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ZRI: Multicam and Blackmagic RAW in 4K

This month I completed work on a really fun project – creating 11 music performances, filmed “as live”, for the extremely talented ensemble ZRI.

I was contacted by Jan Harlan in October to lead the shoot and edit for ZRI.  Initially I was told we had three days at Childwickbury Manor, and they would like three pieces recorded.  I’d previously been to see ZRI perform at the University of Guidlford in Surrey, so I was aware of their style and the type of music they played.  Having three days for just three pieces seemed like far too much luxury, so I spoke to Jack Hobbs, who was going to be our recording engineer and sound mixer, to see what else we could do.  In discussion with the ensemble, we decided we could just see how many we could get through and see what happened!

Jack has a huge amount of experience of recording live music – it’s his day job and he does it supremely well.  I have a background in classical music and have participated in the recording of several classical music CDs, so I was approaching this project with a good amount of knowledge in what would be required, and it was going to be fun working with musicians.  I also knew the space we were going to filming in well – I produced and co-directed the music video for Hope at Childwickbury Manor in the same room, and I’d been there many times for events.

I assembled a crew of four final year students who had shown aptitude for cinematography, and decided to use our Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro cameras.  Taking one home before the shoot, I did a test of the new Blackmagic RAW codec, against ProRes 4444.  I was very impressed with the results – one minute of BRAW 8:1 averaged at 2GB, whereas the same footage in PR4x4 was 12GB.  Deciding to shoot at 4K in BRAW, even though it’s not yet integrated into Avid, I was prepared for the challenge in post knowing the space I would save on my hard drive would be worth it!

To make sure the musicians weren’t going to get tired out performing the same piece again and again, we decided we would aim to do only three or four takes per piece.  I took four Dedo spotlights and two Kinoflo Diva lights with me to light the set, and changed these around each piece, in order to make each piece have a different look and for the room to not look the same each time.

My setup involved sitting at the back of the room with a table and two external monitors.  Each monitor had two cameras outputting to it via SDI-out, so I could monitor all four at once.  I was able to give the crew notes and direction after each take, and see if they were all focusing on one musician and not getting enough coverage for me in the edit.  During break times I copied the camera media over using Davinci Resolve’s Clone Tool.

One the shoot was over, I made DNxHD offline versions of the footage in Resolve so that I could edit in Avid.  Four streams of 4K BRAW was not going to happen no matter what, but I wanted to edit in Media Composer as that’s my go-to NLE and where I most feel at home.  I am a Resolve Certified Trainer, so I could have edited and graded entirely in the one app, but there are just more robust trim tools in Avid and I also prefer the Multicam editor.

Editing in Avid was straightforward, and I integrated some split-screen effects too.  Grading was going to be done with the Online BRAW 4K footage, so I committed the Multicam edits on my Avid sequences and exported each as an AAF to be taken back to Resolve.  Once in Resolve, I switched the footage over to the BRAW – quite a simple process – and graded the footage.  I had to make some adjustments to the split-screen effects, but these were easy to do.  Each piece was graded with its own look – either natural or more stylised depending on the track.

Jack sent over the final mixes as Stereo WAV files and these were easily inserted into the cut in Resolve, before the finished files were exported.

The finished pieces are being released by ZRI on their Facebook Page, one per week.

Director, Producer, Editor: Howard Berry
Camera operators: Charlotte Booth, Håkon Jorgensen, Shantelle Keech, Oliver Musgrave
Sound recordist and mixing: Jack Hobbs at Jacket Records

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K
Dedolight spotlights
Kinoflo Diva lights
Avid Media Composer
Blackmagic Davinci Resolve
Avid Pro Tools