Mikey Georgeson: My Heroine

This is the video I shot for Mikey Georgeson And The Civilised Scene’s single “My Heroine”.  Whenever I write something like this I always try to include the sort of information I would want to see – which is largely technical.  Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

The Meeting

Mac, Mikey and I met up a few times to discuss possibilities for the right song and the right idea.  At one meeting we had in a Pret á Manger in Holborn, Mikey asked me “What’s the video syntax for envisioning what’s happening inside someone’s mind?”  I said, “It’s the Numskulls.”  There’s probably a more grown-up artsy fartsy answer that would include the word “homunculi” that I might give on a different day, but it would meant the same.

For those under a thousand years old, here’s the Numskulls:


(I didn’t actually research this further and I’ve just googled that image for this blog.  It’s very much how I remember.)

Equally ridiculously, this picture was hanging on the wall in the Pret á Manger so I was able to point and say “er… something like that”.


With this in mind I gave a bit more thought over the following weeks about how it might work.

The Shoot

We shot this over two days.  The first day was all green screen.  Everyone (apart from Mikey) needed to look like a “kopf-arbeiter” so white boiler suits/bib and braces were employed.  Jonny Drums was first in the driving seat and did a brilliant job. Simon Love played my lovely Gretsch White Falcon and was also great – no fuss, no muss.

During the week between the first and second day I was able to start putting the video together and getting a far better idea of how it would look and what else I would need.

Here’s the note I sent mid-week:

I want to start with the first 28 seconds (up to the vocal) being Real World Mikey attempting illustrations (which I will present in a montage style) before deciding on the particular head profile image.
We will then move through that image to the “band in his head”. I want to return to Real World Mikey for the first round of “Night Fever” lines (2:16), returning to ShowBiz Mikey In His Own Head for the second set (starting 2:32). We will return to Real World Mikey at the VERY end when he indifferently scrunches up the drawing and tosses it over his shoulder. The inside the head will be very high key and stylised and I want the Real World Stuff to be as cinematic and low key as possible.

Mac was fantastic at being the Numskulls, each one representing a different sense.  We shot about 60 seconds of each Numskull to get enough for the looped elements.  That’s an excellent ratio.  I was very pleased with each of the Numskulls which are sped up with the same piece of footage reversed and repeated to give an endless, seamless loop.



Right at the end of the shoot, Mikey popped out to get some tea.  He came back with tea and a saxophonist.  The sax player in question, Matt, was rehearsing at the studio where we were filming.  We had NO time, but Matt was a fantastic sport.  He immediately donned the boiler suit and ran through the track with no rehearsal.  It was quite astonishing.


Matt – come the moment, come the sax-man.

Mac also gets the tablecloth credit.

Lighting and Cameras

I shot everyone with two cameras, a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the always-fabulous-for-video Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM for close-ups.  In the end I hardly used the close-ups.  I used the CineStyle picture style to create very flat images that I can post process with greater flexibility.  I always find it hard to work with a flat picture style because it all looks so crap on the day.  But you soon learn that it will be alright in the end.

The room we used on the second day was a bit smaller and I had to use the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 USM L II for the greenscreen full-length shots.   Because of the very wide angle I had to stretch these images in post-production to get them to sit with the previously shot 35mm footage.

The “Real World” section was all shot with a single light, one of my Jinbei EF-100 LED lights in the Lencarta 150cm Profold Folding Octa Softbox.  It was shot with as narrow a depth of field as possible, again using the 5DIII and the 70-200 at F/2.8

The “Gimme” section was shot with my widest lens, the always-daft Sigma AF 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM.  It’s not fish-eye, it’s rectilinear.  Innit?

Finally the Ultra-Close-Up shot of Mikey was done using the Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L IS USM Macro lens with an utterly brutal 360-LED ring light I ordered on eBay from some nice people in India.  It’s very flattering for this sort of horribly close-up shot – there are no real shadows anywhere and even the mouth is illuminated nicely.  But’s it’s awfully bloody bright when you’re close up to it.


This one was done almost exclusively in Premiere CC.  After Effects is powerful but I quickly get irritated by its lack of real-time playback.  I did have to do some of the greenscreen keying in AE – certainly AE is better for this.    As with my last video, this was challenging because of the amount of imperfect greenscreen footage that I needed to sort out.  It must be nice working with a proper greenscreen studio but I have developed a lot of strategies for getting stuff to work and I am pleased with this side of things.

During post-production, the main thing that developed beyond the original scope was the sense of increasing chaos in the section of the song from 3:15 to 3:45.  This really came to life in the post production and took most of the time.

For the “Gimme” shot, I added moving coloured lights a) because the singing reminded me of a police siren b) It helped bond the Multiple-Mikeys into a single cohesive image.

The Animations

From the very beginning, I wanted the video to draw on Mikey’s other life as a visual artist.  The more we got into the video, the more of Mikey’s graphical work I used.

We wanted a sense of unfolding chaos in the unhinged artist’s head.   Mikey provided a rich seam of barmy drawings in the form of his Dawn Drawing blog.  First I had to take the over-compressed images from Mikey’s blog:


So here’s one example.  As you can see there are lots of nasty JPG artefacts:

Taxi - Original

I cleaned the images up in PhotoShop.  Here’s the tidy version which is cleaner and fatter:


I tried using the Write-On effect in Premiere CC to animate the drawing of the pictures.  I was not the first person to discover that this is ARSE-QUAKINGLY slow.    I’m not fussy about real-time performance, but this was unusable.  So I asked my twelve-year-old son how he would do it.  He’s a self-taught Adobe Flash animator.  His advice was excellent.  I imported the JPGs into Flash and broke the images apart.  I then erased elements of the drawings frame by frame, thinking about how they would actually be drawn in reality, creating the whole animation in reverse.  I rendered the video as 32-bit MOV files.  The 32-bit is important if you need transparency in the video.  8-bits for each colour and 8 bits for the alpha channel.  I also re-rendered the complete image as a PNG graphic to retain transparency.  I created all the animations in black and used Replace Colour in Premiere to give me options for the colours in that final crazy meltdown section.

It was a real treat working with Mikey, Mac and the guys.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Here is is….



Posted on February 28, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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