A group of us technicians, filmmakers, Cirque artists, make-up & hair & costume designers, and all-around good folks, headed out to near Nelson Ghost Town, Nevada, not in search of ghosts or fun quirky photo backgrounds, but rather for a serious cause: domestic violence.
Tori Lubecki, co-founder of Philanthropy Entertainment, and aerial artist for Cirque du Soleil's epic, KA, was producing a one-time live fundraiser show simply entitled, be. Philanthropy ENT's mission is "to cultivate compassion, promote accountability and raise funds that will aid in the liberation and empowerment of all victims of abuse."
Her goal for this show was to raise money and awareness for Safe Nest, an organization that helps those who are suffering from domestic abuse and seek help and shelter. It's a damn good cause to be a part of. Damn good enough for the group of us to go out in the middle of the southern Nevada summer, in the 116º degree heat and film some video content footage that will be used in the live show's projection design.
Yeah, it was crazy hot out. The wind was fortunately(?) blowing, which gave us some very beautiful flowy slo-mo shots, although the wind felt exactly like standing inside a hairdryer set on "hot and frizzy." However, the shots turned out great.
Fellow KA artist, Melissa Urbano, was featured as the woman who starts from a broken-down, beaten girl who blossoms into a heavenly flowing beautiful being. We had only two set-ups, but they took a lot of set-up and time.
The first was simpler. Mel had to stand up on a rock, look beautiful and let go of a flowing piece of silk that would fly up into the sky. After several takes, we had enough options that looked really great.
Then, the tougher shot. We needed a shot, according to Tori's vision, where the camera had to look like it was driving down a desert highwayfor 4 minutes, and then in one continuous shot look like the camera drives right up to the woman and zooms all the way up to her pupil.
Well, obviously we couldn't drive precisely enough to ever accomplish such a feat. But there was a trick to consider--we could shoot it in reverse. Start by having the camera ultra close up on Mel's eye, and the slowly pull away, with the camera mounted from within the car, and then drive away faster and faster and continue driving for the next several minutes down the desert highway road.
We got it one take.
Needless to say, the set-up took much longer. We had several issue with shadows, and focus, and keeping the camera steady enough while mounted my Sony FS5 camera on the DJI Ronin gibal which was then mounted on the Lite Pro Gear carbon fiber jib hanging out the back of my Nissan Rogue. The jib and gimbal helped keep the shot steady and added the ability to change height and angle when needed.
My girlfriend, Getti, drove. We started with me outside the car, holding the head of the jib with the camera, and manually focusing as we slowly drove away from Mel. This was the hardest part. After a few false starts, we got a pretty good pull away mostly in focus, at which time I let go and let Maximus, Getti's son and my trusty camera assistant for many of my shoots, handle the jib from the back of the car. I then darted around the front of the car, not getting run over, and then jumped into the passenger seat where I monitored via my Atomos Ninja Assassin and wirelessly steered and controlled the Ronin to keep the shot level and centered as we slalomed the curvy highway.
We also got very lucky that no cars passed us in the shot, which we thought would be impossible as this desolate desert road was anything but desolate as many cars and trucks were heading out to the nearby river/lake for the weekend.
From there I took the footage and edited both the video and sound design for the final performance videos. We also incorporated some stock footage to achieve the "interstellar" shots. It took some work as I had to figure out how to squeeze 9 minutes down to 3 1/2 and get it to time with the live musicians. Fortunately, all said and done, it played and timed out perfectly in the show.
Here are the final videos used in the show:
All said and done, the shots were a success and the video were projected during the live show on August 12th. If you still want to support an amazingly good cause, contact Philanthropy Entertainment and Tori Lubecki.
The multi-cam video of the full live performance will also be available soon.