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Spinning Wheel Got to Go Round

Some fun projects from this past spring.

Dave Gellis is a musician and the lead guitarist for the band Blood, Sweat and Tears. If you are of a certain age you’ll remember the band well for their earnest takes on Spinning Wheel, And When I Die, and You’ve Made Me So Very Happy. I filmed Dave for a customer testimonial for Signia Hearing Aids. The project was produced and directed by Connect Marketing. I acted as DP and the primary camera operator.

Frame grab: Dave Gellis for Signia Hearing Aids. DP: Jon Roemer. Production and Direction: Connect Marketing. Wanaque, NJ. May, 2018. * Click the photo to link to the video. *

I can’t embed the video but you can view it on YouTube by clicking the image above or via this link.

Dave graciously opened his home studio to us to use as our primary location. We also filmed him at a local park and meeting with his audiologist, Dr. Donna Szabo.

The interviews were filmed as two-camera setups with Canon C300 Mark IIs. Canon Compact Servo lenses were used on each, the CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 and the CN-E 70-200mm T4.4. The cameras recorded in Clog3 Cinema Gamut.

Behind the scenes – Signia interview setup in Dave Gellis’, home recording studio. Wanaque, NJ. May, 2018.

Working in a small space is always a challenge and working in a small space with a low ceiling, white walls, a large computer screen, and framed artwork is even more so. But Dave’s home studio couldn’t have been a better space to have the environment help tell his story. Luckily, there was just enough space to make it work.

The first order of business was to figure out the camera angles. One element of that was placing Dave to camera left or camera right while leaving space for on-screen messaging and lower-thirds. I also wanted to avoid having the computer screen directly behind Dave’s head.

Frame grab: Dave Gellis, Signia Hearing, A Camera. Canon C300 Mark II, CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 @ ~20mm and f/4. Wanaque, NJ. May, 2018.

As seen in the BTS shot above, placing Dave to camera left was perfect. It kept him away from the computer screen, it kept the wall art in the shot, and it enabled me to include his guitar in the frame on camera left. It also made for a nice B Camera perspective with the lava lamp and the computer monitor out of focus in the background.

Frame grab: Dave Gellis, Signia Hearing, B Camera. Canon C300 Mark II, CN-E 70-200mm T4.4 @ 70mm and f/4. Wanaque, NJ. May, 2018.

I did clean up the background a bit, to simplify it, but not a tremendous amount. With the cameras set I double-checked to make sure the computer monitor seen in the frame was not flickering or showing banding. It was not. I also turned its brightness down significantly so that it would not blow out on screen.

For lighting, while the temptation in a situation like this might be to bounce a few lights off of the ceiling or the walls that was not the answer here. Had I done that I would have gotten reflections in the multiple glass surfaces and Dave would have blended in more with background due to the softer lighting.

I used four lights to light the space. Three can be seen in the BTS shot above. Two Litepanels Astras were my key and fill and two Litepanels Sola 4 fresnels were my specials. The key light was to camera right, an Astra in a Litepanels/DoPChoice Snapbag Big with the “Magic” diffuser on the front. This provided a soft but directional key light which highlighted Dave and also helped light the room.

The Magic diffuser is one of the front diffusion panels which is included with the Snapbag Big. It’s a denser material than grid-cloth and it illuminates smoothly and evenly, like a translucent sheet of plexiglass.

The fill light, as seen in the BTS image up top, is the second Astra to camera left in a smaller softbox with a fabric grid on it. The grid helped keep the light focused on Dave. It also helped light the control board on camera right.

Color balance was set to daylight and the room lights were turned off while filming. Keeping the lights at a daylight color temperature ensured that the monitor did not render as overly blue, something that would have occurred with a tungsten balanced scenario.

The two special lights, the Litepanels Sola 4 fresnels, highlighted different areas of the frame. One, seen to camera left in the BTS photo above, lit Dave’s guitar. The other, not visible in the BTS photo, was to camera right, behind the key light. It lit the Jaco Pastorius print which is center frame above the computer monitor.

Frame grab: Dave Gellis jamming. Canon C300 Mark II, CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 @ 18mm and f/4. Wanaque, NJ. May, 2018.

I also filmed Dave in the same space jamming to a backing track. For that, the lighting stayed the same except for the fill light. It was turned off to create a more directional key light on Dave. In the screen grab above you can see how nicely the Astra with the Snapbag Big softbox and the Magic diffuser wraps the light around Dave.

Frame grab: Dave Gellis, Signia Hearing. Canon C300 Mark II, CN-E 70-200mm T4.4 @ ~150mm and f/4. Wanaque, NJ. May, 2018.

The exterior clips of Dave were shot with available light in a local park. I relied on the camera’s dual-pixel autofocus to track and hold focus on Dave as he walked through the frame.

Frame grab: Dave Gellis and Dr. Szabo confer over Signia Pure hearing aids. Canon C300 Mark II, CN-E 18-80mm T4.4, handheld. Westwood, NJ. May, 2018.

The audiologist’s office, seen in the frame grab above, was a tighter space to film in than Dave’s home studio. I lit it by bouncing two Astras off of the ceiling to bring the light levels up and to create a general fill in the room. There was literally no room for soft boxes or other modifiers. Space was so tight that the B-camera for the interview with Dr. Szabo had to be outside in the hallway looking in.

Frame grab: Signia Pure hearing aids, detail shot. Canon C300 Mark II, CN-E 18-80mm T4.4. Westwood, NJ. May, 2018.

Production and direction of the Signia testimonial was by Neil Myers of Connect Marketing. B Camera and grip by Chris Flanegan. Thanks to Jem Schofield.

Filming b-roll on the streets of New York City. #ScotlandIsNow project. New York, NY. April, 2018.

For another project back in April, again with thanks to Jem and Chris, I helped document the New York City launch of Scottish Development International’s #ScotlandIsNow campaign (SDI). I shot b-roll around the city and then filmed the launch event at the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca.

A surprise guest at the launch was Scotsman and actor, Alan Cumming. It was a blast to meet him and film a short spot with him. You’ll need to click this link or the play icon in the embedded SDI tweet below to see the video which SDI produced:

Frame grab: actor Alan Cumming. #ScotlandIsNow launch campaign. New York, NY. April, 2018.

This and other interviews for the project were filmed in a very crowded noisy bar in the Roxy Hotel during the launch party. I was able to rig one of my Astras with a softbox and wedge it into a banquette as my key light. The Astra was set to tungsten to match the room light and I powered it with a v-mount battery to be cord free in the crowded space. I mic’d Alan with a wireless lav and I had a shotgun on the camera as a backup. SDI left some of the ambient noise in the final video to keep the feel of the scene. I was glad to see the exterior b-roll and some of the event b-roll make the cut as well.

#ScotlandIsNow setup for bar interviews. C300 Mark II, 24mm f/1.4L II, and a battery powered Astra. New York, NY. April, 2018.

For the bar interviews, I shot wide open with a Canon 24 f/1.4L II prime lens in order to let in as much ambient light as possible and to keep my ISO as low as possible. I don’t recall what the ISO was but it was most likely somewhere in the ISO 3200 – 6400 range.

Fun projects all around. So, let’s ride a painted pony and let the spinning wheel spin.