Hello DOP BLOG Readers, it has been a crazy busy time for me recently and at 6.30am on a Wednesday, I have finally found time to sit down and let you know what I have been up to.
The past couple of months have included a Panasonic commercial, shot on the ARRI Alexa in the Dubai Desert. Some comedy sketches again shot on Alexa. An Art Doco with the extremely talented Emirati Director and renowned poet Nojoom al-Ghanim shot on the RED EPIC. A whole load of below the line work mainly shot on Epic and what I am now going to tell you all about the Opening Ceremony Film for the prestigious 2012 Dubai World Cup.
I have collaborated on some very cool creative projects with the French Director Bruno De Champris, so I was delighted when Alchemy Films asked me to shoot this 8min film.
Now I am back in Dubai, feet firmly on the floor after my LA experience and prepping for my first ever feature film. It’s a Bollywood number so very excited about that and even though I am essentially from a Digital Cinematography background I am shooting on 35mm! Yep that’s right, I have shot a few of commercials on 35mm, but this is the real deal…
When I was at Sundance I met Chris Russo who is not only a filmmaker in her own right but also works for Kodak in LA. I explained about the feature at a Kodak Panel Discussion that Vilmos Zsigmond was at, yep the LEGEND DP!
Vilmos was full of so many top tips and advice and Chris kindly invited me to the famous Eastman Kodak headquarters just of Melrose Ave. I got to spend time in their theatre (cinema for fellow Brits) and Chris talked me through various film stock options and differences Vison 2, Vison 3. It was a great experience and one that I am very thankful for.
With the world going digital I fear this might be my first and last feature film to be shot on actual real proper sprocket holed film…. Even Roger Deakins ASC, BSC the lover of celluliod himself confessed that with the induction of the Arri Alexa he might not be continuing on film anymore… That is a Shock Horror!!! (see the article here)
I have always loved the look and emotion that film creates, but as digital improves people including the legend Cinematographer and Winner of the ASC Life Time Achievement Award Deakins are saying that judging between what is Digital or Film is getting increasing harder..? Bizzarly, he never mentions RED or even about the RED EPIC in his interviews, other than saying he’s never used one… Which is a little crazy really when RED is such a big thing at the moment… Anyone whose ever read one of my blogs will know I am a regular RED user and fan and to top it off when I did a talk for Canon last week (about shooting on HDSLR which I am also a big fan of) at CABSAT in Dubai (thanks Brian Henderson from CreateaSphere) I met TED from RED in person and got to check out both the EPIC and SCARLET.
The EPIC is what I am interested in. 5K resolution and fits literally in the palm of your hand, well that’s before you’ve tooled it up with all the regular ‘get up’ i.e. Primes, Matte Box, Follow Focus, Batteries and so on, but still it’s incredibly small and AMAZING!
As well as standard 2D shooting I met Lucas Wilson from 3ality who talked me through possibly the best 3D rig on the market! That’s a lot of meeting people… anyway it’s so good that Peter Jackon’s the Hobbit is currently using 20 of them complete with pre-production versions of the EPIC – now that’s literally EPIC! – sorry I couldn’t resist!
Off to prep, read the script and search through old copies of American Cinematographer to gain ideas! It’s my bible!
Filming on Location and most IMPORTANTLY
THERE’S A DISCOUNT ON AT THE MOMENT $29.97 for all 4 it won’t last…
Hello DOP Blog Crew
I promised to tell you all about some promos I have done. So here’s two… The second was visually inspired by the first.
Canon 5D MK II with x2 Tilt & Shift Lenses were chosen to create a low budget promo for a Football Programme. The idea was to recreate a ‘Sports Desk’ where a reporter would be viewing a football match getting ready to give some critique.
Nizar Sfair the Director wanted something a little visually different. So I suggested Tilt & Shift lenses to make the footage more abstract and in-turn hopefully more visually pleasing. As Nizar is always keen to have fun he suggested we take it one step further and shoot through a magnifying glass to make an even more abstract image! With no rules on this project and complete free reign ‘Why Not!’.
All the effects are done in camera – take a look
It’s seems so ‘Old School’ having a Digi Beta deck now doesn’t it? But, that’s how many of these sports guys still operate.
