn’t have time to investigate it as the delivery date was looming, but it’s something I intend to look into as I really wasn’t pushing Plexus hard at all and I have heard a lot of great things about how well the plugin handles complex workload.

Ventenner - Charlie Dawe

40 seconds in and I’m sold (why I had to shoot the Six Blood video)

Ventenner - Charlie Dawe
So… It’s a week before my Wedding and I’d made a promise to myself (and my good lady) that I’d ease up on producing music videos prior to the Wedding so I could focus my full attention on our big day. And that  really was my honest intention. Until I received an e-mail from Charlie Dawe of Ventenner with a link to their latest single Six Blood.

Thanks Charlie.

I started listening to the track and soon found myself typing a very concise and honest e-mail to Charlie… 40 seconds in and I’m sold.

For those not familiar with Ventenner if you like dark, industrial metal electronica this is the sound for you. 

So I broke the news to my very understanding fiancé (what can I say, she listened to the  single) and that was that.

There was a dark narrative that I’d have loved to have woven into the video but ultimately the guys were happy just kipping it simple. Dark, moody and lots of thrashing their kit around – and my word can they thrash kit.

 

 

 

The Red Red Video - Ant Glascoe JR

First Catch of the Day (…and my life)

I recently had the immense pleasure of filming Ant Glascoe JR at the picturesque destination of Rudyard Lake in the Peak District. The visit was work related, although that didn’t stop me making the most of the surprisingly tropical sunshine and the great company. Once the work was wrapped I had a crash course in casting (not the sort I’m used to), catching and avoiding going head first into the lake when I jumped for joy at landing my first ever fish.

The days shoot involved a lot of observational work as we sniffed out the big fish along with a very quick interior shoot, some GoPro rigged rods and some top quad-copter action over the lake just to finish the day off. Watch this space for the video – which I’ve been informed may contain the first ever aerial footage from a quadcopter of a Pike being caught in UK. Here’s hoping!

DJI Phantom 2 Vision +

Hands On With The DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus

I’ve been hands on with the brand new DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus and it is quite literally breath taking what this technology can do. Having only ever flown paper aeroplanes before, on first test flight I got jelly legs, butterflies, the lot – but with good reason and not just for being new to it all. These things are quick, I mean lightning fast I’ve heard people talking of getting speeds of up to 35mph. Coupled with the fact it can fly 900ft in the air, there is every reason to get jelly legs and feel nauseous each time you power it up. Ok maybe jittery is a better word. Flying these things is very exciting but, and I cannot stress this enough: THIS IS NOT A TOY. It is a very clever piece of technology, superbly put together (albeit with a sub par camera for any real quality video work) and extremely affordable. I’ll come back to the camera in a moment since this is a pretty big deal and for me the only real flaw with the Phantom 2 Vision Plus.

DJI Phantom Vision 2 Plus - Boxed

There are so many reasons to love this kit. First off, the build quality is superb and even the packaging of this thing was absolutely spot on. There are quick start guides that just make sense and explain all the basics you need to know about operation effortlessly and with excellent presentation and thoughtful design. I know this doesn’t mean a product will be good, but it sure does make you feel like you’re investing in something that people care about and take great pride in.

On installing the DJI App onto my Samsung Galaxy S4 and performing the first extremely quick and nervous test flight I was blown away by how well the whole system works. Doing away with the need for FPV goggles (a big additional expense) and utilising something that everyone has in their pocket is to me a stroke of genius. It saves cost and makes the technology that little bit more accessible. An extremely cool feature is using the accelerometer in your phone to control the tilt of the camera, although how easy this is to do practically in a real shooting situation whilst navigating through the air and keeping eye contact on the screen (you have to tilt the phone to tilt the camera) is yet to be seen.

The very brief sequence of footage I shot was so steady, I mean SO STEADY it looked like it was attached to a crane. Seriously. The reason is this little beauty has a tiny 3-axis brushless gimbal which to the non geekafied means it is sat on a cradle that has 3 tiny motors that are constantly being powered to adjust the roll, pitch and yaw. This means from the second you turn it on it’s working away to keep the camera completely steady. And it works a treat.

