I was really pleased to hear that one of my promotional videos for Eiger Safety has won the IOV’s ‘Video of the Month’ (VOTM) competition in May 2013.
The full story behind this film, and other promotional videos, was the subject of a previous blog. Since then I’ve also been shooting a longer form documentary about the company which will be launched later this year alongside a new website which Eiger Safety are producing.
The quality and range of entries for the IOV’s VOTM has been quite extensive since it was first launched back in January this year. As there are no rules as to content my Eiger Safety film would have been up against all manner of entries from within the IOV’s membership. And this would not have been restricted to just promotional videos – but also wedding films, documentaries, event coverage and just about every other avenue of work that the IOV membership is involved in.
I think VOTM is a great idea (well done John De Rienzo for getting it off the ground). It gives producers of promotional videos like myself (and other types of producers) a regular means to promote and measure their work. There’s also a nice little cash prize in it which helps cover those small kit impulse purchases that I seem to be making quite frequently these days.
Not just promotional videos
There’s more to come from Eiger Safety as MD, Paul Jaffe, is planning a charity fund raising attempt at climbing the north face of the Eiger in 2014 and has asked me to make a film about it. I must quickly add that this will not involve me making the climb myself but rather Paul’s preparations and training. We are also talking about me filming the start of the climb and his final approach to the summit – so it will involve some altitude work and no doubt some spectacular scenery.
When you produce a promotional videos for companies you never know where things might lead to. However, I never expected to be strapped in harnesses, abseiling or thinking about filming someone climbing the north face of the Eiger.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
We’ve seen a gradual move away from tungsten video lighting for a number of years now – and for all sorts of reasons. Firstly there’s the ecological issue about using tungsten lights. Burning a metal filament within a gaseous-free glass chamber is not the most efficient way to generate a light source. Most of the energy in this process is used up in creating heat (as tungsten ignites a such high temperatures), which is not only wasteful but also a really unwelcome guest on any film set if you happen to be sat in front of a tungsten lamp for any length of time. The more lamps you use the greater heat is generated which means you either suffer from the heat or have to use more energy by introducing cooling machinery – which in turn creates other unwanted side effects for the sound guy.
The heat issue also means you are limited to how close you can light your subjects – especially if you are filming subjects which are really not that keen on being heated. For instance, I’m sure there are many forms of wildlife who will act very unnaturally under heat-omitting light sources. I’m sure there are even some who would expire under them.
Apart from the high running costs and heat side-effects, Tungsten bulbs are also very delicate – especially when hot. In this state they can also be very dangerous and tend to explode into thousands of tiny molten glass fragments which is why you should never use them without a safety glass in place.
So with all this going against the tungsten light it’s really surprising that they have lasted this long and are in fact still manufactured today. Whilst various alternative light sources have been with us for some time they have been somewhat lacking in performance and have not been able to deliver the same quality of light offered by tungsten lamps. This has certainly changed in recent years though – especially in relation to LED lighting.
The state of LED
LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) have been with us since the early 60s and were originally used for all manner of functions such as appliance indicators and other low-intensity applications. Since then this technology has advanced considerably and spread into all manner of light applications and today can be found in everything from car headlights to video displays. This has also resulted in a number of LED constant lighting solutions for video and photography – of varying quality. Whilst LED is a very efficient way to generate light, the light quality is not always the same from one system to another. Generally speaking, the more you spend on your LED lighting the more advanced it will be and will offer a much more accurate colour rendition.
This colour accuracy is known as a CRI (Colour Rendering Index) value which, according to Wikipedia, is a “quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colours of various objects faithfully”.
I don’t intend to research and write about this any further now but a LED lamp with a CRI value of anything above 85 is considered to be “very good” – whereas “very bad” would be at the other end of the scale down at zero. Whilst there are other contributing factors to the quality of light it’s the CRI value that will be often the quoted measure of quality. In video terms anything below 80 will start to cause colour inconsistencies in things like skin tones – especially when there are other light sources falling on the subject.
Lishuai LED508AS Kit
You can spend many, many hundreds of pounds on a single LED light panel so you’d be right to question exactly what you’d get from a Lishuai LED lighting kit which costs a shade under £500 plus VAT for a 2-panel kit (available from ProActive in Hemel Hempstead, Herts). And it’s not just two LED panels you’re getting for this money – it’s two screw-on diffusers, two heavy duty stands, two mains supply units, two battery chargers, four 4400mAh NPF-style batteries and a couple of bags to carry and store it all in.
You’d be in your right mind to expect something quite sub-standard for this kind of money but Lishuai quote them as having a CRI value of just over 80. It’s not perfect admittedly, but in practice the colour rendition is extremely good when compared to the level of investment. Mores the point, your colour rendition is far more likely to be impacted by external light sources, operator error and the colour inconsistencies within the camera itself rather than an LED that’s churning out a CRI value of 80+.
