Nguyen Tuan Anh
Quan Pham – Creative Hunts
Toc Tien, Ms. Nhu
Phi Long / PS Vietnam
Tien Le, Truong Uyen Uyen – Creative Hunts
Ho Chi Minh City, Long Hai (Vung Tau), Can Tho
In December I was contacted by NOI Pictures about a stills commission on the set of an action and adventure style TVC for FWD Vietnam and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.
A few days later I met the team from Hunter One creative agency and they talked me through the script of the film. The TVC was based on the concept of “the leap of possibilities” and it was broken up into 5 scenes and locations. Over 3 action packed days we would be shooting a scene at a pool where an old man jumps from a 10m diving platform into a pool, Pop singer Toc Tien stage diving into the crowd at a concert, a young man jumping over trollies in an airport as he races to great his parents, a groom bounding from boat to boat in the floating markets on the way to his wedding and a young girl jumping from a cliff.
It was going to be an action packed three days and it was awesome to work on such a big production. The difficulty though was that I had to shoot everything live and that I couldn’t direct the talent or use any flash to freeze the action so I had to rely on fast shutter speeds and available light. During the shoot I worked closely with Hunter One’s creative director Quan Pham as we worked out the best angles to shoot from.
The focus for the stills campaign would be on the leap and the celebration afterwards and the client was after images that felt as candid and spontaneous as possible.
On the first morning we started at a pool in HCMC and the crew had erected a giant diving board at the end of the pool. The leap photograph was fairly simple to take but my problem was that they where using a stuntman to perform the leap and while in a wide shot this might not be so noticeable this was difficult for me as I was freezing the motion and therefore it would be obvious that the talent performing the jump was a different actor. Ultimately to get around this I shot this scene wide as well so that the focus was on the action of the jump and that the face of the stunt man was not too visible. I’ll look forward to seeing how the agency work the image in post production!
The next shot at pool was even more challenging though as it was underwater scene. I had prepared in advance and worked out a way to keep my camera dry in an underwater housing and I used a housing with a tripod adapter and I was able to weigh down the camera and keep it at the bottom of the pool. The challenge though was getting down to the bottom of the pool and timing it so that I could be there when the talent jumped in. It proved impossible to get the timing correct but luckily the film crew let me borrow their scuba diving equipment after they had finished their shot and I was able to spend about 10 mins with the talent getting the shot as the old man excitedly played up to the camera after perfuming the stunt.
We then headed to a concert venue in HCMC to shoot with Toc Tien for the afternoon. There where about 200 extras at the venue so I was able to work with the crowd for some of the shots but I would have loved another few hundred so that I could have filled the background a little more. Another difficult was that the lighting was really low so capturing and freezing the action was difficult and I had to shoot at very high ISO with low depth of field. Despite the difficulties I think that we did ok for this shot and with a little bit of post production to fill out the crowd a little I think we will come up with some great shots.
The following morning call time was at 5am and we headed out of HCMC to the coast of Long Hai where we shot our cliff jumping scene. The actress for this shot was from the Team X stunt group and when we arrived the Team X crew where busy working on the set. The scene was shot in two locations and one of them was a little more picturesque than the other so I shot some test shots with my assistant Tuan Anh in the morning to work out my composition and exposure. This time rather than freezing the motion I decided to pan for movement as the talent ran towards the cliffs edge. The film crew then came and did their opening scenes and as soon as they finished I was ready and I had a few minutes with her to repeat the shot that I had done earlier with Tuan Anh. I’m glad I did those earlier shots as I think the lighting on the earlier shots was nicer and I think they will get a great result by compositing the two images together.
Next we headed to another location to shoot the leaping scene and the team from Team X had set up a harness and rigging system so that the actress could run and leap from the cliff and be caught mid air and brought safely to the ground. I was really impressed with what they did but I’m not sure I would have been game to take the leap myself. With each jump she the actress became more and more confident though and by the end it looked like she was loving it. We shot from both the top of the rock to capture a shot from behind and also shots from underneath and I will never forget the fright I got during her first jump from underneath as at first it felt as though she was going to land one me until the harness kicked in and she was dropped to safety. I also climbed the rigging myself to capture some shots from the side angle as well.
The final two scenes where shot in Can Tho and on the final morning we where up at the crack of dawn and on our way to the floating markets. The stunt was really impressive and it involved a stunt man jumping from boat to boat and it involved flying leaps and even a flip. Due to the difficulty of the stunt the crew where filming from two camera angles on the ground and they also filmed a few scenes with a drone as well meaning that it was difficult to find a position where I was out of frame but close enough to get a dynamic and interesting shot. In the end though I think we got some great frames and with a little bit of work in post I think they will come up really well.
The final scene was at the airport in Can Tho. We were allowed to shoot in the afternoon when the airport was closed as there are no flights at this time so the airport was filled with about 200 extras so as to make it look really busy. We shot the final scenes first with the young man running to great and hug his Mum in the airport. The film crew shot this scene on the move and this made things difficult as I also had to be on the move so to make sure that I was not in the background of the shot. This made it one of the most difficult shots of the whole production as getting into right spot each time always involved a bit of guess work and I always had to keep one eye on the talent and another on the crew to make sure I wasn’t in their way. Once again it will be a shot that will require some composite work to bring the elements together but I think it will turn out to be a great shot.
We finished by shooting a stunt of the young man leaping over some baggage trollies on his way to meet his parents. The difficulty here was in finding an angle that wasn’t too busy and shooting the shot in challenging lighting conditions as the crew where not allowed to set up lighting at the airport so we where limited to shooting with the available light in the airport only. I think my best shot came from an angle low down on the ground as the stuntman jumped over the trollies.
All in all it was a really awesome shoot and I despite the challenges I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to see the TVC and to see how my work is used in the stills campaign.
See the TVC here.