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  • Writer's pictureArt Freeman

Shooting BTS [Behind the Scenes] in the Valley of Fire for ELLI K

Location - Valley of Fire, NV 2.26.2021

Shooting in the desert is always a challenge, i.e. remote location, hot weather, no shade, no external power sources..., but when the location is Valley of Fire, NV, one of the most picturesque places on Earth, it's always worth it.

Valley of Fire is perhaps the one place on Earth that more resembles the surface of Mars than anything else. Perhaps that is why the company, ELLI K from South Korea, has chosen it as its backdrop for their new line of perfume shoot.

My Role on this shoot - > Filming Behind the Scenes [BTS].

Shooting BTS may seem like a trivial task but let me assure you there is more than meets the eye.


The day before the shoot is always spent prepping gear in order to make sure everything is accounted for and is thought through. Last thing you want is scrambling on the shoot day, thinking you forgot some thing.

Gear List for BTS:

Camera - Sony A7SIII

Why this camera?

For one - I already own it and am familiar w/ what it can do.

Two - It's portable enough to where I can toss it on a stabilizer, Ronin S in my case, and and roam around freely getting smooth footage.

Three - it can shoot at up to 4k/120, shoot in 10 bit, and shoot in 4:2:2 . All this means is that that this portable DSLR body can produce some amazing results when you get your settings right that is.

Lenses - Rokinon 35mm T1.5 / Rokinon 85mm T1.5 + Variable ND Filter

Why these lenses?

I prefer shooting on Prime lenses in general; that is lenses w/ a set focal length. Prime lenses, especially Cine lenses, are sharper and allow more light it. They are fully manual lenses which means no motors inside, just glass and your hands adjusting the settings. It's a lot like driving stick, less things can go wrong.

The 35mm focal length gives me the ability to have a wide shot and capture multiple subjects. Also working in tight sports I knew I would still be able to get some decent shots.

I tagged along the Rokinon 85mm T1.5 prime, so that I would be able to get tight shots as well.

Last but not least on this list is the Variable Neutral Density Filter.

These go on the lens and allow you to fine tune the exposure, when you have maxed out all the other settings and give you a wider range as well as control as to how much light enters the sensor through the lens aperture. Since on a sunny day you can only stop down so much on the lens, and lower your ISO to maybe 100 -200, the picture may still get overexposed and at that you are losing details, which is unwanted, the ND Filter allows you to further cut the amount of light.

I use a Tiffen 77mm Variable ND filter. I find that for my needs these work just fine.

Monitor - Atomos Ninja V

Why do you need an external monitor?

Filming outside is challenging. The built-in camera LCD screens aren't big enough, bright enough, or contrasty enough to see whether the subjects are :

- in focus

- framed right

- properly exposed [too light or too dark]

Good external monitor is a game changer, it allows you to move quickly, see things, and quickly adjust settings for when the condition change.

Atomos Ninja V is also a Recorder, and in this instance, I was actually recording on the monitor itself vs recording on the camera. There are a few reasons why you would want to do it that way, especially when you are flying a Ronin.

The Atomos Ninja V takes an external SSD on which the footage is recorded. [P.S. recording on an SSD is faster and it is also faster offloading the footage when you are transferring the media after the shoot.] So I highly recommend it.

Follow Focus - Nucleus Nano

Why do you need a Follow Focus?

When you are using a manual lens, you need a way to adjust the focus thereby directing the audience and having them focus on certain subjects in the frame. The follow focus system, as you can see from the photo above, has two components.

A. The motor which fits via focus ring onto the lens.

B. The Focus wheel which allow you to rotate the focus ring back and forth.

Now when you have a camera in your hands, you can adjust the focus by hand, however when the camera sits on a gimbal / stabilizer you need a way to adjust focus and a system like this allows you to do just that.

The Rig - Ronin S

Why do you need this?

When using manual lenses and shooting on the go, the footage gets shaky. Shaky footage is unusable footage. So to get clean, fluid shots, with beautiful pans, trucking shots, follows, etc you need a decent gimbal / stabilizer. Ronin S is an industry standard for DSLR cameras.

It offers a decent payload capacity, has outstanding battery life and allows for cinematic smooth shots. [We will go more into detail of how to set everything up in the follow up blog post]

Audio - Rode VideoMic Micro

Why do I need to use an external shotgun mic?

Even though Sony A7SIII has a 4 channel internal mic, having an external shotgun mic saves the day as you are able to pick up directional audio and generally the clarity is better. This VideoMic Micro I found to offer good quality audio in such a portable package and fits great onto the camera when it's on a ronin adding very little extra weight.

Few more things to consider:

Are you gonna be filming inside or outside? Location determines the lighting, whether you will need to use a lens hood or a Variable Neutral Density Filter.

How much mobility are you going to have? Do you need to go handheld, have a shoulder rig, use Ronin S gimbal or equivalent, or use a tripod / monopod?

So when all this assembled together, properly calibrated, and put in place, you should have a rig that looks something like this. This is exactly my setup and it gets the job done just fine.

If you have any questions , plz be sure to leave them in the comments below.

If you wanna shoot some stuff and need a job estimate drop me a line at or call/text at 702 980 9620.

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