361MC: – Little Rag Doll Shoot Day #2

As this particular day was to be focussed on filming the band performing the song numerous times in Quad Studios, my preparation and research beforehand had to shift from narrative filming from the previous day to music performance filming. Once again, this was my first time filming a music video and music performance in general, and so my mind during the filming process  was centred entirely on forward-thinking as to how it would be pieced together in the eventual editing process. We had the studios booked for 3 hours (including set up time) so this once again posed a very fast deadline to get all of the band footage concluded before that time.

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In terms of kit, we introduced a new piece of kit for this day’s filming; the glide track, which is something I had never used before. We only filmed one run-through of the song with the track, in order to get sweeping shots of the front of the band to make it a little more visually interesting and more steady than attempting a shot such as that with a shoulder-mounted camera. We still had a 3 camera set up which was handy considering that Six Broken Sticks are a 3-piece band. We set up cameras for each member of the band and rotated the cameras around in order to offer alternative shots and make the future video more visually interesting.

Unlike the previous day, I didn’t feel the need to use a shot plan for the band segments of the video. I trusted all of our judgment to think and offer shots on the fly and felt that this was the best way to allow my team to work, rather than shackle them to my own ideas for shots. Sarah and Guy (my camera team) had both worked on music video shoots before so I knew that they knew what would make good cinematic shots and the ability to use their own initiative. It was also a very reactive process of filming. The ability to capture great shots relied entirely on how the band performed each run through of the song and what quirky actions they did. One thing I learnt from this music video filming is that no take is identical to the first and it keeps you on your toes as a camera operator as you offer shots throughout the entirety of the song and then have to think of an alternative way to capture the same again the next time. I believe that this has greatly improved my skill as a camera operator and has made me a lot more self-reliant and confident in my own ability to think of shots myself. We ran through the song around 10 times and managed to finish around the time we had the studio booked out to. We had managed to entirely fill all of the cameras with footage which would prove a mammoth task when it would come to post-production.

Overall, today’s filming went much more smoothly than the filming the day before. Where as Day 1’s filming had a lot of starting and stopping as we ran through each scene on the shot plan and had to convey this to the actors, as well as moving lights into a new position for each shot in a very ‘trial and error’ fashion, Day 2’s shoot had the lights mostly in one fixed position throughout the entire shoot, and moving cameras around in between shots proved to be incredibly easy. It was a very rewarding experience to film my first band in a studio and has given me a lot of skills and technical development that I know I can build on and learn from for when it comes to filming my final two music videos. With a shot plan on hand and a good sense of what I wanted the final product to look like, it was time for the long process of moving over all of the footage and beginning the editing process.

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361MC: – Little Rag Doll Shoot Day #1

With everything prepared beforehand and the time stamped shot plan as a point of reference, I went into the shoot feeling quite confident with the vision we were going for. I was still quite anxious as this was the first big production I was to be director of; directing actors, runners and crew as well as serving as a camera operator myself. The band had lived up to their word and had dressed the entire set and moved furniture around in readiness for the shoot which saved us many hours. The set looked great. Considering we had only discussed some brief pointers of the things that needed to be included (such as candles, a table with rope, knives and pins on) and a chair in the middle of the room) the set completely looked the part of the vision we had.

We arrived at the location at around 11am but were told by the drummer that he would have band practice at around 7:30pm and so we would have to be finished shooting by then. This added immense pressure to all of us as we still had yet to set up the cameras, arrange lighting and organise which shots to get out of the way first. Although most professional music videos tend to jump around the narrative and film different sections in a non-linear order, we felt it would make more sense for us to record each shot in order as it would appear in the video. This would give the actors a better sense of the story themselves as they act it out in order, and also make it less confusing remembering which shots we had already filmed. Knowing that all of the narrative section of the video had to be finished on that day in time for the band segment the following day, we had a serious deadline and a lot to get film. As my first time properly directing a project on this scale, this was incredibly trying on me as a team manager as I had to instil motivation in everyone on set and maintain morale for hours on end, even if at times I was stressed and demoralised myself. I feel this is an important quality of directing I have learned from the process of this particular shoot as it is imperative for all members on set to be invested in the project, especially with a day of filming that goes on for many hours at a time, in order for the production to go smoothly and successfully.

