WPAHS Regional Hospitals

On August 2, 2012, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski

Forbes Regional & Allegheny Valley Hospitals from Glenn Przyborski on Vimeo.

Over the years, I’ve directed and photographed literally hundreds of TV spots for medical centers across the country. This multi-hospital campaign featured similar commercials for Forbes Regional, Allegheny Valley & Canonsburg General Hospital.

Rather than using professional actors and voice-over talent, the campaign’s concept required a real doctor at each facility to talk one-on-one about the services his hospital offers to the community it serves.

Our challenge was a very tight, one day production schedule at each hospital with a limited time to shoot the on-camera doctors. Fortunately, I’ve had years of experience shooting, directing and working with non-professional on-camera talent.

We broke the scripts down to minimize each doctor’s on-camera segments. You can overwhelm “talent” if you ask them to memorize a long, complicated script. The doctors were told that they never had to deliver more than 2 on-camera sentences in each sequence. We didn’t waste time shooting copy that was intended to be covered with “B-Roll”.

Most of each production day was spent shooting the necessary, non-sync footage in and around the hospitals. Everything from intense operating rooms to patient-staff interactions were shot with a combination of HD digital cameras, including the Panasonic AF-100, GH2 and the tiny GoPro Hero2. To achieve an extremely shallow depth-of-field, the on-camera sync scenes were filmed with Canon’s new 5D Mk3. (A few of the cutaways were footage that I had photographed from previous campaigns.)

A “Knock-Out” Shoot for Przyborski & BrabenderCox

On September 14, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski


It’s like the story of David vs Goliath… only this time Goliath wins. It’s all from the crazy mind of political media superstar, John Brabender. The spot’s a visual metaphor for the unfair tax advantage a big internet business has over small local shops.

I shot the commercial using a RED One camera at Pittsburgh’s 31st Street Studios. At the rear of the 31st facility is the interior of an old industrial warehouse. A crew erected a full-sized, professional boxing ring as our set. We used 4 “space lights” over the ring as a primary light source. Numerous other HMI’s and other lights were used to highlight portions of the old steel warehouse.

I used the RED for most of the camera setups outside the boxing ring. The fighter’s “punches” were shot at 96fps. Inside the ring, I used a Panasonic AF100 for POV shots from both fighter’s perspectives. All the POV scenes were recorded at 40fps to add a “bigger than life” feel to the action. For several intense fight shots, I wore the primary boxer’s glove on my right hand and punched past the lens to the actor’s face for action cutaways. In case you’re wondering, it’s hard (and very unusual) to shoot a scene while you’re punching your actor.

Senior editor, Thad Christian of Pittsburgh’s, Phenomenon Post edited the high energy spot and created the original title graphics.

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to direct and photograph Steelers’ coach, Mike Tomlin in the new TV spots for “The Extra Mile Foundation.” This worthwhile, non-profit organization gives urban kids the chance to attend a school where they learn in an atmosphere that’s free from drugs and violence.

When you’re the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, every hour of your day is blocked out with meetings, interviews and other activities. Mike Tomlin was kind enough to give us 3 hours of his time. Producer and production coordinator, Judy Gurchak and I worked our entire shoot day around Tomlin’s schedule.

Stan Muschwek wrote and produced the new ad campaign. Stan thinks in visual terms, so he wrote scripts that didn’t require our featured talent to rush through his on-camera and voice-over copy. Stan and I have worked together on numerous projects for the past 25 years.

I shot all the 1080P “B-Roll” footage in actual working classrooms. For these scenes, I used Panasonic’s new GH2 camera. It makes great images and it’s small enough that kids don’t feel intimidated having it close to their face. Gaffer, Ted Weigand used small LED soft panels, bounce cards and battery powered LED fill lights to minimize classroom disruptions.

I shot Mike Tomlin’s on-camera segments with Panasonic’s new AF100, HDTV camera. I also photographed the still images for The Extra Mile Foundation’s 2011 print campaign. It feels great to give your time to such a worthwhile cause.

Cancer Survivors

On March 12, 2012, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski


The concept sounds deceptively simple… real cancer survivors sharing their stories with the home viewer. We all agreed that the TV campaign would be most effective if these non-actors could talk one-on-one, directly to camera.

At Florida’s Lynn Cancer Institute, I mounted a through-the-lens teleprompter system in front of a Sony HDTV digital camera. The prompter’s monitor was fed by a video camera focused on an off-camera interviewer. Suddenly, our cancer survivors were talking and relating to a live human face, instead of a cold glass lens.

