behind the scenes

'The F Word' Kingston University Creative Technologies Guest Lecture

Here at APVideo we are advocates for the growth and development of new members in the creative industries, students being one aspect of this. We occasionally guest lecture for the Creative Technologies courses at Kingston University.

The F Word Creative Technologies Guest Lecture at Kingston University

The F Word Creative Technologies Guest Lecture at Kingston University

Here are the lecture notes and podcast entitled 'The F Word'. Can you guess what the F word is?

You probably guessed it, freelancing was the topic of the guest lecture at Kingston University for students in the 'Creative Technologies' courses. I graduated in Television and Video Tech (a course that is sadly no longer running) back in 2013/14, and since then freelancing has been a big part of the journey I'm currently on.

I showed a number of films that I worked on, including the BTS film for 'OSTRICH' which was created to promote the Tokina Cinema Lenses;

More recently, I worked with HaZ Dulull on his latest feature entitled 'The Beyond';

Later in the lecture, I showed a diagram that a TV producer showed me on a packed DLR train after BVE a couple of years ago. It's a graphical way of working out the steps to get to where you want to be, whether that is for work or for creativity. I've called it 'The 4 stages of career development and creative enlightenment!'

The 4 stages of career development and creative enlightenment!

The 4 stages of career development and creative enlightenment!

Enjoy the podcast and videos, it was great to go back again and I look forward to the workshops that are in the plans.

Prime Lenses for Sony E Mount Cameras? ZEISS Loxia Prime Lens Review

Prime Lenses for Sony E Mount Cameras? ZEISS Loxia Prime Lens Review

Prime lenses for Sony E mount cameras? I checked out the ZEISS Camera Lense Loxia prime lenses with the Sony a7S, Zhiyun Crane and Atomos Shogun. Photo by Lucy McPhee.

The Filmmaking Masterclass 2015.. Behind The Scenes (Part 1)

Producing a video with storytelling (Part 1)

I jumped at the chance to film the BTS when I saw Philip Bloom and Nino Leitner's 'Filmmaking Masterclass' were coming to Surrey for their 2015 workshop. Having captured many events before, this was a chance for me to hone in on my videography skills and produce a great BTS film to show what the workshop is about and help promote it for future events. Of course, filming for Nino and Philip put more pressure onto producing something amazing.

As I'm a one man band producer, I roped in help from good friends of mine to help film other aspects of the workshop (which spanned over 3 days). Meticulous planning was required to make sure we captured everything we could, and that the equipment was ready for the next days shooting on location. Keeping in mind the"shoot 20% content and 80% b-roll" tip was definitely important for this production, so there was plenty of emphasis on attendee interviews at different stages of the workshop to capture progress, and filming them working as a crew producing a short film too. This together helped form the basis of the beginning, middle and end narrative; a structure that is familiar, but works to add progression and pace to a video.

Preparing the treatment

To keep the production tightly knit and not over shooting, I produced a treatment for each crew member so we knew exactly what was going on, where, with what kit. This helped us work to capturing something different each day and follow the narrative -

1.       Brief the crew with the aims and expectations of the overall production.

2.       Confirm the details of the location, including the best travel routes from their location (avoiding major motorways and roads during congesting).

3.       Choose the best equipment for the job. Never over pack the kit bag, go simple and strategic for the look and style of production.

4.       Prepare an equipment list to check off each day and familiarize crew of the production setup with camera techniques, settings and audio.

5.       List all key moments and shots to acquire throughout each filming day, which may include interviews, specific time lapses, and drone or gimbal shots for example.

On the day:

6.       When you are working in a crew, they are your family.

7.       Introduce the crew to the key people at the event; from the event organizers to the mentors, to ensure that they are all comfortable and acknowledged as part of the BTS crew.

8.       Film a couple of shots with the crew to demonstrate the style of production and tips for filming in that location/settings.

Adam and Ed

Adam and Ed

Ed and Mikey

Ed and Mikey

The Kit

The kit prep was a challenge as it's always tempting to take too much, which in some cases makes you less mobile. For the workshop, crews would be spread over a large location (indoors and outdoors) so being portable with a small footprint was the cornerstone of what kit was used.

Manfrotto Backpack 35-PL

Manfrotto Backpack 35-PL

Adam Plowden Video using Sony A7s and Atomos Shogun

A personal favourite of mine is using the 100mm macro lens for portraits or specific subjects or objects as it beautifully crushes the background into a lovely bokeh, as if it was taken on a much better lens and camera. That combined with the Shogun shooting in 4K gives so beautiful images. Also, as much of the first and last days shooting was indoors, I often ramped up the ISO to 6400 and happily shot away knowing that the resultant image would be pleasantly clean.

Adam Plowden Video using Sony A7s and Canon 100mm macro

Audio wise, I had the Rode VideoMicro hooked up to the A7S for the entire production, its an awesome little microphone which sits neatly on the cage. I’ve found previous on camera mics clunky and often require a 9V battery, but the little VideoMicro uses the camera power and packs a load of great audio quality into a tiny price tag. For the interviews, I hooked up the Rode NTG4+ into the H6 and handheld. No need for a clamp and magic arm in this case.

