Filming Paul Brandt’s “I Was There” Music Video – Part 2 of 4 – Video Gear and the 7P’s

Posted by ryanjackson on Nov 9, 2011 in music video, Ryan's Life, video |

This is Part 2 of my experience filming the Paul Brandt music video “I Was There”.

You can also view Part 4 – Action and EditingPart 3 – Real Characters,  Part 2 – Video Gear and the 7P’s, and Part 1 – Nashville

I spent about two months on this project. The first month was mainly pre-production, gear selection and testing, script-writing and preparing for the second month when we did most of the principal shooting.

Our first real day of shooting for the music video was Paul Brandt singing the actual song. I had filmed him singing in the recording studio in Nashville but I felt that we really needed him in a hockey rink with a guitar on the ice.  Paul lives in Cochrane so Amanda and I arranged to get him on the ice for a couple hours.

Country music star Paul Brandt poses for the "I Was There" song iTunes album cover for the official theme song of the 2012 World Junior Hockey Tournament at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)

When I said “a couple hours” I really meant it!  Paul was extremely busy with his cross-Canada tour about to start so we only had him for two hours!

Amanda and I spent four hours setting up all of the lights, cameras and doing test footage. I had originally envisioned recoding Paul in multiple locations but in the end we only had time for three takes of him standing on the ice and three takes of him sitting.

No pressure!!!!   Did I mention I was using a brand new hacked camera and had only shot one music video before?

I strongly believe in the 7P‘s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

I had spent a month of non-stop research, writing, testing, planning, scripting and practice to ensure that nothing would go wrong. And thank God I did!

Paul Brandt was such a professional! He’s made nearly two dozen music videos before and knows what he’s doing. When editing the footage, Adam Kidd with Limbo Editing noticed that he tipped his guitar up and did the same moves at the exact same time for each take.

Paul was also just a super nice guy! He stopped to sign autographs and talk to any fans that came by. He didn’t have any kind of ego or image problem …. he didn’t need to! He already knew how to look good!

Back to the planning and preparation:

For the Paul Brandt “I Was There” music video I wanted the video quality to be as high as possible as it would be broadcasted on CMT, TSN and on the giant video screens at Rexall Place in Edmonton and the Saddledome in Calgary.

Shooting test footage of my wife Ashe with our dog Mr. Woofertons. I was deciding between using Canon D-SLRs or recording uncompressed 422 video from my Canon XH-A1. I ended up using a hacked Panasonic GH2 which blew both of them away.

I did a ton of research and also tested a lot of gear before starting the project. I already had a Canon 5D Mark-II and 1D Mark-IV which are fantastic for video but also have some drawbacks.

  • Canon D-SLR drawback #1 was Aliasing and Moire which are strange patterns that appear in objects like fences and nets and also in clothing like hockey jerseys.  Since a music video about hockey would contain plenty of both I knew this would be a problem.
  • Drawback #2 was the rolling shutter of the CMOS sensors on Canon D-SLRs.  Basically D-SLR video looks great until you start moving the camera and then you get what is called a “jello effect” where the video looks weird. One rule with music videos is that the camera is ALWAYS moving.
  • Drawback #3 was just that Canon D-SLR video looks like Canon D-SLR video. There’s nothing wrong with it but it seems like everyone is shooting with 5D Mark-II’s now and I can always tell when avideo is shot with one.

My budget wasn’t large enough to rent a RED camera nor process the video from one.

Then I learned about the Panasonic GH2 which is called “arguably the most aliasing-free, highest-resolution hybrid camera out there

Panasonic GH2 with Canon EOS Lens Adapter

The best part is that a guy named Driftwood has hacked the firmware allowing you to shoot MUCH MUCH MUCH higher quality video.

How does it work?  Basically the GH2 records standard 24 Megabit (Mbit) video out of the box. However the camera is capable of shooting over 170Mbit/sec video and also capturing Intraframe (also known as GOP1) where every frame of video is an individual still image instead of other codecs that only record full still images every few frames and then guess the frames in between.

I read reviews of how the hacked GH2 fared well against the $80,000 Arri Alexa and RED Camera. Not that it’s better than those cameras, but pretty damn amazing compared.

The aliasing-free GH2 solved Problem #1, the Intraframe codec produces much smoother motion which solved Problem #2 and the higher resolution and bitrate solved Problem #3.

