‘The Journey’ – A Live Music and Stories Event

The Vision

I was tasked to help bring to life a vision that a few guys had for a music event which brings out our churches history with songs, and stories why those songs came to be.
At first I was a little reticent as I didn’t want it just to be a nostalgic throwback, but Rob, Chris, and Aidan assured me it would reflect how God uses everyday people to shape his church. And they were right as the time together was deep and inspiring. It’s well worth a watch.

Choosing Kit

These days you can get a good looking image for comparatively little money, and I’d had plenty of experience with using Sony’s A7 series mirrorless kit whilst working for Upbeat Image. These full frame cameras give you a lovely shallow depth of field and hold up well in low light – two essentials for recording the event. I was able to borrow a couple of these cameras (thanks Viv) and only had to hire a small amount. All the kit I used was able to record at 50 frames per second in full HD, as YouTube now supports that feature and makes for smoother playback compared to 25fps.

Kit List

  • 2x A7S – one on a moving gimbal, one on a tripod
  • 1x A7R – handheld with inbuilt image stabilisation
  • 1x GH3 – wide angle view
  • 2x GoPro – drums
  • 1x JVC camcorder – for a live feed to Chris in the engineers recording lounge

Working out how to set up the Came-TV mini2 gimbal with a little help from YouTube

Filming

During the event the audio recording was being handled by Chris, who was monitoring it in a separate lounge adjacent to the main room. Viv was roaming about on a tablet doing monitor mixes for the musicians.

I was aiming for an intimate feel with the filming, so it’s like you’re there among the people. The gimbal was important to achieve this so I could take the viewer around the room in a smooth way. When it came to the event it was hard not to get into the music and just concentrate on filming. Songs like A New Revolution especially!

The Cameras

Simon’s interview. My wife Anna was on the main camera for interviews and singers. This was an A7S with 70-200mm f2.8 lens which is brilliant for head shots

Anna had an external monitor with focus zoom so she could tell what was in focus, as it’s hard recording in HD to get such a shallow depth of field right

David was on the A7R with a 50mm f0.95 lens, perfect for getting artistic shots

David also captured the testimonies from a different angle

I was using the gimbal with an A7S and a wide angle 21mm f2 lens. Try using one for 3 hours!

The Panasonic GH3 was at the back getting a wide angle shot of the whole room

1st GoPro stuck on the side of the floor tom

2nd GoPro overhead

One of my favourite songs from the event:

Editing

There was a lot to work through – over 350GB of data! The files from the cameras were sorted into folders named after who operated the camera, and then backed up twice.
Due to David and myself moving about it was hard to edit keeping us both out of shot. But I just about managed it, though there are plenty of times you see one of us!
The pace of the edit depended on the tempo of the song, so slow songs had shots which lingered on the singers more, and fast songs had quicker cuts. Once I had done an initial edit of a track I sent it to our sound engineer Chris so that he could mix with video, and bring out certain instruments when they appeared on screen if need be. Once he had mixed the music he sent me a high quality file which I then aligned to the right place in the timeline.

The hardest part was the difficulty I had trying to colour grade the five different types of cameras so they matched! I got there in the end but still a lot to learn with this skill.

To add the finishing touches Aidan came up with some superb graphics to introduce each song and testimony. They were created in Cinema 4D and exported as a PNG sequence with alpha channel so I could just put over the top of the footage in the edit.

The best thing was that the event itself carried depth and meaning. Hearing the stories of why each song came to be, and then singing it give it significance and meaning. The worship songs near the end really lifted off as people were fully relaxed and able to blank out the cameras and mics.

Improvements

I’d make some changes to improve the filming. For starters I’d have only one moving camera with the rest on tripods or monopods to minimise crew in shot. I’d plan the event in more detail to work out who is singing beforehand and make sure one camera is on them the whole time. It would be better with a larger room so we can film looking past people onto the musicians, and have the foreground and background interest. Here’s to next time!

Touch The Flame – Music Video With A Message

Good art is more than technical brilliance. Good art is creative; it inspires something beyond itself. Good art is purposeful, it inspires. But art at it’s best is even deeper than that; it speaks from the heart and to the heart. And when art speaks from the heart of The Creator it’s prophetic.

