October update

This past month has been yet another super busy one filled with work; a few shoots and lots of pre-production on some upcoming projects.

While it hasn't been released yet, I was very happy with the music video I shot for Karmin, Love Is Louder. I always jump at the chance to shoot in black and white, so was excited when the director and I agreed to go monochromatic. I was also encouraged to frame the performance bits in a "Mr. Robot" style. Hopefully this track will get its video release soon, but for now I'll just leave a few screengrabs.

Another fun project this month was shooting a lifetyle spot for Four Seasons. I utilized an Alexa Mini with my Sony CineAlta PL primes, with the camera jumping between a DJI Ronin, tripod, Dana Dolly, and handheld. We only had access to the hotel for a single day, so we kept the shot list simple and I had a team prelighting the subsequent scene while I was shooting. That allowed us to knock out a ton of locations within the hotel, before going to a second location to grab a couple last shots. I don't yet have any of the footage from that shoot, but will get some images posted up once I get my hands on it.

Most of the rest of my shooting month consisted of corporate interviews and a couple live performances (one dance event, one concert event). Since those were pre-lit venues, I didn't bother grabbing footage since I was more of a camera operator lead, as there was no lighting input from myself.

Besides the days shooting, I had some productive meetings for a couple projects, including a feature length documentary that we'll hopefully start shooting in December. I also attended Stan Lee's Comic Con (formerly known as Comikaze) where Nobility had a panel and I sat in as a panel member on a Low-Budget Filmmaking & Building a Team presentation. Usually I prefer to be behind the scenes making things happen, rather than in front of a crowd, but it wasn't too bad. The panel was centered around the award winning DC fan film, Fair Fight, that I co-DP'd a couple months back. I did manage to get a couple pictures from that, at least.

Last bit of news is that I decided to jump back into the camera market, as I miss having something where I can just go out and shoot whatever I want to, so now my business partners and I have a new RED Epic-W on its way. I'm excited to put the new Helium sensor through some tests to see what it can do. It should offer a lot of flexibility, giving us the ability to record everything from 2K ProRes up to 8K RAW (and all sorts of options in between). The payments have been made and things are shipping, so the kit should all arrive soon.


Rogue Warrior premiere, some music videos, and more!

A lot's happened since my last update, as I've been busy with numerous projects. First off, I shot a music video for Karmin for her track Love Is Louder off of her upcoming album. We shot that at the YouTube Spaces on a RED Epic Dragon with Canon CN-E prime lenses. The camera lived on a Steadicam for the shoot. The final edit just got locked and I'm quite pleased with how this turned out. I'll share the video once it comes out.

Next up was a lyric video for Emii's track Wait. It was kind of a rush job, as they decided late into the schedule to change from a standard lyric video into a lyric/music video hybrid. Since the song had a hard release date, we rushed in to get this shot and it was an ambitious concept with lots of set changes and wardrobe/makeup changes. We shot RED Epic MX with Sony CineAlta lenses. The camera spent a good chunk of time on a Ronin. I'm not totally thrilled with the color grade, as the turnaround was so fast that I was unable to sit in on any of it.

Moving on, the science fiction feature film Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter had its premier this last weekend at the Action on Film Festival. It was pretty well attended and I enjoyed seeing some of the cast and crew for the first time in almost a year and a half. The movie went through some extensive rewrites and subsequent reshoots in the time since we wrapped principal photography, so it was interesting and surprising to see the final product, as I was not involved in the shooting of those additional scenes. Here are a couple pictures from the night.

Rogue Warrior premiered on the opening night of the Action on Film Festival.

A big chunk of the cast, and then me on the left repping the crew.

Screen 12. Same screen where the festival debuted the last two features I shot for Neil Johnson.
Lastly, Action on Film also screened the DC Comics fan film, Fair Fight, which I shot 2nd Unit DP. Due to other obligations, I was unable to attend that screening. Fair Fight has also been invited to screen at another film festival, so it sounds like it's being well received.


SDCC 2016

Another year, another San Diego Comic Con. As in recent years, both Nobility and Space Command had panels. What was different this year is that Nobility has a finished project, with color correction, sound mix, and FX complete (or nearly complete). The panel was well attended and the footage looked the best it has yet. This year, we even managed to get Doug Jones in on the panel.

Nobility panel and screening

For the Space Command panel, they had to use the entire length of the table! The panel was huge! Hey, wait...is that Doug Jones again? That guy is everywhere! Unfortunately, I had an appointment to keep and was unable to make it to this panel. They debuted the opening 6 minutes of the film. The VFX were not quite complete from what I've been told, but it's a start. This movie is extremely FX heavy so the post process has been excruciatingly slow, as they're working on a very small budget for what they're trying to pull off. But they're still at it.

