How Co-Director/DP/Editor Marty Martin Gets a Great Look

Marty Martin took the top prize in Studio’s Top Spots Fest with a short intro video he co-directed (with Zia Mohajerjasbi), shot, and edited for a experimental web site dealing with LeBron James’s life developed through Microsoft. (The site is currently on hiatus.) “The LeBron spot was the clear winner for me,” said Luis Ribeiro of Company 3, one of the panel of judges. “I love how the ball drives the narrative. It’s well-timed, with good storytelling and dynamic use of the camera.”

Martin's work is assured, but he's basically self-trained. "I didn't know anyone in the film community here in Seattle," he says. "I hadn't shot anything. I wasn't one of those kids who went to film school or made short films in high school, so I had to figure it out for myself. Probably most of my editing techniques came from watching films over and over and watching trailers religiously." He owns his own equipment, including a Canon 5D Mark II and a 7D and two editing workstations, but rents a Red camera when a project demands it. He does color-correction in After Effects.
Building on an existing relationship with Microsoft, for whom he had created web video in the past, Martin pitched ideas for the LeBron James piece. “[The website] is like a 3D pop-up book, and each page represents a different part of LeBron’s life – one page may be his bio, one page is what he’s doing professionally, one page may be a social network,” he explains. “I was asked to go in with a dozen concepts, basically pitching ways we could represent the journey of getting to this book. LeBron had shared a couple of ideas about his childhood and how he grew up, so we took a Nike spin on it and did a vintage, nostalgic take.”

The piece was shot with a Canon XL H1 using a P+S Technik Mini35mm lens adapter and edited in Final Cut Pro. Martin says the distinctive, highly controlled look comes from having a good sense of what will happen in post while the footage is being shot. “Anything I light is being lit so I can work with a specific color scheme in post, but I also keep in ambiguous enough that we can go in another direction,” he says. “Lighting is incredibly important, but we had a limited kit – a couple of 2×4 Kinos and 4×4 Kinos and a lot of natural daylight, which I love to work with. And I try to shoot on cloudy days as much as possible.”

One of the key shots in the piece involves the boy jumping over the hood of a car in slow motion. Martin had rented a high-speed Phantom camera for the shoot, but didn’t know if he would have a chance to use it. “We couldn’t get a permit, so we just ran into the middle of the road, locked the camera down, and had the kid jump over the car,” he recalls. “Actually, the police came up to us just after we shot that. We had a huge black umbrella in the middle of the street to cover us so we could see the monitor.”

The biggest challenge on the shoot was the schedule. “I tend to schedule far too much in one day,” Martin confesses. “We shot everything chronologically, and the last third of the spot was shot in the evening. I don’t know how we managed to get a crisp shot. In the last couple of shots on the basketball field, you can see rain on the field and lights in the background.

“What we ended up doing was tweaking a lot of the color-correction on the shots from the beginning of the day to fit what we shot at the end of the day. It ended up being a little more somber, but it serves the vintage nostalgic feel.”

Martin is continuing to learn new techniques, most recently teaching himself a ton of After Effects techniques to put an elaborate finish on a music video for artist Loyale last May with the Canon 5D Mark II. The video was shot on a green-screen set for a budget of $5,000. A month of 18-hour days later, Martin had figured out some good ways to simulate 3D space inside a 2D compositing environment. Check out the results below.

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