10.16.2017

Kirk's Photography Tip of the Day. CWB.

42.5

I was setting up to shoot in a conference room downtown this morning. I had an hour to put together the lighting and design of the shot and used myself, as a halfway willing model, to stand in. The conference room is lit with a bunch of different light sources as well as a wall of frosted, tinted glass windows. I used an LED panel, shining through a 50 inch, round diffusion panel to the left of the frame and a silver bounce reflector about ten feet back on the right. I also added some LED panels with warming filters to the back plane.

With all this light bouncing around I knew I wanted to do a custom white balance. I set up a gray target and made a white balance while using the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7. As I continued setting up I tried several different lenses to see what the cropping would look like with a 50mm and a 40mm focal length. When I switched from the 42.5mm to the 40mm I was surprised at the difference in color between the two lenses. Nothing else was changed and both lenses were stopped down to equal apertures, yielding exactly the same exposures, as measured by the GH5's internal waveform monitor.

The older lens, the 40mm, was much warmer and stumbled into a slight yellow cast. Using the same white balance target and re-setting the color balance brought the two lenses much closer in final color. The third lens had a slightly cool, or blue, tendency compared to the modern Panasonic. It too could be made to get close to the 42.5's color when custom white balance. Without the custom white balances the images created by each lens were quite different.

This reminded me that for precise work a custom white balance actually needs to be done between lens changes. It was a sobering reminder that some of what we do is more of an art (or craft) than a science.

While I am not a good portrait subject my client this morning was. I was delighted with what I finally came up with as a lighting design for her. I think I'll work harder at staying behind the camera.....

Working with precision? Did you know different color balances also change exposure? New rule: New lens on the scene? Custom white balance and create a channel for that particular lens. It's a good way to eliminate the need for color matching between files in post.

The lenses, used on a GH5, were: the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 (the nicest WB in AWB), the Pen FT 40mm f1.4 (the least accurate, color wise) and the Zeiss 50mm f1.7 (Best tonality, middle of the road color accuracy).

It's fun to experiment. Sometimes I learn stuff...

10.15.2017

The G85 is a woefully under-appreciated camera. Coupled with the right lens it can be superb.


I bought the G85 on a whim. I'd purchased the FZ2500 and had been impressed. There were older Olympus lenses in my office (the Pen half-frame lenses) that had been more or less orphaned when I sold off the last of my GH4 cameras and Olympus EM-5.2 cameras several years ago. While the lenses worked okay on the A6x00 series Sonys they just didn't feel right. I bought the G85 in part to use those lenses and then also out of curiosity. 

As someone wisely pointed out this was the "gateway" camera back into the Panasonic system, and, indeed, back into the whole m4:3 ecosphere. I used the G85 with the kit lens (12-60mm) for a while, shot some 4K video that surprised me with its quality and then, with the arrival of the twin GH5s, it got relegated to the bleachers. 

Lately I've been interested to see just how I like the essence of the camera. That would be the look, feel and personality of the files. But not in the way that seems commonplace in the mainstream appraisal; not by a measure of how much resolution the camera has or how quickly it can focus on someone rushing toward me on a turbo-charged unicycle. My measure of value for camera files is how smooth and mellow the tones can be, how accurate the color seems to me, and whether it makes photographs that look like the thing being photographed (good) or photographs that look like hyper-real photographs of the thing being photographed (bad). 

Most people doing a cursory flirtation with smaller sensor cameras get all caught up with the idea that depth of field control is somehow hampered. When I left the house today I decided to remove depth of field from the equation as much as I could so I could concentrate on how real the images seemed to me. How well did the camera and lens translate the three dimensional, color rich world we see with our eyes into files we can evaluate on screen. 

My lens of choice today was the older, Contax Y/C  Zeiss 50mm f1.7 lens, with an adapter. I shot almost everything at f2.0. Once in a while I went to f2.8 just to stay within the range of the mechanical shutter. I used the camera's auto white balance, its standard profile and its large Jpeg setting to do my fun art. The camera has in-body stabilization that works well with non-dedicated lenses. You have to enter the focal length of the lens you are using but I made it easy on myself by only using one lens. Set once and forget. 

