Archive for the ‘Videos’ Category
Hey guys, Drew here to go over a bit of the tech/production side of the Little Freddie and D4 BTS videos, the gear we used, and hopefully clear up a few questions.
First and foremost, this was definitely an amazing assignment for all of us at the studio to have been a part of. Having started working for Joe after the D3 campaign, I was excited at even the thought of being involved with a project like the D4 campaign.
Faces of Ground Zero was our first serious video effort at the studio. Though the setups were fairly basic, it was a proving ground of sorts for ourselves. We essentially had no clue what we were getting into, but came out with a final product that was effective, and we were happy with…
When Nikon Japan approached us about shooting a chunk of the D4 campaign, producing a multimedia piece, and shooting BTS video, we definitely had a few drinks. Initially, and right up until the last day on location, we were 50/50 stoked and nervous. As the “tech guy” in the studio, it often comes down to me to figure out the video side of things, and this was most definitely something we needed to hit out of the park.
A huge thanks goes out to Manfrotto, and specifically to Marco Tortato for introducing us to, and supplying us with a whole new realm of video supports we used on this shoot.
We also turned to Victor Ha and Brian Hynes at Cinevate for insight and inspiration. After a few hour-long phone calls, and a bunch of tutorial videos later, we more or less knew what gear we needed to pull this off. Cinevate was cool enough to send us a bunch of amazing gear to play with.
I can’t begin to emphasize the importance of pre-production- finding a location, building a story-line, storyboarding, etc. Lynn came across a plantation home just outside of New Orleans, which sounded amazing- but being that our timeline was extremely tight, we didn’t actually see the location, or even meet Little Freddie til the day before we started shooting. *Luckily*, things came together as we had hoped- the location was simply beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect subject.
To build the general storyline, we did a 30-45 min. interview with Little Freddie, just before the primary video shoot- which we shot with three cameras (see above). The remaining video was shot entirety within the next 5-7 hours. We had him play 3 songs on the porch, which Grippi and I shot with two cameras, and then worked on tons of environmental shots and B-roll.
Throughout the whole process, we strived to keep as simple of a gear pack and setup as possible. Here’s a basic rundown of the essential gear we used for the videos, and timeline examples of how/where we used them in the Little Freddie video:
- Manfrotto 504HD Fluid Video Head w/546B Aluminum Tripod (heavy duty tripod with an amazing head…incredibly smooth horizontal and vertical pans. i.e. 0:27)
- Manfrotto 561BHDV Video Monopod w/ Fluid Head (great for small spaces, quick repositioning of shots, and fairly simple tilts and zoome. i.e. 2:00, 2:14)
- Cinevate Simplis Pro Shoulder Rig (ideal for smooth, run & gun shooting, and can easily pop on and off a tripod. i.e. 0:40, 0:51)
- Cinevate Atlas 10 35″ Camera Slider (fairly compact slider that was the perfect choice when there wasn’t much room or time to set up. i.e. 0:18)
- Cinevate Atlas 30 58″ Camera Slider (much longer, incredibly smooth slider, which we used the majority of the time. i.e. 0:37, 1:42- raised on stands about 8 feet, 2:04)
- Sennheiser EW100 G3 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System (for the interview, we double-lavved Freddie, each on a different channel)
- Rode NTG-2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone (for the interviews, the Rode played the roll of a 3rd mic, and for Freddie playing, this was the only mic used)
- Zoom H4n Mobile 4-Track Recorder (we recorded all songs using the Rode mic, plugged into the Zoom, and as backup audio during the interview)
- Westcott Spiderlite TD6 Continuous Output Halogen/Fluorescent Light (used for sit-down interview footage shot of Joe)
- Litepanels MicroPro LED Dimmable 5600K Video Light (used on, or just off-camera during BTS shooting at the circus and snake shoots)
- Manhattan LCD 8.9″ HD Pro Monitor (this played an essential roll in composing shots, especially when doing very high or low slides or pans)
Overall, it was a fairly basic gear pack, and being that this is a new world for us, was perfect for a few reasons. It allowed us to work quickly and efficiently, and it meant that we could put our energy into shooting, and not lugging out tons of grip for every shot.
We’re pretty happy with the outcome, and are looking forward to playing a lot more with the D4 and D800 in the very near future. And many thanks to Mike Corrado at Nikon for shooting the behind the scenes pix above, and being our tech advisor for this whole new adventure.
