Becoming a cinematographer has been my career goal for years now. That’s why for my senior project I decided to create a spec ad for Oculus Quest. My goal for the project was to develop my skillset as a cinematographer by working with a director and other crew members to create a visually compelling narrative advertisement. I set forward producing the ad while working closely with a director who has been working in Salt Lake city for a few years now. I wanted to lean on him to create a compelling narrative that I could tailor a cinematic image for. This way I gained the kind of experience every cinematographer needs by working with a director to accomplish vision.
The overall goals I had in mind were:
-To create a compelling and cinematic narrative advertisement.
-To increase my knowledge of cinematography, lighting and camera.
-To gain more experience working with a director and crew members so I’d be better prepared for future work.
-To add beautiful work to my cinematography portfolio that I can show to those looking to hire.
All good video projects lean heavily on having quality pre-production. That’s why I spent a huge portion of my time on this project creating a treatment, mood boards, storyboards, schedules and call sheets. I spent around 2 hours completing each of these things in preparation for the project.
After that I went on a location hunt, searching through Airbnb’s and potential homes I could film in. I ended up landing on a house that one of my friends from high school owned. It had a lot of depth and character but would need a lot of work to be filmable. I checked the path of the sun on a location scout and noticed it had north facing windows which meant I would have consistent daylight exposure for most of the day, making lighting for long takes plausible. Production design is a crucial part in how a cinematographer’s image will turn out. It affects mood, tone color and a plethora of other visual design elements that all contribute to the final image. Learning the ropes of a production designer would be helpful for me in my future work, so I decided I should spend some time tackling that as well. I collected furniture from D.I. and KSL as well as different friends. I spent time at the location framing up shots through Apps that simulate sensor sizes for different cameras and I imagined how the production design would accompany and compliment my choices as a cinematographer. My crew and I even ended up hanging wallpaper on the set which I measured and ordered in advance. In total I worked on this for around 20 hours, picking furniture, finding transportation, and decorating the set.
Gathering a crew was done through contacting my usual gaffer in Rexburg. He knew of students who were talented and willing to work hard to make a polished piece. I filled my crew positions with 4 grips, 1 gaffer, 1 assistant camera and one 1st assistant director.
There were also a lot of logistical issues to take into account before I could begin production. The house had no air conditioning or bedding for crew that was traveling from Rexburg to Provo. I needed to find bedding and rent portable air conditioning for the weekend. I also needed to provide crafty and meals for all of the crew coming. This took about 5 hours in total to pull together.
Gear was crucial to making a cinematic image so I spent around 15 hours searching through rental houses and talking to my gaffer about what gear was in my budget and would get us the desired results.
Production consisted mainly of me focusing on my role as a cinematographer. I had done the pre-work and now it was time to keep on a tight schedule and focus on implementing the plan well, no matter the curve balls thrown at me. I believe it is important as a cinematographer to make the priority on set making each image tell the story and look beautiful. I light metered each shot to get appropriate exposure and contrast ratios that I had planned on with my mood boards, guiding my gaffer to set up our lighting in a way that made sense on the day and followed my style guide. During the shoot we had to cut a few shots from the story board, so I had to take time in the heat of stress to discuss with the director what shots would be best to modify, reshoot or completely cut. As time ran out it was a necessity to be not only a good creative but a good team leader. I focused on listening to my 1st assistant director as he managed schedule. Then I would push my gaffer to meet deadlines that would be accommodating to my goals in the given time. The director and I worked together to make each shot tell a story and in the end every shot would cut well and be usable. Filming for a 12 hour day and a 10 hour day takes a lot of mental stamina, which was good practice for future work as a cinematographer.
I thought it would be a good focus of mine as a cinematographer to understand the edit, so I decided to edit the project as well. This gave me insight into working with different file types, which I usually only focus on the recording side of. It also helped me understand how different takes and angles were able to connect with each other, or even not be able to connect with each other, which helped me consider choosing different shots for future projects. I also did my own color work, which affects the appearance of the cinematography dramatically. I focused on contrast that I planned for in the mood boards and created smooth roll offs for my shadows and highlights so all of the information I recorded would be used. All together this work took me about 24 hours to complete.
Overall I feel that this project taught me a ton about working with others as a cinematographer. After 100 hours of work I would be nowhere if it weren’t for my team and everything they did to help me focus on the task at hand. By focusing on story and effective collaboration I was able to implement the things I’ve learned into a compelling narrative piece. The cinematography, although not perfect, was exemplified during this project and I feel it was a breakthrough for me in my career goals. I think this piece will help me gain more work and help set me down the path I hope to take as a cinematographer.