In my opinion Panasonic has gotten their interpretation of color and tonality nailed down perfectly. The 16 megapixel sensor in this camera is mature technology and renders images with a neutral grace. If I ignore the implied benefits of the newer, higher resolution sensor of the GH5, as well as the advanced video features of the GH5 and just look at the emotional/perceived quality of the frames then I would have to say that, just by a small margin, the combination of the G85 and this particular Zeiss lens gives me an photographic file that's more pleasing. Not by a huge margin; just by a whisker. 

It's a file that seems less processed and at the same time more organic. And the files have an impression of depth. Very nice depth. Pretty amazing to me just how nice a file one can get with a camera and lens that together cost less than $800.  It's okay to tell me that the A7rii or the D850 is much more detailed (when enlarged past a certain size) but that really doesn't make a difference to me. This (the G85) has a look I like very much. I'll just remember not to blow it up too much. Nothing past say, 20 by 24 inches. 









10.14.2017

It's fun to look back a year and see what we were photographing at Zach Theatre.

A Marketing photo from "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." 

I was over at Zach Theatre a week ago and I walked around the offices. In every hallway they have framed production photos which span decades. All are printed 12x18 inches and are well matted. All but a handful were made by me. There is generally only one image per production but they were carefully curated by the marketing director.

When I walked through I could "see" every camera that I used to take the photos. We started with M series Leicas and Hasselblads, worked our way through a few generations of Contax film cameras and Nikon film cameras; and then there is the long progression of digital cameras, starting with an Olympus e-10 (the first really effective digital "bridge" camera) and continuing through all the different formats and brands, and ending up, recently, with the Panasonic GH5s. 

It's interesting to see that, while there are some minor technical differences in the images between all the generations of cameras, the differences are not nearly as great as camera advertising, photographer blogs and photo-oriented websites would have one believe. The magic is never in whatever camera was used. Whether the photos work or not (aesthetically) is all tied to several decidedly non-technical factors. To wit: Did I compose the scene in an interesting and dynamic way? Did I capture the peak of action within the scene? Was I able to get on film (or "on sensor") the expressions on the actors' faces that help define and refine the story being told on the stage? Using mostly manual focus, was I able to do all of the above while getting sharp focus on constantly moving actors?

If you really think that today's photography is challenging you should step back a decade or two and try nailing focus, and shifting exposure parameters, through the dim prism of, or reversed waist level finder of, a Hasselblad 500C/M camera and a lens with a long manual focus throw. Everything else will seem like gravy on biscuits by comparison...

Part of theater photography is having an intuition for where actors will move next and what their future actions will be. You have to put yourself and camera into the place where the actors will end up next. Not where they were a few seconds ago.

There was a time when we set up, lit and meticulously styled the promotional photographs. Those are still my favorites.


Photograph of Ben on the dock at Emma Long Park. Contax G2 + 21mm Zeiss Biogon. B&W film. Deep Yellow filter.


So much of what we talk about revolves around the technical nuances of cameras but all of that seems to be secondary to grabbing up the camera quickly when you see a shot and just using it adroitly. This image was shot during an assignment. It was unplanned (to say the least) but ended up being the opener for a multi-ad advertising campaign.

Had I planned it all out, lit it and shot with a tripod mounted Hasselblad I am certain that Ben would have been way past me before I got anywhere close to pushing the shutter button.

The client was in another (geographical) state. No idea how the shot came into existence. No idea what camera I was using. No curiosity about the technique. They just recognized that this finished "spur of the moment" shot was what they wanted/needed for their advertising. And, in my 30 some years of daily experience, that's just the way things usually go... We plan and plan but the authentic, uplanned moment usually trumps all kinds of technical perfection.  And, no. You usually can't have it both ways, no matter how hard you try.

10.13.2017

I thought I would share a verbatim promotional e-mail with my VSL crowd. This is what I've been sending (with personal salutations) to my list.

Dear (lovely and coveted clients),

It’s been busy around our studio. My client, ZachTheatre.org just opened their 2017-2018 season with the musical, “Singin' in the Rain.” My company shot the production stills, advertising images, and several promotional videos about the production. One of the coolest parts of the play is when the lead actor, and then the cast, actually dance in the rain. The tech crew created a rain device that delivers the drops from the front of stage to the back, and from side to side. 



Here’s a link to the video interview with the choreographer and the director: https://vimeo.com/237315221 Complete with tap dancing in the rain! 

