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After our post outlining a commercial photo shoot — which included digital tech Mark Gordon, founder of G10 Digital Capture Services — we thought readers would appreciate learning more about this increasingly important role. Mark explains how a digital tech simplifies the photographer’s workflow, customizing the process to fit personalities, locations, weather conditions, and client expectations. Plus, he recommends his favorite gadgets, most on wheels, for a smooth shoot.

Mark Gordon, digital tech and founder of G10

Mark Gordon, digital tech and founder of G10

Emily Miller: How do you simplify the photographer’s job?

Mark Gordon: Our services boil down to digital capture, from start to finish: pre-production, capture, deliver, and post. Within each of those steps, there’s equipment provided: computers, cameras, vehicles, and printers.

Within pre-production, there’s a dialogue that opens up what the job looks like from the eyes of the photographer. I will make efforts to also have that conversation with the producer. Each has their interpretation of how the job is going to be executed. I offer a package that fits best for the photographer and his/her needs, as well as the producer and their budget.

EM: How does your tagline “Watch Your Back” relate to your work as a digital tech?

MG: It’s basically a willingness to operate within the production, be a part of the team, and look out for the best interest of the photographer. I’m there to be their right hand. I give support so they can focus on the creative process. Providing that support and comfort eases their concerns about the technical side of things.

It’s also asking simple questions: Are you doing verticals or horizontals? And it’s very subtle, simple things presented in a manner that is not alarming. I think the appropriateness of on-set behavior is big. A lot of photographers are not comfortable with an art director interacting with a digital technician, but it happens. The support mechanism is truly to understand where I am and what the expectations are in advance. So when a situation presents itself, there’s an understanding of how that situation is going to be handled.

“A great working relationship between photographer and digital tech is now crucial to the success of any production” — Artisan Modern Retouching Magazine

EM: What do you need to know from the photographer, producer, and client?

MG: Typically, it would start with the producer: Shot count? Are we in the studio or on location? Will there be multiple location changes? If we are on location, what’s the environment? Power supplies? From the photographer, the dialogue is typically getting an idea of how they approach the creative process, and how their approach is going to meet this specific client’s needs.

It starts to build a picture for me to understand how I’m going to plug-in on set. Even down to having the computer close by, having it tethered. We’re shooting the cards, does the client have access to the monitor? Do they want to do a formal present with the client?

It’s discussing a shot before it happens, like a walk-through of the shot. That way I can pick up the process they want to approach the job, facilitate accordingly, and also make it fit within the needs of production and the client.

Interior Setup

Editing on location for Sony's image library in Mount Hood, Oregon

EM: How do you customize your gear and process to fit the specific location you’re working in? More »

A trailer for Betrayed, one of the first narrative shorts shot entirely with a DSLR (the Canon 5D Mark II) was released online today (watch it below). Here at RESOLVE, we’ve been keeping an eye on the project since its Coming Soon page went up in August, and we are happy to bring you an exclusive first interview with director Joshua Grossberg about how the camera changed the creative process and how the team is working to get funding for a feature-length version.

Miki Johnson: How did you get involved with the Betrayed project and why were you interested in being a part of it?

Josh Grossberg: My friend, photographer Robert Caplin, told me about this terrific DSLR that Canon had just released, the Canon 5D Mark II, and how it is going to be a great new tool for filmmakers. So a team was put together including Robert and producer Thomas Xenakis. Our goal was to use the 5D to shoot the first five minutes of a feature-length thriller I had co-written and planned to direct called Disappear.

The project grew from there, at which point I tapped a longtime collaborator, Michael Kier, to help me revamp the script. We co-wrote what became a nine-minute neo-noir short called Betrayed, which utilizes the same characters but serves as a prequel of sorts to the feature.

The purpose of the film is to tell a story unto itself while at the same time attracting equity financing for the full-length version, Disappear. Our approach is similar to the strategy director Courtney Hunt used for her Sundance Award-winning Frozen River.

With a gracious assist from Elisa Pugliese, who produced the film August, Seth Gilliam (from HBO’s The Wire), PJ Sosko, and Cara Buono (The Sopranos) came aboard to play the principle roles — a terrific and talented group of actors — and we went from there.

MJ: What appealed to you about shooting a film using a DSLR as opposed to other cameras?

JG: It saved me money, and the opportunity to utilize a brand new, cutting-edge technology was very exciting. The compactness of the 5D, its remarkable cinematic quality, and the fact that it would quickly establish itself as a direct competitor to the Red was another huge draw. And the fact that I would be collaborating with close friends was like icing on the cake.

