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Solstice -- Week Four


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 April 2006 - 03:02 PM

I've never been on a shoot with this much night exterior work on a short schedule -- it's really beating everyone up, and I've got producers, AD, director, staring at me as I wait for condors to move, lights to be set-up, etc. Hey, I warned everyone that night exterior photography can't be done as fast as other situations...

Because of a wacky schedule of mostly nights, for some reason, we had to begin our late afternoon shooting by tenting in a car for shooting a fake nighttime driving shot. In between set-ups, as it was sunset, I ran out of the tent to grab some shots of the actors swimming in the lake. I've been having problems shooting this huge Ford Expedition car because the back seats have a three-stop tinting on the windows, so no matter how I try and pump up the lighting back there, it always seems to plunge into darkness compared to the front seat. And the ND looks even heavier when viewed at a raking angle.

Shot a night exterior porch scene of five people playing Trivial Pursuit where I lit them with a single soft light falling from a window, with a little blue moonlight edge about two and a half stops under, so mostly just the look of one light. Since they were sitting in a circle, it meant one person was front lit and one person backlit in almost silhouette. Fuji Eterna 500T at 320 ASA, T/2.8.

Got an email from the editor, through the producers, complaining about some soft focus in some of the shots. I don't know what to tell them except that I can't really light big night scenes to more than a T/2.8 and I'm running two cameras all the time to get the coverage on these actors, and invariably one is a 100mm trying to follow an actor moving around with almost no time for focus marks, so the focus buzzing is going to happen!

Shot a campfire scene where for the wide shot, I buried two orange-gelled 4' Kino tubes in the ground between the actors and the fire, which gave me just under at T/2.8 -- a mix of real firelight plus the soft Kinos. For the close-ups where there was no fire at all (too crackly for sound) I switched to using two 1K's on a double-head, gelled orange, and going through a 4'x4' frame of 216. One was on a flicker box and the other on a dimmer. For another scene where the actress is backlit by the distant fire and sees her shadow on a wall of a shed, I switched to a 10K on a dimmer, to light the lawn with firelight, going through a 4'x4' frame of Opal (to keep the shadow she makes sharper) and I got a good flicker effect just by having two grips randomly wave their hands in front of the 10K.

On the third day we finally moved from the lake house location where we've been for a week and a half or so to a nature preserve with a swamp and an abondoned brick house. Well, that move went as badly as I've ever seen in a while... Transpo got some of the vehicles stuck in mud at the lake house and some of the vehicles that they got to set managed to also get stuck in mud, my condor sank into mud, and during the confusion, while I was trying to grab an available light scene in the woods with just a camera, since I had no electric or grip equipment yet available, I hear that the transpo people, in their confusion, had forgetten to pick up the actors at their hotel. So even though I could have gotten a shot off by 4:30PM, it wasn't until 7PM, with just a half-hour of weak light left, that I got an actor to shoot. And again, I was rushing to get the scene, shooting handheld, no marks, two cameras. And because we missed so many day scenes that day, when we were starting at 4PM most days with just three hours of light, now on the next two days I was also rushed trying to cram the remaining day work in at the tail of each day. Important moments were being shot with just a wide shot and a tighter angle, two shots, and then we'd run across the nature center and do another scene in just two shots, the last one of course being a close-up on a 100mm lens at T/2-2.8 split with the actress walking towards and away from lens, with no depth of field.

Then last night we had all the rain scenes in the woods and ruins, and the only water truck we could get was underpowered, so we couldn't get good water pressure, and spent a lot of time moving rain towers around to get them as close to the edge of frame on every set-up. And then equipment started breaking down in every department before we could roll. I had a 4K shut-off twice, then the remote focus on the steadicam broke down, then something at the sound cart stopped working, and I've got the producers saying "we've got to shoot!" Luckily we managed to get our last big set-up lit quickly by floating a lighting balloon and swinging the condor over, and then I faked all the coverage against the same set of trees, with the same backlight from the condor, just flipping the side key light to be correct. The last scene was shot as dawn was coming and filling in the shadows with blue light. I pulled all the 1/2 CTO off of the HMI's to get a full blue moonlight, then I put an 81EF filter in the cameras to restore the color to half blue, so as the sky lightened, the color of the ground was still correct. It actually had a nice look with the blue dawn light for fill and the HMI as a big backlight, plus rain and smoke through the shot.

So we pretty much made that day more or less. But we owe little pick-ups from other night scenes at the lake house that I'll have to fake somewhere, like some more close-ups at the campfire.
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 29 April 2006 - 05:32 PM

Geez this shoot sounds like murder.

Come shoot my film in October, one location, two actors. All shot indoors, complete control over the light, wind, rain, etc. No need to move the cast and crew from day to day. I'm not even starting until 11am each day, those 6am crew calls are awful. Now that I'm in the drivers seat we do things my way :)

R,
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#3 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 12:10 AM

beautiful dialouge here david. you should write a book! your improv when it comes to overcoming the pitfalls has come in handy...

so , are you coming on the set speaking to everyone or are you coming on the set and as your grip speaks to you you immediately tell him/her to "set this stand up, move that light over..." ? :-) (a la akellah the bee journals)
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#4 Sean Azze

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 12:40 AM

This show sounds extreme in terms of how many things you have to do on the fly, but would you say in general that on most shoots the majority of your set ups involve some sort of compromise? Does time usually rear its ugly head on your best intentions, and if so, is that because of a low budget? Are the guys with the 60 million dollar budgets able to work more calmly?

Man, I hope Akeelah gets you on some bigger sets, Mr Mullen. Considering how good your work is on the smaller stuff, I bet you'd have a field day with more time and money. Then again, I'm assuming all this since you haven't answered this post yet. :D
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 04:06 AM

I'm not even starting until 11am each day, those 6am crew calls are awful. Now that I'm in the drivers seat we do things my way :)

R,


Richard,

I like the sound of your schedule!

Stephen
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#6 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 04:53 AM

This show sounds extreme in terms of how many things you have to do on the fly, but would you say in general that on most shoots the majority of your set ups involve some sort of compromise?


My experience is that filmmaking is ALL compromise, all the time:-)
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#7 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 06:43 AM

i've been reading your production notes with a lot of interest David, you can't get enough praise for taking the time out of a busy schedule to make them. Good luck!
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 01:51 PM

I'm reminded of this story in John Boorman's book on making "The Emerald Forest" where Kubrick asks him how it's going and Boorman says that it's been a hard shoot. Kubrick replied, "They're always hard, John." Which John admitted was true.
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#9 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 03:04 PM

+1 to Adam's "Filmmaking is ALL compromise, all the time".
Orchestration of comprise with occasional exorcism.
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#10 Tom Bays

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 04:03 PM

It's all your fault David :rolleyes:

Shoot ENG and call it a look.
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#11 Tom Bays

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 09:07 AM

When your shooting something so quickly with a heavy schedule...How do you maintain a consistent look? I't would seem easy to leave the viewer displaced by inconsistencies. Do you ever think...they'll correct this in post so...

This is a question from the uniformed on such a level
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#12 Michael Collier

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 04:13 PM

If only you were in alaska. At 7pm (this time of year) we have what looks like mid day sun for at least another 2 hours, then 2 hours of magic hour and maybe an hour or two you could do Day for night with.
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