The Interview With Paul Gambaccini

At the end of last year, myself, my friend Yasmin, and an up-and-coming journalist called Johnny Rickard created something called CVTV – it was designed to help Rickard develop his showreel by interviewing celebrities in and around Coventry, demonstrating his ‘cheeky chappy’ approach to interviews.

One of the highlights was with legendary radio DJ Paul Gambaccini in his London penthouse suite, which was shot by just the three of us. However, Johnny was unable to get across any great degree of humour, and the end result was a rather serious affair that didn’t fit the rest of his sarcastic and dry-witted humour. Add to this the fact that myself and Yasmin made a mistake with the audio (the camera pointing to Rickard caught Gambaccini’s voice, and visa versa), and the footage was not used in the final CVTV showreel.

However…

This was something that could obviously benefit my own. I knew I could synchronize the sound problem – we had used three cameras from three different angles, one crucially pointed at both Gambaccini and Rickard, which made synchronization possible. I also knew that although Yasmin’s WB level was off, I could alter it in post production.

There were parts of the two-hour interview where Gambaccini said some interesting things about music, and I knew I could use them in a shortened-down video version of the interview.

I managed to get the footage off my friend Gov (now also helping Johnny in various projects) and stored the clips to my portable hard drive. However this was going to be one of the most challenging post-production projects I had ever undertaken on FCP – I needed to correct our mistakes, and still create something top-quality at the end.

 

To say that nobody clapped or coughed during the entire time, creating what I called a synchronicity ‘event’ (can also be called a ‘stop’, ‘moment’, or ‘cut’) was made possible by someone simply blinking. Blinking in and of itself takes less than one second – the moment when the eyelids touch is what I focused on. I used the camera on both subjects as a guide, and then synchronized the blinks early on. To test that I had done this correctly, I checked the audio further down the timeline to see if the ‘echo’ effect was working correctly. Indeed, both Gambaccini’s voice and Rickard’s voice had been matched with the adjacent clips. Editing was now possible.

I used three video tracks and six audio tracks. By cutting out parts of the audio (and using audio faders), I chose which parts focused on Johnny’s voice when he spoke, and which parts focused on Paul’s when he spoke. Cutting the visuals was fine as well, and I kept most of the attention on Paul. Not only was this Paul’s interview, but Johnny also had a bad habit of wandering his eyes around the room (which didn’t look great). I decided to only show the parts when he was looking attentively, or laughing, with Paul (in his defense, it was a two hour interview).

To say it was a two hour interview, most of the second half wasn’t used, as it focused on political views which I didn’t think people would be interested in watching in an interview with a famous radio DJ. What he said about music brought out a passion in him on camera, and it was evident. Thus, an hour of footage was cut more or less straight away. Then, all the time Johnny tried to make the interview sarcastic – and failed – got cut as well, as true to his own knowledge, the approach did not work.

When the bulk of the video was narrowed to under fifteen minutes, I started to change the white balance. This was a mistake – I should have done it at the start. Now I had to change each cut-up clip individually – perfectly do-able, but it now added an extra hour of applying, altering and rendering all the changes. At least I know for next time. Rickard’s shot turned out so-so – he was still a little off-colour, but he ultimately looks a lot better than he does in the original clip. I went for the ‘warm room’ approach to make the interview look welcoming – this also brought out the purple colour of Gambaccini’s shirt, and the rich wooden interior decor of his home.

I wanted to incorporate the CVTV logo into the start of the video – however I finally ran into a problem I couldn’t really fix just at the end of this production process – Johnny messes up the introduction by getting tongue-tied, but then doesn’t start from the beginning again. This is why the CVTV logo is an a rather unusual place in the middle of his opening speech (to conceal the joining of the two separate clips). I included the logo again at the end after the interview is finished.

After it had all been rendered, I exported it once as an MPG-4, and then re-exported it again in the same file format. What I find compresses best currently is to upload a video in high file size to Youtube, and then after it is uploaded, download the clip from Youtube using any online download software. The clip downloaded from Youtube loses hardly any quality, yet you can make jumps in HD footage (as I did here) from what is roughly 850MB uploaded to Youtube, to 45MB downloaded from Youtube – virtually the same quality. After it went to Vimeo, I credited Yasmin as my fellow media producer, and waited for confirmation from both Rickard and Gambacinni. After they approved it, it went live.

Overall I was happy with the way it turned out (Rickard, thinking the clips were unable to be edited, was absolutely amazed!) I wasn’t sure whether to close in just a little more in the framing of the shot featuring both subjects, as I was aware Gambacinni wasn’t looking particularly ‘slim jim’ – however, considering he mentions his skills superseding his looks in the interview itself, I figured it was not such a major issue to be too concerned about.

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