Working with tight time-lines is extremely challenging, especially when it comes to shooting time-lapses. One team that has managed to not only make it work but excel with the process is The Seventh Movement. We had a chance to talk to them about how they approach their workflow.
Tell me a little about yourself / your team.
The Seventh Movement is just myself, Thom, and my best friend of 20 years, Vin. We’ve been best friends since kindergarten and started shooting together six years ago. It was all photography back then and since we couldn’t afford the expensive toys, we started working at BorrowLenses.com. We would take out gear on the weekends and go shoot surfing, real estate, weddings, race cars, and really anything we could get access to. We didn’t make a dime but we hustled to get gigs. A timelapse trip to Paris three years ago jumpstarted our careers and we were flooded with gigs and opportunities to shoot. Now, our focus has evolved into shooting stylized ENG as well as timelapse.
Can you talk a little about the project itself?
We are the timelapse broadcast team. Sounds intense getting timelapses broadcast ready in less than 24 hours but we have it down to a science now. Basically what happens is we show up a week early to London for the Wimbledon tournament or New York for the US Open and shoot scenics around the city, stylized shots of the stadiums, moving people and whatnot. We also focus on elements like trophies, racket stringing, hyperlapses through the crowd, stadiums filling up, draw boards going up. Then we turn these individual shots around in a day and feed them into the broadcast unit who in turn uses them to create daily teases, athlete features, and bumpers for the matchups. We give them these clip reels on a silver platter ready to go.
What were the main challenges on this shoot?
Time and the constant deadline.
I only say constant because everyone in broadcast wants it now. It’s just Vinny and I doing all the shooting, editing, coloring, and delivery. We always run out of time. Shooting is only half of the battle we face. You need to go back and capture the cards, put together a sequence, stabilize it, add whatever effects you thought would be cool, and get it outputted into ProRes. Then we trim up the best of the best and deliver a daily reel in Avid DnxHD which in turn gets absorbed into the “beast”. So the broadcast truck, the EVS team, the features unit and everyone gets to start using these shots right away. This year we were lucky to be able to have some help in post and bring on a third person.
How did you decide to approach the shoot?
The vision for the shoot came down to the word Grand. Everything had to be big and wide. Showcasing the enormity of NYC; the biggest, brightest backdrop for the 2013 US Open. So with that in mind, think big for every shot. There was always room for capturing macro detail in subjects but keeping grand in mind definitely directed us in how we composed and executed the shots.
Any major obstacles with the overall shoot and if so, how did you overcome this?
When the weather is right, aim up and get those big clouds rolling over the city. When the clouds aren’t running, aim down and turn your attention to other moving elements. People and cars. Shadows creeping. Its tough though. You gotta be ready to go when the weather is right. All systems go. All cameras ripping.
When approaching this type of production, where do you start?
Google. We always start with research. Maps, Flickr, 500px, as well. Then we find out who to contact whether thats a PR firm or the building management. Then we compile a list of shots we need to get. Then we take that list, rule out what will be used in the broadcast, and figure out how to take it up a notch. We then organize those by ideal time of day, gear needed, and time needed and then we get in touch with the permit office, or building, or PR firm. Sometimes we don’t ask at all and just get our stealth on. In situations like the subway or Grand Central, it is better to ask for forgiveness afterwards.
There are a lot of areas that need to work in unison in order for this to all come together. Can you talk a little about the process?
Work smarter. A lot of it is compressing the steps it takes to output a final shot. How to combine two or three steps into one. For example, trying to get all your coloring done in Adobe Camera Raw. While we have one laptop capturing cards and backing up, we have the other laptop processing sequences in After Effects. We try and line everything up beforehand as much as possible. If we are shooting a quick sunset shot, we bake a proper look into the camera so theres less for AE to process. Or we forego the power of RAW and we shoot in JPEG. You’d be surprised how much information holds up in there. All of our Paris timelapse videos were shot in JPEG.
Gear is another big factor. We shoot on 6 x Canon 5DIII’s and 2 x Red Epics. So when the Epic is shooting, we just take those shots into Red Cine X and process them with our Red Rocket Thunderbolt Box. Its way easier than having to process a whole .CR2 sequence. That saves a TON of time.
Also file based folder structure. A lot of what we do is done with Digital Rebellion products like Post Haste. I set up projects, comps, flares, curves layers and all that jazz, save it in an AE template file for Post Haste to handle and it makes my folder structure for every single day. All I do after that is drop in the sequence, trim, fine tune, and render.
