On October 12, Creative Solutions LA (CSLA) celebrated its grand opening with a gathering of filmmakers and industry professionals for an evening of film, friends and food. Tables were set, lights were hung, and the back lot and showroom of CSLA became the freshest party in all of LA.
In all seriousness, people from all over California (and some from outside California) attended to welcome a new chapter of Creative Solutions, which is the combined brands of Teradek, SmallHD and Wooden Camera. The new location is conveniently located and represents the brands’ dedication to supporting fellow filmmakers in the largest film production market in the world.
But on to the actual event, there was quite a lot to see. Upon arriving, valet attendants at the front of the building took care of the parking, compliments of CSLA. On one corner of the party area was catering - a taco stand with 2 chefs constantly churning out fresh food and a build-your-own station complete with salsa, vegetables and utensils behind. Another corner was the bar where 2 bartenders served anything from soda to beers to straight cocktails.
The showroom had each brands’ popular solutions on display along the wall, from Wooden Camera’s Zip Focus to SmallHD’s Focus Bolt and Teradek’s ACI. A center table was also stacked with camera builds featuring Wooden Camera’s actual wooden camera replicas of ARRI, Sony, Canon and RED cameras.
Followers of our blog might recognize some of the names in attendance. Graham Sheldon, who just got back from a travel series in Switzerland, dropped by from San Diego. He recently worked with us on Filming at 11,000 Feet in Switzerland where he took the Teradek Bolt and RT wireless lens solution up to the Swiss Alps.
“I always enjoyed tinkering as a kid: Legos, rockets, K’Nex, old electronics, etc. I was also the kind of gamer that spent as much time fiddling with his loadout and assembling an arsenal as he did on the battlefield. Now I get paid to tinker with world class state-of-the-art camera tech for a living, preparing for a different kind of battle. How cool is that? There’s no denying that I’m a nerd, but at least I’m a happy nerd.” - Joshua Cote, 1st AC.
When people think about filmmaking, not many consider the arduous planning and prep that goes into making shoot day a success. Prep is the one chance for productions to gather all of the necessary gear, build and test to ensure that everything is working when shoot day comes around. From cameras to monitors to every single cable. You could say it’s even more important than the shoot itself!
Prepping varies from person to person, project to project, and company to company, so there’s no cookie-cutter way to do it. But there are better ways, and 1st AC Joshua Cote shares with us his approach.
Joshua, who we featured in How To Design the Optimal Camera Setup, typically preps for projects at Panavision in LA. If you follow him on social media, you know that he strives to keep all of his setups clean, efficient and most importantly optimized for the production, no matter how big or small.
Check out more of his work on his Instagram @cote_cam
The First Phone Call
“A truly thorough prep begins during that initial call regarding the job. I try to ask a lot of questions and obtain a lot of details before even showing up at camera prep. Ideally, I know exactly what we're shooting, as well as where and how we're shooting it. I make sure to be involved in the discussion regarding the camera package order between production and the rental house.”
“It would be great if you always got a chance to browse the treatment, to speak with post-production and VFX, and to have a quick chat with the Sound Mixer to see what he or she might need from you. But once in a while, you aren't given those opportunities. Before I arrive the morning of prep, I also push hard to obtain a detailed list of camera specs. You don't want to be prepping at the wrong resolution, only to find you're vignetting on the day.”
My Prep Day
“On the day(s) of camera prep, I bring my entire kit and lay out my most used tools like I’d imagine a watchmaker or carpenter does. I run through the package order and start to get an idea of which items I still need. I request a detailed list of camera accessories, brackets, and cables of specific lengths from my prep tech. The sooner I get my hands on everything we will be using during production, the easier it is for me to test it all, troubleshoot, and organize.”
“I put all batteries on charge, and then I start piecing together the camera package. I also always instinctively start the day by factory resetting the camera. I believe this habit started for me after I heard Austin Lewis explain why it’s a critical step of any camera prep on an episode of Cinematographer’s Insight. Resetting the camera back to factory settings gives you a chance to wipe away any unusual tweaks the previous users might have made, and forces you to go through nearly every submenu to fine-tune the camera to fit the specific needs of the shoot and preferences of the DP.”
“I test the Teradek Bolts and monitors, setup my Preston or WCU-4, and make sure the matte box, filters and lenses all play nice together. Side note: If you’re using a clip-on mattebox, always ask for one with a tray catch. It’ll spare you the embarrassment of shattering a filter one day. If your 2nd AC, DIT, and VTR are there at prep with you, they will assist you in many of these tasks. The monitors will be tested for color accuracy, LUTs will be loaded, the cards will be evaluated, and cases will be thoroughly organized and labelled. If you’re manning the prep alone, you’ll need to do all of this yourself, prioritizing what is most important. Each lens needs to be mounted to the camera, tested to make sure it is working properly and that the barrel marking are accurate, and mapped into your wireless follow focus system. It’s also great when you’re able to get some test frames or footage to show your DP.”
“I spend time at my preps obsessively fiddling with the camera build to make sure it’s clean, that cables aren’t hanging in the way of the operator, and that its balanced and comfortable to operate. Ideally, the camera sensor is sitting directly in the middle of the build’s center of mass. Since I often work on fast-paced commercial and music video shoots where the Camera Department is rarely given significant downtime to adjust for future setups and scenes, I tend to build my cameras in a way that allows all planned operating styles to occur without needing to rebuild. Last week I worked on a shoot that had the camera switching between handheld and Steadicam, in and out of a Hydroflex splash bag, and between lightweight Primes lenses and heavy Zooms. Piecing together a build at the prep that allows you to make those dramatic transitions in a few short minutes can be quite challenging.”
