And Just Like That We're Back Knee Deep in Video. But it was Fun.

The Red Dot has new meaning for me. It's the video record button on my GH6
and my S5. And both provide the same, fall V-Log profile in camera...

 Today's project was shooting a video for a company that uses swimming pools as part of a geothermal strategy for air conditioning. Adding in a cooling tower means you can control the temperature of the pool water as well. In the Texas Summers air conditioning systems that use water for heat transfer run more efficiently, run with less system stress, and actually get better and better at their primary function as the weather gets hotter and hotter. 

The assignment was to go to an architect's "green" home and interview him out by the pool he uses for his own home system. He's been doing green designing and building for over thirty years and he had the system installed in his own home over two decades ago. He was thrilled to talk to my clients on camera about how good the system has been for him and his clients. And about the cost savings.

We (Kirk and primary client) wanted to use two cameras for the interview so we could cut from a tight waist up shot to a wider, different angle. It's nice to shift angles during a program to prevent as much viewer boredom as possible. Since both cameras were set up and shooting 4K video we also knew we could make good use of the ability to crop or use a "Ken Burns" effect (pan and scan) if we felt the need. 

Primitive Sketching. 

I arrived at 9 am and got to work. We'd scouted the location a week earlier at around the same time so I knew pretty much what to expect. I found a GFI power box across the walk from the pool and plugged in my only light source. It was a 300 watt LED light shining at full power into a Westcott medium octa-box on a heavily sand-bagged light stand. Up about eight feet in the air and pointed down toward the interviewee. There was lots of ambient light bouncing around but the constant source kept the light on the person in the frame more consistent and helped to reduce scene contrast a bit. Behind the interviewee were trees and nice landscaping. 

I positioned my interviewer's seat directly across from the pool gate and put my subject on the other side of the gate. The gate was the perfect height for the subject to stand behind with his arms crossed in a natural way across the top of the gate. This certainly helped put him at ease through the 45 minute process of being interviewed. 

Many years ago an old video hand showed me what he thought was always the best way to position the light, the interviewer and the camera if one wants to have the subject looking off camera instead of directly into the camera. Put the interviewer in between the camera and the main light source. Have the subject look directly at the interviewer. You can move the interviewer close to the camera if you want less of an off camera look or move the interviewer further away if you are looking for a more obvious off camera look. Either way you want to put the subject off the center of the frame. The rule of thumb is to put him closer to a side than the center and you want him to space the more open side in the frame, on the side to which he is turned. In the example above I would comp the scene with the subject over to the left hand side of my frame, as I was looking at the camera image, and then have more open space to the right of the frame.

If you are using one camera you are pretty much done with the set up. If you are also using a second camera you'll want to keep it on the same side of the 180 as the primary camera. By that I mean that if you drew an imaginary line between the interviewer and the subject you would want to keep the second camera on the same side of that imaginary line as the A camera. If you put a camera on the opposite side of that imaginary line you will have crossed the 180° mark and it will confuse your audience. 

The second camera should have a different set of image parameters from the first camera. Different enough in either the subject's size in the frame or the angle of view so that cutting back and forth between the two frames makes sense and doesn't just look like a bad jump cut. My second camera was a wider shot and the angle of difference between the two cameras was about 45°. So both the angle of difference and the size of the subject in each frame are very different. It really does make a difference in the editing process...

The position of the camera was a bit precarious. My heels were right on the edge of the pool deck if I was operating directly behind the A camera. I'd advise that you have nothing plugged into the camera that uses A/C electricity. Just in case. The light over to the right side of the drawing above was anchored by two 25 pound sand bags and it was plugged into a GFI plug but I still wouldn't use it that way if anyone was supposed to be in the actual pool. A mishap of gigantic electric proportions just isn't worth it. 

The final addition to the lighting and camera mix was a 4 x 4 foot, one stop, silk diffusion panel which served to block direct light from hitting our subject. With dappled light it's too easy to make an image look like crap when blasted with both hard specular light and deep shade from over hanging branches, etc. I use sun blocking scrims of various strengths just about any time I'm shooting in daylight. It just adds more consistency to the overall light. But...over the course of our interview, I had to stop a couple of times to readjust the scrim since the sun refused to stop moving across the sky for me....

We were making this video in a busy residential neighborhood. There was construction going on a couple houses over and intermittent leaf blowing that plagued us through the whole process. Omni-directional lavaliere microphone to the rescue. I planted the microphone right in the middle of my subject's chest exactly where it was supposed to be in relation to his mouth and then I said a little prayer to the photo gods asking them to enhance the inverse square law. Just this once. Just for the sake of my client....

I used a Sennheiser wireless system and it was .... perfect. It's old school so everything is manually set but once set it's just as solid as a rock. The subject's body did a good job blocking unwanted sound from behind and the falloff over distance was so quick that it almost sounds like we shot in a studio. I used a Rode NTG4 on the B camera and got it as close as I could to the subject without getting it into the frame. 

The difference in sound quality was night and day. The shotgun microphone picked up sound and noise not just from the front of the microphone but also from the back. That's the nature of cardioid construction microphones. They don't magically zoom in on the subject and the same rules of the inverse square law apply. A shotgun mic can be a good choice but not if you are trying to subdue relentless noise. In those cases a "stick" mic (reporters handheld omni mic) or omni-directional lav are the only way to go.

That's fine though since the mic on the B camera was only there to pick up a scratch track that I can marry up the files from the two cameras with and get them synchronized for easier two camera editing. They'll work fine for that. 

I wore headphones all morning because I wanted to make sure we'd walk away with usable audio from everything we shot. I was pretty easy going about it but I did stop filming every time a Southwest Airlines flight thundered directly overhead...

We shot both cameras with V-Log profiles and when I apply the Panasonic V-Log to Rec709 LUT the frames look very good. The need a bit of added contrast and  some slight mid-tone darkening but the amount of dynamic range out of both cameras was better than expected. Perfect for this kind of strong contrast, daylight shoot.  I used the luminance spot meter and a gray card to set the exposure on both cameras and I used the gray card and the custom white balance tools for color. Seems like I hit it pretty well when I look at the vector scopes in Final Cut Pro X. 

The A camera was the Panasonic GH6 and the B camera was the Panasonic S5. Why? The color science matches up well and they both use the same V-LOG profile. Makes it easier to match stuff up in post.

Now comes the worst part of any video job....going through and matching stuff up. Figuring out what stays in and what gets trashed. I like working to a script better but this was a classic interview and the client and I will have to decide what works best for their messaging.

Under Ben's guidance, delivered Sunday over dinner, I shot more B-roll than I ever have before. And even though I feel today that I've covered everything pretty well I know Ben would have advised doubling that. 

That's how I spent most of the day today. It was fun. I like it when all the stuff works and the clients are relaxed and their interview subject is smart, relaxed and verbally agile. It's a nice mix.

Now to give "voice isolation" a spin in Final Cut Pro X. 

Nothing like overkill for audio.

But it says the Voice Isolation is powered by....Machine Learning.

We'll see about that.