A COMPILATION OF LESSONS LEARNED ON EACH SHOOT:
Click on the project name to visit the blog post that corresponds.
This project was an exercise in patience and compromise. Even though conditions weren’t always perfect, I constantly reminded myself that it was okay to compromise certain details in order to preserve the big picture. Despite facing many budgetary and logistical challenges, I leapt in with an attitude of “get it done no matter what.” I really wanted to get it done no matter what, AND I didn’t want to sacrifice quality or an epic scale just for the sake of finishing. I had to do it and I had to do it right.
In my experience, there are two ways to achieve high production value and you need at least one of the two: MONEY or TIME.
In order to solve a problem, you can either throw money at it or give it time. To accomplish what I wanted to accomplish without money even being a factor in my equation, meant that I would obviously need time. I slowly chipped away at what started off as a completely overwhelming task and let the video unfold over the course of a couple months. It definitely required patience, but seeing the vision actually come to life was totally worth the wait if you ask me.
With careful planning and scouting, you can eliminate the need for traditional film lighting…though it’s definitely better to have a few close by just in case.
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.
For New Years 2015, my friend told me to come up with a word that would define my year. I chose the word, ACTION, because I was in a bad habit of planning things out of existence. I would think about an idea so much that it became too overwhelming to actually execute. I had been sitting on this series idea for over a year because I couldn’t figure out where to shoot it, but it was something that I believed could be great. So I decided it would be the perfect project to test out my new word, action. No matter what challenges arose, I would find a solution and make it happen. Weeks later I had freaking built a set from scratch in my dining room. Don’t get me wrong. At times, building an entire set completely by yourself can get a wee bit frustrating…to put it mildly…but the strength of my excitement and desire to accomplish my vision luckily overpowered the anger I felt whenever difficult obstacles presented themselves. I like the series and I wish I could have made more episodes, but after a year, I needed my dining room back 😉
I have noticed, when shooting daylight scenes at Anna’s apartment, that the more sources I add, the happier I am with the result. Sometimes I’ll set up a scene using just the 650 key and 1k for fill and it looks fine. It could pass as perfectly acceptable. But then I’ll bounce the 300 off my reflector for extra fill and, without adding too much for exposure, it really brings clothes and skin to life a lot more. Adding more light adds more life. That can, of course, be difficult to adhere to when you’re only working with one light kit, but it’s something I have been thinking about.
I focused a little more on motivated lighting during these shoots. I think I ignored it a lot in the past; if I felt that something needed a light, I just added it, regardless of its purpose. I wanted to make sure every light had a realistic motivation on these shoots and I’m liking the results. I think one of the reasons I can get so much out of so little equipment is that I’m paying more attention to the real world lighting around the locations so I can use whatever is already there and then just spice it up a bit.
Contrast has been really fascinating me lately, too. What combination of lighting and exposure and latitude and gamma curves create the most pleasing looks? So many complex variables! And that’s just black and white. Add color science into the mix and it starts to get cray up in here. Learning how to color correct has been one of the best things I have done to improve my cinematography.
If you have any budget at all, spend it on awesome locations instead of a better camera. Shooting a blank-walled apartment on an Alexa is still boring as shit. [Second most important place to spend (if not tied for first) would be good sound, especially in post.]
This video was the perfect chance to experiment with new styles of composition that I’m not used to using. Mr. Robot has opened up a whole new world when it comes to extreme, non-traditional comps and it feels like it’s gonna be a sweet, sweet new world.
We shot this sketch in 3 hours. Allow more time if fight choreography is involved…even the simplest of moves. Also, separate the subject and background better when possible. It’s like Photography 101, Eric. Daaaamn. Git yo shit together.