Wouldn't it be great if the manufacturer of some major company hands you a camera, gives you a nice budget, and says "go make a movie"? That's what Nikon did for world-renowned photographer Sandro Miller. Looking for a way to show the abilities of its new D800, Nikon enlisted Sandro to create a movie showcasing some of its features and he wrote, directed and shot "Joy Ride" a six-minute thrill ride through the streets of Chicago.
The Nikon D800 runs full HD video resolution at 1080 shoots in 30p and 24p and 720 at 60p and 30p. It's a pretty sweet camera and Nikon has already sent Videomaker one to check out – watch for that review coming to a computer near you very very soon.
UPDATE: Read Videomaker's Nikon D800 review: http://www.videomaker.com/article/15632/
Nikon also gave us the chance to speak to Sandro and Director of Photography Tony Arendt personally about how they made this incredible movie and some of the behind the scenes notes.
Videomaker: Nikon's D800 has a pretty small form-factor compared to larger movie rigs – was this one of the reasons you chose this camera to make "Joy Ride"?
Sandro: I was asked By the Nikon marketing dept. to write, and develop a film that was very cinematic. A film that would look like it was shot with a camera that would be used to create a Hollywood film. Nikon was looking for a director that would create a visually stunning film that could capture the essence and capabilities of this wonderful new piece of equipment. The D8oo proved to be worth its weight in gold as it preformed with excellence throughout our shooting schedule.
Videomaker: We'd like to know what kind of lenses did you use?
Sandro: We shot at night in Chicago, many times with existing light so we needed Nikon's really fast sharp lenses. We used the 14mm 2.8, the 24, 35, 50, 85mm 1.4 and the 300&400mm 2.8
Videomaker: On the behind the scenes video on Nikon's site there's a quote by Director of Photography, Anthony Arendt, saying how much he loves the 1080 HDMI output for viewing on external monitors… what makes this so special or different than other forms of shooting, like film, for instance?
Arendt: I really loved the 1080 hdmi out. When you are depending on an external monitor for composition and focus, and detail, having an external monitor with 1080 signal is a real plus! On other DSLR / VIDEO cameras, when you start recording, the HDMI-out drops to 720 and below. So keeping the 1080 is a great advantage
VM: Tell us about some of the gear used in the piece…. looks like you had cameras mounted everywhere.
Arendt: Our camera chase bike had front and rear cameras. We had a camera over the gas tank with a shot of our rider's helmet and street reflections, etc. We also mounted at times a camera on our chase bike to pick off profile hero shots. We had a camera with a full time 400mm that had a wireless remote focus system. We had 2 other ground cameras that were designated as out Nikon fast prime cameras. We also had a camera for the Steadicam. Sandro and I also carried a D800 around our necks for the documentary moments we could not repeat. All of the cameras except for the 2 around our necks had on-board monitors. Some had follow focus, and some had matte-boxes.
Videomaker: What feature on the D800 did you like the best?
Arendt: I really loved the 1080 HDMI out. When you are depending on an external monitor for composition and focus, and detail, having an external monitor with 1080 signal is a real plus! Also being able to see the live view on the camera's beautiful LCD at the same time your sending a signal out to another monitor is really great and an amazing advantage when doing handheld work, etc. Another great feature is being able to remotely start and stop the camera. So great to have when mounting to a jib arm, or when mounting in tight places etc. Beautiful!!
Videomaker: Were there was any features on the D800 that you didn't try, but would love to?
Arendt: The big one for me is being able to record uncompressed files via HDMI to an external recording device via HDMI. We were all blown away at how well the files looked coming out of the camera at the native H264 compression, even at high ISO settings. Cant wait to see how beautiful the files are uncompressed! For documentary filmmakers many times you will need to record sound through the camera itself. With the D- 800 you can check audio levels or monitor input via peek audio meters as displayed on the camera's LCD monitor. Also the microphone sensitivity can be adjusted in up to 20 steps. Cant wait to try. In most instances in film making manual focus is preferred. But having said that there are many times when a sophisticated focus assist would be really nice. I would really like to try the advanced focus assist in the video mode. Following a car or a heard of horses coming right towards the camera, could be sweet!
Videomaker: We're curious if you ran into any issues with rolling shutter wobble.
Arendt: We experienced absolutely no rolling shutter wobble at all. We did many pans with the cameras on sticks and also the steady cam and we were all blown away that Rolling shutter wobble was non-existent
Videomaker: "Joy Ride" is such a beautifully shot video… it looked like you probably had a lot of fun doing it, too, can you tell us a little bit about the concept?
Sandro: When you get a call from Nikon to develop a film that shows off all the features of a great camera like the D800 you must include high action, low light situations, color saturation along with an interesting storyline to keep your viewers wanting more. I developed this story that surrounded the day in a life feel of a motorcycle enthusiast. I always wanted to keep the story a bit of a mystery of what was really happening and never wanted to give away too much of the story line. It was important to me for our viewers to ask questions of why was this motorcycle guy out riding at 3AM, what was he doing, where was he going? Was he a bad guy? Who is this little girl that keeps coming back to him as a memory? Mystery, questions unanswered, high action, and beautiful low light scenes all help create this film that keep people coming back to watch it over and over again. In a time where we are over whelmed with imagery you must create something powerful that keeps us interested.
Videomaker: In the Behind the Scenes video you are quoted as saying, "In my hands I am holding the future of filmmaking and photography." Many people scoff, but it appears video really will rule over film someday… When I see what terrific work like "Joy Ride" that is being done, I believe video has finally reached a pinnacle of Every Man's dream of making quality movies using tools anyone can acquire. What do you think about the rumors of film's demise?
Sandro: I dont believe there will be a complete demise of film. Film has its look, its feel and its purpose. It will always be there as a tool for a look. Economically and time will be films hardest battle to fight as the cost and the time it takes to see something right now will keep video a growing go to way to produce films in the future.
Videomaker: Who inspired you to start a career in cinematography?
Sandro: I have been a highly sought out still shooter for nearly 30 years now. My clients have told me the way I direct my talent in still shoots that I would be a natural to be directing films and commercials. After the great success I had directing John Malkovich in a very short film Butterflies and winning the Saatchi and Saatchi Cannes Lion for best new directors I was pretty much thrown into the fire. Great directors like Martin Scorsese, Lars Von Trier, Quentin Tarantino and others have also helped with my love of moving pictures.
Videomaker: What advice could you give for someone just starting out or has been doing video for a while but wants to move into a higher playing field?
Sandro: I have always felt the importance of following your dreams and your passion. Without passion and a big heart to create wonderful work and the dream of working on huge projects it just won't happen. Sacrifice of being money driven to create important work will also bring success. So, often a film or still shoot has used up its budget, well if you want it right you might have to sacrifice your fee to get it to where it needs to be. You should also be continuously studying film, and the new techniques that are being used by filmmakers everywhere, not just here in the US.
Watch the making of "Joy Ride" in this Behind the Scenes clip: http://vimeo.com/36306101
Joy Ride – Behind the Scenes from Sandro on Vimeo. Watch for a review of the Nikon D800 on Videomaker's website within a few weeks. UPDATE: Read Videomaker's Nikon D800 review.