AAA Behind the Scenes: Episode One “The Drag Strip”

In January of 2011, I was asked by “The Gentlemen,” Brett Snider and Billy Federighi, a very creative and humorous, directing at Bandito Brothers, to shoot a series of AAA commercials. The spots were hilarious and we all felt would be the perfect canvas for the Canon 5D platform. We would need to shoot four commercials in three days with one spot encompassing four company moves in a day: Fontana Raceway, Pomona Lake, a Residential House, and a Park.

Smash cut to the power of the 5D camera. We had a 12 camera package which was the right cocktail to be able to leap frog from location to location as well as being able to leave a 6 camera package so that Elite Team member Mike Svitak could do his second unit racing action magic. My other team members consisted of Dave Knudson, Marc Margulies, Derek Edwards, Chris Moseley, Andrew Laboy and Jose De Los Angeles. Doug Leigh rocked out as our A camera operator on the BTS and Tim Holtermann came in to lend a hand on day three. Vashi Nedomansky was brought in to edit this baby on Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS5 Suite.

Episode One: Day One at the Drag Strip documents a racer getting ready to take off at the starting line. His pit crew lowers the car’s hood as the pit boss comes swooping in to tell the driver he is good to go. All of a sudden, a female insurance agent from AAA rips his headset off and informs the driver that AAA has his back on everything that he owns and drives. The Christmas tree lights go GREEN and he takes off, through the smoke. I push my 5D into a two shot as the bizarre team celebrates victory. END OF SPOT.

Now we move on to shoot the second commercial, which is a PSA (public service announcement) about responsible teenage driving for AAA, at the end of the drag strip during sunset. We shot this with three cameras. Two were in front of John delivering his dialogue on 80mm and 180mm Leica lenses, while the third camera was on a side rake profile shot with a 100mm macro. This spot was shot in one hour and then wrapped. This looked so cool with the setting sun behind John and our soft ambience coming from the two 6K HMI pars blowing through the 8 x 8 Full Grid.

Stay tuned for Episode Two: We go inside the Nascar race and watch Kurt Bush doing some ridiculous things while driving at 180mph. Did someone say Alaskan King Crab?

Equipment used on this BTS:

Leica R Mount Glass: 24, 28, 35, 50, 80, 100 macro, 180mm

Canon L Series Primes: 300, 500, 800mm

Zeiss ZE Wide glass 18mm, 21mm for Nascar mounts

Canon 5D and 7D cameras

Cineroid EVF, RedRock Shoulder Mount and Man Cam Rigs

HP 24” Dream Color 2480 zx Monitors

DP-6 SmallHD on-board monitors

Anton Bauer Dionic 90 Batteries

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Suite

  1. Alex 4 years ago

    Thanks for this BTS! Did you find it a problem to mix the different brands of lenses in one spot (Leica, Zeiss, Canon)? What is your opinion on mixing lenses with and without coating? For example, mixing modern L glass with old manual Nikkor glass.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alex, you are very welcome, I prefer the Leica and try to use them for everything. But with a good color corrector and colorist I find that you can match them no problem.

  2. mel haynes 4 years ago

    Shane, bad ass as usual. Question. I noticed the wireless follow focus in use here. Are your guys just that good and know distances and the lenses to know how to focus? I didn’t see any one of them looking into a monitor so I was just curious how they know how to get focus. They are called Elite Team members for a reason after all.

    • Darren 4 years ago

      I’d like to know the answer to this as well. Great stuff Shanester!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      mel haynes, that is exactly right, no monitors needed just a zen focus master. That is what my Elite Team is all about. They make me shine bright everyday. No measurements, no monitors, just ZEN.

  3. Alex Walker 4 years ago

    Great stuff as usual. “Are we cutting?”

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alex Walker, thank you so much.

  4. Erik A. 4 years ago


    Always very informative and I’m glad to hear your take on the Cineroid EVF…I’m looking to grab one of those here soon. On a slightly different note, the “Game of Thrones” promo on the visuals site…was that shot on 5D as well? Looked great!

    Thanks for all you do to share your knowledge!

  5. Jose M. De Los Angeles 4 years ago

    I personally like the part where you say “Here’s Jose still in video village hell but he is WINNING I know it I can see it!”. HAHA!

  6. Matt Short 4 years ago

    Love the BTS stuff. Doug & Vashi did an excellent job. BTW, I’m also digging the B&H series – very well done! I like how you emphasize how nimble this platform is. We’re up to three 5Ds in our shop and I’ve been shooting like a madman with them. On this 60spot, I shot about half of it with the 5D.
    The tips and techniques you’ve shared with us have made a dramatic difference in how I’ve been using this camera and the way I approach a shoot in general – thank you! and please, keep ’em coming!

