The first thing we needed to find, was a performer who’d be willing to be filmed, as the style of music affected both camera and editing choices. We decided on having a solo performer as apposed to a band, as it would make for a less cluttered frame with only one thing to focus on, meaning we could create a nice, neat little film.
One of the music students offered to be in it and chose ‘Circles’ by Passenger as the song he’d perform. This song is quite a soft and delicate song and I want the camera movements to reflect that.
Immediately I’m thinking close ups, especially of the face, because solo performances are always a lot more intimate than bands as they feel one-on-one with the audience and this song especially seems to add to the intimacy. The song is very personal to the singer, reminiscing on childhood memories and looking forward towards his future, so I feel wide shots would be too impersonal. Even the safety shot, which is usually the wide shot, would work better if it was slightly closer in and the singer was fuller in the frame.
This video fits nicely with that idea:
There is never a moment in this when his full body is in frame, in fact it never pans down past his guitar. This makes it feel more intimate, because it focuses your eyes on his body moving with the music and especially his face, the most expressive part of the human body. There’s one shot in particular that I like in this, which is when he begins singing and the camera operator pulls focus as he does so. The shot being out of focus gives the impression of a floaty, dream-like state that fits nicely with the calmness of acoustic music and the fact that it’s brought into focus as soon as he starts singing really draws your attention towards it and gives it a distinct beginning.
Another example of good use of focus is in another cover video by the same guy.
There’s one shot in this of his hand playing the guitar and I really like the way it was filmed. It has a shallow depth of field and the cameraman has angled it at such a way that the singer’s hand playing is in the foreground and the guitar headstock is more in the background, meaning that they can constantly pull the focus between the two.
Tricks like this could be useful for static tripod shots, as it would make it visually more interesting and give the editor more to work with.
Although I just mentioned having a static shot, I think for this film I want the majority of the cameras to have some sort of movement. Movement gives the audience more to look at and it stops their eyes wandering, because they’re naturally drawn to motion. When filming larger bands or more animated performances, it’s not as necessary to have movement in the shots because the performance provides most of it. If you wanted, you could leave the camera still and allow them to move about in the frame.
In this trailer for the ‘Talking Heads -Stop Making sense’, you can see that the wild movements of the band members themselves does more to pull you in than the movement of the cameras.
However when Gyasi – the performer for our film – plays, he’ll be alone in the middle of a stage with his guitar and will possibly sitting down, meaning his actions will be decidedly less dynamic. Because he’ll be so still, we can get away with moving the camera a bit more, having more hand held, pans and tilts.
I think the best thing for this particular song will be steadicam. The smooth movement will add to the airy, dream-like appearance I mentioned earlier, which fits with the nostalgic theme of the song.
While looking for steadicam examples in music videos, I found this acoustic cover. Personally, I don’t like the use of steadicam in this video, although the shots in themselves are very well filmed. The camera movement is swooping and dramatic, but it’s a style of filming that would be more suited to a high energy performance rather than a chilled acoustic cover like this. It’s also overused in the video. In my opinion a shot like that should be used only a couple of times to highlight any key changes in the music tempo, but in this it’s all over the place.
A better example of how steadicam can be used in live music recordings is this:
It’s heavily used in this, but the effect is far more subtle and it enhances the performance instead of taking away from it. Whoever organised the cameras must have had a clear plan of what they wanted each camera to film and when they wanted it to move so it fitted with the music, because the cameras always know when it’s more important to show to instruments or when they should stay on the faces of the singers (see gifs below).
This video is also good for lighting. A lot of the other videos I researched all rely on the natural lighting coming from windows to light it, but we need to film in the venue so it’s easier for us to get a clean live recording and as there is no natural lighting in there I’ll need to plan out a lighting setup. A simple three point lighting set should be enough to properly light it, but I want to try and make sure to keep the shadows on his face soft like the lighting in this video, so I might need a stronger fill light to cancel more of the shadows from the key light, or bounce the light onto the face instead of shining it directly on, to make it more diffused.
One thing I want to take from this cover video is the strong use of backlighting. It defines each persons outline well and the soft glow it creates around each figure would really add to the dreamy filming that I’ve been talking about doing.
The lighting is something I’ll need to experiment with, as I’m not confident on lighting and am not able to visualise how adding each light in will affect the scene.