A portrait film produced by Amsterdam Worldwide, directed by Richard Gorodecky, DOP James Miller. The film ‘Serious About Beauty’ follows a day in the life of the inspiring Dr. Perricone, a board certified dermatologist, nutritionist, and best-selling author.
Shot on location in New York on the Red Epic Dragon in 6k WS 2.4:1. Shooting style used on some scenes is ‘Lens Whacking’. A technique brought back to filming by me in 2008
I’ve worked with Richard before on a portrait set of films for a Dutch yacht company ‘Feadship’ a company that built the super yacht ‘Venus’ for the late Steve Jobs. We made a good team on that project and generously Richard thought the Dr. Perricone film would suit my style. Filming with Richard was really a pleasure and as all good productions should be it was a happy process with a lot of laughs along the way.
We filmed over 7 days and that started from the moment we arrived until the afternoon we left New York. With the possibility of quick access to my camera I packed the RED in the handsome Domke F-2 shoulder bag. To fit I broke the Red down to just the small side handle Red Volts, the rather large 7” Red touch and a 35 and 50mm Nikon lens. I really love this way of filming with the Red. I know over the years it has taken some stick for its weight and still get that stick, mostly from those closest to me but I really have never had a problem with the weight.
I love to pick off shots when I see them so I had to keep the Red fired up ready to go and to be honest it was never long between shots. Richard Gorodecky sat in the front passenger seat on that journey so I could shoot through him. Shooting with a feeling of parallax between the background and foreground is something that you will see in most of shots generally. I really only used the Nikon mount Nikkor 50mm 1.4 traveling in the van before the hotel as its one of my favourite lenses to Lens Whack with.
Basic introduction to ‘Lens Whacking’ if you are already lost is the art of shooting a film or stills camera with the lens removed from the mount of the camera. Disconnected as one would say, of course just try removing the lens and shoot on any camera and your quickly discover that you cannot focus past macro. To get round this slight inconvenience you would ideally shoot with a Canon mount camera and a manual Nikon lens, thus allowing you to focus and control aperture still. Its all to do with the flange distance and as luck would have it the Nikon lens sits further away from sensor plane than the Canon lens and if using on your Canon body or Canon mount camera this gap would normally be filled with a lens adapter. But we use that gap to our advantage, to whack your loose the adapter, light and focal distortions will fill the screen. There’s a little more to it than that so have a look at the more detailed post to see what I mean, whenever that appears or have a look at another film I shot.
This walkabout piece was filmed on the GH4 in 96fps.
Back to New York…
We stayed at the Maritime Hotel in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan. As we arrived on this late spring afternoon there was a most beautiful light and with the outlook for the rest of the week looking very unsettled we quickly dropped off the luggage and non essential kit to the hotel and all headed back out to film.
I took out with me the Sigma Art 18-35mm, the 35 f2 Nikon mount lens and the trusty 50mm Nikon f1.4 ‘whacker’. Although the 18-35 is not a full frame lens, with 6k 2.4:1 on the Red Dragon you almost get away with it just off the widest angle. We shot until we had exhausted all the batteries I could pack in the shoulder bag , I know if I’d had more with me we would have shot until the sun set. It was a great start to the shoot and a couple of those shots made it to the final cut.
Everything we shot in New York apart from the interviews we did off-speed at 100fps. And most of this was at 360º shutter not only to squeeze out available light but to help us speed-up the shots to 50fps without feeling to too Staccato. As a rule we try and stick to the golden rule of double the speed of the frame rate for the most natural motion blur but that kind of goes out the window with high-speed shooting to some degree and 360º for 100fps is lovely.
We met up with our location scout and our New York local producer Ira Brooks to visit locations we had spent hour discussing back in the UK. Many of these locations did’t really feel right and this is always the case when going by photos or Google street map for recceing locations remotely. It does mostly pay off and as long as you have a few options then its fine to do that. Our Agency producer Annemarie Semeijn and Senior Account Manager KaMing Kho would always be with us taking notes, sorting out props or permits to film and liaising with the end client.
Sunday and Monday were really all about locations reccie’s and working out what we would need for the planned shooting days. This also gave me a chance to use Richard as a stand in for Dr. Perricone for lighting and blocking ideas we both had, this also proved really helpful as we would have such limited time with Dr. Perricone.
