Sony PlayStation VR "Lost in Music"

Sony Playstation VR Lost in Music

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THE PROJECT

I was contacted by a U.K. based agency to produce a promotional video and event video for Sony PlayStation VR. They launched a new campaign in early 2017 entitled "Lost in Music", an event combining PlayStation VR demos with national music artists and amazing atmospheres. We were tasked to shoot the main kickoff video for this campaign.

The shoot took place at LA Hangar Studios in Los Angeles. I was fortunate to work with an amazingly-designed set that was in place for the event. It involved two rooms with very distinct looks - one was winter and one for summer. Attendees would enter in "winter", which was filled with trees, snow and smoke effects, after which they would enter the VR rooms to watch a short demo. They would then emerge in "summer", which was a huge room filled with summer trees, clouds and a huge performance stage for the artists. The headlining act of the night was The Chainsmokers, and Lost Kings and Vanik were also performing.

We shot the event itself, as well as a scripted walkthrough with our amazing talent. Here is the walkthrough video:

THE SETUP

Since the agency was relatively new to the L.A. area, Imperium Productions handled all the crew and equipment for this shoot. Because this was a Sony-sponsored shoot, we shot this on 4 Sony PMW-F55 CineAlta cameras. Camera A was on steadicam, B and C were shoulder-mount using Easyrigs. Our fourth camera was on a Jimmy Jib in the main room. I selected the Fujinon 19-90mm Cabrio for all four cameras due to its versatility - it could be remotely operated for both our steadicam and the jib operator. I also shot selected scenes with the Sony cine primes (30mm, 50mm and 85mm) which had an extra stop in the lower light.

For lighting, we supplemented the existing stage lighting with an Arri Skypanel S-60. Because we only had about an hour and a half to shoot the entire walkthrough with our talent, the Skypanel was essential due to its output and ability to match the color of each scene quickly and easily.

Our talent Monette Moio did an amazing job at invoking the right emotions as she walked through the scene. For the walkthrough part we shot with two cameras, with the steadicam (Thor Wixom) being the primary. I directed much of the action as I shot with the second camera. Our focus puller, Hiro Fukuda, did an amazing job, keeping our takes down to a minimum.

 

I also had to direct the placement of the Skypanel as we moved through the scene, and alter the color of the output to match. For the forest scene, we went full 10,000K on the temperature to offset the dominant blues.

The VR booth was really tight-quarters, so we shot wide. We placed the Skypanel outside and I dialed in a purple hue, while our grip hollywooded a tungsten ringlight in the top corner for contrast.

Everything was framed at 48fps, a balance between the motion we wanted and the exposure that we needed to keep for the scene. That meant the Fujinon had to live at 2.8 while my primes could go all the way to 2.

The final scene was the exit into "summer". I placed the Skypanel outside angled down, set to a warm orange glow to simulate sunset. It made it seem our talent was walking out into the sunlight, which played beautifully off all our foliage.

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After the walkthrough, we shot another walkthrough with The Chainsmokers, plus an interview with them and several of the event attendees. It was a crowded house, with several hundred people and lots of pyro and stage effects. Definitely one of the most fun projects I've had the chance to work on!

Below is the official event video featuring The Chainsmokers:

Vanity Fair's First Instagram Videos

THE PROJECT

I had the privilege to DP Vanity Fair's first ever Instagram videos that they published. The project was to be a series of motion portraits of various celebrities attending after the White House Correspondent's Dinner in 2016. For this project, produced by Boatman Media, they tapped well-known director and VF photographer Douglas Friedman to direct this project, and I was selected as the cinematographer. For Douglas, shooting video was something new, especially in attempting to adapt his style of photography to motion. We needed a camera system that could achieve slow motion and yet capable of delivering print-quality stills. Because of these requirements, we chose to use the RED Epic Dragon to film this project.

This complex project had two tricky parts: one was the lighting setup (more about that below), and the second was that these videos needed to go LIVE on Instagram during the very event that we were filming! To achieve this, we had to have a post production team on-site ready to begin the editing and coloring process using DaVinci Resolve after every single shot!

Ultimately we produced 46 individualized video portraits that were uploaded throughout the night to Vanity Fair’s Instagram feed. Here's the finished product:

THE STAGE AND LIGHTING SETUP

David Boatman, the producer, came to me with a lighting idea that the director had come up with. A 20' x 20' stage was being built to simulate a sitting room in the White House. Douglas wanted to film in high speed while achieving a time-lapse effect with the lighting, so that it appeared the sun was moving behind the subject at high speed while the talent barely moved at all. To achieve this, he wanted to put powerful lights on dollytracks both in front and behind the subject, with the camera itself on a slider to push in or pull away from our talent. After a bit of study, this was the lighting scheme I came up with.

