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Laura Michelle Kelly music video


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#1 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 07:12 PM

I just wanted to share with you my experiences shooting this video.

The basic idea was simple enough - recreate the loneliness one can feel stranded in a foreign city all alone in a strange hotel room. Basically, Lost In Translation in a shorter version.

They wanted a lit city nightscape outside the window for some of the shots. But as so often is the case with music videos, we couldn't go to NY, Shangai or Tokyo to shoot it - we had to stay in Europe. Eventually they settled on Barcelona, which wasn't the best choice visually if one wants bright cityscapes at night - a bit of a compromise. The city doesn't have that many highrises and skyscrapers.

Anyway, to make the city lights outside her hotel window really come alive I knew I had to give them everything I had exposure-wise. I had planned on using Fuji's low con Eterna 400T, but I settled on the new Eterna 500T in the end, knowing I'd need the stop. I also pushed the stock 1 stop and used the fast Zeiss T1.3's wide open. In fact, the whole video was shot more or less wide open to get that romantic softness out of the lenses. Unfortunately, combined with an artist that woudln't sit still for more than 10 seconds and a nauseatingly tight schedule, we did have quite a bit of focus problems. Not an easy job for the focus puller - there simply wasn't much margin for error. We just got away with - some of it can be passed off as "artistic softness". At least that's what I'm sticking to whenever someone asks :P

The lighting on her as she's by the window at night was also a nightmare - the levels were so low that me and the gaffer had to check the batteries on our light meters constantly - they just couldn't cope. In the end we actually just kind of set it by eye. I did chicken out and turn them up in most shots except on the wide - and it bothers me that that one is a little bit muddy and doesn't cut that well. But there was simply no time to go back and redo it, we had to move on.

I was amazed how well the Eterna 500T dug into all that blackness without ever going grainy, despite being pushed and generally mistreated. For instance, on the last day of shooting we were set up on a bus, which had to go through a tunnel and then emerge into bright sunlight. Despite the 4-stop difference, I didn’t want to do an iris pull and change the depth of field, so I just let it go, half knowing, half hoping we could ride the exposure in telecine. It worked perfectly much thanks to colourist Mark Horrobin at MPC in London. In fact, those shots are probably my favourite ones in the video. Unfortunately in the edit, that sequence gets a bit truncated for pacing, but it held all the way visually.

All in all a good excercise in testing the limits of the film and telecine, but the shoot itself was a bit of a nightmare due to various factors. The very experienced director basically summed it up in our post-shoot conversation:

DIRECTOR: "I learned a lesson today about music videos".
ME: "Oh, yeah. What's that?"
DIRECTOR "Basically, don't do them".

Haha.

The video will be up on my website shortly along with more still for those wo are inclined.

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#2 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 08:32 PM

Nice work. I did the same thing recently with the Zeiss' wide open. Love that softness.

Can't wait to see the video.


How did you expose the beach shot with her backlit...or was it more a telecine thing?
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 08:52 PM

Thanks Eric.

I don't really recall how I exposed it - I think I was one stop under on the shadow side and just let the sun go. It was quite late in the day and the sun this time of year isn't very strong.

I did use a ND .9 Soft Edge (blender) on all those shots just to keep the sky somewhat in check. Had I been static I'd probably gone for a Hard Edge instead. Had a Low Con 3 on all the exteriors, too.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 10:12 PM

Looks great!

The glow from the Low-Con filter is nice...

Did you notice an increase in contrast or much increase in grain when you pushed the 500T? Did you rate it at 1000 ASA with the push, 500 ASA normally?
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:57 AM

Interesting "barell distortion" to the bokeh in this one:
Picture_2.jpg

Maybe it's because I shoot much more video than film, but the "instant feedback" of the video image has given me more confidence to light be eye, especially when it comes to balancing exposure between FG and BG like this. But I can sympathize with the meter not registering in low light.

In addition to my urban nightime equivalent of the "sunny 16 rule" (640 ASA at T1.3 for urban night available light), I've found that there's almost no such thing as too much exposure for night EXT's on film! As the AC's would say, "wide open and hopin'."

BTW Adam, now that I've gotten a high speed connection and a new computer, I've finally been able to check out your clips. Very nice stuff. I've always appreciated your contributions to this site over the years and it's nice to finally be able to see your work.
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#6 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 01:43 AM

Thanks for the kind words.

No, I must clarify - I only pushed the nightime scenes when she's towards the window, the rest is straight 500.
I rated the stock at 500 for normal work and at 1000 for the push.

Couldn't see any noticeable grain compared to the stuff rated normally. However, when I tried to lift the wide in telecine to match the close and mid's better, there wasn't much leeway in her skintone before it started to go soupey (it was about a stop difference). We lifted it as much as we could and we barely got away with it.
But still impressive considering we're at the very toe of the negative with the highlights on her face being probably around 1-2 stops under (except for the underlight coming from the "street" - in hindsight I should have knocked at least a stop if not more out that light - it doesn't look good).

Yeah, the LC 3 filter gives off a nice glow when hit with light :D
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#7 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 05:40 PM

Just missing the underwear shot on the windowsill :)

and technically there is a weird red flash near the bottom when you are in the grass by the beach but otherwise looks great

thanks

Rolfe
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#8 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 06:17 PM

Looks real nice! I really like the bus stuff.
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#9 rajavel

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 03:45 PM

hey adam
that looks really great!
cheers!
rajavel
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#10 Travis Cline

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 05:34 PM

I know Barcelona is not a very bright city at night, which is what you wanted, but how was shooting in Spain? Crew-wise? Equipment wise? I lived there as a kid and would love to shoot anything in Spain. Unfortunately I have not done anything proffessionally there. Just wondering how it was.

Travis

Edited by travisclinedp, 23 March 2006 - 05:35 PM.

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#11 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 09:51 AM

Crew was good. Had a very good gaffer and the focus puller works a lot with Ellen Kuras, so he was quite experienced (didn't stop it from going soft sometimes, though - but it wasn't an easy job). No complaints.

But then again, I think film crews are brilliant wherever I come - they're always hard working, friendly and good people, in my view. This industry attracts a lot of good people, thankfully.
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#12 Jonathan Spear

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 07:03 AM

Looks great, Adam.

How do you design your lighting and composition set ups? Are most of them planned out and storyboarded ahead of time or do you improvise on set (or both)?
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#13 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 07:57 AM

I'm not very good at doing lighting diagrams and plans, actually. I need to see the location or set before I can make up my mind. I'm very much an instinctual lighter, for better or worse.
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