Originally, my set-up involved three cameras and three (potentially four) lights.
I stuck pretty closely to these plans and the adjustments I made were only small ones, because these were fairly safe and standard layouts. For the lighting I didn’t feel doing anything complicated was necessary, so I opted for a simple 3-point lighting set-up with no coloured gels. Coloured lighting is more suited for higher energy or band performances in my opinion. I did adjust the angle of the key light slightly from how I’d planned it, because when it was pointed directly at his face the shadows it cast were too strong and his face was too bright in comparison with the rest of him, however when I angled the beam of light slightly in front of him so it only just caught his face, you still got that nice light/dark split down the middle, but it was a far softer effect and the highlights melded better with the shadows. I coupled this with the LED as the side light but ended up turning it down a lot so it only just defined the shadowed side of his face, this meant that I could keep the dark/light split. The strongest of all the lights was the back light and I purposely did this because I’d decided in my research that I wanted the halo-like glow that a backlight gives to give it a dreamy effect.
The only main change I made with the cameras was adding a fourth camera. This was following a discussion with Tucker who was editing it as to whether he was happy with the placement of the cameras and the amount there were. He suggested that it might be a good idea to have a full wide shot as a safety shot, because it would give him more angles to work with and he could use it to break up the close shots a bit. Even though we were working on separate parts of the project, I though it was important to ask his views on what I was doing, because ultimately the separate parts add up to one final product and are all interlinked. Tucker knows what kind of shots would make for a good edit and as it turned out, the wide shot complimented the film well and I’m glad he suggested it.
Shots – Evaluation
Wide shot – Canon 550D with 35mm lens
I really like how the lighting set-up works with this shot. The background is very dark, but his outline is nicely defined by the back and key light, meaning he stands out well and the fact that there’s a lot of dark screen in the shot doesn’t matter as much. Normally I’d be unsure about having that much of the screen blank and I’d be tempted to fill the background with something, but in this instance I think it works well with the song. There’s a certain loneliness to the lyrics as they reminisce on a life lived and this shot reflects that, because you can’t see the room around him and looks so alone in the frame, as if he’s the only person in the world.
I’m also happy with the framing of this shot. I put him off centre, had him fill two third’s of the frame and filled the remaining third with those black boxes. The boxes don’t add much and I only added them in to break of the black background a bit, but I think they work well. Also, having him off-centered in the shot provided a more interesting image and stopped the mic stand getting in the way. I allowed the key light to create a slight flare in the top right corner, again to break up the blackness so it was less of a solid colour, but also because I had a light flare in one of my other shots and this matched them up which I thought might make them smoother to cut between.
The only thing I’m not so fond of in this shot is the shadow on his right shoulder caused by the angle of the key light. I feel like it gets in the way of his face too much and also ruins the nice clean line the back light creates. To combat this, I could have raised the side light up a bit and pointed it down at his shoulder, filling in this heavy shadow with more light.
Steadicam – Canon 5D with 85mm lens
I’d say this is the least successful shot, although in itself it’s not bad. The exposure is actually probably better than the other three, it’s less dark and there are no overexposed parts, but it just doesn’t match with the rest of the shots. As I was saying before, I like how the darkness in the others isolates him in the frame, but in this shot it’s clearer that we’re filming in the venue because the background is a lot busier. Also the lighting looks too even, there’s too little shadow on his face.
The other main problem is the shakiness of the shot. Because the other shots are so still and smooth, it contrasts quite badly and emphasizes the movement. I feel that the reason for this was the restrictions on the person operating the camera. They weren’t able to move too far forward or they would block the key light that was to their left, but they also couldn’t move too far to the right because they’d be in the way of the wide shot.
Here you can see the light that was in his way, also the right edge of the speaker behind him marked the edge of frame for the wide.
This meant they couldn’t do any big smooth swooping movements and had to try an keep it still for most of it, limited to only doing small pans up and down. Because of this the steadicam became very heavy and was hard for him to hold still for that length of time.