Anyway, as I said all in-camera effects! There’s no layering in post… Crazy I know! It really looks like it doesn’t it… I back lit through the gaps (in the set) , to try and pick up some ‘glow’ and subtle flare. Our faithful and talented Art Director Matt made a rig of three magnifying glasses of different sizes and thickness. As the camera tracked left to right, Matt physically held and moved the rig in-front of the camera lens. This moving created the double distorted image. Some people would say that we were brave/ or possibly stupid doing these in camera effects and it’s best to shoot ‘clean’ and work the effects in post. In many circumsatnces they would be right, but as this promo was a sequence of 25 Nizar and I both knew we could have fun and go a little mental with this one. We wanted to create something completely different and with an abstract feel. It’s inspired by Lomo Photography – I just bought the Lomography Lubitel 166+ Twin Lens Medium Format Film CameraIn a world of digital, its so inspiring to go back to basics with unexpected results and the 6×6 format…
We had to do about 20 takes with both a wider and tighter Canon Tilt Shift Lens to make it all work.
Essentially, it is a very cheap and simple promo, but was great fun to do as there were no rules! The magnifiers also inspired us for another promo. This one was for a Horse Racing show. We had to film a prize stallion both in the studio and on location.
Please forgive what happens in the Eye at the end…
The thing with being a DOP is that it doesn’t matter how much creative control you have on the shoot, essentially the final look is dictated by the Director, Producer and Client.
Having a horse in a studio is always a little tricky. It gets hot, tired, bored, lonely (well, probably) and doesn’t really like loud noises – oh and of course likes to take a dump at some stage! Plus, they always seem to get a little. well how can I put it, ‘excited’! Which it did on our best take! Nobody (including me) noticed something growing in shot as we tracked in… It was only when we reviewed the take – we all had a good laugh! Thank goodness for playback!
Lighting a Horse:
I have lit a few horses in my time, but it is always as equally tricky…
Firstly, you can not guarntee that they will stay in the same spot, actually you can guarntee they will not stay in the same spot!
As we were using a black infinity set, I set a 5K in the truss as a back light gelled with 1/8 CTB. Then used a 10K as 3/4 back light positioned camera right gelled with 1/4 soft, a 10K keyed from the left through a 12×12 1/4 silk and filled from right with 5K through a 12×12 1/4 silk which was positioned slightly closer.
I had my Gaffer run everything through a large dimmer unit. This way I could at least control the amount of light very simply, plus I know Nizar is always very keen to experiment fading lights up as we track in…
Essentially a very simple set up. I was worried that the floor would be too illuminated so I placed ND .6 directly on the bottom half of the lamps. As soon as you put a light through a silk it disperses it massively and it becomes very hard to control so you have to do it directly on the source, any flags or nets in front of a 12×12 are worthless.
The great thing about RED is the grading capability. As it shoots RAW you have the ability to manipulate the image in much the same way you can with a RAW still in Photoshop. In post they made the image more contrasty, which instantly helped the floor crush out.
When we came to shoot the horse galloping, the light was perfect! At Sunset you only have about 20-25min of similar light. So I knew we had to work fast. The Key Grip set up a diagonial track so the horse had room to safely pass by. We shot a couple of takes of the horse galloping towards camera clean, then Matt the Art Director dusted off his trusty magnifier rigs. One of the grips rode on the dolly and held it in front of the lens moving it as I filmed.
I really like the effect it creates. I shot directly into the dipping Sun which is a favourite trick of mine!
1) Experimenting shooting through objects can be very cool. It can fill gaps and make otherwise ‘boring’ images come to life. You can to it to a lesser or greater degree.
2) Tilt & Shift lenses can completely change the look of an image. You can throw focus in different areas that you could never achieve with a regular lens and principals of depth of field.
3) You can use almost anything in the foreground. Magnifiers work well to give a distorted double image, but I find work best when you are shooting towards a source of light.
4) It’s hard to light for any animal. The best thing to do is mark out an area where you would like them to stand which is much bigger than normal and light for that, giving yourself a little leeway. As it’s often hard to keep an animal in a specific spot have options with your lighting. I always keep a couple of extra lamps on standby all plugged up and with the appropriate gels on just in case. Having your lights through a dimmer is also very helpful to make quick changes in intensity of the light or if the heat bothers them…
5) Listen to the animal handler. Sounds obvious, but they know the animal and it’s behaviour best. If you want it to do a certain action communicate with the handler. If it is very specific give the handler some lead time to train.
6) Make sure there are no obstructions and a clear path for the animal in and out of shot. This is just a safety precaution incase the animal gets spooked and the handler has to take it away quickly.
