On Location: Light Fast, Light Well

SLUMMY MUMMY and FAST LOCATION SHOOTING So for anyone who has been catching up to some of my work over the last couple of years, I’ve been working on a start-up web series called, “Slummy Mummy”. It’s a comedy, starring writer/producer, Jennifer Weedon Pallazzo whom I’d met during a writers’ meet up awhile back. Flash forward to today, we’re on our 5th episode production, and all of us with some new lessons learned within our fields.

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The shoulder rig. Some gack, but all gear needed for production

LIGHT FAST, LIGHT WELL If there’s anything that I’ve absorbed from studying Law And Order, or watching shows such as The Following and Homeland, it’s that with this era of technology a Cinematographer has great tools at his/her disposal, capable of high quality at a fraction of the cost. Meaning that today’s digital cameras are capable of so much, but that doesn’t take away from the DP’s responsibility to lighting. In fact, it emphasizes it that much further.

For this shoot I used a Magic Lantern powered Canon DSLR and rated the camera as such:

INTERIORS: 3800k, 640 ASA

EXTERIORS: 5600k, 200 ASA

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Magic Lantern HUD. A more professional setup if you’re familiar with Alexa, Red or Sony camera UIs

Both of which use the highlight tone priority (HTP) option, but the noise was counteracted by ML’s custom ISO adjustments. Which gives me the smoother highlight roll off normally associated with higher end digital cinema cameras, but without the chroma noise drawbacks of the default HTP option. I rated the camera in two different fashions similar to using two different film stocks. So my light meter would give consistent readings throughout each setup without too much fuss. Usually I leave it at ONE ASA reading, but considering the speed of things, some exterior (ext.) scenes required filtration, while others did not.

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In action in the bitter Brooklyn cold w/ only the Small HD DP4 to warm my face

We focused on a simple, single-light setup with a 1k Tungsten Fresnel as our primary source. I didn’t want to detract from the normal look of the Supermarket, but at the same time, wanted to add just a lil’ sumthin’ to the overall image. This was then diffused using a full silk flag positioned in front of the source, giving a smooth soft light on our actors but without detracting too much from the overall scene. I usually don’t prefer for scenes to look like “lighted sets”, so the more “natural” this blends, the better. Using a single artificial light source keeps things moving quickly and with using a single-camera production, rotating the light setup 180-degrees was swift. Oh, and then of course there was the fact that we had about 4hrs to work with. LIGHTING SETUP Wanting decent power that can move fast, I chose my 1000w (1k) Tungsten Fresnel fixtures. For a small sectioned off areas like the checkout aisles, it was perfect to setup, move and strip down. For diffusion, we used a 24×36” full silk flag from the Digital Juice Flag Kit Pro set. We brought two of the 1k’s just as a back up. I’ve been on several micro budget sets where supplies were limited and once a light blows without a back up, it can either cripple the production or delay it until the gear gets replaced. So to prevent this on my own sets, back ups are essential. You mind as well work naked without one, really.


FRAME GRAB from finale episode. Using a color setup for final processing.


FRAME GRAB from finale episode. Using this setup as a basis for the final.

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Cavision ND.9 filtration, gives -3 stops of exposure. Meter first to calculate how much you want to use w/ neutral density glass

For each shot at the checkout line (640 ASA), we stuck to the 1k source which gave a reading of about f4 up to around the entrance of the conveyer belt. The last interior shots were done with natural and available light. The natural sunlight came in from the supermarket’s door opening, for which I stopped down to about f5.6 and for the overhead fluorescent fixtures, back to f4. Slummy Mummy BTS aisle.001.mov.Still003 The exterior shots (200 ASA) were quickly executed (thanks to the bitter cold weather provided by Brooklyn Heights) with overcast light. For these I used some ND .9 filtration, giving me -3 stops to work with and for the shots without filtration, I stuck to F8 on the lens. Slummy Mummy BTS Slummy Mummy BTS aisle.001.mov.Still006 SPECIAL THANKS I want to extend [another] personal thank you to Jennifer for continuing to believe in my work for this latest episode. Additionally, thank you to Valisa Tate and Brigid Turner for allowing me to work alongside you guys again.

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The star and Producer goofin’ off on set!

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Posing with friend and colleague, Brigid Turner

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Jenn and Valisa refer to the script, planning the next shot

Last but definitely not least, a special thank you to both my camera crew guys, Jeron Grayson and Tai Chan. Both guys exhibited grace and speed under pressure, especially early in their careers in filmmaking. Additionally, Tai for donating not only his time, but his eye as the production photographer. All of the BTS photos here on this blog today, he is responsible for.


Jeron, Tai and myself getting photo bombed by our prop-baby



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