The one part of this shot that dow work for me is this:
The directions I’d given Edan, who was operating the steadicam, were to move between the guitar and his face, because that way we could essentially get two shots out of the one camera. The other direction was to play around with the focus a bit, as I had it set up with a shallow depth of field. The result is this really nice shot, that’s well framed and focused. The composition is good, I like how the head of the guitar is right in the centre because it really makes it the focus point but you’re still able to see his fingers playing in the background, out of focus.
Slider – C100 with a 50 mm lens
For this shot I decided to set the slider up so it moved forwards and backwards rather than sideways. This idea was based on this video of Mumford and Sons music video I found during my research. I felt like this movement would work better for the shoot as it meant that I could always keep the singer centred in the frame. If the slider had been moving right to left there would have been times when the black background would have taken up the majority of the frame.
The best thing that came out of the shot was the lens flare on the left side. It wasn’t something I had anticipated, but i really like the effect. As I said before, the flare adds something extra to what would otherwise have been just a plain black background and it creates a link between this shot and the wide shot, making the overall look more cohesive. The fact that the flare varies in intensity depending on how close or far away the camera is means that the shot never looks exactly the same, which I think will make it more interesting for Tucker doing editing.
As predicted in my planning blog post, I did have to put a slightly closer lens on than I’d wanted, moving the 35mm up to 50mm to block out the front of the slider from the shot. I was worried that a closer lens would mean I’d have too many close shots, but with the wide shot added in at the last minute, I think the balance of shot types is about right.
The only real issue I have with this shot the fact that the backlight didn’t reach his left shoulder, leaving it in darkness and causing it to blend in with the background shadows. This is something that could have been easily avoided by angling the backlight just slightly more towards that shoulder. I must remember for next time I do a multi-camera shoot to check each shot carefully and not assume that just because the lighting looks good in one shot, it will look fine in all of them.
Tripod – Canon 550D with a 50mm lens
This was a very successful shot. The focus pull was a trick I’d taken from the ‘Blank Space’ cover video I’d put in my research and it worked as I’d hoped it would. I used this to add something more to the shot, so it wasn’t just a steady shot and I like the way it turned out.
I would say that this shot is slightly overexposed. You can see this from the places where the light hit his hand and the top of the guitar. It’s not drastic or distracting and it’s not something that anybody picked up on when watching the final cut, but if I’d have seen this during shooting and fixed it, the lighting in this shot would have had a much softer effect. Another thing that I need to remember for next time I film a guitar, is that when the lights hit it, it shows every single fingerprint on it and I should probably ask the performer to polish their guitar before we start!
Overall, I’d say I’m happy with how this turned out. Deciding to team up with Tucker was a great idea as it allowed me to focus entirely on cinematography and knowing I didn’t have to edit was a weight lifted off my shoulders. When I went into this project, I knew that lighting would be a problem for me and I’ve learned a lot from it. The main thing I’ve learned is that it’s extremely helpful to have others at the shoot to help you set up. Having other people move the lights is a lot easier than having to do it all yourself, provided you are confident and able to direct them. This was something I struggled with at first, as I didn’t like sounding so bossy. But something I’m learning about film is that if you want something to turn out how you pictured it being, have to be prepared to speak up. In the past, when asked if I liked the way a shot looked I would always reply with yes, even if I wasn’t happy with it, simply because I didn’t want to disagree with others. However for this shoot, I was in charge of the cameras and the lighting and this responsibility gave me the confidence I needed to be able to say “no, I don’t like how that looks and this is what we need to change to make it better”. It was great experience for me.
The shots turned out well generally. I like the simplicity of it, and I think the 3:1 close shot to wide shot ratio worked well for the edit, as all the shots linked up nicely and cut together well. The only main problem I had was the steadicam, which was down to me failing to check that all the cameras had matching pictures. This is something you always need to be aware of when filming anything, as there’s only so much editing you can do in post production to try and get shots to look the same, the majority of it should be done on the day of filming.
here is the final cut of the film: