Immediately after I returned from my Comic-Con shoot with [adult swim] in San Diego, I scouted the cozy location with Kapner, and our co-production designers, Jill Bencsits and Dominic “Nico” Guidote. James’ initial treatment required a fancy rooftop downtown, but it evolved into a luscious backyard.
While our eight actors got picture-ready, we grabbed the mysterious red light shots first. My gaffer, Austin Michaels, manually on/offed the red gelled Rock & Roll PAR64 on James’ cue. A mix of both fog and haze created the atmosphere.
The tall trees behind our hero table blocked the sun for the first few set-ups on our lead actress, Francesca Galassi. The landscaping dictated the orientation of the table and good fortune meant that the long ends of the table ran north to south. Francesca occupied the south end for more favorable lighting.
Those initial close-ups required an 8’x8′ frame with 1/2 (China) Silk to nab the sun as it crept over the trees camera right. A 4’x4′ ultra bounce floppy provided her key on the other side.
After the sun drenched the set, we paused to build the 20’x20′ 1/2 (China) Silk to provide a canopy of soft light overhead. Once in place, we hauled. Only occasional tweaks of 4’x4′ bounce cards and our ARRI M18 HMI hampered the pace.
While we couldn’t place the band and their instruments without polluting the background of the wide locked off series of solo dancing shots, we did as much prep for the performance section as possible outside of the frame lines as dusk rapidly approached.
The James wanted lots of red lights so I turned to efficient RGB color LED fixtures to keep my power demands low. American DJ makes great units and I’m tempted to buy some Flat PAR series LEDs for my kit!
The Guitar Center salesman informed me that the Hollywood and Woodland Hills locations rent similar gear. While they don’t offer the exact model I craved, for $10/day/unit*, the Venue Thinpar64 LEDs provided a bright, economical (17W/unit), red light!
For the magic hour takes, we arranged the 6 LEDs into 2 clusters of three on C-stand arms behind the drummer. Two 1K PAR cans behind the band gave a warm edge from ¾ back and provided interesting flares during coverage. The M18 bounced into an 8’x8’ Ultra Bounce for the camera right side key.
Our Steadicam Operator, David Baldwin Jr. gracefully moved around the band capturing several performance takes on a 35mm while James followed by his side to give direction. After we widened to the 25mm, there wasn’t time for another lens change! Dave got subsequent close ups by getting right up to the subjects.
I would’ve loved a 50mm pass for variety, but focus would’ve been even more insane for my 1st AC, Nicole Crivlare. Few shots are more difficult to keep sharp than 100% improvised takes on Steadicam! Thanks to ND, my aperture remained at T2.8 (+/- half a stop) the entire day regardless of frame rate (which peaked at 72FPS).
Normally I prefer the Mark III set of Zeiss T1.3 Super Speed lenses, which James and I last used on the Chali 2na Step Yo Game Up video. When our vendor offered the distinct Mark I’s, we responded to the triangular shaped bokeh. The leafy backgrounds best demonstrate the lens’ character.
The sun disappeared before we completed our “day performance section.” We added a 4’ x 4Bank Kino to bring up the background trees on the right side of frame and blasted the 1.2K HMI Par into a 6’x6’ Ultra Bounce to lessen the contrast ratios on the left. Another 4’ x 4Bank Kino provided fill close to camera.
Subtle changes marked the shift to “night dance party” with the full cast. The 6’x6′ bounce rig on the left shifted to a 3/4 backlight and the right side Kino landed on the ground behind the drummer to highlight different trees.
The homeowner called an audible upon our arrival that prevented us from having access to enough electricity to power the compressor tank to fire our two confetti cannons. By limiting our access to just one 20A circuit from inside the house, we only had 80 Amps total!
For the climax of the video, the actors had to throw the confetti themselves so it didn’t resemble the blizzard-like ending of a Super Bowl. James cleverly reversed the footage in editorial to give the desired effect, but on set, I felt like Tom Brady with that loss.
In our lengthy color correction session on September 15, 2014 with Adam Hawkey at Fancy Film, we smoothed the inconsistencies caused by the setting sun. Adam perfectly captured the essence of the stills from James’ lookbook and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the end result.
Tweaking the hue of the grass and leaves yielded the most pronounced changes to the feel overall.
This is my 9th music video with James and the first officially under the Play Productions umbrella, of which he is Creative Executive. Principal photography spanned roughly 14 hours in the Hollywood Hills on July 30, 2014.
*Please be aware that Guitar Center doesn’t (normally) offer free prep and return days like most film-centric renters do. An all-day film shoot will likely cost you a 2-day’s rental.