Steady Cam operator, Guy Rhodes prior to filming a fight scene in Brooklyn.

Steadicam operator Guy Rhodes prior to filming a fight scene in Brooklyn.

MJ: Did shooting with a DSLR significantly change the way you thought about directing the film?

JG: Absolutely! Before the 5D, I took a rather dim view to digital filmmaking, mainly because I had yet to see a camera — the Red included — that I thought truly lived up to the persistence of vision that comes with celluloid and that didn’t make me aware of the fact that I was looking at pixels. While you’re still dealing with electronic image processors and mega-pixels with the 5D, the results blew me away, particularly in what the DSLR could achieve in low-light situations. The wide latitude it gives filmmakers allows us to do, for instance, magic-hour filming without having to rent expensive HMIs and other cumbersome equipment to get the exposure.

It also saved us time and freed up the performances of the actors who practically forgot there was this little camera capturing their every line and move. Seeing it projected onscreen in High Def, the quality was just fantastic, especially given this was a no-budget production. The idea that now independent filmmakers can go out and shoot movies with the production aesthetics of a big budget Hollywood feature is truly revolutionary and tears down the wall between expensive A-list productions and indie features.

Of course, at the end of the day, while the technology is wonderful, it’s still subservient to the story — so you better have a good one. I’m happy with the results of Betrayed. It feels like a puzzle picture to me like Memento and Michael Clayton, movies that take you for a thrill ride and leave you coming back for more. I want to figure out the nuances, kinda like my favorite films. And seeing the performances by Seth and PJ in particular, I hope people will really enjoy it.


Director Joshua Grossberg (center) works on site with producer/editor Thomas Xanakis, right, and Jody Bradshaw, assistant script supervisor.

MJ: What was the greatest challenge shooting this project? Would you do anything different knowing what you do now about the process?

JG: Because we were working with a technology that was relatively unproven on the film front, figuring out the workflow was an issue. And the fact that we were shooting in 30P meant that we would have to later sync sound, which was recorded separately. Perhaps the biggest challenge was maintaining focus during dolly shots and push ins/push outs.

On the post-production front, since very few people, if any, had used the 5D before, editing proved to be a challenge because we had to find an intermediate format, otherwise the raw files were too big for Final Cut Pro to handle. We ended up relying on Pro Res for both the editing and the output and the folks at Post Logic did a great job working with us to ensure quality control.

MJ: I hear you have some meetings lined up at Sundance, etc. to talk about funding for a full-length version. Can you talk a little about that process? What are this film’s selling points?

JG: Until you’re more established, the process is simply: Do whatever it takes to get your film in the hands of decision makers. I’m excited about all the possibilities Sundance brings. I’ll be talking to a host of film executives as well as investors — some of them are major studios looking to develop Betrayed as a feature, others are indies. We’ll be going to Cannes in May as well. But the goal is to cobble together the remainder of the financing and roll cameras on the feature sometime this summer or early fall.

Aside from being one of the first filmmakers to shoot a feature exclusively on the 5D, in our view the other big selling point that we maintained throughout the creative process is the manipulation of words in the script. Every line spoken by an actor is duplicitous by design, since they are intended to be interpreted in more than one way. The double entendres are part of the puzzle and audiences will hopefully have as much fun figuring it out as we had writing it. Nothing is as it seems. Hopefully Betrayed will give people a flavor of what’s to come in the full-length, Disappear.

MJ: Any other important things you learned through working on this film?

JG: This may sound cliche but it’s undeniably true. If you believe in something strongly enough, don’t give up your vision. There will always be times when you wonder why the hell you got into this crazy business, but keep your head down, stick to your guns, and the rest, as they say, is gravy.

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dpBestflowAfter two years of research by members Richard Anderson and Peter Krogh, ASMP announced the launch of its website at FotoWeekDC earlier this week. Shorthand for “Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow,” the website, part of the three-tier project that includes a book and a traveling seminar series, aims to offer definitive guidelines for digital photography best practices and workflow.

Forbes Media announced yesterday that it has acquired digital magazine FlipGloss and its Digital Glossy Insert photo publishing platform. Launched about 8 months ago, FlipGloss combines search engine capabilities with the experience of flipping through photo content of a magazine, and users can click on objects in the photos to find out where to purchase an item or even be led to an advertiser’s website.

mr_foxWes Anderson’s new movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opens in selected theaters today, is a stop-motion picture shot entirely using a Nikon D3 – over 600,000 stills that generate 18.5 terrabytes of data. According to movie review website IMDb, the beautifully art-directed adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic used Nikon D3 because it “offers a significantly higher resolution than even that of full High Definition.” has a great “Making of” the movie here.

