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Old October 22nd, 2011, 11:12 AM   #1
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Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

I'm in the midst of shooting a new sketch comedy series for Comedy Central--just coming up for air after our first two weeks. It stars Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key, who are best known for the last few seasons of MadTV and it should be VERY funny. We shoot about three sketches a day on location and attempt to deliver a very cinematic look on a limited (for network) budget, which is an interesting challenge.

I selected the F3 as I knew the Alexa would be out of range and I wanted to try something other than RED. S-log was always a pre-requisite for me on this as I knew I would be dealing with dark complexions and contrasty environments. Because of fast editorial turnaround, acquisition format was an important choice--no time to transcode. We tested the Cinedeck but post rejected ProRes 4:4:4 because of the file size. We then moved to KiProMini's but had issues with overheating that resulted in lost files the first day of the shoot. A quick choice was made to move to XDCAM disc recorders at the DIT station. This workflow, while expensive (required additional rental of playback decks for editorial) has proven to be reliable and foolproof.

We use HDLinkPro's at the DIT cart to provide a delogged image to video village (directors/producers monitors) and so that I can preview a rough version of the look I'm going for in each sketch.

For lenses, I'm using my new Alura zooms (18-80 and 45-250) on A and B camera, about 90% of the time. For handheld or Steadicam or if we need to go with a stop less than T2.6, I have a set of Superspeeds. We have successfully rigged one body handheld with the 18-80; the lens weighs twice as much as the camera body but the overall package is still relatively light and my operator is fine with it. That's a nice range for handheld work. I would love to have the baby Optimo's but we can't afford them.

I have been absolutely delighted with the look of the F3 in s-log mode and it has been a joy to work with. We are getting beautiful material and it's great to know that I can retain highlights on tough day exteriors and not have to over-fill faces. We still have a few growing pains--the Cineroid viewfinders have gone down on us multiple times and are about to be replaced with DP4 EVF's--but overall it's great to have a truly cine-style package to allow us to move quickly. I shot the pilot on the 1DMKIV and while it was good enough to sell the show to the network (and the sketches we shot will be included in the series run), it was a much more difficult process, particular in the area of moire which knocked out many wardrobe and set design choices.

I've had no time to take any good set stills, but at least here's a quick iPhone pic of one of the cameras. I'll post more when I get the chance.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 02:07 AM   #2
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Thanks for the look at the rig, Charles. We appreciate seeing how you are rigging your cameras for these different shooting situation !
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Old October 31st, 2011, 11:52 PM   #3
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Cinerroid couldn't even keep their EVS working at NAB, good to know that they still don't have them working properly.

Edit: PS, no cupholder?
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Old November 1st, 2011, 06:04 AM   #4
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Yes, today is day one for the DP4's and I feel like they will integrate much better for us.

It occurs to me that a lot of users here might read this thread or even just look at the picture and think "those guys have so much money to work with, it's not applicable to my micro-budget endeavors" or something along those lines. What I should point out is that we are working within a budget that is really close to the line for this type of production, and I am daily forced to be inventive and make compromises based on not being able to afford the "right" way to do things. Moving from set to set as quickly as we do, for a show like this we would normally have a swing or rigging crew but that's not the case, which means that I regularly find myself a man or two short out of the grip or electric department as other sets are being rigged or broken down and I actually have to simplify my lighting plan to keep us on schedule. Lessons learned shooting low budget projects come in handy every day. I get a certain amount of "toys" to play with but not nearly what I have used in the past shooting or operating on a network series.

Case in point: a recent sketch involved a character firing a shotgun at the climax of the scene. The prop gun was non-functional, so we shot it with the muzzle just out of frame as well as in frame in case we would be able to add the muzzle flash later (first creative compromise...!) However I knew to properly sell the moment I needed to do reactive lighting on the character.Ideally we would use a Dataflash unit which would provide the specific length of flash required (typically, one to three frames, with the optimal being a single hot frame and two frames of decay). One might think that flashing a tungsten unit on and off would do the trick, but generally the ramp up and decay of a large tungsten light is too long for this purpose--it looks fake. Instead I suggested we replicate a trick I came up with on a non-budget show a few years back. We set a silver 2x2 bounce card in front of the subject just below the frame, and aimed a small high-output unit at it (in this case an 800w Joker gelled down to 3200K, within an approximately 4200K environment). I had the grips cut an 8" diameter hole in a piece of show card. The gag involved flying the card in front of the unit from side to side as the character fired the gun, taking care not to overshoot the card on either side. The effect was that for a regulated amount of time the silver card was exposed to the beam, and since it was a bounce the side-to-side motion didn't translate to the subject (if the light had been aimed directly at the subject the travel of the gobo would have been visible). The result was exactly what was needed; a short duration, hot flash on the subject. Low tech but got the job done. I just saw the rough cut and with the appropriate sound effect, it sells completely.
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Old November 1st, 2011, 11:27 AM   #5
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

You actually had a grip to cut a hole in the show card ? To me, that is high tech.... :)

Seriously, it seems that the more ingenious you are at using whats available as a DP or director, the more valuable you will be in the production environment. Thanks again for the these insights.
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Old November 1st, 2011, 01:09 PM   #6
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Here's an odd question for you Charles...
Does your 45-250 have a front filter thread, and if so, what mm is it? I've got a 20-120mm lens with a 6" front element like it does (top to bottom including metal - from what the interweb tells me) but I can't figure out what filter thread it takes. Your lens is similar in size, but I couldn't find if it had any threads or not.

