LOS ANGELES— The pilot for “Nashville,” a
new ABC/Lionsgate series created by Callie
Khouri and directed by R.J. Cutler, was a
combination of documentary-style major
performance sequences and personal moments.
It included both scenes in small dressing
rooms along with major on-stage
concerts at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry
Ryman Auditorium. The one constant we
always had to keep in mind was that we
were often shooting in buildings that, if
not marked as historical landmarks, were
pretty close to being that. That’s where
getting lights, even camera positions, had
to be carefully planned.
Fortunately, we chose the Alexa for
its impeccable ability to render color and
texture at extremely low light levels, and
this allowed us to carry a smaller lighting
package and work at light levels of less
than 15 foot-candles. When we needed to
work in confined areas, we used Canon
C300 and other small cameras.
GOING HIGH WITHOUT FASTENERS
| The Matthews Studio Equipment Max support system
What really was important to our camera
(and lighting) support is a tool that I almost
can’t do without anymore—Matthews’
Max the “Menace” support arm. It was designed
specifically for supporting gear over
sets without any attachments to the walls
or ceiling. At several of our shooting locations
we were forbidden to make any such
attachments. As we had Max, this was not
a problem. We simply set it up out of the
shot, attached the particular camera or light
needed, and placed Max in position.
When we were shooting a political
scene in the Tennessee State Capitol we
were able to place our lights without
touching the walls. And, we could also
place a high-angle camera and remote
head 27 feet up inside a vaulted ceiling.
Max is rather daunting to those who
have never used it, but time and again it
has easily won over the key grips who
later wondered how they ever worked
BIG (AND LITTLE) PAYLOAD
Max came to my attention during a
shoot in the second season of the show.
It’s designed to support a 4K lighting fixture
17 feet away from its base and this is
how we initially used it. Later, we realized
that by adding a 12-foot pipe to the end of
the arm, we could extend our reach out
to some 27 feet and attach cameras to get
more interesting shots.
I’m lucky because I’ve been able to carry
two Max units on the location shoots I’ve
been involved in since 2008. I’ve even used
these devices to support a lighting grid. In
connection with another project, I hung a
Panaflex camera out over a highway intersection
to capture a car crash.
I’ve found the Max support system
to be extremely useful when I’m using
the smaller cameras such as the C300. I
know it seems a bit incongruous to see
something as large (yet light and maneuverable),
as the Max with a small camera
hanging off it. But I have to ask, how else
can you get that little camera high over a
large powerboat moored beside a dock?
Rodney Charters is a two-time Emmy
Award-nominated director of photography.
He may be contacted at email@example.com.
For additional information, contact
Matthews Studio Equipment at 800-237-
8263 or visit www.msegrip.com.