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Lighting and story breakdown from a recent shoot.

I was recently hired to shoot a political re-election campaign video for a state senator; with this spot I wanted the story -- one with real, emotional beats throughout -- to be present first and foremost, to paint the picture of not just a slick politician, but an interested community member with a real, vested concern in keeping his hometown a great place to live. Here's the final product:

After some back and forth with the PR agency that hired me, I learned they didn’t really have a script in place yet (beyond some location ideas), so I told them I’d draft up a treatment for them. In the week or two before the shoot I did some research on the senator, learned about the recent death of his son, and decided to use that as the emotional-thesis of the spot, to really illustrate why the senator continues to serve. Once I completed the script, we had had a pretty solid outline for the content we wanted to cover, as well as good b-roll at various locations: his house, his neighborhood, a nearby university, the state capitol, and then back to his city for some golden hour shots.

For the main interview set-up, I wanted a warm, friendly, "sun-soaked" office feeling. On the location scout, I picked out a spot in the senator's living room. The windows were all north facing, so there was no way to really get any natural morning sunlight streaming threw the windows like I wanted, so we brought our own.

Here's the A-Cam shot:

And here's the b-angle:

Below is a lighting diagram of the setup. We setup a Forza 500 at full blast on a c-stand outside the window at a high-enough angle to mimic sunlight blasting in through the venetian blinds. I really like how it's highlighting our set-dressing books and background, as well as the subtle shadows from the blinds.


We pumped the room full of haze. Originally I was hoping to see the beams of light coming through the haze in the background, but our fake sunlight was big or bright enough for that, and that required way more haze than we actually wanted. Either way, it's subtle, but I think the haze added some nice, filmic depth to the image, just that little bit of atmosphere for a higher-end look.


For the key, we just threw in a trusty Aputure 120Dii into the lightdome with a grid, and that was it! Total setup took probably a solid hour to get just right, but I'm pretty pleased with the final result.


The interview for our main shot ended up going for about 90-minutes. I knew it would be more work in the edit to shoot it candidly, vs. going in with a really dialed script and voiceover, but I didn’t want the canned feel of a teleprompter or the stiff, boring reading of talking points.

Probably 95% of the spot was all shot in a single day (basically from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., very long day!) though I did shoot about two hours of b-roll the Saturday before our big production day, and a couple days after the shoot I also had to go get some drone pick-up shots of the lakeside community for b-roll. The post-production/editing process happened very quickly, as the client had requested a v1 cut within 48 hours of production, which made for a pretty long day in front of the computer, cutting away, but it's always fun to see how the story comes together, how it feels with the music, the visual poetry of the shots coming together, all that good stuff that makes video so fun.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how it all turned out! Through the revision process I had to sacrifice a couple of my favorite shots and some of the more emotional heft of the story to fit in some of the actual political policy there at the end (it is a re-election ad, after all) but it all still feels pretty close to what I originally envisioned. Below is a gallery of some of my favorite b-roll shots from the spot:



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