Retail city…kinda like The Trueman Show for Canadian Tire

Retail City, the Truman Show set of Canadian Tire Corp.  In this warehouse in East York (Toronto) you will find the most incredible find ever found…if you can find it.  Retail City.  The first time that I went to Retail City I was blown away!  Imagine this…you walk into the building, a normal looking warehouse building just like any other and after being buzzed in by the receptionist you proceed to walk down a lengthy hallway.  The hallway is like any other hallway that you might have walked down before, walls, ceiling, well-lit, you know…pretty hallway-ish.  As you walk down this hall, on the right-hand side wall you see this “thing”, and as you draw nearer to the end of the hallway you realize that the “thing” is a large square button.  A sign beside the button reads “Press the Magic Button”, and as any naturally curious human being would, you push the button.  The large double door slides open when you press it and the parting of the wood and metal with a sound that can only be described as the Magic Button sound reveals…a Canadian Tire store.  I’m talking about a full sized front of a store.. inside this warehouse.  And that’s not all!  As you walk through the front doors of this inside-the-warehouse Canadian Tire you emerge into a fully stocked, current flyer offerings and sale items displayed, up to date with seasonal stock Canadian Tire store.  There are cash registers, displays, isles, auto dept, sports, housewares…everything that you’d find in a regular CT store, except the people.  It’s a “lab” or testing environment for CT to set up displays for dealers to see how they are supposed to dress their store, for Executives to come by to see how the latest CT products will be displayed and sold, to train, to experiment and the best part…to shoot video!  Imagine a CT store with no people, looks just like a CT store, and is current with seasonal offerings as my set for shooting video.

I was introduced to Retail City in my first month at CT and have had the opportunity to shoot there many, many times.  You’ve probably seen CT commercials that have been shot there and not even known it.  I had that opportunity again last week as Brad, Charles and I set out to shoot a Christmas Strategy video for one of the top Executive at CT to kick off the Christmas season.

We scouted the location the week before and decided that we were going to do a 3 camera shoot (the Sony PWM-350 and two Canon 7D) and we hired our regular audio guy, Brian, to help us out with the 2 person audio recording.  We had Brian send audio to the Sony camera since it doesn’t suffer from the 12 minute recording limit that the Canon 7D’s do, and we also recorded separate audio to an Olympus recorder (not sure of the model but it is a device similar to the Zoom h4n).  It was a simple enough shoot…until the entire script was changed last-minute.  I wanted to make sure that this thing was easy to edit so I quickly jumped in with a couple of suggestions on how to make this an easy process.  The key thing for me this day was to ensure that each scene consisted of 1 question and the answer to that question only, allowing us to do retakes easily as well as making it easy to log good takes.  Being that I needed to edit this the next day (today), I really wanted it to be easy in the edit room, and sice it was a 3 camera shoot, cutting to another camera to fake that everthing was one seamless conversation wouldn’t be hard at all.  Another thing that we did to ensure ease in post-production was using the slate or the clapper.  By using a slate (to indicate the scene number and take) and actually clapping it (to create a visual and audible sync point that all cameras can see and hear) I was able to very easily use the Multicam feature of FCP7 (this feature does not yet exist in FCPX…but hopefully it will soon).

The shoot was a 2 person interview with a nice Christmas display for the backdrop.  The main cam (Sony PMW-350) was the 2 shot and each of the Canon DSLRs shot a single of each person, giving me plenty of footage to be able to cut between.  We lit the set with two large softboxes with 650watt tungsten bulbs and used two 500watt Tota bulbs as backlights.  As usual, I was equipped with my Zacuto EVF which proved to be very valuable on this shoot because I had to man 2 cameras and viewing them both at the same time would have been very difficult without the EVF, so thanks again Zacuto!  Brad was styling out with a Jag35 Field Runner kitted out with the D|Focus from D|Focus Systems (Good look Brad), and we were both outfitted with a medium range zoom lens on our cams.

So, the interview was smooth, b-roll was shot, the set was striked and we left to head back to CT in the Community Events Vehicle to backup and start to transcode the footage (turn it into a format that my editing system likes…not necessarily what the camera spits out).  I love shooting with this team (Charles, Brad and Myself), we work like a well oiled machine from packing, to setup, to communicating our thoughts on shooting right through to the actual shoot, striking (teardown), backing up footage and getting ready for post-production. So, all-in-all, a great shoot day, great team, a fake/ real CT store to shoot in and the talent did it all in about 45 minutes…maybe this really is CT’s version of the Trueman Show.

Shoot Straight!

5 camera shoot then Nas and Lauryn Hill. What a day!

