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Latest Commercial Project Wrapped!

2 09 2012

For those of you who don’t know,  I serve as the Video/Web Specialist for a privately owned commerce company in Winston-Salem, N.C., Inmar, Inc.  One of the recent projects that I worked on was a commercial spot to try to explain exactly who we are and what we do.  Here’s how trying to answer that question usually goes (hang in there): We are a B2B commerce company that operates three individual, though collaborative, networks; those being Supply Chain, Healthcare and Promotions.  In the Supply Chain leg of our business, we handle recalls, remarketing, reverse logistics, returns, hazardous waste management, business intelligence and supply chain consulting.  For Healthcare, we operate much the same, but with emphasis on healthcare and pharmaceutical businesses. For Promotions, we reconcile and offer a multitude of services for both paper and digital coupons.  Gets a bit verbose, eh?

To remedy this situation a bit, I was tasked with creating a :90 to 2 minute spot that helped condense this down and make it more manageable for the everyday person who was unfamiliar with our business. The average person, however, doesn’t always understand the intricacies of a B2B business, so what would be the best approach?  Well, I thought about it for a bit, and what is the one thing we all are?  Consumers.  With the idea of basing the project from the point of view of the consumer and how we touch the transactions that consumers use everyday, we entered into a series of meetings with our writing team and VP of Communications.  One of our writers, Steve Eller, was nominated for the actual writing of the script.  Once his first draft was in, several revisions were made by various people in the company, and within about a week we had a solid script in place.

The script was to a final draft in very early August.  However, a goal was set to allow our CEO to take this video with him for the GMA Executive Conference – that conference began on August 25th.  The script broke down to approximately 9-11 roles, 4 locations and a voiceover underneath.  I was pretty confidant in being able to find the actors, but the 4 locations, which included a residential home, grocery store, pharmacy and returns counter, would prove more difficult.  Furthermore, I was directing, shooting, producing and editing the project; but, not the first time I’ve been on a tight deadline, so I was happy to take the challenge.

The first order of business was casting our lead actress, who ended up being someone I’ve worked with as both a DP and a director in the past, Lisa Sain Odom.  Getting an actress, who appears in every scene of the spot, that I was comfortable with, and who, likewise, was comfortable with me, was paramount.  From there, I hired out another actor I’ve worked with on several occasions, Tommy Trull.  For their children, we used one of our graphic designers, Kristen Hansen’s, kids.  Knowing the residential home would be the easiest location to fill, I set out asking around the office who was open to a small crew and cast taking over their home for a day.  Our head writer, Shannon Hanington, graciously obliged.  For help that day, I hired out longtime colleague Dan A. R. Kelly, who is literally a film production extraordinare, to be my second set of hands and eyes on set.  Our writing team, Greg, Shannon and Steve, were also on hand to help out.  The first and last scenes were shot at this location, and the first day proved a smooth and easy day for both cast and crew.

The second day on the books ended up being the returns counter segment.  At first, I was very concerned about finding this location; well, let’s be honest, I was concerned about all the other locations outside of the residential home.  But, luckily, Inmar has an in-house digital display that our clients can go through that helps show how our software and technology systems work.  Steve and I went over to see if this looked close enough to what a returns counter would at a store, and thank goodness, it looked great.  Being on site at our headquarters, it was easy to book this location, and the two actresses for this part were none other than our gracious host for the residential scenes, Shannon Hanington, and our Communications Intern, Karla Barnes.  Outside of having to send Greg out for some tough green to match the overhead fluorescents, we had another easy setup/easy shoot day.

Now, we get to the hard locations: a grocery store and a pharmacy.  After multiple false starts on both of these locations (who would have thought a grocery store and pharmacy would be so hard to get permission to shoot in?  We even had a budget for the locations!), I finally found two that would work.  The first, was a member of the IGA, Cedar Lodge in Thomasville, N.C., who I can’t speak highly enough of.  They were so gracious and open in letting us shoot at their store, I really can’t thank them enough.  Being that we needed to shoot once the store closed, our shoot day (night) for that ended up being from 8pm-midnight.  Knowing I didn’t have enough in the budget to replace overheads with color balanced tubes, or cover with 1/4 magenta, I had to use the fluorescent fixtures overhead as part of the scene.  I supplemented the ambience with a Jokerbug 800, gelled with full plus green, bounced into beadboard, and accented backlight with two in-house ARRI 650w fresnels, gelled with a 1/2 blue as well.  For this day, as well as the pharmacy shoot, another longtime trusted film colleague was on set to be my extra set of hands and eyes, Shane D. Smith.

