On A Little Late with Lilly Singh, we only left our production house two times to film at other locations. One of those times was for Blinding Likes, our parody of The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights music video. This was Lilly’s passion project that appeared in Episode 68, exploring the toxic side of social media and cancel culture.
We wanted this piece to be visually heightened and set apart from the rest of the show, as well as a direct homage to the original music video. However, The Weeknd video had stunt driving, Russian arms, and other resources that we couldn’t afford with our budget. So we got creative and used “Poor Man’s Process” for the night driving scenes, and used three different Panasonic cameras to bring this concept to life.
I knew I had to go anamorphic for this video, so I decided to stay within the Panasonic family and use the LUMIX S1H paired with Atlas Orion Anamorphic lenses. It gave us the look we were going for without breaking the bank or requiring a lot of prep time. With the help of Steadicam operator Ace Ramirez, 1st AC Melisse Sporn, and 2nd AC/loader Iliana Ipes, I built the S1H on a Steadicam with a Preston remote focus and Paralynx wireless video. Our SmallHD monitors were very helpful because of their anamorphic desqueeze function. We used the Steadicam heavily at our Universal CityWalk location. The Atlas Orion lenses distorted the background beautifully and helped obscure the branding on storefronts.
We didn’t have an anamorphic zoom like The Weeknd video did, but I still wanted to achieve those energetic snap zooms. For that purpose, I decided to integrate some shots with our main show camera, the Panasonic EVA1 with a Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95-3.9 zoom. An interesting thing about the Blinding Lights video is the aspect ratio changes in almost every shot, mirroring The Weeknd’s altered state of consciousness. The shots range from 16:9 to 2.40:1. I emulated that creative choice, which freed me up to use both the S1H with anamorphic lenses and the EVA1 with a spherical zoom. We even kept the spherical footage at 16:9 in the final video.
For the above photo, we sent our video signal into the jumbotron screen behind Lilly at Universal CityWalk.
But I didn’t stop at just the S1H and EVA1. I also added in a LUMIX GH5s on my [DJI] Ronin-S gimbal. The purpose of this setup was to achieve a 360° camera roll while shooting Lilly inside a giant cellphone.
Behind the Scenes (Lilly inside the giant phone, with the S1H set up on a tripod)
The Poor Man’s Process night exterior car scene was probably my favorite setup. We parked the convertible in the driveway of our production house at night, then hung duvetyne behind the car so that the background would fall to black. My key grip, Rene Yescas, and gaffer, Joe Baltazar, built several Astera tubes on speed rail flanking the two sides of the car. The tubes were on a chase setting to mimic street lights going by quickly. The combination of the lights moving, the camera on a Dana Dolly, and a leaf blower providing wind, really sold the feeling of a car driving fast.
For this shot, I stood on a ladder rigged with the EVA1 and 17-120mm zoom on top.
Carissa Dorson is a Los Angeles-based director of photography, originally from Silver Spring, Maryland. She began her career in sketch comedy, shooting videos that garnered hundreds of millions of views for websites like CollegeHumor and Funny or Die. Currently, she is the DP of A Little Late with Lilly Singh on NBC. She recently lensed I Think She Likes You, which premiered at Tribeca, and the comedy feature, It's a Party, starring SNL’s Ego Nwodim. Carissa is most fulfilled by using the camera to explore relationships and what it means to be human. She is also a fine art photographer, with an interest in portraiture. Her ongoing photo series, Funny People. Serious Photos, was featured in L.A. Weekly. Her first photo book, Conversations with Dad is being published with Kehrer Verlag. Carissa graduated with a BFA from Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts in 2011. When she is not filming or taking photos, she loves playing Ultimate Frisbee and seeing improv shows at UCB.