Whilst my business partner, Zoran Veljkovic, was having fun shooting a feature in India I stepped in and filled his boots by covering for him on a six part chat show with Sir Michael Parkinson. This was right up my street as I’m a bit of a foodie and the programmes all featured top chefs; Heston Blumenthal, James Martin, Tom Kerridge, Mary Berry, Angela Hartnett and Jason Atherton. Technically, it was a bit of a challenge as it was shot on location, rather than in a studio and had two areas to shoot in which were seperated by a sheet of glass with windows running all down one side. Our schedule allowed 20 minutes to change over from one set to the other and we could not pre-rig as we could see the other set through the glass. The glass, of course, also acted as a mirror so any lights were almost instantly reflected unless they were set absolutely precisely. We shot on 3 C300s, 1 was on steadicam and the others were either tripod or handheld depending on which side of the glass we were on.
Sir Michael Parkinson with James Martin
Sir Michael Parkinson with Heston Blumenthal
Sir Michael with Angela Hartnett
Lighting wise I kept it simple. Just shot HMI’s in from each side and filled and back lit with 1×1 light panels. This was quick to move around and easy-ish to hide from the reflections. Sir Michael and the production team at Parkinson Productions were a dream to work with and luckily everything went swimmingly well – I even picked up some top cooking tips.
It always comes at once doesn’t it? 3 days, 3 different comercials and promos, and now a nice few days to recover before Easter. First was the BBC trail for the worldwide sales of ‘Secret Millionaire’. It was a good shoot, but full on, with hardly a moment to stop and look back at what had gone on. It sort of dawned on me that at least 50% of my job is communication now. It’s always been important to communicate but there is an extra level that has grown since the drop off of film. On film you can always speak to the lab at the end of the day, or start of the next if you have any grading notes, but now as we transcode during the shoot day you always have to keep one eye on the look being applied to the transcodes. These are, after all what the director will see first and get used to during the edit. I also have to be sure of the whole workflow before we shoot, for instance on the last BBC shoot they were grading off the 2K transcodes rather than going to the original 5K rushes so any grade applied has to be very subtle. I’m not complaining, I love all the amazing tools we have to work with at the moment, but it is definitely creating a shift in how we manage the look of a shoot. There’s a couple of stills here from the camera rig. We spent most of the day looking straight down which was the creative style choosen by the director and I think will work really well. We shot on my RED Epic using a lovely smooth set of Nikon primes from the 1980’s. Hard work for my focus puller but a lovely look. I’ll put the trail up when allowed.
Top shots of an Astin Martin
High mounted camera rig
Next day we went on to a fashion spot for Accessorize. Again a lot to do, but a nice relaxed atmosphere with a small crew. The spot will feature one model in six different outfits against different coloured backgrounds. We used the same camera package as the BBC shoot and shot at Big Sky Studios, a stills studio which was lovely to work in. Nice space, very helpful assistants and amazing food! The challenge on this one was to keep the background shadow free, whilst allowing the model to move around and keep some form of modeling in the light on her. This was made more tricky by the fact that we were limited to a colourama as a backdrop so could only keep her at best 2 meters away from the back wall. Our strategy was to light the background with a low level of light as evenly as possible so that any light we put on the model would read without it having to have too much punch. I have to say this worked amazingly well, although we were definitely helped by having a very co-operative model with beautifully reflective skin. The still at the top is a framegrab from the rushes but that’s all I can show for the moment, when I can show more, I will. Lastly was the Sky shoot which was my first for Sky (hopefully there will be more?!). I can’t talk about it yet but will in my next post. It was shot on the Lomo anamorphic lenses with an Alexa XT which was fun.
Having recently adopted Twitter, I know about 100 years after the rest of the world, I have started thinking about how easy it is to share things. So, it seemed like it might be fun to keep track of what I’m doing but jotting it down for all to see. I’ve never been a diary person so who knows if this will work or not, or indeed if anyone will look, but worst case it might be cathartic for me. What do I want to say? I want to keep people up to date with what I’m doing so that my clients know if I’m shooting anything that might be useful for them, I want to jot down any challenges and successes or failures that I have had in making shots work so that colleagues might see something that helps or help me find solutions to the failures, I want to document the thought process in making the longer form stuff I’m working on and finally I want this to be a two way discussion so please let me know if you have found better solutions than me or think of different ways of approaching problems. I have never understood why people are ever protective about methods or techniques, I will willingly divulge anything that I know which might help a fellow film-maker and I think that makes for a better place to be where hopefully we will all move forwards. What you might have to put up with if you do read this is 1. poor spelling – sorry doesn’t seem to be a spell check and my school was of the time that ideas were the only important thing, bollocks to grammar and spelling 2. rants against small mindedness and petty self development at the expense of others – one of my real hates and 3. willful self indulgance when I discover something that is interesting and new to me irrespective of how interesting it is to others, my wife puts up with this frequently, like my bewilderment on here, there and now which boils down to my childlike and constant amazement at how different things are at the same time in different places with different people or how I still get a little weirded out every time I get off a plane and find myself in a location so different to where we took off from, or coming out of the cinema and it’s day time…. the list goes on….
Anyway, what am I doing now? Just finished some beauty spots for Max Factor which I am not allowed to put up yet but will do in the next couple of weeks. They came off the back of a fashion slot for House of Frazer, I’ve put a couple of framegrabs in but one of the final films is on the commercials page of this site, this has also led to a similar thing for Monsoon that shoots next week. Also shot a trail for BBC WorldWide promoing a strand of films on conflicting advise on health, I’ll put the film up as soon as I can. Coming up is another BBC trail, shooting this week, also for Worldwide promoing Secret Millianaire which BBC are sales agents for (I think). There are also some longform films in development. The Lighthouse which I will bang on about as we get more into development. It is fully funded by the Welsh Film Council and looks likely to shoot in September this year. Very exciting film with my good friend and superb director Chris Crow. Some of you might already know that we worked together on a Viking Film 18 months ago, Viking, The Darkest Day. We had a ball shooting this one and it turned out pretty well, selling internationally. If you want to see it it’s available in all good retailers, Amazon, iTunes and google app store. There’s a tease in the Drama page of this site. Finally also working on the first block of a feature called ‘The Snare’. This has rumbled on for a while but the plan is to shoot for 6 days in Nigeria in May. This will complete all the African scenes. The film is a thriller that explores how big corporations feed off smaller societies, looking like doing good, but actually positioning themselves for world domination! It’s a rollercoaster and could be fun, spearheaded by David Ogunde. I’ll post more on these as we gear up. Anyway, enough for now, I’ll let you know how Monsoon and BBC go next week.