Things didn’t turn out quite the way anyone expected for the Denver Broncos this year. The Superbowl was disappointing for Colorado fans. But that aside, it’s still a neat experience to talk with players before the big game. The pressure of 100 million viewers applies differently on each player, and we had the privilege of sitting down with Brandon Marshall and Irving Green at Mile High Stadium just one week before the Superbowl.
Working with Cory Reynolds at Contrast Media and Wade Yamaguchi of Yamo Films is always a treat. With our creative heads together, magic happens on set. We were stationed in one of the premium suites. Our setup was three Red cameras: 2 Red Scarlets and a Red Epic for a roaming tight shot, a static two shot, and the reversal of the interviewer. We brought in some Kinos and LEDs to mold what little light was already available from the massive windows facing west in the suite. Due to the time of the shoot (we only had an hour or so with talent), most of the light was artificial. I’d prefer to use more existing light, but the windows in the suite are underneath a fairly exaggerated ledge, blocking much of the potential light. We had a small light package, so it was time to open up the Iris. I believe we set the cameras at f/4.
We didn’t have much time from setup to hitting record, so we quickly put together some minor art direction behind the interviewer, set lights, audio levels, and we were off! Camera technology remained out of the conversation for the most part because our team had worked together enough to almost thoughtlessly dial in the right settings.
The players were relaxed in the interview and things went smoothly. Brandon Marshall and Irving Green were easy to work with, cool guys. No preventative egos, just approachable down to earth fellas sharing their thoughts before the game. Pretty cool.
PS: Watching a game from one of these suites would be awesome. The seats are very comfortable. And the view is ok…
Grabbing the attention of your audience can be a tremendous challenge in the age of infinite digital distractions.
But here at James Drake Films, we have an advocate against distraction- Storytelling. Creating a production that grips your audience and never lets go is much more than sticking an expensive cameras in the hands of an experienced crew member (though that’s still a necessary– and fun part). Storytelling with us is a journey of discovery and investigation.
It takes on different forms: a 30 second television spot needs a rapid arc that tells a lot about key characters, places, and items in moments. A longer documentary has the time to evoke strong emotions while informing the audience of the factual issues that support the arc. A 3 minute web spot may have a mix of quick development and “a-ha” moments that take vary in speed and delivery throughout.
But the same principle applies for every production: grab the audience and never let them go, and people like stories.
Developing your production into something distinct and amazing is a process, a journey, and a discovery of possibilities and potentials. Here’s where our experience plays in. After involvement in countless productions, we have refined our taste and adapted our model to custom tailor a potent through-line for your production that adheres the whole project together. This guide trains and molds each decision we make creatively and logistically. It sets a pinpoint target for the team to hit, and with the combined experience in various areas we can capture amazing.
The new Arri Amira is coming soon to shoots everywhere. With the base model starting at $39,999, it opens up a new audience that its bigger brother, the Alexa MSRP $80k-ish, has previously contained to bigger budgets.
I got a chance to check out a prototype version of the Amira, one of only 3 in the world (and I believe the sales guy said it was the only working prototype currently in the US).
Here’s a couple notes from the hands on experience:
Click on any picture for larger versions
First off the form factor. HUGE deal. It comes with the option of getting a shoulder mount built into the CUSTOM dovetail setup of the bottom of the camera (the bottom is NOT standard Arri dovetail size). The balance of the camera is great… though with the Zeiss CZ 70-200 on the front and a clip on mattebox, it did feel a touch heavy. On this particular setup, the Amira had a Dionic AB battery on the back. There will be AB and V mount options for the back of the camera. The camera consumes 55Wh, roughly 5 less than the Red Epic, so you can expect a 90 Wh battery to give you approximately 90 minutes of runtime.
