Video production in Essex definitely seems to be on the up, with a surge in activity amongst on-line marketeers, businesses and government institutions looking to exploit the power of video on their website, within their social networking platforms and in direct video marketing activities.
Video is no longer just for larger corporations and businesses, but has fast become the marketing tool for organisations of all sizes. It’s not just about driving direct sales either, but is fast becoming the preferred method of delivering all kinds of information – be that news bulletins, instruction manuals, internal communications and any story which can be shared through this very engaging and highly effective medium.
What’s all the interest in video production in Essex?
Video production in Essex is proving so popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, Essex is booming – especially in areas surrounding Video Artisan’s studios in Loughton, Essex. Situated just inside the M25, we’re well within the London catchment area and are well positioned to serve businesses and organisations in Central London and beyond. With the UK’s motorway network on our doorstep we can be anywhere in the UK with ease whilst at the same time connected to Central London via Loughton Station which is on the London Underground Central Line.
Video production is, and always has been, a very competitive service industry. Modern high definition cameras and technology are becoming ever more affordable – making it more and more accessible to everyone with a story to tell. Stepping just outside of the Central London video production industry our clients can save many thousands of pounds in production costs without losing any of the benefits of having a highly targeted and professionally produced film. At Video Artisan you get London agency productions at out-of-town rates.
Video production in Essex is therefore not about making compromises – but rather about making huge savings and yet still being able to tap into all the advantages that commissioning a video production can offer.
We’re not just local though – and regularly travel throughout the UK and beyond to help our clients create video content which helps them achieve their goals.
Look no further for video production in Essex
To find out how Video Artisan can help you to harness the power of video, and for a no-obligation appraisal and quotation, please contact us today.
In the past week Anthony McTiffen at AKM Music has kindly sent me their latest two albums for review. Whilst both are worthy additions to any video producer’s library of copyright-free music, they are both quite different in style and appeal. The first, ‘AK166 Electric Guitar Pop’, is pretty much what it says on the tin – driving American soft-rock which lends itself to corporate films which need a music underscore to push them along. The second, ‘AK167 Weird & Wonderful Vol 2’, is an eclectic mix of tracks which are calling out for all manner of images to be cut to them.
To put it another way, AK166 is a follower and AK167 is a leader.
This is not going to be a detailed review of each track on this album as they are all very similar. They are of course different, and their subtle variations are enough to warrant their place on the album, but they all follow a very similar theme and style. If I had to put a sound-alike label on the music it would range from Bruce Springsteen, to Asia, to soft-Stones to High-School Reunion – and pretty much every one of them could work as a theme tune on an American sitcom.
I can’t say that I’ll be copying this album to my phone and listening to it in the car, but it’s certainly got its uses. I particularly like the fact that all 10 tracks come in full-length, loop and short versions – which is especially helpful on music which I believe will mainly be used under the images to give them a lift. Combining all versions you can pretty much extend the music to any length which is always helpful.
This is what I’d call an inspirational album. The music ranges from harmonic voice-effect tracks to classical piano pieces – mixed up with Latin, Jazz, Funk, Surfin Dog and others (Surfin Dog will be explained). There is a pattern or style which links all the tracks but often on a “weird and wonderful” level. You’d certainly not expect to find tracks ‘10 Bachman’ and ‘23 Junkbot’ on the same shelf as each other let alone the same album – but somehow it all works.
AKM Music describe this album as, “A real mix of moods, quirky, curious, light, bright and playful Pizzicato strings, classical string quartets groovy surf guitar, elements of madness and good humour. Fresh and fun. For something different add a little weird and wonderful.”
I’ll definitely be using one or more of these tracks at some time in the near future, but I also think it might help with the auditioning process by giving me a wide selection of musical styles to explore and trial on an edit. I find that a complete shift away in musical style from my initial ideas often brings out a completely different and more meaningful edit so this album should really help and inspire – and if there’s nothing on it that matches perfectly it will at least give me clues as to where I should be looking.
