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Budget Cinema – Using Gray Paper as a Backdrop

Ammon and the Blueforest crew show how they use gray paper as a backdrop for their video production set ups.

Versatility is everything

In this installment of Budget Cinema, Ammon is discussing the benefits of using a gray paper as a backdrop when filming. There are a couple of reasons why we use it we would like to share these tips with you. We will be going through the type and color of gray backdrop paper along with a few tips when setting it up. We will discuss why we enjoy using this for our backdrops as well. We will give our reasons why this gray backdrop is versatile. We will also touch on a lighting tip that looks great with the backdrop as well. It is a pretty simple setup and can really boost your production value.

Let’s get right into this!



The gray seamless backdrop paper we use is from the company Savage. We went with the ultra wide which is 107 inches in length. You can pick up this roll at any local photography store or order online at B&H Photo. The price is around $60 and if you do order online you might spend up to $20 more because of shipping. We recommend picking up at your local photography store if you can to make the total cost cheaper in the end. (If you are in Raleigh, North Carolina like us, you could try out Southeastern Camera).

Why gray?

The color of gray we have at the studio is labeled ‘Fashion gray’. The shade of gray is a mid-gray more on the brighter side of the tones of gray. The reason why we use a mid-gray is that we have the ability to control how dark or light the gray appears based on lights. Lights can make all the difference with this gray backdrop or any backdrop. If you have less light pointed at the gray backdrop you can make the mid-gray look darker. If you have more light pointed at the gray backdrop you can turn the light gray into an almost white. This is why Blueforest Studios uses the mid-gray for our backdrops. In the end, you don’t just have one color backdrop which is why we love the versatility with this setup. You have a wide range with only one backdrop which can save you time and money.


Laying out the backdrop

When we use the gray backdrop we do not mount it horizontally (top to bottom) because that does not allow us to use a full head-to-toe shot. This way we can also have more than one person in the frame and allows for more room when filming. What we did was set up a truss system which is something you could pick up at a DJ store. Then we will roll the backdrop vertically left to right instead of top to the floor. We made sure to unroll the backdrop slowly to prevent major wrinkles in the paper. When setting up the gray backdrop we tapped the backdrop to the wall and to the truss with gaffers tape so that it did not leave a sticky residue to the wall, truss, or backdrop.


Here’s where the fun begins

We used sandbags at the bottom to hold the backdrop down and we positioned lights to act as a hair light for our subject. The hair light gives more separation between the subject and the backdrop. The excess light spills onto the backdrop making the gray brighter. The finishing touch on this gray backdrop is the little fresnel style light we have directly behind the subject. We went from two hair lights that had some spill onto the backdrop to one direct hair light with no spill. The little light behind the subject is an Apurture Light Storm Mini. This little guy is extremely versatile and doesn’t take up much space and paired with the gray backdrop you can do a lot with it.


Light the Subject

The hero light is a circular light framing the subject with a hero look to it. With having less light spill onto the backdrop, the gray is now darker than before. We added a little hero light to accent the subject. The great thing about the hero light with the Light Storm Mini is that the light can be brightened and dimmed along with the circle being more direct/spot or more wide/flooded. The more flooded the light makes the effect of the hero light softer and less noticeable. This light is very small and versatile and was easy to hide for filming.



Be a hero

Use these tips to make your next interview stand out. Be a hero and show your versatility and knowledge of lighting a gray backdrop. I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Let us know what you learned and how you used these tips to improve your skills. If you want to learn other ways to be a hero, check out our blog about brand storytelling.

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

beach cart loading

Budget Cinema – Ammon’s Favorite Piece of Gear

Ammon talks about his favorite piece of gear, and it only costs about 60 bucks!

Gimme Gear!

Ammon is the creative director here at Blueforest Studios, and over his career he’s bought lots of gear. We love our toys here, but we also are always trying to stay in our budget. We work with all kinds of companies, and they all are trying to stay in budget (especially non-profits). So, we are always looking for the best tools for the lowest price. And that brings us to Ammon’s favorite piece of gear, the beach cart!


Wait, What?
You might be thinking, that can’t be his favorite piece of equipment. Blueforest Studios uses drones and sliders and cool cameras! And, you might be right. That stuff is really cool and fun. But, one thing that’s not fun is throwing your back out because you’ve been lugging equipment miles at a time on a 10 hours shoot. We do lots of medical videos, which includes walking all over large hospital campuses (like WakeMed right here in Raleigh, NC). And, we have to lug around all of our cool equipment. So, these carts are super handy.

Easy In, Easy Out

These carts are also super easy to setup and to pack up. Time is of the essence on busy shoot days, and being able to open the cart super quickly and load a bunch of stuff into it right away is a huge time saver. But, it also packs up really quickly. We usually just toss it on top of the equipment right before we leave. Last thing in and first thing out of the van.


Use What’s Around You

So, the lesson is that sometimes the best piece of equipment isn’t actually designed for video production. Sometimes it’s made for going out to the beach and getting away.


