This blog has a bunch of random stuff in it. But the common thread is the Boston Red Sox. I am sitting in the press room at Fenway Park on my lunch break and decided to write a quick blog.

I have been working this summer on an ad campaign with the Red Sox. It is being shot on the Sony EX1/Letus Ultimate and the Canon 5dmk2. I also have been on my normal post high in left field on the roof operating a camera for the New England Sports Network, ESPN and Fox covering the games at Fenway. Great summertime gig for sure.

Recently, I was contacted through this website by ESPN to be featured in their magazine. They were doing one of the “7 things you should know” pages and they wanted to know all about what I do as a cameraman at Fenway Park. I had my own photo crew for the day and they used the Canon 5dmk2. I was on page 38 in the June 13 issue.

Also, me and a bunch of the NESN television crew were featured in a Dunkin Donuts commercial. It is currently airing on local television here in Boston. I said I like “ice coffee with a turbo shot”, but in fact, I drink Starbucks! But I wasn’t gonna tell them that.

The commercial was shot by John Martin using a 1/2 inch small sensor Sony PDW-F355 XDCAM broadcast tv camera. Kevin Shea at NESN edited it and tried to match the shallow depth of field (seen in the other big-budget Dunkin Donuts commercials) using a blur mask! See if you can find the effect, it does work. Most of the Dunkin Donuts commercials were shot with an Arri Alexa or a large sensor Canon 5dmk2. This one, that I appear in, was banged out ENG style in an afternoon! Nice job guys.

But I would much rather be working behind the camera…

The ad campaign I worked on was called, “Sox For Life”. These short promos were “slice of life” type 30 second spots capturing the love and insane dedication Red Sox fans have for their ball club.

We shot one spot in a hospital, another in the home of a Sox fan and we even shot one in a church. I was the director of photography and I also was the shooter.

I worked along with Kevin Shea and Rick Booth. They both are staff at NESN and they co-directed the spots. Kevin edited them. We had a large cast and a local casting company was used along with wardrobe to get the people and the costume for the campaign.

The production was mostly run and gun style filmmaking, with limited lights and time for composing shots and directing the actors.

The only real exception was the “wedding” spot. We brought in a lighting director and crew from Fast Lights when we shot in the large church. There were several actors and a ton of extras. We had a large grip truck and used mainly HMI lights. We wanted to simulate sunlight spilling into the chapel. I always enjoy requesting a certain look and watching the lighting director and grips make it happen.

The first shot, the church exterior, was a piece of stock footage and I did not shoot it.

I shot most of these spots on my Sony PMW-EX1 camera with a Letus Ultimate 35mm lens adapter. I love the look of this camera/Letus and the ease of use. It is small, but has all the features of a real camera, unlike the DSLRs. I am able to shoot with timecode, zebras and have access to XLR connections for in camera sound.

A few of the other spots, including the one we shot in the hospital, were done using the Canon 5dmk2. We brought in a sound guy and recorded all audio on a Zoom h4 portable recorder. We used a clapper slate and audible labels to help identify the take for sync later in post.

For those of you wondering why I did not just stick with a single camera and just use a DSLR? I choose the right tool for the job and decide on a camera based on many factors. A few of those factors are: most importantly budget, camera physical size, shot requirements (handheld, tripod, dolly, jib, slider), audio requirements, lighting (kit or available), overall look, and post workflow.

It is very convenient for the client to take XDCAM footage. NESN and other Boston tv station are XDCAM houses. This is the main reason that the Sony EX1 is very desirable. When I shoot on the 5dmk2, all the footage must be transcoded to ProRes for broadcast. Not the end of the world, but another step that many people don’t like to do in the broadcast world.

So are you in the market for a camera? Perhaps you should keep on renting. It took me a great leap of faith to buy a $60,000 Sony F800 XDCAM. I use it just enough to justify the expense and I did not use it on this ad campaign due to budget restraints. I am over a year in, and the camera is two-thirds paid off. If you are not in high-end broadcast, a Canon 5dmk2 may work for you. It is cheap, looks good and you can invest in good lenses. Remember, camera bodies come and go, but lenses hold up over time.

There is no perfect camera for any given situation. It comes down to client preference and DP choice. If you want to shoot a grainy, black and white horror show, you could use the Fisher Price PXL-2000. Just be sure to buy “high bias” audio tape for the tape stock. It seems to work much better than the cheap audio cassettes tape that “Hootie and the Blowfish” was recorded on.