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Up-beat music for your business films

Music for business films
Aimed directly as those producing business films

Music for Business Films

You’ll have guessed from previous copyright-free music album reviews that I’m a sucker for them. Having a wide collection to hand is great for my line of work as I can quickly audition, ingest and edit my music score and, most importantly, distribute my completed works pretty much anywhere and anyhow without thought to obtaining further permissions and paying potentially expensive licence agreements. The more copyright-free albums the merrier in my mind – and as wide a variety as is imaginable.

With most of my work being in the business films sector I keep a special ear open for anything new that’s been composed for this purpose. Whilst music suitable for business films is a very broad genre, it is the middle of the road stuff that you’ll need most of the time – and this new album from AKM Music, AK157 Positivity, fits the bill perfectly.

Available on Audio CD, CD-ROM and download, AK157 contains 12 full tracks which are all uplifting, inspirational, joyous and triumphant (with one exception which you’ll read about later). AKM describe this as “feel-good” music and that’s pretty much what you’ll get – with all tracks building to a positive conclusion. There’s certainly enough variety, mood and pace with each track having a slightly different feel to it making the collection suitable for a wide variety of business film commissions.

Track 1 – Positivity 4:55

I guess as the title track this is the score that started it all off. With a gentle and repetitive piano intro which leads to an uplifting strings section, and then back down to the calm of the piano. Waves of this seem to come and go before there’s a change of feel about half way through with the introduction of electronic synth instruments. This score is typical of much of the music produced for business films and usually ends up well under the main soundtrack – being inoffensive and unobtrusive but at the same time adding a bit of warmth to the pictures. I don’t think this is the best track on the album – but it’s got a strong opening and closing so I’ll probably use it one day.

Track 2 – Aspire 3:20

Think of a Lloyds Bank commercial and you’ve got this track playing in your head. A classic orchestral strings and piano piece with medium-paced soft rhythmic beat that you can imagine a middle-aged VO voice popping through every now and then telling you what a lovely bank they are. But hang on… Midway through it gets a little bit weird (I like it when it does that) and goes all Blade Runner – before getting back on with the job of helping you to tell a feel-good story for the bank. Great ending.

Track 3 – Celebration 4:08

‘Together in Electric Dreams’ with the Backstreet Boys doing the dance routine. Sad but true – well in my mind anyhow. With its Euro Pop-style synth beat and keyboard passages I could really see this being used on the Eurovision Song Contest trailer. I would say its medium-fast pace, but with breaks of orchestral strings stabs that would be neat to cut to. I can’t think of anything I’ve produced to date that this would fit – but who knows what business films are round the corner?

Track 4 – Climbing High 3:04

Your head lifts from the pillow and the sun sprinkles its dappled pattern across your face. Ahead of you a day full of hope, kind faces and happy thoughts. I just can’t get ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ out of my head when listening to this but not the original BBC drama, which was one of my favourite TV treats as a child, but rather an updated modern version produced by Channel 4. I can imagine lots of gliding, craning, sliding and certainly aerial shots over a green landscape of opportunity.

Track 5 – Corporate Technology 3:38

A strong beat leads you through this one. Again lots of big orchestral string sections but backed up by an electronic swirling underscore which I’m sure is the inspiration of its ‘Corporate Technology’ title. It does go a bit ‘Do the Hustle’ in parts but never strays too far into the world of disco beat. Quite fast paced, but I would tend to use the slower swirling string parts as my inspiration to edit with this. Could be a bit more ‘Techie’ for my liking.

Track 6 – Green Day 2:49

Oh out come U2 again. What is it that makes U2’s music the inspiration behind a lot of business film music scores? I’ll tell you – much of U2’s is very anthem-like – and that’s often what you need in order to give your film a positive, uplifting feel. It doesn’t get all rocky, but more of a gentle guitar and drum driven tune with a nice subtle keyboard lift that builds. At its crescendo orchestral strings drift by driving the rhythm onwards. It doesn’t have a pronounced end to it though, but rather drifts away.

