The life of a vurbmoto employee is, more often then not, very chaotic. Why is that, you may ask? Well, some may know and others may not, however, vurbmoto isn’t all we do. If you’re a fan of anything Red Bull Motorsports, you maybe familiar with shows like Red Bull MotoSpy, Red Bull Imagination, Red Bull Flight Plan, and Red Bull Straight Rhythm. Not only do we handle vurbmoto content (when we can), but we are the crew that produces, shoots, edits, and delivers the aforementioned Red Bull projects. To say we are overworked and, at times, wanting to commit a felony because prison might be an easier experience with less stress, is an understatement. But, at the end of the day, we seem to pull off our impression of The Great Houdini and magically bring everything to life within the deadlines provided.
So, with that, I thought it would be “fun” to break down some setups from a few Red Bull projects I shot, specifically for Red Bull Straight Rhythm. Please note this would be way more in-depth and interesting in podcast form. Maybe one day. Maybe.
The first was for the social media promo ads for RBSR that featured Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen on the beach talking shit to each other. We had a skeleton crew and only a handful of hours with Ken and Justin so efficiency was the name of the name of the day. Wes “I Don’t Read These Articles Because Kyle Shoots On A RED” Williams secured a location permit which was an immense help and allowed us to arrive to set a couple of hours early to commence setup without issue. Lighting wise, this was a challenge. Our inspiration were the Corona beer commercials on the beach. I had a decent idea how those pieces were/are shot, and was also very confident that our budget wouldn’t allow us to achieve the look exactly how we would’ve liked. So, with minimal budget to our names, we did a lot with a little. I reached out to my good friend and union Key Rigger, Adam “450Grip” Erler for some assistance. I explained to him our situation and, based on our crew of almost nobody, he provided me with his input and also what he could provide (gear wise) for such a small crew. So, I was able to secure us with two hi-hi overhead roller stands, a 12×12 frame, 12x diffusion, and a few other small things directly from a current Disney Plus production he may or may not be rigging on.
As excepted, you don’t realize how small a 12×12 setup is until you place two bodies underneath your frame, put on a 35mm lens, place camera at your desired spot, and then see that all of production (your frame and rollers) is in your shot. Classic! The reality is we needed at least a 20×20, some serious lights, big ass neg, and more to get the look we wanted. But, that means having a proper G&E crew on set to actually transport, load in, rig, etc everything (my little Subaru Hipster Wagon can only do so much) we would’ve needed. So, we had to spend some time refining out composition to not only keep production out of frame, but also achieve the framing we wanted. After we managed to navigate that debacle, we were (mostly) in the clear. However, as the day went on, the sun kept moving which meant we kept having to move the 12×12. Moving a 12×12 in the sand and wind while also adjusting its height is, well… Precarious. But, somehow, someway, we got through it. It wasn’t my favorite look, but that is only because I saw all the things we needed to have with us to really achieve the look we were chasing; though, I can say it is a good sign to make a lot with a little but also see how you can improve things moving forward. Plus, it all ended up being 9×16 anyways, which means 98% of the shots you see nothing because it is all cut off, so what does it matter? Thanks, Instagram.
