Case Study: Creating PSAs ASAP for Magellan Healthcare
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Creating content quickly has never been more important. As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, healthcare companies are looking for ways to quickly provide necessary educational content that can help keep people safe and flatten the curve.
In that vein, Magellan Healthcare (Magellan), a leader in behavioral health management, recently created a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs). Covering a range of topics, from managing anxiety and stress while social distancing to how to best follow CDC guidelines, the PSAs are currently airing on television and social media, along with Magellan’s websites and YouTube channel.
For the PSAs, Magellan partnered with Virginia-based production company Sugar Skull Creative to create seven different spots, all featuring Magellan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Caroline Carney. Sugar Skull Creative brought on Director and DP Adam Goldfine of DNA Cinema Services to shoot the PSAs with only a three-day turnaround available to deliver the content.
Social Distancing While Shooting
Along with needing to turn around the content as soon as possible, the shoot had a couple of unique challenges, including the need to maintain social distancing during production.
“For a shoot of this size, I would ordinarily have at least one camera assistant, one lighting assistant, and a sound person on set with me. However, in this case we had the challenge of social distancing, which meant the crew would be just me and a teleprompter operator,” explains Goldfine.
“I set up the camera, boom mic and lighting alone, while we all stayed a healthy distance from one another. Then once the shot was set, I stepped away, and the teleprompter operator came in and set up his gear. This approach took a bit longer but helped ensure everyone’s safety,” he says.
Communication between Magellan, Sugar Skull Creative and Goldfine was key since, due to social distancing, they couldn’t be on location to provide feedback or direction.
“It was an odd thing to be sent out on a project like this with no producer, agency or reps on location to provide creative input or approval of the shot,” says Goldfine. “What really made a difference was that even though we were moving quickly, Steve Strickland, Sugar Skull Creative’s co-founder, was excellent at communicating his vision, so I was confident I was getting what he needed. There’s nothing worse than trying to guess what someone is after and getting it wrong, but with Steve’s communication during preproduction, I didn’t need to worry about that.”
Staying at Home
To help lower everyone’s risk of exposure and comply with social distancing guidelines, the PSAs were shot on location in Dr. Carney’s home, which presented its own set of challenges.
Goldfine explains, “Typically for something like this, I would scout the location first and know where the shot would happen, camera placement, lighting, etc., so I could use that to guide what equipment to bring. Not scouting the location ahead of time would usually mean bringing everything I might possibly need to ensure I’m prepared. However, working alone and limiting my exposure required visiting Dr. Carney’s home for the first time the day of the shoot and bringing only what was absolutely necessary. So, from the beginning, I had some conflicting requirements that I had to balance.”
Since Goldfine needed his camera to be reliable and easy to use, he opted to shoot with a Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro. “Shooting with the URSA Mini Pro gave us top-notch image quality in a package that was manageable without my regular camera crew,” Goldfine continues. “I used a 50mm Sigma Prime lens on the camera and kept a safe distance back from Dr. Carney. The built-in ND filters allowed me to get just the right look very quickly. Shooting in 4.6K resolution in Blackmagic RAW provided plenty of room to punch in for closeups in post without me having to get physically closer to Dr. Carney or change lenses. I didn’t bring any of the ancillary camera gear I typically use with the exception of a monitor, and I kept the lighting package simple, which allowed me to limit the load-in, load-out, and set-up times, further reducing exposure time.”
Working Quickly with Blackmagic RAW and DaVinci Resolve Studio
“Time was of the essence on this project as the spread of coronavirus was just beginning to accelerate. We were on location shooting only two days after Steve first contacted me about the project, and I delivered graded footage that night,” notes Goldfine. “The first piece was edited and out the door the day after the shoot.”
To help speed up the process, Goldfine shot the footage in Blackmagic RAW and graded it with DaVinci Resolve Studio.
“Processing Blackmagic RAW files in DaVinci Resolve Studio is incredibly quick and flexible, which made our turnaround extremely fast,” Goldfine explains. “My background is shooting on film, so I still keep that mindset when planning my looks with everything being largely determined even before the camera starts rolling. However, DaVinci Resolve Studio brings that look to life with minimal effort and also provides us flexibility if, for some reason, we decide to go in another direction. For this project, I just expanded the contrast, added a bit of saturation, and warmed it up just a hair from neutral to better suit the message. Since shooting in Blackmagic RAW with the URSA Mini Pro delivers such a clean, natural, and cinematic image, I didn’t even need to touch the primary color corrector controls.”
While the PSAs were the first collaboration for Sugar Skull Creative and Goldfine, they were able to work together quickly and closely, albeit from afar. “Finding Adam was really like winning the lottery,” Strickland adds. “I liked his reel and thought his aesthetic would be a good match for our project. I’m a camera geek, so once we started talking about the approach and his URSA Mini Pro setup, I knew he was the one. I couldn’t have asked for a better image. From Sugar Skull Creative, to Magellan and Dr. Carney, everyone was very happy with the results.”
Goldfine concludes, “While this project had some unique challenges, having reliable gear and clear communication from Steve really helped us sail through quickly. Not to mention Dr. Carney took direction very well, gave us several alternate reads, and was just a complete pro, delivering usable take after usable take. My only wish is that we could be working together under better circumstances, but given what we are dealing with, I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”