How-to Pull off a Flash Mob Video – Behind the Scenes

Phil Caragol sings to a surprised audience

Phil Caragol sings to a surprised audience

A group of filmmakers, singers, and percussionists teamed up to create a heart-tugging flash mob at Lucky’s Market in Longmont, CO. The video (seen above) was a fundraiser for the OUR Center of Longmont – a non-profit food bank and self sufficiency agency for struggling families.

In September, Longmont and the Front Range encountered devastating flooding due to a large amount of rain. This flooding resulted in millions of dollars in damages to cities all across the Front Range. During this time, the OUR Center saw an increased amount of people needing assistance, and as a result, needed more financial support to continue its support effort in the community. The video above was designed to create some additional donations to the OUR Center in a time of great need, and to create awareness for the different services the OUR Center provides.

The flash mob was organized by marketing guru Phil Caragol and video entrepreneur Payton Peterson. Both worked on designing the flash mob for over a month before it was executed.

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Multi-view of the 12 camera angles

“There were a ton of things that needed to come together for this to work. We needed to have an instrumental song that was re-recorded for our video, 30 singers with choreography, and a percussion group to keep things exciting. All the while rolling cameras from every angle imaginable to ensure adequate coverage of the event”, Peterson said.

According to Payton, the video was a pretty big challenge to produce; it produced many unique challenges that had to have engineered solutions in advanced.

We wanted to record the shoppers natural reactions to the performance, so we rigged 12 hidden cameras that were never noticed by shoppers. That wasn’t easy.

I sat down with Payton and had an in-depth discussion about the technology they used to pull off the filming of this. You can read our question/answer session below.

Q: What gear did you use for this video?

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A few of the handheld cameras

A: We used a ton of everything. Pretty much called in all the favors we could from our 12 person production crew. Mostly filmed with DSLR’s (7D & 60D) with long lenses (75-200mm & 75-300mm) for the long reaction shots, and autoheads/PTZ setups for the higher shots. Everyone had headsets/walkies to listen to cues from our command center in the back room. We had computers and video monitors in a back room to monitor and record feeds. Controllers for the PTZ cameras, and zoom controllers for the autohead.

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Some of the crew listen to a pre-production meeting

Q: 14 people? why so many?

A: We had 7 physical camera operators, one PTZ operator, two production assistants (to open the garage, and lead talent to positions), a sound/playback operator, cart-cam operator, and myself (TD).

Q: How did you keep the camera operators hidden from the shoppers?

A: Great question! We disguised most of our operators as employees of Lucky’s Market. Then rigged their cameras inside inventory boxes and other innovative objects. It looked like they were putting their hands in boxes, and rearranging something from the shoppers point-of-view. We also had a “fake interview” being shot in the corner that people were warned about when they walked in. So they expected that camera operator filming in the corner – but didn’t expect a flash mob one bit.

Q: What “autohead/PTZ” cameras did you use?

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Payton rigs the PROAIM autohead

A: We had two types of autohead/PTZ configs. The first was a PROAIM 17612 Remote Head with a Sony HVR-HD1000U camcorder. We controlled the remote head with the joystick it came with, and the zoom/REC features of the Sony with a Libec ZC-3DV LANC Controller mounted in a KTek Norbert Filmmaker Kit on some sticks. The camera recorded in HD to a MiniDV tape for later digestion in editing world.

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Payton runs the cable from the Lorex PTZ camera to the control room

The second config was a Lorex LZC7091B 10x PTZ Dome Camera controlled with a RioRand PTZ Dome Camera Controller. This was mounted inside a box designed to look like a present suspended from the ceiling by some framing wire. The camera was controlled from the back room we based our operations out of. The video feed from the camera was looped in/out a monitor then routed to a computer for recording. To capture the feed to the computer I used some EasyCAP DC60‘s plugged into some USB ports on one of my custom built PC’s. We used a program called Blue Iris to record the video feed. I use Blue Iris with my IP cameras at my house to manage my PTZ cameras that make up the security system. I knew it would work for this, so I didn’t bother getting a different program to do so.

Here is a video I made to show the setup to some other camera operators back when I just got all the gear shipped in (link embedded below).

 

Q: How did you get a clean audio feed for your video?

A: We actually filmed and recorded a clean master audio recording from the rehearsal a couple hours before, at a nearby church. We rigged an omni-directional mic in the middle of the room and had people walk around and sing. We didn’t have the percussionists play during that recording because I knew they would be overpowering at the actual venue when the time came – and we’d get a good feed from that.

We also rigged a few mics around the store before the event. I put a wireless Sennheiser G3 lapel on Phil (the main singer) and another in a box on the floor in the middle of the action (the actual lapel was on the outside, but the transmitter was in a box). I also rigged a couple shotgun mics on top of the refrigerator units on shock mounts. Then every camera except the PTZ dome camera had at least one mic on them as well.

In the end, I believe we had about 14 audio tracks to create our mix from in post-production, which worked well. Very glad I recorded the rehearsal, as the acoustics of a busy supermarket are not very good.

Q: How long did it take to edit?

A: We were on a short time-frame to get the edit done. We filmed the event on a Friday, and edited it over the weekend and had a working copy done at 6pm on Sunday. The final version was posted at 8:30pm on Sunday. So – a two day turnaround for a 12 camera shoot – not bah eh? It took us about 18 hours of our time to edit.

Payton can be contacted for additional questions by visiting his website www.PaytonP.com

In the end, the flash mob video was shared thousands of times via social media, and was posted on Huffington PostFox News, and the Times-Call (Longmont’s local paper). The OUR Center ended up receiving thousands of dollars in donations which has dramatically helped the organization get back on track financially after the flooding. Please consider donating to the OUR Center to support their causes by clicking here.

© 2014, Evan Zbozien. All rights reserved.




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