A couple of days later, I then embarked on shooting the next RBSR project, which the working title was dubbed, “Two-Stroke Vs Four-Stroke.” This was a long form piece with Jeff Emig, Grant Langston, Mitch Payton, and David Pingree. We (myself, my AC Shannon, and sound mixer Crane), spent the day in my Hipster Wagon driving all over the Inland Empire shooting these interviews. We really had no direction with the interview looks other than to make them look the best we could with what we had. And, what we had was my gear below…
-RED Gemini 5k Super 35
-Rokinon Cinema Glass (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm. All T1.5s)
-PolarPro BaseCamp Matte Box Kit
-2-5 stop drop in Variable ND, 6-9 stop Variable ND, & Mist filter
-Cartoni Stabilo 3 Stage Carbon Fiber legs (100mm bowl)
-Sachtler DV 10 SB Fluid Head
-One Aputure Nova P300c w/ soft box & grid
-One Aputure LS 60x w/ soft box & grid
-One Aputure 300d MarkII w/ V-Mount Power
-Two Aputure Accent B7c LED RGBWW Light
-One 6×6 frame
-Three 50ft stingers
-Four Cardellini clamps
-6x full stop diff
-6x neg fill
-Two 24×36” flags
-Six 15lb sand bags
-Two 20lb sand bags
This isn’t my full kit. This is just what was used, but 95% of what I own was used for these interviews. Our first interview setup was with Jeff Emig at his place in Corona, CA. Originally, we looked at doing it in his living room, but it was going to be a bit too small. So, instead, Fro spent $50 and rented out the pool hall/community center in his apartment complex so we had something much more spacious to work with. Before we started loading gear, we spent some time working around this big space to figure out what would look best for framing. Once we got that sorted out, we commenced the mission of loading in all of our gear, building camera, setting the frame, and then building out our lighting setup. Once we figured out our look and setup, things were fairly simply moving forward.
In total, we had four talking heads to shoot. So, my objective was to shoot two of them on frame left and two of them on frame right. This way, in the edit, theoretically, if we start with Emig on frame left, and then we cut to Mitch, he will then be on frame right and, visually, this aesthetic looks much nicer when compared to cutting from ta talking head on frame left to another talking head on frame left. This is one of those things were you are, to some extent, planning ahead for the edit the best that you possible can. With Emig and Ping on frame left, we motived our lighting my keying from camera right with the Aputure Nova P300c through a 6x rag of diffusion. On camera left, we used a 6x negative fill to give some added shape and contrast onto the shadow side of the face, and then we used the Aputure LS 60x as a hair light to help pull out the subject from the background a little bit. In both Emig and Ping’s interviews, the small little light bulb far off in the background was the Aputure Accent B7c bulb and dimmed down to the appropriate brightness and color temp. For Mitch and GL, it was the exact same setup, just flipped. So, Mitch and GL on camera right, our key light camera left, neg camera right, and because of our locations, we did not use the Aputure Accent B7c. We also used the Aputure 300d for GL and Ping’s interviews, shooting it through the window to help give some cool looking texture in the background. We also used my two flags to help with controlling the spill even further from our key light so things weren’t getting muddied up because of bouncing light that we did not need.
My biggest take away, as always, we needed more gear. There is so much refining that can be done. For GL, we placed that 300d outside, however, it started raining on us as soon as we set up, so I had to pull one flag from inside and place it outside to cover the lamp and also walk in the lamp to have it as close to the window as possible because this allowed a small portion of the roof to also cover the lamp. In a perfect world, you want that light far away from the window, this way it allows you to have a more dramatic texture on the background wall of the blinds in the window (as we had with Pingree).
Nonetheless, the struggle is real. Despite the amount of gear procured, there is always something you could have or something you are missing. In an ideal world, we’d have a big enough budget to hire a G&E team with a one ton truck and a gaffer, which provides us with more than enough equipment and crew, but also really allows me to really dial in the look and work with my AC to discuss lensing, filtration, and all that jazz. But, for a barebones situation, overall, I am stoked how our final looks turned out. I always feel clueless when I am lighting this stuff but, somehow, someway, like Houdini, this shit magically works out pretty well considering the limitations. It’s also good working this way because you learn all aspects of filmmaking: shooting, direction, lighting, grip, and everything else in between, which can make you a more valuable asset on set and also allows you are more clear direction and understanding on what you want and how to achieve it.
I am seriously considering turning Frame of Mind into a podcast where I can be more detailed about these types of shoots. So, if you want to see more BTS photos, videos, and a more detailed breakdown of how we shot and lit these interviews (and other shit that we do), leave a note in the comments and, maybe, if enough people read this far, we will do something like that.