On a crisp December day DP Brook Aitken went to Denver to the headquarters of the Broncos. His task was to capture an interview two of the defensive stars of the NFL Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. talking about injuries and re-habbing together from identical knee surgeries. They also spoke about their aspirations of a Super Bowl title. With limited time and budget, the small crew set out to capture a unique look with a little planning and some trips to the local hardware store.

Brook Aitken:
When approaching lighting, honestly I don’t see a big difference between lighting for 4K or even 720. To me there is good lighting, there’s bad lighting there’s everything in between and as well know its a compromise. Obviously you have more resolution to work with in 4K therefore more latitude in post for color and grading. You still need to achieve the look you’re going for as much as you can on set. I don’t care if it’s 8k, if you always rely on pixels and post to save your bacon the phone will eventually stop ringing. Sure you can change just about anything in post but you have to keep in mind your clients needs, (budget and turn around time), especially before you start taking too many liberties with your lighting scheme on set. Know your post work flow! This shoot will probably get a quick 1 pass color correct and they won’t spend a ton of time tweaking so I won’t rely on post too heavily to save me.
Today’s shoot for the NFL consisted of a three camera set up where we were given roughly 2.5 hours to load in, set up, light, match cameras and be ready for talent to walk in. The room was full of obsticles, 30 ft glass walls x2, ugly vertical blinds, and off white walls, your typical corporate looking boardroom. But it did have decent depth, thank God!

In preparation for the shoot I borrowed a look from another job I did and gave it a twist. I went to my local hardware store and bought 20 aluminum pieces of 8in 5ft cylindrical duct/ stove pipe and 6 sheets of silver insulated foamcore.

For the key I used my Nila Boxer w/ a medium Chimera on it & the ez-pop grid to control the spill as much as possible from those lovely reflective walls. This key provides a large soft source, 100% dim-able & flicker free. I am able get this key to work both subject & reporter without any harsh shadowing and a gentle fall off on the fill side. I did angle the key slightly towards the players Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. in order to get a little bit more exposure on their skin tones and I needed to subtract about a stop and a half from the interviewer so I threw up a double net on his side of the key. I also used two 2ft 4bank Kinos as a fill and backlight doing double duty.

And then there was the background… I had to control the natural light leaking in with the insulation boards, the blinds and one 12X piece of black duvetyne. The silver foamcore was also going to act as a separate color than the cylinders. I placed a 650w Arri with a full CTO & 1/2 straw and splashed it across the boards careful to keep it off the cylinders. After lining up and spacing out the cylinders I used a 1X1 LED light panel @5600k and added a full blue geI and raked it across them careful not to contaminate the silver foamcore. The trick for me was to dim the LED’s and the Arri 650’s so that the silver didn’t clip much past 108% IRE and maintain the skin tones between 65-70% IRE. I know my Sony F55 camera has the dynamic range (not even shooting RAW) to hold this amount of detail and post can pull the top end down if needed. Finding the right balance that is both pleasing to the eye and the camera’s dynamic range is a huge component in my job.

The two main cameras were Sony F55’s and we were both on a 70-200m lens. I was on a Dana Dolly floating on a single and a dirty single changing lens sizes every few questions. The B camera was also going between a dirty single and a clean single of the interviewer. We had a 3rd angle (DSLR) as wider bail out shot but that also meant that our background was even bigger. Given more time I would have tweaked the shot until the sun set, and rose again, but as we all know every shoot has its limitations & constraints. At the end of the day hopefully everyone was happy with the look and the guys in post can say that they didn’t have to do much at all!

Go Broncos!
-Brook Aitken
To See more of my work from big budget Nike commercials to National Geographic shoots being shot down in a Blackhawk in the jungles of Columbia to the Academy award winning Documentary “The Cove” check out