See previous post/reel@for@the lighting setup!
We're the film production company behind the stories, brands, and nonprofits who are making news hea
See previous post/reel@for@the lighting setup!
Writing retreat for an ambitious campaign film. Thanks to , and for the location!
We’re a big believer in the power of coaching and developing healthy thinking and habits. So it’s always an honor to shoot projects with our friends at ! They’re doing amazing work in the coaching world and we are thrilled to partner with them in their work.
We do a lot of agency work, but one of our favorite agency teams are the good people at . These frames are from a recent shoot we worked on with director . We carried out all post and color for this project and we had a blast bringing Blaine’s incredible direction and eye together in the edit. This scene was at the in Chicago
225 years ago, our ancestors fought and gave their lives to establish a different sort of country than had come before it. It turned out to be highly imperfect and there have been lots of horrors that needed rectifying (and still need rectifying). But its problems don’t negate its greatness. This country still remains an anomaly in world history—it was built on a system of laws with checks and balances that would (the founders hoped) bring stability and protection for those in the minority from the tyranny of the majority. We have yet to see how it will all play out, but we feel blessed to be able to work and build and grow in this country. And we’re privileged to do those things alongside all of you. Something we often say at Distant Moon is . We’re working to try to help in whatever ways we can to make our country a little better each day. Thankful to be in that journey with you all. Happy Fourth of July.
Behind the scenes of this past shoot week. Went super well and we’re excited to share more from it!
A bus. In a desert. With an Alexa mini and kowa anamorphics
When we shot this project for , there were some serious nostalgia vibes for director . Cue flashbacks to his childhood going to the local skate plaza in Coeur d’Alene Idaho every Tuesday for homeschool skate day. So he had a blast recreating old skate rink vibes for this retro music video. Anytime he thinks about skate rinks, smells of saccharine sweet haze, disco lights, the chicken dance, and strawberry slushies come to mind.
What’s one of your favorite childhood memories that brings back all the nostalgia? Answer below 👇🏻
contemplating the purple sky. Back when we were all young and free.
Blue hour with a streetlamp on Amira and Cooke anamorphics.
Guess the client. Hint: the product is hidden in the shot. ;)
Throwback to one of our favorite music videos. Shot for James TW, this video juxtaposed a boy going through the breakup/divorce of his parents and James TW singing in the wreckage of the home. This one had an absolutely incredible team, but the MVP was the art department, who transformed the fresh and clean house into a moldy, aged, falling-apart house. Wallpaper is falling off the walls. Dust coats everything in sight. Curtains are tattered. Dishes fill the sink of the abandoned kitchen. Just an absolute joy to capture and create art in this sort of beautifully production-designed environment.
Like most of our documentary production, we frame shots with two goals in mind: Create a striking image, and capture the emotion of the scene. For this scene, we wanted to portray both the loneliness of this family who is trapped in horrible public schools with no opportunity to escape the quota system for higher quality education AND that in spite of their challenges, they’re upbeat, loving, creative, and making the best of their situation. So when we saw one of their daughters sitting in her room, playing with stuffed animals, we knew we had to capture that. That sense of innocence and living in her creative imagination, combined with the stark loneliness of setting her in contrast to the bright window at the end of a dark hallway, encapsulated this family’s entire story in one shot.
Stills from inside the J. Edgar Hoover building training rooms. This is where real FBI agents take classes as a part of their ongoing education. Shooting in real-world locations like this, our first step in lighting is to turn off all lights, and begin with creating contrast, which usually means turning on one diffused source on the far side of the room, shooting towards where the camera is going to be. This creates a separation of the talent from the background. Then we start filling in from there. To bring out the texture on the wall behind talent, we scraped a harder non-diffused light with a ds1 across the wood paneling to bring its texture out.
The weather outside is taking us back to this shoot from our film “From the Shipyards”.
What are your favorite rainy day films??
Behind the scenes of a set we did in NYC a few weeks ago.
This project will always hold a special place in our hearts. For this documentary, we traveled around the country with a micro crew, filming in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and Louisiana. We knew that we wouldn’t necessarily have time for big setups considering the small crew size, so we made a decision to lean into natural lighting and shooting on vintage anamorphic glass to lend a sense of slightly more heightened cinematic vibe to otherwise natural-feeling scenes.
It was an unexpected joy traveling with Don Beudreaux, who besides being a hugely influential economist also turned out to be a wonderful human being. He made it easy to tell his life story. If you ever wonder what sort of impact a single individual can have on the lives of countless others and entire generations, check out this film. Also, special shoutout to who crafted a stunning soundtrack for this piece.
A shot from a project featuring Atlas Brewing Company in Washington DC. Super cool people. Amazing beer. Check them out
Music videos offer such a wonderful opportunity to stretch your creative and narrative muscles. A lot of our team’s abilities were honed over the years by taking risks on music videos. This project still stands as one of ‘s favorites to shoot. Also, let’s play a game: Two of these shots are completely artificial lighting (It was pitch black outside). Can you guess which ones?
