Infusing First Person POV Into Mountain Dew GAME FUEL MW3

In mid-October, I got a call from McG to see if I was available to do a Mountain Dew commercial that was tied into the MW3 game.  After viewing the boards and scripts, I was excited to collaborate with McG again.  The whole spot centered around the First Person shooter style of MW3.  I knew that this was a perfect job for the Canon 5D and the Doggicam Helmet cam that I used on “The Last 3 Minutes.” These two tools, along with amazing CGI layover, would bring this story to life.


McG selected a Mini Mart location that the SEAL team would raid in North Hollywood.  It was a total mom and pop style place, slightly unkempt, but cool.  The concept of the commercial was as follows.  A SEAL team raids a Mini Mart of all of its Mountain Dew game fuel to hopefully earn points from the bottle caps.  They hit this beautifully in the stack with their target acquired. One SEAL takes it upon himself to enjoy a Mountain Dew right then and there. We see him reach into the cooler, pull it out, see the bottle top and then slam it down.  When he brings the bottle down, we transition from Canon 5D to film. We quickly realize that the SEALs are really just four gamers out on a 2 am refuel.  It was all a gamer’s dream.

During McG’s discussions with the Agency we all agreed it would be best for the footage to feel game-like. We went to an EFX house to pull this off.  They had done overlay tests on some existing footage and everyone really loved the look and feel.  When we told them we were going with the 5D, they had no issue with this.  The request was to keep the lighting flat and they would interject the contrast through their overlay process. I knew I also needed a large f-stop.  In MW3, everything is in focus, huge DOP.  I would have to light the Mini Mart to at least an 8-11 split.  This would require a huge amount of light added to the store interior.  I called on my Elite Team member, John Guerra, and his incredible team that did Act of Valor with me to pull this off.


There were a total of 18 4’ 4 bank house fixtures in the ceiling.  I could not rig Kinos in there because we were shooting with a 21mm Leica and I was seeing everything.  John would have to increase the level of each fixture by adding and hiding 4-bare T8 Kino tubes to every unit.  This would require a pre-light, which I knew production had not planned on.  These are the sticky situations you get in as a Director of Photography.  The concept seems so simple, but when you peel the top layer off, there is a pit about 120’ deep.  Most of this was driven by the concept as well as visual EFX’s wanting a flat look, a large Depth of Field and a very clean image.  So, we shot at 160 ISO to lower the noise and help the VFX’s layer.

For the night exterior work, I employed a 14K Balloon light that had 4-1200 HMI pars in it and 8K worth of tungsten. Mixing the color temps is a personal preference and you need to decide what works for you in the moment.  I flew the balloon overhead and flagged it off the front of the Mini Mart.  Then I took 2-18k’s with full and a half Rosco CTS to mimic the High Pressure Sodium parking lot lights and side lit the SEALs as they approached the Mini Mart.  I wanted to place these units fairly far away so that if I panned over and caught them, they would look like street lamps.  An 80’ Condor was required to elevate the lights to shoot over a car wash down the street.  Placing this light source was very important because McG had described exactly what he wanted to me. When the first person POV was moving in towards the Mini Mart, he wanted the SEAL’s POV to look up into the sky and catch another chopper that was flying overhead. When executed, I wanted to catch a flare, so that it felt real and in the environment. So, I crept over the 2 -18k’s in the Condor that was shooting over the Car Wash until I got a beautiful Leica flare in the right side of the frame.  I quickly balanced the outside to about a 5.6 and inside was about an 11.  I chose to use Technicolor’s CineStyle to pull this off.  The VFX house wanted the image flat to begin with, but the main reason was the hot fluorescents that were in the Mini Mart’s interior. When I went to my Leica picture Style, they were burning up, too hot.  So CineStyle gave me that extra overexposure latitude to make it work.

Now that we were lit, it was time to rehearse with the SEALs to get the timing right.  This all had to happen in one shot, in 22 seconds.  We kept on creeping closer to the entrance of the Mini Mart to cut time, finally we got it in the right pocket for McG and the Agency.

The First Person Shooter perspective could only be done on a helmet cam, and the one I chose was Doggicam.  It puts the camera so close to the right eye, it feels like you are looking through their eyes.  We tried several rehearsals using the real guys and then McG turned to me and told me I had to take one for the team.  I would wear the 14.5 lb. helmet cam for eight hours straight, never taking it off.  This is kind of dedication that we all have as filmmakers. We rocked this out about 25 times and then the words, “moving on” were shouted.

