Every once and a while, we as photographers get to watch the stars align over our heads in perfect order, and we are lucky enough to work with a client that allows us the creative freedom to explore. For me, this client is the Research Lab of Electronics (or RLE) over at MIT.

Currently, we are involved in a very cool project where we have the privilege of creating a series of short films that cover some of the fantastic faculty at the Lab. These films are called “Investigator Profiles,” and are each between 3-6 min each.

Richard setting up for a video interview

Richard setting up for a video interview

The production of these films are separated into two basic parts. The “A” roll, and the “B” roll. The “A” roll basically consists of the interview. This is shot on location at their facility on a simple background. We typically use a white seamless, or a black sheet of velvet. When we use white, we light it with two Tota Lights, blowing the background out by kicking them up about two stops over the key light. For the Key, we use another Tota inside a large Chimera with a 1000W bulb. When we have a black background, we use no background lights.

Lots of times you see people shooting video interviews with a hair light. I am not a big fan, and feel it looks too much like television lighting. I much prefer a more cinematic look, so the hair light stays in the bag. Remember, keep it simple…

Shooting "B" Roll

Shooting "B" Roll

The “B” roll for these films is comprised of all kinds of footage taken in and around the campus as well as one or two full days of shooting in the subjects lab. Our process is to first construct the narrative, or the main vehicle that will bring the viewer through the story. In this case, this is the interview. After that is cut together, we then fill in the gaps with the “B” roll. Its really very simple when you get right down to it.

Eazy-Jib

Eazy-Jib

Today, we were focusing on capturing motion shots using a small video crane, as well as time laps clips to showcase iconic elements of the Institute. The crane (called an Easy Jib,) was rented from Boston Camera. It is a nice simple piece of gear, and was fairly easy to move about. I would recommend having at least three people and a good solid cart like a mag-liner if you plan on moving it at all. The crane can carry up to 100lbs, and can reach up to 92″. We did find it some what limiting as it did not have a “hot-head” so we couldn’t do any dynamic movement such as panning, but overall, I am very happy with the results.

Our day started at the studio at 02:30 with the proverbial packing of the truck. Of course, no coffee shops are open at 3am, so the drive into Cambridge was a rough ride. By 04:00 we had the “B” camera set up doing a sunrise time lapse, and had the crane assembled and the “A” camera mounted.

Richard setting focus

Richard setting focus

For this project, we are shooting the films in HD with our two Sony HVRZ7Us. I really do like these cameras as they are very small and compact, yet they look fantastic!

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