By Josh Youngbar, HighRock
If you read our Emmy® nomination announcement, you know that Emmy® nominees are judged and awarded on the basis of creativity, content and execution. At HighRock, we always aim to deliver compelling and creative content with every finished product, but our regional Emmy® nomination finally gives us the chance to “geek out” about our creative choices in cinematography, sound design, and scripting. In this four-part series, we’re going behind the scenes of each nominated piece.
For the Project ACT NOW commercial campaign, Clean Out Your Cabinets, Clean Up Your Community, we had the creative challenge of telling three similar stories in an emotionally engaging way that would call the viewer to action. The campaign aims to warn viewers of the danger posed by improper storage of prescription drugs.
Because of the goal of the campaign, we wanted to create cinematic pieces that each built up to a dramatic moment that demonstrated two different ways that each situation could have ended. Part of the cinematic nature of the films relied on the camera movement. We wanted to capture a feeling of subtle intensity, so we used a dolly for a lot of shots. A dolly allows you to move towards the subject while pulling away from their background. For the audience, this brings you closer to the actor and the bad decision that you know they are about to make, while removing them from the background, where their “normal” is. The color grading of each film was also crucial to the “reveal.” In the beginning of each film, when it feels like the characters may make a bad decision, the coloring is dark with a lot of blues and greens and there’s a lot of contrast. When you see the alternate ending and disaster averted, we shifted the color to something warmer and brighter.
We wanted these stories to feel “up close and personal” so we came up with some unique camera work. We wanted the viewer to feel like they were watching some of the action – like that big moment of decision – from the perspective of the pill bottle. To achieve that, we had to get creative because it involved shooting from inside a kitchen cabinet, a medicine cabinet, and a purse.
Creative Camera Rigging – The Kitchen Cabinet
For The Dinner Guest, we knew we would need to film from the inside of small spaces – like a kitchen cabinet. For all of these tricky shots, we used a stripped-down cinema camera rig; this meant removing any handles, extra monitors, or unnecessary pieces. For capturing action from a small, close-up space, we used a 10mm wide lens.
Creative Filming Locations – A Medicine Cabinet
In The House Call, the bathroom we filmed in was small and lighting was poor, so we needed an alternative option for the shots from inside the medicine cabinet. We built our own free-standing medicine cabinet with a hole in the back, which we were able to set up in the hallway. To account for our two filming locations, we didn’t use any of the bathroom’s original lighting; we lit the entire scene with a 2’ x 4’ LED panel, so that we could easily recreate the light in the hallway.
Creative Shot Angles – The Bottom of a Purse
For the shots from inside the purse, we actually used two purses in the filming of The Best Friend. The first purse was the one you see as the characters approach the bed. The other was a dummy with a hole in the bottom that allowed us shoot from inside. To give the perspective that the purse was on the bed, we placed the purse on the edge of the bed, with the camera inside of it, directly off the edge. This placement still allowed actors the freedom to zip and unzip the purse and reach inside.
Creative Sound Design – Custom Foley Work
Custom sound-design was another creative facet of the project. Although we don’t utilize it for all of our projects, foley is common on large-scale productions like Hollywood films. Foley consists of replacing the sounds in a film with studio-created sounds for an enhanced audio experience that brings the viewer closer to the action. Instead of replacing our sound effects with stock foley options, we created our own so that we had creative freedom and the ability to easily match the timing of the shot with the sound for it. For all three videos, we recreated various sounds such as footsteps, doors opening and closing, the purse zipper, a wrench being placed on the countertop, and pill bottles. Part of the creativity of foley is that many of the items used to create sound are not the actual items being represented on the screen. We often use items that will create a clearer and fuller sound (eg. using a full size door instead of a cabinet door to capture of the sound of a creaky door hinge).
It’s creative choices like these that make this an Emmy® worthy project, and give our team a chance to enjoy their craft. Stay tuned for more of our series, Why It’s Emmy Worthy, where we go behind the scenes of content and execution.