30-minute Segment, Video Production Case Study
“A Child’s Journey” is a 30-minute segment that we produced for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. It is the story of three children with unique medical conditions and how it affected their families. The segment highlights the vital role Nicklaus Children’s Hospital played in treating these children. We heard from the parents, sometimes the siblings, the children themselves, and the doctors that treated them. In some cases, the procedures these children underwent were revolutionary and groundbreaking. We shot “A Child’s Journey” over six weeks with eight shoot days. Of those eight shoot days, three were at the families’ homes where we got to interview the parents, talk to the siblings, and see them all interact in their home environment. Four shoot days were at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and those days consisted of shooting interviews with all the doctors that were involved in taking care of these children. We also shot plenty of B-roll video at hospital and family homes. On the eighth day, we shot all the news sets at a broadcast studio.
Now, this project was a little different for us because we produced it in a journalistic style. We’re most experienced with commercial-style shoots, so this was a new challenge for us. To get that news-story style and feel, we worked with a story producer who had a lot of experience producing news stories out in the field. They wrote the questions for the interviews and made sure we had them all answered. They also helped us make sure we had the video and b-roll coverage needed for the story, all in the style of a news piece. The story producer also did all of the logging; keeping track of what answers and soundbites would play well within the story once we began editing. It was almost as if we were editing while shooting, which helped us save time in post-production.
We shot this with a medium-sized crew and two cameras: a Panasonic Varicam LT with an Angenieux 30-90-millimeter lens and a Panasonic EVA-1. We had two Canon lenses for the EVA-1: a 24-70-millimeter for the B-roll shots and 70-200-millimeter for the tight interview shots. The Varicam LT was the main A-Camera, and the EVA-1 was our B-Camera. The video production crew consisted of a gaffer, key grip, sound man, two camera operators (one of them being the director of photography), a couple of production assistants, and a makeup artist. On location there were video monitors that displayed the output from both cameras in a side-by-side split screen so the advertising agency folks could see exactly what we were shooting. When we were roaming around shooting B roll, we had Teradek Bolt wireless video systems attached to the cameras so that the producer and the agency execs could see what those shots looked like without the camera being tethered (by cable) to the monitors.
I was both the producer and the director for this project. I made sure that the lighting and all the shots looked good, and the crew and production ran smoothly. This was a well-lit project with lighting that was network broadcast quality. We had a one-ton grip package that was part of all the shoot days and went with us to all locations. The lighting package consisted of lots of pro-level LED lights and even an 1800-watt HMI. It doesn’t mean all the lights and gear came off the truck at every shoot, but it was available to us if we needed it, whether we were shooting interviews or just B-roll.
When it came to lighting the host Beatriz Canalz, we always took care of making sure that she looked her best. The lighting for her was always very flattering with soft, diffused shadows. It was beauty light, and we had all the tools to produce this look in our one-ton grip package.
The b-roll didn’t involve a lot of lighting and rigging, especially in the hospital, because we could not disturb those environments. In those settings, it was typically a cameraman with a grip or a production assistant handholding a battery-powered LED light with a soft-box. This method gave us a lot of flexibility in moving because there wasn’t a cable to wrangle or trip over, and no time spent finding power outlets every time we moved to a new location. We kept a small footprint of gear so that we did not interfere with the hospital operations while shooting.
In one of the families’ homes, they had a pool where we used an underwater-housing for one of our cameras. We were able to get some exciting video of the father and his little girls playing in the pool. We got some great shots of them jumping in and playing underwater, which added a lot of production value and a unique perspective to their interactions.
In the video production studio, we had some very nice news sets and a lot of lighting that was supplied by the studio facility. We still brought in some of our own lighting to augment and give a little added punch here and there. The video camera our Varicam LT was on a Jimmy Jib. We had a terrific jib operator who was able to execute some very nice sweeping moves that transitioned into slow crawls while pushing into Beatriz’s delivery in the different news sets. Those moves look like you are gliding elegantly through the shot, and they keep you engaged.
One member of our jib team was camera assistant and star focus puller Cheuck Wong. Cheuck was excellent at maintaining sharp focus throughout all of the jib moves in the studio. These moves were slow but covered a lot of distance, so keeping sharp focus was a challenge. The challenge was worth it, as we were able to get some beautiful shots that would not have been possible with a tripod.
I think sometimes people watch these videos, and they don’t realize just how much goes into even a single shot. At one point, we were going to shoot a short intro of only a few lines to a segment with Beatriz. It was just off the shore of a beautiful lake. However, the mid-day sun was blasting every one of us in the face, including Beatriz, who was going to be on camera in that very harsh unflattering light. In the final piece, she’s standing out there, with soft light like it’s a beauty shot.
What you may not realize is that she’s got an overhead silk diffusing that harsh sunlight and just a few feet away, a very hot and bright 1800-watt HMI filling in any shadows and bringing up her exposure to compete with the sun and her brightly lit background. It looks like a simple shot, but it took over an hour to set it up to get it right. That’s the kind of thing that we do and strive to achieve: make all our shots and videos look great. We never cut corners when it comes to image quality.
About the Author: Neil Nuñez