Hi, I'm Dean

Director / Cinematographer / Editor and sometimes Photographer for The Vamps. Clients include One Direction, Rihanna, Madonna, McFly, You Me At Six, Conor Maynard and more...

2014 Shorty Award Finalist for best Director/Filmmaker

My 5 Tour Essentials (OK maybe 6)

Powerful Macbook Pro

If you're going to use applications like DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro X i'd recommend you get the most powerful laptop you can get. I am using a pretty much maxed out Macbook Pro. It has a 1TB SSD hard drive, very fast processor, 16GB RAM and an awesome graphics card. I would never be able to work on things like 'The Story Of The Vamps' (my debut DVD) on the road if I didn't have this kind of power. Of course, the reason it's so great for being on tour, it's super thin, so easy to put in protective case and put in either of my travel bags.


Thunderbolt Hard Drives

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These Rugged 1TB thunderbolt / USB 3.0 drives are brilliant. They are SSD's , so incredibly fast , super quiet and of course the outer orange rubberised casing protects from inevitable bumps and jolts on the road.


The Canon C100

Apologies for the dramatic photo! My newest member to the bag... The C100, a cinema EOS camera made by Canon. Aside from the C300, in my view, one of the best documentary cameras around, certainly the best i've used. It's pretty light, but not too light I can't go hand held (too light and you are more likely to get micro jitter when you film). Built in ND filters, simply incredible sound via a shotgun mic and the built in pre-amp, the grip... makes me wonder how I used to even hold a camera before I got this! The screen, is pretty damn good, I haven't struggled getting critical focus with it much yet. Peaking, Waveform monitors, Audio Levels, etc etc... I am concerned i'm actually in love with this camera.


A trio of lenses...

Starting back left, that's the Tamron VC f/2.8 24-70 lens, it has image stabilisation (a must for video, especially on the road like my job entails). This is my everyday never ever leave at home lens, if you see me filming, there's about a 85% chance this lens is on the camera. Next its the dude at the front, a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens with an E mount adaptor on the back so I can attach it to my Canon camera body. This is very rarely used, though a lovely lens. I use it only in very very low light areas. Last but not least, the Canon L Series 16-35 f/2.8 lens. Optically I love this lens. It's great a the wide end and with the crop factor of the C100 sensor there's almost no distortion.


C100 Petrol LCD Shade

The Petrol LCD screen shield is really great, and really cheap. It's well made however, and when i'm outside in bright sunlight reduces the need for me to attach and EVF so I can focus. Again this speeds up my setup as all I need to do is loop it over the LCD screen.


Lenskirt

That photo may be confusing. Basically this little piece of genius is stuck on the window with 4 suction pads. Pop your lens through the opening at the back, tighten the cord around it and boom, no reflections from the glass if you film or as I do a lot, timelapse through the window. Try it with and without and you'll see what a massive difference this bit of kit makes, essential.


iPad (and iPhone) ... and yes, I know it's 7! 

My iPad mini and iPhone are used all the time for work. I use Evernote premium to stay organised and keep everything in project folders. I also use things like VSCO Cam on my phone for taking photo's when my X100S isn't with me. My iPad is also my library. I might not get much time to relax on tour, but if I do i'll generally read. When you have limited space, the iPad, for me, is perfect as it's very thin and small, so takes up no space. My iPhone is used a lot for notes on the go and sometimes doubles up as an extra audio recorder when I connect my RODE Smartlav to it during interviews. Of course, more importantly than any of that, it keeps me in touch with family and Soph when i'm away for long periods.

Happy New Year

So, 2013 is officially a thing of the past. In retrospect, it was a great year for me and the band. I directed/filmed and edited over 50 videos for The Vamps, saw some amazing places and helped (I hope) them achieve a chart number 2 with their first single Can We Dance. Alas, I don't like to dwell too much. Like when a new video is finally delivered, uploaded and the link sent out to the world for them (you) to see it, I just move onto to the next project, much like it's now time to move onto the next year. So hello 2014, I started it in Brighton, and here's a few photographs I took today to start off the new year's blog posts.

