I had the highest hopes for what some on the web are calling hybrid imaging. The idea is that we'd find one camera that would do really great photos and really great video (done!) and then we'd find one type of lighting that would work for both types of imaging. We would happily switch between stills and video without ever having to change our lighting and everything would be quick, convenient and merry. I bought into it. But it's total bullshit----at least for now.
Let me backtrack... I bought into the concept because, for many of the jobs I do the new way can really work. If I go out to shoot an executive portrait and the marketing department also needs an interview I can set up LED or fluorescent lights, grab a Panasonic GH4 (or even a Sony RX 10) and get good stills and video content at the switch of the mode dial and with the attachment of a good microphone. Where things start to break down is when we move beyond the easy stuff and introduce subject motion and the need to freeze action in still images. All of a sudden we're back into the realm of flash.
I'm doing a job today that would be perfect for continuous lighting if it weren't for the fact that we'll need to create a feel of rock concert kinetics with our actor. We're doing marketing images for Zach Theatre's rendition of Tommy and we're going to try and get wild stage movements and swinging, Roger Daltry-esque microphone moves frozen on a white background and then we need to get the same kind of moves again for video, on a green screen background. Ouch.
The fast movements of the actor require the action stopping short exposure times of flash. He'll also be wearing a jacket with fringe all along the sleeves and the fringe will create even more movement as the actor rocks across the white background. I'm taking four Elinchrom flashes to deal with this part of the shoot. We'll set up two units to light the background, one unit for a main light and the fourth for fill or accent. We've done this a thousand times before and I have no fears that we'll be able to get exactly what we want for the stills. With flash.
But flash is, of course, useless for video. We're shooting the actor against a green background so the editor can composite some really cool animation into the background. And that means that the screen has to be evenly lit and as far from the talent as focal length and studio configurations will allow. We don't want the green from the background to wrap around onto our actor's gold, highly REFLECTIVE, jacket.
I'd like to through a lot of light onto this shot so we can use 60 fps to make the video look sharper. And we need to be careful to match front and background exposures so we don't have issues in post production. I'll be using six, big fluorescent fixtures with modifiers, where necessary. Two directly on the background, two on the talent and one as a backlight. The backlight fixture will have a layer of magenta gel on it to combat any incursion of the dreaded green wrap. (The Mag. filtered light will serve to cancel out the green).
To do these shoots, one after the other, requires: A set of background stands. A white background. A green background. Clamps to tighten up the backgrounds and kill wrinkles. Eight or nine light stands (the continuous lights require more stands for the modifiers we put in front of them). Diffusion frames for modifiers. Four Elinchrom strobes with umbrellas and a soft box. Six (heavy) fluorescent lights. Filter gels. Four 25 foot extension cords. One still photo tripod with ball head. One video tripod with fluid head. One monster Gitzo tripod as a solid base for our video slider. One heavy duty cart to transport everything with.
Did I forget anything? How about cameras? I'm taking the GH3's and GH4 and small sample of lenses. And, with green screen, always a light meter. Oh heck, always a light meter anyway.
The schedule is tense. We leave the studio at 12:30 and start unloading and setting up at the theatre at 1 pm. The still shoot is first. We fine-tune and get our still shots from 2 until three. At three on the dot we pull down the white background and exchange it for the green one. We pull all the flash units and replace them in new configurations with the fluorescent lights. The actor's make-up and costume gets refreshed while the director and I fine tune the video imaging and go over settings.
We're using the clean HDMI out of the camera into a digital recorder that writes 10 bit Pro-Res 4:2:2 because the editor is old school and got burned on much older video cameras many years ago. He wants to start with the cleanest, sharpest green screen files he possible can. I am more optimistic and I'm dying to try shooting in 4K and then importing in FCPX as 1080p (in Pro Res 4:2:2) but we're working as a team and the editing is his area of expertise so I bow to his experience.
We need to be lit, metered, color correct and ready to go by 3:30 pm. That's a really tight turn around. But I think we'll manage. We have both Ben (super assistant) and my new intern in tow. Ben will take charge in wrapping up the gear we used for the stills. We start shooting the video in earnest at 3:30 because we have a hard stop at 5 pm when we have to start packing and hauling stuff out. The theater needs the space back by 5:30 pm.
If we shoot to the digital recorder in the video sequence then my part of the video production ends them. My job is to get the director and editor the best technical content I can so they can concentrate on directing and editing.
Ben and I should be back at the studio by 6 pm and we'll unload before we head to the house. Saturday I'll come back to the studio after swim practice and unpack every thing and put each tool in its place. Trying to stay organized so we don't waste time getting ready for next week's projects.
It would be a lot easier to do this all with one set of lights but sometimes you just have to bite down and do things in the optimum method. For this shoot it's all about lights and making stuff sharp. For the video it's all about nailing the green screen. And as far as I can tell there's no way to hybridize the lighting tools. Sorry Hybrid Imaging.