cool stuff and things

Shooting A Music Video

August 24, 2016

A few months back a buddy of mine, James, asked if I'm help him shoot a music video for his brother Toft's band, Spiritual Rez. James and Toft already had the idea for the video, already had the location, and already had actors/extras secured and locked down. All I would have to do is show up with my camera and gear. But, they only had 2 days/nights to shoot, had a very small budget, and the shoot would take place in the middle of a house party. A real house party. Sounded crazy. I said, "hell yeah!". So, I packed up my stuff and headed to Rhode Island for a long, sleepless and very fun weekend of shooting.

So, gear. What did I bring? They were shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III. I also brought my 5D Mark III and figured I'd bring my Blackmagic Production camera, although the time/budget constraints wouldn't make it practical to shoot much with that camera. They also wanted to do a lot of slow motion and time remapping stuff, and the Blackmagic can only shoot up to 30fps. But, I thought I could still grab some shots with it here and there. I also brought my jib crane, my Rhino slider, a bunch of lights, gels, a pvc dolly system, and whatever else would fit in the car.

And, I figured this would be a good time to justify buying a new piece of gear I had wanted for a while. An external monitor is something that is incredibly useful, and sometimes absolutely essential. And I needed one. So, I did some shopping and decided to go with Blackmagic's Video Assist 4k. I liked it because it was affordable, the size was nice, and it served as a second recording device as well as a monitor. Although, so far I've only used this as a monitor, and I really haven't used the recording feature at all. I was also able to use this as a second monitor for both my Blackmagic camera and my Mark III, which was very handy when shooting crane shots. I was really pleased with it overall. The color seemed a bit contrasty to me, but I didn't really need it to serve as a color correct monitor. And the on screen histogram should ensure you get proper exposure. Also, I can attest to the solid build quality of this monitor. More on that later.

I arrived at the location and met up with James and Toft the night before the shoot. We went over the plan and tried to get a finalized shot list and schedule for both days. James and Toft would be directing and shooting most of the "A camera" stuff, I'd primarily be serving as a DP trying to get the lighting in place so everything looked nice and using my Canon as a secondary "B camera". Since this was a house party and shot mostly at night, it needed to be a bit dark. The extra lighting mostly served to ensure the actors' faces were well lit, and provide accents here and there. I had limited gear to work with, but the low light capabilities of the Canon 5d MIII helped out a lot.

Toft (Left) and James (Right) review a shot with one of the actors.

While I primarily used the Canon, I did manage to pull out the Blackmagic camera a few times and grab some 4k raw shots. I have to say, I am continually amazed by the image quality of this Blackmagic camera. For $3000, you get a very capable 4k camera capable of shooting raw video. And with the color grading power of Resolve (free full version with the camera), you can push and pull those raw images into whatever look you desire. And despite not being known for a low light camera, I really couldn't complain too much about the shots I was getting, even in the dimmer environments.

Several various color grading looks applied to a 4k raw clip, showing the flexibility of raw video.

Color graded still frame from 4k raw footage. Graded in Resolve. Small, battery powered LED lights were used and were easy to hide away out of sight for little accents, like the rim on the girl's hair. Another LED was placed on the ground to accent the keg stand guy to her left.

The shoot itself went as well as most shoots of this nature tend to go: it was a stressful, mad, crazy dash to the finish! But we finished. We ran into lots of predictably unpredictable issues: technical issues with a flash card which caused both Canons to shut down in the middle of recording, a wind gust that knocked over and broke a 500W light, a scare when the stand holding my brand new Blackmagic Video Assist monitor fell over and crashed to the ground (I can attest to the solid build quality of this monitor! No damage! Still works fine!), lots of on-the-fly shot planning and re-planning... But, James and Toft pushed through like champs, the two main actors were great through it all, and the party goers never ran out of beer. Ultimately, with some compromise here and there, it all got done. So, at roughly 4:30am Sunday morning, with my job done, the footage copied over to their laptop (someone else would be tasked with the final edit), I packed up my stuff and hit the road to head home. Actually, I had to head to work. Still had the day job to get to.

Despite the hectic pace of a tight schedule, the lack of sleep, and the anxiety that always comes at those times when you inevitably wonder if you'll get everything finished in time, it was a blast! So, without further delay, here's the final video!

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