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Five years ago I was shooting stills for a new client. The day went smoothly and everyone seemed pleased with the images. While wrapping up, the art director asked me about doing a motion component. He kept mentioning time-lapse but I knew he was referring to stop motion. A time-lapse is more cinematic by technique - shooting stills at a determined rate (1 frame every 18 sec, etc). Stop motion is something I grew up doing with Super 8mm cameras, it has a rigid feel that builds into a piece that is fascinating to watch by design.
I researched some ways to execute stop motion for a large scale production and decided on a formidable program - Dragonframe. Like any of my projects and especially given the scope of this project, I began my daily camera tests to hone in what I had pre-visualized. This was a “full fare” AD gig which required all the familiar faces; Producer, assistant camera op, DIT, gaffer, grips, several set decorators, and a specialized prop master. My producer had scouted several homes and we landed on one that would accommodate all that goes into a large production - 5-ton grip truck with an 18K and two 10Ks were in play along with interior practical lighting. I also introduced the idea of moving on a dolly - a very specific dolly with which I could accurately measure movement with respect to time. As we approached the shoot date my producer and others were questioning how I was going to shoot in three different rooms and pick up close-ups in a twelve-hour day. Over time equals over budget. My team did a kick-ass job at working efficiently and we stuck to the storyboards - the only way to do it right once. The project received mixed feedback from the client/clients (?) mainly due to shifting direction from an art director to a creative committee. Committees kill creativity. I failed by pushing back enough to maintain what I had envisioned. The result was a marginalized version of a very fun project. As a director, I’m assuming/anticipating many many factors and then letting go when it’s time to begin shooting. I’m my own worst critic but remain proud of the accomplishment.
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