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For a while I’d been feeling that I wasn’t getting out and shooting enough, spending too much time in front of my computer editing, prepping as well as more mundane business stuff. Although I feel there’s certain things I can do well with a camera, there’s always area’s where I’m lacking, inexperienced, don’t know what I’m doing etc… There’s always room for improvement.
Anyway I believe that with any skill in film-making we improve with practice. Along with watching plenty of films and reflecting honestly on our own work and critiquing it.
In my role I spend time editing, colour grading, rehearsing with actors, writing… basically doing a lot of stuff other than shooting. But I love cinematography and feel it’s something that can easily get away from me and I can end up not giving it enough time to learn, develop and improve. Just kind of stay at the same level with just the gear improving. I get inspired nearly every day by work I see vimeo, sometimes it can come from a 15 year old shooting on a sub $1000 DSLR.
So I decided that outside of work assignments I wanted to get out and shoot something every week. Even if just for an hour or two. So I was planning on making a little montage around Perth City (or something that didn’t require any talent in it). Then I found myself listening to a track on Holly Denton’s EP called ‘Another Tomorrow‘. We shot a music video for her song Chocolate Overdoses a few months back. I decided I’d love to shoot a music video for it so I called Holly, met up with her and pitched what I wanted to do and lucky for me she wanted to do it. Awesome.
I was keen to shoot something really bare bones. No slider/dolly, no tripod, no lights, not even a reflector. It was just me and the camera (on a Cinevate rig with a Durus follow focus) and Holly. I also wanted to experiment with the process. Usually I’ll have a clear plan of what I want to do – storyboards, shot lists etc. However for this video the planning was simply choosing five different locations and spending between 30 minutes – 2 hours shooting at each. I wanted the challenge of needing to think on my feet and find nice shots without preconceiving them.
We filmed at Hyde Park, a Jetty on the Swan River, Perth City, Bells Rapids and Whitford’s dog beach. Hyde Park was the only shoot I’d scouted. I was down there shooting with my wife a couple weeks earlier and found a sweet spot for filming/photographing a portrait style shot in the afternoon sun. So Holly and I went straight to that spot and began shooting. It was a nice easy shoot to kick things off. The next shoot at the Jetty in Kings Park the hdmi cable from my DP6 monitor broke and I didn’t pack a spare! IDIOT. So I was filming trying to see something on the glary screen on the back of a 5D. Not easy. Needless to say it was the most difficult shoot and the least productive. (Ended up getting some good stuff though. Yay!)
Our final shoots were in Perth, Bells Rapids and the beach. It felt like we really hit our stride on the Perth shoot. Holly sang in front of hundreds of people in the middle of the Hay st Mall and I found myself being happier with the work I was doing. However I also noticed I was repeating shots from the other locations and needed to vary it up. I found a tendency to get a good angle and go yep lets shoot. So I tried to go beyond that, see if I could reframe better, just push it that bit further before rolling.
We finished at the beach and I only spent around fifteen minutes filming Holly singing (we’d filmed so much singing by then and I was thinking about how much footage I’d have to search through) and then I just filmed her being herself playing with her dog and jumping in the ocean.
During filming I didn’t want to tell Holly what to do too much, though I would guide her on where to sit or stand for the camera but I never wanted to tell her HOW to do anything. I wanted the video to be authentic to her and capture a sense of her personality and spirit. It was a collaborative process and it’s a wonderful song so hopefully the clip compliments it.
Whilst I’m pleased to have experimented with my approach and shot a music video production on the fly with so little prep time, it did make the initial day of editing quite daunting. I didn’t know where to start. So I wrote down what location I thought should predominate each verse and chorus ending with the beach. This fluctuated and evolved but it was a useful starting point.
I began by editing using only footage of Holly singing. Once I was happy with that I started to overlay other footage of Holly walking, being silly etc until it was complete.
The colour grade on this was the simplest I’ve done in recent memory. From the beginning I wanted this clip to have a very organic natural feel so it was very much about getting it right in camera. I shot the clip using technicolour cinestyle picture profile (except for the shoot in the city which I shot on the standard flat profile) and applied the cinestyle LUT in adobe after effects and that was it. For the city I just manually adjusted the curves to match. I could have slaved away for hours, days even playing with the colour but I just didn’t feel that this clip was calling for it.