For the latest series of Eat 'n Park TV spots, Sarah Marince asks employees what they love about Eat 'n Park (besides their paycheck.) In my favorite spot of the series, Sarah gets to put the icing on EnP's iconic Smiley Face Cookie.
I currently shoot these spots on 2 HDTV digital cameras. All the sync sound sequences are shot on a Panasonic AF-100 equipped with Canon and Olympus lenses. I use the very heavy 14mm - 35mm F2 zoom for most wide angle scenes. Either a 50mm F1.4 or a 85mm F1.2 lens handles talent close-ups.
My second camera for quick, hand-held cutaways is either a Panasonic GH2 or a Canon 5D mk2. All the cutaways in this spot were shot on a GH2 equipped with a 20mm F1.7 lens.
I've really become a fan of LED lighting. We often use 12x12 powerful panels as well as 12x12x 1/4" thick plexiglas soft light panels. These have about 100 LED's that cause the white plexiglas to glow. It's a great, soft fill light. In tight locations, LED's create very little heat and their low power consumption won't blow fuses or circuit breakers. With LED lighting, it's common to use 1/4 minus green gel over the fixtures.
Over the years, I've found that the only way to direct and shoot this "scripted spontaneity" is to think of each sequence as a very short play.
While gaffer, Ted Wiegand is setting lights with the crew, I'll have the talent first perform the scene or sequence without any direction. Invariably, people will naturally stay too far apart for TV. After a couple run throughs, I'll get the desired distance between the actors. Then I'll determine the best wide shot or master shot angle to cover the action. The close-up, return shots between actors happen naturally based on the master shot.
Although I often use a Fisher 10 crab dolly, for this spot I shot all the test kitchen dialogue with my camera mounted on a monopod. It gives the scenes spontaneity and just enough movement as if the action was natural and unrehearsed.
When you're working in tight quarters, such as Eat 'n Park's test kitchen, the choices of camera angles and camera positions are limited, so you make the most of the best overall background for your master shot. The backgrounds for close-ups will be out-of-focus, so you can add, subtract or cheat certain scene elements.
One last bit of advice, when working with "real people" as opposed to actors, let them play themselves. As long as the role they're playing is within their normal "world" you can usually get a pretty credible performance. I've found that non-professionals do their best on the second or third take. After that it's a crap shoot.
BTW, that's actually Sarah perfectly icing the cookie in the close-up!