The video racked up over 8,000 views in its first 48 hours online! 


The musical is a lot of fun and it’s playing thru October 29th. 

Please keep me in mind if you need photography and/or video production.  Umbrellas provided, if necessary... 

All the best, Kirk 

Kirk Tuck Video and Photography 

Web: www.kirktuck.com 
E-mail: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Phone: 512-XXX-XXXX 

Industrial Strength Imaging. 

https://vimeo.com/237315221

If you are a decent technical photographer it's so easy to fall into the trap of loving each incremental camera improvement...

A reader assumed that this was an m4:3rd camera shot. He suggested that 
captioning it as such would further nail down the argument I am making below.
Sadly, it was not made with an m4:3rds camera.

It was made with a ONE INCH CAMERA.

...but the huge majority of lackadaisical amateurs, finnicky hobbyists and working professionals routinely, "love", "like" and gush over a multitude of photographic images they see on the internet; enjoying the bounty of the proffered work at sizes nudging up toward 1,200 pixels in a long horizontal row. Most routinely lie about making reams and reams of splendid and delicious large prints from whatever camera represents this quarter's technical miracle. At best they read someone else's lie about master print making at the size of a house and pass that lie along as their own. The adoration of that last 2.3% addition of pixels to the edge of the frame is such a "last century" affectation. The reality; the hard, fast reality is that the screen is our new medium of access and appreciation for the photographic image and the screen has the distinct advantage of being almost completely format and resolution neutral.

People who find themselves all pumped up by the "perceived" difference between a Nikon D810 and a D850 need to have their heads examined. People who denigrate the "smaller formats" as being somehow inadequate are self deluding. No strength of magic wand will make an idea better. No amount of purchase power will replace the hard won skills of seeing well and imagining better.

It's a pursuit as senseless as the pursuit of raw horsepower. The internet is like a crowded freeway at rush hour. Your Dodge Viper may have crazy amounts of horsepower but in Austin, Texas, on the Mopac "Expressway", you'll be right in line behind that 120 horsepower, 1996 Toyota Corolla (with no wheel covers) and you'll both be going the same 15 MPH for miles at a time. The only difference being that you wasted a lot of money buying and gassing up the Viper.




10.12.2017

Austin still has a quirk or two.


A prime downtown billboard without a selling message. It has "Art" instead. 


Trader Joe's downtown location pays tribute to Matthew McConaughy in his role in Richard Linklater's early (2nd) movie: "Dazed and Confused." 

"It'd be a lot cooler if you did....."

Playing around with a "bridge" camera. Getting out of the studio and away from the computer. Mid-afternoon holiday.


Most of us have the tendency to spend more time in front of the computer screen than we intend. At least our kids, who are mightily addicted to their smartphones, can take their hand held devices out the door with them. We seem anchored to our desktops. I guess it's easier to surf the web and handle hot coffee when one is sitting down....

Recently I've started pushing myself out the door when I'm finished with actual work on my computer. I like to take different cameras out with me when I'm walking and it's been a bonus to head toward an "all Panasonic" work environment since the menus are all (rationally) set up the same way. There's less and less fumble for control. 

On my short walk I saw a new restaurant downtown called, Le Politique, on Second St. Built and furnished like a classic French cafĂ©. There was the JW Marriott Hotel, just crawling with conference goers who all had the biggest lanyard-anchored badges bouncing on their chests that I've ever seen (not pictured here). As I left the hotel and was standing at a crosswalk waiting for the light change a woman standing next to me turned and asked if I could pull her water bottle out of a side pocket of her backpack; she couldn't reach it. 

I walked through the convention center where a local company called, SpiceWorks, was holding their conference. They are also celebrating 10 years of existence. It was the usual crew of software developers, etc. You can tell at a glance in Austin. 

I came across the woman in leather pants (above) holding a bouquet of flowers. She is the designated greeter for some boy band. The arrival of their tour bus is imminent. She'll guide them through the loading dock and into the safe confines of the green room complex of the ACL Theater. 

I came across a man eating through his own smallish carton of Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream. A man sleeping on a bench. A crowd of (mostly) young women waiting for the same boy band as the flower bearer above. A coffee meeting in suits. A solitary cigarette break. A woman grappling with a dog and digital parking meter. It was a brisk but lackadaisical afternoon stroll. 

I was using a Panasonic FZ2500 that had a small microphone in the hot shoe. I thought I might shoot some video but the monochrome setting on the camera created a feeling of yesteryear so endearing to me that I just got into the concept of Tri-X-ism and was off on autopilot. It's glorious to be outside when the city is alive, the temperature moderate and the sun shining but mild. 

I didn't want the buzz of the day to vanish so we headed out to dinner instead of staying home. We headed over to Asti Trattoria (see the video on my website....) and had an appetizer of calamari, then shared a tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza, covered with fresh, tossed arugula. Belinda had a prosecco while I had an IPA from a San Francisco brewery. It was so much fun being immersed in real life. Makes me wonder what I'm doing sitting here now. Oh, that's right, I'm just tying up some loose ends before a midday swim. Oh crap. I just remembered something important --- I forgot to work this week.
Yikes. I guess I'll make up for it next week..... 

What do you do when you find yourself overdosed with desk time?















10.11.2017

An interesting dilemma. Client with an existing background for portraits.

Noelia H. helps me test the Mamiya 28 MF.

An interesting conundrum for portrait photographers. I got a call a while back from an engineering company that needs 24 portraits done. They would like to do the portraits at their headquarters building here in Austin (no problem) and they would like the images to have a consistent look (no problem) but the issue I'm grappling with came later, after we'd struck a deal and were moving forward...

The client had used a different photographer in the past and that photographer, who is more focused on a PPofA portrait style (which works well for families, and kids), used a custom painted canvas background that is now impossible to source and also looks (to my sensibilities) a bit dated. I have scoured the web to see if I can find a close match but at the same time I'm more inclined to go back to the client and discuss alternatives that would benefit them.

I find detailed backgrounds (and the previous photographer obviously believed in f16 as an optimum portrait aperture) distracting; especially when the primary use of the images is in a website gallery with dozens of other small images. My first choice would be a steel gray background with no texture and my second choice would be a gray canvas background with minimum texture. Also, I like to through backgrounds out of focus so I like to shoot FF cameras at f4.0 and m4:3 cameras at something like f2.0 or 2.8.

One way or another I'm scheduled to shoot one week from now so I feel that I have to go back to the client today and discuss how we'll proceed. I think I'm going to suggest my preferred style but I'm also researching with a couple of good, local retouchers, the cost (in bulk) to take the existing portraits currently being used by the client and have them drop out the backgrounds and replace them with a clean image of my chosen background. That's a hassle and the it's likely to involve some compromises in some of the images.

My other suggestion is that they consider the new background as a standard going forward and work over time to re-photograph the people who were photographed in the previous style.

Has anyone else had a similar situation arise? Suggestions most welcome!

10.08.2017

"Singin' in the Rain" A video for Zach Theatre. Stills and video shot with the Panasonic GH5.


Singing in the rain interviews from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Here is the video I mentioned last week. I shot all of it on a GH5 and edited in Final Cut Pro X. There is absolutely no color grading or post production on the actual video for either interviewee. I was happy with the files straight from camera. This piece was shot in 1080p. Its intended use is on the web, via YouTube and Vimeo.

I am happy to mix my stills with the video. I think it's a fun way to get in lots and lots of content.

Added on 10/10: Let's talk effectiveness for a moment. I did the video as an exercise for a non-profit client. I have a 30 year history with Zach Theatre and love the work they do. At any rate I handed off the video to them yesterday afternoon. Four hours after they posted the video file on their Facebook page they had gotten over 1,000 views. Now, about 16 hours later they have 4200+ views of the video on their Facebook page. A live theatre review site picked up the video file (with permission) on their homepage and the video has gotten another 1,500+ views. My blog has delivered several thousand views (but most are from out of the state of Texas....). These all occurred in less than 24 hours. I am guessing that targeted videos are a good resource....

Added later on 10/10: We have now published (yesterday) my 3,400th blog post. Google tells me that 23,250,000+ sets of eyes have come and read material directly on the blog since its inception and that 82,000,000 total page views have occurred, which includes referrals. It's kind of fun....


10.07.2017

OT: Major Disruption in My Swimming Universe.