Thanks!
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Old November 1st, 2011, 04:42 PM   #7
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Never seen a prop shotgun (is it?) guess it flashes from the muzzle, how does that work?

Magic thread, keep 'em coming thanks Charles.

Cheers.
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Old November 22nd, 2011, 11:14 PM   #8
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Well, season one is wrapped. It was an intense shoot. 53 sketches, 23 days, 190 pages, average 8 pages a day (and the days averaged 11.5 hrs, mandated) which is like shooting two features in less than 12 days each. As the dust settles and I start to see cuts, it's almost surreal how many different looks we packed into such a short time. And the writing and performances were just hilarious. The crew laughed a LOT.

The F3's worked flawlessly, never an issue. Couple of lit pixels but we were able to burn out via black balance right away.

One of the segments from the pilot has been released as a teaser HERE. I shot the pilot on the 1DMKIV--it wasn't originally meant for air but apparently the pilot sketches will be incorporated into the rest of the material which will be, uh, interesting.
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Old November 23rd, 2011, 12:45 AM   #9
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Charles,

Thanks for posting this informative 'blog'. Unfortunately Comedy Central won't let us foreigners watch the teaser from the pilot. I was wondering though, given the limitations (budget, quick set-ups, workflow, etc), it sounds like a C300 would be a very suitable tool for this job.

Thanks.

edit: That was not intended to provoke another F3/C300/Scarlet debate btw. I just think that the broadcast market requiring quick set-ups, easy workflow, and a cinematic look was likely a direct target market for the C300, more so than the feature film segment.
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Old November 23rd, 2011, 03:45 PM   #10
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Looks pretty good. I'll definitely be checking it out when it airs. If I was out in LA I definitely would have offered to be a free helping hand. Sounds like a great environment to learn.
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Old November 24th, 2011, 06:04 AM   #11
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

@Charles.... how did the DP4 EVF work out? Was there a reason you selected it over the Zacuto EVF?
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Old November 25th, 2011, 12:51 PM   #12
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Ken: I've attached the video below. And yes, I think the C300 would be a good contender for this kind of show. While the Alexa is becoming the defacto standard for episodic production, being able to cut the camera rental price down without sacrificing much quality is helpful for the lower-budgeted series like this one, so the F3 and the C300 will both be good choices.

Matt: Thanks and I would have loved to have camera PA's onboard, I had three offers to help before the show started. Unfortunately the network has a policy against unpaid crew so I couldn't bring anyone onboard.

Les: I liked the idea of the DP4 being usable as an onboard monitor as well as a viewfinder, and already own a DP6 so I wanted to see what the 4 would be like. We started the show with Cineroids because of the HD-SDI compatability but they were unreliable. One of my operators still preferred the Cineroid so he stuck with it, the other one liked the DP4 (pictured in the above post). It would have been interesting to compare with the Zacuto also. I don't like the idea of HDMI viewfinders and have been pushing SmallHD to come out with an HD-SDI compatible viewfinder. One of the more unusual aspects of the DP4 is that it doesn't have a rotating diopter adjustment, you have to use an outboard screw-in diopter which is tough for multiple operators.
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Old January 29th, 2012, 04:04 PM   #13
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Episode 1, the pilot, airs this Tuesday on Comedy Central at 10:30 EST. Check your local listings, as they say!

I shot the pilot on my 1DMKIV as a cost-cutting measure. While we did fine by it, there were a few issues with moire that were clearly deal-breakers. One actress got sent back to wardrobe literally five times as one top after another revealed that telltale crawl on camera. A kitchen set full of stainless steel was ringing like crazy (a certain amount remains in this segment) and a beautiful series of elements of perforated metal that the production designer added became a mass of rainbows on camera, so we sadly had to cover them up.

The live performance wraparounds that intro the show and each segment we shot on five F800's early this month at a theater in Los Angeles. I worked with a lighting designer to spec RGB LED units to illuminate a series of lightboxes and scrims that could change color on cue via the dimmer board. We had three conventional cameas (two on skate dolly, one on a Chapman Peewee), Steadicam and a Technojib.

After the pilot, we moved to the F3's as described above and those sketches will start in the second episode.

Hope you guys enjoy (those who can actually view the show, that is--sorry, international gang), the material is quite funny!
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Old February 1st, 2012, 10:10 PM   #14
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

is this one of them charles?
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Old February 2nd, 2012, 10:05 AM   #15
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re: Shooting with the F3 on "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central

Yes, that's from the pilot (so, shot on 1DMKIV). I lobbied unsuccessfully for us to switch out cameras for the last sequence in the spaceship set because of the green screen, and I heard the post guys had an expectedly tough time pulling the key.
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