The only drawbacks of the GH2 were:

  • The sensor was half the size (a 2X crop instead of the 5D’s 1X full-frame sensor) so a 24mm lens would become a 48mm lens. It would also be harder to achieve the narrow depth of field look but would be easier to manually focus since I would have more depth-of-field.
  • The smaller sensor produced more noise at high-ISOs compared to the Canon so I would need more light
  • The extremely high quality 176Mbit/sec produced 1 gigabyte of video per minute and required expensive Sandisk 32GB Extreme SD cards. A 32GB card would only hold about 30 minutes of video therefore I had to buy five of these cards at $150/each. Of course the price dropped right after I bought them!
  • The menus and functions of the GH2 weren’t as friendly as the Canon D-SLRs.
However the GH2 mainly excited me because the hack had only recently come out and it allowed me to capture quality that would make people ask “What did you film that on?”
So I bought two Panasonic GH2‘s and loaded them up with Driftwood’s 176Mbit patch. I bought a 4/3rds mount to Canon EOS adapter off ebay which allowed me to use all my Canon prime and zoom lenses and also control the aperture with a built-in iris.
For the music video I tried to use my prime lenses as much as possible including:
  • Canon 24mm f1.4L
  • Canon 50mm f1.2L
  • Canon 85mm f1.8
  • Canon 300 f2.8L IS
When I needed a zoom lens I popped on my Canon 16-35L which became a handy 32-70mm lens with the 2X crop and my 70-200 f2,8L which was an amazing 140-400mm lens!
I also purchased the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 which came in handy a few times but is WAY overpriced for what it is.

I purchased two Interfit Monstar fluorescent light kits. Each light has three massive 150-w bulbs for an equivalent of 1,800 tungsten watts without the heat.

Unloading all the gear at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. to film Paul Brandt singing

I wanted to light almost everything in the music video for maximum quality as well as dramatic effect.

As you can see from my portfolio I love to light my portraits and I also wanted a consistent look all through the video.
I used two Interfit Monstar lights with 48-inch Octoboxes for the main lights. For fill lights I used three 500 LED video lights I got from eBay.

I bad to bring hundreds of feet of power extension cords as there was only one power outlet in the whole arena!

The lighting and camera setup for Paul Brandt singing the song "I Was There" at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011. Jackson used Panasonic GH2 cameras running the Driftwood 176Mb firmware hack and Canon prime lenses for the entire film.

Other gear I used was:

  • Ikan VX7e 7″ HDMI HD monitor which was a HUGE help for manually focussing as well it has a false-colour exposure guide which helps prevent you from blowing out highlights.
  • A wide matte box which helped block lens flare and also keep snow off of the lens. This item proved surprisingly necessary for filming with video lights.
  • Kessler Pocket Dolly for short camera moves.
  • Cinemover for longer camera moves.
  • Libec tripod and Manfrotto 504HD video head.
  • Cavision rails and shoulder mount
  • Fader Neutral Density Filters. You always want to keep a 1/50th shutter speed with video so an ND filter helps you stop down the light so you can shoot at 1/50th shutter at f1.2 outdoors in the sunlight if you want.
  • Western Digital MyBook Studio Edition 4TB RAID drive to deal with the massive 1GB per minute of video from the hacked GH2 cameras. I had the drive set to RAID1 so my data was backed up 2TB+2TB.
  • 15″ Apple MacBook Pro i7 Quad Core for reviewing footage and converting the GH2 AVCHD footage into ProRes422 HQ. That meant for every minute of video I shot I would get 1GB original + 1GB converted ProRes422HQ video


Here is a better look at my Panasonic GH2 with a 4/3rds to EOS lens adapter and an Ikan VX7e monitor on a Kessler Pocket Dolly.

I used the amazing Cinemover slider for my second GH2 camera on a plank of fir wood. I used fir because it doesn't warp. I had the kit lens on the GH2 for this photo but used the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 for the actual shoot.

You can see the mark I made on the ice for paul to stand on. We did multiple takes and needed Paul to be standing in the same spot every time. He was such an experienced professional and did the exact same moves every take.

Journal photographer Ryan Jackson takes still photographs of Paul Brandt for the official iTunes album cover for the song "I Was There" at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011. Photo by Amanda Ash,

Paul Brandt takes a break from filming the "I Was There" music video to pose for a photo with some fans at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011.

Amanda Ash packing away the video lights at the end of the day.

We used the Edmonton Journal minivan to lug our gear around. Even with the back seats taken out it was completely full.

Before heading back to Edmonton we stopped for supper and reviewed the raw footage. It was a huge milestone in the project because we had a "base" for the video with Paul singing on a hockey rink.


Here is the end result. The next blog post will be about filming the characters.


1 Comment

J.G. Pasterjak
Feb 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Wow! I’m honored to see my humble dolly doing such cool stuff. Also honored that my Canadian heritage is finding its way back North from time to time.

I see a lot of tape at the base of the head. Are you getting a bit of wobble between the head and the deck perhaps? If so it’s a somewhat common issue and an easy fix.

Basically the adapter I supply has a little shoulder on it so it doesn’t get lost up inside the head. Some heads have enough of a bevel or countersink area around the threaded hole to accommodate this shoulder, and some don’t (even two heads of the same brand may be slightly different in my experience). On the heads without much countersink, the shoulder prevents the head from getting a good “seat” on the deck.

Three solutions:
1. Use a piece of felt or rubber as a spacer between the head and the deck.

2. Get an adapter with no shoulder.

3. Use a large drill bit or dremel to cut a bit more of a bevel into the area around the threaded hole. This is what I usually end up doing.

Thanks again. I’m always available for questions or concerns through

J.G. Pasterjak




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