At times the A-Plan doesn’t always have the legs to become the final plan, but creativity and ingenuity can still produce a top-tier product.
I’ve been affiliated with the Toronto Marlies for quite some time and the 12 weeks taken to complete All For One was one of the longest stints spent away from the team in nearly five seasons. So conversations surrounding a new project with the hockey team started almost immediately after the airing of the final episode of All For One.
Check out Unfinished Business on IMDB
It was a balancing act. We wanted to follow up the previous year’s Push to the Playoffs without copying the format completely. Also, the team’s schedule – which the previous year was home game heavy – had the Marlies traveling from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Abbotsford, British Columbia with stops in between. The A-Plan was simple, travel with the team as they look to close out the season and lock down a playoff berth. But, as often is the case, the plan needed to be reworked and the travel was out.
Set during the final game of the 2012/13 regular season, the Unfinished Business story starts where the previous year’s playoff run ends. A team who had competed together into June were kept together when October came as the National Hockey League was out of commission with a labour dispute. Expectations soared for the club as the season opened, and the team responded by winning seven of their first nine home games.
As the season continued to unfold, the team was forced to reshape itself. The NHL returned and a large part of the Marlies joined the Maple Leafs for the late season start. Through Korbinian Holzer, Jerry D’Amigo, newcomer Morgan Rielly and general manager Dave Poulin, the team tells their story of determination to return to the playoffs and finished what they had started the year before. Unfinished Business originally aired on Leafs TV on April 26th, and was since syndicated on Rogers TV.
Canon 5D Mark II: Being my second full project with the 5D Mark II, I had already been able to work through the initial bumps and bruises of shooting on a new camera. What was still yet to be tested was how the camera reacted to artificial lighting, as All For One was shot mostly out doors. The challenges with light were compounded by the dimly lit surface and the scuffed boards indicative to a well used hockey rink. That said, the white ice reflected the light evenly creating a really neat effect when I shot the empty rink from the seats. I was actually able to utilize the lighting on several occasions to create a more dramatic scene. I also dialled back the white balance to create a colder feel. Fitting for a hockey rink.
Canon L-Series Lenses: I narrowed my bag down to only a pair of zoom lenses for the project. The EF 24-70 f/2.8 continues to be my go-to lens giving a great image at its widest setting and equal light at full zoom. Exterior, interior, game action and interviews were all shot on the 24-70, once agains comprising 85-90% of the used footage. To compliment the wider lens for game footage, I switched out for the EF 70-200 f/2.8. It allowed me to operate within the same camera settings, perfect for a past paced game. Given the back and forth nature of the game, I couldn’t imagine shooting with anything tighter than 200.
Genus Shoulder Rig: I had a single shot in mind when I picked up the Genus Shoulder. I wanted to walk down the tunnel as the team headed out to the ice allowing the camera to be the next player out. By the end of the day, I had spent nearly the entire time with the rig on my shoulder choosing sparingly to place it on the tripod. I had forgotten how nice it was not to be tied to a single axis when panning – like when using a tripod. Left to right movement mixed with a step forward or back allows for a fluid shot while still avoiding obstructions of view, like glass stanchions. That said, I had to keep reminding myself to keep the shot level (one of my biggest flaws).
Shape Paparazzi I Cage: As the accessories pile up, unfortunately you start running out of places to put everything. And I’m not sure about you, but a monitor and microphone doesn’t do me much good stuffed in my pocket. The cage alleviates the problem, offering several mounting holes at both the 1/4 and 3/8 varieties. The C shaped cage also acts as a comfortable top handle perfect for low tracking shots. The only draw back is that it does not connect directly to 15mm rods, so I had to screw it to an adaptor plate.
Cinevate Durus Follow Focus: There are multiple options out there when it comes to adding a follow focus to your rig. I’ll admit, my previous comfort with Cinevate products went a long way to adding their Durus system. But when presented with the option of getting the Genus follow focus as an add-on to the rig, I still went with the Cinevate for the bigger pull knob. I first learned gear ratios when riding my bike as a child, the bigger the gear, the finer the movement. The dry erase focus ring makes marking points of focus quick and easy – perfect when I had particular static points of interest that I moved between.
Marshall M-CT6 Field Monitor: During my first project with the 5D Mark II I was often challenged when trying to shoot in confined spaces or low angles, being left unable to see the screen. The Marshall 6″ Field Monitor is a bit bulky but the list of pros make it a must-have in my bag. The monitor uses the Canon standard LP-E6 battery, meaning I always have plenty of spares. The HDMI display creates a great uncompressed image and although the rear speaker isn’t the greatest, the stereo jack is great.
Cinevate Atlas 10 Slider: When I picked up the Cinevate slider I was still shooting mostly on the Panasonic HVX-200, requiring something with a little more beef. The benefit to which is that it’s extremely steady when placed on the ground, the drawback is lugging it around. I’ll admit carrying the slider, sticks, lenses and camera around took its toll on my shoulder. No complaints on the construction or smooth action. It produced beautiful shots on all sorts of surfaces. I haven’t yet, but I would suggest picking up the all terrain legs. It allows for far easier adjustment and stability. A quick tip, Manfrotto makes a tripod bag which fits this slider near perfectly.