I hope that I do get to use some of the tracks on this album as there’s not only some very listenable music on it but also quite a few tracks which are crying out to be visualised. Here’s a few of my favourites…
2 – Klak KloK [1:00]
This conjures visions of a ‘Mission Impossible’ with its piano driven and high-hat tapping rhythm. It’s jazzy and it’s, “in pursuit of suspect on foot” ducking in and out of doorways, through crowds, down stairs…. It’s tension – in a ‘Man from Uncle’ kind of way.
4 – Meadow [0:59]
I imagined seeing this on a trailer for a new and youthful day-time TV magazine programme for the under 80s presented by the Chuckle Brothers. You know it’s going to be light and possibly funny. In truth it’s hard to imagine where this will end up being used but its got character and its plucky strings, strumming bass and piano signatures leave you feeling very positive.
5 – Der [2:19]
Expect to hear the word “Der” a lot on this one as it’s a harmonised voice-effect track with calypso bongo breaks. You also get the occasional “Wooo” too but the lyrics are still easy to remember. It builds in complexity towards the end – right down to the last, extended and harmonised “der”. I like this kind of track because it’s hard to imagine where you might use it, but if you ever do it’s so perfect you’d think it was written specially.
8 – Spring Onions [2:41] If I ever had to do a spoof Blues Brothers film this track would help me pull it off. It could match perfectly to lines such as, “There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Again I don’t know if I’ll ever actually get to use it but I hope I do.
12 – LED [1:20] A medium-paced rhythmic electronic score which I could imagine being used on a car commercial. Not just any car though, the Coolthrash 8000 with super-booster charged engine and hand-crafted mermaid skin trim, walnut dash and more computing power than Belgium. Luxury, style, dosh!
14 – Rainbow Drops [1:17]
I’m a massive Elbow fan and it would be an amazing compliment if I ever compared a piece of copyright-free music to theirs. However, with the wizard that he is, I bet if Elbow’s lead singer and lyricist, Guy Garvey, was let loose on penning words to this it would hold up pretty well. The pictures would therefore need to be something equally deep and meaningful – but that’s really handy if you need to create any motivational content. The ending is a bit of a non-event though.
15 – Latino Disco [3:20]
Purely selfish I know, but as I produce quite a bit of ballroom dance related content this track is going to be really handy. At over 3-mins long the track develops through different stages – some less complex and reflective, others more full on, but all following a disco-fied Cha Cha rhythm (I know because I’ve tried doing a Cha Cha to it).
18 – Surfin Dog [1:25]
This is on my favourites list just because it is so well titled. I can actually imagine a dog surfing to it – so much so that I’m seriously thinking of getting a dog and training it to surf just so I can use this track. It’s also another score I could use in my Blues Brother spoof.
19 – Terraformer [4:16]
A great track for producing a documentary or serious package on a hi-tech company/product. Slow in pace, with whirly orchestral whooshes and whale-like sound FX – driven on by piano and drums interspersed with less complex passages. Would suit anything pharmaceuticals, time-lapse construction, architectural and futuristic subject.
22 – Edge of Beyond [5:44]
We’re at the end of a Quentin Tarantino film where the hero is looking at the death and destruction surrounding him and thinking, “WTF was that all about?”. They walk off into the sunset and the end credits start (and the music plays on through them). Very spaghetti, very steel guitar – very hard to find the right bit of film to use it on but perfect when you do.
24 – Shotgun Runway [2:04]
I can’t get a fashion show catwalk out of my mind on this one, after which we all popped of to the nearest rave. It’s not fast paced by any means, but it’s got an incredibly strong beat to it and lends itself to hard cutting, artistic picture grading and perfect for music-driven caption/graphic animations.
Whilst the above are my favourites I think all 25-tracks are worthy of space on this album – and when any of these are used on a project the music is going to play a major role in telling the story. When I’d finished listening to it I had to go the AKM Music website to preview Vol 1 (AK090 – The Weird and Wonderful) as I’d not heard it before. It was good, but I think Vol 2 is way better on would certainly sit somewhere in my top-5 list of AKM Music albums. Buy it – if only to try out my lyrics for track 20!
Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon)
Note: Get 20% off either the CD or CD DOWNLOAD with this promo code ‘HDSLR1’. Click the links in the album titles above to audition.
It’s time to admit it… I was one of those who thought Vine video was just another gimmicky social media platform that was going disappear quicker than it appeared. It hadn’t even shown up on my radar until Twitter bought Vine Video out at the end of 2012 for a reported $30 million (source Vine Video Wiki) – but even then I couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. Isn’t it funny, this all changed the moment I had a call from one of my regular clients asking if I could produce a Vine video series for them. Of course I could – and I’m now well and truly hooked!
Vine video was originally an iOS app that enabled you to create short, looping videos with your mobile device and then upload and share them. By the beginning of 2013 it was available on Android too – but it really started coming alive when the web version was released in May this year. The maximum clip length is 6-seconds (just over apparently) and the simple Vine video app enables you to compile your video (with sound) in bursts or as stop-frame animation. Once completed you can then add descriptions and tags and share your Vine video through Facebook and Twitter (and others) – or embed it on your website.
You might be reading this and thinking that Vine is nothing new as you can do pretty much everything here with YouTube. However, the main way that Vine video differs is by it 6-second time limit and looping playback which lends itself to different content to YouTube. The content on Vine video also differs as it has to be created via the Vine app (well not really but I’ll come to that) and the camera within the device. You can of course make things easier for yourself (and make better Vines) by using accessories on your phone such as external microphones, lens adapters, tripods… but you’ll see that much of the content on Vine is basic, low production value content shot by normal people using their basic device and nothing else – other than a creative mind!
You’ll also see some pretty spectacular 6-second films which will have you wondering how they shot them using just a phone or tablet. You’ll also come across more and more Vines which were obviously not shot on a phone. These are what are commonly referred to as ‘Custom Vines’, and are generally pretty highly polished films that have been shot and edited professionally and the user has been able to circumvent Vine’s normal upload process.
Creating a Custom Vine video
Vine’s current inability to upload externally produced videos has been a major frustration for users and had resulted in a few third-party solutions that enable you to fool Vine into thinking the content you’re posting was created within the app. I’ve not used this, but one of the first of these was a free iOS app called ‘Uploader for Vine’. There were also other ways you could manually kid Vine by replacing the temporary video files created prior to publishing with pre-created content. But now there’s a really simple Google Chrome extension that does the job really neatly – namely Vine Client. Using Chrome, simply go to the website and activate the extension, open a free account and link it to your Vine account and you’re off.
The technical spec for Custom Vine video file is reasonably straight forward and achievable with any half respectable editing system – but must be adhered to for a trouble-free upload. The file needs to be less than 5Mb and between 3 and 6.8 seconds in length. They recommend using MP4 using the H.264 codec (but there are other file formats they’ll accept) – with a square format pixel dimension of 480px by 480px at a maximum bitrate of 1,200Kbps. The audio should be 64 Kpbs bitrate, 44.1 Khz, 2 channels, AAC. An audio stream needs to be present, even if silent.
Once you have your formatted files it’s then simply a case of logging on to Vine Client and uploading it – job done! I suspect that Vine will eventually cave in to users’ demands and build-in the ability to upload Custom Vines directly (or more likely monetize that process) – but until they do this process seems to work quite well.
Start having some fun with Vine Video
Like other users my first attempts were video doodles created within the app itself. I’m a big fan of Instagram for photos and occasionally use its video tools too (apparently there are tools/processes to enable you to create Custom Instagrams as well – see useful reference site here about difference), but I think Vine’s simplicity is what has won favour amongst its rapidly expanding user base. Creating Custom Vines though opens up a whole new world of video fun.
