In our behind the scenes posts we like to tell you all about the thoughts that go through our heads when we’re shooting and just what we do in post production.
In this one we will be talking about our biggest production to date and our first destination wedding. We will be looking at the wedding of Andrew and Jessica.
GETTING TO A DESTINATION WEDDING
Usually when we film a wedding we have a car filled with Steadicam, tripods, monopods, sliders and camera gear. Now, we have a baggage limit which not only has to accommodate our gear but our shorts and shoes too. What’s more, we didn’t want to compromise our work by using a restricted gear list.
We decided that after getting to know Andrew and Jessica (and knowing what their friends would be like from a previous wedding) that we would most likely have a high energy piece on our hands. The meant we were going to use the tripods very little and the monopods more as the natural movement they inject into your shots lends itself to high energy productions. So, we packed two Manfrotto BHDV561 monopods and 1 tripod as well as the Steadicam and slider into our check in baggage. All wrapped in bubble wrap and packed in-between the socks and pants we spread the weight across all our baggage.
We decided that everything we need to film a wedding would come with us in the carry-on, just in-case the luggage gets lost. Each of us had a Lowepro Fastpack 350 for our 3 DSLR bodies, lenses, audio and filters. Just be warned, when it comes to the x-ray they may need you to empty your bag, windjammers and all.
Let’s get started, first up have a watch of this so the rest makes sense;
One of the filters we use on the entire timeline in ALL our projects is the broadcast filter. That’s what its called in Sony Vegas (yes, we use Vegas) but I’m sure each NLE has its own equivalent. This does a few things to the footage but the main reason we use this is to limit the luminance of our footage. We eluded to this in our last behind the scenes post but will now go into it in a bit more depth. If you ever use the video scopes in your editor you will notice that the highlights in your HD footage goes over 100 and creates what is known as superbrights. If you were to play this back on your parents super old TV set the chances are when a superbright is visible the TV will make a high pitched squeal and maybe just go white. The broadcast filter allows us to limit the brightness to 100, within safe limits for broadcast. But what we use it for is to change the footage aesthetics. Often we limit our luminance to around 90 and in some cases 80. If you ever load a Hollywood DVD into your editor and view the video scopes you will notice the luminance is around 90. The key thing this does is make the footage more comfortable to watch but for us DSLR peeps it can give the illusion of improved dynamic range and removes distractions. Have a good look at the image below (click for a full resolution version)
And here is what our video scopes look like for this particular scene. Notice the highlights max out at 90 (click for a full resolution version).
Let’s talk about distractions. Here’s a fun fact; The human eye will always be drawn to the brightest object in any given scene be this luminance or colour. Ever notice how the fire extinguisher in your shots seems to be the first thing you notice? Now look at our image above, what is one of the first things you notice? The really bright seat in front of Andrews stomach or any of the other highlights coming off the boat? This wasn’t what I wanted our viewers to notice, it’s a distraction and it’s important to remove distractions so the viewer can focus on what you want them to. This is part of the reason we use DSLRs with shallow depth of field as it allows us to use focus to remove distractions and tell you what we want you to look at. If we wanted to remove these while shooting we would have to lower the exposure but this would underexpose our subject, boat captain Andy.
Now take a look at the second image, notice how the distracting highlights are gone? Also, to watch the footage back on TV is soooo much more comfortable. The lower luminance also adds to our filmic look.
Another way to limit your luminance if you don’t have a broadcast filter is to use a colour curves and bring down highlights for all channels.
UPDATE: In Adobe CS5 and 5.5 use the ‘Video Limiter’ effect and set the ‘Luma Max’ to your desired level to achieve the same result.
COLOUR GRADING (OR COLOR DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU LIVE)
We colour grade EVERYTHING! The aim though is that your average Joe shouldn’t notice it’s been graded. All too often, and the old MintySlippers is guilty of this is we used to apply a random ‘cool’ grade to a clip for no obvious reason. We also used to make awful decisions about the colour we would use. One minute the footage would be normal and then ‘BAM!’. It would have a green tint. Why? We have no idea, it was there in magic bullets so we used it. We now know what the colour green says to your viewer… And it’s not a colour you want in a wedding video.
