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|| News Item: Posted 2011-12-12

Dancing behind the scenes at a celebrity photo shoot

By Garrett Hubbard, USA TODAY

Photo by Garrett Hubbard, USA TODAY

Photo by Garrett Hubbard, USA TODAY

Emmy Award winning actress Sofia Vergara
Earlier this year I found out about an opportunity for me to shoot a behind-the-scenes video of a celebrity photo shoot of Emmy Award winning actress Sofia Vergara for USA WEEKEND.

I had no clue what a photo shoot like this would look like but I was excited for the challenge of something new. As soon as the word celebrity was uttered I should have known nothing would be normal.

[Begin inner dialogue: What is normal anyway? Normal and PJ haven't really ever been friends have they? Who am I to expect sanity on my shoots?]

Most of my assignments look something like sharing time with people to tell their story with stills and video.

Before a shoot I do some pre-reporting by building upon what I learn from our photo editors and our writers. I interview and shoot onsite without a writer if possible. Most importantly, and I love to share time, moments, and life with the subjects of a story. I have come to learn that this is pretty difficult to do when a PR firm, a personal scheduler, stylist (times 3) and multiple handlers are involved.

Before I left for NYC for the shoot I received some great tips from USA WEEKEND's Senior Photo Editor David Baratz about what insanity might ensue during the shoot. He said shoots like this were like a little like dancing-with many partners.

(Inner dialogue: I don't like to dance that much. I saw nothing about dancing in the celebrity circle in my USA TODAY job description. Focus Garrett. I get to do something new and maybe my wife could come to NYC with me and we could see the city together. Bonus!)

I would learn that nobody wanted to dance with me (except the photographer for the shoot) and everyone wanted to lead! David's advice turned out to be invaluable and helped me go in prepared for how delicately assertive I would have to be to get all the pieces I wanted to make the video light, fun, and engaging for the USA WEEKEND audience.

I knew right away I would want to shoot this on a Canon 5D II instead of my faithful Sony XDCAM EX1.

(Inner dialogue: Who am I kidding? DSLR video just looks sexy. The DOF can be stupid-shallow, the blacks are heavily clipped, the color is nice, and the contrast is divine. The audio stinks. But it looks gorgeous!)

I knew nothing would be happening too quickly during the shoot. Therefore I would not need sequence something quickly like I can only do with the great optical range I have with the lens on the EX1.

I also knew going in I would be using a music bed and that I wouldn't need a lot of great natural sound. Yes, it's true: music covers a multitude of audio sins. So the 5D II with it's limited audio capabilities and limited ease of use would suffice.

My next problem to solve was stabilizing such a little camera yet staying mobile. A little steady cam rig was out since I would be changing lenses and thus throw off the balance. Plus, how am I going to focus while operating one of those babies?

A tripod might be too stable and not fit with the look and feel that I want for a "behind-the-scenes" video. I opted for a shoulder mount rig. I had never used one and wanted to see how "story worthy" this kind of rig might be for future "normal" stories.

My boss, Steve Elfers, was helping me come up with a solution and reminded me that he had purchased an inexpensive Cavision rig a few months back. He pointed out that the biggest shortcoming of the rig was the way the camera plate mount interfaced with the rig. It was a bit flimsy but seemed to work ok. If that last statement made you anxious, fear not! No cameras were harmed in the making of this video.

Photo by Garrett Hubbard, USA TODAY

Photo by Garrett Hubbard, USA TODAY

Hubbard worked on a behind-the-scenes video of a celebrity photo shoot of Emmy Award winning actress Sofia Vergara for USA WEEKEND.
Here is the rundown of what I used on the shoot: -Canon 5D MKII -Canon 24-70 f/2.8 -Canon 85mm f/1.2 II -Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro -JuicedLink DT454 DSLR audio solution -Cavision 5D shoulder pad rig -Knock-off magnifier loupe -Sennheiser G2 wireless transmitter and receiver -Tram TR-50 wireless lav mic -Rhode NTG-2 shotgun mic -GoPro Hero HD -2 Keno Flo Diva 201 lights -Tripod -Headphones

The day of the shoot was a lot of fun and quite a learning experience.

(Inner dialogue redacted by my professionalism filter.)

I showed up early at Industria Studios and met the photographer, Michael Larsen and his two assistants. Michael was awesome to work with and he is a true gentlemen and fantastic photographer.

Through him I was able to learn more about what would happen during the shoot and how I might be able to fit in my video needs without stepping on our needs for fantastic stills for the cover.

Would you believe there were about 20 people there for the shoot?

(Inner dialogue: All that for one person. Wow!)

I just stayed persistent with Vergara's PR folks to make sure I could get 5 minutes with her to ask a few questions. I did get my chance with Vergara at the very end and I probably got four minutes with her to ask my five questions.

In summary, Vergara did four wardrobe changes and she was on the set to shoot for about 2 hours. The whole shoot from set up to tear down took about 8 hours. The highlight of the day was taking my wife out to dinner at a fabulous Mexican restaurant down the street.

(Inner dialogue: The Californian in me is probably why avocados make me very, very happy!)

Once I got back to the office I transcoded all my material into AppleProRes HQ and started editing the piece together.

One of my first steps was to find some music, a tool I rarely use for my journalism video stories. I needed to get the music early on because it would determine the pace of my edit.

The edit didn't take long and it was fun to put together. I'm pleased with the final product and so were the powers that be. I want to thank David, Michael, Sofia, and entourage for the celebrity dancing lessons.


My Cavision shoulder rig setup was a generation older than this one:

Michael Larsen's beautiful work.

(Garrett Hubbard is a staff videographer with USA TODAY. You can see examples of his work at his Sports Shooter member page: )

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