And so it begins: This is my first 'blog' post and I'm unsure where to start. I will say that this blog is meant to simply talk about any shoot I am a part of. I will post as much behind the scenes information that I possibly can, and the 3-5 of you that read this can take whatever you like from it. If you leave with any questions, just send me an email and we can chat. Without any further delay: post numero uno.
I was brought onto this project because of two things: a close relationship with a director and a joke. Sean Hagwell and myself have been working together on projects for the past 5 years or so, and he always has a magical way of making something cool out of nothing.
I was sitting in the airport between shoots and I saw that Sean had posted about the beginnings of the next Paul Mcdonald video on Instagram. Not expecting anything to come from it, I posted a comment saying 'I'm in'. Seconds later, I got a call from Sean.
A week or so later we had a solid treatment where we had agreed on a style and way of shooting this thing. We were aiming for a very gritty, energetic, and lively feel for the video. We knew we would be shooting handheld and that's about it.
We referenced the 'Robbers' video for The 1975 and 'No Country For Old Men' for color pallette.
I would like to say that I thoroughly planned this shoot and everything went to plan, but that is not what happened at all. Most of the pre-pro efforts went to location and other logistics while the camera/cinematography aspect of things just sat on the bench until the shoot. I thought through the shoot in my head, but nothing was created. Sean and I have worked together long enough that we know what we love and we trust we will make it happen. So, onto makin' it happen.
We ended up having ONE full day to complete the shoot. I made sure that we were able to shoot the motel sequence during the day because we could control the light and it was the longest sequence we had planned. Then, we could move onto shooting the remaining exterior sequences with availible light at sunset.
The camera we were using was the Red Scarlet and come Canon glass. It was a super minimal rig. Bare essentials = less to go wrong. I didn't want a shoulder rig or anything. Just a box that happened to say 'RED' on it, a monitor, and a lens. We built a quick LUT in the camera to show a contrast and color curve that was closer to the final image. Sean had a wireless handheld monitor that had an image being fed to it by a Paralinx Arrow. Sean and I are a sucker for wide formats. Anamorphic is our weakness, but because we didn't have any budget, we couldn't shoot on anamorphic glass, so we just shot in the widescreen 4k mode to get our guilty fix.
Above are images from the motel set. It's hard to describe anything about the camera placement because I literally just pressed record and tripped around while the actions played out. We figured this would be the best way to really accomplish the gritty doc feeling: get a lot of footage from different focal length and no fixed placement. Basically we created a multi-camera doc shoot with one camera.
Lighting was equally minimalistic. At our disposal, we had two 1x1 flexible LED panels. That's all. I've always been one to use and build on what lights are already present in a location. I'll modify and shape to my liking and add anything that I think is needed. The Motel room was full of practical tungsten sources that had the nastiest, yellow lampshades over them (perfect). The bathroom had a light that was completely red (weird, but perfect). We didn't do anything to modify the bathroom.
I knew we needed some cool tones to contrast everything that came with the room, so we used the LED panels. We placed one on the ceiling directly above the bed (slightly skirted with blackwrap) and a second one in the closet near the entryway to emulate some fluorescents.
To make them more blue/green, we taped some of the plastic wrap found on a Dasani water bottle because we had no other gels that would give us the right effect. They worked beautifully.
BURIAL / REVIVAL SEQUENCES
Above are images that show what set looked like for all of the outdoor sequences. We had 3 hours or so to cover everything that took place outdoors. The sequence is supposed to take place sequentially from late night, through sunrise, and into moring. We were shooting at sunset, so we shot everyhting in backwards order.
Little to none of this set was storyborded or planned. I would have liked to have it planned, but in pre production we didn't have the ability to really know what we were in for. I did plan for husteling and going back to my run-and-gun roots. Sean had the spots we would be filming and a really great idea of what he wanted, so everything ran very smoothly.
We used lighting for the burial sequence only. The goal of the lighting was to simply bring up the levels of the brake lights playing on our characters. Sean and I wanted the red light to carry over from the bathroom sequence in the hotel. To do this, we put primary red filters on the face of the 1x1 LED panels and placed one on each side of the car near the rear (pictured above and diagram below).
Everything else about this sequence was naturally lit. No modifiers or bounce was used. It was all about blocking and rushing to get what we needed before the sun was behind the ridge of the distant mountains.
Sean and I tossed a project file between us and continued making tweaks until we eventually had picture lock (Sean definitely did the most work when it comes to the edit).
Once we had picture lock, I tackled the color grade. Like I said before, We shot with a LUT in the camera that added contrast and a greenish hue to the RAW file. I knew that we would be starting from scratch in post, but it was nice to avoid seeing the raw stuff. It's nice to know the raw information is there, but I've seen too many people get used to (and fall in love with) the raw stuff throughout the edit, so when it comes time to color, they think everything looks too harsh and crazy.
There isn't much to talk about here. Each shot/sequnce had a different way of achieving the look. Below are some examples showing three versions of the same shots:
LUT / RAW/ FINAL GRADE
Overall, this was an awesome low budget shoot with some of my greatest friends. Working with these guys reminds me of why I do what I do. Take a look at the BTS video from Sean Hagwell as well as the final product.
This project would have never been possible without the dedicated, passionate help of everyone involved. The guys at Contrast (Cory Reynolds and Marshall Hendershot) have suppoerted and helped me me make much more come to life than just this project and it was a treat to be able to work with them again. They supply gear and help and guidance for the creative goofballs like Sean and I. Jay Wade killed it with the BTS filming. This shoot went so smoothly and all I did was hold a camera. Without everyone else, nothing would have gotten done. I hope to work with every single one of you again and again (you know who you are) for years to come.
Onto the next one.