This is Part 2 of my experience filming the Paul Brandt music video “I Was There”.
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.
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.
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.
Then I learned about the Panasonic GH2 which is called “arguably the most aliasing-free, highest-resolution hybrid camera out there”
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.
- Canon 24mm f1.4L
- Canon 50mm f1.2L
- Canon 85mm f1.8
- Canon 300 f2.8L IS
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!
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 the end result. The next blog post will be about filming the characters.