PDN Magazine: How to Juggle Video and Stills on Assignment

A while ago, I had the extreme pleasure to work with the creative team over at EURO RSCG. They approached me to direct a series of television spots for the University of Chicago Medical Center. It was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to incorporate still and video capture using the RED ONE and the Canon 5D Mark II. The television spots and print ads have come and gone, but I am definitely eager for the next video/still project.
PDN Magazine caught word of my opportunity to direct and shoot the campaign and wrote a nice article about the whole experience. In addition to story about my experience with this project, PDN also interviewed two other shooters who encountered similar requests to shoot video and still for the same campaign.

Good Bedside Manner With a Camera: Ryan Robinson
By Holly Stuart Hughes and David Walker

Before photographer Ryan Robinson was hired to direct two commercials for the University of Chicago medical center, he had never shot video on an assignment. Before the job was complete, however, he had talked the client into hiring him to shoot stills for the outdoor and print components of the same campaign.

The two 60-second spots required videotaping interviews with two patients and their doctors, plus additional interviews with four other doctors for use as training videos on the medical center's Web site. The ad agency, Euro RSCG Life, signed up production company Bridges Media, which had done video work for the hospital previously. Creative director Brandon Gately also decided to hire a director who would be sure to put the subjects at ease on camera. He asked Robinson, who is known for photographing real people, if he'd like to try shooting video.

"I'd known Ryan for years, and especially liked his portraits and some simple time-lapse stuff on his Web site," Gately says. "I knew that doctors tend to be stiff [and] I know Ryan gets people to relax."

Robinson had only talking points for the interviews, not a script. The challenge, he says, "was digging into their [the patients' and doctors'] lives, getting them to relax, getting them to laugh."

Robinson recommended using the Red One camera, which captures 4K video. "I explained that you have more flexibility in post production, because it's such high resolution, which allows you to zoom in." And because the crew had only one day to capture six interviews, Robinson asked for—and got—two cameras in order to capture B-roll including backgrounds, and additional coverage of the subjects. "We had two camera operators shooting non-stop," he recalls.

Having used the Red One only in product demo tests, Robinson admits the camera "is intimidating." But the Bridges Media crew put him at ease. With the producer and camera operators, Robinson spent two days preparing for the shoot, scouting out a hospital hallway and a lounge with north-facing windows, and preparing what lights they needed. He shot stills in both areas to show the crew how he wanted the scenes to look.

"That way, when we showed up at 7 in the morning, the crew knew what to do when we walked in." When shooting in the lounge, they used one bank of Kino Flos; in the window-lined hallway, Robinson says, they used another strip of four Kinos held above the camera, "and two spots kicking light back to the camera." Once they were set up, they had little time to move the cameras.

They photographed the patient interviews during two half-day shoots, using a so-called Interrotron, which allows subjects to look at an interviewer and directly into the camera at the same time (See an illustration HERE). Before the camera operators began rolling, Robinson says, "I gave them specific instructions: like how to follow their hands if they start to fidget, and when I wanted to rack the focus."

Before videotaping began, the university asked for still images they could use in a print campaign. Gately says Robinson was the obvious choice for that, even though the university staff photographer could have done the job inexpensively, "It wasn't about expense," Gately says, "It was about continuity, and making sure the TV and print campaigns went together."

For the portraits, Robinson used a Canon 5D Mark II with lenses comparable to those he had used for the Red Ones. The lighting was strobe "with lots of fill." He also used the 5D Mark II to shoot a few seconds of video that were later incorporated into the footage shot with the Red camera.

Bridges Media did the editing under Gately's supervision, while Robinson checked the cuts on Bridge's Web site.

With his first commercial directing job behind him, Robinson is eager to do more. He is ramping up promotions to attract assignments. For its part, the University of Chicago had considered the video shoot part of an "interim" campaign. But they were so pleased with the results, Gately says, that they're planning future executions.