Category Archives: Video Artisan

Welcome

Video Artisan pride themselves on producing cost-effective video communication tools for business clients.  They understand their clients’ needs – and how to achieve their video production goals. This is why more and more businesses are using them for their video production needs.

These articles will keep you up to date with what’s been happening at Video Artisan.  Short stories, news updates and comments are published by the company’s founder, Kevin Cook.  Kevin has been in the professional video industry since 1985 and always aims to provide his clients with exceptional levels of customer satisfaction.  The company motto is, “Under promise and over deliver”.   At Video Artisan they always go that extra mile to provide an excellent product at a competitive price.

For further details

In conclusion, the areas of expertise include corporate video, company films and all professional video services.  Please contact Kevin Cook for further advice on this website – kevin@video-artisan.com or call 020 83602 3356

 

Report on the JVC GY-HM600 Camera Workshop

JVC GY-HM600 Camera Workshop
Camera Workshop at JVC’s London HQ

The first Camera Workshop

I must admit to being more than a little chuffed to get asked to be part of a camera workshop on JVC’s wonderful GY-HM600 and GY-HM650 camcorders. Alongside Mike Turner, our aim for the workshop was to give existing users a better understanding of the many and unique features and controls of this series of cameras.

The first of these took place on a foggy day on 11th December at JVC’s HQ in North London and was attended by ten owners of the camera who were hoping to discover their camera’s full potential. The delegates included a complete mix of experience and familiarity so it was difficult to pitch the presentation so that everyone walked away better informed.

Having had this camera for the past month or so it was great to be able to share some of the things that I had learnt about the deployment of this camera in the field. It was also really useful to have feedback from more experienced delegates that have been using the camera for much longer. With such a feature-rich piece of technology it’s unlikely that anyone could know everything there is to know about it, but between us we covered all the main functions and controls in an information sharing and friendly environment.

Updating Cameras

One of the most revealing sessions of the day for me was the software update session. These days, like any other technology, cameras are software driven and updates to performance and additional features are introduced long after the camera is released for sale. The GY-HM600 series is no different in this respect and since launch there have been a number of software versions which have improved the camera and added useful features for the user. These improvements really only come to light once the camera has been used in the field and JVC have been quick to develop these and release them to existing users via their website.

Delegates were asked to bring their cameras with them to the workshop so that they could follow sessions with their own camera to help retention. When we came to the software update session the most surprising thing for me was that none of the people on the workshop had the latest software version installed – and at least one had the original version when the camera was first launched. Not only did these guys walk away better informed but they also had better cameras from when they arrived. JVC also learned that their system of informing users on software updates had room for improvement, so everyone was a winner.

Another one of the revealing sessions was on the use of the camera in low-light situations and between us we established the best working practices that enable users to attain the best possible pictures in difficult situations. We also covered the camera’s strengths and weaknesses in full-auto mode and established the best practices in attaining and maintaining correct focus using features such as Focus Assist, Expanded Focus and the Face Detection mode.

Advanced Camera Workshop Session

The day was split between my session on general camera use and after lunch a more advanced section by Mike Turner for GY-HM650 owners covering its streaming, remote monitoring and networking functions. This was great for me as I’d not really tested these capabilities; features which are unique on this model of the camera.

Mike Turner
Me and my co-presenter, Mike Turner

Post-workshop feedback was still coming in whilst I wrote this blog but the comments from delegates on the day were all very positive. As this was our first attempt there were some things that we’ll do differently on future workshops, but overall a good first attempt. We hope to announce the next workshop date very soon, but it’s looking like being the end of January at JVC’s London HQ again.

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JVC GY-HM600/650 Camera Workshop

JVC GY-HM600/650 Camera Workshop

For the past few weeks I’ve been working with JVC on developing an introductory camera workshop for users of their GY-HM600 and GY-HM650 cameras and we have now announced details on the first date – Wednesday 11th December 2013 (yes only a couple of weeks away!).

GY-HM600 series camera workshop
GY-HM600 series camera workshop

Entitled, ‘Create better content with your new GY-HM600 Series camcorder’ this one-day camera workshop is aimed at getting users up and running quickly and enabling them to get the most out of this very versatile and feature-packed camera. It is being held at JVC’s London headquarters (JVC Professional Europe Ltd., 12 Priestley Way, London NW2 7BA) and is free to all recent purchasers of these cameras from one of their authorised dealers.

Other camera owners are welcome on the course at the normal £175 cost, but please bear in mind that the course is designed for these cameras and will cover its various controls and features.

