Paper Backdrops

A client came up wanting to do a spot for a small clothing line they're working with. They sent over a couple other spots they liked that were shot against multiple solid color backgrounds. We didn't have the budget to paint and re-paint a studio cyc wall, so we went with solid colored paper backdrops.

I've shot a ton of "talking head" projects in client's offices over the years and just recently started using paper backdrops on some projects to try and up the production value vs. looking simply like "Oh hey, this room is big enough and we've got a window on that side."


Talking heads are pretty simple: typically a locked off shot(s) and a person who's usually sitting down. For this shoot though the client wanted a mix of footage from close ups to full body shots and the on-camera talent would be moving around.

We had the budget to rent out a studio space here in the Oklahoma City area - Producer's Playhouse. The large space gave us the room needed to roll out enough paper as well as the space for the larger lighting footprint and power needs. The goal was to keep the shadows super soft so for the key we made a book light using one of the studio's 5k fixtures bounced into a 6x6 ultrabounce and through a 6x6 silk. For the backlight we pushed a 4' Fourbank Kinoflo through a 48" diffusion frame. The larger light source gave the talent plenty of room to move around and the lighting stay pretty consistent. We also used a large black solid opposite the key and a double net at times to help sculp the lighting. We shot another look the first half of the day using the studio's large white cyc wall, but we can talk about that some other time. Sidenote – my life is forever changed after using wheeled combo stands for the first time. Those things are magic.

We used Savage Seamless Paper rolls that were 107” wide and the clint picked out four different colors: blue, yellow, pink, and red. The spot's final delivery would be 16x9 so with the wide roll of paper the close up and medium shots weren't really an issue. The full body shots though would need a bit of work in post. They'd need to extend the edges of the paper or a handful of other options depending on the edit. As long as the on-camera talent didn't go past the edge of the paper they'd be fine.

In the end we were pretty happy with the footage. The client didn't want to deal with a ton of post-work so we shot the full sensor 4k ProRes on my RED Weapon and baked in the the RedGamma 4 / Dragon Color 2 look. You're a bit limited with the framerates with 4k ProRes on the RED Weapon, but we were able to get what we needed vs. the client dealing with the much larger raw 8k .R3D files.

Carnivale 2018 Photo Shoot

If your website is something like you’d better not disappoint.

Carnivale is a black tie event in Tulsa raising money for the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma (MHAOK). The organization works to combat homelessness and the stigmas associated with mental illness.

Tulsa based TPC Studios is the creative force behind the Carnivale event and responsible for making sure the fundraiser lives up to its URL. This year’s Stars and Stripes themed event is inspired by the World War II era. TPC put together a team to recreate the set of a celebrity USO Tour Press Conference featuring the MHAOK Chairs and Committee Members.

TL;DR – Basically it’s a big photoshoot for the main promotion imagery for a HUGE fundraiser/kick-arse party.

I’ve been on a couple of the Carnivale sets over the years filming BTS footage and interviews (2015 & 2016). This year I was able to join the team shooting “moving portrait” style footage that they’ll project on screens during the event. Cue the RED Weapon Helium shooting 99fps at 6k widescreen.

What I absolutely love about the Carnivale shoot is the creative team behind it. I’d highly encourage checking out and following this stew of creatives. Crazy thanks to Todd Pyland and Tony Li for letting me crash the party.

PHOTOGRAPHER - Jeremy Charles
CINEMATOGRAPHER (BTS & Interviews) - Grant Sweetwood
WARDROBE STYLIST - Shannon Schroeder
HAIR & MAKEUP  - Jordan Best
PHOTO ASSISTANTS - Sarah Eliza Roberts & Clay Flores

Have Gear, Will Travel

The travel side of what I get to do is honestly worth the uncertainties and stress that are also part of the work.

A couple months ago a client hit me up about a shoot in south Florida scheduled for mid-January. When possible, I’ll head out a day earlier on my own dime to take in being in a new place or city. I’ve already been to Florida, but I’m not about to say “No” to a beach and a chance to find another decent coffeeshop; Thank goodness West Palm Beach didn’t let me down.

It’s still slow season this time of year and every dollar counts, so I booked a CHEAP room for the night, got a rental car for less than it would have cost to pay for a ride share or taxi, and saved money by eating dinner at the United Club durning a layover.

I’m a huge fan of sticking to one airline and taking advantage of the perks. Years ago a buddy of mine introduced me to the idea and I’ve not looked back. As much as possible, I fly with United Airlines. I don’t typically fly enough to get club membership via elite status so I pay roughly $450/year in membership fees for a United MileagePlus Club Visa card. It gets me Premiere status with easier check-ins, earlier boarding, and two free checked bags each flight, as well as United Club access. The money I save with the two free checked bags perk alone saves me and my clients crazy money and more than covers the yearly membership fee. There are other perks too, but those are the main ones keeping me a loyal United customer.