Now, it was time for a hook up.  I did it all in one shot  until we got to the cooler door. On the wipe of the door with a little helmet cam noise injected, we seamlessly employed a hook up cut, so that it continues to feel like one shot.  I have to open the cooler, take the cap off, look at it to see the code inside and then slam the drink up high aiming down my throat.  Yeah right!!!!   I dumped so many of those bottles of Mountain Dew down my shirt, my arm, my back, you name it. That high caffeinated, sugary drink stuck to me like super glue.  We tried to minimize the impact by draping me in a blue plastic bag, and we had some success.  Once we did that, my Helmet Cam days were over and we slid in the Panavision Platinum camera to capture our Gamer coming out of his MW3 dream on 35mm motion picture film.  This gave us a beautifully lit store, which felt real and not generated like the MW3 overlays and the First Person had.


Shane in Helmet Cam

Yep, that’s me getting all jocked up for Mountain Dew Spillage


Looking back at the day into night shoot, I have to say that there was no other capture device that could have done this with as much grace and ease as the Canon 5D MK II.  It was the right storytelling tool.  Period.  Here is the spot:

  1. William Haines 4 years ago

    Great. I’ve got plenty of helmets here and adult tinker toys, i.e. rods and clamps, I know what I’ll be doing tonight.
    Thanks for these informative and inspiring posts.
    William Haines
    Fresno, CA

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      William Haines, if you build it, they will come. Rock on!!!!! Thank you so much for all the support.

  2. Hugh Sullivan 4 years ago

    Awesome post!
    I like that you give details about EVERYTHING. It really helps to hear what’s going through your head with decision making, and especially problem solving. Really enjoyed the spot too.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Hugh Sullivan,thank you so much for all of your support. I love hearing all of this.

  3. Hans 4 years ago

    Hi Shane, great filming of this commercial! I can understand – given the demand for a flat image – that you went with Leica lenses because of it’s beautiful softness and creaminess (learned that from you :). The Technicolor Cinestyle is generally known as the flattest of all picture styles, but it raises the black level to 16 and therefore only utilizes a range of 16-255 color shades. I’m not a color technician and I’m sure you know what you’re doing. Your movies look great. But I wonder if you’ve heard or tried the Marvel Cine picture style, created by Jorgen Escher (Fraunhofer Institut, Germany). It uses the complete 8 bits of dynamic range. Please give it a try and let us know what you think of it. Article and download here:
    Love your blog and films! Thanks and kind regards, Hans

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Hans, thank you so much for this picture style. I am in Azerbaijan right now and I will check it out. Seems perfect. This whole spot wanted to feel flat so that Zoic the visual EFX’s house could do their MW3 look magic. I would never light this way or expose this way if it had not been for the VFX overlay. Thanks again. LECIA rule.

  4. Neil Oseman 4 years ago

    Great post, Shane! How are you getting around the rolling shutter “jello” effect on the 5D? Is it some kind of post-production processing?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Neil Oseman, I don’t seem to have a lot of rolling shutter issues. I get this question asked far more than any other. In all of my spots you don’t see it. I am just doing what I always have done for 16 years. Tell a story the best way I can with the right tool for the job. I operate like I always have operated. I treat the 5D like a 35mm motion picture camera with all the etiquette that goes along with it.

  5. Ron 4 years ago

    Awesome! Informative, inspiring and like usual, perfectly done.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Ron, Thank you so much again my friend. Always appreciate the kind words.

  6. Paul 4 years ago

    hi Shane,
    Great post! Just want to ask a question.
    You said that you balanced the outside to about a 5.6 and inside to about an 11. Did you close aperture when you were entering the miniMart? I was not be able to notice any exposure change in the spot. Moreover the MiniMart windows do not look overexposed in the outside section of the footage. Did you use NDs on the windows? Could you please explain this a bit more thoroughly.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Paul, thank you so much for your kind words. To your question. No aperture pull was needed. I exposed for the inside and underexposed the outside 2 stops. The cross lighting on the SEAL’s came in at about a 5.6 the fill around a2.0. The mini mart at 11. I exposed a 5.6 which held the hot lights in the mini mart and made it look like a moody night outside the mini mart. Using the cameras ability to underexpose is where this baby shines. Cinestyle enabled me to do this.

      • Paul 4 years ago

        Thanks a lot Shane. It’s much more clearer for me now.
        Looking forward to reading more great stuff! Keep posting please.

      • James 4 years ago

        Not to sound redundant, as this might be a silly question, but does this mean you were shooting at an 11 even though the outside was calling for a 5.6, or do I have that backwards?

        Thanks for this post! It’s really helpful and it’s awesome that there’s someone like you that’s so dedicated to educating all of us aspiring filmmakers!


