A few weeks ago I did a remote interview with a couple of guys from Freefly Systems to talk about our use of the Movi M15 on The Expanse. We also got into general film business discussions and how I got into the industry, as well as my background as a steadicam operator.
Every Axis is an original podcast from Freefly Systems and is produced at their HQ in Woodinville by Tabb Firchau and Evan MacDonald.
After months of post, the time has finally come for the premiere of The Long Road Home. The first two episodes aired on National Geographic Channel last night (November 7th 2017). I shot episodes 3, 4 and 7 with director Mikael Salomon, while DP Yasu Tanida shot the other 5 episodes out of the 8 in total with director Phil Abraham. Mikko Alanne was our fearless showrunner who got us through the challenges. Seth Reed was our production designer who built 1500 feet of Sadr City streets.
The show was extremely challenging in terms of logistics, scope and schedule. We shot entirely in Fort Hood, Texas – with the full support of the US Army. Living and working in a major US military base added to the reality we were working on creating… as our massive sets to recreate Sadr City, Iraq were built within training areas of Fort Hood. We went through something like 200,000 rounds of blank ammunition, along with loads of explosives and det cord.
We are all very proud of the work, especially because of it being a true story, one which is close to the heart of the US army. We had several veterans who were there during the real event (Black Sunday as its referred to in military circles) workig along side us during filming – knowing we were telling their harrowing story gave us the inspiration to get it right on every level.
We shot primarily with the Arri Amira – usually 3 at at time. We also carried an Arri Mini. Panavision Dallas provided all the gear – we used Primo lenses which were detuned (we used the light version for the home front material and heavy for the Iraq scenes).
Below is a link to a behind the scenes documentary on the making of the show.
The Expanse team is assembling again in Toronto … for another adventure. I am excited to be back with everyone again. We will be seeing familiar faces and places, as well as new ones. Prep has been going hard for a few weeks now, our 76,000 square feet of stages are filling up pretty fast, lights are being installed into the sets as I write this.
Shooting will begin mid July and run till December, 13 episodes in total.
This Is Not A Drill. The Expanse Is Renewed for Season 3 . . . . . Click image for more…
It’s been an intense, hot, dusty, sweaty, explosive and emotional ride here in Fort Hood, Texas over the last few months working on The Long Road Home – and last night was our unit’s last day of shooting. I’ve met amazing people: crew, creatives, Veterans and Army personnel. Now it’s time for me to head home to Toronto today. Goodbye Texas for now…. here’s a sneak preview, the first trailer so far. DP Yasu Tanida and I shared the show together with director Mikael Salomon and Phil Abraham. http:/https://www.tvinsider.com/250124/the-long-road-home-national-geographic-trailer-martha-raddatz-iraq-war-book-video/
I have been prepping in the Fort Hood area of Texas for the last several weeks, and we have just now started shooting a new mini series for National Geographic called “The Long Road Home”. Its based on a book written by Martha Raddatz about the true events that took place on April 4th, 2004 in Sadyr City, Iraq – an event that the US military refers to as Black Sunday.
The eight-hour event series is executive produced by Mike Medavoy, Jason Clark, Benjamin Anderson and Edward McGurn. The 33 screenwriter Mikko Alanne is penning the adaptation and also executive producing.
Directors Phil Abraham and Mikael Salomon are sharing the duties of directing the 8 episodes. I am working with Mikael while fellow DP Yasu Tanida is shooting Phil’s episodes. Its been a slightly complex process of cross boarding the schedules and dividing up the teams, with double up days and sharing locations.
Filming is taking place primarily within the Fort Hood army base in Texas, where our production designer Seth Reed has built amazing sets which replicate how Sadyr City looked in 2004.
We are shooting primarily with Arri Amira and Panavision Primo lenses. Shooting will go into late June.
To round out 2016, we had the exciting opportunity to work with Canon Canada to create a short film with their new flagship C700 camera. This film will be featured as part of the launch which will take place January 12th at Canon’s Mississauga HQ. The film is five and a half minutes. We shot the film over 2 days in Toronto in early December, using a cafe and a former soap factory as our primary locations.
My partner Francis Luta came up with a moody concept which we thought would allow us to use the camera in a variety of lighting conditions as well as with different motion platforms. We had seen the films created by Canon USA and Japan, which are beautiful and certainly show how lovely this camera’s sensor is and its ability to capture a huge dynamic range with grace. So as not to redo what had already been done with these films, we wanted to create a film that was darker and grittier, to explore these abilities of the camera’s sensor.