Brighton Marina

Brighton Marina

Brighton Sea View

Brighton Sea View

Choppy Start To The Year, Brighton

Choppy Start To The Year, Brighton

The West Pier, Brighton. Two fires and many storms later.

The West Pier, Brighton. Two fires and many storms later.

The Palace Pier, Brighton

The Palace Pier, Brighton

The Famous Brighton Pier

The Famous Brighton Pier

Brighton From The Palace Pier

Brighton From The Palace Pier

The Channel Meets Brighton

The Channel Meets Brighton

The Regency Seventy, Brighton

The Regency Seventy, Brighton

Brighton Birds

Brighton Birds

First Tests With The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

I'd been deciding for a long time which new camera system I would go for, to run as a 'B Cam' to my 5D MKIII setup. I wanted something small, maybe pocketable, something that would give me 'stealth mode' in situations when filming might be difficult. A camera that would allow me to capture things when setting up a rig just wasn't feasible. I'd toyed with the NEX system, as i'd already used the 5N which Sony kindly loaned me through the summer, but I didn't like how the image held up during grade, so I quickly turned away from that option. I eventually opted for a Blackmagic Pocket cinema camera. Reviewers like Philip Bloom had a love/hate relationship with the camera, and i'll talk about things like battery life, sound issues in a bit, but for me, the pro's were far outweighing the cons. here's a list of my kit at the starter stage of using the camera , and some pictures...

The camera. Hard to deny that's not a thing of beauty :)

The camera. Hard to deny that's not a thing of beauty :)

Choice of lens based on online reviews, videos and advice from fellow filmmaker friend James Tonkin.

Choice of lens based on online reviews, videos and advice from fellow filmmaker friend James Tonkin.

The tripod, a UT-43D II travel tripod (can't really pan, but great to grab nice locked off shots, so small but extends to 6 feet and is sturdy with this cam on it) and the memory cards, vital for the BMPCC, super fast, very expensive.

The tripod, a UT-43D II travel tripod (can't really pan, but great to grab nice locked off shots, so small but extends to 6 feet and is sturdy with this cam on it) and the memory cards, vital for the BMPCC, super fast, very expensive.

Davinci Resolve software to deal with the RAW video files and colour grade...and a MacBook Pro capable of processing them.

Davinci Resolve software to deal with the RAW video files and colour grade...and a MacBook Pro capable of processing them.

Filming some GV's inside the O2 Arena last week, handheld, this shot is in the sample video below.

Filming some GV's inside the O2 Arena last week, handheld, this shot is in the sample video below.

Also in the test video... I practically begged of the O2 security staff to let me down by the river to film this view, just wish i'd got there before complete darkness.

Also in the test video... I practically begged of the O2 security staff to let me down by the river to film this view, just wish i'd got there before complete darkness.

We flew quite a bit in the last two weeks, the BMPCC is the perfect travel companion for me. I can grab some video of take off and landing easily, and as you will see when the videos are released, paired with the RODE Smart Lav (pictured just creeping into shot at the bottom of the frame) you can get some great looking and sounding PTC's. I've also just purchased a mophie juice pack for my iPhone 5S to make sure i've always got power for sound grabs like this one.

We flew quite a bit in the last two weeks, the BMPCC is the perfect travel companion for me. I can grab some video of take off and landing easily, and as you will see when the videos are released, paired with the RODE Smart Lav (pictured just creeping into shot at the bottom of the frame) you can get some great looking and sounding PTC's. I've also just purchased a mophie juice pack for my iPhone 5S to make sure i've always got power for sound grabs like this one.

How it looks on camera on the plane...

How it looks on camera on the plane...

Trying out the timelapse feature. It shoots in ProRes and you basically get a video rather than images which is lovely and helps workflow on tours and trips where there's not a lot of time. Problem here is the reflections from the glass..

Trying out the timelapse feature. It shoots in ProRes and you basically get a video rather than images which is lovely and helps workflow on tours and trips where there's not a lot of time. Problem here is the reflections from the glass..

So as I was at the same hotel for a few days, I ordered a Lenskirt, pictured here, its brilliant, blocks out reflections really nicely and very simple to use. Of course my iPhone doesn't have the same success in this photo i'm taking...