Let’s look at a typical grade and why we use it. In the scene below we have the raw clip on the left and the graded clip on the right. Open it up and have a look.
This was a Steadicam shot and we exposed the scene for where the camera would end up. The reason for this is the finish was in sunlight and would be overexposed, once you do this the footage is lost but I knew I could boost the brightness of anything underexposed. Therefore the first thing we had to do was to boost the brightness of the clip using levels. Next, as the brightness comes up you loose some colour so applied a 3 way colour corrector to increase saturation. Finally we had to fix the white balance as it was configured for the lovely, sunny finish point. We also wanted to make it feel much ‘happier’ and one way to do this is to make the image warmer. The final plugin we used was the colour curves. With this we lifted the centre of the red curve upwards and the centre of the blue curve down, ever so slightly. This adds a subtle warmth of the scene. Et voila!
Let’s take another scene, Andrew getting ready. Click for a full size view.
The thought at the time of shooting was to show what Andrew was doing. The issue we had was Andrew was standing in front of a huge window with the Caribbean sun behind him. The result would have been a very VERY backlit scene. This isn’t a problem though, you can still get across what is going on without traditional methods. A simple silhouette can show just what is happening. To achieve this we exposed for the outside and let the inside become mere darkness. As you can see from the image on the left it wasn’t quite a silhouette and thanks to the filtered glass windows the scene was a little more St Albans than St Maarten. So to fix this we use the levels to crush the lowlights and make the blacks really black. We then used NewBlueFX tint to easily add blue to the image. Normally a tint will affect skin-tones but thanks to the silhouette we we have no such issue.
The same principles are applied to all our scenes with the goal to always make it look natural and not scream out that it’s been graded. In the final example we had to make this one look as sunny and bright as the previous shots as the sun went in and the jump from bright and sunny to dull would have been jarring to the viewer. For this one we didnt want to colour the whole scene so decided against the NewBlueFX Tint. Instead we used the colour curves and brought up the centre of the blue curve. We then used a 3 way colour corrector to increase overall saturation. Again, if this had skintones the skin would end up being too orange.
As well as handling each individual clip we apply a series of secret sauce filters to the entire timeline and thus affecting all clips. These are a mix of colour curves, 3way colour corrector, broadcast filter, sharpen, film grain and more. The end result is a single clip can be graded by 9 or more filters.
SILENT MOVIES ARE SO 1894
The aim for most of us is to have the viewer create a connection with what they are watching but this is almost impossible without any natural audio and just a piece of music. Having a link between what we see and what we hear helps us form a connection. Sometimes the song can do this but natural audio is the real magic key. It helps the viewer pick up the vibe for what’s going on and done right you can even use the natural audio from a scene as well as music AND VoiceOver.
Have a watch of the video below. To start off with we have the typical wedding video situation of music and a VoiceOver and no natural background sound. Then, we add in element like the sea, waves, Avery and Riley playing and a fire.
Visually identical but which one did you ‘feel’ a greater connection with?
Excluding the natural audio can also make what people are watching feel jarring, especially in the form of loose jawing. This is where you see someone talking but hear no words. Your brain is screaming out “what’s being said? What’s the conversation?”. We often try and avoid showing any lips moving unless you can hear something. This doesn’t have to be anything audioable, it could just be background conversation noise. Also try and remember your distractions, do you want the natural audio to be a distraction? If not turn it down and make it there but only just.
That’s it for this tutorial. What we hope to achieve through these is to help you to think differently. All too often we focus on the technical and forget how something feels. By removing the harshness of highlights, warming up an image and using audio to help form a connection we help our work ‘feel’ differently. Try removing blues from your image, lower the contrast or include some background sound and see how it feels.
What would you like to see from future tutorials. Let us know in the comments below.