The Filmmaking Masterclass 2015.. Behind The Scenes Part 2

This blog follows Adam and Ed in the final part of the BTS film production.

We finished the last post on the ending of the 1st day (you can catch up with the last post here). Here are a couple of snapshots taken from the interviews to give you an idea of framing, and this I'll do differently in the future.

I caught up with Johnnie in the bar of Wotton House after the first day of the workshop. We talked about the progress of the attendees and how well they worked as a team.

MCU framing, not graded

MCU framing, graded

I like the framing of this interview as the bar Johnnie is leaning on adds depth to the shot.

My two comments to improve on with this shot are: Have a kick of light in there to add some more definition. I found when grading this shot, the highlights in the background complimented the rest of the shot, but I would have wanted a stronger light source in there. Secondly, Johnnie has a deep voice, so I would have adjusted the level compression on the audio recorder, as well as tinkering with the frequency.

This interview with Lior outside (shot by Ed) is a brilliant example of using the location and natural light to your advantage. The framing works well to feature the surrounding landscape, but using framing and depth of field to isolate the interviewee.

Mid shot framing, not graded

Mid shot framing, graded

What would have added to the sense of scale is to have tightened the A camera shot. focusing on the subject. But then use a B camera which is tracking (left to right, then repeating back and forth) as a wide shot. The BTS was filmed in 4K, so I tightened this interview framing in post to bring the viewer closer to what Lior was talking about.

MCU framing, not graded

MCU framing, graded

All of the interviews were shot on the Manfrotto 755Cx-3 carbon fibre tripod to keep it nice and steady. While the crews were out filming we used the tripod and the Manfrotto MVM500A monopod in a 'run and gun' style so we were quick on our feet.

Ed using the Manfrotto 755Cx-3 tripod.

You'll see I opted for shooting with the Atomos Shogun. Two reasons, firstly its a crystal clear reference monitor that trumps the A7S viewfinder/eyepiece. Going from inside to outside, we needed to keep check on our exposure using the waveform monitor.

Secondly, and as mentioned before we were shooting in 4K UHD (ProRes 422) which (as well as being awesome in detail and quality) allowed for re-framing in post production, which came in handy for the interviews.

The Atomos Shogun and Manfrotto 755Cx-3 taking centre stage.

For the moving shots, we used the Nebula handheld camera gimbal with a Sony A7S, filming at 50fps. The lens was a Sony native mount as the Nebula has a restricted load weight. We did try to hook the camera up to the Shogun but even the HDMI cable on the A7S posed problems for the Nebula's stabilization.

Moving shots with the A7S and Nebula gimbal

Moving shots add perspective and pace.

The moving shots add perspective to the location, and often work well with compositions that have constant foreground and background elements. In the shots above, the railings and driveway up to Wotton House draws the building in closer. The camera is pulling out and tilting down from the monument, revealing more of the location.

These 3 shots are taken from a continuous moving shot. It begins following the wall towards the crews, then pans right to show Carl, Mikey and Whitey walking towards the camera adding more dynamic movement.

Whitey walking past the camera on frame right gave me motivated movement to continue around the next crew in a circular pattern, ending up at Tim who is changing lenses; another action point to end the motion.

Telling The Story

With the filming complete, it was then time to form the narrative of the BTS film, making it much more than just 'what happened at the workshop'. In general there is the beginning, middle and end format which I stuck to loosely and interpreted into this format (using J cuts to bring in the interview dialogue over the previous clip) -

  • Establish the location and scene
  • Introduce the key subjects
  • Use the B-roll to compliment interview content
  • Use the interview content to form the narrative.

The interview questions were structured so that what they said would form into telling me - why they came to the workshop and initial reactions (beginning). How the workshop had gone so far, the challenges and skills gained (middle). Lastly the wrap up detailing the best parts, key moments and final thoughts (end).

Getting this content from the attendees and the mentors gave me a great start to forming the sequences in post production. Revisiting attendees for their day-to-day thoughts was also great for following their personal journey through the workshop. This can be seen in Whitey, Des and Ville's interviews.

The annotated timeline above shows the structure of the edit in post production. I've tried to make it clear in how the sequence is structured, here is a breakdown - 

Layer 1 shows the 'scenes' or parts of the event split into key sections.

Layer 2 shows the interviewees, where duplicate colours are with the same subject.

Layer 3 shows the interviews with the stars.

The format and structure, combined with editing to the soundtrack rhythm built up the pace. The progression of interviews with the workshop attendees and stars shows the passing of time, development of skills in the shooting environment and build on the narrative, giving it much more of a 'storytelling' feel.

The addition of aerial footage from Vindicate Media LLC and Sky Hotshots gives the location grandness, and contributes to the overall production value, so thank you for letting me use the footage!

Working in 4K did have its difficulties, though.. We shot ALOT of 4K in ProRes 422 each day, which took plenty of time to ingest and back up. Editing it in Premiere Pro CC was no problem at all, being able to play through sequences without rendering meant it was quick to preview and trim the desired clips.

Although the majority of footage was 4K, there were still some shots in HD so rather than up-scaling the HD clips, the 4K footage was down-scaled instead. This again sped up the post production time

Ed's thoughts on filming the workshop -

"Working with Adam was an utter pleasure. For someone of his age to have so much experience and knowledge in this field of work is genuinely impressive. Regardless of the situation, his way of dealing with them is professional and level headed yet still communicating his ideas across to his team in a way that is easy to take in. We all know things can get stressful when you're shooting something with a run and gun approach. Adam makes these situations fun by constantly reassuring and encouraging the team which is always nice as you're aim is to produce some cool content. He's definitely one to watch it for in the future with his amazing ideas and inspiring attitude to the filmmaking process."

I hope you've enjoyed reading through part 1 and 2 of these blogs covering the behind the scenes production, but if you have any questions just get in touch via Twitter - @Plowman91. I look forward to working with the team again for the next work shop!