A side view of the Amira reveals a familiar Alexa-esqe simplicity. At the front left, there are 3 dials. The top dial is labeled “5″, and is a custom assignable switch with three settings. The second switch is labelled “EI” for Exposure Index, or more commonly known as ISO or Gain also with three settings. The bottom switch is labeled “WB” for Warner Brothers. HA. White balance, with three settings on the fly and an Auto Tracing (or continuous WB) option. Just to the right of the toggle switches are buttons 1-4 and an extender “2nd” button (so basically like having 8 buttons) that will be user assignable.
At the center of the camera is the very familiar Alexa-like menu interface, more on that in a minute. The buttons below offer basic audio levels (L and R controls) as well as a function button and a menu selector dial, offering different options to work with the on screen menu.
What’s a bit harder to notice in the picture above are the two antennas that live just before the battery connection on the back of the camera. These antennas are for wifi and bluetooth. Bluetooth will offer a wireless audio headset option, but apparently will be limited to that, and the wifi will allow a “third party app” to control the Amira via iphone or ipad. Interesting that Arri is allowing a third party to develop apps for the Amira… may make a ton of sense in the long run!
The familiar Alexa interface with FPS, shutter, EI, WB, and user settings all displayed and readily accessible with hard buttons above the screen for easy navigation. A brilliant simple design, perfect for the on-the-go shoots. The Amira operator will benefit greatly from this design.
The audio side of the camera: Elegant and simple audio on the fly. Simple toggle switches with 3 XLR inputs.
The Amira will record to the blazing fast brand new CFAST 2.0 cards. These cards write at an astonish 450MB/s, which is needed for the Amira’s internal high speed Prores recording capabilities. There are USB connections for firmware updates as well as the new licensing options for the Amira. Customers will be able to buy a weekly “upgrade” to increase the frames per second the camera can record. The base model is locked to 100 fps, whereas the top license allows the camera to capture 200 fps.
The rear view of the camera reveals a usual host of necessary connections, including 4x SDI3G connections and 2x 12v connections.
The camera is built like a tank. Solid to the grip, a very useful top handle built in. Arri did an incredible job packing features and performance into this well designed system. I suspect we will see this camera EVERYWHERE for TV. Just in the brief time we had with the camera, a major studio in town that produces hundreds of TV shows came in, and talk of a variety of NFL and sports applications were brought up. With the ergonomics, Alexa image quality, cheaper Arri pricetag, and lightning fast prores workflow, this thing is going to make some noise.
The Winter Olympics this year will bring about a ton of media and advertising surrounding the international event, and I was privileged to work with Milk Money Films out of Australia as a DP for their Colorado segments with snowboarder Scotty James
The segments that show Scotty James snowboarding and in the mountains were part of what we shot near Breckenridge Colorado.
Colorado is a wonderful place for production and car commercials. The snow, the clear blue skies, the stunning mountains… it all can add up to something incredible.
The story of this shoot began with my good friend Seth Schaeffer at Hoptocopter Films recently purchasing a Movi and has been capturing killer footage with it the last few months. When we had a client come in requesting running footage for a Volkswagen dealer,there was an immediate “yes we’re using the Movi on this shoot” feeling in the air…
The primary challenges for us were a tight budget and small crew, but we knew we were going to rely on our Red Epic package to capture the shots worthy of a captivating commercial.
One tricky part of the setup is that the Red Epic ranges right around the max weight of the Movi package, so we had to choose lenses carefully as well as determine the best battery operating setup. Initially we had thought of using the lighter, smaller Redvolt batteries that fit into the sidehandle on the Epic, but with a running time of only 25 minutes or so, it didn’t seem like the best option. We decided to strip the camera down and use the heavier, but much longer lasting Red brick batteries. With a run time of 90-120 minutes, and 5 extra batteries on hand, we felt confident in that power solutions-especially being out in the wilderness where power is hard to find (and we’ve had a few negative experiences with car inverters).
