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The Canon 5D in Big Sky Country with the MARINES

Livingston Montana is our first stop on the Marines "For Us All" commercial campaign

We had the pleasure of filming on one of the premiere ranches in all of Montana, the Story Ranch.  What an amazing story in the history with this family.  They built the first sky-scraper in Los Angeles and since that moment every floor was called a story.  Rob Story was our location manager, props guy, 1st Assistant Director, cow wrangler, you name it; he knew how do it.  I loved the rawness of his ranch.  It was not a Hollywood typical and we settled on a gate and vista.

The concept of the Marines spot is that while the Marines raise the morning colors, we go about our daily lives; while they do 3 and 4 tours in Iraq, we go about our daily lives; while they risk their lives in Afghanistan, we go about our daily lives; while they defend us across the globe, we go about our daily lives.  This sequence was a rancher tending to his cattle at sunrise.

I wanted to employ the Canon 5D MK II not only because of our limited budget, but also because of that amazing sunrise feel that you can capture with this camera.  The power of 7.5 stops in the underexposure is impressive.  We showed up at 4:30 am for a 6:01am sunrise.  We had found the shot and set the crane the night before, so all we had to do was to get our rancher and rig the camera on the crane and we were ready to go.

Justin was our Rancher, the minute I saw him and his little dog Billy I knew we struck GOLD!!

Justin was our Rancher, the minute I saw him and his little dog Billy I knew we struck GOLD!!

When casting our rancher, I took one look at Justin and knew he was the guy.  He said he had a dog named Billy and that she was his right hand man.  I wanted a dog to show the expanse and when Billy shot up through the cows sending them running, it was epic.

justin and dog billy

Early morning with Justin and his faithful dog Billy

We used Filmlites in Bozeman, Montana www.filmlitesmt.com/Filmlites_Montana/Home.html to assist us with a crane and grip truck.  JP Gabriel www.imdb.com/name/nm0300230/ is the owner/operator of the crane, grip and lighting house.  JP and his amazing crew rocked it out.  We shot with Kowa glass and brought the art of ranching to the forefront.

One problem we encountered was getting the camera low enough.  I had a hard time holding the foreground gate and our dog Billy that raced underneath it, while at the same time holding the tops of the Tetons. So my Elite Team member/Grip extraordinaire, Dave Knudsen had an idea.  He took apart our ball mount hi hat and flipped it upside down to get us lower.

low mode shot

Dave’s ingenious idea to get us where we needed to be

Early morning in Montana with Filmlites 23' mobile crane truck.

Early morning in Montana with Filmlites 23′ mobile crane truck.

I have to say that normally I am not a big fan of the on-board monitor.  If I am going handheld, then I reach for the Zacuto finder and show play back to the agency and client after I shoot. If we are on a crane, dolly or on sticks then I fire up my  24″ HP Dream color and operate off of that.  One of the weakest elements to this camera system is the mini HDMI output. This is what we set out to perfect.  HDMI splitters, HDMI repeaters, everything so that I could treat the monitor like it was my film camera viewfinder and then the splitter/repeater was sent to the agency and client.  It worked so well. I operated the shot, if the sun came up a little I was able to adjust under my hood of black and the agency wanted to see it back.  No problem, I became the video playback guy.  They viewed it in full HD, not SD output captured off of a bad BNC cable. This system created an intimacy and collaboration with the client that I had never been able to do before. They came up under the black hood and we would discuss the action and how they felt the shot looked.  AWESOME!!!

HP 24" Dream color mounted to crane so that I can react to stop changes quickly and easily.  It is my film viewfinder

HP 24″ Dream color mounted to crane so that I can react to stop changes quickly and easily. It is my film viewfinder

The long lens Leica’s came next 280mm and the 560mm.  That afternoon we set up a long lens side angle of our Rancher and Billy making their way though the rolling hills, the cattle and to the gate.  Dave Knudsen, my Elite team member Key Grip/Operator and Jamie Stephens our 2nd AC www.imdb.com/name/nm0827046/ took turns lensing.

The next day we were lighting the interior of a diner that was supposed to be anywhere America.  Filmlites supplied the lights and we created an amazing sequence at this restaurant.

The Montana branch of the Elite Team rock it out in Livingston

The Montana branch of the Elite Team rock it out in Livingston

I wanted it to feel like early morning sun, people on there way to work, Father and son breakfast, and that waitress that is all over it

We needed to find a waitress for the spot. As Greg Haggart (Elite Team producer) and I ordered our lunch the first day, Crystal came up to our table and I knew she was the one to be our waitress in the commercial.  Period, the end.
Crystal our beautiful waitress, she delivered coffee to Greg and I the first day we scouted and we knew we struck GOLD, twice!!!Crystal, our waitress who delivered coffee to us on the scouting day. We knew we struck GOLD, twice!!!

