Filming Driving Plates: We’ve finally arrived!

We are happy to officially announce that the first of our Driving Plates footage is available for download on

We’ve captured some of the most amazing footage, and there’s still much more to come. Watch our Driving Plates Demo Reel and see how valuable this footage is, and get a sneak peek at what’s coming soon.

Image Above: Shot at an upward angle, this skyline image is called a reflection plate, a vital ingredient to making a driving scene realistic. The reflection plate is placed as a semi-opaque layer on the windshield and hood of the car, accurately depicting a mirrored reflection of the scenery overhead. The reflection plate is available in both the 5-Angle and 9-Angle Driving Plates sets. A 5-Angle set also consists of four panoramic (wide) views shot from the front, back and sides of the car. A 9-Angle set is filmed in two passes down the same section of road. With this type of set, you’ll not only get the front, back, sides and reflection plate, but also the three-quarter left and right views from the front and back of the car.


Image Above: LA’s Fashion District is just one of the many locations we captured in our Southern California shoot. In fact, we shot all over Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Monica during the day, evening and night to give you even more options. So you can put your characters on the same stretch of road at different times, depending on the storyline.

Image Above: Driving plates aren’t just for city dwellers. We braved the scorching desert heat so your actors can stay cool and comfortable in their “car”.

Image Above: Taking a break to move the cameras on this beautiful stretch of wooded highway. We’ve captured all different types of terrain during our travels through Oregon and California, as well as industrial areas, bridges, marinas and residential neighborhoods. Most can double as locations in your area.

Image Above: The Pacific Coast Highway makes the perfect backdrop for your drive along the coast. This footage, which is coming soon to our website, is featured in both northbound and southbound sets. So whether your characters are coming or going, the ocean will always be on the correct side!

Image Above: Whether your story calls for a leisurely Sunday drive through the mountains, a weekend camping trip in the woods, or the impending arrival at a haunted cabin, the Redwood Highway is a spectacular setting. This was one of our favorite locations to film.

You can purchase individual angles or an entire set of driving plates. Everything featured on our website is available for immediate download. Be sure to check back often for more driving plates sets.

What Driving Plates locations would be helpful for your productions?


Filming Driving Plates: Traversing the Speed Bumps

After months of testing, and even more months rigging the car, we were ready to hit the road for our first driving plates film shoots. As with every first-time venture, ours was not without its problems. In fact, it seemed that our first shoot in Portland, Oregon was the “Murphy’s Law” of film shoots. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong…from our GPS dying the minute we hit the city, to remote trigger problems, to card reader failures, to overheating, and everything in between. But as you know, “difficult to shoot subject matter” is our middle name. So we pressed on and got some terrific footage.

Our second shoot took us to Southern California and a multitude of incredible locations. This shoot was both a learning experience and an adventure. Some of the locations require that we arrange for police escort for the day. This poses a challenge when the focus of the shoot is to capture the scenery and traffic all around the car. What good are driving plates if every scene shows the car being tailed by the police?! We did get one great shot of the squad car “pulling us over”. No way were we going to pass up that opportunity! Of course it wasn’t quite so opportune the next day when we got pulled over for real because of the rig. Seems even if you have all of your permits in place, it doesn’t mean you won’t still have to jump through more hoops once you’re on location.

Heat was definitely a factor on this trip, as well. Turns out we chose one of the hottest weeks of the year to traipse around California. It’s not often we find ourselves playing nursemaid to the cameras with icepacks, but fortunately we were able to keep all of the equipment functioning properly by being proactive in dealing with the heat.

We had some peculiar experiences on the shoot as well. Our Caddy was quite often mistaken for the Google car. Go figure! And we were once stopped by a group of protestors who walked out into the street as we drove up, blocking our way and swarming the car while chanting and waving their signs. We’re still not sure what they were protesting!

