Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sam O'Hare's new tilt shift film, "Coachelletta"

You may remember Aero director, Sam O'Hare's name from the short film, The Sandpit. Well, he has a new film out using the tilt-shift style once again! The short film Coachelletta has just been released. It was commissioned by the Coachella Music Festival and is live on their site now or see the director cut with vocals in full HD HERE. So give it a look and then read my interview with Sam below for more details on how this film came to fruition.


AERO: So The Sandpit did pretty well. Did you ever think 1.8 million people were going to see it?

SAM: Uh, no. No, that took me a little by surprise. I'm still a bit taken aback by it to be honest. It won an award and is being screened at the AFI Film Festival in LA this November. It's been much more popular than my wildest expectations.

AERO: You made a “viral.”

SAM:  HA! I hate that phrase.

AERO: Yes me too! It’s so rarely appropriate… Bygones… After The Sandpit was posted, you were contacted by Goldenvoice who produces the Coachella Music Festival.

SAM: Yeah, they got in touch after they'd seen The Sandpit on Vimeo. They really liked it and said they were looking for somebody to do a film about Coachella and they thought that the style of film (tilt shift) would work really well. I had a week to prep and off I went.

AERO: So what is different about how you created The Sandpit versus Coachelletta? Obviously you didn't need to find rooftops this time.

SAM: Yeah, Coachella is different - it's a big polo field that they commandeer every year for a week or two and put up all the stages, tents and art installations. It's mostly flat, and I wasn't able to get onto any of the structures that they put up. So, to get the high vantage point that I need to shoot from, we ended up using cherry pickers. You know the big booms that extend out to 60 foot and have a cradle you can stand in?

AERO: Yeah, I don't like those. I'm afraid of heights.

SAM: I wasn’t a big fan, but I’ve become pretty used to heights as of late. With the help of the boom operators, I got to put them where I wanted around the edges of the site: behind the stages, in the production area, around the camping sections and the vendors' areas.

AERO: What's your favorite scene in the Coachella film?

SAM: It difficult to pick out an absolute favorite, but similarly to The Sandpit I like the serendipity of occasionally finding people doing interesting things, like the girl doing the hula hoop and the guy dancing in the glowing stick figure outfit. You just see these little unplanned events and shoot them, and that's the fun of the thing, it makes it quite like a documentary like in that respect. I also like the night shots in this - I did a lot of long exposures for these shots, up to two seconds, and so for some of those night shots you kind of get a blur and a shiver to the footage because the boom was actually moving in the wind. I rather like it as it adds to the energy of the night shots as the music track is starting to peak and the whole experience kind of leads up to that point.

AERO: So just to answer some people's questions that they had on The Sandpit, why do you shoot this on a Nikon D3s still camera instead of using a video option like the Canon 5D Mark II?

SAM: Well there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, there was quite a lot of stabilization that needed to be done on this stuff, similar to The Sandpit. Since I was up on booms, and because it was fairly windy most of the time, it wasn't possible to even stabilize the camera on a tripod, so I had to stabilize in post. To do so, you pick points in the footage that you know aren't moving, like the corner of a window and the computer tracks as it moves around in the scene and basically moves the image around each frame to keep that point in the same place. What you need with that is a little more scene around the edge of the frame, because you have to blow it up a little bit to absorb the movement. This means if you're shooting 1080p video and you want to deliver at 1080p, when you blow it up by 10% you're losing quality. Since the stills I was shooting were 2800 pixels wide, you have lots of space to play in. The other thing is that when you shoot on the 5D, it automatically compresses as H.264 and that means when it comes to color grading and tweaking it you have much less latitude. If you're shooting raw files you have an enormous amount you can do in the grade in terms of how you affect the white balance and the colors and all the rest because you've just got the raw light information that's been captured onto the sensor. If you've already run it through a compression, you are much more limited in what you can do. Also, because you can't shoot video at 4 frames a second with the Canon, you can only shoot at 24 so I would have been shooting five frames I didn't need for every one that I did and churning through data very very quickly.