Why You Should Always Prep Thoroughly
There are so many moving pieces to a kit, it’s hard to keep track of everything. At the same time, you don’t want to stall the production because a seemingly small piece of equipment is missing or not working.
“If something doesn't work on set and you didn't test it at prep, the failure is entirely your own. If you make a planned switch to your camera build - say from primes to a zoom - and find that all the pieces don't fit together, you didn't prep the camera package well enough. If you forget to bring a crucial adapter ring for your mattebox, or didn't take the filters out of their pouches to make sure you've got the right ones - the blame should not be put on the rental house. With a full cinema camera package, there can often be thousands of cables, brackets, bolts, bits and bobs. Every one of them is your responsibility.”
“The production can often make your life even more difficult by making major decisions about the creative or the camera package during or even late into your prep day. Or they'll ask you to prep multiple camera packages alone when there really should be a handful of people prepping as a team. Or they'll deny you a prep day altogether. In those types of situations, you do your best and vocalize your concerns if need be. You can only work with what you've given. Hopefully your DP understands the situation and supports you if issues arise.”
“Everyone forgets something once in a while, especially if you work exclusively on commercials or short form projects. You can prep up to a dozen times in one month, switching between different rental houses, cameras, and crews. These shoots and preps can easily blend together and eventually, you're going to miss something. An experienced AC can recover from their mistake, hopefully before it becomes an issue or before any of the bosses take notice. You've either got to makeshift a solution right there on the spot, tap another department to see if they've got something that can save you, or quickly source the missing or replacement piece from the rental house or a nearby friend. Just don't lose your cool, and make sure you're entire department is aware of the issue and is working together on fixing it.”
“At one of my camera preps last year, I was alone, had too much to do and not enough time to do it, and was scrambling. I ended up forgetting to pair one of the wireless video receivers. Early the next morning, we had limited time to get set up and the pressure was on to begin shooting. My 2nd AC, Loren Azlein, quickly assembled a 17” monitor for video village and discovered my oversight with the receiver. Pairing it caused a delay and made us both look sloppy. She hasn’t let me live it down yet!”
“There’s been a few people who have reached out and asked: what makes you tick, how do you constantly keep motivated and constantly do? How I get through it is by putting myself in a place where I want to be. Rain, shine, traffic, whatever it is.” - Chris Grubisa, President, Executive Creative Director & Co-Founder of Chrilleks.
One of the beauties of working in this creative industry is that it can be done anywhere in the world. And it has - from the growing cinema industries in cities like Dallas and Nashville to small-scale commercial films being created in Phoenix. No matter where you go, there’s a career to be had in making awesome videos.
But for many filmmakers, moving to Los Angeles has always been a kind of aspiration. It’s a chance to work with the best professionals in the industry, with the biggest network of fellow filmmakers to develop and grow alongside. It’s the American Dream with sunny skies, palm trees and the coolest gear in the world.
Chris Grubisa and teammate & wife Aleksandra Lason decided to make the jump 2 years ago when they expanded their production house from Toronto to Los Angeles. Since moving, they’ve seen much more opportunities for work than ever before. Here’s their story:
“We started our production house Chrilleks Productions 8 years ago shortly after graduating film school. We graduated at the same time. During school we were working in the field, which led us to having multiple job offers directly after graduation. One of the offers was to work at separate rental houses in Toronto. I was at PS Production Services, Aleks at Sim Complete (formerly Sim Video)."
"Working at these rental houses was a great move for us, we were supplying gear to production crews working on the biggest films, commercials, and projects in Toronto, arguably in Canada. Just to give a bit of background, Toronto’s one of the top cities outside of Hollywood for film. “Hollywood North” - it became popular due to exchange rates and tax credits that films could receive. Quite a few massive feature films were shot in the city, meaning we were in the perfect spot for dealing directly with their crews, at times even befriending cast & crew members.”
“Through networking with people at the rental houses and simultaneously freelancing on nights and weekends, Aleks and I picked up a lot along the way: tricks, tips, set etiquette, knowing who and where in the city the shoots were happening. All directly from the best.”
“With the skills we gained, we climbed pretty quickly by mentoring senior positions on set: Executives, Directors, Producers. Aleks and I started to lose the challenge with set work. It became a job: wake up early, do the job, walk away. Aleks and I were both searching for more. After four to six months of working full time and freelance, we slowly started Chrilleks on the back end. We began to transition into where the challenge was: the business.“
"We started our company, Chrilleks, in 2011."
“We specialize in creating digital content for brands that span worldwide. From the beginning, we knew that social media was a direction where video was headed, the majority of our work is created for our clients social networks: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn. Their feeds are stacked with our work, gaining likes, shares, exposure which turn into sales. The content specifically aimed for the content to be viewed on mobile, which is where people’s eyes are today..”
Making the Move
“We work hard to make our company a success, and in many ways we’ve been fortunate to have our hard work validated. By constantly churning out videos that clients loved, we were getting calls to shoot for companies all over the world - the word was spreading. We knew that to take our brand further, we needed to head south of the border to Los Angeles. It’s the epicenter of everything brand, entertainment, trends and style - all the best talents, creatives, camera crews, technology, the mindset. In 2016 we decided to expand Chrilleks to Los Angeles, where we have Chrilleks’ 2nd Office, equipped with a studio. We also have our branch in Toronto as well, so we constantly fly back and forth.”