So, what have we learned so far? Because of triggering problems, the RED One isn’t ideal for this type of shooting. Instead, the Scarlet is a much better choice. Running a car with five cameras and monitors takes a lot of power and creates a LOT of heat, so the car must be rigged with at least one extra battery. Bring more media storage than you think you’ll need, because there’s always one more shot you wish you could have gotten, if only you’d had the storage space. And, the best lesson we can pass on is to know the laws of the city and state you’re filming in before you set out.

All in all both shoots were very successful. The footage is spectacular and we were able to capture a wide variety of locations, at different times of day and night. It’s true we started out wondering how we would ever make it through all of the twists and turns and giant potholes in the road. But in the end it was definitely worth the effort.

Have you ever had a film shoot that got off to a rocky start and ended with amazing footage? We’d love to hear your experiences and how you overcame those speed bumps!

Filming Driving Plates: Before the Cameras Roll

Artbeats is getting a new perspective on shooting POV footage. 

Artbeats is committed to bringing our customers footage that is difficult to shoot, and has high production value. Over the years we’ve received numerous requests for “driving plates”. We also recently spoke with the production staffs of several well-known network television studios and the consensus was the same; they need driving plates and they need them now!

So what are driving plates? A driving plate is the moving scenery seen through the windows of a vehicle when the actors of a television show or film are “driving” somewhere.

As we began researching driving plates footage, we discovered that very few companies sell footage that is shot simultaneously from every window of a car. In fact, those that do provide driving plates use only one or two cameras, making multiple passes down the road. Later, each view must be matched up by the production company and made to look as if shot during one single driving sequence. This can be a very difficult process because each pass will have different action, whether it’s traffic, pedestrians, or the location of the sun. Now that our research was done, we set out to tackle driving plates in true Artbeats fashion!

View from the inside of the car traveling down the interstate with the cameras rolling. 

Diane & Annette ready the Scarlet & Epic cameras on the custom mounting system for a drive through the streets of Portland, Oregon.

We started out by testing different cars, mounting systems and cameras. We needed a smooth ride, a car that rode lower to the ground to allow for realistic height when the cameras were mounted, a mounting system that wouldn’t jeopardize our stabilization, and low-profile cameras that offer a high enough resolution for editors to select and crop to fit a particular scene.

The round metal plate, attached to the rail system, allows the camera to be rotated at different angles without having to be detached each time.

Scarlets attached to the back of the car to shoot the three-quarter angles.

After months of testing, we settled on a 1996 Cadillac DeVille and had our own specially designed mounting system built. We chose an older car specifically for its heavier body, which had to be drilled through to attach the mounts. A monitor rail was built into the dash, and a heavy-duty specialty inverter was included to handle the extra electricity needed to run the five cameras, laptops, monitors, and switches. The electrical system also had to be totally waterproof, with cables and wires running through the body of the car and under the seats, rather than externally.

The control center for the cameras.

Phil uses the touch screen monitors to adjust camera settings from inside the car.

We also chose RED’s Epic and Scarlet cameras. Both are high quality, low-profile, and very light-weight. An entire 9-angle set of driving plates can be filmed in only two passes down the road, which greatly reduces the time needed for matching up the views in post production. The Epic and Scarlet also provide the wider resolution needed for those situations when a second pass isn’t possible.

Stay tuned as we take you along on our journey of shooting driving plates. You never know, you just might see the Artbeats camera car on the street in your city!

Artbeats Volunteers at Camp Millennium: Filming A Summer Camp for Kids Dealing with Cancer

By Diane Barrows, Artbeats Executive Assistant to Phil Bates

Artbeats has been privileged to be a part of a great industry for over 23 years. We’ve made a commitment to giving back to the community, not only through monetary donations, but also in sharing our time and resources. For the past few years, we’ve had the opportunity to volunteer as the official film crew for Camp Millennium.

Camp Millennium is a camp for kids who are dealing with cancer in some way. The camp runs a full week and there is no cost to the camper, as it is entirely funded by donations. I’ve been privileged to join Artbeats president, Phil Bates, in capturing footage and creating a DVD that replays the fun the kids experience during their week-long escape.