7) As Animals move, set yourself on a track and dolly or slider so you can easily reframe and get in the best possible position.
Here’s a couple of clips from an Animal Planet rebranding shoot I did. Shot on the Phantom.
Comment on the blow below and let me know about your animal shooting experiences!! Best story wins a copy of my books How To Become a Cameraman full of loads of top tips and insider secrets HOW TO BEAT THE COMPETITION, FILMING ON LOCATION, LIGHTING FOR FILM AND TV
GOOD LUCK and HAPPY FILMING!
The Challenge: To film and light for a 360 degree shot that was set at night and had to be shot in the bright sunlight of the daytime!
I always cringe a little when a Producer says ‘We have this shoot that needs to be set at night, what do you think about shooting Day For Night?’
My first thought is similar to when I get asked to shoot a commercial in ‘one single shot’ or ‘the suicide method’ as a Director friend of mine calls it – ‘oh bugger’!
I always think, why don’t we just shoot it at night..? I like lighting at night it gives you a chance to create something special… However, shooting at night is not aways practical especially when your scene takes place in the middle of the Arabian Desert.
On this occasion the Day for Night approach was probably the right idea.
The project was to shoot x2 commercials for Abu Dhabi Education Council. The first theme was centred around an Arabic man and the second an Arabic lady. They would be walking in the middle of the desert… yep, as the title suggests, at night surrounded by nothing other than sand dunes and stars! The camera would make a 360 circle around the person as he/ she is walking and then settle in a locked off position as they head off up a dune towards a pathway that in post would later be made out of stars…. Essentially, the message is ‘follow your dreams and make your own pathway through education’. Ok, sounds a little cheesy, but a fair message to the youth and a fun project so now just how to do it..?
That’s exactly what I thought… Take a look at it first and then I will run you through how I did it.
Lighting a vast area of the desert can be an expensive and an impractical thing to do. That’s why Eye Squad, the production company, sensibly wanted to keep the shoot to it’s simplest form and go for the day for night approach.
As you can see the commercial takes a slight fantasty feel and with that approach you can get away with a lot of creative freedom – which we like!
1) The first obstacle to approach was how to do the 360 degree move in the middle of the desert?
Steadycam was an considered, but in the end I decided to shoot it the old fashioned method – from a dolly with a 360 degree track. I’ll be honest, Steadycam availability was an issue, but also I like to be in control when I am shooting especially when it essentially is one main shot. Due to the shot being 360 degrees there would be no ‘behind camera’ as such and the idea of being stuck at a monitor some distance away behind a sand dune never excites me.
For the same reason, Hector Fernando, the Director, rode on the dolly with me and the extremely talented Focus Puller Toyota (one of the best I have ever worked with) pulled focus remotely from within the 360 track.
2) How was the track set?
With a lot of sweat! Building a track in the desert is never ideal let alone building a 360 degree track… The Grips probably felt like I did when I get asked to shoot day for night ‘oh bugger 360 in the dessert’ but as usual they did a fantastic job!
It took about 10 guys to carry all the wood necessary to lay the foundation and then carry the track and Panther dolly up the dunes – not an easy task! There was countless tracking boards, apples boxes, pags, wedges… It must have taken about 2 hours from start to finish, which is pretty quick considering the conditions and it needed to be 100% secure and level to endure a full days worth of filming and the weight of Hector and myself… Two dolly grips took it in turns to push whilst the actor walked through the centre of the track. Hector counted aloud to ensue both the camera and actors were in sync with position. It took a couple of takes to get the speed right on both parts then it was relatively simple… for us on the dolly anyway…
3) What Camera and why?
The Producer asked if we could shoot this on the Canon 5D MK II or Canon 1D IV and although I don’t mind admitting I am quite a fan of HDSLR, I pushed for the RED on this one. Hector the Director wanted to shoot a minimum of 50fps which the 5D MK II can not do. The Canon 1D IV can do comfortably, but it doesn’t hold anywhere near the resolution of RED. RED shoots RAW 3K 16:9 at 50fps (60fps max at 3K) and as there was a lot of post work to be done on this particular job and with the exposure latitude the RED camera has it seemed the most sensible choice.
4) Which frame rate and which lens?
