I had an opportunity recently to shoot a luxury electric car brand TV commercial in Seoul, South Korea. The commercial aimed to highlight a specific feature of the car through a small story. Working with a top Korean director added pressure, but I had two translators to assist with on-set communication. In Korea, they rely on the DP to guide the shoot based on a schedule created by a director's assistant, which was an interesting difference compared to having a 1st AD. The goal was to create polished and cinematic visuals, and I chose the shooting format to be RAW Sony Venice 2 with Cooke 1.8x FF anamorphic lenses combined with a Rota polar and Hollywood Black Magic filtration.
After conducting four days of scouting and technical preparations, we filmed the car on a process trailer at a remote coastal location. We faced challenges with the lighting due to the high sun position, but we managed to create the desired effect by using an Arri M18, diffusion frames, and a SkyPanel S120. We also utilised a slider/jib combo through the passenger door for various shots. Next, we shot car tracking shots with a U-Crane car/arm team using the same anamorphic primes.
The following two days were spent in a swimming pool stadium and diving pool. Despite discussions about using spherical lenses for underwater shots, I decided to stick with the anamorphic lenses after conducting tests. We used a large underwater housing on a crane, controlled via joystick, to capture the underwater scenes. Additionally, we had a Phantom Flex 4K with Cooke S4 lenses for the 500fps overcrank work in a separate underwater housing. On the third day, we used a second Sony Venice camera for above-water shots to save time.
Preparing the lighting setup for the pool stadium scene was challenging, as we had limited shoot time at night and needed to maintain the appropriate light level for overcrank shots. We positioned an 18k backlight beam on one of the diving platforms and used several 6K HMIs and sky panels for other shots. We also had to consider the energy levels of the 9-year-old swimming talent and the complexity of each take. Despite these challenges, we managed to capture creative shots, including one with light reflections on the character's body and face by strategically placing a water box.
Unfortunately, we faced a setback when the water crane started leaking and had to be shortened, limiting our camera movement. Despite the difficulties, I pushed the creative boundaries within our limitations. Challenging shoots provide valuable learning experiences, and I'm satisfied with my contribution to the success of the project.
To finish up I’d like to share a few key take aways I had from the shoot:
- As I mentioned previously the DP role has a bit of cross over with the AD role in Korea. I wish I knew this sooner and didn’t allow the Director to add so many extra frame sizes to a couple of the first setups each day as it pushed us into a time crunch at the end of each day.
- I’m guessing everyone feels this when shooting abroad but I found there is a delicate balance between getting ahead of issues and being too directive and not letting experienced crew show you what they have done before (on a time limited schedule).
- Venice 2 low light mode can cause car head light ghosting
- Just another reminder that Underwater work takes so much more time to adjust. In our case each lens change took 30 minutes (I was sweating..)
- As an extension to the above a tip for Lensing underwater is to take screen shots in camera prep (in the test pool with the correct diopter) for each lens size (with stand in talent at various framing, i.e. CU, MCU, MS, Wide etc) and have those images available on the iPad on set. It was very helpful for reducing lensing choice mistakes.
All the best on your next shoots. Keep striving to create what is in your minds vision and keep enabling the team in any way you can to help you achieve that!