Google has cut the price for extra storage on its photo sharing site Picasa to about one eighth of what it used to cost. For $5 a year, now you can have 20GB photo storage on the site. “Since most people have less than 10GB of photos, chances are you can now save all your memories online for a year for the cost of a triple mocha,” according to the official Google Photos Blog.

Most photographers are interested in commercial work, but orchestrating big photo shoots can be daunting. Luckily producers — like Susan Shaughnessy, who runs SKS Productions in N.Y.C. — are here to help. We asked Susan to walk us through a recent advertising shoot she produced on location in L.A. (with an extra post explaining each crew member’s responsibilities). Whether your team is sprawling or a dynamic duo, Susan lends insight into the process and organization of a complicated shoot.

The Players

Producer Susan Shaughnessy

Producer Susan Shaughnessy

Client: AstraZeneca
Digitas Health and
Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications Group
Jayne Wexler
Artist Rep:
Kevin Schochat
Susan Shaughnessy/SKS Productions
Los Angeles
Total people on set: 30

1. Making the Call

The ad agency had three photographers in mind for the shoot, and the photographer Jayne Wexler was considered a favorite. The agency called her directly, and Jayne called her rep, Kevin Schochat. Together they talked about the concept, dates, and availability. Next, Jayne and Kevin considered which producer they wanted. Usually, the photographer or the rep has a relationship with a producer. Sometimes the ad agency has a relationship with a producer, and they will recommend one. In this case, Jayne decided she wanted to work with me.

2. Crafting the Estimate

Campaign layout

"Then and Now" concept

"Then and Now" concept

There were three bids submitted for this job, and the estimating process took more than a week, including several rounds of back-and-forth with the agency. We were trying to meet the agency budget, but we were the only team estimating traveling expenses, so our costs were higher. The agency was very fair and understood our numbers, but it took time to get the estimate and photographer approved.

I typically work with my favorite program, Excel, for bids, as does the rep. I turn my document into a custom-designed PDF, so it looks like a neatly presented document with my logo and client info on it. Excel allows you to make changes quickly and frequently, which is so useful when estimating and making revisions.

3. Getting Approval

During the estimating process, I have a crew in mind. Typically they are on hold from the beginning, especially the stylists. Once the agency awards the whole job and the money, then I book. I review the costs, rates, and expectations with each person, to confirm we are all clear. Sometimes the rates, expenses, and layouts have altered during the estimating process, so it’s essential to clarify at this point.

In this case, the casting and location line items were approved first, and then days later the rest of the job was approved. We began right away with a creative call between the photographer, agency, and myself to review layouts, casting specs, and location needs. I hired Eastside Studios in L.A. to cast, and I began researching locations with my coordinators.

Then stylists, photographer, producer, and agency have creative calls. These calls solidify the wardrobe direction and the prop needs. From there I can build a firm schedule, and manage expectations and deliverables for the team. As soon as the job is approved, the rep and I submit a request for the advance, to receive the appropriate percentage of the expenses up front. This money will get the job rolling and secure locations, studios, and all immediate out-of-pocket expenses.

4. Building the Crew
Wardrobe stylist Gillean McLeod, makeup artist/hair stylist Stephanie Daniel, photographer Jayne Wexler

Wardrobe stylist Gillean McLeod, wardrobe assistant Lauren Burns, and photographer Jayne Wexler

When assembling a crew, I consider the photographer, the project and style, the budget, and the personalities that fit with the requests. It’s also important to have crew members who can work closely together to support each other. The wardrobe stylist and prop stylist know each other, work together often, and were able to help each other styling vintage clothing and props.

With Crestor, because everything was being shot in L.A., I suggested and hired the crew for Jayne. Jayne brought her first assistant, Piero Ribelli, with her, but I introduced Jayne to Mark Gordon, digital tech, along with Ubaldo Holguin and Joe Klecker, who were local photo assistants we used in L.A. Based on temperament, professionalism, and personality, I knew they would fit great with this team.

Having team members who know each other and work well together adds another layer of efficiency. Photographers often get in a groove with certain stylists, and definitely photo assistants and digital techs.

Often the crews stay the same, but sometimes we’ll add or lose somebody because of availability. Like Jayne in New York, we’ll have almost the same crew every time we work with her. For every photographer I work with, I specifically craft a crew that seems appropriate for them, based on their personalities, needs, styles, how fast paced they are, and what they expect in terms of styling.

5. Scouting Locations More »


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