This leads me onto the camera, which I have to say is for me, is a little disappointing. As a video producer I am going to focus on visuals and in the Phantoms defence it doesn’t tout itself as being a production quality tool and I did not open the box expecting this. But for me a system that has such a focus on keeping its camera steady should make the camera worth steadying. Now there are alternatives to this camera – you can purchase the previous model the Phantom 2 and attach a GoPro with either a 2-Axis or 3-Axis Zenmuse gimbal but as the name suggests this lacks the ‘vision’ of the latest model, meaning if you want to be able to see what your camera sees you’ll need to invest in additional kit. You’ll get much better images from your GoPro Hero 3 but will need to spend a little more time installing extras. For me, the Phantom 2 Vision Plus is the perfect entry level kit for getting to grips with aerial videography.

DJI Phantom 2 Vision +

And on the note of aerial video – if you plan to use one of these, or any device for that matter that can be considered an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) for business this is considered ‘aerial work’ and you need to get permissions to fly from the CAA and this will ultimately require you to have taken and passed either a BNUC-S from EuroUSC or an RPQ-S from Resource UAS. As a complete newbie to this flying malarky I found the information around this wasn’t particularly easy to find, yes a good few hours Googling answered most of my questions, and the CAA are a great organisation to deal with and very helpful. However I feel there should be much more done to educate those purchasing equipment like the DJI Phantoms with regards to what legislation applies. I appreciate that this is easier said than done as the technology has (and continues) to move so quickly that the legislation can’t keep up and of course each country has varying rules. However, I do feel there is maybe scope for the DJI App to include links to key websites based on location so if you’re flying in the UK providing links to the CAA pages on UAS would be very helpful in both educating those perfectly innocent users who like me are unsure of where to start looking, and also this can only help strengthen the already excellent and very helpful community of hobbyists, aerial photographers and videographers out there. Better education on this technology means safer skies and lets be honest less opportunity for bad press; I have already had nightmare visions of some of the sticky situations you could get yourself and others into by not respecting this equipment. So far all the info I have read seems pretty straightforward, the authorities like the CAA are not trying to stop people using these, however if people don’t respect the rules and the power that they have at their finger tips this is likely to change making it much harder to get permissions and locking the whole thing down in red tape, and no one wants that – so be safe and do your due diligence!

Ultimately the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus is an exceptional piece of kit for anyone looking to get into aerial film making. Certainly for me it’s a stepping stone onto a larger rig that can take pro kit but right now it’s baby steps and one flight at a time – but it’s something I plan to be doing quite a lot of.

Broken Links

Our Work with Broken Links for Within Isolation

Almost a year ago we were fortunate enough to work with Broken Links and the smashing Joe Rainbow to produce a video for Within Isolation. The band were keen to make it as epic as possible with the budget they had and wanted something dark with a strong narrative.

Beers and banter at a local boozerier led to a simple, dark and powerful concept: A lone survivor in a bomb shelter, pushed to the brinks of insanity through the never ending sounds of war raging above him surfaces upon hearing a break in the chaos only to witness a truly devastating image of the home he once knew and loved. With the tragedy too much to bare, the man removes his gas mask and succumbs to the poisonous fallout.

The idea was to shoot the band in near darkness with very strong back lighting to silhouette them and help sell the idea of isolation. The claustrophobic sensation within the bunker was aided by building the small set within a studio giving us complete control. We then designed custom flags to help shape the light falling from above and being up in the rafters also allowed for us to disperse live action earth and debris during the wide shots. In order to get the close up shots within the bunker we needed to physically move in closer with a 50mm and really push the sensation of claustrophobia. This meant we couldn’t throw too much debris about as we’d risk damaging kit, so all the close up shots had debris composited in post. Also the closing shots of the sole survivor leaving the bunker and succumbing to the fallout involved comp work for the smoke and the use of a wide empty plate to mask out and comp in a nicely decayed cityscape.

The narrative angle went down well with the peeps at Kerrang TV and the boys enjoyed a stint on the channel. Special Thanks to Joe Rainbow and Rob McDaid.