Track 7 – Inspiration 4:03

We’re back at Lloyds Bank with this one, but with an urgent beat generated through stabs of orchestral strings that make things appear a bit more serious and upright. Lots of edit points in this one as the stabs continue and are joined by more strings in slow swirls. I like tracks with this feature as you can cut them down easily without any seams. More and more instruments join these repetitive passages until they finally burst and then fade to the twinkling sound of symbols. Phew – I’m glad that’s over! The full track is a bit much but edited it’s got a lot of potential.

Track 8 – Opening Up To Grace 3:14

I didn’t know what to expect when I read the title of the track. On listening to it I can see the point entirely. The soft, slow, thoughtful opening passage with solo piano, choir-voice and low orchestral strings had be thinking of some deep-voiced classical actor reading the Ten Commandments. Just when you think they are going to go one and read the whole flipping Bible, a crash of symbols breaks the pace and lifts us into a more positive tempo with string and choir-voice stabs. The main feeling I got from this track is one of benevolence rather than conjuring up a ‘Seen the light’ experience. It’s therefore really suitable for charity-based business films where you are trying to win the hearts and minds of your audience. Massive ending which is spot on for a, “donate here” call to action.

Track 9 – Orange Sky 2:50

This starts with a melancholy piano solo telling a story or woe and despair which is not the kind of stuff you’d expect on an album called ‘Positivity’. More instruments join the gloom but the story doesn’t get any happier – just more gloom. The final part to this track is back with the poor old lonely and depressed piano soloist who just plays on till he drops. If this music was used in a film about Bob, the old faithful pet bloodhound, I’m sorry to have to tell you that Bob dies in the end. Maybe not right for this album but a proper bonus track if you are ever commissioned to make business films about sad and hopeless causes. Filmmaking is, after all, about message and story.

Track 10 – Rising Up 4:04

Do you ever dream about running across the finish line in gold position at the Olympics? If you do the opening of this track is probably akin to the music going on in your mind at the time. It’s got a very positive feel about it and has similar electronic passages as the Euro-pop styled ‘Celebration’. Again there’s lots of edit points in this if you need to pad out or reduce the music length logically. Didn’t think much of the ending though – it kind of just ends.

Track 11 – The Perfect Moment 3:45

We’re halfway between Lloyds Bank and All Creatures Great and Small’ here. It certainly has a countryside feel about it. I could easily imagine this track being used on a documentary about a country house – which in turn would make it great for a top-notch country house hotel promo. Musically it’s another blend of orchestral strings and piano with a swirling upbeat rhythm. Words that come to mind are ‘quality’, ‘expense’, and ‘luxury’ so it could work well on a promo about other luxury goods or lifestyles. Neat and tidy on the end too!

12. Trust 4:40

Our final track tells the alternate story of Bob so wickedly written off in track 9. Here Bob not only avoids demise but he gets a whole lot better and goes on the win the ‘Bloodhound of the Year’ competition seven times and then fathers lots of competition-winning pups. The story finishes with Bob walking off into the sunset with his master – a contented dog. To be honest this one got on my tits a bit after a while – but in the vein of Positivity this track has it oozing out of every crevice. I’m sure it will go down well State-side.

Conclusion

This is another welcome addition to my copyright-free music collection – and I’d hazard a guess that one of the tracks will be used on my next film. This type of music is always useful as nearly all business film commissions are about telling a positive story – and this has it in oodles. It will certainly be one of the first places in my collection that’ll look.

Album cover
See notes at end for 10%off code

From early October onwards you’ll be able to download the tracks individually for just under £11 inc. VAT each but you might as well go the whole hog and buy the entire album on CD (Audio CD format) or Download (WAV format) at £36.00 inc. VAT (£38 if you want the WAV file version shipped on a CDROM). As with all AKM Music albums you can preview AK157 on their website (www.akmmusic.co.uk) and the cost includes the all-important commercial licence to use the music on all your future business films.

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)

Notes: You can get 10% off this new release by using the following promo code at the online checkout (www.akmmusic.co.uk) or when calling AKM Music on 01926 864068 : AKM5XA

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Better audio for #DSLR beginners

Better DSLR Audio
Better DSLR Audio

Here’s an understatement for you… “DSLRs are all lacking on the microphone side of things”. There shouldn’t really be any surprises here as they were never designed to capture proper sound alongside their stonkingly good pictures. You’d therefore be a little naive to think you’ll be getting anything other than a crappy, inaudible and muddled soundtrack by relying on their internal mic solution. It’s naff – totally – well maybe just OK as a guide track for linking up pictures in post with your externally recorded soundtrack.