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The entire shoot was finished for the 7:30pm time limit which was the longest shoot I have currently ever been on. We took many breaks throughout the shoot every 45mins to an hour as I felt this was beneficial so that the cast and crew didn’t get burned out. One thing that posed a great problem for us was the lighting. Although we wanted a fairly dark lighting to generate an oppressive mood for the tone of the song, we couldn’t keep one fixed lighting point and had to more or less move each of the three lights around for each shot. This caused a lot of problems with shadows being cast by ourselves in frame of shots and also cases of the lighting looking almost too staged and seemingly very theatre spotlight. This style of lighting is not appropriate for music videos, which are filmed much like films; in a very cinematic style. I feel that some of the shots worked very nicely in this cinematic style, but others felt a little flat and amateurish. As this is my first music video I’ve ever filmed and directed, it felt like this was almost a tutorial of how to make a video, despite the research I had done before. No amount of research can prepare you for actually being on set for real in the actual event of filming. Whilst the lighting proved a problem, and with the limited lighting we had of three dedo-lights, I believe we all made the best with what we had. Our original idea for lighting was inspired by the film Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick; using only candlelight as the source of light. Before we set up our equipment, that was indeed what the room looked like. However, despite altering the aperture and ISO on all of the cameras, we would have needed hundreds of candles to achieve the desire effect. Without enough light from the candlelight, the picture was obviously incredibly dark and full of gain. Even with the dedo-lights. the final image that we ended up with was still fairly full of gain, but I feel this ultimately lent itself well to the old style voodoo theme and tone we set out to accomplish.

 

In terms of directing the cast and crew, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted the final image to turn out like, but after offering the basis of the ideas of the shots, I pretty much gave free rein to everyone to play it, or film it, however they liked. With my camera crew, I was very aware of their individual abilities on the camera and trusted their judgment to offer shots on the fly that they deemed to be cinematic. With actors such as Mourn the Model, who had only worked as being the subject on photography shoots before, it was a very new experience for her as well as Tom Creese, the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist, who had never acted before as well. They both knew the idea of the video and I described the particular movements and mannerisms each character had in order to help them get into the mind of the characters they were playing. I believe this was an important directorial technique as it gave the actors some form of basis and guidance for their performances, but also still left a lot of freedom to act it how they believed was right. With the rest of the band on hand as runners, they also offered their thoughts which helped Tom focus his character. As this was my first time directing actors, I feel this was an effective way of approaching this task. With the role of director, it is incredibly easy to snap into a very dictatorial role but it is important to remember that filmmaking, or any form of production, is a collaborative effort, and the role of a director is to help cement this collaboration and channel it into the result of the final product.

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By the end of the shoot, we were all understandably burned out from the incredibly long hours of shooting but felt accomplished of how much we had managed to film in the span of one day. With the narrative section now finished, all that is left for the Little Rag Doll shoot is the band segments which will be filmed at Quad Studios tomorrow. Although this will be an entirely new setting and approach, I will still take away what I have learned from my first proper shoot. The band will now have completely free-reign over their performances and will be a lot more relaxed for them as this is what they do, and the lighting will be a lot easier to control as the studio space is a lot more spacious than the location we filmed at today. Camera set up tomorrow will still be three cameras but will also be a lot easier than the narrative section to frame, as there will be three members of the band with a camera focussed on each, which will each be taken from many angles over the course of many takes of the song.

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361MC: – Organising the shoot – Accomodation, transport, props, actors and production schedule

Accomodation: I will be stopping at a friend’s house in Leicester from Friday 24th – Sunday 26th, whilst my crew, Sarah Andrews and Guy Huston, will be staying at Sarah’s brother’s place for the same nights. This is very conveniant as each of the places we are stopping are around a 5 minute walk away.

Transport: A friend who lives in Leicester has kindly offered to pick me and the crew up from Coventry along with all of the kit and drive us each to the door to the places we are staying as well as bring us back on the Sunday evening. I have offered to pay him petrol money which I have accounted for in my overall budget. In terms of transport to and from locations around the places we are filming such as the drummer’s house and Quad Studios, we will take taxis. After checking on Google maps for the distance between places, each taxi ride will cost around £5 to £8, which I have also added to my budget.