For lens choice, we started with the lightweight Canon 50mm F1.4. In times past, in order to get somewhat stabilized shots (that can then be fixed in warp stabilizer or a similar post stablization), I’ve opted to stay wider and punch in on the rich 5k Epic image… but with the Movi, the beauty is that you can use a longer lens (though 50 isn’t terribly long) to get wonderfully smooth shots. It also allows for a compressed background to push the car up against some beautiful scenics.
For monitoring, we used a wireless HDMI video transmitter and sat facing forwards in the van while Seth controlled the Movi’s pan/tilt on camera. I used the Redmote to start/stop recording, adjust focus, and fix exposure as needed. Meanwhile, an operator stood near the back of the van and “man gripped” the camera (as Shane Hurlbut might say) and attempted to absorb a few extra bumps. One tricky part of shooting on snowy roads… the roads tend to be very inconsistent and bumpy. Having a man on camera was another attempt to keep things a little more smooth.
Hours later, another good friend, Jesse from Condor Cam showed with his modified production van that has a huge lift coming out of the top. There was a nearby bridge at our shoot location that was perfect for his big lift.
The Condor cam van….
We also mounted the Movi and Red Epic to the Condor Cam lift.
With a solid team, the Movi rig, and Red Epic, we were able to come away with some great shots on a tiny budget.
The Movi was just a touch finicky on the shoot, it turns out that the cold was messing with the Movi Lipo batteries. The tip (from Seth) is to keep the batteries at room temperature until right before use. Don’t let them get too cold or their discharge rate will affect the motors!
“Be prepared for products that will change the way you and others look at your truck. Drawing from
30 years experience in the aftermarket and Original Equipment industry, we are able to bring you the highest quality parts available using state of the art technology combined with old fashioned hard work.”
A short piece about a company making waves in the aftermarket truck industry.
Director/Editor: Seth Schaeffer, Hoptocopter Films
DP/Producer: James Drake
UPM: Jess Rigg
Music: Danny Odom
Ted and Linda Wiese of the Cowboy Bistro have been feeding cowboys across the nation for 13 years. They feed cowboys with delicious comfort food, but also feed them spiritually with the love of Jesus. This ministry is one of the most impactful ministries in the cowboy nation and has touched a tremendous amount of lives. However, the ministry may be coming to an end if the Cowboy Bistro isn’t able to raise funds to get a new mobile kitchen.
Check them out at Cowboybistro.com/newtrailer
This commercial was shot in a way to bring fishing videos to a whole new level. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from viewers that don’t fish expressing their new appreciation for the art of fishing.
We’d like to thank Pepper Custom Baits for providing the resources, the time, and the freedom to enjoy making this piece for them.
We’d like to thank Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis, Josh Polfer, and Tommy Jonovich for their cooperation and patience as we captured each shot.
This short is presented by Pepper Custom Baits (http://peppercustombaits.com), a Hoptocopter™ Films Production.
Directed by Seth Schaeffer hoptocopter.com
Director of Photography – James Drake
Timelapse Photography & 2nd Unit DP – Wade Yamaguchi yamofilms.com
Music by Danny Odom & Chase Martinez (from the band “Caged Friendship”)
Produced by Justin Covello of Pepper Custom Baits
Commercial shot for Lost Valley Ranch in Colorado. From their website,
“Lost Valley Ranch invites you to experience our Brand of Western Hospitality. Recipients of AAA’s Four Diamond award for 37 consecutive years, we’ve been providing an unforgettable guest ranch experience for families since 1960, continuing the legacy of excellence established by the Foster family for over 50 years.”
It’s a tremendously special place and I’m privileged to have shot there.
This series of commercials was shot for Bob Penkhaus in Colorado Springs. Collectively we decided with them to roll out an “I’ve Got Gas” campaign, showcasing their deal to give customers free gas for a year if they purchased a new car. Our team developed four 30 second commercials for TV and web, as well as put up a website for the landing and driving of the promotion. Check out the commercials below.