For years serious sound recordists have even mocked those who used proper video cameras with their relatively sophisticated on-board microphones. You can imagine the sniggering that went on when the DSLR hit the scene with their invisible in-built mics and users started moaning about the awful sound they were getting. What a surprise!

Cam with myk
Better DSLR audio

Unfortunately, curing the sound problem isn’t just a case of plugging in a better quality microphone. Circuitry noise in these cameras is heightened by in-built and over active AGC (Audio Gain Control) which boosts the recording level during quieter moments of recording – and in doing so introduces the hissy pre-amp noise. Some later cameras overcome this and there are also modifications such as Magic Lantern which enable you to override the AGC (as well as many other shortcomings on DSLRs).

These shortcomings generated a whole new market in DSLR sound accessories – including camera-top mics, under-camera mixers and external recording devices to fulfil part or, collectively, all of the audio misgivings of DSLRs. Many chose to separate the audio recording process from the camera altogether – but then you’re left with an additional stage in post of bringing the pictures and sound back together (albeit that there are clever bits of software to do this for you).

Australian manufacturer, MyMyk, has recently added to this bunch of solutions with a compact, low profile camera top mic (Smartmyk) and an equally compact adapter (Smartlynk) that has more than one trick up its sleeve. Both can be used independently and both bring new features to the photographer or videographer looking to up their audio recording capabilities.

MyMyk Smartmyk

The first thing that strikes you about the Smartmyk is its size and profile. Attached directly to the DSLR via a cold-shoe connector with its own coiled cable stereo mini-jack, it adds very little to the overall weight of your rig. The low profiling is also neat as it takes up little room on a fully pimped-up DSLR and doesn’t get in the way of the cameras main controls.

SmartMyk
The SmartMyk running bareback on your DSLR

The condenser-type mic has a shotgun directional response. It’s long, thin interference tube helps eliminate off-axis sound – whilst basic wind protection is offered via the slip-on foam cover. To overcome camera handling and any camera motor noise the mic pickup is isolated from the camera body via an internal synthetic rubber shock-mount system. Power is provided by a standard 3V watch cell-type battery which will give around 40hours operation.

There are two basic controls on the rear of the mic – namely an on/off switch and a three position gain switch (+15dB / 0dB / -15dB). This enables you to adjust the output from the mic to match your recording device or camera.

MyMyk Smartlynk

Smartlynk is very compact mic mixer and output device that can be fitted to the cold-shoe connector on top of your DSLR – with an additional cold-shoe mounting slot on top to add your Smartmyk. Again, the unit is extremely lightweight and will add very little to your overall rig – even with the Smartmyk attached.

Smartlynk
Smartlynk giving you additional control

Powered by two AAA batteries (providing around 30-hrs of use), the Smartlynk gives you two mini-jack mic inputs – each with independent level adjustment. The unit provides three outputs including a headphone output, a mic-level output and an APP output (which I will go into more detail in a mo). There are two main controls on the rear of the unit – ‘AGC Block’ and ‘Main Output’.

The AGC Block utility overcomes the AGC issue on DSLRs by sending an inaudible tone down the left channel of the output which stops the AGC within the camera from hunting for a signal and increasing input level (and thereby increasing the hissy noise) in quieter environments.

The Main Output switch has three positions – ‘Off’, ‘Mix’ and ‘Split’. In the Mix position the unit will take the mixed input from both mics and send them to all three outputs. In the Split position the signal from Mic 1 is sent to the Mic output and the signal from Mic 2 is sent to the APP output.

Smartlynk connections
The in’s, out’s and control of Smartlynk

The APP output is designed to work in conjunction with the MyMyk Camera Audio App for iOS (about £3 I think). Connecting the supplied 4-pole mini-jack cable (TRRS) to an Apple device (iPhone/iPad/iPod etc) you can record the output from the Smartlynk (either Split or Mix) and then add recording notes, geotag information and export the audio files back out for further processing and editing. The APP connector has a two-pole switch which enables you to alter between monitoring the input to the App or playback from the App through Smartlynk’s monitor output.