My supervisor found us a pharmacy in her hometown the day before we were going to loose our lead actress due to availability – what luck!  The pharmacy we used was Mt. Pilot Drug in Pilot Mountain, another perfect location, and likewise, very gracious owners who didn’t mind our taking over the place for a few hours after closing.  Again, we shot in the late evening, and a very similar lighting setup was used for these scenes as was done in the grocery store with the Jokerbug 800 and the ARRI 650s.  Since the shoot took place over 5 separate days, over a two week period, I had already begun assembling the cut.  Furthermore, I got the voiceover done by professional VO artist Mark Cardnella (http://cardnella.com/), very early on so I could layer footage as it came in.  So, post on the last few scenes wasn’t too rough.

I ended up finishing the project about 3 days ahead of schedule.  Of course, there were some revisions needed as with any project of this size and scope; the final revisions were submitted Thursday late evening before our CEO was to leave the following day.  But, the video made it with him to the conference and, from what I heard, went over very well.  That’s all that really matters in the end, and makes all the stresses of a tight deadline all the more rewarding.

For those interested, here’s a link to the finished cut:


TECH SPECS:

Camera: Sony NEX-FS700 with 18-200 stock E-mount lens

Capture Resolution: 1920×1080 24p

Post: Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 with process shot and outro graphic composed in Adobe After Effects CS6.  Grading completed in Adobe Speedgrade CS6.

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LED vs. Tungsten: Not Such a Hard Choice Afterall

24 05 2012

The anatomy of an LED.

I have had this argument with colleagues countless times and it looks like I will finally get a bit of retribution on the issue.  Though LED and Tungsten are not the only two types of lighting units employed in film and video production (HMIs and Fluorescents being the other two big contenders), there has been a huge push by manufacturers of late to bring LED technology to the forefront as a major player, possibly even as an alternative to the tungsten arsenal.

The proponents of LEDs, or light emitting diodes, will generally argue one or a combination of several points heavily: temperature, weight and ease of use.  There is no argument that LEDs are a much cooler alternative to a tungsten light.  In fact, there is hardly any heat at all from these instruments, even after extended use.  Also, because the units are just a panel of light emitting diodes arranged in vertical and horizontal grids, these instruments tend to be lighter, more ergonomic and easier to transport.  The last cornerstone of the pro LED faction is the ease of use, as many of these instruments have not only built-in abilities to dim the emitted light, but also color temperature controls as well.  In theory LEDs seem like a no brainer, don’t they?  If you took these arguments at face value, then sure it would be; however, if you delve a little deeper into the makeup of light, vision and how cameras read the color spectrum, then it’s not such an easy sale.

A classic Mole Richardson tungsten unit

I have always been a strong supporter of the other side of the coin.  Unless I have to, I rarely use anything outside of tungsten or HMI instruments, with LEDs being my last choice, even below fluorescents tube technology instruments like Kino-Flos.  Tungsten instruments have been industry standard since nearly the beginning of motion picture artificial lighting use over 80 years ago.  Tungsten lights work by heating a filament of tungsten in a halogen gas encased tube to temperatures hot enough to glow.  Being a continuous source, these instruments have an arc that creates a very consistent, clean looking stream of visible light both to the eye and through the lens of a camera.  Because these lights are heating the filament to extreme temperatures, they do get hot, and yes, the housing to contain the lamps has to be built in such a way that the lighting instrument isn’t dangerous to use, which more times than not can make these units big and bulky for the amount of output they produce.  All of these physical properties do have their disadvantages, but the one point that can’t be argued is that tungsten instruments produce a very pleasurable light for film and video production.

To illustrate the point, here is a video from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that explains some of the correlations between film emulsions and color, and the relative shortcomings of LED units in today’s productions.  Further results of their extensive studies on the subject are available on the Academy’s Web site at: http://www.oscars.org/science-technology/council/projects/ssl/index.html.

Though it didn’t take a multi-million dollar study by the Academy to convince me that I’d go with a 40-year-old Tweenie over a brand new LED, it does feel good to have some deeply scientific research on hand to help prove my point to detractors.  I will admit that LED technology is an interesting and potentially wonderful tool for filmmakers, but err on the side of caution that this technology is not quite where it needs to be yet to fully incorporate into production workflows on set, unless of course you are going for a specific look that these inferior discontinuous instruments produce.  In that case, I guess you are creating art.








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