Just finished two new classes for Kelby Training, which are in the pipe, and will most likely come out fairly shortly. They’re pretty in depth looks at creating, with just light and a plain wall, an environment in which dancers can thrive, create their own sublime shapes, which then, at camera, you simply hope to capture. I’m a big believer in the fact that when the camera observes a performer, it simply stands in service to their creativity. Consequently, the best thing a shooter can do is provide a comfortable place for them to experiment, light them simply and well, and then sorta, kinda, get the hell out of their way.
I’ll never be known as a dance shooter. I’ll really never be known as any particular kind of shooter at all, being resolutely, the generalist. (I spun from this studio into a job for the Geographic where I’m traveling with 27 cases of gear, two Suburbans, and negotiating the shooting of large, static objects.)
And I enjoy both of the above styles of assignment in equal measure, though I have to admit that the interaction with dancers is a helluva lot more fun. It’s a safety valve for me, to shoot dance. Think of a vent on a pressure cooker. I’ve always been a star struck kid when it comes to virtually any of the performing arts. Recently, I was in Vegas for a gig, and I took my youngest daughter with me. (Her first time in Vegas, and she really liked it. Should I be worried?)
We went to the “O” show, and both sat there with our jaws dropped at the exquisite talent on stage. I feel the same way about looking through the lens at dance.
The above set featured modern dancer Jeff Mortensen, and he was able to create whimsy in the air, assisted by two Elinchrom Rangers into long strip soft boxes, one directly overhead, and one off to either side, depending on his gesture. I “found” Jeff through the long standing relationships of David Cooper, a friend and fellow shooter based in Vancouver. David is one of Canada’s leading theater and dance shooters, and his daughter Emily (who calls herself Mini-Cooper) is not far behind in terms of skill. They are prominent members of the creative community in Vancouver, which is a city I love to go and work.
I was also able to work with Lisa Gelley, Josh Martin, and Shay Kuebler of the 605 Collective modern dance troupe based in Vancouver. They are dedicated to creating new versions of aesthetics in the air through the intricate interweaving of their articulate bodies while in flight. Above is Josh, lit with two TTL speed lights. Below, bigger lights were used, a combo of Ranger and Quadra.
Keeping things simple, we used just one speed light for the above shot of the soulfully expressive Bevin Poole. Here’s where you need to explain yourself as a photographer, and try your best not sound like a complete lunatic. I had no relationship, really, with Bevin, until she walked into the studio. I had just seen her picture. But for some reason, I saw her short hair sort of tufted and her face and body painted in some way shape or form. I don’t know where that came from, it just did. Here’s where collaboration with an excellent makeup artist is irreplaceable. I discussed this off the wall notion with Tamar Ouziel, an extremely talented HMU artist in Vancouver, and she immediately got on board with it, made suggestions, refined the idea and made Bevin up. Bevin, bless her, listened to me, a complete stranger, as the first things I said to her were that I wanted to paint her face and body and nestle her in a bird’s nest of tulle. She listened, smiled, cocked her head to the side, and said, “Sure.” (This is another reason to love working with dancers. They not only agree to your fevered, improbable imagination, they then take it and enlarge it, enhance it, and embody it.)
I helped Lastolite re-design their very popular 24″ Ezybox, creating one with a white interior instead of a silver. (As I’ve mentioned, I kind of feel like a golfer who’s been on the Tour for thirty years, and finally got asked to design a course.) I was happy to pitch in, as I’ve been using the Lastolite stuff for a long time now, and their product manager, Gary Astill, is an amazing designer. I used the white Ezybox for the above. I would have been a bit apprehensive about using a silvery interior on this white on white study. What I needed was a quiet fade from highlight to shadow, and not something abrupt and contrasty. It worked well, as the one light in the picture. What you see below is the whole set, and all of the lighting. (To the left is a heater. With the tempura paint drying on Bevin, she got cold. Dancers don’t have much body fat, so that was a point we made during the shoot in terms of creating a comfort zone for them.)
Keeping it simple, once again, the below is two speed lights, a main and a fill. The main is kind of a new kid on the block called the Lastolite 8 in 1 umbrella, which I’ve been using a lot, mostly in shoot through mode, with the mask on it. It tends to create a more controllable light, with good fall off into shadows, which you can, in turn, choose to fill in or not. What the light is doing here is simple. What the dancer, Alexander Burton of Ballet BC, is doing, is not.
Speed lights were also used for the wonderful leaper, Gilbert Small, below, also of Ballet BC.
