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#1 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 01:31 PM

I will be starting a new series for FX, ?Sons of Anarchy?, around the 3rd week in June. What makes this all so interesting is the nature of how the show is getting off the ground.
The pilot was shot earlier this year and subsequently picked up by the network. However, due mainly to the re-casting of one of the principle characters, about 60 to 70 % of the pilot is to be re-shot. The re-shoots will be helmed by a different director than the original pilot director, and will be photographed by a different cinematographer. This DP will only shoot the 8 days of re-shoots then I come on board to start the series.
One reason that I am not doing the re-shoots is that I am still currently on ?My Boys?, the single camera half-hour for TBS/Sony. There is an overlap of over 2 weeks from the time G/E starts prep on ?SOA? and the wrap of ?My Boys?. My Gaffer and Key Grip will leave ?My Boys? early to start prep on ?SOA? along with my 1st ass?t. and DIT. (?SOA? will shoot with Panavision?s Genesis).
This arrangement made with the producers of ?SOA? is to maintain a semblance of crew continuity from the re-shoots to the series since the standing sets have to be rigged during prep for the re-shoots. What this all means is a lot of juggling of crew so ?My Boys? can finish and ?SOA? can start up without any sacrifice to either production.
I am looking forward to working on ?SOA? since it is quite a departure from the light-hearted ½ hour comedies that I have been shooting of late. ?SOA? is a dark, action filled one-hour about rival biker gangs in the fictitious central California town of Charming. There will be lots of night shoots, motorcycle rigs and the opportunity to do a lot more ?edgy? stuff than I have been doing recently.
More to come.
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#2 Travis Cline

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 03:50 PM

Are you planning to have your best boys bump up to gaffer and key grip or are you bringing in new crew to fill in? Just wondering what you see as the best way to maintain continuity and quality on My Boys after your crew moves over to Sons of Anarchy. Thanks for posting, quite interesting to hear about TV shows.


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#3 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 05:18 PM

One of the regular grip crew (sometimes BB) will move up to Key Grip. I have hired a new Gaffer, and Rigging Gaffer for "My Boys" while my regular Gaffer and Rigging Gaffer(who is also the "parallel" Best Boy)move to "SOA". "My Boys" shoots at Paramount Studios so there is a Paramount Best Boy who will stay with the show.
After much discussion with all departments this scenario appears to be the best one. I think it will be easier to maintain the look of a show that has been up and running for 3 seasons (it is officially our Second Season, but we have had 3 start-ups) with new people, while I believe for the longer run of the new show I need the crew that I have been working with consistently over the past 4 or 5 years. I am sure that it will be more of a challenge for them to work with a new D.P. on the 8 days of pilot re-shoots, than it will be for me to work with a few new people on a show that has an established look. It will probably be just as challenging for the D.P. on the pilot re-shoots to work with an entirely new set of people as well.
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#4 Jason Reimer

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 02:20 PM

Hey Paul,
Looking forward to seeing how this turns out; your other show diaries were really informative, so I'll definitely be checking this thread often!
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#5 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 10:28 AM

My regular Gaffer and Key Grip have finished their first 3 days of prep on ?SOA?. The DP who will be working on the pilot re-shoots starts Monday so there has been little communication between my him, my crew, production or the art department up to now. Some facts have trickled in regarding the sets, the majority of which will be more like practical locations built within the confines of the warehouse stages where ?SOA? will be shot. By practical locations I mean that the set walls will be 8 feet tall and there will be hard ceilings on most, if not all the sets. The look of the show dictates low angles, visually adding to the power of the characters on the show. Our hopes are that the art department will install the appropriate practical lighting fixtures in the ceiling to add realism and to help light the sets. This will definitely simplify rigging since an extensive pipe grid over sets with hard, un-removable ceilings would be a waste of manpower and expense. The replacement crew on ?My Boys? is working out to everyone?s satisfaction. We hope to have a short day on Tuesday next which would allow me to get to the stages of ?SOA? in the afternoon and see first-hand what is developing there.
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#6 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 12:28 PM