Space Command panel. That's a full lineup there!
This year, Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter had a signing. Dave Seeley designed the movie poster and was kind enough to let us do a signing in his booth. I'm pretty sure nobody cares about getting my signature, but it was fun nonetheless. The film is in the final stages of the sound mix and color correction, so the director says he's aiming to premiere it at the Action on Film Festival in early September.

(left to right): Robot Fighter lead Tracey Birdsall, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Marc Hawes, not-appearing-in-this-film me, and (just offscreen) Neil Johnson.
Other than that, at one of my meetings I received some great news about Mystic Cosmic Patrol, the pilot I shot last year. It seems that there is some definite interest in it, with a deal very, very close to happening. As we all know, nothing's certain until the ink dries (and even then plans change), so I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that project. It was one of my favorite things to shoot and possibly my favorite end product, as it looks fantastic, sounds great, and is hilarious. I'm usually very reserved in my praise, but this is a show that I'd tell everyone I know to watch.

Well, that's it for Comic Con. It wore me out, but I had a lot of fun and my meetings went well. Here's to hoping I'll have some other new projects to showcase at next year's SDCC!


Fair Fight part II: A DC Comics fan film

This past weekend I helped out some of my friends who were shooting their DC Comics fan film, Fair Fight. This was part 2 of the project, with my fellow DP Scott Baker handling the first installment. We utilized the same location and camera, a BlackMagic Pocket camera. While I've shot with BlackMagic cameras before, this is the first time I've used the Pocket Camera. The one I used had a speed booster and included a set of Leica still lenses with a Duclos Cinemod.

I shot handheld primarily on the 25mm and 50mm, with a couple shots on a 100mm and a single shot on the 24mm. The B-cam shot on a 14mm or 35mm Rokinon on a small Glidecam-style rig. Matching the settings from part 1 as closely as I could (ISO 1600, F2.8, ProRes 422, 120° shutter), we shot pretty much everything with two cameras at a time. I'd occasionally shoot ISO 800/F2 when I could, but tended to stay at a 2.8 to give myself a little extra leeway since I was pulling my own focus off of the tiny Pocket Camera screen.

Since the original shoot was unable to recall if they shot with the flatter "film" profile and then graded, or shot straight to the "video" profile, I opted for the flat "film" profile, as it's easy to get the video look from that footage, while the reverse isn't true. They were also unsure about the color temp, so I went with 4000K, as the first part had pretty orange tungsten while the blues were fairly blue. By splitting the two temps, I gave them warmer than average tungsten and kept my blues nice and strong.

I believe these grabs are off the ungraded screenshots. I kind of like the muted color scheme, as it fits the darker and grittier nature of the content. Part 1 has a lot more saturation and contrast, so these will probably get graded to a crunchier look for the final product.


A few more screen grabs

And here's a few more screen grabs from my shoot in Indiana.

Also, I spent this past week working on a shoot out in Palm Springs. We shot primarily outdoors for four days, with the temperature getting as high as 115° F! So how did we keep cool(er)? By grabbing a pool umbrella and creating a makeshift camera cart mobile shade station!


May update

Since it's been a while since my last post, I'll just update with the most recent, as most of my jobs the past two months have been simple things like interviews and some event coverage, so nothing too exciting. This week, however, I worked on a pretty fun suspense/horror project.

I just got back from Indiana, where I shot some test footage for a possible feature with Lionsgate. We shot a couple scenes over two days for a script they had optioned. This was one of my first shoots where I had to hire an entirely local crew, but I managed to find some great people to come on board.

When choosing a camera, we decided to shoot on the Alexa Mini, as I had it on a gimbal for quite a few shots and needed to use a camera that was lightweight enough for the Ronin. I had also considered a RED Dragon, but knowing that we would be shooting a bunch of night scenes and only having a 1-ton G&E van package for lighting, I went with the Alexa as it offers a pretty clean image at ISO 800 and 1280. Keeping in mind the need to stay lightweight and wanting some vintage softness, I opted to use a Zeiss Super Speed Mk3 lens set and I aimed for a T2 (+/- a half stop) to get a little softness in the image with shallow depth of field.

For being a quick shoot with a minimal crew and lighting, I'm pretty happy with the images we got. While waiting around the airport for my flight back home, I did a quick color grade in Photoshop from some screen grabs I snapped of the Log C footage, so these aren't necessarily representative of the final color grade.

