My first RED shoot: The training wheels come off!
By Art Adams | May 03, 2008
Okay, I have to admit it: I now like this camera more than I thought I would.
As those of you who read Adam Wilt's blog know, he and I and some other members of the Digital Cinema Society (Pacific Northwest Chapter) got together and did our first official RED shoot. To say that it came together quickly is an understatement. I had the idea to do the shoot on Monday, April 21st, and we shot on Saturday, April 26th, without knowing quite what we were going to shoot.
That fateful Monday found me driving around on various errands and thinking about my demo reel, which I felt was ready to ship but for the burning and packaging. After a conversation with my buddy Jay Farrington, DIT and co-owner of a local camera rental house (Chater Camera) in which the word "RED" occurred over and over again, it struck me that my reel would be a bit more powerful if I had something to show that I'd shot on this camera that I'd been testing so long.
I'd shot a similar project in 2000, when I needed some "new fangled" HD footage to show around. Jay and I joined forces with a local director and put together a tabletop setup on a small blue screen stage, which we then shot with an F900. None of us had ever used the camera before, but we figured it out and actually did some fairly nice work. My initial idea was to do the same thing again, which begged the question of where and what to shoot. I called my friend Craig Thomas and asked if we could shoot at his house, and to my surprise he said yes.
Craig and his wife Diana have a marvelous Mission-style home in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. Not only is it decked out in beautiful dark wood but it's filled with odd and interesting antiques. It literally looks like a house from another era, although which era might be hard to nail down. The centerpiece of the living room, for example, is a 1950's era wood cabinet television set that's been gutted, with a new color tube put inside.
Craig is a 3D animator who occasionally directs. He used to do a lot of broadcast design work, as well as own his own ad agency in New York, so he's no stranger to production. That's why I never thought he'd agree to let me use his house as a location. But he did, and he even agreed to my timeline: a shoot the following Saturday, starting in the afternoon and going until we were done. Anyone who has ever seen a film crew shoot in someone's home makes a mental note never to let that happen to them, but he and Diana were more than happy to let me do whatever I wanted. Now THAT'S friendship.
Speaking of friendship, I then called on a group of DCS members to help me out: Adam Wilt, HD genius and minor digital deity, agreed to be my digital acquisition supervisor and do whatever else needed doing. Tim Blackmore signed on as "factotum", and DCS Pacific Northwest Chapter president Simon Sommerfeld agreed to help as well, bringing along some of his own lighting and grip equipment.
Chater Camera allowed me to take any available gear I wanted, as long as I had insured it (that was my first experience getting my own production insurance!) and I quickly ended up with a full RED package, a set of Zeiss Ultra Primes, Sachtler 30 sticks and a selection of filters and diopters, as well as some basic lighting/grip equipment. Adam supplied a 17" Panasonic LCD monitor.
My initial thought was to exploit my cousin's teenage daughters in a Verizon Wireless spec spot. I'd been tossing around the idea for a while, but when my cousin's kids turned out to be unavailable I had to punt. I'm not the strongest people director, and although I'm perfectly happy shooting tabletop on my own I had Jay Farrington's voice ringing in my ears: "You're good at shooting faces. Get some flesh tone in there."
I'd recently made the acquaintance of a local director, Jono Schaferkotter. Jono is a media designer for Compass Rose Media and he'd been given the chance to direct a corporate project for them that I subsequently shot. We'd gotten along really well, and I thought I'd take a chance and ask him if he was interested and available. He was, and when I described the location he said he had an idea percolating in his head that would make for a great spec spot: "Nintendo Wii: The New Classic."
Initially Jono asked a friend to portray our middle-aged Wii player but the friend backed out a few days before the shoot. When I mentioned this to Craig he said he had a neighbor that had a great look and might be willing to play the part. As a result we ended up with Bob Craig, the guy who lived across the street from Craig, as our talent. Neither Jono nor I had any idea what he looked like before we arrived at the shoot, but he turned out to be perfect.
It was very much a "my dad's got a barn and mom can sew costumes, so let's put on a show!" production, but it had the makings of something promising. We plunged blindly ahead, hoping enthusiasm would make up for planning. (It did.)
For the nuts and bolts, continue to page 2.
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