Nipper Clipper Vines
Getting back to where this all started, my client Stylfile (one of Lord Sugar’s enterprises headed up by Apprentice winner and inventor, Tom Pellereau) wanted to create a collection of Vine videos to celebrate the first anniversary of their Nipper Clipper baby and toddler nail clipping product (see blog here). Having produced a number of films for them about Nipper Clipper and other products in the Stylfile range, the thought was to produce a series of Vines based on existing footage which had the potential to generate viral interest.
The first Nipper Clipper Vine appeared on 17th June to coincide with the product’s launch in 2013. Happy Birthday Nipper Clipper! More will follow in the series – so keep an eye on Vine.
Ever since the new regulations on radio microphone frequencies were introduced in the UK at the end of 2012, the days were numbered for my trusty old Sony UWP series radio mic system (consisting of the URX-P1 UHF dual-diversity receiver and UTX-B1 transmitter). Whilst super-reliable and excellent quality, this combo is limited to channels 67-69 which the government sold off to expand the frequencies available for mobile phones (cheers!).
After the new regulations came into place radio mics had to switch over to channel 38 if they were capable of doing so – and the old UWP series were not. Apparently there are ways to upgrade this receiver/transmitter system but it entails changing the main board in each unit (way beyond my technical skills) – but I’d already made up my mind that it was time to move on to something new with some additional features that would make wireless microphone use even more adaptable and reliable.
There have been many new and compliant radio mic solutions on the market since these changes were announced but I’d resisted them all for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’d managed to carry on using my old UWP series without interference or conflict with the authorities. Naughty I know but when needs must the devil drives! Secondly, I was so pleased with their performance that I was reluctant to change to anything new and untested. To me, Sony have always represented belt and braces technology so any move away from this brand was a turnoff. Any replacement would also have to have the same dual-diversity capability, be robust, compact, easy to use and within the same kind of budget as the original UWP series (sub £500).
Introducing the UWP-D11
I first set eyes on the new UWP-D11 at BVE 2014 where I was filming interviews with various exhibitors about their new products aimed squarely at professional videographers. This included filming an interview with Álvaro Ortiz at Sony about the various bits of technology they were showing for the first time in the UK – which included the UWP-D series (http://vimeo.com/87877656). I knew there and then that I’d found my replacement so it was only a matter of time before I got one.
The D11 package is a direct replacement for my old system, though I have to admit that a UTX-P03 Plug-on transmitter (part of the D16 package) is still on my wish list. Whilst the vast majority of my work is adequately covered by the D11 package (which includes an omni-directional lavalier microphone, windshield, belt clips and cold-shoe mount) there are occasions where I use a wired handheld reporter-type microphone and it would be great to go completely wire-free between mic and receiver. Having said that, the D11’s portable transmitter (URX-B03) has a mini-jack input, with adjustable attenuation, allowing you to connect other microphones with differing sound pressure levels. The input can also be switched between mic and line level so I could, for instance, feed the transmitter with an output from my Tascam DR-60D mixer-recorder enabling me to feed up to three microphone inputs into the URX-B03 and transmit that back to the receiver (URX-P03).
The UWP-D11 difference
The UWP-D features Sony’s Hybrid Digital Processing which combines the sound quality of digital audio processing with the reliability of analogue FM modulation. This helps improve the signal exchange between transmitter and receiver resulting in a stronger and more natural sound recording. As a true dual diversity system, continuation of signal is maintained by the URX-P03 always using the strongest signal picked up either of the two independent receivers.
The D11 package offers wide frequency coverage with up to 72 MHz bandwidth across a wide range of channels. The Sony website lists seven different carrier frequency versions of the D11 so it’s important to source the right model from an authorised Sony dealer for the country/region you are using it in as regulations do vary. This should result in a product that works out of the box, without fear of interference or causing interference to others on restricted channels/frequencies.
Ease of use was high on my list of priorities and the D11 achieves this will some very useful features. The large, bright display panels (11.5mm x 27.8mm) on both transmitter and receiver give you an instant indication of status. This includes channel and bandwidth settings, battery strength and audio level meter on both units. The transmitter also includes a mic or line setting indicator, a transmission indicator and transmission strength setting indicator. The receiver also has signal strength status (showing the dual receivers ‘a’ and ‘b’ independently – and which one it is presently using) – so at any one time you can see what each unit is set to and whether there’s communication and signal passing between the two.
