Stepping up the Game on Comedic Web Series Model Wife
Blackmagic Cinema Camera and DaVinci Resolve Speed Up Production
Edmond Hawkins is the kind of person who is never satisfied with the status quo. It's why in addition to working as a motion graphic/vfx artist on both Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live he also directs the web series Model Wife.
Created, written and produced by Cory Cavin, Bill Grandberg and Josh Lay, Model Wife is a comedic web series about a normal guy, his supermodel wife and their two neighbors. After meeting Cory and Josh while working on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and becoming fast friends and a fan of their work, Edmond jumped at the chance to direct an episode. Six episodes and one year later, and he's still at it.
"Even though I studied animation and primarily work on the VFX side of things, I've been writing and directing shorts and web series since college," said Edmond. "Model Wife was one of those opportunities where we were friends first and having that base relationship helped create a great team. Those are the things you really need for a successful project: passion, a good team and of course, good equipment."
To support his work as a director, Edmond looks for equipment that will step up the production value without breaking the bank. "When you're working on the side, you have to be budget conscious and make decisions that make sense when it comes to investing in technology," he said. "I definitely made the right choice when I switched to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera."
Stepping up the Game
Edmond acknowledges Blackmagic Cinema Camera for helping to step up the game on Model Wife episodes 9 and 10. Shot in just three days across four locations, each episode consisted of approximately 20 pages of script.
"We were under a huge time crunch because everyone works on different television shows, so the schedule was crazy," said Edmond. "Thankfully, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera's flexibility allowed us to work as fast as possible and didn't hold us back at all, even when it came to working with three different DPs."
Due to the hectic schedule, DPs Brandon Ziegenfuss, Josh Goleman and John Launchi split up the three day shoot. According to Edmond, it was the first time any of the DPs had used Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
"Edmond called me to get me up to speed on what they were shooting, but I hadn't seen a Blackmagic Cinema Camera in person until the morning of the shoot," said Josh Goleman.
What could have been a major hurdle was no problem at all thanks to the camera's ease of use. "There was zero time to explain how the camera worked, but in the end, there was no need to. Each DP picked up the camera and was up and running in seconds," said Edmond.
From Dark to Light: A Range of Latitude
The majority of episode nine takes place in a nightclub with very close quarters, and Edmond cites Blackmagic Cinema Camera's form factor and versatility as essential to the shoot. "A few scenes took place in a VIP room that had very tight corners, but we were able to back into a corner for a reverse shot of an actor's close up with no problem," he said. "Also, since we were in a club, it was dimly lit, and we really preferred having the camera's extra stop and latitude."
Blackmagic Cinema Camera's 13 stops of dynamic range also proved especially useful during an outdoor scene in episode 10. DP Brandon Ziegenfuss noted that one setup took place on a rooftop at sunset. A single shot scene, it tracks a character from a doorway to the edge of the rooftop and then turns to reveal a view of Manhattan as the sun sets.
"The shot starts facing away from the sun and finishes shooting directly into the sun, and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera handled the scene perfectly," he said. "I was completely blown away with the latitude of the camera, and the results were amazing. The range of this camera at this price point is something that is truly impressive."
"The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is the type of device where you benefit from not being restricted," added Edmond. "It didn't restrict our workflow from what we wanted to capture visually, to the third party accessories we wanted to use, to the codec we wanted to shoot in. This is another reason why I chose the camera. The open format is amazing."
Shot flat in RAW, Edmond knew before the shoot even started that Sean Donnelly, senior colorist and director of operations at Long Island City's Eastlight Digital post facility, would use Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve color correction software.
Edmond noted that as a director, he never wants to pigeon hole someone creatively, instead providing them with the opportunity to fully embrace a project and execute their creative vision. "In shooting RAW, I was really excited to give Sean more latitude to work with in post," he said. "Not having a camera restrict what you want to do creatively is very freeing."
Powerful Tools for Powerful Formats
"I've been grading Model Wife since episode five, and when I got my hands on episodes 9 and 10, the step up in production value was definitely noticeable thanks to the latitude in the footage and RAW workflow," said Sean. "Resolve provides me with the tools to handle the RAW formats. I can work with a LUT both input and output and apply them inside of a node tree, allowing me to separate the tasks of balancing shots, matching scenes and applying an overall look, which helps to keep things consistent."
Sean cites Resolve's Power Windows, tracking features and conform tool as essential in allowing him to deliver on the project both creatively and on time. Power Windows provide Sean with unlimited windows with circle, linear, polygon and PowerCurve shapes. The windows have mask control with inside and outside grading and full multi point tracking, which is a standout feature for Sean. Resolve's 3D tracker locks Power Windows to on screen objects, eliminating the need for keyframe generation.
"Resolve's tracker stands out especially for a show like Model Wife. With the production moving so quickly, it's not always possible to nuance lighting setups. With Resolve, I'm able to track windows to a degree that I can even subtly adjust lighting ratios," he said. "The version tracking feature is also very helpful as I can easily compare potential looks for a scene, then batch apply to each angle."
Even with the number of takes and amount of footage Sean deals with, it takes him only a matter of minutes to configure the project, and then he can devote the maximum amount of time to the creative process.
"Resolve lets me get to the fun part very quickly," he explained. "Even if the editor wants to work on the footage up until the last possible minute, I don't have to worry. In the case of Model Wife, I had the footage long in advance of the final session, and because of Resolve's conform tools, I can start grading immediately and then reconform when the edit is locked, maintaining all of my work thanks to Remote version tracking. Resolve is powerful, interoperable and flexible."
About Edmond Hawkins
Edmond animates and creates graphics for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live. Previously, he has provided animation, VFX and graphics work for shows and films such as 6 Days To Air: The Making Of South Park and MTV's Wonder Showzen. http://edmondhawkins.com/
About Eastlight Digital
Eastlight Digital is a creative editorial and finishing facility located in Long Island City. Heading up Eastlight Digital is Sean Donnelly, who holds the title director of operations and senior colorist. http://www.eastlightdigital.com