Breakdown of the cinematography behind the bio navigator commercial

It’s that time again and since I just revamped my portfolio, I thought I relaunch my blog with a new breakdown of a recent commercial I shot on the RED Scarlett-X.

This was another one of Roman Rögners projects and like the last, our crew size was insanely small – just three people. The director, my gaffer Philip Fechner and me.

I’ll break down three shots I did and show you how easy it is to shoot great looking cinematography with a small crew and minimal equipment.

Locker room

The first shot is from the locker room scene (see above). Our actor is getting ready to go out and push himself to the limit. We opted for a wide shot and a close up in profile. We had the following problems: The room we shot in had two very large windows and we had nothing to block that light efficiently. The second was there wasn’t a lot of room in general to create depth.

So I did the following, I pushed a large M18 through the small dirty windows behind the actor. That required me to drop in a .9 ND filter, that minimized the ambient light. Now the effect was pretty much a silhouette. So I put a 4-bank to camera right and added some full white diffusion. The ambient light from the windows filled in the shadows. Add some haze. All done. Really simple. If you have too much ambient and can’t control it, just add something that’s brighter and stop down.

I was a gaffer on a large commercial production where we needed to create a black background, but we weren’t on a soundstage so we, hung some black muslin and hit the actors with two large 2,5k HMI. That allowed us to pinch the t-stop and made the almost dark background go black. 

The second on is a central OTS, as the actor enters the gym and the lights turn on. We were going for a morning vibe. There were many very large windows all around the gym. It was overcast, so we didn’t get any direct sunlight, which was very important for this to work. The overhead lighting wasn’t going to reach the actor. So we added a 4ft Kino with full white diffusion on a goal post, over and slightly in front. In the final video the overhead lights are turned on with the kino. Don't forget to haze.


The bedroom scene was shot at night, so we didn’t need to black out the windows. We closed the curtains to make sure to street light wasn't bothering us. The key for the two, was a 2ft kino about 2m away camera right up high. And a small fill by bouncing the white wall camera left with a 2ft kino. The background was lit only with practicals. Here it came down to the location. The location was so rich and interesting, that we only needed to accent some of the features to get some real depth. Oh, and haze. Always add haze.

Locations are almost 50% of cinematography. 40% is lighting and 10% is framing. Especially on low budget productions, finding good locations is key. Because if you don’t have the money to set dress a location, you’ll need to scout till you find one that fits the bill.

Our entire lighting package was an M18, two Arris 575w, 2x 4ft Kinos and 2x 2ft Kinos. We shot the project on REDCode Raw 9:1 50fps on 128GB SSDs. Right, almost forgot the Hazer Unique 2. Pretty much the most important part of equipment.