Studios vs. Locations

As you know by now my internship is with a freelance production company called Showbizz productions. In earlier posts about my internship I discussed the differences between the three different types of settings where shoots can occur. The three types are studios, sets, and locations. In my internship I have experienced two of these settings which was studios and locations. I am going to discuss the differences of producing content at the these two different types of settings.

Filming at studios is probably where I have had the most experience during the course of my internship. The good thing about shooting at a studio is that it is very easy for my crew and I. For my experience every time over the course of my internship when we shoot in a studio it has always been using a green screen. Shooting with a green screen backdrop is the reason why my studio shoots have been fairly easy and not to stressful (depending on the amount of time allotted for set-up.) You typically arrive at the studio, carry all the gear to the studio then set up, wait while they film, then break down and load up. It is really that simple. Now there is a lot of specific techniques that goes into where to set up everything, which I have discussed in earlier posts. Other than the set up and making sure the picture quality, lighting and audio are perfect everything else is simple.

The one disadvantage of studio shoots in my eyes is that they may be a bit boring. They are boring because after you set up the studio and get all the equipment in the right places and configured to the producers desire you have to sit and wait while they film the content. Most of the time I am just watching and trying to learn from my boss who is the director of photography, and see how he adjusts the camera and runs the show. But there has been times where they have asked me to step in and operate the B or secondary camera and keep the content in frame and adjust it if needed, which adds a little more excitement. The main thing is that there is little to no outside variables when shooting in a studio because you are indoors and do not need to change the set up because they can digitally change the location in post production, because of the green screen.

When it comes to location shoots on the other hand these can be a bit challenging. They are challenging because there are so many different variables and elements you have to take into consideration. First of all you are outside which is a whole different ball game. The weather is always changing during the day and this forces you to adjust. For instance during one take there will be to much sunlight in the shot, so the director of photography has to adjust to that. Then during the next shot the sun could be covered by a cloud making it to dark for that take. Sound is also a crucial factor when filming outside. Many times the audio operator will have to interrupt a take and signal the producer that the take is unusable due to noise in the background. So knowing when and finding the perfect time to shoot it a big part of it.

Location shoots for me personally are much more different because usually we go to many different locations in one day. For example we shot in Central Park last week and within Central Park we shot at about 6 different locations and that is not including b-roll. So every time we change to a different location I have to forget about the last one and focus on the details of this specific location. It is harder for me especially in the beginning of the day because I do not have a routine done yet and I am still trying to figure out the pace and how that specific producer likes to operate. Once the day starts to get underway I usually have a better sense of what the producer and my boss is looking for from me. One trick I have started to get the hang of is anticipating what the producers or the DP needs ahead of time. For example if the producer has been doing 5-6 takes for every location around the fourth take I will be ready to breakdown the equipment and move to the next location, or I will already be breaking down other equipment they decided not to use for that take.

Another big factor for locations is the speed and pace that you work at. Typically these types of shoots are longer than studio shoots because they want to utilize every aspect and element of the location within the time given for the day. So for the shoot at Central Park we had 10 hours to shoot at 6 locations and each location had two different scripts they wanted performed plus the b-roll. When you have a time limit like this producers will almost always work fast because it is better to be done early and shoot extra takes or b-roll than to be rushing at the end and possibly not even shoot everything on the shot list. So at that shoot at Central Park we were working pretty fast because that is a ambitious shot list for that amount of time. One thing my boss stresses is never let the talent and/or producers wait on the production crew. Meaning that we should always, and I mean always, be set up before the producer is ready to roll or the talent is ready to perform. This makes our company look professional and helps keep the producer on schedule. If we are slow and holding them up all day I am almost sure we would not get a call back from that company or network.

So in my opinion studio shoots are easier but boring, and location shoots are hectic but more exciting. I am very comfortable in a studio setting and can say that I have almost mastered the process, but still could use a few more times to perfect it. When it comes to the location shoots I am still trying to get the pace and process down in general even though it differs from location. Looking back on my internship I am happy my first five shoots were studio and not location. Overall though I have noticed that I have learned so much for both of these types of shoots and have seen drastic improvement.

Internship Trip to St. Louis

One of the best parts about my career path is being able to do new stuff everyday and go to different places. My internship this summer has taken me all over NYC. I have shot in numerous studios including Viacom and A&E studios, other locations such as the American Museum of Natural History, and many outdoor locations. I have had many experiences within NYC but recently I got to travel to St. Louis for a shoot.

