Hello guys :)
My first blog post! This is exciting! Chloe's been managing our blog up until now but thought I'd give my brain some writing challenges and wanted to give it a go myself, so from now on you'll be hearing from both of us 👍 I'm going to talk though a little bit about our production process creating these videos, I'll probably show some behind-the-scenes action, and try and keep it interesting. If you'd like to listen to the song that I'm listening to while writing this, it's: Fifty-Phiphti by I'lls. Apologies in advance for the scatty nature of my writing.
First off, I'd like to say that we're really proud of the work we've put into creating this #LiveAtWiston series. There's no doubt that it was a major project for us and generally a pretty full on production. It's also something completely new for us as a team.
Sam Archer approached us early this year, asking whether we'd be up for producing 4 live music videos. We said yes.
Budget was tight and there was SO much more to think about than we anticipated. Putting together something like this with such a small team was always going to a challenge but it's also a really special, organic and evolutionary process that never left our sight. This was nice because, generally, a production of this scale would get outsourced to multiple teams / divisions. i.e pre-production / planning, set design, lighting, directing, edit, colour etc... This more common way of working definitely has its benefits, but it was amazing to see the project through from inception to delivery. Out-sourcing or splitting up the work flow between departments can also result in a breakdown in communication between the different people working on the project and this can often result in an end product that has drifted away from the original ideas.
Obviously, a major part of a music video is the venue. This has arguably the biggest impact on the look and feel of the video but there are also lots of other things to consider. Practicalities like power supply, neighbouring noise regulations, lighting, access, recording equipment and engineer, sound systems for the audience (without this interfering with the recording), the band and their gear, audience management, health and safety... etc. all needed careful planning.
We ended up hiring in a diesel generator for this shoot to allow us an uninterrupted, clean(ish) power supply which was a challenge because of the noise it created. Obviously, as we were capturing live audio, we didn't want the sound of the generator to interfere with the recording. It was supposedly a 'silent generator' and we placed it outside and as far away from the chapel as possible. It was still very loud, but I think we got away with it. 👌
It's always been great to work with Sam. He's currently our go-to guy for any in-house composition or sound production, so it was exciting to join forces with him to create these videos for his own career as a singer-songwriter. You can take a look around his new website here.
Challenges: The main challenge that we initially faced was lighting. Me and Chloe have pretty good lighting knowledge for interviews or setting up a scene in a controlled environment but lighting a music video with a full band and audience in an old chapel was definitely next level for us.
Usually, on a project of this scale, there would be a lighting tech or a design team on set to choose the correct types of light, rig them and position them artistically.... This responsibility was something that we ended up taking on ourselves, along with Mark Debnam. Mark is a very talented, local freelancer who we often collaborate with. He's a graphic designer and creative director by trade and worked with him to design the feel and look of the lighting and set layout.
The Chapel itself is largely unused, which was perfect for us because it meant we had more freedom to move around the pew's and other bits and bobs. But, it also meant that there was zero lighting inside so we sourced a bunch rental lights, a hazer, and made a bit of a lighting plan (you can't have a live music video without a hazer).
Another big challenge was the sync. Without going into too much detail, we weren't running timecode and couldn't use a clapper board on set which meant that getting the footage to line up with the audio in post was a challenge.
Each video actually consists of 2 sets with 6 camera's running on each. We filmed the first set, then took a breather, gathered our thoughts and re-shot a second set with different camera angles. To make this work, the band needed to play and perform exactly the same way for both takes otherwise there would have been continuity errors and also lip-sync issues. This is pretty much impossible to get 100% right but the guys did an amazing job in keeping consistency in their performance. In order to keep the performances in time, the band played to a click track; which also acted as a bit of a sync aid for the edit. (The edit got a bit crazy - see below)
My two proudest memories looking back on the project as a whole were to do with the lighting. The major light source for the video was a 1KW halogen lamp. I knew that I wanted this suspended over-head, pointing straight down on the band as our Key light but the second we turned it on, the whole Chapel looked like a flood-lit football pitch. As the lighting budget was already delegated, we had to improvise...
It was important to make some references to other live videos and their lighting. Here are some videos and photos to show you our reference materials and the look we were going for.
The main lighting set up Music Bed use, pretty much always features a giant Soft Box of some kind (also known as a silk, scrim or butterfly, see above). So we made one. Using old cardboard boxes, (brother) Dom and Chloe worked through the day (and night) getting it all ready in time. I think we ended up collecting around 50 boxes which were then cut to size, stuck together, lined with tin foil, and mounted around our 1K light. After a LOT of duct tape and clothing line chaos, we managed to suspend the DIY softbox above the band. The results were incredible.
👆 Starting to piece together the bits of box using duct tape. Luckily, Dom's an artist/designer. He knew what he was doing.
I smile whenever I see that picture 👆
👆 This is the set one night before the shoot. Turning on the softbox for the first time and running some tests.
Early on in the planning for the shoot I wanted to feature those cliché, coffee shop, hipster filament edison bulbs. Massively overused, yes, but cool all the same. After ordering a bunch on Amazon, I wired up a DIY mains lighting dimmer to knock the bulbs down from 40W as they were just too bright. (It's definitely worth noting that we wouldn't normally DIY so much on a shoot, but for this job we really had to be aware of saving money where we could). Here's some photos:
Anyway, I feel like I'm getting very techy and I'm not really sure how long a blog is supposed to be so I'm going to leave it there. Here is one of the final videos! And now you know a little bit about the story behind how we made them.