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<p><strong>Shooting in New York with DSLRs and Green Screen</strong></p>
<p><em>Narrative Music Video, "2nd Avenue," Shot on DSLR by Joe Gabriel</em></p>
<p>Joe Gabriel shares tips for shooting DSLRs, green screen, and how the 'beaming effect' was created for his narrative music video shot on DSLR in New York, for New York singer/songwriter Ramzi's new single, "2nd Avenue." Google Maps saw the music video and featured it on their social media platforms. </p>
<p><strong>THE CONCEPT: </strong>"I work primarily as a Director of Photography for television docs, commercials, and feature films. I was looking for a small project that I could direct and had worked with Ramzi on a web series a couple years ago. There was no money behind the video – just what he and I were willing to spend out of pocket. So I needed a concept that I could shoot with the resources I had – my DSLR package, lights and minimal crew. I wanted to do a narrative piece so I could develop my storytelling skills. The song is about falling in love on 2nd Avenue, so the location had to be a prominent part of the video – thinking about geography eventually got me thinking about Google maps and the 'street view guy.'  I thought it would be a simple, shootable story to have him fall in love on 2nd Ave. and spend the video trying to get back. It ended up being a true run-and-gun, guerilla shoot – just me, the talent, and a PA or two for the entire shoot. It was truly all hands on deck with the talent helping to hold the green screen or fire watch the gear. In fact, the opening shot where Pegman punches the time clock was shot with just me and the lead actor. I only had one yellow jumpsuit, so I used a quadruple split screen with the two of us playing all four characters you see in the open. Having to work with limited resources forces you to think on your feet and brought me back to my film school days in a good way."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>THE LOOK: </strong>"The song is sweet and romantic, and the main character is wearing a yellow sweatsuit – so I wanted to make the image warm and colors pop. I used lens flares whenever I could to add to the dreamy look. Other than that, it's a pretty naturalistic, vérité feel."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>LENSES: </strong>"My camera package consisted of 5DmkII and 7D bodies, with Canon 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm L Series Zooms. I do a lot of doc work with the Canons, so I own the zooms for their flexibility. Most of the piece was shot with the 5D and the 24-70 as an all-around verite lens. I used the 16-35 for the ultra-wide POV, street-view shots, and the 70-200 for most of the performance footage. The 7D was used for the opening sequence when Pegman is punching in – I wanted to have more depth of field for those shots. I used my Redrock rig and Z-Finder for all the handheld work."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>LIGHTING: </strong>"Since we were shooting mostly day exteriors, it was sunlight with a Flexfill for bounce. For the opening interior scene, I brought film lights but ended up using the practical bulbs that were up in the warehouse where we shot because I liked the look. Using DSLRs and large sensor cameras like the Sony F3 and ARRI Alexa have really changed my approach to lighting with their low light capabilities. I used to feel like everything had to come from film lights, but now I'm much more inclined to see what I can do with practicals and supplement as needed."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>IN-CAMERA SETTINGS & ACHIEVING A CONSISTENT LOOK:</strong><em>"</em>We shot 1080/24P with a 1/50 second shutter. I used the Technicolor Cinestyle Picture Profile for everything except for Ramzi's performance shots [which I shot right before the picture profile had been released]. I knew I'd be shooting in bright sunlight and the DSLRs are not known for their dynamic range. The Technicolor Cinestyle profile did a great job of extending the latitude of the image so I was able to keep more details in the highlights and shadows. All of the exterior footage was shot with a Polarizer filter to darken the sky and often ND6 depending on the light. I usually try to shoot around an F4 to have a shot at pulling focus with the large sensor. Since we shot over a few days there was some color correction needed to compensate for the changing light."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>POST WORKFLOW: </strong>"I used Final Cut Pro to convert the H.264 footage to ProRes 422 with the log and transfer tool and the Canon EOS Movie Plugin. Motion and After Effects were used for compositing. Magic Bullet for grading."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>SHOOTING IN NEW YORK: </strong>"Locations were one of the biggest challenges of the shoot because we had to be all over New York City, and I wanted the light to be as consistent as possible. We shot over parts of three days with an additional pickup day to shoot the performance and the opening of the video where he punches in. The opening was shot in a warehouse in Red Hook, and we shot street scenes in Park Slope, Washington Square Park, Columbus Circle, Times Square, Central Park, Battery Park, the Staten Island Ferry, and of course, 2nd Avenue. The ferry was the trickiest location – I didn't have permission to shoot so I stripped down the camera to the body, lens and Z-finder to keep a low profile. We only had one round trip to get all the shots before we lost the light and talent. It was a bit stressful, but we managed to get everything."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>TIP FOR SHOOTING IN NYC: </strong>"Always keep two eyes on your gear! Seriously – I know companies who have had $100k cameras stolen right off the street when they turned their backs for a second. Regardless of where I'm shooting, I'm a big fan of scouting everything you can ahead of time, so that you can move quickly on the shoot day. You never know what might happen [or who might come up to you] when you're shooting on the street – so prep is key for making sure you get everything you need."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>THE BEAMING EFFECT: </strong>"The beaming effect was pretty simple to execute on location. We used a portable 5x7 green screen to shoot Pegman leaping onto the scene, then, removed the green screen for a clean backplate. The toughest part was fighting wind. The effect was done in After Effects by the uber-talented Mike Choi. He used Nightcrawler in the X-Men films as inspiration, and I suggested the yellow smoke for our yellow-clad hero."<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>TIP FOR SHOOTING DSLR + GREENSCREEN:</strong> "As a DP I'm very particular with my green screen work in studio, regardless of what camera I'm using. I'll use a monitor with a waveform so that I can set the green level at 60 IRE. I'll often shoot with a higher shutter speed around 1/100 or 1/125 sec to cut down on motion blur – the crispness can help in pulling a cleaner key. Keying software has gotten so good that keys can be pulled in less-than-ideal situations, but I still try to get it perfect. On "2nd Avenue," we just had the available sunlight, so I tried to make sure that the light was as even as possible. The DP in me wasn't happy but the guerilla filmmaker in me won out."</p>
<p><strong>CURRENT PROJECTS: </strong>"As a Director of Photography, I'm shooting commercial spots in the Lean Forward campaign for MSNBC, and a documentary special on high school basketball for MTV. On the directing side, I'm developing a doc feature and narrative short that will hopefully be shooting before the end of the year. And looking for another music video – preferably one with a budget this time."<strong></strong></p>
<p>(Interview by + <em>StudentFilmmakers</em> Magazine) </p>