“The decision to move to LA actually started in 2014/2015 when Aleks and I first visited a few networking events. We knew several people who were located in LA via social media, we met up with them, other fellow creatives and companies. Instagram was untapped. No one really used the DM option and DMs weren’t really a thing yet. This made it extremely easy to get directly in touch of who we wanted to meet. We lined up the entire week from morning to night, utilizing every moment. It wasn’t a vacation, this was all self funded, and time and money were on the line. We mapped it out and hit all the pockets in Los Angeles, right down to Orange County.
“One of our main connections was filmmaker, Chris Ray, who I consider my biggest influence for expanding here. Ray, was one of the first people we met with, and as we were chatting, he threw out something unexpected: an invite to his commercial shoot he had happening the next day. Every day was locked in with meetings, but at the same time we didn’t want to miss this opportunity. So we pushed back all the meetings we had lined up, and the next day we were on set, meeting more LA connections. My “One Connection” video on my personal project, “Be Right Back Creating Something” (https://berightbackcreatingsomething.com) explains the full story.
“We worked with some amazing people on that shoot and it gave us a glimpse into what shooting in LA was like. That project led to others, and soon we knew that this was the right move for us. Two years later with stacks of projects in between Toronto and Los Angeles offices, Chrilleks had been thriving. I’m glad we bought that plane ticket to visit LA those years ago. Our lives have completely changed.”
“Life today moves fast, and especially in this industry, you’re at the forefront of style, technology, trends... there’s no answer to the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ question. Things happen so quickly and if you see an opportunity, jump on it.”
First Impressions of the Bolt XT
“My cinematography is very fast-paced and high energy I’m very flexible when it comes to portfolio. I split my camera combos into two packages: One allows me to be more relaxed, that includes the Sony a7SII, GoPro Hero 7 and the GoPro Fusion. A lot of my social videos are made with these cameras. It’s amazing how far you can really stretch their capabilities and produce beautiful visuals. My more serious creation process package includes: RED Epic, Dragon and Gemini sensors with Fujinon’s Cabrio and MK Lens series as well as Canon’s L Series lenses.”
“Sachtler tripods play a major part in my camera kits. Tripods go through the most amount of punishment. They’re in the trenches, water, dirt, constantly thrown around, bruised and battered, over and over again. Sachtler has never failed me. Core SWX batteries is right with me as well. Every battery is flight-friendly and have a super useful USB port. Both, Aleks and I are always working on planes, trains, automobiles, in constant motion. Having those batteries keeping us juiced they work right there with us. Core’s batteries can be used on camera and act as backup chargers for our devices. We’re running our clients social feeds, so we always need to be on. Phones charged, cameras powered. They’re super versatile especially for Chrilleks’ needs.”
“I recently picked up the Bolt 500 XT from Teradek which has also been super useful in all my productions so far. We always rented some form of Bolt or another in past shoots, it became a no brainer to purchase for every camera in our arsenal. The wireless set up is essential to what we do, we’re on all kinds of sets, interior and exterior. We flip our content quite quick, we want our clients to be able to see the visuals on site, thumbs up and on to the edit bays.”
Only Using the Best
“We were on a shoot recently for U.K’s fastest growing brand, Gymshark. They approached us to capturing their latest line, The Amplify Series. This was shot in Downtown LA directly in the heart of the Fashion District studio. Operating the Ronin II paired with our RED Dragon, along with a Rode mic for audio and Bolt feeding the wireless feed. The video went to our 17” SmallHD monitor on the other side of the studio for clients and director to view. They saw exactly what I saw, and made the process seamless.”
“The footprint on the Bolt is super compact, which is exactly how I like it. It’s lightweight and attached to the Ronin unnoticed. When on my feet with high energy, especially working with gimbals, I don’t want anything tying me down or holding me back. That’s my zone. If I’m limited in my movement I won’t get the best shots for my clients. The Bolt is extremely reliable, and that’s one less concern of mine when I step on set. I’m there to make beautiful images, tell a story, not to trouble shoot.”
“We’re working with the best brands, talents, creators in the world, in order to stay par at that level you need to bring your A game. In gear, in visuals in energy.”
“Chrilleks is everything digital content, micro content, snackable content, hero video content. our world is in consistent motion. Our clients can see the visuals as they happen, trust the editing process, thus making the creation process that much more fluid.”
“When the filming is going to be done in a studio, you know you’ll have plenty of space to lay out your gear without restrictions from the environment. But on run and gun, fast-paced shoots, you don’t have the personnel, transportation or space to bring tons of extra gear. So everything in your camera package has to be essential, and that all comes down to the planning.” - Kevin Kelleher, MoVI Op at Ironclad.
Some argue that prep day is the most important day of filming, because how you prep impacts every aspect of how your shoot unfolds. Prep day is an opportunity to meticulously choose, build and test every single piece of gear in your package. After all, if your gear isn’t properly working, what do you have to film with?
While we typically think of camera prep as just hand-picking the gear and building the setup, some productions require a much different approach. Our friends at Ironclad, a production company based in Virginia, specialize in run-and-gun cinematography where the entire team travels to locations (often remote) and is mobile through the entire shoot. Kevin Kelleher, a MoVI Op at Ironclad, shares how his team preps for productions on the road.
“It all comes down to the creative. Clients like Under Armour or Reebok come to us because they know we can craft a story and produce it from start to finish. Our team comes up with the story and how we want the scenes to be shot. Once the creative side is finished, we have to evaluate what kind of gear we need to achieve those shots.”
“For us, every single shoot we do is in a different environment, which means prepping can get really complicated. We start by discussing the plans in pre-production. How many days will we be out there filming? What’s the budget? How much can we afford to bring? By doing this we have a baseline for planning our gear like how many cameras we’ll bring and how many camera batteries we’ll need.”