Hector wanted a slowmo feel without being too over the top, so we opted to keep it simple and shoot at 50fps. As explained to achive this frame rate you have to drop to 3K (which is still incredibly high resolution), but does mean your lens size increases by about 1/3 due to the area of the chip that is used. I opted to shot on a 16mm Zeiss Ultra prime lens which at 3K essentially became about 21mm. Which was wide enough to do the job.
5) What Filters did I use?
When I have shot day for night in the past (on HD) I have used ‘day for night’ filters and to be honest they worked really well. This is Tiffens description of what they do:
The Cool Day for Night is based on the perception that moonlight is cool, therefore, bluish in color. To simulate a feeling of moonlight, a specific shade of lavender is used producing visual coolness while maintaining realistic flesh tones. In addition, since the ability to see details at night is diminished by lower light levels, a low contrast component is added to the filter.
Due to the fact that we were shooting RED and it shoots RAW you don’t really need to use this type of filter anymore, as you can adjust the colour temperature and contrast in post to suit the scene. After chatting to Tallen Chow the talented senior Flame Artist at Optix Post Production we decided it would be best to shoot it completely clean with nothing but straight ND filters to reduce the depth of field.
I shot at T4 which is a good stop to simulate a similar depth of field you would have at night and enough stop not to make the focus pull too tricky.
6) How was it lit?
As it was shot in the daytime I relied completely on natural light, the Sun is one serious source – especially in the desert on a cloudless day… Normally I would have used 12×12 frames with silver or white silk to bounce light back, but due to the fact the camera would make a 360 degree move I couldn’t have anything set up that would be in shot so instead I lined the floor with silver and white poly boards to bounce the light back up. Giving some fill to the actor and actress. Plus with the actresses black Abaya (local female Arabic dress) it gave a beautiful kick of light as she walked and the fabric swayed in the wind. A very Simple method!
7) What about the shadows?
The sun does cause shadows, but does the moon? Well if you watch many films that are shot at night they seem to think so… When the actress is walking up the dunes you see her shadow, to be honest quite a long shadow… This was because this shot was shot towards the end of the day. I purposely shot a static plate of the scene/dunes so shadows could have quite easily been taken out in post (if you have a few hours), but both the Director and client thought it added to the scene. Watching the cut version I do too! The lady’s shadow gives it some contrast and enhances the fantasy feel. Some people might say it’s wrong, but within filmmaking you have certain perameters of creative freedom. Would there really be a pathway made out of stars…!
Check this short behind the scenes video, which shows us filming the static shot as the actress walks up the dune, it also shows Marina, the make up artist, sitting next to the now redundent 360 track and talking on the phone to her Mum – who is in Italy I think…
The angle for this shot was completely cheated, due to location of dunes and the sun’s position. The more experienced I get the more and more I learn to cheat angles. I recently did a commercial where all the eye lines and backgrounds were cheated to get the best backgrounds – although usual practice this one was extreme and I nervously look forward to seeing it! As soon as I get a copy I’ll share it with DOP Blog.
8 ) Post Production
The dunes are all completely real but the sky’s colour has been changed and stars added in post, to help achieve this night time feel.
After the 360 shot it dissolves into a locked off shot of the actress walking up the dune. A post zoom was added which helps keep the momentum and energy of the commercial. That’s the great thing about shooting such high resolution like 3K is post zooms can simply and precisely be added. Everyone prefers to work on prime lenses when they can due to the quality of the optics and if a zoom is required later, it’s a simple thing to do.
Static clean plates were taken so Tallen the Flame artist could clean the sand if there were any unwanted foot prints from previous takes, which I think he did have to do when the actress walked in the wrong direction…
Overall it was a cool shoot and I think the day for night method worked really well. Although I’m not usually a big fan of this method, I would suggest it in a similar instance again as long as the production had the time and a decent post budget to work with a talented Flame artist. From a filming perspective I wouldn’t have really done much differently (which is a change) apart from ensured the Grips got to set the track much earlier in the morning to avoid having to carry tracking boards and the dolly up the dunes in the swealtering heat… Those guys are seriously tough! Shooting it at night would have been cool (literally), but a very big and expensive set up would have been needed to light the actress and the dunes to get a decent result.
The Director and Production company were very happy and the Client loved it so I guess that’s the main thing!
Any other questions just add a comment and i’ll get back to you.
If you are interested in more of my Filming Tip and Tricks then my books could be of interest: How To Become a Cameraman – Includes Filming on Location , Lighting for Film and TV and How To Beat the Competition
Bahrain was the location for five Gulf Air Commercials.
