“Old World Charm”
Executive Producers: Old Pasadena Management District, LA-18.
Written by: Shanelle Rose, Ming Lo
Shooting, Editing and Graphics by: Ming Lo
The Project. As part of their work for the community, LA-18 decided to do a PSA (Public Service Annoncement) for Old Pasadena (more precisely, the Old Pasadena Management District, or OPMD). The PSA also leads into LA-18’s Chinese New Year’s Celebration, which will be held in Pasadena’s Central Park in February, 2007.
The Creative Challenge. The Old Pasadena Management District wanted a 30s spot that touched on the name brand stores (The Gap, Tiffany’s, H&M, etc.), yet still highlighted the quaint but lesser-known local shops. They also wanted to mention specific locations and features, such as free parking, valet parking and metro stops. So the challenge was to squeeze as much material as possible in 30 seconds, in a fun and entertaining way. The choice of style was obvious – what I call the NYPD Blue/24 floating camera style. Some call it the dizzy, give-me-a-headache style (and yes, while editing, I did give myself a headache one night). I love shooting this style, because it’s energetic and fast paced. The trick was actually not to over use this style, to vary the pace so that you don’t get a headache watching the piece. So you’ll see a mix of shot styles (including the four frames within a frame to squeeze in as much as possible) – fast zooms, bouncy camera and quick cuts, combined with pans and slower crossfades. I’m also fond of the interval shot (one shot every 15-20 frames), for the sped-up sunset. Very fun to do.
Execution Challenges. This one was easier to shoot than others because it was basically me running around with a camera. Still, it took a lot of scouting and planning. I don’t like to just shoot and try to figure it out in editing; I prefer to plan shots according to the text (so that visuals match the text, of course), and figure out different ways to visually interpret each piece of text. The client also had a list of “must haves” or preferred visuals, so those visuals had to scouted and shot as well. And then there was the creative challenge – how do you make a street sign more than a just a street sign, or a shot of pedestrians more than just a shot of people walking?
– The Interval Shot. I’ve seen this a hundred times, but had never done one. So it was fun just playing with all the settings on the Panasonic HVX-200 to figure out what would work best. And I learned something. I always thought you just set the interval on the camera and leave it. Wrong. As the sun sets and the changes, you have to manually adjust the aperture. Otherwise, it can get too dark when the sun actually sets, or too bright as the sun rises. If I’m wrong, I hope someone will email me and tell me, but my sunset shot took an hour and a half to shoot, and as it got dark I realized that my image was too dark, and that I had to open up the lens between intervals, on a regular basis. I know some of you are saying, “duh!”, but hey, no told me!
– Composition. You might say, this is no big deal, it’s just a bunch of signs and store faces and exteriors. I find, though, that even a 1/2 second shot can be weak if the composition isn’t right. For example, a shot of pedestrians walking doesn’t really work unless they’re walking in the right part of the frame. Likewise, shots of signs and brand logos have to be positioned in an interesting way, or with some kind of interesting foreground or background. So it took several shots to find the right composition, or I had to wait until something interesting – like a bus or a pedestrian – crossed the foreground. All in all, I shot a lot more footage than usual.