28 Dec “Life as a House: DP’ing Fixer Upper Part 3”

Behind the scenes of a typical "OTF" setup.

Behind the scenes of a typical “OTF” setup.

The Art of an “OTF.”

What in the world is an “OTF?”  Great question.  Basically an “OTF” means an interview.  “OTF” is an abbreviation for “On the Fly.”  So the full technical translation for “OTF” would be an “On the Fly Interview” with talent.  On “Fixer Upper” all of our “OTFs” are stand up interviews shot outside.  Only on the rarest of occasions do we shoot an “OTF” inside.

I think “Fixer Upper” has some of the best stand up “OTFs” on television.  I  take pride in that.  It may not seem like a big set up or that we put much thought into it but I set out to make every “OTF” look like a million bucks.  Creating a good looking “OTF” is an art form.

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Notice how the yellow dumpster and the house intersect right in the middle of the frame. The background brings the focus to Chip and Jo.

The first thing — and perhaps the most important — is the background.  The background can make or break an “OTF.”  I’m looking for three things when it comes to a good background.  First off, the background needs to have the same amount of light hitting it that will hit the subjects with a scrim overhead.  Second, the background should have texture.  Third, the background should have two kinds of qualities that meet in the middle of frame.  By doing this you create a background that is interesting but also helps in drawing the focus to the subjects that are placed in the middle of the frame.

Once you’ve found the right background it’s time to set up the scrim.  I use a 6×6 silk with 1-1/4 stop of diffusion.  The scrim helps to even the light and shadows on Chip and Jo.  Sometimes I put the sun behind them and use the scrim to cut down on the amount of light that is hitting their back.  I’ve found that most of the time having Chip and Jo back lit actually looks better.  Usually I’ll add a bounce or Lite Panel just off camera when my subjects are back lit.

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The last ingredient to a “Fixer Upper” “OTF” is the placement of Chip and Jo.  When Chip and Jo are doing an “OTF” together I always have Chip on the left side of the frame and Jo on the right side of the frame.  They look camera right.  When the “OTF” is just Chip he stands on the left side of the frame and looks camera right.  When it’s just an “OTF” with Jo she stands on the right side of the frame and looks camera left.  There are similar rules for the home owners.

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Home owner “OTFs” are executed in a similar way but they look camera left.

By following these guidelines we create consistency and order for our interviews.  It’s a formulaic choice that helps tell the story.  It’s probably something that the average viewer doesn’t notice.  However, I like to think that by following these rules we subconsciously communicate to the viewer that it’s time for an “OTF” and Chip and Jo are here to tell their story.

 

– Roger Woodruff, Director of Photography