Skinny Molly and the Video Kid.

Here’s Skinny Molly playing ‘Too Much’. It’s at my usual blues club, the Boom Boom in Sutton, south London. Skinny Molly are from Nashville and they play the kind of tight, hard-hitting and exciting southern rock that you’d hope for from such an outfit. If they are around your way, don’t miss them. The audience at the Boom Boom is never slow to show their appreciation of good music but they went pretty wild listening to Skinny Molly. Here’s a band that really know how to work the audience to best effect, playing great music and seeming to have just as good a time as the audience while doing it. It’s infectious!

The video is shot on my Panasonic GX7, this time on the 12-35mm f2.8 zoom, rather than the 14-140mm f3.5-5.6 zoom I used for Ryan McGarvey. I was standing about 3 metres from the stage so the wide shots are right down to 12mm. I avoid zooming as much as possible but it is inevitable when you are so close to the stage and the band move around. The 35mm end zoomed me in to nice close-ups on Mike Estes with plenty of leeway for when guitarist Jay Johnson and bass player Luke Bradshaw move in together.

In the close to the stage situation I was in, the necessity to focus and re-focus rears its ugly head. I hate having to focus in video because when you muff it, it shows. In stills, you can at least discard the fuzzies! I’m learning a bit about video, especially the technical problems it throw at you. The main problem is, no second chances. If you want to video one song, you have to get it right first time. The band won’t be playing it again and you can’t stop to make adjustments.

The first thing I’ve learnt is the 180 degree shutter. I shoot at 25fps and I am advised to use a shutter speed of double my frame rate. I find that the advice is good, 1/50th does give natural looking movement at 25fps. I use shutter priority and auto ISO but I intend to experiment with manual exposure, just setting the camera at the beginning of the shot and keeping it the same all the way through. Obviously this would be ridiculous with stills since the light across the stage and during songs varies so much but it may make for a more natural rendering in video. Having said that, the GX7 has coped with lighting changes in this video seamlessly so maybe auto is best. I’ll be interested to find out.

Where focusing is concerned, I used, for the first time in serious use the peaking facility. It is brilliant! Shooting HD 1080p, on a big screen focusing errors really do show up. The peaking gives you nice confirmation that you are not off focus as much as on. Without an aid, it is very difficult to check focus accuracy and using the picture in picture magnified image is too off-putting in live shooting. Peaking fills the gap nicely. Before using it, I wondered what all the clamour about it was but I do understand now. In stills shooting, I find it both less precise and slower than the magnified picture in picture.

The other bugbear for music video is sound. The GX7 doesn’t have a microphone input. It does have sound level adjustment for the inbuilt mic, though. I set it to the lowest level here, the next level up showed the red overload boxes occasionally and it has given good levels without distortion. When you take into account the loudness of Skinny Molly and the fact that I was maybe 2.5 metres from one of the PA speakers, it’s a miracle.

The in-lens stabilization of the 12-35 is very obviously just as effective as the new 14-140’s which i praised recently. I am not young, my hands were not particularly steady when I was and I like a drink or even two 🙂 When I shot this video, I had been standing for over an hour. Amazing.

One last thing, I can never seem to learn which way to turn the focus ring to go from near to far and vice versa. Maybe I’m dumb but it’s a problem for me. You can see that I’ve gone out of focus a couple of times in this video. Then I remembered the MF (Manual Focus) Guide on the Custom menu, page 4. With that on you have no excuse for turning the ring the wrong way.

And another last thing. I thought I’d use my GH3 for the my next blues club shoot and try an external microphone. But my flagship camera doesn’t have focus peaking. There’s always something, isn’t there?

3 thoughts on “Skinny Molly and the Video Kid.

  1. Clive Wade

    Hi Dave
    I have recently discovered your posts on Youtube and have found them really interesting.
    Like you I have evolved to m4/3 using GH2 and GH3 and now I have bought an EM1. I go to a blues club on a Friday night in North London called St Harmonica’s where I have been taking video of the acts and posting them on Youtube.
    Two features of the EM1 are impressing me – the image stabilisation and the ability at the push of a button to get a small green frame up, move the frame around on the screen, push the button again and go into telephoto mode while I am filming. another push of the same button and I am back on the original view. It is like having two cameras available.
    Here’s a link to a video I shot recently using this technique at St Harmonica’s and there’s plenty of room for improvement but I thought you might find it interesting.

  2. Stephen WrattenSwratten

    Hi David, love the blog and the posts on utube. I am moving to micro four thirds as a result of listening to your comments etc. One question I have is that in your videos you often show your cameras with a leather loop bound with red tape. What function does this serve? Is it a form of finger strap?
    Keep posting the reviews and videos of France as I really enjoy them.

    1. Post author

      Hi Stephen -I’m glad you like the stuff I do – I carefully don’t push M4/3 because it won’t be for everyone but I can’t hide my personal enthusiasm for it!

      The red strap is a loop, through which I put a leather strap when I want to carry the camera over my shoulder, that’s all. I also use a wrist strap from the same source which you may have seen. They are from Gordy’s Camera Straps. The other one you see on my videos is a bigger loop and is a wrist strap. I’m actually using them less now and tending to use a cheapie I bought on Amazon which attaches to the tripod fitting. I prefere the cameras without any straps at all, basically, but sometimes they are necessary. I definitely prefer the sling straps to the standard ones, though.

      Do you spend time in France? I’m there 3 three or four months a year, in a hilltop village, completely different from the London suburbs where I spend the rest of my time!


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