  7. Oli Kember 4 years ago

    Awesome. It seems so simple but there’s always such thought into these spots. I guess all that combined is what gives the result of simplicity! Thanks for sharing.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Oli Kember, great to hear from you and thanks for the support

  8. Matt Short 4 years ago

    Great post, Shane. Love all the detail and seeing the lighting setups. This spot is another testament to how the 5D footage seamlessly blends with film. I was also relieved to read you weren’t actually drinking that liquid crack – you have enough energy!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Matt Short, thank you so much for the kind words my friend. Yep the 5D ruled the day again. LOL:)

  9. James 4 years ago

    Not to sound redundant, as this might be a silly question, but does this mean you were shooting at an 11 even though the outside was calling for a 5.6, or do I have that backwards?

    Thanks for this post! It’s really helpful and awesome that there’s someone like you that’s so dedicated to educating all of us aspiring filmmakers!


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      James, I exposed at an f8.5. I let the outside go down 1.5 stops in the highlight and 3 stops under in the shadow, Had to keep it flat for the VFX’s team.

  10. Libor 4 years ago

    Hello Shane,
    this is a great post i really like how you breakdown the all production process. very very helpful stuff to inspire. I am glad to see how you light the scene. To my surprise it is not very different to light anything else but it is just much bigger :D Let me ask question if I may, you said you balance outside for 5.6 and inside to 11. what was you actual F-stop on camera ? was it 8? so you keep light and shadows in range ? I am actually big fan of your still and all your work.
    Thank you for all your posts it is very good reading
    I did one of the “war piece” my self here . All done with 1- 1.2k HMI

  11. Josh 4 years ago


    This is a great spot. I remember seeing this a few weeks ago and I thought the exterior shot was all computer generated.

    Can I ask how you knew the cuts from the entrance and the cuts from the cooler door would all match up from setup to setup?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words. McG and I have done these hook ups so many times it is truly based on experience. I knew that a wipe of a refrigerator door would be the perfect place to hide a hook up transition. Anytime you have a vertical sweep of something it gives you the ability to split screen your VFX’s. I hope this helps.

  12. Don Hankins 4 years ago


    Awesome commercial, when I first saw it I had a feeling you shot it. Obviously now I know. Again the 5d is one of those little gifts that allow us to be super creative both in still and motion the more I use mine the more I love it. It has saved me several times when Marshall’s law has taken over.



    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Don Hankins, yes it is. I never have looked back after purchasing my first. It always pushes me to think more out of the box.

  13. Adam Mayfield 4 years ago

    Very cool stuff. I dig the transition between game mode/real life. It always makes me happy to see DSLRs making their way on to tv/the big screen. I’m starting to cross over from photography to video using my Nikon. Enjoying every second of it.

  14. Michael 4 years ago

    Hey Shane,
    Thanks for the very cool post. Just a quick question: When the cut was made, was the camera then placed on a tripod for the smooth tilt up and down?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Michael, yes, when we cut to film I was on a tripod with a Panavision Platinum.

  15. Amir 4 years ago

    I am a fan of COD games and I do narrative shorts. This was a perfect combo for me: the spot and the execution. Thank you for the in depth details of how you had to achieve this task and it was a great thing to watch it first, read the blog and then go back to look at every detail from pre to post. Congratulations on a great spot!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Amir, Thank you so much for your kind words of support. I love working with McG he always brings a wonderful vision to each project.

  16. Alex Disenhof 4 years ago

    “I would never light this way or expose this way if it had not been for the VFX overlay.”

    Could you elaborate more on this? Would the directionality of your sources have changed if you weren’t doing the VFX overlay, or just the size (and intensity) of them? In other words, would you have used similar but smaller sources (maybe a 6k balloon, 1 maxibrute into bounce, and 1 18K instead of 2) in the same positions, or would you have gone with a completely different lighting setup if you weren’t doing the VFX overlay? Would you have gone for a more contrasty look, maybe eschewing the 9 light fill entirely?

    Thanks for all of your generous posts!

    Alex D.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alex Disenhof, I would have gone for a much more contrasty look. Have the exterior backlit with heavy contrast and then the interior of the store I would have had flo’s hanging all down, flickering light, I would have had the only true light be the light coming from the Mountain Dew refrigerator display. Spooky, but to tell the story the way the director wanted it was to feel like a video game and the flat light approach was the best for the story and the spot.

  17. mac 4 years ago

    So did you prelight the interior adding some kinoflos finally? It´s not clear by reading the article.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      mac, yes, I added 4 light kino to all of the fluorescents in the ceiling. We had to use T-8 globes so that they would fit in the existing fixtures.

  18. Aaron 4 years ago

    The explanations of the decision making process is as interesting as the actual technical info. Thanks!

  19. Allan White 4 years ago

    Shane, the images in the article seem to be broken. Great article!

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