Camera Workshop Content

  • Basic overview of camera functionality
  • Recording media and formats
  • General camera setups
  • Audio Connection & Control
  • Recording
  • Editing Workflow
  • Best practices shooting with GY-HM600 Series
  • Essential & Additional Accessories

Course details

The event starts at 10.00am and will finish around 1pm and will cover the GY-HM600 specifically with a second 1-hour session after lunch on the networking features of the GY-HM650, hosted by JVC Support Manager, Mike Turner. GY-HM600 owners are welcome to stay for this session if they like as it’s always good to understand the technology.

Booking your place on this Camera Workshop

You can book this workshop through your JVC dealer or by registering on the JVC website by clicking here.  Please note, places are subject to availability but the intention is to run this camera workshop on a regular basis. I’ll keep you posted on additional dates as and when they are arranged.

If you need any further information about the day, please contact marketing@jvcpro.co.uk or phone 020 8208 6219

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Nipper Clipper Video Diary – Baby Show Olympia

We shot and edited another little film for Stylfile this week. This time it was a short video diary about their attendance at the Baby Show, Olympia, and the first-time public exhibition of their innovative Nipper Clipper baby and toddler nail clippers and associated Timmy Tickle Baby distraction app.

Nipper Clipper Video Diary
Filming the video diary at the Baby Show

The video diary was presented by 2011 BBC Apprentice winner, Tom Pellereau – inventor of the Nipper Clipper (and other amazing nail care products) and business partner of Lord Sugar. I think the video speaks for itself as to why it was commissioned…

What’s the point of a Video Diary?

Producing a video diary is a simple, fun and cost effective way of letting customers know what you are doing. Apart from giving you another platform for promoting your product and brand, these films work especially well with social networking platforms and blogs. It’s also incredibly easy to share them through your website and deliver to an audience whether they are mobile, desk-bound or through home-based viewing devices and smart TVs.

We’re very proud of just how cost effective we can be when commissioned to produce a video diary – especially when there’s the potential for multiple films or an ongoing series. If you think your business or organisation might be able to benefit from this type of video marketing then please do give us a call. We love a creative challenge!!!

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Event Documentary

Documentary on the Same-Sex Dance Festival

Why make a documentary?

This was the second time Video Artisan has been commissioned by dance shoe manufacturer, Supadance, to make a film about this same-sex dance competition held in Blackpool. Last year’s film was a relatively straight-forward record of the event. It was well received, and has had thousands of plays online, but it did nothing to explain what same-sex dancing is all about or who it is aimed at. We were therefore really looking forward to making a more in-depth documentary and help tell the world why same-sex dance deserves much wider recognition.

Lady's Same-Sex dance
Lady’s Same-Sex dance

Before I move on to the making of the documentary itself, I have to admit that even after filming last year’s event I wasn’t totally convinced of the argument for same-sex dancing. I’m not the only one to feel this way though. We have made several films for Supadance about their shoes as well as other short films about mainstream dance events which they sponsor. During the making of these films it’s become obvious that certain sectors of the mainstream dance community would rather not see same-sex dancing at all – and would certainly be opposed to seeing it integrated into mainstream competitions.

Hopefully this new documentary will help change some of these opinions. It has certainly changed my point of view and made me appreciate the subtle but important differences of same-sex dance.

Like any documentary you’ve got to tell a story and at least present one side of an argument. This documentary is certainly presenting the argument from the same-sex dancer’s side but, in all honesty, I don’t believe there is a logical argument for continuing to exclude same-sex dance from mainstream dance competitions.

Whilst Supadance sponsored the production of this documentary I was very much under the guidance of the event organisers, Bradley and Soren Stauffer-Kruse (AKA The Sugar Dandies). You might be familiar with these guys from their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. Prior to the event I got Bradley and Soren to list out the questions they get asked most often about same-sex dancing in general and the festival itself. This was like gold dust and gave me the main thread of the story and formed the basis for all the interviews we carried out over the two days.

Getting the answers to these questions then became the main focus of our documentary filming. To ensure we had all the points covered our first day of filming started with Bradley and Soren giving their answers to these questions. This day was actually just a practice day for the competitors so there wasn’t much real action taking place on the dance floor but it did give us a relevant background for their interview where dancers can be seen on the floor behind them.

The second day we set about gathering general scenes from the dance festival itself, but at the same time we worked out with Bradley and Soren which competitors would be good subjects for interviews. These were all recorded later on in the afternoon whilst the competition was still running which often meant grabbing couples as they left the dance floor. You will normally experience some resistance from people in these situations but thankfully the same-sex dance community all seem to be anything but camera shy. Still, part of the skill of the documentary maker is getting your subjects to relax in front of camera and I hope the film shows them as being that way. We certainly ended up with more content than we could fit in the film.

