Producer/Director Christiaan Blok asked me to help him with a series of cinema ads to be played before films in a major Australian Film festival. The ads were for a legal firm that was the primary sponsor for the event. In previous years they have made humorous ads where people read out their favorite lines from classic movies. Chris wanted to do something bigger and something funny but also classy. To me it seamed obvious that what we needed to do was have lawyers interrupt famous movie scenes. Chris thought it was the perfect idea and went about developing it further and writing the scripts.
Initially we had decided that the first two movies that we would be interrupting with a lawyer would be ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Lord Of the Rings’. Both films are iconic and have famous scenes that couldn’t be mistaken or confused for another movie even with our spin on it.
The A Team
Chris went about assembling the team to bring the project together. He booked us a little green screen studio that we could use for both of the first two ads we would produce. The LOTR would be completely green screen but the Godfather would mostly be falling off into black. So the plan was to put up blacks to turn the Green screen into a black room.
Our team was a really motivated talented crew who are really fun to work with. We didn’t have much time only 8 hours to bump in, shoot and bump out. The lawyers were played by actual lawyers from the firm.
Tom Dicker did the vfx, and was able to do a pre-vis of the Balrog before we filmed the Green Screen action so we had something to match up to. Check out his cool action here.
Samantha Bailey was the production designer and helped us put together the look of each scene from wardrobe to making the most of our wee location.
Bianca Saras did makeup, including Gandalfs amazing hair and beard. Which was quite funny as she is quite short and Peter McAllum, the actor playing Gandalf, is very tall so watching her make small adjustments on set was kind of amusing. Peter McAllum had to sit in makeup for the whole first half of the shoot while we did the Godfather scenes before he was ready to shoot. That is some patients I wouldn’t be able to muster. Check out her amazing work here and here.
Drew Bontoft was our ever plucky camera assist.
Take a look at the results:
Lord Of The Rings.
The Godfather setup was quite simple. I put a 500w Lowel Omni light, with a small frame of 216 diffusion about half a foot away from the light, over head on a C-Stand directly above the two actors in the foreground. In the back ground there was a basic practical light that pt some light on the small table in the background. In the take we used you really can’t see the table or the whiskey bottles but it was there to give a wee bit of depth.
Then there was a single Lowel Pro Light on a stand just off camera to the right of frame. The light was about half spot and quite high and unfiltered.
I actually fettled around a lot before getting a setup I was happy with. The problem was I was simply over thinking the scene and after a pause and rethink I removed everything but the final two lights and was much happier.
The LOTR setup was obviously more complicated. First up is the green screen. The key (pardon the pun) is to light the green screen evenly. To this end the camera can provide you two very useful tools.
Firstly is the wave form monitor. If you remove your actors then the green screen should ideally look like a single solid line across your wave form monitor. If there is much thickness or waviness to the wave form then you need to adjust your lights. The other tool that I find very easy to use to gauge the expose quickly is the marker tool on the Panasonic cameras. The marker just meters the light in the center of the screen as a percentage. this means you can scan it around your green screen quickly like a spot meter and determine if you have and hot spots or dark spots.
I lit the green screen with 4 led light panels. The light panels are cheep Chinese knock off so there is a bit of a green spike. This is not a problem for a green screen as its green already. The light panels are also daylight temp so they are a bit blue. The scene that we wanted the actors to appear in is a very warm scene as the Balrog is a demon made of fire and fire is rather yellow/orange/red so the camera was set to a color temp of 4000 and the lights that lit the actors were tungsten lights.
Gandalfs close up was lit with a single 500w Omni light directly in front and up high. The light was put through a pop out diffuser that was about 2 feet away from the light and another 2 feet from the actor. To Gandalfs right is an unfiltered 800w Tota light and behind him to his left is a Pro light with a half blue on it. The Pro light was just to ad some definition from the background that was going to be a similar color temp to the warm front lighting so a cool edge would help pull him out. For the ECU I just added a bounce board below the bottom of frame to fill in Gandalfs face as his arms cast a strong shadow.
That’s a wrap
In the end I think we made some clever, cool little ads. The budget was minimal but the enthusiasm was high.The client was absolutely ecstatic when they saw them and so were the many attendees when they were first screened.
Let us know what you think of the ads. If you have any questions I can help you out with feel free to ask.
Nathaniel C. T. Jackson
Check out Director Christiaan Blok’s site for more cool projects.
We shot on the Panasonic AF100 to an external recorder, the convergent design Nano. This was mostly to assist the keying of the green screen.
Lenses were the Rokinon 24, 35 cine lenses and the Nikon 1.2 50 mm. The Rokinons are cheep and very very good. If you shoot at 2 or 2.8 they are super sharp.
- Don’t let any one but Camera dept touch the camera gear.
- Less is more.