At the beginning of this shoot, we accepted the realization that we could not control the place, time of day, lighting, or action taking place. We would not be able to say, “Take two” to much of anything except the kids’ personal introductions, and we would not have time to fiddle with camera settings, lenses or such. So, our first obvious choice was about equipment. We chose a Sony EX-1s, a lightweight tripod, and a FigRig to make hand-held acceptably stable. We took a reflector, a zillion cards,  batteries, and a drive on which to copy the precious footage.

Camp M is currently held in the mountains directly above the beautiful Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. A windy dirt road makes its way up to large terraces where a gym, pool, playground, and eventually cabins and cafeteria are nestled among giant fir trees – beautiful surroundings that make for exhausting shooting as you rush up and down hills so as not to miss any activities going on at each location. The 95+ kids participate in swimming, archery, horseback riding, a ropes course and giant zip line, judo, recreation games, art, skits, a day of water games, a dance, campfires and fun meals, and a whole day is devoted to a marathon field trip that includes a trip to the movies, McDonalds, a day of Olympic style games, bowling and pizza. The shooting day begins (after prep, that is) at 8:00 am and ends whenever the last activity for the older kids winds up, usually around 10:30 or 11:00 pm.

The trick was to change our mindset from shooting stock video to capturing not only participation in the events, but the anticipation, struggle, joy, trepidation, fun, frivolity, and precious, tender moments that flow out of a week centered on these kids’ camping experience. Being alert at every moment for the little scenarios going on makes you aware that there is a camaraderie among kids with a common problem. They encourage each other to get on a horse or swim across the pool, shout for joy when a timid jumper finally lowers himself off the platform to zip down the hill, and stop dancing to sit with their friend who needs a treatment. They routinely visit the nurses’ station for meds, sometimes with their counselors who are previous campers themselves. They hug, sing, and cry with empathy over the death of friends, relatives, or fellow campers; are enthusiastic, silly, and appreciative. They make kind and appropriate fun of their cool counselors who are always “on stage” and model a looking-for-the good attitude. And, imagine this: they act like, well, kids.

It’s these moments that you can’t “do over,” so whether it’s magic hour lighting or pouring down rain, these snippets in time must be captured for DVD posterity. Our first year at camp, the staff told us numerous stories of campers who have to spend time in the hospital, often in lengthy stays, and how they watch their Camp M DVDs over and over, reliving a time when they just had fun with their friends. The DVD serves not only as a chronicle of the year’s activities, but a reminder of a week of escape. That knowledge fuels our dedication to retelling the camping story – to give them something to remember, relive, and look forward to.

This year, we brought our RED Epic camera along, as well. We limited its use for all the reasons we stated, and daily rain further limited the plan because we just didn’t want to deal with keeping it safe and dry. But a savvy camper/budding film student spotted it, recognized what it was and drooled heavily, encouraging Phil to take advantage of a couple of fun opportunities to bring it out for some slow-motion trickery. One day a downpour brought rain overflowing the cabin gutters, and several older kids volunteered to let the streams of water hit their faces. He also caught a walloping belly-flop by a counselor who created an enormous splash in the pool, and brought the camera out again during the games for events like parachute launching and sack races (races in slow-motion? That’s an oxymoron.) Another day a young animal-lover begged Phil to film her “snail circus,” and recognizing this important gift from a child, he dutifully set up a camera and filmed her lovely snails, up close and personal, much to her delight. But the coups de gras was the short introduction to the Epic camera and some on-hands experience for that budding student, a moment he’ll never forget. And neither will Phil.

What Artbeats hopes to give the campers of Camp Millennium is a fun-filled, tender, hilarious DVD shot and edited by a professional cinematographer who adjusted his focus for a week and who truly cares about a bunch of campers he may never see again in this life.

Somehow the many adults who generously donate their time, effort, energy, and money to a worthy cause create a week of joyous escape for those to whom life has been unfair. What does Artbeats get from our donation? A new lens through which to appreciate the world, and you can’t put a dollar figure on that.