Conclusions

The untested MyMyk App
The untested MyMyk App

As an Android user I wasn’t able to test the iOS App but if it works as stated then it will add another really useful dimension to this combination. The benefits of having a secondary recording of your mixed sound are easy enough to understand, but the added benefit of being able to split the sound coming from the two mic inputs off to two separate recording devices would be a great advantage. Unfortunately there is no news on this App being available to Android users – which is a real shame as I don’t think I’ve yet experienced the best bit about the MyMyk combination.

There’s no doubt that the Smartmyk on its own is a massive improvement over the in-built mics found in DSLRs and would therefore be an excellent option for the relative video newbie. However, it’s not the best mic in the world and, apart from its clever compact design, offers little to those who already have a reasonable collection of quality microphones. Compared to my RODE video mic it seemed to me to be quite tinny and not as responsive to low frequency sounds.

The unit I had for review was quiet susceptible to wind noise. I understand that this is partly addressed by an optional Rycote softie but in my tests the wind noise could be heard when gently blowing on the side of the main body of the mic and not just at the pickup end. Looking at the MyMyk website the Rycote softie only covers the interference tube so the wind hitting the side of the body of the Smartmyk will still be an issue.

Also, whilst the pickup pattern is described as directional the mic also picks up a fair bit of sound from the back of the unit. Talking to MyMyk about this it is apparently a design feature to enable the camera operator to add narration whist filming – but that’s such an infrequent requirement that this drawback would totally outweigh its limited benefit.

Using a combination of both these products will certainly address the common audio shortcomings of your DSLR – and at the same time add some really useful benefits too if you can utilise the iOS App. You can of course feed whatever self-powered mics you already have into the Smartlynk which in itself is a useful addition to any DSLR user.

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)

Notes: More information is available from www.proav.co.uk

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Mogopod Review

Mogopod review

 

What can you say about a monopod? They are after all a one-trick pony aren’t they? Well the guys at iFootage have taken the monopod to a whole new level – if you’ll pardon the pun.

Monopods have been with us for some time now but haven’t really moved on much from providing camera operators with a light, portable and small-footprint aid to keeping the camera steady. Most are simple multi-stage telescopic poles with a rubberised foot at one end and a basic camera screw head on the other. I already have one of these and it works perfectly well – so what else could iFootage do to make a monopod more useful? The UK distributors, Proactive in Hemel Hempstead, Herts were keen to let me find out.

Mogopod with camera
Mogopod fully extended

The Mogopod

The first thing that differentiates the Mogopod from other monopods is its unique twist-lock/release and single-action telescopic extension. One of the reasons why users opt to use a monopod is for their quick deployment but this requires the user to release and lock individual brakes on each extension segment. The Mogopod is much simpler and quicker to deploy to the required length – ranging from 77cm to 165cm fully extended.

The extension action is smooth and easy to operate and there’s a centimetre gauge along the side of the inner extension to enable you to repeat the extension length from shot-to-shot. The outer extension tube has a thick foam rubber cover which not only protects the unit in transit but also gives you a firm grip for releasing the locking collar and comfortable grip for using the Mogopod in its various configurations.

At each end of the system there’s a standard ¼” screw fitting – but in addition one of the ends has a wider base and is reversible to reveal a 3/8” threaded stud for attaching a fluid head to the Mogopod. The standard attachments include a screw-on rubber foot, an intermediate ball-levelling head and a rather neat and lockable tri-leg base unit which helps with stability. Whilst I wouldn’t leave a camera atop the Mogopod unattended, the tri-leg base does enable you to store the unit in a standing position ready for the camera to be attached. With the addition of a quick-release head on it this could be extremely useful in run-and-gun situations.

The ball-levelling head section has a male thread connector at one end and a female at the other. It can therefore be connected to either end of the Mogopod and coupled to the camera or the tri-leg base. This enables the Mogopod to be used in situations with varying floor levels and still maintain a true vertical – or not if you desire. This ball-levelling head is locked into place with a simple thumbscrew knob – or left lose so that you can alter the camera’s angle of view as you film.

Proactive sell the Mogopod on its own or bundled with the E-Image EI-717AH flat based fluid head. When used with this head, with the tri-leg attached to the ball-levelling head at the base of the Mogopod, you’ll have a very flexible and stable platform for your camera allowing you to pan, tilt and lean all in one smooth movement.

