The Lumineers & Tape Notes Podcast

Tape notes is a podcast focused on how some of the world’s most well known musicians create music. They feature on all major podcast and streaming services including Apple Podcasts, Acast and Spotify. Here’s how Tape Notes describes their podcast…

“Their conversations lift the lid on every stage of the creative process, from kindling the first spark of a song idea, through decisions on style and instrumentation, to finessing the final product”.

The podcast is hosted by Radio X presenter, John Kennedy, and produced by Will Brown and Tim Adam-Smith.

The Lumineers are a Denver based folk-rock band led by Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites. They’ve had world-wide success with singles like “Ho Hey”, “Stubborn Love”, “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra”. Their second album reached number in the UK singles chart and their first and third albums were featured in the top 10.

Purpose of the Video

The success of a podcast is most measured most simply by the number of podcast subscribers and the number of listens per episode. Improving these numbers comes from increasing awareness and popularity of the podcast across various channels and mediums. To appeal to a wider audience, Tape Notes decided they wanted to film the podcast and post the edited footage to YouTube.

The video features highlights of the conversation and directs viewers to the podcast and streaming sites where they can listen to the full episode.

Space & Camera Set Up

Tile Yard Studios was the location for this episode of the podcast. Finding a good location to film can immediately improve the production value of a video and the recording studio was an ideal backdrop. There was a mixture of modern recording equipment and retired paraphernalia that made for an attractive background.

The lighting was dim, ambient tungsten lights (more on this later).

Will and Tim organised the audio, while I focused on the cameras and lighting.

There were two static cameras and one “roaming” camera. The static cameras were a wide angle of the entire space, and a medium angle focusing on Wesley and Jeremiah (from now on referred to as Wes and Jerry). The roaming camera was a tight frame which changes between whoever was speaking at the time.

At this point it’s worth pointing out that John (the host), Wes and Jerry were joined by The Lumineers’ producer Simone Felice. The role of a producer can vary wildly, but they are always essential in the creation of an album. Simone is well-known in the music industry for producing albums for the likes of Jade Bird, Vance Joy and, of course, The Lumineers.

The Lighting

So back to those tungsten lights. They were dim – the cameras were shooting at ISO 5000 (not ideal for good footage). Fortunately the lights were all tungsten. Having one type of light/colour temperature is generally easier to work in situations like this.

To increase the amount of light in the room, I used the Aputure 120dii, which was diffused with a softbox (it softens the light). The colour temperature of the light is 5500k, which is a neutral white that you expect from sunlight.

The Aputure was modified to match the colour temperature of the tungsten lights by placing a CTO gel (plastic orange film) in front of the light. The CTO turns the neutral white into tungsten (white to orange).

Once the lighting was in place, the white balance in camera was set to 3500k.

Matching Camera & Colours

All three cameras are models made by Sony. Unfortunately, using the same camera manufacturer doesn’t guarantee that colours will match (even when the same settings are used on all three cameras).

Therefore, a colour chart was used to ensure that the cameras’ colours matched. The chart consists of 18 colours and white, greys and black and it’s designed to help synchronise colours between cameras or location.

The colour chart was filmed on location by all three cameras. If you look carefully you can see small differences in colour, exposure and contrast. For example, the grey boxes in the centre image have a noticeable magenta cast. The other images have more of a green cast.

After filming, post-production begins. Editing begins by importing footage into Premiere Pro (editing software). The next stage would involve compiling the footage into a sequence. On this occasion, we are going to jump ahead to colour correction…

The footage doesn’t look too bad straight out of the box. The images from left to right are the A Cam, B Cam and C Cam. You’ll notice the image in the centre has a slightly more magenta tint. This corresponds to what we are seeing in the colour charts above. 

There are also differences in exposure, contrast, saturation and hue. Most people have a grasp on the terms exposure, contrast and saturation are. Hue is tougher to explain, but relatively easy to exemplify.

Caucasian skin is an orange colour. Although various factors may cause skin to be a little more red/pink or more yellow/green. This can be a person’s natural skin colour, or something more temporary such as from exercise, being in a warm environment or wearing make up.

Essentially hue is where a colour lies on this spectrum. As far as skin tones are concerned the spectrum is MAGENTA-RED-ORANGE-YELLOW-GREEN. Orange is generally considered typical skin colour but the factors mentioned previously can shift the hue towards magenta/red or yellow/green.

Getting correct skin tones is one of the most important elements of colour correction and the colour chart is designed to help achieve a natural look.

The images taken of the colour chart are imported into a program called Davinci Resolve. Resolve’s is an editing programme and includes software that allows you to analyse the colour chart from the podcast shoot. It then recognises inaccuracies in the colour chart, corrects them, and applies the changes to the all the footage. This is repeated for footage from each of the three cameras and the colours will match PERFECTLY… well almost.

Davinci Resolve Colour Chart

It takes a few tweaks to the hue and a few other adjustments to match the footage from the various cameras.

At this stage the footage from all the cameras matched. However, all three cameras appeared to be presenting skin tones that were a little too red/magenta.

There were 8 individuals in the studio at the time of recording so the room was warm. That warmth may have contributed to the some redness in the skin tones. Regardless of what caused the red skin, it needed to be corrected. This was done by pulled the red hue towards a more natural orange skin colour.

The screenshots below show the uncorrected footage (left), the footage corrected with the colour chart (centre) and the final image with some small tweaks to the hue of the skin (right).

Double Checking

Viewers may still look at colour corrected footage and think that the colours don’t look right. Perhaps the skin colour was correct when it was a little more pink?

Fortunately there’s an objective approach to prove that the corrections that were made are objectively correct. There’s a tool within the editing software that visually represents colours by mapping them onto a graph called a vectorscope.

Skin tones are so important in colour correction/grading that the vectorscope has a dedicated line to represent skintones. If the colours that are mapped onto the vectorscope fall along this line, then you can trust what your eye is telling you. If your data points are skewed or aren’t close to the skin tone line then something may have gone wrong.

The left image represents the image after the colour chart was used to correct the image, but before the second round of adjustments were made. The skin tone line is the line that would be NW on a compass. The white cluster falls close to the line, but it’s skewed towards the red point on the compass.

The right image represents the skin tone of the final image. You can see the white cluster falls neatly onto the skin tone line. That means the adjustments that have been made were correct. 

Final Thoughts

Colour correction is a thankless task. When it’s done correctly, nobody should notice. However, it’s an essential part of a professional video production and something that is offered in all of our video productions.

Get in touch with us with details of your next project. Alternatively, if you have footage that requires correction/grading then contact us for more information.