Similarly to the previous post about shooting at the actual FBI national headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover building, we couldn’t really set dress or change anything about this location. We weren’t even sure they’d let us film in the archives storage room until about 10 minutes prior to seeing it for the first time, which was 30 minutes prior to filming the scene (it's an FBI security thing…we’re told). Suffice it to say, we quickly moved in, turned off almost all practical lighting in the room, and brought in our own controllable LED tube lights to light the scene. After about 30 minutes of work, we felt we had the contrast and ambience that we wanted and started rolling.
These frames are from an FBI commercial we shot a couple years ago. The blessing and the challenge were one in the same: we were filming with real agents in the ACTUAL J. Edgar Hoover building (FBI HQ) in Washington DC. So after multiple hours of security checks with all our gear, the objective was to transform typically white-walled, boring office spaces (it's the government, you thought it would be cool looking?) into spaces that felt high-ish-tech, and visually interesting. We couldn’t do much in the way of set dressing since it was an active working location for the bureau, but we did go crazy with lighting. We had access to this room for about 3 hours to light, stage, and shoot the scene.
This is Don Boudreaux, one of the incredible economists at . We traveled with him and a small crew to his old alma mater in New Orleans, Louisiana to tell the story of how a single teacher can transform someone’s life. Incredibly moving story and an honor to capture. Check out the full piece in our portfolio.
Music video we shot for Ira Wolf a few years ago.
Fun fact. All the lighting on talent in this scene is fake. The slash of sunlight, the soft ambience. For this scene we pushed an HMI (m18) through blinds on the side of the house to create the warm sunlight in the room. For the tight shot on the talent’s face, we used the curtains and flags to cut a slightly sharper line to create the sense of directional sunlight spilling into the room.
For this civil-war era scene, we wanted the lighting to feel like the talent was lit by candlelight. Hint: He wasn’t. We had a small LED panel set to tungsten and then gelled with additional CTO to create the warm light. Our gaffer hid just off frame manually flickering the dial to create a slow candle flicker.
Blurring the lines between fiction and reality is what caused a lot of us to get into filmmaking in the first place. For this shot, we simply had talent pointing and interacting with a blank glass wall and all HUD/medical displays were composited in after the fact.
An old shot from the blogger who saved the economy. This was filmed at night. So we lit it with a simple side key. This was a super guerilla shoot, so all we used was a kino diva fluorescent light to push the feeling of a little daylight from the left.
Shooting on location is hard to beat. For this scene, we knew that we’d need to juxtapose technology with exploration of nature. So instead of trying to recreate nature with greenscreen, we decided to take a splinter crew to the sawtooth mountains in southern Idaho to capture people experiencing nature. This is only one of dozens of powerful shots and almost all the lighting is natural.
To get the contrast between subject and background, we found a small grove of trees in front of the lake, so that on camera side, the subject would be in shadow. With a wide open space in front of talent, we knew that the ambient light would key him nicely to create the soft wrap from his front to his back. This specific shot was taken while clouds were briefly in front of the sun
For this project, we wanted to add an element that people don’t typically see in documentaries - slow motion. We knew we’d be filming a falcon flying, so we thought “What if we could see the individual wing flaps at 1000 fps?” So we reworked the budget, brought a phantom 4k camera to central california and shot as much slow motion footage as possible around sunset/sunrise. At moments it feels as if we’re suspended in time as the flapping of the falcon’s wings slow to almost a standstill. It happens so quickly in the moment that watching playback is like seeing the shots with completely new eyes.
One of our favorite things is to mix VFX with live action. For this shot we captured a wide plate with talent keyed from a large litemat above. We placed quasars in the deep background to add some additional reflections/visual interest on the architecture. We then had talent pretending to interact with a HUD on the glass window. Thanks to the always incredible Zach Zombek, the shot really came together with the VFX/HUD overlay that we made to interact with the talent on the glass. Still one of our favorite shots to date.
The Blogger Who Saved the Economy. 2016.
For this scene, we only had a few minutes to create an interesting composition. Luckily we were shooting on kowa anamorphics which have the crazy barrel distortion you see in this image. To create some contrast with the lighting, we turned off nearly all lights in the library and then armed out a quasar light tube to slightly key the talent.
Every time we produce a new online course for , we try to push the creative a hair further than for the previous courses. For the recent release of “The Roman Republic,” we wanted to make old maps come to life with the movement of troops, citizens, and nations across the mediterranean region. We sourced images of maps from the 17th-18th century to keep that “old map” look. But that was too easy, so why stop at easy?
We then shot empty book plates with old books and different types of parchment paper. We then composited the old maps onto the old books, added digital lighting, and then animated the areas of the map with different colors to draw the viewer’s eye.
To accomplish the highlights, we rotoscoped the areas that needed to be highlighted, and we animated it with footage of an ink spilling across a page. To finish it, everything was color corrected and tweaked to sell the composite. Voila! An old book shot of a map.
