A friend of mine asked me to produce a few small spots for the Wheel Chair Rugby Championships that were coming up. As with too many job there was little time, little organization and little budget. I wanted to make something I was proud of and that the client would be really happy with. I had also seen this award-winning Ad for the special Olympics which got me excited but also set a very high bar. Now their Ad was obviously done on a much bigger scale with a higher budget and a lot more time but that’s no reason not to aim high is it?
I will start off by saying I broke my cardinal rule, “Always have a plan”, and I paid the price by having a whole bunch of issues come up as well as a fevered rush at the end to get it done by the deadline. But I did get it done in time and here are the results:
I shot most of the project on the AF100, why? Cause I own it. For the slowmo I used the FS700 which I borrowed off a friend. I was surprised how noisy the FS700 was, especially as the frame rate was pushed up it got really noticeable. Obviously as the frame rate goes up the amount of light each frame is getting is smaller so you need a bunch of light and/or a fast lens.
The close-ups of the player in the 30 sec clip were all lit with a Blondie and a bounce board for lighting but even then I pushed the gain up a bit.
The wheelchair hits in slowmo were at 400fps and we didn’t have any additional lights. Now this is where we had some real problems. We were supposed to have 4 hours for this part of the shoot but due to a snafu we got a total of 40 min! So we rigged the camera to a wheelchair with a cine saddle and a magic arm. then we pushed it along the court as our players did battle in a few set up passes and hits. Now these guys hit hard, they don’t hold back. It was really hard to watch some times but really impressive.
So how did it go, or more importantly, what went wrong?
Well we were expecting a lot more time to be able to shoot the on court action so when I was informed we had a grand total of 40 min I sort of freaked out a wee bit and didn’t know what to do. The only option was to shoot some setups as planned but with out the fineness and lighting that we were going to do originally. I was rather annoyed but there really was nothing we could do about it.
I used the widest lens I had on me which was the Tamron 15-50 Nikon mount. Its a good lens but a bit soft wide open. In the hurry I didn’t get a chance to really check the focus so much of the action is a bit soft. Add to this the soft nature of the lens at 2.8 and the general lack of light at 400fps giving little option as well as the general terrible LCD screen on the FS100, and we end up with somewhat soft footage. But because the action is so impressive the soft nature of the footage was not as big of a problem as it could have been.
The other problem was a long running one. I had entered into the project with little control of our scheduled. Now normally I like to shoot the interviews first so that I know what I need to get regarding overlay and to get a good feel for the story we are telling. But this time that was not an option so the interview was actually the last shoot day we had available. The first day & a half were spent shooting the 30 sec and some overlay. Much of this overlay proved useless as it really didn’t match up to the interview as I didn’t really know what we needed to cover.
To solve this problem I shot the beach and park footage the following week after I shot the interview. This was an unscheduled day that I did on my own time just because it was needed to make the project work. In hind sight this should have been planed differently so we would have known what we needed to get and been able to fit it into the time we had.
I really enjoy lighting interviews these days as well as conducting them to get the story out of the subject. For this interview I wanted to move the camera to help tell the story. Now if I had an ENG camera I could have done much of the moves in camera but as the lenses I had were primes this was not an option. I decided to shoot several of the questions in a wide and a close shot to give me some options in post and create the moves digitally. I find in this situation you are better off asking the questions a second time a fair while after you asked them the first other wise they seem stilted or hurried as the person knows what they have already said.
I lit Andy with just 2 lights and a pop up black background. I used a Lowel Rifa ex 55 soft light as my key light, it was rather close. For the 3/4 back light I used a Lowel Omni 500w open face. It was a very simple setup but rather extreme for an interview but one which I quite like.
This was also the first time I had used DaVinci Resolve. Although Resolve is a fantastic program it is also a fair amount to try to learn quickly and quite intimidating. This biggest problem I found was simply stress and time. There is nothing especially difficult regarding Resolve but once you add a time critical project to the mix every thing seems to be much more difficult and you start to swear that the program was designed by people who like to hide features in the last place you would look.
Eventually I did get my head around DaVinci Resolve though as I look at the 30 Sec clip I feel that the grade was not evenly balanced throughout the video and in some places was too extreme, notably the CU at 00:00:10:00 where the players face (Andy) is too orange.
I found the grade to be quite tricky as the Af100 footage and the FS100 footage seemed to fall over in different places even though they are both AVCHD 24mbs codecs.
The FS700 is not as sharp as I expected and was quite disappointing really. I’m glad I had not bought this camera when I was thinking about it. It does have some real benefits but there are too many compromises in the design for me to get excited.
Well overall I am happy with the result. I wanted to fix the grade on the 30 sec but thought I’d leave it as it was hurriedly delivered so I could talk about it. I was really happy with the interview with Andy and super glad that I went out to get the extra overlay, it just wouldn’t have worked with out it.
The FS700 reminded me that it’s not the camera that counts but how you tell the story as aside form the slowmo I was not overly impressed with it. The AF100 is a funny little camera but it still does the job most of the time.
We had little time, little money and little organisation and even then we had far less time than we were promised but it worked out and the client was super happy.
So overall that makes me happy. What do you guys think?
- Always have a plan, no matter what!
- Don’t learn a new piece of software of kit on the job do it before you get into a time critical situation.
- Don’t panic when things go wrong, just stop, think and get on with it.
- Check focus, always.