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Production

Dragon’s Cheeseball Rig

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A cheeseball rig is a setup where necessity spawns bizarre offspring, where crewmembers put the gear together in a new and odd way, often because of a missing item, which would have made life much simpler. Like the NASA guys ingeniously kluging together an improved air scrubber on Apollo 13, using only materials on hand … duct tape, baling wire, paper clips. Innovation in the face of adversity.

Most of all, it has to be funky.

At least four or five times – and twice in the last year – I’ve had the pleasure of working with a gaffer in China, a lighting professional from Hong Kong with the unlikely name of Dragon Lau. Dragon often works with Andrew Leung of Asia Films . . . CONTINUE READING: Dragon’s Cheeseball Rig

Production | Tech | Travel

Around the World in 11 Days: Part 2

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In Manchester, England, we check into the Radisson Edwardian, well situated in a recently gentrified, reconstructed, and re-imagined section of downtown. On our arrival night, we are just in time for a late dinner at the restaurant in the lobby, which repeats its name in an endless sign across its glass wall. In our jetlagged haze, both Jim and I could swear the joint is named Palo Alto (where he grew up and we both went to school), but a closer inspection shows the name is really Alto. Or Altoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoalto.

We have four nights at the Radisson: our arrival day, a day of scouting, and two days of shooting. In all that time, the temperature stays between 30 and . . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Part 2

Production | Tech

Shooting into the Void: PBS Science Series ‘Closer to Truth’

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Presidents and paupers, musicians and moviemakers, actors and athletes, writers and regular Joes – I’ve shot hundreds and hundreds of interviews, perhaps thousands, sometimes 25 or more in a single day. But shooting for “Closer to Truth,” the PBS science series on “Cosmos, Consciousness, and God,” presents a unique challenge.

Start with the quest for a dramatic but natural lighting look, while shooting two people talking, with two cameras. Then add the factor that both cameras are moving constantly. Because the cameras will see more than 180 degrees of background during their slow journeys around the room, there’s nowhere to place stands for backlights. And front light just won’t do – flat and boring, out of the question.

. . . CONTINUE READING: Shooting into the Void: PBS Science Series ‘Closer to Truth’

Production | Tech

Polishing the Talking Head: The West Wing Documentary Special

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Former White House Director of Communications David Gergen is recalling the unforgettable day that President Reagan and his staff woke up at Versailles Palace, had lunch with the Pope and ate dinner with Queen Elizabeth. My problem, however, (see photo) is lighting his dark suit without pouring too much light on the top of his head.

Henry Kissinger is describing the peace agreement in Vietnam as a high point in his White House service. But how do I get light in both of his eyes without creating distracting glare in his glasses? And what do I do about the moiré pattern on his tie?

Bill Clinton reveals that he is more idealistic about the presidency now than when he took office, . . . CONTINUE READING: Polishing the Talking Head: The West Wing Documentary Special