Powerful HMIs would have to provide our light sources, since the camera was shooting high speed. At the same time, the director wanted a hard sunlight-type on the subject but with soft edges that gently rolled off as the light source passed across them. I knew that I wanted to achieve this by cutting a hold in a 4x4 bead board passed through diffusion. This would keep the source hard while giving it soft edges. The background needed to be solid (a translite was ruled out), so I decided to blow it out with a while wall and shine the rear fixture up and over to hide the gag. Ultimately this is exactly what we did. The main difference was that we didn't need the Celebs for the fill light.

Powerful HMIs would have to provide our light sources, since the camera was shooting high speed. At the same time, the director wanted a hard sunlight-type on the subject but with soft edges that gently rolled off as the light source passed across them. I knew that I wanted to achieve this by cutting a hold in a 4x4 bead board passed through diffusion. This would keep the source hard while giving it soft edges. The background needed to be solid (a translite was ruled out), so I decided to blow it out with a while wall and shine the rear fixture up and over to hide the gag. Ultimately this is exactly what we did. The main difference was that we didn't need the Celebs for the fill light.

We shot on the RED Dragon in 5K at 120fps. Because Instagram has a 15-second limit on video content, we knew that the camera movement needed to take 3 seconds. This would translate to 15 seconds when played in real-time.

We spent all day setting up and testing, before the filming was scheduled to begin sometime between 9-11pm. Once it started, it was go time! After every 1-3 shots we would pop out the mag and hand it to the editors, who would immediately cut, color and upload the videos to Instagram.

Gaffer Chris Gorman checks exposure.

Gaffer Chris Gorman checks exposure.

For lens choice we tested Ultra Primes, but ultimately went with Canon cine zooms for speed and versatility. T-4 was our average stop.

For lens choice we tested Ultra Primes, but ultimately went with Canon cine zooms for speed and versatility. T-4 was our average stop.

Ian Axilrod (House of Cards) had to pull critical focus as we made rapid (3 second) slides over and over. Fans, smoke effects and confetti were all used to add atmosphere to the shots.

Ian Axilrod (House of Cards) had to pull critical focus as we made rapid (3 second) slides over and over. Fans, smoke effects and confetti were all used to add atmosphere to the shots.

We string Quasars behind the windows, but ultimately had to supplement with HMIs.

We string Quasars behind the windows, but ultimately had to supplement with HMIs.

I relied heavily on my focus puller, Ian Axilrod (House of Cards) and gaffer Chris Gorman and his team to pull this off without a hitch. Director Douglas Friedman was great to work with, and the client was esctatic at the results. A well-spent 20-hour day!

Kolkata, India Documentary wins Telly Award

It's hard to believe a year has passed since my trip to Kolkata, India. It was a fantastic trip and my first visit to the country, and I was able to make many new friends there. The footage from the trip has already been cut into a few videos, with more forthcoming, but in the meantime one of the fundraising videos won a Telly Award for 2016! This video focused on the feeding programs at Agape Mission School Kolkata as we try and raise money to feel all 500 children lunch at the school. You can view the link below, and donate if interested here.

Imperium Production’s New Mobile Studio

Rounding out 2015 in a big way, Imperium Productions is proud to announce our brand-new mobile studio! Our new 1-ton grip van is capable of carrying our entire lineup to your location for all production needs. Just call us and we'll be there! The mobile studio comes with a full lighting and grip package, including LED, and tungsten kits (HMI and Kino available upon request), c-stands, flags and scrims, our support package including tripods, dolly and jib, and our full camera packages capable of delivering multi-cam production on-location as needed. The truck comes standard on projects of appropriate size and scale, and is capable of operating across the continental US, wherever your production may take place.

Imperium Productions Mobile Studio

Documentary Filmmaking

This August, I had the privilege of working an amazing group of people on a documentary feature showcasing Bluegrass music, especially in the Appalachian Mountains. We attended the Galax Fiddler's Convention in Virginia, following the story of Old Time and Bluegrass music and the stories of some of the amazing musicians that attend. It was amazing to experience this timeless art form, and if really felt like you were looking through a window in time as these instruments and songs have been the same and passed down for generations.. In addition, I experienced truly some of the best pickin' I've ever seen. The most amazing part of it was probably the youth at the convention. Those kids were some of the most skilled musicians I've ever met, and it was fascinating to follow their stories as they competed - many in the adult categories! I learned a lot and came to appreciate a music that I had never really considered before.

 
Documentary Filmmaking Appalachia
 

The documentary will be made into a feature-length film, so keep an eye out here in the future for updates about this project. It's going to be really exciting. I can't wait to share some of the footage with all of you!