Prudential “Turning Point”

A while back, I was asked to help participate in an incredibly ambitious project for a Prudential spot helmed by Droga5 agency in NY and Directed by Ringan Ledwidge. Director of Photography for the shoot was Shane Hurlbut of Hurbut Visuals. Shane has been on my radar for quite some time since DPing the latest Terminator: Salvation film and his continuing education on his blog about Canon HDSLRs.

The treatment by Ringan was something that had not been attempted before: exploring a shared moment on the dawn of a new day. The idea was to have over a hundred camera operators film the same identical sunrise as it appears across the United States in one morning spanning a total of 3 hours. This meant having these cameramen spread out over the country in their respective A and B units grabbing the shot. The A cams were feeding their signal via a wireless Teradek cube to a control room LIVE so that Shane and Ringan could oversee the shots in real time. The logistics of this sound insane and are described in more detail on Shane’s blog.

As part of the Denver crew, the shot assigned to me was of the sunrise coming through the glass bridge of the Denver Art Museum in downtown Denver. To keep the shots synced with the same style and color across so many camera units, Shane did a great job of creating a Rules of Engagement list and chatting with all cam ops on the phone prior to the big day. Exposure, white balance, custom picture styles, and other misc settings were laid out in great detail for us.

The exterior of the glass bridge that day was very high contrast due to the sun’s position and the placement of shadows: exposing for the sun as instructed was causing the camera to lose A LOT of detail in the shadows. To compensate, I used Technicolor’s Cinestyle picture profile which really flattens down the image and boosts details in the shadows while preserving exposure for the sun. The main drawback of this picture style is the amount of digital noise introduced into the image – you can only push these cameras so far before they push back. After reviewing the footage, there was an incredible amount of noise, especially in the shadows. I’m guessing there had to be some significant image denoiser filters in post to make it acceptable.

Needless to say, I was able to grab a detailed shot of the bridge right as a bicyclist rode right in front of my camera, perfect for some foreground motion and depth to the scene (I had an actor crossing the street continuously for an hour just in case). Another close up of the bridge with the sun shining through it was used as a secondary shot. Due to the sheer volume of shots that they had to edit through, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw both my shots in both the 30 and 60 second final cuts aired on broadcast. They happen real fast around the :43 mark.