Men's same-sex dance
Men’s same-sex dance

The general shots of dancing were simply b-roll images to help tell the stories told within the interviews. We didn’t therefore film any dance in its entirety but were instead looking for fleeting moments within the dances that would look good on film and covered all the dance-types, costumes and characters taking part in the competition.

The final filming sequence was carried out at around 11pm once the competition was over and most of the contestants had left (a long day after a 9am start). This was with Bradley and Soren in all their finery doing a very professional job of opening and closing the documentary. It’s just so nice to work with people who shine on camera.

Documentary tools

All filming was carried out by two videographers (Martin Baker and myself) using two DSLRs – namely a Canon 5D MkII and a 550D. All the interviews were filmed on the 5D using a Canon 24-105mm f.4 lens. For much of the day Martin was using the 550D with a vintage Fujinon 55mm f1.8 lens to gather the shallow depth of field shots. There’s also one or two shots in there where the 550D was mounted on my iFootage Mini Crane and using a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 super wide zoom – plus there’s also a slide using the Varavon Slidecam 900. Lighting was provided by two Lishuai LED lighting panels.

Shooting the same-sex event documentary
Shooting the same-sex

The majority of interview sound was recorded in-camera via the Tascam DR-60D recorder/mixer using a Sony ECM674 directional mic on phantom power. This was the first real field test for the Tascam and I have to say it was fantastic. There was however two interviews where we used our Sony tie-clip mic connected directly to the camera – namely the interview with Supadance Chairman, Barry Free and the vox-pop with Strictly Come Dancing’s Erin Boag. These came out OK – but I think you can tell the difference.

The editing took three days to complete and was all carried out on our Edius 6.5 edit suite. The only exception to this was the opening graphics and caption lower 3rds which were all created in PhotoShop and then imported into Edius as separate layers and animated.

Music is always a challenge with Supadance films as you have to avoid tracks which are obviously either ballroom or Latin. It simply doesn’t look right if there’s Latin music over the top of a couple ballroom dancing. It might not get spotted by the uninitiated but for anyone involved in the world of dance it’s going to look very odd indeed. Thankfully AKM Music came to my rescue again with the track ‘Celebration’ from the album AK157 ‘Positivity’.

Making a documentary go viral

There’s a lot of talk about videos going viral and how best to achieve it. The fact is that “viral” is a relative term and a documentary on what is a special interest subject is unlikely to ever reach the heady heights of films about cats and dogs doing funny things. Going viral is therefore really about getting your content shared by as many people within the target audience as possible. It’s never a one-man job and has to be a collaborative effort by all those with a vested interest in the film.

As the producer I’ve obviously got an interest in spreading the documentary about as much as I can and have tweeted, added to Facebook, blogged about it, added to my YouTube and Vimeo channels and took various Instagram pictures during the event and after. Bradley and Soren have since shared the video in various ways throughout the same-sex dance community whilst Supadance will be using the film as part of the media library on their website and will also be screening it at mainstream dance events they are involved in. It’s very early days as I write this blog but the documentary was watched over 700 times in the first day of going live. In my mind that’s gone viral!

Commissioning a documentary

Whether you are into same-sex dance or not doesn’t really matter, the point is that any organisation can commission a documentary that will engage with your target audience and help augment your brand. There must of course be a reason or aim of the video in commercial terms (this one was, “Buy more Supadance shoes”), but the art is making something that your audience will want to watch and share with others with a similar interest.

If you think you have a story to tell contact us today for a free consultation and we’ll go through the process and costs of getting your documentary out there.

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Producing a video review

Video review title
Tips on shooting a video review

I’ve just uploaded the latest instalment from Kev’s Shed which is a video review of the Tascam DR-60D audio recorder/mixer. Having already blogged about the product I was so impressed that it inspired me to turn the camera on myself and produce a video review telling you why I think Tascam have a smashing bit of kit on their hands. If you’ve got about 12 minutes to spare, and want to know how this little beauty is going to make your DSLR shooting life better, whiz down to the bottom of this blog and enjoy.

So what goes into making a video review like this?

The making of a video review

First of all, whoever is going to present the video review must have a good understand the key features of the product. Having already swatted up on the DR-60D whilst producing the written review I pretty much knew what I wanted to say about it on video. Whilst you wouldn’t always be supporting a video review with a written piece you must allow time as a producer/presenter to gather the facts and form opinions. There’s no point in just reading out the sales brochure.

