Field Notes from a Pacific Northwest Video Shoot

A recent project brought the Genius House team from DFW to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula for a product shoot on an oyster farm. It was an eventful production, it ideal for documenting field notes, obstacles and keys to preparation. Here is what we learned from this challenging environment shooting video at Hama Hama Oyster Farm.

1. Mother nature does not care about your production schedule. The plan for day one was to scout the location, get to know the team, revise the shot list and interview schedule, (eat fresh oysters) and get some rest before the following long shoot day. Mother nature thought this was hilarious. We soon discovered that harvesting clams and oysters begins at the lowest tide, which would occur at 2:00 a.m on that day. The hard work in the client’s apparel would be taking place on the beach, covered in shells, in complete darkness, in the rain. After a moment of panic, we took stock of equipment and thanked ourselves for being prepared. We had waterproof housing for the cameras, the Sony a7S ii camera which would shoot stunning video at very low light, and an assistant to help to carry gear and follow the shooter with an umbrella.

Waiting to shoot with coffee in hand.

Waiting to shoot with coffee in hand.

2. Coffee. After location scouting, dinner, prepping gear, re-checking the shot list and settling in to our cabin, hot coffee kept us going until it was time to shoot on the beach in the middle of the night. Coffee was also helpful at 6:00 a.m. the following morning as we prepared for the early call time on the boat. This is also known as simply working your ass off until the job is done. It turns out this is pretty standard for video production, but having coffee, Redbull, Monster Energy, and snacks are essential.

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Darren hand held shooting on the boat. Not pictured: The GoPro, which is likely on the ocean floor at this point.

3. Let the story determine the gear you use. The objective of the video was to showcase Xtratuf boots, a staple for the hard-working marine lifestyle, in an authentic environment. It was important to remember that this is the experience we were there to capture, and not get carried away with video equipment in this environment. Headlamps are truly the only light the farm workers have at night while they bend down on the shell-packed beaches, which created a dramatic lighting effect that we used to our advantage. On the boat early in the morning, visibility can be low and the choppy waves rock the wobbly platform, so a handheld look was appropriate. Inside the plant, there are rooms with shucking, packaging, cleaning and activity happening everywhere. The Ronin-M was the perfect tool to smoothly capture the various stations within the processing facility. This also allowed us to highlight boots and low angle shots and transition to upper body and hand shots in one seamless continuous motion.

4. Be flexible. With the storm intensifying and winter daylight fading on our only full shoot day, we were forced to split into two teams in order to capture b-roll and the interviews that were vital to the story. Once again, Mother Nature scoffed at our plans as we lost power (and lights) during the interviews inside the farm offices. We weighed our background and lighting options and quickly moved our interview setting to the window using the remaining daylight as our key light.

5. Laugh.  The shoot was complete and as our crew pulled out of the property driveway, the sun peaked through the clouds to which we all groaned and complained about the irony. “No f-ing way. You’ve got to be kidding me. Now the f-ing sun comes out?!” Our complaints turned to ironic laughs and a quick decision to turn around, get a beer from the Hama Hama Saloon and fly the drone to capture footage of the gorgeous river pouring into the canal in the sunlight. The sunny aerial footage didn’t make it into the rugged action-based final video, but it was certainly worth turning around for.

 

The final product: 

 

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