E-Image EI-717AH
The additional E-Image EI-717AH head

More than a monopod

As with other monopods the Mogopod can be used as a simple camera boom pole. Weighing in at under a kilogram without tri-leg base this can be useful for gaining a higher filming position or filming from a point of view that you are unable to reach (albeit that you’d need some way to remotely monitor the camera’s output). The ball-levelling head will enable you to quickly and easily alter the camera’s angle of view from -75°/+90°. In the demo video on the Proactive website they demonstrate this configuration being used by a cameraman filming himself spinning around with the camera looking back at him which looks very effective.

With its lightweight construction the Mogopod could easily double up as a short mic boom too – and with the tri-legs attached it would also make do as a mic stand if you were shooting solo and needed to get a shotgun mic closer to the action than the camera.

Mogopod extension
Mogopod single action extension and lock

Conclusion

Proactive sell the Mogopod bundled with the E-Image EI-717AH flat based fluid head at £145 plus VAT. The Mogopod on its own (which includes the tri-leg base, ball-levelling head and rubber foot) costs just £115 plus VAT. With a maximum payload of 3.5Kg it’s not going to be suitable for all cameras but perfectly capable of taking a fully-loaded DSLR or small video camera.

Like other iFootage kit the Mogopod is well thought out, neatly designed and constructed to a very high standard. All the clever moving parts that create the single-action extension are neatly hidden away within the unit so I see little chance of it going wrong.

Mogopod base
Ball-levelling head and tri-leg base

I only have two slight concerns about the Mogopod. Firstly, and acknowledged in the operating instructions, is that you have to be careful not to pinch your hand as you collapse the unit back down – a lesson I learnt within the first few minutes of using it! The only other concern is that the rubber foot becomes redundant when you have the tri-leg base attached so it might easily become lost. It would have been nice to have an additional ¼” stud on the side of the unit somewhere to store this foot when not in use.

These are only small issues and do not detract from the Mogopod’s usefulness, ease of operation and build quality. For the extra thirty quid I’d recommend getting the E-Image head too as it makes for an even more valuable addition to your shooting kit.

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)

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Music for Corporate Films

Music for corporate films
Adding to your library of music for corporate films

Few would deny the important role that music plays in producing corporate films. It dictates mood, pace and should augment the visuals and help tell the story. Picking or creating the right music score is therefore an immensely important stage within the production process. But it goes way beyond the creative decision making process – especially for the producer of corporate films.

Like every other videographer engaged in producing corporate films, every now and then a client will ask for a well-known piece of commercial music on their film. Unfortunately, so far to date I’ve not been talking to a client who could either afford to do this or understands the practicalities of getting full and proper clearance on a commercial track for use on their promotional film. There’s also the question as to whether the owners of the commercial track (both those who own the rights in the recording and those who own the musical works) want their creation to be used to endorse a third party. They could well have all manner of objections to this – ethical, political or otherwise.

You can’t deny that in some situations adding a commercial track to a corporate film could give it gravitas and therefore needs to be talked through with your client properly. However, what happens in 99% cases you’re going to end up using a copyright-free score. I’ve already talked about variations on this and their respective benefits on a previous blog so no need to go through them again here.

Building Copyright Free Music Library for Corporate Films

I’m continuously building my library of copyright-free albums and always keep an ear open for new releases suitable for my corporate films. I also go to the trouble of finding out what score was used and where it came from when I come across a piece of video where I think the music works really well.

Another cause of my insatiable habit is that music styles and tastes change over time. There are of course broad genres that are constant but copyright-free music houses also try to tap into trends in commercial music and the current chart sounds. They’ll also tap into the popularity of music within cinematic releases. I’ve got one copyright-free album which is so ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ you wouldn’t believe it – and I used it on the ‘Supadance – Shoes for Dance‘ film which picked up an IOV Award last year.  (Preview the entire album ‘AK134 – Orchestral Themes: Impact‘).

I also don’t like using the same piece of music twice, so I’ve accepted the fact that my copyright-free music collection will never be complete. If you share this habit with me you either treat this outgoing as one of your fixed running costs or add the cost of purchasing music (or preferably the whole album) to all the corporate films you produce. The latter is certainly the most logical approach and is the way I fund my nearly all of my purchases.

