A Simple Idea, But Not So Simple To Pull Off.

November 7, 20134 Comments

This spot looks simple but was far from it. It was a real challenge. We spent three full days driving all over San Diego county to locations we didn’t even know for sure would work. Most did some not as well, others really well. It was pretty much flying of the seat of our pants kind of productions. But if was really fun and I got to go out for lunch and try some new cuisine.





I even got to eat a lamb brain taco on a lunch break. It wasn’t very good.

The first shoot was outside the station across the street. The sun was off my left shoulder going right down the street. I had my grip block the sun and while I was shooting I held a white foam core board off to the right of his face bouncing the sun light. I used the Sigma 18-35 at 35mm, so I was fairly close to him. If I didn’t have this lens I wouldn’t have been able to pull that off. After we wrapped we went back inside to shoot in front of a video wall. Simple and went without a hitch. Then the producer said he wanted all the weather anchors to hold a card up with different phrases, but we didn’t do this with the first shoot. I knew I was going to be screwed with the lighting and I was right.

This is the first shot ungraded.

This is the first shot ungraded.


Here he is around two hours later with a dramatic lighting change.

Here he is around two hours later with a dramatic lighting change.

The sun moved a lot almost two hours later. The whole background was very bright now and I had no sun to bounce with, and of course he had to get going so I had 10 minutes to get it done. It wasn’t pretty. I had to do so much grading to this shot it was painful. This grade needed more than Colorista II, but that’s what I had to use since I was doing Speedgrade tutorials at the same time and wasn’t ready yet. I also don’t have Resolve experience. Oh well. I tried to bring the background down and that didn’t work so I focused on his face and tried really hard to match the two skin tones in the shots. This helped it from being jarring at least I think so. It really took way to long to get it the way it looks. Examples above are ungraded C Log frame grabs from Premiere Pro CC.




In the stills it does seem more jarring however when playing it smooths out and your focus is on his face and the sign.

Now for the fun stuff!


We had to come up with bad weather scenes on a beautiful San Diego day. Of course we did! The first one was the flood scene. The idea was to have a rush of storm water washing the sign away. This shot was really fun. One producer is spraying a hose on me and my GH3 that was set at 60fps with a faster shutter to look a little sharper. I wanted it in 1080p not 720p blown up so I used the GH3. The other producer poured a big storage container full of water behind the sign and it worked! Well it worked after about five times! We had some After Effects composing done to add some storm clouds in the upper left corner in the background. It was a nice sunny day but not anymore.


The next storm scene was Sudden Storms. This was on the lawn. I had a heavy duty fan on the ground and my son was dropping leaves into it to blow them toward the sign while my producer was yet again spraying me and the camera with the hose. I think she liked her job a little too much. The other producer was using a blower to move the bushes a little. He had it easy. This worked! I used the GH3 again since I also did the scene in 60fps but we liked the 24p version better.


The last bad weather scene was at the beach for the Force Of Nature sign. We wanted the waves to crash over the sign like a violent storm. Right….


We set up an hour before high tide and kept trying to time out the waves for the best ones. Lets just say it took hours and we got around three fairly good ones then changed locations to try the other side of the rocks. Of course the wave then would be bigger where we first had setup. That makes you crazy!


More water ended up hitting us than the sign! Classic. Good thing I brought flip flops to work but not a good thing that I wasn’t wearing them. idiot! I used a 70-200 to make sure no salt water would hit the camera. That wouldn’t be a good thing. Salt water will ruin electronics.

The composting on that shot is awesome! The wave is real but the sky and lighting was all added. Really nice job on this. I wish I could do this kind of stuff.


The Wild Fire card was another unproven shot. I had a fire pit so we shot this one at my house. Pretty simple. We tried several different positions and liked the look of the card behind the fire. I squirted a little lighter fluid on the back of the card and light it up! It burned perfectly into the words. Fun stuff!


The building time lapse was the last of the challenging shots. It’s a simple low level time lapse with the GH3 and the 7-14. I was having issues getting the camera in the right position with the card. it just wasn’t working. When I finally got what everybody liked I started the time lapse. When I got back and looked at it I couldn’t believe how crappy it was. I actually had my tripod in the left part of the frame and the building was leaning like the tower in Pisa. I was so bummed! Thank goodness I shot this at practically 3K in stills so I had some wiggle room to fix it.


while correcting the leaning building the tripod actually ended up getting copped out but the top right was now missing from the frame.


I made a still of the image and put it on video 1 with the video clip on video 2. I then lined up the building to make it fill in the gap and it worked. This is very noticeable in the Vimeo version because you can see the entire frame but on the air you cant see it because the issue is just out of video safe. I got so lucky on this one!

Thats all the challenges and how we worked them out. I’m very happy with the end result but boy does it look so much simpler than it was to achieve. I think we all have those kind of shoots so lets just hope the next one is a little easier.



I spent a lot of time on the ground shooting really low. The first day I was using a san bag but it was hard to get the camera to point up so I grabbed my Gorilla pod for more control. That worked but at times it still wasn’t low enough.


Sometimes the talent has to get on the floor with you to get the shot! I work with some very cool people.

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About the Author ()

I'm a broadcast DP In San Diego. I enjoy sharing what I'm working on and testing new equipment. This blog is also part of giving back. I've learned so much from so many people.

Comments (4)

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  1. marklondon says:

    Great piece as ever Erik. I love that you get such nice, commercial results from these off the cuff shoots!

  2. Ronn says:

    Sesos, amigo? Not at Tacos El Gordo on H in Chula? Maybe you got the gringo serving? Or maybe your were downtown. Keep yer camera dry my friend.

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