John Sharaf re: TV Technology
Was that your setup (the prison shot) in the recent TV Technology?
I haven't actually seen the article, I think my copy of the magazine was lost in the mail, but I do remember submitting some photos from a 20/20 shoot we did in a maximium security prison, although I thought the editor preferred some other photos from the GMA set at the Emmy Awards one-on-one room.
You must be refering to the photo of Elizabeth Vargas, who was interviewing two guys (seperately) convicted of a gay-bashing murder (Mathew Shepard)in Wyoming for an hour-special they were doing on the subject. We taped in the vistors center where we set up three cameras, one on a dolly and a number of lites to create a moody prison look. I actually had some gobos for the Source Fours that looked like jail bars and chain link fence which we used.
That piece was actually the first that Elizabeth had reported after she was named the new co-host of 20/20 to replace Barbara Walters. We saw Elizabeth again just recently here in Los Angeles where she interviewed our Mayor Antonio Villarigosa for World News Tonight where she has recently also become the co-anchor.
If you have any other specific questions about the setup, I'd be glad to respond.
I've had occassion to do quite a few interviews in jails and prisons over the years, including a Barbara Walters' interview with the Menendez brothers the last time they were together and the "notorious" rap-record producer Shug Knight (both in the LA County jail) and others at San Quentin and Folsom prisons here in California. The best part is always getting out at the end of the day!
I've written an occassional peice for TV Technology too so I'm familiar with their template form and wondering what will make the cut.
I noticed the gobos and wondered if they were from a Source 4 or a good old fashioned cukaloris. I can usually identify most gobos since we all pretty much use the same ones.
The article mentioned the change in lighting, not just in regards to High Def, but to accomadate the 16:9 framing. I also noted the camera on the track which I'm sure had something to do with needing an even wider clear background. The thing that struck a familiar tone of apprehention in me was the full boom extensions off the combo stands. Even with serious counter weights (look like 50lb'ers) it appears tenious. Were you flying Divas or 2' 4 banks for inside keys? I've done my share of optimistic mounts but I can't imagine having a fixture with the ballast out that far without a small automobile as a counter weight.
On another note, do you find that with the improvement in contrast with the newer cameras it is finally becoming acceptable to use much subtler hair and edge lights? I see your use of what appears to be 2' 2 banks in the prison photo. I've been using two Rifa 44s with grids for hair/back/edges. Easier to boom but daylight.
I've also done a shoot or two in jails and prisons and understand the 'get me out of here' sentiment. Even in visitor centers one of the biggest problems was getting more than one 15 amp circuit in the room. Did you have the same issue or did you have to pull from far-and-wide?
All the best,
Thanks for your comments and questions.
My old soundman used to explain the rig as " no boom arms, no party!" and by that he acknowledged that to successfully light a two camera network style interview (especially with men who require a little more modeling than just straight-on keys) the key lights have to reach around and come from the off-camera side, yet there can be no light stands in the opposite shot. The only way to do this predictably everytime is with boom arms (granted polecats or wall spreaders also work, but there isn't always walls to rig to).
As a result, my lighting kit always includes four baby boom arms (Mathews) with drop downs, sturdy combi stands and eight sandbags. Each stand gets a sandbag at its base and another as a counter weight on the end of the boom arm. Further, care must be taken to position a lead leg of the stand underneith the arm itself. Knock on wood, I've never had one of these fall over on anyone. Some folks also use a ratchet strap for safety. I also have some rather large stand boxes that carry this rig on location. The sandbags are shipped in network "onion skin" bags or rented on location if we're already picking up a local grip/electrician to help out.
My normal unit on the end of the arm is a 400w Joker Bug in a small chimera for the key and a 200w Joker Bug for the backlight (seperate stand/boom arm/sandbags). These units are very light and condusive to this setup. On occassion, especially where power is an issue or where I have to use tungsten, I'll hang my 2'Fourbank and 2'Twobank Kino Flos instead (ballasts seperate to reduce weight). They're a little heavier but still work. On some occassions where we want either a harder source or more umph I'll put a 400 Joker Black Jack or an 800 Joker on the arm. Any of these units can safely be suspended.
In the prison waiting room, I think we had three 20a circuits which is just enough for such a setup. If I use a 400 as key, a 200 for back and another 200 as fill, that's 8 amps per person. This still leaves enough on each 20 amp circuit for a 750w Source Four or even an 800 Joker to paint the background. The third circuit allows extra capacity for the middle backround in the pyramid two shot (such as the dolly shot in this case).
Now, I have to recommend this boom-arm setup only for experienced lamp operators, who are familiar with the equipment and the principals involved. It requires that everything be meticulously maintained and operated without compromise and it's a good idea to have your liability policy up to date as well!
There you go, no secrets!
[john sharaf] "It requires that everything be meticulously maintained and operated without compromise"
That's why when I was shooting ENG and magazine I always used my own gear - the gear that I knew was maintained and hadn't been abused by a staff shooter or broken and unreported.
Thanks for the insights John.
" no boom arms, no party!"
Reminds me of a DP who often said "If you're going to bother putting up a light you might as well cover it with something." Usually a diffusion of some type and either a light CTO or CTB, to make it interesting. Which might explain why we always ran out of 2Ks. But then he was also one of the shooters we joked about as always first putting up a 10K and diffusing it through sheetrock to begin every lighting scheme. Whatever ya gotta do.