That’s enough background and on with the review of two albums from AKM Music aimed squarely at the corporate video producer.

Music for corporate films
AKM Music specialise in creating music for corporate films

 

AK151 – Bright & Upbeat (click to preview)

This album contains eight different music tracks – each produced in its original long form, as an underscore (roughly the same length as the long form), as a 60-second and 30-second edit and also as a sting. I love tracks with shorter edit versions. It’s described as “Positive upbeat grooves and themes ideal for corporate films and promos”. I don’t love them all – but there’s certainly usable stuff in this one that will make the edit suite on one of my corporate films soon.

Up and Up (2:34)
Bright sound – spacy electronic beat. Nothing but positive would come from this – albeit that it’s a bit cheesy. Reminds me of Phil Oakley’s ‘Together in Electric Dreams’

Those Were The Days (3:33)
This one is all about reminiscence to me. Starts slowly with guitar solo intro and builds into positive storyline. Reminds me of the Hill Street Blues intro.

Targets (3:17)
Electro funky start with drums and bells to follows – and then a bit more funky guitar and keyboard. I can imagine something being constructed to this. Reminds me of a bad 70’s cop movie but I can’t remember which one.

Melting Clock (2:36)
Smooth – with bubbly electronic undertones. Has some nice edit points within it and passages for lifting visuals. I can’t say it reminds me of anything – which could be a good thing when matching to visuals.

Gas (2:01)
A swirling mist of positive vibe. This one shouldn’t offend anyone so could be used where you want a music bed only – with the occasional lift. Reminds me of the point at which you fall asleep on a sun bed.

Digital City (1:46)
Sunshine and cool all in the same track – with a hint of eastern promise. Bit of a spooky electro-organ feel towards the end. This track isn’t going to work everywhere – but when it does it will be perfect. Reminds me of Amy Winehouse – in a way!

Bone Fide Donut (2:04)
As the name implies – this is a simplistic buffoon of a track with penny whistling idiot thrown in. This was made to have a comedy partner – or better still as a kid’s animation theme. Reminds me of Mr Men.

A New Dawn (2:01)
The sun breaking the horizon on a cloudless day. Full of promise with a hint of “la la la” voice underneath and happy clapping. Reminds me of lemonade and picnics.

 

AK152 – On top of the World (click to preview)
This album is all full tracks – no edits or underscores. I prefer it when they do have these but sometimes it’s nice to have the whole thing as one as it reduces your time in choosing a track. AKM describe this album as, “Pure positive, elevating life affirming motivational tracks with jangly chiming pop guitars to bring the feel good factor to your audience”. I can’t really argue with that, other than saying that it’s more soft rock than pop. I will be turning to this album for any ‘good news’ corporate films that I produce.

Beautiful Horizon (2:54)
Slow building strums which evolves into guitar soft rock anthem. Lot’s of edit points in this one – and musical passages that you could repeat and linger on to extend the running time. Reminds me of U2.

Elevate My Soul (3:53)
A more steady track this one – with a mid tempo rock feel to it. A bit too pedestrian for me at the moment and a little too strong to have as a sound bed. There’s a quite passage about ¾ of the way through that I’d have liked as an underscore. Reminds me a bit of Asia – or the track used at one of the IOV Awards nights.

Last Moments (2:20)
This one has a lazy Alabama steel guitar feel to it as it starts – but soon gets much darker with a heavier ‘Teen Spirit’ feel about it. I can envisage this running over the closing credits of a teen vamp movie. Reminds me of Nirvana – but also drinking Jack Daniels Honey in a darkened room!

Life Expectations (3:54)
Wah wah and all that – building to an optimistic bullet-point driven sales promo. Has quieter passages in the middle so could be easily edited, extended or shortened.  Reminds me of Bruce Springsteen – which isn’t a good thing.

Life in Transitions (4:33)
Strumming and drums kick this one off – but its definitely a subtle move away from the typical soft rock of the previous tracks. This is more akin to a new romantic sound than soft rock to me. Reminds me of Joy Division – Love will tear us apart.

