Friday, November 14, 2008

Let's Make a Movie

We had a wonderful time filming and creating a movie trailer for Emily and Danny who were married at the Ritz at Half Moon Bay last month.  We never do it alone.  Here are some of the fine cast of characters:

Venue:  Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay, Tony White
Coordinator:  Jubilee Lau Events, Jubilee Lau
Beauty:  Faces by Taylor, Taylor Pham
Cake: Elegant Cheesecakes, Susan Morgan
Invitations:  Peculiar Pair, Mary Beth Fiorentino, Amy Hayson 

Here is the piece:

I thought you, dear reader, would like to know what goes on behind the scenes to create even a 3-minute piece like this.

Behind the Scenes 

1.  When we saw Emily & Danny's logo, we thought it was very nice.  So we asked for and received the Illustrator files of the logo from Peculiar Pair Press and animated Emily and Danny's logo.

2.  Emily's Mom and Dad were at the second story window looking out.  The window was too blue, due to the reflection of the sky and ocean.  Chuck masked the window and color corrected it so their skin tones looked normal. He then gave a different color correction to the area outside the window so it matched the other images of the exterior of the building.  Then, he did the same thing for each FRAME (there are 30 frames per second).  We color correct pretty much every clip in the entire wedding movie.  This adds 2-3 weeks of effort.  We also modulate and "sweeten" the sound throughout a wedding movie.

3.  Emily and Danny asked us to do a time lapse of empty to full seats.  Since this was the weekend of the women's golf tournament, we could not leave a camera outdoors unattended.  So, at our own expense we hired someone to "camera sit" just to get that 3-second shot.

4.  After the bridesmaids walked down the aisle and Emily was waiting alone in the foyer, we finally saw a bit of her nervousness.  It was charming. 

5.  By coming to every rehearsal (no extra charge), we know what is going to happen and when.  So, we were in the best positions to catch Emily hugging her in-laws and Danny hugging his in-laws.

6.  Chuck caught Emily's favorite uncle sketching at the rehearsal.  He finished the drawing during the ceremony.  We were able to scale the sketch to create the maximum impact when we dissolved from the sketch to real life.  This impact can only be achieved in a moving picture medium.  A photo in an album would not convey the same dynamic feeling nor the emotions it creates.  This unexpected event inspired the opening and closing scenes of this piece.  Chuck bought a special piece of software to create a look that was similar to the Uncle's artistic style.

7.  During the table toasts, we wanted a specific look.  It was very dark in the ballroom, so we needed small (20 watt) lights.  Instead of having them mounted on the camera which would light people from the front, giving an unflattering flat look, our assistant was lighting each scene from the side, for a softer and more sophisticated look - still using only a 20-watt light.  We aim to be unobtrusive.  In fact Emily's parents thought Chuck was the only cinematographer there.  They never saw me or our assistant!  And the only reason they saw him was because he was in the foyer with them just before they walked down the aisle.

8.  We went back to the Ritz and filmed the ocean scenes on a non-wedding day.

9.  The scene where the camera pulls back from a couple standing at the window watching the sunset?  It was shot much earlier in the day when the sky was blue.  Chuck color graded it to look like it occurred at sunset to match the other images immediately prior.

10.  Because Emily and Danny are real foodies, we made special arrangements in advance with the staff at the Ritz to be able to film the food preparation without interfering in the flow of their work.

11.  We knew the photo booth would be a centerpiece of the reception.  So, the week before the wedding we spent several hours experimenting to determine the best combination of strobe flashes per second, direction of  supplemental lighting, and a few other factors which matched the photo booth flashes best.  So, on the wedding night, we were able to flash our strobes for less than 3 minutes total time.  Everyone thought the strobes were the band's mood lights.

12.  We asked for and received the DVD of all 663 photo booth images.  We combed through every one of them to find the ones that matched our footage and found some additional ones that had a lot of energy.

13.  We strongly suggest couples engage us until the end of the evening because you never know when great moments will happen.  The bride's cousin started break dancing.  This occurred after the end of our contracted time. We had packed up and were ready to go.  Nevertheless, we grabbed a camera and shot this scene.

14.  In order to know what images we need, we storyboard a short piece like this.  That takes hours. We allow for whatever will happen at a ceremony, but we need to think through transitional elements in advance to make it happen. For example, we knew we would need to film a steadicam shot entering the front of the Ritz and a steadicam shot following a couple out to the gazebo area.  So, we scheduled a specific time to capture these images.

15.  We have close-up and wide shots, camera angles that are on the ground and way overhead.  There are small, well considered camera moves and there are times we hold the camera steady.  It is a matter of knowing when to use each of these techniques, and knowing when to be still.

16.  And, we need to know who are the key people and capture them without fail.

17.  We looked at over 500 pieces of music to find the one that had the right beat and mood to match Emily and Danny's personalities AND match the images we brought back.

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