The Shoot

The night before the workshop got the attendees together to meet and chat, I took this opportunity to interview some of the attendees to get their expectations of the workshop (the beginning part of the narrative). The pre-event networking is a brilliant way to break the ice with people who'll become part of your crew, and become new friends. The interviews were shot on the Tamron 24-70, it was rather dark so I remember shooting quite shallow with a high ISO. For the audio, I used the NTG4+ but this still captured a fair bit of background noise.

Day 1 was based around working together as a crew and planning the shoot for the following day. Throwing the participants in the deep end, they were set the task of producing a short video using 'in camera editing', a challenging task for them that revealed how the crews communicate and work together. I captured plenty of the crews shooting their scenes, and grabbed some vox pops from the group mentors on the fly to add some narrative to filming. I simply shot this on a monopod using the VideoMicro for audio, as I was in close quarters with the mentors.

Adam Plowden Video at Filmmaking Masterclass
Adam Plowden Video at Filmmaking Masterclass

Throughout the day I shot more of the participants networking (one of the key reasons to come to events like this as, it's not what you know, it's who you know), and their presentations in the afternoon. For the presentations I shot mainly on the 755CX-3 tripod to get nice steady shots on a long lens, while using the 100mm macro got me wonderfully close for portrait style shots of the participants.

Sometimes I shot on the Manfrotto MVM500AH monopod, just to get into tighter spaces or be more maneuverable on my feet.

Adam Plowden Video at Filmmaking Masterclass

Come the end of the day I grabbed essential interviews with Philip, Nino and Johnnie in a couple of locations to add some variety. What the mentors say will act as an audio-narrative for the BTS films as the questions flowed from 'Why do you recommend coming on an intensive workshop like this?' I also grabbed some interviews with the attendees, getting their thoughts and experiences from the first day, that would then help me build up the storytelling narrative of progression for the BTS film.

Part 2 of this blog will look at the second workshop day where the attendees capture and edit their short films, as well as the post production process I used to edit the BTS film together!

Proud to share some client testimonials!

Thank you all for the feedback!

I've finally had a chance to whip up some of the testimonials I've received from past clients, it's always great to read what an impact your work has made!

APV Filming at Coronation Street, ITV and dock10 Studios for The IABM!

Way back in November, myself and Dick Hobbs began the pre-production of a new training video covering the behind the scenes of a television studio for the IABM. Unfortunately for me, it was difficult to pin down a location that close to Christmas and New Year with access to studios, galleries and other areas. Dick luckily got the go ahead for filming at the Corrie studios mid-way through BVE, so prep quickly began after.

My trusty crew was Glen, who operated the AutoScript for our presenter Georgie, and John Harris on audio (from JHWF). Dick made sure we were all in check with the script while I lugged around the camera and prompter :)

As there were three of us travelling up to Manchester on the Monday night, I chose to drive from Surrey, which was pretty straightforward, just a heck of a long journey to make at the end of the day. We arrived after a couple of toilet and coffee stops at 9:30, dropped the gear and headed to the table Georgie and Dick had. Beer was served and all was well!

As Dick and myself had planned the shoot well, I selected just the right amount of equipment needed. We were on a restricted budget so I opted to stick with my camera and audio setup rather than hire in a camera. We also borrowed an AutoScript from Vitec, to relay the rather technically heavy (at some points) script to our brilliant presenter.

The equipment list (rather sparing for this shoot!):

Canon 5D mk III

Canon 60D

Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 OS

Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 VC

Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VC

Canon 50mm F/1.8

Manfrotto 536 Carbon Fibre tripod

Manfrotto 504 Video head

Manfrotto 755CX3 Carbon fibre tripod + MVH500 AH head

Manfrotto Spectra 900FT LED light

Manfrotto Master light stand

Zoom H6 audio recorder

Rode Lavalier microphone

Sennheiser ENG-G3 wireless RxTx for lav mic

AutoScript prompter

All of camera and audio kit fitted into the AWESOME Manfrotto Pro Light 35 Backpack: I use the top compartment for the audio gear and accessories, the main sections for camera storage, and the back compartment for my laptop. It's a very comfortable carry regardless of the weight, and if I was walking/traveling for a longer time I just strapped on the waist support to take the weight off my shoulders. The front pockets are especially handy for grabbing memory card wallets and batteries quickly, as that is the most common thing I go to my bag for! Glen wheeled the prompter station around on it's pelicase, there was no way all of that could have fitted in! I did check the other day for AutoScript on tablets, which would be a much more viable solution for me.

In the MF bag for the big tripod I also brought a set of rails (just in case we needed them for the prompter) and the hydrostatic arm with the super clamp attached. You never know when they will come in handy, and when we were there I spotted one on the set!