Learn more about Camp Millennium.

Storm Chasing from the Air

By Phil Bates, Artbeats President & Founder

Weather is an important subject for Artbeats, especially storms and severe weather, which are popular subjects with our customers. We’re always looking for innovative ways to capture the drama of large supercells, and even a tornado if we can find one. Our latest effort is a relatively new idea we call Aerial Chasing. Storm chasing is typically done in a vehicle firmly planted on the ground in relative safety, but has limitations such as bad roads and obstacles like trees, hills and buildings that make capturing good images so challenging. Taking the concept of chasing storms up into the air where those limitations don’t exist has rarely been done (and never with a high end film camera) and is a dream for storm chasers, yet poses its own set of challenges and risks. Dangerous hail, wind shear and extreme turbulence all require serious consideration. The FAA recommends that small planes stay 20 miles away from thunderstorms, and flying into a storm can easily destroy a plane in minutes (imagine no visibility, vertical winds and tennis ball sized hail), so we approached this idea with extreme caution.

The GPS display shows our position relative to the storm.

Last December, storm chaser and weather expert, Skip Talbot approached me with an idea to aerial-chase storms this May, the height of tornado season. His pilot, Caleb Elliott, is an extremely experienced commercial pilot, flight instructor and storm chaser.  As the time approached, we worked up a plan to meet in Kansas City, setting aside five days for chasing with a rented Cessna 182 to fly close to and film tornado-warned supercellular thunderstorms.

Caleb Elliott, Phil Bates and Skip Talbot in front of the Cessna 182.

Caleb Elliot preparing the flight plan.

Skip Talbot using radar to forecast in real time (now-casting).

My biggest concern was not the safety issues, but how to shoot stable images from a small plane in the turbulence near a storm. Acquiring a gyrostabilized system was not an option in this case, so after taking several test flights and trying various hand-held and mounting configurations, I settled on using a monopod wedged between the seat and the door, with foam rubber cushioning all of the contact points. The RED Epic camera was small and light enough for this setup. Our tests showed that a CANON 24-105 Image Stabilized lens gave the best focal range for this application. I knew that rolling shutter and vibration could still be a problem so I shot 5K format at 96fps, then stabilized in post using After Effects, with the extra frames to blend/hide the vibrations. Not a perfect solution, but good enough for this shoot which we considered a big experiment.

Flying towards typical storms in clear air, the plane would bounce with turbulence from thermals coming off the sun-heated fields beneath us. Fortunately, the anvil of a thunderstorm casts a large shadow, especially when you are on the east side of the storm in late afternoon. The shadow cooled the ground and gave us steady air with no thermals.  This is not to say that there was no wind; the updraft of a supercell thunderstorm creates a hefty 60mph wind that was constantly pulling us toward the storm’s core. Fortunately, our plane could fly twice that fast, so anytime we wanted, we could escape fairly easily.  We found that if we stayed under the anvil within 2-5 miles southeast of the storm’s core, the air remained steady and was free of rain and the destructive hail we were trying to avoid.  Skip was in the back seat monitoring the storm with radar and feeding the pilot with distances to hail cores and updrafts. If we found turbulent wind shear, we simply turned back to the smoother air we had just come from. This method kept us safe, yet we were close enough to see the violent storm structure looming close and large out our windows.

Despite the relatively smooth air, shooting the storm through an open window of a Cessna was a fairly chaotic experience. The lens protruded outside into the 100mph wind, which was so strong it was constantly trying to twist the focal length ring on the lens. I had to use gaff tape to hold it and the focus ring in place, but even then, the tape would buckle under the extreme forces. The vibrations would loosen the quick-release plate which required me to pull the camera off and tighten every minute or so. In order to keep the strut and wing out of the shot, I had the pilot carefully position the direction of the plane and lift the wing.