The audio level meter also includes a peak indicator which displays solid black on the screen when you overload the input. Both units also have two light indicators on the top edge of the body – one for Power (Power/Muting button on transmitter) and another marked ‘RF’ on the receiver and ‘Audio’ on the transmitter. Under normal conditions the transmitter’s Audio light will flicker green to reflect the movement in the audio level – but if you do manage to overload the input on the transmitter this light will temporarily turn red which is very easy to spot. If you lose signal at the receiver your green light will go out altogether – otherwise it remains on constantly.
The power lights will also give you further information on battery condition (each unit takes two AA batteries) – with a solid green light displaying under good battery conditions, flashing green when the battery power is getting low, flashing orange when the audio is set to muted/disabled (switched on and off using a short press of the power button on the transmitter) and, finally, solid orange when the batteries are being charged.
This is one of the major advances on the UWP-D series in that you can charge Ni-MH batteries within the units by connecting them via their USB connectors (Micro B type) to a suitable supply (for instance, a laptop or any other standard USB power supply). In addition, you can also use the USB connector to power the unit without the need to have batteries installed – plus this USB connection is also used for updating firmware.
UWP-D11 Menu Controls & Settings
Changing the parameters is carried out through a very simple menu system which is navigated via the ‘Set’, ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons. Besides the power button these are the only controls on the units. There is an advanced menu setting which enables you to change the commander settings, lock power switches, alter screen brightness, battery type etc. – but for normal operation the simple menu mode gives you everything you’re likely to want to change in the field.
Both units also contain an infrared red detector. By default the UK model comes set to channels 33-35 so you’ll need to change this to channels 38-40. You do this by selecting the ‘Band’ setting in the menu on the receiver (using the ‘+’ ‘-’ and then ‘Set’ buttons) and toggle through to the desired channel set. Once adjusted you’ll see that the RF signal is lost between the two units until you click menu again and then the ‘Auto Set – Yes’ mode – at which point the RF light will flash and the unit will go through searching mode and communicate with the transmitter via infrared. Once coupled via infrared the transmitter display will show the channel setting on the receiver and ask you if you want to sync the units. Select ‘yes’ and the transmitter will change to the same channel/frequency and two units will connect via RF again. You’ll see the signal strength indicators return on the receiver and the audio level will match that on the transmitter.
If you are in an environment where there’s a number of radio devices being used the receiver also has a function that allows you to scan the channel band to see if there’s anything being used on the same frequency – and then select a frequency which is unused. Within the advanced menu you can also use the ‘Active Channel Scan’ function, which allows you to tune in multiple receivers to the same transmitter. In addition you can also manually adjust the channel/frequency by holding down the ‘Set’ button on the receiver and then pressing the ‘+’ ‘-’ buttons. Again, once set you’ll need to select the ‘Auto Set’ button and go through the syncing process with the transmitter.
This all sounds complicated but in practice the D11 package allows you to be operating on a clean, interference-free and legal channel very quickly.
UWP-D11 Ins and Outs
Besides the USB connector the transmitter has only one mini-jack connector which also carries power to the supplied microphone. This has a screw-on collar fitting to stop the microphone becoming inadvertently disconnected from the unit. The receiver has two standard mini-jack connectors – one marked ‘Output’ for connecting to your camera or recording device and the other marked ‘Phones’ for headphone monitoring. You can adjust the level on the output via the menu to match your recording device (±12dB) – as well as changing the monitoring level on the headphones. The receiver also has and additional multi-pin auxiliary connector for connecting accessories – but I’ve got no idea what these might be!