A Director friend of mine Richard Topping initially contacted me about the job. When he explained that four of the commercials were to be one single shot… and the fifth one made up of time lapse sequences, instantly I was intrigued.
This single shot concept (which always makes me a little edgy) was to start on a close up of a Gulf Air employees eye and then develop out to a mid shot. The shot had to sustain approx 28 seconds of the 30 second commercial, and the final product would consist of voice over from the employee about their personal experience working for Gulf Air with a flowing graphic that would later develop into the GA logo.
Sounds easy right! But as everyone knows, a commercial that relies entirely on one single shot is always far from easy… As in any commercial there are several considerations and apprehensions for the DOP. For this project the main one for me was not lighting, tracking or operating the camera, but the focus… Pulling focus from two inches away from a person’s eye to approx 7ft at a wide aperture (T2.8 that I wanted to shoot for aesthetic reasons) is one of the trickiest shots a focus puller will have to perform, especially when they have to repeat it take after take… I know you are probably thinking ‘Why? it sounds easy to me’… Well, the hard part is pulling from the macro close up of the eye to the Close Up (CU). When you are that close, the eyeball and the eye lash are a completely different focus and the movement and control on the follow focus has to be exact. If the talent is 1cm off their mark or even slightly sways the image will go soft.
As the whole commercial relies on this one shot and it is also going to be in slow motion, every single frame is under the ‘microscope’. See my Top Tip for Pulling Focus for this kind of shot at the end of this post.
The 4 commercials featuring the employees were always going to be shot digitally and after weighing up some options Richard and I decided to shoot on the RED camera, mainly due to it’s 2K resolution at 100fps and grading capability. For the time lapse commercial we decided the Canon 5D MK II would be the best option – I shot both real time time lapse and stills mode time lapse, as well as regular 25fps footage. The final edit ended up being mainly comprised of real time footage – You can view the 5D commercial at the bottom of this post – I think it looks really cool! If you want to know more about how the RED and 5D compare, subscribe to DOP BLOG as my next post will explain my view on each camera and look at the practicality of shooting on both.
We decided to shoot at 100fps to slow down the action and make the reactions from the employee/ talent more dramatic and defined. At a given cue point from the Director the employee would smile, this would later be worked with the VO for the Gulf Air tag line ‘Come smile with us’.
I asked my focus puller Glen Donaldson to research some lenses and test which would work best. He found a 24mm macro PL mount, with a close focus of 2 inches. When shooting 2K on the RED, the lens size increases and hence becomes longer, a 24mm becomes approx a 50mm. Many people call the 50mm the ‘work horse’, and people perceive it as the lens closest to the human eye. I’ll be honest…… The 50mm is never my first choice, as I prefer to work wide or tight. On this occasion I do think it was the right choice. Keeping this mid point lens size meant I could achieve a shallower depth of field and keep the background as defocused as possible and hopefully the audiences attention on the subject.
We shot 3 of the Gulf Air staff commercials interior and the one of the pilot exterior. As expected it took a few takes to get the focus perfect.
Due to the fact that the location was a working airport, we didn’t have complete control of the surroundings. For the Pilot we knew Gulf Air could arrange a static plane as a backdrop, but couldn’t rely on one passing in the back of frame due to direction of wind and air traffic control stipulations and their last minute landing decisions.
As with all filming, all of a sudden the perfect plane appeared in the background, I yelled ‘track in’ to the key grip, Glen focused up, the talent who has having a cup of tea quickly leapt back onto his marks and Richard called ‘ACTIOOONNN’ and we tracked back just in time to see the taxiing plane in the back drop… We did about another 20 takes after this with no more planes, but I guess they liked this one best.
TOP TIP FOR PULLING FOCUS:
My top tip for performing such a focus pull at a wide aperture from a macro close up to a wide shot when tracking is to have your focus puller lay down as many focus marks (along the length of the track) as possible. In this instance, our talent was static which really helped. The length of the track was almost 3m. I gave the talent hard precise marks (for their feet) using camera tape because even if they are 1cm off their mark, this would greatly affect focus. When you are so close in on a subject even them swaying slightly can be the difference between the eyeball being in focus and the eyelash!
It is imperative that the focus puller has precise focus marks on their follow focus that 100% match the focus marks laid out along the track.
