Balancing a Ballet

Well, friends and readers (and friends who read), we had a rather busy week last week. At 5pm on the Friday before President’s Day we received a call requesting us to organize a four day shoot requiring five RED M-X’s scheduled for the coming Wednesday. The job: filming Ballet San Jose’s production of Swan Lake. Knowing we would lose the following Monday to the celebration of those venerable Commanders in Chief both past and present, our time frame looked quite narrow. With but a weekend and one weekday to amass an able crew and a sufficient slew of equipment, we’d be shaming Ol’ Honest Abe if we said we weren’t a bit panicked.

Fortunately for us, past years saw the arrangement of a Red Alliance, a veritable coalition of Bay Area Red Camera owners (check out for more information!). It has served us well in the past and this occasion was no exception. Already enlisted by default was our own Red camera system and DIT, David Ives, as well as Chris Layhe as the master camera operator. Stephen Lovett of Uroboros Films and an Alliance co-founder blew in from Sunnyvale fully equipped. Arthur Rosato, another co-founder, joined up to provide his experience and familiarity with the venue, ensuring an accommodating work-space. We enlisted as shooters Art Adams and Caroline Harrison, the latter of which brought along her personal RED. To complete the five, we picked up RED M-X’s provided by Purebred Productions and Pedersen Media Group, our thanks to them for accommodating us on such short notice.

As much as this may seem like a giant pat on our own backs, it isn’t. Instead it is a written appreciation meant to reflect on how quickly and efficiently a complicated, data and time intensive production was pieced together. Over the course of four nights we shot twenty different angles of a performance and logged over 60 hours of footage. Our workflow was indeed augmented to support the huge amount of data to be copied and backed-up each night. We had four units running all four nights and into each next day in order to do so.

The shoot’s timeline, variety and amount of equipment, and able camera people allowed us to capture both normal and overcranked footage from numerous vantage points, lensed from 18mm to 300mm. We were able to achieve the highest in quality of content and came away with enough coverage to create what we are sure will be an all-encompassing viewing experience and a truly professional program.

The whole experience has left us confident in the systems we have created and of what is achievable with just one call, or several in this case. A truly great crew came together in a matter of three days and enough equipment came with them to allow for the successful video documentation of an event. In the end, we at CLAi feel very invigorated and thankful to know who we know, to have gotten the chance to work with them, and to have gained an even more detailed vision of what is possible with the RED Alliance.