Let us know what pieces of equipment you use that are super cheap and useful!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

Ammon and Vann intro

Budget Cinema – A New Series

Ammon and Vann introduce the new Budget Cinema series from Blueforest Studios.

What is Budget Cinema?

In order to first talk about Budget Cinema, it’s important to have an understanding of what cinematic footage is. It doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. You can spend a million bucks on equipment and never get a single frame of cinematic footage. And likewise, you can take your iPhone and create a beautiful film (like Steven Soderbergh did in High Flying Bird).


What Will We Cover?

So in this video series, we will cover different ways to create cinematic footage on a budget. We’ll talk about cinematic shots in films and how they achieved the look. We’ll talk about some of our favorite pieces of equipment. Some of the tools we use to get the shots we love.


Tutorials and Reviews

We will also do tutorials and reviews of equipment we have used. We’ve bought lots of budget equipment. Some of it has been great, and some of it has been pretty awful. We’ll help you sort some of that out, and we’d love to hear from you about more equipment you’d like to hear more about.


Who is this for?

These videos are for anyone who is interested in making cinematic looking footage on a budget. Independent filmmakers, marketers, or just video lovers. At Blueforest Studios, we create lots of videos in different areas, medical, technology, non-profit (and we always focus on the brand story), but these tips will apply to more than just that.

Stick around for the rest of the series, and let us know what you’d like us to talk about in future episodes!

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

Blueforest Holiday Party! Featuring Blueforest Gives Back 2016 Video!

It’s holiday season and Blueforest Studios is celebrating with a holiday party on December 1st, where we will reveal the Blueforest Gives Back 2016 video! And, you are invited!

The 2016 Blueforest Gives Back winner is The Center for Volunteer Caregiving, whose vision is to keep growing a community where people of all ages are connected, valued and cared for. And we are really excited about the video we made for them.

What better way is there to start of the holiday season?

We’ll have activities like cornhole, pool, and foosball. And yes, there will be awesome food for you awesome people.

Plus, there’s gonna be a card crafting station where we’ll be making some holiday cards for the people who receive care from The Center of Volunteer Caregiving. Awesome, right? So prepare to get your craft on!

RSVP right now!

Dec. 1st, 2016

4pm to 7pm.

See you there!

S.A.V.E – Students working to make a difference

School is officially back in session!
With the beginning of a new school year also comes a wave of emotions. Excitement, nervousness, anticipation, anxiety – you name it. Not only is it difficult to navigate through the halls to your new classrooms, but trying to navigate around conflicting hopes and fears is beyond intimidating for students. Let’s face it, school is unpredictable. But there are tools that students can obtain to help face whatever situation they find themselves in.

Students can learn these tools from organizations like S.A.V.E. (Students Against Violence Everywhere). Our very own Kimberly Corrigan got to sit and chat with Annelise and Maggie from S.A.V.E. and ask them questions about who they are and what this organization means for students.

Maggie explained that S.A.V.E. is an organization all around the US, in which the main purpose is to educate and empower students with the tools they need to prevent violence – both physical and emotional. So even though school can be unpredictable, students can feel confident and properly equipped to deal with any challenge school may bring.

S.A.V.E. focuses on many sources of violence. One important lesson they teach is about driving safety. Annelise talked about one of their mock car crashes they held before prom. The goal is to bring awareness to high schoolers about the dangers surrounding reckless driving, which are especially heightened during the prom season. With the mock car crash and graphic visuals, they want to warn and prevent students driving while impaired, and showcase the deadly results of such actions.

Check out the video:

Brendan in the Big Blueforest

My name is Brendan Bello, but if you saw the video below you may already know that. (If you haven’t, I suggest you check it out! *wink*) It isn’t your typical “sit down and let’s talk about yourself” kind of video; we took a more dynamic approach to it.

We wanted to shoot the interview in one take, tour-de-studio style, packing as much information as we could into a 60 second video. To do that in a minimal amount of production time, we decided to have me voice over a walk-through of the office. With that in mind, I wrote the script, planned the route, and chose some music to accompany the video. After some revision and review, Dustin helped me record my lines.

Stepping into the sound booth, I was ready to speak my lines, and we would be ready to roll. But right when I started, a bit of pressure and anxiety took me by surprise. Then, I knew why voice artists make the big bucks. Even if you are the most confident and relaxed person in the world, you need practice in order to gain complete control over your voice. Luckily, I had Dustin and Bryan there to help me ease into the lines. Two of the most relaxed people I know just outside the booth helps a ton.

Finally, came the day of the shoot. Bryan and I did a couple dry runs and wrapped up after four takes. It was real fun having many of my co-workers be extras in the video and a blast working out the camera angles to get them where they needed to be. It was also a great experience working with Bryan on the edit, adding the music, syncing the voice-over, overlaying some titles, and simply making the video look good. I won’t spoil the whole thing though, because I want you to see for yourself!

