Firstly, thanks to everyone who spent the time to check out this feature last time around (2 weeks ago). Your feedback has been noted and has encouraged me to continue, hence the second instalment.
A few weeks ago we took on a project with mental health charity, Gofal, for their Time to Change Wales campaign. Working together to dispel the stigma related to mental health problems, they are encouraging those who know someone with an issue to “reach out” and do those “little things” that can make all the difference.
The deliverables for the project came in the form of a series of mini docu-style videos, with 90 and 30-second versions of each. We sourced 4 contributors in total, each with their own mental health issue and story. Once shot, these short-form videos were to be compiled into one 30-second advert that could be used in cinemas and online.
The videos aimed to focus on the relationship between those with mental health issues and the friends and family who help to support them, and to paint that situation in an encouraging, sensitive and positive light.
While there were certain key visual themes that applied to every scene we shot across the series of videos, I’m going to stick to the breakdown of one of my favourite scenes, and hopefully this will give you a good enough taste of the project as a whole.
Camera & Lenses
I think it’s worth mentioning that myself and the director had initially planned to shoot on an Alexa Mini with Kowa Anamorphics, but due to rental deals and availability of contributors we had to compromise and look for an alternative, more affordable option. I really wanted a soft, filmic, washy, flared look for the project as a whole, and given that the lighting rental budget wasn’t too big, I thought this would have been the most effective way to do this.
As it turns out, I ended up coming up with an effective Plan B, but I’ll get onto that in the Lighting section.
We shot the project on the Sony FS700, and rented a lovely set of Cooke Panchros (Mini S4/i) from the good people at Films@59. My reasoning being that the film was to focus largely on people, and Cookes are renowned for the way they bring faces and facial shapes to life as well as having a warm feel. As it turned out they weren’t really as “flarey” as I’d hoped, so I had to work quite hard to get a wash.
*Note to self — Get the Cooke ‘Speed’ Panchro set from the 1930’s next time. Those things are uncoated. Mmmmm, uncoated.
As I explained above, the project’s focus was people, so a sensitive, soft, warm feel was a must. I wanted every scene to feel like it was a really comfortable, natural environment which encouraged the contributors to relax. Due to timescale, we only had about two hours in the pub location.
The scene had 2 main lighting elements: a key light motivated by a ‘ceiling lamp’ above them, and a hair light motivated by late afternoon sun, which I wanted to have pouring from the window behind our main character to give the scene that warm wash.
I synthesised the key light pretty easily with a Chimera ‘Jem’ spring ball, which I hung from a c-stand and arm. This provided a really soft yet really natural tungsten light source, which I was able to dim to the appropriate level.
The ‘sunlight’ was created using a good old ARRI 2k Blonde, which I placed outside the window and narrowed the angle to “spot”. Luckily it was covered by a gazebo style shelter, which kept the rain off (yes, it rained during the shoot, surprise surprise). No dimming controls on that bad boy, so we just moved it backwards until it was in the sweet spot.
I earlier stated that there were two main components to the lighting plan, which is true, however there was a very important third wheel on this wagon. My gripe about the Cooke Panchros being too coated required a solution, and that solution came in the form of an 800W red head lamp being blasted at the lens from the same side as the hair light to help wash the scene and lower the contrast. The last adjustment I had to make was to the “Dad” reverse angle, where the lighting contrast in the scene was too great — the background was just too dark by the bar.
Solution: quickly set up a diffused red head, point it at the ceiling behind.
Bouncy bouncy, job done.
This project, whilst having some time for lighting, was still essentially a docu shoot, so shotlisting was more of a vague science.
We really wanted to capture real emotions and real connections, and so Josh the director liked the idea of having the lights set up in one position so that he could move around them and still have a consistent lighting style. These moments were designed to be just snippets of our contributors lives, and so there was no real need for a wide establisher.
That’s it for another instalment of Cinematography Tuesday, like I mentioned last week, if there’s anything I can improve, do differently or add more or less detail to, get in touch! I love talking about this stuff.
Until next time,