Shooting a Point-of-Sale Car Commercial, c. 1993
Technical and Crew Information
When I shoot single camera video for a project like this I prefer to shoot completely film-style, with a 1st Assistant to setup and manage the camera-lens-filter package and follow focus.
These point-of-sale commercials were shot with my Sony BVW D-600. The 600 is a one-piece digital camera with analog Betacam recorder. For film cameramen, this type of one piece system -- when set up for film-style operation, with matte box and follow focus -- operates and feels very much like a lightweight, professional 16 or 35mm camera. The main difference is that the ergonomics of the video camera are better for hand held work.
The really great thing about the 600 is that it comes with a memory card which stores all of the electronic setup information for the "look" of the camera. This means one can program (or have your favorite engineer program) various looks, from screaming video to gossamer film, or anything in-between.
Additional techniques I like to apply when shooting film-style video:
Avoid using the auto white balance unless working with off-color or mixed sources. Whenever possible, work with a tungsten or daylight preset, as if shooting with a tungsten or daylight balanced film emulsion.
Make use of 4x4, multistage, rotating matte-box and the full range of filters available to cinematographers. When using grads, use vertical format (4 x 5.65) for greater control over the transition line.
Treat the camera setup as a film stock and use an exposure meter, instead of the camera's auto-iris, to determine aperture settings.
The crew of the Marin County shoot, on the Insert/Arm Car from Specialty Camera Cars. Up high are 1st assistant, Kile Steinbrink, on the turret, and grip/electrician Hue Freeman, behind the arm. Down at the bottom, under the arm is camera car owner/driver, Jeff Bane. Above Jeff is stunt woman, Lisa Dempsey and looking skyward above her is grip/electrician James Stewart. Standing with arms folded, left to right, are AD/UPM Mike Murphy and precision driver, Ron Nelson. Front row, left to right, yours truly and producer/director Robert Ford.
Above left: Bob Ford (director) and Stacy Strickler (1st A.C.), somewhere in the Arizona desert near the Grand Canyon. Right: Stacy and William Kohler (grip/electrician), in the sand hills area between Yuma, Arizona and El Centro, California.
Above left: Stacy, Chuck & Bob, in the sand dunes. That's a stock Mercedes S500 chasing a desert dune-buggy on the steep, sandy slopes. Right: a frame of the video.
Above left: Stacy and Chuck tracking the S500 and desert racer, out of a rocky ravine and over a stoney creek. Right: A frame from the video. We did this shot several times until we finally dinged the Mercedes. Unlike the racing truck, it has no steel plate under its front-end, to absorb the punishing blows of rocks and direct hits upon the road and other objects. Due to repeated jumps into this riverbed (and other abuses) the lower front-end of the big sedan was slammed into the ground once too often. The lower portion of the fan duct was finally bent far enough to push the fan into the radiator. Other than making a lot of noise though, even this wasn't a big problem. The radiator took the abuse without leaking, so the drivers did some temporary metal-bending and continued driving it.
Above: In Big Bear, California. Using the jib arm on the insert car to do a short trucking shot inside the Mercedes. The tall guy at the right is gaffer Kerry Magness. Below left: A "stripped-down" D-600 slides nicely into the rear door of the Mercedes. Below right: lining-up a shot, setting marks for focus and arm position. We didn't have a remote-head, so the camera was locked-off and the shot was done "by the numbers".
Above: The Sony XC-999 "Cigar Cam", mounted between the driver & passenger for a good pov shot. Unlike most miniature cameras, the XC-999 has a series of interchangeable lenses from 3.5 mm to 12 mm. The mount is a simple threaded mount, like a 'C' mount but a little smaller. There is a 'C' mount adapter which the author has used to mount a 25 mm, f 0.95 Angenieux. Yes, f 0.95! A stop faster than your basic super-speed lens. Approximately two stops faster than your standard video lens at f 1.7. The XC-999's normal sensitivity is 2000 lux (186 foot candles) @ f 5.6. That equates to an Exposure Index of approximately 125. But with gain it will go as high as 4.5 lux (.418 foot candles) @ f 1.2. That equates to an E.I. of 2584. That's a total gain of about 25.5 db or 4.25 stops. But with the f 0.95 Angenieux, it can shoot at 2.8 lux (about 1/4 of a foot candle).
Below Left: Because of the Cigar Cam's small size and weight a single Super Grip is all you need to create a very stable, "hostess tray" type of door mount. Below Right: Again, with the Super Grip, mounted on the lower part of the door, for a wheel shot. But this time the XC-999 is enclosed in a housing made from a Maglight flashlight, to which I can attach 55mm, screw-on filters, optical flats, polarizers, even a small Cokin Matte Box if I want to use grads or other effects. In this shot, I'm using only an optical flat, to protect the lens from road debris.
MOUNT SHOTS WITH THE SONY XC-999 "CIGAR CAM"
Bob Ford & Stacy Strickler
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Last Update: March 25, 2013 Web Author: Chuck Barbee
©1998 Charles L. Barbee - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Stacy Strickler & William Kohler