By technical editor Matt Allard:
Back in November I was on my holidays in Sydney, Australia, and was lucky enough to take a pre-production KineRAW S35 camera with me. I’d been promising to shoot a music video for one of my good friends, Craig Hansen, for a couple of years now and thought it was about time I followed through on that promise. Followers of this blog will know I am a news guy – I hadn’t shot a music video in fifteen years, so I was completely out of my comfort zone.
Enter Clinton Harn and Phil Arntz; Phil was visiting Australia and shooting projects with Clinton. I hadn’t met either of them before but a real bond had developed between us after communicating on Twitter, Skype and corresponding via email. In my job I am used to working by myself but with Clinton and Phil I quickly realised that collaborating with talented, passionate and selfless people is an incredible experience.
I brought the KineRAW, some lenses and a Small HD monitor with me. Clinton provided lighting, jibs, tripods and his wealth of experience in shooting music videos.
Phil assisted and was willing to help Clinton and I with whatever needed to be done. Whether it was putting up lights, shooting, media management or grabbing lenses, he was willing to do it. It was great for us to see such a young guy who put aside his ego and acted in a totally professional way when he was on set.
Clinton and I really clicked and operated in an environment as if we had all been part of the same team for years. At first I found hard to transition to not being in control of every facet of a shoot. I concentrated mostly on shooting, and left most of the directing and art direction to Clinton. I learned a tremendous amount just from watching how he operates and, more importantly, how he sees the big picture.
The shoot itself was done in just over a day. There was literally no budget apart from Craig hiring a warehouse space for the shoot. I had used the KineRAW camera before but had very little experience with it as far as shooting and operating goes. This was the first time I got to use the camera in a reasonably controlled lighting environment.
The KineRAW is an interesting camera. It has a very unique look that I can’t really explain. I like the grain and noise structure, and while it may not resolve as highly as some other cameras, I’m still amazed that a small company from China has been able to create such a low-cost RAW camera. It’s an incredibly easy camera to operate, and even though it was an engineering sample, it never once stopped working or had a single problem.
You need to use a IR ND filter with the camera, as we encountered a lot of IR pollution. The other I dislike about the KineRAW is the camera’s rolling shutter (jello effect). Luckily for this shoot we didn’t have a lot of fast camera movements so it isn’t really obvious.
Like many cinema cameras the KineRAW lacks an in-built Neutral Density, so I ran a variety of ND filters in an Arri MMB2 matte box. For the shots in the warehouse I also ran a Tiffen Glimmer Glass filter, to soften up highlights on the big windows that were providing natural light. For night shots, we used a generator to power some Arri 650w lights. For the backlight, Phil stood on some rocks behind a wall almost in Sydney harbour! It was the only way we could get some backlight considering our location.
We shot 2K directly to the onboard SSD in Cineform codec. We chose not to use the alternative Cinema DNG option as we didn’t want to deal with large amounts of data.
I really enjoyed working on this project, but most importantly I made some lifetime friends and learnt a lot of new skills. If you get the chance to collaborate I highly recommend it. I know we all have to pay the bills but what you earn in knowledge and friendship, from working with passionate people on personal projects, far outweighs any paycheck.
Here’s Clinton’s thoughts on the process:
‘This music video was done on a shoestring budget. More importantly, It allowed Matthew Allard and I to test an engineering sample camera, to see how it would hold up in a semi-controlled lit environment. There are an abundance of camera tests floating around with available and practical light. For this, though, we wanted to see how the KineRAW S35 would perform in a pseudo-working set environment.
‘There was literally no pre-production, storyboards or treatment. Everything, right down to art direction, was done on the fly. My saving grace, however, was listening intently to the lyrics and really understanding Craig’s message in the song. To add salt to the wound, Phil came up to me midway through the shoot to remind me that there was no reference audio on the camera. Being an engineering sample, of course, it didn’t have audio! Doh!
‘So, throughout the remainder of the shoot, I was thinking about the long arduous task of syncing everything in post, while attempting to direct Craig, and light various scenes and large areas.
‘I’m happy to report that all the manual syncing was done quickly and efficiently, in under a few hours. The trick was knowing the song back to front, while understanding the chord shapes, song structure, and most importantly, the lyrics. I guess the years of music and audio training came in handy, too.
‘On the edit side of things, it was nice to have Craig sitting in. He made the call on how he wanted the edit to emote the song. Yes, some cuts were perhaps way longer than you would generally incorporate in a music video, but he wasn’t really interested in the technical pixel-peeping, “should have done this and that”. vibe. Everything, right down to the grade, was requested by Craig, as he felt would best represent his message. All footage was edited in 2K in Adobe CS5.5 and stylized & color corrected with Red Giant’s Colorista II and Magic Bullet Looks.
‘There was approximately 230 Gb worth of rushes, so there certainly wasn’t a lack of shot selection. Craig wanted various cuts, so I wasn’t denying him that luxury just for the sake of “ticking all the right boxes”. This wasn’t intended to be a high-gloss glam music vid. It was warts & all.
‘What started as a mere camera test, transpired into a music video and a story of friendship and passion, shared by kindred spirits.”
Both Clinton and Phil will form part of our ten strong Dslrnewsshooter.com team for NAB coverage this year.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Team Leader Cameras, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 22 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has won 14 ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) awards. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras, the Sony FS700 and F3 as well as Canon DSLRs.