How I shot ‘The Crab’ Infomercial

(Prep, approach and execution)

It was a normal evening, like all days of that week. I don’t remember which day specifically, I was given a script to read; A short video script, others may call it an infomercial. After reading the script about ten times, I had to ask the director (Davidson Mugume) if there is any other way to tell the same story in a different style/way. He said; “I don’t think there is a better way than this!” I told him this might be a complex idea for the audience to digest. He said; “it’s in no way complex compared to the disease its self”. I kept quiet and asked if we can have time and talk about the concept more; his interpretation, approach and vision. After a long discussion we decided to shoot this script; this is not a complex idea, “it’s something different to what people are used to see on TVs and that’s why we have to do it”. Said the director!

One of the frame grab with visual effects from the video

I had to start thinking of how best I can help the director achieve his vision. With an open mind, I always prefer to approach every new project differently with a fresh mind and eye, driving from its demands and challenges. After thinking for a while and doing some research, looking at reference materials. I decided the best way to approach and execute this project, should be in the simplest way possible. To me as a DP, it’s always very hard to execute a complex idea in a complex way, I always have to look for options and ways of digesting a complex idea into the simplest execution form and vice versa.

I guess I was listening to the director

Preparations; always my first step to prepare for a project is listening to the director keenly to deeply understand what he/she wants to achieve. Though some directors completely trust and let you do your best. After several conversations with him, I started to visualise the script, at the same time thinking of an easy approach. I did this before going to locations and meeting the entire team, I wanted to have a full picture in my head before anything. I talked to the visual effects guy (Martin Kayongo), from the discussions we had, he gave us his perception on the visual effects look. We asked him to work on a sample visual effects look before we shoot, I decided to shoot something for him to try out with, but after looking into my stock footage, I found something similar he can use. I sent it to him and in a few days he gave us some samples which we agreed to. At the end he really did a good job.

Another frame grab from one of the scenes in the video.

location scouting; our location scout had already identified a few locations and sent us some pictures, which looked already like what we wanted. We planned to visit the locations in the exact time as the proposed shooting time. We went to the first location in the morning with the required team. We all liked the locations, me and my team we started looking into the technicalities of the locations and discussing setups. With the help of a cadrage app on my phone, I was able to see how some frames will look and which lenses I have to carry along. The Cadrage app is a smartphone application used mainly as a director’s viewfinder with a list of cameras and lenses. You can find it on apps store for a few dollars. At this point, I had already decided to use the black magic URSA mini because of its image quality and features which I needed for this project. I took a few pictures from different angles on different lenses (using the app) to see how exactly each frame will look. After collecting all the needed information, I sat with my gaffer(Emmanuel Gashumba) and grip(Kenneth) and discussed how we might step up and light.

The cadrage app information

When I returned home, I decided to make a shot list based on location pictures and the script. In one night, I completed a simple shot list and shared it with the director. Most times I draft detailed shot lists, I had already decided to approach this project in the simplest ways possible, this didn’t not exclude the shot list.

A screen grab of a shot list I used

The next step was to schedule the shooting, after dates were confirmed. We went on to shoot. Since everyone had done their homework well, we didn’t face many challenges. We managed to get all the shots we needed though some where not used in the final edit.

Comparing the shot list with the final shots used in the video

Lighting wise, I shot the exterior scenes using natural light. We had a 12 by 12 kit which I used most; to filter and bounce light. For interior scenes, we supplemented the available light by bouncing 2 LED panel lights to add some depth to the scene.

Some of the on set pictures

We shot for two days, Shooting 2 scenes per day. It was such a great experience working on a challenging project with the simplest approach besides an amazing crew.

Part of the crew members who made it possible

You can watch the full infomercial below

Let me know your thoughts.
Ali Musoke

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