UPDATE: The air date for this documentary is Thursday December 25th after the Celtics Post-Game Show and again at 10:30pm on Comcast Sports Net. If you live in the Boston area it is on Comcast cable channel 852 in High Definition or channel 52 in good olde standard definition. Set the DVR, it will re-air a bunch more times I am sure.
I was hired by a Boston television station to light and shoot a documentary on Manny Ramirez. The thirty minute “film” would chronicle Manny’s career as a Red Sox heavy hitter and the unique personality he brought to the clubhouse. The project will also cover his departure and why it left some of the Fenway Faithful with a bitter taste in their mouths. The documentary will air on October 29, 2008 at 7:30pm on Comcast Sports Net HD channel 852.
I set up for my interviews in the CSN studio. I decided to bring all my own lights, black fabric and support gear to create the look for the sit-downs. The producer for the documentary, Torey, had three Manny b/w pictures blown-up and glued to poster board. We placed these images in the background and staggered them to add depth. I used a 1000 watt Lowel DP light with a Chimera softbox and egg crate on a dimmer as my key light. I placed two 500 watt Lowel DP lights in back to illuminate the b/w photos. I borrowed two Arri 150 watt fixtures from CSN and used them as my back lights.
Hanging over my head was about fifty lights on a grid. I did not want to mess up the lighting cues in the studio, so I left all of those lights alone. Finding working outlets for power in a pre-lit studio was not easy!
I used my Sony PMW-EX1 and the Letus Extreme to shoot the interviews. I was asked to shoot the entire project in 1080 24p. Later, my bud TJ, would transcode all the footage to DVCPRO HD for Torey to edit at CSN. My lens of choice in this type of situation was a Nikon 50mm f1.4 prime lens. At f1.4, this lens was very fast. I opened everything up (iris on the film lens and EX1 lens) because my sit down interviews were lit at about 55 foot candles. My work flow with the SxS cards was simple. I set up my Mac Book Pro on a table next to me and transfered the footage to a portable hard drive during or just after the interview. I then formated the cards on the fly before or during the sit down interviews. Today, we had only three people scheduled. Each of them sat in the hot seat for about 25 minutes.
I snapped off a few stills as I was shooting. You can really see just how simple this set is. All black background, three b/w photos on foam core and two chairs. I used a Sony ECM-77b clip on lav mic for audio. Torey asked all the questions and we got some really good soundbites. The people we chose to interview work in the local sports media and they have had the opportunity to watch Manny play in Boston. This was what these people did for a living and they all spoke to Manny on a personal level about baseball.
These are actual stills in compressed .jpeg format from my PMW-EX1 camera. I am shooting through a Letus Extreme and a Nikon Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens manufactured in the 1970s. I had a few minutes between these interviews to switch up the background and reverse the look-space direction.
Torey and I walked around Fenway Park and shot some flavor for the documentary. We later went outside the ballpark and spoke to some fans about Manny Ramirez. We got some excellent stuff in just a few hours. The Red Sox won the game that night, with a comeback from behind victory (second greatest in playoff history) to move on to game 6.
I am very happy with the results with the prime lenses and the EX1/LEX system (and so are the people at CSN). I look forward to doing more of this type of shooting. The depth of field is beautiful but shooting with this setup is very tricky. I will need to buy a follow-focus and matte box for this rig in the near future.
I will never place a “film-look” filter on a video clip ever again! I am faking the film look with a video camera using prime lenses and many people are believing it.