Believe it or not, I did my entire presentation in one take. This is true, but not without stumbles, passages of pure nonsense, plenty of “erms” and a couple of coughing fits. All these breaks are skilfully plastered with b-roll footage – well maybe not all the “erms”! The idea is to get it all in the can in one go but at the same time understand where the editor can cut and repair. You need to think how you can link from one feature to the next and, if you can’t, make sure your viewer knows you are moving on to something else, “Another great feature I like….”

This video review was filmed in my edit suite, which is a room measuring about 3m x 4m. That’s enough space for my camera set up (see Tech Bits below) and for me to present to camera seated about 2m from the lens. It is a little too small for a standing presentation but I have another room to do these in with a greenscreen backdrop for keying.

Presenting a video review
Presenting a video review

There would have been room in my edit suite for a camera operator but in this instance I wanted to create the entire film single-handed. I had a volunteer to sit in shot whilst I checked focus but after that I managed everything on my own. The framing choice was intentionally off to the left slightly as I knew I’d also want to introduce a few captions in places where I thought the viewer would like more detail.

I then set about cutting this take into a logical story but not worrying at this stage about continuity between the shots as I would be covering these with b-roll footage of the DR-60D. This sometimes meant cutting words from one section into another, changing the order of some sections completely and cutting out about 70% of the “erms”. I had to leave at least some “erms” in as that’s what I’m like in real life!

With the narrative in place I was now at a stage of knowing exactly what I needed b-roll wise to cover the cracks and help tell the story. This consisted of a range of action shots demonstrating features that I was talking about, general pack shots and macro shots of switches etc. Again these were all shot single-handed in the edit suite plus one outdoor shot in the garden of me and the unit in action (this time using a tree as my focus marker).

Me shooting me
Me shooting me

That was day one over. With everything in the can I spent the following day adding b-roll and refining the main take to make sure the video review was telling the story that I wanted it to tell. Allowing for a bit of research time, encoding and uploading to Vimeo and YouTube, the entire film took two days or about 20-man hours to produce. I also put together a short teaser trailer too which only took a couple of hours on top of this.

Financing a video review

Whilst Proactive had supported me to write the original written piece (thanks again Neil – and buy your DR-60D here) I self-funded the production of the video review. I am genuinely impressed with the DR-60D but it’s obviously not my only motivation for making the video. I hope there are other manufacturers and distributors out there who would also like me to do something similar about their products – but obviously on a commercial basis. At least I can now show them something.

Applying my normal rate card to this job I would do something similar for around the £1,000 mark. On less complicated products I could see me turning the whole thing round in a single day – and maybe even get more than one product done in this time. That’s a fair price in my mind but happy to talk “bulk” with anyone : )

Technical Bits of the video review

Presenting a video review
The subject of the review

I filmed all content using my trusty old Canon 550D running ML (Magic Lantern). I could have used my 5Dmkii but wanted to show this being used on screen with the DR-60D as that’ll be my normal combination. It was mounted on my Sachtler Ace whilst the DR-60D rig was mounted on my Vinten Vision 3 (note the nice smooth rotation shot).

Lens wise I opted to use my vintage Fujinon 55mm f1.8 lens. On a 550D, with its cropped sensor, this gives an effective focal length of 83mm. I wanted to use this lens as its fast and I like its look. I wanted to create a fair bit of separation between me and the edit suite itself but at the same time didn’t want to struggle keeping myself in focus with having too shallower depth of field. I was therefore running the lens at f.4 and the camera set to 320 iso using ML’s controls. For the extreme close-up shots I used my cheap-as-chips eBay macro tube.

Canon 550D
Video review shot with Canon 550D

The only lighting was provided by my two Lishuai LED lighting panels (also available from Proactive). I’ve got a blackout screen on the edit suite window so could eliminate any natural light falling on the set and also turned off all house lighting. The LEDs were set to 3200k and placed just out of shot left and right and faded to give a little shaping to my already perfectly shaped body. I used my edit suite programme monitor as a practical back light source by getting a bright picture up on my Edius timeline.

Audio, and here’s the irony, was not recorded through the DR-60D as I wanted to have it in hand during my presentation. I didn’t have another one to use on the shoot so had to resort to attaching my Sony radio mic directly into the 550D and tweaking the levels within ML. Whilst I am used to working this way I have to say it only just emphasised just how much easier the DR-60D is going to make my audio recording in the future.

The cut and shut was done on Edius 6.5. I hope you enjoy the film and, if you’re in the market for a video review yourself, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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