Earlier this month I was chatting with people on the chat (that thing that pops up in the lower right corner of the page sometimes and scares the crap out of you) and I met Paolo and we had a great discussion about filmmaking and ended up talking about what he’s doing for his school.
I thought it was cool and invited Paolo to do a guest blog post on his process and to show you his short. I appreciated the extreme depth-of-field to convey an emotion… what did you think? Was that choice right on or too distracting? Speak your mind now in the comments below.
From Paolo Mugnaini:
I am the creative manager for the Digital Media Production at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and as such it is my job to come up with out of the box ideas to further the university’s reputation.
I created this project as part of a possible new wave of campaigns to promote the NSU based on its core values and to show it under a different light in order to attract talented individuals while at the same time preserving the core values, one of them being Diversity.
This project was dear to me as I am a firm believer in the topic as really the future, the direction of the country and indeed the world.
The planning for this commercial was a huge undertaking as I had to wear many hats.
First I had to find the willing students, giving the fact that it was basically a spec project, then find an actor willing to donate his talent for this.
For this shoot I was looking for a class that represented the true face of NSU. Technology advanced and new facilities. it was a challenge as most classes were either too big, too small or didn’t have the right requisites to accommodate this type of a shoot.
Time was at the essence as I knew I had the willing students til I fed them so I had to make sure I planned well in advance.
Once I selected a class I took some stills for a storyboard, that would allow me to really put things in perspective as far as what was doable and what not given the lighting and the ergonomics of this class that in truth was way too big for the amount of students I had available…let me rephrase….that I might have available as with these things (when you are not really paying anyone) you are running the risk that no one will show especially after finals, but since this was the only time we could do it before the christmas break I had to take the chance.
The story is one of a professor who has been thinking about delivering this speech for a while. He has witnessed a lot of discrimination and he really wants to let his students know that this university is not only a place where they can get a degree but a place where they can be free to express themselves as individual thinkers.
Filming “Diversity Included”
Our department has a Canon EOS C300 and 2 Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon 50mm 1.4, a Canon 24-70mm 2.8L, a Canon 16-35mm 2.8L, a Canon 17-35mm 2.8L and the Canon 70-200 f2.8 II IS so those where the cameras and lenses I used. A pretty good combination since the 5D and its small form can be easily used handheld and the full frame allowed me to get the very shallow depth of field I needed to convey the key points of the story, in order to isolate my actor’s emotions from its surroundings. I used it in combination with a cage that way I could get up close and still maintain some stabilization.
To light the room I used the available fluorescents ceiling lights, they were a little green but at least they were uniform and since replacing them with daylights kinoflo type tubes was out of the question I had to make the best out of the situation.
I brought 4 1K fresnels, 4 750w Tota Lights and a couple of soft boxes with 850 bulbs bouncing them on the side walls and ceilings, that gave me enough diffusion without disturbing the overall light. After all it was a classroom and it had to be perceived as one and NOT as a movie set. I also went ahead and under exposed a little to make sure I would have some room in post for CC and to balance the over all image. (Huge task as I am not a colorist)
Since the time with the students was limited I set up the 3 cams on the wides then I moved closer using the slider and changing the angles. Then I started getting the students’ faces and reactions up close and over the professor’s shoulders. I needed those shots so I really overshot knowing lots of that stuff was not going to be used but I wanted to make sure I had the choice and the variety of shots if I needed them.
We had started shooting around 10am and by 2pm I had wrapped up the students. We broke for lunch and that was the last i saw of the students!
We resumed filming concentrating of our actor’s CUs ECUs MSs etc. I asked him to deliver in different ways as I thought It would be beneficial in the cutting room. By 5pm we wrapped shooting an overall almost 70Gb of footage!
To be honest I would liked more time. I really felt it was rushed but sometimes you must work with what you have. I feel that pushes me to be more creative, more spontaneous and it can be a good thing. Although when in a rush I can personally end up making mistakes, as I did on this shoot but I am still pleased with the overall end product since I feel the story and the message are really the star here.
I shot the 5D on the neutral setting with the Prolost set up and the C300 in Cinema Locked.
I really love to use the Canon EOS C300 it is a real workhorse and it has served me well, especially when it comes down to the use of CanonLog and its flexibility in post, its ease of CC, it truly shines and if we think that is still a form of mpeg2 it really really rocks! But…I still am a HUGE fan of DSLRs! the 5D MKII has such an organic look that I really love it as a storytelling tool with ALL of its flaws and workarounds needed.
All in all I feel these cameras complement each other well, yes the overall image quality of the C300 is WAY superior to the 5D but using them for different purposes and then mixing the footage I feel it produces a nice result.
In post I cut it placing pauses on dialogue along with a semi-quick succession of shots to create anticipation for what he was about to say. I color corrected it with Colorista II first balancing all the shots and then adding Looks to enhance them.
“Diversity Included” by Paolo Mugnaini on Vimeo
Directed by Paolo Mugnaini
Commercial for NSU written by Paolo Mugnaini and Debra Nixon.
Produced, Shot, and Edited by Paolo Mugnaini.
Mario Nalini – Professor
Itzelux and Alma Somarriba – Additional Camera
Brendan Byrne – Grip
Daniel Garcia – Audio
Jasmine Phillips and Ezana Asefa – PAs
Special Thanks to the students who took part in the shoot and especially Mario Nalini for being able to perform on a moment’s notice!
Edited in Premiere Pro
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)