So as I was at the same hotel for a few days, I ordered a Lenskirt, pictured here, its brilliant, blocks out reflections really nicely and very simple to use. Of course my iPhone doesn't have the same success in this photo i'm taking...

So, the cons... The battery life is poor, there's no denying that, but their are solutions, and i'm looking into them now, so it is something that can be overcome. Shooting RAW on a 32GB extreme Pro (£65) SD card gives about 7 minutes of shooting time to the card. So if you want to shoot RAW you have to get some very very expensive cards, and a lot of them! I'm probably going to need to go for the £100+ 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro cards which will still only give me around 14minutes per card! Of course you can shoot in ProRes, and that's a beautiful codec to edit too, this will give you more footage to card space ratio. There are no sound meters when you film, even before you film, so you have to monitor via the headphone jack. I'll talk more about sound in a future blog, RODE have kindly just sent me a VideoMic Pro which i've yet to test fully, but its giving me useable sound in camera by knocking the +20DB switch on and turning down the mic levels in camera, the pre amp is terrible , and totally unusable. 

The Pro's... Well, the camera size, weight, feel, build, but most importantly, the image from it is simply incredible, and here's a little test video...

Test footage shot on the BMPCC over the past week. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Panasonic Lumix 12-35 f/2.8 OIS lens Wooden Camera Cage Handheld (no rig) with a few locked off tripod shots at The O2 Arena. Edited/graded in Davinci Resolve and FCPX Timelapse shot in Manchester using the BMPCC at 1 sec interval setting.

Getting high with the 5DMKIII...

I don't often chat about gear too much, unless it wows me, because i'm not a gear whore. However, after being forced to shoot at really high ISO's last week in Manchester with the band, I thought i'd shout and holla from the rooftops (or, my blog) about just how good the Canon 5DMKIII is in low light. Click the blog title to read on and see...

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More Sound Advice...

I recently purchased a RODE Smart Lav mic to use for dialogue pieces after being blown away by the quality of the online videos I've been seeing (hearing) from it. RODE supply me with their products for use in my videos and films but I need to point out that on this occasion this is my own money. I wanted one that bad I paid out for it (though RODE, if you read this and fancy sending me another, it will have a good home). So here's a little sampling from some footage I shot yesterday with the Vamps in Manchester. Watch the video, listen a few times, and then read on..

Basic test between my on camera setup and the new RODE Smart Lav. Two different situations. One recorded where the camera (and therefore mic) is at distance (around 10 metres) and one where I am close to Connor, but he is facing away from me. I am supplied by RODE with their products to use for my videos, though, this ones my own purchase as I wanted one quick after seeing tests with it online.

On camera (5D MKIII) setup : Audio Technica AT875R Shotgun Mic - XLR cable - Juiced Link Micro Riggy Pre Amp - Into camera 3.5mm Jack input.

Rode Smart Lav setup : Smart Lav - iPhone - Rode Rec App (I then name the files and send them as AIFF's to my dropbox so they are ready to work on when I get to my computer at home)

If you look closely, James has the Lav (pictured left) mic on his collar, perhaps a little too close really, but it works a treat. The background noise is gone, the distracting sounds that make it hard to hear each word are zapped and without realising it you can listen to the second piece happily and (this is the good bit) a viewer wouldn't notice anything about the sound quality (If watched on its own without the comparison, of course). Why is that important? Because your average Joe Bloggs who rocks up to watch your video will only ever notice 'BAD' sound quality, good sound quality goes unnoticed generally....

The Smart Lav retails at around £35  , for that you get the mic and the nice little pouch for it on the right here. What's also great is the ease of functionality. The workflow is so easy. Just install the RODE Rec App on your iPhone (I think it's available for android too, but yeah i'm an Apple man so...), hit record and bosh! Then i'll just upload it via dropbox, so when I get back to my edit suite, the (previously) renamed files are sat waiting. Awesome! By the way, I need to point out i'm not having a dig at my on camera mic setup, as on the whole, for run and gun shooting, its bloody amazing, just on dialogue situations, that Smart Lav is superb, agreed?

