Cinematographer Marion Laney Stirs Up Production for ‘Rusty’s RockFeast’ with AJA CION
August 24, 2015
For freelance DP Marion Laney, the allure of cinematography lies in the diverse nature of the job. From shooting a ballet one day to a glacier the next, he thrives on exploring new environments. Recently Laney traversed the U.S. while capturing FYI Network’s concert-meets-culinary series “Rusty’s RockFeast: Backstage with Zac Brown Band.” Produced by School of Humans with post by Moonshine Post Production, the show follows Chef Rusty Hamlin and his crew on the Zac Brown Band concert tour as they serve up gourmet meals for fans out of an 18-wheeler kitchen dubbed “Cookie.” To supplement footage from the roadshow, Laney shot team interviews and meetings with two AJA CION cameras post-tour.
In choosing a camera for these scenes, Laney looked for two key qualities: nice skin tones and a wide dynamic range for greater flexibility in post. “With a ton of interviews slated for the show, I knew skin tones would be important, and CION definitely delivered in that respect,” he shared. “I also thought having a wider range would allow Moonshine to match the footage to the original look tour locations as desired; if they wanted the picture to feel cinematic, they had the option, but if they wanted a real, gritty look, they could easily go that route too.”
Having used other AJA gear throughout his career, Laney was confident CION would be a great match for the project. “I’ve depended on AJA gear for years, and whatever the product from AJA, I’ve always been able to count on it to work,” he continued. “I knew CION would be reliable, and loved how ergonomically accessible AJA made it; the form factor was appealing, and the price point couldn’t really be beat for all that you get.”
Over the course of two shoots, Laney and his crew tapped the CIONs to capture a series of interviews and team meetings with Chef Rusty, the Cookie crew and Zac Brown, which account for nearly a third of the series. Most footage was shot in 12-bit ProRes 444 4K, with some sequences also captured in 4K ProRes HQ and ProRes HQ 2K. “It was great to be able to choose whichever flavor of ProRes I wanted with CION. I knew I’d be able to give post what they needed or drop it down to be more manageable while still retaining bit-depth,” he explained.
Laney and crew first shot team meetings and interviews using a tripod setup on Brown’s home property. Leveraging the CIONs with Zeiss Prime Lenses and Zacuto Gratical HD Micro-OLED EVFs, they captured the meetings on a practical set designed to mimic tour locations, and the interviews on green screen. In post, Moonshine added VFX plates of a stainless steel kitchen to the background of the interview segments. The second shoot took place across four locations: Zac Brown’s business headquarters and restaurant Southern Ground Social Club in Senoia, GA; the interior of “Cookie;” a fabricated backstage set; and a conference room with a green screen. For this shoot, Laney used a combination of tripod and handheld capture, with Canon Cineservo 17-120mm lenses tapped for segments requiring an ENG/handheld configuration.
Throughout both shoots, Laney found CION’s comfort and ease-of-use to be a huge boon. He explained, “CION felt great on the shoulder, and gave me the flexibility to transition quickly between mounting options; I could move from handheld to tripod to jib as needed without any downtime, and I had easy access to the menu settings I use most, and could switch between them. I’m also a fan of the PAK media; it’s dependable, widely available and affordable, especially compared to alternative media.”
With such a high bit depth in all of the footage shot on CION, Moonshine Post Production was able to quickly move into editorial and complete post once shooting wrapped, without spending several hours in grading. The dynamic range and raster sizes that the CION footage provided also made it easier for their team to alter frame sizes from the original footage. Using a single take, the Moonshine team easily transitioned between medium, close-up and wide in post for the 1920x1080 HD master.
Comparing his CION experience to other cameras, Laney concluded, “CION gave us a look that normally would have required we rent a camera three times as (much) expensive, and from a handheld standpoint, its lightweight body was superior.”
Ergonomic and lightweight in design with unparalleled connectivity, the CION production camera is capable of shooting at 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD resolutions. In-camera recording directly to the Apple ProRes family of codecs, including 12-bit ProRes 444, enables incredible image quality capture to cost-effective AJA Pak SSD media at up to 4K/60p, and offers compatibility with a wide range of post production applications. CION can also output AJA Raw at up to 4K 120 fps via 4 x 3G-SDI or up to 4K 30 fps via Thunderbolt™.
About AJA Video Systems, Inc.
Since 1993, AJA Video has been a leading manufacturer of video interface technologies, converters, digital video recording solutions and professional cameras, bringing high-quality, cost-effective products to the professional, broadcast and post-production markets. AJA products are designed and manufactured at our facilities in Grass Valley, California, and sold through an extensive sales channel of resellers and systems integrators around the world. For further information, please see our website at www.aja.com.