As readers of my blog may have surmised, I love to swim. I've been doing it since I was six. I swam in high school and college, and for the last 20 years I've gotten up most days and happily dragged myself (I've never been an exceptional "morning person") to the Rollingwood Pool (AKA: Western Hills Athletic Club) to swim at 7:00 am with the WHAC Masters. It's a masters team comprised of former Olympians, All Americans and just regular vanilla swimmers like me. Some of the folks in the workouts are relentlessly chasing some demon or other; some swim to stay in really good shape while others, like me, swim five or six times a week so we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want it and still fit into the pants we bought in 1982...

The pool has been a great comfort to me in periods of stress and anxiety. The camaraderie has been priceless. The consistency of the practice helps to anchor most of the rest of my day-to-day life and add structure to a relatively unstructured freelance existence. And in good times and bad I have never winced at coming up with the $100 bucks a month to pay my dues.

In the middle of the Summer the pool manager sent out an e-mail telling us that the board of directors for the club decided that they had deferred major maintenance for as long as they could and that the pool needed to be closed for a period of time to effect repairs. They decided that the last day the pool would be open would be Sunday, the first of October. After that all the masters swimmers would have to fend for themselves, find other programs or hibernate until sometime near the end of January.

We swimmers consider our pool special. Its water is chilled in the Summer and heated in the winter. We've swum during heatwaves and snow storms. We've collectively watched the steam from the warm water melt snow flakes a couple inches above the pool in January and February. Many of us also run at the hike and bike trail about a mile away and, after a run in 100+ degrees, it's become a habit to finish the run at the pool, diving in just before the onset of heat exhaustion (kinda kidding, but not really...).

Our workouts are coached and supervised. Some of our coaches are former Olympians. One was the world champion in the Ironman a while back. Some of the workouts are brutal. Others are fun. Oh heck, even the brutal ones are fun.....as long as we survive them.

So I am in my first week of real, agonizing withdrawal from the familiarity and comfort of my swim club; my pool. At first I thought I would follow our pack to a different, competitive pool or head over to the 5:45 am workout at the University of Texas at Austin. But I chose a different path and I've been frequenting the Deep Eddy Pool. It's a 33 and 1/3 yard, deep well water fed pool (no chlorine or chemistry) and it's been an Austin landmark forever (1915). In the Summer it's too crowded to swim laps in (for me). But starting in October the recreational swimming crowd winds down and the water temperature of the well water starts dropping. Right now it's about eight degrees cooler than my beloved WHAC pool.

I thought I'd be averse to the colder water but I have a discipline streak that tends to ignore the odd discomfort in the pursuit of raw yardage; after all, there is still chocolate cake and Champagne to be savored...

I've hit the pool almost everyday this week, trying to get in two miles a day. I'm recalibrating from a 25 yard pool to a 33-1/3 yard pool and it's actually working.

Why do I swim? Well, I hit the doctor's office last Monday for a yearly physical. According to their measurements I have a body fat ratio of about 11%, a resting pulse rate of 54 and, even though I love coffee, a blood pressure of 115/65. Considering the weird profession I pursue I'm happy with all those little metrics and consider them a benefit to my work. My doctor suggests that I not in bad shape for someone about to hit 62. And swimming also keeps me in shape for hauling around gear.

Best of all, I found an old punch card for the Austin city pools that I had not used up. I've got just enough remaining swims on the card to get me through October. The admission to the pool is free from November to March. A net cost savings of $600 from now until March 2018.

This morning six or seven of the WHAC crew showed up at the Deep Eddy Pool around the same time I did. Old habits die hard. We got in a an hour and a half of swimming and then we met, as we have for several decades, at the local coffee house to socialize. I'm happy to see that the universe provides for those who grab their suit and goggles and head out the door.


10.06.2017

I was contemplating buying a fast Voightlander or Nocticron lens for my GH5s but I changed my mind... Here's why:


I was making some headshots for a nice actor named Celeste and at the end of the session I asked if she would sit for a few minutes and be the subject for a series of lens tests. She agreed.

Lately, I've been thinking that, with some projects coming up which require a number of images with narrow depth of field, I should buy a couple of fast lenses that I could use wide open, or close to wide open, and still get good, sharp results. I've played with a friend's 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron and I also had my eye on the Voightlander 42.5mm f.95 lens. Both get great reviews and seem to be what I'd need.