During the five days, we chased three different tornado-warned supercells in North Dakota and Kansas, and got some amazing footage. Although we didn’t get the coveted tornado shot, we did shoot some interesting structures including this mile-wide rotating dust storm:

We had to abandon the above storm for fuel after two hours of shooting. Wouldn’t you know, the storm produced a tornado 15 minutes after we left!

All in all it was an exciting, fun, albeit tumultuous shoot. In the months to come Artbeats will be producing a selection of this footage and making it available on our website.

A Guide to Permits for Filming in Difficult Locations

Over the years, the Artbeats film crews have learned that shooting can prove to be very difficult in many of the cities across the country. In fact, we recently shot in one of the most security-obsessed cities in our nation: Washington, DC. We’ve learned a few pointers along the way and thought we’d share them. Artbeats’ Location Manager, Diane Barrows has compiled this list for you.

1-A. Start early. Some park permits can take six weeks!
1. Research – what is worth shooting in the city/location of choice?

2. More research – where are the subjects located? Are they private or public? Are they going to be part of a street scene or panorama, or will they be the subject of the shot?

3. If your locations are privately owned, begin seeking permission and get releases from the property owners.

4. If they are public places, gather your addresses or cross streets, names of parks, etc. Then do a search for filming in that area and see whether or not permits are necessary.

-If they are, begin working with their film office to see whether your locations are within their jurisdiction.

-If they are not and your location is in a National Forest or Park, State Park, or other entitity such as the Bureau of Land Management, do a search to find out each entity’s requirements. If you shoot without a permit, you can be issued a citation or ticket.

-If you’re going solo, you won’t need parking, traffic directors, or special notification that you’re going to be using a particular area. But be sure to read the specific rules for every area you will be shooting because different rules apply to different situations, times of day, and even particular days. The size of your crew can also affect the cost of your permit.

-Most permit applications require you to list very specific locations as well as the time of day you’ll be in the area.

5. Know the boundaries of the area in which you are allowed to shoot. Sometimes you think you’re getting permission to be on a sidewalk, but you’re actually getting permission to be on the street and NOT the sidewalk (or vice versa). Washington DC is notorious for this. And the same street may have several entities governing shooting. You stand at X and are on area 1, walk a few feet and are on area 2, turn around and are on area 3. It can be very confusing – and they’ve often GOT YOU ON SECURITY CAMERAS. Violation of the rules can terminate/revoke your permit.

6. Permission for a particular day doesn’t carry over to the next day unless you specified that. Keep in mind that the city may be orchestrating multiple events and are trying to keep everything from overlapping in a bad way. We didn’t get permission to be on a particular street one day because there was an activity where thousands were expected to be there. But we DID get it for the next day.

7. Carry your permit with you as instructed on the permit. We have been asked to show our permit, and it’s quite gratifying to prove that you have permission to be where you are.

8. Have fun and happy shooting!

What kinds of experiences have you had trying to obtain filming permits?

Car on Fire: Filming the unexpected

Recently the Artbeats crew was filming establishments on the Las Vegas Strip when something totally unexpected happened. The result was some incredible footage that isn’t like anything we have in our library.

When planning a shoot, you always have certain expectations of the footage you’d like to capture. Just as in our daily lives, you can’t always control your environment and what’s happening around you, especially when shooting “on location”. Sometimes things come up that, while unfortunate to some, become an amazing opportunity for filming. As a shooter, you must be willing to expect the unexpected, and adapt to new situations. You just never know what’s around the next bend!

Please note that no one was injured in this incident, and the driver was able to safely exit the vehicle. Artbeats sends our deepest condolences to the owner of the vehicle for their loss.

This footage will be for sale on in the coming months.

Digital Production Buzz/Larry Jordan Interviews Phil Bates

Last nights Digital Production Buzz featured Artbeats’ President Phil Bates. Larry Jordan and Michael Horton chatted with Phil about the recent aerial footage Artbeats filmed in Washington, DC.