To help keep the tracking and focus pulling in sync, the key grip timed his tracking with the focus marks (alongside the track). I also asked the 1st AD to count backwards from 7 (7 seconds was the duration of the shot in real time) – this way Glen the focus puller, and the key grip could keep both tracking and focus timings in sync, as much as possible…
Glen is from a film background and doesn’t like to work from a monitor. Instead he relies completely on his follow focus marks. For this type of shot I believe this mathematical method works the best. It’s not fail safe, but it certainly reduces the risk of chance… When you are shooting a commercial with clients on set and have to perform the same shot for multiple takes you can not reply on getting a ‘fluky’ take…
Good job everyone nailed their jobs! Sometimes a little bit of added pressure like an unexpected plane coming into frame and only one chance to get the shot is what everyone needs to be put them on top of their game!
Here’s the fifth commercial which was shot entirely on the Canon 5D MK II.
To find out how I shot this using the 5D make sure you SUBSCRIBE to the DOP Blog (click on subscribe button top right of this page) I will tell you all about it in the next post!
Let me know what you think of the commercials and whether you have any other top tips on pulling focus for this kind of shot? DOP BLOG wants to hear from you.
PS. Need any accessories for your HDSLR? Zacuto is a winner!
Amazon great deals on all electronics! Just bought a FLIP HD Camera and shocked how good it is… Oh No!
I love shooting promos for channels and am always excited when I get asked to do them.
I was approached to shoot a promo for a Racing Channel in the United Arab Emirates that consisted of a Horse racing a Sports Car, racing a Dirt Bike, racing a Camel, well it is the UAE…
I met with Ahmed the Director and Hisham the Producer to go through the storyboard. At first glance it seemed really ambitious especially to do all in one day, plus with the added bonus of shooting in the sweltering heat of the desert……
Challenges and how you approach them are what sets people apart in this industry, so with the mantra of ‘Solutions not Problems’ we broke the storyboard down and worked on a plan of action. Three hours later, the shooting order was set.
Now to talk Kit… They were already planning to shoot on RED, so that was one battle easily won, now to convince them we needed a tracking vehicle and a jib…
TV promos don’t always have the budget of commercials, but Hisham the Producer somehow managed to make it work so we had the kit we needed. Having a Producer who knows and understands equipment makes a big difference.
Ahmed had a location in mind, which was a relatively clear spot in the desert with dunes near by.
Two days later we met at 3.30am and headed into the desert. The plan was to shoot the first shot at 6.00am to try and get as much shot before the sun rose too high and the mid day heat kicked in…
Working with animals brings the aged old quote ‘NEVER work with…’, but I have done quite a lot with animals including the re-branding of Animal Planet which we shot on the awesome High Speed Phantom. That job taught me a lot! Firstly, to speak to the handler and find out what the individual animal can do and it’s temperament, plus find out how the handler likes to work.
Professional handlers know their animals incredibly well and any experienced ones have a good idea how the industry works. So if you clearly explain the shot, camera position and what you need the animals to do, you can quickly work out what’s possible and what’s not without exhausting the animal. Sounds obvious, but it works!
The promo features a lot of shots in the 42second time frame and the Director Ahmed’s idea was for the cuts to be quick and punchy.
Shooting on RED is fantastic and gives a lot of freedom in the edit, especially to push in on shots, add zooms and of course grade. The output was always going to be Standard Definition (SD) due to the broadcaster (never ideal), but still we shot mostly at 4K which is great, not only for resolution but also because the lenses are the true sizes i.e. a 10mm is a 10mm.
If you want to shoot at a higher frame rate (slowmo) you need to drop down to 3K which then makes the lens tighter i.e. 10mm is about a 14mm (more or less) and if you go down to 2K you can push the frame rate up to 120fps, however, when you do this the lens doubles in length i.e 10mm becomes a 20mm.
So when shooting RED you have to weigh up frame rate, resolution and lens size.
Having the tracking vehicle on this shoot was vital. Robert, my key grip arranged a bungee set-up so the camera could be safely suspended. I could then sit on the back of the vehicle and use the camera hand held without too much vibration. We shot tracking shots of all the ‘racers’ individually which were then cut together to look as if they were all racing against each other.
For the shot where you see the horse galloping and the camera pulls out to reveal the racing driver in the sports car racing head to head these were actually shot separately and comped together.
