Mountain Dew Spot in Bali

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For those of you who were wondering exactly what I was shooting Bali – here it is:  A Mountain Dew Commercial with Indian Mega Star Hrithik Roshan and a fantastic team of people led by Director Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films that has been ranked as the Number One production house in India.   I have to say that between the stunning location, the plethora of gear, and the vibe of the crew, this was one of the most enjoyable shooting experiences I’ve had in awhile.   But that’s not to say it was easy by any stretch of the imagination to get people from 7 countries and very specific gear to one remote location at once … and pray for good weather during the "rainy season!" which led to one of the DP’s most feared "X" factors:  those unpredictable clouds that form suddenly over islands even when the horizon is blue… and completely block the sun.    

As you can imagine we had to rely heavily on natural light – there simply was no room on the edge of that cliff to put any cinema lights..

Mountain Dew Bali – Nirvana from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

The toys:

3 Red Epic camera shot at 5K between 24-96 fps.  And at 2K up to nearly 300 fps.

1 Phantom Camera at 1,000 frames per second (if I remember correctly)

Several HDSLRs and GoPRoHero 3 camera.

1 Angenieux 24~290mm T2.6 Optimo my weapon of choice in terms of lensing for this spot.

1 Set of Ultra Primes

2 Trusty O’Connor heads (paid off in spades on the boat to have such a high quality fluid head.)

1 Gates underwater housing for the Epic  (Excellent)

1 Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 Megapixel back to shoot background and detail plates for some VFX shots.


Some vivid memories:

Flying an Epic with Utltra Primes over the open water with some nice gusts here and there!  

Operating an Optimo at 290mm on a boat with a Phantom Flex at 1000 fps with waves pounding us, and trying to time our star’s entry and having him hit a specific point in 1-2 takes while also nailing focus at T2.6… kinda nuts, but we pulled it off.   Thanks to an amazing focus puller 

Having the makeup crew run out to do touch ups at the edge of a perilous hill BEFORE the RC helicopter had landed (and was on it’s way straight towards them…)

Setting up scaffolding atop a hill for some wire and green screen work, building scaffolding for lights… only to have the clouds pull in last minute.. and clear up just in time for the light to have flipped completely on the wrong side… we found a fix.

The plan was to shoot with our star from 6 meters over the water with the Phantom and Epic (underwater.)  Only a highly trained Olympic-type diver can jump from the 20 meter plus dive – a less skilled diver could come away with the risk of serious internal injuries if they land incorrectly..  Black and blue marks are common on even skilled divers due to the incredible impact (remember water is 800 times more dense than air…learned that in Scuba diving school πŸ˜‰  Therefore we had our stunt team do the actual jumps, we had our star dive from 6+ meters.  And then we also harnessed our star from a stunt cable crane to green screen that one shot of his face with the background that we shot plates of.   Not your "walk in the ballpark" shoot to say the least.

Operating a Phantom with one hand, and an Epic with other simultaneously!  (I was the DP and only camera operator…) was thrilling and frightening at the same time. But at least now I can say I’ve done it.

and last but FAR from least (I just know people on this blog like to read about gear first…)

The crew:

One extremely talented remote helicopter crew –  pilot Guy Alexander and opertor Justin McMillanfrom from Australia.

Fearless stunt man Nicholas Daines  who really DID jump from the top of that cliff (60+ feet!)  more than a dozen times and is a Brit stranded in LA like myself (minus the Brit part..)  Tip picked up from him:  wear Speedos when jumping from great heights into water.. not the looser surfing bathing suits… can lead to bleading at that height in the worst area for men…  

Underwater Housing from David Cheung  from ScubaCam Singapore.

Thanks to Sunitha, Vivek, Rosman, Sunu, Ray the amazing camera and electric crew,  David from ScubaCam Singapore, Murfi at BaliAqua.  Thanks to my good friend a DP Mark Lindsay for helping me out with all of the lighting / equipment challenges we faces with the limited availability in Bali given that we had to have flicker-free lights for the High Speed photography with the Phantom.

Below is a quick promo video that has several behind the scenes clips.  

The most important thing I learned on this job:  We take so much for granted in big film places like NYC or LA in terms of the access to gear that we have… getting 18K HMIs (that were on electronic Ballasts and flciker free for the high speed Phanatom Camera – so we ended up going Tungsten)  etc. proved impossible on this job, and the producers pulled off an incredible feat of getting all of this specialized gear to a remote location from literally around the world.  The most amazing part though was the crew: used to working in this difficult conditions, without the "top gear" out there at their disposal but always finding a way to make it happen – and beautifully so.  It was nothing short of inspiring…  definitely had a bit of that positive, happy Karma rub off on me!