SHOOTER SPOTLIGHT: COLIN RICH
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Give us a little background if you would about how you got into filmmaking and specifically into time-lapse work for commercial projects.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a filmmaker. I started shooting with any camera I could find at my parents house– Hi-8, miniDV, 8mm. I attended NYU and majored in Cinematography and Directing. Following graduation in 2005, I worked at Law and Order for two years until taking on a role as a camera prep tech at Panavision NYC. My experience at Panavision afforded me the opportunity to intimately learn about all the tools available to shoot with. In my spare time, I was experimenting in timelapse with my Canon 20d, shooting flowers blooming in a makeshift closet studio and shooting city scenes. I think anyone who was shooting timelapse sequences circa 2005 knew they were onto something because the quality of the images blew everything else out of the water (my computer at the time crashed almost every time I tried to playback a sequence!). I fell in love with the medium. One afternoon at Panavision, I overheard Director of Photography, Alwin Kuchler, discussing a timelapse sequence he was planning on shooting. I took a risk and spoke up, offering him my feedback on the proposed shot. Alwin asked how I knew this, so I showed him my reel (on my ipod) and he hired me on the spot!
KU: What was the first commercial gig you did where you were kind of awe struck at the size and popularity of the project?
In 2013 I received an email from the band, M83, regarding their upcoming show at the Hollywood Bowl, where they would be playing alongside the Los Angeles Philharmonic. They wanted to collaborate to create unique and cinematic visuals to screen on the monitors while they were playing their final song of the evening, ‘Outro’. Ultimately, I ended up creating the final video in my Trilogy of Lights series entitled ‘City Lights’, using M83’s song. It wasn’t necessarily the biggest project I’ve done in terms of size, but it was the most important project personally that I’ve completed to date.
KU: You clearly have an affinity for the city of Los Angeles and have shot the city is so many unique ways. Are you from the area? What about the city continues to keep you interested?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t until I returned home after living in NYC for nine years, that I fell in love with the city. I spent hours on end exploring, driving down roads I’d never been on, in search of a new angle. I think a lot of people move to LA optimistically but some have a hard time finding their place. I wanted to show LA as I saw it- a city with continuity and a soul. By the time I had finished my first film, there was so much more I wanted to shoot and explore, so ‘Nightfall’ and ‘City Lights’ were born out of this necessity to seek out more.
KU: How did the Fear of the Walking Dead job come about? Were you a Walking Dead fan before taking on the project?
I am absolutely a fan of the Walking Dead! I love zombie movies- everything from Romero to Savini. During the first call with Fear the Walking Dead creatives, they said we would basically be burning down LA. I had spent hours stuck in infamous LA traffic, so that was music to my ears!
KU: What things did they ask you to deliver to them for Fear of the Walking Dead? Was much of it left up to your interpretation of LA?
I had a lot of creative control as they trusted my knowledge of the city. We discussed extensively how to frame LA while also showing a steady breakdown of the city. For some of the wider shots, I referenced photographs of the city burning during the 1992 riots. Smoke billowing from multiple spots on the horizon and uncontrolled fires. Real world civil disorder and breakdown is a good reference for the fake stuff.
We also wanted to focus less on individual “tourist” sites and more on the expanse of the city. Originally, AMC had floated the idea of showing key locations closeup, such as the Santa Monica Pier, but we didn’t necessarily want these initial locations to provide a framework as
how the series would unfold. If the characters ended up on the Santa Monica Pier and we already showed it one way, we end up forcing their hand creatively. Also, it’s a lot scarier to see a city breakdown from afar, especially such a well known skyline as LA’s. You let the viewer fill in the details.
KU: What Kessler tools are in your kit right now and what got the heaviest use on this job specifically?
Currently, my Kessler kit includes a 5′ CineSlider, a CineDrive system with FIZ motors, and a shuttle pod mini with 30 feet of track for big moves. The CineDrive system, FIZ, and CineSlider were the items used most during the Fear the Walking Dead shoot, as key framing was very important for the visual effects team.
KU: Can you give us a little background on how you’ve integrated Kessler gear into your productions and what’s most appealing, in your opinion, about the gear?
A lot of the work I do commercially has some visual effects element tied into it, so the ability to key frame a multi axis system is absolutely essential. Kessler’s range of products have given me the ability to accomplish a move while not being limited by the gear. If I can think it up, I can make it work with the CineDrive.
For the Dior Sauvage commercial, I was charged with shooting visual effects. The CineDrive was a perfect system for this as it allowed me to key frame passes. In one take, I would shoot shadows moving on the ground. The next take, I would be shooting clouds blooming and changing colors in the sky. In post, we use these passes to construct a surreal environment where Johnny Depp has an epiphany and realizes he is in some magical reality.
The SAP job I shot was another great example for CineDrive’s flexibility. Though I did not need to incorporate key framing repeatability, the CineDrive was used to shoot timelapse and live action using the Alexa XT with anamorphic lenses. It’s a great deal of weight to have on a motion control system but the CineDrive handled it all. In the end, we were able to achieve shots ranging from grand wide angle shots of NYC and Madison Ave to Macro shots with a level of precision that is just not available on other systems.
KU: Much of what we see in the time-lapse world is captured in very remote places and you can imagine a fairly comfortable tent and campfire nearby, but with your projects you seem to always be in a highly populated urban area and I’m sure not always the most glamorous of environments, what do you do to kill time while capturing time-lapses and what’s the hardest part about it?
If I feel like I’m in a safe environment I usually take out my kindle and read and occasionally check the shot to make sure everything is going smoothly. Some grittier places you have to be more cautious. For the most part though, it’s a mixture of this and talking to the occasional
passerby or fellow photographer (lot’s of them in LA).
KU: What’s on the horizon for you?
Currently I am directing and shooting a commercial for LA County and I’m working on my fifth season of Face Off (season 10) on the Syfy network.
KU: Probably the two questions with the most appeal here at the end: Most famous person you’ve seen randomly in LA in the last month and where would you tell the world to grab a late-night bite while shooting time-lapses in LA?
I recently saw Santa Claus conversing with Darth Vader and Chewbacca on Hollywood Blvd.
East LA: King Taco. West LA: Apple Pan. Downtown LA: The Pantry.
Colin Rich: www.deer-dog.com