Heightened reality on stage, LED’s and a cheat that almost worked in a single take…

            First and foremost, hats off to my good friend and colleague Lowell Peterson, ASC for inviting me to shoot several episodes of his show.  He did a magnificent job over five seasons and I was very happy to make my contribution, however small it may have been.  The fact that I’ve used several clips from Jane the Virgin to illustrate certain points in the past should indicate the high esteem with which I hold the experience!

            This scene is worthy of comment for several reasons.  First, the horse-drawn cab and its LED-laden cage…  For those who may not have much exposure to off-the-shelf LED sources, beware!  The possibility of recording strobing effects is very likely, especially when using a 180˚ shutter angle.  In this case there was no pre-shoot testing; we were stuck with the store-bought kind on the day.  Though you can’t see the fluctuation of the light with your eye, the camera sees will see it, and therein lies the problem.  Fortunately, some fiddling around with the Arri Alexa’s shutter angle solved the problem.  I don’t recall exactly what the number was, but the new setting did the trick and we were able to get the shot.

            As for the ‘unmasking’ of the woman, the shot was originally designed to be a one-take circular dolly move that used strategically placed actors to create wipes that would hide the particulars of removing the prosthetic.  Unfortunately, it was very hard to precisely time all the elements in a way that would sell the cheat.  Time naturally began to conspire against us and we had to break what would’ve been a really cool one-er into a number of pieces.  The message still comes across, but I would really like to have nailed it in the original design!

            The action takes place on a set (the lobby and front arrival area of a hotel) which was built on a soundstage.  The scene occurs at night and there’s an interior\exterior element to it.  Steadicam was used to move the two lovers into the carriage while a dolly was used for all other movement.  Since this portion of the episode is presented in Jane the Virgin’s patented version of “heightened realism,” I kept the lighting in line with that style, which is somewhat up-key and complimentary to the characters.

            See the diagram for the particulars!



  1. Hi Richard, it’s great that you share all of your insights and experiences when things do not go as planned; such great learning. Thank you. In my experience, the 144 shutter angle seems to defeat most LED strobing, perhaps this is close to what you used to solve the challenge.

    Thank you once again for sharing your expertise.
    – Guy

  2. Guy – thank you! Effective shutter angles seem to vary according to what cheap-o brand of off-the-shelf LED you might be forced to deal with. I’m just thankful that today’s cameras give us such a wide range within which to be precise!

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