We shot part of the film with the camera in anamorphic mode – using the Vantage V-Lite lenses. The other half of the film was shot with Cooke S5/i lenses. In the final piece, the aspect ratio changes accordingly. Everything shown in this film is in-camera; there is no green screen or VFX work. We simply graded the film with Walt Biljan at RedLab Toronto. We shot ProRes HQ 422 (4K) internally. This allowed us a maximum frame rate of 29.97fps. The camera has gorgeous image quality, its fantastic that Canon has brought this level of cinema camera to the scene as another choice of capture.
Working with Michael Darby at William F. Whites Toronto, we incorporated the Technodolly so that we could shoot a scene where we see a transition from day to night in the same shot. We also used his new Dactylcam Pro cable cam system combined with the new ShotOver G1 stabilized head to achieve some remarkable large sweeping shots that would have been impossible to do otherwise with the time and resources we had for this small shoot.
Technodolly shot on roof of Lever factory in Toronto – doing a 2-pass shot which takes us from day to night. Photo by Rob Dutchin
L>R DP Jeremy Benning, csc, Director Francis Luta, Operator Michael Darby with Dactylcam Pro cable cam and ShotOver G1 head. Photo by Rob Dutchin
2016 was a busy year, full of many small side projects, commercials and of course season 2 of The Expanse. We are currently knee deep in grading season 2 at Deluxe Toronto. The show is also now on Netflix International and Amazon Prime, its great to see new audiences discovering and enjoying the show.
Looking forward to 2017, there are many exciting things in the works. We hope to hear of renewal for season 3 in March… meaning we’d likely go to camera late summer/early fall. There are some other series and feature projects pending which may happen between the New Year and then.
Take a look at the newest trailer for season 2 here – which will premiere in SyFy in USA (Space in Canada) on February 1st (as a double episode premiere):
I began prep in mid February 2016, and we went to camera April 20th… and on September 14th we wrapped up shooting 13 brand spanking new episodes of The Expanse – Season 2. It was an intense, challenging, fun, sleep deprived joy ride. Our entire cast and crew are like a great big family – we all feel privileged that we are making a kick ass show every day. There is not one person on our crew who doesn’t deeply care about the show we are making and everyone goes the extra mile to make sure every detail on screen is the best it can be.
The cast share in that camaraderie with us, they have amped it up to the next level – and the new cast joining us this season are awesome additions. We pushed the envelope in every way with new camera tech, lighting, set design, stunts and FX rigs. The scripts are deeper, bolder and even more bad ass than last year.
I will miss being with our Expanse familia every day – but I gotta say that after 5 months of 15 hour days and Sunday prep days, it will be nice to rest the brain for a while and stop thinking about the Roci, Tycho, Ganymede, Thoth, Weeping Somnambulist, Eros and other such places far out in our future solar system.
I feel quite honoured to have gotten mentioned in the blog by the duo behind The Expanse books – James S.A. Corey. At least one of them was in my monitor tent with me for weeks at a time…
I am thrilled to announce that starting on April 20th, we begin shooting the second season of NBC/SyFy’s “The Expanse”. I have been prepping since mid-February at Pinewood Studios in Toronto. We have many new sets this year, only a couple have returned from last year. This means that there has been much collaboration between myself and production designer Tony Ianni to build our lighting into the sets.
My returning rigging gaffer Gary Dennault from last year has been designing new LED fixtures with me to replace our demand for many more Kino Celebs than we could afford – so for areas where lights need to be built into walls or ceilings where plexiglas lenses are part of the set, Gary came up with a great solution: we make our own Celeb shaped lights that have a thinner profile.
We are also utilizing the Litegear Litemat LED panels, as well as the Lume Cubes and Relio LED’s.
We also switched to the Arri Alexa Mini as our main cameras. We have three bodies full time, one of which lives on the Movi M15. These new cube shaped Alexas were released shortly after we wrapped first season. We can now benefit from the beautiful Alexa sensor and still have the mobility and freedom of the Movi/Slingshot combo that our operator Jason Vieira has become a master of. Arri’s new WCU-4 follow focus has been a great tool which allows us to streamline our Movi build – eliminating the need for a separate MDR.
Breck Eisner is our first director this year. We have an exciting season premiere up our sleeves! 13 episodes are in the works this year versus 10 last year. We will be shooting till late September. Look for The Expanse Season Two in early 2017!