CRI performance aside, there are far more important features and benefits of the Lishuai LED508AS-KIT that have impressed me so far. Each lighting panel measures around 33cm by 17cm and include 508 LEDs – 254 of which are rated at 3200K and 254 at 5600K. A rotary knob on the rear of the unit allows you to dial in your colour temperature from 3200K to 5600K – and anywhere in between. I’ve found this to be extremely useful in mixed lighting situations where it’s enabled me to make a choice between balancing to either depending on the situation. If there’s predominantly external natural light in a room just turn the colour temperature to 5600K. If there’s some really nice artificial lighting then it’s just as easy to balance to that – without the need to add gels or exclude available lights. I’ve also used them outdoors in bright sunlight to add a little fill to an interviewee’s face who was standing in shadow with a brightly lit building behind them. Because of their cool running temperature I could get the lights within a foot or so of the interviewee’s face – positioning the panels almost touching each other to give me a large light source to compete with the strong sunlit background.
The panels are also dimmable (flicker-free) from 10 to 100% which is a really neat feature when trying to create mood and shape to your subject. Lishuai rate the lights at 8500 Lux at 0.5m (falling to 2500 Lux at 1m) so these are not going to light up an entire theatre by any means. However, I’ve found them perfect for lighting interviews and talking-head pieces and on more than one occasion my subjects have been somewhat startled by their brightness.
The units can be either mains or battery powered (30.5w) – which is another really useful feature and demonstrates how much more energy efficient LED lighting is over traditional tungsten lighting. Running the lamps at full power – at a mid colour temperature – will give you around 2.5 hours using both batteries. There’s also a really useful battery power indicator in 25% increments so you know how much longer you have left before a recharge or switching to mains. In my mind though, 2.5 hours is plenty – and if you already have other kit running off the NPF battery system (I have a monitor that will) you can always cross-use these.
Lishuai LED508AS Conclusion
Of all the features mentioned above the one thing that I instantly fell in love with was the lack of heat. I’ve also got an Ianiro 3-head lighting kit and whilst I still use this for some shoots the heat they generate is a serious negative. A lot of my work is based around talking head interviews which are often filmed in the subject’s place of work with limited space and no air temperature control. Once you have a couple of tungsten lamps running in these conditions it doesn’t take long for the videographer/talent relationship to diminish – which in turn doesn’t do anything for their performance and for my end result.
The only negative I have noticed with the lamps, which is not really a negative at all, is that I left the batteries on the lights at one point and also attached the mains supply. This caused the lights to pulse slightly. Once I’d removed the batteries the pulsing stopped instantly – so if you ever experience this you’ll know what to do.
I’m now into my third shoot using these lights and I’ve already started questioning the logic of packing my old tungsten lights into the car. On the last two occasions they’ve not been out of their case at all – relying solely on the Lishuai kit to illuminate. As there’s always been an additional light source at the location (either a window or an artificial source of some kind) I’ve been able to use this in order to create my 3-point lighting for modelling – and used the light’s variable colour temperature according to the source.
You might have guessed from this article that I’m more than chuffed with the Lishuai kit. It’s exceptional value for money and convinced me that my future lighting investments will be in LED. They are cool – in every sense of the word!
Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)
Notes: More information on the Lishuai LED508AS lighting kit is available from www.proav.co.uk
I hinted at having a very important meeting about a promo film commission on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. Sorry for the tease but I couldn’t say too much until the video was complete and out in the open.
The meeting was with none other than Tom Pellereau, winner of the 2011 series of the BBC’s Apprentice, inventor and joint owner of Stylfile with Lord Sugar. Tom’s offices (and that of the Amshold) are just a few hundred yards from my studio in Loughton, Essex and he was just as chuffed as I was at finding each other when he needed a video production company to help with his latest promo film.
When I say “promo film”, it actually ended up being utilised as one main promo film and then chopped up into several micro promo films covering each of the products in the Stylfile collection. This includes the S-File, S-Buffer, S-Clipper, Emergency File and the S-Ped – plus the Nailcare Collection. The above links will take you to the individual product pages and each promo film.
The entire piece also includes an introduction by Tom covering his Apprentice story and the inspiration behind these revolutionary nailcare products…
The promo film shoot
I think this is a pretty good example of what can be achieved in a couple of days (one day shoot and another to edit). Of course this can only happen when a client has done all the preparation, worked out the story and structure – and is a darn good presenter in front of camera. Tom did most of the takes first time – which was a real benefit in the edit. He had also pre-produced the title sequence and selected the royalty-free music score – both of which would have added another 1/2 day or so to the edit.
The shoot was carried out in a local studio but pretty much all the lighting (apart from a back light) was supplied by Video Artisan. To keep things cool I used my Lishuai LED Lighing Kit which was greatly appreciated by Tom. I’ve written a review on this lighting kit for DVUser magazine and will be posting it here next week. This promo film does give you a reasonable idea of what the kit is capable though.
This isn’t the end of this story. In a couple of weeks I’m going to be shooting another promo film for Stylfile on another brilliant new product they are adding to the collection. Sorry – that’s still hush hush at the moment so you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for details.
In the meantime I guess I better get myself a Stylfile collection having raved about it to everyone. Tom really has created something quite amazing and I’m sure the promo film will help spread the word even further.