 (Just a side note, the photo's are taken using Hipstamatic on my iPhone 5S)

Film Stills

Here’s a few frame grabs from a video I just finished grading for the band. It’ll be live in the next few weeks though I have no idea on dates yet. These all have one thing in common, they are all taken from the iPhone 5S in ‘slow mo’ mode, and though the bitrate is low and you therefore lose detail throughout, they still look great for web video use.

So, About That LA Slow Mo

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If you have no idea what the title of this blog post is about, please scroll to the bottom of this post first and watch the outtro part of the video. It starts at around 4:02. So, I have a little secret. The whole of that outtro was filmed on my iPhone 5S in slow mo mode. I have tons of footage that i’ve shot on my phone, and every person i’ve shown various clips to have been blown away by the way the footage looks from the camera.

There are negatives. There’s horrible moiré and banding in some images, change of light causes the camera to freak out, when there’s quite a few moving objects at different distances from the lens, the camera auto focus tends to shuffle in and out quite quickly (though i’ve just found out a way to AF lock, so that might help). The image bit rate is pretty low, which means grading is very tough, i’ve graded this in FCPX myself using the colour palette and also added a bit of sharpening, as the image is generally quite soft out of camera (phone!). You also need a lot of good light, try this in low light and the footage turns to mush.

The positives, though, are massive. I have filmed things i’d never be able to with my DSLR rig, I can be super discreet when I need to be. At the meet and greet the band had while we were in Los Angeles, I was told I couldn’t film, but, I did, on my phone, security didn’t bat an eyelid as I walked round with my phone up in front of me. It’s pretty amazing that I can do this in my phone, but my £3,000 camera can’t!

Of course a limitation is the storage space on your phone. I have the 32GB model. If i’d known the slow mo was so good, i’d have gone for the 64, but anyway, all I need to do, is treat the phone like my other film cameras, and thats to ingest, backup and erase from the card (phone) each night after shooting, simple. 

The best camera, is the one you have with you…

Anyway, for now, here’s the video with the iPhone slow mo ending ;)

Wembley Stadium

Tonight the boys just played Wembley Stadium. OK, it's not quite so amazing when you say it was before and at half time in a rugby game, but still, it's a massive step closer to the real thing! Wembley is amazing, I shot some slow mo on the 5S as well as a bunch of docu stuff on my 5DMKIII of course, here's a few pictures... 

Sweet dreams my LAX...

So today we landed back home in England after a 10 day 'business' trip to LA. I'm way to jet-lagged to write too much, so here's a bunch of photos taken on my iPhone 5S with some captions... By the way, I promise, we did do some work!

 

How I Met The Vamps...

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Todays blog post addresses a question I get asked more than any other “How did you meet/start working with The Vamps.”

First off, i’ll chat some about my past, then this will bring us full circle to answer the question. I’ve been shooting video for three years now. It all started one cloudy miserable day in Sheffield while I was shooting the single covers for Feeder’s songs “Down To The River” , “Renegades” and “Call Out”. The bands lead singer, Grant Nicholas, noticed I had “One of those new HDSLR cameras that shoots video.” and basically asked me if I could shoot some video of the guys next week at a small show they were playing in Camden.I said “Yeah of course!”, not knowing anything about shooting video. So I did exactly what i did when I started taking photographs, I stayed up all night, powered by coffee and red bull, learning everything and everything I could from people like Vincent Laforet and Philip Bloom. I shot some stuff with friends, failed, tried again (probably failed a few more times..you get the idea). Then I shot the video, if you dare to watch it, go ahead! Don’t judge me though :)

The single covers I shot that day for Feeder…

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and the first video I ever shot…

Why am I telling you this? Well, basically, since I started in music photography and now video, I always just went out and did it. I hear a lot of people asking me how they can get experience. If you have a camera, there is your answer, doesn’t matter how good or bad it is, just get building a portfolio! After i’d shot Feeder, I did some filming with McFly, built up a very minimal yet reasonable show reel, and went to work on shooting more and more artists. What i’m trying to say is, sitting at home trying to find the answers isn’t always the way, you need to balance your time better, spend 25% researching and 75% on your portfolio and watch what happens. Work harder than the rest, watch what happens. by no means am I seeing you don’t need any talent, of course you do, but that can be improved, your style, technique and work flow will all only really improve if you keep working at it…

So, how did I meet The Vamps?