“Then we look at how many people will be in the camera crew, and that just depends on the needs of the production, budget, and environment we’ll be in. If we have four people, we can afford to pack a little extra by divvying up the load between everyone. If we’re only sending two people, we have little to no space to bring anything but the essentials. Keep in mind that for most of our productions, we’re packing all of our gear on a plane. We have to abide by those limitations as well.”
“Then it comes time to choose the gear. Because our shoots are, for the most part, always outdoors and constantly moving, we need to pack lightly yet still have everything we need. We start with the staples first: RED cameras (Monstro and/or Dragon) outfitted with Teradek Bolts and SmallHD monitors. We always use Core SWX batteries and it’s just a matter of figuring out how many we can bring along. And of course we never travel without Pelican cases.”
“After the staples are packed, we have to decide what kind of extras to bring. We just wrapped up a 3-day shoot with Under Armour in Portland where the shoot required us to track athletes as they ran through the city. We knew this was going to be a fast-paced shoot, so we packed gear that could keep us mobile. 3 people each with a RED camera, 6 Core SWX batteries per person, and 2 terabytes of storage per person.”
“Monitoring was the difficult part. We wanted to give the Creative Director and client a way to see the feed from inside the van. So each camera was rigged with a Bolt 1000 transmitter, sending feeds to a 13” monitor in the van. A and B cams also sent video to a 703 Bolt that the Director kept on him. As the runners moved through the city, our camera team followed on foot or golf cart and the mobile video village (van) followed close behind.”
“We decided this build was necessary to get the right kind of footage. The fact that it was fast paced meant we wanted to maximize our time with camera capabilities. Shooting with 3 cameras simultaneously allowed us to cover everything on the shoot, and the Bolts helped us support our creative team with the proper monitoring solution.”
“On these shoots where we’re out all day long, we make sure to bring enough backups to cover all of our ground. Clients hire us to get the job done so we’re putting our reputation on the line. We always have backup cables, batteries, chargers, storage, antennas, velcro, gaff tape, etc. You don’t want to be the one holding up a production, or worse, missing a shot that won’t be repeated.”
Building the Rigs
“When you’re traveling, camera prep doesn’t always go as smoothly as a studio prep. Most of the time when we arrive at our destination, we have a day or less to get all the gear ready. This means building our rigs in the hotel or the back of a truck with access to only the gear that we brought.”
“There’s not a lot of time to do prep once we’re on location, so we do builds the day before. We mount the cameras to our MoVIs, pair our Teradeks, calibrate lenses, charge our batteries. If we have to, we’ll be up until 4AM prepping for a 8AM shoot. When it’s time to be on set with our clients, we’re completely up and ready to go.”
“We can’t stress enough how important it is to have gear that’s reliable. When we were on the road in remote locations like Haiti or Uganda, we didn’t have access to more gear in case anything broke down. You trust in the reliability and reputation of the brands you use, and it really pays to have quality equipment, especially when your production company is putting its business on the line.”
There are many reasons to be excited about our new live stream encoder, VidiU Go. It features two USB ports for 4G LTE modems, which either fit Teradek Nodes or any carrier-branded cellular broadband modem. Beyond that, VidiU Go has the ability to bond all of these network connections together.
Bonding combines all of the Internet connections going into the VidiU Go (2x USB modems, Ethernet, WiFi) and converts it into a single robust Internet source for streaming. Live streaming has always relied upon an Ethernet input or a single WiFi connection, which leaves users at the mercy of that Internet service. Internet goes down? You’re out of luck!
Bonding solves those issues. If one connection encounters bandwidth difficulties, the other connections will fill in and keep the stream running smoothly. At the same time, this also means you can take a camera anywhere, live stream and achieve a solid broadcast.
Does that sound like the solution for you? Take a look at these professionals and how they can benefit from the VidiU Go.
Forget the old mobile phone and selfie stick combo and take your daily streaming to the next level. Streaming from your phone not only produces poor video quality but also relies upon getting a consistent 4G signal from your carrier, which might not provide the necessary bandwidth to stream at a bit rate. Walk into a 4G dead zone and you’re really out of luck!
For anyone who live streams regularly - whether that’s at home, out and about or for a business - VidiU Go provides a more professional, high-quality video for your viewers. Bond several connections to ensure you’ll always give your audience HD video, and they’ll always come back for more.
From sports games to assemblies to graduations, schools are in the best position of any organization to live stream. But the bandwidth needed to provide a high-def stream might not be available in many schools across the country, not to mention, many common streaming locations lack adequate Internet access (auditoriums, soccer fields, gyms). This results in the lossy video streams you see on many schools’ Facebook Pages and YouTube channels.
VidiU Go offers an excellent solution for this. The two cellular USB ports allow it to operate solely on 4G LTE Internet, which means you can stream from classrooms, away games and anywhere where you couldn’t before.
Houses of Worship
Live streaming church services doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to start. If you’re a small church looking to venture into live streaming, or even a large church wanting to live stream at outdoor events, VidiU Go is the best way to provide a solid stream for your online congregation to enjoy.
There’s no denying that live streaming is an excellent way to reach and advertise to your company’s followers, but if your stream disconnects halfway through, that leaves a nasty stain on your brand’s reputation. A company’s image is reflected within the quality of the live stream. If you’re going to stream, use VidiU Go’s network bonding to ensure your video stays solid throughout the broadcast.