The classes really discuss fully the use of all manner of lighting, most of it very simple, brought to bear in the studio, which is, as I always feel, an empty box you fill with your imagination. It also emphasizes the importance of collaboration with the dancers, the makeup artist, and the crew. Any photo that might be any good that comes out of a day in the studio like this is very much the result of a team effort and the creative input of all involved. I was blessed on the set with Tamar, and Syx Langeman, a talented Vancouver shooter, our own Mike “Double Guns” Cali, and of course David Cooper, whose studio we rented. (Anyone traveling to Vancouver in need of a studio, contact David. His shop is about as comfortable and complete as studios get.)
The above is of Alexis Fletcher, who is truly magnificent. She is particular, as classical dancers tend to be, and she can float through the air as effortlessly as the rose petals we blew into the frame with her. She would look at every frame we shot together, and effectively, she coached me through it. She remarked on my timing, and her form, critically, but also wonderfully. Because of her devotion to craft, she, effectively, pushed me to be a better photographer on the set that day.
A number of years ago, I had a show of my dance work at the Shanghai Art Museum. They asked me to write up something that addressed the notion of why one would shoot dance as a theme. Here is what I wrote.
“I have always photographed dance, ever since I moved to New York to become a photographer. One of my first apartments in the city was on 65th St. just by Lincoln Center, nexus of the dance world, and home to the New York City and the American Ballet companies. Through my windows and walks in the neighborhood, I would see these lissome creatures, hair pulled tight in the inevitable bun, dance bag over the shoulder, lovely to look at, even in their occasionally ungainly, splayfooted gait. Dancers all, making their way to the studios just across from my tiny, dungeon-like studio apartment.
I grew curious about this world, and managed to find my way into the studios with my camera. There I began to witness the beauty, the audacity, and the sheer grit of the dancer. The reasons for their sidewalk awkwardness became apparent. Dancers are not meant to trudge through the concrete grime and blaring traffic of the city. They are creatures of flight, stopping just short of having wings, with astonishing abilities to parse the human figure into a wide range of shapes and stances, all of them equally, impossibly beautiful. They are meant to be in motion, on stage, magnets for the eye, and thus the camera.
In the course of their careers, dancers will have many partners, but a constant one is the camera. Why else to fly and leap so magnificently, except to have that flight recorded and preserved? No other medium has the ability to slice time, and freeze moments. Given the quicksilver, all too brief career of a dancer, this is highly desirable. The photograph preserves that split second when it appears gravity is suspended, and the rest of us, earthbound earth forever, gasp.
These photographs are my own gasps. I have been privileged to simultaneously have had my breath taken away and my camera to my eye many times. This selection represents a few of those moments. The camera is the dancer’s eternal partner, lockstep in a lovely pas de deux.”
I sincerely thank Scott Kelby and the whole Kelby clan down in Tampa for creating the opportunity to both shoot and teach something that means a lot to me.
We’ve got some major thank you’s to offer as we dipped our toe into the waters of video. First off to Nikon who trusted us with this project and their hand built, prototype D4 cameras. (See the video to reference the fact that I broke one–slightly.) And to Gen Umei, from the K&L agency in Tokyo, who is a wonderful friend and a wondrous art director. And as always to his colleague, Aoyagi Toshiaki, who we have known for years simply as Mr. Blue. Marco Tortato of the Manfrotto Corporation provided us with simple, wonderful tools to execute shots. And Victor Ha and Brian Hynes of Cinevate were wise counsel in the background, and additionally, offered us the use of sliders and shoulder rigs. All of this is gear we’re just getting used to, and the fact that there are people in this industry willing to help and teach is one of the truly special things about being any type of shooter, still or video.
Major props go out to Drew Gurian, in our studio, who kept pursuing this behind the scenes stuff, even though he often had a cranky and not particularly photogenic subject (me) and a world of other things to think about. Mike Corrado of Nikon, who was not only our liaison with Nikon, but also our technical advisor in the field, chipped in with a few closeups of Cora, our sweet, 9600 pound star of a pachyderm.
We had fun on the set, as you’ll see. The video is a mix of D7000 and D4.
Thanks for taking a look. More tk….
Little Freddie King is the real deal. He hopped the rails at the age of 14, and went from his family farm in Mississippi down to New Orleans, ’cause that town was swayin’ with sound, and he knew he had to be there. The ever magical Lynn Delmastro in our studio got in touch with him, and his manager, “Wacko” Wade Wright, and we were invited, briefly, into his life, and his music. It was enriching and wonderful to be around Little Freddie. I doubt a nicer man ever picked up a guitar.
We shot this short, sweet and simple,’cause that’s what we know how to do, just a little, right now. We’ve taken first steps into the world of moving, talking pictures. For fully developed, expansive video efforts shot with the D4, please check the sites of my colleagues, Bill Frakes and Corey Rich. (Those guys know what they’re doing.)