Two of my coworkers and I traveled to St. Louis to help film some interviews for a documentary about the musical group Kool and the Gang. The reason why we traveled out there was they had a concert that weekend. It was easy for the producer to just have us come out and film some members of the group while they were together.

The shoot was a basic two camera set up. One camera had an over-the-shoulder shot of the interviewer and focused on the group member. The second camera was a close-up shot that was at an angle to get the profile of the band member. As far as the lights went it was three point lighting, but we had a different element that I had not done before. The producer wanted to keep continuity in all the interviews and in the past interviews they had used a black back drop, so we had to use one as well. It was a bit different then just using a green screen.

One problem we encountered was some of the felt on the back drop had been ruined or burned, so there was a white spot directly in the middle. This problem forced us to move all the props around so that the angles of the cameras, were shooting the band member so it would be blocking the white spot. Luckily it was not a huge white spot so it wasn’t to difficult to hide it. It was still a little frustrating after we had already set up the props perfectly to just move them again, then since the props were moved we had to then re-adjust the cameras to the appropriate focus and aperture.

Setting up was probably the most difficult part of the shoot, once we set-up we sat and listened. I was on camera B which was filming the profile of the band members. My job was to just adjust the camera and keep them in frame if they moved or adjusted themselves throughout the shoot. It was very interesting hearing the band’s story and how each of them got introduced to music and hearing stories about their childhoods. I only thought of them as a funky disco type group but after hearing the interviews I learned they had done a lot of jazz and even pop just to name some of the genres.

Aside from the shoot the most difficult thing was lugging all the equipment around the airport and through security. The ironic thing I realized was leaving New York we had no problems with the equipment and everything went fine. Once we finished the shoot and were heading back to New York that’s when we encountered some minor problems. They had confiscated some pliers that had some knives like a pocket knife would, and some problems with our carry on bags. It was like they didn’t care what was leaving New York, only what was coming in.

This was a very cool experience and even though we didn’t really get to explore St. Louis that much because we were working, I still had fun being in another city. We got to experience the penthouse suite at the Ritz Carlton, and hang out in the most expensive room in the hotel because that’s where we shot the interviews. We received all the perks of being in the penthouse suite which was awesome to say the least. Also on the flight back to New York I got bumped to first class, so it was safe to say I was living the high life during this trip. I am looking forward to going on more business trips to different places and seeing where this internship and career will take me.


Filming Music Festivals

In my posts from earlier this summer I have explained the three different settings where shoots take place. They can either be in a studio, on a set, or at a location. Most recently I have been lucky enough to travel to some pretty cool locations and events to film. These two events I went to happened to be music festivals. These were long days and pretty tiresome but the experiences were well worth it.

The first music festival I went to film was the Governor’s Ball on Randall’s Island in NYC. We were filming and interviewing a artist by the name of Charli XCX for the MTV show called “The Road.” If you are not familiar with her work one of her songs is called “Boom Clap” it was featured on the radio for a lengthy period in 2014.

We met Charli XCX at her hotel room before the festival and had a pretty brief sit down with her. The producer asked her some questions and did a quick interview. Then we filmed her as she picked out her clothes for the festival and also showed us other clothes she had brought to New York. Once we filmed her in her hotel room we then set up downstairs in the lobby and waited for her to come down.

The producer wanted to film her as she was exiting and asked if I would operate the secondary camera. This was pretty cool because I was just suppose to assist our head camera operator and did not think I would have the responsibility of actually operating the camera myself. This was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I was excited to have been trusted with this responsibility but on the other hand wanted to do a good job. Also I was filming the talent in a real environment, it wasn’t set up or planned. If i messed up I didn’t have the luxury of doing it again on the next take because there was no second take, the producer wanted a real feeling to the show. So i just remembered the techniques I was taught in BRC 235 and 465 about framing and lighting etc. I am pretty confident that my shot came out pretty good.

The other music festival I went to was the Firefly Festival in Dover, Delaware. This was the longest day I have had during my internship by far. We worked a total of 20 and a half hours that day and its safe to say I was extremely exhausted by the end of the day.

