Search Bar

THE SERIES

Search Bar is an original sketch comedy show produced by Brad Gage and Anna Akana, available exclusively on the Fullscreen app. Thankfully, they brought me on as the Director of Photography. It was my favorite type of job: making fun stuff with talented friends. Luckily, I was provided a generous budget for crew and equipment, so most of the sketches were actually too big to include on a blog about using one light kit or less. There was one sketch, however, where I only used three lights, so here’s what I learned from that one.

Another Search Bar sketch, called Truth Or Dare With Rape, that’s available on Anna Akana’s Youtube channel in case you’re curious:

CREW: (2) camera operators, (2) 1st ACs, (1) 2nd AC/DIT, (3) G&E.

LIGHTING: Three 1’x1′ LED panels

CAMERA: (2) Canon C300 mkii, Dana dolly

LENSES: Canon cinema primes

COLOR: Davinci Resolve

 

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPFIRE

Campfire 6
Brad (pictured above…believe it or not) wanted a classic, spooky story-time look for this sketch; not super scary, but not exactly the typical high-key comedy. We scouted many locations and talked about many ways to light until we finally settled on the following solution.

LIGHTING

Social Media Campfire.jpg
We wanted the location to seem really remote, but we knew we would need lights in order to see any detail in the background. So we talked a lot about renting a generator and running lots of cable from far away so we wouldn’t get boned with sound. But screw that. When we found this location next to a hill, I realized we could just rent a few battery-powered LEDs and place them higher up on the hill for a theatrical moonlight look that would simultaneously back light the actors and scrape along the grass on the hill to prevent the background from becoming a complete black hole. Not only would the hill give some height to the source as well, it also meant that the stands would all be hidden above the camera’s line of sight. By using batteries, we would keep ourselves untethered and free from worry about the fact that we only had access to one power outlet. So we rented three 1’x1′ LED panels and enough extra batteries to ensure that we’d be covered for a six hour shoot. I put Peacock Blue gel on the LEDs because I wanted a green tint in the moonlight. However, since the rental company only had daylight-balanced LEDs and the camera was balanced to tungsten (so the firelight wouldn’t look too warm), the back light looked more blue than I had originally wanted, but I like how it turned out since the grass in the background provided a fair amount of green already.

Campfire 5Campfire 4Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 4.34.23 PM

BEHIND THE SCENES

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I guess Brad was talking and I was bored…?
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Obviously giving very important direction.
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From left to right: Megan Thuy Pham (B cam 1st AC).  Zack Wallnau (B Cam Op).  Sarah Greenwald (A cam 1st AC).  You Know Who (DP and A Cam Op).
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FYI: smoke hurts reeeeal bad when it blows directly into your eyes 5-min-take after 5-min-take.

COLOR GRADING

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Search Bar was expertly color graded by Persephanie Engel at Neptune Post. Brad and I had a great time sitting in on supervised sessions with her…mainly because she provides tasty snacks…
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I call it “The Royal Treatment.” The movie theater suite at Neptune Post, complete with leather couches. At the time I snapped this pic, the snacks were chillin’ about five feet in front of me.

COLOR PALETTES

Facebook Campfire.png
Color palette I designed for Social Media Campfire.

Search Bar was the first project on which I have utilized official color palettes. Since I was working with several other department heads, like Costumes and Art, I figured it would be best to create some basic palettes that they could reference when buying their materials to help keep a consistent feel for each sketch. I googled “color palette generator” and decided on Coolors because I liked the look, simplicity and options that it provided. Here are the other palettes that help illustrate the differences in each sketch:

0verview of Palettes.png

LESSONS LEARNED

Since Search Bar was shot with two cameras, I tried my best to design lighting setups that would look good from any angle and wouldn’t require having to constantly move stands around. It’s tough when you don’t have the means to rig a bunch of gear to the ceilings, but it’s a fun challenge and it forces me to compromise in the name of efficiency, which is one step closer to helping me cure my perfectionism.

In the case of the Social Media Campfire sketch, we used the topography of the location to hide our lights and the technological advances of battery-powered units to save ourselves from the constraints of generators and cable. The main challenge was dealing with the fire. The heat waves weren’t ideal on a telefoto lens and the blowing smoke definitely wasn’t ideal for comfort. At one point my 1st AC and I hid under a blanket just so we’d be able to keep our eyes open long enough to finish a take, but it was a sacrifice we made to avoid moving a burning fire and replacing it with a lighting gag. It was a relatively quick shoot, so we felt it was best to just keep the fire going strong and use the beautiful light that nature offered us. Thanks, Mother Nature* 😉

*Though Mother Nature did, indeed, create the concept of fire, we actually used Duraflame logs and newspaper to get that baby lit. When you’re on a time crunch, you resort to desperate measures. I’m not proud of it, but it got the job done.

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