Shane goes over the scene with our father and son

Shane goes over the scene with our father and son

The Lighting is finished, now it is time to bring in our talent

The Lighting is finished, now it is time to bring in our talent

Crystal our waitress enters frame and ACTION!!!

Crystal our waitress enters frame and ACTION!!!

We all know that the over exposure with the 5D is not that of film, so how do you not show that weakness? We waited to shoot this after 6 pm when the light was lower and the contrast was not as steep.  I used a 12 x 12 double net out the window at the end of the bar to bring the outside down a little so that you did not get that summer hot overexposed video look.  We did the same to the two windows on the right side of frame.  Then, we used Filmlites 12k HMI Fresnel, a 6k HMI Par, and a 4k HMI par to blow through the windows and create the early morning sunlight feel.

One 12k at the far end, then a 6k and then a 4k works the window on the right.  Doubles are added in all three windows that we see

One 12k at the far end, then a 6k and then a 4k works the window on the right. Doubles are added in all three windows that we see

I had to ambient lights inside to soften the contrast.  A 4 x 8 sheet of foam core in the corner near the front door with 2- 1.2K Pars bouncing into it.

1200 Par bounce is in the top of frame, this helps bring up the downside, their backs so that it doesn't feel to contrasty

1200 Par bounce is in the top of frame, this helps bring up the downside, their backs so that it doesn’t feel to contrasty

Then, a 2500 par bouncing right near camera to wrap into their faces while they looked up at our waitress.

The 2500 is shooting right over camera to help with their faces when they look away from the windows, I kept it parallel with the wall so that it felt like another window and not a forced bounce light. Here you can see at the bottom of frame how I am employing my double Dream color and HDMI splitting technology.

The 2500 is shooting right over camera to help with their faces when they look away from the windows, I kept it parallel with the wall so that it felt like another window and not a forced bounce light. Here you can see at the bottom of frame how I am employing my double Dream color and HDMI splitting technology.

Dave Knudsen talks to the grips about moving the 12 x 12 double out of the shot. This is my viewfinder. Rather big but it has become my way of life. I feel that this keeps my intimate with the performance as well as being able to see it as it will look on the big screen

Dave Knudsen talks to the grips about moving the 12 x 12 double out of the shot. This is my viewfinder. Rather big but it has become my way of life. It keeps it intimate with the performance as well as being able to see how it  will look on the big screen.

3 other lights remained outside.  1-6k HMI par, 1-4k HMI par and 2.5k HMI par which were bouncing into 2- 12 x 12 Ultra bounces to bring in that north light soft ambient light from outside.  The cool reflection on the counter top was the sky.  We brought in diffusion smoke to give subtle shafts of light. All the lights coming in the window have Rosco Half CTS to give us that warm morning feel. I shot this at 160 ISO and at a 5.6 with a 75mm, 50mm Kowa lens.

We are now off to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to capture C-22 Ospreys taking off.  Then onto Washington D.C. to lens the last 4 shots of the commercial at the Iwo Jima War Memorial.  Here is a little taste of what is in store.

Osprey's getting ready to take off in the middle of the Atlantic

Osprey’s getting ready to take off in the middle of the Atlantic

A magical morning and the end of our spot.  The Few, the Proud, the Marines

A magical morning and the end of our spot. The Few, the Proud, the Marines

Author: Shane

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28 Comments

  1. Shane, again these blogs are fantastic. I have always been the type to buy movies on DVD just for the BTS and watch the magic being built. They always skip over the part where they are lighting the scenes and all the work that it takes to make something lit for the camera yet natural to the eye. I assumed that they skipped over showing the lighting for scenes to keep the mystery of the craft ( as a photographer, I know many “pros” who go out of their way to hide how they lit their photos to limit the copy cats ). Thanks for being soo open to your processes. You and the elite team are…well…elite.

    A couple questions:
    1) the plastic squares in front of the 12K, 6K and 4K: are those the Rosco Half CTS?
    2) Again, coming from a photography background, I have implanted a light meter to my hand and measure light rather than chimping with the viewfinder. I assume when setting up lights you are not just relying on the monitors? I can’t imagine having lights at this magnitude just being put in place and looking into the HP monitor…or is it?

    Thanks again, Shane. I also enjoyed your interview on 16×9. I tried my best to make the HDDSLR bootcamp, but my job just ended and things are not the best. Your discounts to the bootcamp are very generous and it was really sad when I realized I couldn’t make it. I do spread the word though and I hope its a success.

