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Project Log: UNC-Greensboro Text Campaign Shoot #3

5 10 2011

My final project on the “Text” campaign for UNC-Greensboro’s Office of Online Learning and my final project during my tenure at UNCG in general has been released.  The idea behind this entry into the campaign was to mimic the trailers of 1950s horror films such as The Blob.  Various ideas were thrown out on how best to go about the project, which was to feature the idea of “Text” (representing text on a page Web sites for educational learning) taking over the country and rearing its ugly face across the nation and beyond.

The first idea was to shoot on the RED One and filmize the footage with grain, color correction and motion blur to help sell a 1950s film look.  Being the DP, I highly recommended that we don’t go that route.  The problem that arises, no matter how well done the digital manipulation is, is that it isn’t film.  There is no way to make the response of added grain natural or the motion blur properly controlled.  The second idea to implement this project was to take public domain footage from various B movies from the Prelinger Archives and other sources and cut the trailer in this manner.  After hours of looking through various footage on Prelinger and other online archives, we found that most of the footage was terribly compressed and, even though there was a plethora of B movie material available, little had the exact moments we were hoping to capture.  At this point, I recommended we just shoot on 16mm film with an older camera and older lens.  This way, there is no lifting in post; the film, mixed in with the older camera movement and 40 year old lens technology, would sell itself.  Patrick, our Multimedia Lead, brought this idea up to the Marketing Director at the Office of Online Learning, Jaap-Jan van Duin, and he gave us the greenlight as long as we could keep the budget under $1,000.  We enthusiastically agreed to keeping in budget and were excited to shoot a project for the division on 16mm film; something very few companies or organizations are doing in this day and age at all.

The first order of business was where to find a camera.  I contacted a few people I knew who owned various film cameras, but most were either hesitant to let it go for little or no pay, or had not run film through it in so long that they couldn’t assure functionality.  Having matriculated though the UNCG Media Studies program years ago, I knew they had a few Bolex H-16s in tote, so I called the Operations Manager, Ken Terres, and asked if we could borrow one for the shoot.  He was very kind and let us have one of the H-16s with an Angenieux 12-120mm lenses for the week.  Over the course of the week, we shot 600 ft. of film (Kodak Vision 3 500T and Vision 3 250D) for our little trailer in about 4-5 different locations.  Throughout filming, I tried to light in a manner reminiscent of 1950s B movies, so many of scenes are lit with hard light and very little diffusion.  Furthermore, there are a decent amount of shots that went handheld to give the extra horror “cheese” factor.  The film was subsequently sent off to Cinelab in Massachusetts, who unbeknownst to us at the time was in the process of a move.  Because of the move, it took longer than usual to get the film back, but we were very happy with their price and job on the processing and HD transfer.

Patrick Griffin and Bryan R. Higgins, by this point the only two members on the Multimedia Team at the Office of Online Learning due to state layoffs, did the edit and VFX work on the piece.  With great pride I give you the final product of our efforts:

WHEN TEXT ATTACKS!  (and you can see the Behind the Scenes here).  I love feedback, comments, criticism and questions, so let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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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:

 





Recent Shoot Log: UNC-Greensboro “Viral” #1

16 06 2011

It’s been months since the idea of shooting some marketing content for the UNC-Greensboro Office of Online Learning started talks.  If you’ve never worked for a state agency before, then you don’t know what the term “lots of red tape” means.  It takes lots of patience, time, meetings, more meetings, discussions, vetos and did I mention meetings? for ideas and projects to fully get off the ground.  Luckily, however, our division’s new marketing head and team are persistent and do a great job at pushing these projects down the line to let them be the best they can be.

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.

The first video for this campaign was carefully thought out between Patrick Griffin, A. J. Lee, Brooke Corwin, myself, Bryan Higgins and Jon Fredette.  We decided that the first one would be more of a “draft” than anything.  It was still unclear whether the idea was exactly what the higher-ups were interested in, so we decided to go with one of our many ideas that was the least daunting.  The idea ended up being of a girl, in her cubicle at work, who is caught in a raining “text storm”.

Pre-production was pushed through fairly quickly and we locked a location in our offices; the location ended up being coder, Colin Dai’s, cube.  We had to sissify his cube a bit since it would be a female actress playing the lead role.  The principal role went to actress Elise Duquette (apologies if I spelled this wrong, Elise!) out of the Charlotte area.  With a little time and bringing a female’s touch for a little help, we had a well-dressed location.

The project was lit with a variety of instruments.  All overhead practicals were turned off because of being a low quality fluorescent.  A Jokerbug 800 with 1/2 CTO was bounced off the ceiling for a bit of overall ambience, a 500-watt Lowel Rifa light was used as a key over the front cube wall at an angle, backlight was a 650-watt ARRI with diffusion rigged on a C-Stand in the cube behind, a 250-watt Lowel Pro Light with 216 was placed on the desk to keep exposure on the face when the umbrella went over and two 500-watt Lowel Omni’s with Opal diffusion created the slashes on the cube sides during the pull-back.  To add a bit of spice to the scene, a practical china light was placed on the desk and allowed to highlight out a bit.

A RED One was used to shoot the project in 4k 2:1 24fps mode with a shutter of 1/48.  The original shot was an actual dolly shot that was beautiful, but due to compositing factors, a static was used with a digital zoom added for practicality.  To all you budding cinematographers out there, sometimes it’s not always your favorite shots that get used, but sometimes it’s for the better of the project.

Bryan Higgins, our effects heavy lifter here, spent many hours compositing each of the little “texts” falling.  Afterwards, Jon Fredette did the sound design and I did very minor color tweaks on the final image.  All-in-all, it came out to be a nice little draft; nice enough, in fact, that the division decided to use it as the first of the campaign and commissioned us for two more.  Our second in the series has already been shot and is in the editing phase, and the third (which will be shot on 16mm film) will be produced in the next week.  Updates and posts on those two will be forthcoming.  The video for our first campaign is below (don’t know why the thumbnail looks so funky, but it works out when you play it):








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