The pilot re-shoots of ?SOA? were completed this morning sometime around 7:30-8:00am. I think they might have been forced to black out areas of their location in order to finish the work because they ?lost the dark?, the opposite of losing the light.
I must admit that during the course of my 4 days of prep, watching regular my camera, grip, and electric crew working with another Director of Photography was kind of an "out-of-body" experience.
I have seen all the dailies up to yesterday?s work and the Pilot re-shoot director and his Cinematographer have done an outstanding job of setting the look of the show. The lighting is very dark - the camera work utilizes long lenses in hand-held mode. The coverage is interesting and un-conventional with lots of profile close-ups, and ?French Overs? (over-the shoulder shots done over the backs of people).
The hours have been long and some of the shooting conditions have not been ideal (it has been very very hot out here in L.A.) but the crew has risen to the occasion. I look forward to joining them on Monday.
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#7 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 02:00 PM

WEEK ONE-Day 1: Disney Ranch: the set is the site of a burned out ammo warehouse owned by the ?SOA?. 30? Lenny Arm with a Hot Gears modified Lambda Head used to lead and follow the actors in the scene through the debris field and ultimately boom up and point straight down into a crawl space where two female workers employed by the ?SOA? had gone to hide and were burnt beyond recognition by the fire and explosions (shot during the pilot re-shoots). No lighting instruments employed for these scenes, just hand held bounces and for one shot a 12x12 Ultra Bounce.
The rest of the day was spent hand-held inside cars?.not so easy with the Genesis. Had to shoot with no monitors, deck separated from camera body. No lights either. The actors were driving themselves. One of the picture cars was a Chevy Suburban carrying two actors, the director, camera operator, 1st assistant, 2 ?dead bodies? in the back, camera and deck. We were shooting on an open road and those of us trying to remain near the site of the location had to scurry down the hillside to stay out of sight since the camera in the car was looking nearly 360 degrees around the site making u-turns, etc. Toward the end of the day I elected to operate myself since the light became so variable as the vehicle we were shooting in drove from shadow into sun and back again, and I had to make manual stop changes on the fly as we were rolling. I was amazed at the latitude of the Genesis, able to hold very bright highlights outside the car as well as detail in the underexposed faces within the car. I was guessing at the stop all day long. Everything came out rather well, considering.
Day 2 and 3 were locations in Sunland-Tujunga?..street scenes, interior set of a barber shop, trucking facility, ext park, interior house, night in an alley. The show makes a lot of moves in a given day, equipment is off-loaded from the big trucks into stake-beds to facilitate all the moves. One of the scenes involved two actresses having a conversation outside a small grocery store. I used a 20x20 full black silk mounted on a condor to keep the harsh noon sun off their faces. The black silk works very well to cut the sun without having the light ?bloom? and spread brightly over the scene as a normal silk or grid cloth tends to do.
Day 4 were scenes shot at the ?studio? where an exterior set has been created in the parking lot representing the auto repair shop (interior and exterior) and ?clubhouse? where the biker gang works and hangs out. We shot outside first in the compound, then a couple of scenes in the repair shop office before moving to a scene in a set built to look like a large storage locker. By the time we got to this scene it was night and we had to light it up to look like day. We closed the sliding door of the locker about 2/3 and lit up the asphalt that could be seen through the opening then bounced a couple of small HMI?s into the locker which provided a very realistic feel to the interior. We finished off the lighting with a 800 joker with a chimera and a 4x4 un-bleached muslin on a frame as additional diffusion. It is really a pleasure to work on a show like ?Sons of Anarchy? where I can keep faces underexposed and dramatic. We then moved into the ?stage? and shot a scene with all the bikers in their clubhouse bar.
Day 5 started out in a garage on location dressed to look like a meth lab (day), then we moved to a convenience store-truck stop where we blacked out the interior of the store so we could begin the sequence (night) by shooting day for night. We changed out the existing fluorescent fixtures with our own tungsten balanced tubes, changed the shutter angles of the Genesis to 200 degrees and let it rip. That was the extent of the interior lighting. The sequence was a fairly involved fight scene (about 35 set-ups for this scene alone) with gun play and shot out windows and we needed the freedom to move around quickly. Plus, all the glass on the refrigerated cases would have reflected any lights placed on the floor. Again, it is refreshing for me to work on a show that is intended to look gritty and real and I don?t have to worry about how the actresses are looking all the time.
We finished the night (we wrapped at 5am) with exterior night sequences at the gas station exterior and next door at the truck stop. I was able to use the existing lighting, which was quite green, for the most part, augmenting slightly with some backlight provided by HMIs gelled to resemble the green cast of the existing fixtures. My gaffer has a special gel combination he uses for this but I can?t remember what it is right now.
The lab we are using for dailies transfers does not have the equipment necessary to pull stills for me...I will try to bring my little digital camera to set and take some shots to post in the future.
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#8 Andrew Brinkhaus

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:19 AM

Looking forward to it. Thanks for the updates so far.
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#9 Andrew Brinkhaus

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:29 AM

Also, could you find out the combination your gaffer is using to match the green of the existing fixtures? Would be good to know for future reference.

