Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Ronnie Day Project Production Blog - Episode 2

Here's the 2nd installment of the production blog I wrote while working on The Ronnie Day Project.

Episode 2: Written at a Rest Stop

We shot all of these videos on HD, using the Panasonic HVX-200 camera and the Red Rock Micro Lens Adapter. For those who don’t know, the Red Rock Micro allows the use of cine/photo lenses with a video camera. One of the telling points of the “video look” is an extremely wide depth of field where everything is in focus. This is a result of the size of the image chip in the camera and the lens attached to it. A lot of focus in recent years has been on getting a “film look” out of a video camera. Advances in 24p technology (that is, shooting 24 frames per second) has helped but ultimately, even on the best HD cameras, the wide depth of field still gives the look we’re trying to get rid of.

Enter the Red Rock Micro. I’m sure you’re asking, “Why do you need an adapter? Can’t you just stick a lens on the camera?” There’s a lot of technical information here but in a nutshell, no, you can’t. The reason for this is that a 35mm still/cine lens is designed to project an image onto a 35mm frame. The image chips in video cameras are much smaller than that, usually 1/3 inch or 2/3 inch. If you were to just attach a 35mm lens there would be severe magnification of the image resulting in a loss of picture quality and resolution.

The Red Rock Micro (and it’s more expensive brother, the Mini35) takes that full 35mm image and scales it down to fit the full image onto the HVX’s image chip. The result is a picture that looks very close to what you would get with a film camera. This is a system Paul Niccolls, the DP, have worked with before and I used it on The Beautiful Lie. This is my first time working in HD but I am very happy with the results.

Shooting Episode 2 was totally different than doing Episode 1. “November Storms” is much more of a non-linear setup video. Our goal was to introduce our narrator Ronnie Day, our main characters and to give you into a glimpse of their life, prior to all the drama. I really wanted to present something familiar to everyone watching, that time in one’s life when everything was perfect, endless summers spent with friends around fires, on the lake and at backyard parties.

In Episode 2, we pull all that apart. Brendan leaves to pursue his dream and our main characters spend the whole video separated. He’s left that world, and so the look and color and feel of the stuff in LA is different than everything that takes place back home. But we still want to connect our two characters. Episode 1 also had a lot of night stuff while this video takes place during the day. Another problem we faced while shooting all these videos, is that in designing this world that I wanted to capture, I thought back to my own experiences during adolescence and what I thought of were those long summer afternoons and evening when the sun seemed to just hang low in the sky for hours. This meant that a lot of the stuff we shot was in between late afternoon and sunset. When you shoot for five days there’s only five “golden hours” you can shoot in. So, some things had to be readjusted but it became a running joke amongst the crew that this entire project was being shot at sunset: “Josh’s Golden Hour Film.” It drove Paul a little nuts.

We also cover a lot of territory in Episode 2. Nearly every scene takes place in a new setting. We’ve got Los Angeles, recording studio, Brendan’s apartment, Jamie’s bedroom, Jamie’s living room, the party house and Brendan’s car. Not to mention Ronnie’s performance on the street, which I’m really happy with. In all, it’s got a much wider spread of story, action and locations than Episode 1 and it was a challenge to find the best moments to use, those that told the story in one shot, because in a music video, you have seconds, not minutes in which to get your story across. This song is only three minutes long (and change) and it’s about average length or all our videos. So, as a director, I have to be very picky about what is going in and be okay with all the stuff that gets cut out.

That’s all a part of it. And because we’re telling a continuing story here, consideration has to be given to the story as it occurs later on. If you drop something from Episode 2 then you might wind up confusing people in Episode 4 or 5 because something was missing. It’s a very unique challenge putting together six separate but related music videos and covering all your bases. But it’s been fun so far.

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