At last we can put online the music documentary about lead singer/ songwriter of Turin Brakes, Olly Knights! We have waited until the album is available for purchase (which is incredible!). It is about his attempt to break his writer’s block, which spanned many years, by going back to complete basics and recording a solo album in his own home using old analogue gear from Ebay.
This was shot on a C300 (with lens whacking done on the Sony FS700 by James Miller) over 3 days…4 and a half, if you count the day we shot for a future longer version of the documentary and for the music video!
Here is a little breakdown of the thought process behind the shoot and some of the gear used.
So why the C300?
It’s my favourite camera…easily. Why? First off, I adore the image. Detailed, great dynamic range and quite resistant to banding. It has a strong internal codec. It works handheld without a rig (no hanheld in this version, but in the long version which has a lot more footage actually). The ergonomics are amazing compared to the competition. Excellent audio handling too! James used my FS700 for his lens whacking.
What gear was used?
Eyedirect used so Olly could look at me even though he was looking at the lens. Essential piece of kit for direct-to-camera interviews. This was the version 1. I have not tried the new version 2.
TV logic 5.6″ My favourite on-camera monitor. Just brilliant.
Canon C300. My HD camera of choice. Amazing image, HD broadcast approved 50mb/s 4:2:2 and wonderful camera to operate.
FS700. Not full broadcast approved in-camera but amazing features and lovely image.
Metabones. Essential and amazingly affordable EOS adaptor for the E mount system. Full iris, IS and focus control all powered by the camera. I now have the Metabones 2.
Canon lenses. 85mm and 50mm Zeiss lenses for interview.
100mm Canon Macro. All those details shots of the tea etc were with this.
Tokina 11-16 Damn fine wide angle lens. Everyone should own this!
Canon 85mm F1.2
Canon 50mm F1.2
Nikon 50mm F1.4 for whacking.
Miller Compass 12 and Compass 20. Love my Miller tripods!
Kessler PB pocket Dolly. Essential
Litepanels 1×1 times 2. Fantastic soft cool lights. Bi-colour and bi-focus.
Dedo 150 watt x3. Perfect for picking out detail and as a hair light.
Rode NTG 3. Fantastic Phantom powered shotgun mic.
Who were the crew?
Myself, producing, directing, DP, editor.
Sarah Estela: Assistant on pick ups and music video. Main assembly editor.
James Miller: Second Camera on 2 days
Why was the documentary made?
Olly is a friend of mine, we struck up our friendship initially on twitter, then made a music video together for his band Turin Brakes. We were chatting over a drink after my London Workshop in May and he was telling me about what he was doing. Naturally I told him I had to make a little 2 or 3 minute film about it…a nice micro doc. He loved the idea, then after thinking about it more and especially after hearing the album, I knew it had to be much longer.
My plan was to do 2 versions…a 20 minutes-ish version and a much longer version…maybe an hour or so. The two versions would be quite different. Version 1 which you can see at the top of this post (and is on the CD version of the album) was always going to be totally focused on just Olly and how the album came about and the process of recording it….peppered with lots of tracks! Version 2, which still needs more filming, is much more in-depth about Olly’s journey from child musician to his huge success in the band Turin Brakes. And everything that came with that, good and bad and then a much more in-detail look at the recording of the album with more songs in it!
Why was the style of the doc chosen?
I love interviews to camera…they feel so intimate, and it feels like they are addressing the audience. It doesn’t work for every type of doc but it did for this. The problem with this style is connecting to your subject, when they are looking at the camera. That is why I used the eye direct which you can see pictured below…a simple device that means Olly looks at the camera but can see me via some mirrors. Works a treat!
The documentary was entirely filmed in his house (apart from the few shots in the music video). Around 95% of it in his front room…the rest in his kitchen and one shot in his hallway. This is a tough thing to work with. With a single location you need to really make sure you engage the audience both visually and with the narrative. I did add some quirky shots in there, my “Wes Anderson-esque” shots…the symmetrical push in and pull outs and the eating of the apple. Quirky touches that added to the quite whimsical feel that I wanted the film to have. That and the lovely lens whacking that James Miller did with the FS700 I really feel gave an extra element other than the interview and performance shots.
How did I light it?
The shots in the kitchen, the hallway and the music video narrative shots were all available daylight. The shots in the front room were all lit. I used a different lighting setup for each song, again to avoid the monotony that a single location can give you. The lights I used were my 2 1×1 Litepanels and 3 Dedo 150 watts. How many of these were used at a time depended on the shot.
For the interview, the main key was a quite side-on 1×1. A second 1×1 was used as fill. A Dedo 150 was used as a kicker. Another one was used to light the Tascam 8 track and the other dedo was used to light me…need for the eyedirect so Olly could see me clearly!
I messed around with colour balances and day light leaks from the curtains for the performance parts. One of the setups was lit very dark and moody (for the song girls). The one for Rip Chord was lit like it was early evening. The one for If not Now When was lit very naturalistically but still with 3 lights going…
What was used for sound?
All the sound was recorded in camera. The interview was recorded on the lovely Rode NTG-3 phantom powered shotgun mic on a boom stand. I normally double mic these things with a Sanken Cos lav mic but for some reason, I don’t know why now, I just went with the boom. Very happy with the audio! The bit at the beginning of the film where Olly is playing live guitar was again recorded on the Rode. All the performances were of course mimed so Olly’s mics were used for them.
How much post work did I do?
The film was edited on Premiere CS6. The assembly was done by Sarah (which was a lot of work) whilst I was in LA shooting the GH3 film Genesis. She then sent me the projects over Dropbox as we had identical drives, so I was able to give feedback and check it out. I then came home and spent a fair amount of time moving stuff around, tweaking, fiddling until I was happy. Olly was very happy with the rough cut and as far as I can remember, wanted very little in the way of changes. I graded it in Colorista II with a touch of Magic Bullet looks 2. It was cropped 2.35 to 1 in post, I framed it for this using the c300 markers, by using pre-created 2.35 to 1 masks on a top layer. Export was done via Adobe Media Encoder.
What is next?
Well we need to do some more shooting to get the longer edit done. But for now we are all happy and excited for this to be out and for the album to be released. The music really is UTTERLY beautiful. I have played it hundreds of times, not just in the edit, and still keep on playing it. You can buy it by clicking here or on the below image.
Please check out my two previous collaborations with Olly in his band Turin Brakes below this.