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My next job is a change of pace


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 12:11 AM

I've been hired to be co-DP on the HBO series "Big Love", starting in mid-August through mid-February. Shoots here in Los Angeles, mostly in Santa Clarita. The other DP is from last season, Jim Glennon.

Exciting and a bit daunting since I'm more used to feature production, although the HBO episodes tend to be shot more like mini-features, approx. two weeks prep / two weeks shoot. The whole season will be cut and color-corrected as a whole before it airs (next spring, I assume.)

Don't know how much I'll be able to discuss production while it is happening except in vague terms that don't give any story elements away....
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#2 Bob Hayes

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 12:14 AM

Congrats. What format are you shooting?
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 12:25 AM

Last season was 35mm, Kodak 5218 and 5212, Panavision cameras using the older non-Primo primes, plus different zooms. It's a 16x9 show, so I assume 3-perf, not 4-perf. Posted in HD.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 12:26 AM

Congratulations David! That's terrific.

Please do keep us updated as much as you can. TV shooting really keeps you on your toes, trying to balance artistic integrity with the pace, coverage, and budget necessary with TV.
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#5 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 12:56 AM

Congrats! I remember you mentioned some concern about it being such a departure for you stylistically. I am sure you will come up with some ways to keep it interesting.


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#6 Chris Pritzlaff

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 03:40 AM

Need a camera intern/PA? :D :D :D :D
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#7 Vincent Pascoe

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 03:48 AM

Congrates! my wife and I love that show.


few questions...


is the entire backyard all on a set? includeing EXT DAY sceences?

how do you feel about "Replicating" the look that the first DP set? and how do you discuse/set up that?

multiple cameras?


Vincent Pascoe

Edited by Vincent Pascoe, 29 June 2006 - 03:50 AM.

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#8 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 06:44 AM

congrats David...

my question... two DPs? how will the rols be played out? is one DP over the other or will they be running two seperate crews that they need seperate DPs for the units? did they have 2 DPs last season?

never heard of the show but i know the production factor just went way up since they hired you!
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 10:56 AM

The look is under the supervision of the producers mainly. What I've heard is that since HBO is happy with the look of last season, the goal is more just to tweak it here and there, plus work on the classic technical problem of making the backyard set look more believable for day exteriors (there is no real world copy of that location so it is always on the set.) Some of the solution is lighting, but there are some engineering challenges to adding more lights to the grid in the warehouse (weight limits on the structure), some of it is trying to figure out what works better lens and angle-wise. In this respect, I will defer more to Jim Glennon since he spent a whole season dealing with that set, but we've been tossing ideas back & forth.

It's the age-old problem of not being able to create a bright enough sharp single source that covers an open expanse -- in retrospect, they should have probably designed the set with a big spreading tree that blocked part of the light and created more shade, but now we can't really change the continuity of the set too much. The three houses are two stories tall and reach to the top of the warehouse, so it's also hard to get a big light above them quickly enough, and the roof can't support just leaving some big heavy Dino's, let's say, rigged over the hard-to-reach spots. But I'd love to figure out a way to recreate the effect of the houses shadowing half the backyard so that someone walks into the sun part of the way, or can stand more in the shadow with a hot background.

As far as asserting my own style, the challenge will more be matching the established style but adding whatever personal touches I feel I can get away with, so that will be interesting, so to speak. It's more or less a natural-looking realistic show, so where the conflict might come is more in issues like how much do you tweak to make the actresses look their best without crossing the line into glamour, and how much to play up the comedy in terms of lightness. On the other hand, HBO doesn't really want the show to look like a normal TV show, but more like a mini-feature, so we'll see if I get all the subtle balances right that satisfy everyone including myself. I'd like to be able to push the natural-lit look more and create some greater variety in time-of-day, etc. but of course, time may be a limiting factor.
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#10 John Holland

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 11:06 AM

Hi David is this a single camera shoot ? john holland .
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#11 Max Jacoby

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 11:57 AM

There is an article in the April 2006 issue of ICG magazine about the show. Plenty of interesting actors I must say...
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#12 Adam White

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 12:23 PM

Hello David,

Can I ask how the producers came to approach you? Was it based on a particular piece or pieces? Or was it based on the level of work over the last 15yrs or so. The show has its own style, of course, but did they feel you would compliment it?
I was interested in how producers go about researching DoP's
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 07:56 PM

I'm not sure. I know the producer on my last feature recommended me to someone he knew who works for the production company, but I don't know if that was before or after they thought of me -- but I think it was my last producer who dropped my name with the company in passing conversation.

