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.





Recent Shoot Log: UNC-Greensboro “Viral” #2 – Textris

16 07 2011

Our second entry into the UNC-Greensboro “Viral” campaign was released yesterday.  To recap on the campaign ideas itself: in a world where text-on-a-page Web sites, documents, etc. are taking over our lives in this digital age, we were commissioned to design a marketing campaign promoting our multimedia-infused alternative.  The end result are a series of videos that will show text literally bombarding everyday life.

In this installment, a young woman is playing the iconic puzzle game “Tetris” on her computer in a public park.  After some intense play, she unlocks a secret level called “Textris”.  In this bonus level, the blocks form the word “TEXT”, but more interesting than that, they literally have invaded the young woman’s real life space.  These giant blocks of “TEXT” are not only coming down on the screen, but piling up in the park in front of her.

We had a bit more planning time for this one than usual and our Multimedia Lead, Patrick Griffin, was able to fully shot list and plan out all the shots he wanted.  It turns out that this was a lucky thing, because on the day we ended up shooting it was miserably hot at nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Knowing that mid-afternoon would only see the heat get worse, we planned to meet at the office to load gear at 6 a.m., so that we could be at our location (Center City Park in downtown Greensboro) by 7 a.m.

Upon arrival, our small four man crew, which in addition to Patrick and myself included our Editor Bryan Higgins and Audio Specialist Jon Fredette, began unloading gear from the two vehicles we brought.  We found a park table that suited our needs with a proper background and foreground, and started setting up the equipment we needed, primarily a 12×12 overhead silk and a 16 ft. Snapcrane with MC-100 remote head.

The sun was beating down hard that day, so the 12×12 silk was up to help diffuse the harshness of the sunlight.  However, I did want her to have a bit of a controlled backlight, so we set up a 1.2k ARRI HMI off our actress, Lilly Nelson’s, back left corner.  That one setup was all that we used for the entirety of the shoot with several adjustments throughout the day on the overhead and HMI.

Our first shots were a series of crane shots that then moved into a series of shots on a tripod, mainly for inserts.  Though it was a hot, difficult day in the morning, by about 11 a.m., the heat was bordering on unbearable.  We were all going through entire bottles of water in minutes and energy levels were falling fast from the heat.  This strain was especially compounded by the fact that we only had four people doing double duty on a multitude of set positions.

We finally wrapped in the early afternoon and were packed up and back at the office by 3 p.m.  I think we all left early that day to get some much needed rest and re-hydration.  Though we were originally going to shoot the piece on the RED One Digital Cinema camera, we opted for the smaller, more durable Panasonic AF-100 with Nikon Primes.  With the heat and small crew, we knew we needed something more mobile than the bulky RED package.

This was our first time using the AF-100 on a shoot.  I think it came out with a good image, though in retrospect, there are a few things I would have done a bit differently.  Primarily, I would never use the SnapCrane again with a camera that uses interchangeable lenses without some kind of remote focus unit.  The Depth of Field was constantly an issue and we had no way to control focus on that crane without a remote unit.  Because of this, several of the crane shots were scrapped because of an ever so slight soft focus issue.  I did my best to remedy the situation with wide lenses, high f-stops and DoF calculations via the pCam Digital, but the calculations were hard to get precisely accurate because of the crane’s vertical fluctuations.  Secondly, some of the crane shots blew the highlights on the camera a bit.  I will admit, I like to push digital cameras because I like an image that has some bright highs and low blacks, but on several of the crane shots, I pushed it a bit much and got some blooming.

But, you live and you learn.  Also, to be completely honest, I think by noon when it was 100 degrees and humidity was at like 77%, we just wanted to wrap out for fear of getting sick from the immense heat.  Following the shoot, Bryan Higgins, our editor and vfx supervisor took the piece, cut it, and then started layering in the elements from After Effects and Cinema 4D.  Jon Fredette, our Audio Specialist, took the project from there and did an awesome rendition of the classic Tetris theme using both an 8 bit and metal mix on the iconic Russian folk song.

Our third entry into the series, which was shot on a Bolex H16, is currently awaiting processing and HD transfer at CineLab in Massachusetts.  Look out for it next month, but for now, here’s our “Textris” entry:

 








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