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Episode 49 with Brooks Quinn

by Doug Radkey & David Klemt
September 7th 2021

Meet the man who helped Bob Peters light his Garage Bar! Cinematographer Brooks Quinn comes by Bar Hacks to share ... More

Welcome to the bar hacks podcast, engaging interviews, plus tips and strategies to navigate your bar or restaurant business towards sustainable success. Now, here's your host hospitality industry, veteran journalist and editor. David clamped Hello and welcome back to the bar. Next podcast. I hope you're well, we have a very informative but fun episode for you today with cinematographer brooks Quinn, how's it going? What's going on? David? It's hot in Vegas as I keep saying into this podcast until summer's over hot desert man. Even I lived here for nearly two decades still hurts some days. How are you doing? Good man. I'm here in Charlotte North Carolina and it's a nice balmy 90° here with Humidity of 200%. So before we get too far and how can people follow and connect with your work online. Yeah, so my instagram handle is brooks Quinn digit one and that's pretty much the best way to reach out freelance and the commercial and cinematography world around town.

I've got a background and advertising and agency and working for production companies and media agencies. So now work full time, work for corporate as the in house video producer, for lending tree, but also freelance and you know, still help out in the Senate photography world. And I met you through bob peters who last episode or it could be two episodes at this point I'm getting some money finally racked up that I sometimes I'm not sure he's out there which number I'm on. But he showed me the bar that he had built in his garage and he was really excited to show me your inexpensive lighting trick and when I saw it, I was like our audience needs to know about this because obviously digital content, recording photography has become crucial to operations, so I want to talk to you, talk to you about that trick, but also just the other tips and experience that you can give our audience. So if you don't mind kind of diving right into the awesome lighting trick that you taught bob.

Yeah, so the one and only bob, peters bob's a dear friend of mine. So when he reached out that uh he had garage bar that he was wanting to start, this was this was all like right at the beginning of the pandemic, so you know, all bars and restaurants were just not operational. So everyone had to, I hate to use this word, but pivot, everyone had to pivot and kind of get a little creative. So bob was already doing some like cocktail consulting, so going around, you know, teaching people about cocktails and how to make them at home, like that was already in his, you know what he does professionally now. So now he had to figure out how to do it from home. So he and a buddy built a bar inside of his garage and when he told me about it and like the first this is the coolest thing I've heard of that is your buddy available to build one at my house. But um but also he said that he wants to start live streaming cocktail demos that he's wanting to, you know, if someone wants to hire him individually or if a group, whatever where he can do from video at home cocktail creation, but not where it looks like he's in his garage.

So I asked him how much budget do you have towards this and said, well this is all kind of coming out of pocket and the less I can spend. So I was able to give them just some tips of the trade that I've, you know, now nowadays it's, it's kind of frowned upon to use a lot of this stuff. But man, I'll be honest with you, it works, it's inexpensive. It's not something that will last forever and it's not something I promote people to do is like a regular practice but and a pinch what bob was able to do work perfectly for him. And so as I recall, it was a quick trip I think to Home Depot. He said for some painters, lights and a low wattage set of bulbs and a shower cream I think is what it all entails. So the big thing that I told them is with any instance of trying to white a bar space in his case, like for his specifically as it was probably about a five or 6 ft width of a bar.

So not too big of a space to light, but he had the perfect setup. So where his bar was located is whenever, whenever you pull into a garage, you know, you have the door above you, but then it closes behind you. He had all the mounts from the bars that you know the, the rack that the door sits on. I told him you can use that as a lighting grid. Like you already have like a built in lighting grid, but you can mount stuff so you don't worry about like putting ladders up and stuff. So once I kind of looked at, it might go out and get either shop lights, painter lights, whatever you can get. That just gives a bright, broad source of light after you do that. Then get on amazon or go to target wherever and get either a shower curtain or a bed sheet, a white bed sheet, cheaper. The better. Like don't get any like the really high Egyptian cotton ones, like cheaper. The better walmart target amazon wherever you can get it. And once you get all that, give me a call. So about a week later he's like, all right, I got everything I needed.

And literally, I talked him through this all over the phone and like be a facetime. I never once had to go to his house. So he mounted the painters lights up. And then I told him, you know, cut the, he was able to get shower curtains. So cut the shower curtains into squares And a small little like three x 3 squares and get either work clips or clothes pins, whatever and find ways to clip them in front of the light source because the trick to it is you want to throw as much light as you can, but you don't want hard light that call shadows or really bright hotspots. So put something in front of to defuse it, so that's what he did. And then the next step was alright, well now I'm well that and the lighting soft, but all the drinks on the back or falling off into the darkness. So I sent him a link on amazon to these little led light strips and he mounted them underneath his shelf. So that way it would cast down lights on top of the bottles to at least give a little separation between him and the bottles that were all what wattage bulb did he?

So he didn't melt the shower curtain. The big key to that is get LED because LED bulbs and they're pretty common these days, like not too many people are buying the filament bulbs that anymore And get it to where it's at least 40-60 watts, like a normal household life and make sure that it's capable of being able to dim. So that way you can then, once I kind of saw how bright it was, he didn't really need them anything down. But you've got to buy a little remote dimmers where you just plug the light and through a passage of a dimmer. Now you have complete control over the brightness of the light, but you have to make sure you get the dimmable led is because if you, if you don't, they'll flicker and that's a, that's a totally different issue. But make sure you get dimmable bulbs and the other important thing is make sure they're all the same color temperature. Like if you have one this daylight balanced on this indoor balances, you're gonna have all this mix like fighting issue. Strange, you learned about that as a car person and I didn't like that.

My headlight rings and my fog lights were, it looked different when I turned them on and I realized it was temperature of the bulbs and I was like, oh, so as long as you match those up, everything is the same. Yeah, bob had a unique situation and it was pretty easy to kind of help him build a little schematic out of how he can set it up and light it, especially for his product stuff. How he can use stuff to make a smaller set on top of this bar instead of the bigger one for close ups to finish cocktails or bottles, whatever before we get too far into it. How do you know bob man? So bob is a dear friend of mine bob, I've known bob since I've lived in charlotte for about eight years now, I didn't know bob and like his former when he was kind of a few dive bars, which I really wish I did, but I met bob when I feel like he was at the peak of his game, he was bartending at the Ritz Carlton at the punch room and really put the cocktail scene on the map in charlotte. So how I met bob was the production company I was working for.

Whenever I first moved to charlotte, we were hired by the Ritz Carlton to do promotion material for the lunch room. So I met bob going in there, getting footage of the bar and him making cocktails and just playing off each other and he was the guy who really kind of introduced me into what a proper cocktail should taste like and looked like I was so used to just going out to dive bars and you know, here's, he was just bourbon and diet and a plastic cup, you know, but to go to meet bob and actually get a proper cocktail. He really opened my eyes to the whole scene, but bob has been a huge influence in my life since I met him even during the time he was at the punch room. I met my now wife through bob. My my wife in a previous job worked for a pr company that did a lot of spirits promotion for DiMaggio. So she had a lot of connections to bob through DiMaggio and just helping him out on his following his journey of becoming a big dog mixologist. She knew him from that. And there was one night, it was after a charlotte hornets game.

And uh, hornets arena is right next to the punch room buddy. And I we went to the punch room after the game and it was packed house. So they have someone outside the door, we'll let you know. All right, we either full or there's a wait. So she told us that there's a weight like, well, let me just text bob and see, see what I can do and you know, just pull that. Well, I know somebody card, so texted bob and he's like, man, we're packed house. But I just sat down to girls that I know at a four top if you don't mind sitting with two random girls, come to find out that the girl that he sat us down with us. Now the girl that I met and we got married. But it even goes further than that. We we met at the punch room or bob introduced us. And then about a year and a half later I was able to get bob to close the punch room down for the afternoon and I surprised my life and took her up there and proposed to her and then fast forward a few years later I got bob ordained online and bob married my wife and I.

So bob's had a big influence in my life and I've I've always wanted to pay it forward, doing any time he reaches out for a request. I love that story, that's that's fantastic. And so, like I'm best friends with bob, but from what I know, it just sounds like a lot of bob stories, like he's just, he's influential, he's super generous, I love it, switching gears back to lighting and this is probably a silly question, but what we think of the content we're going to produce, we think of a script or what am I going to share with people, but it seems like maybe lighting isn't the first thing people think of, but why is it so important to focus on lighting? What I always tell people is there's two things that should be top of mind for any kind of photo video, especially with food and beverage, is lighting an art direction. There's a top two things lighting really, it just, it separates you from the pros and the amateurs, that if you have a professional looking, manicured shots, you know that their professional person, that their that their image is what they're wanting people to perceive of their bar restaurant.

And if it looks bad, then that's the message that people are probably going to receive, but if it looks good, then they're going to receive a good message about it. So I always tell people that lighting is so important because it's the first way that you're gonna look get presented to someone and then art direction, same thing if you have someone who can come in or even if you're able to do it yourself where you can style us drinks and food on plates and just make it look more presentable than just poured it into a cup. Art directors just know all the tips and tricks on how to make food and beverage presents so well on photo and video Giving away too much. Can you walk us through a little bit of I guess I would call lighting 101 for lighting, a space for videography and photography. Yeah, I mean it all really depends on what look you're trying to achieve and more importantly, what kind of space you're working with. Like if you're wanting to get people in a shot behind the bar, you're probably going to need a large background and if you're just wanting like a product shot of your finished cocktail or whatever, that's a little bit smaller space because now you're, you could just use a kitchen table or countertop.

The biggest thing is find a way to make your light as soft as possible. Try to avoid any hard lights, like direct like flashlights right in your face. Like it's just not, it's not a good look. You always want to try to diffuse your light and let what light you already have in the room work for you, not against you. And when I say that, like say if you have a bar and you have a lot of windows space, you have a lot of natural light that comes in. Use it to your advantage. Or if you have a dark hole in the wall bar or a cave type bar speakeasy and you've got a lot of tungsten lighting in there and use that to your advantage to give it that dark speakeasy type look, use that to your advantage. But the best one on one or one on one I could say is try to find your window sources in your room in your bar and use those to your advantage. That's your best free natural lighting source you can possibly get. And then if you are using your own lights, soften them up.

So that's why I say bedsheets, shower curtains. Think of it the way like if you look at a lamp, like if if you're staring at a bulb directly on top of the lamppost, it's a little jarring to look at. But you put that lamp shade on it, it softens it up, that spreads the light out to be a softer across the room, diffusion works the same way. It's how you control your light and you can soften it to where it makes your subject a little bit more presentable. Yes, they're using a flashlight to be among these. But one of the most common lighting mistakes that you see the biggest ones are not using mixed lighting in a way that really works. So say if you have a bar where all of your lights around the bar all tungsten light. So those are your common household lighting. It's a color balance that looks really warm, so it looks good to your eye whenever you're inside. But whenever you start mixing outdoor light, that's more of a blue or color lights and now you have this blue and warm tone conflicting with each other, you kinda have to pick one of the other.

Alright, I'm either gonna shoot this all with tungsten indoor looking light. I'm gonna shoot this all with outdoor lights, but you can also mix it as long as your key light. So whatever you're dominating light on your subject is if it's tungsten and you have a daylight light in the back, make sure it's the smallest amount of daylight light in the back and it played. So like if you have a shot of like a cocktail on the table and there's a, you can see the window in the back, your brain will tell you that right there is going to be some blue light come out of there. So it looks normal to you. But if you don't see that window and then you see a mix of blue light in there, it looks a little cheap. So if you decide to go with daylight, make sure if you have tungsten might you see where the light source is coming from? If that makes sense. So it just kind of helps the brain whenever you see the image, you know why that color is off. Like oh this is an indoor lighting, their lighting, this what they like got it. Where if you don't see the light then where's that orange light coming from?

Unless you're trying to do like accent lightings or something, which is totally different subject to talk about. But the best thing to try to avoid is using a lot of mixed light. It's my best advice to take them out of the other high. They're just a quick message before we get you back to this episode. If you're looking to take your bar restaurant or hospitality business to the next level. I mean to profits of 12 to 15% or more, it's time to take action. Let's start creating your road map to success with our proprietary strategies, tools, resources that will inspire your team, activate your potential and lead your hospitality brand to margins. You never thought possible visit Korg hospitality dot com right after this episode, For more information. Now, back to the bar hacks podcast, you mentioned lighting a cocktail. So what are the best ways to light a cocktail? And also if you want to photograph or video food, they're very similar. So let's say a cocktail. So you're finishing cocktail and this is just basic, this is what you're going to serve to someone at the bar, it has realized real alcohol, real glass.

You want to try to have a soft light source. So your, you have your painter's light shop light, whatever going through a shower curtain or bed sheets. Now you have a soft light source, but you want to watch what the other side of the drink looks like. So if you have too much fall off the other side can just go off in the darkness. So another kind of trick to do is get like white poster board or a white card something that's a big white bounce source and put that on the opposite side of your life. So that way that light hits that light source and you get a nice little soft kickback of white off of that posterboard white card, whatever you can get that at any office office depot, you get off amazon whatever it just helps with the big white light source. Like we have a big bed sheet or a big shower curtain white bounce. It also kind of helps cut the reflections down on the cocktail because you gotta think you're shooting into a small mirror, you have glass, you have ice, you have liquid.

All this stuff is very reflective so you can see a lot of the sharp points of light on it. So if you can soften up your light, it'll help cut that down a little bit, but if you want to get really fancy with it, the main thing is make sure the glass where you're working with is super clean, but there's no fingerprints on it. Try to get as much dust. I mean some of that stuff is going to be an ever come up on it. Make sure to give it a good wipe down and if you're doing the, if you're taking photos of cocktails for presentation stuff like menu things, there's some tricks to it where you have to use some fake objects. So instead of using real ice, you can get off amazon acrylic ice so it looks like real ice cubes, but it doesn't melt. It's in a perfect shape. It's not all chipped up. It doesn't, it doesn't fog the glass up. So you can put that, put acrylic ice in and it'll look like realized. The only downfall is that it doesn't float. So make sure that you have enough in there where it looks like it's weighing itself down.

And then there's ways where you can cheat on the glass and you can get like a matte spray like a clear matte spray that you just do a light spray on the glass and then get a 5050 blend of glycerin and water. And if you spray that on the glass, it'll look like natural ice condensation. So you get all these tricks where you can just control where All right, well, the issue I've always had with, you know, working with real cocktails is like, right, we just poured it. We have about two minutes while it looks perfect before the ice starts to melt water is going to start really beating up on there. That's going to start deluding itself. So the clock's ticking once it's done. But with this you have, you can set up yourself for perfection on the on the glass. I think that's pretty similar when you're also shooting food, same thing with food too. The viewer doesn't know that it's not real. I mean, you you wanted to look as appetizing as real in person and the minute it starts to do that, just scrap what you're doing and start over like the minute it starts to look fake or just not appetizing, rethink it.

And that makes sense. So, you definitely hinted at a lot of your favorite tricks already. But what are some of your other favorite budget lighting hex using just whatever is available in the room. If you have ladders, you can use those, those stands clothes pins or your best friend because you can use them to flip things around. White. Index cards are good because you can use those little bounce cards behind the back of a cocktail and the glass kind of diffuses the white, so you can't see it, but you get this nice illumination from behind the glass and the bed sheets and shop lights are definitely that's that's my tried and true that if you don't have a professional lighting kit or lighting package, there's ways around it. Your best option is is obviously to invest in a true lighting kit and or hire a professional to do it for you. That's that's your 100% best option. But if you know, you want to start doing this more often on your own, it's worth it to try just because the cost is so low to get some painters like shop lights, try modifying, put them on dimmers, it's an experiment, just see what works and what looks good for you, but just try to avoid direct light.

Like don't do flashlight in the face type looks, you know, just try to soften up your light and just make it look as soft and big broad lighting source as possible. And it doesn't matter what kind of camera. I've seen some great stuff coming right off the phone in your pocket. You know, if you can get lighting and presentation down, it really doesn't matter what kind of camera you're shooting on. I was gonna ask if you And not to cause like an Android Apple fight, but if like an iPhone is better than an android or if there is uh you can go to a pawn shop if there's like a camera that you recommend like a Sony A six or less or more. I mean, first and foremost what you have in your pocket, it's probably your best choice because it's, it's already there. You have it android or Apple. I mean phone technology and cameras have just gotten so much better in the past three or four years now. I mean it's unbelievable the images you can pull off of those. But if you're looking to pick up one, check Ebay craigslist, your local camera shop, find something used.

I mean you can, you can get a body and a lens a decent one sometimes for under $1000. And the advantage of that as you just get a lot more color space and the fouls, you have the option of putting a nice professional lens on it. So you get that nice creamy depth of field and those macro shots and you can recompose the shot and the edit. And the key thing is there's a lot of people I noticed just don't edit their photos after they take them with their video. They don't edit it. Always, always try to edit your photo and video to give it a little bit different look than what just comes out of the camera because the camera, if you're shooting an auto, it's set up to just shoot it as perfect as it thinks. It can make it. But if you can go in and mess with the saturation and the contrast and the shadows going and just play around with it and see if you get a different look like you can get so many different looks out of one shot that you can get a little bit more range out of one photo than just using it as it is.

They're an app beyond the camera or photo app that's already on phones that you always have on your devices. The stock photo app is actually pretty good. Especially the Apple one has gotten even better but I have a adobe membership account. So with that you have access to lightroom and Photoshop and lightroom and Photoshop actually have a camera app. That is incredible where it gives you all the professional options that like a real stills camera would have. But with your cell phone now you're talking about professional grade for the operator who really wants to give this a go, they have the budget to invest in professional grade equipment. What would you recommend? Even if it's just brands to check out or devices that you really swear by, if you have the money to invest in it absolutely suggest doing that because that's going to result in your best look because you're buying equipment that's made to do photo and video instead of where shop lights and painters lights are used for construction people.

So you know if you invest in this gear, the big thing to get is a bicolor light. So that's a light that you can choose? Either indoor or outdoor lighting can, you know, if you're shooting at all tungsten, you can dial it into tungsten, dial it into daylight. So get a bicolor light, make sure that you get a soft box attachment for it. So they have, what basically is the bed sheet or the shower curtain. They have professional attachments to where they have these magic cloths and these grid costs that can diffuse the light as well as focus the light as well too. So if you're looking into buying that some brands that I always recommend, aperture is really good. It's an inexpensive pro consumer grade brand that a lot of up and coming and I know a lot of people professionally use it day to day. They're just inexpensive, pretty decent quality lights that that can do just about anything and they've got tons of little rechargeable lights as well all the way up to like lights that you can write a whole movie set.

Another one as I can. Just try to avoid the ones that like if you're shopping on amazon, always always always read the reviews and make sure that whenever you read the reviews, read into it for the actual quality of the product don't look at like oh well it was two days late shipping. So I'm giving it one star like that. I don't care about it being late shipping. I want to know what the product was. So always look and read the details on the product, see how other professionals have used it and then the best absolute best resource is online. Youtube has, I mean millions of videos online that can talk you through setups and different equipment, how to use it. I mean I just did a quick youtube search on just lighting, food and drink earlier today and there were a couple 100 things just populated that were posted in the past week. The resources out there to get good shots, video or photo there at your fingertips. Can you give us some advice for finding someone and working with them as far as like how much lead time should they be planning on having them come scout the location and maybe how much they should consider for their budget.

Yeah, I mean that that's number one. If you want to go true pro route hire professional do it because if you're going to invest in here, which you'll pay half of that investment, you can pay to hire someone for the day that probably already has all this gear and knows what to do with it. But definitely if you approach either a photographer or a cinematographer about this, you know, just be as up front as as possible on what kind of budget you have to work with because that really mandates to them, their bounds of how far they can go. If you have like an endless supply of cash that you can throw at it And the options are endless on what you can do for photo and video. But if you know I'm only, I'm only working in with like a $2,000 budget. All right, here's what you can get for this. Like just be super transparent about what initial budget you have and just, you know, lay out the expectations early on. This is what I would like or either I don't know what I want, but this is, you know, some, some things that have really caught my eye that I love to replicate, you know, show them something to work with if you don't already have a vision in mind and let them kind of help you out with that and then lay down the expectation of when deliveries wannabe because I mean if you're hiring this person, you get to kind of call the shots on when and where and how you want your stuff delivered to if you're paying for it.