Listen Now

Artbeats shoots RED EPIC Aerials over Washington, DC

By Phil Bates, Artbeats President & Founder

Artbeats Washington, DC aerials. View the demo reel here.

After months of work from Artbeats staff, outside consultants and our pilot, the Transportation Security Administration granted us a waiver to spend two days shooting aerials over Washington, DC. The monumental red tape included getting clearance from the military, Secret Service, FBI and TSA. With that work behind us, we still had to get permits, as well as clearance from the tower at Reagan International Airport. Because of their busy weekdays, they asked us to push our daytime flights to Saturday.

Even with the waiver, we were not allowed to fly over the mall or shoot the White House. We were required to have a police officer accompany us in the helicopter during the flight and pre-screen us on the ground. At our airport, two Army Intelligence Officers waited for us to land so they could look over every shot, make sure there were no security violations, and delete any problem clips on the spot. Because of this we did quick cuts while shooting, so anything cut would be short.

Our equipment included the Pictorvision eclipse gyrostabilized gimbal mounted on a TwinStar helicopter. The camera was a RED Epic-X with an Optimo 24-290 lens. We shot at 30fps, 5K 2:1 with a Redcode setting of 8:1 and 6:1 for the nighttime shots. Our media was 256GB SSD cards, which gave us around 60 minutes of shoot time. The lens gave a small amount of vignette at all the way wide. No big deal, an easy crop.

Our first flight started on Friday near sunset from our small airport outside the “Freeze”, a term for the round shaped 7 mile wide restricted area over DC. Along with the pilot, camera operator, and director (me), having a police officer on board plus the weight of the camera gimbal meant a very limited amount of fuel thus only an hour in the air over the capital.

On our route over the Potomac into the “Freeze” we could easily see the Langley CIA building on our right in full view tempting us. Originally we wanted to shoot it, but our DC consultant warned us not even to ask. In contrast to the 1500ft altitude minimum requirements when flying over buildings over NYC, our route into DC along the river limited us to 200ft max above the ground. This is because flights arriving at Reagan are approaching just above our heads. All arriving planes had to keep us in sight at all times. In fact, any airline pilot not able to see us must abort the landing and turn around for another approach. The TSA were also watching our every move, making sure we stayed away from the restricted airspace over the Mall, White House and VP’s home.

Normally, I like to shoot from low altitudes, but this proved to be a problem near the Pentagon where the geometric shape of the building is lost at that level. We needed to fly west away from the arrival lanes in order to get permission to get higher for a better view.

The Capitol building and Washington Monument were the two landmarks that drew the eye and the camera. It was hard to pan away from those amazing structures. The best shots were shooting lengthwise down the Mall from east to west or from the other side west to east. Doing a slow camera dolly move north to south (or vice versa) with the Monument and Dome lining up gave us the best framing. The 12x lens gave us the reach we needed. Along the river we saw missile batteries on a rooftop. The police officer on board said we could shoot it but risk it being deleted. We stayed away. Our shot list also included universities, the Watergate, Arlington, stadiums, other monuments and hospitals. It took us 4 different flights to shoot daytime, night time, and dusk versions.

Back on the ground the Army officers carefully viewed the clips in RedCine. They were very savvy and comfortable using the program by themselves. Since there was no time to download we read the clips directly from the card. Only a few clips were deleted from the first three flights, but eight clips were in violation on our last mission. Of these we were able to save four by trimming the R3D in and out points. All in all, we lost very little to these deletions, since we shot a lot of redundant footage. The officers who were very friendly never told us what they were looking for, just zoomed in now and then to seemingly random areas. They were amazed at the detail we were capturing at 5K, which in this case worked against us! After one officer finished looking at the last clip, he asked us: “How in the world did you get clearance to fly in P56? That’s a huge amount of red tape.” Yes it was. 🙂

I am also very thankful to our crew and Artbeats staff who made this shoot possible.

Shooter’s Diary: Lights, EPIC, Action in San Francisco!

