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Solstice -- Week Five (Final)


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 09:39 PM

What a brutal last week! Another week of mostly night work until sunrise and beyond.

Monday involved returning to a location from the first week for night scenes, a small bridge on a dirt road that crosses through some bayou channels. A difficult location because the road is narrow and surrounded by swamp with almost no shoulder, and the only open space across the bridge for parking equipment is visible in half the shots. So we are always crammed along the narrow edge of the only road in and out of the area, and I am always having to get trucks and equipment shifted out of each shot. We had one day scene to shoot on the bridge, which was great for some angles because the sun was setting in the background, flaring off of the bayou, but the reverse angles unfortunately put the low sun between the camera (on a Steadicam) and all the action, creating a shadowing problem. I had a grip handhold a 4x4 frame of Opal diffusion to soften the setting sun on the actress's face as we Steadicamed back with her, plus it softened any camera shadow that might happen. Then of course we lost the light on the last few shots. The last one was an insert of a car side mirror reflecting the bridge in the background -- I had to push the Eterna 250D stock by one stop for that one.

We then switched to shooting night scenes, which took a while to set-up because we couldn't do any pre-lighting while we were shooting on the bridge during the day, because everyone had to hide from the cameras. I had one condor on the opposite bank of the bridge -- the open space side -- on the bank of the bayou channel, with an 18K HMI with 1/2 CTO. And then way down the road on the opposite direction, the forest/swamp side of the channel, I had another condor with another 18K HMI to backlight the far reverse angle, although the only clear spot to park a condor was so far down the road that it only lit the distant background part of the road. For the foreground action, I mainly used 1200w HMI PAR's on high combo stands. Since most of these shots involved rain, I always had to sneak some sort of back/edge light to see the rain. We had to shoot a stunt involving a police car hitting someone as they ran across the road. The body of the character ended up laying in front of the car (originally it was supposed to roll over the roof and end up behind the car but that's not how the stunt worked out.) But this change meant that I had the body backlit in the rain by the car headlights, which looked nice and was a break from all the moonlight look. I cheated a 650w tweenie to one side of the car to augment the backlight from the headlights (which had to be ND gelled to keep the lens flare to a minimum).

I've never had to deal with as many bugs in the air as that night in the swamp. Changing a scrim in a light involved swallowing a lot of flying bugs -- it was horrible.

The next two days were spent at a mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans, a nice change from all this work in the swamps and woods. We had to Steadicam through a party at night. Because there was no way to rig to the ceilings and the cameras wandered through so many rooms with a wide-angle lens, I ended up lighting it mainly by just putting in some brighter bulbs in the practicals and hanging a Chinese Lantern taped to the ceiling for one room. So the look was more soft and low-con than I originally wanted, but there was no way to create spottier lighting in this space, not with the camera movement.

We got some more notes about a focus problem on a scene from the previous week, a wide shot made on a 27mm lens at f/5.6 where the middle of the frame was slightly soft but the edges were sharp. Panavision rechecked our cameras & lenses for the third time and found no problem. One suggestion from the CML was that the film had been overdried by the lab and had curled, and that rewashing and drying may fix it. Haven't tried that yet.

Both days at the house involved a shot where the sunrise caused an increase in blue fill outside the windows or doors of the location. I suppose I could have tented the house but I would have lost the depth of the background, which was a backyard swimming pool in one scene behind a huge bank of french doors. We got the wide master off before it got light but only the first close-ups were dark enough in the background before getting too blue from the dawn. The other close-ups had walls in the background so I could tent the room.

Some of our delays while shooting came from the fact that our lead actress has scenes with herself playing an identical twin, so we had to deal with shooting parts of scenes and then waiting for her to be turned around to the other character, with a wig, etc. And we had to shoot one scene outdoors with a greenscreen so we could have her walk past herself as the twin.

The last two days of the shoot were in a warehouse with some sets built. We had two nightmare dream sequences to shoot involving gallons of mud being pumped into a set/tank, one that surrounds a bed and another that fills a shower stall. As you can imagine, these were somewhat time-consuming to set-up so it didn't help to have many other scenes to shoot on multiple sets on these two days, plus every shot owed from previous days. We spent the first day on the set shooting a dramatic scene in a bathroom where a character commits suicide and is found by several other characters. Even with the ability to remove some of the walls, it was tedious to shoot all the angles.

On the last day, our call sheet had 17 scenes listed, five different sets, nearly nine pages, and two involved these stunts with the mud tank. We worked 20 hours on our last day, from 7:30PM to 3:30PM on the next day, giving me two hours after wrap to go back to my hotel, shower and pack, and get on my return flight home to Los Angeles, so I missed a night of sleep. At some point, I got asked if I could light the scenes badly (or less well) in order to work faster, but I personally feel that it takes just as long to light a scene badly so that wasn't going to help anyway. It's not like I was on a real location with some natural light to take advantage of -- these were sets with no ceilings and some of the scenes were day interiors so I had to create a sunlit look. I couldn't even just bounce a lit off of a ceiling and shoot like that.

It's not like I wasn't compromising my work much of the time just to attempt to stay on schedule as it was, so asking me to do less good work just to be faster was a ridiculous suggestion -- I was trying to keep the lighting and set-ups as simple as I could already! I mean, what did they expect when they put 17 scenes on a call sheet, some involving stunts? I went to work knowing that it was going to be a hellishly long day.

The last day started with some scenes on a small bathroom set. One involved a close-up of an actor taking a shower that I lit a 575w HMI PAR creating a hot top/backlight effect. Then I had a dream sequence to shoot where a Steadicam wanders into the bathroom up to a closed shower curtain with a dark figure standing in silhouette. I papered over a small window behind the figure & curtain but to create a better silhouette behind the frosted plastic curtain, I taped some Kinoflo tubes to the wall behind the person to create a glow around their outline.

