Matthews Studio Equipment has announced their involvement in ABC’s newest comedy series, Mixology. You may have heard about the upcoming show already, as its premise is similar to the hit show 24, in that the entire series will be one night that will play out over the entire season. However the biggest difference is that the series will incorporate flashbacks to provide backstory to their characters. This, as the show’s cinematographer Mike Mayers (Brothers & Sisters, The West Wing) says, is “…where [MSE] MAX comes in”.
For those unaware of the general capabilities of the MAX Menace Arm, it’s a heavy duty rig that lets you hang lighting fixtures pretty much anywhere you need. For example, this is one of the ways Mayers used them on Mixology:
Mayers explains that the MAX is invaluable for shooting intimate scenes between two characters, as it allows his team to light exactly how they want in confined spaces. On shooting at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel restaurant, Mayers explains “Our plan was to use the restaurant for a series of failed dates for one of our characters. We had to hop from table to table…each place I wanted to have soft back key lights for both actors and a glow on the tabletop that would softly fill their faces. We were cross shooting, so light stands behind the actors wasn’t an option”. So his key grip rigged the MAX with a 6′ rail bar and their gaffer Rick Alonzo placed Kino tubes and an In-Betweenie onto the rig, similar to the picture above. They were then able to situate the MAX however they wished, getting the perfect lighting setup for each slightly different location within the restaurant.
One of Mayers’ key compliments of the MAX is its “saftey factor”. As many of your shooters are used to (especially HDSLR Shooters), there comes many a time when you have to improvise your rigs, piecing them together in a MacGyver type fashion. While fun to do, it can also be a bit dangerous, as these “franken-rigs” as Mayers calls them can be a sore sight on the eyes, if not a downright liability. Mayers extols the MAX’s design and sturdiness, “MAX inspires confidence when you see it gracefully reaching out over the set. I have no problem bringing it into a museum or an expensive hotel lobby where we’re not allowed to touch the walls. I get the light where I need it and the location owner’s blood pressure stays low when they see how we get the job done”.
The story of Mike Mayers and his use of the MAX on Mixology and elsewhere is below in MSE’s press release below. You can find out more about Matthews Studio Equipment’s MAX Menace Arms at www.msegrip.com
You can find out more about Mike Mayers at www.imdb.com, and you can catch the premiere of Mixology on February 26th on ABC.
Matthews Studio Equipment Original Press Release:
MAX Helps Mayers Move on ABC’s New Mixology Series
Burbank, CA. Matthews Studio Equipment announces that several of MSE’s MAX Menace Arms have take up residence on the new ABC series Mixology, shot by cinematographer Mike Mayers. “Mixology follows 10 characters through one single night in a trendy Manhattan bar called Mix,” explains Mayers. “We meet our characters and then learn their history through a whirlwind flashback that carries us to the present moment in the bar. Filming the flashbacks was both fun and challenging. I set up the flashback unit to be a comedy SWAT team with minimal resources by substantial capabilities. Filming the flashbacks proved to be a visual challenge because our resources are so limited. That’s where MAX comes in.”
Mayers and his team often traveled to downtown Los Angeles to create big New York night exteriors and also intimate two character dialogue scenes. “MAX is especially helpful in both situations,” he explains. “For the flashbacks we need to create a big lush night look with minimal time and equipment. A few years ago, I would have called for condors or Bebe lights. Now, if the scene is contained enough, I find myself calling for two or three MAX Menace Arms with large LED panels on them. The stand is so low profile that I can tuck it into an alcove or an alley and poke the light head out around the corner of the building 24 feet in the air. Because LED lights don’t call attention to themselves as movie lights and MAX doesn’t look like a light stand, I’ve been able to strategically put them in frame without any fear that they’ll read as movie equipment.”
Mixology has a lot of intimate scenes between two characters talking closely or kissing. “We’re a single camera show, but I often cross-shoot these ‘two handers’ with A-camera capturing one side and my B camera filming the other side of the scene,” Mayers explains. “The actors really appreciate this because it means that no one is off-camera. The directors and editors like it since there are no continuity matching issues. The producers like it because it’s fast. And I like the technical chess game of getting the light in the perfect spot for two camera positions at once.
On a recent episode the shoot was in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel restaurant, “A beautiful space but with very limited rigging possibilities,” he explains. “Our plan was to use the restaurant for a series of failed dates for one of our characters. We had to hop from table to table and create a romantic atmosphere for each new setting. At each place I wanted to have soft back key lights for both actors and a glow on the tabletop that would softly fill their faces.
“We were cross shooting, so light stands behind the actors wasn’t an option,” he adds. “My key grip Tasso Bravos brought out MAX and rigged it with a 6’ speed rail crossbar at the end. Now I had a place for each key light. Gaffer Rick Alonzo then was able to mount 2-4’ Kino tubes and finish it off with an In-Betweenie placed on MAX’s arm to give me the pool of light on the table. This rig was fully self-contained and thanks to MAX’s mobility, even when loaded, we could roll it from one setup to the next. We probably saved half an hour per setup that day, thanks to MAX.”
Mayers has been a fan of MAX’s for many years. He says he’s always got at least one on hand whatever he does. “MAX is incredible at getting a light just where I need it but what I especially love about it is the safety factor,” he says. “For years my grips have built old style menace arms out of speed rail, rolling stands, sandbags and rope. They worked fine but have a ‘franken-rig’ appearance to anyone who isn’t familiar with them. MAX inspires confidence when you see it gracefully reaching out over the set. I have no problem bringing it into a museum or an expensive hotel lobby where we’re not allowed to touch the walls. I get the light where I need it and the location owner’s blood pressure stays low when they see how we get the job done.
“Part of my job as a DP is to create a sense of shooting momentum,” he continues. “I want the director and the actors to feel like they’re on a moving train and that nothing stands in the way of us capturing the performance when they’re fresh and raw. With that in mind, I try never to bring in a ladder and make big lighting changes after the first couple of takes. Still, the subtle adjustments never stop. To that end, I often take MAX into the studio even thought I could just as well ask my crew to rig from the grid. MAX allows me to float small lights just out of frame. I can make adjustments without having to bring in a ladder to get to the grid. If I want to scoot a light over or raise it a few inches it’s absolutely no problem.”
Mixology, shot by cinematographer Michael Mayers premieres Wednesday, February 26th at 9:30/8:30c PM right after Modern Family on ABC.