How did you decide to approach production and how did you know the key shots that were needed in order to tell this story?
We come up with the general art direction once we get the “big idea” from the production heads. They in turn let us loose to go off and create shots like this.
Keyhole shot to open the 2013 Wimbledon Tournament.
These shots take more time. You cant just spend 5 mins on this and set it to render. We take a couple more days to finesse it and turn it into gold.
Can you talk a little about how you decided to use CineDrive on this project? I love the shots you got from the system as well as how you didn’t overuse the shots in the final edit.
It does what no other system in the world can do. Its portable to an extent. It works as a single system and it makes us look like bosses. Pull focus, zoom, slide, pan and tilt. We love ours. I think we pestered the Kessler sales guys a bit to get it out sooner than they were ready for but in the end it was all worth it.
At the end of the day, we needed a rig to pull focus. There is only so much post I can do with our timeframe on the back end of these shoots so we needed to put as much into getting the shot right in camera. And the cinedrive answers that and more. Its almost unreal.
Mens Semi-Final Wimbledon Teaser – Clive Owen
Can you talk a little about the edit? What did it take for this whole piece come together?
The underlying problem with all these events is that once they’re over, people stop caring. The news outlets put out their article on the winner and then people move on to the next sporting event. So we knew that if we didn’t get our edit out and onto Vimeo, no one would care. No one would pick it up on the HD Channel. No news outlets. Nothing. Even then, we finished the Wimbledon 2012 reel from a buddies house in London about 5 days after the Finals.
Personal Compilation of Wimbledon 2012 footage. This is from last year. We still don’t have the 2013 Wimbledon reel done but in the winter, we will combine it all.
Also, its important to have a proper naming nomenclature. For example, our shot names come through fully labeled like, NY_NIGHT_ESSEX_WIDE_SUNSET.MOV
This way, searching for clips in Premiere is a piece of cake.
What were the major challenges with shooting in a place like NYC?
If you have a car and a driver, travel heavy. We were lucky enough to get both and an assistant most of the time when we went out to shoot. It makes things so much easier traveling with an SUV and all those pelican cases. The driver would get us on the corner of Times Square and wait with the car while we went and nailed off some our shots. The times we didn’t have a car, we just took a taxi around the city. Just with the amount of gear we had, we needed two cabs.
We had different cameras set up on tripods on rooftops all day in some spots while we took the motion controlled rigs and went out to shoot at other places. This way, we wouldn’t freak out when the sun came out and we weren’t in the best position. We just knew that Camera-X was getting the shot. Also for sunrise, those timer remotes came big into play. We would set the cameras up for a sunrise exposure and set it to go off in 9 hours. It let us sleep in a bit instead of getting up at 4AM to make it somewhere.
So lets say we are going for a big city shot on a rooftop. We give the PR firm our info, the hotel contacts us and they need specifics on what time we want to be there and how much time we need. But you can’t predict if the sunset is going to be epic or if you want to do a motion controlled shot that will take an hour to two hours to complete. We needed to respect the hotel granting us the access and most of the time we were able to extend our originally scheduled time shooting in certain places just by chatting it up with everyone. It’s awful when you have to pack up when the light is just getting good. Try and get the max amount of time and try to build in a buffer if you can.
Any advice for others that were hoping to tackle a similar style production?
Plan. Get your A plan in place, your B plan, and your C plan. I think Andrew Walker said it best. It all boils down to location, light, and luck. And if you have none of those things on your side, you need to have a serious bank of cloud footage to composite into a scene. The weather in Wimbledon was stormy and perfect. The weather in NY was so awful, it made us crazy. Its luck. It boils down to luck. Other than that, prepare for the worst. Be ready to call an audible and change your entire shooting plan for the day. You don’t have time to sit around and mope about how the light isn’t right. This is all for broadcast and nothing can be perfect. Just do the best with what you have in front of you.
Also, have some faith, get some sleep, set alarms for renders, bring more cameras, batteries, tripods, and memory than you need. It is worth the rental cost to have extras.
Any other cool new projects on the horizon? What can we expect next from you?
Besides redoing our website and brand image, we have quite a bit on the horizon. I am actually writing all of this from our hotel room at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. We are shooting all the teases and features for the 2013 Armed Forces Classic. We are working on our new worldwide timelapse reel as well.