There’s lots of things that I really like about the UWP-D11 package – but the two things which jump out at me are its robust build and ease of use. The main body is made of metal and feels like it would fair well in the often drop-hazard world of ENG production. In other words, they’re tough little buggers but weigh in at under 180g including batteries. They’re also slightly smaller than my old retired UWP system making them ideal for use on DSLRs as well as traditional video cameras.
The other major advantages are the USB power supply or, more importantly to me, the ability to charge batteries within the unit whilst in the field. Not only could this save your bacon but it also means you do not need to buy yet another charger unit. I’ve not had to put this to the test yet but I’m sure I will.
I’m also really looking forward to coupling the system with my Tascam DR-60D mixer/recorder – which will open up a whole new range of wireless audio solutions for me. I do a fair bit of conference work and often there’s no AV technical handling audio – or when there is the feed from their desk is not exactly perfect. Faced with these situations I could add get up to three mics placed on stage, mixed through the DR-60D and out to the transmitter once set to line input – and then wirelessly transmit this back to the receiver at the camera without the need to run and gaffer-tape cables. I can imagine this feature/combination to be highly appealing to wedding videographers filming top-table speeches too.
The UWP-D series are also compatible with Sony’s WL-800, UWP and Freedom series systems, allowing you to switch between different commanding modes. Like any bit of technology you’re going to have to read the manual (supplied on CDROM) but, thankfully, not religiously and only when you want to dig deeper into its capabilities.
So, I’m legal at last – and ready to deal quickly with any audio situation that might arise without interference of other devices. Well done Sony.
Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)
Note: Check out the Sony website for your nearest authorised dealer.
It’s taken some time to release this news but this week I’ve had confirmation that my short event documentary on the 2013 Same-Sex Dance Festival is going to be broadcast on the Community Channel on 7th June at 9:45. Sponsored by dance shoe manufacturer, Supadance, this event documentary tells the story behind this unique Ballroom and Latin Dance competition for same-sex dance couples held in the Spanish Hall at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
I’ve produced five films for Supadance now but this is the first event documentary which has been spotted by a broadcaster. The Community Channel describe itself as, “Broadcasting original programmes that showcase the work of new directors and community filmmakers, as well as the very best of terrestrial TV, Community Channel is the place for real-life stories” and is a registered charity owned by the Media Trust. Same-Sex Dance Festival was chosen by the channel for its human interest appeal for both dance and same-sex audiences.
Broader Audience for an event documentary
The online version of this film has already reached more than 20,000 viewers through YouTube, Vimeo and social networking platforms since it was launched in October last year. It has also been downloaded and shared throughout the world by those interested and activity participating in same-sex dance. The Community Channel, which its average daily reach of 160,000 viewers (according to www.barb.co.uk), should push the event documentary out to many more people and give them an insight into this fascinating area of social and competition dance.
The Community Channel is broadcast 24/7 on Virgin 233, Sky 539 and Freesat 651, as well as on Freeview 63 and glorious Freeview HD. Community Channel is also available on BT Vision and BBC iPlayer. You can also watch their “on demand” output on their website and on their YouTube channel (CommunityChannelTV).
Whilst there is no monetary advantage for Video Artisan in having this work broadcast there are other, very significant, advantages in this event documentary going out to a wider audience.
Firstly, Supadance are obviously extremely pleased as their products and their involvement in the event are heavily featured in the documentary. Produced initially as website video content to help with their search engine optimisation, this event documentary will now expose their brand even further without any further investment. Equally, the event organisers for the Same-Sex Festival are going to gain more exposure than they could have dreamed of – which not only benefits this particular dance festival but also same-sex dancing in general.
Finally, I can’t deny that there’s a certain amount of kudos to be gained from having one of your films noticed and output by a broadcaster – albeit not one of the more mainstream channels. It should also mean that I can add a legitimate credit to the IMDb database (www.imdb.com). More importantly though, it’s another demonstrable example of where I’ve been able to deliver far more than promised to a client. Not every event documentary has this potential but, when it does, Video Artisan can develop and deliver the right kind of content.
You can read more about the making of this event documentary on my earlier blog HERE.