Other times, agents will send out reels and resumes when they hear something is about to go into production.

And other times, directors or producers seek me out after seeing a particular film I shot or simply because they've heard of me.

It's a 2-camera show.
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#14 Tom Bays

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 09:33 PM

Say hi to Chloe for me :wub:
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#15 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 03:55 AM

I'm not sure. I know the producer on my last feature recommended me to someone he knew who works for the production company, but I don't know if that was before or after they thought of me -- but I think it was my last producer who dropped my name with the company in passing conversation.

Other times, agents will send out reels and resumes when they hear something is about to go into production.

And other times, directors or producers seek me out after seeing a particular film I shot or simply because they've heard of me.

It's a 2-camera show.


I'm curious, you're shooting a television episode in the time you are able to shoot a feature in, does this make it likely that your going to be working at a slower pace (for you), or does the requirements for extra coverage in television make more demands to complete more.
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#16 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:28 AM

Last season was 35mm, Kodak 5218 and 5212, Panavision cameras using the older non-Primo primes, plus different zooms. It's a 16x9 show, so I assume 3-perf, not 4-perf. Posted in HD.

Congrats, David, on your new project!

Sorry for such dumb questions, but these are some I've always wondered about concerning shooting film for television:

What is the typical frame rate which is used, and why? Is it 24 fps? 30? Or, for a production primarily shot for TV distribution in a PAL region, 25 fps?

I'm guessing it depends on the type of show: 30 fps might be better for a TV soap opera, whereas 24 fps might be better for a drama?

Aside from issues of "look", I imagine shooting film at 24 fps costs less compared to 30 fps. Is look or cost the most common reason one or the other frame rate is used with film for TV?

And finally, with an eye to possible DVD distribution, has this changed/influenced the film frame rates used for TV productions?
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 10:19 AM

24 fps is the most common rate for film shot for NTSC / HDTV here. 30 fps is used rarely, partially because it does not convert to PAL as well, and most shows end up being shown overseas as well.

A few people also think that 30 fps film transferred to 60i looks too "videoish" because of the smoother motion, but I don't think so.

You do need slightly more light for 30 fps and use up a little more film.

I think when the soap operas, usually shot here on 60i NTSC, switched to HDTV, they had an option to use 24P or 30P, but I think many opted to stick to tradition and use 60i.

The biggest change really for TV has been the need to create a 16x9 HD version more than any problems with putting it out on DVD. That has a trickle-down effect in that on DVD you may get to see the 16x9 version even if the show originally aired cropped to 4x3.

Luckily for me, the show is composed for 16x9, not both 4x3 and 16x9.

---

To answer the other question:

It won't be a slower pace since it's about 5 to 6 pages per day I think -- very similar to my features, but yes, probably the need for more coverage plus wanting to keep to 12-hour days will give me plenty of work...

Also, it's a fairly big cast which makes the coverage go up exponentially.
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#18 Evan Winter

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 03:57 PM

congratulations on the job! it sounds like it'll be an incredible experience and an interesting challenge. please let us know as much as you can about the technical/creative work on the show. i, personally, know next to nothing about tv and would love to learn more.

all the best to you david,

evan
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#19 Mike Williamson

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:08 PM

Congratulations on the new job, David! I haven't seen the show yet myself, but I'll keep an eye for upcoming episodes. I'm sure you'll find ways to keep it interesting, good luck figuring out a solution for the sunlight on stage. Would something like a Soft Sun work, or is that designed to give a less directioinal quality of light?
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:24 PM

Would something like a Soft Sun work, or is that designed to give a less directioinal quality of light?


It's not a sharp light, which may be fine, but you'd have to gel it for 3200K to match the rest of the stage lights, plus the expense of the thing is probably prohibitive. Part of the problem is that it is a wide set with a semi-low ceiling that can't support a lot more weight and has no greenbeds, so you couldn't easily get a high, downward hardlight floating over the set -- it would have to come from the edges of the set, and thus be a lower light.

I'm curious to look into a series of Molebeam projectors and see what I can do with those.
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