  7. Nigel 4 years ago

    Shane, thanks for putting the effort into this BTS. It’s a real testament to the DSLR’s that you are using them for these high end involved shoots. When I see all your gear and people I start to feel much better about showing up on my shoots with one other person and two bags of gear. I also realise I’m not pushing them as far I can. Cheers. Nigel.

  8. Heath Vinyard 4 years ago

    This was amazing! Thanks Shane. Also loving seeing the Cineroid in action. I’ve been contemplating getting one, but I’ve been wanting to hold out for the RR MicroEVF, but with still no release date, something is needed. Since I’m budget restricted, I can’t do both so it’s nice to see that the Cineroid is out in full force. Have you seen a prototype of the RR version or used in action?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Heath Vinyard, personally I would go with Cineroid, it changes everything on how you operate and configure your camera. The new developments on the Cineroid are very impressive.

      • Heath Vinyard 4 years ago

        Awesome, Shane. Thank you. Going to grab one of these before the next shoot.

        • Author
          Shane 4 years ago

          Heath Vinyard, Hot Rod cameras is selling them I think. Happy shopping!!

  9. Joseph J 4 years ago

    Shane, awesome as always. Even your BTS stuff is off the charts…so much information to learn from. Your rock, sir!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Joseph J, thanks so much for you kind words my friend. How are things?

  10. Marlon Diaz 4 years ago

    awesome bts!!!!!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Marlon Diaz, thank you so much for the kind word. Yeah Baby!!!

  11. Hal Smith 4 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I really appreciate your keeping all of us in the loop as to the latest developments in Canon HDSLR “Best Practices”. What led you to decide on Leica lenses as your weapons of choice?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Hal Smith, mainly latitude. They seemed to give me the most, because they have a flatter look than the other still lenses. This gives you a little more wiggle room in post. The Zeiss are very contrasty which limits your latitude. We have been using the Zeiss ZE’s on Kin in the snow and the Leica 21-35 Zoom and I feel like I can hold the sky and the snow field, as well as the back lit trees on the Leica, where the Zeiss is either one or the other.

  12. Alex 4 years ago

    Hi Shane, I’ve got a quick question for you: I will be shooting a short where the sunrise and the sunset will be playing a key role in a life of a person. With 5D/7D how many stops u wouldn’t be afraid to overexpose keeping in mind the clipping? And how many stops of underexposure u r feeling comfortable with? Thanks a lot!!!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alex, I would use a dreamcolor monitor which will give you the full range of what the camera can handle to dial in your exposures. From their I would play the semi-silhouette card and expose as much for the sun as possible, make it so you have to squint to see the detail in the actors faces.

  13. Luis E. 4 years ago

    Hi shane,,, I would like to ask some advice, im going to light some scenes and i thought in using two 6k par hmi. through chimera and through windows… generating soft light entering the room through windows, kino flow for inside room fill, and some leds and dedolights for characters, kikers etc…

    Im worried about which power plant should i bring for the shooting? I think I will be definitely going to need one, but which will you recommend using for this kit of lights mentioned above?
    can you give me some advice for anything i could be missing? in terms of types of cables that connect to the plant, any typical failure, or something that requires more attention?

    THank you shane! its my first time using ” Hi kw ” and don´t want something to go wrong.


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Luis E., that sounds like a great package. I would go with at least a 350 amp generator. I am a big soft source guy also. Try bouncing the light first off of a 8 x or a 12 x Ultra bounce before going direct. It will be more pleasing to the eye and really represent light that would be coming in a window. Cables and sort that would be your gaffer to help you with that, depending on how far you need to park the generator away so that you do not compromise the sound. You will have to run 220 for the 6K pars and I recommend Arri or LTM. I hope this helps.

      • Luis E. 4 years ago

        Master and commander! Thank you shane! i really appreciate your advice.

        Thanks again for everything you are doing, giving, sharing.


        • Author
          Shane 4 years ago

          Luis E., you are very welcome.

  14. Alex Huberfeld 4 years ago

    You asked me before how the glass was on the sigma lenses but i couldn’t remember where you posted it so im putting it here.The sharpness on the sigma is excellent even at f2 and with the tiffen water whites (under your recommendation) the color contamination is next to none. Though i could use some more contrast because that is the look i desire but cant afford.