Bryan and Vann – Recreating Calvin and Hobbes in the workplace

Summer is in full swing, and maybe that has caused us to revert to our childhoods a little bit here at Blueforest Studios. Recently, Vann and I were discussing some of our favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips. After a little while, we decided to recreate some of our favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips, taking place at Blueforest Studios. We had some challenges in figuring out how to transform the comic strip medium into a concept that works for video, but we ended up with something we like quite a bit.

We have started with just three videos, so far. If people like them, we might end up doing some more. Let us know what you think! Should we make more?

Corresponding comic strip for episode 1:

Corresponding comic strip for episode 2:

Stay tuned for another one next week!

Before and After BlueVision

When creating new videos, sometimes it’s fun to try things that you have never tried before. I love trying a new filming technique, playing with a new camera, pushing my limits in the editing suite, or anything that feels new and exciting. But, sometimes, it’s best to just do the simple things really well and leave it at that.

That is the approach we took when we were creating a video for a company called Phone Lasso. Phone Lasso is a simple device: it’s a strap that connects to your phone to help keep you from breaking or losing it. So, we wanted to make a simple video that explained how to use it. Simple, but high quality. Phone Lasso already had a video of someone showing how to install the Phone Lasso, but it was not high quality. The lighting was bad, the music set a bizarre, mysterious tone, and it wasn’t even extremely clear what to do. So, we wanted to do a similar video but improve the quality.

First, we lit the scene well. We added lots of soft light from all angles to help achieve a flat, simple look (think about all of those delicious cooking videos you see on Facebook. That is the aesthetic we were going for, visually).

Next, we added a voice over. We wanted there to be clear, succinct directions for how to install the Phone lasso. The first step in this process is writing clear, succinct copy.

After that, we wanted to punch it up and make it a little more exciting. We added some fun, informative graphics, an upbeat, happy music track (note: stock music doesn’t have to mean terrible music), and we grabbed a couple of outdoor shots of people using the device in the real world.

Taking a little extra time and polishing all of the details really helped the video pop. Take a look at this comparison video and see the difference between the video that Phone Lasso already had and the one that Blueforest Studios produced:

Phone Lasso – Blue Vision Comparison from Blueforest Studios on Vimeo.

Rainy day rappelling – Over the Edge 2015

Over the Edge is a fundraising event where people raise money for the Special Olympics of NC and then rappel down the Wells Fargo building. The beginning of October had unpleasant weather conditions in the Triangle: grey skies with rain and wind. October 3 wasn’t any different, making for difficult rappelling conditions.

Because of this, the Over the Edge event was almost cancelled. However, instead of canceling the whole event, the Over the Edge staff realized that a modified version of the event could be done safely. So, instead of rappelling down 30 floors, which would have been unsafe due to the strong winds that were blowing, we rappelled down 4 floors from a separate ledge on the Wells Fargo building. Although it was disappointing to go from 30 stories to 4 stories, I was happy to do anything at all instead of it being rained or winded out. And, while not as high up, it was still fun and a bit of an adrenaline rush.

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I want to sincerely thank my supporters for giving me the opportunity to participate. Mostly, thank you all for supporting the Special Olympics. All of the athletes that I encountered while gearing up for the rappelling were excited and full of positive energy. You are helping them fulfill their dreams with your donations. It was very rewarding to be met at the bottom of the building with a medallion and several of the special olympics athletes greeting me with a loud “Congratulations!”

Learn more about Special Olympics NC here.

CGI: Know Your Limitations

Recently, I watched a wonderful video put together by RocketJump Film School. The video is called, “Why CG Sucks (Except It Doesn’t).” The video takes an in-depth look at popular movies and how they use CGI, Computer Generated Images. It is a fascinating look at why people are oversimplifying things when they say something like, “CGI is ruining movies.” Or, “CGI just looks fake.” In reality, CGI is like most tools that filmmakers use. If you do it well, no one notices. But if you do it poorly, everyone notices.

Crocosaurus from Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus

Crocosaurus from Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus

I occasionally like to watch terrible Syfy channel original movies. They usually have simple, descriptive titles like Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus. Basically, the movie will feature a large shark and a crocodile/dinosaur. And, if you have watched any of these movies, you know that the shark and croc will look incredibly fake because they are CG.


Scene from Mad Max: Fury Road

I also enjoy watching big blockbuster movies like this summer’s Mad Max: Fury Road. You may have heard people praise George Miller’s use of practical effects (real things not CG). And George deserves that praise. There are incredible practical effects in that movie. But, they are mixed with lots of CGI, too. His ability to mix practical effects with CGI makes for incredible results.

George Miller knew that relying solely on CGI would lead to poor results, but he also knew that CGI can be a great tool. He knew his limitations.

Watch the video from RocketJump Film School to learn a lot more and see some great examples of CG that you probably thought were practical effects.

– Bryan Reklis