I used to live with Joe, the bands manager (that helps a lot of course). I was working with Conor Maynard, Clement Marfo & The Frontline and YMAS last summer and shooting some big production stuff with LoveLive too. Joe played me a track (She Was The One) by this band , The Vamps, they sounded pretty good, I noticed the lead singer had a unique voice. Joe then showed me a fan video of them playing outside Sony, and i immediately wanted to film them. I specifically said “i don’t want paying, just let me shoot something with them.” So joe arranged it, I went down to Devon and we shot “Live While We’re Young”. I’d previously been working with One Direction, so we had a lot to talk about. To this day, this cover is the one we spent the longest shooting. The boys have been so busy since that we just haven’t been able to spend a full day filming one video since! Infact, more often than not, I now only get a couple hours max to shoot a cover. Here’s that video…

Like I said at the start of this blog, and bringing us back full circle from Feeder, if I hadn’t had the ‘can do’ attitude, I wouldn’t be working with The Vamps today. SO, if you want to do something, get out there and do it. Yes, I had the advantage of living with a bands manager, but, and this BUT is massive let me tell ya! If I hadn’t worked my BUTT (too much ‘but’?) off for the past ⅘ years working on my portfolio, I would not be doing what i’m doing now, no way…

The NEX5N and The Harry Potter Tour

If you can think of many better ways to spend a day off from tour than visiting The Warner Bros. Harry Potter Tour, let me know! 

Me and Soph went (as part of Soph’s birthday present) yesterday, and it was truly magical. Especially being a filmmaker. This sort of stuff is like a dream! I took my little Sony NEX5N along, its a camera i’m using more and more. The reason is not only the image quality being so great, but also the size. Especially when i’m travelling with a band, before i’d sometimes miss things I wanted to be getting because I couldn’t easily have my rig, camera on my shoulder and carry my bags…

It’s fully manual and produces gorgeous film like images out of both the Sony 16mm pancake lens and the CCTV Chinese 35mm f/1.7 lens. I even use it for professional work. It’s size means I can fit it in a pocket, it shoots full 1080p 25fps and (yes Canon, and 50fps at 1080) and the image is just great. Here’s a few photo’s I took on the Harry Potter Tour, and at the very bottom, a photo of the camera too…

By the way, as I mentioned in a previous post, this lens cost me £20 on ebay. It’s fully manual though, so there’s no autofocus.

Some sound advice...

Obviously, the photo above has absolutely nothing to do with Sound recording when filming, but I just needed to share how much hummus I got today!

So here, goes… Once again, this post is sponsored by…

I record sound as well as shoot motion pictures. Some people say that audio is 50% of a video, and i’d say in the most part I agree. Yesterday I scheduled in some sound bites with the band in my hotel room, which would entail each of them coming in and recording some sound (and video) of them talking about the tour so far for a future video diary. My setup was a Rode Videomic Pro on top of my camera as my backup sound source (though the videomic pro alone records great sound) and so I could sync up my external audio recording files easily in FCPX when it comes to editing them together, here’s a few photos of the videomic pro on my camera, on set…

My main audio files would be recorded via a Rode NTG-2 mic plugged into a Roland R-26 field recorder. They were sat just in front of where the boys would sit on a table…

The Roland R-26 is a fantastic piece of kit, with a way better pre-amp (in my opinion) that the popular H4Zoom which i’ve also used. I’ve also used it to record live sound feeds from the desk at venues via the XLR connections, whilst getting really great sound from the crowd (to add a nice mix in edit) via the OMNI and X-Y mics on top of the R-26. Here’s some photo’s below of the R-26 having a rest on my hotel bed…

The touch screen illuminated display makes setup really nice everytime…

It will record on six seperate channels, has XLR and plug in mic connections, a headphone jack to check sound during recording and as you can see above the seperate X-Y / OMNI directional built in mics.

