Wednesday, July 27, 2005

America's Lending Partners

Normally I like to be involved in the post process as much as possible, but there is a special magic when you see a project for the first time accidentally on air or on the shelf of the video store.

Today I saw for the first time a spot I shot a little while ago. It's for America's Lending Partners. We actually shot four spots, and I tracked down copies of two of them. They were shot in HiDef with the Varicam. We had a full crew and it was the first time I worked with Gaffer Dave Bunge and his 5-ton truck. I Highly recommend him, he works all over NorCal (1-888-818-4448). In fact we had such a great crew that this was the most enjoyable set I have worked on since I came back from L.A. We shot the 4 vignettes all at one location, and in one (less than!) ten hour day. It should be airing on CNN, Headline News, Dish Network, and other channels, so keep an eye peeled!

This was our first location, the backyard scene.

The lighting set up for this shot.

The second scene of the day, the interior scene.

The Interior lighting setup.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Morning News

I just got a clip online from a morning news promotional spot I shot. You can see it at: . This spot is all about motion. Either dolly moves, or time-lapse, or ramping, so a lot of the stills don't do it justice.

It is ~2.6 megs to download. We shot 12 featured actors at 12 locations for a :30 spot! It's nice to see it come together well. It was all shot with the DVX100, except for the time-lapse stuff which was shot with a betacam and sped up in post. Here are some stills:

A little balerina on her way to dance class. 2 shiny boards pumping light in from outside and hitting the wall on the right, and a 500w fresnell w/ full CTB putting a hot spot on the left.

A woman jogging while watching the news. We couldn't feed an image into the monitor, so this image was inserted in aftereffects by Rey Jaraba.

Yumm.... Gunthers! What better location than the best ice creamery in town! 2 shiney boards hit the sign to make it pop, and a .6 century wide adapter give this dolly in a compelling feel.

Morning traffic on I-80. I used a 3x extender on the DVX to get this compression. The adapter degrades the image, but it has a great feel, perfect for this application. Someone stuck in traffic below told me later they saw me on the bridge filming!

Again I used the century adapter for this dolly in shot.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Echopheen Music Video Day 2: Sunday Afternoon

Day 2, Sunday afternoon at Clunie Hall

That afternoon we shot the band performing on the stage, and it had to be lit to sell the viewer into thinking it was a large concert stage. Thanks to Gaffer Dave Bunge's experience and expertise, we had the stage turned around and lit in under 2 hours. We did a lot of back lighting and used a hazer to fill the air. Sometimes the smoke was a little too thick. Not for us, but... during the first take, it set off the fire alarm, and we had to evacuate all cast crew and extras until the alarm stopped. Thank goodness the fire department did not show up... After that we used less smoke.

We did the wide shots first so we could let the extras go and concentrate on the individual band performances. We used a 400w Joker w/o the lens as a sweeping backlight beam across the audience members heads. We also used a set of ACLs and nine-lights to blast light from behind the band. It all came together great.

This time we decided to use 2 pieces of our wide curve track instead of just the doorway dolly. We couldn't get as tight of an arc, but it was better to have the repeatability for focus as we passed back and forth. And even though it took a couple of minutes to set up the track for each member, it actually ended saving time as the dolly operator did not need to reset for each pass, he could just go back and forth allowing me to get the shots I wanted with each pass.

If I had to change one thing, I would not have used the red gells. I know from past experience that red lighting in video makes the subject look soft, but I was hoping that the Varicam could handle it... no. Should have used a dark amber or straw.

The Varicam with the very nice onboard 9" monitor. Great for operating with those fast moving dolly shots. Also good for letting the dolly grip have a view for what you are getting.

The stage with all the lights on.

What it looks like with the 9-lights on full.

Gaffer Dave Bunge patiently allowing us to go 2 hours over...

The Crew...

...and the fans.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Echopheen Music Video Day 2: Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning: Clunie Hall

The good news is that we are in the same location all day long, a nice large room. The bad news: It doubles as two time periods, with a massive relight half way through. Oh well, It's gonna look great...

