How is How To Drink Made?

The people who were on set during the filming of season 4.

The people who were on set during the filming of season 4.

One of the questions I get asked a ton is "OMG what camera did you shoot this on!?" and I've answered that on a case by case basis as the question has presented itself.  Right now I'm going to try to answer the question in detail as best I can for anyone who's interested.

The short answer is that How to Drink is shot on a RED Dragon 6k (currently), but that's also a really incomplete answer.  The camera is just one part of the equation.  Here comes my long-rambling explanation of what our production looks like.

When I started this show it was just me and a friend standing in my living room with a bunch of his lights and a borrowed camera (originally a Sony FS700).  We shoot the show in production blocks we call seasons, where we gear up for a weekend and shoot as many episodes as we can over the course of two or three days.  I would love to be able to produce this show on an ongoing basis, shooting a few episodes a week, but the gear we use and the scale of the production presently make that impossible.  Shooting slow-motion requires a lot of light.  It has to do with the higher-frame rates meaning shorter exposure times.  The slow-motion in How to Drink is shot at at least 240FPS, which gives each frame a maximum exposure time of 1/480th of a second.  To have anything in focus at all we try to keep the lens to no more open than an f5.6 (ideally f8) and that means we need an amount of light that's common on food commercial sets but probably unheard of on most YouTube shows.  

In Season 2 I upgraded the show with a new bar I built from an Ikea Countertop.  I cut a hole in the counter, routed the lip of the hole, and set a circle of plexiglass into it.  This allowed us to underlight our glasses with studio lights and I think it really upped the look of the show.  But the bar and the lights are huge (and hot!) and my New York living room is small.  After season 2 I said we needed to stop shooting at my apartment (Also my daughter was born, which further complicates that issue) and so seasons 3 and 4 were shot at a studio in Hoboken called The Bakery.  I hope I'm not disappointing too many of you to reveal that the current look of the show is a little set I throw together from some Ikea shelves and a bunch of knickknacks.   The studio space makes production way more comfortable... you may have noticed I sweat a bit less in the newer episodes.

So Here's a rough breakdown of what equipment we have on set when we shoot How to Drink:

  • RED Dragon 6k
  • Canon 100mm Macro
  • Canon 50mm Macro
  • Canon 18-35mm zoom
  • ARRI Matte Box
  • Arri Digital wireless Follow Focus
  • 26 inch HD monitor
  • 7 inch HD monitor
  • Tripod
  • O'Connor Fluid Head
  • Dana Dolly
  • 10 feet of Dolly track
  • 2x 5k watt Mole Richardson Fresnel studio lights
  • 4x inkies
  • 2x KinoFlo 4 banks
  • 2x Kino Flow Divas
  • some LED rope lights
  • a bunch of flags and scrims and screens and diffusion
  • a bunch of mirrors
  • C-Stands and other assorted hardware

So far our audio has been recorded via a lav mic plugged directly into the camera (working on upgrading this one!).  

It takes more than a few people to make all this work.  If you check out the end of my episode on the Scorpion Bowl you get a look at the crew.  Here's a breakdown of what they do:

  • Cinematography/DP:  This guy is operating the camera and deciding where the lights should go to achieve the look we want.  Pretty important stuff.
  • Assistant Camera (aka AC): In basic terms and AC will put the camera in the spot where the director or DP has decided it needs to be, get the right lens on it, make sure it's ready to operate, etc.  But an AC also has another specific super important job: he focuses the lens.  If you don't have some kind of background in film production or an awareness of the jobs on a set you might be surprised to know that keeping the lens in focus can't be handled by autofocus and is in fact a pretty involved full time job.  We use a device called a wireless follow-focus that allows the AC to be standing physically away from the camera while doing this job so the DP can have freedom to operate.
  • Gaffer: I don't know why this job is called a gaffer, but the job they do is physically positioning the lights and running the power cabling to them.  We can't use household electric power, a set runs on 3-phase power and it requires a bit of know how to safely manage.  Additionally lights are hot and heavy and have to be moved pretty frequently.  It's not impossible for the DP to do this job their-self, but it's much more efficient to have someone handling it.  Basically though the DP will say "I need the 2k over here angled like this with a 2 scrim on it and some diffusion in front" and the gaffer makes that happen.
  • Production Assistant: On most sets, and on HTD, a production assistant will wind up doing all kinds of whatever chores and tasks needs doing.  Specifically on our set the PA is helping me have the glassware and bar tools I need for a drink ready for camera.  So they do a lot of dishes and grab things for me, which isn't fun.
  • Producer: Stefano helped me keep this show going and convinced me to not just shelve it forever, and he let's me know when I need to say something again or when I sucked at a take and need another.  He'll also do any kind of chore or task or whatever fill-in stuff winds up needing to be done.

Anyway That's how How to Drink gets made.  We shoot as many episodes as we can per day, they go on a hard-drive, and I spend my evenings editing episodes after whatever day job I happen to be on at a given time.  Hopefully this is a useful answer, and thanks for reading!