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Macro music video

Neil Innes, and band member Nick Turner, made this really cool music video which shows the potential of using ultra-close ‘macro’ shots. He writes “Shot with Canon SLRs and a simple [$10] macro ring adapter, we decided to get up close and personal with Oklahoma fuzz machines Colourmusic to make a video that was just as frantic and pummeling as their leading track ‘Beard’.”

Why it’s cool
Getting in really close – macro photography or filmmaking – gives you a completely new perspective on ordinary objects. Here, the film concentrates on details of the faces and bodies of the musicians. The film is edited really precisely to the beat, and the images build in intensity as the film goes on.

Filming macro shots
The cheapest way to shoot macro with a system camera is to buy a reversing ring. This lets you put the lens on back to front and focus much closer. Controlling the aperture is tricky – so you’ll have very shallow depth of field – and you have to focus manually. They work better with prime (non-zoom) lenses.

Another option is extension tubes: adaptors which fit between the lens and the camera body  (moving the lens further away from the body will let you focus closer. They are more expensive (especially for autofocus ones). You normally buy them in sets which you can stack if you want to get really close.

You could also try lens whacking where you just take the lens off and hold it away from the camera body. It makes for very rough and ready focus and lens flare – and it can let dust into your camera –  but some people like the effect.

If you don’t have interchangeable lenses, you may be able to get close-up lenses which fit in front of the lens.

Editing to the beat
Parts of the film are edited precisely to the beat of the music. There are several ways of doing this:

  • Some programs – like the pro editing application AVID which was used for this film, and others like Final Cut and iMovie – let you add ‘markers’ by tapping a key in time to the music. You can then set the program to ‘snap’ to the markers. It’s a good idea to practise this, and if you can’t hit the beat ask a musician or dancer to do it for you.
  • No markers in your program? You could set it to ‘show audio waveforms’ on the soundtrack, so you can line up your edits with the beats by eye.
  • It’s always a good idea to vary how your edits go with the music: changing on every beat throughout the song will get boring. Try doing some edits on the first beat of the bar and some on each beat. For slower music or changes between sections of the music you could try putting cross-dissolves between the clips.

Colourmusic – Beard – My _____ is Pink from Neil Innes on Vimeo.


Tom Barrance

Tom Barrance I teach all kinds of people to make films. I provide training for businesses, arts organisations, nonprofits and education. I’ve worked on film education projects with Apple Education, the British Film Institute, Film Education, Film: 21st Century Literacy and many more. My publications include Making Movies Make Sense and EditClass