Edited by Andrew Brinkhaus, 09 July 2008 - 11:32 AM.

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#10 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 08:07 PM

Week 3/Day 5:
This last Friday we were shooting at the Disney Ranch in Santa Clarita, CA. We had both day and night work to accomplish. The night work was a murder scene that needed to take place in what appeared to look like a secluded part of a forest. The initial location picked by the director on the ?Tech Scout? was beneath a very thick canopy of oak trees that would have been problematic to light. We wanted to be able to use a 20K gelled with ½ CTB as a single source moon as opposed to a balloon which would have over-lit the area. The tree canopy just wouldn?t let enough light from the 20k into the area the director had chosen. Since I am the sole D.P. on the show I do not get the opportunity to go on scouts, I just hear about them and sometimes get pictures afterwards.
I arrived early on Friday in order to pick a new location with the director and 1st A.D. that would be more user friendly. We found a spot just off a dirt road that was surrounded by trees. There was a flat spot up the road slightly which would accommodate the condor and an open spot in the tree tops where the 20K would be able to be positioned. There was also easy access for the stake beds to park out of shot and where all the other gak (video village, etc.) could be stationed. After getting the first day set up I took the gaffer and key grip up the road to show them the location and it was agreed upon that it would work, the condor would fit in the position I indicated and all seemed good. That is until, once it had already become dark (we were shooting a few Night for Day shots in the interior of a house set on the ranch), we were informed that the Fire Marshall who had been assigned to us that day would not let us park the condor on the dirt road. In fact, nothing could be parked on the road that would block it just in case emergency vehicles had to get through. It is mandatory in L.A. when a shooting company is on location that a Fire Marshall from either L.A. City or County be hired for the day. Some let you do your thing as long as you are proceeding in a safe manner, others are more didatic and play hard and fast by the rules. Ours that night was of the latter.
As a result of the Fire Marshall?s decision we had to go back up the road (once we had finished shooting at the house) and with only flashlights and truck headlights for illumination, find another location where the Fire Marshall would let us park the condor and not block the road and where the trees weren?t so thick that they would block all of our ?moonlight? from the 20K. We managed to trip around in the dark, and finally found an area that would be suitable but once we had done so and moved the company up the road (which we didn?t want to do until the 20k was up and burning so there would be light to set-up with) we were left with just over 2 ½ hours to shoot a very involved 2 plus page scene with 8 characters. We managed to do it finishing exactly on time. No one felt that the look of the scene was compromised by the cluster f**k that the set-up became due to the craziness of having to pick the location at the last minute and in total darkness.
I will try to get that gel combo info for the next post.
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#11 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 03:35 AM

Paul, are you shooting to HDCam SR or using the Solid State Recorder? What motivated the choice of one over the other? I may have a show that is seriously looking at the Genesis and I'm looking for thoughts and opinions from people currently using it.

Thanks for your great posts!
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#12 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 07:29 AM

We are shooting HDCam SR for financial reasons and the availabilty of enough of the SSR's. Also there's the whole corporate post work-flow thing that has to be worked out as to who sits and babysits the decks as they are being downloaded/transferred.
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#13 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:58 AM

Thanks Paul!
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#14 Rob Lindsay

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:36 PM

Wondering what gel/ light combo you are using to approimate that blue-green flouro look in your show.
Thanks in advance,
Rob Lindsay
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#15 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 10:26 AM

Rosco 30 Cyan gel used on a tungsten light.
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#16 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 08:15 PM

"Sons of Anarchy" Official web site:
http://www.fxnetwork...s/soa/index.php
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#17 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 03:43 PM

Hi Paul, I've been on-set briefly at SOA twice in the last few weeks dropping off or picking up kit from Steve Fracol, your B Camera / Steadicam Op; once the night the guy driving down Foothills fell asleep and slammed into the back of the Crafty truck and then again the other day over at the school in Sunland during some sort of festival / fair scene. Unfortunately I only had a few minutes and you were busy but I have to say you guys work at a seriously fast pace. The trailers / teasers I've seen on the Fox.com look really nice.