Piano and pianist music video

There’s a prophetic message from God that’s been circulating around my church (the Jesus Army) recently. It’s about how we need to completely walk away from relying on our own traditions and ways of doing things, living life dry of the power of the Holy Spirit. God wants to set us on fire again for us to live conspicuously connected to and charged by Him, driven by a passion, not dragged along by duty. One key scripture that bears this message for us is 2 Chronicles 7:14-15, which is read out at the start of the video later in this post.

Out of this message came a song titled ‘Touch The Flame’, with a chorus that asks the longing question “what if we turned to you again?” It seemed to strike a chord at a couple of our events so it was decided that it would be made into the month’s official studio produced Jesus Army track, particularly considering it’s timeliness and topical relevancy.

Accoustic guitar and cello

Taking inspiration from an an impromptu live lounge music session the song’s author, Nathan, decided to record the song with a grand piano and asked Carole and Gav to play the cello and acoustic guitar for it. Maybe also taking inspiration from The Piano Guys he asked me to film it to give the vital message a bit more exposure to the church with a shareable music video. Not that I’m claiming to have achieved anything close to the production values of The Piano Guys’ video team, but it’s good to aspire!

Here it is:

I’ve never made a music video before. This project was particularly challenging considering the fact that I was filming the official recording of the track rather than something acted afterwards.

After dinner at our kind host’s house we spent a whole evening recording seven or eight full runs of the song to get the best take we could. We used two cameras, one handheld for closeups and medium shots, the other tripod mounted for medium and wide shots. I was aware that whatever take we used in the end I’d need the closeups of the musicians from the chosen take- I couldn’t get away with syncing too many clips of closeups from unused takes. This meant I ended up taking the same closeup shots all evening.

Crowding around mixing desks producing the music video

Chris temporarily set his desks up in our host’s utility room for the evening. Setting up for hundreds of events teaches you how to travel light and make good use of space.

Editing started with the lengthy and boring process of labeling and splitting all 3 hours and 20 minutes of source footage. With that over I used the roaming camera’s footage as a base for the video, synching it with the mixed track using the live audio captured by the camera’s mic. Then with a broad vision of how I wanted the video to progress between musicians and shots I set about adding in clips from other takes of the song. As the trio weren’t using any kind of metronome each take was at a slightly different speed so some clips had to be slowed down to odd rates like 98.1% of their original speed. It was tough to find enough suitable clips to fit in time with the recorded track and keep the flow going with cuts in suitable places. I’d better not tell you too much about the clips that still aren’t in time as that would spoil it for you!

All three musicians in the music video

Thank you Jayne Elliott, Hannah Chappell, Emmaline Hart and mum for lending all the candles. Thank you Caroline West for lending us your house and putting up with our late noisyness, and thanks to Lionel for his sterling reading of scripture.

All in all, I’m happy with how it all came together.

Lastly, you can buy the album or just the Touch The Flame track from iTunes or listen here:

Impromptu Live Lounge Music Session

A piano, and a floor. Simple.

A piano, and a floor. Simple.

We have just had a new floor laid in the lounge where I live (22mm White Oak) and it turned the room into an amazing reverb chamber, as all the furniture had been moved outside so the sound bounced around for an eternity.
On Friday night after a while of clapping in there (to see how long it echoed for) I rang up Nayf to see if he wanted to wheel in a piano and have a little jam (not on toast – more the musical type). Obviously he was.

Where the piano originated from. No wonder it sounded good.

The inscription on the piano – 100 years of belting out songs.

And the result was three hours of cacophonous noise which grew from two people (singing “O Lord My God”) to eleven by the time we finished at midnight. These are a selection of a few hymns we played.

The candle lighting was not an attempt at being romantic – it was to help people that were self concious (myself included) and it worked. I found it immensely hard to play the trumpet again but if people couldn’t see me then they couldn’t hear my struggles with the darn thing…
I love that people have musical talents that suddenly appear – who knew that Lucy could play the flute, Georgia could play the cello, Fred could sing (haha), and after years of gathering dust I’d play the trumpet again? The house that I live in is called Anthem, and I believe that it is a prophetic name – not just to make music but understanding that the real art in music is listening to what other people are playing, or singing, and adding your ability sensitively. And that in turn applies by being sensitive to the people you spend your lives with.

One of the best bits for me was not the music, but it was hearing that a lady in her seventies was worshipping along with us in the room above. Not that she had any choice of sleeping mind you with that racket going on…