Monday, 10 October 2011

Helen Gets her Freak On

The smashing Helen Diaz there, dancing like a lunatic. After numerous upgrades I now have a computer that can edit HD video, so I decided to see if I could create a tiny film that has lots of little cuts. I was also inspired by the classic old video for the late, great Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love", which was created by the late, great Terence Donovan. Donovan was a stills photographer at heart, which is probably why the video is essentially an animated tableau vivant, but I'm not complaining. It was a clever idea, and more importantly cheap and easy to do.

The difficult part was getting hold of a bevy of attractive women. ZZ Top, who were around at the same time, and also liked to fill their videos with girls, recruited from the pages of Playboy. Terence Donovan no doubt went through his address book of high fashion models, swapping tips with Robert Palmer, who probably had an address book of his own. I would pay money to watch a film in which ZZ Top and Robert Palmer circa 1984 are brought together, and forced to spend time together. I would pay money to see that film. With Bryan Ferry doing a guest spot as God.

And after mentioning God there is a photograph of a woman's hips. Unconscious symbolism in action. Here's a simple behind-the-scenes picture:

The camera isn't as close to Helen as it looks, that's perspective. Although it's bad form to extend the centre column like that, its the easiest way to lift the camera up and down, and I like to work fast. But I hate the horrible jiggly move-the-camera-back-and-forth, back-and-forth, tilt-it-a-bit that e.g. porn videographers like to go for. In previous posts I've enthused at lengthy about my new toy, a Sony NEX 3, and so I bought that along because it also records video. I used it as a "b-roll" camera, capturing wide footage to splice into the stream, with an Olympus 50mm f/1.4. Here's a still photograph taken with the camera, using the manual focus peaking thing to focus on Helen's eyes:

The NEX 3 isn't ideal for video. On the positive side it records nice clean 720p, although it's much grainer in low light than my 5D MkII, and its ugly grain, so shoot at f/1.4 if at all possible. On the negative side there's no manual control of shutter speed, ISO value, or frame rate, which is limiting, and it's only 720p, or 1280x720. The slightly more expensive NEX 5 had 1080 (1920x1080), but it was interlaced, and apparently the quality wasn't obviously better. But for split-second cuts I didn't mind. And it was a bonus, anyway.

In contrast the 5D is splendid for video within its limitations, which I have written about before. As a carefully-used special effect its big sensor is like a big clunking fist. Here's Helen not dancing:

I will never reveal how I achieved the effect with the duck. Here's Robert Palmer, in a video that dates from a bygone age. It was controversial at the time for presenting the band as mindless automatons, and then it was just a silly sexist relic of the 1980s, and nowadays it is a classic. And, Robert Palmer, whaddaguy. Ponder his conceptual similarity to Paul Young, and then ponder the vast gulf that existed between them.