5 THINGS LEARNED FROM SHOOTING A 60 SECOND CAMPAIGN AD

Here’s a one minute commercial commissioned by NHS and Oxford University. I filmed it in Oxford this month…

This had to be filmed in a day with a family who were lovely but who had no acting experience. It was low budget so we had no crew beyond a wonderful producer (see below) and a couple of work experience youngsters (yes, we paid them!).

It turned out well, with everyone very happy but the lessons I learned were…

KEEP IT SIMPLE 1

I made a late call to film it all on the Canon C70 and to just use the one camera. This was a GOOD decision. The C70 stuff always just looks great straight out of the camera – it’s an easy camera to get good results with. That’s why I use them for teaching my film school courses. My old Canon C300 was the same. I had thought about using the C70 and my R5 C on a gimbal. I’m glad I didn’t do that. It’s filmed in C Log-2 1080 25p – I don’t think there’s much point in filming 4K when the piece will be seen online.

KEEP IT SIMPLE 2

In fact, I decided to ditch gimbals and tripods and film it all handheld. Partly because I wanted a more human, involved look. Partly because I didn’t want the faff and the extra clutter in a small domestic space. This was SUCH a good move and gave me so much flexibility in getting the camera in the right positions – several of the shots are done with me wedged into a tiny space alongside a wardrobe. I used lens Image Stabilisation to cut down on any shakiness and did all the usual, old-style documentary stuff to keep things steady using the handstrap and a side handle for my left hand. Still felt weird heading off to a shoot without a tripod, though!

KEEP IT SIMPLE 3

It’s mostly filmed on two multi purpose zooms – the Canon RF 24-70 2.8 and the RF 70-200 2.8. I did have the RF 15-35 2.8 on standby but never needed to be that wide. The prettier shots of the little girl lying down are on a Samyang 85mm 1.4.

KEEP IT SIMPLE 4

I knew from a recce visit the house was bright and on the day we had strong sunlight coming and going through the windows. This meant NOT using a lovely, spacious kitchen/living area at the back of the house because it hand so many windows and skylights. Instead, we used bedroom, hallway and lounge, each with just one window wall. I used the family’s net curtains (the ones in the lounge where the medical stuff takes place were pretty close to unbleached muslin) and I put a frame outside the window with another lot of doubled up nets over it to soften the light. Then I put an Aputure 600D outside with a softbox and bashed that at the window to give a constant light level level. That way I knew we wouldn’t be worried by the sun coming and going. We bashed an Amaran 200d with diffusion against the light grey back wall of the lounge, cranking it up until there was around a two stop difference between light and dark side on the faces. This took a bit of precious time but was a good move – it just gave us a nicely lit but natural looking space to film the more documentary stuff later in the film. All the other shots are done using natural, diffused light and a Aputure 300d with light dome to even out the light from plausible source points.

KEEP IT SIMPLE 5

The best single thing was to work with a producer, the impossibly charming Jo Elliott – herself a filmmaker from Oxford. Jo did all the front-of-house/people-wrangling stuff, leaving me to grumble away behind the camera just getting the shots. Without her managing the day, it would have been stressful: hot day, domestic setting, young children. Jo kept everyone happy and got the day done. That helped enormously and so did the nurse in the piece – a close friend of mine called Angie. Yes, she is a qualified nurse.

Those were the simple things. FWIW, the whole thing was shot using a 1/8 black pro mist filter to soften the image – a good move – and with the colour temperature set around 6000K to warm up the pictures a bit.

Things which, in retrospect, I wish I’d done differently?

FOR NEXT TIME 1

I would have liked more time to be able to change lenses and use primes with wider apertures – you really notice the difference with the shots of the little girl lying on her bed, shot at f/1.4 on an 85mm (but on a C70 sensor). But don’t we always want more time?

FOR NEXT TIME 2

Like nearly all my stuff, I shot it at 25fps. In retrospect, I wish I’d shot it at 50fps and slo-mo’d some shots. When I edited it, I found I was using tiny bits of movement and tending to be slowing even those down. 50fps would have given me more frames to work with. Still: interesting working with a shot rhythm of two seconds as against a more documentary editing pace.