Many sports organizations are interested in broadcasting, but lack the funding to make it happen. We’re talking about niche sports (disc golf, indoor skydiving, drag racing, etc.) that want to increase their outreach and popularity but aren’t equipped renting enterprise broadcast gear. Even small teams want to broadcast to local fans without having to hire TV broadcasting equipment to make it happen.
No matter where the sports games are held, VidiU Go can stream reliably. Want to reach even more people? VidiU Go can also stream to multiple live platforms at the same time, getting more eyes on your content than ever before.
Special Events (Concerts, Conventions, Performances, etc.)
Previously, live streaming from special events wasn’t easy nor affordable, but VidiU Go changes that. While some events budget for expensive gear like broadcast trucks, many events transpire without broadcasting, because there isn’t a reliable Internet connection. VidiU Go gives every event organizer the chance to get their content on the Internet, whether that’s from remote locations or 4G congested areas.
A Universal Live Streaming Solution
If you’re looking to improve your existing broadcast setup or simply want to start getting your video out there, consider adding network bonding into your workflow. It’s the next step in giving your viewers crystal-clear live video.
“Cornerstone: Switzerland was one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever done. The goal was to take everything we knew about shooting feature films and apply it to a travel documentary show, but doing it at extremely high elevations, on the sides of mountains, and shooting everything cinematically.” - Graham Sheldon, Director of Photography.
Travel series are traditionally known for their handheld, down-to-earth video aesthetic that’s a natural culmination of low budgets, skeleton crews, and the nature of having to shoot with complete mobility and on the fly. In fact, even the late Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown (probably the most famous TV travel series of our time) was filmed in a way that was raw and undoctored. The cinematography focused on getting the shot at any moment’s notice rather than on the overall visual taste of the video.
DP Graham Sheldon wanted to take a different approach toward travel documentaries. An Emmy-winning feature film director and contributing writer for cinema publications, Graham created Cornerstone: Switzerland to tell a refreshing new narrative, using a cinematic style reminiscent of Chef’s Table and the wanderlust of the Travel Channel.
“The traditional travel series you see on TV and streaming all have the same episodic concept where every episode is something different. A different country, different culture, different foods. Those shows definitely have their charms, but we wanted to go more in-depth than that. We wanted to spend more time with the locals, explore the daily lives of professionals, and immerse our viewers into life in Switzerland.”
“We decided to make it a 6-episode series that follows one continuous format. It follows 5-6 characters per episode with occupations from a paper cutter to a world-class chef to a helicopter rescue pilot, with each character living in a different region of Switzerland acting as a tour guide for their area. The characters are all related to one another in some way, so the narrative transitions as if it’s all one storyline. As you move through the episodes, you learn more and more about the country and these everyday people who call Switzerland their home”
“We wanted to deviate from how travel shows typically work. Having locals be the hosts portrays Switzerland in a much more authentic way than if a foreigner hosted the show. So it’s both a glimpse into the daily lives of people as it is a series of wonderfully shot cityscapes and landscapes.”
“The challenging elements of the shoot, which included many lens swaps, the Ronin 2, the altitude, temperature changes and the need to move quickly in rapidly changing doc environments meant we needed to make the right decisions up front with gear, taking no more than what was essential, and ensuring the essential would prove reliable. Plus we needed a fool-proof wireless plan to prevent the show (filming over four weeks in Switzerland) from coming to a dramatic halt at the worst possible moment.”
“REDs were critical to achieving the style we wanted. A cam was a RED Monstro on my SHAPE shoulder rig with Sigma Primes and a Wooden Camera Zip Focus. I had the Teradek Bolt 500 LT sending video to our SmallHD 703 Bolt monitor, which was the absolute perfect piece of equipment. It was bright enough to give us a crystal-clear view no matter where we went, and the fact that it was all-in-one meant I didn’t have to worry about mounting, cables, or things falling apart during transport.”
“B cam was a RED Helium that also had Sigma Primes, all mounted to our Ronin 2 gimbal. We also had a Bolt 500 LT on this sending video to the same 703 Bolt, which gave our 1st AC a dual-view to monitor both cameras simultaneously. B cam needed to be focused wirelessly throughout the project, so the 1st AC used a Teradek RT wireless follow focus kit to achieve that. Aerial shots were done with our DJI Inspire 2”
“One thing that makes this similar to other travel shows is how fast paced everything is. Things can happen very quickly and there aren’t retakes if you miss the shot. We’re also running a 3-person camera crew with tons of equipment through mountainous terrain at freezing temperatures. We were going through towns and cities too, where we needed to stay mobile to get every shot.”
“We were up in the mountains of Zermatt filming with a guide who worked for Air Zermatt, a helicopter alpine rescue company based in that city. They were running training scenarios for us to film like retrieving an injured person, long line rescue, and landing the aircraft in tricky locations.”
“They ran through each scenario multiple times for us to get a couple of retakes. I would have my A Cam shoulder rig getting shots, removing it and picking up the drone to capture the same scenario in the air. My wife and Co-Producer Rin Ehlers on B cam had the Ronin 2 shooting the entire time and our 1st AC pulling focus from behind. This was high up in the mountains where we were hiking and moving the entire day. Running on full wireless for this project was the best choice we made.”
“Coming up with a story and executing it in 6-8 hours can be really tough, but that’s the kind of speed the music video industry expects. These big artists usually only have a day in their busy schedules, so the few shots we get have to really count. It’s a constant struggle between time, quality and the budget we have to work with.” - Mike Marasco, Founder & CEO of Raw Media House.
Music videos have become a staple in the music industry. They bring personality and color to the songs they represent, whether it’s the latest DJ Khaled hip-hop anthem or the slow-and-steady charm of a Sam Smith ballad. In fact, music videos can really affect the way the artist monetizes a tour, so it’s important to get it done right.
