Drew Geraci is an award winning photographer and currently the lead multimedia producer for The Washington Times in Washington, DC and the owner of District 7 Media, LLC. He has served nearly a decade in the U.S. Navy as a photographer's mate and attended the military motion media course at Syracuse University.
His background includes photography, videography, broadcast journalism, motion HDR time-lapse photography, 3D animation, motion graphics, web/graphic design, and good old fashion story-telling. Andrew has worked with Director David Fincher, Editor Angus Wall, HBO, Netflix, NFL, Discovery, Nike, ESPN, CNN, PBS, FOX, FBI, and various local DC companies.
Now, Drew and his crew shot the timelapse sequences for the opening credits of House of Cards, Netflix's first original series. The $100 million political drama (shot on Red Epic) was produced by David Fincher & Kevin Spacey and stars Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, Robin Wright and Kate Mara. On February 1st, the company rolled out all 13 episodes (1st season) of the series simultaneously with huge success. Each episode starts with the beautiful timelapse work of District 7.
House of Cards Opening Sequence
Alex Maragos: So Andrew, when did you start working with Netflix on House of Cards? How everything got started?
Andrew Geraci: I received a phone call back in March of 2012, from one of the executive producers of the show. She asked if I would be interested in working with David Fincher and if I had time to sit down with him. I honestly thought it was a joke. It wasn't. I ended up meeting him on an unseasonably warm March afternoon for lunch at Union Station, in Washington DC.
The first thing he said was, "Hey Drew! I'm a big fan of your work." He then proceeded to name off specific productions and shots that I had created in the past. I was sort of blown away. In my head I wanted to say, "Hey David! Holy crap. I love your movies. Put me to work." I ended up just saying thanks and told him what a pleasure it was to be able to meet with him.
• How was your collaboration with David Fincher?
We talked for awhile about time-lapse photography and how it could impact the show. He asked me if I would be up for creating a variety of scenes for the intro, all showing DC in a dirty, gritty, grungy way. I told him that shouldn't be too hard. He was very open to the idea of letting me choose, pick, and compose nearly 99% of the shots, which left a lot of room for creativity.
• How long did it took you to shoot all sequences?
We started shooting in March and wrapped up the final shot in August of 2012. It was nearly 6 months of producing more than 6TB worth of imagery.
• We see over 30 timelapse clips during the opening credits, how many did you shot?
In all, there were over 120 individual shots that we produced over the course of 6 months.
• What was the biggest challenge for you on capturing DC via timelapse?
The biggest challenge for us (as it is with any other photographer / videographer in DC) is the permitting. National Park Service and DC Police make it very hard to setup and shoot without the proper permits. The downside to this is we had to shoot on scheduled days, which if you know anything about timelapse, you know that you can't schedule a day to get a specific shot. You have to take it when it's available. This made shooting some of the scenes difficult because the weather conditions weren't appropriate.
• Which Motion Control System did you use and why?
We chose the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero to shoot all of our motion scenes. One of the main reasons we chose to use them is because of their mobility. Compared to other systems the setup time and space imprint is relatively small. Other systems out there require larger setups and more space, something DC doesn't have.
Behind the scenes: House of Cards Opening Sequence
• What was your gear?
We shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III. Lenses included, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II, Canon 24mm f/2.8, Canon 100-400mm F/4, Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 II. We used Manfrotto 550XProB tripods and a variety of LEE 100mm filters.
• What was your settings on Day & Night timelapse?
Setting change depending on the situation so there's no one setting that I can comment on. Because we shot completely in HDR (High Dynamic Range) it means we captured 3 separate frames with 3 separate exposures which made blending and transitioning easier. There are other methods out there (a few that work incredibly well, but they're a trade secret at this point).
• What's next?
We just completed a variety of timelapses for Super Bowl advertising and the NFL. It also looks like we may be working on a feature film along with some documentaries later this year. We'll also be testing out new timelapse techniques and hopefully we'll be able to share those with the public soon. We're super stoked and excited to be apart of this new timelapse movement that seems to be sweeping the globe.