I work with a guy named Cam who is one of the biggest advocates of DSLR’ing that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  From time-to-time we get an opportunity to work with each other on some of the series that he produces for Canadian Tire and I had such an opportunity a couple of days ago…I’m gonna tell you all about it!

So, Cam tells me that we are gonna be doing a 5 camera shoot for a show called Talkin Shop and we were going to shoot 8, 10 minute segments, and of course I was game.  It was a forum type of  setup that consisted of 5-6 panel members sitting around a round table.  The table was custom designed with a colour balanced, white finish that acts as a bounce for the 3k of diffused light  coming  down on an angle from over them.  This created a massive Clam Shell lighting setup that encompassed anyone that was at the table.  Clam Shell lighting involves using a top light or a light in front of your talent above their head level and a reflector or a bounce card underneath your talent to reflect the toplight under the chin, nose, eyes etc.  filling in all of the dark spots that the toplight doesn’t reach.  Let me just say, the talent glowed! It is very flattering lighting.

Those lights up top (the ones lighting the talent), were on a grid that Steve Lindsay built.  Steve is another amazingly talent guy that it is always a serious honor to work with.  Steve is a Camera Operator, a lighting guru and a Jib/ Crane master.  He does such amazing work and I learn from him every single time we work together.  It’s really an amazing experience.  Anyways, Steve created this lighting grid that hung from the ceiling of the garage that we were shooting in.  Attached to it were 3x 1k Fresnels, 4x 300w Arri Fresnels and 2x spot lights for the vehicles on set.  There were various other lights used as background and accent lights in addition, he used 2 Diva lights and other strategically placed Arri 300s.  And yes, I DID say the Steve made this lighting grid.   It is a temporary fixture.  Great what you can build out of necessity and with a small budget, huh?

Steve also did some cool accent lighting on the walls with floor LEDs and the entire back wall which was windows was covered with diffusion sheets to make the light coming in more useable.

This setup allowed the background to be quite a bit darker than the people at the table and really gave a polished look.  Amazing job!

Here’s the list of gear other thank lights that we used on set:

4 nikon d7000 (3x 70-200, 1x)
1 7d (70-200)
5 zacuto z-finders
1 zacuto evf
4 zacuto rail setups
1 Small hd monitor
1 cinivate pegasus
6 arri 300
2 divas
6 wireless sennheiser lavs
Zoom H4N
D|Focus Follow Focus System w/ D|Mount
Audio Mixer

I got to borrow a bunch of rigging by Zacuto on this shoot and I loved it.  Although expensive, the Zacuto line is very well thought out in design and functionality, is great quality and looks amazing.  I’ve been a Zacuto supporter for some time now, owning a Z-Finder Pro and EVF Flip myself, but it was great first hand experience using some of the rails and other mounting accessories.  I will definitely be investing in more Zacuto gear in the future.  I also really liked the Small HD monitor on our main safety camera.  So sharp and accurate.  Over lunch I was to comparing it to my EVF and there were some pros and cons for both.  For instance, my EVF has a smaller screen size.  This may be a problem in some studio environments where a larger on camera monitor can be used, however the EVF does have an HDMI loop-through to go out to larger monitors and the EVF is equally as sharp as the Small HD monitor.  In addition, the EVF Flip allows quick flip adaption of my Z-Finder so I can really get in there and focus well.  Another cool thing that I found was that there was no problems at all meshing my D|Focus gear with the Zacuto gear, like they were made for each other.  Good to know if you want to purchase the far less expensive D|Focus sytem to go with you 15mm Zacuto rails.

The view from Cams cam.

So, the shoot starts with an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, hasbrowns, fruit, toast, juice and coffee…I know!  I couldn’t believe it either!  Needless to say, that’s how you start a day off!  We had 8 segments to do that were each supposed to be 10 minutes each…yeah right.  Do you think any of them went to time?  Cam was calling cut for people sometime after they had gone  on talking for 22 minutes or so.  Now with DSLRs this is a problem because Canon has the 12 minute recording time limit and Nikon has a 20 minute limit.  To remedy this for post-production we just kept all the cameras rolling at the end of the segments and did a “Tail Slate“.  A Tail Slate is an upside down slate with a clap so that you can sync footage using that common shot of video (the tail slate) as the syncing point, just as you would with it at the beginning of the take.  Because cameras had to stop rolling part way through, the tail slate is the common marker for all cameras after the 12 or 20 minute recording limit has been reached and the recording has been resumed. Anyways, this obviously put us a bit behind schedule but the segments were good, so we went with it.  I was getting a bit nervous when I first realized this trend of the panel going over the time alotment because I was really hoping to leave the shoot on time.  That night was the night of the Rock The Bells concert featuring Nas and Lauryn Hill and I was hooking up with Claude (I’ve mentioned him in other postings) to go to the Molsen Amphitheater.  It was no surprise to me that we ended about an hour behind the planned wrap time but I still made it out in time to stick to my plan for the Rock the Bells concert!  Great day! Big thanks to Cam Jenkins, Steve Lindsay and the crew, Nas and Lauryn Hill for making this a great day.