Once the dust settles a bit I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Genesis workflow and results versus the F900's on My Boys and given the choice would you go with the Genesis again or another camera package altogether?

All the best!

Robert Starling, SOC
Steadicam Owner Operator
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#18 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 01:20 PM

Finishing up Episode 5, starting episode 6 on this upcoming Wednesday.
The production is going well but the fact that we are shooting an episode in 7 days rather than 8 means that there is constant and considerable pressure to finish the work scheduled for each day.
A couple of things have been done to speed things up??I traded in most of our prime lenses for 3 Panavision Lightweight Zooms, 1 LWZ-2 (17.5mm to 34mm T 2.8) and 2 LWZ-1 (27mm to 68mm T 2.8). Since we do a lot of hand-held and Steadicam work it facilitates camera set-up time since we don?t have to change lenses as often and it makes the camera lighter as well. I still carry the 75mm, 100mm, 150mm and 200mm primes and the 11 to 1 zoom as well.
The other thing that has been done is that my key 1st assistant made two carts which carry the Genesis deck, ?toaster?, and batteries for the Genesis. We do hand-held and Steadicam with the deck separated from the camera to keep it as light as possible. With the carts we can position all the gear close to the camera in a consolidated fashion and one assistant can easily move the cart around where it needs to be as opposed to schlepping the deck, toaster and the two huge Genesis batteries that are needed to power the deck and the ?toaster?. We refer to the separate Genesis ?brain? as the toaster. This unit powers and talks to the deck when it is separated from the camera.
To answer Robert Starling?s question regarding using the Genesis as opposed to the F900?..I prefer the Genesis because of the 35mm sized chip, the fact that we record in 4:4:4 and the greater dynamic range of the Genesis. I could never shoot day exterior scenes without fill the way I do with Genesis if I were using the F900. On ?Sons of Anarchy? I expose much like the way I would do with film, averaging the highlights and shadows and retaining detail in both. The F900 just does not have the latitude to do this. I would always have to use some kind of fill, either a large bounce or more often a 50K or 25K SoftSun to bring up the shadows so I can stop down and maintain visual integrity in the highlights when using the F900. Or I would have to fly large silks overhead to cut down the sun to create a less harsh image. On ?Sons of Anarchy? I usually use no fill outside at all, or if I do, many times (especially when the sun is straight overhead) I just lay large pieces of un-bleached muslin on the ground under the actors to add just a touch of fill for their eyes. On one night interior scene I taped Roscoflex (tin-foil-esque material) on the ground to get a hint of a ?ping? in the actors? eyes since the lighting came only from the practical fluorescent fixtures that were hung in the set.
?Sons of Anarchy? premieres September 3 with the pilot episode shot by Jonathan Freeman and Ed Pei. My first episode airs the following week. The new website is up with pictures, bios of cast and crew and a downloadable viewers? guide at http://fxnetworks.co...a/#Nav/Homepage.
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#19 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 30 August 2008 - 02:30 PM

For a show about bikers one would think that there would be a lot of scripted sequences shot in and around the characters riding their motorcycles but in actuality there are surprisingly few. In most cases when there is a lot of action on motorcycles we give those shots to a ?splinter-unit?, a small crew where I typically bump up my A camera operator to DP that unit. We order a third Genesis package and use a Sony EX-1 as a ?B? camera for quick grab shots and mount shots where the Genesis would be to big and or delicate to hang off the side of a moving vehicle. We use a camera bike as a tow/chase vehicle to get the running shots. This past week we had a simple sequence with two principle actors riding on one bike being followed by another character in a car. Since it wasn?t a complicated sequence with stunts of any kind it became 1st unit material. I elected to operate the shots so I could be judging exposure through the eyepiece as the motorcycle and car wound their way down a ?country road? (Sand Canyon Rd. in Canyon Country) going in and out of shadows created by trees overhanging the road. We also shot in both directions on the road, one direction backlit, the other front lit. I would manually adjust the iris as we shot after calibrating the Genesis eyepiece with color bars much as one would do with the main on-set monitor.
Here?s a picture of the bike rig.

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#20 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 05:53 PM

Episodes of "Sons of Anarchy" are now available for viewing on-line at http://www.hulu.com/sons-of-anarchy.
Jonathan Freeman and Ed Pei Jr. shot the "pilot", I started with the episode entitled "Seeds".
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