Firstly, we shot the racing driver in a static car against green screen (in the desert), then the horse racing from the matching angle which we did from the tracking vehicle. The two were then comped in post to look like one shot.
To get the shot where the dirt bike whizzes past the horse and the car, this was also another comp. Ideally, it would be great to shoot this live, but then you would need a stunt supervisor to ensure health and safety and much more time. Due to the budget this wasn’t possible so we planned for another comp. We used the crane to get as high an angle as possible, we marked out the edges of frame and gave each ‘racer’ a line to travel. The action was then cut together and the shot was given some movement in post to look more organic and real.
A stylized grade was applied to the promo and a fantastic audio sound design was built to give it some life and energy.
All in all it turned out well, the production team were very happy which in the end is very important. As a DP you would always change stuff and do things differently, trying to strive for some form of personal perfection. But hopefully you learned something so next time you approach a similar project you have more experience and knowledge to make things even better and run smoother.
I guess that’s the whole business, as I say ‘Everyday is a School Day!’
Shooting in Abu Dhabi in the Summer, literally spells H.O.T! Yep, Boiling Hot to be more precise… I think it was about 48 degrees when we shot for the Shangri La hotel.
The shoot was a branding film for the Shangri La Hotel in Abu Dhabi. It was produced by Muddville films and Directed by co-owner Jac Mulder.
The concept was to simply display the beautiful premises and facilities of the Shangri La in a contemporary fashion. We had a handful of models, a Ferrari, two days and blazing hot sun! The director and I decided to shoot the piece on the RED Camera, with a set of Zeiss Ultra Primes, including a 10mm and an Optimo 24-290 T2.8 Zoom lens.
Having recced the location and worked on the schedule along side 1st AD Brian Shuman, we managed to suss out where and when the hotel would be at its quietest and have the optimum light. We shot several set ups all around the hotel, from early mornings into the night. Shooting in a hotel can be problematic, mainly due to it being full with members of the public who are on holiday…
From past experience of shooting in hot climates, I was worried the RED would over heat, a problem many RED users will be aware of. To prevent it we always kept a flag over it to at least shade it from direct sun. Plus, something a DIT taught me (thanks Andrew Clemson), ‘just treat the Camera like any other member of the crew’, meaning give it breaks when the crew takes a break. So every time the extremely talented focus puller Toyota took a break the camera did too…
We maximized a semi circle track for a ‘fairy tale’ style transition, that would later be comped to look like a page turn of a book. This was a fun idea due to Jac’s post background, he was confident it would work and add some interest to the film. Jac personally designed and executed the post work.
To get the underwater shots we didn’t use an underwater housing as such, but a fish tank. What?? I hear you say, ‘a fish tank?’. Seriously that’s what we did. We put some wood at the bottom and rubber around the lens then carefully mounted the camera into the tank and submerged it so the lens was below the surface. Pretty basic, and some would maybe say ‘daft’, but it worked incredibly well and enabled us to get shots we wouldn’t have been able to get on the budget…and yes the camera did survive… In the future I think it would be wise to customize the tank for such use.
Although we had lots of grip equipment inc 6 straights, a full circle track and a Skater Dolly, the old faithful skateboard and 10mm made an appearance… I have never been that keen on the skateboard shot, thinking it was amateur, but with the stability of the 10mm it made for a very quick and easy set-up and enabled us to grab shots when the lighting and grip crew moved onto the next location set-up. Surprisingly, for what we needed it worked wonders!
The final film was 7mins, here’s a few shots I put together……. all comments welcome.
Well it was a fun and a very busy day filming in the Spice Souk at Dubai Creek.
Melissa Rodwell was shooting high fashion for an American magazine called Maverick, which was very cool! The main board model Zelika from Bareface moved incredibly well and was not at all perturbed by all the onlookers and by onlookers I do mean onlookers… I don’t think any of the workers in the souk had EVER seen anything like it… One, the American fashion photographer nimbly moving around creating a crazy form of dance, constructing beautiful scenes in the deep interesting alleyways, two the sheer size and beauty of Zelika (I think the average height of the men down there was about 5ft 6). Three, the fact that Zelika wore a purple bikini with only a sheer top sexily draped over her… The purple wasn’t the interesting part… All I could picture was being arrested… and finally the fact that we had the RED camera out! Which is quite a beast and to the untrained eye looks slightly well alien…
Alchemy Films Dubai kindly provided the camera as well as internationally acclaimed DIT Andrew Clemson and the faithful and trusted Camera Assistant Mohsin.