Focus-ing at Ontario Place: The Self Parking Cars

This weekend I did some freelance work for Maritz Canada, one of my favorite accounts from “back in the freelance days” (like I mentioned before…I still work with some of my cooler accounts even though I’ve turned Full Time). Anyways, this shoot was at Ontario Place in Toronto and it happened on one of the 3 days of the Air Show, so in addition to shooting video, I got to check out the low and very fast flying planes!
This shoot was of a couple of different “activations” where the new Ford Focus features were being showcased in an interactive environment. The 1st was the MyFordTouch competition where you race through a series of technology related requirements using the new voice activated system in the 2012 Focus. This focused on the ease of finding food, getting directions, and basically having your own version of K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider. The 2nd was the self parking feature which is really nice. This car will park itself, all you have to do is worry about the accelerator and brakes, all of the steering is done by the car…and it’s extremely accurate. 6 inches from the curb every time. One of my main objectives for the shoot was to capture the expressions and reactions of participants when they were behind the wheel of the self parking car. I figured the best way to do this was to buy a GoPro and mount it in various ways in the car and of course, on the dashboard and just in front of the speedometer were ideal places. Finally, the 3rd was the synchro-park or the “Stunt” as it has been called. This was where they had 3 cars all parallel park themselves, synchronized! All of this to engage the customer and educate them about the new features of this upcoming years model of the Focus, Edge and Explorer.
I shot this whole thing with the Canon 7D, GoPro, 11-16mm f2.8 Tokiina and 24-70 Canon f2.8. Circular Polarizing filters on all my lenses allowed me to shoot through the windshields with no reflections (great for the shot of the guy lying down, seat reclined while parallel parking, and also let me get those really nice deep blue shies while maintaining the saturation of colour in the cars and peoples faces. A great tool for outdoor shooting. I also used my Glidecam HD2000 and Zacuto EVF. The EVF is amazing! Not just the build and design of it, but the ability to see even in direct sunlight is unsurpassed. I have rigged a mount up to my Glidecam that allows me to attach the EVF to it, giving me more flexibility in how I use the Glidecam and makes me look more high-tec as well!
I realized when I got home that one of my favorite shots (the guy lying down while parking taken with the GoPro) had me with my glidecam shooting from the opposite angle (Whoops), so I returned the next day to reshoot that single shot. That’s right! All the way back for one shot…well, ok…maybe not just for that one shot. As coincidence would have it, I was going to the CNE on Sunday, which for those of you who don’t know, is right across the street from Ontario Place…so it wasn’t a big deal at all. And the bonus…I got free parking! Perks of the job.

Shoot em straight!

Back-to-back weddings

So, this weekend I have 2 weddings to shoot and despite the wedding schedule norm, both of these weddings are short and sweet.  Typically a wedding shoot lasts from around 7 or 8 in the morning at the Bride and Groom’s places while they get ready, until around 11:00pm after the garter is thrown and the cake is cut and the party has begun.  This weekend I am starting at 4:00pm and going til 11:00pm on Friday and 2:30-8:30 on Saturday.  Cool!  I am especially excited about tomorrow (Saturday) because I will be home in time to watch UFC 134!  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but I am a huge UFC fan…so, tomorrow works out perfectly!

Today I am shooting with a friend of mine who has a friend that’s getting married and tomorrow I am shooting with The Photo Studio out of Toronto Ontario.  I’ve been shooting with The Photo Studio for many years now and have met some really top notch photographers through this company.  Check out their blog!

Anyways, more later.  Don’t forget to watch UFC tomorrow on PPV!  I will be.

 

Til then, shoot straight…and stay focused.

My 1st Go Pro video

So, here’s a supplemental posting about my Go Pro Hero Cam.  I got this in February of 2011 and on day 1 of having it I obviously had to test it out and here’s what I did.  For those of you who don’t know what a Go Pro is check this link out.

I have since done quite a bit of shooting with my Go Pro and used the footage in many corporate videos that I have done.  As much as I loved it when I got it, it was made even better when Go Pro released the Backpack LCD for the camera.  That’s right, originally and out of the box the camera doesn’t have a preview screen.  What this new Backpack release meant was that instead of hoping that the shot turned out right (especially after a lengthy time lapse), you can preview the shot just like any other camera.  You also can use the LCD to operate the menu on the cam instead of the small, 3 character, monochromatic LCD on the front of the camera.