Miracles (3:46)
Good old American soft rock – with Bruce Springsteen crawling all over it – until it breaks into a heavier rock guitar passage – and then back into Bruce again. It’s a positive track without a doubt – with peaks and troughs. Reminds me of Bruce, but I guess I’ve said that.

No Surrender (2:16)
Thumping slow rock god of a start to this one. The tone is softened by a twinkling keyboard session – which quickly settles back to the thumping rock sound before cycling again. Reminds me of War of the Worlds.

No Time to Lose (3:46)
Slow rock with… you’ll never guess… a building electric guitar theme. But all of a sudden it breaks again into a slower section with a hint of harmonica. Some really bright moments in this one. Not even sure if I haven’t seen this one used before in a corporate. Reminds me of… others on this album.

Rising Star (4:19)
Dreamy guitar solo with drums coming in to support – then developing into heavier rock moments. Again – the varying pace in this one will make it good for editing and for extending passages within the track. Reminds me of Police – but with a hint of 007 at the beginning.

Speed of Light (3:55)
More of the same on this one – but maybe a bit more suitable to a TV comedy drama. I’m struggling with this one as it’s a bit too much in your face from top to tail. There’s no time to breathe. Reminds me of The Inbetweeners.

 

Conclusion
These are two worthy additions to my copyright-free music collection without a doubt. I never ever expect to like every track on every album I invest in – and that’s also true of these two. My expectations are actually quite low in terms of useful tracks per album as I’m normally looking for just one to end up in the film I’m producing at the time. As I charge out the cost of the entire album everything else that’s usable is bunce and goes into my library.

Having said this it always surprises me how much I grow to like previously hated tracks when I’ve found the perfect visuals to work alongside them. As similar as some of these tracks are to each other their subtle differences will make them perfect for one film and not so for another – even if the corporate films are quite similar in structure and message.

It’s always a challenge picking the right score – but the more of a library you have the greater chance you have of finding the perfect match. If you are looking for an upbeat positive score for your corporate films then have a listen to AK151 and AK152 on the AKM Music website – www.akmmusic.co.uk.

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)

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A review of the iFootage Mini Crane

iFootage Mini Crane
Introducing the iFootage Mini Crane

I must admit I wasn’t really in the market for a camera crane until I set eyes on the iFootage M1 Mini Crane at Proactive in Hemel Hempstead, Herts. Sure, I love seeing craning shots in a film – and I understand perfectly how these types of shots give the viewer an additional and otherwise unavailable perspective to a scene – but it all seemed like a lot of aggravation and a very cumbersome piece of grip to cart around with you. Most solutions I’ve used in the past were extremely heavy and tricky to set up and, more importantly, often took more than one operator to get them ready for action. Added to all this they would all be a little bit overkill for use with my DSLR. The iFootage M1 Mini Crane has changed all this.

I don’t think I really need to explain what a moving crane shot will add to your productions other than what’s already been said in my DVUser article and blog (click here) on sliders and adding Temporal Parallax to your productions. Cranes do pretty much the same thing but on a vertical plane. However, the other thing that cranes can give you is a very different and often privileged point of view of a subject.

iFootage Mini Crane
On high with the iFootage Mini Crane

At the lower end of the scale a crane will enable you to position the camera at floor level – even lower than you can get when using some tripods and at any angle to your subject. At the higher end a crane will enable you to get a bird’s eye view of the subject or scene – which is often a very impressive shot and a great was to establish a new scene. Whilst the extent of this bird’s eye view is obviously limited by the crane’s length, as proven by my experience so far with the iFootage unit, you don’t have to go much beyond the height of a regular tripod in order to create some quite impressive shots and sequences that will give your audience an otherwise impossible and privileged point of view.

