Blog Archives

Stars In Battledress: A Winning Decree

I have been a fan of Stars In Battledress since I first saw them supporting Cardiacs in 1999. Tim Smith was and is a big fan of this unique duo; they are brothers Richard and James Larcombe. Elder brother Richard sings and plays intricate phrases on his crystalline ES-335 while James provides the keyboard and piano parts that intertwine and mesh with the guitar parts in a way that defines their unique sound. Like a few of of the bands I follow I find it hard to believe that Stars In Battledress don’t have a global underground following.

I was very excited to have the chance to work on a project with Stars In Battledress, not least because it meant I would hear the new album before most people. I have loved their first album since it was released in 2003 and the second album has been anticipated by “the people who know about these things” for a long time.

This video was very much the brainchild of Richard and he found the location and story-boarded the whole thing. Collaboration is a funny old business and it always works best when you are working with people with complementary skills. Richard has a strong performance background and my role was more cinematographer than director.

One of the things I wanted to try for this video was to run at a fast shutter speed to give a panicked frenetic look to the section starting at 4:19. Normally you set a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second for 25 frames per second video. You an find lots of resources on this online that explain how this emulates the way the shutter works on a film camera. By using a faster shutter – this is at 1/200s – you lose the smooth motion blur and gain a slightly hyper-real nervous sort of a look. It’s been used in lots of famous action sequences and I wanted to add some energy to this section of the video. It’s a risky strategy because you make the decision before you start filming – it is not a post production choice. But I think it really works here.


Knifeworld: Don’t Land On Me

Kavus, Mel and I sat down after in a pub in Islington early in 2013 to discuss the next Knifeworld video. Kavus showed me the video to Slade’s 1971 smash “Look Wot You Dun”  The look is stark, with a black background and bright lights, wide angle lenses and right in yer face.

The remit was to get a heightened performance video: like watching Knifeworld play live while the viewer is on psychedelics.
The song is eight minutes long and I went through Bob Drake’s wonderful mix of the song second by second creating an Audio/Video reference chart so I would always know where I was in the song.   I listened to nothing except that track for a week to make sure I knew it inside out.  It is testament to the song that – even after this and editing the video – I still love it.

We filmed it all in one session in July.

Camera and lenses

I shot almost everything with the Canon 5D Mark III – it works so well with all that tricky black – and some with a monopod mounted 5D Mark II.
I also shot the first minute and a couple of other shots with a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition. This let me shoot at 60FPS and some of the shots you see towards the end are slowed down from 60FPS to 25FPS. The GoPro is a fantastic little camera capable of amazing things. I used the Neat Video addin to help reduce the noise, which is the cameras only real shortcoming.

Main lenses were:

  • Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM – for goofy ultra-wideness
  • Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye – now discontinued but a great lens. I love the fisheye shot at 1’37” and one of my favourite details is that I got Nicki and Chlöe to wear the same lipstick for symmetry. Charlie is holding the fan to the right of the camera.  Nice fan work.
  • Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM – great video workhorse.  Revolting for stills.
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM for the eyeball close-up.
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – I love this lens for video.  Great colour and contrast.

I used a starlight filter for maximum ToTP-ness. Mainly because no-one uses them anymore and they’re groovy.


Luis Fortuna was doing the theatre lighting and assisting with the audio playback.

For this shoot, as well as the theatre lights, I used a couple of LED lights: a big LED panel and my new Jinbei EF100 which I bought from the excellent Foto Morgen in Germany.

I have since bought another of these cracking lights from FM. They are the same form factor as studio flash heads and use the same Bowens S-fit adaptor. This means I can use my normal light modifiers, including my favourite, the Lencarta 150cm folding Octobox, which I used extensively here.

I also used one of these bonkers £25 160 LED lights as a hair light.
Battery life with a camcorder battery is fantastic. I used one from my long-redundant twelve-year-old Panasonic camera and it worked on full power for 2.5 hours.


I spent about five evenings banging this into shape and it very suddenly came together pretty close to what you see in the final cut. Everything was done in Premiere CC. There’s a bit of fiddling around with time and the big solarized wobbly BOOOOM! does a good job of signifying that important noise.

After the main cut was complete, Emmett added some nice touches as overlays. The lava, cloudy skies and fireworks are all his and I think they really work.

I also animated Steve’s ( excellent Believer’s Roast and Don’t Land On Me graphics using After Effects CC.

I won’t embed the video because I want you to watch it full screen in HD.  Here’s the link

%d bloggers like this: