Pitch Perfect 3
We sat down with Pitch Perfect 3 Production Lighting Designer, Trevor Burk to discuss the challenges of designing live concert stages optimized for camera capture.
Five years after Pitch Perfect surprised critics and dazzled audiences, the series is back with its third and final entry in the series. The previous films saw ‘The Bellas’ Acappella group rise the ranks, winning college and eventually the World Championship, but not without overcoming major obstacles both with the competition and amongst themselves.
The third film takes the Bellas on an overseas USO Tour, which meant production needed to build elaborate concert stages designed specifically for the camera shot. Director of Photography Matthew Clark, brought on Production Lighting Designer Trevor Burk to light the concert scenes. Both Matt and Trevor had previously worked together on Steve Carell’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which required lighting magic scenes in large theatres.
“The differences between lighting stages for live events, and feature film is significant,” commented Trevor. “In film, we’re able to get away with much lower light levels than even in television- in some cases achieving base levels below 10 foot candles.” Trevor added, “with Burt Wonderstone we had to be rock solid with our exposures, because the movie was shot on film. Pitch Perfect 3 was shot on digital, which gave us a lot more flexibility to test different looks.”
Pitch Perfect 3 production used 4 different scenes, with 4 different shows, for 4 different types of songs. Keeping all of the clean, and making sure the looks didn’t overlap was important. VER’s Bill Spoon was approached by Pitch Perfect 3 Executive Producer David Nicksay & Day Permuy to be a “catch-all guy” that could handle rock’n’roll designs for the production. Bill put together a team to handle building a custom indoor and outdoor stage, a FOH mock set-up for the set decorator Maggie Martin, and a custom-designed structure for the Clay National Guard Helicopter location designed by Toby Corbett.
With Mat Stovall and Zach Matusow on board as lighting directors and programmer, the team was able to have the amount of coverage to move at the shooting company’s pace. Typically Trevor would be in the DIT tent with the DP and director while Mat Stovall would be on the floor as lighting director communicating with Zach Matusow our programmer who was updating the master look as we progressed thru our shots. Trevor mentioned, “In the first scene, the girls are on tour and we needed to create the illusion of multiple performances for a montage. Toby Corbett, the production designer, designed a diamond-shaped stage. Over the course of the day, we rotated around the stage, providing different backgrounds. This made it look like we were at multiple locations, giving the audience the perception that they were performing at multiple concerts.”
Another scene took place in front of a giant aquarium, with whale sharks swimming behind the scene. We had to keep the animals’ safe, but also put a lot of lighting gear both over the water and in the viewing room which acted as a stage for the performance. The lighting had to be set up in a way that would not irritate the fish. To overcome this, we carefully mapped out the entire set in VER Previz. With the help of VER’s David Perkins, we were able to preview the lighting for the entire scene, giving both the producers and the aquarium staff comfort that lighting would not put too much stress on the whale sharks and fishes. It worked great.”
When commenting on how VER supported, Trevor mentioned, “Overall, we needed an equipment and production services provider that could support the production lighting design aspect, but also understood the etiquette of a film set. I’ve been working with Fred Waldman and Marty Wickman for years, and the producers were already big fans of VER, which made it an easy decision. Having a VER facility in Atlanta was also really helpful for us getting gear when we needed it.”
VER provided audio, lighting, led, rigging, video, previz, and production services for Pitch Perfect 3.