The Myth of Perfect Balance

 

Quiet on Set Sign for Monthly Spotlight Blog 15AUG2015It was about a hundred kajillion degrees outside and if it were any more humid we would have been under water. NYC summers are not known for being pleasant. Torrential rains and heat surges to rain forest-like proportions are not uncommon.

Actually, so far this summer has been mild compared with other years, but there have been some exceptions…such as the day we were shooting teaser videos for Building a Crystal Clear Brand and Balancing Act.

I really wanted the video for Building a Crystal Clear Brand to be shot outdoors in New York City (cite temporary insanity). We had a location uptown which would be quieter and less risky than shooting in midtown. We had a camera all arranged and miraculously we rented a mic for a Sunday at a reasonable price. We figured we’d save money by knocking both clips out in the same day.

The clips were not supposed to be polished or fancy. Looking at the weather forecast a few days out, it looks like things were coming together. The day would be sunny and slightly overcast at times — perfect to shoot a couple of super short, informal clips outdoors.

So what happened?

Well first, the weather turned out just a little different than we anticipated.

As the day neared, we saw the forecasted temperatures climb into the triple digits. We could look forward to lots of direct sun, which means lots of harsh shadows, unless we had other equipment (which we didn’t because these were supposed to be informal, off-the-cuff clips, and not a full blown shoot).

Oh well. It would be hot and the humidity would rival the Amazon, but hey, we are professional. Certainly, if I “looked” cool on camera nobody would know what was really going on.

By the way, a couple weeks later while the videos were in editing, I happened to catch a rerun of a Little House on the Prairie episode. Clearly, it was shot during an extraordinarily hot day in rural California. Those actors and crew — all highly experienced — put forth what I’m sure were excellent efforts. Still, everyone in the episode looked as though they were about to melt or pass out.

So sometimes no amount of powder and channeling sense memories of a cool breeze are going to fool anyone.

But I digress.

As for the mic and the quieter location, more twists were in store. The lavaliere mic was not available and we proceeded with the last compatible hot seat mic with a windsock in NYC (a windsock is essential for reducing background and ambient noise).

Turns out that the first location had one good angle for shooting, which was compromised 15 minutes into the setup, by a large group of locals who showed up to rehearse a dance performance for a Quinceañera. No windsock in the world could have blocked out the sound from that rehearsal. Besides the music and talking, the rehearsal director was convinced that we were filming his dance crew, even though the camera was pointed in the opposite direction. After several stern warnings to us that we’d better not be filming them, he seemed to be satisfied enough to stop yelling at us… but still wouldn’t turn his sound down.

So we picked up our camera et.al, and found a new location almost a mile away. Tree lined street, great NYC brownstones, quiet, all great. Back on track. Powder self, point the camera and shoot before we all pass out or lose the daylight, or both.

A few takes into the shoot, a barbecue starts directly across the street and once again the music is blaring. We beg them to give us 30 minutes (or maybe it was 15?) to shoot four clips.

Again, all I can say is, Temporary Insanity.

A few more takes and a man comes out of the brownstone and onto the sidewalk ranting at no one in particular and picking fights with anyone who will listen. He even argued with invisible people.

We had been at this for hours already and had nothing “in the can.”

Yes, this is why people who shoot TV and films apply to the city and pay for expensive permits.

By the third clip, we moved again and by the final video, which was for the Balancing Act slideshow, we moved indoors, shooting with every lamp we could find…and no air conditioning.

Bottom line: juggling the needs of a shoot with the cars driving by, music playing, people talking and shifting sunlight was a balancing act for sure. In the end, we ditched any visions of nailing the shoot with near perfection and switched to focusing on shooting something we could use.

Reducing my standards is not in my DNA. It was not easy to acknowledge that our best efforts would lead to a less than ideal outcome. To me, balancing all those factors successfully would have meant a flawless outcome regardless of the conditions. And what about the balance of expectation and reality?

To balance is to face the question of compromise. Sometimes (this being one of them, I had to admit), it is more balanced to let something be and move on. We were becoming unhinged trying to bend everything to our will. If the videos weren’t as we planned, do we just give up, or do we go forward differently?

Last year I wrote about how balance is actually dynamic – a moving target. This year, I decided to move with it.

So here are both the fruits of our crazy day. I learned a lot. Next time we will apply those takeaways and be able to create something better, even in adverse conditions.

  Building a Crystal Clear Brand teaser (Below):

Balancing Act Slideshow movie with video insert (Below):

The biggest takeaway though, is the discovery that so-called “perfect balance” looks a lot more like imperfection. The balancing act is just that: an act. It is rooted in action and is experienced very differently depending on whether you’re onstage or watching from the audience.

In the end, we are posting the videos. Besides showcasing both events, these balancing acts serve as our digital badges of honor. There may not have been any blood or tears shed, but there certainly was plenty of sweat.

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