    Mel

    Post a Reply
    • Mel Haynes Jr, thank you so much for your wonderful kind words and support with this revolution. No matter what I give, everyone will have their own take on it. That is what makes us individuals and artists, so I always give freely. The plastic squares are the Rosco Half CTS. Yes I do everything off of the HP monitor. It has never let me down. The light meter cannot take in the subtle nuances of this camera’s sensor. I have had to re-train my eye to the 7.5 stops of underexposure latitude and the HP monitor helps. I only use the light meter when I have to match a scene. So that I can keep the levels consistent. You are very welcome, and we will miss you.

      Post a Reply
    • Bill Walsh, you are welcome, thanks for your support. Yes I have but it does not hang around very long. That is the only problem, and hard to do a large area. Those DF-50 are a dying breed but love them and they are cheap to rent.

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  2. What a wonderful post Shane. Thanks you so much for the effort you put in.
    I’d like to ask if you could say a little about the kowa lenses you’ve been using recently. Which ones in particular do you like, and what qualities do they bring in comparison with other lenses such as the ze’s.

    Thanks again.

    Post a Reply
    • Keidrych wasley, Thank you so much for the kind words and your support. The Kowa’s are 1960′s Japanese lenses. I like the 50mm and 75mm on the 5D, then the 24mm and the 32mm on the 7D. They have a much softer contrast and creamier then the ZE which tend to be very contasty and sharp. They also give you incredible flares, which I call the sunny side up egg flare. You are very welcome.

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  3. hi shane,

    thanks for these wonderful posts. i learn something new with every one of them! one question: i noticed the half CTS you have in front of the 12k is pretty close. I was under the impression that a 12k would burn up a gel placed that close. am i wrong about that, or do you just replace them after a minute or two??

    thanks again,
    derek

    Post a Reply
    • Dirk, thank you so much for the kudos, I am so glad you liked it. The gel will last for several hours with the 12K on full flood. You are welcome. Thanks for your continued support.

      Post a Reply
  4. Shane, I echo the thanks for transparency. Monitoring for myself and clients is the problem I continually have. Can you explain your rig a little more? From what I have read here and experienced, I guess you have a mini HDMI coming out of the camera, through an adapter plug into an HDMI splitter/amp, then out of that to your monitor and the clients monitor? If so, any recs on resources for those pieces?

    Post a Reply
    • Jason Wallis, the client has been so excited about this set-up. Basically what I do is mini HDMI out of the camera to a reg. HDMI. I Use a HDMI barrel connector to a 50′ HMDI cable that is a very high end cable that I got on AMazon, it has aluminum mess around it. This then goes into a HDMI signal repeater that I got at Radio Shack. From there we use a 35′ cable to go to the splitter box, out of the spitter box we spit with two 25′ cables one to me and one to the agency and client. Now that was an example of my Technocrane set-up, the dolly would be splitting earlier so that my monitor rides on the dolly and then the repeater is put down line on the way to the client’s monitor. It has taken me a while to crack this egg because every junction sucks life out of the signal. I hope this helps. Most of this I was able to get at Amazon or FireFox. You cannot go cheap on the cables, that was my original mistake.

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  5. Thank you for all the amazing information in your posts. Just out of curiosity, which approach you consider better for monitoring: the use of the repeater with HDMI cables or using the blackmagic HDMI to SDI and SDI to HDMI converters. Thank you again.

    Post a Reply
    • Julio, you are very welcome and thank you for your kind words. I hate the BlackMagic box, so I go HDMI. I am doing a blog post this week about Video VIllage and I will describe what I have been up to.

      Post a Reply
  6. Hi, i really appreciate what you do, your blog, your techniques, your talent and your will to share it with other people. i always visit your blog searching new posts. I am an emerging student in spain, that since january has been working with this cameras. i have learned a lot from you. I have a question how do you manage the heat factor in your workflow? or can you give some advices respect to heat factor? mostly when clients are around?

    Thank you.
    LE
    lecacinematography.com

    Post a Reply
    • Luis E., thank you so much for those kind words and your support. The heat factor is always having a back up body. If you keep that cameras sensor on for 30 minutes at a time, then switch it out. You start with A1 camera in the morning and then move onto A2 in late morning and then switch the cameras back around after lunch, then repeat in the afternoon. You are very welcome

      Post a Reply
  7. Boo! I live two hours away….I would have stopped by ;)

    Post a Reply
  8. Shane.
    Thank you so much for doing these blogs. Those of us that are learning about DSLR’s, or are already seasoned pros, I’m sure are getting a great deal of out your expertise. Thank you. It sounds like, and I hope I’m not reading into this, that you’re getting HD monitor out while recording with the 5DMII. Wow. If that’s the case, and you’ve cracked that, I VERY much look forward to your video village blog. Those of us that are new to this camera, I’m sure are hoping something is done about the SD monitor only through HDMI while recording. Like you, I pull the Z-finder out for my handheld work, which works great, but sticks, steadicam or anything else, that’s not an option. Thanks again for helping us all out.

