Clowns and Music

The Latest from us…

Hello there! Don’t be shy, come on in, give this a read! This month we’ve been rather busy indeed, considering normally this is a quiet time of year for us. But we’ve still managed to squeeze in one or 2 passion projects.

One of our passion projects this month was our halloween special. This was just a little 1 minute piece that we made within a day. It all started in the car park of the Black Prince pub in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. We had just finished a rather nice lunch with Mr. Luke Boobyer, our on-set caterer, and we were getting in the car to go home, when Luke suddenly had a bit of an outburst. He tried to tell us an apparently hilarious story but to this day we still have no idea what he was saying. What we do know, however, is that Luke has a terrifying laugh.

SO! Without further ado, as we were getting in the car, Rodeo whipped out her phone and speed-wrote a poem to fit such a chilling laugh. (It took all of 2 minutes.) As soon as we got back to the studio we took Luke inside and sat him down in front of our Sennheisser MKH 4-16. Dan told a few jokes to tickle his ribs and soon we had a 7 minute track of Luke’s shrill and scary giggles.

We just so happened to have suitable some footage knocking about on one of our hard-drives; a creepy clown string-puppet capering about in the dark lit by our terrifying and very spooky Dedo lights. One problem: there was no background. It was all black and gloomy. We had only shot this as test footage, after all and did not have time or need to build a set. So Rodeo rummaged through the draws until she found some paintbrushes, (there wasn’t that much rummaging to be done; we have a pretty well-stocked art draw for times like these) and she proceeded to paint some back-drops.

Long story short: Dan read the poem in his best Christopher Lee voice, Rodeo put her painted backdrops into the clown footage and Luke, with great unease, watched the finished video.

You can find the video, “The Laughing Clown” on youtube, right here: 

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Film Tips and Techniques

Our film tip for this month will be the three point lighting technique. This is probably the most basic yet effective lighting set-up in existence. This technique will allow you to have a cleanly lit background, with the subject clearly lit as the focus of your frame, with a nice trim kicking up around their edges, giving it that little bit more depth.

You will need 3 lights for this technique. We recommend a 150w dedo, a 300w Arri tungsten light, and a 650w Arri tungsten light, but bear in mind that there are endless variables that will effect the lights you’ll want to choose. E.G. if you’re in a very big, dark room, you may need some stronger lights, however if there are a lot of reflective surfaces such as white walls that the light will bounce off of, you might not want your lights so bright at all.

Anyway. Let’s say we’re using the demo the 300w and the 650w, and let’s say you’re filming your subject sat at a table, looking directly towards the camera. Firstly, you will need a “key light”. This is the main light used for lighting the subject. We would probably use the 300w in this example. Usually we would place this light at around  30º from the front of the subject, so it will be shining onto them diagonally; not head on. (Head on can look a bit weird sometimes.) It’s usually best to have this light raised up on the stand so it’s taller than the subject. This helps to limit the weird shadows cast on the subject’s face. Imagine sitting around the campfire, holding a torch underneath your chin to scare your little brother. That’s what we don’t want it to look like.

Next, you will need a “fill light”. This is used to light the room and make it look more natural. This is the one that is most dependant on the space. You may want to shine the light directly at the big white ceiling to reflect the light evenly around the room. (This diffuses it an awful lot too.) Or equally you may want to shine it at a specific point. This depends entirely on the space you’re working with and the effect you want to achieve.

Finally, the “trim light” this is sometimes called a “kicker” because you’re kicking the light up around your subjects back and shoulders. But we don’t call it a “kicker” because “kicker” a silly-sounding word and we don’t like it.

The trim light will be positioned somewhere behind the subject where it can’t be seen on camera. It will be angled up towards their head/back/shoulders, casting almost a spotlight around them, from behind. From the front, through the camera’s lens, if positioned right; this will create a halo effect where the subject is almost outlined with a sliver of gold about their shoulder, neck and head. It might sound odd, but it really does look very nice. (Just remember if you’re getting lens flare without a great deal of precision, you’ve either positioned your trim a bit wrong, or you’re JJ Abrams.)

How do we perceive sound? – The Basics

This concept doesn’t have many direct uses for in a studio, however it can be very useful to know when programming effects; such as reverb.

Pitch

Frequencies heard by the human ear are always perceived as different pitches.

The key thing to remember is that the higher the frequency the higher the perceived pitch.

The human ear perceives pitch in not a linear way but a logarithmic construct. This means that certain frequencies are pleasing to people than others.

Likewise certain frequencies can make people feel very uncomfortable. A very useful thing to remember when designing audio for films.

Timbre

This is something that can’t be measured. It’s a term that we give to the tone of a sound.

The tone basically describes the overall quality of the sound.

You will quite often hear the term a warm or cold tone. These are hard to describe in words but warm is usually more pleasing and is the sound often derived from valve driven amplifiers. Cold tones tend to sound very processed and digital.

This is why many guitarists (that know what they’re doing) will only use valve driven amps and analogue effects pedals.

Loudness

This is a very interesting concept.

Humans don’t perceive all frequencies at the same volume level.

The key thing to remember is that frequencies at 2kHz to 5kHz are very easy to hear.

Frequencies at 20Hz to 80Hz are relatively difficult for the human ear to perceive.

This is why the best volume to mix at is around 90dBspl

120dBspl = Threshold of Feeling

130dBspl = Threshold of Pain

Distance Perception

The illusion of distance can easily be created in a mix with 2 main things:

  • Use the tail of the reverb and not the first reflections and limit the transient
  • Gradually loose the low level signals that are usually the higher frequencies

Collaborations

This month we’ve been working with Nikki Loy and her band to produce a video of her album launch. The album is called Pivotal and it is comprised of some songs written at moments of crisis, others spurred on by epiphany, and many songs written as part of a songwriting challenge Nikki set herself.

This was an interesting shoot because not only were we capturing the event, but we were also lighting the stage for the gig. The venue was a recording studio live room. Which suited us as we were able to use the mics used for the live sound, and record the tracks into pro-tools in the control room. It also meant that there was no stage set up, so the room acted as a blank canvas for the band to set up, and for us to light.

We used lots of purple gels on our lights to give that classic intimate music venue effect with warm tones cast by the tungsten lights.

We filmed the whole gig and in the following days, we began post production. Dan, our audio director, mixed and mastered the tracks, keeping in the audience sound to really give the video an intimate feel and a sense of occasion.

Once the audio was finished, Rodeo, our head of film, edited the footage, colour grading it to bring our the details and enhance the atmosphere.

It is still a work in progress, awaiting its final tweaks and changes, but we are looking forward to Nikki Loy releasing it to the world!

That’s all folks!

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