Song Spinner with John Fries – a three-camera shoot in a wine shop basement

For our latest episode of Song Spinner, a video series exploring what goes into writing a song, Rick Koster decided to profile John Fries. John picked his song ‘Vacancy’ and suggested shooting in the basement of Thames River Wine and Spirits, a location that John thought would match the mood of the song.

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Rick and I swung by at lunchtime to scout out the location. I was pleased to see that the basement, in addition to being a very cool looking space, was also set up with decent lighting. That would be one less bag we’d have to carry. Did I say we? I meant Rick. I’m still recovering from hip surgery, so Rick would have to carry all of our gear down the stairs. I managed to pare down the gear a little bit into two bags. Two cameras and all the mics went into one, and three tripods went into the other. I carried the third camera over my shoulder.

My preference with these setups is to use three cameras, since there’s basically just a guy and a guitar playing one song. The visual variety is necessary to break up the edit. I usually use a Sony EX-1R, and Sony Z1U and a Canon HV30. Mixing formats is not ideal, but that’s the gear available to me at the moment. For this setup, we used the Z1U for the wide opening shot, the HV30 for the tight side shot, and the EX-1R for a front view that I would adjust between medium wide and tight shots throughout the song.

We had a battery issue with the z1U, but luckily we got just enough of the opening of the song before the camera crapped out. I was only monitoring the EX-1R, otherwise I would have started over with a fresh battery. Other than that, we were pretty happy with how this piece turned out. It was shot on a Thursday evening, and the edit was finished the next day by noon.

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