Dog waiting in Berlin. 2013
You gotta love it. 2016 starts out with a bang. Tomorrow I'm photographing, and filming my first three jobs of the year. All three are for the same client, Zach Theatre.
The first job is a dress rehearsal shoot for a family play that will take place at the Wisenhunt Stage, which is a theater-in-the-round situation. The stage is in the middle and there are seats on all four sides. Since the theater is fairly small I'll be shooting with shorter lenses than I usually do at the main, enormous, Topfer Stage. The flip side is that since the actors play to audiences on all four sides I'll be moving non-stop in order to be in the right spot for the right shot. I'm packing the D750 camera and 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses for this one. We shoot from 10:30 till noon and then I have a few minutes to catch my breath.
At noon I'll meet up with crackerjack assistant, (and second director) Ben, on loan from Skidmore College, to unload the Honda and begin making the Kleberg Stage (right next door to the Wisenhunt) our sound stage for the following few hours. Our mission is to set up a dramatic, black set with lots of great side and back lighting, and make a compelling sixty second YouTube video program and a thirty second, broadcast TV commercial for Zach's next big stage play, Tribes.
We're taking along a 9 foot, black muslin background but I think everyone is okay if we play with the edges and show some space behind the third wall. The main, front of stage, lights for the project will be three of the RPS CoolED 100W LED lights. They belt out a good amount of light and the color, once custom WB'd, is great; nice and rich. Since I don't have an infinite number of the big LEDs to bring to the project, and there's no budget for other rentals, we'll be pressing three of the Fotodiox Day Flo Max DFM-1500s into service as back lights. These big, fluorescent lights have a little bit of color imbalance (compared to the LEDs) but ..... bonus!!!! we're converting the footage to black and white in post processing, and the primary footage we're shooting will be presented as black and white imagery. Even though that is the case I must add that the difference in colors aren't that big, and we're working with gel filters to get the lights a bit closer together. The color balance issue is why I'm using one set in front and one set in the back. We'll custom white balance with the front lights and then let the fluorescents in the background go however they want to go. It's theater...
Since we're mostly on one character for the majority of the content we're well aware of the need for a bunch of different angles and magnifications for cutaways, to be used in the edit. I'll be operating the main, front camera while Ben wrangles a second camera. I'm using a Nikon D750 with a zoom while Ben will be over to the side at 45 degrees, with a D810 and a 50mm for some shots, a 135mm for others. If we can get the actors to work the pace right we'll also shoot one take with both cameras moving.
For audio I intend to put a wireless Sennheiser lavaliere microphone on our main actor (the only one who has lines...) and then also drop a Rode shotgun microphone in on a pole from over the top of the set. Both microphones will go into the Tascam DR-60.2 mixer/audio recorder and either Ben or I will ride levels on the mixer, sending audio both to the recorder and also back to the camera. Redundancy and, if necessary, a camera scratch track to match up with external audio. Fingers crossed that we'll be able to edit directly from the camera audio.
Once we nail down the video content we'll reset the lights a bit (to accommodate for the difference between video and still imaging) and then move on to our third job which is to shoot marketing photographs of the same production. We'll use the same black background but we'll shoot with the idea that we'll be using individual shots of each actor for the marketing, stripped together to make the advertising graphics.
Once we've done that we'll wrap up all of this crazy lighting and camera gear and head back to the studio for the worst part of every shoot: Unloading the car and putting away all the gear. The batteries will get pulled from the mixer, the microphones, the video monitor and the cameras and all put on chargers. I don't like to store partially charged batteries. We'll clean and re-wrap cables and put away the cameras and lenses in their storage spots. Then I'll sit down and hit the actual files in a most linear way. Ingesting images from the first shoot to two drives, making a Lightroom catalog and then proceeding to post processing, and outputting for delivery. I'll work through the same process with each of the next two sets. I try not to multi-task because I don't believe in it. I think that when people strive to become too efficient then everything eventually goes to hell as chaos and entropy intrude.
Should be a fun way to spend a Saturday with the kid before he starts getting ready to go back to school. I showed him some reference material today to get his input. He's a much better film maker than I and I trust his judgement. His take? Understated, as usual. He just remarked, "hmmm, that many takes seems like a day long project, not a two hour shoot. You sure?" No. I'm never sure.
And that's just the way I like it.
Well. Revving up for the new year is fun but you have to slip back into practice and routine. Too much time off makes me fat and lazy. And who's got time for that?