Toby Oliver, ACS orchestrates the multi-multicam shoot for vampire comedy action feature Day Shift
In the new Netflix action-comedy Day Shift, Jamie Foxx is a pool cleaner who moonlights as a vampire killer in the San Fernando Valley. It takes a lot to ultimately retire the undead, and director J.J Perry – one of the most experienced stunt experts in the business – takes every opportunity to create head-spinning mayhem in concert with cinematographer Toby Oliver, ACS.
“There are multi-cam shoots, and then there are multi-multi-cam shoots,” Oliver says. “Some days on Day Shift we deployed four RED MONSTROS and 10 KOMODOs plus. For scenes with pyrotechnics, we’d add more KOMODOs. Sometimes we rolled 20 cameras. For J.J, it was the more the merrier. He was keen to get some extraordinary angles of the stunts. Even on dialogue scenes, we’d always have at least three cameras.”
Perry makes his feature directorial debut with Day Shift after turns as stunt double, stunt coordinator or second unit director on action favorites like Mortal Kombat back in 1995 to Avatar, Argo, Oldboy, Django Unchained, Gemini Man, the Fast and Furious series and John Wick: Chapter 2.
Oliver, meanwhile, has enjoyed a 30-year career as a DP working on different genre-spanning comedy (Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar ) to horror (Jordon Peele’s Oscar-nominated Get Out ), action horror (Wolf Creek 2 ) and comic thriller (Happy Death Day ) but not a stunt-driven action comedy with vampires which is what appealed when he got the call.
“I loved the idea of the film and when I met with J.J we clicked. He wanted it to look slick and cool and most importantly to have that hot LA vibe which we pushed as hard as we could through every scene set in the San Fernando Valley.”
In the story the vampires can’t stand the heat, so they chill in their hideouts and homes with massive aircon units. So, Oliver contrasted the orange glow of Los Angeles with the cooler blue-green of the vampire’s world.
Shooting over three weeks on location in the Valley helped set the show’s look. “It can be hot as hell in the Valley in July when we were there. We leaned into that.” Interiors and some locations were shot in Atlanta.
Both Perry and Oliver were familiar with RED (Oliver shot MONSTRO for Jeff Tremaine’s Netflix biopic film on hard rock band Mötley Crüe, The Dirt ) but the tipping point for selection was the arrival of RED’s KOMODO which provided the ideal size and versatility for capturing kinetic stunt set-ups.
“We knew we needed a lot of compact cameras for the stunt work and KOMODO at 6K was ideal for mounting on walls or hidden behind ramps. Some of the most beautiful and dynamic shots we achieved with an FPV drone flying with a KOMODO. It was able to give us great quality to cut in with my main camera.”
The main cameras were RED MONSTRO including three RANGER bodies plus a WEAPON. Oliver shot the full frame of the VV 8K sensor cropped 2.4:1 with sets of Zeiss Supreme and Supreme Radiance supplemented by Fuijnon Premista 19-45mm zooms, with the ever-expanding package of gear supplied by Alternative Rentals, out of LA and Atlanta.
“I’m very happy with the look neither soft nor too harsh,” says Oliver of the Zeiss primes. “The Radiance adds a touch of built-in flare. The main thing is that these lenses are compact for handheld and Steadicam/Trinity while giving us a full frame and high-speed look.”
A car chase in LA along boulevards in the Valley and the concrete bed of the LA river featured a motorcycle with stabilized head carrying an 8K RED WEAPON and multiple KOMODOs attached to various parts of trucks and camera chase vehicles for “crazy action angles”.
For some scenes, a large UAV carrying MONSTRO was flown for aerial views then landed for seamless handoff to an operator continuing the shot on a MōVI Pro gimbal.
Working with FotoKem Senior Colorist Alastor Arnold, Oliver devised a LUT based on a previous look built for The Dirt.
“We employed the same principles as for The Dirt in which we twist the image color to give it a beautiful film emulation with a little highlight flaring. Specifically, we were looking for a classic action film look enhancing the warm orange palette in the Valley with the polarity of teal for the vampire’s world. Alastor did a great job of taking this all the way in the grade.”
Perry kept the tempo of filming at breakneck pace. This required the sterling work of A Camera Operator Mark Goellnicht (Mad Max Fury Road ) operating Steadicam and WEAPON on a Trinity stabilizer; B cam Operator Mick Froehlich who did a lot of handheld work; first AC Sean Hunter Moe bringing the experience of blockbuster shows (Captain America: Civil War ) and experienced gaffer Paul Hazard, along with A-grade crews from Atlanta and LA.
“J.J only knows one way how to shoot which is 100 miles an hour. It was a learning curve for me which was great because I always look for a challenge in each project,” Oliver says. “You need to pick the right people to support you which is half the battle. They have to be in synergy with the equipment and they were 100 percent.
“The advantage working with RED is that rigging the cameras is so easy. If we needed a smaller body or one with a different mode or frame rate, we had that camera ready to rock and roll. KOMODOs are super reliable and inexpensive so you can have a lot of them on set. We pre-lit to shoot all directions at the same time and in order to make rapid minor adjustments between set-ups.
“It was pretty crazy at times,” Oliver adds. “You’re certainly not bored with what’s going to happen next! It was intense but a lot of fun. The camaraderie on set between stunt and camera crew and our wonderful actors was terrific.”
The movie is produced by Chad Stahelski (John Wick ) from a screenplay by Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten (Army of the Dead, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum ), and co-stars Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Snoop Dogg, and Dave Franco.
Thanks to Toby Oliver, ACS for sharing with RED.
Stream Day Shift on Netflix.