The Vinegar Flies: Wide angle fall colors and a fake sun

It was an unusually warm November afternoon when I rolled up to an apartment in Somerville for a live performance shoot with The Vinegar Flies. We took full advantage of the weather and filmed the video in the backyard, with an ivy covered garage as our backdrop.

The Vinegar Flies are a new but awesome old time string band based in Somerville, MA. They needed a few live performance videos to use when applying to play at summer festivals, and wanted a video to submit to the NPR Music Tiny Desk contest. Mandolinist Dan Bui (also of Twisted Pine and Hot Day At the Zoo) volunteered to record this one with his semi-portable home studio setup, so the band was already out in the yard jamming and rehearsing when I arrived.

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The band had picked a few songs to record during our session – once we blocked out the band on the patio, composed the shots, and positioned the mics, we were ready to go. One obstacle I’d always encountered in the past was how to 1) physically capture an image of a whole band in close quarters, and 2) how to capture the feeling of standing right in the midst of a jamming band. If you’ve ever been sitting in the same room as a string band jamming away, you know it’s electric. I wanted to try and translate that feeling visually – my solution was a 14mm wide angle lens. A super wide lens creates distortion on the edges of the frame, which is not generally desirable, but in this case I was into it: The character of the lens gives the sense of a single audience member’s point of view; rather than finding cinematic compositions, I filmed the performance as if I was just some guy sitting on a bench watching the band play. The center of the frame is the focal point and the distorted edges are peripheral vision. This worked great for one-take live videos, especially with a genre so strongly associated with community jamming.

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The other challenge we encountered was lighting: No matter how hard you try, time seems to go by extra fast when you’re filming outdoors in November. The solution? Fake sun! I am fascinated by color temperature – just ask any student of mine who’s listened to an unnecessarily long explanation of the orange-blue spectrum, or my girlfriend about my annoying sensitivity to CFL bulbs at home – so I jumped at the chance to mimic the setting sun’s light with the 1K Lowel DP light I had on hand. The sun was setting and had disappeared behind buildings to the band’s stage left, so knowing that a 3200ºK tungsten bulb is roughly the same color temperature as the sun as it’s setting (before it gets all orange and pink at the horizon, that is), I setup the 1K light right in line with the sun, and kazaam, fake sun!

Check out all The Vinegar Flies videos here, and read about our Live & Local Video Package, just for musicians in Massachusetts.

– Jon Dorn
Owner, Four String Films

Quick facts

Client: The Vinegar Flies
Location: Somerville, MA
Gear:
• Canon 60D
• Rokinon 14mm lens
• Canon 25-70mm f/4 lens
• Lowel 1K DP light

Jon Dorn