Archive for the ‘filmmaking’ Category

“It’s not a movie if it’s not a horror on the set. If you’re dealing with talent…that are passionate…they are going to be opinionated. And there are bound to be differences. And that’s when magic happens.”
Precious director and Empire creator Lee Daniels
Independent Film interview with Corey Boutilier

Quote pulled from my January 17, 2010 post. 

P.S. I’m sure every movie set isn’t a horror—but it’s hard to beat the behind the scenes conflict on Apocalypse Now. Here’s a Vimeo remix by Brian Carroll which takes clips from the 1979 movie and the behind the scene doc Hearts of Darkness.

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Following the Steve Martin advice to “Be so good they can’t ignore you” is the story of Jacob Fray.

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“If the show goes badly, we tell that story anyway.”
Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain

Every production has its trouble spots, but Parts Unknown hosts Anthony Bourdain takes comfort in knowing that the worst disasters often make for good television. Why? Because conflict holds our attention. And for Bourdain’s show that strives for authenticity, inauthenticity is the enemy. Here’s a scene from Sicily where things got comical.

And here’s a video of Bourdain explaining how things went south for an episode of No Reservations shot in Romania. A show which he said was the worst shoot of his career, but one he also considers a “comedy classic.”


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“Is sound going to be a problem? Yeah. Is lighting going to be a problem? Yeah. Does that matter? No.”
Executive Producer Chris Collins while shooting footage on the streets of India




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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 4)

“I like the new evolving relationship between DP and colorist. It’s such a collaboration—ya got to take care of each other. There are so many options now for them that you got to have a good relationship. Steve’s awesome. The guys an amazing colorist. You both have to support your best skills.” 
Zach Zamboni on working with colorist Steve Beganyi on Parts Unknown

While today Parts Unknown is shot on a Sony F5, and used a Sony F3 before that, they have been known to mix things up for various reasons. Like in the episode shot in Libya where they included footage shot on camera phones.

“The phone footage gave the whole show a desaturated look and those sections were overstylized, which we pulled through the whole show. The people that he talked to just made that show so memorable. He’s basically hanging out with rebels who overthrew the government!”
Steve Beganyi
Studio Daily interview with Beth Marchant 
December 2, 2013

As of that 2013 Parts Unknown was edited on AVID, but colorist Steve Beganyi did his work on Blackmagic Designs DaVinci Resolve.  Here’s how Beganyi spoke about Blackmagic in that StudioDaily interview, “It’s really amazing to be able to track through the scenes, especially when you’re trying to pull out the flattened details in the S-log footage and just protect the skin tones or just project the sky. The qualifiers and tracking tools together are so helpful. When you’re trying to break down an image, the more subtle control you have over it, the more unique look you can give to it.”

And this is a good time as any to say that Parts Unknown doesn’t always go overseas to find it’s exotic locations.

“For me, personally grading the Detroit episode was the most meaningful. I’m from Cleveland, and this was a very powerful show about the Midwest’s most infamous city trying to pretty much come back from nothing. It was really uplifting.”
Steve Beganyi
Studio Daily interview with Beth Marchant 
December 2, 2013

P.S. I was in at the Blackmagic booth yesterday at Infocomm in Orlando and look forward to working more with their tools this year.

Scott W. Smith

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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 3)

“Who doesn’t like seeing stuff at 120 or 240 (frames per second)? The thing about high speed footage is it’s very easy to use too much of that stuff. Ya got to tie it into the story otherwise people get tired of it. We try to use it judiciously. A couple of great shots in the show is good.”
Parts Unknown DP Zach Zamboni

I don’t know if things changed since Zach Zamboni made that comment or that the editors ignored that for the Parts Unknown episode on Korea, but I recall seeing at least three slow motion shots in under a minute. (But maybe that was a promo, not the show.)  But the case can be made whether it’s shooting at 120 or 240 frames per second, shooting with a fisheye lens, or extreme telephoto—that less is usually more.

Here are some more behind the scene lighting concepts taken from Parts Unknown DP Zamboni’s talk at Cine Able.

*  String of lights with an Edison plugs. These are 20 feet in length and have 24 sockets. Because “everywhere in the world you can buy an Edison bulb—Compact florescent or warm florescent , or tungsten, screw those in and you have a pretty significant light source,” says Zamboni. Because they shoot in a lot of bars and restaurants he finds the string of lights can be hung on rafters and in general blend into the environment. The string of lights can also be jammed into a Chimera pancake.

  • 1X1 Light panels (Not sure what kind they use, but I’ve used the Litepanel 1X1 bicolor before. Small form size—just one square foot. Able to be balanced for daylight or tungsten or somewhere in between. Also able to be battery operated. If using on people you must use diffusion to avoid specular highlight from the dozens of small LED lights that make up the 1X1.
  • LED SOLA Fresnels
  • 12X12 net, 12×12 quarter silk, 12X12 silk (Didn’t say brand, but here’s a Matthews silk.)

And he offered up this practical advice:

“If you want any longevity on shooting you gotta have good posture.” Watch toward the end of the Abel Cine presentation where he shows out he shoot to spare his back.

Scott W. Smith


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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 2)

Director of Photography Zach Zamboni says one of the things that gives Parts Unknown is its cinematic look is host Anthony Bourdain is an encyclopedia of movies and passes on special movie or movie scene references to the crew before they shoot in each country.

And it does help that they have some of the finest tools to help them pull that off. (I’ll list some of them below.) But even before they had the latest, greatest they began with a with a cinematic mindset. They used the Panasonic DVX 100 (“The camera that changed everything,” says Zamboni. ) Then the cameras evolved over the years including the Sony Ex3 and the Sony F3.

These days they shoot mostly with the Sony F5 & Sony F55 cameras and live in a PL mount world giving them a wide choice of lens (with a preference for Panavision Primos.).  They carry with then two sets of prime lenses and two 19-90mm zooms.

“Put on [ISO] 3200 on super speed [prime lens] and you can shoot anything. You’re getting stuff that you can’t see with your eyes. You turn on the monitor and go—WOW!”
Zach Zamboni
A Discussion with Zach Zamboni DP

They also shoot on SXS cards to record data. But don’t dump the footage onto drives. They simply bring “a ton of cards” for all their shooting. And lastly for today, 90% of the show is handheld.

Scott W. Smith

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