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Filthy Rich Insights

26 Jan 2016 3:08 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)
When you go on the Universal Studio tour, you know perfectly well that you are not seeing the real thing, unless you count the backs of distant trucks down studio side alleys. You can understand why – extra people on a film set is a hassle they can do without.

This is why it was such a coup when ...


Dave Cameron explains his shoot from within the main set 

When you go on the Universal Studio tour, you know perfectly well that you are not seeing the real thing, unless you count the backs of distant trucks down studio side alleys. You can understand why – extra people on a film set is a hassle they can do without.

This is why it was such a coup when Dave Cameron ACS, NZCS vice-president and DoP on Filthy Rich, convinced the show’s producers to allow him to open the set and show NZCS members how he was approaching the shoot.

This was never going to be an ordinary lecture where a cinematographer shows a few clips and talks about his work. This time, NZCS members would be able to sit in the East Tamaki warehouse sets, watch selected scenes and have Cameron actually show them how the shots were achieved.

Nor was this a sanitised tour, as Cameron related the pressures and compromises he faced, and how he tried to turn them into positives and advantages.

To give a taste of what belonging to NZCS offers, the event was opened to non-members, and this proved to be a winner. People who are filmmakers and camera operators, but not on full-sized drama productions took full advantage of the invitation. Corporate members too, used the opportunity for staff who don’t normally get onto sets.

The evening began after the day’s wrap, when the visitors – once they’d signed confidentiality agreements and had a drink – were ushered into the main set. 
 

Challenged

Cameron showed a trailer for the show, and talked about how he was challenged to make dollars go further. Even though it is publicised as New Zealand on Air’s biggest budget TV series to date, it is a 20-episode show, and for Cameron that meant stretching each dollar further than before.

He says within the budget he couldn’t afford the 10K lights that would normally be used to simulate daylight streaming in from windows on the sets. This left him with a three-way trade off between illumination levels, lens speed, and acceptable camera ISO.

His solution was to use the more expensive ARRI Zeiss Master primes which reach T1.3 wide open, ARRI Amira cameras set at 1280 ISO, and 5K fixtures outside the windows. This was the most cost-effective combination and Cameron is happy with that images came from a set that until now, would probably be regarded as under-lit.
 

Not afraid

To take advantage of the lens speed means shooting wide open, and what’s more Cameron was not afraid to use long primes, revealing a high level of confidence in his focus pullers, Sam Matthews and Dave Steel. They seemed remarkably cheerful and relaxed about the whole thing, nearly always pulling remotely from monitors in another room.

The lighting was inventive in more ways than one, with home-made soft light boxes overhead in some sets, fluro strips built into others, and the edge taken off LED panels with a variety of soft boxes and egg crates rigged up by gaffer Grant McKinnon – a character who completely understates his insane ability to simultaneously hold the position of gaffer, builder of one-off lighting fixtures, and B camera operator. To top it all, he sometimes steps up to DoP if Cameron is called away.
 

Surprise

After showing selected scenes, and running through his approach, Cameron took his visitors on a tour of the sets, surprising many with his talents for making the set look far more expansive on screen than in real life. 

The evening wrapped with a chance to meet and greet the crew who had set up the gear, and had stayed behind to explain their part in the shoot.

NZCS is indebted to producer Steven Zanoski and line producer Nikki Baigent for their generosity in allowing this event, and the crew (see below) who stayed behind to help make it happen.

 

Sam Matthews Focus Puller
David Steel Focus Puller
Daniela Conforte Camera assistant
Johnathan Guest        Data Wrangler/Video split
Grant McKinnon Gaffer / camera operator
James Young Best Boy 
Matthew Thomas Lighting assistant
Alex Young  Lighting assistant
Alex Jenkins  Generator operator
Jeremy Osborn Key grip
Rajiv Raj Grip assistant
Jack Potter Grip trainee
   

Filthy Rich is due to air on TV2 in Autumn 2016.


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