Producer/production coordinator, Judy Gurchak deliberately kept crew size to the bare minimum so the on-camera people wouldn’t be intimidated. Black flags and “floppies” were used to block the talent’s view of equipment and off-camera people.

During post-production, I decided to cut the best thoughts together and not worry about jump cuts. We made no attempt to hide the fact that the material had been edited. I felt that once the home viewer feels engaged with the talent and their story, why introduce random side cutaways, shots of hands or other distractions.

Rebellion 2012

On January 22, 2012, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski

Usually, I’m shooting nice things… like attractive people eating food while smiling. This project was completely different.

John Brabender (BrabenderCox) is one of the country’s top political media consultants. For over 10 years, he and I have worked together on many successful TV campaigns. John rarely thinks anywhere near the box, much less inside it.

John gave us less than a week to put together this project. Fortunately, I remembered scouting an old abandoned manufacturing building in Pittsburgh for a previous TV campaign. My producer and production coordinator, Judy Gurchak and I re-scouted the location and it was still available.

I set up most of the shots to take advantage of a wall of windows that lined the North side of the building. This became my primary light source, supplemented with 1200 and 2500 watt HMI’s. We used smoke machines to add atmosphere and distance to the scenes.

Growing up in Florida, I hate shooting in freezing cold weather. For the entire shoot day, our set temperature was less than 50ºF. We couldn’t use heaters because they quickly dissipated the smoke. Our shoot day was overcast and snowy, so we knew we would loose useable window light by 4:30PM.

I used a motorized, 7′ slider for the marching feet scenes and all ground level camera angles. This slider can smoothly move 25 pounds of camera.

I photographed everything with a RED Epic M using the standard set of RED primes including the 300mm telephoto. Every scene (except the fall) was shot at 30fps for playback at 23.98.

Thad Christian at Pittsburgh’s Phenomenom Post did an amazing job editing and grading the 90 second spot in less than 2 days including numerous effect shots. Michael Goodis handled original sound design. Steve Parys worked his butt off as my assistant director. Without the talents of gaffer, Ted Wiegand and scenic designer, Rich Schutte none of this would have been possible in such a short amount of time.

PLEASE: No political comments… I’ve uploaded this commercial to show an interesting assignment and production treatment… it’s not intended to be a political statement.

GE Information Services

On January 6, 2012, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski


A few years ago (before HDTV) I directed and photographed a project for General Electric Information Services. Michael Doherty, Stan Muschweck and the late, Joe Baird of The Birmingham Group, created the original concept. The 3 minute video, titled “Reaching Beyond” was created to open GEIS’ national convention. The concept was to show how a person’s ability, imagination and creativity “grows” over their lifetime.

We cast 3 young girls, a teenager, and 2 adult women who could all have been the same person at different stages of life. The original concept called for each of the actors to be drawing or painting their version of a tree. We hired 2 local Pittsburgh artists to “pre-draw” and “pre-paint” multiple versions of the various stages of artwork. During the shoot, these same professional artists helped the actors do a believable job of working with pencils, water colors, charcoal and oil colors.

I shot all the footage with my Arri 35BL4 equipped with Zeiss super-speed lenses. The 35mm film was then transferred to tape in Nashville by colorist, Brent Clenny at Filmworkers Club. The music was composed and performed by Sue Hartford at Euphoria in Pittsburgh. I edited the long-form video at our Pittsburgh facility.

More Eat ‘n Park TV Fun

On October 10, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski


For the latest series of Eat ‘n Park TV spots, Sarah Marince asks employees what they love about Eat ‘n Park (besides their paycheck.) In my favorite spot of the new “Team” series, Sarah gets to put the icing on EnP’s iconic Smiley Face Cookie.

I currently shoot these spots on 2 HDTV digital cameras. All the sync sound sequences are shot on a Panasonic AF-100 equipped with Canon and Olympus lenses. I use the very heavy 14mm – 35mm F2 zoom for most wide angle scenes. Either a 50mm F1.4 or a 85mm F1.2 lens handles talent close-ups.

My second camera for quick, hand-held cutaways is either a Panasonic GH2 or a Canon 5D mk2. All the cutaways in this spot were shot on a GH2 equipped with a 20mm F1.7 lens.

Over the years, I’ve found that the only way to direct and shoot this “scripted spontaneity” is to think of each sequence as a very short play.