If you check the link and do some browsing, you’ll realize that the lens on this waterproof, shockproof, miniature HD camera is very wide…170 degrees to be exact…that’s wide!  But that is also very distorted and is so evident when shooting things with straight lines or edges (like a building)…so the Backpack was also a huge help in ensuring that the framing and distance to subject in my shots were esthetically pleasing.

At the same time that I got this camera, I also picked up a bunch of accessories for it.  It came with a helmet mount and a waterproof case etc., but I grabbed some more stuff

  • Chesty – Chest Mount
  • Tripod Mounting kit
  • Grab Bag – bag of misc Go Pro mounting pieces
  • Fat Gecko – suction cup mounting rig
  • Skeleton case – allows access to ports on camera for things like AV Out, continuous power supply

There are a million and one ways to use this camera!  Here are some cool features that might get your creative juices flowing.

  • super small
  • waterproof
  • shockproof
  • mountable (on anything)
  • 170 degree field of view
  • superfast adjustment to light changes (check the “under the car shot” in my video)
  • does time laps photography
  • 1080p video
  • sound recording

the biggest drawback to this camera in my opinion is how it lacks low-light capabilities.  Even in a semi-well lit room this camera still suffers and is very noisy (grainy).  I don’t suggest any indoor use with this camera if you want useable footage.  I even shot in the Air Canada Center with it and it was just ok.  But outdoors…it’s amazing!

Anyways, since this snowy February day, the Go Pro has accompanied me on many, many shoots and it a great part of my “anytime, anywhere” kit!  I recommend it, but watch out for new competitors on the horizon… this one looks promising! And check out the iphone preview feature

Late night gear check – Jumpstarts JumpBall Tournament in the morning

Today I counted down the hours to my 1 week vacation…that’s right, I said vacation!  Imagine coming from the world of a freelancer where the word vacation doesn’t really exist.  Yeah, yeah, being my own “boss” lets me make my own hours and all of that good stuff, but if you don’t work you don’t get paid.  I remember this time last year I had my quote-unquote vacation with the family and because of a gig that I took last minute for an account that I just couldn’t say “No” to, I ended up working on the first 2 days of my time off.  It was worth doing since it basically funded the vacation, but I spent 2 days of that trip behind a computer (a very nice MBP I must say, but a computer none-the-less).  Now that I am with “The Corp”, I have paid vacation time so when I go away, I still get a pay cheque!  I’m loving it! (like McDonald’s).

So, like I started saying, I was counting down the hours of the work week while finishing the edit of the Gas+ video that I shot with Mark on Monday (See the posting called “Shooting at the Gas Station”), and got things ready for my last shoot of the week, the Jumpstart JumpBall Tournament.  This is an early morning shoot that I am doing with Brad (The Media Technician and occasional cameraman/ editor).  Because I’m gonna be on vacation next week, Brad’ll be editing this one with both of us on the cams.  For this shoot we have a pretty detailed shooting strategy that includes a series of interview questions for kids and separate ones for the adults, timelapse sequences shot with the dslrs as well as the GoPro and lots of other dynamic shots of the day.   We designed the questions to provide some powerful story driving soundbites; at least that’s how we hope  designed them, and we have a cool audio recording strategy as well.  We are going to use the Rode Video Mic Pro on my 7D for the 1st angle and on the 2nd 7D we are going to mount the Zoom h4n like a shotgun mic and use the 4Ch recording feature which will also let me put a wireless handheld into one of the inputs on the Zoom and the mic in the interviewees hand if need be.  Now I have 3 audio sources (2x shotguns and the handheld), it’s quick (grab an executive team member for 2 minutes and start asking questions…no lav’ing anyone up), and I also have proper audio monitoring on the Zoom, which I’ve been finding is a major shortcoming of my Beachtek DSA-XLR.

I’m bringing my son’s skateboard with me to do some nice dolly shots (I’ll post some if I don’t kill myself) and Brad is bringing his 60D so we are probably gonna have a chance to do lots of timelapse stuff.  I bought a remote on eBay for 20 bucks and Brad just bought one on Amazon yesterday for 30 bucks…and get this…hey got the delivery today!  Superfast!

Anyways, same lenses as usual (see this link for lens run-down), 1 Flo-light (LED light that runs off of AC or D-Tap type battery which makes it very, very convenient. The only thing is that the construction of this light is kinda crappy.  Not super bad, and the light that it throws is good (a bit blue with a slight magenta spike), but the double-priced Lite-Pannel is better and worth the money in my opinion.

Well, that’s it for tonight.  I’ll put up the video from tomorrow as soon as I can.