In our most recent video effort on 9/11, I was basically an interviewer, while the gang at my studio, Drew Gurian, Mike Grippi, Mike Cali, and Lynda Peckham, at different times for different subjects, ran the D7000 cameras. The questions I asked came naturally to me, as the subjects of the interviews I knew for ten years, and call many of them my friends. This was different. I took a dive into Little Freddie’s music and history, which I didn’t know anything about, and found myself drawn to his lyrics, and sounds. His songs formed the basis for my questions. At one point I said to him, “Little Freddie, you’ve written some of your songs about bad women. Are they real?” He shook his head. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. “I never should have gotten into that cab that night. It was the gin talkin’ to me that made me do it. I got in the taxi with her. She was a bad woman.” He shook his head again, mournfully. “My wife.”
For the interview, I asked the questions and ran a static D4 on sticks, which was no big deal in terms of camerawork. Drew Gurian and Mike Grippi both did the heavy lifting for the moving and sliding views. It was strange for me, I have to admit, having my eye glued to a monitor instead of an eyepiece while we, as a team, walked along here and there with Freddie. My whole career, I’ve told stories by stopping things. Now, in addition to seeing a frame, I found myself thinking about where that frame could move. But, here’s the thing I do know, being a photographer. When a shooter comes to you, impassioned about making a shot, you say yes. Drew and Mike would conjure a camera slide, or a pan, and describe it, and we’d shoot it. It makes sense to allow visually talented eyes to roam, and do what they will do.
Drew then did a rough cut, and organized the footage, and we worked with Russell Peckham of Peckham Productions, a long standing video operation on the East Coast. Russell has taught us the meaning and importance of having a good, experienced video editor on our various projects. His post skills shape the look, and the logic of the story.
During the two days we shot this, besides working the video, I also had still responsibilities, and I was not going to pass up the opportunity to do portraits of a truly unique subject like Little Freddie. In the old kitchen of the plantation we worked at, I made one of my favorite portraits of late. Shot with a D4, ISO 100, 19mm lens, f5, 1/10th.
We also went across the river from New Orleans, right at the cusp of darkness, and shot this CLS portrait, using a Lastolite 8 in 1 umbrella. I love this thing. You can shoot scattered soft light when you use it as an umbrella, but then pull a velcro port off the backside of it, pump a light through that small area of diffusion, and it behaves like a soft box. Shot with a D4, ISO 400, 24mm lens, f4, 1/2.5.
Little Freddie, showman that he is, was a natural in front of the camera, of course. He made for a wonderful subject for stills. But, his is a story that has heart, soul, history, legs and music. Shooting the video let us see him, and let us listen, too.
David and I had Washington DC and Philly put on video. It’s a two disc, soup to nuts treatment, same as the Flashbus day. David handles the morning. I go in the afternoon. Every lesson from each session is on the disc. Which in David’s case is a good thing, ’cause the way he teaches is clear headed, and defines logic. My session veers around like a roller coaster, much like being on assignment.
Scenes and lessons from the most acclaimed and talked about tour of 2011! On this two disc set, you get the both sessions–Hobby and McNally–in their entirety.
Disc One- David “The Strobist” Hobby
If you are going to drive, you should know how to drive stick. So the morning is spent lighting in manual mode.
We start small with a 4-light headshot, learning to control the scene by adding one light at a time. Then we take those same principles and export them into other settings — an outdoor portrait at midday, a table-top, a big dark room, a shower stall (with water) and finally, into the woods at dusk.
For all of these situations, simple or complex, we use the same approach. Control the ambient, then add one light at a time.
Disc Two- Joe “Numnuts” McNally
After learning to drive stick, in the afternoon we go automatic, and get out on the high wire of TTL. Using members of the audience, we craft spontaneous lighting solutions, talking our way through each setup, mixing TTL and manual (oh my!) approaches, going from one light on the hot shoe to four and five lights on sticks, fitted with lots of different light modifiers.
It’s location photography–with all its wonderful possibilities and chaos, right there on stage.
And with this being Hobby and McNally, the entire day is completely serious, steeped in utter formality with no fun or irreverence whatsoever. Kidding.
Actually, really, really kidding, ’cause the video takes you on the bus for an inside tour from which there is quite possibly no recovery:-)
But, truth be told, it’s the DVD set is both fun and informative, with scenes and interactions from 14,500 miles, 29 cities, mixed in with non-stop flash lessons, wit and wisdom. Watching it almost makes me want to hop on another bus and do it all over again! Almost…:-)