I went out for a walk today and stumbled across a small town making some video on our pedestrian bridge.

So, how many people does it take to run an Arriflex Alexa camera?
Maybe seven? I can actually run a Sony RX10ii by myself.
Even in 4K...(smiley face icon implied).

Something interesting is always happening somewhere in the vicinity of downtown Austin. Today I was out walking my newest camera and lens, trying to figure out why some people believe the lens to be unsharp, when I started to cross the bridge from South Austin to Downtown. It's a beautiful pedestrian walkway but today it was covered with signs asking people not to walk through while film cameras were rolling. Austin off-duty police were at either end of the bridge to help control foot traffic. As I walked across the bridge (after waiting patiently for "Cut!") I started counting crew. If you considered the craft service people (on site kitchen) the production was close to 50 people. 

One of the side streets was lined with production trucks, air conditioned rest room trucks, and a dining tent that had seats for at least 50, and so much more. At first I thought "movie" but it didn't have the movie vibe. Turns out (at least I was told as much) that it was all for a commercial. Wow. 

There were cases of $30,000 zoom lenses sitting on carts, while one truck (swear!) was filled with folding director's chairs. Jeez. These people know how to do a production with style. I thought about it for the rest of the morning as I put the finishing touches on my two person video production proposal for a client. Not sure my working budget would have covered this crew's sandbag budget...

But it looked earnest. Really, really earnest. And they sure had a beautiful day to shoot on. 


Robert Hudyma said...

Our Canadian dollar is in the toilet, so that makes it inexpensive to make Hollywood movies here in Toronto.

Lots of big time productions going on now, 10 or more big trucks packed with equipment, separate trucks for catering, trailer home accommodations for the Stars, and comfort break facilities too. Oh, and another big truck that generates power for the 50,000 Watt hot-lights that go on giant hydraulically controlled articulated arms.

Big Panavision film cameras are still filming the action.

I know why now it is easy to spend $100 Million, or more, to make a feature film. At least it helps generate some part-time jobs for the many, mostly out of work, local folks.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Kirk, and especially Robert - reminds me of "In this proud land", by Dorothea Lange. Peter Gabriel made his song "Don't give up" after seeing it...

Anonymous said...

The production company for my last commercial acting job called in over 20 actors and was trying to record on 3 different sets simultaneously. Called at 8 am, I signed in and met with the costumer almost immediately. The producers quickly lost track of what was going on and the rest of the day defined SNAFU. The only organized thing was when craft services served lunch. I was on the site for 6 hours, on set for 5 minutes, and on camera for 30 seconds. My experience appeared to be pretty average. The take away is that not all production companies are real knowledgeable and not all ad agencies pay attention to costs

Mike said...

I live in New York and see big productions all the time.

You'd be surprised at how many giant Arri camera setups are left unattended in the streets.

cfw said...

I'm curious. Comparing the "full production" setup versus using 2 - 3 people and a Sony (or other relatively inexpensive but high quality video camera + lighting), other than the obvious advantage of having 50 people (more bodies for the grunt work, fetching cords and coffee, arranging the chairs, lighting the director's cigarette, etc.), what are the primary advantages in quality of the ultimate output, if any, by using the "full production" approach? In other words, insofar as everything now is done digitally, why would someone that wanted a commercial produced opt for the stratospheric costs of the "full production" (assuming the creative abilities of the director and cameraman are equal)?

I know nothing about video/film making, strictly stills for me, just curious.

eamonhickey said...

I've lived in the East Village in New York for 10 years, and big TV and movie productions are about a weekly occurrence in my neighborhood. It is indeed amazing to see how many people, and how much stuff, from tractor-trailers to lights, they bring to these shoots.

For me the most interesting part is the lighting, especially for film (vs. digital) productions. With few exceptions, natural light, if it's used at all, is very carefully rationed and controlled -- nearly all the light is added, even the light that ends up looking like natural daylight in the final production.

These productions are so common here, and as a rule so arrogant and such a nuisance, that locals treat them with disdain. I can't tell you how many poor junior production assistants I've seen begging people not to walk through the middle of an exterior shot and being totally ignored. A TV writer friend of mine told me that her show (one of the Law and Order franchises) almost completely prohibited her from writing location scenes because in many New York neighborhoods, shopkeepers would come out of their stores and bang pots together in the middle of the shoots until the producers ponied up and paid them to go away.