The Cesarians: Control
I only saw The Cesarians for the first time at the end of May 2015. They were playing with two bands I love and with whom I have been lucky enough to do some stuff – Knifeworld and Barringtone. So there was a good probability that I was going to enjoy them.
I was hugely impressed and I think their Wrong-Rock/Odd-Pop worked really well in that company. Like most of the bands I enjoy, they seemed way too beautiful, massive and impressive for the intimate world in which I got to experience them.
I took some pictures on the evening: https://flic.kr/s/aHskcg6gG6
Anyhoo a couple of weeks later we met up to discuss videos. The track “Control” is probably the most commercial track from the excellent “Pure White Speed” and a good choice for a single.
The song seemed to me to need smoke and slow motion. I also like to try to offer a nod to a band’s existing visual identity and I really liked the photo montage they had created by Tom Sergeant. So that was two things I fancied doing.
I needed to think about how I was going to pull off the slow motion. I am a Canon user through and through. I love their lenses, but Canon have been criticised in recent years for falling behind in camera innovation. To do slow motion you need high frame rates and none of my Canon cameras will do full HD video at high frame rates. Even iPhones can do somewhat ropy 10x slow motion at 720P so how hard can it be?
I looked into hiring a Sony FS700, which would let me use my Canon lenses with an appropriate adapter but would cost a lot of cash. Fortunately, Sony very recently released two new essentially consumer-grade cameras that can create full 1080P HD video at 250 frames per second, the RX10 II and the RX100 IV. I tried both and decided the cheaper, smaller RX 100 Mark IV would do what I needed. The camera will record thirty minutes of 1080P at 100FPS – which allows the creation of smooth 4x slow motion. It also lets you record two-second 1080P clips at 250FPS, creating 10X slow motion. The camera records for two seconds and then takes 20 seconds to write the video to the SD card. So the camera is busy for that 20 seconds while that happens. The card needs to be at least 64G SDXC for the 250FPS stuff. Like the FS700, you can trigger the recording of the clip AFTER the moment has passed. This takes a little getting used to, but works really well. The camera is placed in a Standby mode. You point it at the action, and once the moment has happened, hit the record button and the previous two seconds of action is processed into a 20 second slow motion clip on screen. You can cancel at any time and the clip will still be rendered and saved up to the point where you hit Cancel.
To make a worthwhile effect with slow motion, you need to run at at least double speed. This meant that for the main lip-synced performance, Charlie and Justine would have to sing along with the track at double speed. This is harder than it sounds. They both spent time practising with the speeded-up version before the shoot which really helped.
Jonathan Ecky helped out on this shoot. Jonathan and I talked about how slow motion allows us to see emotion play out in a microscopic way. I asked the ladies to give me a tiny facial moment during the two seconds that acrid smoke filled the space in which we were filming. I asked them to “look into the face of God” but only a little bit.
We used a smoke machine for most of the shoot, but I also brought along some smoke grenades. I got mine from Wolf Armouries, an Airsoft shop near Kings Cross. Smoke grenades provide a LOT of smoke in a short time which was ideal for what I needed. Note that coloured smoke grenades can stain and the grenades throw off a few sparks. But they’re safe to hold with gloves and aren’t terribly noxious. We all survived more or less intact.
Here’s the full two seconds of Justine rendered at 10x slow motion:
Über Ultra Wide Angles
I’m a sucker for distorted perspectives. Previous videos have featured other Ultra Wide Angle lenses, but this is the first outing for my brand new Canon EF 11-24 F/4.0L. An eye wateringly expensive lens but the widest rectilinear full-frame UWA lens available to mortal Canon shooters. Only 1mm wider than my next widest lens, but the optical quality is fantastic. I love the combination of ring lights and UWA lenses. Yes – I do this a lot. Yes – I’m going to keep doing it.
The Cesarians’ album “Pure White Speed” is now out. Buy it.
Here’s the video.