Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Making of the 'Here Comes the Sun' Video

I spent an enjoyable weekend last month with my good friend Bob Mueller here in my home shooting the new Here Comes The Sun music video. I played the song around 30-40 times and Bob shot me and the piano from many different angles.

The time lapse footage which opens the piece, was done a week later in downtown Bellingham, not far from my home.

With his new Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera, Bob was able to capture angles of the piano that I’d never seen. His artistic eye and his overall vision for this piece was impressive...I just played the piano:-)

For those of you who enjoy the technical details, Bob has included those in great detail below....

David Lanz

Here Comes the Sun Music Video
Tech Notes by Robert Mueller

Here Comes The Sun was shot entirely on a Canon EOS 60D DSLR Camera, a relatively new model for Canon which sports an 18 megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 4 Image Processor (the ‘brain’ of the camera - actually the sixth generation of Canon’s proprietary DIGIC image processing chips). The 60D became available in late 2010/early 2011.

According to Canon, compared with first-generation DIGIC processors, DIGIC4 represents a 50-fold improvement in the short space of just 10 years...quite an evolutionary accomplishment.

This being a CMOS chip, each pixel is actually comprised of four separate pixel elements - two greens, one red and one blue. So this 18 megapixel imaging chip actually has nearly 64 million individual sensors, all very precisely packed into an area only 22.2 x 14.8mm (329 cm2)! It’s an achievement that boggles the mind. This also represents 11.5 times the light-gathering area than, say, a current Sony Cybershot,or Canon Powershot, which both have a sensor area of only 6.16 x 4.62mm, or 28.5 cm2. This makes the 60D wonderfully light-sensitive, and provides beautiful depth of field.

Between the increased sensitivity and powerful processing of the DIGIC4, this camera can capture images that were extremely difficult, if not impossible to accomplish even a mere 20 years ago. For instance, anyone who remembers shooting ASA (now referred to as ISO) 1600 film in the late 80’s, early 90’s knows how grainy the results were. We embraced the grain, because it was the only practical way to capture low-light level scenes…and called it artsy. But with this camera, scenes shot at even its highest sensitivity (ISO 6400 and 12,800!) are remarkably smooth and detailed. It’s so sensitive, there’s even a special build of the 60D designed specifically for astrophotography.

Of course, we wouldn’t even be writing about it here if this camera didn’t also manage one other thing extremely well…shooting High Definition video. The 60D leverages both the sensor size and DIGIC processor chip to capture amazingly beautiful, full HD 1920x1080P video at either 30, 25, or 24 frames per second, with all the benefits of shooting with a DSLR. Size, for instance. You’ll see in this video that we actually placed the camera inside the piano on the soundboard, for some very cool and unique angles!

The camera also includes software to tether it via USB directly to a computer (a small netbook in our case), allowing full remote control and through-the-lens viewing on the computer screen - thus avoiding the need to crawl inside the piano with it to frame the shots .

Another nice plus is that only a single lens was required – Canon’s 18-185mm f/3.5-5.6 optically-stabilized auto-focus zoom lens. The full breadth of focal length was used, from extremely wide to as long as the lens could go; and never once was a lens change required. Again harking back to the nineties, or even just ten years ago, you may recall that it really took three lenses to cover this kind of range: a dedicated ‘wide angle’ lens, say an 18-28mm; a mid-range lens like a 28-85mm; and finally a longer zoom lens like a 70-185 or 70-210mm. The latest optical engineering gives us a veritable dream lens – all the zoom range of three lenses without unduly sacrificing clarity and speed, plus the added benefit of optical-stabilization – like having a little Steadicam® built into the lens itself.

Yet another intriguing thing about the camera is that it has been hacked, and its capabilities extended even beyond the manufacturer’s design. Magic Lantern, for instance, is a firmware add-on freely available via the Internet that was originally written for the Canon 5D Mark II (the much more expensive 60D’s big brother) by Trammel Hudson in 2009. But it proved so popular with the new DSLR filmmakers that it has subsequently been expanded to support several other Canon DSLR cameras, which now includes this relative newcomer…the 60D. Magic Lantern firmware extends the 60D’s features in many ways, but notable for this video are the ability to shoot time-lapse without a separate external intervalometer, and to remotely control automated focus-pulls between two focus planes.

This video was edited and tweaked using Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, output as an uncompressed avi master, and then compressed using the h.264 codec in a Quicktime .mov ‘wrapper’. Adobe’s software has, like the cameras themselves, advanced at a rapid pace, while continuing to become ever more affordable.

Astonishing advances like these are leading to a veritable revolution in filmmaking today, as for relatively little investment budding artists and even old pros alike can create astoundingly high-quality results. Whereas only a decade ago very few could afford what it took to capture and edit HD video , today there is a new ‘democratization of video’ occurring that is literally revolutionizing filmmaking.

Thanks to Canon, Magic Lantern, Adobe, and the digital age itself, our little video can add another drop to that rising tide.

To view the video:

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