One of the things that I really like about my new job is that this church is very ambitious when it comes to shooting video. Yes, we shoot the normal interview, ministry highlight kinds of projects, but we also stretch and shoot more complicated films. I say films because that’s exactly what the are. Before I got here they had shot several series of “sermon bumpers” that were dramatic, narrative. One was a crucifixion focused series, the other used comedy to break the ice on a financial series.
This past week we kicked off a major project for Christmas. We spent the weekend on a ranch in West Texas, and then came back to Longview, built sets in a barn and started shooting. The schedule is very ambitious. 35 scenes, on multiple locations. To give you an idea of the scope of the project. My feature length script has 57 scenes with fewer locations.
Most of the preproduction was done before I got here, so I am just jumping in where I can.
The very first scene we shot was at night, in a field. We created the “moon” by putting 3 lights in a truck bed and powering them off a generator.
We had plenty of light for the Blackmagic 4K camera we were shooting with.
We were using the DJ Ronin gimbal with Easyrig backpack. With all the remote control gear, and camera and batteries and screens, it’s pretty heavy. The Easyrig helps take some of that weight off the arms. We use a Teradek device to stream video to people who are controlling the gimbal pan and tilt, and even a remote focus puller. So it takes 3 people to fully operate the gimbal. It didn’t always work perfectly, but we got what we needed. (For those interested, that’s a ’46 Plymouth in the background.)
We also used more common gear, like sliders and tripods. The challenge for these shoots was getting all of the people and gear out into the field. Literally, the field. Some places were only accessible via ATV. For one shoot I was holding the gimbal on a stand in the back of a “Mule” ATV, and we were going out to the location. I got so covered in dust. Luckily, one of the team had remembered to cover the camera before we starTed driving. My sunglasses had a thick layer of dust on them when we finally stopped. West Texas dirt.
Overall, we got some spectacular shots out on the ranch. I’m eager to see them in the finished product.
Once we got back into town, we didn’t slow down. Sunday afternoon we hauled 24 4’x8′ flats out to an air conditioned barn in nearby Gladewater, TX. Then we got to building a set in our makeshift studio. Of course, this barn isn’t really a barn. It’s like a small camp. Bathrooms, kitchenette, it has all the comforts of a home. Plus enough space to build and light the sets for many of our scenes. (See panoramic image below.)
I’d never been a part of building a set like this. Most of my experience has been on location, so this was educational. Foam, heat guns, hot knives, putty, filler, paint, and texture. I still have remnants on my fingers. But we cranked out the last of the set construction and taped the first couple of scenes, with more to follow the next few nights. Then we tear this down and build a new set in the same space. Finally, we will do a few more shots outside, on location again, to round out the project.
It’s going to be very nice when we are done.