By Annette Gaillard, Artbeats DP

As we mentioned in a previous post, Artbeats recently acquired a new RED EPIC camera. We spent a few days doing testing on the Oregon coast, filming lifestyles at a local Coffee House and shooting aerials on the East Coast. Now it was time for me to take it on the road just in time for the holidays.

Over the years we’ve received a lot of requests for holiday related footage. Being from a rural area on the west coast, I wanted to capture the magic of the holiday lights and decorations in the city. For this, I chose the beautiful and eclectic city of San Francisco. Blue skies, a little haze in the air, but otherwise ideal conditions for filming, and a great opportunity for me to work with the EPIC. Before leaving I decided to upgrade the build on our camera, so we finally have playback available on the camera. We’d also recently received our side handle, but had not had the chance to test it.

Looking over the city from the top of Lombard Street.

Over the past three years, I have gotten very used to filming on the RED ONE and am not a big fan of change, however, the EPIC made the transition relatively painless. Many of the menus are very similar to the RED ONE, just more accessible via the touchscreen LCD. I did find myself accidentally hitting buttons on the optional side handle, which caused minor confusion a few times. The playback option worked flawlessly and so did the camera, which was a big relief. As with any software upgrade, you never know if a new glitch will show up while you’re out in the field.

Shooting in San Francisco is not without its challenges. In some cases, parking simply isn’t an option. For these instances, I’d hop out, grab the gear, and have my assistant circle the block, sometimes multiple times, until I had completed the shots I needed. Having a smaller camera like the EPIC, as well as a small tripod to trek around the hills of San Francisco was definitely a benefit. After navigating the streets, I wished that I had told the film office that I needed traffic control, as the best vantage point was often in the middle of the street. The San Francisco Film Office was extremely helpful in the planning of this shoot. Even though we were a very, very small crew, a permit was needed since our end product is for commercial use. My contact was able to provide me with information on areas I was not allowed to film, for various reasons, and also suggested many alternative sites. Unfortunately, they did not know about several of the private events that had been booked, which blocked some of the best holiday locations for the days that I was there. It had been quite some time since I’d been to San Francisco, and I had forgotten about the grid network cable for the trolley cars. If you’re into realistic shots of a city, the cables are no big deal. However, if you want a clear view of things, good luck!

This is part of the 17,000 lights outlining the buildings in the Embarcadero Center.

There is so much to film in San Francisco, and I wasn’t able to get nearly everything I wanted, but in the end this shoot was definitely a success. We captured some spectacular holiday footage, a large number of establishment shots of the city and some unexpected environmental content. You’ll find this footage soon in our royalty-free stock footage library.

Looking back, I have to say that my overall experience with the EPIC was a success. At this point I feel that the only real drawback to the camera are the Redvolt batteries. You get approximately 30 minutes recording time and they take 90 minutes to charge. The chargers available at this time only hold one battery. Depending on how many batteries you have, you are up a lot during the night to get batteries charged for the next day. I personally can’t wait for the RED quad charger to come out. I found that using a mixture of the Redvolts and the Red Bricks was the best way to make it through the day and for charging to be manageable at night.

I learned quite a few things about San Francisco, and will definitely change how I plan to do things on my next film shoot there. Most importantly, I would budget more days. There is so much ground to cover, and so many great places to film. When choosing a hotel in San Francisco I would recommend that you make sure it has parking available and ask what vehicles it can accommodate. The hotel we stayed at for this excursion did have parking available. Unfortunately it was fitted to accommodate sub-compact cars, rather than the SUV we use to haul our gear. It was definitely a challenge, and one morning I was forced to request that other cars be moved.

My parting suggestions to all the other stock shooters: even though it is very important to have a shot list, don’t tie yourself to it. Keep your eyes peeled because there are so many opportunities that pop up. Even though these unexpected shots may derail your plan, they can be completely worth it. Go for the things that take more time to shoot, that are harder to get. Lastly, releases, releases, releases…the shot maybe fantastic, but if it needs a release and you don’t get one, it could be worthless.

View of the financial district at night.