by Greg Joyce
Willoughby Films is pleased to be the video sponsor of Founder Dialogues VII, which features Russ Wilcox, founder of E Ink. Founder Dialogues is a series of candid discussions with Boston’s leading entrepreneurs. It is presented quarterly and led by Eric Paley of Founder Collective, a seed-stage venture capital fund.
A few people–both during and after the event–asked how we produced the video, what gear we used, the editing software, etc.
The 11th floor (actually the 10th and 11th floors) of the Microsoft NERD [New England R&D] Center in Cambridge, MA is an airy, large, intriguingly-designed space. It’s a cool place to shoot, but has its challenges. For example, forget about bouncing light off the ceiling, because the ceiling is thirty feet up.
photo by Ian Holmes, Founder Dialogues
I wish we had had time to fully exploit all the interesting filming angles the place offers, but it was more important to get a clean, clear looking (and sounding) ninety minutes of video.
- A-camera, [manned by Phil Santoro, whose work I highly recommend, by the way] — Sony HDR AX2000
- B-camera [tripod, locked down] — Canon XHA1
- C-camera [roving, manned by me] — Canon 5D Mark II (with Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS and Nikon 135mm f/2.8 lenses). Interestingly, this is the same camera used to shoot the movie Act of Valor, which was #1 at the box office movie last week.
Here are raw shots from each camera, all taken at the same instant:
C–Canon 5D Mark II
As you can see, each camera has its own look. The footage shot with the full-frame sensor Canon 5D Mark II camera is especially distinctive, and, I think, pleasing. Note the shallower depth of field that gives the 5DII a film-like quality–which is why Hollywood is starting to use it.
You may wonder, “Why not use the Canon 5D Mark II as the A-camera to record the entire presentation?” Good question. While the 5DII is capable of beautiful film-like images, it can only capture approximately 12 minutes of video at a time. That’s partly due to its file size limitation, and partly a problem of the camera getting hot enough after twelve minutes of recording to commit camera suicide. Founder Dialogues was scheduled for ninety minutes, so the 5DII would not have been practical.
Although I suppose I could have used seven or eight of them…
The Sony HDR AX2000 doesn’t have that self-immolation problem [note to Canon-- I'm kidding.] although its maximum file size limit causes it to blink off for a second after twenty minutes or so. The Canon XHA1 is a tape-based video camera and can last as long as whatever length of tape it’s using.
So for this event, I ended up using the 5DII mostly for occasional, portrait-like shots.
- CoolLights 655PMD (a 6 x 55watt fluorescent light bank) http://www.coollights.biz/cl655pmd-cool-lights-portable-dimming-watt-softlight-p-71.html
- A second, similar no-name 6 x 55watt fluorescent bank.
We placed these relatively large (24″ long x 16″ wide by 4″ deep), soft fluorescent lights at a shallow angle on either side of host Eric Paley and guest Russ Wilcox. They sat in front of an audience of a hundred or so. My concern that the lights might be too bright for some members of the audience turned out to be unfounded. And, because they are fluorescents, these lights give off no appreciable heat.
We’re only using tungsten lights these days when their extra heat would be a benefit at a location. I’m only half-joking.
Quick Production Tip: To prevent people tripping, we taped down the cables to the lights with Scotch(r) Blue(tm) Painter’s tape (medium adhesion). This tape is great for location shooting because it leaves no residue on floors, although it can stick a little to the cables themselves.
I toyed with the idea of adding rim lights behind each speaker, but decided the extra time and effort — a huge projection screen directly behind the speakers made placing the lights a challenge — would not be worth the negligible bump in image quality.
To record audio, we used a Sennheiser wireless lavalier and a second lav miked to each speaker and fed into the A-camera. (The two additional mics you can see on each speaker in the video were dedicated to the location’s PA system and not available to us.)
We considered mounting a Zoom H4N to a mic stand placed between Paley and Wilcox, but the sound was clean enough from the lavs that it wasn’t necessary. Besides, the mic and stand would have been in the shot.
Roving Camera Support: Manfrotto 561B Monopod
This monopod helped keep the Canon 5D Mark II relatively stable for the roving shots, but a shoulder rig might have been a better choice, especially when using the longer, 135mm lens. The monopod is designed to rotate so it can perform pans; I wasn’t doing pans.
I edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, (which I switched to after the Final Cut Pro X kerfuffle–haven’t decided yet if I’ll invest the time in a transition to FCPX), and used Plural Eyes to synch the audio among the various cameras.
You may have noticed a blue cast in the Canon XHA1 screen capture. That was easily corrected with a new white balance during the edit. I matched the looks among the cameras by color-correcting with Magic Bullet Colorista II.
Canon XHA1 after color correction
I also shot “flat” with the 5DII (which gives a low contrast look in-camera) because it’s ultimately better for tweaking the image in post, as you can see here.
Canon 5D Mark II after color correction
I used a Motion template along with the original video to create the introduction animation that so captivated Nathalie Bishop of Founder Dialogues. The intro helps give the entire video a nice, professional sheen. Click on the picture to see the intro.
Distribution of the Video on the Web
Because the full video is 90 minutes, the video file needed to be compressed–a lot–to make it feasible for web distribution. While the final video looks good, especially for web distribution, it’s no match for the original master in all its high definition glory. Unfortunately, that is available only on the Willoughby Films computers, but a larger, less-compressed version of the distributed video can be seen here.
The event–and its video aftermath–were a success. Nathalie Bishop, Founder Dialogues organizer: “Thanks for your impeccable professionalism, Greg… The video looks amazing… You do great work, we’re totally thrilled. I’m obsessed with the intro, it just looks so great!”
Hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes. Questions, comments, etc. are welcome.