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Old August 22 2012, 09:33 AM   #9
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Re: Not Trek or SF, but my latest music video work

Thanks, Kelso.

Since this is a fan productions forum, I'll try to make this a useful post by talking about the challenges of a shoot like this.

The original plan was to shoot a different song (a parody of "Three Little Maids from School" from The Mikado titled "Eliminate the Schools"), but the group's publicist wanted something more directly applicable to the election, so we abruptly shifted gears and agreed upon this song because it was fast and funny and really sharp. BUT, there were a few problems.

First, I had to see the show again to see the number so I could figure out how much of the stage choreo I could use (luckily, most of it). Second, was the problem of the song as recorded...

Although they are an a capella singing group (technically Dragappella™), I don't have the Kinseys sing live on these shoots because:
  1. you do so many takes you'd wear their voices out right before a show
  2. it's tough to mic four singers shooting in multiple locations and have the sound be consistent
But in this case, while the song is on their latest album, over months performing it they sped it way up and shortened it. We all wanted the current version, which meant re-recording it. As such, arrangement were made so that right after a show they got out of costume and we bolted over to a recording studio (at 11pm) and they recorded the song.

Studio session at Coast Recorders.
Left to right: Ben Schatz, Jefferey Manabat, Spencer Brown, Irwin Keller.
Fortunately, since they've been performing it live all year they aced it and take 3 was basically perfect. The engineer emailed me a rough "bounce" of the song in the wee hours that I could have them lip sync to (with a 1, 2, 3 at the top so they'd know when to start).

Because of severe time pressures I'd decided the best thing to do was shoot at the hotel and showroom where they were performing. That way they could get made up and in costume early, we could shoot, they could freshen up and go directly on stage.

The showroom was convenient because we could use the stage lights for most of the lighting rather than bringing in other lights, but it meant moving about 20 tables and audio monitors right before a show and then getting everything back in place before they had to let the patrons in.

For speed, I decided to limit the coverage to:
  1. super wide shot that I could do a matte extension on (the opening shot)
  2. full shot of the entire group
  3. 2-shot of "Trixie" and "Rachel"
  4. 2-shot of "Trampolina" and "Winnie"
  5. worm's-eye view of the leg kicks
I saved the legs kicking for last because
  • it was the shot I could live without if time ran out
  • we could have our P.A.s and the staff start getting the showroom back together while we got that.
Kicks aside, from each angle we covered the whole song two or three times, thus ensuring sufficient coverage to get the a video together even if something prevented us from getting more.

The only things I really needed to change in the choreography were
have them march in place in the two-shots rather than come towards the camera
eliminate the bit where they turn around and grab the flags, instead we did a few takes of just the end of the song wherein the performers already the flags in hand and raised them into shot. You have to think about how this stuff will cut, and while a music video rarely needs the kind of continuity needed by a narrative film, it's good to keep in mind how the pieces might fit together or not.

As efficient as we were, we still ran about 15 minutes long, and even caused the show to be late (the audience lined up outside didn't seem to find once they were told we were shooting a video).

Now, once we left the showroom we had about an hour til they needed to be on stage, but I'd come prepared for this, and before we shot on the stage I, my DP and a PA had gone to one of the hotel rooms and set up a simple greenscreen (a 4.5' wide roll of chromakey green paper) and illuminated them with four 16" china ball lanterns. Not ideal, but workable for a simple setup.
"Rachel" (Ben Schatz) sings in front of a simple greenscreen illuminated by
four 16" china balls. The green was much more even from the camera POV.
The camera is a Canon 5D, operated by Mr. WA. The laptop is playing sound.

We arrived in the room, switched the lights on, got the camera in position, and were shooting within five minutes. I had each singer do the entire song twice, first sort of serious, the second more nutty. As we finished with each singer, we released them to head back to the dressing room to touch-up so the show could go on.

From this angle you can see the small "beauty" light aimed at the singer's face
(foreground left). I'm starting audio playback on the laptop.

While we were shooting, I started dumping the contents of the camera's first memory into my laptop, and did the second immediately upon wrapping, which meant we had a backup (cards and computer) and I could immediately begging log and transfer of the footage after we finished. When we wrapped, I dumped the second card while we broke down the gear.

And that's it for the shoot. The next four days were wall-to-wall editorial.
* * *
"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
óWill Rogers
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