But, I have the drawer here at the studio that has some ancient Olympus lenses. They were originally made for that company's half frame film cameras; circa 1960s-1970s. I've always enjoyed using them but thought they may not hold up well given the higher resolution of the newest m4:3 cameras...

I decided to actually test the lenses I already owned rather than just reflexively dish out $800 or $1400 dollars that might be better spent elsewhere.

I made the tests as life like as I could. Real model. Real light. On a tripod. Absolutely wide open. The fast apertures.

The image above is from the weakest of the three lenses I tested. It's the Pen FT 70mm f2.0, shot at 2.0. It may be the delirium speaking but I think it's pretty good wide open. I haven't post processed the images from the 60mm f1.5 or the 40mm f1.4 yet but I spot checked sharpness, just to be sure, and found them just a tad better than the 70mm. All need a bit more contrast right out of the camera but all are sufficiently sharp and I actually like the color a lot.

I think I'll save the cash and use this 37 year old glass. I don't think I've gotten my money out of it yet...

Sorry, nothing commercial to link to....

Bigger file:


Sample footage from the GH5 of Dancing in the Rain (On stage).



Rain : ZACH THEATRE from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Panasonic GH5+Olympus 40-150mm Pro.

10.05.2017

Creating video from motion and stills. Always having a camera around is a good start...



I haven't really discussed much about the Panasonic GH5's video performance yet, instead, I'd like to write in more general terms about how I've been using my cameras. Not just Panasonics but also Sonys. When I sit down to evaluate a camera I'm no longer looking at a camera as a "single use" device that will just deliver a great photograph. I want a camera that will hit well above the bar for image quality in still photography use but I also want a camera that will do very good 4K video. And I want to spend no more than $2,000 per camera body. My basic criteria includes: a microphone input jack, a clean HDMI output, the ability to manually control audio levels and a useful and logical menu for setting all my camera controls. It's a given that the camera will have a high enough resolution for still photography (16 megapixels, min.) as well as the ability to make RAW files and also to make pleasant Jpegs which are usable right out of the camera. 

Why the $2,000 price limit? Because I like to buy my primary cameras in pairs and doubling prices gets uncomfortable quickly. Since cameras in the ascending age of video are still changing rapidly (as far as processor speed and video features) I want to be able to switch out cameras more frequently than we used to so I can take advantage of the new tech (HDR video anyone?). 

But why this fascination with cameras that swing both ways? Some interesting studies from the advertising community are revealing. Seems 70% of internet users get their daily dose of content entirely, or almost entirely, from their phones. Additionally, while reading lots of type on a phone is a pain in the butt for most people watching short videos has become as easy as breathing. Every marketer I know is rushing to provide more and more video content for not only their websites but their YouTube channels and their many social media feeds. Just last week, at a three day corporate show for WP Engine, I was asked to make photographs as well as video. At the same show we fed a stream of images to the social media managers from the company so they could upload content from the show in progress. You may want to resist working in this new way but I'm pretty certain that clients' expectations are not going to regress back to a slower, more stationary methodology. 

What I want to write about today is how I've been using video and photographs together for my theater client, ZachTheatre.org. I've been providing them with interviews of actors, directors and choreographers for their main stage shows. The idea is to invite the online audience to look behind the scenes and get a more nuanced understanding of how live theater works. How a production comes together.

I start my process by reading about the plays or musicals the theater is producing. Once I have the story line figured out I like to go to an early rehearsal to get an idea of the director's vision. Since I'll need good b-roll for cutaways, and to spice up the interviews, I always want to go to a tech rehearsal, with actors in costume, close to the opening date. By the Sunday before a Tuesday or Wednesday opening the costumes are pretty much finished and the stage set has received its last touch ups. Without an audience in the house I can spend time finding the right angles. I'm already familiar with the pacing and action since I've been to earlier rehearsals.

There are things I know I'll want to capture and weave into our video edit. For Dancing in the Rain I knew I wanted to get good footage of our lead actor actually dancing in the rain. Just 20 or 30 seconds of him tap dancing through the onstage downpour. But I also wanted to capture video snippets of each of the other main actors in character. You never know until you've finished an interview exactly who or what the interviewee will mention!

