Due to a few missed opportunities because of scheduling, I haven’t collaborated with fellow Northwestern grad, Andrew Garland, in a few years. As Director/Partner at Good Engine Media in New York City, he’s been doing great work in the commercial world on both coasts.
This particular promo required shooting two days (February 19-20, 2014) at a historic house in Whittier, CA for SundanceTV’s new original series, “The Red Road.” In partnership with BMW, we interviewed the writer of the series, Aaron Guzikowski. Aaron also recently penned the tense, star-studded, dramatic thriller, “Prisoners” for Warner Brothers.
We couldn’t scout the location beforehand, so we chose the optimal room for the next day’s interview upon arrival. Thankfully we still had time to alter our final lighting order. We spent the remainder of our 10-hour day shooting the inserts that are sprinkled throughout the piece on a RED EPIC provided by Stray Angel Films.
Since much of the work was macro photography on cassette tapes and coins, the Cooke S4 close focus 135mm along with diopters worked the most. The package also included a bunch of primes: 18mm, 21mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, and a Scarlet for B-camera.
While the 135mm only requires you to stop down to T4 when focusing very close (due to light loss), the +3 diopter distorted the image so badly that I found that lighting to T8 gave the objects much better clarity. That extra depth of field helped mitigate the negative optical effects of the diopter. My gaffer, Zack Wilcox, and I easily got the necessary footcandles from a pair of 4′ 4Bank Kino Flos, my 2′ 4Bank Kino Flo and a 400W Blackjack HMI Par.
As usual, I rated the EPIC at 640 ISO and shot mainly at 5:1 compression. We messed around with frame rates throughout the day, but never exceeded 96FPS.
Having so much time to get the perfect image was a pure joy for Andrew and I. We would’ve happily spent many more hours getting those few shots, but our diligent producer, Brian Parrish, held us to a reasonable pace.
For our second low stress shoot day, we added my B-camera operator, Chun Ming Huang, 1st AC, Nicole Crivlare, and Key Grip, Brody Culbertson. Illuminated Path Productions provided the additional grip and electric gear necessary for the larger set-up.
The schedule generously granted me two hours to light our only set-up for the day: a two camera interview in the living room. We blasted an 800W Joker through an 8’x8′ 1/2 Grid Cloth rag that we clipped to the sides of the large window on Aaron’s camera-left side for a key light. A 400W Joker joined the 800W outside the same window to give the background some life. We squeezed the 2′ 4Bank Kino Flo (w/light grid cloth on the doors) right next to Andy who was sandwiched between that and my slider to get the best possible eye line and keep the lamp frontal.
Knowing the final edit would contain numerous clips from the series (shot by Ivan Strasburg), we strove to maintain as much visual continuity as possible. The window behind Aaron had a 400W Joker that gave him a nice 3/4 backlight. When my camera slid a few feet to the right on my 5′ speed rail slider, it beautifully flared the 32mm lens. On Aaron’s camera right side, we armed a 1′ x 1′ LitePanel out to give him another backlight (mostly benefiting B-camera) and placed a 4’x4′ piece of foam core on the ground for a little extra fill.
While I was on the Scarlet with the slider and 1/4 Schneider Hollywood Black Magic filter, Chun Ming hand held a 100mm prime lens. Chun Ming used the EPIC so he could grab some cut-aways in slow-motion after the initial interview wrapped. Once we completed the shoot, we had to quietly wrap the gear outside so Andy could record a bunch of voice overs with Aaron for the network.
I look forward to watching the show now that it is released to the public! I was not privy to the sneak preview that some folks were during our pre-production…