6th Street Blues: A creative experiment in video


I’ve been thinking of making a video for a while. But it’s been an uphill battle — my resistance has been strong. Unlike still photography, where enthusiasts can create professional quality, video is so hard to do well. My perfectionist self made excuses to not even try.

So I’m releasing this video knowing full well it’s far from professional. But I’m happy with the results, for the most part. I think it’s a notch or two above a typical home movie. I guess the important thing is that I’m taking creative risks.

I filmed it using the Nikon J1 that I brought at the beginning of this year. It’s a really fun camera and I’ve taken some great shots with it. Part of the reason I wanted the J1 though was for the video. I noticed that the autofocusing video was very smooth and the saturated colors gave it more of a cinematic feel. But there was a problem. I wanted to shoot at night but the standard kit lens was not bright enough. Sure it did decent low light stills with a slow shutter speed but the video wants a 1/60 second shutter.

So I got myself a new lens. The 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f1.8, which gives a 50mm equivalent view. I was hoping the bigger aperture would capture enough light to film at night. You know that’s my preferred venue, the dark urban streets. The only downside? The 18.5mm doesn’t have image stabilization — I certainly lost the smooth flowing feel of the kit lens. But at least I could shoot at night.

I used Apple’s iMovie, a consumer video editing tool. I’m not ready to tackle the more serious Final Cut Pro application just yet. iMovie had a video stabilization feature that works surprisingly well and happily it took the jitters out of my non-image stabilized footage. The video was shot and posted in Full HD but it looks soft to me. No doubt the Nikon J1 is far behind the class leading Panasonic GH4. But for now, it a small inexpensive camera that fills my video needs.

So here is a video view of East 6th Street that I shot last Saturday. It was a typical night. I’m sure you’ve seem many of my photos from there but the video certainly adds a different dimension. I hope you like it.


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11 thoughts on “6th Street Blues: A creative experiment in video

  1. Very good! You have some intuitive moves that edit well for a nice cinematic flow. The shots are all steady, devoid of abrupt pans and twitchy focus changes. No shaky-cam, a blessing for all who view. The music is perfect (I hope you have use rights).

    The only “but” that intrudes lies in the few points at which the music and the musicians’ movements clash. The singer who isn’t heard singing, an occasional disrhythmic event where a drummer obviously is playing some other tune. Most of the blend of background music and activity is perfectly shot or edited to conceal that what you see isn’t the source of what you hear. That’s a terrific achievement.

    By all means, go for it! There’s a natural talent at work here, coupled with a lot of hard-earned skill.

    1. Michael, Thank you for well considered reply. I briefly considered trying to mix the original music that I recorded but decided that that was too much of a hassle.

      I think I lucked out more than anything where the music almost matched the performances.

      The music is royalty free and creative commons that I got from Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com. He has a good selection to choose from.

      Not sure when I’ll do another one. It takes me a heck of a lot of time. But if there is a good topic/place. I’ll consider another one.

      1. Mixing the natural sound from a lot of different shots probably would have proved disastrous. If you do try that, get one long-running sequence of good audio (tough to do) and use it to underlay the whole, edited piece. Bump it up full when a performer is to be seen and heard.

        Basically, the choice to use Kevin MacLeod’s music was the right one. Recording good quality audio on-site is an art in itself. Editing it after the fact can get to be quite hairy.

  2. Love it! I’d echo the same issue of singing not matching soundtrack, but overall, lots of fun.

    One other nit – the shots all seem to be at face level, standing adult height. The scene of the Best Wurst cook could have been awesome with the steam and the darkness if it was shot up into the trailer.

    Keep going! This is great stuff!

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