The day started by the crew meeting at VH1 Studios in NYC where the bus was waiting to take us to Firefly. My job at the festival was to be a utility man for the day. I had to supply my crew with everything they needed to keep the shoot running smoothly. During this shoot there was a script but we also shot a ton of b-roll, so I needed to be attentive to my crew and make sure they had free space in their memory cards, battery life, correct lighting, and I also handled all the equipment and kept everything organized. It was pretty exhausting because I had three people and their equipment to account for. Since it was such a long day we were given two meals instead of just the normal one. The VH1 staff was very accommodating to us and took care of us, more so than MTV. They understood we were in the heat all day and needed breaks. Towards the end of the day we were rewarded with a nice meal and some drinks to relax in the air conditioned tent. We had some time to relax and enjoy the festival as well, where I got to see some performances and hang out. After shooting more b-roll we accounted for all the equipment and headed home.

These experiences I had shooting the two music festivals are one of the main reasons why I decided to go into this business. Every day is different and that’s what I love about it. To top it all off we also had fun during them. After the VH1 shoot at Firefly I made some connections with the VH1 staff and have been on a couple of more shoots with them. All in all they were great experiences, we got the job done and the client was happy, we had some fun, and I made some business connections, I would say they were a success.

Perfecting Shooting on a Green Screen

The interesting thing about working for a production company like Showbizz is that you tend to shoot content at a lot of different places over the course of a month. You can either be in a studio, on a set, or at a location. In my first two weeks interning at Showbizz however I have not been able to partake in that privilege. For my first three shoots I have only been in a studio and all three have used green screens. I have learned that although I have not seen other aspects to this business there is some benefits to only filming one specific type of setting.

I have realized that filming in a studio has allowed me to really learn every aspect there is to know about lighting the space for each specific shoot, and I feel much more confident and qualified about lighting a studio in general. Without this repetition I feel I would not of been able to pick up and remember the key components there is to lighting in a studio so quickly.

As I mentioned in my first blog I re-learned the three point lighting techniques I was taught in BRC 235. I was still a bit hazy about the whole technique even after my first shoot. Looking back now after my third shoot I now completely understand every aspect of the key, fill, and backlight of three point lighting. The hardest part to master was the backlight, because the backlight makes the object your filming pop from the background and gives the shot depth, so it is very important in creating a complete shot. The hardest part about the backlight is to make sure light does not spill over the object you are filming and shine back into the camera. If this happens it will make the shot look white above the object because there is to much light shining directly into the camera. So in order to avoid this you need to put a shade on top of the backlight, almost like a baseball hat to focus the light down.

I also gained insight on how to properly light the green screen itself. It is important that the green screen has an even layer of light covering it. If it does not the green screen will have hot spots that appear white on the camera and not green. This can be very problematic because once in the editing stage it will not succesfully be able to chromo key the green out and you will have “holes” in the image you are trying to fill in over the green screen.

Even though I would of loved to see different sets/shoots and travel to other locations, I believe that shooting in a studio has given me a better understanding of lighting both in and out of the studio. Shooting in a studio is very basic and easy to control because you have no extraneous variables. All in all I am very happy with my first experiences and the ease that learning and shooting in a studio has brung. Now in turn, when it gets more challenging and difficult due to having to adjust to other factors I will be more prepared because I have learned the basics first.


Starting off my Internship

To finish off my college education I decided to earn my last five credits through an internship. I felt that this would be more beneficial to me and my career than simply enrolling in two online courses over the summer for the credits. I am a broadcasting major so I wanted an internship in the field of production and Oswego provided me with several great internship oppotunities to gain hands on experience in that field.

The company I chose to work for is called Showbizz Productions, a New York based television production company that was founded in 1999. Showbizz Productions provides all crew and equipment needs on set for its clients, focusing mostly on day of shoot needs with little involvement in the pre-production and post-production process.

For my first day, Bizz, owner of Showbizz Productions, allowed me to join him on location for his shoot that day. One of the main and most important things about beginning the day is loading all the equipment in a smart and safe manner, you have to arrange it all so it will fit, but you also have to know where to place things so equipment doesn’t get damaged.

Next is setting up all the equipment in correct places to achieve the desired look. One thing that I re-learned was three point lighting. This was a lighting design technique that I had learned in BRC 235 as a sophmore, and being able to see its implementation on a real set helped me better understand its application and the purpose behind setting up the lighting in this manner. Lighting is a very crucial step in creating a clean, clear, and professional looking shot. While it was only my first day on a professional production, I felt well prepared for being on set from my time spent in the classroom at Oswego learning both production techniques as well as their real world application.

In the future I am hoping to further expand my knowledge of lighting and learn new lighting concepts and techniques. The next step is to learn more about camera settings and composing a shot. This is a very complex process which I don’t expect to fully learn in just one day. Overall the first day was a great learning experience and I couldn’t of asked for a better learning environment.