    Post a Reply
    • Heath Vinyard, you are very welcome. No, I am not getting HD out of the 5D when it records. Only on playback. My video village blog should be good to go in a couple days where it breaks it down on what has been working for me.

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  9. Shane, do you use color charts and could you power the HP DreamColor monitor using batteries? I also read in old post of yours that you use the color meter to “white balance.” Is that your technique today? Thanks again.

    Post a Reply
    • Julio, no I do not use color charts, yes the HP Dream Color can be powered by a battery pack. I have gone with the WB short cut, where you can scroll the color temp. and watch it so I have been doing it more to eye, but I always pull it out to get my bearings. Like in Montana it was 5500 deg. Kelvin in the middle of the day, where South Carolina was 5100 at the same time. You are welcome.

      Post a Reply
  10. The Kowa glass sounds interesting, given the sterile look of most current options. I assume the lenses you speak of were made for 35mm slr’s, but what adapter are you using. Novoflex, Fotodiox or another source?

    Agencies expect some monitoring capability, so looking forward to your approach to a video village.

    Thanks for the insights, hope the rest of the production goes well.

    Post a Reply
    • keith lanpher, The Kowas are from the 60′s, they have a softer, creamier look, with a slight yellow tinge. They have a Panavision mount on them, but you can get them adapted to PL also. Yes, they do and my blog will be out in a couple days on that. You are very welcome. We are loving it in Prague right now, just landed about 9 hours ago, scouted and had some dinner. Off to bed.

      Post a Reply
  11. I learend a couple of lighting tricks with this information. Thank you and hope we can get more of these information

    Post a Reply
    • RAFFIE, you are welcome. I am glad you took away something from what I described. Video Village blog coming up next.

      Post a Reply
  12. Sir
    Your article about movie shooting in Montana and the Marines is a good read, and very interesting, especially the details about the way the lighting is done to imitate the look of a certain time of day. One little thing, though, if you were shooting down in Paradise Valley on the Story Ranch, you wouldn’t be seeing the Tetons. They’re well south down in Wyoming, and your view from there is blocked by the Gallatin Wilderness area and the Beartooth range. They’re lower than the Tetons by a few thousand feet, but you couldn’t see over them from the valley floor. It’s been a while for me, but that might be Pyramid in your picture above. They’re still beautiful, and I very much enjoyed reading your article. Good luck with all your adventures, and thanks for your kind words about America’s military. We appreciate your thoughts and support.

    Post a Reply
    • Zancho, copy that, thank you so much for clarifying the mountain range. It was very beautiful up there. Peace

      Post a Reply
  13. dear shane. .do you ever use external power for your camera…like v-lok batteries. or do you just use camera battery.

    Post a Reply
    • kristoffer akselbo, we tried powering it through other means via Anton Bauer 90 Dionic but found to our dismay that by bypassing the battery it reset all of my picture styles. So when I thought I was on my RAW picture style that I had designed it was reset to STANDARD. That happened to my on one job, twice, where I was going back and forth pre-lighting different sets and got burned huge on this Yahoo World cup commercial. Never again.

      Post a Reply
  14. Hello Shane,

    I recently had to shoot a similar restaurant scene, but set in night time instead. I wanted to have a bluish light coming in through the window to add a side light to the people in the room for variety (I thought just having int. practicals was a little too plain). Our biggest light source were 2 Arri 1K fresnels (tungsten). I put one outside on CTB, with a 4′ diffusion screen in front of it, and the interior was lit by tungsten china balls. We cleaned the windows, but we still got weird flares on the windows, and it was almost impossible to hide the 1k out of the frame in medium/wide 2-shot, any further out and the angle or power of light would do nothing.

    Us trying to get the shot:
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=6550248&id=502816774

    1. How would you reduce the glare/flares on the window glass? Would a net help at all?
    2a. How would you hide the light without it becoming source-y? Would such a shot simply require a bigger light further away with a larger diffusion frame midway or are there workarounds?
    2b. What different approaches can there be that wouldn’t need bigger lights but would add contrast/variety?

    Post a Reply

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