Holiday Inn MediaCity

For anyone working at MediaCity needing to spend the night somewhere, the Holiday Inn right in the center is perfect. From above the first floor is the dock10 studios, offices and editing HQ, but you would have no idea it was there when you reach the 8th - 15th floor for your room. Plushly furnished, executive desk/workspace and a wonderful bathroom. One of the best I've been in!!

Day 1

We had a talk about the shoot ahead, as it would be hit and miss on the locations we were aiming to film in due to working around the current productions at Corrie (4 different crews filming that day), we needed to make the most of our available time. After a short walk across the quay, opposite Old Trafford stands the new Coronation Street and ITV Studios.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with coffee, then a guided tour of the facility to get to grips with our new location for the next two days. It was quite nerve-racking for me being a tiny video producer in the shadow of ITV, but I was also in awe of the scale and technology that has been used to make Coronation Street such an iconic television program.

We began the filming in what I now know as the 'Windas' flat, capturing some GV and B-roll of the system cameras, microphone booms, lighting setups and the set itself, clips that would be used throughout the video.

Camera settings: Tungsten white balance to match set lights, sticking to 1/50 shutter, aperture of F/5.6 and ISO ranging from 400-1600.
Mostly shot on Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 and Sigma 70-200 F/2.8.
— Adam

I also shot some more material in the Rovers interior set, which has a new LED lighting rig, in comparison to the other tungsten lit sets. It was impressive being in there, and was much smaller in reality, but we pulled up a chair at one of the booths and started recording the voice overs as the prompter hadn't arrived for the shoot yet!

For lavalier microphones, remember to attach them upwards or downwards depending on your subjects speech to avoid pops and hisses. Try to always record a back up audio track too, just in case your plan fails. Here we have 3 separate tracks recording on the H6: lavalier on presenter, gun mic and the mid side mic attachment on the device.

After recording all of the VO, we headed to the lot of the cobbled streets where a scene was being filmed as we overlooked and walked through! I shot some more cutaways of the street and crew in action on the 5D and 70-200. We had a fantastic guide who gave us many technical secrets into the new production facility, it was fantastic!!

IMG_2027.JPG

The AutoScript had arrived!!! We quickly got set to putting it together, however John, Glen and myself had no experience in putting one together, so to the internet it was! A few minutes later we had the prompter up and running, the camera set, working lights on, microphone levels set and were ready to roll.

As you can see, the normally small 5D and 70-200 filming combo goes out the window when using a prompter. Very front heavy!

Our filming took us all around the studios including Roy's Rolls and the Rovers, showing how a drama program is produced. Our access also allowed us into the production galleries, editing and grading suites for more 'piece to camera' filming as well as capturing plenty of GV showing the equipment in action.

We wrapped up day 1 late that evening which allowed us to capture most of the content for the video: we shot scenes 1 through to 7, great progress and took the pressure off day 2 as we didn't know what access we would have.

When we got back to the hotel, the importing and backing up began. I like to play the 'guess the gigabyte' game, simply guessing the total file size of the captured material. Although we were working loads throughout the day, I think the day 1 total was around 60Gb all in all. I backed up onto 3 drives that night just in case.

Day 2

We started a little later to recover from the long day before, enjoyed a big breakfast, plenty of coffee and headed over to the studios with our suitcases as it was our last day. We had access to the edit and grading suites in the morning, where I shot plenty of B roll just in case, as it turned out we wouldn't get access to the finishing or dubbing suites so this came in handy.

As Corrie filming had finished on the street, we quickly went out to shoot the final 'conclusion' scene of the training video outside the Rovers and on the cobbles. The prompter required a power supply, so we de-rigged it for this scene, I used the 5D and 70-200 only for these shots. Most of the time I shot at around F/11-16 as it was rather bright outside, but it also keeps some of the background visible instead of blowing it out with bokeh.

The machine room was a challenge due to the heavy air conditioning for the racks and racks of networking, storage and server equipment to keep it cool. Not particularly for the vision, but John did a great job of operating the H6 and monitoring the audio with so much background noise. The gun mic was out of the question, so we captured solely using the Rode Lavalier mic, which worked well for this environment.

As a back up I also captured plenty of B roll, and John captures a voice over from Georgie of the machine room scene just in case the native sound was too distracting. Luckilly, the Rode lavalier coped well!!

I had access to the working production galleries as scenes were being recorded under Tony Warren, Coronation Streets award winning director. It was amazing to watch him and his team work! I'm not allowed to talk about what I saw being captured though :)

That was the last filming stop at Corrie before we departed, saying a massive thank you to our guide and staff at the facility who were so welcoming and helpful. It was a breezy walk back to the Holiday Inn, as I thought I had lost my car keys, before the very long drive home!

The team did a fantastic job over the intense two day shoot, it was Glen's first job operating a prompter and although it was a challenge putting it together he quickly picked up the operation. For me, it was awesome seeing the technology behind a drama serial that captures its programs like live television. Being a completely new facility, the studios had brand new vision mixers, racks, lighting and sound control which was fascinating to see and learn more about.

Highlights/reel of the Coronation Street video shoot coming soon!

#MadeWithManfrotto