  15. David Liu 4 years ago

    G’day Shane, thanks for taking time to blog and share with the world! I’m all the way from Singapore and your site and sharing has inspired me and my guys in a great way and I would like express my deepest gratitude to you and your web/blog team! You can check out my little team I’m trying to create at

    I’ve got an important question that might need your advice. The heart of all DSLR rigs is the baseplate + QR system. Somehow I can’t find the ‘perfect’ baseplate – Redrock BaseP can’t be decently mount on tripod / Zacuto BaseP requires 2 set of rods at 2 diff levels go to thru.
    We normally switch from Handheld / Shoulder / Tripod / Glidecam all the time
    Would appreciate if you could share your experiences and your top 1-3 Baseplate choice.

  16. Alex Huberfeld 4 years ago

    Dear Shane, Do you know where i can test the Mancam in NY or LA or rent one online to get sent to me.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alex Huberfeld, yes, Hurlbut Visuals. Go to the main page and contact Kevin Anderson. He will hook you up. I have a huge HDSLR RENTAL DIVISION with 37 5D’s 16 7D’s and tons of rigs with EVF’s and remote follow focus

      • Alex Huberfeld 4 years ago


  17. Gianluca 4 years ago

    Hello Shane, I was wondering if there is any update about Acts of Valor.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Gianluca, great to hear from you. Not at this moment. Trust me the minute there is a release date I will be blogging about it.

  18. Daniil Chaniotis 4 years ago

    You are the new Holy Monster of the Film World. Your work is an inspiration for me and I hope I can work with you one day!Keep up the good work. Greetings from France.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Daniil Chaniotis, WOW, another comment that again inspires me to do what I do. Thank you for these wonderful kind words and support. Bon Jour my friend.

  19. Travis Guerra 4 years ago

    When I see stuff like this. I am always amazed at your creativity and what you are willing to do to pull off the “money shot”! I especially like your commanding presence on the set. I have a feeling when you say “jump”..people say “how high?”. LOL Obviously this is why you are a A.C.S. member as it is quite deserved.

    • Travis Guerra 4 years ago

      A.S.C. excuse my poor typing skills. LOL

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Travis Guerra, thank you so much for those kind words. I am nothing without my amazing crew. They make me shine bright everyday.

  20. Matt 4 years ago


    Very cool stuff, and I appreciate your willingness to offer information and advice. The behind the scenes videos are great. What type of articulating arm and clamp do you use to attach the Cineroid EVF to your Redrock rigs? Keep up the good work!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Matt, thank you so much for your kind words and support. We use the FIlm Tools Ultimate arm.

  21. Leon 4 years ago

    Hey Shane,

    Thanks again for all of your hard work and continual inspiration. I feel like I have my own Internet based mentor specific to the 5d!! I have been acquiring Leica R glass and Zeiss ZE glass on your advice, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the Leica R 70-210 vs the Leica R 75-200mm. Also I’m curious as to what led to the decision to use zeiss glass on the NASCAR mounts as opposed to leica – givn your preference for leica R glass first and foremost.

    Thanks again. Best wishes

  22. Mike Svitak 4 years ago


    This is Mike Svitak. I worked on AAA with Shane and the team, shooting the 2nd unit and did a lot of the car mounts. We chose to use the zeiss glass on the mounts because they are a little more expendable. However, we did use Leicas on the mounts we felt would not be in a compromising position. As for the 70-210 vs the 75-200, we haven’t done a whole lot of testing there. The 70-210 is made by angenieux and we like to side with the German glass for our Leica needs. If you are considering these two lenses, I can tell you the 80-200 outperforms the 75-200 by leaps and bounds.


  23. Leon 4 years ago

    Thanks so much for your generosity Mike. One more question if that’s ok. I have begun creating a set of Leica R glass for my 5d, and have already purchased a 28mm, 135mm and a 2x converter. I find it amazing that you guys were able to get a whole set for $5k, as the lenses listed in the Leica blog go for about $1k-3k especially the APO models. I am convinced that the prices increased after you guys posted the leica list on the blog. Anyway, my question is whether the older models 1975-85 are any good, because they are much cheaper. Thanks in advance


  24. mark 4 years ago

    Hi , Shane I sure appreciate the stuff you have done here. Yours is the real deal for hands -on advice and techniques.

    No shots of blowing leaves (LOL) just real shoot of real business..right -on!
    I was wondering what your opinion of the panasonic gh1 and 2 series was.I love the idea of a 10 camera system plus lenses. Does the 5D + 7D give you any visual advantage over the panasonic series?

    Or in the end does it really matter?


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      mark, I have found that the Canon 5D is still the DSLR king. All tests show that the color space, sensor size, and sensor are far superior. Nothing gets you as close to film in my book. I shoot film and 5D.

      • mark 4 years ago

        thanks Shane,
        Appreciate a real pro opinion …something about panasonic GH series I dont like too “video like “.. this simply confirms it to me


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