In November 2015 I was hired to shoot still photos of the main actors on the movie set of the Hollywood film Hard Target 2. It is a sequel to the original 1993 film directed by John Woo, which starred Jean Claude Van Damme. Hard Target 2 has a new cast and was just released this week from Universal Studios. Two years ago, I also shot photos of the actors on the movie set of The Man With The Iron Fists 2, another Universal Studios production, which I wrote about here.
The photos I shot for both films were specifically used to create what are known as the movie posters. Since the movie is not a theatrical release though it means it is only being released on DVD, Blu-Ray and available as a HD digital download. So the photos are mainly used for a variety of digital media instead.
Usually there is access to power on most movie set locations, but this time there was only electricity available via power generator. Using generator power for studio strobes can be risky though because of power fluctuations, which can cause flashes to short circuit. I had this experience before on a shoot in Bali where I ran my studio strobes off of a generator and lost 2 of them.
So for this shoot we brought 6 “Broncolor Move” portable strobe kits to avoid any issues with power. Each of the 6 Broncolor studio strobes runs on a separate Broncolor Move power pack. The battery packs that go into each unit are good for about 300 shots when the strobes are set to output at full power, which is 1,200 watts per flash head. Since I wasn’t running at full power, I got about 500 shots per battery, and I had ten batteries with me, so we were pretty well covered. Another advantage of shooting with battery power is that there is less cabling running all over the place, so less wiring to get in the way of the subjects when shooting.
Battery powered strobes are costly gear though. Each kit runs about US$8,000 and we had six. So we had about US$50,000 worth of lighting equipment set up on this project.
I set up the six flashes with two of them to illuminate the backdrop, two back lights on the actors, and two lights also positioned on the actors from the front. The idea is to create some rim light on the actors with the back lights, but still maintain good lighting and exposure from the front as well. I always try and keep a bit of shadow and contrast though by placing front lights a bit to the side instead of placing them directly in front of the actors. Below are some of my production snaps showing the general location where we were situated and how I arranged my lighting setup.
The space I was given to create our on-location studio was in a long, open-air, gazebo-like structure, which had no walls and a low hanging roof. It was like being outdoors more or less, but with a fair amount of darkness within because the surrounding area was also partially covered by trees and the space had no additional lighting inside.
There was a bit of natural sunlight shining in, but the position of the sunlight changed throughout the day and wasn’t consistent. So to create sufficient light in order to focus the camera lens while shooting, I used a small battery powered LED video light mounted onto a light stand to illuminate the actors.
As seen in the photos above, we used a light gray colored paper backdrop to make it easier for the actors to be separated/removed from the backdrop later when the design company would be making separations of the actors from the photos. Separations of subjects from the background is a necessary process for creating movie posters because each of the actor’s photos will need to be individually layered and composited into the movie poster’s final design layout.
As you may also notice, the backdrop picks up lots of footprints from the actor’s movements when shooting, but none of that matters as long as it is possible for the designers to do their separation work of the actors later.
Note that the above three shots of Rhona Mitra, and the fourth, which is a cropped closeup of the crossbow taken from the third shot, are all shown because Rhona Mitra’s image on the final movie poster was composited from these three shots to form her picture. The first shot of her torso was used as the main image. Her left arm position was taken from the second shot. And from the third shot, a variation of the crossbow and her right hand were used.
The shots of Rhona Mitra were also taken on a separate day, and at a different location than the photos of Scott Adkins and Robert Knepper. You can see the studio setup that I arranged to shoot Rhona Mitra pictured below. This location was indoors and had more space to work in than the first, outdoor shooting location. Power was also readily available for lighting in this second location, but we still used the battery powered lighting gear for its overall convenience.
For those of you who know Scott Adkins from his many other successful action films, he is quite athletic, and possesses great martial arts skills. So I had captured a series of action shots of him running, jumping, movements that make him appear as if he is leaping over a wall, fighting with a knife, and some flying kicks which you can all see pictured below.
However, the film studio decided to go with a standing pose of Scott Adkins for the final movie poster which you see pictured again below. This is the actual layout for the real movie poster itself, which might be physically printed and displayed in retail venues where DVDs are sold.
If you would like to watch the movie, you can get a copy here. Enjoy!