Music videos aren’t our normal fare, but when Erike Sparks approached Alex about making one for him based in the far north of Scotland, well how could we refuse?!
For Erike and his brother Marcus, this was their first time visiting Scotland, so it was quite nice to show them some of the sights – Red Deer grazing near the road, Golden Eagles soaring in the sky, and of course the spectacular mountainous region that is Assynt. Achmelvich Beach – like many others in the region – looks more like it should be in the tropics with its white sand and gorgeous turquoise waters. We were also lucky to get such a beautiful sunset while shooting on the headland just above the beach. It certainly couldn’t have been more different to London, but this was why Erike had commissioned the video to be shot in Scotland – he wanted something different than the usual urban videos which are made for most rap songs.
The thing to remember about the Scottish weather is it changes really rather quickly, so a shower here and there doesn’t necessarily mean all the kit has to be packed up. We were rather lucky with the weather, however – the worst of it was when we were filming in the shelter of the caves. Being so far north, weather reports rarely tend to be accurate anyway! A few times I’d check the weather report to see it said we had a less than 5% chance of rain, only to look out of the hotel window to see it raining really rather hard. 20 minutes later, it would be all sunny again!
We filmed at some fantastic locations, though our shooting schedule was cut down a bit due to unforeseen circumstances. Our main locations were Achmelvich Beach, the Bone Caves, Clashnessie Falls and Ardvreck Castle. We always take care to leave our locations as we found them – the famous statement “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but images” is how we’ve always tried to operate. At the Bone Caves, this included scouring the hillside for two wayward lens caps that I accidentally sent flying down the hill!
We had the opportunity to use some excellent kit for this video, despite it being a low budget affair. Sigma kindly loaned us the 18-35mm and 50-100mm cine zooms, while Bright Tangerine extended the loan on the Morrissey lens support from the Photography Show. In addition to this, Sony kindly lent us the FE 12-24mm f/4 to mount on our A7Sii, which was used primarily on the featherweight crane and Ronin-MX we hired from Promotion.
The featherweight crane and Ronin-MX combination was an excellent choice for this video, as it’s compact and lightweight enough to carry in a backpack while also giving us some great angles to work with. In some locations we opted to use the Ronin only – such as the cave and the castle – as it was more convenient. However, the crane was something I particularly enjoyed using.
I’m used to setting gimbals up but not using them, while Alex can operate gimbals with ease, so I opted to operate the crane. Normally, cranes come with pre-designated weights which fit to them in order to properly counterbalance them. Due to the lightweight and compact nature of the featherweight crane however, part of the crane’s packing bag could be turned into a weight by adding whatever might be found around you into the bag. On the headland and beach, this was some of the logs we had bought for the campfire, though they weren’t really heavy enough. We realised at Clashnessie Falls that our backpack containing the FS7 was almost exactly the right weight though, and so we used this to counterbalance the crane.
Using zoom lenses on a gimbal can be a bit tricky – sometimes the weight of the internal elements moving while zooming in or out can shift the balance on a gimbal, or the zoom itself can extend when the camera is on an extremely high angle. Not an issue at all with the 12-24mm. It really is a great lens for gimbal work – very lightweight, changing the zoom length didn’t affect the gimbal and it didn’t extend the zoom even when pointing virtually directly down on Erike. As we didn’t have any form of follow focus with us, we opted to use autofocus and face detection with the A7Sii and the 12-24mm. It worked a treat – it was always pin sharp and only struggled slightly when we were shooting on the beach, but this was due to us quickly losing light! It’s such a wide lens that Erike was able to get really close up to the camera too, making for some interesting shots. Even when shooting at 12mm, you get very little distortion. If anyone is interested in a lightweight wide angle lens for gimbal work on a Sony camera, this is definitely what I’d recommend.
The Sigma zooms were used on the FS7 only to capture cutaways and insert shots for the video. The Bright Tangerine Morrissey always stayed with the FS7 to support whichever zoom we had on the FS7 at the time, while we passed my a6300 to Erike’s brother Marcus to get some behind the scenes shots with. As Alex has written about both the Sigma cine zooms and the Morrissey, I didn’t see the need to write about them again – if you click on the links you’ll be taken to his articles. Alex took charge of the edit and grade; with so many locations and takes, it took a little longer than anticipated to get to the finished article, but overall we’re quite pleased with how it’s turned out and – crucially – so is Erike.
Take a look at the video now by watching below!