What is this, a house for ants?

One of my friends is working on developing a children's series and needed help shooting some miniatures for the opening and some cutaways. Since I've shot several miniature sets before, I was asked to help light and shoot the buildings. The series is a puppet driven concept with the pilot already shot and an almost completed teaser trailer, so it was just a matter of matching the look that had already been established.

This was a bit of a challenge, as the space we had to shoot in was a tiny, side office space that already had equipment stored in it, so everything was a tight fit, as you can see in the picture to the left. This makes it difficult to precisely place lighting and also limited us on the placement of the set relative to the background, which makes it harder to sell the "far off in the distance" look. We solved some of that by adding a light atmospheric haze that helps push that background farther away since it's "fading" off into the distance. The haze has to be very controlled, however, as it builds up fast in such a small space and we didn't want it too apparent in the foreground.

One of the fun things was that we were shooting both day and night scenes, so got to light for the two times of day. I always enjoy a good miniature that has built-in lighting, as it makes it feel that much more alive. Since this show utilizes puppets, I think the hand-crafted look of these sets also fits the overall visual aesthetic where we aren't going for absolute realism, but more of a fantasy-enhanced version of the puppet reality.

We shot on the Arri Alexa Classic, using my set of Sony CineAlta prime lenses for a look that is very comparable to Zeiss Ultra Primes, but at a fraction of the cost. We had a set of 3 Zeiss Super Speeds on hand as well, but not in the focal lengths we wanted.

Overall, it was a fun shoot with good people, even if the small space did provide some lighting and plane separation challenges. I did have to be careful when operating on the moves, as when shooting miniatures the small movements and possible vibrations get amplified, so you want to take things nice and smooth, keeping a careful eye out for anything that might make the shots look too much like miniatures.

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