Tuesday was a soft start with interviews and projector backlit shots in a studio. The studio was located on Chinatown’s famous Cortlandt Alley such classic cliche of a New York alley and it just has that feeling of a film set and is used in many films. Lighting for the projector was mostly the projector itself with a small Arri 150 Fresnel as a rim. Projector give such an amazing flare with faced head on to camera.
Wednesday we started early capturing some morning light through Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge by driving along FDR Drive. We drove as steady as possible but to help this I used the Sigma 18-35 at around 22mm. We did try a pass on a 50mm but it was very hard to get a stable image. Had I had a 1st AC with me the whole shoot I think I may have used a gimbal.
After that we headed over to Brooklyn Historical Society Museum located in Brooklyn. We used this location for it’s beautiful grand library. We only had 30mins to get the shot here once the Dr. Perricone arrived as we had to packed and out before the Museum opened. We used Litepanels new Astra Bi-Colour LED light with V-Mount batteries for speed. Its a great light and very powerful compared to the older Bi-Coloured lights Litepanels offered. I since bought 2 of these lights and have been very happy with them so far. Whilst in Brooklyn we used some of the streets around the Museum for walking shots.
After Brooklyn we filmed Dr. Perrricone in his Rolls Royce whist we travelled to our 2nd location that day. That location was another studio house host to a faux airy treatment room. Lighting we used an Arri 1.2k HMI, an Arri Series L7-C LED and I think a Kinoflo 4ft 4 bank. As the room was all painted white we black flagged off the area behind the camera to bring in a bit of contrast to the shot. Even though this gets mostly lost with whacking anyway.
Thursday we started at The St Regis New York, 5th Avenue At 55th Street. A beautiful classic hotel that is our hosts home for a couple of weeks every month. At the hotel we shot the arrival of the Rolls Royce and Dr. Perricone getting in and out of the car. We also followed him to his suite to get some hallway walking and elevator shots. As we walked to the elevator from his suite Dr Perricone called the elevator and at that moment the door opened and a head appeared round the corner, it was George Lucas, he stepped back in the lift making room for the Doctor and myself. I then found myself whacking in front of Mr Lucas as he asked questions on focus. Another surreal experience in New York.
We filmed more walking this time around the hotel and that was not without challenge. Walking backwards whilst filming I always enjoy, but I nearly fell down on open cellar this time. Luckily Richard was guiding me backwards unfortunately whilst getting distracted in giving direction and pulled me away at the last second. He did not however prevent me from falling into a raised planter later on. Cheers Richard 😉
We then left for Greenwich Village to film at a small cafe and our first model. I shot the girl in the street and setting in the Cafe on the Zeiss Otus 55 and the 50mm Nikon whacker. We normally used the old classic 50mm over the Otus shots in edit as it was softer and a bit more romantic. Later that day we filmed our 2nd model at along 5th Avenue at the corner of East 79th Street along and into Central Park.
We then called back Dr. Perricone driver/ personal aid to shoot more shots with in the Rolls. Chauffeur driven around New York in a Rolls Royce Phantom with Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York playing was very surreal experience and one that I won’t forget.
Any time I found myself in the crew bus going past the endless skyscrapers I used the almighty Canon EF 11-24mm f4, shooting from the passenger seat. It’s a fantastic lens and really captures the landscape well.
Friday…The early mornnings and late nights had caught up with me, I rested after a short exploration of the New York Public Library.
Saturday, our last day I managed to shoot some lovely frames walking up to the Empire States building, I just used the Nikon 35mm for the walkabout. After a breakfast lunch it was time to travel back to the UK and on to the edit.
Lenes used were: Nikon 35mm f2, Nikkor 50mm f1.4, Zeiss Otus 55mm f.14, Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro, Sigma Art 16-35mm f1.8 and the Canon EF 11-24mm f4.
Post Production: I edited the main film over the next week with Richard by my side. All the RED files were exposure balanced and set to LOG and imported into Adobe Premiere CC. I made custom LUTs based on my DELUTS Luts to use on each scene. Retouching work was performed in 6k by Darlings Post Productions in Amsterdam.