Manfrotto 701HDV Video Head: I am enamoured by the Manfrotto line. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the logo, or maybe I have come to learn a thing or two about the product. For the price, the 701HDV head performs well in the sports world. It provides a smooth pan with light fluid resistance. Tilts are a little more labourous. Without great control over resistance I found the best way to get slow pans was to place my thumb and forefinger on the head itself, moderating the force applied. The head operated just as well with additional weight piled on, though the left/right movement of a slider created flex and a bowing in the image. I’m considering an upgrade for my next project, but the jury’s still out.
Manfrotto 547B Tripod: The tripod came as a package deal with the head. Sometimes we all make purchases that fit our budget more than our preference. I would be the first to suggest this set of sticks to those who set up at only one height for the day and then pack it in. The flip levers aren’t my first choice when spending a day constantly adjusting heights, but I appreciate how easy it is to remove the mid-level spreader and drop the head right down on the centre-post. It allows for levelling of the head while at an extremely low angle. By extending the feet out and carrying the camera by the post, it offers a decent counter balance to help steady shots while moving.
Felloni Tecpro 50: When travelling alone, cutting down as much weight is about as important as getting my morning coffee. Although I’m sure others would agree that LEDs feel less natural, the 1×1 lamps are incredibly lightweight (no pun intended) and they set a great atmosphere when shooting in the abandoned locker room. Although I haven’t found equal warmth from LEDs as compared to tungsten, a couple gels help cut the cold edge. I would like to experiment more with the variable temperature lamps.
Zoom H4n: Audio isn’t my strong suit. I’m still working through solutions to find the best combination. So far, I’ve received the highest quality output from the Zoom H4N. I’ll admit, I’m using it mainly for the XLR inputs, preamp and stereo output, feeding it straight into the camera to avoid synching audio to video later. When the audio output jack is being used, one press of the record button simply feeds the audio through the output and not recording it independently – cutting down battery usage. But user beware (and this is an embarrassing admission), the record and play buttons are of similar size. When operating blindly it was easy to press the wrong one, feeding pre-recorded audio through into the camera. Hey, it was an honest mistake.
Rotolight Articulated Arm: This is one of those things that is easy to forget about. I would have if it hadn’t been suggested. With a trio of ball joints – one on either end and an elbow in the middle – you can bend this little guy in just about any shape. With the rigid frame of the cage and the obvious desire to always view the monitor right-side-up, the articulated arm helps not only to view a level surface but also to tuck it into a convenient spot – because lord knows there’s a lot happening on that rig.
Sony MDR7506: I was out on location a couple summers ago when the camera op was sporting this fancy pair of Sony headphones. He brags that they are the best in the biz, especially with their consumer level price tag. Thinking about it I chuckle at the iPhone picture I took of the model number and then carried around the Sony store looking for the right pair. Truthfully, since the purchase I haven’t wanted anything else. Although not noise-cancelling, the comfortable cup does a good job at blocking out any ambient noise yet they don’t make my ears sweat (come on, you know what I’m talking about). I hear an impressive amount of highs and lows, with subtle frequencies picked up through the headphones that are missed – sometimes disappointingly so – through television speakers.
Lowepro X50 Attache: As far as camera bags go, this one still remains my at the top of my list. I usually opt to simply remove the inner day-bag from the outer case to lug around my lenses. The MacBook Pro slips easily into the back pocket in the bag, while the front flap is perfect for batteries and filters. It even has a key hook, perfect for those of us who hate the feeling of them in our pocket. I may have to grow into a new bag to accommodate new lenses, but if carting around three or less I’m always going back to this beauty.
PortaBrace Kodiak Run Bag: I think I found a pocket for every ring, cord and screw inside this PortaBrace bag. There’s a reason why I’ve seen all the bigger crews carting them around – this thing’s rugged. The bag is firm and keeps its form even when packed with considerable weight. The padding on the handles and straps are a nice touch, especially when lugging this thing across town. There’s only thing that leaves me scratching my head, two triangular cardboard pieces with velcro along the bottom. I’d guess it’s some sort of internal divider, just can’t figure out how it works.
WD My Book 2TB Hard Drive: This seems like such a small piece of the production – but when you think about it, it’s huge. Every shred of footage straight out of the camera, formatted for editing or cut together in the final piece is stored on an external drive. All of the clips are mapped to the drives when editing. Integrity of the drive is tantamount to completing the project. The external power source on the WD My Book allows for speedy transfer through the USB 3 connection. They are reasonably priced and easily stacked and stored. Knock on wood, I haven’t had a single corrupt file yet.
The project was a quick three days of shooting with a turnaround time of one week from the first time the camera turned on to the evening the program premiered. The final night was a 38 hour special, but that’s half the fun. The media folk with the Marlies were outstanding when helping to coordinate the shooting and interviews with such a limited window of time. The program was coloured and edited in its entirety on Final Cut Pro.
I’m happy with how the program turned out, especially the opening sequence. It felt almost hollow and haunting. I also enjoyed shooting off the old monitor on the old dub deck. I’ve always had a difficult time bouncing back and forth between DSLR and broadcast footage in a way that doesn’t jar the style too much. Shooting in a dimly lit room with the flickering television helped distinguish the broadcast footage as being foreign within the framework of a familiar style.
It’s funny how by the end of the program, my favourite parts of the finished piece are the ones that weren’t part of that original plan. Although I likely would’ve been pleased with the outcome of the first plan, the project proved that making adjustments doesn’t have to alter the quality of the outcome. It just means you have to go back to the drawing board, apply a little brain grease and come up with something else you’re confident in.
Here are the four segments that comprised Unfinished Business. See something you would’ve done different? Let me know, I’ve always got a listening ear.