Then we moved onto one of the stunts in a shallow tank with a bed in the center. I had one camera directly overhead shooting the wide shot of the bed on a platform the grips built into twin steel beams over the warehouse space -- when I saw those beams, I had the art department build the tank directly under them. Another camera shot a close-up from a high position on a ladder. The shot was lit with a single Kinoflo Wall-O-Light from one side, gelled for moonlight color (in this case 1/2 CTO on Kino 55 tubes) and the fill came from some white bounce cards positioned opposite the Kino. On cue, while the actress was sleeping in the bed, the tank filled up with fake mud, covering her. In fact, we had set-up for this shot the day before but our first attempt failed because she, her pillow, and half the bed sheets floated up with the rising mud. So we stapled everything down and gave her a weight belt and something to hold onto to keep herself under the mud until she sat up out of it on cue.

Then we moved outside at night to shoot close-ups from out bonfire scene of a week ago or so. I had a firelight effect on the faces (two 1K's w/ Full CTO on flicker boxes through a 4'x4' frame of 216, low on the ground) plus shot through real flames from a flame bar.

Around this time we broke for lunch.

Then we moved back onto the stage and shot some steadicam scenes on a bedroom set, lit for late afternoon. I decided to use up my remaining 250D stock with HMI's rather than use tungsten and 500T. The window areas were lit with hard and soft light coming through, but that didn't reach all the way to the opposite ends of the room near the entrance, so I rigged some Kinoflos to the ceiling plus a 575w HMI PAR to continue the same lighting effect deeper into the room. I think there were four daytime scenes in the room.

Then we had three night scenes in the set, lit for moonlight by using smaller HMI's with 1/2 CTO and some tungstens with 1/2 CTB. Switched to the 500T stock.

By this point, we were having second meal.

We then started the lake house bathroom scenes -- again about three or four scenes in that set, not the same bathroom set earlier in the day, which was for the mansion scenes -- that culminated in a dream where the actress is trapped in a shower stall filling to the ceiling with mud. The stall had been made out of steal with a porthole cut in for looking into from a different angle than the shower stall door. Once the shower door was sealed, the only way in and out of the stall involved a ladder and climbing out of the ceiling. The only light source came from a small window that I frosted and put a 2K through, but once the mud rose to a certain point, this would be covered over, so I also lit it from overhead with a Chinese Lantern, would be would easy to swing out of the way to gain access to the stall. The only camera challenge was that focusing had to be done by eye since there no way to stick out a tape measure, and the actress was going to moving around the small stall as she panicks and struggles to get out, so basically focusing was a guess at that point. And it was all close-up work to hide the fact that the actress was not nude. It looked great though when the mud rose and covered the porthole / camera lens, very creepy. And it was a great shot to end a shoot on, rather than often you end on some boring little shot of someone turning a doorknob or something and then calling picture wrap. But we were physically drained at the end of that day.
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#2 Barry Cheong

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 10:33 PM

Thanks David for sharing your experiences over the last few weeks. They have been interesting and inspiring to read.

Will you be posting any pictures of any of your setups?
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#3 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 11:17 PM

i want to echo barrys remarks.. this is stuff you never hear or see... you only see the good out of a production. dave i dont know why you spend the time to write this but its highly apprecated! im also glad you used a lot of Steadicam in the movie! :-)
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 12:43 AM

Since I lost my still camera on the shoot, I only have a couple of photos, not particularly interesting. I'm hoping the stills person can send me some of myself at work and some of the set-ups.

Here are two.

The first was for a close-up I had to shoot of someone standing in front of an ambulance, a pick-up from a day elsewhere that was shot at magic hour. So I recreated the soft blue-ish dusk light by bouncing two HMI's off of a 20'x20' (I think) frame of UltraBounce. I think the HMI's were a 4K and 6K. But because I only needed an f/2.8 at 320 ASA (500T stock) and the dusk light had to be a stop underexposed (i.e. my meter needed the soft light to read at f/2.0) I ended up cramming every scrim into the light and then using double nets also in front of the lights to knock it way down. I probably could have gotten away with using two 1200w HMI PAR's instead. The interior of the ambulance in the background had two 4' K32 Kino tubes taped to the ceiling. I also had a police light bar off-camera to recreate the original scene, which had police cars in it.

The second was from the mud pit gag where the bed was surrounded by a rising tide of mud, lit with just a Kino Wall-O-Light. I had a frame of 1/2 CTO to create a half-blue look using K55 tubes, plus some 1/4 Minus Green gel because the Kino was reading a little green that day (I think the heat of New Orleans was causing the Kinos to get greener.) I had a 4'x4' black floppie as a top cut on the wall and the sides of the tank created a bottom cut, so I had a slash of soft light hitting the bed.

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#5 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 07:42 AM

good stills!

pictures like these help a lot us learners!!!!! its quite funny i was shooting an ambulance scene a week ago and i used the same setup with two 1200 hmis and ultrabounce!!!!! didnt have the kino tubes though.

great job, cant wait to see the movie
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#6 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 04:00 PM

There must be at least 10 scrims in front of that light!
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#7 Barry Cheong

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 06:20 PM

Can someone describe Ultrabounce - colour, texture, etc? How does it compare to bleached Muslin? Is it a Matthew's product?

Thanks!
Barry
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#8 Hamza Ben Khenissi

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Posted 09 August 2015 - 06:49 PM

Hey Barry this the best I can do to help you.

 

 

http://www.theragpla...om/bounces.html


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