AERO: There’s a moving camera in Coachella, which there wasn’t in The Sandpit.

SAM: Yeah, there are a few shots, actually. I was able to take advantage of the fact that I was on a boom and booms are able to move...

AERO: ...Not so much with The Sandpit as it was shot...

SAM: ...from buildings, yeah. Building aren’t known for moving easily.

AERO: Not so much.

SAM: Yeah, so I was able to do extensions on the boom and shoot while I was doing it. I did try to do a few pans around on the boom too, but they didn't really work as well. The best results were when the jib was either moving straight outwards or booming straight up and down, so I did quite a few of those. The problem with them is that they come out pretty bumpy, as the booms aren't designed to do these things smoothly, so once again all of those shots are stabilized. I'd pick 2 points the same distance away in perspective in the shot and stabilize from those.

AERO: So do you want a giant techno crane for Christmas?

SAM:  Sure! I don't know where I'd put it but....

AERO:   Mmm. True. Any new post effects used in Coachelletta?

SAM: It's really more of an extension of the techniques I started on while I was doing The Sandpit. For that one I spent a little time on some of the shots to add extra 3D information, but for a lot of them I got away with using the standard tilt shift defocus straight across the image. For Coachella I spent time on almost every shot to add in more accurate 3-D depth data for static objects. So you'll notice that vertical bits of the art work seem to stand up off the grass, and the tents and things seem to sit there in 3 dimensions. It means that the defocusing effect happens based more on the actual depth in the shot, so the result is more like what would happen if the scene really was a model. Most of these were rotoscoped in by hand which is pretty time-consuming, but for some I also pulled keys and mattes. The result isn't completely perfect, but I was happy with the overall effect.

AERO: How many frames did you shoot?

SAM: A little over 50,000.

AERO: Are you the most patient person on the planet?

SAM: Not really! Adobe Lightroom helps quite a bit!

AERO: The music on the film is super catchy.

SAM: I approached Human, who did the music for The Sandpit and because we had such a good experience working with them last time and they did such a great job. It's very different feel to the last one, I wanted to have something that felt summery and energetic would fit the experience the festival. They did an awesome job, I was very very happy with it. They’re just fantastic musicians and composers.

AERO: Awesome, thank so much Sam! What are you going to miniaturize next?

SAM: Not sure, maybe I’ll blow something up instead.

AERO: Good plan. You can never go wrong with blowing stuff up.

Check out more of Sam’s work HERE


  1. The music is AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!! The fun and upbeat feeling of the event is reflected in the song. Does Matthew O'Malley have any other pieces or albums?

  2. This song needs a mp3, stat.

  3. Super movie, thank You :)

  4. WOOOOW! :D Awesome mov!
    name of song!? :D

  5. I really concur, i need to download the song.. some one should give me a hand. Beautiful video though. Great job

  6. Nice work on the nikons :)
    So all the tilt shift was post?
    What lens where you using?

  7. who is the artist of the song?

  8. So cool, I love the tilt shift technique

    Joshua Hurtado
    Royall Advertising

  9. love the video... great work, saw it on am a composer... naturally I liked the music. Great Energy. It is hard to find "Human" as there are so many references for it... How can we find a way to get the music from Human??

    More Videos PLEASE!

  10. RE: Music... As of right now, Human has not released the music from Coachelletta or The Sandpit. If they do, we'll post an update!

  11. Well done. Nevertheless, I think it's sad that people imitate the look of a T&S lens and still call their result photography. Once you deviate from the original material captured by your camera so gravely, it's composing in my book.

  12. i dont get it. is this video or several thousand pictures. Whats confusing me is the part with the D3 and 5D.


  14. what was the budget on this production?
    shoot and post?

  15. Another lens that could be used for T&S effects can be a lensbaby



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