While gaffer, Ted Wiegand is setting lights with the crew, I’ll have the talent first perform the scene or sequence without any direction. Invariably, people will naturally stay too far apart for TV. After a couple run throughs, I’ll get the desired distance between the actors. Then I’ll determine the best wide shot or master shot angle to cover the action. The close-up, return shots between actors happen naturally based on the master shot.

Although I often use a Fisher 10 crab dolly, for this spot I shot all the test kitchen dialogue with my camera mounted on a monopod. It gives the scenes spontaneity and just enough movement as if the action was natural and unrehearsed.

When you’re working in tight quarters, such as Eat ‘n Park’s test kitchen, the choices of camera angles and camera positions are limited, so you make the most of the best overall background for your master shot. The backgrounds for close-ups will be out-of-focus, so you can add, subtract or cheat certain scene elements.

One last bit of advice, when working with “real people” as opposed to actors, let them play themselves. As long as the role they’re playing is within their normal “world” you can usually get a pretty credible performance. I’ve found that non-professionals do their best on the second or third take. After that it’s a crap shoot.

BTW, that’s actually Sarah perfectly icing the cookie in the close-up!


Background Info: Don Nehlen is a former head coach of the West Virginia University “Mountaineers” football team. For 20 years, he lead the team to winning seasons and bowl games. Nehlen retired from his successful coaching career in 2000. You know you’re appreciated when the road to Mountaineer Stadium is named Don Nehlen Drive.

A few years ago, West Virginia University Healthcare performed triple-bypass heart surgery, which saved his life. Coach Nehlen agreed to be featured in a TV commercial for the WVUH Heart Institute.

This commercial is an example of combining the best image quality attributes of 2 completely different 1080P HDTV cameras. I shot all of Coach Nehlen’s on-camera interview scenes with my Sony F900R. All the cutaways or “B-Roll” scenes were shot with my Panasonic AF100.

Personally, I’m sick of seeing “interview” spots where the subject is looking and talking off-camera to some nondescript, unidentified person. I wanted Coach Nehlen to tell his story, first person, directly to the home viewer. I resurrected an idea and technology that I first pioneered in the mid-eighties. We hooked 2 cameras and teleprompters together so the coach could talk directly to a virtual image of the interviewer’s face which appeared to “float” in front of the camera’s lens. The technique worked very well and added to the believability and sincerity of the Coach’s on-camera delivery. Thanks to Gary, Jay, Heidi and Mary of WVUH’s marketing team for putting up with my crazy production techniques…

The HDTV commercial is scheduled to begin airing in August throughout West Virginia.

Zacuto Inc. /Chicago

On September 18, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski

Zacuto is one of the world’s leading suppliers of innovative camera equipment and technologies. The company’s high-tech accessories for DSLR cameras are used throughout the world. If you shoot commercial video with Canon cameras, there’s a good chance you own Zacuto accessories.

Based in Chicago, Zacuto has a world-wide distribution network of dealers in Germany, France, Sweden, Tokyo and Singapore.

In addition to my “day job” directing and photographing TV commercials for clients and ad agencies across the US, I’ve been designing several new camera accessories for Panasonic’s GH1/GH2 series of cameras. These upcoming products will enhance the functionality and usability of these popular cameras.

Everyone who knows me is aware that I can’t buy or use a piece of equipment without taking it apart and modifying it. I’m guilty of never being happy with the status quo. I always think something can be better.

Check out Zacuto’s website: http://www.zacuto.com My short bio is part of the “Zacuto Product Designers” section: http://www.zacuto.com/zacuto-product-designers

Scenes from a Summer Carnival

On September 30, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Glenn Przyborski


Summer’s over… the hot, dusty days are just memories. All across the country, traveling carnivals setup shop outside hundreds of small towns and cities. Within a day or so, workers transform an open field on the outskirts of town, into a midway with rides, games and lots of junk food. Where else can you enjoy chocolate funnel cakes and deep-fried ice cream?

For many residents, a trip to the carnival’s an annual tradition. For the $5 admission, you can spend all day and night cruising the fair grounds. There’s groups of girls checking out the guys and catching up on mid-summer gossip. As day slowly dissolves to night, young lovers stroll the midway hand-in-hand.

At a Midwest carnival, tractor and truck pulls are very popular. A powerful truck or tractor drags a weighted sled down a dirt track. It’s not a sophisticated sport, but it’s fun to watch and very loud! The owner of the winning entry gets a prize, but more importantly, all his friends know he drives of the most powerful truck in town.

I shot this video to capture moments from a hot, humid July day, at the fairgrounds, just outside Butler, Pennsylvania.

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