By Peter Calder
This past month at Tidal League, we had our most significant production to date; the filming of LeagueBiz Season 3 in Las Vegas during Summer League. It consisted of 1 prep day, four production days, 11 episodes, 15 cameras, 19 lights and 27 guests. LeagueBiz is, first and foremost, a round table talk show format series. One of the problems we faced with this format was creating a beautiful-looking environment for the talent to be in while being lit professionally and achieving our many different, desired angles for the project.
Set design is a leading factor in overall production. Being led by Will Harrington, we created a beautiful environment for the show this season. An essential aspect of this side of things was the chairs. We decided to go with individual chairs that, of course, accented the theme of the season, but also we were able to space all the guests carefully so that we could take full advantage of our array of different camera angles. It also helps to make changes easily between episodes, to quickly take out or add a chair depending on the number of guests for that episode.
With lighting, the most challenging problem was covering all of the guests and hosts using different colour temperatures and making sure they all had separation and brought depth between each other and the background and set itself. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, an easier way of saying it is by making it look “cinematic,” lol. But this is a bit more than swiping over to the cinematic setting of an iPhone. Going back to the problem at hand, how do you set up 19 lights in one area without being in the way of 15 different camera angles stretching 180 degrees around the set?
It’s quite simple, mount everything overhead, eliminating the many light stands that would’ve been scattered everywhere.
Our first main light source (or key light) was a constructed 8x8 overhead softbox pointing directly down with a skirt. This gave us a very soft and even look that covered all of the talent; the skirt provided this light to only cover the front of the set and subjects without spilling over into the background. We had a few practicals as well, five chandleries with incandescent, dimmable light bulbs and six tube lights. These practicals were motivated by four lights mounted 15 feet above the set along the back walls that had tightly closed barn doors to project a warm edge and backlight to all of the subjects. Aputure’s new versions of their barn doors made it easy to control them from spilling onto other areas of the set.
Lastly, we also had two spotlights with gobo’s on either side of the set that were positioned directly at the back wall to provide that final layer of depth and texture from the subject. A motorized overhead truss allowed us to mount all of these lighting setups without using any ladders, scissor lifts or clamps. The overall lighting process for this production was a lot of fun because of the excellent studio space that was flexible to work with.
As for the camera setups themselves, over the last 2-3 years, we’ve experimented with many different types and brands and have learned a lot about what best fits our needs. In terms of body, we decided to go with Sony, a combination of Sony FX6s and A7Siii’s specifically for this season. In the last year, we have found that Sony makes the most sense for these talk show recordings for many reasons that stretch from the sensor’s overall performance. (sharpness, dynamic range, colour, etc.) But also the efficiency, working with 15 different camera angles recording for over an hour. Each recording means much media that Sony can capture with fantastic efficiency. In terms of glass, for the most part, we went with Schneider Cine-Xenar lenses. These provided us with a beautiful fall-off and a clear deep image. As for the actual camera angles, we went for a very diverse group of shots; we had a wide on an automated slider, medium to wide jib crane, medium two shots, close-ups, extreme close-ups and over-the-shoulder close-ups. We wanted to take the standard format of a talk show to the next level by including all of these complex camera angles. Thanks to technological innovation, a lot of these types of shots wouldn’t have been made possible to the amount of crew we had on set. For example, to achieve the jib crane shot we captured, it would typically take 2-4 people to operate/control, but thanks to the new DJI Ronin expansion, we could operate the whole jib crane system with just one person.
Overall, the production of Leaguebiz season 3 was a big undertaking, and we overcame countless hurdles, not mentioned thanks to our fantastic team. Shout out to everyone to contributed so much to the production.
Peter Calder - Director / Camera Operator
Hong Lau - 1st Assistant Director / Camera Operator
Kurt Benson - Executive Producer
Will Harrington - Art Director / Camera Operator
Sophia Rooke - Head of Still Photography / Camera Operator
Mat Prince - Sound Recordist
Pen Moodz - 2nd Assistant Director
Keegan Poulton - Camera Operator
Leisa Washington - Managing Partner
Courtney Scott - EVP of Talent