I am always looking for projects that I can sink my teeth into. The ones where I can put everything I have into it and create something I’m truly proud of. These projects don’t happen all the time but when they do, I suggest you take advantage of it. The Five/Five documentary is a piece I am happy to share. I believe it is my best work to this day as a cinematographer.
Let’s take a step back to where it all began. When someone asks “Hey do you want to shoot something on a weekend? Oh and by the way, I can’t pay you anything,” I usually ask for a ton of information and most likely say no. But when my friend Chris Jurchak asked me I was already leaning towards yes. Chris is the art director at 522 Productions and has a great vision as a creative director. He got about one sentence into his pitch and I cut him off to say yes.
“He’s Five/Five and can dunk. We want to shoot high frame rates so I was thinking about having you shoot with the FS700…” That’s where I said yes and we began to dive into the preproduction. What made the deal even sweeter was that we had Anthony Jacoway as the lighting director.
Before I get into anything I want to give a ton of credit to Anthony for the lighting. The best part of having a lighting director you trust is knowing that he will take care of making this look great and all I need to worry about is the camera angles, framing and movement. This is the main reason we got this shoot done in a day.
Chris had a very specific vision for this video which included some Under Armor spots and videos directed by Elliot Rausch. The look we were trying to achieve was one that was gritty, natural and dramatic. Immediately we decided that a handheld rig and slider would be the way to move the camera to help tell the story. I really liked the contrast of smooth left to right movement next to a shaky hanheld shot. Although I loved all the scenes we shot for Five/Five, there are two that stand out to me. I want to give you inside look on those including set ups and why we shot it the way we did.
Obviously the most impressive part of the video was having a guy that is 5’5” dunk a basketball. It is what drives the story and we wanted to make sure we shot it as many ways as possible. The three main spots we wanted to capture were at a profile, following with the handheld rig, and a few feet to the right at the top of the key. I know this sounds wordy so below is a simple graphic that shows the shot locations.
This showed all the aspects of the dunk and gave Chris tons of options in postproduction. The most challenging was the handheld shot (A) in terms of pulling focus. Especially when shooting at high frame rates, you need to be landing focus points as quickly as possible. Even with my face shoved in the monitor, it took me a few takes to get it perfect. Before we moved on to the next shot I made sure that focus was landed and the framing was what Chris wanted. It is important to be honest in these situations and ask for another take if needed.
The purpose of the profile shot (B) was to show how Brandon had to jump in order to dunk. Having a low angle shot made this even more dramatic. Putting on a sider added subtle movement and was a great touch for the slow motion shot. Framing was key. You wanted it wide enough to see the entire basket but close enough may him appear strong and powerful. We ultimately decided to go with a wide lens (I think it was about 17mm) because the height of the jump was the most important.
The shot from behind Brandon (C) was needed to focus on the dunk itself. We still wanted to capture the height of the jump, but it was important to show how clean his dunk was and to almost make it look effortless. Let me remind that his vertical jump is 48” (Lebron James is 40”) so there is nothing effortless here. Again we threw the camera on a slider to add movement. I really loved the way this shot came out. We timed it perfect with the sun and the framing captured everything.
This was shot entirely handheld and I had a vivid picture in my head of what Chris wanted. Watching and researching the videos he sent me, I was able to prep myself with the right equipment and state of mind. The shot was very specific and we wanted to be in Brandon’s face to make the viewer feel like they were in the workout room with him. I knew I wanted to be between an 11-17mm focal length. As wide as I could without being a fisheye, nor disrupting his work out. I talked with Brandon before the shot to let him know the goals and what needed to be done. Luckily he was all about it and didn’t care if I bumped him. What I ended up doing was walking with him without the camera so I could concentrate on his movements. This way I knew where he was going to be and when. I ‘danced’ with him to get the shake in the shot I wanted to and to constantly have a different frame. I only took two takes for this and I loved what I got.
Below is both the teaser and the mini documentary. I hope this blog shed some light on the project and you could learn a little from it. For more information on the documentary please visit the Official Five/Five Website. Would love any questions or feedback you have on this post and video. Thanks!