August 24, 2012 marked my first time shooting for Jordi Matsumoto’s recently formed digital content studio, Marching Penguin. In the time since we shot that promo for the Hailey Mayz Foundation, the boutique company has grown in many ways.
Being the gear head that I am, I’m most excited about the exponential upgrades they’ve made since my first gig where we used their Canon 60D. Their current arsenal includes a RED Scarlet, Kessler CineSlider, and several Kino-Flos to name a few.
From the all-green-screen medical series ‘On the Mend‘ to shooting on location at a retirement community just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, I’ve shot a variety of projects for the company. The most recent adventure brought us to San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood and the newly rebranded Stanford Court Hotel. Under Marriott’s ownership, the Renaissance San Francisco Stanford Court Hotel lacked many of the 21st century touches that we highlight in the video.
In the jam-packed two-day shoot, I spent 50 of the 53 hours of my total time in the Bay Area within the boundaries of the hotel property! Perhaps that’s the greatest advertisement for the property: I didn’t want or need to leave. The ratio would’ve been even greater had we not searched for a vista to view the blood moon that first night! Unfortunately, pervasive fog prevented our seeing the lunar event (thankfully there are 3 more opportunities in the next 17 months to see similar eclipses).
My biggest challenge came on day 2 while in the hotel room where I needed to blast our star, Justin Nichols, with enough light to hold detail in the great cityscape in the bright window behind him. If only the Transamerica Pyramid Building weren’t white, things would’ve been slightly easier. I had an assortment of grip gear and a 1.2K ARRI HMI from The Little Giant to supplement Jordi’s two 4′ x 4Bank Kino Flos.
Most set-ups utilized Marching Penguin’s Kessler CineSlider to give some movement to the images. Jordi is a big fan of the back-pan, which we implemented whenever possible. Time was our biggest enemy. We tried to strike a balance of capturing beautiful images with an aggressive schedule.
The wide field of view on my Canon 16-35mm/2.8L mkII lens allowed the RED Scarlet’s 4K sensor to truly showcase the hotel. Unfortunately, Canon EF lenses become very susceptible to flaring when on the Scarlet. Considering the constant camera movements, setting flags to protect our contrast became a hassle with our wide shots and limited shooting time. Oddly enough, it is almost impossible to flare those same lenses while using my Canon 5D…
We had a hard out on the second day of shooting because several of us had to fly back to LA at 9:05pm (somehow that’s the last flight of the day on Southwest). After a little drama finding a taxi that could fit all of our luggage/gear, we were able to decompress from the shoot and enjoy a quiet flight home.