But not much thought goes into how these music videos are shot and the skills that it takes to create something millions of people consume. Mike Marasco (@mikemarasco), who has worked with superstars like Wiz Khalifa, 2Chainz, DJ Khaled, Beyonce and more, shares his approach towards creating music videos from start to finish.
“My career in doing music videos started a few years ago from skateboarding. I had been doing skateboard videos for 13 or 14 years, but one day I ended up falling and injuring my knee so badly I had to get screws in them. From that point on I couldn’t stand on a skateboard with a camera anymore, so I had to find a new passion and move on.”
“One day I get a call from one of my skateboarding buddies who told me he had a friend moving to Los Angeles and that she wanted to start doing web content. Her name is Karen Civil, and she wanted to create a show where she interviewed famous artists in an intimate one-on-one setting. She brought me on as the Director to handle all of the production of the first episode.”
“I went with Karen to do her first interview, and her guest was Currensy (the rapper). We filmed the whole thing, I took the footage home and edited the whole thing the same night. After that, she invited me to produce all of her videos here in LA.”
“Karen and I worked together for a couple of years as we made her show and brand grow. One day she asks me ‘You’ve been such a big help to me all these years. Is there anything I could do for you?’ I took her up on her offer, and I told her that my dream was to direct music videos. She says ‘Give me 10 minutes.’”
“She makes a few phone calls, and in under 10 minutes she tells me she has a gig for me. They needed a Director to create a music video for Ty Dolla Sign and Juicy J! I was ecstatic because 2 years before this, I was inspired by a Juicy J music video to pursue this as a career, and now it came around full circle.”
“I’ll forever be grateful to Karen Civil for my first big gig. Working with her really took my life in a new direction. Soon after that, I started my own production company Raw Media House, and now I have the amazing opportunity to work with biggest artists and brands in the industry.”
Creating a Story
“One of the hardest parts of music video production is coming up with a creative story. Music videos complement the songs they’re based on, and you want to create something that reflects the song’s vibe. When I was the DP for DJ Khaled’s “Top Off”, it has a very quick beat with a lot of hype lyrics. To match with the song, the final video used a series of slow-mos with vertical movements from our crane to give his Maybach car a big introduction.”
“Before shoot day, producers send me a sample of the song. What I like to do is take the sample, throw it into Adobe Premiere with some random video and start cutting it to the beat. By doing this, I can visualize how I want the final video to look like, which gives me a better idea of how I want the video to be shot. I’ll then work with the DP (or Director if I’m the DP) to come up with a shot list.”
“This is when I have to decide whether that fits the budget we’re given, and how much of it is possible given our conditions (time, gear, personnel). I also like to meet with the artist and learn about his or her story, which helps me to figure out how to put that story into a video. You combine all of these factors together and you come up with a plan for how to shoot the music video.”
“Once you have an outline of the music video, you have to choose the right gear. If I’m in a position to choose our gear, I like to use the ARRI Alexa Mini with Lomo Squarefront Anamorphics to give music videos a dirty-unique look. On this camera we always have a Teradek Bolt 500 transmitter with a 703 Bolt handheld monitor that I either keep in video village or bring around with me on set. If we have a moving camera, I have a 1st AC using the Teradek RT wireless follow focus.”
“Sometimes we’ll be shooting on two cameras like my work as camera op on DRAM’s “Gilligan” music video. On this project we had two REDs with 25-250mm Cooke lenses. We had two Bolts going to several video village SmallHD monitors.”
“What you choose really comes down to the experience with working in the industry. Beginners might have a hard time determining the right gear for the treatment they’re given. But once you have a set of go-tos, you’ll know exactly what camera, gimbal and video systems you’ll need.”
Assembling a Team
“Your team of camera ops, makeup, camera assists, gaffers and others are essential to achieving your vision. If they know how you like to work and what kind of shots you want, your team can speed up the production time. I choose people who not only do an awesome job on set, but people that I chatted and really connected with. Team chemistry is so important, especially on fast-paced shoots like these.”
“The art department is especially useful because they help design the sets. If you want a performance shot of an artist, what will the surroundings look like? What outfits are the artists and talents wearing? Art departments take your ideas and bring them to life, so it’s very important to work closely with them.”
Shooting the Music Video
“A lot of music videos have very little turnaround time. It’s rare to know about a project a month in advance - usually they’ll contact you the week before the shoot date - so it leaves little to no room for prep or scouting.”
“With a team I trust and really vibe with, they know exactly how I want to shoot the video. So the moment we get on set, the camera crew prep all of the gear and I scout the location (if it’s not a studio). I get all the lighting set up, run tests, and by the time the artists arrive, we’re ready to start filming.”
Post-Production Skills a Plus
“When I first started in the industry with Karen Civil, I had already been playing with editing for over 10 years. That was back in the day doing VCR to VCR editing. When the PC started getting popular, I started playing with Adobe Premiere for skateboarding videos. Those editing skills translated into the professional world, and is one of the main reasons why I was able to get my foot in the door. When you can edit your own videos, you’re able to retain your creativity from the shot list all the way to the final product. That’s super valuable in the music video world.”
“All cinematographers and directors looking for a career in music video production should know how to edit in Adobe Premiere. If you know how to cut, you’ll get a better understanding on how to create the look and feel of a music video so much more.”
Check out more of Mike Marasco's work on his Instagram: @mikemarasco
The Teradek ACI is our new module for RED DSMC2® cameras that makes adjusting camera parameters a breeze. Camera assistants can quickly change settings directly on the assistant side of RED cameras without disrupting the flow on set, or use a remote to change settings wirelessly.