The morning stuff couldn't have been easier. We used the existing overhead stage lights (PAR 38 strips) with just a bounce card from below. Easy, and it looks great. We set up the camera to be moving on a circular path around the talent. We only had wide angle track, so we used the doorway dolly and gaff taped off a 6' circle around each band member.

You can see the Gaffers tape marks on the floor.

In the opposite angle, you can see how large the hall is.

From Left to right:
Sean Sullivan, AD
Erik Espera, Director
Sketch, Clapper and Editor
Dan Billings, 2nd AC
Myself, DP

An elder band member showing his younger self how to play lead guitar. You can also see the indigenous overhead strip lighting.

Echopheen Music Video Day 1 Cont. Exterior

The last setup of the day was the shots of the band entering the venue. As you can see, we had lots of screaming extras. Lots is not hundreds though. Normally, we would stack and re-arrange to fill out each shot. The problem was most of the background had direct sun, and was way too hot to include in any shot. We were also pressed for time, so I decided to let the gaffer start to wrap and not to use any lighting. At the time I regretted it, thinking it would be nice to see light on their faces, but after reviewing the footage, I think it was the right decision in light of diminishing returns.

The band.

Previsualizing a steadicam shot.

Steadicam operator Bret Allen has a lot of fans.

More fans.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Echopheen Music Video Day 1 Cont: Hallway scenes

After the stairwell shot we moved upstairs to shoot two adjacent halls.

Lighting halways is such a conundrum. Luckily (and by luck I mean exhaustive location scouting) we foud a great hall with many windows, neutrally toned walls and lots of nooks to hide lights.

We scheduled the shots so no direct light would be coming in the windows, and so the sun could hit the shiny boards ata usefull angle.

The halls were lit from outside wby bouncing shiny boards in and hitting the ceiling, and from inside by hiding 4x Kinos in doorways. We also 400watt Jokers to make hotspots on the far walls. Some of the shots were on sticks, some on steadicam, and some on the steadicam on the dolly in low-mode.

Erik Espera directing the talent

Erik and myself catching a quick closeup before moving on to the next set up.

A long (telephoto) shot of the band memebers walking down the hall.

A steadicam-dolly shot operated by Bret Allen, leading the kids down the hall. This is rehearsal. For the take we mounted a 4x4 Kino on the dolly to light the faces of the talent.

Lighting plan for the East facing shot:

Lighting plan for the South facing shot:

Echopheen Music Video Day 1 Cont: Classroom Scene

Saturday afternoon we shot the classroom scene. The director wanted the room to look like it was lit by the windows only. We silked out the window and closed the venetian blinds down to let some light in, but not blow out everything. We hung a 2k space light in the center of the room and put up 3 par64s fro back lights.

This scene was to be 360 steadicam circling around the four kids, but I talked the director into making it a series of 180 passes, thereby allowing me to light the room for a good and bad direction. As opposed to an "OK" for any direction.

A good shot showing the lighting units. Ignore the Moire pattern from the blinds.

Steadicam 180 shots around the group of kids

Gaffer Dave Bunge.

The lighting diagram for this scene

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Echopheen Music Video Day 1

This past weekend we shot the Echopheen Music Video, and I can't say I've had a better time on any other shoot.

The location was nice, the weather was pleasant, everyone there was fun and professional.

The camera package was a Panasonic HD Varicam, with a fujinon 17x lens. We had a 5-ton grip/electric package from gaffer Dave Bunge

We were supposed to get a mattebox and follow focus, but those were still on order in Germany, so we did w/o. A little bit of blackwrap as an eyebrow when needed, otherwise, we shot clean.

We started the day at 8:00am outside the school. It was a steadicam shot tight on a poster, pull back and follow a kid partially inside the school. It's a difficult shot for the first shot, but we scheduled the shot so that side of the building was in the shade, which means we only had to bring the inside of the school up 3-4 stops.

We used a mirror board to pump a beam of light in thru a window and onto the ceiling for fill. We also had a couple of 4x4 kinos flanking the entrance to the door as well.

We had 2 400w Joker HMIs and 1 575 that we used to pump hot spots on the walls and in the corners.

Above, from top:

The lead singer making a cameo.
The director, Erik Espera talking with the steadicam operator.
A wider shot showing the exterior of the school
Below: A Lighting Plan