So you know, lay down the expectation of them and the groundwork if here's what I need it, I need it by. Here's what I want to be used for. Definitely let let them come in and scout beforehand and just see what space they're working with because who knows, they might have a better suggestion on hey, if your bar and restaurant might not work, I've got a studio space or I know someone who has a bar, studio and restaurant space that they just do product and food exclusively in, you know, use them as a resource more than anything, especially, you know, even if it's something you want to do yourself go to a cinematographer photographer and just be straight up with them that look, I'd love to hire you but I just don't have the funds to do it. But if you have anyone that you recommend that's up and coming and wanting to, to learn this that you think would be a good fit, I'm always a big advocate of trying to get someone there start, it's worth the risk some time to work with someone who's not as experienced if they can launch their career and also help you out in the end too.

So I'm a big fan of advocating for opening up the door for the little guys who are trying to get in there to the professional stuff, you know, you gotta get your start somewhere, but those are kind of the key things I've, I'd say it's just be super transparent and you know, use them as a resource. There we go. I I usually ask if there's a bit of trivia for the industry that you're in, that you can share, but you let me know you have some really cool stories that you can share. We talked about one right before we were recording, so if you want to give our audience that one, yeah, you know, just the industry, I've been in, I've I've been really fortunate to work with a lot of cool people, you know, from the production side to the talent side and worked a lot of celebrities and NFL players and all sorts of athletes. But there was one time I was in this was probably about 10 years ago I was I just bought a brand new camera and was dating a girl who was living in D. C. At the time and flew up to D. C. And we're all excited about my new camera. Let me go out and get some just nice shots of like mall capitol building monuments and you know, just to really try it out.

But as I'm walking around it's a huge gathering of people around the World War two monuments and see all these flags and then there's like a big HBO banner. I'm like what's going on here? Like why is HBO in the middle of and I just walk up and since I had a camera in my hand people just assumed I was a part of the media so they just let me right in. So now I'm on the platform with all the media people and I look and here's tom Hanks, steven, Spielberg, all this all these other actors, the Ceo of HBO and it was their big launch of the show, the pacific I just happened to be there the same date and time that they were going to do this big launch of it from the from the D. C. Ball and once it was over with like well that was cool. I got to watch these people talk but I got kind of escorted in with the group like right keep going, keep going. All right, we're going over here and then now I'm along this red carpet where every celebrity that was up there is walking by doing one on one interviews with everyone. So I got a chance to meet tom Hanks and steven Spielberg and shoot a quick interview with them right before they realized I wasn't supposed to be there.

I was able to dip out and not have to worry about getting in trouble. But it's a great, great story to always remember that. Always remember that. I appreciate your time brooks. This was awesome. A lot of great information. I think a lot of stuff operators can use to protect their budgets and still get some great content out there or if they want to spend a lot more of the budget you gave them tips. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I mean there's a lot of up and coming photographers and cinematographers that would love to get food and beverage on their demo reels. So it's a, it's a good barter sometimes with video and photo people where hey, if you want to come shoot some photo and video bar and restaurant, you can have all of it to use for promotional material to potentially get you a bigger job down the line. So there's ways where you can kind of trade with people if if you're not looking to take the dive into doing it yourself, there's that. But if you're looking to do it yourself, just go all in and just get creative, get experimental, you know, learn from your mistakes and lean on others advice.

I mean, just talk to people who are experts in the field, Youtube. I mean, there's, there's so many resources out there for people to really enhance their lighting skills and I'll give a link down in the description. But how can people connect with you On Instagram at Brooks Quinn 1? I'm on linkedin as well to facebook. So just look me up. I do consulting as well too. And then if you're in the southeastern area, I'm glad to uh make my way to you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. All right, Thanks David, Thank you for listening to the bar hacks podcast produced by Korg hospitality and hosted by me. David Clement. If you like what you're hearing, please rate, review, subscribe and share. Follow us on twitter at pass bar hacks and instagram at bar hacks. Talk to you soon.

Episode 49 with Brooks Quinn
Episode 49 with Brooks Quinn
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