Here is a quick Q&A on the ACI:
Who is the ACI for?
ACI is the perfect tool for camera assistants, operators, DITs, or anyone in charge of managing camera settings. ACs and operators can easily configure settings from the operator side of the camera. DITs can also access settings from the comfort of their workstations with built-in wireless functionality.
What kind of workflows is the ACI for?
ACI caters to any production where time is critical. From studio sets to run-and-gun environments where changing camera settings could be a hassle, the ACI offers an efficient alternative to using RED’s default settings menu.
What cameras are the ACI modules compatible with?
ACI modules connect seamlessly to any camera in RED’s DSMC2 collection.
How does the ACI communicate with the camera?
ACI offers a remote control panel (RCP) port that is hardlined to the camera body.
What are the differences between the 3 models?
ACI is the base model for adjusting settings using the buttons and jog wheel directly on the camera.
RF.ACI is the wireless version that can be used either on-camera or as a remote for camera control. This requires a second RF.ACI or MDR.ACI on the camera. Perfect for drones, cranes, and virtually any workflow where the camera is mobile.
MDR.ACI is also a wireless version, but with a built-in Teradek RT receiver for focus, iris and zoom functions. This can be paired with any Teradek RT controller and motors to give you lens control and camera control in one simple package.
What devices do I need to use the RF.ACI wirelessly?
All that’s required is an RF.ACI to use as a remote and a second RF.ACI or MDR.ACI to use on-camera.
Will the RF.ACI / MDR.ACI pair with a MK3.1 receiver?
ACIs do not pair with the MK3.1 receiver.
How about the Latitude M / Latitude Sidekick?
ACIs will eventually pair with either the Latitude M or Latitude Sidekick for full wireless camera control. Coming soon.
How do I control lenses with the MDR.ACI?
MDR.ACI integrates with the entire Teradek RT ecosystem and acts as an MDR. It can be paired with any Teradek RT controller (MK3.1, CTRL.1, Smartknob, etc.) and motors (MK3.1, MOTR.X) to give you an all-in-one lens & camera control solution.
How far is the wireless range?
Modules feature 2.4GHz FHSS radios, which can reach up to 5,000 ft.
How do I power the on-camera ACI?
ACIs intended for on-camera use will include a cable with a single LEMO input into the ACI. The cable is split into a D-Tap and RCP LEMO cable on the other end.
How do I power the handheld RF.ACI?
RF.ACI remotes can be powered with Sony L-series or Canon LP-E6 batteries.
Can I attach an ACI on top of a Teradek RT Sidekick?
At this time, the ACI and Sidekick modules cannot be stacked. We will continue to find ways integrate as many DSMC2 accessories as possible.
Does the ACI also transmit wireless video?
No, the ACI line only supports camera and lens control. For a module that transmits wireless video, check out the Bolt DSMC2 module.
Will the ACI be available in other languages?
Yes, the ACI will eventually have support for multiple languages.
The first international language will be Chinese.
When will the ACI start shipping?
ACI will begin shipping in Fall 2018. More details on an official date will come.
“When we’re shooting, I’m constantly thinking about the trick and how to give viewers the best idea of what it means to pull off that trick. These skaters put an insane amount of time and effort into what they love despite the risks. As a filmmaker, it’s my goal to capture that spirit and passion in the most epic way possible.” - Ty Evans, Director/CEO of Ghost Digital Cinema.
Skateboarding and videography exist side-by-side; where athletes scrounge up what they can to afford any camera systems that can get their tricks on video. In fact, skateboard videography is renown for exuding that homemade feel, with most videographers being skaters themselves picking up a camera and learning how to film from scratch. It’s a form of filmmaking that’s exciting as much as it is humbling.
But what was once just a hobby for many of these young athletes has now grown into a popular art form with a substantial fandom in the action sports film world. It’s not uncommon to see super well-produced skateboarding videos that capture athletes in the most creative and epic way possible.
Ty Evans, who recently released his feature film The Flat Earth, has taken skateboarding cinematography to a level that all fans of the sport strive for. He shares with us his tips for shooting action sports and what it means to film skateboarding with cinema cameras.
Back to the Roots
“I started skating in 1985, back when there wasn’t that big of a scene for filming this kind of content, nor was it easy to access videos if you wanted to watch the pros. Cameras were expensive back then, and no one had little 4K phones to just start recording on a whim. But I grew up watching the skate videos of Stacy Peralta, who was one of the few people making these in the 80s. Instead of watching TV shows or movies, I would watch these skate videos hundreds of times. I knew right then and there that this is what I wanted to do, so I pursued it.”
“In the 90s, I really started pursuing filmmaking as a career. I worked on commercial sets as a ‘skateboard operator’ where they had me doing a primitive form of a roaming camera. That’s where I started learning traditional production elements and branched out into as a commercial director. 3 years ago, I started my own production company Ghost Digital Cinema where I now work on commercial and feature films.”
“There’s two types of shooting styles when it comes to action sports films. The first is big budget action sports films, where a client will fund a production company to make a large scale film. These are ran with huge crews and everything else that comes along with a traditional film set. Good for large scale productions, but can be very challenging for a skater to work in this environment.”
“The other way is going back to our roots - the days where we filmed with just a camera in our hands at any random location we could skate in. Except instead of just cheap camcorders, I bring my entire kit of cinema tools to push the boundaries of what is possible in action sports filmmaking.”
“Shooting skateboarding is all about making viewers feel like they have the best seats in the house.” Here are some general rules to achieve that.
