Too Cinematic for an Infomercial?

In Notes From the Set by Rod Santiano3 Comments

Last week I had an opportunity to shoot an infomercial for a good friend of mine who I’d never been able to collaborate with before until now. We were shooting some scenes in a domestic environment where the product could be used. About halfway through the first day of the shoot he said to me, “Does this whole thing look too… cinematic?”

I retorted, “Is that a problem?” (playful sarcasm runs deeply in our relationship). I suppose I could’ve made it look like an infomercial, but where’s the fun in that? We decided to keep going with it.

I didn’t think too much more of this until the other night, I was looking over some of the footage on my laptop and my wife saw a moment of it. She asked me what I was watching and I told her I was just watching footage from the shoot. She said, “This is from the shoot? I thought you were watching a movie. It totally looks like one. I’m actually surprised you shot that. It looks amazing!” Thanks for being so surprised! Haha… it think…

Anyway, some shots… What do you think? Too cinematic for an infomercial?

Techie Talk: Shot on the Canon 5D MkII. No filters on camera. Usually shot at 320ISO, sometimes 640 if I needed an extra bump in exposure without changing the lighting. Shutter speed 1/60 because we were using HMIs and KinoFlos. For the majority of the project we used the staple Canon 70-200mm zoom. Occasionally we used the 24-70mm macro for wider shots. Lighting package: (2) 1200W HMI PARs and (2) 4′ 4-Bank KinoFlos.

For the first kitchen shot above we had two 4′ 4-bank Kinos through a 4×4 frame with 216 as key from the left. In the hallway through a door frame off camera right we had a 1200W HMI PAR with a medium lens, no diffusion, as a kind of backlight. We turned on the lights that were in the frame in the kitchen and just let them go orange since we were shooting 5600K. There was also a bank of windows behind camera that we used to have a low base exposure from which we altered with the above mentioned fixtures.

For the second shot above, I set my exposure for the windows to be burned out a little but not too much. I wish I remembered what stop I was at or if I had lowered the ISO on the camera. Oh well. Then we put a 1200 PAR in the other room to key the boy from the right and we aimed the 1200 PAR that was in the hallway from the other shot at the actors as fill. The double bank of Kinos through the 216 was also still working behind the camera. I suspect with all that light, I must have lowered the ISO to 100 to expose for the windows and keep the wide-open stop we wanted.

The third shot above used a 1200 PAR out the side glass door that had sheer white curtains on them as a side key. The bank of windows behind me as a base exposure again. The other 1200 PAR through the 216 frame on the left for a soft kicker. The kitchen was a little dark so we used a Kino against the back wall to bring up the exposure a bit.


  1. “This is from the shoot? I thought you were watching a movie. It totally looks like one. I’m actually surprised you shot that. It looks amazing!” Thanks for being so surprised! Haha… it think…”

    MY response to this is that it does look like a movie compared to an infomercial which is usually boring, cheesy and static… and blah. And on top of that, Rod mentioned something about not having many lights or filters and such for this shoot… so to me that means that it won’t look “as good” as he would want it to look. But when I saw the footage (which I believe is still without color correction) I didn’t think it was from this latest shoot. THAT is why I was surprised… not that it looked good for Rod. He is amazing, as you already know. He can light a movie with just one hanging light bulb and have it look amazing;) Actually I think he did that for one movie and it was perfect.

    The reason I don’t think it seems like an infomercial is that the actors are not being their usual selves with fake grins and obvious and obnoxious usage of the product… But that’s just me…


  2. This is a great blog! I got here doing a quick search on kinos on google and I just couldnt believe my luck! It´s not everyday we find people that are willing to share some professional secrets. Very helpful.
    Please, keep up the posts!
    Cheers from Brazil.

    1. Author

      Tudo bem, Roberto!

      Obrigado pelo seu comentário no meu blog. Você provavelmente não sabia que eu falo Português também, não é? Eu visitei seu website e gostei de suas fotos. Sinto muito falta do Brasil. Fiquei la por quasi dois anos (1998-2000) e aprendi a língua mas nunca voltei, infelizmente. Um dia, com certeza… Espero que tudo esteja bem com você. Boa sorte com seu trabalho.



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