Apr 15, 2014

My Song 2014 - Behind The Scenes!

Hey guys!

I haven't made many posts since November last year, but I'm back now. I generally try not to post unless I have interesting things to post about.

Today I have a bit of a post about a recent shoot I did, the My Song Award 2014.

I generally try not to do live performance shoots nowadays, as last year I came to the realisation that a lot of my audio problems come down to 1) my gear, and 2) the sound engineer at the mixing desk. So I've decided to limit the types of live performances I film.

When Mike from My Song Award/Australian Art Sales asked me to come back again this year to film My Song, I was stoked. Last year was great, and I wanted to come back and see what was improved. It was a great experience, but it's such a shame only a small portion of Dubbo turned out to see it. Dubbo missed out on a great showcase of talent from across Australia!

I'll detail how I filmed the performance, how I edited, and my personal thoughts of the experience.

The Gear I Used:

String Theories - the view from my little perch!

Panasonic GH2

My ever-trustworthy and loveable Panasonic GH2 was my A camera, which I had on my Weifeng 717 tripod. I used a Sigma 35-105mm MD lens that I purchased recently on Fleabay, which I found to be a little cumbersome and heavy... but was a nice sharp lens. I may do away with this lens next year and replace it with the 45-150 from Panasonic. I found that even the slightest touch of the tripod would make the camera wobble, and it really showed in the footage. I need image stabilization and a telephoto reach, so I think the native Panasonic lens will benefit me next time.
Still, I was happy with my GH2 footage (I am rarely disappointed with my GH2).

Dayna James-Gazi - Still frame from GH2

One thing to note is that on last years My Song shoot, I used a slider with my GH2 to add some movement to my shots. I didn't do that this year for two reasons.. one being that my slider is currently broken/not working properly, and two: It's cumbersome and annoying to use with telephoto lenses.

Panasonic G6

I recently purchased a Panasonic G6 to replace my aging GH1, as I wanted to have a bit more of a uniform image quality across multicam shoots. My G6 was on a SLIK Photo tripod, which was a cheapo I picked up before the shoot. I used the kit 14-42mm lens on this camera, and did my best to change the camera around a bit for some more interesting angles across the different performers. For instance, about half way into the String Theories performance I realized that the camera, which was positioned in front of the stage to focus on the Dobro player (guy in the middle) and the Violinist while my GH2 focused on the guitarist and lead vocalist, wasn't really getting just the back of the violinist without capturing much else. So I put it behind the stage to get a nice shot of the violinist with the lights above him. I felt it made for a more interesting shot.

Jade Lee Wright - G6 angle
Jade Lee Wright - G6 Still frame
Panasonic GH1

I had to borrow some extra cameras from my friend and frequent collaborator Bart Riley from Forgotten Walrus Entertainment as I didn't have the time or funds to purchase the cameras myself. I had sold my GH1 and my frequently blogged about LX7 (I used it on last years My Song shoot as well!) to Bart last year to help fund the purchase of my G6, as well as hoping to purchase a second GH2 body. Well, that never happened, so I had to hire my old gear back from Bart anyway!

The GH2 had the kit 14-42mm lens on it, and I had it also mounted on a SLIK tripod that I own. Of all the gear I used on this shoot, the GH1 surprised me most. I had sold the GH1 on the grounds that I felt it couldn't match my GH2 in quality, which was hindering the uniform quality of my wedding videos... and the My Song shoot made me instantly regret selling it. It was the angle that I ended up relying on most for the editing.

Canon HFR20

This was a camera I borrowed from Bart also, which I had mounted on a Magic Arm towards the back of the venue so I had a wide shot with the audience in it (something missing from My Song 2013's videos) to cut to in editing. Sadly though, this was the camera and angle that disappointed me most, so I didn't use it all that often. I think next time I will use my G6, or another camera that is better suited to the task.

Audio Recording

I had previously discussed with the client that I wanted nothing to do with the audio side of things due to my previous disasters with live performance audio, but I had decided recently after purchasing a 5 channel Behringer mixing desk, that I would give it another go. I ended up borrowing a Windows 8 tablet PC from a family member, took the mixing desk along (it outputs to USB) and recorded the audio feed from the house mixing desk, into mine. I recorded directly into an Adobe Audition project so I could edit it all later. This is one of those times where I was so grateful to be working alongside an audio guy who isn't completely ignorant of any other professional in the room. Alan was more than helpful, even agreeing to keep a watchful eye on my recording to make sure I wasn't peaking or anything similar while I focused on filming. The resulting audio is utterly eargasmic... and my only real gripe was some guitars were a bit quiet on one particular set, but that was all.


Dayna James-Gazi's set - In editing

I generally do my editing nowadays in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, as I find the multicam editing feature to be utterly amazing. I did most of my audio tweaking in Adobe Audition. I haven't finished editing the entire collection of footage yet, I have cut most of it and finished up all editing of the "nominated songs". These are 6 videos of the songs that the artists wrote specifically to enter into the competition with and had to perform for the judges on the night. For these clips, I focused on making the edit flow nicely, including transitions (which I didn't do last year). For some clips, I even added some faux movement in the shots just for a bit of interest.

One thing that I decided to do, which I hadn't really thought about doing last year (not completely understanding the job I was given), was record informal interviews with most of the artists so we could get a bit of an understanding on what drives them as musicians. I neglected to take audio gear with me on the shoot (besides my mixer and Tascam DR40 for backup) so I borrowed a microphone from the sound/audio guy and used it for the interviews. I was so impressed with the mic that I decided to buy one of my own (A Shure PG58). You can see some of these interviews in the nominated songs clips. 


 All in all, it was a great shoot with a few small challenges but nothing that completely sucked the fun out of the experience. All in all I felt that my filming efforts this year were a miles-long improvement over last year. The final product speaks for itself, and although it has it's flaws... I'm again proud of my work. My understanding is that the client is happy, which in turn makes me happy.

Here's hoping there is a My Song 2015, and if there is I hope to be in attendance (either as a patron/audience member or working). 

 Thanks for sticking through another one of my novel blog posts. :) Check out the videos, which are below (Be sure to watch in HD for best quality):



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