For Singing in the Rain I wanted to interview both the director and the choreographer. I arranged through the public relations director, Nicole, to reserve the V.I.P. lounge in the main theater space. It's a great place to shoot interviews because the room is modern and neutral but also because it has an entire north-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Nice lighting if you can get it! But outside light fluctuates so I also set up a big, soft main light from the same direction to establish a base so passing clouds don't mess with my exposure on the talent.

Once I had my angles mapped out for shooting and lighting I got to work on audio. I killed the power to the bar refrigerator (too much noise) and put up a few baffles on stands to try and kill the air conditioner noise (not turn off-able, non-negotiable in parts of Texas....). Then I put up my favorite two hyper-cardioid microphones at the end of a boom pole and hung them about 18 inches from the interviewee, just above the top of the frame and angled down about 45 degrees, aimed at the talent's mouth.

Since I had the PR director assisting me on this shoot I was able to ditch the tripod and try working with the GH5 camera on a monopod instead. In concert with the image stabilization system the footage looked quite good with just enough movement to keep from looking too static. I was able to do this because I had the PR director actually asking the interview questions. 

As soon as I finished both interviews the choreographer and I headed to the stage where he demonstrated the on stage rain effect by.....tap dancing through the pouring rain. I set the camera for the stage lighting WB and exposure and then handheld about three minutes of dancing while trying different compositions and framings. 

During the tech rehearsal I mostly shot photographs but would switch the camera over to video settings if I anticipated a dance number or a comedic moment upcoming. It's a lot of extra work to make multiple trips to the theater to catch different stuff that may never make the cut but the trade off comes late at night when you are editing and you remember you have just the right three to five seconds of tight video of tap shoes splashing through stage lit puddles.

When I finish recording the videos and photos and the interviews I come back into the studio and start making little virtual stacks of content. All the interview footage goes in this folder, all the b-roll video goes into that folder. I open Lightroom and put in all the photographs and look for sequences I know I'll want to use. Since I'm heading for a video edit all the stills I decide to use get cropped to 16:9 and sized for the file type I'll be using. Since this project was going to be edited in 1080p I made the files 2198 on the long side. That gave me a little breathing room within the overall frame so I could crop in where I felt it would make the presentation stronger. 

When I finally sat down to edit I listened to both interviews a couple of times, taking notes about stuff I liked and other stuff I wanted to cut out. Then I started assembling a timeline with the good content. If I felt the interviewee's delivery was too rushed I'd look for natural pauses and drop a half second or a second of black into the gap to make a pause from one thought to the next. Of course I would need material to visually cover the pauses but that's why we shot all those photographs and b-roll to begin with, right?

Once I get everything from the interviews laid in like I want it I make a pass to see if I can cut out "ums" and "ahhhs" and distracting word fluff. It's best to really stretch your timeline way out when making these kinds of audio adjustments because it allows for exacting work. 

When the interview timeline is more or less locked I start looking for little chunks of video or photographs that correspond to what the interviewee is talking about. For example, the choreographer, when asked about his favorite scene from this production, discussed a scene with a character named, Cosmo, who does a great song and dance number. I didn't have any video of that part of the play but I was able to reach into the photography folder and pull out twenty or so images that were a close reflection of what the choreographer was discussing. With a series of fast, one second cuts the images worked perfectly to add strong visuals to the narrative.

When the director discusses the challenges of making it rain on an indoor stage I had fast paced video footage of the main character slipping and sliding and tapping across the stage in the rain. It was the perfect visual to play over the director's conversation. 

And here's the thing about having a camera that can do both parts well; if all you need to do is change to the video setting and change the shutter speed to work with your fps, then the color and tonality of the video and the stills will match and intercut with each other beautifully. While the lighting on the interviews will be different the overall feel of the files will come through as a consistent element. 

It's an intangible but I can feel the work hold together better when it all seems to come from a unified source. A matching visual style.

There's a perception that all video work gets done on a big tripod with a fluid head. That the camera needs to be nested in a collage of pre-amps, cages, monitors and geared controls. But really, when shooting live action on the stage I'm happy to have two identical cameras, set to the same WB. One with exposure set for stills, one with the exposure set for video. Each dangling on their strap just waiting for me to move from one to the other, grabbing it up, making a last adjustment and then holding it as steady as I can --- regardless of file type. As clean as making snapshots. 

Your mind changes from making one-off masterpieces to making serial frames that can work in either modality. That's the promise of a "bi-lingual" camera system.