July and August 2014 was certainly a period of doing things very fast, and very last minute. At about the time I was wrapping up post production on the Together Forever video clip, Melinda Tupling and I made the decision to go for broke with another competiiton being hosted in the Genero website. This competition was to create a short, one minute, promotional video for SBS’ ‘Join In’ campaign which had the tagline: ‘Without our differences, we wouldn’t be the same.” This was a project that Mel and I had been nutting over for a while, but hadn’t really managed to lock down any specific direction, that was until Melinda had a flash of inspiration and came up with the core concept of the video: 'A group of people from various cultural backgrounds stand on a beach looking out over the ocean from where they’ve come, together they turn toward the country, link hands and walk into the future. Leaving footprints in the sand.'
I liked the concept and leapt straight into the process of converting this concept into something visual, something tangible. Melinda and I worked quite closely together in this process, working as Co-Directors and Co-Producers. I wrote up the vision script and converted that into a shotlist so that I knew exactly what we were going to need to get on the day. Mel and I split the production tasks so that she would find and organise all the actors for the shoot, whilst I organised the overall runsheet, schedules, call sheets and location. All of this happened in a period that lasted just over a week; one Saturday we decided to go ahead with the project; the following Sunday we were shooting it.
In the end I figured we’d require about two hours of shooting time during between the hours of 16:00 and 18:00. This positioned the sun so that it was behind our actors, giving them beautiful backlight, as well as creating some very dramatic, backlit clouds and some epic flares! The drawback of shooting like this was that it meant we had a very short amount of time to shoot about fourty shots, so speed was of the essence. The actors all had their make-up done off-site, and we all rocked up on location at approximately 15:30 to begin shooting at 16:00.
As speed was such a crucial factor there were a few considerations I made in terms of the gear I used. Firstly, as I knew there was going to be a number of people with hugely varying skin tones, as well as a bright backlit sky, and not much time to finesse the lighting of the subjects I decided to use Sony’s PMW-F55 (provided by Location Equipment Pty Ltd.) I have had a bit of experience with this camera, and I knew that it’s 16-Bit RAW image could handle the huge differences in luminance between the beach, the ocean and the various skin tones of the actors. In order to conserve space and keep the high frame rate options open I decided to shoot the project in 2K as opposed to its native 4K resolution, this gave me about 128 minutes worth of recording time at 50fps per 512GB AXS Card, which was more than enough. I shot the project in the cameras S-Gamut 3 color space, and monitored using the standard Rec709 LUT. I have to admit, whilst I was filming the shoot I was basically just exposing for the actors skin tones, and then trusting the camera to be recording enough information for me to rescue the beach and sky in the grade, as all I could see in my viewfinder was a big field of overexposed white behind the subjects. Well I am glad to say that I was able to recover all of those highlights in the grade as the latitude of the F55’s RAW is just incredible.
However, there were a number of things I did do in order to make the camera’s life a bit easier. To shape the lighting and provide a backlight lest the sun drifted behind the clouds whilst shooting I brought along the ever trusty Creamsource Doppio Mini. This was run entirely off block battery and was used primarily as a rim light with CTO on it to replicate the look of the setting sun. This was coupled with one piece of poly to provide a soft fill on the actor’s faces. However there were a few times where we (Ruben Pracas, may camera assistant/gaffer, and I) moved the Creamsource in front of the actors to act as a nice warm keylight. This light was an absolutely indispensable part of my kit for this shoot as it allowed me to light quickly and efficiently with a minimum of hassle, and a punch that could not be matched by any other battery powered lights. In terms of lenses I used the trust Canon 24-70mm EF zoom, which was attached to the F55 via the Optitek EF to FZ adaptor, and in front of the lens the only filtration that I used was a single polariser. Due to the deadly combination of possible inclement weather and salt water from the ocean I invested in some strips of plastic that I used to weather proof the camera. This isn’t a process I’m particularly familiar with, however I feel that the hour of work it took prepping the camera I had it at a point where it could have poured torrentially from the sky and the camera would have stayed dry, which is really good for my insurance premiums!
So in approximately two hours of work, we managed to get all the shots we need, and very exhausted we retreated for the evening. In order to recoup our energy for editing the following day, in order to have the project completed for submission that Friday...