As an extra note, its the first time i’ve ever used pillows on set I think! As you can see in the photo of James below, the window light way out balanced the room light, so i needed to add in some extra lighting to balance things out…

One of my LED light panels sat on top of some pillows facing set to balance light against the strong window light…

Here’s Brad with the LED lightpanel switched on to take away the harsh shadows…

Tris (the animal) behind the lens, getting ready to do his piece…

Sharing a joke with Connor (there might will be some outtakes…)

Right, one more thing before I sign off from this hotel in Glasgow. The chips and peanut butter ice cream (with toffee sauce) combination is an absolute dream! Goodnight x

Travelling on tour...

First things first. The photo above is where I want to be right now. I’m not though. I’m at the desk in my hotel room in Glasgow writing up a blog post. I have the contents of the photo below to thank for this (no, i don’t mean the phone, or the pen…)

Yesterday I travelled 5 hours on a train to Glasgow from London. With me, I had everything from this blog post (go read it if you havent yet). All that, plus clothes, toothbrush (forgot toothpaste) deodorant  etc etc… in just two bags! The bags aren’t exactly suitcases either, they are both airline cabin luggage friendly (just, and always check with the airline first guys!), one of them is a pulley trolly bag thingy that you pu…yeah you get it. The other is a rucksack. That means I have all this stuff and still have a hand free to wave at the cows and sheep on the way! The bags are both made by Lowepro (who, i’d like to point out don’t pay me or anything to write what i’m writing..infact if they did they’d probably say something like “Dean, can you try and waffle less please..anyway).. I have a Pro Roller x200 and a Pro Runner 450AW I love them both equally. Here’s a few reasons why…

The Pro Roller…

Loads of space, padding, pockets everywhere, great durability (it gets thrown about a bit)…

The compartments for memory cards have little tabs you can switch over to remind you which cards are full and which are empty…It’s the little things, right?

I can open the bag up and it sits at 45 degrees on a little stand, saves getting down all the time and trying to find somewhere to lay it down, also makes packing easier…

The handle extends and comes with a standard tripod fitting screw (not pictured, but comes with the bag). I used this recently to timelapse The Vamps setting up in soundcheck, it works great…

The compartments in the bag are really well padded, and you get a nice little accessory bag for things like batteries and cables…

The Pro Runner…

Incredibly light, strong yet really pliable and great pocket locations…

The front pocket normally has things like pens, paperwork, iPad, extra screws, tools etc in it…

Loads of inner pockets, mesh covered so I can see what’s in them without having to open the pockets first…

The inner main compartment is really deep, well padded throughout and the velcro dividers make each jobs unique needed kit, easy to pack each time…

The Laptop compartment on this bag is brilliant! So well padded…

Even when this bag is full to the brim with camera bodies, lenses etc.. It is so comfortable, and the adjustable padded straps make fitting it to you really easy, and of course, help your back out!

A lot of people say these bags are expensive, but bare in mind, you are protecting a lot of expensive gear at times, it’s more than worth the investment! 

(All the photos on here were taken with a Sony NEX5N and a cheap chinese lens that cost me £20 on ebay)

UK tour, pre-production...

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So, it, begins. Arrived in Swindon Wednesday afternoon, got sorted in our rooms and then went down for dinner. I took my camera, just incase… Though there wasn’t much to be filmed, and I didn’t want to start thrusting the camera straight in their faces straight away…A few photos, including one by Brad of himself, were taken…

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You can see how much I was enjoying James’ advances ;) We all got a pretty early night, as we were up early to get to pre-production rehearsals. They went great. The boys just settled right into their set, and loved every minute of finally getting on stage…I took a few time-lapses  and filmed them setting up first, followed by a few photos, here’s one of Brad (and a photo bomb by Tris) and McFly’s set behind him.

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The image of the 5D MKIII is amazing, such a joy to work with, i’m really looking forward to showing you all the films, which will be released gradually throughout and after the tour. For now, i’m going to look through some footage, keyword and sort it ready for first edits of tour diaries, live songs and more…

Copyright 2013 Dean Sherwood. All Rights Reserved.