It was terrific meeting everyone at NAB this week. Thank you for all of the wonderful comments and support. Let’s continue fueling the DSLR revolution with your passion for shooting.
Here are details from our EPK crew on The Last 3 Minutes. With this first-person perspective, it is not like a scene where you do a wide shot and then go in for coverage. It plays out like a play where everything has to work. If you did a normal scene, there would be 5 takes on a master, 6 takes on over the shoulder, another 6 takes on over the shoulder, 4 takes on a close-up and 4 takes on another close-up. We did 10-20 takes so it all worked as one shot which was very challenging. One of the most difficult things in filmmaking is to have it all happen in one shot and not break it up into individual set-ups.
Here is how we did it.
EPK Director/Camera Operator: Tim Holtermann
When Shane told me he wanted to shoot behind-the-scenes footage of The Last 3 Minutes I was very excited as I had only used the 5D MKII for narrative work. I knew that using the 5D for run-and-gun style documentary work might be a challenge and loved the idea of diving in head first.
There was no real prep for this because of time constraints and schedules so I pretty much showed up on set day one and just started shooting. However, we had discussed some things ahead of time like shooting freehand (no rigs) vs mounting the camera on a RedRock shoulder mount rig with follow focus and a Zoom H4n for sound. What we found out after a few hours on day one was that freestyle was the way to go. It was light, nimble, and easy to move around a sometimes crowded set. The less intrusive the better – especially for low-key documentary-style stuff.
Shane’s Elite Team Members Marc Marguiles and Rudy Harbon helped me with delivering two different perspectives with their camera work. Not only was it a blast to work with Marc and Rudy but a privilege too. Nothing like a good group around you when you are pulling long days and nights.
Aside from the 5D, MKII my lens of choice was the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens. This lens proved to be a great help in low-light situations and is perfect for run and gun-style shootings. I tend to stay around 24 for most handheld work because it just helps keep the image steady but there were occasions where I did zoom in, you just have to watch the motion. Marc used the Canon EF 24-105 f/4 with IS. The image stabilization seemed to work well when he zoomed in which was helpful for those times when we couldn’t get close enough. When we were shooting in low light he would be up in the 1600 ISO range whereas I was happy at ISO 640. So there are some trade offs.
For the most part, it was just the 5D MKII and a lens griped with our hands. No tripods, no camera supports, no lighting, nothing at all.
I guess I could have included this in the gear section but I think audio is important so it gets its own special section. We did have a Zoom H4n and a Rhode microphone with us and if I had an extra sound guy to follow us around I might have had it rolling sound. The problem with recording sound like this is that you have to deal with it sooner or later in post. You either need to slate your shots or use some type of plug-in to help sync up the sound with the visuals not to mention the extra time you’ll need to catalog all of the sound files.
Sometimes in run and gun style documentary shooting there is just no time or ability to shoot a slate so the question became, do we just roll the audio and attach the Zoom to one of us and hope for the best or should we just concentrate on the visuals and hope the camera mics hold up. We decided to let the cameras record with their own mics. We just didn’t have the time or crew to fuss with the Zoom in such a fast-paced schedule. For the most part, the sound from the cameras holds up pretty well except during any amount of wind or camera/handshake.
If we had the time beforehand
I would have tested a few more options. For example, mounting one of the smaller mics such as the Rhode VideoMic or Sennheiser MKE 400 directly to the camera which would have probably been a lot better than the onboard mic and since they would feed directly to the camera we would not have to worry about syncing the audio up later. The other nice option would have been to try out the new audio control of the 24P firmware but there was no time.
We wanted to get some dialogue from Shane to lay down as voice over as well as an introduction so when there were a few minutes to spare during lunch on one of the days we put Shane under a tree with a Sennheiser G3 wireless lavalier which fed into the Zoom H4n and recorded away. This was the only time we ended up using the second system sound.
So the bottom line is I was surprised the camera mics did as well as they did. I would have loved to have improved upon this and will make sure to get some testing done before the next run and gun shoot.
Well, there wasn’t any – not by the behind-the-scenes crew anyway. We relied on available light. Outdoors we used the sun to our advantage but had to ND the lens most of the time. There were a few times where I just stopped the camera down past 11. Usually, lenses show their weaknesses when you go into the 11+ range but since we were not shooting things for beauty I wasn’t too concerned. In fact, the images look pretty good and it allowed me to keep focus more easily. The choice was either to worry about a less pristine image due to the aperture or an out-of-focus image. I would rather have the focus, at least in this situation.
During the lower light scenes and night shots, we tried to use the set lighting as much as possible. There were times when I was wide open at 2.8 and 640 ISO or higher but the camera held up fine. It’s just that pulling focus can be a problem at this point so I highly suggest getting used to using the camera’s 10x magnification feature, finding a focus point, and then hitting record quickly or using something like the Zacuto ZFinder.
Shooting the scenes for The Last 3 Minutes was a labor of love. It was challenging, fun, and exhausting all at the same time but that is what makes filmmaking so rewarding. It was great documenting Shane and the rest of the crew at work as they are all so passionate about what they do. A true pleasure.
EPK Camera Operator: Marc Marguiles
When you tell a story it is important to have a beginning, middle, and end. I thought of opening the case and ending it by putting the camera back in the case and the in-between would be sequenced by a scene by scene telling a story within the story.
I preferred using the 5D over 7D and 1D because it was more familiar and we had done extensive testing with picture quality and noise reduction. The lens choice needed to be able to do a wide shot while also capturing close-ups without being right in the middle of the action or in everyone’s face and getting in the way of production. I chose a Canon 24:105 zoom with a Tiffen ND .9 or ND 1.2 to decrease the depth of field while shooting at 160 ISO during the daytime to make it look more like film. The night shots were at 1600 and 3200 ISO because the t-stop was a 4.0 on that lens.
It was great to collaborate with Tim to compliment certain shots; we alternated with wide or tight angles. The overall vision was to have an education on how The Last 3 Minutes was made so the audience felt like they were actually present on the set. If you would like to discuss everything in more detail, my email is Marc@hurlbutvisuals.com.”