Behind The Scenes: Steel Shack - Project Breakdown

I once again have been busy shooting and wrapping up a few weddings and I haven’t had a chance to really post anything. One of the more interesting projects that I finished was for Solid Rock Steel’s 50th Anniversary. The president hired two musicians to create a parody of B52’s ‘Love Shack’, called ‘Steel Shack’. I broke the project down into three sections: Prep, Shoot and Edit. 

1. Prep
Plan the Shoot, Shoot the Plan. These are the words I live by for projects of this size and it really is the most important part of any project. We had some essential aspects that Peter (President of Solid Rock Steel) wanted in the video. Peter wanted everyone in the video. This meant we had to capture over 30 different people throughout the day. We also had to film enough dancing, lip-syncing and miscellaneous B roll to fill up 5:45 minutes, not to mention a group shot with everyone. This meant we had to create a detailed shotlist and a plan for shooting. We were luckily enough to work with dance coordinator, Katie Murphy, who created a fantastic list of dance moves and scenes for the steel workers (who are actual steel workers). I then created a shotlist based on key shots and key pieces of the song that would be great to have specific people lip-sync. We ended up with a six page shotlist, organized by locations and people. I also broke down the song with timecode in order to filter any part of the song for playback while filming. These two pieces were essential in making our shoot go smoothly. We literally did all the creative work before we even set foot in the steel warehouse. This also helped us prioritize key shots like the truck driving into the lot with the drone. It also sparked the idea of the party scene outside at the end of the video. Preparation is key.

2. Shoot

The shop opens at 6:00am, so this my camera assistant, Chris, Katie and I had to be there beforehand to set up and be ready to roll. Chris and I arrived for the first day that we planned to shoot, however, a power failure occurred. We had to pack up, go home and reschedule. The next available date for shooting was a Friday which provided me with a week to edit. It wasn’t ideal but I managed. Again, we arrived a little before 6:00am and setup the FS7, the A7s on the Ronin and the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. I parked my truck on the lot and used it as our camera cart. Since we started shooting so early we were able to make use of some beautiful light as the sun came up. We got some beautiful slow motion (120fps) shots of the steel workers walking through the painting warehouse and some amazing backlit forklift donuts. We literally went down our shot list and started checking off the shots as we captured them. This worked great - there was never a time that we didn’t know which shot was next. We also realized that we were moving through the shots rather quickly. This meant if we saw another shot that might look cool we decided to spend 5-10 minutes and grab it. Katie was also a great help in motivating the steel workers to dance and lip-sync. Overall, the staff was really into it which made the video even better. Chris, my assistant, was a great help. Having an assistant is such an asset in making shooting efficient. Relying on that key person to grab gear, power the Ronin or Phantom up while I’m shooting another scene, is invaluable. The highlight shot of the entire video was the final shot. Everyone was partying and we ‘droned’ up to reveal Solid Rock Steel when the balloons are released.I shot a few close ups of people partying and then switched to the drone. We only had 30 helium balloons so we had one chance to nail the drone move and the release of the balloons. During the steel workers’ lunch break I did a few test runs to make sure I had the drone move down. I had to clear a lot of power lines to capture the opening truck shots as well. Chris acted as a spotter for this task. Regarding the end shot, the only issue we encountered was not releasing the balloons quickly enough. In the last few frames you can see the balloons starting to go up. I would have preferred it happen soon, then again, it was a one time shot.

3. Edit
As the shot had been postponed I only had a week to edit. We ended up shooting 45.94gbs of footage on the Friday. I began my edit on Sunday night. Over the years of editing I have learned the easiest thing to begin with are the clips/sequences that you are confident of. For me, this was the lyp-syncing clips. They were probably also the most time consuming. Once I had those matched up to the audio track I trimmed the clips where I actually wanted to feature staff singing. I then worked backwards. Because of the prep, the last shot would be the drone up and the logo fades in. I then cut a bit of the close ups from the party scene right before the drone shot. I then went to the beginning as I knew we wanted them driving up in the truck and entering the warehouse. I then began going through, clip by clip, the different dancing/welding clips and inserted them into the timeline. I also paid strong attention to the beats of the song and make sure my cuts happened on those beats to ensure a tighter cut. It was a challenge to fill 5:45 minutes, but thankfully, we did shoot a lot of B roll. After my second cut (I never show anyone my first because it's horrible), I sent a non-graded cut (via private video vimeo) to Chris for his opinion. I find it helpful to have a set of fresh eyes on a project, especially if you have a quick turn-around time. Chris made a few suggestions and then I was off to cut three. It’s here where I the colour grading. Once completed on Wednesday, I forwarded a copy to Peter for his approval. He was pleased with the outcome and downloaded a copy to play that Saturday.

Here are some more behind the scenes photos of the shoot.