How The SNL Title Sequence Was Made? With A Ton Of Creative Camera Use

Editor’s Note:  I am a big SNL fan and I love their super stylish opening title sequence. The production of this sequence shows true mastery and understanding the photography format (they use freelensing, creative bokeh, light painting, tilt-shifting and just about any other creative tool out there). Alex Buono, the Director of Photography of the sequence shares how it was made.

…And we’re back! After a much-needed summer hiatus, it’s that time of the year again when my comrades in the SNL Film Unit all reconvene on the 17th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza for another season of filmmaking speed-drills.

While the usual shoot is a dead sprint from Thursday thru Saturday night, every few years we produce a new Title Sequence and that sprint becomes a 3-week non-stop marathon. Especially when it’s the 40th Anniversary season. The passing of Don Pardo — the legendary voice of SNL since 1975 — only amplified the feeling that this new sequence needed to be something extra special.

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The Case for Field Monitors

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I’m a convert.

Not to any particular religion, but instead to the idea that a field monitor is the most important piece of equipment you can have on a video shoot after the camera, a lens and some kind of support.

This represents a sea change in my worldview. As a still photographer for decades, until recently I thought the bane of my video production existence was audio. But a Zoom H4n, a shotgun, a couple of lavs and a wireless system later, I’ve changed my mind.

And that’s because while I took for granted my ability to obtain tack-sharp focus every time, I’ve learned the hard way once again that assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups.

Turns out it was easier to focus in the good old days of film, manual lenses, split image rangefinders, and coarse microprisms on ground glass than it is today through on-board electronic viewfinders (EVFs) and LCDs.

There’s a reason why third party EVF’s and monitors are so popular.

I recently had the opportunity to review a 7.7” diagonal field monitor, and it was a revelation (no religious undercurrent intended).

Why?

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Homestar Runner Returns With Ridiculous Rap Video Parody Paying Homage To Fisheye Lenses

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Fans of the cult classic internet cartoon, Homestar Runner were delighted to discover the creators have posted a new episode after having been on a long hiatus. The cartoon, known for its pure randomness and quirky flash animation, held true to its roots, this time with a hilarious rap video parody that pokes fun at over used fisheye shots.

The video is part “tutorial” with verses like “Put the camera on the ground and aim it up // make my kicks look huge and my crew look tough” and partially “behind the scenes” footage that will have you nodding and rapping along with the Strongbad posse…”Once you use the fisheye you just can’t stop // it used to be expensive, but then the price dropped.” [Read more...]

How To Build A Butter-Smooth Video Slider

You know those shots where a camera is pointing at an out of focus object and then it slowly goes into focus. Sometimes this is done by focus racking (or focus pulling) but sometimes it’s done by actually moving the camera until the object gets inside the depth of field.

The secret to doing it right with camera movement is to get the movement really (REALLY!) smooth. You can probably do it with a table dolly, but to get a really smooth movement you need to use something with bearings. Luckily, there is another industry that uses sliders with bearings – the furniture industry.

Photographer Romero Dominguez shares a pretty nice hack on how to build a slider with a couple of drawers sliding guide rails and a few scraps of metal. Depending on your needed length, those starts as little as $15.

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An Introduction to the Basics of Cinematography

There’s resources available online that can teach you almost anything you want to know. It’s funny how at this point in time, we can learn almost everything college has to offer; unfortunately, the only thing we can’t get is an actual degree. But either way, for those of us who are always hungry to acquire a new skill, there’s always a way to do so. For those of you that are filmmakers and videographers, here’s a video that introduces you to the basics of cinematography within the span of about forty minutes.

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See The Streets of New York, Captured Through an Arc of Fifty Lumia 1020 Smartphones

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For a while now, Nokia’s had a bit of a rough time breaking through again into the US Pokédex market; with such a solid and well-built UI, it’s a shame that the developer support for Windows Phone isn’t what it could be at this point. But if we know one thing for sure, it’s that the market is definitely growing. With Microsoft’s new CEO and the success of the Lumia line only growing, it seems Nokia’s starting to find its way in marketing. With how advanced the Lumia line has been in terms of photography, you can say the company’s definitely found its niche when it comes to advertising. Take this newly released video, for example. With 50 cameras phones put together side-by-side in the form of an arc, the crew behind the advertisement capture the streets of New York in a way you probably haven’t envisioned before.

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Run And Gun Video Rig For $180

I am doing a lot of self hosted videos, and while I love doing those videos, up until now there were two things about them I absolutely hated: Setting up and controlling the camera.

My setup check list was longer that I wanted it to be for a run and gun interview or a self hosted video, it included setting the camera on a tripod and starting to run back and forward between the camera and my mark to frame and focus the shot. I’d usually bring a nano light stand just for that – to assist me with framing myself in the shot and focusing the camera. The other thing I hated was starting and stopping the camera. As a Nikon shooter (D7000) I simply had no way around repeating this for every shot and take: walk to camera; start recording; walk to my mark; do my thing; walk back to the camera; stop recording. It was a nightmare.

I recently changed the way I work in two ways: video setup and audio.

firstly I bought a TPlink MR3040 router which I can use to frame, focus, start and stop the recording. The second thing that changed is that I started using a Rode Video mic pro for my audio. It records directly into the camera (which some will say is a wrongest thing to do to audio, but for what I do, it is more than enough).

Here is the breakdown of my setup: [Read more...]

Bentley shoots High End ad with iPhone 5S – Edits with iPad

When you think about a camera to match the Bentley brand you probably go as high as you can, Red Dragon, Arri Alexa something along those lines. This is why I was kind of shocked to discover that Bentley’s new ad Intelligent Details was shot entirely on the iPhone 5S.

The video shows Luc Donckerwolke, director of design, and SangYup Lee, head of exterior design, talking about their motivations and decisions inside a $298,000 Bentley Mulsanne.

While the story and cinematography are really catching I hate to say that the camera does not hold its own. Easy shots are…. OK. But the camera really falls when it comes to more complex shots and dynamic range.
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Hack: Get a Phantom Powered Microphone On Any Camera

One of the drawbacks of using the camera in-microphone port is that it only supports 3.5mm and while there are some decent solution for that (see the Rode video mic pro), if you really want nice audio, the higher end shotgun microphones require something called Phantom Power – this is a way to provide the microphone with electricity via the same XLR cable that connects it to the recorder (in our case – the camera).

Mike Kobal shares a clever hack for getting Phantom powered XLR shot gun mics on a DSLR. (seems like everyone is hacking their DSLRs nowadays – this really compliments the power hack we featured last week)

The solution is to use the  IK Multimedia iRig Pre Microphone Interface which is originally a Mic to iOS Device, but works wonders on the GH4 video monster and other DSLR.

The irig Pre goes via an iPhone to standard plug converter and plugs into the microphone jack and the head phone jack. And both the shotgun mic and the earphones goes into the iRig Pre.

Mike suggests to get a few connectors as they are very flimsy.

[The $29 XLR hack for the Panasonic Lumix GH4 via ISO 1200]

Getting a Complete Day Of Battery power For a camera and Monitor for $150

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If you were not satisfied with the 9 hours battery solution we shared last week, Caleb Pike shares an even better solution that not only lasts more than a day of shooting HD on a DSLR, but it can also power a monitor for that day.

The solution is build around a (bit shaky) NP-F970 Battery Adapter which is compatible with Canon in via a similar adapter to the one we showed last week.

Now Caleb is pretty upfront about the build quality of the unit which apparently is not that awesome, but on the flip side of it, it is very budget friendly. [Read more...]