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!
Over the last week I have been shooting in Kansas City, Missouri – with director Anthony Garth. We shot a great spot for the new 2016 Ford F-150 pick up truck. We used an exhibition hall space there as our “studio”. It had a great industrial ceiling and floor which we featured in the hero shots of the truck. We had two 16’x28′ front projection screens built to create our main background – on which various clips of running footage and Kansas City skyline imagery was projected. For this we used a total of four Barco HDF W30 Flex projectors.
We shot in 4K with the Arri Mini and Cooke S5/i lenses.
I teamed up with director Rob Shaw from Bent Image Lab to shoot another Rice Krispies spot in early January. We used the Speedarm once again to achieve a seemingly one-take spot. This motion control robotic arm allows for repeatable moves – so that we could do passes for live action, treats and table elements separately. We shot with the Red Epic Dragon and Cooke Mini S4/i primes.
Director Adrian Wills and I have been shooting the multi-camera of Cirque Du Soleil’s new Avatar-based show “Toruk”. We have been capturing the show in 4K on the Sony F55. We shot at the Bell Centre in Montreal with 8 cameras. We’ve been using the Fujinon Cabrio and Premiere zooms as well as Angenieux Optimo.
Our next stop is Quebec city in January where will be shooting on the stage with the artists (no audience this time) with two steadicams. Will be fun!
After months of post work, our efforts on the new space opera “The Expanse” will premiere online (SyFy) November 23rd, and then debuts on SyFy and Space Channel (in Canada) on December 14th – during which the first two episodes will be shown together. Everyone is incredibly excited!
I’ve been working away with the team at Deluxe Toronto to colour correct every episode of the show with colourist Joanne Rourke for months now. We spend a full day doing an episode and then another half day doing a second pass and then a live link streaming session with the Los Angeles team; (show runner Naren Shankar and writers Ty Franck and Mark Fergus) they watch on the same calibrated Dolby monitor we have in our master grading suite. Its an amazing way to work because they are on speakerphone with us and can make notes and tweaks as we stop and start the playback of an episode. They do the same thing with the 5.1 surround sound mixes – playback at Deluxe in Toronto and the team in LA is in another mix theatre there hearing the same thing. I love being part of this international remote way of working – it makes such a complex show so much easier to finish sound & picture on.
The show is looking and sounding incredible. All of the hard work and passion for the stories in these books come together during the final picture and sound mastering that happens at Deluxe.
Its usually the first time I get to see the impressive work of VFX supervisor Bob Monroe’s teams that span several vendors from the Toronto area. Their work is truly bar-raising for television.
We hope the fans love what we have been toiling away on for months… and look very much forward to continuing with season 2! Below are some links to the latest behind the scenes and trailers, as well as a a few conceptual art images that production design Seth Reed and I worked together to create with his team of artists – they are faithful pre-visualizations of our light and set design plans.