April Showers Bring…

By, Michelle Maslanka • Producer

If you said May flowers, you would be correct! But if you said more opportunities to capture outdoor footage, you would also be correct. While we love the four seasons of Chicago weather, and each provide their own beautiful backdrop for video, springtime begins the long-awaited transition into warmer weather and greenery in bloom. And with spring in full swing, and May around the corner, we wanted to put together a few tips for successful outdoor productions. I met with Craig Bass, Creative Director, for his insight on the topic.

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Weather

Weather is always at the forefront when planning an outdoor shoot. Taking a cue from Chicago's spring this year, it is apparently possible for it to be mild and sunny, and then cold and hailing, all within the course of a few hours. Therefore, it is wise to have a backup location in mind. For instance, let's say that we intend to shoot a series of interviews focused on environmental issues at an arboretum. If it suddenly decides to rain on a day that was slated to be dominated by the shining sun, is there an indoor nature center that the interviews can be relocated to? Having this backup avoids the attendant cost and trouble associated with having to reschedule the shoot.

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Audio

One of the biggest considerations to keep in mind is audio. There are certainly things that we can do to ensure good quality audio (windcoats on microphones, etc.); however, there is always going to be a stronger ambiance of noise outdoors. Some of this ambiance is the product of society (e.g. traffic, airplanes, distant voices), while some of it is pure nature (e.g. heavy winds, insects, animals). This additional noise doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing, as it can give the recording a sense of place, but it does need to be managed. When selecting an exterior location for filming that will require audio, it is vitally important to determine if the soundtrack inherent in this location is relevant to the video, as well as whether or not the sound content and levels are just too excessive. 

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Lighting

You may be surprised to learn that the ideal lighting scenario for an outdoor video is often an overcast day. Harsh midday sun may be pretty to the human eye, but the camera's sensor is far less sensitive, and much less adept at perceiving the massive contrast changes (bright highlights, and dark shadows). When there is a layer of cloud cover between the sun and the earth, the light is softened immensely, generally causing a face to glow, rather than being a battleground of glaring shine and dense shadow. Additionally, an overcast day is much kinder on the eyes of any subjects in question, obviating the need to squint. 

Magic Hour

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The most beautiful time of day to film, in any season, is a short-lived period known as Magic Hour. Magic Hour is the time of day just after sunrise, or immediately prior to sunset. During this tiny window, there is still light in the sky, but the sun is too low for its rays to strike the subject directly. Therefore, all of the light produced is indirect and soft. Additionally, the light at this time of day is warmer, as the Earth's atmosphere is filtering out much of the blue and green wavelengths. This additional warmth is something that many find aesthetically pleasing.