Props: I have ordered all of the props we’ll need from eBay; pins, fake blood and a black dress for the actress. All of the other props such as knives, rope, candles and other decorative things will all be supplied by the band.

Actors: Tom Creese is a member of the band and will be there on both days of filming anyway. Mourn the Model actually lives in the same apartment block as my friend and so that will be incredibly handy for the narrative filming day. She is not required for filming the band segments.

Production schedule:
Friday 24th January – Arrive in Leicester
Saturday 25th January –
11:30am – Take a taxi from accommodation to drummer’s house
12:30pm – Be set up, checked camera settings and taken test shots to make sure all cameras have the same white balance and aperture. Be ready to film at this time.
12:30pm – 20:00pm – Film until the narrative segment of the video is complete; taking short breaks every 45mins to an hour.

Sunday 26th January –
11:45am – Take a taxi from accommodation to Quad Studios
12:15pm – Be ready and set up with test shots taken and camera checked, have band warmed up.
12:15pm – 15:00pm – Film and complete band segment of the video. Studio is booked out from 12pm until 3pm.
21:00pm – Picked up and dropped back to Coventry

364MC: – National Careers Service and Prospects – Video editor

As I will be endeavouring to pursue a career as a freelance video editor, it is important to have the wide scope of necessary skills in order for clients to have complete faith and trust in your abilities as well as their footage for their project. Clients are literally placing their entire creative vision in your hands as an editor essentially constructs the entire final product and is what the audience will see; albeit to the director’s vision. Because of this, I wanted to see a list of the required skills not just for a freelance editor, but for the skill set of an industry professional editor. I looked at a number of links in order to get a broader sense of the skills needed and to see whether at this stage I have managed to achieve them all or if I still have areas to work on a lot more.

I started by looking tat the Prospects website below: –

http://www.prospects.ac.uk/film_video_editor_job_description.htm

From this page, the typical work for an editor includes the following:

  • Being given a brief or an outline of footage or a copy of a shortlist or script to follow;
  • Putting together all raw footage for transfer onto a computer along with uncut rushes and sound clips which need to be ordered and arrange;
  • Deciding which clips are useable;
  • Constructing an assembly cut and making decisions for the future drafts of the edit;
  • Re-working the footage to produce the final cut version which is to a professional standard.

Other areas of work that may be included:

  • Presiding over the entire editing process;
  • Consulting with the director or client throughout the course of the editing process;
  • Understanding the style of directors and how to translate this into the final piece;
  • selecting the most effective shot for a particular scene;
  • Using your own initiative to suggest music cues or mood;

The most notable aspect of the job that I took away from this website however was the following:

  • “if freelancing, negotiating rates of pay and conditions, managing business affairs, and/or liaising with an agent”

This is an area I have not had much experience in. The only paid work I have done gave me £25 pounds for two days worth of help which only really covered my travel and food for the two days. Liaising is not a problem as I have had to do this with clients in the past but negotiating rates of pay, especially if that client is just starting out with not much money themselves can often deter great opportunities. As such, it may unfortunately be prudent to have to work for free occasionally, in order to build up contacts and create work that can be posted to your own portfolio. This may then eventually lead to a paid position once the portfolio has been built up with varied and impressive work.

I also looked at the website below which also shed light on some other areas of development for an editor:

https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/advice/planning/jobprofiles/Pages/videoeditor.aspx

The things I took away most from the National Careers Service website were the areas of how editors tend to break into the business, such as starting out as a runner or trainee for a company and, through the process of shadowing editors, work your way up through the ranks from assistant editor until you eventually reach the position of editor as your experience grows. This also involves learning on the job and having to train on multiple pieces of editing software such as Avid, Final Cut Pro and After Effects. This is a big area I need to work on as I have only used Final Cut Pro 7 for five years and have only dabbled slightly with Final Cut Pro X and Adobe. The typical practice for software in the industry tends to be a mix of either Final Cut or Avid. After Effects is also something else I’ve never used before but seems to be incredibly prominent in many online videos. This is also part of keeping up to date with new equipment and technology throughout your career so that you are never technically left behind and can broaden your knowledge so that you are always a contender for better positions.

