Do That Again

In Notes From the Set by Rod Santiano2 Comments

On Monday I had a shoot for a really cool industrial video.  I’m pretty excited about it because it is a really cool concept (which I can’t talk about yet, of course).  The director had seen a documentary piece I had done on and really wanted me to replicate the look and feel of the interviews I had done.  He showed me my own work and said (paraphrased), “I want that—exactly that. Can you do that again?”  The client’s company colors are blue and black so these images were a perfect match to what he wanted for this project.  These are some of the images he was talking about:

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As far as the lighting goes, it’s a fairly easy look to achieve—if you know what you’re doing.  It’s based on the natural difference in color temperatures of daylight and incandescent lights.  Most people who are starting out shooting film/video make the “mistake” of mixing these two types of light unintentionally.  Without getting techie at all, daylight is naturally way bluer than incandescent, or Tungsten, light—which is way orange…er.  The camera has to pick one color temperature to be at. Whatever that color temperature is, that color of light will appear to be white.  By setting the camera to the color temperature of the incandescent light, the daylight will appear blue.  This is what I was relying on to get the look the director wanted.

In order to maximize the blue-ness of the daylight outside, I set the color temperature of the camera to it’s lowest setting (2500K) which would make even Tungsten light look on the blue side.  To compensate for that, I put some orange gel (1/2 CTO) on the key light (1000W openfaced unit through a Chimera soft box) to make it look white on camera.  In person, I was bathing the talent with pretty orange light.  I had to warn the hair and makeup artist that I would be doing this and that it would look normal on camera.  He was pretty cool with it.

Since I was relying on daylight, it was imperative that we got all our shots before nighttime—which we didn’t.  To help stabilize the shifting daylight throughout the day, I used a daylight-balanced light unit (1200W HMI Fresnel) outside the window to shine a light on the back wall which would be visible in most of the shots in order to trick you into thinking it was all shot at the same time.  It also made it prettier, of course, and extended the blue light we were looking for to the right side of the frame.  I had a 300W Fresnel unit behind and to the right of camera for a kiss of fill light and a 150W Fresnel for a kiss of backlight on the opposite side of the key just to give a touch of edge light to separate the talent’s shirt from the couch and to give her hair just a little somethin’ somethin’.  The window light gave me a built in backlight for the opposite side.  Thanks, window light!

We weren’t able to get all our shots done before we lost our daylight so we just had to not show the windows anymore.  Most of the shots we did at night were the insert shots of some white cards she was placing on the ottoman in front of her so it wasn’t too much of an issue.  The ambient daylight was missing, but it wasn’t too noticeable on camera.  I didn’t have a budget to bring in large HMIs to sustain it.  Color correction always helps to save the day in the end.

On the camera side (here comes the techie stuff), we used two Canon 5D MkII’s with 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses, most of the time shooting at a f3.5 aperture to keep the background out of focus as much as possible but without shooting all the way open. I didn’t use any filtration in front of the lens since there will be a lot of visual effects added in post.  Any needed softening will be added in post production as well.  I shot at 125 ISO and at 1/50 sec. shutter speed.

Overall, the shoot went really well.  I took a look at the footage after the shoot and I’m really happy with what we got.

Click here to see the finished spot.


  1. I think my brain just exploded. Maybe someday I will understand all of this!

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