Apr 12, 2013

Filming a Music Video with the LX7 - Jon O Nicholson - "Hallelujah"

Yesterday was an interesting day.

I started off the morning double checking my gear, after a 5 hour nap. I repacked my gear bags and prepared for an afternoon of filming with talented Wellington-based performer Jon O Nicholson. We had planned to do a very quick and simple music video shoot in his recording studio.

I had originally planned to shoot this video with my Panasonic GH2, and all on sticks... but recently I added the Lumix LX7 (I've raved about this camera a LOT) and a new Dolly/Slider that I wanted to try out. I saw this music video as an opportunity to test out the LX7 in a film making-type environment.

I wanted the video to suit the song in the sense of feeling the singer was alone in a dark room/warehouse with only minimal light around him. I felt it fitted well with the reverb of the audio track. I borrowed the idea of shooting it in black and white, with Jono in a suit and emulating and old 50's/60's style, from a photo shoot I did with Jon O a few months ago. The idea was simplistic, required little to no planning... and very minimal equipment and setup time.

Right off the bat I knew I'd have trouble with the lighting. I knew I wanted a spotlight/hairlight setup, and the LX7 may not hold up well if I have to push ISO to brighten the image. Both my lights were low budget, a $20 Bunnings worklight with an energy saving globe rated at around 40w, and my LED Video ring light worth $40. The light you see leaking through the black background is light from a window with tarp over the outside. This actually worked quite well in giving us a "backlight" of sorts. The ring light was set up on Jon O to seperate him from the background. For the most part it worked well.

I set these up, bumped up the ISO to 500, and shot the video in black and white (which was what the final product was to be edited as anyway). The reason I shot B/W in camera is simply because in my tests, there was enough dynamic range to give the subject a flattering presence (balancing the highlights with the mids, letting shadows fall off nicely into the blacks) without crushing the image completely.

We shot with the LX7 mostly on the slider attached to my Weifeng 717 and got some really nice fluid dolly shots.

Unedited stills from the footage are below. Click to open the 'originals' (Picasa web still compresses images unfortuntely).

My final thoughts, both on the shoot and the use of the camera, are as such:

The shoot was indeed a success. We did a bloody good job with the lighting setup we had, which although limited in use and very frugal... we did good with it. Jon O was an absolute legend about the shoot, and very patient with me. I've worked with him in the past for photo shoots, and for a live performance video. He's a genuinely funny guy, and even funnier when you let him have a guitar in his hand. I especially chuckled at him making up lyrics on the spot whilst waiting for me to set up one of my shots, and watched as he followed his comedic ditty with a guitar solo straight out of the 50's!

The LX7 was an absolute joy to work with. I expected the footage to look much worse than it did, but it held up well. Most of my issues came with focusing, but that is mostly because I wasn't manually focusing during most of my slider movements. When focus was nailed, the image was brilliant. If I had shot this in colour, granted... it wouldn't have looked as nice... but the quality of the inbuilt monochrome preset just blows me away. Battery power was my only other problem, but this is what happens when you rely on a camera to allow you to film for 4 hours and not having a spare battery.


The video is currently uploading to Youtube as I type this, so I will edit the post and include the video link when it's finished. If you enjoy the video, please head over to Jono's Facebook page and give him a thumbs up!

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