Overall, these sites have made me feel a lot more confident in my ability, but have also pointed out some fairly crucial areas I haven’t looked into and need to improve on, such as my knowledge of other softwares and thinking in terms of a business for when I create my own freelance platform; especially in terms of finance. This is something I will look into more when I come to create my actual portfolio.

361MC: – Location hunting for Little Rag Doll

With the concept I have in mind for the macabre narrative of Little Rag Doll, it really needs a fitting backdrop and location that will look the part and elevate the stylistic quality of the video. As the video involves someone being tied to a chair and taunted and teased by a voodoo queen, the setting needs to be grim and run-down to make the music video come to life. I asked the band and Mourn the Model if they could recommend a place in Leicester than would be appropriate for what we were looking for. Mourn the Model told us she had used an abandoned building for a group’s photo shoot project a couple of months previous and that it was incredibly bleak and rundown, which is what we were looking for. I am arranged a time for me and the band to check the place out whilst Mourn showed us where it was and got a train to Leicester. We explored a few of the rooms to take a few pictures but all of us quickly surmised that the building was definitely not appropriate and was a health and safety nightmare to walk around, and so I told us all to leave immediately.

Location hunting for Little Rag Doll 1060137_10151932392402582_228751412_n 1062585_10151932392382582_1646649910_n1063122_10151932392407582_406225548_n  1080745_10151932392397582_1675514444_n 1544040_10151932392392582_1944195584_n 1616267_10151932392387582_303678876_nAnother reason that we decided against this location is that it looked very urban and did not match the look or backdrop of a voodoo den, despite how much set dressing we may have included. As such, the characters would have looked very out of place against the setting and would not have provided this added layer to the production. The set and the characters has to be seamless, with each complementing the other in order to not disrupt the audience’s attention. The most prominent reason for not using it though were the obvious safety violations we would have been disregarding, not to mention moving kit around during the shoot.

With our prime location now not an option, we had to look elsewhere in the Leicester area. Eventually the band’s bassist and drummer said that we could potentially use either of their houses for the shoot, which would give us unlimited use of either location with no need to rush through the shoot. I asked for each of them to send me pictures of their rooms where they felt it would be appropriate to film and received them the following day.

Drummer's house - location hunting

Drummer’s house – location hunting

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The advantages of this location are the colour schemes. The red really would add to the oppressive mood of the piece, and with candlelight would reflect very nicely and provide a very warm colour pallet. The scuffed wooden floor helps to generate the sense of an old and disheveled look which would be perfect for the look of the voodoo den. In terms of set dressing, we will need a table with things such as pins, ropes, knives and other miscellaneous items which the drummer has said he will cover by asking the prop department at his university. He has also said that he will hand-make the voodoo doll for the shoot due to us being unable to find an appropriate one online or in stores. The only downside to using this location is that it is fairly enclosed with not much space to move around, and with three tripod-mounted cameras, lights and the entire cast and crew needing to move around in between shots, it may prove troublesome.

Bassist’s house – location hunting

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The bassist’s house offers a few other advantages over the previous location. Although the colour of the room is very minimalist and clinical, this makes it a lot easier to dress and add colour to it ourselves. With a white room, we will not have to use as much light either, as the walls will reflect light around. The floor space is also massively spacious compared to the drummer’s room. This would make setting up and moving kit around vastly easier and safer. However, the room does not have as many intriguing furnishings and feels very modern, even if everything is removed.

With this in mind, we have decided to use the drummer’s house to film Little Rag Doll as we believe the potential to make the set look unique and stylized as well as the advantages it gives overall vastly outweigh the detriments. The band has also said they will provide all of the props, candles and dress the set for us so that we are all ready for the shoot. The band also booked a local studio; Quad Studios, for the second day of filming for the band segments. This location will be perfectly serviceable for these shots as the bigger focus will be on the narrative.

What I have learned from this location hunting process is that it is important to have a list of locations as a backup so that you don’t place all of your hopes on one, especially in my case if it doesn’t work out. I was very fortunate to find a location immediately after we realized our first wouldn’t be appropriate, which in hindsight was very lucky and may not have panned out. We knew as a team though that we were desperate to find a location in time for the shoot next week and in our desperation we found a much better place to film the music video.