The Untimely End of Ms. Xiang short film

I just got back from shooting a short film the past 3 days up north of Lake Tahoe. We shot on location, in the snow, which is quite a change from my usual warm Los Angeles weather. While it's always more challenging to shoot in colder weather, the shoot went surprisingly smooth, which is a good thing, as the script was ambitious in both content and page count (27 pages), and the director liked to come up with technically complex camera moves that I tried to accommodate as much as possible, which requires creative solutions with crews as small and budgets as tight as we were dealing with.

We ended up shooting on the Canon 7D Mark II with Canon L-series zoom lenses. I opted for a 16-35mm and 24-70mm, keeping in mind that the sensor crop would give me enough zoom without needing to add on a 70-200mm. Having conducted some tests with the 7D, I was aware of the tendency to get the dreaded "jello" frame if the movement was too erratic, so made sure that the handheld shots, even when the director wanted more energy, were somewhat subdued. Using any of the pre-installed looks, the camera tends to crush the blacks and clip the whites, while saturating colors way too much. After doing some testing, I ended up installing Technicolor's Cinestyle profile on the camera, which gave me a much flatter image with better dynamic range and more realistic colors. It wasn't my favorite camera to shoot with, but fit within our budget and, when lit properly, gives a decently cinematic image.

Although the director and I had prepared a fairly comprehensive shot list in pre-production, a lot of the shots got tossed out the window and changed on set, so a lot of flexibility was required. While I think we managed to get a decent rendition of the director's vision, I'll keep in mind for our next project together to make certain to get a stabilized gimbal or hire on a Steadicam operator, as those tools would have made my job a whole lot easier, though probably neither were within the camera budget for this film.

Mixing up that daylight key with the warm incandescent fill of the "house" lights.

It was challenging to balance our actress's dark skin inside a car with the bright white snow outside, but I let the brightest clouds clip just a little and went with it.

Probably my second or third favorite shot of the movie.

Mole Studio Junior (x2) daylight LED with full CTB doubled up for the background, and the key light provided by the house's walkway lights plus a 650W Tweenie Fresnel panned slightly off from about 30 feet away.

Another Fargo-esque moment.

China ball wrapped with bleached muslin on the lamp side (black duvatene draped on the back side to keep the light off the wall), and two Mole 1K Baby Baby fresnels bounced into the ceiling to provide ambient and fill.


Mercy Street opening credit sequence

Now that the new PBS show Mercy Street has aired, I can finally share that I had a hand in creating the opening title sequence (see my blog post from last year). While the show provided the character and location video used in the titles, all the other overlay elements had to be generated, which is where I came in.

Rather than create everything in the computer, we instead shot as much as we could practically. That is one of the calling cards of production company Elastic, who has also provided opening credits for other shows such as Game of Thrones, True Detective (winning the 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design), and Marvel's Daredevil.

Bottle elements shot by me.

Shot practically, printed out on back lit paper. We did a practical slice in the paper as well, but I'm not sure if they used our practical take or added the cut in post.

Why yes, I did shoot the saw blade and the surgical instruments.

Another back lit paper shot (see my blog post). Again, I'm not certain if they used the take where we actually sliced the paper or if it's a post effect.

The least impressive of my contributions. I shot the glass texture that overlays the image.

Sorry about the terrible quality of this picture. I had to photograph the screen of my TV with my phone, as this frame wasn't included in the video I pulled screengrabs from for the other pictures. I shot the medical instruments.

One more terrible phone photo, so please excuse the poor color balance, etc. This image runs at the top and end of the show with the sponsors overlayed, but I shot the background lace curtain element.


Mid-January update

I'm still working on pre-production for the short film I'm shooting at the end of the month. We're getting the equipment orders put in and finalizing details. Tomorrow we have a read-through of the script with all the keys and will be making sure we have everything ironed out for the shoot. Everything seems to be coming together nicely and I'm excited to get this made.

Last night we had a cast, crew, and friends/family screening for Mystic Cosmic Patrol, which is a television pilot that I shot last year. We screened two of the three episodes and got a great response. Not only did we have an awesome cast (Chris Masterson, Timothy Jo, Laura Monaco, Chris Candy, Chelsea Tavares, and Tim Russ), but a great crew and production team. It was nice to see a lot of them again and I was very pleased with how the final product turned out. I tend to be a pretty harsh critic of my work, but even I liked it. Hopefully, we can find a studio that enjoys it as much as the audience at the screening did. This was my favorite project to shoot and ended up being my favorite completed project as well, so I'd love for it to get a series order.

In other news, the recently released January issue of Talent Monthly Magazine is loaded with projects I worked on. It features interviews with Tracey Birdsall (Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, At the Edge of Time), Aaron Jacques (Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, Starship Rising), Barry Corbin (At the Edge of Time, No Country for Old Men), and Stephen Manley (Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock). The issue also debuted the poster for the movie Rogue Warrior, pictured below.

Tracey Birdsall (center), Daz Crawford (left) and Aaron Jacques (right)


Gods & Secrets

This past week I was shooting the miniatures and titles unit for Gods & Secrets down at the YouTube Space LA. I've shot some miniatures before for a variety of projects, but these were the largest miniature sets that I've worked with so far. We used Cine Magic International's Revolution snorkel lens system, provided by Clairmont Camera. YouTube provided a RED Epic Dragon and our dolly was from Chapman.

Gods & Secrets is a dark superhero series directed by Adi Shankar and Stewart Yost, though the miniatures and titles were directed primarily by Yost. It's set to be released later this year.

Day 1.

Haze and lights.

Sorry there aren't any good shots of the miniature sets. I can only currently share pics where they aren't clearly shown.

The Revolution snorkel with mini-primes. We mostly lived on the 16mm and usually had a Black Pro Mist 1 on the front.


Location scouting

The last couple days were spent traveling and location scouting the north Lake Tahoe area for a short film that I'm shooting at the end of the month. It was cold and snowy, but that will work great with the story that we'll be telling. We found some great places to shoot (besides scouting the already locked locations), so it's looking good.

Cold weather ahead!
Home location, where a big chunk of the story takes place.
We just happened upon this shop, which is perfect for one of our scenes.


Nike store - The Grove Mall, Los Angeles

Last August I posted about a Nike shoot I worked on. I had heard that it was playing in stores a couple months back and finally had some time to make it down to the local Nike store to check it out. Oddly enough, I couldn't find it playing on any of their tall aspect ratio store screens (which all seemed to be displaying shopping portals, not video), but a cropped version was playing on the giant wall of screens right behind the checkout.

It was pretty cool to see some of the stuff I shot on that big of a screen. I just wish I could have seen it the way it was originally intended to be displayed. I know it was shown in the full tall aspect ratio at another store, as the main unit DP showed me a picture, so perhaps I need to drop by a different location. Either way, it's still cool to see my work playing at Nike.

Nike Store at The Grove.
Sorry for the terrible color balance. I took this with my phone.


Making a Murderer credits

So, earlier this year I did some opening credits work that I couldn't reveal until now. Okay, I really didn't contribute much to the opening credits, as I shot three sequences but apparently two got cut from the edit. In the end, I only managed about a second and a half of screen time. Nothing to really get too excited over...but it's still cool to have contributed to a Netflix original. Here's a screengrab from the glorious second and a half that I shot!

My contribution: the police officer.
At least the next show that I shot opening credits elements for should feature a lot more stuff I did than this one. That show premieres in just under a month, so I'll be sure to share some screen grabs from it as well.