“Filming tricks and making them look stunning isn’t as easy as it seems. To fully capture what it means for an athlete to do these tricks that they spent so much time to perfect, you have to understand skateboarding. When we choose a spot and what trick is going to be executed, I’m constantly thinking of what is the best tool in the tool box to translate what is happening. By understanding how monumental a trick is, I know what angle to approach it with.”
Wide Angle Lens
“Seeing a skater randomly flying through the air on a longer lens can sometimes look odd, so I usually film with a wide angle lens close to the skater to show the entire scope of the trick. The wide angle lens tends to make the obstacle look larger, thus emphasizing the distance traveled when a skater does a trick.”
Low Angle Shots
“The shot I go to a lot is having my camera low to the ground and tilted upwards at a 15 degree angle. In skateboarding, most of the action is on the lower body and whatever ground or obstacle the skater is working with. Putting the camera there makes the shot much more immersive for the viewer and they can see everything that goes into the tricks.”
“When I started filming in the 90s, there weren’t any tools like gimbals to keep the camera steady. But just these past few years, gimbals have evolved so much that it’s become an important part of everyone’s setup.”
“My personal favorite gimbal system is the Freefly MoVI Pro. It’s completely integrated so you can mount your camera, motors and other accessories. It runs completely on batteries, and keeps your whole setup lightweight. When I’m filming skateboarding, I’ll have these for roaming shots where I’m also on a skateboard following the skater.”
“With gimbals you’ll also need wireless video because it’s impossible to have a cable going to the monitor when you’re moving at a fast pace. For these shots I always use the Bolt 500 with a 703 Bolt receiver monitor. A lot of times when I’m operating, I’ll need a 2nd operator to control the pan & tilt, lens, and camera so I can focus on getting the right shots. The Teradeks are super important to getting these moving shots, so I always have them with me in my kit.”
Prepared For Anything
“The true essence of skateboarding is the idea that you make the best of your surroundings. Wherever you’re filming, whether it’s an abandoned park or any urban setting, be prepared for anything, as sometimes things need to be fixed or changed to make a location skateable.”
“In my van, I have everything we need to facilitate skateboarding. If it gets too dark, I have a power generator with lights. If there’s a crack, I have autobody filler. If anything needs to be altered, I have a cordless saw and grinder. Basically everything we need to make skating there possible.”
The Flat Earth
“The Flat Earth is a feature film that highlights the wide array of shots we were able to do with skateboarders. From MoVI shots to a Shotover F1 on a helicopter, we used a ton of professional cinema gear to show how skateboarding can be captured in new and exciting ways, and that skateboarding videos can be portrayed just as cinematically as any other sport. It’s a pure passion project that we’ve been wanting to do for years, and we’re super excited to have completed it.”
Check out The Flat Earth on the iTunes store here:
Lens control has traditionally left camera assistants either tethered to the camera or adjusting lenses directly on the camera body. While these are generally uncomplicated for camera assistants, they're generally not the best practices in today's movement-heavy workflows, because camera departments will have to be conscious of both the operator’s and AC’s positioning. On shoots that require any kind of mobility in the camera, this will be pretty impractical, especially when it involves movement systems.
With wireless cinema tools getting more advanced, precise and overall more reliable, wireless is starting to become the norm on today’s production sets. In fact, many technologies nowadays like the Teradek Bolt work just as flawlessly as our old cabled friends, having become a permanent part of every major cinematographer’s toolkit.
Wireless lens control is just as important to have on set as wireless monitoring though, and the Teradek RT line of lens control has become an industry favorite in the past few years. Recently playing big roles on Thor:Ragnarok, Pacific Rim: Uprising, and Westworld, the Teradek RT line has been used by professionals to capture some of the biggest films this year. In addition, many small commercial productions and even churches have added this to their arsenal.
So why should you also give wireless lens control a shot?
1. Essential to Movement Systems
Productions small and large these days want cameras to be completely mobile, whether it’s cranes, dollies, drones, Steadicams, or even handheld. Camera mobility, and the wide array of modern camera systems that are available now, allows filmmakers to shoot from compelling new angles that were previously impossible or too expensive to do.
On shoots that demand a lot of movement, it’s impossible to keep a system tethered to the camera. That’s why camera teams have shifted towards going fully wireless.
On the set of Pacific Rim: Uprising, drone cinema company XM2 was brought on to capture background plates for the giant robots that would be added in through VFX. XM2’s drone flew 300-400 feet in the air and up to a mile away, carrying an Alexa Mini. The only way to control FIZ was through a wireless system, which XM2 relied on the Teradek RT to do.
Being tethered means having to not only pack extra cables during setup, but also breaking down and packing after a shoot. Camera assistants don’t want to worry about cabling, especially on run-and-gun and time-sensitive productions where filming can be rushed. Having a wireless lens control means ACs and operators can be ready to go at a moment’s notice without the hassle of worrying about cables.
3. Versatile for Any Production
Even on productions that don’t require movement, the simplicity of having a wireless system that’s just as reliable as a cabled one makes it much more desirable. Like wireless monitoring, having wireless lens control allows camera teams to adapt to any sudden changes or setbacks on production without needing to disrupt the flow on set. Need to change locations on a whim? No problem, the camera is instantly ready to go. Need to mount the camera on a MoVI? Camera assists are ready to pull focus. The versatility this offers gives camera teams one less limiting factor to worry about.
As cinematography gets more mobile and stabilized systems grow in popularity, wireless lens control is becoming essential to camera setups. Whether you work on run-and-guns or studio productions, there’s no better time than now to incorporate systems like Teradek RT into your arsenal.