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On the show this week we look at a retail cinematography job, the way we shot it, the equipment we used and more.
Not all jobs are action packed, creatively fueled masterpieces. Some commercial jobs require skills and technical expertise to bring them to life.
In this episode we go over a straight to camera tvc that we tried to make look as polished as possible. You can't always go dark and moody when you are selling things and in today's example we had to embrace a different set of style guidelines.
Patreon Podcast: The Economics of Buying a Camera
In today's world of fast moving technology, ever changing camera markets, and the plethora of choices it can be challenging navigating the financial questions that go along with being a cinematographer.
I recently purchased an Arri Alexa XT Plus and in this week's Patreon podcast I try and breakdown the financial and practical considerations I went over when buying the camera.
The process took a few months and it was always a bit touch and go but in the end I lay out why the decision works for my position now and going forward.
To listen to the podcast click the link below:
Retail Cinematography - Straight to Camera
The ad we are looking at today consisted of a series of individuals talking directly to camera while walking through a family home.
The brief was to keep things from looking to moody but at the same time try and create some layers of depth.
Time was against us as we had a lot to fit in and the weather wasn't much a help either. Bright and sunny is what we wanted and cloudy and grey is what we got.
The Technical Details - Camera Gear List
- RED Weapon MG - 6kHD @ 6:1 Compression
- Leica Summicron C Lens Set - 18, 25, 35, 50, 75, 100
- Arri LMB-5 Matte Box - Clip on Matte Box
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest IRND Filters (.3 - 2.1)
- RT Motion Wireless Follow Focus System
- Cmotion Cfinder III - Laser Rangefinder
- FSI BM090 - 9" On Board Monitor
- SmallHD DP7 Hibright - 7" On Board Monitor
- OConnor 2075 Fluid Head
- Solid Camera Inc. Scatterbox Version 2 - Power Supply Solution
Retail Cinematography - The Shots
The Intro Walk
In this shot we see a man walking towards camera in a typical family kitchen. He is talking to straight to the viewers.
Inside this kitchen we had a whole series of shots. To be able to get all the shots done in the time we had it was imperative we light once and make sure we weren't lighting for every angle.
To do this we used two large HMIs (a 12k and a 4k) from outside and softened them with 12x12 diffusion to help spread the lamps. Once we had the blocking down we made sure to bring ther lamps from the correct angle to keep some shape on the talent and the house.
Behind the Scenes
Jump to the Wide
The next shot we pick up our talent as he lands in the corner of the kitchen. He is still speaking to the camera but is now settled in his spot.
For budget issues and to keep costs down We moved the same two lights we were using in the previous frame further along the house and broought the 12k from the opposite side.
Doing so created the nice highlight in the BG and gave the talent some shape on his mark.
Sun in the Clouds
This shot was the spokesman at the front of a family residence. We needed it to be a little bit of a dusky feel so we could feel the interior lights on.
We saved this shot for the last of the day and chose a house that was east facing so the sun would be backlighting the house.
The clouds rolled in and killed the sun so we had to bring in our own sources to keep the levels and density consistent. We used a gelled M18 inside for some warmth and a 12x12 of neg for some shape outside.
The Morning Close Up
This was the introduction to the spokesman. He is standing in front of a house as the morning sun comes up in the BG.
The weather was definitely not playing ball for this shoot and in this example we needed to wait for the only glimpses of sun that ever came to help pull this shot off.
We had an west facing home with the sun behind it in the morning. The backlight (when it was there) took care of the BG and then for the talent we used a 12x12 Ultra bounce and a bit of neg fill to shape his shadow side.
The sun refused to come out except in small patches and this grab is from a high cloud section. You can see how soft the sun is by looking at the quality of light in his hair. That light is straight overcast sky light.
Behind the Scenes
This series of shots was in a walk-in closet set at night. Nothing like lighting a small white box, with more hanging white clothes, and trying to make it feel rich.
We had zero time and even less space to pretty these shots up.
We had one Area 48 LED stuck in an attic hole in the middle of the room. We wrapped 3 sides with black wrap to keep it off the walls and then positioned some 4x2 polys on either side of the camera to throw some of the Area 48 bounce back on to our talent.
Behind the Scenes
White Walls Everywhere - Walk & Talk
Yet another shot of the talent popping in to frame addressing the viewers straight to camera. The talent enters screen left and then we watch as he walks further down the hallway away from us.
Just to keep it consistent with the rest of the shoot the clouds came and went at random. When we wanted clouds we got sun, and when we wanted sun we got clouds.
We needed some brightness to these white walls so again we brought in the 12k and 4k combo we had used previously.
We blasted the 12k through a 12x12 laid up against a series of floor to ceiling windows on camera right. To create some shape we blocked a few of the white walls not in shot in black so there wasn't as much bounced light reflecting back into the scene.
Then in the BG room of the house we had a 4k through an 8x8 for some ambient fill.
Behind the Scenes
The gaffer laughing at his best boy's poor luck as he has to hang a 12x12 outside in the rain.
Flipping Around - The Reverse
The reverse continuation of the previous shot. Now the talent is walking towards the camera as it tracks back on the dolly with him.
Same as above but we brought the floppies directly behind the camera to kill any frontal spill that was washing out the contrast on our talent's face.
We also swung the 4k around, put it outside, and through a window camera left for the BG ambient.
Moving Forward - Retail Cinematography
Commercial work in this range presents it's own challenges and working on projects that may not directly align with your personal aesthetic can sometimes be fun for just that reason.
As long as you are learning and experimenting with every set up you've got a reason to be on every job.
OMG!! You are so right. This industry is all about giving their opinion. When no one asked them. BS! you keep doing your thing man there are some people out there that appreciate your efforts and work.
I agree with your opening comments about the importance of technique. I come from the film studies academic world, but I now make commercials working as a cinematographer, editor, director…. I should, like your one listener, be very concerned with “the art” – This idea, by the way, comes out of David Bordwell’s scholarly works on film aesthetics. He’s a formalist and has written mainly theories about film language. Sure, it’s worth the read, but the truth is, great cinematographers internalize these theories (that’s the easy part) and then have to figure out how to produce images that they envision (that’s the difficult part). That’s why this podcast is very important for people like me, who never went to film school. People who may have not worked in a lighting rental house, or as a grip or gaffer and had the opportunity to see how different lights/modifiers/setups look. And don’t get me started on this “storyteller” shit that seems to had become an obsession in so many places online after a certain group of filmmakers, engineered a whole marketing plan out of the concept to propel their business several years ago. Like you say, sometimes you just have to sell shitty products and the goal is to make the image look as good as possible. Often there’s no story, and that’s okay. Not every job is your magnum opus – and that’s okay. After just coming off a retail shoot, it was very pleasing for me to hear this episode. Thanks for all the hard work you put into these things. I have learned so much. (Glad to hear your dog is well!).
For what it’s worth, yours is my favorite filmmaking podcast BECAUSE of the breakdown of the nitty gritty details of the process (I actually like the breakdown episodes more than the interviews). Like you said, there are so many podcasts focused on the art of cinematography, but as someone who is constantly trying to get better at shooting and lighting I value your insight and getting to hear what decisions you make and how you came to those decisions if only because it’s a view point that is different from mine. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Woaw !!! so fan about your introduction, this is exactly what i think. I follow you from the beginning and your are the best cinematography podcast. I steal yours techniques on every jobs, lol ; but i live in south of france so i don’t take your jobs ;). Thanks for everything.
Merci Manu! J’ai passé prés de trois ans à Toulon et Nice donc je connais bien la région. en fait j’y serai encore l’année prochaine. Un jour, pour rigoler, je ferai un podcast en français.
haha, incroyable !! tu y es sur qu’elle périodes ? Je suis à Montpellier mais j’ai parfois des tournages à Marseille, ça me ferais bien plaisir de prendre une bière avec toi !! Bye
These breakdowns are so insightful and useful. I applaud you for the work you’re doing.
One thing that I would appreciate, if possible, would be adding the lens focal length and T-stop to the info on the lighting breakdown frames.
I try when I can but unfortunately a lot of the times we are moving so quick I either a.) don’t write it down or b.) forget.
I’ve listening your podcast for a long time, almost since the beginning I believe, and it’s been a very helpful and fun ride.
I don’t agree, with the email you got. I don’t think you advocate against art and story. Just cause your focus is on the craft doesn’t mean the rest is not important for you, or for your audience. But that what makes people artists is such a subjective and personal journey that who would go to a podcast for that? That in my head is related to personal taste, love for the light, paintings, movies, personal experiences, etc.
Your take on ratios and false color is awesome, and practical, and It has saved me (and many others I assume) a lot fuckin around on set.
Going against that, I think it comes from a place of insecurity in the end. Like the idea of spreading a formula around will make it harder for people on top to get jobs. That is ridiculous, needles to say, but frecuent.
Just wanted to share some support. Many times we listen to you and take your advice for granted and can’t even be bother to send a line.
I appreciate Your efforts and openness in your craft and hope you continue to grow in your journey, as we all do in ours thanks to you.
Je viens de voir que tu parle Francais. Un magnifique F.U. aux ”haters”. Grand fan du podcast depuis le début. Salutation du Québec.