This is . She’s the captain of a non-profit in Los Angeles that produces video content that has garnered over a billion views a year (yeah, with B). So we thought what better way to show how fearless a leader she is than to playfully add some hand-drawn wardrobe that hearkens back to some of the great military leaders in history. Also, how fun would it be if CEOs all wore large napoleonic hats today?
This was the first set we ever built. It was for an online course with Hillsdale College. We were talking with the director of Online Learning the other day, and mentioned that we hadn’t built a full set before this project and he was shocked. They probably wouldn’t have approved that approach if they had known. That conversation illuminated a realization we had—sometimes you have to just fake it until you make it (and we REALLY mean fake it. We built an entire set following youtube tutorials for constructing set flats. We had never used a rosco backdrop before, etc.). Now, fast forward several years and we construct sets on soundstages for close to 50% of everything we shoot. Moral of the story: If you KNOW you can do something but someone hasn’t given you the chance to do it yet, figure out a way to do it and JUST DO IT. You can tell people you hadn’t done it before a couple years later.
An internal team favorite, this project was a real labor of love from a fantastic crew. Our brief was to recreate several different time periods on a limited budget over a 3 day shoot. As often happens, the creative changed shortly before filming began because the original script wasn’t exactly what the client wanted, BUT you pivot, roll with the punches and then see how you can best create something you’re proud of at the end of the day. They often say that there are three films made in every project. There’s the film you script/write. There’s the film you shoot. And there’s the film you edit. That was DEFINITELY the case with this project. The end product is almost entirely different from what was scripted AND what was shot, but that’s the name of the game and it makes the process almost like solving a puzzle. (In case you’re wondering, we like puzzles.)
This frame is from one of the projects that put us on the map. The Blogger Who Saved the Economy ended up getting picked up by The Atlantic, and for years after, many people who reach out to us, tell us that this is the piece they first saw. The lesson we learned from this project is that in the film and video game, we all want every piece to be the “next big break,” but that’s just not how the industry/life works. Oftentimes, you’ll release film after film, until one “makes it.” So, for anyone who thinks, “man this is hard.” We’d just encourage you, yeah it is. But consistency, showing up, and continuing to pour your best into each project eventually starts to pay off. Even though Distant Moon has only been officially around since 2017, many of our team members have been working in the industry for over a decade and the growth and opportunities are NOT linear. We promise, things compound and when stuff starts taking off, it really starts taking off.
Some frames from a project we released last year with and . This man is a lawyer who defended a horse who was abused and neglected in rural Oregon. The work ALDF is doing is crazy important—fighting to make America a more just society by encouraging humans to treat animals with decency and respect. This project was also a fun one because the amazing was gracious enough to do the narration for the film.
Let’s talk about trends. Have you noticed how often creative projects with the exact same storyline/visual style/other aesthetic end up being released simultaneously? A perfect example that comes to mind is when The Prestige (one of Christopher Nolan’s best movies in our humble opinion) came out the same year as The Illusionist (what even happened in that movie again?). Both about magicians willing to push themselves to the point of destruction for their craft. Both were set in the late early 1900s. Both feature swoon-worthy leads (Hugh Jackman vs Christian Bale). Too much? Ok, anyhow, it happens all the time. A Bug's Life and Antz. The Truman Show and EdTV. Armageddon and Deep Impact.
And right now we’re seeing a trend in hand-drawn animation over live-action/animation. It’s happening everywhere. Arcane. The Mitchells Vs. The Machines. Turning Red. Spiderman into the Spiderverse. And….our work. Over the past couple years, we’ve fallen in love with the combo of sketch elements and hand drawn animation over a different medium. It’s fascinating how certain styles/trends end up pervading an industry for a time. The question is how do you stay ahead of the trends? After all, we all want to be the first to make a style cool, not the last to use it when that style is on its way out. That’s why we’re ALWAYS talking about what makes something artistically worthwhile at Distant Moon.
What do you think about the current trend of mixed medium and hand drawn elements over other animation or live action footage? Let us know in the comments!
For this project, we had the challenge of matching a later shoot, on a green screen, with an earlier one on a practical set. While we had a solid foundation to go off of during the compositing process, the magic really was in how well the team matched the lighting between both shoots. (Shoutout to and !) Because of their attention to detail, it was possible to create a barely detectable difference between the two. Also thanks to and for their very much needed skills.
“The study of the Roman Republic is one of the most important things we can do as Americans.” After working on this project closely–we would agree! We were deliberate with these sound design and image treatment choices with hopes the combined effect would immerse viewers into ancient Roman everyday life which–shocker–isn’t that different from some scenes we find ourselves in today. It’s like there might be something to this whole “history repeats itself” thing…unless we choose to learn from the past and leave humanity’s biggest mistakes where they belong: in the history books.
128 South 20th Street
Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Distant Moon posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Send a message to Distant Moon: