Tuesday, 13 December 2011

L'Oreal/UNESCO 'For Women in Science Video' shot with Canon DSLR's...with a little help from the XF 305

I was commissioned to shoot a video for a very cool project earlier this year

The L'Oreal UNESCO 'For Women is Science' award which aims to 'promote and highlight the critical importance of ensuring greater participation of women in Science'

Every year a bursary is given to four women in the UK and in other countries around the world to help women fund their research.

In this world of increasing sexual equality there are still a great disparity of women working in science, so this is a particularly cool programme.

The subject of the short film was Dr Heather Whitney who is studying iridescence in plants.

Iridescent plants have to been seen to be believed.

It was a particularly challenging project as it involved everything from interviews to working in glasshouses to shooting slow motion of insects.

This project used just about every video capable camera I own (as well as a loaner Achromatic Phase One back)

We shot parts of the interview on a Canon XF305 but apart from that it was a Canon DSLR only zone as we wanted to use a shallow depth of field and the light weight of the camera's enabled us to have a bit of fun by making out own Jib Crane, as though the shoot was on a very tight budget we wanted to do some imaginative shots but more of that later.

Kit List for the Shoot


Canon XF305 Used for tight shot in the interview that we we did not have to worry about audio

Canon 5D MkII for just about everything else

Canon 550d  To shoot 60p slow motion of the bees.


Rode NTG-3  Mic for interview, great Mic at a great price

Rycote Mic Mount. say goodbye to handling noise


Canon EF 'L' Series 100mm F2.8 this lens ,which could just be the sharpest lens I have ever used, was used many, many times.

Canon EF 'L' Series 24-105mm F4 Useful all rounder for all the other bits.

Canon EF 'L' Series 16-35mm F2.8 This lens was used for the Jib Crane Shot.


Chimera Triolet 1k with a Chimera Medium Softbox, key light for the interview

3 x Mini Litepanels  We used these for back light in the interview and the Bee sequence

California Sunbounce Small reflector For fill on the interview and also some of the  glasshouse shots.


Manfrotto 546 MVB  I use this for just about everything that involves video

Manfrotto 536 MPRO Great on the uneven ground of the Glasshouse

Other Stuff

Manfrotto Stacker Stands 1005BAC So strong, but so neat and tidy with the added bonus that they don't make a horrid rattle when packed in the car 

Kessler Crane Pocket dolly.Great value, I take it on all my movie shoots.
I use this a lot as it lends a whole level of production to shots. We used this extensively in the glasshouse and for the bee going down the tube and for the specimen shot in the glass case. I have taken this all over the world and it is a very valuable tool....big bang per buck.

Manfrotto Avenger A475B We used it to mount a camera on to hang over the spiral stair case as you will see. If I had one light to use for the rest of my life it would be this one. There truly is very little you cannot do with it. It does cost more than the 'normal' Manfrotto 420B boom stand but is capable of taking much higher loading thanks to its rectangular legs, one of which is adjustable meaning you can set it up on uneven ground or even stairs. There is a modest weight penalty over the 420 too, but I can live with that.

Manfrotto Avenger A4050 CSA large boom stand of seemingly limitless versatility which we used to support the home made jib crane.

Zacuto 'Z' findershooting video is fun, but better to know if it sharp! The 'Z' finder is THE difference when shooting video...perfect for 'Run and Gun' if you buy just one accessory for DSLR shooting it should be this.

Zacuto EVF. Which is one of those that you thought you would never need and when you have one you wonder how you ever did without.

I opted for the EVF 'flip' which has the added advantage of being able to 'Flip' the 'Z' finder out of the way and use it as a 'mini monitor' (if you don't have a 'Z' finder already they do a Pro bundle which works out a little cheaper)

Here is Lan getting down with the beetles with the EVF Slider combo.

Ah yes, the jib crane.

We wanted to add some production value to the shoot without going down the rental and pushing the budget.

How to do it?

I have an excellent and very strong cantilevered lighting boom made by a company called Red Wing.

Normally I use it in conjunction with large Chimera softbox, Chimera Octoplus or Elinchrom Octa for laying down lots of soft light from on high, for this application it is truly superb.

But Lan Bui and thought we might be able to modify it and put a Canon 5D MkII with the 16-35mm F2.8 (we duct taped the lens at 16mm)

To adapt the Red Wing boom end to take the camera lens comboI used a circular Manfrotto clamp, put the shaft from a floor stand through it and then used a super small mini tripod head on it which was just able to do the job without weighing too much.

Are these the optimum components ? No, but they are what we had to hand.

Control was never going to be easy as it was not built for the job so it was a matter of practice

Here are our practice sessions in my back yard.

Lan became quite competent with this rather unique set up in the back yard but we did not factor in how difficult it was going to be when we used it in the glass house of Cambridge University with all of the trees and plants to contend with, and an earth floor.

With a bit of steadying in post though I thing we pulled it off though.

We used the Zacuto EVF on a long HDMI cable to monitor the shot, it was invaluable.

Not only did the Zacuto EVF play a staring role from on high it was great for the low shots of Dr Heather Whitney going up the stairs.When you are lying flat you just cannot monitor the shot with the camera's LCD and the EVF plays it part again. It is highly recommended as it is so light and compact you barely know you have it in your bag. 

The macro Bee photography was where the Canon 550d came in with the 100mm Macro, used again with the Zacuto EVF and the Zacuto 'Z' Finder which I used for a long time prior to having the EVF

With the Litepanels inside the Bee tank.

We shot the sequence at 60p and slowed it down to 25p in Cinema Tools then in FCP X we slowed it down to 50 percent of that, so around 125FPS.

Here is the before and after

FCP X has some great features and for the money it is a bargain, no plug in needed for this.

Music was by the talented Douglas Black Heaton, a man whom is never far away from any of my projects....including the forthcoming documentary.


Jeremy Elder said...

Thank you for sharing your process on this. It turned out very well.

Drew Gardner said...

Thanks Jeremy

Have a great weekend



bip said...

This is a charming video, that's looks like it was easy to film. A credit to women in science.

vered said...

@bip - I doubt it was easy to film, I don't think such thing exists, lol! I love the finished bit, the use of light is awesome!

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Guys

Yes, it was a little more difficult that looks.

But a whole heap of fun...



Andrew said...

Drew, a beautiful film, and thanks for your detailed explanation of how you filmed it. Very helpful.

My one nitpick with the video is the pacing. The voiceover is unrelenting. I think it would have been much more effective to add in some pauses and let the piece breathe. Especially when she starts getting quite technical, it's a bit overwhelming to follow it all.

But otherwise, very nice job!

vered said...

It's not an "art" film, or maybe I just get bored fast ;), I thought is was fine, I guess there are a lot of different ways people like things to be :)

Lan Bui (of The Bui Brothers) said...

Andrew, thanks for your comment and for the nitpick!

I wish we could post one of the earlier versions that were about 5 minutes... it had lots of breathing room but in the end it had to be tightened up to the clients liking!

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Andrew

Just to back up what Lan said, commercial work is always a balancing act.

Creativity versus clients needs...