Feature Story

Shooting the show, after the show

Noush Skaugen entangled in sound
Conducting the Audience
Get it on!
In the Air Tonight
Into deep
Riding out the strings
Up-close and personal

On November 29th 2007 I had the pleasure of shooting the performance and award reception of Noush Skaugen at the 17th Annual Los Angeles Music Awards. A pivotal moment in her career.

- How it was captured

I shot the entire performance on a Canon HV20 to tape. Now this was not only my first hands-on experience with the HV20 but also a first camcorder for me after more than 5 years. I don't like camcorders for production. They make things hard that should be fluid. Like manual focus and zoom. But renting a motion picture cam rig was both out of budget and not practical for this shot. A 35mm adapter was also out of question as I was positioned to shoot from the audience. True indie style, "stealing" the shot.

Given I only had one camera it had to be a single continuous shot without breaks for the whole performance. So all my close-ups and wide establishing shots had to be done with the HV20's zoom. Interesting deal.

- Post Production

On the post side of things I also had to account for the fact "somehow" that the still camera I had on me was useless. I had a tiny Pentax Optio 750z which constantly lost focus and the manual mode invokes the fun of spooning out your left eye.

But besides a good looking video we also needed printable PR shots from that show. To extract useable prints I first had to go through all the frames of the shot and select a few key moments for extraction. The extraction itself was quite interesting. To fight the shortcomings of a camcorder I took 3 frames to get one clean still image.

Keep in mind that video cameras do not use the RGB color model but a relict from the 1950s paired with interlacing (it's 2008!) so you lose a lot of resolution there already.

A camera, especially the HV20 only records the lightness (grayscale) channel in full resolution and the vertical and horizontal color channels at a quarter of that. Full doesn't imply 1920 x 1080 here. It means 1440 x 1080 stretched to 1920 x 1080 in post. No consumer cam does a true 1920 x 1080 to date.

Which results in huge missing parts in the blue channel, artifacts in the red channel and a bit of both in the green channel when viewed as RGB. Hence I needed to create it as 3 for 1 to get a clean image that looked as if shot with a still cam.

With a bit of motion estimation principles magic I was fairly quickly able to average out the missing pieces from the images and repair the channels.

- Editing stage

I edited the video portion of the shot in Final Cut Pro to the point where I got breakdowns of shots figured out from the zooming and panning actions. All divided into bins with close-up shots, wide shots, intermediates and sorted by color of stage lighting. This way I could automate a bit of the task. But careful it has to match on the timeline again! It's just a very organized way of doing an online/offline edit.

After that it was fairly painless. Color grading the extracted stills in Speed Grade side by side with the video sequences was also pretty straight forward. The whole process took less than 2 weeks total.

- Photo Preparation for Print

Now it gets interesting. After the frames were fixed for a somewhat clean RGB where needed and color graded to enhance the mood it had to go to print. To get a 1920 x 1080 image to around 3000px wide without completely ruining it with pixellation and jagged edges it takes some thinking.

In a nutshell I took a stepping approach that enlarged it within the range of 35% to 2% gradually as the image grew larger. That way it didn't look weird like it would have by using Alien Skin's BlowUp tool or fractal based enlargement tools. I tried a few of those before resorting to something that didn't look freakish in the end. And we all wanted a more organic look, so that worked out just fine.

At the end of the day everyone was pleased with the result.

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—The JPG team

1 response

  • Siim Vahur

    Siim Vahur said (31 Oct 2008):

    And the button says: "Yeah! It rocks!"

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