DP Elliott Nieves on Shooting RAC 'Change For The Better' Commercials

Earlier in the year RAC released another TVC in their ‘Change For The Better’ series produced by Beautiful Pictures along with The Brand Agency.


We had a chance to chat with DP Elliott Nieves about the shoot and the decision making behind using Cinemachine’s Arri Alexa Mini LF and Tokina Vista Prime lenses.

CM: Thanks for chatting with us. I know this was a continuation of a series of shoots, but why did you choose the Mini LF & Tokina Lenses for this project overall?

EN: Yeah, apart from the fact that we wanted to have the ads look similar, the camera and lens combo was chosen because we knew we were shooting big tracking wide shots. Which meant we were limited in terms of lighting and generally in what we could do to make the image look nice, from a Cinematography perspective. 

Obviously production design did a lot of heavy lifting, and we planned our shoot times within the limitations we had to get lighting that worked for the locations we chose, but outside of all of that, a larger sensor and faster glass (the Tokinas are T1.5) gave us more options and having some semblance of shallow depth of field if we wanted it allowed us to wrest back some more depth.


Alexa Mini LF on RAC Ad


CM: Had you used the Tokina’s before on any other projects? How did they perform?

EN: Not until this series of commercials, no. They're great lenses. The flares are nice and not too distracting when they do pop up, they're sharp, fast, reliable and cover full frame. Definitely a nicer alternative to some of the other sharp, full frame lens kits around, while still being clean.


CM:  How do you plan for the wide exteriors required for this ad during the middle of Perth summer?

EN: Literally just scheduling for backlight with the sun sitting ideally off to the right side of the frame, so with the talent walking in that direction, you get the light creeping over onto their camera side cheek a little bit. 

Unfortunately production, understandably, wouldn't let me shoot every location at the same time of day or we'd be shooting for double the amount of days and it would cost twice as much, so you have to make it work within the limitations you have. I did my best to pick a shooting order that worked best for each location to give us the best chance at having it look nice throughout. The main ingredient, as always, is backlight.

CM: Were there any unexpected challenges on this shoot? 

EN: Definitely the dusk/early evening shoot had an unexpected twist where we almost got rained out by a rather intimidating looking thunderstorm, but somehow it passed right by us and we got a wetdown, which we were trying to make happen with production design anyway. Sometimes the twists are good and helpful!


Trying to get the car pulling into the driveway shot was hard, lots of rehearsal and trying different movements, mapping out the arc the gimbal would take, etc. We just didn't have the resources to do a Gone Girl level internal car rig that stays smooth as a car goes up a curb. If I'm overly critical I think the final result looks a little unconvincing but only if you're really looking for it. If you watch the piece as a whole it works really well and sells the idea perfectly.

CM: Did the Mini LF or other equipment help work through those moments?

EN: Not really, most of the challenges we encountered were solved in other ways, but that's really a testament to the reliability and rock solid performance of an Arri with great lenses. Once you pick a good kit, you shouldn't really have to think about it too much on a job like this. It just does what it says on the tin and never lets you down.

The Ronin 2 helped us get the curb shot without using a dolly track, and it also performed well!

Thanks again to Elliott for talking to us about this project.


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