Monday, March 26, 2018

It's Video Time!

I haven't done a lot video projects since I got the A99ii so I was excited to make this video for the non-profit bike shop Bikes for Humanity, promoting bike maintenance and use in the community.
Sometimes the bike shop can be a bit hectic, busy with volunteers fixing bikes and having fun, so initially I thought that would be a good style for the promotional video, explaining about how they were moving next door. So I did an hour or so of test shooting using the auto-focus options of the A99ii, because I needed to also ask questions in the interview while handholding the camera and moving it around. I figured that manual focusing while doing all that would be a bit much. As you might now by now if you own the camera, it goes into P mode and locks the aperture to 3.5. It's not too bad if the lighting is okay but can be quite bothersome and inflexible in some scenarios. Auto focusing seem to work well at times, but miss the mark at other times, switching from a person's face to the computer monitor in front of him for example. Also i had some bike mechanics show me some equipment, bringing it forward, but the camera would not lock on it, always seemingly preferring a face.
I realized that style wasn't really doing it for me, especially considering the limitations on the A99ii. So instead I decided to switch to a completely different style, inspired by the film director Wes Anderson.
That involved putting the camera on a tripod and shooting very static shots. I also decided not to have the main shop operator talk to the camera but add his voice as narration which simplified both production and the post process. 
The movie was planned to be edited in 1080p but I did shoot the opening exterior shots with the new 4K capabilities. That allowed me to stand at the opposite side of the street, shooting two storefronts and having Andrew, the Bikes for Humanity administrator, walk from one storefront to the other while the "camera" is tracking him. Without 4K I would have had to rent an expensive dolly and spend a lot of time trying to make the movement perfect. Instead I just zoomed into the footage and did pan and scan instead in Premiere Pro CC2018, changing the position of the footage.
This kind of trick shows the advantages of new technology. Sure, you could have made the same shot 40 years ago, but it would have been much more costly, requiring a crew of at least 6 people. Instead I could do this for no cost with just me and Andrew.
For the rest of the shoot I really utilized focus peaking to manage how much of the frame is in focus and where it is. I set it to medium and the color to red, a color that really pops out, shooting in 1080p 60p, except for one shot that had a bike spinning where I used S & Q slow motion in 120p. I also took some drone shots with a non-Sony camera :)
The trickiest shot for me was the one for the end credits. I wanted the feel of a dolly but didn't have one. So I used the Minolta 200mm 2.8 and just panned across the mural. I adjusted in post by scaling the shot a little bit and rotating it to compensate for the changing horizon.  Pans are tricky shots, especially if you plan to add text in post by tracking the shot. I ended up shooting in 1080 120pfs with a shutter speed of 1/250. This meant I had double the amount of frames I needed to edit in 60p for smooth tracking which I did with Imagineer Mocha and After Effects. After tracking the movement (using the full 120fps) and attaching the text, I slowed the footage down. The important thing to remember is NOT to use frame blending or any other optical frame estimation in either After Effects or any software you might use. Your footage should already have extra frames to allow for smooth slow motion.
I like the video in the A99ii much better than the so-so video that the A99 had. It is much cleaner with a better codec and improved bitrate. Though I wasn't really using the recorded sound, the internal microphone provided much better clearer usable sound than the original sound did in the indoor scene
That said, the new specs on the Sony e-mount camera makes me wish I had one so that I could have things like video eye-AF, AF in M mode and higher frame rate slow motion.

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