Also linking back to my previous article on sliders, the iFootage unit is actually light enough to use in conjunction with a slider to generate some quite awesome camera moves and effects. I can’t honestly say I’ve tried this out as yet but I’m gagging to find a situation where I can put the two together and prove the point.

iFootage M1 Mini Crane

The deal-maker for me on this crane is just how lightweight it is and how compact it becomes when packed down. Measuring just 75cm and weighing a little more than a bag of sugar, this is about as transportable as you are ever likely to get for a crane with a fully extended length of 2 metres and a payload of up to 5Kg. At £315.00 (ex vat) it’s also extremely good value for money and the most cost effective carbon fibre crane on the market.

iFootage Mini Crane
Carbon Fibre Construction

There’s no doubt that this unit has been designed with the DSLR and compact camera shooter in mind. I’m often on shoots in Central London these days and go as light as possible so I can take the tube where possible. Whilst this is so much cheaper and quicker than driving in it normally means stripping my shooting kit back to the absolute basics. However, the iFootage crane is so compact that I would barely know I was carrying it with me. Supplied in its own carry case it’s no more hassle than carrying a two-piece snooker cue – not that I’d be doing that but it gives you some perspective.

iFootage Mini Crane
Compact and Lightweight for easy transport

The crane achieves its incredible low weight through the use of high-grade carbon fibre engineering. Breaking down into two sections for storage, the system can be deployed single-handed in a matter of moments. The central pivot section is quickly attached to a standard tripod head plate with a single screw and a locking pin system that prevents any shift between crane and tripod plate. The rear handle section then slips into the main crane section and tightened into place. This can be moved back and forth to achieve fine balancing once the entire crane is assembled and camera attached. Additional accessories, such as a remote monitor, recorders or lights, can be mounted to the unit using eight threaded holes located within the side plates of the central pivot and camera-mount end of the unit.

The front section of the crane is extended up to its full length by loosening and tightening locking collars on both the upper and lower carbon fibre poles. This independent adjustment enables you to adjust the camera’s angle to the subject which is maintained through the craning action. You can of course alter the camera’s angle during a craning shot by applying a tilt to the tripod head that the system is attached to. Whilst this does take a little practice to get right it will give you the effect of having a remote tilt head attached to the end of the crane – so as the crane rises the camera’s angle of view changes to keep the subject in frame.

iFootage Mini Crane
Adjusting the camera angle mid-crane using the tripod head.

The camera mount end to the slider includes a quick release plate system and an inbuilt left/right spirit level. This is an important feature of the unit and should be checked and adjusted once the entire system is fully configured by loosening the collars on the poles and levelling off the head before tightening them again.

iFootage Mini Crane
Keeping the head level with in-built bubble

The only additional thing you’ll need (that is not supplied in the price) is a small collection of dumbbell weights that slip on to the handle section of the crane (I’ve got myself a 2.5Kg and two 1Kg weights which seems to cover my requirements). The number of weights will depend on the camera used and the length the crane is extended to. In addition the unit also has a hook system at the handle end of the crane so that you can use your kitbag (or something else) as a counterweight as opposed to the dumbbell weights – again adding to the unit’s portability.
Even better, and making the crane even more portable, iFootage make a water-filled counterbalance attachment called the Aquadrop. Retailing at £18.95 plus VAT this deep doughnut shaped bag is mounted on the handle end of the crane just like the standard dumbbells – and can contain up to 4.5Kg of water. When emptied it folds down so small that it can fit into the crane’s carry bag.

iFootage M1 Mini Crane Conclusion

With a maximum payload of 5Kg you could use this crane with quite a wide range of traditional video cameras and not just DSLRs. UK sole distributors, Proactive of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, recommend it for use with a whole range of popular compact video cameras (including the Sony PMW-100, NX30, MC50, NX70, Canon XA10, XF100, XF105, C100, JVC GY-HM100, GY-HM150, Panasonic AG-HMC41 and any similar size cameras/camcorders). Having said this, I found that the lighter the camera and counterbalance was the more stable the crane became. Stripping the camera down to the bare essentials certainly gave me my best results.

As mentioned, the ability to create a crane movement is just one of the benefits of the iFootage M1 Mini Crane. Fully extended the crane has a total tilt length of just over 2 metres which, in practice, allows you to get your camera at least 1 metre higher than the fully extended height of your tripod. In a crowded situation this is quite a vantage point.
The crane has now become part of my standard shooting kit and is taken everywhere with me. It might not always be used but its so compact and light that I might as well have it with me in case I see a creative opportunity to use it.

I don’t like using the word “cheap” but, for what you get for your money this product it goes beyond being “great value for money” and into the realms of costing a lot less than what you would expect for something of this quality.

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)
Notes: More information on the iFootage M1 Mini Crane is available from www.proav.co.uk

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