Yelp found me a solid coffee shop in downtown West Palm Beach and after breakfast I walked up and down the beach till my parking meter ran out. Before meeting the rest of the crew, I picked up some gear I’d rented and had shipped to a local FedEx branch. Again, I’m all about saving money with membership and loyalty programs – thx

We scouted the first location that afternoon before heading back to the hotel for the night. I’ll typically have my Canon 5Dmk3 with me on scouts along with my iPhone. For sure I’d rather scout the location during the same time of day before the scheduled shoot, but that wasn’t an option. The Sun Seeker app let me know when and where the sun would be during our shoot and Artemis helped me make some shot choices by being able to plug in my camera, resolution, and lens choices.

The shoot itself went well the next day. The creative agency, Signal Factory, hired me out with my RED Weapon Helium package and CP.2 lens set. We used their Oconnor 1030Ds fluid head and sticks plus their Dana Dolly. For the Dana Dolly, Signal flew out with their setup and we bought two 10’ pipes from Home Depot near the location. They’d also rented some additional grip & electric but we didn’t end up using it – pretty bummed we didn’t even turn on the ARRI Sky Panels.

Signal had also hired a couple local photogs to shoot stills and drone footage so we had to coordinate on set as necessary. The client actually nixed the second location and we were able to get all we needed at the first.

We dumped footage back at the hotel, cleaned up, and went out for dinner. Our flights were stupid early the next morning so it wasn’t going to be much of a late night.

One thing I plan to look into this year to try and make my life in airports life easier is TSA PreCheck. In addition to my checked bags, I travel with two carry-ons: a larger backpack (personal items, 13" MacBook Pro, and iPad) and a roller bag for my "must-have" camera gear (camera bodies and lenses). I always carry on my main camera gear just in case a checked bag gets lost. Clients are paying me and my travel expenses so it does them no good for me to show up to a shoot without my camera – it's happened before. I typically run into issues with TSA because they freak out having to check all my gear during screenings. There have been more security measure updates recently and when I was leaving Oklahoma City the TSA agents took out all my camera gear, batteries, and iPad to X-ray again without giving me a heads up. I understand their goal is to protect our safety, but experience has taught me they seem to have more to think about than how to properly handle camera equipment. TSA PreCheck is something like $85, lasts five years, and because the TSA has already done a background check it helps get you through security much quicker. Their website mentions that “In December 2017, 93% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 min.”

Slow Season Busy Work

It's slow season ya'll with way more time than work. It's that time of year when I'd honestly prefer shriveling up into a wad of insecurity and self-doubt and drink coffee till things get better.

Anne the Wife has been around long enough to know when I need to get out and go shoot something. Thankfully I got out to The Farm before the January temps in Oklahoma dropped to angry Minnesota winter levels. Oh, and by The Farm I mean "my-parents-land-forty-five-minutes-from-Oklahoma-City."

Obviously I'm always hoping for good light but that's harder to come by now with two young kids. Normally I'm running one kid to school around sunrise and then cooking, eating, and/or cleaning up after dinner during the evening light. My window to shoot these days feels like a relentless insult of midday sun.

It was still that "Hey dummy, no one likes you" type of overhead light while I was out the other day. The thought was to try and shoot anything around The Farm and how it was moving with the wind. I also had a can of Atmosphere Aerosol with me, but it was too windy for it to make a difference. The footage was all shot on a 35mm CP2 between 5-8k widescreen on my RED Weapon Helium at framerates between 60-150fps.


Everything got edited down to the good bits in a "cuttingboard" timeline. That gets copy/pasted to "v1" and I go from there. I always end up pulling framegrabs from the footage to feed the Insta-beast and color them as I go. VSCO on my iPhone is my go-to photo editor but I'm also learning to use Adobe Lightroom – thx YouTube. There's also the idea of making your own LUTs in Lightroom – thx again YouTube – and bringing them into Premiere Pro. I tried making a couple for this edit, but in the end I went with a pre-made LUT in Premiere. Color correction and grading – to me – is always the most intimidaing part of any edit. I'll reference my edited stills, but those looks rarely end up being appropriate as part of a whole in the final edit.

Music is the next part of the project. Wish I could say that I always get the rights to the music I use, but I don't – especially for these random edits who'll be seen by like six people. Client projects, yes. Recently I've been digging through SoundCloud for music; some let you download, others don't. It's great to find a song you like and then it refer you to others you might also like. For this edit, I used "Fireworks" by Pham. I'll break the full track down into bits, normally looking to keep the total edit to around 60 seconds – gotta feed the Insta-beast.

Once I get the music close to where I want it, that's when I start laying down the edit. Again, for this edit I wanted to do something with how the wind was moving the grass and trees. The footage alone wasn't enough so I also added digital zooms and subtle rotation at times. Editing something like this is mostly gut-level for me. I'm not looking to tell a story, but I'm VERY intentional about how each indivial clip feels and interacts with others in the timeline and music track. I'm constantly considering building/releasing tension, pacing, and resolution.