As Scott Rodgers, Tier10’s Chief Creative Officer, looked out his hotel room window, he knew that his night of filming in downtown Cleveland would be ruined. The dark clouds rolling over the Main Avenue Bridge would soon bring overnight rains to swell the Cuyahoga River. A film schedule that took weeks of meticulous planning would need to be tightened up on the fly.
“We might as well get some sleep tonight, because we’ll barely be getting any the next two days,” said Rodgers.
Social Media Manager Whitney Small was tasked with the filming schedule for the trip. The goal: to shoot a whole new series of commercials for the Northern Ohio Honda Dealers Association (NOHDA). At that point, one and a half days of filming had already been completed. Unfortunately for Whitney and the crew, the makeup shoot for the 2014 Honda CR-V rolling through Cleveland would have to be during their sleeping time.
“Everything has to be scheduled up to the minute in order to take advantage of the short time we have here,” said Small, who was also running point on content creation for Tier10 and its clients’ social media during the trip. “You would think four days is a lot of time, but this association consists of 20 dealers, so we have to move quickly and vary locations.”
NOHDA not only has dealers in the Cleveland area, but also in Akron and Youngstown, which are 40 and 75 miles away, respectively. Therefore, Rodgers made sure the crew got footage of the different areas – as getting in-market footage is a staple of Tier10’s service.
“Even though we’re based in D.C, we always make it a point to get in-market footage for our clients,” Rodgers said. “We also take advantage of our time there to gather tons of content to use on social media. This creates a better product not just for the client, but for the consumer, connecting them to their market.”
While that focus isn’t new to Tier10, the approach is always different when it comes to equipment and technology. Earlier this year, Tier10 started shooting aerial footage. Rodgers worked closely with DSLRPros to custom build a DJI Phantom, an unmanned aerial vehicle affixed with a video camera and controlled by a remote. The UAV gives Tier10 the ability to obtain the type of aerial footage that could previously only be obtained with a helicopter.
“Aerial shots show the car and the city from a different perspective; it’s just plain cool,” he said. “The ability to be able to fly and shoot like this is a passion of mine – the adult version of my childhood hobby of flying radio-controlled helicopters. DSLRPros has been a great partner, and is really leading the industry with this technology.”
For this most recent shoot, Tier10 brought along a new range of equipment in addition to the DJI Phantom. The agency upgraded from a set of Canon 5D Mark III’s and is now filming with Canon “C” Line cameras: the C100 and C300. These provide a higher data rate and more dynamic range, allowing greater flexibility in post-production. In other words, Tier10’s productions are now cinema quality.
Tier10 also upgraded its lighting capabilities, especially for nighttime shoots, with a Kino Flo 4-Bank light system and Litepanel’s 1×1 LEDs. This allows the team to have the right amount of control and soft light for any and every shot.
Arguably the biggest addition was the MoVI M10 3-Axis motorized gimbal stabilizer. The device is made by Freefly Systems, which made its name making camera stabilizers for helicopter and crane rigs. Tier10’s Director of Photography Devin Leisher was the most excited to have this device on hand.
“The MoVI allows us to not have to worry about bumps in the road, minor vibrations, or anything else that may cause an unsteady shot while trying to film running footage,” he said. “It also allows us to get more creative in the ways we choreograph shots.”
One of the more creative shots involved literally hanging off the side of a vehicle. Leisher and longtime Tier10 photographer Erik Motta took turns strapping into the frame of their rented minivan with a five-point harness, capturing footage while leaning halfway out the sliding passenger door and rear of the vehicle. This allowed Leisher and Motta to capture a complete 180 degrees of footage, much more than would be possible filming from inside the van. Not only could they capture a vehicle alongside them, they could also film it passing them in just one shot.
In all, Tier10’s production crew captured half a terabyte of moving images, not including stills that will be used for various advertising platforms and social media. In those four days, everything was scheduled to the minute, including meals and driving between locations, which left very little leeway for changes. That’s why the rainstorm did end up cutting into the team’s sleeping time, as they averaged a little over three hours per night.
“The Cleveland shoot was very exciting because we were able to take our guerrilla-style approach to filmmaking that we’ve refined over the past year and merge it with cutting-edge technologies that we’ve been viewing from afar,” Leisher said. “Having spent so much time creating great content with various limitations, Cleveland marks the beginning of a new chapter in the way we film and edit. It opened new possibilities for shots we only previously imagined and gave us sharper and more lush visuals that handle grading and editing like a dream,” said Leisher.
In the upcoming weeks, Tier10 has planned similar trips to capture more in-market footage and content in Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
But Rodgers and the team may have even more in store when it comes to new production methods and technology.
“I just got back from DSLRPros headquarters in Florida, where I test flew and custom-built a new DJI S1000 Octocopter, so you’ll be seeing that soon.” Rodgers said. “We definitely have a lot more cool stuff in the works.”
Follow @Tier10 on Twitter and Instagram for future updates from the road. You can also follow Scott Rodgers on Twitter and Instagram @scotty703 for more behind-the-scenes coverage.
You can find previous Tier10 behind-the-scene footage below.
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