Play – Ballet by Stanton Welch

When I shot my first dance piece for Oklahoma City Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet I explored the stage they had available to see what was there. I knew that Romeo and Juliet was more likely going to be green screen but thought there would be something else I could use. The stage was normal in the rigging and lights that were available with the only difference being these huge programmable LED light bars.

A few months later when it became time to promote OKC Ballet’s next show they wanted a video advertising each part of their Spring triple bill. The 3 sections were Nine Sinatra Songs, Dear Miss Cline and Play. The name of over all show was Nine Sinatra Songs and all the advertising that had been done for print emphasized the 1st performance.

I wanted to create pieces that could stand alone but also knew that in the main video that showcased all 3 should build. I used color (from subtle to over the top) and light (from dark theater/couple to all the LEDs)

“Houston Ballet official description”
Inspired by the crowded streets of urban life, the dancers in Play march, slide, scoot, and accelerate their motion with cinematic sweep.

The 3 pieces are ballet but ballroom style for Sinatra and swing style for Miss Cline. Play was choreographed by Houston Ballet’s artistic director Stanton Welch. It is a very modern dance piece that doesn’t include much foot work and is mostly upper body movements with lots of sharp quick movements with the whole corps wearing suits and sneaker style footwear.

To capture all this sliding and scooting I used the stage’s LED lighting rigs to fill the frame with color. I did lots of shots on the day in greens, reds, blues and purples. I also did a few run throughs with all the LEDs on creating a cool white backdrop. Everything looks amazing on the day but in the edit red and blue clearly stood out as the most powerful and looked great when they were added together.

The majority of OKC Ballet’s non-season ticket sales from through Facebook and Instagram and bite sized videos is how I first started experimenting with how to put Play together. Split screens and overlapping images get more dance on screen with fewer cuts. In this clip to the left my favorite part is the white background clips of the dancers just standing up getting ready to start. In slow motion with Moby’s music it presents a powerful visual. On first viewing the lower red section stands out but on later viewings my eyes are always drawn to that slow motion stand up.

I used that short clip to get started on the full piece, experimenting with layers and mixing the super slow motion with the slightly slow and normal speed sections and ended up with a really solid piece. OKC Ballet was so excited about released it that a series of teasers were made using the slowest of the slow motion to tease the February 16 trailer release date. Short 10 second clips used on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Below is the 90 second Play short and below that is the full Nine Sinatra Songs video that shows each piece from the triple bill. Television 30 second spots were made for each piece and for the 3 combined but I think that the Play piece never aired on TV since it was more for younger online audiences. I would have liked to see the colors explode during a commercial break of normally drab content.

The Vault

YouTube link and a Vimeo link

The Vault was made for the Shot on Red film festival. It was a good oportunity to try out some visual effects and try some other techniques in the process. I really wanted to try some extreme lens flares.

Step 1

So I did the edit and picked out the take I wanted to use.

Step 2

I did the lightning gun effect. Still pretty normal.

Step 3

To get the right look in the lens I projected the lightning effect into the Red using the same lens I had used during the shoot. This way the lens flares would be similar to what might happen if any of this was actually real. I then got the same flashes and pops, optically captured, just like the on set lighting.

Step 4

Combined the layers and did the color grade. Since the flares and effects were already synced it was just a matter of compositing them all together and adjusting the intensity of each layer.

Here is a great description of how they used the same technique of optical capture of lens VFX lens flare for Gravity.

And if you are curious why my lens would flare so much it is becasue it is “the worst lens Nikon has ever made” which made it so awesome.

Eric Himan “Red Hot Tears”

This is a video directed by Kelly Kerr for

Shot on Red and then edited and colored by me using FCP X at 4K. The video is also available to watch on YouTube at 4K.