Tech specs:

Alexa Mini
Zeiss Super Speeds Mk 3
ProRes 4444 Log C
3.2K framed for 1.85:1 final image


The Man From Death

Here's a strange little shoot that I worked on quite a while ago, as it had a long post-production process. I started out as a camera assistant on the shoot, but much later, well after principal photography had wrapped, I came back to DP the FX unit (my credit is 3rd Unit DP). I handled the ECU exploding eyeballs, slow-motion bullet coming out of the barrel of a gun, and the bullet hitting the match. As with the main shoot, which utilized the RED Epic Dragon, I also shot the FX sequence on that camera as well.

When we shot this, I had no idea just how weird the final product would be. It's interesting to see how it came together in the edit. We may have sweated it out in the hot sun to get it made, but we had fun doing it.

The Man From Death from Stream Team on Vimeo.


Nike Run Club spot

Working with director of photography Chris Saul, I b-camera operated and second unit DP'd this spot for Nike. It's the one that's playing in Nike stores and was shot in the "sideways" 9x16 aspect ratio for use on the store displays, which utilize screens with this same orientation. We had a lot of fun and I'm happy to be able to now share the finished video.

NIKE from Chris Saul on Vimeo.


The Resistance: additional screen grabs

Here are a few other screen grabs from the action short, The Resistance, I recently completed.

The nameless "men in black".

Letting the shot go Daredevil dark.

Since we only had one side to our "alley", we flipped our set and lighting to reuse the one wall we did have, playing it as the other side.

A little water is always nice.

Since we didn't have a real alleyway, I let the background go black and added in some haze to help hide what was really back there. Also, the atmospheric haze picks up some of that back light and helps pop the actress off the dark background.

A7S shot. It's a little mushy, but for the quick edit it'll do. I really like the color difference between the two practical lighting sources.


The Resistance

I just finished up action short for an actress looking for some additional material for her demo reel, as well as getting a story concept developed. While I had tons of gear at my disposal, the time we had to shoot was short and the crew extremely small, so I tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Keeping in mind that we'd be shooting night scenes, I opted to use the Sony FS7 for it's clean image at higher ISOs, though I ended up running it at 800 the whole time, with only a single shot at 1600. The other reason I shot FS7 was due to us also using a DSLR on a Ronin. Knowing that the A7S offers great low light capability and matches well with the color science of the FS7 (this shoot isn't getting a color grade, so matching in camera was fairly critical), it made sense.

Since I knew that we'd be a small crew (myself plus two others), I wanted to avoid swapping lenses, so elected to use the Zeiss 28-80 T2.9 Compact Zoom. That would cover the full range of what was needed and would also match nicely with the Zeiss 18mm ZE lens on the Ronin/A7S setup.

This shoot was made possible by local rental house EVS: http://www.evsonline.com/

This is what we used for the alleyway scene.

Our alleyway created in the area pictured in the previous photo.

Top lit with a 650W fresnel through 4x4 opal, with another 650W top lighting the far background and a Source4 dimmed down and shot through 1/2 CTB for a back edge and to bring out the boxes on the shelving. A 1x1 LED lightpanel bounced off a 2x2 foamcore provides some front fill and an eye light.

Don't mess with a girl and her knife.

A7S on Ronin, utilizing practical lighting.

Same lighting setup as the third picture, just flipped.


The Untimely End of Ms. Xiang: a few additional images

Here are a couple more screen grabs from the short film I shot up in Truckee, CA, just north of Lake Tahoe. For the outdoor scenes, I was inspired by Fargo (the television series), which I just finished watching the second season shortly before shooting this project.

The schedule was incredibly aggressive, so I unfortunately didn't get time to shoot a couple drone shots that would have been great to have. Oh well, maybe next time.

Even though the director had some very specific input on the majority of the shots, this is one that they let me have that I really wanted. Probably the most "Fargo" of all the shots in the short.

Overcast skies provide a very nice soft light.

Found the perfect location, Sunshine Organic Herbs, for the scene where our character procures some, errr..."herbs".

This was a tough one to knock out. Dark clouds came in and we were quickly running out of daylight. I wish we could have rolled this one about 15 minutes earlier, when the light was perfect and there was a tiny bit of snowfall.

Probably my second most "Fargo" shot of the film.

It isn't easy to make a flat, unadorned background look appealing, so I flagged it off to try to get it to fall a bit darker and less conspicuous. Key light provided by a Mole Junior daylight LED bounced into the ceiling, with a 4x4 Ultrabounce returning some of that key as a fill.


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.