The right tools and the right skills
I was very flattered recently when my friend Ty Ford (a dominant force in the COW's Audio Pros pasture) asked for me to help him with some studio-based beauty shots for a video he was producing on a new guitar model. In particular Ty wanted close-up and motion shots of just the guitar itself that could provide B-roll for his interview about its design and construction.
"No problem," I thought. We have a very smooth track-based dolly system and a moderately sized jib arm, both of which I thought would be perfect for moving around and up and down the distinct features of the instrument. Then reality hit.
We had just began a few test shots when it became apparent that these tools which I've been using with success in factories, stores, exteriors and offices -- as well as the ways that I was used to using them-- were geared to an entirely different scale. A dolly move that I could easily do smoothly over 10 or 15 feet became a whole different animal when it was a tight circle, with a long focal length around a detail a few inches across. Microscopic wobbles between the mounting plate and the camera became big problems. Traveling jib shots up the guitar's neck needed a corresponding and properly timed focus pull. Minuscule pieces of dust jumped out as enormous problems in macro view.
So now I know that yard-long slider dollys popular with the DSLR set really do have a place. Wish I'd had one Saturday. Would have saved an awful lot of time.
I asked Nick for help with an adjunct piece for a review I wrote of the Martin J-28LSE baritone guitar. (An AMAZING instrument. If you're a guitar player, you have to try one.)
Words are great, but having video and also having done a SKYPE video interview with Tim Teel, Martin's instrument development master would be much better story telling than text on a blog.
After the interview with Tim Teel, I made up a shot list of topics we covered during the interview so I could pull them in as B-roll. That's where Nick came in. He has great video and lighting gear and we live less than 10 minutes from each other.
Even though we've known each other since 1971, we hadn't really worked together on a shoot before, so there was that dynamic. Then there was the macro/wobbly hardware issue. This was a learning experience for both of us and, for that, it was a wonderful experience -- at least for me. Nick may feel differently. :)
What I came away with was the gnawing thought that I certainly didn't have enough B-roll for the entire interview, but I'm not so sure I need it. Will the piece do what I want it to? I'm sure it will, even though I don't have the last second of it firmly planned in my head.
PS: Shooting video of an amazing Martin guitar - cool!
Hanging out with an old friend - priceless.
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog
I can relate. Back in the mid to late 90's we shot a number of complete videos with an 8' jimmy jib / DVCPRO25 setup. Great for shots where people are moving, and in an operating room with 16' ceilings, even better. We got some really great material.
Trying to do tabletop moves not only presents the issue Nick describes, but shooting at close range you are more likely to have camera shadows and you can simply run out of room in a smaller space.
Here in central CT there is a studio with a vintage 1980's motion control rig, nearly identical to the ones used by ILM on the original Star Wars movies. They do some amazing work, mostly for ESPN documentaries. Never had a chance to use this service, but it seems well suited for the situation described.