The cost of producing expert-looking car videos is decreasing with advances in technology, but it still takes teamwork and some specialized knowledge to make something of near-broadcast quality. Here's how one director did it, with a little tech knowledge and a much littler budget. — Ed.
I was recently asked to build out my commercial portfolio. I was also in the process of selling my car. Seemed like the perfect solution would be to shoot a spec ad and take care of both problems.
Now I'm not one to do things the easy way. I wasn't about to just get some shots of the car driving by with a tripod and call it a day. For a while now I've been really wanting to get a jib (a boom device with a camera on one end and a counter weight and camera controls on the other) and put it in the back of a truck for some helicopter-like moving shots. Those types of shots are usually reserved for folks with a budget. If we could accomplish these shots with no money, it would appear as if we were a little more well funded.
Trouble was I don't own a jib and I had no time or budget. Solution? Twitter contacts. I had never worked with or met Rod Guajardo but I was aware of him through Twitter. Being back in San Antonio, Texas for the holidays, I went ahead and contacted him and sure enough, he knew just the person to contact who could provide the necessary equipment.
Huge shout out to Richard Jemal for coming out and having the audacity to run a 12′ jib out of the back of a moving truck! (Check out his website.) On top of getting the necessary equipment for the shoot, tweeting informed several friends of mine that I would be in town and a crew formed quickly. Thanks to Nico Wachter and Carlos Medina. Thanks to Stephen Villela for providing the monitor.
We found a secluded location and shot numerous angles of the car using a Tokina 11-16 on my Canon 7D with a Lightcraft 8 stop ND fader and a Pola. Keeping the Tokina on the extreme end of the wide minimized any rolling shutter problems we would have had with the car moving at speed. Shot using the Cinema Picture profile.
I edited the spot natively using Avid Media Composer 6. Once that was complete I sent each shot individually to After Effects using Automatic Duck. Now it is possible to send an entire sequence to After Effects however I had already placed a couple film fades into the timeline and those would not have been honored had I sent the whole sequence. On top of that, the hard cuts with out the fades would not contain enough information to go back and put the fades back in. I had to manually extend the fades out, grade those, then cut them back into their original length and re-apply the fades. I graded using Magic Bullet Colorista II and I applied Warp Stabilizer to each of the moving shots.
You can definitely see it to a degree but I think it did an absolutely amazing job of taking out the jib's lateral movements. I applied subtle power windows on the the headlights to really make them standout. If you want to do any sort of tracking work you'll have to apply it in a pre-comp to the Warp stabilizer. To take the shots back to Avid for sound and final output I exported the shots from After Effects using the new Avid DNxHD444.
With all that said, have a look at the finished spec ad and then have a look at the behind the scenes video shot and edited by Phillip James. He does some killer stuff so check out his Vimeo page. (BTS photos by my bro, Nick Walker.)
Alex Walker is a director of photography based in San Francisco, California. Alex's credits include the feature film "No One Will Know" and he recently wrapped production of "Seeking Solace" on Whidbey Island, WA. This story originally appeared on Wide Open Camera on December 26, 2011, and was republished with permission.
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