This has certainly been a very good year for music movies! Earlier this year A Joyful Sound finally made it online. Then there was a short piece on the School of Music's Musikhane community project. I did my first project for an international client when WFIMC called from Switzerland. A few weeks ago Umculo took a Mozart opera to the Ikageng township. And now, as a finale and a follow-on to the Figaro project, the Lamento production documentary follows the cast as they bring a very unique multimedia stage production to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. 

Honestly, doing this project was just plain hard. In addition to a lot of traveling we were constantly under pressure with time. Filming involved working on both the production doccie (and later an additional short piece on an Umculo township initiative) as well as recording the opening night and second night’s performance in its entirety. Try doing that with just two guys and a van and you get the idea. In spite of a very complex blue screen stage setup director Kobie van Rensburg and his team were extremely forthcoming in allowing me to set up my own equipment on stage and allowing me full access to the cast to get the footage that I needed.

This project was also a challenge in one major area – I couldn’t use any production music. Understandably so because you can’t make a doccie about a stage production and then use canned music for the score. But relying on live music for your ENTIRE score is a huge gamble and it made editing this extremely difficult - the visuals in one shot might look awesome, but the guy in the audience coughing his lungs out in the background pretty much ruins the audio for that particular shot. So, now you need to patch it up with audio from the second night’s performance and try to get the audio and video to match…not fun. 

Fortunately I could call on Pieter de Bruin at Artéma Recording Studio who applied his magic and sorted out most of the soundtrack issues for me on Cubase.

So while I’m not a fan of the "we’ll fix it in post" approach, we pretty much did just that with this project.

On the hardware side my star performers were again my little Sony X70 and slider – this little camera just keeps on amazing me with the quality I get out of it under less than ideal lighting conditions. Hundreds of gigabytes of AVCHD footage also comfortably fit the nearly 2.5 TB media storage on my new HP Zbook and for the first time I was able to keep an entire documentary project online for the full duration of post-production. In the past I had to have a whole collection of USB drives hanging off the ports.

Media Composer 8.6’s media management tools allowed me to keep a very complex library of transcoded footage under control while building the documentary timeline from a number of secondary sequences consisting of footage shot over four days. Avid’s much-improved multicam tools allowed me to quickly and effortlessly assemble two complete concert performances from which I could then pick the best visuals and audio. 

Above: A combination of careful lighting and Red Giant's Magic Bullet Suite gave the interviews that really nice cine look I've always wanted.

Overall I’m happy with the results. With very limited resources we managed to pull this off and I think we really nailed a few of the visuals.