I HG was on hand to fulfill two tasks. Firstly, to shoot a behind the scenes of Melissa’s photos shoot in Dubai and secondly to teach her how to use the RED camera. As both myself and Nick Davidson DOP/ owner of Alchemy Films decided it was time to try taking stills from the RAW 4K video footage and with Mellisa in town it was the perfect opportunity.
Melissa said she had been offered to do this several times State Side, but no-one ever came up with the goods. Being true to our word we did! Not only that, but for true stills shooting Cam Assist Mohsin even managed to rig a side plate to the camera so it could quickly and easily be rigged portrait – something you don’t have much call for when shooting moving image…
When your aim is to pull stills from video you need to increase the shutter speed to freeze the action and that is exactly what we did. We set the shutter at 1/250, frame rate at 30fps which is still native 4K and got an exposure at about T2.8 which provided a beautiful shallow depth of field even on the 25mm.
The location was Amazing! People fantastic and what I hear from DIT Andrew the stills he has already pulled look as Melissa would say ‘HOT’!
Watch out for Melissa’s blog in the next couple of weeks www.fashionphotographyblog.com as she will be writing all about it and posting the video I shot, that is when I find time to edit it…
I’m off to Sir Lanka for a few days to a friends wedding! Hoping to get some surfing in and maybe even a little filming on the Canon 5D oh and keeping real and knocking off some old school Kodachrome 40 stock on the good old school Super ‘Duper’ 8mm – hhhhmmmmmm! Hope someone still processes it!
RED stills, the behind the scenes video and more all to come! As they used to say on TV when I was nipper ‘Stay Tuned’!
TV is so last year, or maybe even 7 months before that… Whatever… I’m off on holiday…
Hope Canon bring out the Firmware update soon, if they do it while I’m still away hope I can get to an internet connection. One man who will certainly know is HD DSLR expert Philip Bloom
Had a great couple of days learning from Fashion Photographer Melissa Rodwell now off to flip reverse it and give her some pointers about the shooting on the RED Camera. Talking about flip reversing it Melissa is going to do exactly that and instead of shooting video on a DSLR (which is all the rage now), she is going to shoot moving image on the RED and extract stills afterwards. Just like Greg Williams did for the cover of Esquire Magazine with Megan Fox. Only the model won’t be half naked, nor in bed nor will it be Megan Fox – but you get the similarities…
We’re also going to shoot some behind the scenes footage, which I hope I will be able to post on here… the Alchemy site and Melissa’s blog…
Fun, Fun, Fun
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It’s been a busy week, busting out the RED Camera to shoot a whole load of stuff including a Music Video for the artist Clarita De Quiroz
The RED is an Awesome piece of kit no-one can deny that! It’s from the same guy who started up the Oakley sunglasses company – he must have made some serious cash to invest in the engineering of the RED. Mind you Oakleys were all the rage in the 90’s, I had a fake pair I brought off some guy who had turrets for the word ‘looky looky’ and insisted on calling me Jimmy…
On Clarita’s video I was wearing two hats (not physically as it would have been way too hot) DP and Director.
I am primarily a DP, but dabble in directing and a music video is the ideal playground to dabble, as it is all about creating interesting visuals and solid, confident artist performance, plus it meant no-one could hold me back, rain me in or tame me. This resulted in me going NUTS with the lighting and use of lens flare… Although I have to say Clarita looked AMAZING!
Have to say a big THANK YOU to Alchemy Films Dubai for Producing the video and supplying the RED kit and RED head DIT Andrew Clemson.
Watch the blog and i’ll post up the full version very soon, well as soon as I manage to get in the edit and cut it with top Alchemy Films Editor ACEN!
It’s such a busy period at the moment, so busy this is the first time I’ve been on my computer for a week… Now, I’m diversifying further and over the next two days and am on an Advanced Beauty and Fashion Photography course with the acclaimed Fashion photographer Melissa Rodwell
Check out Melissa’s blog
I’ll let you know what I learn for the experience of creating a single frame and chatting to the LA born and raised photographer!
PS A proper thanks to everyone who worked on the Music promo will be done once it’s complete and Live (don’t worry this isn’t an Oscar Speech yet…) But a quick Big Up to Crispin Dominic from Action Filmz who supplied first rate crew, lighting and grip equipment! Thanks Crispin!!